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Lord Browne-Wilkinson: I was not able to be present at Second Reading and perhaps I may now express my warm welcome for the Bill as a whole. However, I must go on to express a certain unhappiness, having been involved in the field of human rights for some time. It has its delights, not least the ability of every supporter of human rights to wish to get everything, including the kitchen sink, into every step that is considered a step forward for the protection of human rights.
This Bill is designed to repatriate to this country those rights which we currently have to go to Strasbourg to enforce. To introduce matters such as the final abolition of the death penalty and rights of movement--all of which are matters of contention by which we are not bound at the moment and which are not part of the international law of which we are a part--is simply to complicate the situation and put off the day, possibly fatally, in which those matters that are sensible are brought into English law.
When looking at the list of amendments, I ask that we consider what we are trying to do with this Bill. If it is to make enforceable in English law known rights under the covenant which are currently in force in Strasbourg, let us do that. Let us not try to protect for the time being every human right that anyone can think of.
More practically and directly, it is said that the matters set out in the Fourth Protocol are already matters to which English law conforms. I am in no position to give that competent advice which others apparently are. I have seen no discussion on the subject in any detail in academic journals, let alone in the courts. I doubt whether English law is such that imprisonment for inability to pay debt is no longer part of it. What are we seeking to achieve? Is it a limited, valid goal? Or are we seeking to put the whole world to rights? I ask that we concentrate on the essentials and not the periphery.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I intended to give unequivocal support to the previous speeches in relation to the Fourth and Sixth protocols. But, having heard the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, I now need to modify what I would have said in the light of what the noble and learned Lord rightly pointed out as to the immediate purpose of the Bill.
Two separate questions arise. One is: what is to be in the Bill? The other is whether we should ratify and then incorporate the Fourth and Sixth protocols. The Government indicated--I welcome this greatly--that they intend to ratify Protocol 7 which closes the gap between the European convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. One of those guarantees which will no doubt then be incorporated under the Bill when it becomes law is one dealing with procedural safeguards relating to the expulsion of aliens, which I greatly welcome. When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, reminds us of our limited objective, we need to take into account that there will be further rights included which are contained in Protocol 7.
In relation to the Sixth Protocol, I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby as to the desirability of ratifying that protocol, for the reasons that they gave. However, I also agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, that that is not before us at the moment in anything like the same degree of importance as are the obligations to which we are already party.
There is an extremely powerful case for ratification of the Fourth Protocol, as has already been explained. Perhaps I may add two or three points. I sought to persuade the Callaghan Government, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Owen, when he was Foreign Secretary, unsuccessfully of the need to ratify the Fourth Protocol. I tried to persuade the Thatcher Government, in particular Sir Leon Brittan, the then Home Secretary, to ratify. The problem is--I understand the problem--that our immigration and nationality legislation is said by some to be discriminatory. For that reason we entered broad reservations when we ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Speaking for myself--I should be grateful if the Minister could deal with this point in his reply--I see no reason why, since we are already bound by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and
My last point is this--I realise that it goes in a way to the wider questions for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as the Home Office. I very much hope that, in the Government's review of these wider questions which is now under way, they will show a willingness to accept the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights so as to give jurisdiction to the UN human rights committee. That would go a long way to solving the problem about the Fourth Protocol. Since the international covenant mirrors what is in the Fourth Protocol, it would at least mean that people could have recourse to the UN human rights committee, as is true of every other European state except the micro-states. For example, Ireland recently accepted the optional protocol. Going beyond Europe, Australia and New Zealand have done so. Indeed, all of the European states which have done so have entered appropriate reservations to make sure that there is no double jeopardy for governments under the covenant and the convention. I very much hope that that may happen because that seems to be the bare minimum needed if we are to show our commitment on the international plane with regard to these rights.
To sum up, I agree with aims of the movers of the amendment. I very much hope that sympathetic consideration will be given to ratification of the two protocols and to acceptance of the optional protocol to the international covenant in order to reduce the mismatch. I was once involved in an East-African Asian's case where this really mattered. The effect of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 was to exclude from this country British citizens on racial grounds. We had to go to Strasbourg. The fact that we had not ratified the Fourth Protocol gave us serious problems. In the end the commission had to stretch the meaning of Article 3 of the convention and deal with the problem in that way. It gave some protection. I should like to see much greater protection on the basis of citizenship, which is, after all, fundamental to this country. We surely, as citizens, should have the same civil and political rights as our fellow citizens elsewhere in Europe. The Fourth Protocol is one of the missing ingredients which would place us in the same position as our fellow citizens in other European countries.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: Although I am not attracted to this amendment as at present advised, perhaps I may ask the same sort of question of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. What was the
Viscount Colville of Culross: I did not take part in the Second Reading of the Bill because I was still at the most recent session of the United Nations human rights committee, of which I am a member. If that is an interest, then I declare it. I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Lester, said about this.
I want to say a few words on the Fourth Protocol from an aspect which is different from any that has previously been mentioned. I recognise, of course, Article 1 from Article 11 of the international covenant, but more particularly I recognise Articles 2 and 3 as they partly are reflected in Articles 12 and 13 of the international covenant. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, said that they are reflected. In fact the provisions are substantially different in the two different documents. That is one of the reasons why I wish to raise this briefly in your Lordships' Committee.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, mentioned the question of refugees. The human rights committee deals with periodical first reports from countries. Very often there is an aspiration on the part of those who seek to persuade the committee to ask governments questions of one sort and another to embark on a lengthy consideration of their treatment of refugees. The same points can arise when one is dealing with communications under the first optional protocol, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lester, has just referred. Again, people seem to think that the provisions of the covenant are sufficiently comprehensive to deal with a number of problems faced by refugees. They are not.
There is a very limited application. There is a provision in the international covenant which is not really reflected in the European one unless it is a stretching of Article 3, which was just mentioned, which refers to the conditions in which refugees are detained while a decision is made about their further movements. There are some provisions in Article 12, about their freedom of movement during the period while such decisions are being taken, which are capable of being raised under the international covenant and, therefore, I should have thought, also under the Fourth Protocol. But what happens is that people's expectations are unduly raised, because they think that the effect of these provisions is really to incorporate what the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has put down as Amendment No. 115, which is the refugee conventions. It does not do so.
If there are other reasons why the Government have decided not to incorporate the provisions of the Fourth Protocol, such as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, mentioned, I would simply add this as another one. It is by no means comprehensive. If the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, is telling us to stick to the things that are certain, I can tell the Committee that from the international point of view
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