|Civil Contingencies Bill
Mr. Allan: The amendments concern a legal point. We think that there is a distinction to be drawn between the current wording, which says that anything that has happened under the regulations would not be affected at a later date, and wording that says that anything that happens in the parliamentary process does not render the regulations unlawful. It is important to make that distinction.
We can foresee circumstances where regulations have been made, Parliament takes a different view when it meets after the seven-day interval, and a question mark is thrown over the regulations. The ''rendering unlawful'' formula is intended to ensure that servants of the Crown who are engaged in this—whether they are members of the armed forces or of the blue light services, such as doctors—have the protection that they need, as they are simply carrying out their duties quite properly under the regulation. We do not want their actions to be rendered unlawful. However, to say that any subsequent decision of Parliament shall not affect anything, as the original wording does, goes too far.
Earlier, in our animal health and foot and mouth examples, emergency regulations have ordered the destruction of animals, but Parliament has then taken a different view. It may be appropriate in those circumstances for compensation to be given that reflects the fact that regulations were struck down by Parliament. We would not want vets or anyone else involved to be declared to be acting unlawfully, but we do want things to be affected. The amendment is a genuine attempt to reflect the intention of the legislation, which is to ensure that we protect people who are carrying out the regulations, without going so far as to render everybody incapable of taking action, especially where action may be justified on the basis that Parliament took a different view about emergency regulations. The sovereign, sensible, rational Parliament, elected by the British people, might take a different view about the emergency regulations from the one that the Minister took when he drafted them.
Mr. Alexander: The Government entirely agree that lapse of the regulation should neither render as unlawful action that which has been properly taken in reliance on the regulation, nor adversely affect the rights of those who have been affected by such action. The amendments would not achieve that result however, and I cannot accept them for that reason.
Concerns have been raised that the provision would somehow cast doubt on a claim for compensation in relation to action undertaken under the regulations. That is simply not the case. If a public authority exceeds its powers under the regulations, or if the regulations themselves are defective in some way—for example, they do not provide for compensation in circumstances where it is required under the Human Rights Act 1998—an individual who is adversely
Column Number: 297affected can seek redress in the courts. Lapse of the regulations will not affect that, as the right to seek redress derives not from the regulations but from public law. However, it is appropriate to make express provision to ensure that things that are lawfully done under the regulations are not affected by lapses of the regulations. That is the purpose of clauses 25(2)(a) and 26(4)(b).
Those provisions will apply to action taken by public authorities under the regulations, but will also relate to things done by or in relation to other persons. Thus, if an individual has received compensation under the regulations or exercised a right of appeal conferred by the regulations, a lapse will not affect that payment or that appeal. If a person has been convicted of a criminal offence under the regulations, a lapse will not affect that conviction.
The wider wording used in the Bill—that a lapse of the regulations
achieves that end, but it is not clear that the narrower wording suggested in the amendments that a lapse shall not ''render unlawful''
would serve, for example, to preserve any payment of compensation or appeal rights. There may be a common agreement as to the intention, but we cannot accept the amendment.
Mr. Heald: The Minister referred to the public law basis on which compensation was to be made. Will he explain what he meant by that?
Mr. Alexander: The right to seek redress is established in common law, rather than specifically on compensation. For example, the European convention on human rights allows for redress against public bodies. I think that that addresses the specific point raised by the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Allan: That was a helpful response and we will study the record. At this stage, it would not be helpful to press the amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed: No. 105, in
'(3) Where emergency regulations are made and thereafter new regulations are made, the series of regulations shall lapse after 90 days and new regulations shall not be made thereafter under this Part in respect of the emergency.'.—[Mr. Heald.]
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.
Division No. 8]
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Column Number: 298
Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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