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Mr. Sutcliffe: Under the legislation, it will be small shops that are exempt. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham about the existing restrictions and regulations that local authorities can apply. There would be no significant move away from that.

The key point is the pre-emptive nature of what we are trying to achieve. If one big store opened the rest would feel obliged to do so, too, and that is why the legislation is vital.

I was asked who will deal with enforcement. Clearly, the various local authority departments, including trading standards departments, will deal with that issue. Fines will be consistent with those in the Sunday Trading Act 1994.

I am grateful to Members for the way in which they have discussed the Lords amendment and the amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire. I am also pleased that we discussed shop workers being disadvantaged at Christmas time—even though we did not focus on that issue—when the rest of us are able to enjoy the festivities. This is a major Bill affecting shop workers, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Ms Coffey) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) for their comments on them.

I respectfully ask the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire to withdraw his amendments, as he has been urged to do by Labour Members and many of his colleagues, notwithstanding the sincerity with which he tabled them. I ask the whole House to support the Lords amendment and to give the Bill good passage.

12.30 pm

Mr. Greg Knight: We have had a very good debate and there have been a number of powerful speeches, including in particular those by my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and for North Thanet (Mr. Gale). The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) also made an excellent contribution, as did the hon. Member for Stockport (Ms Coffey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) made a very passionate speech, although it will come as no surprise to him to learn that I do not agree with his conclusions.

I want also to pay tribute to the Minister. When we were last here debating this subject, I raised a number of issues with him, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), whose ghost,
15 Oct 2004 : Column 571
I feel, is with us, even though he is not. [Hon. Members: "Where is he?"] I understand that he is on a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association visit, looking at trading practices overseas.

Mr. Dismore: Where?

Mr. Knight: I am not prepared to say where.

Mr. Leigh: Yet our right hon. Friend is the man who constantly derides the rest of us for not being in our place and for not being good parliamentarians.

Mr. Knight: I do not want to go there, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. It may just be that a question of security is involved in keeping the whereabouts of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) quiet. [Laughter.]

Mr. Knight: I am grateful to you for your protection and suggestion, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I pay tribute, as I said, to the Minister. The concerns that we raised with him when we were last here were genuine, and he undertook to look at them. Most unusually for this Government, he did indeed do so. He also said that he would contact me, which he did, and he also contacted my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. Indeed, he went even further. Where he thought it appropriate, he acted on the concerns expressed by arranging for an amendment to be moved in another place. I hope that I will not blight his future career in saying that he has behaved impeccably throughout this process. We are delighted that he has done so.

I did have a number of concerns about the wording of the Lords amendment, particularly, as I have mentioned several times before, the inclusion of the phrase

but the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) have convinced me that I need not worry about that, so I am happy with the scope of the Lords amendment.
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Most commonly in this place, one tables an amendment or new clause and argues why it is necessary, only to hear the ministerial response and realise that one's concerns are unfounded. Of course, one is then happy and willing to withdraw it. What has happened today has not quite followed that usual procedure. Conservatives have argued why amendments (a), (b) and (c) should be accepted, and those arguments were overwhelming. The Minister has done nothing to make me think that they are any less compelling.

Secondary issues are not normally our main concern in this place, because we are legislating and seeking to get such legislation right. But I accept that our procedural rules could cause a difficulty for the Bill that might prove fatal, were I to press my amendments to a vote. Someone said earlier that the hon. Member for North Durham is a political virgin. Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not want to put myself in the way of his first consummation, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 6 agreed to.

Mr. Gale: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Earlier this morning, a point of order was raised with your colleague about the publication of a report on housing in the east of England. You will be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in view of the location of your constituency, of the importance of that report. Your colleague was asked whether any Minister had expressed a wish to discuss the report before the House. The answer was no. Can you tell the House whether, by now, any indication has been given to Mr. Speaker that a statement will be made on Monday?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am afraid that I know nothing that I can add to what has already been said from the Chair. I am not aware that any notification has been given. If there were any intention to make a statement to the House, no doubt a request to do so would reach Mr. Speaker on Monday.
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15 Oct 2004 : Column 573

Crown Employment (Nationality) Bill

Not amended in Standing Committee, considered.

New Clause 1


'(1) A person who is ineligible to be employed or hold office in a civil capacity under the Crown by reason of the rules made under section 2 ("the rules") may appeal to a Crown Employment (Nationality) Rules Tribunal ("the Tribunal") for an exemption from the rules.

(2) In determining an appeal the Tribunal may recommend to a Minister of the Crown (or any person or body to whom the power has been delegated under section 2(3)) that an exemption to the rules be made.
(3) The Secretary of State shall make regulations with the respect to the composition, conduct and operation of the Tribunal.
(4) The Secretary of State may not make regulations under this section unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.
(5) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.'—[Mr. Chope.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.36 pm

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause would effectively introduce some control over the very open wording of clause 2. To show how wide-ranging that clause is, one could do worse than quote the promoter of the Bill in Committee on 7 June. It was all too brief a sitting on Monday 7 June. All that was said about clause 2 was:

That was the full extent of the Committee debate on this wide-ranging clause.

Clause 2 confers the power to impose new nationality requirements, stating:

It continues:

The rules, it continues, may be made by a "Minister of the Crown" or by somebody effectively under his control and may include provision for some exemptions.

The problem is that there is no control at all, as the clause stands, over the way in which the Minister or the person or body to whom power has been delegated by a Minister exercises that power. Indeed, there is an absolute discretion vested in the Minister, or someone beholden to him, to make rules as he sees fit. The implications of those rules could be very serious.
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The first scenario I shall describe is that of someone who wishes to take up employment but is barred from doing so under the rules. Without new clause 1, that person would have no remedy. He would be at the mercy of Government fiat. However, under the new clause, if the person were concerned about the decision that had been reached, he would be able to appeal to a Crown employment nationality rules tribunal for an exemption from those rules. The tribunal would be able to listen to the evidence and decide to make a recommendation to a Minister or any person to whom the power had been delegated by the Minister that an exemption should be made.

The Secretary of State would be required to make regulations about the composition, conduct and operation of the tribunal and he would not be allowed to make regulations unless a draft of the regulations had been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. That power to make regulations would be exercisable by statutory instrument.

In the scenario that I have described, the person who wanted to apply for a post but found that rules had been made under clause 2 that prevented him from taking up that post would be able to apply to a tribunal for an exemption. The second scenario I shall put before the House is possibly more serious and demands some proper redress, as provided in new clause 1. What happens if someone is already in employment or holds office under the Crown and the rules are changed by the Minister, thus barring that person from the job that he has been doing, perhaps for many years? Under the Bill as drafted, he would have no rights, unless the Minister volunteered to exempt him.

In that situation, the Minister could decide, on a day-to-day basis, the nationality of those eligible to be Crown civil servants. The Minister could change the rules, and people who were already civil servants could be disqualified from holding their positions. There is a good introduction to the problems that could be faced by employees of the Crown in today's news about what has been happening in Uzbekistan. I do not know whether the Government would intend to include nationals of Uzbekistan in the list of those entitled to hold positions in the civil service under the Bill, were it to become law. If the Government did intend to do so, some people might be concerned about that in the light of the evidence provided by our erstwhile man in Tashkent, Mr. Craig Murray.

Let us suppose that Mr. Murray, or someone like him, was serving as a civil servant. He might find that the nationality of his wife became relevant. Let us also suppose that the situation in Uzbekistan went from bad to worse and the Minister decided to change the rules so that Uzbeki nationals were no longer entitled to hold office under the Crown as civil servants. Although our man in Tashkent might be a British rather than an Uzbeki citizen himself, his wife might be Uzbeki. Indeed, that might be one of the reasons why he was qualified to serve in that overseas civil service posting in Uzbekistan. Then, however, the status of Uzbekistan, under the control of the Government, might change, and that country would shift from being a country whose nationals were entitled and welcome to be members of our civil service, to being one whose citizens were disentitled, and unwelcome.
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12.45 pm

Under the wide terms of clause 2, that would read across not only to employees of the Crown, because of their own nationality, but to the nationality of their wife or husband. Somebody in the civil service who was married to a foreign national would be disqualified from their employment because the foreign national had moved from a category acceptable to the Government to an unacceptable one. Surely the least we would expect in such a situation is a right of appeal, which new clause 1 would add to the Bill.

The next possible scenario involves a relative of someone seeking employment, if a Minister decreed that their nationality was forbidden. Why should the applicant for employment be discriminated against because of the nationality of his or her relative, without recourse to having the case considered by an objective panel, as would be provided by the new clause?

The relative might be a close relative, such as a brother, sister, father or mother—and one might be able to argue that it would be in the national interest that someone with such a relative who was a national of a country hostile to this country's national interests should not be entitled to enter the civil service. However, the Bill goes wider and specifies not a close relative, but any relative. That relative could be an in-law, an aunt, a stepchild or whatever. Under the Civil Partnership Bill, which we discussed earlier this week, a relative might even include the civil partner of a brother, sister or child. Again there should be a right of appeal.

Absolute power would be vested in a Minister, and the Opposition are becoming increasingly concerned about the way in which Ministers exercise some of the powers that have been given to them.

The most dangerous scenario in terms of individual liberty, the right to employment and human rights in general involves the person already employed or holding office in a civil capacity under the Crown who finds that his sister, brother, son or daughter has chosen to marry someone of a forbidden nationality while he is serving. How can the Government think that as a consequence the person should lose their job? In any other world, people would say that that would be wholly discriminatory and unreasonable, yet under the terms of clause 2 that is exactly what could happen.

Let us suppose that someone is pursuing a career, perhaps very successfully, and they know that their child has fallen in love with a person of a prohibited nationality. Does that mean that when the son or daughter comes and asks, "Daddy, can I get married?" the father is put in the invidious position of replying, "Of course you can get married but the consequence of your getting married is that I will lose my job"? What a burden to put on a family relationship—yet that is exactly what the Bill contemplates.

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