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Lord Hylton: I am a non-lawyer and, as it were, a private person. I have not spoken so far in this Committee stage but I support as strongly as I can the case for a review at a very early stage so that the country can see how this Bill, when it becomes an Act, works out in practice. Privy counsellors are obviously the right people to undertake this kind of task. I am agnostic about how they should be found or selected but the principle is an essential one.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I have listened very carefully to what noble Lords have said. I, of course, acknowledge the strictures contained in the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, but I should say to herI appreciate that she may not have been present during our earlier discussionsthat we have already acknowledged that the Newton committee highlighted a number of these issues. I do not agree that that report was treated with disdain but I have accepted that some of the recommendations therein contained certainly merit careful scrutiny. I have also indicated that we are minded to bring forward legislation as soon as reasonably practicable which would take up a number of the Newton committee's suggestions. I have given due credit to the extremely high-quality work which was thereby undertaken.
I remind the Committee that the Newton committee recommended that we should look very carefully at the other offences that might be possible. I remind the Committee in particular of the recommendation made by Newton at paragraph 251 which dealt with the propriety of making less intrusive orders than Part 4. Paragraph 251 states:
I remind the Committee that that is a scheme which the Newton committee advocated. It is one to which we have listened in seeking to put the provisions of this Bill together, as, indeed, we listened to the comments made by your Lordships' Judicial Committee when it used as an example the constrictions placed on the individual rights of the appellant G. I remind the Committee that we are precisely where the Newton committee advocated that we should be. I, of course, acknowledge that many would say that we should have got there a little sooner.
The Earl of Onslow: I accept that. However, the only reason that this provision was included is because it
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was found by the Judicial Committee of your Lordships' House that Part 4 was against the Human Rights Act. To be asked to believe that this would have been done without outside pressure is stretching my broad imagination too far.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I hear what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, says in that regard and I appreciate that he may have limited imagination. However, I would not possibly suggest that that is the case. Having seen the noble Earl's performances in this House, I would say that the contrary is true.
The reason that I remind the Committee that that is our position is simply to bring us back to the realities of the situation with which we are dealing and to remind the Committee that these were seen as proportion and appropriate responses to the difficulties in which we now find ourselves. That is also the reason why, bearing in mind the experience that your Lordships' House has in scrutinising these issues, I take with due caution your Lordships' comments on our bringing forward another Bill on acts preparatory to. I do not for one moment say that your Lordships will be to blame.
Let us look at the review provisions in the Bill. The amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, are interdependent and relate to Amendment No. 171, which requires the legislation to cease to have effect at the end of November 2005. That is a very narrow compass. The amendments provide for review and reporting mechanisms during the operation of the legislation in the period up to that date. We are now in March so the period to November is very short indeed. The timing of proposed new clauses on reviewing and reporting on the operation of the Act is based on the assumption that there will be that sunset clause.
We believe, however, that the principle of the provisions is unnecessary. I shall explain why. The Bill provides that the Secretary of State must report to Parliament at quarterly intervals on the exercise of the control order powers. The Bill also provides for the Secretary of State to appoint a person to carry out reviews annually on the operation of the old Sections 1 to 6on the making, operation and duration of the control orders. The Secretary of State would be obliged to lay the reports produced by those reviews before Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable.
In response to the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, for a proper debate and response, if the report is laid before Parliament as we propose, then there a good opportunity for the debate advocated by the noble Lord to take place.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: If only it were so. Noble Lords will know that time for debate is not within the Government's gift. They will also know that the usual channels, in their inimitable style, have the ability to find time for debates that appear to be supported and merited. If all three parties wished there to be a debate, I cannot conceive that the usual
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channels would not provide us with an opportunity. However, I do not seek to usurp their function from the Dispatch Box or to suggest that the Government can command the timetable in this place. I have learnt, to my great joy, that that is an impossibility.
I turn to the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. I, too, endorse the assessment of my noble and learned friend's performanceit was brilliant batting. However, I remind the noble Lord that this wicket has not yet gone.
These issues are difficult. However, I agree with my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. As currently draftedand not simply because they reflect the current position of the Liberal Democratsthe proposals are misconceived and unnecessary. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, will also know that the Government have indicated that the actions and arguments of this place always need to be considered further. On each occasion when my noble and learned friend and I have responded, we have made it clear that the Government's consideration of these matters continues.
Lord Crickhowell: The noble Baroness has almost invited me to comment again. All she has indicated so far is that we might have a debate at some unspecified time on reports laid by the Home Secretary. That is wholly inadequate. It has to be tied to a timetable which means that Parliament will have the opportunity to consider the legislation completely afresh. Anything less will not do.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, says on that matter, but the amendments before us this evening do not have that effect. Even if, as is not admitted, there was a need for an annual review, these provisions would not thereby provide it.
Both my noble friend Lord Forsyth and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, rightly criticised Amendment No. 169 for lacking teeth. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, adduced evidence to this effect with the sorry story of the fate of the Newton report. In responding to them both, I emphasise that I accept that without Amendment No.171, Amendment No. 169 would get us only a short distance down the road.
The amendments are interdependent. Without Amendment No. 171, a future report made under Amendment No. 169 would be likely to suffer the same fate as the Newton report. Equally, without Amendment No. 169, Amendment No. 171and we come to the moment when the sunset clause biteswe would lack an in-depth, informed and authoritative report about where we should go from there. Although these are separate amendments and are grouped separately, they must be looked at together.
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I cannot but disagree with the noble Baroness about the effect of Amendment No. 169. Although I am not going to move it this evening, she should be in no doubt that I shall be moving it on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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