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28 Oct 2002 : Column 603—continued

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Are you aware that at three minutes to seven o'clock, four Members of Parliament were seeking to access the car park—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I cannot hear the point of order that the hon. Lady is raising. Would those Members who are staying in the Chamber please be quiet?

Miss Kirkbride: Are you aware that at three minutes to seven o'clock, four Members of Parliament were seeking to access the car park but that the security barrier had not been raised, despite the imminence of the

28 Oct 2002 : Column 604

vote? Will you advise me what Standing Orders of the House require Members of Parliament to carry around green security passes? What advice would you give me on what to do with my car when a vote is imminent and I am not able to access the car park?

Madam Deputy Speaker: There was fairly good warning of the vote at this time. Perhaps Members will have to be a little more aware and allow themselves a little extra time to reach the House.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I and a couple of other Members had trouble getting to the Lobby because on the passage between Portcullis House and Norman Shaw North there is a new security door where a pass is also now required. Your advice will be sufficient when we know exactly when votes will take place, but it will not be sufficient for a running Whip.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I remind hon. Members that they are required to carry their passes with them at all times. I have no doubt, however, that the office of the Serjeant at Arms will have heard the comments made in the Chamber.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Due to the inordinate length of time taken by the Front-Bench spokespersons of the three main parties in the last debate, only five Back-Bench Members were able to contribute: three of them were from the Government side, one was from the official Opposition, and one was from Northern Ireland. Although we were here during the debate, no Member from my party was called, despite the fact that this matter is of intense interest to our constituents in Northern Ireland. Is there something that you can do to ensure that, in future, those of us who have something to contribute on behalf of our party and our constituents on a matter of relevance have the opportunity to do so?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I understand the frustration of the hon. Gentleman and others who would have wished to contribute to the previous debate, especially given their particular interest in it. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that this is an Opposition day and that, as the main Opposition party decided to have two debates today, a limited amount of time was available.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given the considerable concern that many Members expressed about the new security arrangements, which seem to impede without necessarily making things safer, are there any plans for someone to explain to the House why they have been put in place, how much they cost, and whether they will in any way enhance our security?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I have already made some observations on this matter. If the right hon. Gentleman has further concerns, I suggest that he has a word with his party's Whips.

Human Rights Act

7.19 pm

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): I beg to move,

Our intention is to try to enable a debate to take place on the way in which the Human Rights Act 1998 currently influences our daily lives and affects the working of Parliament.

I declare an interest as a barrister, as registered on the Order Paper. At the time of incorporation, various barristers, including Mr. Sydney Kentridge QC, stated:

The bliss has not reached me in any material form since incorporation, but nevertheless I declare an interest as a barrister.

The Government and the House may recollect the extensive debates in the Chamber at the time of incorporation. Insofar as I participated in them, it was as a broad supporter of the principle of incorporation, as the Minister may be aware. I spoke in support of it for a number of reasons. I saw many advantages to the possibility of judicial input by English judges into the decision-making process of the jurisprudence that was being built up. I also saw the possibility of the much greater use of the margin of appreciation through the basic facts of cases being decided here and the opportunity that that would afford for our courts to be seized of matters that might otherwise end up in Strasbourg. There had been frequent complaints that the Strasbourg judges had great difficulty in grasping our customs or the background to particular cases from this country. In that context, I saw incorporation as an enormous advantage for the English judiciary.

It is clear that in a number of decided cases, incorporation has brought about real benefits. Some have been contentious, but one can understand how the dialogue between the judiciary and the Executive has sometimes led to interesting results. At one time, there was no possibility of a child born of artificial insemination knowing the identity of his biological father. That was challenged under article 8 and has been changed. The policy that a prisoner should not be present when prison officers examined legally privileged correspondence was also held to be wrong under article 8. I cite that because I accept that those are examples of a dynamic relationship that may produce better law and enhance human rights.

Some of the decisions have come as a surprise. My constituents were relying heavily on the possibility that a challenge to section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 would enable them to get away with not disclosing their identity when they were caught by speed cameras. The European Court of Human Rights held that the measure was proportional to what the Government intended. If litigation continues, the Court may find that there is a right to administer corporal punishment in private schools if the parent has authorised the teacher to carry it out. So Government policy on some matters may be challenged.

I accept that the courts have not been flooded with decisions. The evidence shows that, despite early prognostications that a massive flood would paralyse the court of criminal appeal, it has not happened. Having been saddled with the responsibility, the judiciary appears to be able to deal with it without the courts grinding to a halt.

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): Before the hon. Gentleman gets deep into his contribution, will he clarify the depth of his support for incorporation? I recall that, during the passage of the Human Rights Bill, he condemned incorporation because it removed the right of Parliament to introduce capital punishment. He was quoted as saying:

Just how committed is he to the legislation?

Mr. Grieve: I fear that the hon. Lady is badly briefed by her civil servants.

Beverley Hughes: By The Daily Telegraph.

Mr. Grieve: In that case, the hon. Lady may be badly briefed by The Daily Telegraph. If she reads Hansard, she will find that, in Committee, I argued against a decision taken by Back Benchers to fetter the ability of Parliament to discuss the issue of capital punishment. I explained that it was not in the Government's original Bill. Indeed, the Home Secretary resisted it in the Chamber and said that he thought it a bad move. I explained to the House—I could quote verbatim because I have reread what I said—that I was against capital punishment, which remains my view, and would not vote for its reintroduction. I also said that the House was making a grave and unnecessary mistake that would irritate public opinion. From my mailbag afterwards, I concluded that there was indeed some irritation of public opinion on something that was unnecessary for incorporation and that the Government did not intend. I hope that that deals with the hon. Lady's point. In future, she should rely on Hansard rather than on newspaper cuttings.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): May I embarrass my hon. Friend further by drawing attention to the difficulties that he experienced when we discussed the Human Rights Bill in 1997 and 1998? I think that he will confirm that he needed persuading that it was sensible to support the Opposition stance on Second and Third Reading.

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