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The Solicitor-General: My hon. and learned Friend asked about the significance of the GMC inquiry, and I apologise to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield for failing to respond to him initially about that. In the Sally Clark case, the Court of Appeal judgment was based on the weight that it felt should have been given to Dr. Williams' evidence, and that is the judgment that the prosecutors need. In respect of Professor Meadow and other experts, we also have the Court of Appeal judgment in the Angela Cannings case, so we do not need to wait for the GMC. Whether or not the GMC finds that Dr. Williams committed offences against his professional code of conduct is an entirely separate matter, as we are proceeding on the basis of the Court of Appeal judgments in the Cannings and Clark cases. Obviously, we will consider any further issues that the GMC is able to raise, but the two judgments to which I have referred provide the basis for the action that we are taking now. We are not in any way waiting for the outcome of the GMC inquiry.
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park) (LD): Will the Solicitor-General assure the House that she agrees that medical opinion is just thatan opinionhowever eminent the person giving it, and that it should never be used as sole evidence in a case? I fully appreciate how difficult it is to strike a balance between the safety of a child and the rights of a parent, but is the right hon. and learned Lady able to consider releasing from prison, under supervision, the women affected by the inquiry, while it is under way?
The Solicitor-General: Any case that meets the criteria laid out by the Court of Appeal in the Cannings case would allow an immediate application for bail to be made. My expectation would be that that application would not be resisted. I think that the question of the liberty of people involved in the inquiry before the Court of Appeal judgment is known would be dealt with in that way.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) is a medical person herself, and her question about medical evidence covers the topic of expert evidence. I can tell the House that my noble Friend Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws is presiding over an intercollegiate working party, involving the Royal College of Pathologists and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. The working party also has representatives from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last night, during the debate on the Civil Contingencies Bill, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) raised a point of order. In response, Mr. Deputy Speaker ruled that the Minister for the Cabinet Office should place in the Library of the House the written advice that he had received from counsel, so that hon. Members could see it, unless he could produce an overarching reason why an exception should be made to the rule that such documents should be so produced. I have been in touch with the Library and understand that no such document has been placed there.
Do you, Mr. Speaker, agree that the Minister has two options? Either he places the document in the Library as requested, or he makes a written statement explaining the exception to the rule that he is relying on. Would you be prepared to make inquiries into this case, given the ruling that was given last night? An important fact is that the points of order were raised by Back Benchers, and you are the guardian of them and their rights.
The purpose of the Bill is to remove the existing restrictions placed on the employment of non-UK nationals in civil capacities under the Crown. In place of the current system, the Bill would open up all civil employment under the Crown to applicants of any nationality, apart from such positions as would be restricted to UK nationals under rules made by the Minister for the civil service, or by another Minister or other Crown official to whom he has delegated the power to make such rules.
Before looking at the detail, let me make it clear that the Bill does not deal with asylum, immigration or work permits, and that it does not affect the requirements for non-UK nationals to get leave to remain and to work in the UK.
The rules restricting the employment of foreign nationals by the Crown have their roots in events of more than 200 years ago. The Act of Settlement 1700 provides that no person born out of the kingdoms of England, Scotland or Ireland, or the dominions thereto belonging, should be capable of enjoying any office or place of trust, either civil or military. That prohibition has been amended over the years and does not apply to Commonwealth citizens, citizens of the Irish Republic, or to British protected persons employed in a civil capacity. Section 6 of the Aliens Restrictions (Amendment) Act 1919 provides that no alien shall be appointed to any office or place in the civil service of the state. Under the British Nationality Act 1981, an alien is defined as a person who is neither a Commonwealth citizen, a British protected person nor a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.
During the second world war, defence regulations permitted the temporary employment of aliens if no suitable British subjects were available. That provision was replaced by the Aliens' Employment Act 1955 and the prohibitions were relaxed so that aliens could be employed if they had been appointed in a country outside the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in a capacity appearing to the Minister to be appropriate for aliens, or employed in accordance with a certificate issued by a Minister with the consent of the Minister for the civil service. In that connection, either there must be no suitably qualified UK nationals available or the alien must possess acceptable qualifications. In the last year for which figures are available200203only 47 people were employed under such certificates.
The European Communities (Employment in the Civil Service) Order 1991 amended the 1955 Act to allow nationals of member states of the European Communities and their spouses and certain children, to take up civil employment under the Crown, apart from "public service" posts within the meaning of the EC
Against the background of a possible legal challenge in the European Court, further changes were made in 1996 to put Irish and Commonwealth citizens on the same footing as all other non-UK EC nationals. An amendment to the civil service management code was made to restrict Commonwealth and Irish nationals from being employed in posts that were reserved for UK nationals.
The effect of the existing rules is that foreign nationals may be employed abroad in any civil post under the Crown, including the diplomatic service, if the Minister considers it appropriate. However, as regards civil employment under the Crown within the UK, Commonwealth citizens, British protected persons and nationals of member states of the European economic area may be employed only in posts that are not "public service" reserved ones; and nationals of all other countries may be employed in UK non-reserved posts only if one of the rarely issued exemption certificates is in force. Although 75 per cent. of civil service posts in the UK are available to Commonwealth, Irish or EEA nationals, the remaining 2 per cent., which require the special allegiance of "public service" posts, are entirely reserved for UK nationals. More posts are reserved than is operationally necessary, but that is unavoidable due to the present definition based on the EC treaty.
Attempts to define "public service" posts must follow EC case law and are subject to judgments of the European Court. The net effect is that it is a criminal offence, even if committed by mistake, to employ a non-Irish EEA national in a "public service" reserved post or to employ an alien in any civil service post at all, apart from the small number of certificated exceptions. Although it is legal to employ in a non-reserved post the alien spouse of an EEA national living in the UKunder the freedom of movement provisionsit remains an offence to employ the alien spouse of a UK national. Such anomalies are not likely to be less after the forthcoming EU enlargement.
Those points all sound legalistic and technical, so the anomalies can best be illustrated by example. As I said, my Bill does not change any of the rules on asylum and immigration, but my constituency, like many others, has long-standing communities from, for example, Iran and Iraq. Those communities mostly comprise highly skilled professionals, often people who were senior public servants in their home countries and fled persecution many years ago. They and their children, who may know no other country, are entirely barred.
In Hendon, we have large Israeli, Chinese and Japanese communities, and also UK citizens married to people of those nationalities. Assuming that they retained their original citizenship, those Israeli, Chinese and Japanese people would be barred from, for example, jobs in the Department of Trade and Industry, but if their spouses were French and not British, they would not be so barred. A Turkish Cypriot is eligible for a non-restricted post, but a Turk is not.
In our country, about 850,000 residents of working age are not UK, Commonwealth or EEA citizens and are thus excluded entirely. In London, a diverse world city, 350,000 people9 per cent. of the working-age populationare excluded, not just from the higher echelons, but even from applying for the most junior social security clerk's job. It is no wonder that we have difficulty filling civil service jobs in the capital when so many of my fellow Londoners are entirely left out of the equation.
My Bill tackles those bizarre and discriminatory anomalies by sweeping away the existing complex, interlocking legislation and replacing it with a simple amendment to the Act of Settlement, so as not to prohibit the employment of any person in any civil capacity under the Crown, while empowering the Minister to make rules in respect of nationality requirements for certain categories of post where it is clearly necessary in the national interest for the job to be reserved for a UK nationalabout 10 per cent. of the total. It is expected that the Bill would open 90 per cent. of all posts to selection on merit, regardless of nationality, enabling us to build a civil service that reflects the diversity of the society that it serves.
The concern the unions have is that this is not a metaphysical issue, it is a very real issue. People from the Irish Republic and the Commonwealth are debarred from access to quite a large number of civil service posts, and that is completely contrary to fairness, equality and the image we are trying to create as a diverse Civil Service. There seems to be a broad agreement that this is wrong and we need to put it right. There also seems to be agreement that it needs to be done by primary legislation because every other possibility has been explored and it will not work."