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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, yes, of course, the pressure for clearer legislation must and will continue. There is no party political point in that regard. In relation to Pepper v. Hart, I remind the noble Lord that when the House of Lords decided that in November 1992, their Lordships said that courts should look at parliamentary materials when (1) legislation is ambiguous, obscure or leads to an absurdity; (2) the material to be relied on is a statement by a Minister; and (3) the statement is clear. Ministerial statements are not always clear.
Lord Renton: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that too often the intention of Parliament must be inferred from the mass of detail in statutes, much of it being merely hypothetical? That recommendation referred to in the noble Lord's Question was perhaps the most useful and important recommendation made by our committee. I express the hope that the noble Lord will bear that in mind in order to achieve clarity for the benefit of the users of legislation.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am delighted to have the noble Lord in his place and I pay tribute to his work and determination over the years. I am aware that his committee put forward the view that on occasion legislation should be declaratory rather than detailed, as is the case in many other countries. The noble Lord has put forward that view on a number of occasions since then. However, I do not believe that it has gained general acceptance. Most people think that it is more important for legislation to be precise and for Parliament rather than the courts to have the last word, so to speak. That is the risk of legislation which is purposive rather than detailed.
Lord Sempill: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, is he aware that that most recent review makes no reference to either of two submissions made by Group Captain Ingle on 11th December 1995 and 31st March 1996, submissions whose evidence were key to that review being reopened? Further, does not the Minister consider it improper that following the previous government's decision to review that new evidence, not one meeting between representatives of Justice for Prisoners of War and the newly appointed Ministry has taken place?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am quite sure that my honourable friend took account of all the representations that were made and to which the noble Lord refers. It is only fair to point out that there is not unanimity on these matters, even among former prisoners of war. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has very kindly allowed me to use his name to pray in aid precisely that thought. He wrote to The Times on 9th August, saying:
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that according to Goering's evidence at Nuremberg, if Germany had won the war the Geneva Convention would have been denounced and our lot would have been slave labour or extermination? In those circumstances, is not our salvation sufficient recompense for a basketful of Lagermarks?
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, does not the noble Lord feel rather saddened and, indeed, ashamed that he has to come in front of us on this day of all days--Armistice Day--and tell us that he cannot give justice to 8,000 surviving British officer prisoners of war? Is he further aware that the case will probably arrive on the desk of the European Court of Human Rights? Is he further aware that those honourable gentlemen, with their backs to the wall and believing in the justice of their cause, will fight to the end? Can the Minister not cut the Gordian knot?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, all I can say to your Lordships is that this very sad question has been considered at great length by governments of both colours in the past. It is not the case that all prisoners of war did not receive refunds. In fact, quite a lot of them did. As your Lordships will be aware, under practices in place at the time all individual records were
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, before my noble friend intervenes, perhaps I may do so because I am rather closer to this issue than he is. As one of those who enjoyed or endured a rather long spell of German hospitality, perhaps I may take the opportunity to tell the Minister that I believe it is far too late to job backwards. We are really arguing about trifles. This matter should enjoy a very low place in the Government's list of priorities, if any at all.
Lord Burnham: My Lords, in the light of the noble Lord's statement, which I believe to be generally accepted, that it is virtually impossible to distinguish to whom individual payments should be made, although the Germans themselves may be able to do so, is it not possible and desirable for an appreciated sum of money to be handed to charities such as SSAFA or the British Legion for use for deserving ex-prisoners of war or other people?
Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for his courtesy during the passing of the Bill and, in particular, for the work which he did between Second Reading and the Committee stage in hearing representations from my noble friends and also from organisations outwith this House. As a result of that process, I believe that amendments have been made to the Bill which mean that it has been greatly improved. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Lucas for his work on Second Reading; and, indeed, my noble friends sitting behind me for their assistance. I have in mind my noble friends Lady Trumpington, Lord Skelmersdale and Lord Howe.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I made no secret of the fact on Second Reading that I thought that the Bill was actually a part of a whole series of moves towards privatisation of intellectual property and the increasing patenting of things of a nature which should not be patented, but that it was really rather too late to do anything very much about it. However, as we have this rather unfortunate Bill and such an unfortunate situation, I should like to pay tribute to the way the Government have dealt with it; the way they have amended it; and the way they have speedily passed it through this House. It means that we shall not have to spend too much more time on the matter.
Lord Carter: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, for their kind words. I believe that the noble Baroness has already thanked all those that I intended to thank, so she has saved me that task. We are pleased with the Bill's progress. It is a highly technical Bill and I should like especially to thank the noble Baroness for her most helpful and constructive assistance. I speak from my own experience when I say that this is not the easiest piece of legislation to read and understand. The noble Baroness came into the proceedings, which were new to her, in Committee. I am extremely grateful to her for the valuable contribution she has made.