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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I must remind my noble friend that it has never been the aim of Her Majesty's Government's policy to remove Saddam Hussein. I have listened with some concern to some of the commentary over the weekend to the effect that our presence in the no-fly zones has been a failure because it has not resulted in Saddam Hussein's fall

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from power. Our presence there concerns trying to ensure that the people covered by the no-fly zones do not suffer brutal oppression. We have also been concerned to control Saddam Hussein's programme for weapons of mass destruction through the use of Security Council resolutions.

Much as we may despise and abhor how Saddam Hussein has behaved, it is a matter for the Iraqi people to decide who governs them. We have not sought to remove him by force but to control the threat that he poses to the region. I am sure that my right honourable friend will discuss these matters when he visits Washington. I am sure that he will discuss lasting solutions not only to the issues in the Gulf--particularly in relation to Iraq--but to the wider issues in the Middle East as a whole.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the Iraqi people have limited opportunities to get rid of this tyrant? Does she further agree that the immediate, almost reflex, reaction of some of our European allies goes a long way towards enhancing the fears and anxieties which many of us have about the proposed European rapid reaction force?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, on one point; that is, that the Iraqi people, sadly, do have very limited opportunities to get rid of their leaders, unlike, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour, the people of Israel, who have demonstrated that they are able so to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, may recall that we had discussions with opposition parties from Iraq about ways in which the opposition might be strengthened. That is a very different matter from getting directly involved in a military overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

I do not believe that there is any connection whatever with the European rapid reaction force. We are evolving that force with our friends and colleagues across Europe in relation to humanitarian tasks we are able to agree and where NATO as a whole will not be engaged. I genuinely believe that the noble Lord seeks to draw an erroneous conclusion.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the decisive decision was the setting up of the no-fly zones in the first place? Does she further agree that, if one accepts the no-fly zones as being necessary as the only way open to us to protect the marsh Arabs in the south and the Kurds in the north, it logically follows that appropriate steps must be taken to enforce them? If the attacks on the command and control centres were discriminate and proportionate, as they appear to have been, then it is totally inconsistent to condemn them and at the same time try to support the policy of the no-fly zones.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I could not have put it any better than the right reverend Prelate.

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Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, whatever the military justification for these recent attacks--which I do not dispute--the impression has been given in the Middle East and elsewhere that the United States Administration, with the support of the Government, are paying insufficient attention to the real political problem of the Middle East, which is the Arab/Israel problem? There is a need to show some awareness of the suffering of the Palestinians under the Israeli Administration and armed forces over the past few months since the intifada was provoked by Sharon's entry into the Dome of the Rock. The fact that there is insufficient awareness will have been underlined by the news that the United States is entering into joint military exercises with the Israeli armed forces.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I indicated in response to the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, Saddam Hussein has never wasted an opportunity to present himself as the champion of the Arab cause. Sadly, there will be those who, at this time of heightened tension in the Middle East, will choose to take that impression from what has happened. We all understand that the current, very real, very difficult situation in relation to the Middle East peace process will have raised Saddam's popularity in the region. We were aware of that at the time we took the decision to engage in military action on Friday.

We have to reiterate over and over again--it cannot be said too often--that the attacks were not related to the Middle East peace process or in any way to the commitment that we have to finding a peaceful, just and lasting settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I am sure that we all agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wright, that that is enormously important.

Regulatory Reform Bill [H.L.]

3.49 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Power by order to make provision reforming law which imposes burdens]:

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 1, line 14, leave out ("its retention") and insert ("the re-enactment").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I am sure that the vast majority of noble Lords will recognise the amendment as virtually identical to Amendment No. 5 proposed on Report by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. The noble Lord gave me notice that he would not be present in the Chamber today.

When I sought to respond to the amendment on Report, I got the wrong end of the stick completely. I undertook to consider it further. I did so, and found it well thought-out and sensible. It sought to place at the end of Clause 1(1)(b) the same word in principle as occurs elsewhere in the clause. It was a sensible drafting amendment.

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The amendment that we propose differs from that tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, only in so far as it substitutes "the re-enactment" for "its retention", thus making clear that "re-enactment" refers to the provision, not to the "burden". After all, one cannot "re-enact" a burden, only the provision that gives rise to it. Inspired by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, we proposed this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, in my noble friend's absence, I am grateful to the Minister. I am happy to support the amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Viscount Goschen moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 1, line 20, leave out paragraph (d).

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, throughout our consideration of the Bill, we have referred to the wide-ranging, and in some circumstances ill defined, nature of its provisions. These are the very provisions that are designed to give Parliament comfort as regards the Bill's wide-ranging powers, which enable the parliamentary processes that we normally expect to apply to changes to primary legislation to be avoided by means of an order.

My amendment is simple. It seeks to remove paragraph (d) in subsection (1). The paragraph gives Ministers powers to bring forward orders under circumstances where they are aimed at,

    "the removal of inconsistencies and anomalies".

If the provision in paragraph (d) were designed purely to get at tiny technical drafting errors, there could be some argument for its retention. However, that is not what the Bill states; it simply spells out "inconsistencies and anomalies". I would argue strongly that these terms are far too wide, allowing Ministers to bring forward orders to amend primary legislation and bypass the standards and procedures of this House and another place merely on the basis that the Minister believes that he has spotted an anomaly or an inconsistency.

"Inconsistent" must be a comparative term. "Inconsistent" with what? Inconsistent with other pieces of legislation? Inconsistent perhaps with provisions within the Act that is to be amended. The Bill is silent on the definition of the word.

"Anomaly" and "inconsistency" are reasonably close in meaning. But what does "anomaly" mean in law? There is no further definition within the Bill. Ministers could use the fact that they believed they had spotted an anomaly to bring forward orders to amend primary legislation which do not affect burdens. That would not happen under the provision in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), which are all aimed at circumstances which the House knows and understands.

All noble Lords who participated in earlier debates on the Bill will clearly understand the aims of those paragraphs. They are designed to address circumstances where burdens should either be removed or where they should perhaps be transferred in the interest of making legislation clearer and better.

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That is not the case with paragraph (d). "Anomaly" can mean almost anything one wants it to mean. There is no place for such a provision in a Bill which gives unprecedented powers to the executive, tipping the balance of power in favour of the executive and away from Parliament.

This House has itself been described as an "anomaly". We heard the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, referring during the passage of what is now the Disqualifications Act to an "anomaly" which led to the bringing forward of that piece of legislation. Perhaps "inconsistency" would be a better term to describe the way in which the treatment of Commonwealth citizens was different from that of citizens of the Republic of Ireland.

The Minister furnished the House with a list of 51 examples of potential circumstances in which regulatory reform orders could be brought forward to the benefit of those who were regulating: bringing forward clearer legislation and all the other aims in which this House believes. But how many of those listed rely on the provision in paragraph (d),

    "the removal of inconsistencies and anomalies";

and how many can be dealt with under the provision in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c)?

Unless it involves the removal, reduction or modification of a burden, there is no place within the Bill for giving Ministers catch-all, "get out of gaol free" powers to amend legislation whenever they feel like it. The Government argue that to become the subject of such an order legislation must be concerned with imposing burdens. But show me the piece of legislation that does not impose a burden on someone somewhere, even if that person is not the Minister. The burden must be on the Government to prove that there is a strong argument for using these unprecedented powers. That must depend on the removal or modification of serious burdens; the power should not be used merely where the Government identify some anomaly.

There are a number of anomalies within legislation. Some should be there, and some should not. We propose giving the Government the widest of powers to deal with what could be quite small problems. I suggest that the balance between protections given to Parliament and opportunities given to Ministers will not be met unless we remove paragraph (d). I beg to move.

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