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Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful, as I am, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, for explaining so carefully the technical matters and the defects within the clause. My right honourable friend, the Member for Bridgwater, who chairs the committee on which the noble and learned Lord sits, was equally concerned about the matter. We on these Benches support the amendments.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I deal with two general points. First, as my noble and learned friend said, there is a power for the Attorney-General to appoint a special representative to represent the interests of an excluded applicant. I think that it is difficult to conceive how that person would then take instructions from someone who was not able to be present at the meeting. It is therefore a proper power and the right one in this case.

The second is the question of dismissal on the ground of national security. Again, it seems to me that this has to be determined by the Minister. In those circumstances, it cannot be debated in the way one might like.

Government policy is designed to allow staff of the security and intelligence agencies to present complaints to employment tribunals in as similar a way as possible to other employees, while safeguarding the interests of national security.

One of the necessary safeguards provided is that a Minister of the Crown may direct in Crown employment proceedings that an applicant should be excluded where necessary from part or all of proceedings in the interests of national security. The applicant's representative may also be excluded in the same way.

The power to make such a direction will be used only where necessary to protect the interests of national security, and it is anticipated that the power to exclude from all future proceedings would be very rarely used and only in the most extreme circumstances where the interests of national security could not otherwise be adequately protected. Again, I think that this has to be an area where the judgment has to come from the Minister. However, it is government policy that an

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applicant--or his representative on his behalf--should always, in all circumstances, be entitled to make a statement of his case to the tribunal.

We are presently examining the Bill to see what needs to be done to ensure that the procedure regulations can provide for this. Any deficiency in this regard in this provision of the Bill, which is itself an amendment of this House, may be dealt with in another place when it comes to consider this new schedule. We are also not convinced that this amendment would achieve this aspect of government policy. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, from the response the Minister has given, I understand that it will be government policy and they will see how they can include the matter in the regulations and, if necessary, on the face of the Bill when it goes back to another place: that at the very least anyone in these circumstances will always be able to make a statement as to their case to the relevant tribunal. The Minister nods. If that is what he indicates, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 109, line 36, leave out ("party") and insert ("applicant")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 46, I propose to speak also to Amendments Nos. 47 and 48. They are three minor technical amendments.

Section 10(5)(b) inserted by Schedule 8 into the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 provides that employment tribunal procedure regulations may make provision for a Minister of the Crown, on grounds of national security, to direct a tribunal to exclude the applicant from all or part of particular Crown employment proceedings. Section 10(5)(c) provides that the applicant's representative may likewise be excluded. Section 10(6) provides that employment tribunals may also exclude applicants and their representatives in the interests of national security.

Section 10(7) currently provides that the Attorney General or the Advocate General will be able to appoint a special representative to represent the interests of an excluded party. Since it follows from what I said earlier that the party concerned will be the applicant, the amendment substitutes "applicant" for "party" in subsection (7).

Amendment No. 47 is a drafting amendment designed to improve and clarify new section 10B(6) of the Employment Tribunals Act. It does not alter its effect.

Amendment No. 48 is another drafting amendment which substitutes "or" for "and" in new section 30(2A) of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville moved Amendments Nos. 47 and 48:

Page 111, line 5, after first ("programme") insert ("which is")
Page 111, line 15, leave out ("and") and insert ("or")

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord Simon of Highbury.)

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. As noble Lords opposite know, we on these Benches certainly did not like the Bill, but we are most grateful for the courtesy of all three Ministers in handling our concerns. We are also grateful to the officials for the help they gave and for the many small concessions and improvements which have been made to the Bill.

I understand from the Brethren that the noble Lord, Lord Simon, was most kind and had a meeting with them. They understand that the Government are considering whether the regulations can contain advice relating to discrimination on religious grounds. If that is so, I am most grateful.

I know that I have made some harsh comments about trade unions and I should not like to have offended any noble Lord on the other side. Despite that, I am not against trade unions; I believed that they have a proper place in large industrial concerns. I hope that that does not sound patronising because I really believe that. However, I was able to build a small business into a large international one over three countries and I believe that the legislation will be difficult for small business and will cause many problems.

Finally, I repeat that I am grateful for all the help I have received.

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, perhaps I, too, may take this opportunity to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and her colleagues and the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, for the way in which the Bill has been conducted. It has passed smoothly. It is an important piece of legislation and we on this side have appreciated the constructive manner in which it has been dealt with. I also thank the officials for all their hard work.

I confirm that we have spoken to the Brethren and I have encouraged them to write to me at the Department of Trade and Industry, particularly as regards their practical experience which may enlighten the way in which we approach the writing of the code. As we said previously, we do not believe that it is right to place that on the face of the Bill, but we shall attend to the practicalities as best we can in giving advice to ACAS on the formulation of the code. Obviously, no clear commitments can be made on that, but we shall make best endeavours.

On Question, Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

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Local Government Bill

5.45 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 2 [Power to extend or disapply]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 3, line 2, at end insert--
("(7) The Secretary of State shall prior to the commencement of Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 consult persons appearing to him to represent best value authorities affected by that Part with regard to excluding functions under it pursuant to subsection (5)")

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment is a request for joined up government. While I regret its appearance so late in the Bill, its lateness is due to the fact that the other piece of government legislation with which we wish to join it up appeared in this House only since the previous stage of proceedings on this Bill. That is Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Bill, at present in Committee in this House.

Part VI of that Bill is the new system of support for asylum seekers under which they are to be supported by vouchers in kind and not in cash and are to live in a place directed by the Secretary of State and will be given no choice in the matter. It is admitted on all sides, including by the Government and in the White Paper, that that will be a more expensive system than to have them on benefit in the normal way. It is entirely beyond our purposes to enter into any argument about that at the moment, save to record that it is uncontested fact. So here is a duty which is not being discharged in the most economical manner possible.

The relevance of that to best-value legislation was spotted at Second Reading of the Immigration and Asylum Bill by my noble friend Lady Ludford, whom I want to thank for drawing my attention to the point. Clearly, there is a potential conflict between the provisions of this Bill and Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Bill. Any duties which local authorities discharge under that--and it is clearly envisaged in the Immigration and Asylum Bill that they will end up discharging duties--would not be discharged in the most economical manner possible. Whether they would be discharged in the most efficient and effective manner possible is a matter on which there would be room for argument, but I do not see the need to enter into that now. It would be a conjectural argument on both sides.

Another problem with applying best-value legislation to duties under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Bill is the duty to consult in Clause 3(2)(a) of this Bill. That is a duty to consult all local tax and rate payers and other people in the area who may appear to be concerned. In some local authorities, including my own which is the London Borough of Brent, a vociferous, even if small, body of people passionately resent asylum seekers being housed in their area. There is constant vitriolic correspondence in my local paper. From this address, I once wrote in reply to some of that correspondence and received an indignant reply, saying, "If only you lived in the sort of area I did you wouldn't

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have said any of these things.". That letter came from an address one hundred yards from my own door. I did not enlighten the man on the point.

Such incidents under the duty to consult in Clause 3(2)(a) would give opportunities which I cannot believe members of the British National Party would fail to take. No doubt one could tell them to go to a certain place, unmentionable in this House, but that would take up a good deal of everybody's time.

It seems to me to be altogether more appropriate that any duties under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Bill should not be subject to best value provision. My noble friend Lady Hamwee spotted a way in which that could be done. Under Clause 2(5) of the present Bill, the Secretary of State may provide that a best value authority--not only local authorities, but they are the ones principally concerned--may be provided not to be subject to best value in relation to any particular function or functions.

Whether it will appear to the Secretary of State to be expedient to exercise that power in relation to functions under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Bill, I do not know, but it would save a great deal of trouble if it did appear to him to be expedient to exercise that power. I hope for an encouraging reply to that point. I beg to move.

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