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Human Rights: Submission Of Memorial

Volume 415: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1980

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2.45 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are to be any further delays in addition to two postponements already granted in depositing their memorial before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of the three former employees of British Rail.

My Lords, the Government expect to put their memorial on the case before the due date set by the European Court, which is 5th December.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. In view of the speeding up of this matter, may I ask him to say how quickly this case can possibly be brought to court, considering the hardship which is being endured by the railmen involved?

I do not think I can add to my original Answer, my Lords; we are putting our case within a week.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that justice delayed is justice denied, and in view of the long delays in this case, would it not be better now for the Government gracefully to settle this matter and submit to judgment?

I agree with my noble friend, my Lords, and that is why the memorial, which of course has had to be most carefully prepared, is going right away before the court.

My Lords, is it not the case that there has not in fact been a judgment; that there has been a view by the Commission and that the British member of the Commission disagreed strongly with the majority decision?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for helping me out. I should have said that a moment ago in response to my noble friend.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this case started in 1978, that two and a half years have already elapsed, that there were six delays under the Labour Government and that under this Government there have been three further delays? Can we be assured there will not be another delay asked for by this Government? Is my noble friend aware that all these delays add enormously to the costs and that it is unfair that individuals should bear the very substantial sums, already exceeding £40,000, while Governments act at the expense of the taxpayer?

My Lords, we have repeatedly made it clear that we have great sympathy for the position of the applicants who suffered under the previous Government's legislation which we have, as my noble friend is well aware, reformed. But in view of what he said, we are prepared to consider some accommodation to deal with any particular difficulties which the applicants have suffered as a result of the delays due to these careful submissions of the issue.