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Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, and I was coming on to those other points. I have made it absolutely clear that the special Grand Committee procedure which we have put in place for Northern Ireland is available to us. Indeed, I have written to noble Lords with an interest in Northern Ireland to set out the issues that we will be considering in the next few months, although other issues will be added to that. All noble Lords know that there is pressure on time in the Chamber. We will have to negotiate through the usual channels to ensure that Northern Ireland issues are considered. I repeat, however, that the accent has to be on finding ways of resuming devolution quickly, not preparing ourselves for a long period of direct rule.
The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, expressed concern about the increase in race crime and the safety and protection of Filipino nationals in Northern Ireland. I absolutely agree that those attacks are totally unacceptable. He is quite right that we have published a community relations consultation document entitled A Shared Future. Eliminating sectarianism, tackling racism and building trust between and within communities in Northern Ireland remain key priorities for the Government. As part of that process, we are resolved to tackle issues of racial equality by developing a race equality strategy for Northern Ireland which aims to eliminate racial discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and increase participation of ethnic minorities in social, public, economic and cultural life.
If I may, I shall write to the noble Lord on his specific questions about how the £500,000 which has been allocated will be spent. He particularly wanted to know whether there would be a consultation process and what would be the longer-term impact of the grant.
I think that I have already addressed the issues raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, in my general remarks. However, I entirely agree with him that we want to see an inclusive process for policing and security issues in Northern Ireland. That is why we have said time and again to Sinn Fein that they should take up their places on the Policing Board.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, on Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, said that the Government could see the case for changes that were recommended by the JCHR, which are the subject of this Bill, and they would not oppose them if they found favour with the House. They did wish, however, to ensure that any decision was made in an "informed way" by the House. That applied particularly to Clause 1(1), although I am not absolutely sure why the Minister was not then equally interested in the remainder of the clause, where the proposed changes in the wording to
The noble Lord, Lord Lester, provided a very helpful explanatory memorandum, reminding the House of a procedure for making remedial orders of any legislation, primary or secondary, which has been declared by a higher court to be incompatible with any ECHR right forming part of our law, or which appears to a Minister to be incompatible with such a right in consequence of a finding against the UK by the European Court of Human Rights.
These remedial orders follow one or other of two procedures, which are set out in Schedule 2 of the Human Rights Act. If the order declares the matter to be urgent, then, under Paragraph 2(b), it can be made without a draft being approved by Parliament, and that remains unchanged by this Bill. In other cases, the proposed draft has to be laid before Parliament for 60 days, and then the actual draft must be laid, together with a statement on any representations made and any changes to the draft order which are made in the light of those representations. I would be interested to know from the Minister how many remedial orders have been made under each of those two headings, if the noble Lord has the figures. In the case of urgency, what opportunity does the JCHR have for studying and commenting on the proposal? I recognise that, in this Bill, we are talking about only the non-urgent procedures under Clause 2(a).
As I understand it, the noble Lord seeks to alter the balance between the two 60-day periods which are provided for under the scheme. He wishes to lengthen the first period to take account of days when Parliament is not sitting, in order to give the JCHR a better opportunity of collecting voices and making representations while the order is still in draft, and correspondingly shortening the second period when, for all practical purposes, the final text has been settled. I believe there have been occasions in the past when the JCHR has been rather pressed to examine an order and to make its report in time, because of the timing of the order in relation to parliamentary recesses. Maybe my noble friend Lord Lester could say something about that.
I turn to the second period of 60 days. It can be assumed that the JCHR would have already examined the draftand presumably in every case that the draft would have been altered in the light of its recommendations. The effect is, as the committee explained in its report on the making of remedial orders quoted in the explanatory memorandum, to delay the securing of convention rights. Will the noble Lord, Lord Lester, explain at what point the order would be approved if the Bill is passed?
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Avebury for having enabled us to have an informed debate on this technical but nevertheless important Bill. It would be helpful to have some indication from the Minister as to whether he
As my noble friend said, on the procedures themselves, there are two ways in which an order can be made. In urgent cases, an order may be made without first being approved in draft; I refer noble Lords to paragraphs (2)(b) and (4) of Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act. In other cases, paragraphs (2)(a) and (3) lay down the following procedure. Since it was not mentioned at Second Reading, I may be forgiven for summarising it.
First, a proposal for the order containing a draft of the proposed order and specified information must be laid before Parliament. Then 60 days must elapse, beginning with the day on which the proposal was laid. A draft order must then be laid before Parliament, with a statement summarising any representations received after the 60-day period, and giving details of any changes made to the draft order in the light of the representations. The draft order must then lie before each House for at least 60 days, after which it must be approved by a resolution of each House. The order may then be made.
The periods of 60 days are calculated without taking account of any period in which Parliament is prorogued or dissolved, or both Houses are adjourned for more than four days. I refer noble Lords to paragraph (6) of Schedule 2 to the Act.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is responsible, under its order of appointment from this House and under Standing Order No. 152B of the House of Commons, for scrutinising proposals for draft remedial orders, draft remedial orders themselves and remedial orders made by the urgent procedure. It is also responsible for reporting to each House whether they meet certain tests, and its recommendations as to whether they should be approved in the form proposed by the Minister or with amendments, or whether they should be disapproved.
In December 2001, the committee drew attention to two implications of the provisions that arose from considering the first proposal for a draft remedial order laid under the 1998 Act. Noble Lords may see House of Lords Paper 58 for that. On the last occasion that we debated this matter, I explained the first problem relating to the words "both Houses", and the way in which that shortens rather than lengthens parliamentary scrutiny. I do not need to say any more about that at this stage; it cannot be, in my submission, controversial. The second problem relates to the 60-day period, which I also mentioned on the last occasion that this matter was debated. Before I come back to that, I need to answer the first of the questions put to me by my noble friend Lord Avebury.
The Naval Discipline Act 1957 (Remedial Order) 2004 is another order made under special procedures set out in the Human Rights Act to allow for the speedy remedying of an incompatibility between UK law and the convention rights established under that Act, as determined by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is required to report to each House on each case as regards the use of the powers by the Minister. That is another parliamentary safeguard. I refer the House to the Joint Committee on Human Rights 9th Report 200304 where we explained in more detail the joint committee's responsibilities. We explained:
I apologise for having taken so long on such an apparently dull subject. I hope that that account fully explains the rather elaborate and good general procedure that ensures that a watchdog committee scrutinises remedial orders in draft or otherwise very thoroughly and reports to the Minister conscientiously. Then the committee and the Minister make sure that the right procedure is followed and the House has a fully adequate period to consider the matter. So far as concerns the 60-day period, having looked at the matter, the committee considered that it was unnecessary to insist on 60 days having expired before the draft order could be pursued if the committee had reported that it would be appropriate to approve the draft order in the form in which it had been laid. All of that was explained at Second Reading so I do not need to refer to it.
I hope that I have answered all the questions. I have one small and very pedantic point to mention, not because I expect the Minister to be able to deal with it, but because his advisers might wish to consider the matter. It is a non-controversial point. Reading Schedule 2 to the 1998 Act carefully, I wonder whether the heading to paragraph 4 should read "Urgent cases" when the paragraph deals with urgent and non-urgent cases. If I am right, that is the kind of tedious, pedantic tidying up that only a lawyer might mention. It may be wholly unnecessary, but perhaps the Home Office could consider the point before the Bill leaves this House. With that I hope that my noble friend will be satisfied.
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