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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I believe that the introduction of a primarily elected membership is essential if this House is in future to have the power to do what it needs to do as one of the two Houses of Parliament.
As I said, there must be consultation. To say that there must be full consensus is going too far because that is potentially a recipe for paralysis. But if the Government attempt to ram through their proposals for stage two with no meaningful consultation, they will not receive support from these Benches. I have no doubt that a similar view is taken by many of those on the Conservative Benches too. Unless the Government win a majority of the votes cast at the next election--and that is very unlikely--they will be forcing through a fundamental reform of the constitution without the support of a majority of the electorate. That will raise constitutional issues which I believe are very serious indeed.
The constitutional agenda which was started at the beginning of this Parliament is not yet complete. On some issues like human rights, we are most of the way there but not quite at the end of the process. On some, like freedom of information and electoral reform, there is still a long way to go. But on the reform of your Lordships' House, we may well face very serious problems early in the next Parliament.
This year's gracious Speech did not, as some do, make any general reference to law reform. Often at the end there is a phrase saying, XOther measures of law reform will be laid before you". Nothing of the kind was contained in the present gracious Speech. There are simply brief references to regulatory activity, so I feel that a general reference is not out of order.
I am aware, as are your Lordships, that we have in front of us a short Session. Therefore, this is no occasion to bore your Lordships with a specific list of topics that may be examined. However, there is a counterbalance to the proposition that this will be a short Session; it is bound to be followed by a longer Session, whether that takes place in a new Parliament or in the existing one. There is bound to be a longer Session preceded as to its substance, as is invariably the case, by an initial period during which specific measures are not ready to be laid. Therefore, it is opportune and necessary that we should be prepared for that Session and that whichever government it is should have measures of law reform ready to be placed before Parliament, ready to be discussed and if necessary passed. The preparatory work cannot begin too soon and may well be carried out now.
I want to put down markers as to two specific matters that may be the subject of attention. The first is the subject of regulatory activity which was mentioned in the gracious Speech in relation to education. It is clear that the need for simplification and reduction in the amount of legislation has never been so great as it is now. Moreover, there is a great need, although one would not expect to find a reference to it in the gracious Speech, to greater consolidation of our existing laws, for which the machinery exists and which does not seem to have been used much in the course of the past year. I hope that is only a blip and not a trend.
The general matter of simplification is of enormous importance. It has been brought out in relation to specific subjects, particularly, for example, in the case of education, where it is clear that the mass of regulation, directives and legislation stifles the work of head teachers, ordinary teachers and professors to an extent that tends to paralyse great parts of the activities of the education service.
The need is not limited to such technical and specific areas. There is a general need, in the interests and in the working of our legal system, for whoever has to work it. Do not forget that 90 per cent of the work is carried out by lay justices and they find it increasingly difficult to keep up with the mass of legislation. Many find it necessary to retire, to take early retirement or not to involve themselves in the work that is so essential. Therefore there is a trend--I cannot give statistics--towards a greater use of stipendiary workers, who are good enough in themselves, but they are no substitute for our judicial system and, incidentally, they are more expensive.
In the interdepartmental committee, set up under Mr David Lock, there is considerable hope. It may produce some good results, but I urge the Government, even in the six months of this Session, to press on with the work of simplification and reduction of legislative material.
The other marker is that of codification. To my surprise we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, that codification is everywhere. I was astonished and excited by that and I felt that we must be using the word Xcodification" in a different sense. At any rate, in the area with which I am mainly concerned at the moment, it seems to be progressing slowly. I refer to the area of the criminal law to which codification is and remains extremely urgent.
Codification has been advocated for over 100 years. It has never been objected to on any rational ground and recently it was reaffirmed by my noble and learned friend Lord Bingham of Cornhill, by the Home Secretary and by Dame Mary Arden in a distinguished lecture that she gave about a year ago.
There has never been any dispute that codification is needed. The Government, pleading lack of time, have segregated the big subject of criminal law generally into specific blocks and have carried out work on the blocks separately; for example, on the Offences against the Person Act. That has been effective and a good way of proceeding.
Surely the time has now come when it is necessary to reassemble the blocks to make an edifice or at least, if that is too ambitious, to legislate separately in relation to such blocks as are ready? One example is the Offences against the Person Act on which the Law Commission reported in 1993. That was the subject of a consultation paper by the Home Office, and the Home Secretary has expressed his willingness to legislate. There was an encouraging Written Answer on the subject in December 1999.
I hope that those two matters will be borne in mind, even at this late stage, in the present parliamentary situation, together with the great and important constitutional issues that have been raised by the noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Alloway and Lord Goodhart. I express myself entirely in agreement with what they said. I suggest that there is a great need, in
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, this is only my second Queen's Speech debate. Like last year I find myself bewildered by the range of subjects that noble Lords have covered during the course of today's discussions and on the three previous days. I have found absolutely riveting the topics that have been covered in just the last few minutes by the noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Alloway and Lord Goodhart, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce.
I hope that they will forgive me if I do not go down the road of the constitutional reform issues that they have covered. I want to deal with just one: the issue of protecting and promoting the health of young people and the proposal in the gracious Speech to ban the advertising and promotion of tobacco products.
This is a measure which has already attracted some comment--not in the course of today's debate--most of which has been favourable, and I say at the outset that I warmly welcome the Government's intentions. However, there has been some opposition, though not from the Conservative Front Bench either in this House or the other place. I was interested that the noble Earl, Lord Howe, used almost identical words to those of the Shadow Secretary of State in the other place when he said that he had an open mind on this issue. I am pleased about that because I hope that the proposals will command widespread support when the Bill reaches us some time in the new year.
Those documents were analysed by the Centre for Tobacco Control Research at the University of Strathclyde and the report is available in our Library. It is entitled, Keep Smiling No One's Going to Die. Those words were taken from a gung ho signing off in a letter from the Benson and Hedges advertising agency to their client at Gallahers.
There is much remarkable material here and some of it is deeply shocking. In particular, the documents refute totally the suggestion made by apologists for the industry that advertising and sponsorship are
Given that this is a product which kills 120,000 of its consumers a year in the United Kingdom, it is perhaps understandable that so much of the tobacco industry's sponsorship and advertising industry is aimed at young people and at encouraging them to start smoking. It is an industry that obviously needs to replace the older customers it kills with new young ones. That is why the agencies regard the youth market as vital to commercial success and do so much to research their lifestyles and aspirations. The report says,
Your Lordships will recall that the reason it is necessary to have this Bill is that the tobacco manufacturers went to the European Court and successfully challenged the EU directive of 1998 to phase out all tobacco advertising and sponsorship by 2006. I gather that we may see the Bill tomorrow or early next week. Given that the Department of Health estimates that it will eventually lead to a 2.5 per cent reduction in the number of smokers and save 3,000 lives a year--that is almost as many people as are killed on our roads each year--why is it necessary to wait so long for the prohibition to take effect? It is not as though the industry had no warning. It had plenty of warning as it was in the Labour Party's 1997 election manifesto in clear and unambiguous terms.
The governing body of Formula One motor racing--a notorious receiver of tobacco sponsorship--for whom the deadline on eliminating tobacco sponsorship was originally extended to 2006, announced two years ago that it could phase out tobacco money by 2002. I ask my noble and learned
I have two other concerns about the Bill which I hope will prove to be groundless when we receive the details. The first is the range of exemptions which the Bill may propose. Exemptions that cover small circulation foreign publications, tobacco trade journals and possibly the interior of specialist tobacco retailers are acceptable. But advertising of tobacco at point of sale in general retailers, which sell a range of other goods such as confectionery and are visited by children and young people, should not be allowed.
My second concern is that the Government must not allow themselves to be outwitted by the tobacco manufacturers and their lobbyists and allow tobacco generally and cigarettes in particular to be promoted by so-called Xbrand stretching". That is a technique of building brand awareness through non-tobacco goods such as Camel boots and Marlboro classic clothing. Advertisements for those goods look identical to those for the cigarettes and their purpose again is to appeal to the young and make them aware of cigarette brands. The EU proposals which are being replaced by the Bill were seriously defective in that regard and it is important that the Bill stops-up that loophole.
The Government's Bill is neither authoritarian nor anti-libertarian, and it certainly does not persecute smokers. It is dealing with a unique and special product because it is the only one which kills a large proportion of its consumers when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer. So this is a debate about public health and saving lives and I hope that the Bill will come into law as rapidly as possible.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the Queen's Speech is the one moment in the parliamentary calendar when Back-Benchers have a genuine feeling of anticipation about the measures that will be laid before Parliament during that Session. However, the Home Office section of the Government's programme was laid out in full detail in The Times on 27th November. Perhaps I can begin therefore by asking the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General, when he winds up the debate, whether he feels that Ministers are obeying the convention that they should not disclose the contents of the Queen's Speech in advance. I should emphasise that that convention was restated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, in answer to a recent parliamentary Question. I can say that that is the only point on which I ask for a response this evening.
Again we see that this Session is dominated by Bills from the Home Office. We must hope--I trust not forlornly--that they will be of a better quality than those which originated during the last Session. The drafting of the Bills which came from the Home Office during the last Session left a great deal to be desired. They were sent back for considerable amendment, much of which was at the Government's suggestion--I think of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill
Indeed, we almost saw Ministers distancing themselves from the quality of the legislation that came from their own departments and commenting on it as though they were independent observers rather than the owners of the specific provisions. That is not helpful either. Part of the difficulty must be the volume of legislation emanating from that one department of state.
That volume is further swelled by Bills brought forward in response to specific events. During the previous Session, we passed the Football (Offences and Disorder) Act. During this Session we shall debate the hunting Bill. I shall not comment on it at length, but say merely that it will undoubtedly consume considerable quantities of parliamentary time and create a great deal of heat. Let the Government never again say that they are short of legislative time because, if that is how they want to use it, it will be their own fault if they find their programme under pressure.
Furthermore, Ministers appear to rely ever more heavily on the assumption that crime can be regulated out of existence. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, say that the aim was not to reduce crime by diktat from Whitehall and then detail the diktats which are coming from Whitehall in order to reduce crime. There is a great deal of legislation on the statute book covering almost every conceivable offence and situation. I suggest that the emphasis should be put on enforcing that rather than dreaming up more and more eye-catching gimmicks to join it.
I do not say that we should set our legislation in stone; circumstances change and we must create a legislative framework which takes that into account. However, I echo the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, in calling for a period of greater stability. There must come a point when all the agencies involved in law enforcement and the courts have difficulty in digesting the many changes to the law. That must reduce the effectiveness of the law.
The police force is at the forefront of enforcement. I want to pay tribute to the work which it does, which is often dangerous and unpopular with those on whom it is imposed. That is why we must give the police force the political support it requires, particularly in times of difficulty for it. For example the Metropolitan Police Force was under the spotlight as a result of the Macpherson report. Unless the police force receives the political support it deserves the task it faces will be made doubly difficult.
Turning to a separate issue, we are told that we are in the run-up to a general election. During the Government's time in office we have seen their tendency to use public funds to buy editorial, or Xadvertorial", space in various publications. Indeed, we have seen various government departments sponsoring publications which I contend are designed
I want to conclude with the constitution. We heard a number of powerful and learned speeches, notably from my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. We saw the reform of this House on a partial basis. We were vigorously told that the changes which were then made were urgent; they had to be done immediately and on a non-consensual basis. They were forced through the House. However, since then we have seen nothing but sloth; the Government have not properly spelt out their policies on reforming this House. We need clarity on that before the general election.
Perhaps the most damning indictment of the Government's attitude towards Parliament came as we headed towards Prorogation. Your Lordships' House took strong views on certain measures in the Transport Bill and the Disqualifications Bill, to name but two. When strong opinions were expressed by this House and Bills were sent back to another place we heard Ministers rushing to speak on the radio to brand that as being constitutionally outrageous. We heard a lot of talk of unelected Peers behaving totally reprehensibly.
This House has been fashioned and modelled as the Government wished; it is their own creation. Therefore any deficiencies in the perceived legitimacy of this House must be laid firmly at the Government's door. The degree of haste with which the Government have shown they want to proceed with constitutional reform beyond that of your Lordships' House is heavy-handed and regrettable. I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that when reforming the constitution there must be a genuine attempt to create consensus. We do not want to get to a stage when every five or 10 years there is a change of government and the constitution is rewritten to suit the party in power. I understand that having spent so long out of office, when the Labour Party came into office there was a great tendency to rush to get all the toys out of the box and play with them all at once. That is a short-sighted approach towards constitutional reform. They must seek the agreement and support of other parties to produce a long-lasting and robust constitution which will serve this country well.
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