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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will agree with me that the United Kingdom is 14th in the league table. Therefore there are 13 countries where the record for violation of ECHR law is greater than ours per 100,000 of the population. Therefore incorporation does not necessarily mean fewer visits to the European courts. The purpose of my

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objections on behalf of government is that it overrides sovereign parliaments if the judges wish it to if the ECHR is incorporated into English law.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, as regards the first point, I prefer not to comment on the human rights record of this country although I accept that there are very many countries with much worse records. But if it is true, as the noble Baroness said, that we have nothing to worry about, then I do not understand the concern about this Bill and why it should embarrass anyone in this country.

If the noble Baroness is saying that many decisions ought to be made by the political process, she may recollect that at Committee stage I said precisely that. I also said that where there is broad consensus that there are many decisions which we can take out of the political process because we all agree that there are certain standards of behaviour which the Government ought to observe towards its citizens, and those are the standards which are embodied in the European Convention. If the noble Baroness is saying that she would like to take those out and that she wished that we had never ratified the convention, I doubt whether the electors of this country would agree with her.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, on a point of order. Is your Lordships' House in order discussing this issue after the Minister has spoken? If we are going to have a free-for-all, let us have it.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, no.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I apologise. The fault is mine.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I feel diffident about saying very much at this stage because we debated this amendment for over an hour in Committee. On that occasion I recall the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, adjudicating before the vote on the two amendments: the one which is now included in the Bill at Clause 1(3), which was drafted not by me, I hasten to say, but by a former deputy Parliamentary Counsel, which is why it is properly drafted—if I had done it, it would have been a mess—which is based upon the New Zealand Bill of Rights formula. That was one candidate. The other was the candidate which the noble Lord—

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is it in order for the noble Lord to be speaking now after the Minister?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, yes. It is the noble Lord's Bill.

Lord Dean of Beswick: As long as we are right.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am grateful. As I was saying, one candidate is now part of the Bill as it was amended in Committee. The other candidate was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and is now before the House in this amendment. A vote was taken upon it. It is true that the result was narrow. I hope that I shall be forgiven for saying that I was heartened by the fact that those in favour of the Bill as it stands included several senior

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members of the judiciary. We have been greatly assisted this evening by the contributions from the noble and learned Lords, Lord Scarman and Lord Slynn of Hadley. Therefore, I feel diffident about saying very much about those two candidates.

However, I should like to comment first on the issue of sovereignty. The object of the Bill is partly to restore sovereignty to this Parliament. If this Parliament exercises its sovereign law-making powers by incorporating the convention into our law, sovereignty will in that way have been returned from Strasbourg to this country by Parliament. Since the amendment that was made in Committee prevents our courts from striking down inconsistent legislation—and expressly makes that clear in Clause 1(3)—the issue of sovereignty, with all respect to the Minister, simply does not arise.

Secondly, although I understand the attack that has been made on the European Convention and the Court of Human Rights, that issue does not arise. As several noble Lords have indicated, we are parties to the convention. The noble Lord, Lord Cocks, has not suggested that we should denounce the convention. The only issue is whether there should be effective domestic remedies by our own courts. The noble Lord would not succeed in his main object, which seems to be to repudiate the convention, if the amendment were to be pressed and voted upon.

Thirdly, the Minister tempts us with statistics about which country is the worst violater of human rights. One can do almost anything with statistics, but I respectfully suggest that what matters is the quality of the violations. I have been arguing cases in Strasbourg for more years than I like to recall, and again and again the pathology of human rights violations in this country involves over-broad ministerial or other discretion conferred under broad statutory powers, leading to violations of the convention, often inadvertently, by public officers. Again and again, for want of effective domestic remedies, the European Court has found this country to be in serious violation. Unfortunately, the quality of the breach has been as serious as the quantity of the violations. I have introduced the Bill in its present form to stop dirty linen being unnecessarily washed in public in Strasbourg.

I refer to the two examples that were given by the noble Lord, Lord Cocks: the case about the retrospective taking of the assets of a drug dealer, and the blasphemy case. Speaking for myself, I only wish that our courts had been able to deal with those two cases first instead of each of them going raw to Strasbourg to be dealt with by the European Court. Therefore, I very much hope that, in the light of everything that has been said this evening, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment and that he will not press it further.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, I must first apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, for any infelicities which may exist in the drafting of the amendments. I have occasionally referred to the handicap under which the handful of us in this Chamber who are not legally qualified have to labour when dealing with such matters. However, there will surely be

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opportunities—possibly at Third Reading or in another place—to tidy up any amendments which may be defective. Therefore, I am not unduly concerned on that point.

My noble and learned friend Lord Archer mentioned decisions of the courts here of which he was not very proud. Of course, miscarriages of justice have been acknowledged, but I ask your Lordships whether it is not time to stop knocking this country. Is it not time that we started asking ourselves in how many countries of the world would such miscarriages of justice even be acknowledged, let alone righted? I am very proud of this country. I do not want to sound vain in any way but, frankly, I feel that what I am doing tonight is standing up for the ordinary people of this country by not allowing matters to degenerate into a plethora of legal niceties, with abuse from other countries of a country of which I am very proud. I commend the amendment to the House.

8.26 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 41; Not-Contents, 34.

Division No. 1


Astor of Hever, L.
Balfour, E.
Beloff, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Chelmsford, V.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. [Teller.]
Craigavon, V.
Dean of Beswick, L. [Teller.]
Dean of Harptree, L.
Donegall, M.
Ferrers, E.
Glenarthur, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Hogg, B.
Kingsland, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
Marlesford, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Melville, V.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milverton, L.
Monson, L.
Mountevans, L.
Moyne, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Renwick, L.
Seccombe, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Selsdon, L.
Shrewsbury, E.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Trumpington, B.
Wade of Chorlton, L.


Ackner, L.
Airedale, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Avebury, L.
Browne-Wilkinson, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
David, B.
Dubs, L.
Falkland, V.
Fitt, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Hacking, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Leigh, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L. [Teller.]
Lloyd of Berwick, L.
McGregor of Durris, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Renton, L.
Russell, E.
Scarman, L. [Teller.]
Seear, B.
Slynn of Hadley, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Woolf, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

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8.34 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 not moved.]

Clause 5 [Short title, extent and commencement]:

[Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.]

In the Title:

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe moved Amendment No. 7:

Line 4, leave out ("into") and insert ("in the disposition of").

29 Mar 1995 : Column 1702

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have spoken to this amendment. It is entirely consequential upon Amendment No. 1. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Accommodation Level Crossings Bill [H.L.]

Reported from the Unopposed Bill Committee without amendment.

        House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before nine o'clock.

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