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Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I have considerable respect for the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. With that respect, I must say that he has been uncharacteristically unfair in describing the constitutional reforms carried out since 1997 as "a pile of rubble" and suggesting that they have diminished ministerial responsibility. In fact, without going into it in any detail, the Human Rights Act, indirectly the Freedom of Information Act, and the Constitutional Reform Bill have all increased the accountability of Ministers to the courts, to Parliament and to the public. So I do not accept the criticism that has been made, especially since we on these Benches have welcomed all those reforms.

The noble Lord has indicated correctly that his amendment would restrict the Royal prerogative. I respectfully remind him that when I introduced my Executive Powers and Civil Service Bill a few months ago, I received absolutely no support whatever from the Conservative Opposition in seeking to regularise the prerogative and place it under parliamentary control.

I, like my noble friend, am sympathetic to this amendment and to the other to which we will come. But I am convinced that this is a very well-designed Bill. I would not like to go back and be stuck with the 1921 Act, which would be the consequence if the Bill were now to be blocked on the basis of either of the amendments being pursued. For that reason I very much hope that the Bill will now go through on oiled castors.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, I intervene only shortly because on the next amendment I have a little more to say. I totally support the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that Parliament should be more involved in this subject than it is currently. As the involvement is purely optional, I see absolutely no
7 Apr 2005 : Column 896
reason why it is being resisted. I am bound to say that I find the change in the attitude of the Liberal Democrats more than a little disappointing.

Lord Laming: My Lords, I begin by saying how much I admire the improvements that your Lordships have made to this timely and important Bill. I pay tribute not only to the Minister, who has listened carefully to your Lordships, but to the other Members of the House who have played such an important and careful part at each stage of our deliberations on the Bill. It is to the credit of the House that the Bill has emerged as such a good and helpful piece of legislation.

When this amendment was debated earlier, I spoke against it. Clearly, I was not convincing. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, chided me—extremely gently and kindly. He said that I had said that Parliament should not hold the Government to account. Because I have such regard for the noble Lord, I reflected not only on what I had said but on his response. I realised that, not for the first time, I had failed to express myself adequately in your Lordships' House. I hope that this time I may do a little better.

I have absolutely no doubt that Parliament has a key responsibility in holding the Government to account for their actions. Indeed, I venture to suggest that some of us wish that Parliament would do that more often, more robustly and to greater effect. But the machinery to do that already exists. It may need to be strengthened in certain aspects, but that is not a matter for this Bill.

My concern about the amendment is that it is not at all central to the Bill. We should not lose sight of the fact that the Bill is about setting up inquiries into matters such as the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster, Alder Hey, Shipman, Bristol Royal Infirmary and, dare I say it, Victoria Climbié. Important though the issue is, it needs to be addressed elsewhere. What the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, said this morning convinces me even more of that.

I hope that there will be no prospect of this important Bill being lost today. That would be something of a tragedy. One thing on which most if not all of us agree is that we need to remove the 1921 Act and replace it with something more relevant to today's needs. I very much hope that the amendment will not be pressed but, if it is, I hope that the House will vote against it.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I am disappointed that the Liberal Democrats will abstain and not support us. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, made clear his reasons for taking that view. I am also extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Laming, for his remarks. It was kind of him to describe my response to what he said on Report as gentle chiding. I certainly did not intend to go beyond that. It is nice to know that, just occasionally, what one says is understood in the terms that it was meant; that is not always the case when one speaks from the Dispatch Box.
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To me—and, indeed, to the Opposition—it seems strange for a Bill to be advanced by the Government to deal with public inquiries on all matters excepting those that matter most: the conduct of Ministers responsible to Parliament.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I interrupt the noble Lord only because I am sure that he would agree that the tragedies mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Laming, are the events that matter most. I take the noble Lord's point, but I should not want us to lost sight of what the Bill is intended to do concerning such tragedies.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I certainly do not lose sight of that; but there are already mechanisms to deal with those matters, and they will continue to do so as long as the law is not changed. I believe that the manner in which Ministers are subject to inquiries should be controlled by Parliament. However, we have not even gone as far as requiring that in our amendment. We have said only that Parliament may—not "must" but "may"—establish the terms of reference and composition of those committees. In those circumstances, I remain wholly unconvinced that the Government have a legitimate argument against the amendment, and I beg to test the opinion of the House.

12.16 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 89; Not-Contents, 142.

Division No. 1


Ackner, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor, V.
Attlee, E.
Biffen, L.
Blackwell, L.
Blaker, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Buscombe, B.
Byford, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Crickhowell, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Donaldson of Lymington, L.
Dundee, E.
Eccles, V.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Hanham, B.
Hanningfield, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Jellicoe, E.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kimball, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Kingsland, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Laidlaw, L.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Liverpool, E.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
MacLaurin of Knebworth, L.
Marlesford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Montrose, D.
Morris of Bolton, B.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Noakes, B.
Northesk, E.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Peel, E.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rotherwick, L.
Ryder of Wensum, L.
Saatchi, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selborne, E.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Stewartby, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thatcher, B.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wakeham, L.
Windlesham, L.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council)
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Borrie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Bridges, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Carter, L.
Chan, L.
Christopher, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
Dahrendorf, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dearing, L.
Desai, L.
Donoughue, L.
Drayson, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Gale, B.
Giddens, L.
Gilbert, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harrison, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haskel, L.
Haworth, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howarth of Breckland, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Joffe, L.
Jones, L.
Jordan, L.
King of West Bromwich, L.
Laming, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lipsey, L.
Listowel, E.
Lockwood, B.
Ludford, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Marsh, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Methuen, L.
Morgan, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Powell of Bayswater, L.
Prosser, B.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rix, L.
Rogan, L.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Rowlands, L.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Sewel, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Slim, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Snape, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Thornton, B.
Tordoff, L.
Triesman, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Warnock, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Wright of Richmond, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7 Apr 2005 : Column 899

On Question, Motion agreed to.

12.28 p.m.

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