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I quite take the point about the possibility of measures for a directive that go wider than the terms of the directive widening the risk of references to the European Court of Justice. However, when we are talking about domestic rules—purely Community regulations rather than the directives themselves, because the directives must always be implemented in some form—I was concerned to underline the principle of the last word on the interpretation of a directive or of directive-derived legislation always being with the European Court of Justice.

I am most grateful to the Minister. I have found these exchanges very useful, both because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, will not report until long after the Bill is put to bed and because the Minister has given me an idea or two in the context of the Cabinet guidance. I shall not return at Third Reading with this amendment, but I might return with a more nuanced attempt to have some reference to this very important subject put into the Bill. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 31 [Consequential amendments]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 38:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 32 [General interpretation]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 39:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think I can promise noble Lords that I shall be briefer than I was when I moved my previous amendment. All I want to do is to ask two questions. First, why is there a reference to the Church of England in the Bill? Why is it specifically excluded from the definition of functions? Secondly, if it is to be excluded, why does that not extend to other religious bodies? I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the reference to the Church of England in the Bill was inserted in recognition of its particular constitutional position, rather than because it was a religious institution or organisation. The noble Lord may not have been present when I moved the relevant amendment in

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Committee; I cannot recall. The long-standing convention is that the Government will not legislate on anything within the competence of the Church of England, which has de facto delegated power, without the agreement of the Church.

Such agreement takes different forms depending on the circumstances. Concerns were expressed about the ability to use the order-making powers in the Bill to legislate in a way that affected the Church’s functions without having to obtain its consent. The Government took these concerns to heart and proposed an amendment to Clause 32, which was approved by your Lordships’ House. The clause was amended to fulfil the Government’s obligation under the convention and ensures that the powers under Clause 2 and Part 2 will not apply to the regulatory activities of bishops, church courts and disciplinary tribunals or to the legislative role of the General Synod, where it passes legislation that has a regulatory effect.

The noble Lord’s amendment raises other issues and, despite the reasonable intentions behind it, we cannot agree that it should be included. The Church of England has a unique constitutional position with Parliament and the passing of legislation in relation to it. Other religious organisations in the UK do not have similar standing and there is no precedent for treating these organisations in the same way, which probably answers both questions posed by the noble Lord.

Whether this position in relation to religious organisations is correct or wrong in principle is, I would argue, not the subject of this Bill. For the purpose of ensuring that the Bill remains focused on better regulation, I would also say that it is not a subject for this House today. Perhaps I should also point out that the amendment does not attempt to define a religious organisation, so perhaps it does not fall into that trap. There is no agreed definition of the term in English law. If the amendment were agreed, there would of course be a whole host of arguments about whether a particular body fell within the terms of the definition. The noble Lord could stir up something of a hornets’ nest if he wanted to. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I was well aware that if we got into the detail a hornets’ nest may well buzz around our heads. The Minister may be interested to know that this amendment was suggested by the Christian lawyers association, which I have no doubt whatever will read his response with great interest. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 33 [Commencement]:

Baroness Wilcox moved Amendment No. 40:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is possibly the final amendment—so it will be welcome in that regard. It would ensure that any standing orders brought under this Bill will have enough time to be sufficiently considered before they are put into force. This Bill will come into force at the beginning of

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January, very soon after Parliament returns from the Christmas Recess. Any standing orders that the Government wish to implement immediately will have only one month of sitting parliamentary time to be debated and agreed. Clearly, that is not enough time for effective scrutiny.

I understand that the Government do not intend to make any orders until March 2007, which would allow the Procedure Committee enough time to finish its work and allow Parliament to consider the orders to be agreed on. However, if no orders are to be made until March, why will the Bill come into force so long before? Surely it would be more sensible for the Bill’s commencement date to be delayed until all the loose ends are tied up, which would also give us some much-needed reassurance that the Government intend to implement this legislation in a considered manner after it has been properly scrutinised. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am pleased to hear the noble Baroness at the Dispatch Box. We have not heard enough of her. It saddens me greatly that we have now reached the last amendment and are hearing from her only for the second time.

The noble Baroness of course makes a valid argument. I understand the concern that the time available for parliamentary committees to consider revising orders perhaps is not as she would wish. Obviously, we want to ensure that we have in place a good working system for scrutinising orders when new orders are put to committees under the Bill. We agree that engaging parliamentary committees on revisions to standing orders is essential to that process, but I come back to the point that the amendment seeks only to delay the Bill, which is unnecessary, because that work can continue.

We have said here and in another place that we want to work with committees to ensure that amendments to standing orders are in place, and we have delivered on that commitment. Throughout the passage of the Bill through Parliament, we have provided relevant committees of both Houses with opportunities to consider and share their views on those amendments. Working drafts of the new orders informed by continuing discussions have been shared with the committee chairs, and official drafts will be issued in time for Third Reading. The progress on this dialogue to date indicates that a formal extension of the Bill is not necessary.

I give a commitment that we will continue to work with committees to ensure that they are aware of the timetable for laying orders and have sufficient warning of any approaching work. We think there

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will be an opportunity for continued discussion after Royal Assent and before orders are laid under the terms of this Bill. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the amendment, but we do not think it is necessary. I therefore invite her to withdraw it.

Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I am sorry about that because it would have been a neat and tidy amendment, but it is the last one and I shall not speak for long. I will, however, say that I enjoy very much standing at the Dispatch Box opposite the Minister and I am lucky in that I have had such a superb team with me on the Bill. I refer to my noble friends Lord Kingsland, Lord Henley and Lord Howard. It seems that putting the right man in the ring matters more than me having my say. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 [Extent]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 41:

(a) subsections (1) and (2) extend to England and Wales only; (b) subsection (3) extends to Northern Ireland only.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Parliamentary Costs Bill [HL]

The Bill was returned from the Commons agreed to without amendment.

Wireless Telegraphy Bill [HL]

The Bill was returned from the Commons agreed to without amendment.

Charities Bill [HL]

The Bill was returned from the Commons agreed to with amendments and with a privilege amendment; it was ordered that the Commons amendments be printed.

Fraud Bill [HL]

The Bill was returned from the Commons agreed to.


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