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Mr. Chope: Has a new Government doctrine spread to the Back Benches? Is it the case that anyone who seeks to amend a piece of legislation is regarded as an enemy of the people for wanting to wreck it?
Mr. Dismore: Certainly not. I suspect that some Opposition Members may be here today as enemies of the hon. Member for Hendon, given my track record on Fridays, but I certainly have not adopted such a doctrine. However, based on previous occasions on which the Bill was discussed, I believe that certain Members, including the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, have no time whatsoever for the notion of a multicultural society and will do everything that they can to frustrate the progress of the measure.
I am neutral about the amendment, and understand the arguments behind it, although some of them are a little disingenuous and far-fetched. We must keep our
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feet on the ground. As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield said, the rules will be subject to judicial review, the procedure for which has improved dramatically in recent years, as he will concede. It is sensible and cost-effective to use the systems already available, as setting up a new tribunal would create a new layer of bureaucracy and red tape, which the Opposition oppose. Interestingly, one or two signatories to the amendment are at the forefront of opposition to red tape but are now suggesting a new form of bureaucracy. Tribunals would be used rarely and setting them up would involve substantial costs and bureaucracy. They would not be financially viable, so we would be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I do not have strong feelings about the amendment, but the Government will resist it. To ensure that the Bill makes progress, as I hope it will, I will fall in behind them.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Ruth Kelly): My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) and I have had many exchanges in the Chamber on a Friday and I congratulate him, not only on introducing the Bill but on his tenacity in securing its progress. I believe that this is the furthest stage that it will manage to reach in the House but, none the less, it is an extremely good and important measure with a significant deregulatory effect. I am only sorry that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) is not here to pick me up on some of the arguments I am about to make.
There has been misunderstanding about some of the Bill's proposals. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) is worried about the blacklisting of certain nationalities, but the rules will not result in such a blacklisting. The Bill reserves certain posts to British citizens where necessarya very different propositionwho are still subject to European law restrictions. Anyone taking up such a position will of course be subject to the usual security checks governing such posts. There is not an absolute power for the UK Governmentnot only do European law restrictions apply but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon ably pointed out, there will still be a provision for judicial review, enabling cases to be settled prior to a hearing, which is probably as effective as any industrial tribunal system.
Mr. Chope: Does the Minister not agree that judicial review is incredibly expensive to access let alone to undertake? How will people who want to become relatively junior members of the civil service engage in judicial review to secure their rights?
I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. The judicial review process has been streamlined and there are now effective mechanisms for settling cases prior to the hearing taking place. There is no guarantee that an industrial tribunal would be any more effective. In fact, the tribunal would consider general public law principlesexactly the sort of issues that would normally be subject to judicial review. In addition, at a time when the public finances must be kept under control, it would be fiscally irresponsible to set up a duplicate mechanisman industrial tribunalwhen
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such a resolution mechanism already exists through the judicial review system. On those grounds, the clause should be resisted.
Mr. Chope: What a fascinating debate. We have drawn out the promoter of the Billhe made a short contributionand the Minister has told us where the Government stand on the matter. I am disappointed with her approach. Whatever may be the informal processes prior to a judicial review hearing, not many individuals would be prepared to contemplate the enormous financial burden and risk involved in engaging in judicial review.
I need only look at my constituency caseload of people who are dissatisfied with planning decisions. Those are people who, for the most part, have property, so they have capital against which they could borrow, but they are very reluctant to engage in judicial review, even when a decision has been taken that seems to be in breach of all natural justice. It is totally unrealistic to expect people who are teetering on the brink of joining the civil service or who are junior civil servants to engage in judicial review when they come up against the Government.
Perhaps we shall see whether our erstwhile representative in Uzbekistan seeks judicial review in order to try and remedy the gross injustice that he seems to have suffered at the hands of the Foreign Office, as reported in the newspapers today. There is a further example from another jurisdiction, which again features in this week's newspapers and concerns the European Union employee Marta Andreasen, who has been kept hanging round for years hoping that justice would be delivered and now finds that she, too, will be out of a job, because she had the temerity to criticise and whistleblow what was going on on the part of her employers.
I do not accept that it will be easy for people who are disadvantaged by the Government's proposals, particularly people from blacklisted countries, any more than it is easy for people who whistleblow against the Government.
Mr. Grieve: My hon. Friend will have listened carefully, as I did, to the Minister's comments that it was not the Government's intention to blacklist countries, but he may agree with me that if it is intended to reserve certain jobs for UK nationals, the wording of clause 2 could have been different to restrict it to that specific purpose. Although the Government have clearly indicated their intention, the rules as drafted in clause 2 would allow them to regulate much more widely.
My hon. Friend is right to draw that to the attention of the House. That is the pattern of behaviour of the Government. They put words on paper, which are summarised orally to give the impression that they mean something different or have a more limited application. This is the last time this week that I shall refer to it, but the Civil Partnership Bill is nothing to do with civil partnerships: it is about same-sex partnerships. That is another example of the Government choosing language to create one impression, whereas a totally different impression is gained from the language they use in the small print. I share my hon. Friend's articulate critique
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of what the Government are about. Contrary to what the promoter of the Bill says, I can see that there is a case for rationalising the situation.
Indeed, that is what motivated many Opposition Members to support some form of amendment to the present civil service regime. However, to replace a set of firm principles, however anomalous, with a system whereby the Government would have carte blanche to do whatever they wanted would be a step in the wrong direction, especially if it was not accompanied by the protectionalbeit limitedof my new clause. I shall, therefore, put new clause 1 to the test.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:
The House divided: Ayes 1, Noes 21.
Mr. Dismore: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Bearing in mind the fact that the Conservative party generally expressed support for my Bill, are you surprised to hear that Opposition Whips advised Conservative Members not to take part in the Division to ensure that the Bill was frustrated today? Is not that a complete negation of their position? Is it not an abuse of Parliament for Whips to engage in such practices on private Members' Bills on a Friday?
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