Skip to main content

Crown Employment (Nationality) Bill

Volume 464: debated on Friday 19 October 2007

Not amended in the Committee, considered.

New Clause 1


‘(1) A person who is ineligible to be employed or hold office in a civil capacity under the Crown by reason of the rules made under section 2 (“the rules”) may appeal to a Crown Employment (Nationality) Rules Tribunal ("the Tribunal") for an exemption from the rules.

(2) In determining an appeal the Tribunal may recommend to a Minister of the Crown (or any person or body to whom the power has been delegated under section 2(3)) that an exemption to the rules be made.

(3) The Secretary of State shall make regulations with respect to the composition, conduct and operation of the Tribunal.

(4) The Secretary of State may not make regulations under this section unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(5) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.’.—[Mr. Chope.]

Brought up and read the First time.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Before introducing the new clause, which is tabled in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) and of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), may I apologise to the promoter of the Bill on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire for his absence from the House today? My right hon. Friend was particularly keen to be here because he has always had a lot of respect for the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore). He was able to participate in a debate on an almost identical new clause some three years ago, but today he was faced with a dilemma, as a big constituency event about the future of Bridlington hospital is taking place and he felt that he should attend it. The Government have proposals to reduce the activities of that hospital, which is—

Madam Deputy Speaker, my right hon. Friend particularly asked me to say that because the mother of the hon. Member for Hendon lives in his constituency in Bridlington, and he thought that he was serving the family—

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be satisfied with what I have tried to do on his behalf.

The new clause has a history. It was debated some three years and four days ago on 15 October 2004. It was drafted by my late and much lamented friend, Eric Forth, who was unable to promote it at that time because he was called away, shall we say, to parliamentary business in the Maldive islands. He therefore left it to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire, myself and others to carry the torch on his behalf on that occasion. In case there should be any doubt about plagiarism, I admit that the drafting of the new clause is not my own doing, but that of my late former right hon. Friend, Eric Forth.

The fact that the new clause has once again been selected for debate shows how it has stood the test of time and relevance. It is important because it also illustrates a sense of fair play and the desire to ensure the rights and freedoms of individuals. That was always right at the top of my late right hon. Friend’s agenda. He wanted Parliament to be able to do that on behalf of the people.

The purpose and effect of the new clause is to provide a counterweight to clause 2. As drafted, the clause gives “a Minister” or

“any person or body to whom that power has been delegated”

the power to impose “new nationality requirements” on those seeking employment or office in any

“civil capacity under the Crown”.

The new clause would give anyone aggrieved by the impact of the new nationality requirements the right to appeal to a tribunal for an exemption. That is why it is important to reflect on the new clause today. It involves the setting up of a tribunal and a right to appeal to it. It does not give the tribunal the right to impose its will on the Government; rather, it has an opportunity to make recommendations. It is not an absolute right of appeal, but a modest way of taking some steam out of what may be a bit of a cauldron for individuals who fall foul of the provisions in clause 2.

My hon. Friend rightly says that the new clause would give the tribunal powers only to recommend to a Minister of the Crown that an exemption should be made. Does he agree that in all likelihood it would be quite extraordinary for a Minister to ignore the tribunal’s findings.

I accept what my hon. Friend says. The House would be able to put pressure on a Minister if he tried to wriggle out and not accept the tribunal’s recommendations. The Minister would have the opportunity to come before the House and set out why he did not agree with the tribunal’s reasoning in making the recommendation. It is a necessary safeguard.

In that case, what circumstances can my hon. Friend envisage in which a Minister might wish to overrule the tribunal?

All that I can say to my hon. Friend is that when I had the privilege of being a Minister, albeit a junior one, in a Conservative Government, we always took seriously the rulings and recommendations of appeal bodies. Being a fair-minded person, I would like to think that the present Government, for all their faults—I am delighted to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), on the Front Bench—would be minded to accept the recommendations of a tribunal. My hon. Friend tempts me to make a party political point, but I will not do so on this occasion.

My hon. Friend will notice that in relation to clause 2, with which his new clause would deal, the explanatory notes say:

“Any rules made under this power would have to comply with the requirements both of the European Communities and of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

It would be interesting to know whether they “will”, rather than “would”, comply. Does my hon. Friend agree that his new clause, in introducing an appeal system, would increase the likelihood of compliance?

My hon. Friend is on to a good point, because it is important, when considering human rights and individual freedoms, for people to have a means of redress if they feel aggrieved. The new clause would enable some right of redress if a person felt aggrieved. In the absence of the new clause, a sufficiently accessible right of redress will not be available.

In the light of that, is my hon. Friend as surprised as me that the Bill’s promoter did not have the foresight to include that protection when drafting it?

There hangs a story. When I and others spoke to the new clause some three years ago in this place, it was pointed out that the hon. Member for Hendon had had the opportunity to see the new clause for some considerable time; as I recall, the new clause was tabled in July, and the debate did not take place until October. He therefore had the opportunity to do something about it. In fairness to him, however, he was in a slight dilemma, because he said in that debate that he was neutral about the new clause. It then became apparent that the Government were—to put it mildly—hostile. I suspect that, because he is an ambitious and realistic person, he decided that it would be better not to promote a new clause to which he had heard previously that the Government were hostile. I do not know what his attitude will be today, as I have not had the chance to talk to him about it.

Given that that was three years ago, many reshuffles have occurred since and the hon. Gentleman has not found preferment, perhaps he will revert to his natural inclinations now, as it would not affect his career one way or another?

Order. Perhaps the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) will confine his remarks to the new clause that he is promoting.

Certainly, Madam Deputy Speaker. The issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) relates to whether the new clause is likely to find favour with the promoter of the Bill. I am in the dark on that matter, and we will have to wait and see what the hon. Member for Hendon has to say.

Three years ago, the new clause was welcomed by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who was then on the Front Bench. I hope that it will be welcomed equally by my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), whom I am delighted to see on the Front Bench today.

May I drag my hon. Friend back to something that he said earlier? I was intrigued by his observation that the Government of the day—I was not an MP at the time—were hostile to the new clause. Given its rather benign nature and the modest proposals that it contains, will my hon. Friend explain what the objections were?

I shall come to that shortly. I am afraid that my hon. Friend will have to wait expectantly for me to remind the House of what happened on that occasion. But, as I have said, my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield was supportive of, indeed enthusiastic, about the new clause, which he considered to be a necessary safeguard for those who might be disadvantaged by clause 2.

Would such a person be an individual who had, say, been excluded from the process of application for a job, or does the hon. Gentleman think that a class of people might be disadvantaged? If it were a class of people, would he have United Kingdom citizens in mind?

I did not have a class of people such as United Kingdom citizens in mind, although the hon. Gentleman has raised an interesting point. I had in mind particular individuals who found themselves counted out as a result of the operation of the discretionary procedures in clause 2. I had in mind an individual, which raises the issue of how practical it is for an individual to seek redress unless we insert something rather like the tribunal procedure in the new clause. The hon. Gentleman, however, has raised a much wider issue—which goes beyond the terms of my new clause—about the Bill’s impact on United Kingdom citizens in general rather than individual aliens, or foreigners, who might be disadvantaged by clause 2.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield expressed the fear that expectations would be raised among the foreign population of this country about the ability to apply for civil service jobs. He feared that when people examined the details, they would find that they were being blocked by a new set of potentially complex Government rules. They might be excluded because of their nationality, which the Government might regard as undesirable or prejudicial to their ability to act impartially or be loyal to the Crown. But—as I think many Members accept—the fact that someone in this country has a particular nationality does not necessarily mean that he supports the Government of the country of which he is a national. Indeed, the reverse often applies: a person may have come here from Sudan, Burma or—especially in the current context—Zimbabwe precisely because he despises and loathes his own country’s current regime. The fact that a person is a national of a country—North Korea or Iran, for example—that is on a blacklist should not of itself automatically put them at a disadvantage because the Government regard any national of that country as being a potential threat to our national security.

I have secured today’s Adjournment debate and I have been following my hon. Friend’s remarks in my office—I hope he will forgive me for not having followed them from the outset. He is setting out the difficulty that people—particularly those foreign to our country—will have in understanding the proposed legislation and its intent. The Bill is accompanied by helpful explanatory notes, however, but although we can follow the content and purpose of the Bill with the aid of those notes, I am finding it difficult to follow my hon. Friend’s arguments closely as all we have to help us is his new clause on the Order Paper—we do not have any explanatory notes on it. Such notes can be circulated in scrutiny Committees, and I wonder whether my hon. Friend might—if not during this debate, then subsequently—consider whether it might be helpful to the House, especially on private business days, to have explanatory notes on amendments and new clauses circulated.

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Christchurch will confine his remarks to the new clause and its contents.

Certainly; that has always been my intention. I do not think it is necessary for us to have written documents explaining what the new clause is about, as the House has the benefit of my presence to explain it.

As we have the benefit of my hon. Friend explaining things, will he explain proposed new subsection (3)? It states:

“The Secretary of State shall make regulations with respect to the composition, conduct and operation of the Tribunal.”

There were problems—in the late 1990s, for example—with regard to the composition of public bodies, which led to the setting up of the independent Appointments Commission. Why does my hon. Friend want the Secretary of State to make the regulations—presumably that would give the Secretary of State the powers to appoint the members of the tribunal—or does he intend that the regulations should specify that the appointments should be made by the AC, so as to avoid any accusations of packing public bodies by one political party or another?

My hon. Friend makes a fair and pertinent point. In considering whether to adopt the wording that our late lamented friend, Eric Forth, former Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, proposed, I faced the following dilemma: if we were to try to incorporate the point that my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) makes, that would make it less likely that such a new clause would be acceptable to the Government. Sometimes in legislation, perfection can be the enemy of the good.

This Government have repeatedly said that they want there to be independent appointments, particularly following the furore over the packing of appointees to NHS public bodies in the late 1990s, so they might not be as averse as my hon. Friend thinks to making such bodies independent, in order that it is seen that they are whiter than white.

I hope that the Government have taken that point on board. As my hon. Friend knows, under proposed new subsection (3) it would be for the Secretary of State to make the regulations, and they would be all the better if they were to incorporate all the points my hon. Friend rightly raises.

I do not wish to belabour the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch; he was clearly trying to be helpful to the Government. However, to pick up on the point that my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) raises on subsection (3), my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has included the word “conduct” in it. Is he aware that some tribunal chairmen tend to feel that they are High Court judges and often try to go much further than the legislation allows them? Has my hon. Friend used the term “conduct” in order to mean that the Secretary of State would have a mind to what training those chairmen have and that they understand the limits of the powers Parliament has given them—or does he have a different intention?

I accept the criticism that the word is vague. However, as I said, the Secretary of State would ultimately interpret what we meant by “conduct”. In the light of the previous debate, it seems that there is a good precedent, at this stage of a Bill, for the Government not really to know what that means. The issue of what we mean by “conduct” would ultimately have to be decided by the Secretary of State in regulations.

May I help my hon. Friend? As he drafted the new clause, he will have noticed that under proposed new subsection (4), the regulations that will lay out the composition, conduct and operations of the tribunal will be subject to affirmative resolution, so will have to be scrutinised by this House and another place. Furthermore, the Secretary of State will have to make draft regulations first. There is a problem: regulations in statutory instruments cannot be amended. However, if the Secretary of State produced draft—

What my hon. Friend is saying, I think—if I can encapsulate his remarks—is that he would like the Secretary of State to make the draft regulations before the statutory instrument came to this House. Although it is not spelt out in the new clause, I certainly hope that the Government would adopt that practice. If we have the opportunity to see draft regulations in advance, there will be the opportunity for consultation on them. Such regulations might be important and far-reaching. Issues might arise about the potential cost of the regulations; that is why we would want to see whether there was a regulatory impact assessment and cost-benefit assessment when they were brought forward in draft. In that way, we could have the fullest debate about them before they came into operation.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Derek Conway) was not in the Chamber at the outset of my remarks. I should say to him that the whole purpose of the new clause is to introduce the appeal procedure so that an individual—we are talking about individuals, rather than groups—

“who is ineligible to be employed or hold office…by reason of the rules made under section 2…may appeal”.

That is important because a national of another country may be one of our country’s strongest supporters. There are many examples of that; we may find that the Government have inadvertently put lots of really strong supporters of the United Kingdom—who might even support England in the big match this weekend—on the wrong side of section 2.

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. He seeks to establish justice through an appeal, but I am concerned about proposed new subsection (2), which states:

“In determining an appeal the Tribunal may recommend to a Minister…that an exemption to the rules be made.”

Does that recommendation add any weight towards making the Minister make such an exemption, or will it be up to the Minister’s discretion whether to accept the tribunal’s recommendation?

I am bound, in a sense, by the text of my own new clause and, as it is drafted, the tribunal could make only a recommendation, which—given the meaning of the word “recommendation”—the Government could accept or reject. However, if we set up the tribunal properly, with the right people who command respect from all sides of the debate, and if they are properly advised, take proper evidence and go into the necessary detail of individual cases, I would hope that any recommendation would be so compelling that it would be almost impossible for a Government reasonably to reject it.

I am not altogether sure that my hon. Friend, unusually, fully understands how this Government operate. However, might there not be a way round this problem? Might not the Government be persuaded to say in the draft regulations, which will be subject to affirmative resolution, that they will accept all recommendations by a tribunal?

The Government could do that, and it might be a way of encouraging a better class of person to take on the role of tribunal member. It is quite often a bit demeaning for those involved in a quasi-judicial process to think that, having heard the appeal, their recommendation might not be accepted.

It is of course worth remembering that we are framing this legislation not for this Government but for any Government, so it has to be robust in all circumstances. Did the hon. Gentleman consider framing subsection (2) of his new clause on the basis of making the tribunal’s recommendations binding? If so, was there a rationale for why he preferred instead the form of recommendation before us—accepting, of course, that ultimately, precedent rather than the letter of this legislation will determine the tribunal’s efficacy in influencing ministerial decisions?

I would be being less than frank with the hon. Gentleman and the House if I did not point out that, in deciding whether to retain the wording in the original new clause, it had previously been accepted as being in order and relevant to this Bill. However and as we know, there was not even a quorum in the House when it had to take a decision on it. Rather than tinker with the previous wording, I thought I would be on safer ground in adopting it. Indeed, it is the wording of which the Government and the promoter had had notice on a previous occasion, and they must have been expecting that we would introduce a similar proposal this time. However, I accept that in an ideal world, it would have been open to people to table amendments to my new clause. However, there are no such amendments on the selection list, so we cannot discuss them today.

I am sorry that we are pressing my hon. Friend on this issue—I hope that he is not offended by that. I am not quite sure who the “better class of person” is to whom he referred. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) is the better class of person whom he wants. May I press my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) on the point that my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford raised? If a Minister declines to accept the tribunal’s recommendation, what happens then? Would the members of the tribunal resign? Would there be another form of appeal? My hon. Friend will understand why the House would like to hear the detail on the consequences of Ministers’ actions. As we know, Ministers do not always decide as we would like them to.

Exactly, and this is where human factors come into play. The most robust judicial figures in our land would probably say, “If we make a recommendation based on evidence after hearing all the parties and Ministers reject it, this is not a role on which we wish to spend our time. We do not want to waste our time hearing cases in detail, only to find that we are overruled.”

If the Government were not to accept recommendations, the ablest people might, ironically, be deterred from continuing in service as members of the tribunal and their places might being taken by ciphers—people more interested in the role’s salary than in the opportunity that the post would give to serve the interests of justice and promoting individual liberty.

That gets back to my original point to my hon. Friend: would it not be better for the independent appointments committee, rather than Ministers of the Crown, to appoints the members of these tribunals?

I accept that it would be better. I hope that the new clause will be accepted by the Government and by the House, and that the Government will, in due course, have the opportunity of implementing it on the basis of including a practice direction that they will always accept tribunal recommendations.

Given my hon. Friend’s answer to a previous intervention about the fact that if a tribunal had considered all the evidence in a robust and thorough manner and everybody could see that it was all above board, a Minister would be unlikely to reject the recommendations, does he intend that the tribunal would take evidence in public and that its findings would be made public so that people could hold the Minister to account should he overrule the decision?

The issues of whether the tribunal would sit in public, whether the evidence and its decisions would be published and, if so, how, are dealt with in subsection (3) of the new clause. That provision refers to the

“conduct and operation of the Tribunal.”

I would like tight prescription to be set out in regulations on that matter. In answer to my hon. Friend’s specific point, I would like that prescription to ensure that proceedings were in public, so that justice could not only be done but be seen to be done.

This is an important point because the way that clause 2, which the new clause seeks to amend, is drafted means that the provision would apply not only to a Minister overruling a tribunal but to any person or body to whom the power has been delegated. It may well be that it is not a Minister who overrules a tribunal’s decision—it could be any unelected and unaccountable body—so it strikes me that it is even more important that the findings are public, so that we can all see where we stand.

Although my hon. Friend is right in saying that the decision coming before the tribunal to be tested may not be that of a Minister, but of someone else to whom the power had been delegated, the tribunal recommendation would, under the provisions of subsection (2) of the new clause, be a recommendation to the Minister rather than to the body that had made the original decision. The Minister would thus ultimately have full responsibility and accountability.

My hon. Friend is right to say that transparency is an essential part of accountability. I recall going to a court in Scotland when I was a law student. The case was quite a seamy one. My group was sitting in the public gallery, as the High Court judge knew, and it was not long before defending counsel suggested that the court should sit in camera. The lord justice in question, who recently died, sadly, put his feet up on the bench, not just metaphorically but literally, and said, “Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.” He gave a big wink to all us students sitting in the public gallery.

I am very much in favour of this principle of transparency and openness. Normally, the only people who are against it are those who fear embarrassment. There is thus always a motive for the Government to be against it, but we pride ourselves on having an open, honest and fair judicial system in this country. I would hope that those principles would be replicated in the rules for the tribunals that would be made under the provisions of the new clause.

My hon. Friend’s reminiscences about his days as a law student are very interesting, but I wish to press him again on the quality of the people who will be involved and their conduct. I recall once having to give evidence before an employment tribunal at which the chairman went way beyond the terms of reference. He was probably not up to the job, and the lawyers present had to remind him that he was going beyond the scope of the powers that Parliament had given him. Is my hon. Friend concerned about the sort of people who will be running the show? Not only might the Minister who makes the decisions be of varying quality, but so might the person giving advice on exemptions to the Minister not be of a very high calibre. The whole system could be a shambles. Does that worry my hon. Friend?

That is why it is important that the composition of a tribunal should be set out in the regulations and, preferably, be the subject of consultation in advance. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has appeared before an industrial tribunal, but in the days when I practised as a lawyer I used to do so. They comprised a chairman, who was normally legally qualified, a “representative” of the trade union movement and a representative of business. Often, one could see that those people were not working together as a collective. Instead, they saw their role as expressing their own sectional interests. If that were to happen in the tribunals that I propose today, I would be dismayed and disappointed because that is not how a fair tribunal should operate. All the people on the tribunal should be concerned only with ensuring that justice is done, and they should not be drawn from any particular sectional interests—in the same way we do not draw our judiciary from sectional interests and people do not have the right to choose the particular judge who will preside over their case. That principle also extends to juries. We have restricted people’s right to choose a jury that they think will be sympathetic to them on some sexual or, dare one say, national or racial basis.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. If an employer is about to appear before a tribunal and sees that the chairman has a beard, a copy of The Guardian and plastic shoes, he knows that he is probably in for a hiding. My hon. Friend makes a fair point about the quality of people before whom one might appear. Does he think that those who sit on tribunals should have no declared party political allegiance so that at least the petitioners can be assured of a fair hearing, rather a partisan hearing?

There is a difficulty with this. I am in favour of encouraging the maximum number of people to join political parties and participate in the political process. My hon. Friend refers to the laudable objective that everyone who sits on a tribunal should be without allegiance to a political party, but if the consequence of introducing such a rule would be to deter people from participating in the political process or joining a political party, it would be counter-productive. We have reached that situation already in some of the appointments in the NHS. Unless people are members of the political party that is in government, they feel, especially if the Minister is making the appointment, that they will be at a potential disadvantage. Often, people who have a party political interest—who have joined a political party and take an interest in public affairs and the welfare of our great nation—have an important role to play, perhaps on tribunals like the ones we are talking about. They might be party political, but the important thing is that such people, whatever their views, are big enough to be able to suppress their prejudices when it comes to taking decisions—

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give way to me. We are in danger of hearing an embellishment too far in terms of the new clause that is before the House. It would perhaps have been better if some of the issues that are now being raised had formed part of another amendment or new clause. I direct the House to have regard to the strict terms of the new clause that is being considered.

I am grateful to you for that ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware of how physically exhausting it is to keep rising and sitting down again—

Order. In which case, the hon. Gentleman will no doubt consider that that also applies to the Chair. Perhaps we will have mutual restraint in that respect.

Absolutely. Let us hope so. I abide by your ruling, as always, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not going to articulate all the details that would be contained in the regulations which, if I interpret it right, is your concern. Otherwise, we would be here all day, which would obviously be undesirable.

Obviously we will abide by the directions of the Chair, but in terms of rising and sitting down I note that both the occupant of the Chair and my hon. Friend look in pretty good condition, so this exercise is probably very good for everyone.

My hon. Friend says that he does not want to be pressed on the detail. I am sorry we are having to do that, but we do not have explanatory notes to new clauses in the way that we do for other Bills, so he will understand why we need to press him to clarify the direction in which he is travelling. Although he will not go into absolute detail—the House will understand why—I hope he does not take offence at the fact that we are pressing him a little on these matters.

I would never take offence at anything my hon. Friend did or said. What is important is that the House and the Government, whom I hope to be able to persuade to accept the new clause, know why we have chosen to include the words

“composition, conduct and operation of the Tribunal.”

Those are the three key elements of the regulations to be made under the new clause. We discussed the importance of the composition of the tribunal. The nature of its composition would make all the difference in the world to its effectiveness and authority. That is why there should be detailed regulations relating to that. The conduct of the tribunal would be fundamental to whether the people who appear before it have confidence in it, and whether it is effective and commands public support. The operation of the tribunal is also highly relevant. That is why those three elements have been picked out. The new clause does not say that the Secretary of State cannot make regulations that go wider than that, but any regulations that he does make must include those essential key elements. I hope that that commends itself to the House.

In promoting the new clause, my hon. Friend has given such an alarming picture of the consequences of the tribunal having people of poor quality or not being able to conduct itself properly that he is beginning to persuade me that the new clause is deficient and should have more specifics on the conduct and calibre of the people involved. Can he reassure me on that?

All I can do is say that we are where we are, as Mr. Deputy Speaker said. We have the new clause before us. It is not embellished. No one has sought to amend it by making it more extensive. All one can do is hope that if it is incorporated into the Bill and the Bill becomes law, the Government, who control such things, will ensure that the concerns expressed are reflected in the content of the regulations.

It grieves me to have to tell my hon. Friend that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), I am becoming more and more concerned that the new clause does not go far enough. I fear that I shall have to seek to catch Mr. Deputy Speaker’s eye to make it clear why there may be deficiencies in it.

It would not be the first time I have been accused of having deficiencies. I am the first to accept that nothing in the world is perfect but, as I candidly explained to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), my main concern is to introduce a provision that is in order and relevant.

I understand the objections that other Members have made, but as at this stage we do not know how many cases would go to a tribunal or how many times it would meet, does my hon. Friend agree that it is difficult to make specific points about its composition?

That is obviously an issue. The number of times the tribunal met would depend on how the Government used their powers under clause 2. If they were seen to use their powers fairly, only a small number of aggrieved people would appeal to a tribunal. Of course such a process is always open to vexatious litigants or people who are sometimes encouraged—I am ashamed to say—by members of the legal profession who think there is money in it for them too, but such cases would be the exception. However, if the Government were seen to be heavy-handed in the use of their considerable powers under clause 2, there would be a heavy burden on the tribunal, which would eventually lead to additional costs for the taxpayer. In that sense, setting up a tribunal process with costs for the taxpayer would introduce a deterrent against the Government acting in a high-handed and unfair fashion in the exercise of their powers.

It is uncharacteristic of my hon. Friend to call for what could be a considerable increase of public expenditure, which has to be financed from taxation. He is usually meticulous in avoiding such charges on the Exchequer, so I assume that he has made an assessment of what he considers a proportionate sum for the costs of the provision. What does he think is a reasonable expenditure consequence of his proposal?

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman replies, may I point out to the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) that it will be helpful if he addresses both the Chair and the microphone? Otherwise his words may not be properly recorded.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells asks a pertinent question. As a former shadow junior Treasury Minister, I know how important costs are and how important it is that Opposition parties do not support proposals that might be interpreted by a mischievous Government as suggesting that we were making unfunded spending commitments. I do not think that the costs of the tribunal process would be greater than the costs incurred by not having a tribunal. If there is no tribunal to take the steam out of the cauldron, more people would be dissatisfied and the judicial review process would be used instead. Perhaps the Minister will tell us about that process in due course because when we last discussed the issue the Government line was, “Let the people use judicial review”, but that is expensive not only for the applicants but for the Government and thus the taxpayer nationally. It can use up valuable resources.

Will my hon. Friend explain who will pay the costs of the tribunal? Will the litigants be responsible, which might mitigate the costs to the Exchequer, or is it his intention, and expectation, that the costs would be met from central Government?

I am afraid that on this occasion, I will have to hide behind the wording of my new clause and say that that will be a matter for the regulations. Regulations could incorporate rules relating to costs, but I had it in mind that normally the burden of costs should be borne largely by the taxpayer rather than the applicant. We are talking about lots of applicants who are applying for what may be quite modest civil service jobs, where the salary might be only a few tens of thousands of pounds. I would not want them to be deterred from exercising their rights and obtaining justice by the knowledge that, were they to be unsuccessful, they would be penalised significantly by costs.

I understand where my hon. Friend is coming from on the issue of costs and taxpayers’ money, but an important balance has to be struck. That is one of the reasons I am so disappointed by the way in which the Government are dealing with legal aid, effectively ruling out access to the legal system for lots of people in our society who are relatively poor. It has almost got to the stage where people have to be extremely wealthy or extremely poor to get access to justice. I would not want my tribunal, as I shall arrogantly call it, to fall foul of that system. I want anybody who is aggrieved—not those who are vexatious—to be able to get access, and the costs would have to be borne as part of the overall cost of society and having fair play.

I am sure my hon. Friend accepts that there cannot be a differential between the cost and the effectiveness of the tribunal. They are part of the same issue. He said earlier that more people would go to the tribunal if the Government were seen to accept its verdict. Is there a danger that the Government would deliberately not accept the verdicts of the tribunal to deter people from going to it, in order to reduce its costs?

My hon. Friend is adopting the mindset of a Minister; I congratulate him on that. It is exactly the convoluted approach, with perverse behaviour and outcomes, that Ministers, or perhaps their advisers, often adopt. I hope that we can have more trust in human nature and rational behaviour on the part of the Government than my hon. Friend suggests. I do not want to make any guarantees, but I live in hope. The issue of costs is important, and when we last discussed it, it was the main reason and justification put forward by the Government for not accepting the new clause. However, I would say, “What price justice?”

My hon. Friend has made it clear that it is at least possible that the costs might fall on the litigant, but given the terms of his new clause, if the tribunal’s decision were not binding on a Minister, litigants would be enticed into a gamble. They could spend large sums of money and win their case, but find that Ministers completely ignored the tribunal’s ruling. Should we be enticing people who may be, as my hon. Friend says, quite low paid, to risk their money in that way?

I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to a relevant analogy, which is what happens under the planning process. If people are aggrieved by a planning outcome, they can seek judicial review, which is an expensive, convoluted process. The result of that review will never overturn the decision and say that the planning permission that was granted is now overturned. A judicial review can only send the matter back for reconsideration. That happens at the moment under the planning process, and it is one of the reasons why I would never advise a constituent to engage in such judicial reviews.

However, at least under my proposals, the costs will be much less for the applicant than those of engaging in judicial review. I accept the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells that, almost by analogy with judicial review of planning decisions, the outcome will be uncertain because applicants may end up with a pyrrhic victory. They believe that the recommendation has been made in their favour, but then the Government overturn it. At least by that stage, the Government are accountable to the House, the individual Member of Parliament can seek an Adjournment debate on the matter and all the available processes would come into play, including scrutiny by the alert newspapers, which we are lucky enough to have in this country.

Giving a Minister of the Crown discretion about whether to accept a recommendation drives a coach and horses through matters, and I take the point that the proposal is less than perfect, but it is better than the alternative. Indeed, there is no alternative before us today.

It is typical of the responsible way in which hon. Members are tackling the matter that they are so concerned about the potential costs and want to ascertain how the process may interact with the people whom it is designed to benefit. Under clause 2, married people may find themselves penalised by their relationship. I appreciate that amendments in the next group could have an impact on the clause. However, when one considers that the status of a spouse may have a critical impact on an individual’s ambition to serve in a civil capacity under the Crown, it is important to establish proper safeguards for such people. In a sense, they risk being penalised not for their status, beliefs or nationality but because of the person whom they have chosen to marry. That may have to happen sometimes, but, if so, it should be subject to a right of appeal or review, for which the new clause calls.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield supported the new clause when we previously discussed the measure. He said that it provided a framework of greater fairness and that it would prevent the Government from having free rein in picking and choosing the countries that they would put on a prohibited list.

Clause 2 gives the Government tremendously wide discretion to outlaw citizens from a range of countries on the basis of a black list, which may have a severe impact on affected individuals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said on the previous occasion, it would be better to concentrate on the individual qualities of applicants, almost irrespective of their nationality, and consider their ability to serve the country well.

When we discussed the measure previously, the hon. Member for Hendon, the promoter, was dismissive of the new clause, saying that those who supported it were not genuine supporters of the Bill. That did not—and does not, I believe—apply to my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield because he said that he could see some good in the Bill overall. I can see some good in the Bill overall, but I can also see a lot in it that is bad. I am concerned to try to make it better and fairer than it would be without the inclusion of new clause 1.

On the previous occasion, it was said that judicial review would be available and that that would be sufficient—I anticipate that the Minister might have the same brief as her predecessor did three years ago and say that we do not need the provisions in the new clause. The argument was put then, and no doubt it could be put now, that the judicial review process had been streamlined and that there were now effective mechanisms for settling cases prior to the hearing taking place. However, if one wants a recent example of the reality of judicial review, one does not need to go further than the case reported in the papers in the past 10 days of the challenge to the distribution of the Al Gore film to our schools. An individual took that case to judicial review. Although I do not have first-hand knowledge of it, my understanding of what was contained in press reports is that bringing the case to judicial review could have cost the challenger up to £200,000. If he had lost the case, not only would he have had to pay that £200,000 but he would have been liable for the Government’s very considerable costs.

We do indeed have a new judicial review process, which can be used by the Government, but it is too rarely used by the Government. It could have been used by the Government in that case, because at the end they seemed to be quite satisfied with the outcome, although the taxpayer ended up paying the best part of two thirds of the costs of the challenger, as well as the costs of trying to resist the challenge. However, not many people who seek a position in the civil service will risk such large sums of money in the judicial review process. I therefore do not think that the judicial review argument, which the Minister might deploy, is an effective argument against the new clause.

There it is—the new clause is not perfect, but it would certainly have a beneficial impact on what would be the unfair provisions in clause 2.

My hon. Friend must forgive me for not being on the Front Bench in the Committee stage of the Bill, but can he brief me on whether the Human Rights Act 1998 offers some protection to people who might be disadvantaged by the decisions of Ministers?

Although I am member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe—I am delighted to see the former leader of the British delegation, the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd), in his place; he might be able to help us on this—my understanding is that in order to exercise one’s rights under human rights legislation in this country one would need to go to court. That means that one would effectively open oneself up to exactly the same potential costs as going to judicial review. One might then seek to go the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. However, I believe that at the last count the list of cases waiting for determination there was about 100,000, so one would not be guaranteed very speedy justice, and by then the job opportunity might have gone somewhere else.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification, but at least the Human Rights Act 1998 is judiciable in the British courts. Should we not be sceptical about proliferating these bodies? If there is already a court that is qualified to address and redress some of these concerns, we should make use of it, rather than seeking to replicate it.

The extension of that argument would be to say that the whole of the employment tribunal process should be curtailed and that all those cases should be dealt with by the human rights court. That would be a solution, and it might also be cost-effective, in that it would result in far less activity taking place. It would mean that most of the present tribunals—the social security appeals tribunal and all the rest of them—would be put out of business and people would be told to have their grievance dealt with under the human rights legislation.

I do not think that that would be appropriate in the context of where we are at the moment, however. I am proposing a tribunal because that is the system that we have now. I am looking forward to the arrival of a radical Conservative Government, however, and if such a Government wanted to consider a complete root and branch reappraisal of these matters, this question could be included in such a reappraisal. But I would be concerned if this area did not have a tribunal while we still have tribunals for all sorts of other areas in which individuals feel aggrieved about the way in which they have been treated, especially in relation to employment issues.

I agree with my hon. Friend, but does he acknowledge that such a root and branch reform could involve a future Government scrapping the Human Rights Act altogether? In those circumstances, if there were no tribunal, people would be left with nowhere to go. It is important to embed provisions in this legislation in case that should happen in the future.

As always, my hon. Friend makes a good point. Those of us who would like to see the Human Rights Act repealed could find that the argument for repealing it would be undermined by the fact that we had adopted the Act as a way of providing a remedy for people aggrieved under the conditions of clause 2.

I do not think that human rights issues can be satisfied by not having a tribunal. Indeed, the only way I have been able to determine for satisfying them is to ensure that people have a right of redress and a right of review so that their case may be heard again. In that way, we should not have government by ministerial fiat that would affect an individual’s right to engage in employment. Some people might not want to apply for such redress, because they might realise that their CV made them completely inappropriate for the job for which they had been turned down, or because they might not wish to engage in the vetting procedures that might be applied to them.

The existing provisions in clause 2 will result in a lot of hard cases—possibly an enormous number, depending on how the Government interpret and act on those provisions. Even if there are only a few cases, however, I believe that it will be worth while setting up a system that would enable those aggrieved people to have recourse to justice. I therefore have great pleasure in urging the House to give the new clause a Second Reading.

I am rather surprised that we are debating this matter today. Throughout the Bill’s passage, we have tried to engage constructively with those who had concerns about it, and this issue was not raised in Committee. Furthermore, I believe that we have answered the questions that were raised at that time pretty effectively in the next group of amendments. I am therefore left with the suspicion that this is a tactic to talk the Bill out. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and other Conservative Members have blocked the Bill for the past five years. Opposition Front Benchers have supported it in the past, but in the light of the tactics that we have seen their Front Benchers employing today, I doubt that their official position is being defended by those Members.

I should like to reassure the hon. Gentleman that the Bill has the full support of those on our Front Bench. Indeed, my interventions on my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) probably caused him some disappointment, because I cannot share the enthusiasm that my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) had for this proposal. I am largely in agreement about the deficiencies of the new clause, so, in terms of the new clause and the Bill, the hon. Gentleman and I are on the same side.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but those who read the Official Report will form their own views of the conduct of the debate so far.

Throughout the whole process, I have tried to engage constructively with the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) and the hon. Member for Christchurch. I have kept them fully informed of discussions and negotiations between myself and the Government, and given them early notice of any proposed amendments. As I said, I am surprised to have this new clause sprung on me today.

The new clause can be easily and quickly answered. In fact, it can be answered so easily that I am rather surprised that it has been selected for debate. It simply does not match, though I am not criticising—

Order. The hon. Gentleman has expressed a criticism, but he must know that the selection process is beyond reproach. If the new clause has been selected, it is wholly in order to debate it.

I was about to say that I fully accept that. I was merely expressing my surprise that the new clause was selected; of course, I was not criticising the selection process. The reason why I expressed surprise is that the new clause simply does not fit the structure of the Bill. The Bill’s purpose is not to identify a particular group as excluded from employment on account of their nationality—because they happen to be from Somalia, in the example that we have heard. It is not intended to exclude any particular individuals from employment. The Bill relates to posts, not persons. The Bill operates by saying that a particular group of posts—a much smaller group than at present—should be reserved for UK nationals, with the rest of the posts available at large for anyone to apply for. In respect of those posts, no one is excluded on grounds of nationality, though appointment will be subject to the usual interview process that anyone applying for any job typically goes through.

The entire superstructure of the new clause is completely erroneous and misconceived. Nobody would be able to use new clause 1 because nobody would be ineligible in the way it describes. The provision simply does not match clause 2 in any way, shape or form. If it referred to classes of posts, it might perhaps be relevant, but as the Minister is likely to point out later, the way to challenge that may well be by judicial review of the regulations rather than by individuals pursuing the case. No particular individual will be disadvantaged in the way suggested by the proponents of the new clause.

Foreign nationals feel aggrieved—very aggrieved—by the existing rules. The purpose of clause 2 and the Bill as a whole is to expand those rules to ensure that only jobs that it is absolutely necessary to reserve for UK nationals are so reserved. The Bill will extend, not restrict, the rules so that people with a legitimate desire to work for the civil service, for example, will not be excluded artificially by rules that are simply irrelevant to the particular post in question.

Judging from the debate so far, I suspect that opposition to the Bill, which is exemplified by the attempts of Conservative Members to talk it out today, is based on xenophobia rather than common sense. I have to say that the Bill has been blocked for five consecutive years by the hon. Member for Christchurch and one or two of his hon. Friends—apparently in the face of opposition from their Front Benchers, who clearly have no control over their Back Benchers. So be it. It has been blocked for five years running and it looks as if it will be blocked again today. There is a tendency to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger these days, so I simply say that if the Bill fails today, “I’ll be back”.

Order. It is always helpful if the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) indicates that he is giving way. Otherwise, if he simply sits down—prematurely, if I may say so, for him—there may be some confusion.

I am surprised, but grateful to the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) for giving way, as I thought that I was about to have to make a speech. I know that the hon. Gentleman believes that we are witnessing a filibuster, but can the new clause not be interpreted as enabling a person who is ineligible to be employed for a particular post to appeal against the block?

Given the way in which it is phrased, it certainly could not. As for why that is the case, the answer is in the earlier comment by the hon. Member for Christchurch: this is a hand-me-down new clause prepared for the late Eric Forth, for an earlier version of the Bill several years ago. The hon. Member for Christchurch simply has not done his homework: he has not read the Bill as it now stands and as my and the Government’s proposed amendments would take it further forward, and has not proposed an amendment that fits the Bill.

Although the hon. Gentleman might anticipate the approval of his amendments in the next group, we cannot discuss new clause 1 as if those amendments had already been passed.

But of course I must anticipate that the amendments will have the hon. Gentleman’s support, because they were tabled to answer the criticisms that he made in Committee. Even without those amendments, however, the new clause does not fit the Bill, because the Bill deals with posts, not persons. An abstract unfilled post cannot apply to a tribunal, which is the only way in which the clause could operate. It is all absolute nonsense, and the hon. Gentleman, who is a lawyer, ought to have done his homework properly. If he wants an appeal mechanism, he ought to put forward a new clause or amendment that achieves his desired objective, which this new clause manifestly does not. It simply does not fit the Bill.

Having looked at the new clause, let me say that the decision to select it for debate is beyond reproach. There is a reasonable debate to be had about the case for a tribunal. Apropos of my question to the promoter of the Bill, it seems from his explanation that the new clause is incorrectly worded and therefore does not provide a mechanism for challenging decisions about which positions can be applied for by foreign nationals and which cannot.

I very much enjoyed the 70-minute contribution of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope); my only regret is that it was finite. Nevertheless, he made the case for the principle of a tribunal. Would the hon. Member for Hendon therefore have accepted a clause that introduced a tribunal that really did provide a mechanism for considering whether particular posts should be opened up to foreign nationals?

The real problem is that that is an abstract concept. The only way in which an individual could be affected is through the vetting process. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that a tribunal should consider the vetting process—the only means by which an individual would be excluded—he would be on dangerous ground, especially as the hon. Member for Christchurch has an amendment in the next group that would take out the vetting process.

I was not suggesting that, and it would be hard to understand how a tribunal about vetting could operate meaningfully without straying well beyond what any reasonable person would regard as the sharing of confidential information.

I am puzzled that the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) says that clause 2 applies only to posts, not people. Clause 2 clearly states:

“Rules may be made imposing requirements as to nationality which must be satisfied by a person”.

Nationalities are made up of people, not posts, so the tribunal would be there in case anyone was disadvantaged. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is necessary?

There is a slight risk of a semantic debate, which probably goes beyond what is useful for this discussion. I leave it to the hon. Member for Hendon and the Minister to respond to that. I can see the case for some kind of tribunal system or mechanism to re-evaluate whether particular jobs should be open to foreign nationals. This clause does not seem to do that, but I would be interested to hear the official Government position.

The clause is less important than the fundamental purpose of the Bill, which is to provide a more generous opportunity for foreign nationals to operate in a civil capacity under the Crown. Surely that is long overdue. It would be a great shame if we were to embroil ourselves in argument over this clause and then throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Although I welcome the debate, it puts me in something of a quandary. I am usually a strong supporter of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), but I fear that in his new clause—with which I have considerable sympathy—he has not shown the robustness that we normally associate with him.

I think it absolutely right for there to be an appeal mechanism. In recent years we have seen too many abuses by Government, too many instances of their running roughshod over people’s civil liberties. I believe that when legislation is as crucial as this and has such a direct impact on the lives of individuals, there should be a right of appeal to redress any wrong decisions that have been made, and in that respect I wholeheartedly support what my hon. Friend seeks to do to improve the Bill.

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will recognise that although that may be the intention, it is not what the new clause would achieve. It refers to

“A person who is ineligible to be employed or hold office”.

In other words, it makes the assumption, as a given, that the person is ineligible. Surely the most generous interpretation of the new clause is that it applies only to a decision on whether foreign nationals should be barred from a particular post.

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. My point is that I believe in principle that there should be an appeal mechanism. If the new clause is badly drafted and needs to be improved—as I shall explain, I think it is badly drafted in other respects—there should still be time to remedy that deficiency. We should not pass a law that is deficient by reason of the exclusion of what my hon. Friend is trying to do, simply for the sake of passing the law. Too much law has been passed that was bad law from the outset, with the result that we have had to come back to repair the damage.

We should congratulate my hon. Friend on the initiative that he has taken with the aim of improving a Bill, but I fear he has not been robust enough. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) that there are deep flaws in the wording of the new clause. I shall briefly explain my concerns about what my hon. Friend has done, although I do not question his motives. Indeed, I am trying to be helpful to him.

I am very concerned about subsection 2, which I mentioned earlier in an intervention. Although

“the Tribunal may recommend to a Minister…that an exemption to the rules be made”,

nothing in the new clause suggests that the Minister would have to accept that recommendation. I consider that to be a fatal flaw, which could drive a coach and horses through my hon. Friend’s intentions, if I have understood them correctly. We have seen other examples of Governments ignoring recommendations that have been made in good faith and probably for the right reasons, but have been unpalatable to Ministers. I would have preferred the new clause to place a statutory obligation on a Minister of the Crown to accept what a tribunal determines.

Subsection 3 also causes me grave concern. It states:

“The Secretary of State shall make regulations with respect to the composition, conduct and operation of the Tribunal.”

The element about which I am unhappy is the composition. We have seen circumstances in other areas of government in which boards and bodies have been stacked with, in effect, placemen of the ruling party. Evidence shows that in the late 1990s, national health service trusts and strategic health authorities were packed with Labour placemen. Even the Government accepted that, de facto, by setting up the independent Appointments Commission. I fear that if it is left to a Secretary of State to make the regulations for the tribunal, we may see placemen of the Secretary of State’s party making appointments that are suitable to him, but are not in the best interests of natural justice.

For that reason, I would have preferred the proposed measure to have specified that the independent Appointments Commission, rather than the Secretary of State, should sort out the composition of the tribunal. That would have improved and enhanced the organisation and given it greater transparency and independence, and people would have had more confidence in its decision-making processes.

I have a great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend’s point. However, is it not the case that under the new clause as currently worded, the Secretary of State has the freedom to allow things to be done as he wishes?

My hon. Friend anticipates my next point, which shows his customary perceptiveness.

Proposed new subsection (4) gives the Secretary of State the power not to

“make regulations under this section unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch on stipulating that the mechanism must be employed under the affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. All too often under this Government—and, to be fair, under the Conservative Government—there has been a slip into the habit of introducing all secondary legislation under the negative procedure. As we know, under the negative procedure Parliament has much less ability to monitor and scrutinise the Government’s proposals than under the affirmative procedure. Therefore, the affirmative procedure is a plus.

However, I do not think that proposed new subsection (4) is the panacea that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) hopes it is. It states that the Secretary of State should produce draft regulations to be subject to the affirmative procedure, whereas it should state that the Secretary of State should produce draft regulations prior to the draft regulations that the House will approve, so that we have an opportunity to discuss the draft regulations before they are put before the House in draft form. A key problem with secondary legislation—statutory instruments and regulations—is that they are unamendable once they have been produced in draft form for consideration in Committee. One either has to accept them in their entirety, or reject them in their entirety.

I have no doubt that the draft regulations that would emanate from this new clause would contain much that Members would agree with, but I suspect there would also be parts that we strongly disagree with, particularly on the composition of the tribunals. However, it would not be possible to remove them in isolation or seek to amend them, because of the way in which secondary legislation operates in this House. That is why there should have been another proposed subsection saying that drafts of the draft regulations should be produced first, for consideration—in line with the Government’s positive move to start producing draft legislation that is considered in Committee before it is introduced to the House as a Government Bill.

I understand my hon. Friend’s argument, but unless the Government were bound to accept the results of the consultation on their draft regulations there would not be much point in having them, because there could be draft regulations but the subsequent regulations could still be in a form that my hon. Friend would dislike.

Logically, my hon. Friend is correct. However, one would hope—and with this Government one does have to live in hope—that when the drafts of the draft regulations were produced, consulted on and considered by Members in all parts of the House, the force of any argument against the original draft regulations would persuade the Government to think again.

My hon. Friends may call me naive, but in one way time may be on our side. As we all remember, in the past three months the new Prime Minister has said that he wants to be a listening Prime Minister. If that spoken desire is carried to its logical conclusion, he should be prepared to think again if hon. Members come up with cogent and valid reasons on why something in a draft regulation is wrong; in such circumstances, the Government should be amenable to changing it. I hope that having the regulations in draft so that we can consider them before they are put to the House would be a step forward. It would be a way to make changes. The other, more negative answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is that that is the only thing that we can do; the mechanism is by regulation, which by definition means secondary legislation. As I said, the only way to deal with secondary legislation is to accept it in its entirety or reject it in its entirety, and we probably would not want to do that.

I have explained why I have misgivings about the nuts and bolts of my hon. Friend’s new clause. There is considerable scope to tighten and improve on the valid and sensible ideas and principles behind his proposals.

In conclusion, I should add that in respect of clause 2 as currently drafted, my hon. Friend is helping and strengthening the Bill with his new clause. As well as explaining what clause 2 proposes to do, the explanatory notes say that

“Any rules made under this power would have to comply with the requirements both of the European Communities and of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

As long as the European convention on human rights is enshrined in our law, we have to ensure that legislation complies with it, and providing those valid safeguards for individuals who might get caught up with the law will help in that process. They would have the right of appeal to press their case, and the tribunal would have the power to make exemptions, if, on investigation and having heard the case, it felt that that was warranted.

Is my hon. Friend not in danger of—I say this hesitantly—confusing the process and the substance? The European convention on human rights is about the process of ensuring that there is fair play, but my new clause is designed to deal with the substance of an individual’s particular circumstances and case.

I take my hon. Friend’s point fully on board and agree with it. I am just saying that I hope that he will achieve two things with his new clause: first, that it will fulfil the very purpose that he says it is for; and secondly—my point—that it will help make the legislation more compliant and compatible with the European convention on human rights.

For those reasons, I am in a quandary about what I would do if the new clause were pressed to a Division. As I said, I support the principle behind it, but have misgivings about the detail. I shall have to listen carefully to the Minister before making up my mind about whether I can support my hon. Friend, as I usually do.

I have followed the debate with great interest; it has been fruitful, despite the concerns of the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore). It has been useful in teasing out some of the issues in respect of the Bill.

We have to take the new clause in the context of clause 2, which gives the Government wide-ranging powers. The hon. Gentleman was uncharacteristically uncharitable and misguided in thinking that those who are trying to improve the Bill are doing so out of xenophobia. I have a great deal of respect for him, and I am sure that he welcomes parliamentary scrutiny of legislation—that is, after all, what we are here for. As it stands, clause 2, as I said, does give wide-ranging powers to Ministers.

As the hon. Gentleman made clear earlier, the Bill is designed to extend the pool of people from which the civil service can draw, and new clause 1 is a very useful way of delivering on the objectives that he had in mind when drafting the Bill.

Obviously, every debate is important, but which is more important to the hon. Gentleman—a thorough debate of this new clause or the passage of the Bill? In other words, does he think this new clause so important that he is willing to lose the Bill today in pursuit of debating it?

What I am concerned about is parliamentary scrutiny. I do not want a deficient Bill to go through this House—I want the Bills that go through to be robust and to stand the test of time. If a particular Bill cannot meet that requirement, I do not want it to be passed; I want only those that are fit for purpose to be passed.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the issue is not whether the Bill is going to be lost today? Only now is it reaching the end of its proceedings in this House. It needs to go to the other place, and we will prorogue at the end of this month, so it is totally unrealistic to think that it will get on to the statute book this Session, anyway.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and as the hon. Member for Hendon made clear, if the Bill does not go through during this Session, he will bring it back at some future stage. Perhaps the House is doing him a service today by making sure that when he does bring it back, if he takes into account all the points that have been made, there will be no need for it to be so delayed. I suspect that, contrary to the point made by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik)—that this debate is causing the Bill problems—it is helping it in the long run.

I was simply trying to establish how important new clause 1 is to the hon. Gentleman—that is all.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is obviously sat there in anticipation of my remarks. Should he allow me to progress, I will be able to tell him how important new clause 1 is to me. As someone who has signed up to it, along with my hon. Friends, I can tell him that I consider it very important to the Bill. I very much hope that, should he get the chance, my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) will press it to a Division, because it goes to the heart of what we are trying to achieve through the Bill.

The new clause has to be seen in the context of clause 2. There is a slightly muddled position, in that clause 1 allows for a free-for-all in opening the civil service up to people from foreign countries, yet clause 2 is quite restrictive, undoing all the work of clause 1. Given that the Bill’s purpose is to extend the pool of people from which the civil service can draw, new clause 1, which enables a tribunal process to take place should somebody be determined ineligible to apply for a job or hold a post, is absolutely crucial. The new clause would extend the range of people who could enter the civil service—something that those who support the Bill would surely welcome.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has been typically frank with the House in saying that he himself does not consider the new clause perfect in every respect. I do not think it perfect in every regard either, and my hon. Friends the Members for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) and for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Derek Conway) made some very powerful points about its possible shortcomings. However, what the House must decide today is whether the Bill is better for adding the new clause, even though it may not be perfect. My point is that although the new clause may not be perfect, it helps the Bill. The new clause is important, because in our system of justice it is vital that when decisions are being made about people’s lives, a transparent appeal process exists so that they can see that decisions are above board and that people have not been unfairly discriminated against.

I was curious when my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch said that the new clause had received such objection from the Government when brought to the House before, because it strikes me that the new clause is limited in scope. It still gives the Secretary of State great powers and involves the making of recommendations only, which are not binding on the Government. I do not see why they should be so upset about a modest and benign proposal.

We have had a robust discussion about whether the tribunal should only be able to make recommendations to the Minister and whether its decisions should be binding. I was persuaded by the powerful case made by some of my hon. Friends that decisions should be binding on Ministers. Notwithstanding that, the issue that we must decide is whether to accept the new clause in its current form or decide not to have a new clause at all. Having an appeal mechanism that can make a recommendation to a Minister is better than having no new clause, as that would have no influence whatever.

The hon. Gentleman has said that the purpose of our being in this place is to scrutinise legislation, and that he wants legislation that will stand the test of time and scrutiny, but he admits that the clause is imperfect. Does he not regard that as a contradiction in terms?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. In an ideal world, perhaps the new clause would be improved, but the decision that we must make today is whether we adopt this new clause or have no new clause. Such is the nature of the decisions that we must make. I am simply trying to make the point that the new clause, although imperfect, is better than no new clause.

The hon. Gentleman has said that he wanted to ensure that the Bill was completely right before it was passed, but now he is saying that he would be willing to vote in favour of an imperfect clause. I ask him to help me understand that.

I have made it clear to the hon. Gentleman that I would prefer the Bill to be perfect, but the opportunity to have that is not before us today. We must work within the confines of what we are dealing with: whether or not to accept new clause 1. My contention is that, although imperfect, it is better to have it than to have no new clause. That is the only decision that we are in a position to make, which is why I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch will decide to press the matter to a Division. I would prefer it if we did not have to do that and if everybody in the House were to accept the addition of new clause 1.

On the question whether this provision should be for a recommendation, in an ideal world the tribunal would have more powers, but providing for a recommendation is better than having nothing at all. I am concerned about the scope of clause 2, which allows any person or body to whom the power has been delegated by a Minister of the Crown to make these decisions. We know that we live in an environment where the Government have introduced more and more quangos into the system and where decisions are increasingly being made by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. The scope of the Bill, as drafted, will allow such people to make the decisions about whether or not requirements are made to prevent people of certain nationalities from taking jobs.

That wide-ranging power will involve a lot of people making those decisions. Given that the scope of the Bill allows so many people in unaccountable and unelected positions to make such decisions, it is all the more important to have a tribunal appeal service that allows some consistency to be applied in those decisions and ensures that the system is seen to be fair. As drafted, the Bill may well mean that people in one unelected body that has been given powers by the Minister make a decision on one basis and another such body makes a completely different decision on a different basis. An appeal procedure that involves a tribunal will allow decisions to be seen to be consistent across different areas of Government and ensure that everyone can see that a decision has been fair.

New clause 1(3) relates to the composition, conduct and operation of the tribunal and it has generated considerable discussion and controversy. I understand the concerns of people who do not want the Secretary of State to make the regulations. I have long argued that Bills should not allow Secretaries of State a blank cheque to make decisions that are not tightly regulated by the House. On that basis, I would normally have some concern about the provision. However, given that we do not really know how many cases will go to a tribunal, or who will be best placed to serve on it, it is right that at this stage we allow a certain degree of flexibility in the new clause. We should not tie the Government’s hands too far. Although in principle I accept that the Secretary of State should not have too many powers to decide who is on the body, what it will do and how it will do it, we need some flexibility, given that this body is being set up for the first time. Therefore, I am content that the new clause would allow the Secretary of State to make those regulations.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford was right when he said that new clause 1(4) contains some safeguards. It provides that drafts of the regulations must be

“laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”

Even though he was right to say that he was concerned about the power that the Secretary of State would have under the new clause, that is a useful buffer to prevent him or her from making decisions that are not fair or transparent.

Broadly speaking, most people seem to support the Bill. However, it needs to be improved to ensure that it is fair and that—in the good old British tradition—it is seen to be fair. My hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells mentioned the point about whether it was necessary, given the existence of the Human Rights Act 1998. I know that the hon. Member for Hendon is an enthusiastic supporter of that Act, but—as my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch said—some of us wish to see it repealed. We cannot therefore rely on it to be the safeguard in every eventuality for every piece of legislation. We have to have things in place to protect people when the Act is repealed, as I would like it to be. It is important not to rely on legislation that we do not support, and that we put in place other mechanisms to ensure fair play.

The other objection that my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells made was about costs. I understand that entirely, as I would not wish to incur unnecessary public expenditure. However, it is important to have an appeals process and it would not cost a considerable amount in the scheme of Government expenditure. A modest cost for a tribunal that ensures fair play is important.

My hon. Friend is being unfair on himself. I suspect that the cost of his proposal would be extremely modest compared with the very large sums lost in inefficiency and waste in even one Department.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. In his role as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, there is no one better in the House at ensuring that money is properly spent. He is absolutely right that any costs incurred by the new clause would be modest in the scheme of Government expenditure. If the Government are so concerned about waste in the public sector, I am sure that there are far better targets with far bigger rewards than this modest tribunal.

We need an appeals tribunal to ensure that the rules are fair. Although the cost objection is understandable, it is a red herring, because the costs would be incredibly modest. I invite the House to support the new clause, despite the reservations expressed, because it would improve the Bill and make it more likely to gain support in both Houses of Parliament.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on getting the Bill to this stage. I regretted his suggestion that my party and I are not entirely in favour of it. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I have no interest in spending the whole of a Friday in a sport to block good legislation. The record will show that the questions I asked of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) were pertinent and took up no more than a few minutes. When something that is flawed has been selected for debate, we have a responsibility to scrutinise it. The hon. Gentleman will find nothing in the record to suggest that I have done that in an excessive way.

I am in favour of the Bill. If it does not succeed today, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come back with it, as he said he would, and that he might persuade the Government to adopt it and put it in the Queen’s Speech. It deals with an anomaly, and I agree that it is a ludicrous situation. I hope that we will make some progress on that.

However, as I foreshadowed in my interventions, I am afraid that I will disappoint my hon. Friend. I cannot maintain the support that my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) gave to the measure when it last appeared before us. I am concerned that the new clause is flawed on two counts. The tribunal would lead to a proliferation in the number of public bodies. I am opposed to that. We have quite enough as it is. As was evidenced by the failure to secure even the broadest estimate from my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch as to what the financial implications of the measure would be, it is unclear how much the tribunal would cost and who would pay for it—the litigants or the taxpayer. We cannot be led into supporting a measure that would have those consequences.

It is not terribly clear to me even after my questions as to how necessary the tribunal would be. We have the Human Rights Act. I thought that we might have missed something in Committee, but with due respect to my hon. Friend, it was pretty unclear from his response then how the justiciability of the Human Rights Act would affect these matters and whether we are duplicating a protection that already exists to people who might have considered themselves to be disadvantaged.

Perhaps I can explain. The difference between human rights legislation and the protection that I seek to give is that the human rights legislation deals with process, whereas I am concerned about individual injustice being rectified in front of a tribunal in the same way as individual employment injustice can be rectified in front of an employment tribunal.

I take my hon. Friend’s point, but presumably the tribunal would have some locus when it comes to procedural injustice, as well as the outcome. A more convincing explanation of the interaction of the Human Rights Act and the tribunal would have helped.

Judicial review is available. I take my hon. Friend’s point that sometimes that is not accessible because it is expensive, but it is not that no mechanism is available. I was not convinced by his argument that we should add yet another public body to the list. However, if the case is to be made for a genuine appeal tribunal, I do not think that the proposed tribunal goes far enough. A tribunal that does not have a genuine right of redress is misleading.

If there is no obligation on Ministers to take into account, or act on, the considered views of a tribunal, when litigants may have gone to considerable lengths and expense to make their case, it would be most unsatisfactory. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch said that the Bill would raise expectations among foreign nationals that they could be employed under the Crown. That is fine. We should be raising expectations. People may already have such expectations and are astonished that they cannot be fulfilled.

My concern about the tribunal is that it could raise the expectation that it has some power. From correspondence and conversations with my constituents, I know how bitterly disappointed they are about the consequences of the parliamentary ombudsman’s report into Equitable Life. That is an analogous situation in which expectations were raised, because complaints were investigated and recommendations made but Ministers roundly ignored them. There is a danger that we could be going down the same route.

I, too, have constituents who are concerned about Equitable Life, but unless I have missed something, my understanding is that the case is still being considered by the parliamentary ombudsman—even at this late stage. She has yet—

Order. I think the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) made an error in introducing that analogy and it should go no further.

I shall go no further down the path of error, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We have questions about who will serve on the tribunal and whether the tribunal can ever meet the expectations of litigants and people with genuine grievances. As a Front-Bench spokesman, I am enjoined constantly by the shadow Chancellor that our party, in preparing for government, should not enter into unfunded spending commitments. We are rigorous about that, so as my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch failed to disclose where the money would come from and how much it would be—despite his 70-minute speech—it would be reckless for our party to support from the Front Bench a clause that had such financial consequences.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his candour in sending out such a strong signal. He has indicated that he supports the Bill as drafted, but does he not think that the mere passage of the Bill might incur public expenditure?

I am not sure that it would. It would allow the Crown access to the best people for the job. At present, we pay employment agencies to fill gaps in civil service employment so if there were more people to choose from it could contribute to economy in the public services, which we would all welcome.

I do not want to detain the House. Important points needed to be put on the record and I hope that in my interventions and these brief remarks I have been able to explain why I cannot lend my hon. Friend support from the Front Bench. None the less, we have had a good discussion; it is important to be candid about such proposals and give them a thorough airing, as we have done. I shall be interested in what the Minister says, especially about the financial consequences of the new clause. Perhaps she will allay my concerns that the costs could be substantial and that they could take the Government along a financial road that the Opposition are reluctant to go down.

I urge the House to resist new clause 1. I have listened to the debate and am glad to have heard again today the commitment to good legislation and transparency we heard in Committee.

I am intrigued by the comments of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) but welcome the fact that he joins me in resisting the new clause. I very much share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) that the new clause literally does not fit the Bill. I explained in Committee and—in view of the time, I shall have to put it like this—I would have liked to reiterate in the debate on the second group of amendments that the Government’s intend only a small percentage of civil service posts to be reserved for UK nationals in any rules made under clause 2. Indeed, the Government fully support my hon. Friend’s desire that the vast majority of civil service posts should be open to all, regardless of nationality. Of course, candidates should be selected on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition, and with all the usual safeguards. We have the best civil service in the world and the best civil servants serving us in this country. We should continue to develop and progress to protect that position.

Given the Minister’s comments and the expressed support of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for the Bill, if it were to fall today, would she introduce it as a Government Bill, knowing that she would get support from all parties?

I can certainly give a commitment that the Government are committed to ensuring that the Bill’s provisions progress, because we feel that that is the sensible way to preserve our place in the world with regard to having the best civil service. The House is aware that some posts in the obvious sensitive areas of security, intelligence, border control, diplomacy and immigration will be reserved for UK nationals, but those posts comprise only about 5 per cent. of all civil service positions. I am sure that the House will agree that it is necessary and perfectly proper for those posts to be reserved for UK nationals.

Given that the Minister said—quite rightly, in my opinion—that we have the best civil service in the world, based on the current arrangements, can she explain why the Bill is so necessary? How do her remarks about opening things up to foreign nationals meet the Prime Minister’s pledge about British jobs for British workers?

I think it might be timely for me to remind the House that we are discussing new clause 1, not the Bill as a whole.

Mindful of that, we will continue, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I draw the House’s attention to the fact that the Bill provides for rules that contain the flexibility to enable Ministers and, if necessary and appropriate, heads of the security and intelligence services, to grant exemptions in certain cases. I consider it wholly unjustifiable and unnecessary for the Bill to provide for the possible creation of the tribunal suggested in new clause 1. It is an unnecessary level of bureaucracy, which I would have thought hon. Members would be as keen to resist as I am. I note that the new clause contains only the provision to make recommendations.

I make my comments about the measure being unnecessary and unjustifiable in view of later proposed amendments, which hon. Members will have seen, in which the Government have been most responsive to the Committee’s deliberations. If we were to get to them, they would introduce parliamentary scrutiny—something not currently in place—and make it quite clear that we are talking about posts and not people. In that respect, the new clause does not fit the Bill, and I urge the House to resist it.

This has been a good debate, albeit slightly truncated. The promoter of the Bill, the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), said that he was surprised to have it sprung on him, but he has had more than three years’ notice of it. He said that he has been trying to get this Bill on the statute book for five years, and every time it comes back, there is scope for it to be improved. That is what we are trying to do today. Surely the serious point is that, if the Bill is that important to the Government, it should be a Government measure. The press tells us today that the House will be underemployed in the coming season because we do not have enough legislation. It is sad that we should describe ourselves as needing legislation in order to be occupied. However, if that is the case, and there are spare days, why do not the Government use them to introduce the Bill so that they can get the credit for it?

My hon. Friend makes the important point that there is a hidden agenda. However, perhaps the Government do not want to be seen to support the proposition in public because they believe that they may come in for some criticism at a time when immigration into this country has increased massively. I am not going to go into that now because I hope to discuss it when we consider one of my amendments in the next group.

I encourage hon. Members to take with a pinch of salt the Minister’s reply to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik). She said that the Government were committed to the provisions in the Bill, but those words hardly suggest enthusiastic commitment by the Government to the measure. It amazes me that, after five years, during which the Government claimed to support the Bill, they have not taken it over.

As the Minister said, we are talking about only 5 per cent. of civil service posts being affected by clause 2, whereas, three years ago, the figure was 10 per cent. That probably has more to do with the increase in the numbers in the civil service than reduction in the scope of clause 2 compared with the current position. The hon. Member for Hendon does himself and the House a disservice when he describes those who ask questions about the Bill and those who support a right of appeal, as outlined in the new clause, as xenophobic. We are quite the reverse. The new clause would enable people who would be counted out under clause 2 to be counted in after an appeal. It is the opposite of xenophobia—I presume that that is xenophilia. I therefore describe myself as a xenophiliac on the matter.

The hon. Member for Hendon criticises the new clause on the basis that I got it all wrong. Fortunately, he did not pursue the suggestion that it should not have been selected. One of the reasons for his confusion is that he has anticipated our accepting the amendments in the next group. We have not accepted them and, therefore, his reference to posts rather than people does not apply. He shakes his head, but clause 2 is entitled “Power to impose new nationality requirements” and states:

“Rules may be made imposing requirements as to nationality which must be satisfied by a person employed”.

Subsection (2) provides for rules

“as to nationality which must be satisfied by persons of a description specified”.

Although Government amendments would make “persons” “posts”, they have not been passed. Perhaps that will happen later today, but it has not happened yet. We must therefore consider the new clause as introducing an appeals procedure under the Bill as it was presented to the House and considered in detail in Committee. It therefore does not wash for the hon. Gentleman to say that the new clause does not fit the Bill.

The hon. Gentleman says that there is no requirement that the appeal process must result in the Minister accepting the recommendation. However, that is a point in favour of the new clause and shows how reasonable it is. If, for instance, some sensitive information comes to light in the context of the security service, the Minister can take that into account, even though the tribunal that I propose to set up perhaps would not have been able to do so in its considerations. Again, that argument is not a valid objection to the new clause. The other point that I find odd is that three years ago the hon. Gentleman said that he was neutral on the new clause. Now he is allying himself against it, but he has not produced any arguments in support of that position, other than the fact that those on his Front Bench are against it and he perhaps thinks that it is in his best interests to go along with them.

I much enjoyed the contribution that the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire made. He shows himself to be a person of generous spirit. We obviously wish him well in his campaign to become the president of his party—some of us wonder why he is not setting his sights even higher, to become leader of his party. I think that he would be the first Estonian-born leader of the Liberal Democrats or, indeed, of any party in this—

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to point out that this appears to be outside the scope of the new clause.

Absolutely, Mr. Deputy Speaker; although if the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire was engaged in that activity, he would not have been with us today, and we have all benefited from his contribution to the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) was polite but quite persistent in suggesting that the terms of my new clause were not robust enough. He persisted in his criticisms in a series of interventions during my introductory remarks and said that we needed a much more watertight appeal mechanism. As I said earlier, new clause 1 is a lot better than it might otherwise have been. Because we are potentially dealing with security issues, there is a reason to say to the Government, “Well, there may be circumstances in which you won’t be able to accept the recommendations of a tribunal,” although I would hope that that would happen in the minority of cases. However, we have made a reasonable attempt to secure a form of words that could not be criticised on the grounds that I am being naive about national security. There is no reason why a tribunal would necessarily be able to have before it all the information relevant to national security matters. That is why there should be a residual discretion, to be exercised reasonably by the Government, in considering the appeal process.

My hon. Friend also asked why we could not have an appointments commission deciding on the composition of the tribunal. Again, I do not disagree with the principle of the idea, borne out of his strong and understandable feeling that too many appointments to bodies are rigged by the Government. The proposal has not been included in the new clause, again because we hope that the Government would be more benevolent in their outlook and not feel the need to pack a tribunal with its own devotees, but instead be quite content to let people with objective judgment and experience take on that role.

My hon. Friend also said that new clause 1 should contain a requirement that we see the draft regulations first. As I pointed out to him, there is nothing in the proposal that precludes the provision of draft regulations, and it would indeed be desirable to see the regulations in draft so that they could be the subject of consultation. Such consultation would not, however, mean that the regulations would be acceptable either to me or to other hon. Members. It is within the Government’s remit to decide what the regulations should be. My hon. Friend also expressed his concern about the European convention on human rights and wondered whether there would be a duplication involved.

The most pertinent comments, which went to the heart of the issue, were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark). He is an avowed and unapologetic supporter of the Bill, and he is concerned that the Government say that they support it yet are not prepared to introduce such a measure in Government time. He is also worried about the proliferation of public bodies, and I share that concern. I would be happy to work with him, as we prepare for government, to draw up an agenda for significantly reducing the number of such bodies.

My hon. Friend pointed out that I had been unable to produce a broad estimate of what the proposal might cost. I could not do so because the cost would depend on the behaviour of the Government and the discretion that they would give themselves under the provisions of clause 2. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) said that any additional costs would pale into insignificance compared with the torrential waste that occurs in so many Government Departments at the moment. For example, only a few weeks ago, somebody called Wanless, who had previously proposed that we should spend vast extra sums on the health service, said that most of that money had been wasted. We are talking about the waste of a huge proportion of public expenditure.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells also spoke about judicial review, and seemed to think that that option was available and that that was no big deal. I would simply say to him that to expect people to apply for judicial review in order to obtain justice in relation to job applications is asking the impossible. Judicial review is a long, and very expensive, process. In planning cases, for example, even after they have gone to judicial review and the process has been found to be faulty, the arrangements do not deal with the substance of the matter, which is what people are normally concerned about. Judicial review would not deal with the substance of the complaints of people who felt aggrieved about the operation of the provisions.

My hon. Friend said that people need a genuine right of redress but that giving the Government the discretion to decide whether to accept the provisions would result in something less than such a genuine right. I accept that, but national security matters could be raised in this context, and it is better to leave some discretion to the Government. At that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker intervened to prevent us from getting into a discussion about Equitable Life.

Let us conclude with what the Minister had to say. She referred to bureaucracy and felt that the proposals were unjustifiable and unnecessary. She said that the Government supported selection on merit—don’t we all! The message that should come out of today’s proceedings—

It being half-past Two o’clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 26 October.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A number of important Bills appear on the Order Paper today, including my own Bill to try to stop discrimination against agency workers. There is a Bill on trade union rights and one on age-related macular degeneration, which causes blindness in 40 per cent. of the population. There is also an important Bill that deals with free prescription charges for cystic fibrosis sufferers. Will you therefore advise me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the millions of vulnerable people affected by those Bills and also on behalf of the people in the Gallery, including the schoolchildren there, how I can put on record my dissatisfaction with the antics of a small Conservative wrecking crew that has stopped us from considering those Bills?

First, I should say that references to people or persons outside this Chamber are not in order. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what the rules of engagement are in respect of the availability of private Members’ time. Clearly, far more private Members’ Bills are proposed during a Session of Parliament than the amount of time available for their expeditious disposal. Inevitably, we reach a point where, because of consideration of the Bills that have priority according to the ballot conducted at the beginning of a Session, many other Bills will not make progress. However, matters that are thought to be of general interest often have a habit of coming back again—and some eventually succeed.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask Mr. Speaker to examine the case for granting a private Member’s Bill that has reached this stage and been accorded such priority by the House some sort of carry-over process similar to the process applied to Government Bills?

I would say that many changes in procedure take place over the years. The hon. Gentleman might wish to write about that to the Chairman of the Modernisation Committee, or, indeed, to the Procedure Committee.