Mr. Ingram: As the hon. Gentleman said, the Opposition amendments seek to change the parliamentary procedure from the negative to the affirmative in respect of certain, but not all, delegated powers. I shall make three general points before dealing with the hon. Gentleman's point about remission.
First, the delegated powers in part VII, on which many of the amendments are focused, are subject to the same procedure that would apply to the current provision under the EPA. That is not to say that the parliamentary procedure for those provisions must remain the same under the Bill, but it is surely the right starting point. In respect of the new powers that the Opposition seek to amend, we had to take a view, and we think that we have got it right.
Secondly, the negative resolution procedure is a significant procedure in its own right. Hon. Members have the opportunity to scrutinise carefully and pray against orders and regulations that are subject to the negative resolution procedure. Clearly if there were concerns about
That brings me to my third point. It is my judgment that the delegated powers in the Bill are subject to the appropriate scrutiny. Hon Members will no doubt be aware that before the Bill reaches the other place, the delegated powers will be subject to detailed scrutiny, and should it be felt that any of the procedures are inappropriate, we shall of course have regard to that.
We shall take account of the points that have been made this evening. If I have omitted to deal with any of the details, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman setting out the precise way in which the powers will operate and hopefully set his mind at rest.
If all the issues were dealt with under the affirmative procedure, we should have to deal with a wide range of orders. We consider an enormous amount of Northern Ireland business on important issues. The amendments seek to extend that in an unlimited way. I am not sure whether my hon. Friends--or indeed Opposition Members--would welcome that.
Mr. Lidington: I am grateful to the Minister. I am sure that there is scope--but not tonight--for a full debate about statutory instruments and parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation. There is a serious problem about the amount and the importance of legislation that is passed via statutory instruments. The examples in the amendments illustrate that argument.
The Minister's argument about the precedent set by the Prevention of Terrorism Acts is not conclusive. It is a reasonable point for him to make, but it is equally reasonable for Parliament to review from time to time how it scrutinises legislation, and we suggested an appropriate vehicle this evening.
( ) may make different provision for different purposes.'.--[Mrs. McGuire.]
Mr. Clarke: The amendments add an enabling power subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, so that the Secretary of State may require the video recording of interviews with terrorist suspects at police stations, in accordance with the code of practice.
This is an example of the Government's broadchurch, inclusive approach in practice. The amendments take account of proposals made by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) in Committee. I agreed to consider his suggestions, and the amendments are the result. He described his irritation with lawyers when he was a Home Office Minister, and this was an example of our all working together against the lawyers' party.
Mr. Simon Hughes: I am sorry to rise to the bait, but I am going to make it even worse by telling the Minister that I agree with him, so he cannot even claim that this is the non-lawyers against the lawyers.
It was always my view that we should try generally, and not only in police stations dealing with suspected terrorists, to have both audio and video recording. When I went to Northern Ireland recently, I asked, as I have in police stations elsewhere, whether people thought that that would save time and work well, and the general view, not only in RUC headquarters in Belfast but at Bessbrook and other police stations, was that it would make life easier and make for less controversy and dispute.
'( ) paragraph 1(2)(b) of Schedule 1;'.
Mr. Ingram: The amendments were tabled in response to the helpful debate in Committee and to the points made by the hon. Members for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) and for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). I have looked again at the arrangements relating to the transitional provisions and decided to provide reassurance in the Bill that, if for any reason the bringing into force of the legislation is delayed, the transitional provisions will remain subject to annual renewal by affirmative resolution, as is the traditional way of dealing with the matter. I commend the Government amendments to the House.
In Committee, the Minister said specifically that the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland was content with the two other deletions from the EPA to which I had drawn the Committee's attention, which were the provisions concerning the wearing of hoods and the arrangements for the Secretary of State to regulate the siting of explosives factories. I inferred from the way in which the Minister talked of the police being content with those changes that perhaps they were less happy with the imposition of restrictions on extensions to searches for munitions. I wish to press the Minister to say briefly whether the Government are introducing that restriction simply to meet human rights obligations, or whether they believe that the power is now superfluous to legitimate police investigatory requirements.
Mr. Ingram: We had a good and thorough debate on the matter in Committee, and it was obvious that, before a decision is taken to remove a power from the RUC, full consultation must take place to ensure that the Chief Constable and his force are happy and satisfied with that course of action. We keep the legislation under constant review and, if elements of it become effectively redundant--if they have not been used, are no longer effective or, indeed, do not comply with the provisions of the European convention on human rights--we must take that into account. That is the approach that we have taken to the specific issues in the amendments. The Chief Constable was consulted and we would not have moved without his approval. The amendments will tidy up the legislation and I hope that, as in Committee, the hon. Gentleman will not press them to a Division.
Mr. Simon Hughes: The Government amendments are useful and we are grateful that the Minister accepted the constitutional point. It means that the Bill is now much clearer and there can be no doubt about the carry-over provisions.
'( ) paragraph 6(2) or 7(3) of Schedule [Financial information];'.