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Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, the amendments at Third Reading were designed to correct some anomalies that had crept into the Bill at Report stage. My noble and learned friend Lord Scarman came to make those corrections and, in addition, has favoured us with a most moving speech. My noble and learned friend has come to the House at great personal sacrifice and must have spoken under considerable personal strain. We are very deeply in his debt.
Those amendments have put the Bill into a reasonable, clear and comprehensible state, in which it can be submitted to the other place. As the noble Lord, Lord Renton, pointed out very clearlyas indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Lester, who has put us in his debt, and my
We are bound by that convention, we are bound to follow its interpretation. But at present there is the extraordinary situation that anybody who wants to rely on the convention has to go to Strasbourg to obtain adjudication. This Bill says that that adjudication shall be available in the English courts, which are so well conversant with its principles, whether statutory or common law.
It would be most extraordinary if at this stage there were any vote against the Bill. It would be entirely contrary to the conventions of this House. It would be quite disgraceful if Ministers on a Private Member's Bill were now to go into the Lobby against them. I strongly support the Bill.
Lord Browne-Wilkinson: My Lords, I cannot match the eloquence of my noble and learned friend Lord Scarman. I would not seek to do so. However, it seems to me that the legal views on the Bill have so far been expressed by those who no longer, unhappily, adjudicate. My remarks will take less than one minute.
As a serving judge, I am profoundly in favour of the Bill for reasons which have already been deployed. First, it is common ground among all partiesall sides of this House that all the inhabitants of the United Kingdom enjoy the rights secured by the European Convention on Human Rights. There is no dispute about that. Secondly, everybody is agreed that those rights should be enforceable. Thirdly, there is apparently a difference of view between many people I am among their numberwho say that the rights of Englishmen should be capable of enforcement in an English court and that Englishmen, enjoying those rights, should not be turned away from the English courts, which say that they have no power to act, being forced, five years later and several thousand pounds the poorer, eventually to reach Strasbourg. This Bill repatriates our rights. I believe that it should be allowed to do so.
Finally, perhaps I may again seek, as I have tried at earlier stages, to shoot the canardI am not sure if one shoots canardswhich is the argument that this Bill infringes parliamentary sovereignty. That is, with the utmost respect (as lawyers say), complete rubbish. This Bill enables Parliament to do as it always has done; that is to say, to enact exactly what it likes. Parliament having done so in clear terms, the courts must give effect to what Parliament has enacted. What the Bill will do, if it passes into law, is prevent the position continuing to arise whereby Parliament uses general words and then those
I believe that I speak on behalf of a very large number of judges, certainly all save one of those who spoke in the earlier stages of this Bill, when I say that the Bill is welcomed by the judges not as empire building but as conferring the basic right to which all Englishmen are entitled; namely, to have their rights determined within this country and not outside it.
Lord Renton: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, does he agree that just as Parliament ratified the Rome Treaty and the amendments to it, so Parliament was asked to ratify the Convention on Human Rights and did so?
Lord Browne-Wilkinson: My Lords, undoubtedly the convention has been ratified; there is no doubt about that. What has not been done is to comply with what I understand to be one of the articles; namely, that those rights be assured by the Government to people within this country. As I understand it, that is the position.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I agree strongly with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. I happen to be a member of the working party to which he referred. He is completely right in saying that at this time the passage of the Bill through Parliament will be a confidence-building measure in the peace process in Northern Ireland.
My second reason for strongly supporting the Bill is that domestic jurisdiction under the convention, and in particular under Articles 4 and 5, will provide real protection in this country for a class of people who are particularly subject to abuse and exploitation. I refer to the domestic workers coming from overseas countries to Great Britain who are tied and bonded to one employer. When this Bill is enacted they will be able to apply for a remedy to British courts. That will greatly enhance and protect their position.
Lord Slynn of Hadley: My Lords, what is recognised internationally is that the European Convention on Human Rights is the most successful expression of the United Nations declaration on human rights arrived at as an answer to the horrors of the 1930s and the Second World War. I personally regret that we in the United Kingdom should be the last of the parties to that convention to make it part of domestic law.
I wish to add only two points to what I said at an earlier stage. First, between 1969 and 1976 I appeared on behalf of the United Kingdom in probably all of the cases brought before the Commission and the Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. I became increasingly convinced that it was regrettable that those cases had to go to Strasbourg and could not be dealt with by our national courts in this country. I felt it was inefficient, expensive, time-wasting and left entirely out of account the ability of judges in this country properly to deal with those claims. It is therefore largely for a pragmatic and practical reason that I feel strongly that we should now give this convention the force of law in this country so that it may be dealt with by our national courts.
Secondly, at that time I was a member of the Bar. Now, as a judge, I do not feel that the kind of issues which are likely to be raised in the national courts will involve judges in grave political disputes and distinctions which may lead to problems. I shall not tease the Minister by referring to one or two other cases, not concerning human rights, which over the years the courts have had to decide and which some people think had a political context. I do not believe that the issues likely to arise under the Convention on Human Rights fall into that category. I am proud to be associated with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in supporting this Bill.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, perhaps a layman may be excused for introducing a note of dissent into the unanimity which has so far prevailednot that I think it would be proper for the House to reject this Bill, according to our normal conventions. However, there appears to be a gap, if I may respectfully say so, in the arguments put forward in its support.
The principal argument and one with which I have a great deal of sympathy is that if rights are formulated in an enactment, to which we are bound by our ratification of it, then the proper place for remedies is in our own courts. It is certainly, and has been, somewhat absurd that in order to secure redress, litigants have been obliged to face the delays and expenses of Strasbourg.
I would therefore have been perfectly happy with the Bill if, at the same time, it meant that such recourse would no longer happen; if our courts had the final say in the interpretation of what would be then part of British law. I shall be glad if one of the supporters of the Bill will explain whether or not there is any barrier proposed to people who, failing in a British court, then seek to appeal to Strasbourg. It seems to me that there we have the makings of a possible clash of jurisdictions, the more likely because although, as has been pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and others, there was a good deal of input of the common law into the document, it nevertheless remains the case that western Europe is divided between two forms of lawthe civil and the commonand that the court in Strasbourg is bound by virtue of its membership to be heavily weighted against the common law and common law interpretations. Is it therefore envisaged that if the Bill is enacted there will be no further appeal against the decisions of our highest courts?
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