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Mr. Hogg: To reinforce those views, I invite my right hon. Friend to read the law report in The Times today on the case of Bradley. The court has been making similar points to his about the torrent of ill-considered and ill-drafted legislation.
Mr. Gummer: I am glad that that is the case. The fact that a court has made the point explains why the problem is at the heart of the Bill. The relationship between the law makers and the law interpreters is necessarily uneasythere is bound to be tension; there always has beenbut such tension can work creatively as long as both sides remember their purpose. Our purpose is to produce good law so that judges can make good judgments. We have allowed the Government to emasculate us.
I stress to my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly), who is on the Front Bench, that before he gets too enamoured of the wholly alien United States system, we have a parliamentary democracy and a key point in it is the ability of the legislature to keep the Executive under scrutiny and control. That means that the oppositionin the Government, of which there is a good deal, and outside the Governmentmust have the time to do that.
My worry about my party is that when we return to power we will say, "Well, they did it to us, so we won't give the powers back to the Opposition." I want to stress now that when we return to power, some of us will insist that our first action is to give back power to the people. That means that this House must have the opportunity
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to debate issues, such as the subject of our discussion, in the way in which we always did formerly, and thus produce legislation that is the envy of the world.
Sir Sydney Chapman : I agree with my right hon. Friend's comments. Earlier, he mentioned the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. He may be interested to know that of the 92 clauses in the first measure, only 26 were discussed in Committee. That resulted in the vast part of the Bill having to go to the other place to be considered, probably in a rather rushed manner, before the Government decideduniquely, in my political careerto recommit a Bill to another Committee. That is the method of the madhouse in dealing with legislation.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I say to the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman), the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and to the House as a whole that we are now straying somewhat from the Bill.
Mr. Gummer: I will not pursue my hon. Friend's point about the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. He did, however, draw our attention to the crucial issue that, if we are to agree to the major constitutional changes in the Bill, we should have time to discuss them. I say to the Minister that it would help to regain a consensus on an issue that really matters if, even from his relatively junior position, he could convince the powers that be that showing courtesy to the House by giving us time to debate the whole lot on the Floor of the House would help considerably. It would also mean that many, like myself, who have doubts would find themselves much closer to where he wants us to beeven though I do not think that we should be discussing this because we have other things to do.
So, is there a real problem with the present system? No, that has not been shown. Has there been a considered response? Manifestly not. Will there be proper scrutiny? Not unless the Minister is able to convince the powers that be that there should be. Lastly, there should be an effective outcome. I do not know whether the Minister has looked at the notice outside the new Constitutional Affairs Department. It bears an interesting, if ungrammatical, slogan: "Justice, rights and democracy". There is no comma after "rights", so we must think of rights and democracy together. I am not quite sure why, but there we are.
The slogan was invented by the present Lord Chancellor; I found that out because I asked a lot of questions about it. The interesting thing about it also
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illustrates part of the problem with the Bill: it mentions rights but not duties or obligations. I wrote and asked representatives at the Department whether they could explain why, when we are to have a new Department, we are for the first time creating a society in which we talk about rights but not obligations. Some of us believe that no human beingno creative beingcan have rights, but that we can only have obligations. Our rights are found in the obligations of other people and institutions towards ourselves.
The problem with Tom Paine was that he was wrong. He did not understand the nature of obligation. The great advantage of emphasising duties and obligations is that we remove the selfishness that comes with people who say, "I've got my rights!" If we all thought a bit more about our obligations, perhaps we would understand that a society run on that basis would be much more likely to be one in which the rule of law would be the representation of our duties, and that the more fortunate we are, the greater those duties and obligations become. To set up a Department that refuses to include in its slogan the word "obligations" or "duties" is to set up a Department that starts by being fundamentally flawed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy): I hesitate to intervene, but I remember answering an earlier question on this matter from the right hon. Gentleman. We cannot have justice or democracy without responsibility. That is the thing that connects citizen to citizen; we cannot have democracy or justice without it, and he knows that.
Mr. Gummer: Then why does the Minister refuse to put it in his Department's slogan? This country is filled with people, both rich and poor, who believe that they have rights but not responsibilities. The only way to change the nature of our society is to make all of us insistent about obligations, starting with our ownwith mine and the Minister'sand moving on to everyone else's. This is at the heart of the Minister's missed opportunity. I gave him the opportunity to change this. I asked him a question and waited for his response. It would not have cost much, when we are spending £30 million, to replace the word "rights" with "obligations" in the little slogan outside his new smart offices.
That brings me back to my final point. The effective outcome will have to be paid for. I began by suggesting that it had not been established that there was a real problem. Indeed, the Minister waxed so lyrical about the excellence of the system, the honesty of the judges, the independence of Lord Chancellors and the reticence with which the Law Lords behaved during debates in which they might have an interest, that he was unable to argue much of a case for the need for the Bill. He was therefore even less able to argue the case for the cost involved.
I know many people who would say that if we have £30 million, we should spend it on giving people more access to justice. There are people who cannot get their case heard because of the slashing attack on legal aid over which this Government have presided. It now takes people longer to get into the courts, and it is more expensive for them when they get there. This
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Government have achieved that. That £30 million could be very much better spent. I do not know whether the Minister is married
Mr. Gummer: Then this is an ideal opportunity for someone who has been married for 27 years to give the hon. Gentleman a small piece of advice. When one's wife asks, "Can we afford to do this?", the one argument that one can never put forward is, "Yes, but only if we don't do that." That cannot be part of the argument. The argument is always about doing both. That is a necessary part of life. The trouble with Parliament is that we are acting like that. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) got up and said that we had to have the best legal system in the world and that if it cost a certain amount of money, that would be the amount we would have to spend. The Liberals are well known for doing this, as they have no hope of coming to power. However, if we spend it on that, I am afraid that we cannot spend it on anything else.
We have created a Bill whose justification has not been made out. It is not a considered response to a proper discussion. It will not be given proper scrutiny, and it will use resources that would be better used elsewhere. I am sorry that it has been brought before us and I wish that we were spending this time dealing with the issues that really matter, such as climate change or the way in which people who were already very poor have become poorer under this Government. The Government are not prepared to discuss those issues. Perhaps we could even have a debate about the Iraq waran unnecessary and unacceptable war that we should have debated properly. We spent seven hours discussing it, yet we spent 200 hours on the Hunting Bill. This Government have no priorities and, above all, they do not know how to do things. They should not institutionalise the means of achievement, and that is why the Bill should be opposed.
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