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With regard to the derogation for a reduction in veterinary supervision for low throughput plants, we received an indication last year from the Commission that it was possible to have a reduction in such supervision at the post-mortem stage, but it was still necessary to have full supervision at the ante-mortem stage. For that reason, we froze veterinary supervision levels in low throughput plants at May 1999 levels. But we must consider carefully the implications of the differential between post and ante-mortem supervision. That is exactly what we are currently doing.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I recommend the Red Tape Working Group report, because it is written in robust and clear English. I am sure that the noble Lord would appreciate it. It makes clear comment about the possibilities and the matters which fall within national rather than European jurisdiction. Of the 35 recommendations, the Government have accepted 28. We are considering four of them and only three have been rejected. The most important recommendations must be negotiated at European level. They relate to the HACCP-based approach to supervision which I believe is supported here without exception. That is why it is important that we pursue those matters in Brussels. I believe that the working group accepted that point.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is currently considering the responses to the Government's consultation on merger reform and plans to issue a response in May.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I understand my noble friend's point about awaiting legislation, but I do not believe that he is right to suggest that we should anticipate the proper consideration of consultation. After all, many people--companies, lawyers, the CBI, the TUC, consumer associations, regulators and individuals--have responded to the consultation document. They are entitled to have their views taken seriously. An instant statement of the kind recommended by my noble friend would scupper that.
Lord Razzall: My Lords, will the Minister agree that this situation is widely regarded as the result of the dispute between the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry? In view of the Government's commitment to "joined-up" government, would it not be a good idea to take up the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have given my reasons for rejecting the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Borrie. As to any widely regarded view on disagreements between government departments, that is the view of the noble Lord.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a paradox in that although the Secretary of State will step back in relation to cases that arise in the United Kingdom, on his own analysis he will most probably be stepping forward in relation to European cases, given the White Paper produced by the Commission a year ago and the problems of consistency between national administrations?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend raises an important point that was indeed raised by the Secretary of State in his speech last Monday to the Social Market Foundation. The Secretary of State certainly recognises that the European dimension is likely to make some decision-making political, and as a result that will make the residual intervention of the Secretary of State under the national security heading perhaps more likely.
Lord Peston: My Lords, will my noble friend ask his right honourable friend to reflect on a fundamental matter: this Government introduced the Competition Act 1998 which, for the first time, gives us a stringent piece of pro-competition legislation? Does it follow logically from that extraordinarily powerful Act that the Secretary of State for Trade--I believe he is still so called--should not intervene as a matter of principle and that industry should get used to the idea that competition is a good thing and should not scream
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend has given me an opportunity to say that he is right. The powerful Competition Act came into force on 1st March. Already it is beefing-up the activities of the Office of Fair Trading, the offices of the utilities regulators and many others. That is not an argument for pre-judging the consultation that has taken place. Other people have taken it seriously, as must the Government. However, the important consideration is that the Government have taken such issues seriously and have given the necessary powers to regulators and government bodies to pursue anti-competitive practices with proper penalties.
Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the operation of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England and to make recommendations; and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be named of the committee:
Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 20, Schedule 2, Clauses 21 to 29, Schedules 3 and 4, Clauses 30 to 34, Schedule 5, Clauses 35 to 39, Schedule 6, Clauses 40 to 72, Schedule 7, Clauses 73 to 85, Schedule 8, Clause 86, Schedule 9, Clauses 87 to 98, Schedule 10, Clauses 99 to 106, Schedule 11, Clauses 107 to 123, Schedule 12, Clauses 124 to 153, Schedule 13, Clauses 154 to 156, Schedule 14, Clauses 157 to 196, Schedule 15, Clauses 197 to 219, Schedule 16, Clauses 220 to 324, Schedule 17, Clauses 325 to 407, Schedules 18 and 19, Clause 408.--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 seeks to leave out Clause 9 as this Bill is not the occasion on which to seek to resolve questions relating to the commercial use of the register without the consent of the person registering and because there has been no reasoned, constructive discussion with the Government on Clause 9.
This is not a wrecking amendment. The Representation of the People Bill can receive Royal Assent and be wholly effective without this clause. On the elections to the Greater London Authority, they could be subject to Amendments Nos. 3, 20 and consequential amendments.
On Report the point was taken that Clause 9 should not stand part unless the Bill was amended to ensure that a single register could not be used for any commercial purpose without the consent of the person registering and that unless the Government were prepared to accept some such amendment Clause 9 should not stand part. The effect would be that the present situation would remain with a single register available for the public in public buildings. The Government have been advised that to make that register available to anyone who wanted to buy it would be a breach of the EU data protection directive and that there would be a risk of it being found to be in breach also of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The situation is that the Government wish to sell the register to commercial interests that wish to buy it. The annual income of such commercial interests is some £30 billion and so by Clause 9 the Government seek to introduce a device whereby they can sell the register and commercial interests can buy it. That device is the edited version which seeks to avoid an infringement of Article 8. In that regard, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, informed us that he believed that the clause was on the right side of the law and formed the right balance without falling into the Article 8 bear trap. We do not have the substance of the advice he was given, which would appear to conflict with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights to which reference was made in Committee.
Further questions raised in Committee, to which I shall turn briefly, remain unanswered. The Government intend to stand by Clause 9 because it suits their purpose. No means of reasoned argument or persuasion can induce them to accept any amendment to Clause 9 and there is therefore no point in retabling such an amendment.
On Report, just before the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, I said that to seek to resolve the question on this Representation of the People Bill, involving database protection, an EU directive on direct marketing, Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and other considerations, was not well advised; that the two registers under Clause 9, which I now seek to leave out were,
Because the Government will not entertain any acceptable amendment in this matter for the reasons given, the only reasonable resolution appears to be that this clause should not stand part. I say that there has been no constructive argument from the Government and wish briefly to make that comment good.
First, on Report it was pointed out that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, had plainly failed to deal with the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth--how the two-tier system would work; whether it would be enforceable; and that we should have to go a long way in considering the issues. None of those points was answered. Furthermore, the substance of the Government's assertion that they were on the right side of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights has never been made good in argument. They have never supplied me with either paper or verbal response to say why I was wrong in my suggestion that the provision would infringe Article 8 and why the Government are on the right side of the law.
Lastly, the Government do not seem to have given their mind to dealing with the questions put by my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I shall not go through them in detail; we have been through them all too often. I refer to the ticking of the box, the options for selection and so forth. They are all crucial considerations, but even today we do not know where the Government stand on them. They remain examples of the disinclination of this Government to entertain constructive argument. It is idle to seek to amend this clause; I seek to have it removed altogether. I beg to move.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. As we come to the Third Reading of the Bill, this clause remains most unsatisfactory. We made a little progress on it when we agreed that each individual elector should tick his or her own box, or at least that an obligation should be placed on the head of a household in regard to whether each member of that household wanted the box ticked. That was progress from where we had started; namely, that the head of the household would tick the box for the whole household and was not under any obligation to ascertain the position of other members.
But I remain uncertain as to how the Government see this clause operating in practice. A full electoral register will be available to the registration officer, MPs, councillors, candidates and others; in other words, it will be used for electoral purposes. There will also be an edited version containing a list of those who decide not to opt out.
The reasons given for opting out were many. We started with what I shall refer to as the "battered wife" argument: a husband wishing to find out where his wife has fled from his brutality will simply be able to obtain access to the electoral register and find out where she has gone. But that husband will still be able to do that. He will be able to go to the library and inspect the register. So that argument has been blown out of the water before it has even started.
Another argument was that if people's names do not appear on the edited version available to companies involved in direct mailing, they will not receive any junk mail. Those who think that by excluding themselves from the register of electors they will no longer receive junk mail will be disillusioned; they will find that the junk mail still arrives, because those who send junk mail have other means of finding names and addresses. So there will be a degree of disappointment in that regard.
Despite that, the legitimate point was raised by my noble friend that, under the European Convention on Human Rights, one should not be forced to give one's name and address and have them appear in a list when they can then be used for purposes other than electoral purposes.
I regret that my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth is unable to be here today. Mondays are difficult for him because he gives lectures to his students. He would have confirmed what my noble friend has already said. An electoral register should be a register of electors, and that is all that it should be. There should be no edited version or commercial sale and no one else should be allowed to use it. I find that to be a simple, nice, black and white solution to the problem.
However, that is not the solution the Government have chosen. They have been persuaded that credit companies and so forth ought to be able to get at the list. Otherwise those seeking credit may well find themselves unable to secure it. The electoral register is
We have been through these arguments several times and I do not believe that we have moved any further forward. At all stages I have asked questions about companies that might be allowed access to the full list. I have not yet had a detailed reply. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway knows much more about the legal position but it seems to me that even the edited version may be seen as an infringement of the convention and that the full version will almost certainly represent an infringement if it is sold on to those companies the Government are to prescribe.
The European convention has resulted in some strange decisions. I acknowledge that the Minister has declared that the Bill's provisions obey the convention. I have to tell him that I am less confident and that I consider there is only a 50:50 chance of success. That has nothing to do with the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton; it has everything to do with the experience we have had in Scotland. I have explained previously that a case was brought under the convention to stop temporary sheriffs, a system that had been used perfectly satisfactorily for years. A further case threatens the workings of the road traffic Acts as regards speed cameras. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, explained to the House that an appeal is being considered. It was also suggested recently that hearings in sheriffs' courts could fall foul of the convention if, for whatever reason, a case is heard by two sheriffs, one at the beginning and one at the end. There is concern that the much-admired system of children's panels may be under attack from the convention. No less a person than the retired professor of Scots law at Glasgow University, Professor Walker, has described the convention as a "charter for cranks and crooks" because it is beginning to run a coach and horses through certain aspects of our legal system. In my view, and that of Professor Walker, this is neither beneficial to law-abiding people nor does it protect their civil liberties.
On a number of occasions my noble friend has asked whether this clause will fall foul of the European convention. He has not yet received an answer. Today, at the final stage, we seek a little more than a statement to the effect that, "I have signed the Bill so it must be all right". We should like to hear the arguments that persuade the Government that the clause does not infringe the convention. As I read the clause, I do not believe that it is going to work. I believe that it will be a shambles. It will not do what the Government believe it is going to do. They will have trouble with it and that trouble may lead all the way to the courts. I do not see how it can effectively be amended. Although I understand the need to allow people to opt out and why the Government have made provision for that, I can also understand why the Government then backtracked and decided that certain companies should be allowed access to the full register.
The whole matter still seems untidy. I cannot support my noble friend all the way by saying that the clause should not stand part of the Bill, but I regret that, as we reach the last stage of the Bill, it is still largely unamended and several serious questions remain unanswered.
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