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Scotland Bill

8.46 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 31.

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 124:


Page 16, line 4, leave out ("Standing orders shall ensure that,") and insert ("The Presiding Officer shall not submit a Bill in its unamended form for Royal Assent").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 125 not moved.]

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 126:


Page 16, line 5, leave out ("a Bill or any provision of a Bill") and insert ("the Bill or any provision of it").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hardie moved Amendment No. 127:


Page 16, line 6, leave out from ("Parliament,") to end of line 7 and insert ("or
(b) a reference made in relation to the Bill under section 32 has been withdrawn following a request for withdrawal of the reference under section (ECJ references)(2)(b)").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to this amendment, with the leave of the House I wish also to speak to Amendments Nos. 132 and 136.

The Government consider that these amendments are necessary to ensure that Bills of the Scottish parliament are not unduly delayed. There may be cases where a law officer has referred a question of whether a Bill is within the legislative competence of the parliament to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and the Judicial Committee decide in turn that it wants to refer the issue to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on some question of Community law. If the Judicial Committee made such a reference, the Bill could not, of course, be submitted for Royal Assent until the reference had been disposed of by the ECJ and by the Judicial Committee. Indeed, it might face quite a considerable delay while the ECJ was considering the issue.

These amendments provide that, if such a reference had been made, the parliament would be able to resolve to reconsider the Bill. Amendment No. 132 provides that, if the parliament resolved to reconsider a Bill, the presiding officer would be required to notify the law officers and the law officer who made the reference to the Judicial Committee would be required to request the withdrawal of the reference. Amendment No. 136 adds to the limited circumstances in Clause 34 in which the parliament can reconsider a Bill.

However, the parliament would not simply be able to reconsider the Bill, pass it and have the presiding officer submit it for Royal Assent. Amendment No. 127

28 Oct 1998 : Column 2004

introduces an appropriate safeguard to prevent this happening. The parliament would be required to amend the Bill before it could be submitted for Royal Assent. At that stage a law officer could again refer the matter to the Judicial Committee if he considered that there was still a question as to whether the Bill was within the legislative competence of the parliament. We consider this to be a common sense approach. It prevents Bills being held up for considerable periods of time if the Judicial Committee refers a question to the European Court of Justice by giving the parliament power to reconsider them and removing the objection which prevents them from being submitted for Royal Assent. I hope that noble Lords agree that this is a sensible provision. I ask them to support the amendment.

The Earl of Balfour: My Lords, I should like to make one small appeal. I dislike abbreviations such as ECJ. I believe that its full title should be spelt out. When I was at school or in my younger days rpm always meant revolutions per minute and then it became retail price maintenance. There are other examples of that kind. I dislike abbreviations, and that is my only appeal in this case.

Lord Hardie: My Lords, I am happy to take on board that point.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 128 not moved.]

Clause 32 [Scrutiny of Bills by the Judicial Committee]:

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon moved Amendment No. 129:


Page 16, line 12, at beginning insert ("The Presiding Officer,").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this matter has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, when we discussed Amendment No. 121 I indicated that the Government had been persuaded by the arguments advanced by the noble and learned Lord at that stage. I also indicated that all good things had to come to an end. As to Amendment No. 129, we have not been persuaded by the arguments of the noble and learned Lord. Clause 32 currently provides that the law officers of the United Kingdom government and the Scottish executive can make reference to the Judicial Committee if they consider that a Bill, or any provision of it, is outwith the legislative competence of the parliament. It would not be appropriate for the presiding officer to be able to make such reference. Such references are to be made in a four-week period once a Bill has been passed by the parliament.

Clause 31 provides that the presiding officer is required to decide whether a Bill is outwith the competence of the parliament. In reaching that decision he will no doubt want to take appropriate legal advice. It would not be appropriate to give him a role at the end of the process. Quite properly this role is confined to the law officers of the two administrations. Therefore, he has a role to play at the beginning of the process and the law officers have a role to play at the end. I do not

28 Oct 1998 : Column 2005

believe that we should confuse the two. I am afraid that the Government are not persuaded by the arguments of the noble and learned Lord and I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My Lords, the noble Lord has persuaded me that I should have drafted an additional consequential amendment to take account of the point that he makes; but he has not persuaded me on the fundamental issue that as currently drafted the presiding officer has a very important role to play in assessing whether a Bill is within or without the legislative competence of the parliament. This is a matter of importance and I seek to test the opinion of the House.

8.53 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 129) shall be agreed to?

*Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 86.

Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Attlee, E.
Balfour, E.
Belstead, L.
Broadbridge, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Byford, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carr of Hadley, L.
Chesham, L.
Courtown, E. [Teller.]
Craigavon, V.
Crathorne, L.
Cross, V.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Henley, L.
Kingsland, L.
Luke, L. [Teller.]
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Mancroft, L.
Middleton, L.
Montrose, D.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
Rennell, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rowallan, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Ullswater, V.
Vivian, L.
Wise, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Borrie, L.
Burlison, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Jeger, B.
Judd, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Lockwood, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sewel, L.
Simon, V.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Tomlinson, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

28 Oct 1998 : Column 2006

[* see col. 2018]

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.1 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 130 and 131 not moved.]


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