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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord does beg to move the amendment. I accept what he says. I am happy with government Amendments Nos. 43, 91, 92 and 93. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 13:

"( ) The Minister shall lay the terms of reference before each House of Parliament."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, since this amendment is fully covered by government Amendment No. 18, the simplest thing would be for me to move it formally and leave the Minister to get on with it. I beg to move.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, my Amendment No. 19 is included in this group; it is an amendment to government Amendment No. 18. It relates to costs, on which we had extensive deliberations in Committee. I attempted to press the Minister for an explanation of what budgeting process goes into the setting up of inquiries. I note that there are provisions in the Bill to get a grip on costs. I note the new provision introducing a requirement for the chairman to have regard to costs and a requirement in Clause 36 to publish final costs. Those are all well and good, but the fact that we now know, more or less, how much the Bloody Sunday inquiry will cost when it is finished does not alter the fact that a very disproportionate sum has been spent.
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My amendment attempts to focus minds on the question of costs before money is spent. The noble Baroness's amendment sets down duties for the Minister to inform the Parliament or the Assembly. My amendment adds to the end of her amendment:

I fully accept that that may be very difficult to do, as inquiries by their very nature deal with uncertainties. The chairman or the Minister will not know for sure where the developments will go. But that is the same with many other areas of public interest; for example, rehabilitation of London Underground's infrastructure. One does not know the condition of the assets, yet assumptions are made and estimates produced.

Estimates are currently made. In her letter to me of 31 January, the Minister said:

On the specific point of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, she further said:

However, tellingly, she does not say what those estimates were.

Much reference has been made to the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration. In paragraph 127, the committee concludes:

I agree entirely with that. I hope that the Minister will feel able to accept my amendment.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I support my noble friend's proposal. I hope that the Government think that it is a useful provision because, although there is often a terrific demand out there for inquiries into this or that, possibly enthusiasm for such inquiries would be modified if people appreciated that it would cost them a significant sum and that public funds might be better spent elsewhere.

Of course my noble friend is right; it is very difficult to give an absolutely accurate forecast of the cost of an inquiry, not least because those who have to chair it will not yet have decided whether they will allow any particular party to be represented. So I appreciate that there are difficulties. But I have no doubt that when the Minister has decided to set up an inquiry and has discussed it with the chairman, there must be at least some appreciation, understanding or calculation of who will be allowed to attend. However, ultimately, it will be for the chairman of that inquiry to decide who should or should not be allowed to put forward their representations and be present at the inquiry. But Parliament should be given the opportunity to know what the inquiry will cost at the outset. If there can be only an estimate, that is the best that can be done.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said, I promised in
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Grand Committee to give further thought to the involvement of Parliament and how that could be strengthened. Indeed, I welcomed the idea of a requirement to inform Parliament of the terms of reference.

Government Amendment No. 18 goes even further than the amendment in the names of the noble Lords. It requires the Minister to make a statement to Parliament on the establishment of an inquiry, its terms of reference, its chairman and the form of the panel. Amendment No. 44 makes similar provision for inquiries that could be converted. Amendment No. 109 defines how they would work for the different administrations in the United Kingdom.

9.15 p.m.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, has indicated, his Amendment No. 19 attempts to deal with costs by having the requirement to provide "an estimate". I fully appreciate what the noble Viscount seeks to do, but my difficulty is that the chairman should be in the driving seat in terms of planning the inquiry. I would be nervous about a Minister setting the parameters of the inquiry ahead of any assessment that the chairman might make.

We have spoken to former inquiry chairmen and to the secretaries of those inquiries. Of course, noble Lords will not be surprised that they indicated that it can be quite hard to estimate the budgets before there is a clear idea of the scale of the task and the amount of evidence. It is argued that budgeting should be done with the chairman during an inquiry, in dialogue with the sponsor department. We will look at the procedure rules that could assist with that and may go some way to addressing the point made by the noble Viscount.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, would the noble Baroness therefore be willing to give an undertaking that that budgeting process—whether it occurs under my amendment at the beginning, or shortly after the beginning, of the inquiry, as the Public Accounts Committee recommends—and figure would be published?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am certainly willing to consider that. I shall speak to colleagues to determine what we might be able to do. Publishing the figure does not necessarily control the cost per se. I would be nervous about any lack of public confidence because we published a figure, but then an inquiry, for perfectly legitimate and good reasons, exceeded that figure.

There are issues that we will come to. Certainly, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, has concerns about representation. I think that I am right in saying that the noble and learned Lord is concerned about how the cost issues will play with those questions. Perhaps I may take that issue away and think about it.

My immediate concern is that we need to ensure that the chairman, in planning the inquiry in conjunction with the sponsor department, is looking at the issues of
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cost, as we have indicated. But I will come back to the noble and learned Lord on that point. On the basis of what I have said, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I welcome what the Minister said. I agree that her formulation goes somewhat further than ours and, to that extent, is an improvement on it. I have some sympathy with the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, although I am not sure that my sympathy goes quite as far as wishing to press this amendment to see it in the Bill. I would have been interested to see the initial proposed budget for the Bloody Sunday inquiry. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Hooper): My Lords, Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 have been incorrectly marshalled. I must therefore call Amendment No. 15 first.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 15:

"(3) The Minister may at any time after setting out the terms of reference under this section amend them if he considers that the public interest so requires.
(4) Before setting out or amending the terms of reference the Minister must consult the person he proposes to appoint, or has appointed, as chairman."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

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