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Lord Renton: My Lords, as a Scotsman, will my noble and learned friend kindly bear in mind that an Englishman's home is his castle, and that it should not be besieged by reporters, press photographers and television cameras which constitute one of the principal invasions of privacy?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I believe it highly likely that the idea of privacy is as precious to the Scots as it is to the English, although it may not be illustrated by quite the same expressions as are used in England in that particular connection. Obviously, the sort of the scenes to which my noble friend has referred are matters to be very carefully considered in looking for a good way forward in this connection.
Lord Hooson: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord appreciate that the Welsh equally have a concern for privacy along with the English and the Scots, although they do not have as many castles? On a more serious point, can the noble and learned Lord tell the House when the White Paper on this complex subject is likely to be produced and whether it is envisaged that there will be legislation on the subject before the next general election?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, my answer has to be that the White Paper will follow on the taking of the necessary decisions. Whether or not legislation will follow before the next general election must depend on that. Therefore, at this stage the question is hypothetical.
Lord Irvine of Lairg: My Lords, since the Government accepted the recommendations of the first Calcutt Report as long ago as 1990 that there should be new criminal offences of bugging, trespass and the use of telephoto lenses, when do they propose to bring forward legislation implementing recommendations that they accepted so long ago?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, the decision about precisely what form such legislation will take is necessary before taking the matter forward in detail. Obviously, there are quite considerable questions surrounding that matter. The description of the offences is fairly general in the report and considerable questions arise about the nature, for example, of the defences which should be available.
Lord Orr-Ewing: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor consider that the complexity of the subject should not stop us from proceeding along these lines? British Columbia and the French have a law on these lines as a part of their constitutions. Therefore the problem can be solved and has been solved. Does the noble and learned Lord agree that we should continue to make efforts to achieve that here?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I know that certain other countries have laws of privacy which are part of their legal system. As my noble friend knows, here we are accustomed to legislating in considerable detail.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, will my noble and learned friend ensure that the forthcoming White Paper will deal with the problem of the toothlessness of the various supervisory bodies whose guidelines are regularly ignored?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, obviously toothlessness is an important matter to be dealt with in this and other connections. It is important that hitherto self-regulation has been the method by which a degree of responsibility has been achieved. I believe that my noble friend's question is directed to whether self-regulation is sufficiently effective. That is an extremely important issue and certainly one which we have very much in mind.
Lord Wigoder: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord at least agree today, as one despicable instance of this sort of journalism follows another, that the case for self-regulation is becoming steadily more and more difficult for us to argue?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I had understood from an intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, that the Liberal Democrat Party has taken a view about this particular matter. But I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, said, that incidents are often a test of the effectiveness of self-regulation. It may well be that the incidents will lead to a change in the method and detail of self-regulation. That is a course which also has to be kept in mind as a possibility.
Lord Annan: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord accept that the very favourable and encouraging Answer that he gave to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has become, with every other interjection, less encouraging? Does the noble and learned Lord agree that the time that will be needed to consider all these matters suggests that this action will be put off until the Greek kalends? Might the noble and learned Lord put a slip on the agenda for this probing saying, "Action this day"?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I have been indicating the complexity of this matter from the point of view of the time that has already been given to considering it. I do not believe that it would be wise for me to commit myself to action this day, but perhaps I may commit myself to "Action as soon as possible".
Lord Acton: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that my American wife is a law professor and has written a short and very readable book on the leading American case on the invasion of privacy which is called Invasion of Privacy? Without meaning in any way to muddle the "Action this day" point, if I send the noble and learned Lord a copy of the book, without referring to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, will he read it?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I am very willing to receive particularly readable books. From time to time I receive books which would not all come into that category to an equal extent. The fact is that there are important issues that can be dealt with in a readable and concise way. I believe that on the whole our own consultation paper might merit commendation on those lines also.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, on behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Mustill, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to the sale of unascertained goods forming part of an identified bulk and the sale of undivided shares in goods. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
This Motion is consequential on the enactment of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and on the arrangements to which your Lordships have already agreed for scrutinising deregulation orders laid under the Act. Your Lordships will recall that it was agreed that the functions of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments in relation to deregulation orders should be given to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. The terms of reference of that committee already incorporate the necessary provision. The effect of this Motion will be to exclude deregulation orders from the remit of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. An equivalent amendment to the joint committee's terms of reference has already been made in another place.
Moved, That the Order of Reference of the Statutory Instruments Committee be amended by inserting at the end of paragraph (1) "and any draft order proposed to be made under Section 1 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994".(The Chairman of Committees.)
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I welcome the Motion, but I wonder whether I may take the opportunity to ask the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees a question about it. I must apologise for not having alerted him to this previously, and it may be that he cannot give an answer directly. However, I think that it may be for the convenience of the House if the noble Lord could advise the House on how Members of the House will be able to identify those orders which are drafted and laid under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. How will we be able to distinguish those orders from other
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