|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Monson: My Lords, whereas the Minister has argued fairly successfully that Magna Carta, the Habeas Corpus Act and the Bill of Rights are subsumed for the purposes of the Bill into the Human Rights Act 1998, does she not agree that the same does not apply to Section 7 of the Parliament Act 1911? Extending the life of a Parliament would not conflict with the Human Rights Act.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am not suggesting that all those constitutional Acts are subsumed within the Human Rights Act. The reason that we have made the specific concession in relation to the Human Rights Act is that it includes juxtaposition
9 Nov 2004 : Column 869
between the individual and the state, and that relationship. The issues that have exercised people at Second Reading, in Committee and now on Report are how those powers will be used and how we can challenge the powers taken by the state and exercised against the individual. We see the strength of including in the Bill the provision in these amendments.
However, our other constitutional legislation, which is equally important, is also not affected or amended by the Act; nor do we believe that any government could so construe it. For the record and for the purposes of interpretation, I make it clear that, in crafting this Bill, that is the interpretation that this Government intended to be used in interpreting the provisions. It does not include any constitutional arrangements.
The only reason that we are not including a list is that we may inadvertently leave something out; then you have the sceptre of lawyers. I can see that, if I were not standing at this Dispatch Box, at some stage I might be standing at another Bar, where I might be advocating that Parliament must have intended to exclude or include somethingbecause otherwise why did it not so provide? That is a common debate in which noble Lords would not wish people to engage. There should be no doubt that this Bill does not seek to amend constitutional Acts which have not been specifically referred to here. That is the general rule. I would not like to breach it because I am afraid of what might happen if we did.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I almost feel like asking "Any more offers?" We may be about to get a "going, going, gone". I have just received a briefing paper which refers to "Magna Carta (1297)". We learn something new every day.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I shall be extremely brief. I thank the Minister for her response to our amendment. We thought long and hard about having a very modest approach to this amendment. We were tempted by the list that was recommended by the Joint Scrutiny Committee on the draft Bill. But, for all the reasons that the Minister has explained, we have sought to minimise that list to ensure that we could circumscribe it very tightly to those Acts that control the life of Parliament and underpin the role of the judiciary and the monarchy.
I am sorry that the Minister has not felt able to respond to our amendments. I accept her argument that her amendment to protect the Human Rights Act is not, in her view, strictly necessary. That is helpful to our debate because, if the Government are going to protect
9 Nov 2004 : Column 870
the Human Rights Act, surely there is little harm if they respond to our wishes to protect the Bill of Rights and habeas corpus, perhaps on the same basis, which would be a great comfort to all noble Lords. Notwithstanding the fact that the Government may not consider protection of those Acts strictly necessary, we do. We take this matter extremely seriously.
I shall read what the Minister has said in Hansard. Given that we are only one week away from Third Reading, I urge her to write as quickly as possible to set out in further detail the reasons why she feels unable to respond positively to our amendments. I urge her to take on board the fact that this is not an amendment that will go away easily. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall attempt to be brief. This amendment is to Clause 23, which deals with the limitation of emergency regulations. As I outlined in Committee, this clause currently prevents the Government doing two things: the first is requiring a person to take part in military service and the second is interfering with strike action. We object to the latter category.
We on these Benches see no reason why the Government are choosing to make such an exception. There are many reasons why we feel that this provision should not be part of the Bill. We are talking about situations where something awful will happen, is happening or is about to take place. In such a situation, ambulance drivers, firemen and workers on the London Underground may very well be essential to minimising the damage, treating the injured and transporting people to and from the area of the emergency. However, any such operations would be severely hindered if the union connected to those actions was out on strike. In such situations, it is essential to have trained professionals manning the essential services and the current drafting of the Bill may well mean that that does not happen.
During the debate on 21 October, many of your Lordships questioned the Government on why this provision is an exception in the Bill. In his reply, the
9 Nov 2004 : Column 871
Minister made an attempt to justify the inclusion of such a provision. The main thrust of that argument was that it is a historic exception. That is due to the fact that it was contained in the 1920 Act. Perhaps I may say that that is a rather hollow argument: the Government are repealing the Act and many of the provisions contained within it.
We have also heard that we should put our faith in those on strike to do the right thing and return to work should such a situation occur. I am sure that that is the case, but we must remember that we may well be talking about people's lives. It is quite worrying to have to rely on blind faith that individuals will do the "right thing".
That is particularly the case after my noble friend Lord Luke brought some interesting statistics to my attention regarding strikes during the Second World War. Noble Lords may think that when the country was going through some of its very darkest times, people would not even think to strike or place a further strain on their country. However, figures from the Office for Central Statistics show that during 1941, 1,077 working days were lost to strikes; that figure was 1,530 in 1942 and by 1944 it stood at 3,696. Those were supposed to be the days when people could be relied on to "muck in" and help out whenever help was needed. I hope that the Government will think again about this provision. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I have two amendments in this group. Amendment No. 82 merely suggests, "Well, if we are going to have this provision, let us make sure it works". I gave an illustration in Committee about what would happen if we had a strike by HGV drivers and none the less the Government required goods to be moved and therefore had to relax legislation in order to enable other people to drive heavy goods vehicles.
"It is possible however that it may be necessary and proportionate to relax some conditions relating to the use of HGVs, perhaps those relating to licences or to working hours, providing it is safe to do so in the circumstances. There is nothing in the Bill that would prevent this, providing all the safeguards had been met".
If one is enabling people who are not normally permitted to drive HGVs to drive HGVs, "in connection with a strike"it is only because the strike is happening that it is necessary to do that enablinghow does that not fall within this condition?
I intend this as an entirely helpful amendment. I shall not pursue it. But I urge the noble Baroness to think about whether she has got that right. I cannot see how, on picking out that aspect of Clause 23(3), it does not have the effect that I think it does. It is therefore a danger
9 Nov 2004 : Column 872
to a proper response to an emergency situation where a strike is involved. The intention of my amendment is to remove that possibility.
I shall not labour over Amendment No. 84. I merely put it down to draw out an answer on whether penalties in existing legislation could be amended if the circumstances were right. But the noble Baroness has replied to me that, yes, they can, which I accept.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|