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Baroness Park of Monmouth: I thank my noble and learned friend for that intervention.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: Like the noble and learned Lord I, too, support the proposed new clause, especially subsection (1). I am also much interested in subsection (2) of the amendment. On the face of the Bill the Minister has provided the required certificate which reads:


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    what the mover of the amendment and the noble and learned Lord have said. I fear that we have not seen the last of this Bill.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: With the leave of the Committee, perhaps I may complete what I intended to say earlier, and I shall be very brief. My question is: are not the two Governments in dereliction of their duty to the majority in condoning what the IRA has done in destroying the rights and freedoms of both the dead and their families? I put it to the Minister that, on a number of accounts, the Bill is not compatible with the convention statement of rights of the victims, the families or the law-abiding members of the community.

Unless she can produce cogent counter-arguments, the Secretary of State should surely be acting in conformity with Section 19(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act, which requires her either to make a statement of compatibility, which she has done and which I challenge, or, to,


    "make a statement to the effect that although [she] is unable to make a statement of compatibility the government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill". That is what the Act provides. That is what the Act requires and it would be true. I urge the Minister to recognise that, or to explain just how the Bill is compatible. I beg to move.

8 p.m.

Lord Dubs: The noble Baroness's amendment would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report on the compatibility of Clauses 3 to 5 of the Bill with convention rights. The report would then have to be approved by the affirmative resolution procedure. Only then could those clauses be brought into force. That would, of course, create a delay in information reaching the commission, but I leave that aside at this stage.

The noble Baroness will be aware that both the Secretary of State and I have given our opinion in the matter of compatibility with the convention by signing the required statement under Section 19 of the Human Rights Act. That statement appears on the face of the Bill. I should point out to the noble Baroness that I was given a detailed assessment of the Bill in relation to various elements of the human rights convention. I felt that I had to consider the matter in complete detail before it would be proper for me to sign, as I have signed, the certificate which now appears on the face of the Bill. I considered the matter in some detail and followed the very complicated arguments that were put to me, but I was satisfied that I could sign the statement now on the face of the Bill, which states that the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the convention rights.

The purpose of a Section 19 compatibility statement is to focus the Government's and, in turn, Parliament's attention on convention issues at the pre-enactment stage. The requirement which the noble Baroness seeks to impose through this amendment would not be consistent with the scheme of the Human Rights Act, as it would shift the debate on convention issues to the post-commencement stage. If queries are raised as to

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compatibility with the convention rights during debates on a government Bill, the Minister in charge will do his best to answer them. Under the Human Rights Act, it will ultimately be for the higher courts, and the courts alone, to rule on whether a particular measure is incompatible with the convention rights by the Human Rights Act.

Therefore, even if the Committee were to accept the amendment, which I suggest would not be helpful, I believe that the noble Baroness would not really achieve her main intention; namely, compatibility with the human rights convention. Surely that is something that should be done before the Bill is even presented to the House rather than being done at the end of the proceedings when it has been passed.

The most fundamental rights of the victims of these dreadful murders were violated by terrorists when those people were abducted, tortured and murdered. That is quite a separate question to that now before the Committee when we consider whether the scheme of the legislation is compatible with the Government's obligations under the European Convention. We are satisfied that the rights of the families in particular are respected by the Bill.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I should like to thank all those who have spoken in support of my amendment, especially my noble and learned friend who saved my life earlier when I lost my place. I listened to what the Minister said with great interest. I find it deeply interesting that all his legal advisers saw no incompatibility between the provisions of the Bill and those in the Human Rights Act. It will make me look at the Human Rights Act with much greater care in the future.

However, I accept that it is not possible either to divide the Committee or, indeed, to pursue the amendment further. My object was to bring out, as I hope I have, the very real incompatibility which undoubtedly exists, at least in any lay mind, between human rights and what we are doing in this Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment. Report received.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution of 20th May), Bill read a third time, and passed.

Tax Credits Bill

8.10 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.--(Baroness Hollis of Heigham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 15:


After Clause 5, insert the following new clause--

PASSPORTED BENEFITS

(" . Recipients of a tax credit shall be entitled to the benefits to which claimants of family credit and disability working allowances were entitled under the National Health Service (Travelling Expenses and Remission of Charges) Regulations 1988 as they had effect immediately prior to the coming into force of this Act.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if, in moving Amendment No. 15, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 30 and 31. I believe that originally they were grouped separately, but that it would be helpful to discuss the three amendments together as they are in many respects similar.

Much of the subject matter which arises with these amendments was discussed at col. 237 on 18th May when I suggested by way of an amendment that the consideration of the Bill on Report should be deferred until we were given more information on the Government's intentions with regard to the provision of passported benefits. I had hoped that as a result of tabling that amendment it would be possible for the Government to reach some conclusion with regard to what they propose to do on passported benefits. We have made some progress. I must at this point congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, on her birthday as I did not have the opportunity to do so earlier this afternoon.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments. As a birthday present, I should like to have no Divisions tonight. I hope that we shall also go home early.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am not sure that I can give that undertaking, but I hope that we can make reasonable progress in the light of the replies given by the noble Baroness on this happy occasion.

The words the noble Baroness originally used in Committee were that we would return to this issue before the Bill left Parliament. We seem to have made some progress in as much as she has stated clearly that the position will be made clear by the time we reach Third Reading. However, I in no way go back on what I said earlier; namely, that it is deplorable that the House should still be uncertain as to the position on this issue months after the Bill was originally introduced. I do not accept the point which the noble Baroness made on previous occasions; namely, that this is not an important aspect of the Bill.

When passing any legislation, the House must necessarily consider the repercussions of changes. What appears to have happened here is that the Government are moving from family credit to working families' tax credit, but it is not the least bit apparent, even now at this late stage, what the position will be with regard to those benefits which previously have been received automatically under the old scheme by those who are entitled to them. It is not clear to what extent they, or indeed new claimants, will receive those benefits in future under the system which is proposed in this Bill. We believe that it is important that that situation is

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clarified and that the House should have an opportunity to express a view with regard to the solution which the Government will eventually produce.

It is said, on almost every issue of moment in this House, that if something seems to be wrong we have a duty to ask the other place to think again. On this occasion, the other place has had no opportunity to consider the appropriateness of the Government's proposals. Members of the other place have put forward their own views, but they have not been able to comment on the Government's position. It is not even clear whether any passported benefits will be obtainable automatically under this Bill, or whether or not they will be means tested.

Having said all that, I understand that the noble Baroness is still no more able to give us any further guidance on what the Government's intentions are than when we met on the first day of Report stage. It is likely that the Third Reading will take place soon after we return from the Whitsun Recess. Therefore, we shall have little opportunity to frame any amendments. It is important that the Bill should be open to amendment and that the House should be able to express a view on whether what the Government propose is or is not satisfactory.

Earlier in our debates the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, suggested that the Government might--as they have commendably done on a number of other occasions--put forward specific statutory instruments in draft which we would consider. It appears that that will not now be possible. Does the noble Baroness envisage that by the time we reach Third Reading draft statutory instruments will be available on which we can comment? If they are satisfactory, that is the end of the matter. However, if they are not satisfactory, the position becomes more difficult because one cannot amend a statutory instrument.

I have another point which I hope the Minister can clarify at this stage as that would be helpful. She has laid great stress on the difficulty of obtaining interdepartmental agreement between Ministers, or indeed--as far as one can gather--between officials. I believe that she mentioned six or seven departments. Which departments and which benefits are involved? I have experienced some difficulty in "totting up" the number of departments that are involved and equating that with the number that she mentioned. Some of the departments come under the Department of Health and others come under the Home Office. It would be helpful to know exactly which departments will be involved.

These are probing amendments. They have been tabled in the hope that we shall obtain a little more information on the Government's intentions before we reach Third Reading. I beg to move.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. We debated this matter at some length on the first day of Report stage. It is clearly unsatisfactory not to know the position until Third Reading when there is no possibility of tabling an amendment to discuss the

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subject. As I understand it, we shall not have draft regulations before Third Reading. We may simply have to grin and bear it in the circumstances. Nevertheless, this is not a satisfactory situation. I hope that it will not happen again.


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