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'(f) in Jersey, the Royal Court or the Court of Appeal;
(g) in Guernsey, the Royal Court or the Court of Appeal;
(h) in the Isle of Man, the High Court'.

The First Deputy Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 108, in clause 5, page 3, line 40, after 'Scotland', insert

', the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man'.

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No. 109, in clause 21, page 13, line 34, at end insert--
'( ) law passed by the legislature of any of the Channel Islands or of the Isle of Man'. No. 110, in clause 22, page 14, line 22, at end insert--
'(6A) This Act extends to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and shall have effect as if each of them were part of the United Kingdom.'.

Mr. Mitchell: The amendments would extend incorporation of the European convention to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. I suppose that the only phrase to describe them is "semi-independent statelets", but they have a unique status as dependencies of the Crown, too. They are Britain's offshore anomalies, because, although they are responsible for their own domestic law, financial affairs and tax regimes, the United Kingdom has the overall responsibility for good government in the islands. The United Kingdom can legislate for the islands; it has the paramount power to do so. However, in practice, it does not do so except on matters involving international treaties and international agreements--such as the incorporation of the European convention on human rights, which we signed on their behalf at the outset. Paragraph 1472 of the Kilbrandon commission's report on the constitution, dated 1973, said:

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    establishment--which has a vested interest in providing services to finance. Many members of the elite are business men or maintainers of name plates for incoming companies; many are involved with Jersey banks and the offshoots of other banks in Jersey that manipulate money. The elite controls power through the parliamentary institutions. It also controls the media--Senator Walker owns the Jersey Evening Post, which is, therefore, hardly likely to be a vibrant source of dissent. The islands have been humorously described--by me--as one-party states run by the freemasons. There are no parties and no opposition, so the regimes are cloying and potentially corrupt, because, in Jersey in particular, the governing elite does so well out of the provision of facilities for financial services, which give such a rich living--£200 billion is handled in the Jersey banks and financial institutions, and financial services provide more than 50 per cent. of the gross domestic product of Jersey. If the people who control political power are also involved in the financial system, that system will be run for their interests and for those of the offshore capitalism that washes through, but leaves little residue for the people of the islands--there is no great trickle-down effect for the mass of the people. It is also possible that they will use their power to control legislation to further their own interests. In other words, legislation could be effectively up for sale. They resent any interference by the British Government or any attempt to control what is going on or to demand stricter regulation or a more effective tax regime. Two years ago, however, they were perfectly prepared to intervene in the financial affairs of the United Kingdom in respect of limited liability partnerships. Big accountancy firms, terrified of lawsuits resulting from bad audits, were lobbying the British Government, who were then of another party, to give them limited liability status. Rather than becoming joint stock companies as they were given the power to do under the Companies Act 1989--

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I am very interested in what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but it does not fall within the scope of the amendments. He is talking about the status of the islands rather than the courts. The hon. Gentleman knows better than I do how to handle the amendments.

10.30 pm

Mr. Mitchell: Amendment No. 107 would extend the incorporation of the convention into the islands' legislation. Rights are threatened by the dominance of the financial interests. Those rights can best be protected by the incorporation of the convention.

A row that resulted in a real threat to rights in Jersey was caused by the attempt two years ago to interfere in the United Kingdom financial system in respect of limited liability partnerships in Jersey. Effectively, two accountancy houses bought legislation in Jersey to limit liability. The legislation was drawn up by a London barrister at a cost of £1 million, and was promised a fast-track passage into law by the Jersey States. They sought to interfere here, as the idea was that they would force the British Government to follow suit. The protest against the rapid passage of that legislation resulted in a threat to the rights of Senator Syvaret, whose case is an illustration of the need to incorporate the convention into the legislation of the islands.

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Any threat to intervene there is bitterly resented. The establishment in Jersey tries to maintain good relations with the Minister--usually a peer at the Home Office--who is richly and lavishly entertained. One establishment talks rhubarb to another establishment. Not satisfied with that, it employs extensive public relations advice, which is appropriate to the modern world of spin doctors and public relations.

The Max Clifford of Jersey is the Shandwick public affairs consultancy, which was paid £225,000 until the row over limited liability partnerships, when its fee was upped by another £200,000, so nearly £500,000 was paid out of the taxes of the people of Jersey to defend the interests of the elite. That involved all sorts of activities, which I shall not go into as they would divert me from the incorporation of the convention on human rights into the laws of Jersey.

However, I should mention in passing that part of the £500,000 that was spent on public relations as a result of the row over limited liability partnerships was paid in writing letters to me. Shandwick reported to the Jersey States about my article, saying:

which was against me. It continued:

    "Mr. Mitchell is regarded as being a liability by the Labour party".

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will want to assure the people of Jersey that that is not the case, and that I am indeed regarded as an asset by the Labour party.

Mr. Straw: I give my very old and honourable Friend that categorical assurance.

Mr. Mitchell: I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend. That stage-managed intervention gives me a great deal of pleasure.

In contrast to what was said about me, it was said about my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Radice):

That is picking and choosing in the Labour party, but it is part of public relations--[Interruption.] I am leaving the topic.

I want to deal with the abridgement of rights that resulted from the attempt to limit liability for partnerships of accountancy houses, which was passed, under the fast-track procedure, by the Jersey States. The problem is that, when the elite feels threatened--when there is a threat to its vested financial interests and the provision of services--whether it be by the British Government or by critics in this country, it is prepared to use all the power and resources at its disposal to beat off that threat, whether it is internal or external. That often produces abridgements of rights, which are endemic in a system where there is no separation of powers; where the Executive is also the legislature; where there is no meaningful opposition; and where there is no protection of rights.

I have already referred to the lack of protection of the rights of women. I was told in a telephone conversation today that a man in Sark still has the right to beat his

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wife, provided that the stick is thinner than his thumb and he does not draw blood. I do not want to provoke a rush of public school Conservatives wanting to settle in the island as a result of that revelation, but it is a sign of the feudal nature of the regime in Sark and the abuses of rights that it produces. The newspapers cite numerous instances of that.

In Guernsey, not long ago, there was the case of three men being locked up over a bank holiday without trial. The case did not come to court until five months later, and they were acquitted. A construction worker on the island of Brecqhou who was arrested in a drugs case was taken from Guernsey to Sark and charged, probably in the wrong jurisdiction, subjected to a trial in French--a language that he did not speak--and then told by a lawyer on the telephone, "You might as well plead guilty and get it over with." His rights were abridged.

There is the case of the Barclay brothers, the owners of The Scotsman. It involved an abridgement of rights. David Barclay wrote to me saying:

He said that, on Sark:

    "The Seigneur is the head of the Chief Pleas, Sark's Parliament, which is made up of 40 unelected members and he collects a thirteenth of the price of every property purchased on the island. This money is for his own personal benefit"--

it is a marvellous racket--

    "and serves no economic benefit whatsoever to the community. He appoints the Seneschal; he appoints the Prevot (Sheriff); he appoints the Greffier; he appoints the Treasurer and he approves the Constable."

What defence of rights is there in such a situation?

David Barclay continued:

which the Barclay brothers now own--

    "was forced into a legal dispute to establish rightful ownership of the island under the feudal laws of primogeniture."

There was a long dispute over which court applied--Sark or Guernsey. The case was referred to Guernsey, but after six years it remained unresolved. The owner was told that the court case could go on for another six years. Justice denied is a loss of rights. There is no appeal; there is no check on that sort of excess, which is now affecting the Barclay brothers. That is an appalling situation. The Barclay brothers are wealthy enough to take care of themselves, but it is difficult to do so when there is no protection for rights.

The case of Senator Syvaret arose from limited liability partnerships. When a Bill was rushed through the Jersey States, he drew attention to a conflict of interest by pointing out that Senator Reg Jeune was part of Mourant, du Feu and Jeune, which was acting for Price Waterhouse and Ernst and Young in trying to pass the Bill. There is a fascinating precedent in that Bill, which we could observe. The introduction expresses Jersey's indebtedness to Ernst and Young and Price Waterhouse for writing the Bill. Perhaps we could have sponsored legislation, too. It is a marvellous system.

Thus the Bill was being handled by Mourant, du Feu and Jeune, while Senator Jeune was urging its speedy passage. When Senator Syvaret drew attention to that

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conflict of interest, he was suspended indefinitely, unless he withdrew his remarks and apologised. He was deprived of his rights as a legislator, and his constituents were deprived of representation. Basic rights were denied, and there was no appeal.

Appeals to the Home Office Minister then responsible produced no result. I tabled an early-day motion that was well supported, and which produced a change of heart in Jersey. Senator Syvaret was allowed back without making an apology. They huddled him in by the back door. He is involved in a legal action over the deprivation of his rights, so that the case can go to Strasbourg, but that will remain a long, difficult road unless we incorporate the convention into the laws of all the islands, as my amendments would do.

We have the power to do that, and we have a moral obligation to do it. If we do not, in my view, and in the view of lawyers whom I have read, we shall be in breach of article 14 of the convention, if it is read alongside article 6. We are responsible for the islands, and when Senator Syvaret's case reaches Strasbourg, it will be titled Syvaret v. the United Kingdom. What formidable odds the senator from little Jersey faces as he takes on the entire United Kingdom. We are responsible for derelictions of rights in the islands, and we have a right to act under the external agreement. The royal commission on the constitution of 1973 made that explicit.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is a canny man. Perhaps he is doing a nice guy, nasty guy routine, and he might portray me as a mean, moody monster who threatens the independence and integrity of the islands. My right hon. Friend knows that that is not my nature; I am warm and cuddly, and I have a vacuous smile for all, as any new Labour politician must. To portray me as some kind of brute or monster, trampling on the freedom of the islands, would be wrong.

I know--I have read it in the papers, and I have been handed letters that confirm it--that the fact that the amendments were tabled encouraged the Under-Secretary, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to go to Guernsey. He did not get to Jersey, because there was a strike, so the Jersey elite paddled over in rowing boats to consult him. They agreed to pass the legislation, but I want to know why it should be done that way. Would it not be better to do it for ourselves? Then there would be no backsliding, and it would be done without delay. The legislative processes in the islands are very slow--unless they are financed by Price Waterhouse or Ernst and Young. It can take three years, and rights would still be abused in that period.

I notice from the newspapers that Senator Pierre Horsfall of Jersey said that the Bailiff told Lord Williams that, when Sir Philip Bailhache was previously Attorney- General--he is now the Bailiff--

That cannot possibly be true. I should like my right hon. Friend to comment on it.

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