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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is important to minimise in particular the grey list which is going to cause confusion for everybody. As the noble Baroness, Lady Park, said, it is true that the actual lists are crazy. That has implications for asylum and for conformity with the Geneva Convention of 1951.
Finally, and very briefly, I agree very much with what has been said, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, about short-term visas. It seems to me that a three-month period for a short-term visa is quite inadequate for the United Kingdom for two reasonsthe educational reason which he cites and because as an ex-colonial power we have a very large number of people in this country with families in other parts of the Commonwealth and the former Empire. It is entirely proper that they should wish to be reunited with their
I apologise for racing through. The issues raised by this report are of considerable importance. The committee, the chairman and the advisers to the committee are to be congratulated on the way in which they have brought these matters forward, even if they have been unable to penetrate my thick, non-lawyer's skull in many respects.
The Lord Advocate (Lord Rodger of Earlsferry): My Lords, in common with almost everyone who has spoken, I begin by thanking the committee for the work which it has done. I add my thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, for instigating the debate which we have had this afternoon. I believe that everyone will agree that it has been extremely enlightening. It is one of the hallmarks of a report of this kind that it sheds light on something which can appear to be extremely complex. Sometimes it is very difficult to see the realities which lie behind it. The sub-committee's report and the evidence which was taken by it have done very much to inform your Lordships' House and many beyond it, of the important issues which are involved.
Many of your Lordships have drawn attention to the importance of this report as giving a chance to this House and Parliament to comment on the possible European legislation before it comes into effect. I believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, pointed out that this was in fact the first time that a question of a draft convention of this kind has been subject to a report by the sub-committee. The value of it has been proved.
I noted what was said not only by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Slynn, but by a number of other noble Lords, about the perhaps rather late stage in the proceedings at which this particular remedy of examination by the committee took place. I accept that to some extent it was the hazard of the failure to agree about Gibraltar which allowed that to happen in this case. I believe that the Government will have noted the points which were made in that connection.
Perhaps in addressing some of the topics which have been raised, I can to some extent give your Lordships some information about the events which have happened since the report of the committee in July. Before doing so, I mention one particular matter raised by my noble friend Lord Rennell in connection with visas. Of course I accept that it is a very important function of the Foreign Office that the visa service should be satisfactory. The consular section of the embassy in Moscow has recently been strengthened.
Like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I cannot think of a more logical way of dealing with the matter than by going through some of the paragraphs in the same order as they occur in the report. I welcome paragraph 109 where the committee returns to Article 7a which it had dealt with before. It reaffirms its view that no legal obligation is imposed by that article on member states to abolish controls on people at internal community borders. As many noble Lords will know, that has long been the view of the United Kingdom Government. In that connection, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, indicated, it may bealthough not necessarily the casethe subject of a ruling by the European Court in connection with the action which the European Parliament has brought against the European Commission for its alleged failure to ensure the complete abolition of frontier controls. The United Kingdom has taken the opportunity of intervening in the case to set out its interpretation of Article 7a. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, indicated, our latest information is that the case is unlikely to be heard until the middle of 1995 at the earliest.
In paragraph 110 the committee made a recommendation in connection with the form of the convention. Although it seems a technicality in some ways, this is a matter to which the Government have attached great importance for the kinds of reasons to which the committee referred. I am pleased to be able to tell your Lordships that earlier this year the Council agreed that a final Act drawing up a convention under Title VI should recommend its adoption by member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Therefore, the convention will be signed by representatives of the heads of government of member states as is consistent with the principles of international law, with the signatures taking place on the same day as that on which the text is formally drawn up. The Government are participating in negotiations on the draft convention with the aim of arriving at a text which has the full character of an international agreement.
From that somewhat esoteric matter, I turn to the reconfiguration of the airport and to the position under the recommendation in paragraph 111. This is a matter of considerable importance. We are all aware of the role of Heathrow and Gatwick airports as hub airports. It is apparent that any change in the present arrangements for routeing airside transit passengers raises important questions about the necessary infrastructure changes and the inconvenience to both carriers and passengers. As your Lordships will appreciate, this matter has been the subject of negotiation. Most of your Lordships do not find the provisions particularly attractive. My understanding is that there is no current intention that those provisions in the convention should be amended. Nonetheless, it is correct to have regard to the cost consequences of the changes. Our understanding is that if those convention provisions were to go through, the cost of the necessary adjustments to the infrastructure of
It is fair to say that paragraph 112 was of concern to almost all noble Lords who have spoken. It was plainly of great concern to the committee. As I understand it, everybody accepted the basic principle behind the idea of an external frontiers convention and its consequence, having a common list. However, I believe that all noble Lords had apprehensions about the way in which the criteria had been laid down and on the question of appeals.
On the question of exactly what the criteria will be and how they will be put into legislation, the Government cannot at this stage give any indication of our final view. That is because of the provision in Article 10. As some of your Lordships mentioned, although the criteria are set out, the detailed rules have to be determined by measures that are provided for in order to give effect to the convention. Those measures might well require legislation in this country. The final details have not yet been worked out.
In that connection, it is the Government's view at this stagethis goes along with much that has been said by your Lordshipsthat once a person learns that his name is on the list, he should be informed which country put his name on the list. That is for the obvious reason that unless he is told that, he will have no access to a system whereby he might have some form of redress. As to the form of that redress, the Government do not anticipate that this country will provide for an appeal if somebody's name has been included on the list. Noble Lords may not care for it, but it corresponds to the position that was taken in the 1993 Act. However, that does not mean that those whose names are included on the list are without all judicial remedy because if the inclusion of a name is for some reason unlawful, the person concerned would have a right of judicial review, as in other cases.
On the matter of the European information systems convention, like the committee, the Government fully accept that it would be proper to make a formal link between the convention and the information systems convention.
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