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Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 283:

Page 50, leave out lines 32 to 36.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

27 Oct 1998 : Column 1876

Schedule 8 [The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission]:

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 284:

Page 51, line 20, leave out from beginning to ("to") and insert ("There shall be paid").

The noble Lord said: We now come to the schedule dealing with the new Northern Ireland human rights commission. I start by pointing out that the marginal notes on the Marshalled List are not correct. These amendments standing in my name were not debated previously. I did not speak to them and the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, did not respond to them. In speaking to Amendments Nos. 284 and 285, it is very important that I emphasise that these amendments are solely concerned with the remuneration of the full-time paid commissioners who will oversee the human rights commission.

Amendment No. 284 is a paving amendment. Amendment No. 285 provides, in paragraph 3A, that the Assembly will set the level of remuneration of the commissioners in a similar way as is laid down for the funding of the commissioners of the Equal Opportunities Commission. If the Government preferred that the Secretary of State should make provision for the human rights commissioners I shall be equally happy since she is referred to in paragraph 3B. Paragraph 3C is the key matter in my opinion. It provides that commissioners' pay shall come from the Consolidated Fund, thus reinforcing their independence vis-a-vis the Northern Ireland Office and any ups and downs in its internal budgeting. If the Government would like to extend that principle to include the other staff of the commission, apart from the commissioners, I would be delighted.

My minimum objective is to put the commissioners in a clearly defined position of independence similar to that held by the ombudsman in Northern Ireland. I realise that as regards Schedule 8.11 the commissioners are not Crown servants. But I suggest that more needs to be done to assert their financial independence. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: I am in some difficulty about these amendments. We have debated them previously and I understand that we have already passed them. Will the noble Lord permit me to write to him about them because I do not have with me the notes that I had a few days ago dealing with the substance of these matters. I was not aware that they were going to be raised today.

Lord Hylton: If the Minister will consult with his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, he will find out that the latter agreed last Wednesday to de-group these amendments and to deal with them when we came to the appropriate schedule. The Minister will also discover that I mentioned this point again to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, in conversation this afternoon so I am a little surprised that there is not 100 per cent. liaison between Ministers. However, I shall be happy to receive a letter from the noble Lord on this point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 285 not moved.]

27 Oct 1998 : Column 1877

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 286:

Page 51, line 24, at end insert--
("(2) Where a person who by reference to any office or employment is a participant in a scheme under section 1 of the Superannuation Act 1972 becomes a Commissioner or the Chief Commissioner, the Minister for the Civil Service may, notwithstanding any provision made under sub-paragraph (1)(c), determine that the person's service as Commissioner or Chief Commissioner shall be treated for the purposes of the scheme as service in that office or employment.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 287:

Page 51, leave out lines 28 and 29 and insert ("numbers and as to remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment.
(2) Employment with the Commission shall be included among the kinds of employment to which a superannuation scheme under section 1 of the Superannuation Act 1972 can apply, and accordingly in Schedule 1 to that Act (in which those kinds of employment are listed) after "Commission for Racial Equality" insert--
"Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission".
(3) The Commission shall pay to the Minister for the Civil Service, at such times as he may direct, such sums as he may determine in respect of any increase attributable to sub-paragraph (2) in the sums payable out of money provided by Parliament under the Superannuation Act 1972.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 288:

Page 51, line 37, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, it may also be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to Amendments Nos. 289 and 290. These amendments place a duty on the Secretary of State to fund the work of the human rights commission. They do so as follows: Amendment No. 288 changes "may" to "shall" and Amendment No. 289 is consequential. Amendment No. 290 is an attempt to make sure that the commission receives adequate resources to carry out its functions which are much wider and more far-reaching than those at present conducted by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights.

I would consider it to be quite wrong if the new commission were to prove to be a poor relation of the equality commission. Can the Minister give any guidance on the likely share of the estimated overall cost of £5.6 million per annum given on page vii of the Financial Memorandum attached to the Bill which will go to the human rights commission?

At present the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights with only five staff costs about £250,000 a year. I doubt very much whether a sum even three times greater than that would be sufficient for a fully effective new commission armed with the necessary powers. I therefore remind the Government that the political parties in Northern Ireland were quite unanimous, prior to the Belfast agreement, that a strong human rights commission was required. That view must surely still be correct. I beg to move.

27 Oct 1998 : Column 1878

6.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs: It is the Government's intention that there should be proper funding for the human rights commission. We believe in what it is to do and, within the limits of the usual financial constraints, we wanted to have the resources to do that job properly. The Secretary of State has the responsibility to provide proper funding for the commission and I doubt whether any further provision on the face of the Bill is necessary. If the noble Lord prefers it, however, I shall elaborate on that point when I write to him about the matter which we discussed under the previous amendment.

I wish to refer to another amendment in the noble Lord's name, Amendment No. 289. I do not believe that in drafting terms the amendment takes us forward. It is not acceptable. The word "such" does not seem to add anything to the meaning of paragraph 6 of Schedule 8. Indeed, I fear it might create uncertainty.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: When the noble Lord writes to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, I hope that he will look at Amendment No. 288 sympathetically. As the Bill stands at the moment, commissioners are provided for financially but the staff are contingent on the word "may". That seems anomalous in the light of the intention which the noble Lord has just declared.

Lord Dubs: I thank the noble Lord. I shall look at the point.

Lord Hylton: What the Minister said on the substance of the amendments gives me considerable encouragement. As to the drafting point, he is more likely to be right than I. Taking into account his kind offer to write still further on this group, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 289 and 290 not moved.]

Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 9 [The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendments Nos. 290A to 290D:

Page 52, line 37, leave out ("member of the Commission") and insert ("Commissioner").
Page 52, line 40, leave out ("chairman") and insert ("Chief Commissioner").
Page 52, line 42, leave out ("member, as the chairman or as a deputy chairman") and insert ("Commissioner, as the Chief Commissioner or as a Deputy Chief Commissioner").
Page 53, line 1, leave out ("member, chairman or deputy chairman") and insert ("Commissioner, the Chief Commissioner or Deputy Chief Commissioner").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 291 not moved.]

Lord Dubs moved Amendments Nos. 291A to 291C:

Page 53, line 12, leave out ("shall") and insert ("may with the approval of the Department of Finance and Personnel").
Page 53, leave out line 13 and insert ("Commissioners--").

27 Oct 1998 : Column 1879

Page 53, leave out line 17.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 292 not moved.]

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