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Lord Cope of Berkeley: The Minister says that the first amendment is unnecessary because of a statutory rule. That simply demonstrates that I am not qualified to be a parliamentary draftsman, which lets me off the earlier hook on which the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, sought to attach me.

I do not wish to pursue that. I did not speak to Amendment No. 11 because I could not quite work out what the subsection was intended to mean. The Minister has given us some assistance on that matter.

I am still not entirely clear about the matter. If someone makes a statement in the course of the investigation of an informal complaint, it cannot be used in any subsequent case unless it is regarded as an admission about something else. Admission is not defined as far as I can discover. There could be difficulty in deciding whether it was an admission. Clearly if someone says, "I committed an unrelated crime", that is an admission. All sorts of statements might be regarded as an admission, in ordinary English.

I have studied Clauses 50 and 73. They set out many definitions but do not define "admission". Perhaps the definition is well known in law.

It may be desirable that a statement taken when trying to resolve a dispute should not be used in court in connection with the matter which is the subject of the dispute, because if it were allowed to be admissible people would be less likely to give information which might lead to resolution of the matter. If there is an admission of something else in the course of the informal resolution procedure the whole statement becomes admissible even in a case which flows directly from the complaint. That does not seem to me desirable. It will make people less likely to be frank while trying to resolve the complaint informally.

An unrelated admission could make the related matters covered in the statement admissible in a court case arising out of the complaint itself. That is why I

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queried subsection (8). Clearly I do not wish to take subsection (8), or anything like it, out of the Bill. I believe that some provision should be in the Bill. In seeking to speak to Amendment No. 11 I am querying whether the wording of subsection (8) is correct.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs: First, on the question of admissibility, my advice is that this is for the court to determine.

I thought the noble Lord intended to say that as subsection (8) had three negatives in it, it was difficult to follow. I was hoping that he would come up with better wording. However, I am advised that it is necessary and that it fulfils the purpose, as I have said. Therefore I urge the noble Lord not to proceed with his amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: In that case, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 10.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved]

Clause 53 agreed to.

Clauses 54 to 63 agreed to.

Clause 64 [Regulations]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 34, leave out lines 25 and 26.

The noble Lord said: We have all become used to seeing Bills littered with powers for the making of orders, regulations and statutory instruments of one sort and another. It is an entirely legitimate practice in moderation, but, carried to excess, it can be pernicious because it devalues Parliament, even if negative or affirmative procedures are provided for. It allows very provisional, almost sloppy, thinking to take place because it gives the power to change anything at a later date. It means that, as in this case, we are asked to pass highly provisional legislation which may change almost out of recognition as a result of the powers being granted in this clause as a whole.

Of course, I realise why Ministers and civil servants like the practice, particularly when they are struggling for parliamentary time. They can easily slip into the idea of putting in an order-making power which can be altered without having to bother returning to Parliament too often in the future.

I have not proposed that this whole clause of regulating powers should be deleted, but only much more modestly, in Amendment No. 12, that the Secretary of State should not be able to allow the ombudsman to ignore the Bill. I cannot see much point in Parliament labouring over all these clauses if they can be set aside by subsection (2)(e), which would enable the ombudsman to dispense with any requirement of the Bill.

Amendment No. 13 also attacks a regulatory power proposed in the Bill which would otherwise allow the Secretary of State to make provision for, as far as I can see, absolutely anything, for any purposes specified in

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that regulation. That does not even seem to me to limit the provision to anything to do with the police in the sense that the Secretary of State might say that he wishes to make a regulation about something else, and that he has the power to make a regulation under this clause for any purposes specified in the regulation. It may be nothing to do with the provisions of the Bill. Indeed, it sounds like carte blanche permission for absolutely anything. I would be grateful to know from the Minister what sort of things he and his advisers had in mind when providing this all-purpose power to alter anything, not only in the Bill but almost outside the scope of the Bill, as far as I can see. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I shall be brief, but I wonder whether it will be possible for the Minister to take seriously the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and whether he can give us an indication--I appreciate that this may be difficult--of whether giving such a power to the ombudsman is common practice with regard to other ombudsmen in Northern Ireland and wider afield in the United Kingdom generally.

Lord Alderdice: I wonder whether I might ask the Minister to suggest under what sort of circumstances he would expect that the ombudsman might wish to dispense with some of the regulations and with which regulations he might dispense. It seems rather strange that we should be suggesting that the ombudsman might dispense with some of the regulations that the Government and Parliament have felt it right to put into place. Will the Minister give us some indication of what those circumstances are so that we may understand it better?

Lord Dubs: The noble Lord's amendments seek to delete the power of the Secretary of State, by regulation, to enable the ombudsman to dispense with any requirement of this part of the Bill. This particular provision, about which the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, asked, replicates Article 19(2)(E) of the Police (NI) Order 1987 and was a power available to the Secretary of State regarding the Independent Commission for Police Complaints.

The provision is required to allow for circumstances where the ombudsman, perhaps in a report under Clause 61 of the Bill, advises the Secretary of State that some procedure is, for example, not working well or at all or is particularly onerous. The ombudsman might recommend removing the provision and the Secretary of State may agree and so bring forward regulations. Those regulations, of course, would be laid before Parliament and so an opportunity for debate would be available.

To turn to the noble Lord's second amendment, he seeks to remove the powers of the Secretary of State to make regulations to give effect to any purpose specified in the regulation-making power. This again replicates provisions in the Police (NI) Order 1987--those in Article 19(3).

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The provision is required to allow for sub-delegation. For example, if under Clause 64(2)(a) regulations provided for a copy of a complaint to be furnished to an officer, then those regulations could also state that the precise form in which the complaint should be presented would be left to the Secretary of State to prescribe.

Any regulations made under this procedure would, of course, be made only after consultation with the ombudsman, the police authority and the police association.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, and I believe the noble Lords, Lord Molyneaux and Lord Alderdice, asked a more general question about the regulation-making powers of the Bill. The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee has considered the regulation-making power and reported to say it was content save for one small point. That was in relation to Clause 64(2), which replicates Article 19(2)(F) of the Police (NI) Order 1987. It is required to allow the chief constable to delegate his functions. It is peculiar to police legislation. It has not normally been on the face of police legislation, either in Northern Ireland or in England and Wales, but has been left to regulations.

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Although I understand the concerns about the excessive use of regulations rather than having matters on the face of the Bill, the fact is that in these instances we are simply taking forward into the new legislation provisions which already exist in the previous legislation. We are not breaking any new ground; we are simply continuing what has been existing practice.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: In the light of that response, which I shall consider carefully between now and the later stages of the Bill, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Clause 64 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedules 1 to 6 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne): That concludes the Committee's proceedings on the Bill.

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