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Lord Borrie: My Lords, I am most grateful for my noble friend the Minister's response. I understand more since I have had consultations with her and heard her speech this evening. The Government have considered these matters of interference with inquiry proceedings most carefully. I am particularly grateful to her for indicating that Clause 32(2) can properly be interpreted as covering certain forms of interference, such as television and press interviews with potential witnesses. I was and am concerned about that.

I still do not fully understand why all the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 were not included because there may be gaps, and who knows what types of interference with inquiry proceedings may emerge in future. It is a pity that for some of them certain discretionary powers will not be in the hands of the inquiry chairmen and on his reference in the hands of the High Court. I shall of course consider the Minister's words most carefully. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 99 not moved.]

Clause 36 [Payment of inquiry expenses by Minister]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 100:


 
8 Feb 2005 : Column 732
 

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 100, I shall speak also to government Amendments Nos. 104, 105 and 106.

Amendment No. 100 requires the Minister to meet all expenses, as opposed to all expenses "reasonably" incurred in holding the inquiry.

I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Goodhart and Lord Smith of Clifton, who tabled a similar amendment in Grand Committee. I undertook then to consider whether inclusion of the term "reasonably" in this context added anything to the Bill.

I recognise that the term raises questions about how "reasonably" might be defined and who would meet expenses considered unreasonable. There are other provisions in the Bill to safeguard costs that negate the need to qualify here what expenses the Minister must agree to pay. Therefore, the term "reasonably" serves no purpose.

Government Amendments Nos. 104, 105 and 106 clarify some of the arrangements for payment of expenses to witnesses. It is only fair that people asked to assist the inquiry by providing evidence can be given their travel and similar expenses in advance. In particular, as there are criminal sanctions as well as a civil enforcement procedure in the Bill for failing to comply with notices to attend, it cannot be right that an individual should be forced to expend his own money in order to avoid a criminal charge. Amendment No. 104 ensures that situation would not arise.

Amendments Nos. 105 and 106 ensure that the chairman always has the power to pay witness costs, although that power is subject to any qualifications and conditions imposed by the Minister. They remove the possibility under that current draft that the Minister could fail to notify the chairman that he has the power to pay any costs at all. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, these amendments seem to me to be an improvement to the Bill. I am happy to welcome them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 101 not moved.]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 102:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 103 not moved.]

Clause 37 [Expenses of witnesses etc]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendments Nos. 104 to 106:

On Question, amendments agreed to.
 
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Clause 38 [Rules]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 107:


"(aa) the return or keeping, after the end of an inquiry, of documents given to or created by the inquiry;"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 40 [Interpretation]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendments Nos. 108 to 110:


""public authority" has the same meaning as in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36);"
Page 20, line 33, at end insert—
""the relevant Parliament or Assembly" means whichever of the following is or are applicable—
(a) in the case of an inquiry for which the Treasury is responsible, the House of Commons;
(b) in the case of an inquiry for which any other United Kingdom Minister is responsible, or one for which the Secretary of State exercising functions by virtue of section 42(2) is responsible, the House of Parliament of which that minister is a member;
(c) in the case of an inquiry for which the Scottish Ministers are responsible, the Scottish Parliament;
(d) in the case of an inquiry for which the National Assembly for Wales is responsible, that Assembly;
(e) in the case of an inquiry for which a Northern Ireland Minister is responsible, the Northern Ireland Assembly;"
Page 20, line 40, at end insert—
""Scottish public authority" has the same meaning as in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (asp 13);"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 111 and 112 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 113:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment removes a consequential change to the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992, which make clear that inquiries under this Bill were outside the remit of the Council on Tribunals.

The amendment will not change the legal position. Inquiries under the Bill will not fall within the remit of the Council on Tribunals. The council's role extends only to inquiries which a Minister has a statutory duty to hold—like planning inquiries—and to inquiries where there is a statutory power to hold and that the Lord Chancellor has designated within its remit by order. Inquiries under the 1921 Act, for example, are not within the council's remit.

The amendment would leave open the option of designating these inquiries within the council's remit by order at a later date, if that were felt to be appropriate. I beg to move.
 
8 Feb 2005 : Column 734
 

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 114 not moved.]

Clause 46 [Repeals and revocations]:

[Amendment No. 115 not moved.]

Schedule 3 [Repeals and revocations]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 116:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment refers to Schedule 3 and has been moved simply to give the noble Baroness the opportunity to make a statement about the relationship between Clauses 14 and 15 and Schedule 3.

As I understand it, towards the end of our previous proceedings, the noble Baroness stated that Clauses 14 and 15 referred solely to non-statutory inquiries. Subsequent correspondence with the noble Baroness revealed that their scope is somewhat wider than that. I believe that it covers some statutory inquiries that do not have powers of compulsion. I should be most grateful if the noble Baroness would confirm or otherwise that information. I beg to move.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, who will remember well the confusion that I got myself into at the end of Grand Committee. I will attempt to do precisely what the noble Lord wants.

Clause 14 could be used to convert statutory inquiries as well as non-statutory inquiries. I think that that is the essence of what the noble Lord wanted me to say. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to put on the record that that is indeed what I meant.


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