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Lords Chamber

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 4 December 1980

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House Of Lords

Thursday, 4th December, 1980.

The House met at three of the clock ( Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Guildford):

The LORD CHANCELLOR On the Woolsack.

Inland Revenue And Paye Assessments

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 what action they are taking to remedy the Inland Revenue's erroneous assessments of PAYE liabilities.

My Lords, the Inland Revenue have strengthened their regional office management by introducing 60 inspectors whose function is to monitor by selective sampling the quality of work performed by staff in tax districts. Their findings will be considered both locally and centrally, in particular to judge quality and decide on any remedial action; and the department will seek to improve quality in appropriate work areas by reinforcing their methods of supervision and reviewing their work procedures.

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask whether he can indicate whether the Board of Inland Revenue themselves are disturbed at having to inform the Public Accounts Committee in another place that 27 per cent. of these assessments for PAYE were erroneous; and could he, perhaps, add whether that was the state of affairs—which I do not believe it was—when he, himself, was the youngest-ever Commissioner of Inland Revenue?

My Lords, while I greatly appreciate the compliment in my noble friend's supplementary question, may I answer the first part of it by saying that the board themselves are very concerned indeed with the situation that has been revealed. It was revealed as a result of a special study initiated by the board themselves. They are now taking vigorous action to deal with the matter and this action will be followed up.

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell the House a little more than that on the subject matter of this Question which, I understand, concerns what action the Inland Revenue are taking to remedy these erroneous assessments?—which I take to mean the assessments that have already been issued. What steps are they taking to correct the errors as far as individual PAYE taxpayers are concerned?

My Lords, where errors are discovered, they are corrected if they fall outside the tolerances which are normally applied. The position is that where a person has underpaid his PAYE by a figure which was £20 in the period in question but which has now been increased to £30, it is not the normal practice to make an assessment. Correspondingly, if the over-payment was less than £1 it was not customary to make an assessment and repay the money unless the taxpayer asked for this to be done. Where errors are found, the normal procedures are followed, but the obvious objective is to ensure that the number of errors made is reduced to an absolute minimum.

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that erroneous assessments of the future might be limited if a British-made computer was used in the Inland Revenue?

My Lords, that is an entirely different Question. I believe that it is the experience that errors tend to be made under a computerised system as well as under a manual system; and many of us can pay testimony from our personal experience to that fact.

Private Housebuilding: Development Plans

3.5 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 what steps are being taken in consultation with the construction industry to revive the private housing sector.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment
(Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, the prospects for private housebuilding, as with so many other sectors, depends ultimately on the establishment of a soundly based economy, which is the Government's main objective. The Secretary of State for the Environment and his colleagues have met representatives of the industry on several recent occasions, to discuss the state of construction and of private housebuilding. As interest rates come down, this will help the industry. Unnecessary constraints on development are being removed. A circular on development control has just been sent to local authorities, advocating a vigorous and positive approach to the needs of developers, including housebuilders.

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask whether he would agree that a critical factor in any housing programme is the release of sufficient land? Can he comment on the availability of land at the moment and the intentions of the Government in that regard? Can he also say what encouragement the Government are able to give to first-time buyers?

My Lords, I agree entirely that availability of land is a vital factor in this matter. As to what the Government are doing, we have asked the local authorities to co-operate with housebuilders, when asked, in carrying out detailed site-by-site studies of just what land is genuinely available for development. We have taken powers in the Local Government, Planning and Land Act to ensure that this happens. The first of such studies has already been received. We have called on the local authorities to maintain a five-year supply of house-building land consistent with development plans at all times. We have taken a number of steps to streamline and speed up the planning system, including development control, in a circular which has just been published. In the next few days, we shall be laying an order designating the first 21 districts which are to have land registers under new powers in the Local Government Act to ensure that unused and under-used public sector land is identified and released.

Referring to the point my noble friend raised in connection with help for first-time buyers, I would go on to say that we are urging local authorities to sell land to builders for starter homes, to tender partnership arrangements with builders to provide starter homes on council land which is retained by the council until the houses are sold and to offer shared ownership so as to bring home ownership within the reach of those on low incomes.

My Lords, when the Minister refers to the circular sent out asking for vigorous action on the part of the developers, is he referring to the circular that says that aesthetic considerations are subjective and that local councillors should not seek to impose their aesthetic values on developers?

No, my Lords. I was referring to the circular which emphasised the serious cost to business of planning delays, whether due to inefficiency or nit-picking involvement in irrelevant detail. The circular urges the need for realism in talking about land supply and puts the onus firmly on the planning authority to provide a good reason for refusing a planning application.

My Lords, may I ask whether that phrase to which I referred has been eliminated from the circular? It certainly appeared in the draft which went round and it seemed to me (and to many people, I may say) that the Government were envisaging a lower standard of planning.

My Lords, I do not know of the particular wording to which the noble Lord refers. I would suggest that it is somewhat outside the context of the Question; but if he likes to take it up with me separately, I shall be glad to discuss it with him.

My Lords, will the noble Lord kindly look to that part of the Question which deals with how to revive the private housing sector? Is he aware of the bulldozers which roll through our cities blowing up and knocking down thousands of houses which, with a small payment, could accommodate young couples? Could not some method be devised by which small builders will get grants and loans to encourage the maintenance of the properties which are called slums and which are now being vandalised more than ever before? Will he look into that? If we have to wait until the soundness of the economy occurs, none of us will be alive.

My Lords, we are indeed seized of the need to rehabilitate—that is the "in" term—and upgrade the existing standards of dwellings rather than the massive demolition that pertained in the past. It would also probably be fair to say that there was in earlier years a greater mass of problems regarding slum clearance than there is now, and that the dwellings today are far more likely to be those which will lend themselves to rehabilitation than much of what was demolished in the past. In general, I agree with the noble Lord.

My Lords, has the Minister considered the disastrous consequences to small builders of the savage cuts being made in grants and loans to housing associations?

My Lords, I think that we should make this clear: cuts have not been made to the housing associations at all. What the Government have said is that they are concerned at the possibility of an over-spend of the amount which has been allocated, some £420 million. It is because of the grave concern to ensure that there is not this over-spend that there is at the present time the moratorium. Once we have the position clear, once we are certain that there will not be an over-spend, then everything can continue.

My Lords, the Minister in his first reply blamed the decline on the high interest rates and industry is blaming its decline on the high rates. Can the Minister tell us what good the high interest rates are doing?

My Lords, I did not blame anything on the high interest rates in my first reply. What I said was that as interest rates came down they would help the situation. That is so.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that unless we have a fairly speedy reversal of the financial and economic policies followed by his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right honourable Lady, the Prime Minister, we shall soon have no construction industry at all?

My Lords, I cannot think of anything more likely to lead us to not having a construction industry at all than to do as the noble Lord suggests, and that is to reverse the policies upon which we are now embarked which most of us feel are the only hope of ensuring that we have the kind of economy that we need.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that as well as urging local authorities to deal sympathetically with proposals to develop building for private housing, he should also urge them to conserve the amenity aspects of their areas and choose areas for development which fit in with that and with the use of local resources? If new developments are made in conflict with either of those considerations, the loss to the community will be greater rather than less.

Yes, my Lords. I am grateful to my noble friend for putting the question in that way. This is for each authority to decide in the light of its own particular circumstances and situation. In general terms, I entirely agree with what my noble friend has said.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that a Government dominated by his party coming into power at the end of 1931 completely reversed the policy of the previous Government, reduced interest rates to 2 per cent., converted War Loan from 5 per cent. to 3½ per cent. and started the biggest housing boom in British history? That was a complete reversal of previous financial policies and did not lead to the kind of disasters the noble Lord mentioned just now.

My Lords, I am not sure quite what the question is. If there is no question, the noble Lord will excuse me if I do not answer.

Youth And Community Projects: Grants

3.14 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 they realise the disastrous effects of their announcement of 19th September on the change in capital grants for youth and community projects by discontinuing the village halls grant aid scheme, and whether they will reconsider that decision.

My Lords, the Government's purpose is not to end the scheme, but to place the full responsibility for the support from public funds of local voluntary youth and community projects in the hands of the local authorities, where it properly belongs. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science hopes that they will find it possible to maintain the present level of support, and provision will be made through rate support grant to help them to do so. The Government's expenditure forecasts do not assume any reduction in this support.

My Lords, while thank the noble Baroness for that reply, may I ask her three questions? Does she realise that the abrupt withdrawal of the grant aid scheme does not take into consideration the years of work that have been done by local people to get the 25 per cent. grant which was available under the previous scheme to obtain their village halls? Would not four years have been a more reasonable time to give notice of withdrawal? Secondly, does the noble Baroness realise that we cannot see how, if the money is passed down as a part of the rate support scheme, it will reach the village halls unless it is specifically earmarked? Lastly, does she realise the added importance of village halls to voluntary local youth organisations, organisations for the elderly and invalids? Coming on top of the loss of local bus services, sub-post offices and village schools, this can only be interpreted as showing a lack of concern on the part of the Government for rural communities.

My Lords, on the first point, I should like to reiterate that the expenditure on the youth service generally is not being cut, and our current plans for public expenditure assume that it will continue at the same rate. On the point about specific earmarking through the rate support grant, I should like to explain that the proposals that have been made are a logical extension of the step taken some years ago when local authorities were made responsible for the selection of projects for support: the DES has simply supported those projects which the local authorities themselves have chosen to support from the voluntary organisations. On the last point, I should like to confirm that of course I and my colleagues recognise the importance of village halls, and the importance of village life in the community.

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether she can give the figures of the cost to the Department of Education and Science of their share of the contribution made to the creation of village halls during the past financial year?

My Lords, the amount of money that is being spent on local youth and community projects in the current year—that is to say, 1980–81—is £3.8 million. I cannot say whether all that is going on village halls, but it is on those projects for which specific grant would be paid.

My Lords, may I ask whether the Minister really believes that the money being handed over to local authorities within the rate support grant will be used for this purpose, considering the squeeze that there is on local authorities to cut their expenditure? Could one of the reasons for the change of method of giving a grant be that the DES wish to cut down the number of staff who used to deal with that particular aspect?

My Lords, as I have already indicated, this is a logical extension of what has been happening for some time, and it follows that it is our policy to reduce the central influence in matters which we believe to be essentially for local decision. It is true that there will be some saving of staff in the DES as a result of this. It is, as I say, a logical extension of policies which have been initiated in the past.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that as the chairman of the trustees of my village hall I am about to be very grateful for a small grant from the local authority, and that the noble Baroness may therefore take comfort from the fact that this money is filtering through to the place that it is meant to go?

My Lords, I am always very grateful to my noble friend Lord Nugent for his kindly interventions.

My Lords, if one of the main motives in making this decision is to save manpower in the Department of Education and Science, may I ask whether the noble Baroness and her colleagues have considered the proposal that has been put to them by the Standing Conference on Rural Community Councils that a community building trust might receive the money that was formerly earmarked for village halls and village improvements? That would mean that none of the burden of the work would fall on civil servants in the department for which the noble Baroness is responsible.

May I further ask whether, as a compromise proposal, the noble Baroness would be prepared to urge on her right honourable friend the Secretary of State at the very least that the proposals for new village halls and extensions—for example, additional rooms added to a hall so that doctors can hold their surgeries there and thus maintain a vital service in their villages—that have already been made and are in the pipeline should be allowed to go through and not be affected by the cuts which were announced on 19th September?

My Lords, the two particular points mentioned by the noble Lord were similar to proposals put to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations and the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services a short time ago. My right honourable friend is considering these two matters, and I will draw to his attention the points made by the noble Lord.

Quangos: Number And Total Cost

3.21 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 they will state the number and total cost of Quangos in November 1978 and November 1980.

My Lords, the information is not available in the form requested by my noble friend. But, according to the report by Sir Leo Pliatzky on Non-Departmental Public Bodies (Cmnd. 7797), there were 2,117 such bodies in November 1979 and the charge falling directly on public funds by way of grants and other support costs funded by sponsoring departments was about £2,950 million in 1978–79. These figures are now being updated and the results will be published in the New Year.

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for his reply, may I ask whether he could confirm that, as reported in The Times today, while the Government propose to retain those Quangos which are doing useful work, we can look forward to the abolition of a further 460 by 1983, with a saving of some £23 million to the Exchequer?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that comment. Following Sir Leo Pliatzky's report, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced in January that just over 240 such bodies would be abolished. She announced yesterday that a further 192 would be abolished making a grand total of 436, which is the figure which my noble friend has in mind. These will entail a saving of £23 million by 1983.

My Lords, will the noble Lord appreciate that Quangos, particularly in the field of agriculture, are very important? Today we shall be talking later about the Apple and Pear Development Council, which is a Quango. There are also bodies such as the Egg Marketing Board and other bodies; so will the Government not be doctrinal about this? These bodies, after all, attract men of good will of all parties and are non-political. They do a very fine job, particularly in the field of agriculture.

My Lords, the Government recognise that many of these bodies do an important, if not essential, job, and that is the reason that, while 436 of them will be abolished, approximately 1,600 will remain.

My Lords, following up and supporting the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Peart, and recognising that a number of these bodies do a great deal of good, would there not be some point in asking the organisations, industries and so on, which benefit from these bodies, to give them some financial support, rather than the bodies being supported purely from central Government finances?

My Lords, I note the point the noble Viscount makes. Many of these bodies look for a substantial part of their revenue either from charges or contributions from industry. This is an area in which constant vigilance is required, first, to ensure that bodies are not set up when they are not needed, and, secondly, to ensure that bodies which have completed their function no longer continue in existence.

My Lords, would the noble Lord say what new Quangos the Government contemplate, such as, for instance, the Docklands Corporations?

Yes, my Lords; one of the new Quangos set up by the present Administration was the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which I am sure will have the noble and learned Lord's support. We pay great tribute to the part played by noble Lords opposite in the setting up of that body. In all, 21 such new bodies have been set up since the present Government came into office, but we do take great care to ensure that each body set up is set up only when absolutely essential.

My Lords, will the Minister give us an assurance that the suggestion which has appeared in the press that the axe might fall on some of the consumer councils attached to nationalised industries will not take effect and that these will be safeguarded? They are a most valuable safeguard for the consumer. Would he not agree that the consumer has very few opportunities of making his needs felt without organisations of such a kind?

My Lords, the future of the particular bodies to which the noble Baroness refers is at present under consideration, and I am afraid I can say no more than that at the present time.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister to say, regarding the 400 Quangos that have been abolished, whether any of the members involved were Members of your Lordships' House? Can we be assured that, because of the loss of income sustained by these persons who have been eliminated from the Quangos, they are to receive either a golden handshake or some compensation?

My Lords, I fear I do not carry in my head the names of all the members of the 436 bodies which have been abolished; but the noble Lord will find particulars of most of them in the announcements which have been made in this field.

My Lords, if my arithmetic is correct, the saving of £23 million is a saving of less than 1 per cent. on the total cost of Quangos. If that is so, would the noble Lord agree that surely too much fuss is being made about the savings and perhaps many of the Quangos are suffering from being called "Quangos" and are in fact very useful bodies?

My Lords, we have never disputed that many of these bodies perform an important, if not essential task, which is the phrase that I used earlier. The list includes, for example, the regional water authorities, which are clearly bodies we could not dispense with. But a saving of £23 million is a substantial one and we need to find savings wherever we can.

My Lords, would the Minister help me and possibly save me some embarrassment as I am about to proceed to Milton Keynes to deliver the Alan Ashton Lecture, in memory of the first director of the Milton Keynes Corporation? As the lecture is being sponsored by that corporation, should I sympathise with them or applaud them, as I intended to do, for the great work they have been doing?

My Lords, I fear I cannot help the noble Lord in the preparation of his speech, but this is a field in which he excels more than I do.

That of course is perfectly true, but is the Minister telling the House he does not really know whether the Milton Keynes Development Corporation is one of the bodies to be abolished?

My Lords, the noble Lord will find a list of the bodies which it is proposed to abolish—

in the reply given by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place yesterday. If he wishes to refer to it, I imagine that he can do so without much difficulty.

My Lords, I do not wish to refer to it. I am asking the Minister, who owes a duty to this House. One can get very angry about this. If Ministers choose to come to this House to make a statement inadequately briefed, the House has a complaint. Now has the Minister referred to the statement made by the Prime Minister in another place yesterday, and does the Minister know whether the Prime Minister included the Milton Keynes Development Corporation in her statement?

My Lords, the statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister yesterday in another place was by way of Written Answer. It was a very long statement and I can only suggest that the noble Lord reads it.

No, my Lords. Has the Minister read it? I will persist, with your Lordships' permission, so long as it takes the Minister to ask the people in the Box, who are there for the purpose of advising him. Is that one of the Quangos that was abolished in the Prime Minister's very long Written Answer yesterday? If it was too long for the Minister to read, and too long for his advisers to read, why should I plough through it?

The Minister has people available. There are Lords-in-Waiting, called Whips in the other House, who could proceed between the Treasury Bench and that Box up there. We all know why the civil servants are wasting their time in this House; it is to advise the Minister, in case the Minister is asked a question to which he does not know the answer. Clearly, in this case, he has been asked a question to which he does not know the answer. Would somebody please go up and find out? Is the Milton Keynes Development Corporation one of those bodies?

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister a question? In view of the question put by my noble friend Lord George-Brown, who appears to have declared an interest, may I also declare an interest? Can the Minister explain why, in all the the years I have been a Member of your Lordships' House, I have never been made a member of a Quango? Can he give some kind of appreciation of the quality of intelligence required in order to be a member of these august bodies?

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I am sure that the fact that he has not been appointed a member of a Quango is a great tribute to his ability.

My Lords, as the Minister has now received the advice from the Box, may I ask him to acquaint us with the contents?

My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt, because I know that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, feels very strongly about this matter—and, indeed, we all enjoyed his intervention. But, with the greatest respect to him, my noble friend has answered the Question which is on the Order Paper and it really would be unreasonable, I suggest, for my noble friend to read out every individual Quango that was mentioned in my right honourable friend's Answer yesterday.

My Lords, may I ask guidance here? In the other place, there is a procedure which can be invoked—

when a Minister deliberately and, as it seems to me in this case, quite obstructively declines to help. I do not know who answers here, but may I ask the Leader of the House what procedure is available in this House to a noble Lord who is quite deliberately refused information, which is now quite clearly in the Minister's possession—because we all saw the note passed to the Minister—and who wishes to prevent further business from being conducted until the Minister discloses what he clearly is now in a position to disclose?

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, is not doing—if I may say so with respect—a service to the House or to my noble friend. The Question which is on the Order Paper asks Her Majesty's Government whether they will state the number and total cost of Quangos. It was not suggested that my noble friend should read out—or, indeed, should acquaint himself with—each or any of those Quangos. That was done in my right honourable friend's statement yesterday, which was available to the other place and to your Lordships. I really think that it is being slightly unfair for the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, to chase my noble friend on one particular Quango any more than the other 189.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has been up on his feet several times.

My Lords, as the noble Lord the Minister himself referred to a number of Quangos which are now being abolished, without referring to one in particular, can he tell the House whether it is correct that all New Town Corporations and the New Town Commission are to be abolished? If so, what will be the effect of this on the work of new towns, and will it be debated in this House?

My Lords, this goes right outside the Question on the Order Paper. If the noble Lord wishes to pursue the matter, I suggest that he tables a Question on the subject.

My Lords, may I return to my question to the Leader of the House? I am not quite sure whether he is the Leader of the House or the acting Leader of the House. If he says that I am being unfair and am doing no service to his noble friend or to the House by what I am now doing, may I just make it quite plain that I will seek the highest advice as to the way in which a noble Lord who, on the whole, if I may remind him, has supported his Government at great cost to myself, can, in fact, proceed, when I should have thought I was being treated with gross discourtesy by the Minister concerned. The Minister cannot know how many Quangos are being dismissed, unless he knows the list of the Quangos that are being dismissed. It follows. I simply serve notice on the noble Earl who is acting as Leader of the House that whatever disservice he thinks I have done to the House, he has done a very considerable disservice to himself and his colleagues.

My Lords, I really feel that I should just say this to the noble Lord. If I have done a disservice to the noble Lord, to my party or to the House by what I have said, then of course I am intensely sorry for that. It will be up to your Lordships to decide whether or not that has taken place. In the view of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, obviously it has. I merely say to him that if he wishes to seek a specific, detailed piece of information, then, if he will be kind enough to put it down, as a Question on the Order Paper, he will receive an Answer.

The Christmas Recess

My Lords, it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I announce that, subject to the progress of business, the House will adjourn for the Christmas Recess on Thursday, 18th December, and return on Tuesday, 13th January.

Deep Sea Mining (Temporary Provisions) Bill Hl

3.39 p.m.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Trenchard, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision with respect to deep sea mining operations; and for purposes connected therewith. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1ª.—(Lord Lyell.]

On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.

Betting, Gaming And Lotteries (Amendment) Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 to permit pool betting at racecourses where harness racing takes place. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1ª.—( Viscount Massereene and Ferrard.)

On Question, Bill read 1ª, and to be printed.


3.40 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That, in accordance with Standing Order 72, a Select Committee for Privileges be appointed; and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords, together with the Chairman of Committees and any four Lords of Appeal, be named of the Committee:—

  • Adeane, L.
  • Beswick, L.
  • Byers, L.
  • Champion, L.
  • Denham, L.
  • Ferrers, E.
  • Greenwood of Rossendale, L.
  • Hylton-Foster, B.
  • Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
  • Molson, L.
  • Peart, L.
  • St. Aldwyn, E.
  • Shackleton, L.
  • Soames, L. (L. President)
  • Wigoder, L.

—( Lord Aberdare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Leave Of Absence And Lords' Expenses

My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed for the general supervision of arrangements relating to leave of absence and the reimbursement of Lords' expenses; and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the Lords following, with the Chairman of Committees, be named of the Committee:—

  • Denham, L.
  • Hylton-Foster, B.
  • Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
  • Wigoder, L.

—( Lord Aberdare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Judicial Pensions Bill Hl

3.41 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It consolidates the legislation governing pension benefits for most judicial offices in Great Britain and for judges of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland, with amendments made to give effect to recommendations by the Law Commission contained in their Report No. 105.

The only question which I consider difficult is whether I should declare a personal interest. The Bill does not affect the personal pension of the Lord Chancellor which will continue to be governed by the Lord Chancellor's Pension Act of 1832. It does, however, deal with the benefits for dependants of a Lord Chancellor. As I have at the present moment no dependants and shall have none unless I contract a fresh marriage, and will in any case be dead before they acquire an interest, I rather doubt whether I ought to declare one myself. Be that as it may, I have disclosed the facts if any dependants of mine are affected.

If your Lordships give this Bill a Second Reading it will be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation in the usual way to enable them to consider the proposed amendments and the consolidation itself. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—( The Lord Chancellor.)

My Lords, I rather think that I should disclose an interest in this matter but I do not think it is affected by the consolidation provisions of the Bill. I would like to ask the noble and learned Lord one question, and that is whether the provisions of this Bill are affected by the Supreme Court Bill which I understand is to receive its Second Reading on the 18th December. If so, would it not have been desirable to postpone the consolidation until we have completed the course of that Bill?

My Lords, I think the answer is, No. If I have misled the noble and learned Lord or the House, I will correct my mistake.

On Question, Bill read 2ª and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

Veterinary Surgeons Qualifications (Eec Recognition) Order 1980

3.43 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Veterinary Surgeons Qualifications (EEC Recognition) Order 1980, which was laid before this House on 29th October, be approved.

I should explain first that the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 provides the framework of rules within which the profession operates in this country. Under that Act, an individual may not practise as a veterinary surgeon unless he is registered in accordance with its terms. A register of veterinary surgeons is therefore maintained. In December 1978, the Council of Ministers, who were acting under the rules of the European Communities, agreed two directives which are designed to set out the rules under which veterinary surgeons who are nationals of a member state may have the right to practise in another member state. The draft Order in Council which is now before your Lordships is designed to alter the terms of the Act and it would permit appropriately qualified nationals of other member states to practise in this country. This follows the precedent which has been established by similar orders relating to doctors, dentists, lawyers and nurses which are already in force.

As I have said, the Ministers adopted two directives. The first (78/1026/EEC), which for convenience is referred to in the draft order as the Recognition Directive", prescribes the terms under which the appropriate qualifications may be recognised either on a permanent or on a temporary basis in the member states. The second directive (78/1027/EEC)—which is called the "Training Directive"—co-ordinates the provisions which govern the activities of veterinary surgeons. The draft order now before your Lordships would enable this country to meet the requirement to comply with the provisions of the two directives by December of this year.

Turning to the details of the draft order, Articles 1 and 2 contain the usual explanatory material dealing with such matters as citation, date of commencement and interpretation. Article 3 amends the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 so as to put veterinary surgeons of other member states on an equal footing with United Kingdom nationals. A European veterinary surgeon who holds a recognised European qualification in veterinary surgery and who complies with the requirements set out in the article will be entitled to be entered in the register which is kept by the registrar of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. On registration, the European veterinary surgeon automatically becomes a member of the college.

Article 4 of the draft order relates to a veterinary surgeon who has been disqualified from practising in a member state on the grounds that he has committed a criminal offence or has misconducted himself in a professional respect while practising in that country, and who, as a result, is no longer recognised as a veterinary surgeon or is prohibited from practising. Such a person is not entitled to be registered in the United Kingdom, but the registrar's decision to reject such a person is subject to it being confirmed on appeal to the council of the college. On the other hand, a veterinary surgeon who is a national of another member state and is properly registered under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 as amended by this draft order, and who is subsequently disqualified in a member state, will be treated in the same manner as provided in Section 16 of the 1966 Act for all veterinary surgeons who are registered under the Act. That is the effect of Article 4(5). Therefore such a case will stand referred to the disciplinary committee of the council of the college which has a discretion to remove or to suspend the veterinary surgeon from the register. An appeal against their decision will be heard by the Privy Council as provided in Section 17 of the 1966 Act.

Articles 5 and 6 relate to European veterinary surgeons who reside and practise outside the United Kingdom but who wish to provide veterinary services during a temporary stay in this country. The provision of veterinary services across national boundaries on a temporary basis is in fact a common practice in continental member states. It has also operated in both directions across the United Kingdom border with the Irish Republic for many years.

Article 5 enables a veterinary surgeon who is lawfully established in practice in another member state to provide veterinary services temporarily in the United Kingdom subject to prior production of a declaration and a certificate. The declaration will show the particulars of the services to be provided and the period during which they are to be rendered. The certificate will provide evidence that the veterinary surgeon holds a recognised qualification and that he is lawfully practising in a member state other than the United Kingdom. On production of the declaration and certificate he will be registered in the list of visiting EEC veterinary surgeons which is to be a part of the register kept under the 1966 Act.

In cases where animals are in urgent need of veterinary services and a visiting veterinary surgeon has been unable, because of short notice, to submit a declaration to the registrar giving particulars of the services to be provided, the declaration, but not the certificate, may be submitted after the animals have been treated in order to prevent them from suffering pain unnecessarily. Veterinary surgeons who have been disqualified from practising by a member state will be refused registration in the list of visiting EEC veterinary surgeons under the same conditions which will apply to disqualified veterinary surgeons who wish to register under the Veterinary Surgeons Act as provided in Article 4.

Article 6 contains the disciplinary provisions which will be applied to a veterinary surgeon of a member state who is registered in the list of visiting EEC veterinary surgeons and who provides services while visiting this country temporarily. If such a person is found to have been convicted anywhere in the world of an offence or to be guilty of unprofessional conduct, he may be prohibited from rendering veterinary services in the United Kingdom either for a specified period or indefinitely. His case will first be investigated by the preliminary investigation committee of the council of the college. This committee may refer the case to the disciplinary committee of the council, which may, if it thinks fit, impose a prohibition on him. The procedure is based on that contained in Sections 15 and 16 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. It provides parity of treatment between the visiting EEC veterinary surgeon and his colleague who is established in this country and whose position in similar circumstances I have already outlined.

I should explain to your Lordships that the profession in this country have been fully consulted on the proposed arrangements. I am glad to tell your Lordships that they agree with what is proposed to effect these two directives, and I therefore have pleasure in commending this order to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 29th October be approved.—( Earl Ferrers.)

My Lords, in the light of the concluding part of the statement of the noble Earl, I am sure the House will wish to give a fair wind to this proposal. I should like to ask only one question. Will veterinary surgeons registered in this country have a right to render veterinary services in the Community countries, as a piece of reciprocity, so to speak, to what is proposed here?

My Lords, all member states have to be signatories to this agreement, which should take place before the end of this year. So far the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark have already done so, and it is the responsibility of the other states to do so, and in that case our veterinary surgeons will then be able to practice in other member states.

My Lords, does that mean that there is no such right until there is general approval, general ratification, or does it mean that at this stage in the countries which have ratified our veterinary surgeons will have the same rights as EEC veterinary surgeons? I did not quite follow the answer.

My Lords, all member states have an obligation to bring into force the measures necessary to comply with the provisions of the two directives not later than December of this year. Any member state that failed to implement the directives within the required time would be in breach of its obligations, and it could not plead its own failure to do so as an excuse to prevent United Kingdom veterinary surgeons practising in that country in accordance with the terms of the directives.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Apple And Pear Development Council (Amendment) Order 1980

My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Apple and Pear Development Council (Amendment) Order 1980, a copy of which was laid before the House on 11th November, be approved.

The draft order is presented for your Lordships' approval in accordance with the requirements of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act 1947. Your Lordships will recall that, earlier this year, the House debated and approved the Apple and Pear Development Council Order 1980 which streamlined and strengthened the Apple and Pear Development Council so that the Council could play a leading role in the revitalisation of the apple and pear industry. Following the approval of this order the Minister appointed a new council under the chairmanship of Mr. Richard Venables.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Peart, said that this was a Quango. In fact, I think he will find that this is not a Quango because the Apple and Pear Development Council is supported wholly from the funds of its members and is not supported—other than one peculiar factor to which I shall refer later—by Government funds. Therefore, I think he will find that it does not come under the strict definition of a Quango.

I am delighted to report to your Lordships that the council has taken a leading role in the fight back by the English apple industry against the attack on our market by French Golden Delicious apples. With the active co-operation of the NFU representing all apple growers, the council has made a major effort to improve the promotion, the marketing and the overall image of the English apple. I would like to take this opportunity to thank publicly and to congratulate Mr. Richard Venables and his fellow members of the council, Mr. Dan Neuteboom of the NFU, and apple growers as a whole for the very real achievements which they have made over the last few months in improving the marketing of home-grown apples. So often when things go wrong and trade becomes adversely affected it has become fashionable to say, "What are the Government going to do about it?" It has been heartening to see an industry prepared to fight back against foreign competition, to commit their financial resources to improving the quality and the marketing of their product, and to engage enthusiastically in the promotion of that product.

Of course, a lot of work still remains to be done in order to ensure that the gains which have already been made during the last few months are turned to a permanent advantage. The steps which have been taken to improve the quality and image of the English apple will have to be consolidated and it is in order to assist the Apple and Pear Development Council in the waging of the second stage of their campaign that this order has been laid before your Lordships for your approval today.

Having made the public aware of the quality of English apples and pears, it is now the purpose of the council to ensure that good quality home-grown apples are available to the public for most of the year. The council have, therefore, launched the Kingdom Pack Scheme with the object of providing to wholesalers and to retailers apples of a guaranteed quality and size which can be supplied regularly throughout the apple season and which can be sold at fair prices both for growers and consumers. The scheme is a voluntary one, which growers join at their own wish, and so far as this season is concerned it is confined to Cox's Orange Pippin apples only. However, it is intended that the scheme might extend to other apple (and perhaps pear) varieties in the future. I suggest that the scheme is an imaginative venture which deserves the support of all apple growers who are interested in a sound future for the industry.

The draft order is principally designed to reinforce the council's powers in order to enable the council to operate the Kingdom Scheme. It permits the council to raise an additional levy on all growers who voluntarily participate in a promotion scheme such as the Kingdom Scheme. It establishes a maximum rate for such a levy of 12p for every 10 kilograms of apples or pears which a participating grower markets. It also gives to the council the power to recommend prices at which apples and pears which are subject to such a promotion scheme should be sold. The draft order increases the maximum rate of the existing annual charge, which is raised by the council on all growers, from £29 to £40 per hectare. I should emphasise that the rates of 12p per every 10 kilograms and of £40 per hectare are maximum rates. The rate which is charged each year is to be set by the council, but only after they have obtained the approval of the Minister.

The NFU, as representative of the apple and pear grower, and the trade unions, representing workers in the apple and pear industry, have been consulted about the rate of the levy and of the charge, and the additional function which is being given to the council concerning the setting of recommended prices. These bodies have approved the provisions which are set out in the draft order as being in the best interests of the apple and pear industry. The National Farmers' Union have asked that before the level of the charge or the levy is approved, the union—as the representative of the growers—should be consulted. I can tell your Lordships that the Minister is willing to accept this request, and that whenever an increase in the levy or the charge is contemplated he will seek the views of the National Farmers' Union before responding to the Apple and Pear Development Council's request for that increase.

Your Lordships will know that the Minister has agreed to give up to £300,000 during the current financial year to the Apple and Pear Development Council in the form of launching aid in order to assist the council in introducing the Kingdom Scheme. Making this grant, in what are difficult times, shows the Government's recognition of the tremendous efforts which apple growers have made and are making and to encourage them to continue those efforts in the future. In the Kingdom Pack Scheme the industry has provided a real opportunity to improve the marketing of apples and pears and has enabled growers to compete with imports on a much firmer footing than in recent years. However, it needs to be supported by all growers, and by their determined support growers can show that they represent value for the money with which the Government are backing them.

This measure is in the interests of both grower and consumer in that it will help to ensure that English Cox apples are available to the consumer and at a satisfactory price to the grower. I understand that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has recently become a "Friend of the Cox". That is a new accolade among many which have deservedly been bestowed upon the noble and learned Lord. All that I would say to him is that if it is a privilege for the noble and learned Lord to be so honoured, it is but nothing compared with the honour which the noble and learned Lord has done to the Cox by his munificent benefaction in becoming its Friend. I have no doubt that all noble Lords who support this order deserve to become "Friends of the Cox", and time alone will tell whether they will. I beg to move that this order be approved.

Moved, That the draft order, laid before the House on 11th November be approved.—( Earl Ferrers.)

4.3 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure that the House will welcome with enthusiasm the report of success in this area which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has mentioned to us. I may say that I earned the accolade of being a Friend of the Cox by successfully identifying, under the cross-examination of Mr. Robin Day, with my eyes shut, which was a Cox's apple and which was a Golden Delicious. I had no difficulty whatever, of course, in identifying the best apple in the world; namely, the Cox. I am not here to do a commercial, but en passant I think that that is the reason why I earned this distinction.

The excellent information about the progress of the scheme and the result already achieved in terms of increase in sales will be very reassuring. The House may also have found most reassuring that all concerned in this area were co-operating in the effort: the Government, the farmers and the unions themselves. If my noble friend Lord Peart were here I think that he would claim some credit himself in that I think he claims that he set up the Apple and Pear Development Council. The reason that I have become the shadow reserve Minister for Agriculture this afternoon is due to my noble friend being absent, I have no doubt on matters of grave public importance in another place. However, I know that the House will welcome this order as I do, and as all of us do on this side of the House and, I am sure, throughout the Chamber.

My Lords, I do not want to create any discord in this harmonous debate, but I would just point out what may be an ambiguity in paragraph (b) of Article 2, at the end where it refers to the charge being levied according to the quantity of "products marketed" by the producer. This question arises. Does "marketed" means put on the market whether sold or not, or does it mean actually sold?

At first sight one would assume that it means put on the market whether sold or not, but in practice I would imagine that the charge will only be on the products actually sold, if only because the records of products sold are likely to be much more accurate than the records of any surplus quantity of a perishable product which may have been put on the market but which remained unsold. Furthermore, one always imagines that these levies are intended to be a proportion of the money which the person paying the levy actually receives.

I think that there is an ambiguity here and if this order is to be amended again perhaps the Minister could grasp the nettle and abandon the word "marketed" and say either, "products sold", if that is what is meant, or "products offered for sale", if that is what is meant; and then the trade will know exactly where it stands when it comes to liability to pay a levy.

4.7 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is always very particular, and he has a reputation for being so particular—a reputation which I admire. He is also a particularly courteous noble Lord in so far as he gave me notice that he might raise this query. I am bound to tell him that the word "marketed" is not defined in the order and it would therefore attract the usual everyday meaning of being sent to market—in other words, being sold or offered for sale.

In my prudence I looked up in the Collins New English Dictionary to see what "marketing" meant. Of course, "marketing" in this sphere is a fairly new word. I am afraid that it did not help because the noble Lord really wanted to know whether it meant being sold or being offered for sale. In fact, "marketing" can mean to offer or produce for sale; but it can also mean to buy or deal in a market. Therefore, the word would apparently have both meanings.

However, what I can tell the noble Lord is that, under the proposed scheme, a grower who is voluntarily participating in it will be sending a monthly return to the Apple and Pear Development Council on which the levy will be assessed. If, therefore, there are apples which are sent to market and returned unsold, and never are sold, then the grower would not include those in his return, because the return will be about a month in arrears. Therefore, in this case the word will only refer to those apples which have, in fact, been sold.

I might mention—not that this was the purpose of the noble Lord's suggestion—that, in order to avoid the grower falsifying his returns, I understand that he will be required to have them certified by an independent auditor. So I hope that that explains to the noble Lord the intention, even if it does not in fact explain the dictionary meaning of the word "marketing".

I was glad to know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, received his accolade by being able to distinguish a Cox blindfold. He will be a very useful marketer, because there is an expression that anyone who is a really enthusiastic salesman would be able to sell a blind man a pair of spectacles. All I know is that it is encouraging to know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, could sell a blind man a Cox! I am grateful to your Lordships for welcoming this order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Bill Of Rights Bill Hl

4.10 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. As some of your Lordships know, the object of the Bill is to incorporate in our law the principles contained in the European Convention on Human Rights which have already been ratified by the United Kingdom Government. A year ago I moved the Second Reading of the same Bill and I explained that I was doing so for the third time. I am now moving it on Second Reading for the fourth time. Therefore, I shall not attempt to go over all the same ground again.

As to the history of the Bill, I think that I need give only a very brief outline. The first time I moved the Second Reading was in the nature of a dummy run, as we were near the end of the Session. However, the Bill was given a Second Reading, although I did not anticipate that it could get any further. On the second occasion the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, moved an amendment, the effect of which was to propose that the whole subject should be considered by a Select Committee. Of course, the noble and learned Lord is now the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I readily accepted the proposal of a Select Committee, and the Select Committee was duly appointed.

I should like for one serious moment to turn aside from my remarks. A distinguished member of that Select Committee was the late Lord Gordon-Walker and I should like to say what great services he gave to Parliament, in both Houses, and how sad we are at his passing.

The outcome of the deliberations of the Select Committee was, first, disagreement as to whether there should be a Bill of Rights. There was a narrow majority in favour of a Bill of Rights. Secondly, the committee was agreed that, if progress was to be made, it should be along the lines of my Bill. The report of the Select Committee was debated in this House, and I think that it is fair to say that there was a comfortable majority in favour of proceeding with the Bill.

Therefore, I introduced it again, having regard to the observations in the report of the Select Committee. That was a year ago. The Bill passed through all its stages in this House, with some amendments on Committee and Report, which I think improved the Bill. It was sent to the Commons, and the First Reading in the Commons was in January of this year. There it struck. The official reason, which I have no grounds for doubting, was that all available time was required for Government business. With our knowledge of the last Session, I am not really in a position to deny that there was a great deal of Government business in that Session. The result was that my Bill lapsed. Therefore, I had to consider what to do. I decided to have another go. So here I am. It so happens that I have a family motto which means "Never give in". In the light of that, perhaps your Lordships will forgive me for moving this Second Reading for the fourth time. If the Bill is passed, it will give the Commons another chance to consider it.

In view of the careful thought that was given to the Bill when it was in this House previously, I do not intend to go through the clauses in the Bill in detail, but, if any points are raised during the course of the proceedings on this Bill, of course I shall be only too ready to answer them, or to attempt to do so. However, I think that the time at my disposal can be put to better advantage if I deal with a few of the underlying issues that have been raised during this past year. Although there has been no debate in the Commons, I have received many letters; there have been many articles written; and there have been conferences, some of which I have been able to attend. Certain observations keep arising. I think that it would be most helpful if I were to say a few words about those, particularly those which are relevant to the Bill.

First, I recognise that the desire to give greater protection to individual rights and freedoms is not necessarily wholly covered by this Bill. I would admit that. But although this Bill is not dependent on other constitutional changes, there are matters of a constitutional nature which are relevant. For example, it has been pointed out in discussions which I have had that there is an extreme anomaly in the present electoral system whereby 35 per cent. or at most 40 per cent. of the electors voting can produce a majority in the House of Commons from which there may be formed a Government claiming to have a mandate. That Government may take actions which affect the basic freedoms, even though they do not represent a majority of the electors, or at any rate there is no evidence that a majority of the electors approve. That is given as an example of the need for reform, and for that and various other reasons there seems to be a growing demand for some kind of Bill of Rights.

The question arises: if that is so, what form should the Bill of Rights take, even as a first step? I have received at least two books setting out in great detail a completely new set of principles appropriate to a Bill of Rights, with the arguments for taking that course rather than relying on the European Convention. I appreciate the force of that argument, but two practical difficulties must be faced. Looking at this from a political point of view—from the point of view of experience in Parliament—I realise that to draw up a completely new Bill of Rights, a completely new set of principles, and to get each clause through both Houses of Parliament would be an immense task. Furthermore, if that were achieved, how exactly would this new set of principles be interpreted by the courts alongside the articles of the European Convention, which have already been ratified? The Select Committee was aware of this problem and, although differing on the question whether there should be a Bill of Rights, it agreed that the best way ahead was on the lines of my Bill. Meanwhile, the time factor has to be taken into account. It arises in a number of ways as things are at present. Apart from the delays which occur in getting an individual petition to the Commission and then to the European Court, there are cases where the law in the United Kingdom and the articles of the convention differ. If I may, I am going to give two examples, not at very great length. The long battle over the thalidomide case and the Sunday Times article provides an example. I refer to it partly to illustrate this problem of the time factor that may be taken in reconciling the European Convention and our existing law.

In September 1972 the Sunday Times published an article headed, "Our Thalidomide Children: a Cause for National Shame". They announced their intention to publish a further article dealing with the history of this tragedy and of the manufacture and testing of thalidomide. Following representations from the makers and sellers, the Attorney General, claiming that publication would constitute a contempt of court, applied for an injunction to stop publication. The injunction was granted, against which there was an appeal. Ultimately the House of Lords upheld the order restraining the Sunday Times from publication of the proposed article. That was on 18th July 1973. I hope I have summarised a very complex subject accurately.

On 26th April 1979—that is, six years later—the Court of Human Rights delivered judgment on the question as to whether there had been a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention. The court by a majority held that there had been a violation in restraining the publication of the Sunday Times story. It is true of course that in the meantime the injunction had been discharged. A Bill has now been introduced into this House entitled the Contempt of Court Bill. It is premature to discuss it now but it may go some way towards reconciling our law with the opinion of the Court of Human Rights. However, to achieve this reconciliation has taken a long time.

There is just one other example which I shall take as an illustration not so much of the time factor as of the conflict between our law and the principles of the convention. In saying this I do not for one moment suggest that the principles to be found in our laws generally are not often as good as or maybe superior to those found in the convention. This is a point which in fact is covered in my Bill. But sometimes there is a gap.

Take the example of telephone tapping. May I quote Sir Robert Megarry in Malone v. Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis in 1979. I am quoting here from the All England Reports 1979, Chancery Division. The House of Lords' Library has kindly provided me with a copy of the whole of that judgment in case anyone wishes to refer to it. The issue that was raised—and of course it was one of a number of issues—was whether the plaintiff's rights of property, privacy or confidentiality were breached in the light of the provisions of the European Convention.

I do not wish to take words out of their context but I do not think I am doing so if I give two brief extracts from Sir Robert Megarry's judgment. In one passage in his judgment he said:
"Certainly in law"—
and he was referring to British law—
"any 'adequate and effective safeguards against abuse' are wanting. In this respect English law compares most unfavourably with West German law: this is not a subject on which it is possible to feel any pride in English law".
Earlier in his judgment, in referring to the right claimed under the European Convention, he observed:
"any such right is, as I have said, a direct right in relation to the European Commission of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, and not in relation to the courts of this country; for the Convention is not law here."
That, I think, is the crux of the matter. We have a treaty obligation to observe the terms of the convention, but that does not make the articles part of our law.

One further matter that has been raised in the discussions that I have had at conferences and so on, and the last of the queries that I am going to mention, is one that is raised from time to time. It is put in this form. The question is, "Will these proposals in your Bill give too much power to the judges?" Personally, I think that this fear is ill-founded. In such a distinguished company and with so many distinguished lawyers here, I speak with some trepidation. However, I personally do not think it is correct that a Bill such as this will give undue power to the judiciary, and I would also suggest that there is some inconsistency on the part of those who argue along those lines.

For example, the international judges at the European Court are apparently all right, but the British courts are regarded as in some way not capable, or fitted, to apply general principles in matters brought before them. That I find difficult to accept. But on the wider issues of the role of the judiciary I look around the world and I look at countries where there is a trend towards a dictatorial system of government, and I find that in most cases the executive, or the political heads, are trying to gain control over the judiciary, but I do not find matters the other way round.

Of course everyone here may differ about a particular judgment or a particular statement by a learned judge. One would not expect otherwise in a free country. But, frankly, I see no sign of the judges trying to take over the running of this country. I see no great threat to parliamentary democracy coming from the judiciary. What matters is the maintenance of an objective, independent judiciary.

To return to my Bill, Parliament will still make the law and the function of the courts will be to carry out the law, or attempt to do so: there is nothing in my Bill which alters that general principle. But I regard the reforms that would be put into effect by its passing as justified and desirable, and, if the Bill is placed on the statute book, I have little doubt that some day, some individual or some group will be thankful for it. At least if we here believe in the value of a two-Chamber form of government, it seems to me appropriate that we should enable that form of government to operate by sending the Bill to the Commons so that the Commons may again have a chance of giving it the full consideration it deserves. It is with that hope that I ask your Lordships to give it a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—( Lord Wade.)

4.32 p.m.

My Lords, my first task is a very pleasant one indeed. It is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wade, on the tenacity and persistence he has shown in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, for it is the fourth occasion on which he has moved a Bill along these lines, and I congratulate him too on the way in which he introduced it today. In fact, until I heard his speech I thought there was very little new to say on the subject, so frequently have we debated it in your Lordships' House; but the noble Lord has put his arguments in a refreshingly new way, so there is no call whatever for any forgiveness of him. All the same, I have been feeling for some time that, as a number of us have been debating these matters over quite a period now, it really is time the noble Lord formed us into a Bill of Rights club; but I would hope that membership would be open not only to those of us who are supporters of his Bill but also to those of us who are, like myself, past and present opponents of it.

Some of us, supporters and opponents, have joined in debating these matters not only here but outside the House as well. Indeed, one event that took place since our last debate in this House, during the last Session—this may have been one of the conferences which the noble Lord, Lord Wade, had in mind when he referred to conferences—was a seminar on a Bill of Rights organised by the Northern Ireland Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, which was spread over three days last April and which was not focused on Northern Irish affairs, though they came into it, but which was a wide-ranging examination of the whole proposal for a Bill of Rights and which, incidentally, was chaired by my noble friend Lord Plant, chairman of the commission in Northern Ireland, and addressed by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Wade, himself, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, who gave the keynote address at that conference, and participating was my noble friend Lord Blease, a member of that commission.

I mention that not to give a plug to those who took part—perhaps it is a little late for that now, anyway—though the seminar has been followed by the publication recently of a paper-back book entitled Do We Need a Bill of Rights? based on the seminar, with a preface by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor; so perhaps it is not too late to give a plug to that, though I would hasten to add that the contributors do not get anything out of it. I mention these events because they demonstrate the importance and continuing interest in this whole matter, whether one is for or against a Bill of Rights like this one, which would incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into our domestic law. These are indeed matters of constitutional and individual personal significance.

I must tell your Lordships that my views remain the same as they were when I expressed them in the Second Reading debate on 8th November of last year, so I remain opposed to the Bill. I hasten to add that I do not speak for everyone on these Benches in taking that view, for this is a matter on which different views are held in all parts of the House and in all parties. As we have seen in the past, the Cross-Benches are similarly divided, with noble Lords and—this is not without significance—noble and learned Lords (for they too are divided among themselves) taking different views about it. This fact also helps to emphasise that no one, whether for or against a Bill of Rights, has a monopoly of enthusiasm for human rights and their protection and promotion. I believe we are united in that aim. I would add here that I wish to join in the tribute paid by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, to my late noble friend Lord Gordon-Walker, whose sad loss we all suffered this week and who played such a distinguished part here and in another place in the affairs of our country over so many years. We shall miss his friendly counsel on this as on so many other matters.

In our debate on 8th November of last year I had the opportunity from this Bench to spell out some of the main arguments against a Bill along these lines, as did my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, and therefore I will not take up the time of the House unnecessarily by spelling them out in detail again now; and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Wade, will not take it amiss if I simply refer briefly to some of those arguments, but I feel that some of them need at least a passing mention so that they do not go by default. Among the most fundamental arguments against incorporating the European Convention into our law is the objection that it would graft on to our existing law an Act of Parliament in a form which would be completely at variance with our existing legislation.

As we know, under our constitution it has long been established and accepted that Parliament legislates in a specific form, and that it is then the job of the courts to interpret that legislation. But under these proposals we should be adopting a wide range of legislative policies in the most general of terms, and then say to the judiciary, "It is up to you to develop them in the way you think fit". Thus, we should be giving them here not just an interpretative role but the task of developing the law on a wide range of subjects, and among those which have been mentioned in the past are freedom of speech, freedom of the press, privacy, race relations, education, forms of punishment and so on. What we have always tried to do in Parliament, although I confess we have not always succeeded, is to pass laws which are as certain as possible and to seek to spell them out with precision, and that is after all what people have a right to expect.

That leads on directly to another major objection to incorporation, the uncertainty which would be created; uncertainty about the extent of the rights the convention purports to confer. I agree with those who say that the courts would be confronted by problems of interpretation in spheres which are highly controversial, something which they are not best suited to deal with. Indeed, there would be no guidelines to help the judges in interpreting those rather vague general statements of principle; and concern has recently been expressed about certain difficulties in that particular connection.

The uncertainty would also in turn lead to a substantial increase in litigation—something that has been acknowledged by supporters as well as by opponents of the Bill itself. One example sometimes claimed as a benefit to the individual under the convention relates to privacy. But one wonders what benefit the individual citizen would gain from saying that he is entitled to respect for his private and family life under the provisions of, say, Article 8 of the convention unless he knows whether that protects him from breach of that privacy by, say, the press or harassment by the press, and alleged breaches of privacy of that kind, as are claimed from time to time, as we know only too well from recent events.

Parliament has shown itself repeatedly to be ready to legislate in new spheres of law-making so as to try to meet needs shown to exist, arising from new social problems; and that in my submission is Parliament's role. It is the role of the legislative arm under our constitution, and I believe that it is far better for Parliament to enact detailed legislation, as it has, for example, on such matters as sex discrimination and race relations, rather than to hand over the task in effect to the judges, who are not elected and are not there in any representative capacity. That is not the role of the judges under our constitution, and it is not a role which should be thrust upon them, either. As some noble and learned Lords in your Lordships' House have said, it is not a task that most of them would wish to have. So I join with some noble and learned Lords in your Lordships' House who, with respect, differ on this point from the views of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and others.

There are just two other matters that I want to mention. The first I should like to mention merely in passing. It relates to the proposal we have heard about, that the EEC should accede to the European Convention of Human Rights. All I should like to say about that matter today is that many of us would want to be assured that such a proposal would be fully and thoroughly considered quite independently of any other proposal—for example, the one that we are discussing this afternoon—and that Parliament would have time to consider it. We should certainly wish to be assured, too, that such accession would not amount to incorporation of the convention into our domestic law by the back door.

I now wish to turn to the one other matter that I wanted to raise. I am quite sure that all of us, whatever view we take, are committed to the cause of human rights, and so we are all positively devoted, I have no doubt, to protecting and furthering the development of those rights. But there is, I think, sometimes a danger that those of us who support the views that I have been putting forward may to some people seem to take a negative approach. That, my Lords, is far from the case. Indeed, far from feeling in any way defensive about these views, I confess that I am positively, and in fact passionately, in support of them, and I for one do not feel that the present system needs to be excused in any way. Although it certainly needs improvement, I would continue to argue strongly in favour of it.

It seems to me that one of the great values of this whole debate is that both sides are positive in their approach. There is one aspect of the approach of those of us who are against the Bill that I want to emphasise. I believe that we must set about introducing in a systematic way specific reforms in the human rights sphere. No doubt like many other Members of your Lordships' House, I have long been conscious of the need for us to try to create some machinery to make certain that reforms in this sphere are actively pursued and that the necessary detailed legislation is introduced, and therefore I was greatly encouraged when my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, in one of our earlier debates on a Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, put forward a proposal aimed at seeking to achieve precisely that. As my noble and learned friend indicated, we must aim to observe and maintain to the full the principles embodied in the convention; and it may well be that special measures are required for this purpose.

In order to protect the citizen's fundamental rights I would agree that the best course might now well be to carry out a general review of our law so as to identify any points on which it falls short of the convention's own ideals, and so as to put right any defects or shortcomings that there may be in our legal provisions or procedures on these matters. What was suggested as perhaps the most effective approach was to set up a standing commission on human rights to do that, though not a commission with the wide range of functions which are sometimes suggested for a body of that kind. There could indeed be distinct advantages in having a standing body of that kind charged with the task of reviewing the law to make sure that it complied with our international obligations in the human rights sphere, including the European Convention itself. What was envisaged was a body independent of the Government, and consisting of people with a range of legal and other expertise, which would in published reports make recommendations for reform to the Government and Parliament.

Of course, even with new machinery of some kind, whether along those lines or some adaptation of them, there would remain the problems of the parliamentary timetable. It is sometimes said by supporters of the Bill that one argument in favour of it is that Parliament has not the time to enact the necessary reforms, so give them to the judges to develop. However, while it is true that there are indeed limits to the amount of legislation that we can get through, in my submission it is no solution to hand the reforming task over to the judges because—to give just one example of a practical reason—they can of course deal only with the cases that are brought before them. They have to wait for that to be done. So with that arrangement there is no prospect at all of systematic reform, nor indeed prospect of getting a particular reform necessarily more quickly than Parliament could bring it in, even if one were prepared to accept such a role for the judges, anyway.

However, on the idea that I have mentioned, an authoritative body such as that, which brought forward precise proposals, would not be easy either to resist or to ignore. We have already had some practical experience of a somewhat similar system, in the way in which the Law Commission operates and brings forward not just reports recommending reforms, but draft Bills as well. I believe that we owe a great debt to the Law Commission, (set up under the Law Commissions Act 1965), to my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner who, as Lord Chancellor, introduced the Bill leading to that Act; and indeed to the Law Commission's first chairman, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman.

What would also be particularly valuable would be to try to devise and to build into any machinery set up some provision for according legislative priority to its proposals, though of course I recognise the difficulties about that. Certainly one suggestion that was made to me by one non-parliamentary student of our constitutional affairs I suggest would not be acceptable. It was for a special committee of Parliament which would treat the commission's draft Bills with a streamlined procedure of some kind, such as delegated legislation or statutory instruments. If for no other reason, that would clearly be unacceptable not least because if dealt with in that way, they would not be subject to amendment. However, there is a positive proposal for a new reforming system which I feel is worth considering further, though it would of course need to be worked out in detail and spelt out fully.

So while I cannot support this Bill, in view of the previous debates and Second Readings that similar Bills have attracted, I certainly could not ask my noble friends to divide on this Bill. I would conclude by offering warm congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Wade, on the way in which he has introduced this Second Reading.

4.50 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wade, on the persistent determination he has shown in the cause of human rights and n the cause of this Bill over a number of years. Indeed, so persistent and determined has he been that a founder member of the noble Lord's Bill of Rights club—namely, myself—has been heard so often on this subject, both in your Lordships' House and elsewhere, that I hesitate to repeat my arguments, which, in the words of Juvenal, could now be described as crambe repetita—stale cabbage. Therefore, I shall resist the temptation to go over the ground again, even though I have been dreadfully provoked by the charming repetition of the fears that animate that other member of the club, Lord Boston of Faversham. He is certainly welcome to the club—and I speak as a founder member—so long as he sits on the other side of the table and keeps quiet when founder members indicate the positive reasons for the existence of the club.

Looking at the arguments adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, I was struck by the underlying atmosphere of fear—fear of what might come if this Bill was introduced; fear of what the judges might do if this Bill was introduced; fear of throwing over the habits and conventions of our partliamentary draftsmen of the last 100 years and actually attempting to legislate on principle instead of in that obscurity of detail which has given me and others the opportunity of a by no means poverty-stricken career at the Bar.

There is no particular joy in specific legislation for everything. Specific legislation in the field of tax, certainly; specific legislation in other fields, certainly; but when one is dealing with human rights, and when one is dealing with constitutional questions, let us follow the rather more ancient traditions of our ancestors, those who drafted Magna Charta and those who drafted the Act of Settlement and Bill of Rights 1689, and use the language of principle. I shall endeavour to say a few words a little later as to why, indeed, there is no danger in the noble Lord's Bill of a judicial take-over of the state. Indeed, I think it is arguable—it is the view which I certainly hold—that the Bill will limit by guiding the power of the judges. But before I come to that, let me say just one or two things which I hope were not said by me in November 1979, when we last discussed this Bill.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wade, being myself an observer of the way the European law is developing and the way English law is developing, that there is increasing evidence that English law is falling out of step with the obligations which the United Kingdom assumed when, many years ago now, it ratified—that is to say, accepted internationally—the obligations of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. I could enumerate examples. The noble Lord, Lord Wade, took an excellent example. He took the contrast between the House of Lords decision on contempt of court in the Sunday Times case and the subsequent decision of the European Court of Human Rights when the Sunday Times challenged that decision of the House of Lords in the European Court in Strasbourg.

There was a difference of opinion between the European Court and the House of Lords. Do not think for one moment that that is more than a minor embarrassment. It is not. But it is a little embarrassing that we have to introduce by statute, as we are proposing to do with the Contempt of Court Bill, a number of clauses (I suppose the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, would say that they are specific clauses, but they are clauses, nevertheless) designed to correct a decision of the House of Lords taken judicially, so that our law becomes consistent with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. It is a minor embarrassment, but it is a very indicative one, as I shall illustrate.

The real reason why I should like to suggest to your Lordships' House that it is high time the European Convention was introduced into our municipal law in the way this Bill proposes is that our legal system is suffering through the absence of the European Convention from our law. I will take just two illustrations, though there could be more. First, under Article 13 of the convention, each member state is obliged to provide an effective remedy before a national authority for anyone who claims that his human rights or fundamental freedoms, protected by the convention, have been infringed. The number of petitions that are made by citizens of this country to the European Commission claiming an infringement of their rights is indeed a depressing commentary on the availability of a remedy in this country.

Why, indeed, should our citizens, whose human rights have, on the international plane, been guaranteed by the United Kingdom, have to go off to Strasbourg? If this European Convention was incorporated into our law, they could at any rate get the ruling of a national court, of a British judge, on their case, that judge looking at and interpreting (in accordance, no doubt, with the European jurisprudence) the particular provision in the convention which was said to have been infringed. If, at the end of the day, he is dissatisfied, of course he can still go to the European Court; but at any rate he would have the satisfaction of knowing that we had done our duty under Article 13 and had provided him with a national authority—that is, a British court—in which he could air the grievance that a right of his, which the United Kingdom thinks is worth protecting, had in fact been infringed. I am a little disturbed that we are in consistent non-compliance with the requirement to provide our citizens with an effective remedy before a national authority for breaches of the convention, and I can see no sure way of meeting our obligation unless we enact this Bill or in some other way introduce the European Convention into our municipal law.

The other matter which troubles me and which I think should trouble your Lordships is that, unless we incorporate the European convention into our law, our legal system is going to be isolated, our judges are going to be isolated. We are members of the Common Market, we are members of the Council of Europe. Under the Common Market, we are indeed obliged to harmonise our laws and approximate our laws as recommended from time to time by the European Commission and, of course, within the limits of the Treaty of Rome. As members of the Council of Europe and as signatories of the European Convention, we are indeed bound to see—it is in Article 1 of the convention—that our citizens (indeed, everyone present within our jurisdiction and not only citizens) have the rights which the European convention confers.

My Lords, because the convention is sound only in international law and is not part of our municipal law, two things follow. Our judges cannot look at it directly when they have a human rights problem to resolve and, secondly, the wisdom and experience of our judges and the traditions of English law never become available for consideration by the European Court. That is what I mean by isolation. Our judges can only look at the European Convention, so to speak, under the counter when dealing with human rights, and the European Court does not have the benefit of the wisdom and experience of our judges and, indeed, the values available to it of our jurisprudence. These are serious matters and it means that our law must be impoverished to that extent.

The noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, said that he hoped that in this debate we should not get confused between a recent proposal of the European Commission that the European Communities should accede to the European Convention and the subject matter of this debate—which is, of course, introducing the European Convention into our municipal law. As a member of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House dealing with the law of the European Communities, I would mention that a report is about to be published on that problem of the accession of the European Communities to the European Convention; and I am hoping that that report will be debated and the problem considered on its own merits early next year. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, that we can disregard it entirely in this debate.

For the reasons that I have given, as well as for many other much more profound reasons which I have developed in the past, I support this Bill and I hope that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading. I am not troubled by the fear expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, that the judges will thereby secure an imbalance of power. Let me indicate briefly why not. There has been a great development brought about by judicial decisions since the end of the war in what lawyers call administrative law; that is to say, the judges have developed a singificantly new jurisprudence dealing with the judicial review of the acts of Government, central and local. By rules of court, the ancient prerogative writs by which that jurisdiction used to be exercised have been swept away and now, under Rules of the Supreme Court, an aggrieved person can apply for a judicial review. But the whole of this is procedural only. Yet it is of some significance that in the Supreme Court Bill which this House will be debating on Second Reading, I think, next week this procedural reform has been considered sufficiently important to be taken out of the rules of the Supreme Court and put into a clause of that Bill, Clause 31.

That gives to this procedural reform an importance which I am sure some judges will seize upon quite reasonably and say, "Here is Parliament putting into a statute our powers of judicial review. We must exercise these powers". How are they to do it? At the moment they have to look around the whole field of case law unguided by statute to see how they will control or review the acts of central and local government. If we were to introduce into our municipal law the European Convention, we should provide the judges with a minimum body of principle covering the more important human rights and fundamental freedoms on which they could build; and it would be provided, as the noble Lord, Lord Wade, has said, by Parliament, by the people's representatives. The judges would not be exercising their discretion, giving effect to some subjective notion that they might have of justice or injustice; they would be looking at a statute passed by Parliament and saying, "Here are the principles upon which we can exercise judicial review". The more one looks at that situation, the more one realises how unjustified are the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, and how valuable in controlling judges as well as in controlling politicians, legislators and civil servants, the passing into law of this Bill could be.

I say no more except that even judges, even in fact, old judges, have from time to time happy dreams. I had a dream this week; and the dream was that those legislators who gather in another place had adopted a convention that when the House of Lords had passed through all its stages on at least two occasions a Bill designed to protect and safeguard our human rights, they would at least find the time to debate it.

5.9 p.m.

My Lords, some of us have been here before several times. This is, I think, the fifth time, and it may be that there is nothing more to be said particularly by those who support the Second Reading of this Bill and in view of the speech which has just been made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. But there are one or two additional points that, if I may, I should like to make. First, there are cne or two new elements. The first new element is the very recent decision of the Government to continue the optional clause for another five years. That means that, for the next five years at least, our citizens, if this Bill is not passed, will be unable if there is a clear breach of the convention, to have the point settled by their own judges, as the citizens of most other large European countries can do. I say at least five years because I apprehend that even at the end of five years, if the Government were to decide to resile from the convention altogether, this would not affect cases already in the pipeline, although of course in that event we should no longer be bound to carry out the ultimate decision of the Strasbourg court. This means that for about 10 years we are going to be deprived for no good reason that I can see of the opportunity of having these cases decided in the first instance by our own judges.

I am additionally grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wade, because I still feel that the more that this problem is discussed, the better. There is still quite a good deal of misunderstanding about it. I have been in the habit of discussing the question with friends in the other place, with members of both the Labour and the Conservative Parties. I find that their objections are quite different from those expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham.

I say no more about his proposal that we should have a special body which would be set up to review and make reports on matters in the field of human rights other than to remind him that at no time in my lifetime have the corridors of power been so stuffed with reports of Royal Commissions and departmental committees which have not even been discussed in either House of Parliament and which go back certainly over the past 10 years. Even the reports and draft Bills from the Law Commission on which no action has been taken have never had quite so much of a build-up. I meet with difficulties of rather a different kind. I find that when I discuss this, for example, with my friends in the Labour Party, they are first of all very apprehensive that the court at Strasbourg might make a decision outlawing the extreme form of the closed shop which they say would upset the trade unions. Secondly, they are apprehensive that a decision by Strasbourg might allow parents greater freedom in the choice of the schools to which to send their children and thus make difficulties in the field of a more comprehensive system of education.

When I discuss it with my friends in the Conservative Party, I find that they are apprehensive that the Strasbourg court might insist on our having a law on telephone tapping, laying down when and by whom telephone tapping would be legal and when it would not. When I remind them that this is indeed very probable, and I think certain, from the existing decisions of the court, I say to them, "Is not the Conservative Party essentially a party which believes in the rule of law? If it believes in the rule of law, is this not a field in which there ought to be legislation?" and they say, "Yes, perhaps that is right". Indeed, as the Vice-Chancellor, in the case to which the noble Lord, Lord Wade, referred, said, in his own view this was a subject which was crying out for legislation because at the present time there is no law on the subject at all. What we do is based on a convention following the advice of three wise men who sat many years ago.

If I say to my friends in the Labour Party, "Would it not be a good thing if the convention decided that this ought to be a matter of law?" they say, "Yes, of course it would be". If I say to those on the Conservative Benches, "Would you be happy if they decided to outlaw the closed shop in the extreme form?" they say," Yes"— each thinking of the things that they dislike and not thinking of the decisions that they would not like to see made. When I argue this out with them, I find that it is not difficult in practice to convince them, starting off with being against the Bill of this kind, that on the whole the advantages are greater than the disadvantages. Therefore, I hope that we shall go on discussing the subject.

I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, can help me at all on one point. I have not given him notice of it because I anticipated that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would be replying to this debate and he would know the answer. If the noble and learned Lord does not know the answer, perhaps he can write to me. He did intimate when we discussed this last that he would be favourably disposed to all-party discussions at a high level about the Bill. I do not know whether these discussions took place or how far, if they took place, they were confidential or what has happened about them. If the noble Lord can tell us, perhaps he will be good enough to do so; and, if not, perhaps he will write to me.

I have never seen any real disadvantage in the proposal. I have also attended many conferences on this subject, at many of which judges were present. I cannot think of any single judge that I have met who thinks that there would be any difficulty from a judge's point of view. I remember an experienced judge saying, "If this Bill was made law tomorrow, nothing would happen at all. But in a matter of months some young, up-to-date barrister in the county court would say: 'I am also relying on the European Convention', the county court judge would ask: 'What on earth is that?'". Ultimately, the case would go to the Court of Appeal. I cannot imagine any reason why these cases cannot be disposed of in most instances by our own judges.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner for giving way. I wonder whether he will recall statements, for example, which have been made in our previous debates by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, and the late Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, expressing very strong and quite severe fears about handing to the judges the powers that we have been discussing. These are statements which have been made over the past couple of years.

My Lords, I would not be surprised if some judges did not take a different view because my experience of the judiciary—which goes back a long time—is that there is practically no subject on which the judges are ever unanimous. But, broadly speaking, the average judge sees no difficulty in it. It would be a great saving of expense and time to our own citizens. Now we have about 10 years to look forward to anyhow. I should have thought that even as a matter of seeing what works and what does not work, if we passed this Bill—we can always pass another Bill later—it would give us an opportunity at least in the next five years and possibly thereafter to see how it works out. I have never been able to see any practical difficulty about it. I hope that before long we shall pass it into law.

5.18 p.m.

My Lords, a long time ago I used to regard the unwritten constitution as a blessing. It was superbly flexible; it worked, and worked admirably, and stood the test of time. Some years later, when I gave the Haldane memorial lecture, I said that there might be a real danger that times would change. Today I am convinced that—alas!—times may be rapidly changing now. There are so many countries in which the light of liberty has long ago gone out. Their law courts became the tools of the regime to carry out its policy of oppression. Innocent people were and are imprisoned, often for years and sometimes for ever, and even executed without a trial; or at best there are mock trials. To criticise the régime is a criminal offence visited with dire consequences.

Often large sections of the population are prevented from earning their living and subjected to intolerable indignities and abominable cruelty purely because of their political convictions or ethnic origins. In the United Kingdom individual liberty has been rooted in our soil for a good 200 years; it is in the very air we breathe. But can we be so sanguine as to believe today that what has happened in so many countries abroad, or something like it, cannot happen here, unless we take reasonable steps to protect ourselves now? Can anyone be so sanguine as to suppose there is now no real risk that our individual liberty, and indeed our basic human rights, might be threatened and then destroyed?

When these rights are threatened with destruction, those who rally to defend them will need every safeguard they can muster. It will be too late, indeed hopeless, to try to build new safeguards then. We must do it now if we are to have any hope of defending liberty and human rights. This is why I want to see our basic human rights and the protection of our liberty enshrined in a statute which might be called "the Statute of Liberty".

Such a statute must be written in the clearest and simplest language which every man or woman who can read will easily understand. This statute would give our judges the power to declare invalid any Act which conflicts with the statute of liberty. This would not make the judge run the whole of our affairs: it would give him his ordinary duties of looking at the statute of liberty and then having a good look at what the Government of the day had put forward. I am not talking about the ordinary Government; I am not talking about any Government who would consist of the parties as we now know them. But I am talking about the danger of our getting a Government who would be something entirely and absolutely different.

I am certain that our judges have the courage unhesitatingly to accept the power they would be given under the statute of liberty. It is also essential that this statute should contain a clause entrenching it by laying down that it cannot be amended or repealed, except by a Bill passed by the votes of no fewer than two-thirds of the elected Members of another place and by the House of Lords; and even then it should not become law until after it is approved by no fewer than two-thirds of all the votes validly cast in a referendum.

I do not believe that a highly complicated written constitution or the Bill of Rights we are considering today would be of any use to protect our human rights and liberty. The meaning of the former—that is, the complicated written constitution—would not be understood by the ordinary man or woman, and it is imperative that it should be. The latter merely recites—and I hope I am not saying this unfairly—that the rather turgid and ambiguous European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights shall become part of our law.

The Bill of Rights clearly states in Article III that it can be repealed at any time by Parliament. The European Convention relates to much the same human rights—not to all—but almost to all the same rights as those now protected by the common law. Accordingly, Article III, in stating that the Bill of Rights can at any time be repealed by Parliament, strongly suggests that such a repeal could only be made by a Parliament controlled by a totalitarian Government; and it is against the extremeness of a totalitarian Government that we need a strong defence. It seems that Article III might be an encouragement and support for a totalitarian Government to destroy individual liberty, and I wish I could believe that I am imagining that a totalitarian Government might come to power. I do not want to go into this in detail, but there is so much evidence today that I think even the most optimistic man could never accept that there is not a very real danger that in the near future that we shall have a totalitarian Government in power. That is why I think we need a statute of liberty now.

This totalitarian Government may be—and I think certainly is just round the corner. The power of the judges to protect us must be established soon; otherwise, if this totalitarian Government, as George Orwell envisaged, should attain power by 1984 or thereabouts there would be nothing to prevent it destroying the basic rights and liberty of our people. If the law were to remain as it is at present, this destruction of our basic human rights could be done little by little by one unnoticed Act after another, just as it was by the Nazis. If, however, the statute of liberty is passed, I have no doubt that our judges would unhesitatingly declare invalid any Act which sought to diminish or eliminate individual liberty and human rights. The only way in which any of these rights could then be abolished would be by the repeal or the amendment of the statute of liberty itself.

I am confident that the spirit and tradition of our people would throw out any totalitarian Government or dictator who attempted to amend or repeal a statute which embodied their liberty and freedoms. That is why I want the Act to be so simple and clear that every man and woman will understand that anyone who was attempting to repeal it or cut it down was attempting to deprive them of their basic rights and liberty, which they cherish so dearly.

There are some who consider that there is no need for such a statute. My noble and learned friend Lord Denning, in his brilliant Dimbleby Lecture, stated that the judges, as the common law now stands, have the power to rule that any statute passed which is contrary to justice or reason can be rejected by the courts. I respectfully completely disagree and I do not think that any of your Lordships, and none of my noble and learned friends, would consider that the law as it now stands does not compel our judges to uphold any statute, however abhorrent it may be.

Indeed, we all know that the judges have no power to alter or reject a statute. Their duty is to construe it and apply it and, if they do not like it, they still have to apply it or retire. This has, of course, happened in many of the countries to which I have referred. Many of their judges said that they would not be seen or heard by anyone, let alone by the Almighty, enforceing any Acts such as those put before them.

I, of course, recognise that even if we had such a statute as I have suggested, laying down our human rights, and a totalitarian Government came into power and set about destroying those rights, it is just possible that the Government might be thrown out if the country understood what was happening.

The real danger is that the country would not understand until it was too late. Human rights would be eroded little by little, by obscure and complicated Acts which were difficult and, indeed, impossible for a layman to understand, and one day our people would wake up much too late and find that individual liberty was dead and impossible to resuscitate.

The great advantage of having a statute of liberty would be that, although the population as a whole would not understand the complex Acts by which totalitarian Government was attempting to destroy human rights by erosion, there would, however, be a number of people who would understand. As a result, each such Act, as soon as it was passed, would be challenged in the courts and declared by the judges to be invalid, because it conflicted with the very clearly written statute of liberty.

The totalitarian Government would then recognise that, if human rights were to be cut down or eliminated, the statute of liberty which laid down and entrenched those rights would have to be repealed or amended; and that they would, I have no doubt, indubitably attempt to do. But any attempt to cut down or eliminate the statute of liberty would make it crystal-clear to all men and women that the sole object of the totalitarian Government was to abolish the statute, because it protected and preserved the people's basic human rights, which they cherished dearly. This would, I am sure, result in the elimination of the totalitarian Government, since it would be clearly attempting to rob our people of their human rights and liberty, which I am certain they would never knowingly surrender, but which, indeed, they would fight to the death to defend.

5.36 p.m.

My Lords, as noble and learned Lords have mentioned, the arguments both for and against a Bill of Rights in the United Kingdom have already been heard on many occasions in this House. For a number of reasons, but especially because we are an unelected Chamber, I hope that on this occasion the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, may have an opportunity of a wide, vigorous and informed debate by the elected Members in another place.

I rise to make a few brief comments on the Bill of Rights, as I see some of the issues. But having heard and noted what has been said by noble and learned Lords who have taken part in this debate, with their great breadth of expert knowledge and understanding of the subject, it is with a great degree of hesitation that I rise. However, there are at least two reasons why I feel that I should voice an opinion in this debate.

First, I believe that it would be a serious omission if arguments about a Bill of Rights appeared to be the prerogative or the sole concern of constitutionalists, academic specialists or even Members of Parliament. There are, of course, many technical and subsidiary problems that arise when any constitutional measure is considered for revision or reform. Some such measures as entrenchment, derogation or incorporation require debate and expertise. But the issues arising from the introduction of a Bill of Rights pose many questions outside legalistic and mere technical matters.

In my opinion, a Bill of Rights should articulate the basic human values that must be recognised in law as above all other rules and values in a democratic State. It must insist that certain rights and privileges must be offered to all individuals. These declared rights are so vital to individual citizens and to democratic society that they should not be detracted from because of mundane pressures or other exigencies. Such rights must be broadly stated, and the reciprocal obligations on which they depend require to be clearly and carefully framed, so that they are widely understood and respected. A Bill of Rights, as such, constitutes an issue for wide public discussion and today, when human values are being wantonly flouted, it is as important as any other issue on the political agenda.

My second reason for voicing a viewpoint in this debate is the particular relevance of the question of a Bill of Rights in the context of the persistent and complex social, religious and political problems of Northern Ireland. Already my noble and learned friend Lord Boston has referred to the special seminar in which a number of noble and learned Lords in this Chamber took part, and which resulted in the publication of an excellent book by the Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights, edited by Professor Colin Campbell, the Dean of the Faculty of Law of Queen's University, and the preface has been written by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

I should like briefly to read a paragraph which I consider is very important in this context, from a note in the book by Professor Colin Campbell. In referring to Northern Ireland, he said:
"The seemingly intractable problems of Northern Ireland during the continuing violence and terrorism have sorely tested the adequacy of law, its methods and integrity. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that 'the troubles' in Northern Ireland have, for many people, lent particular urgency to consideration of a Bill of Rights. For people in Northern Ireland the rights and freedoms, life styles and privileges, taken for granted in most Western countries have been regularly suspended during the past decade or totally destroyed".
Professor Colin Campbell also referred to a very important point which explains, I think, what has been gained in Northern Ireland, when he states:
"There is some agreement that a Bill or Charter of Rights is required for Northern Ireland; but no one with any experience of the situation holds to any naive assumption either that such a measure would end the continuing violence or that rights can be discussed without careful attention to associated duties and obligations".
Your Lordships will be aware, as I am, of the series of consultations about the possibility of a devolved government for Northern Ireland. It is my opinion that any progress towards a devolved system of government in Northern Ireland must be underpinned by constitutional safeguards, such as a Bill or a charter of Rights, which will help to prevent abuses of power and provide adequate protection for all citizens.

Already some reference has been made in this debate to the specific legislation that could be introduced, dealing with aspects of human rights. In the last decade Northern Ireland has seen many measures aimed at the prevention of discrimination, not least the 1973 Constitution Act itself. There has also been the introduction of the offices of Parliamentary Commissioner for Complaints and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. However, neither Northern Ireland nor Great Britain, nor the United Kingdom as a whole yet has an internal Bill of Rights. That, I suggest, is of fundamentally different character from specific legislation.

Among other things, I believe that a Bill of Rights can be a safety net below the tightrope of specific legislation, such as the Race Relations Act or the Fair Employment Act. A Bill of Rights does not in my view dilute the need for specific legislation; it works hand in glove with it. Among other things, a Bill of Rights can act to protect those groups and individuals who do not have the political muscle to have specific legislation enacted and who might otherwise become disaffected.

Today we are talking in effect about the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights—I think we have many lessons to learn from the twin organs of that convention—the commission and the court. Indeed, the commission in the recent Dudgeon case makes my point, perhaps more cogently than I can make it. Speaking with regard to the specific laws dealing with aspects of homosexual activity in Northern Ireland, the commission stated that legislation on certain matters did not fall within the unqualified gift of a political majority.

I realise, as I am sure many of your Lordships realise, that the people in Northern Ireland are not putting up barricades to protect or to change the laws concerning homosexuality. Your Lordships will know that the people of Northern Ireland are more deeply concerned and anxious about the protection of human life and standards of living. At the same time I consider that the decision of the commission in the Dudgeon case upholds an important principle concern- ing the suitable protection of minority interests. I think it may be helpful if I quote from their report which states:
"exceptions in Article 8(2) to the fundamental right to respect for private life must be narrowly interpreted … It would be quite contrary to this principle to interpret Article 8(2) as allowing a majority an unqualified right to impose its standards of private morality on the whole of society".
What the commission stated is an important principle. It is also one which we in this House, who do not have to face an election, might find it easier to recognise than those in another place. But we must also recognise that the parliamentary process is not infallible. Our past experiences show that those concerned with passing legislation from time to time approve unintended breaches of international commitments, or omit to pass legislation which would rectify existing breaches of fundamental rights.

I know it is not necessary for me to repeat in this Chamber parts of the European Convention on Human Rights, but for the record I should like to quote at least part of Article 8(2) which provides:
"There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".
This highlights one advantage to the ordinary man: his case will be considered in accordance with true democratic principles, with compassion for the minority and in accordance with the needs of a plural society. I should like to re-echo a question which has often been asked both here and in Northern Ireland in the context of the European Convention and its application: Why should an individual have to go to Strasbourg to have such a remedy? This involves considerable time and expense. A further practical advantage of a domestic Bill would be that the issue could be resolved within the United Kingdom by either a court or perhaps a conciliatory commission on human rights, backed by a court based on the European model.

To sum up, I would quote from Professor Colin Campbell in the book on the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, in which he says:
"No matter the pressures or exigencies of any particular situation, some values need to be recognised as pre-eminent".
Along with other noble Lords and others in Northern Ireland I share that view and suggest that, despite technical difficulties which are far from insuperable, we can claim an internal Bill that will meet the needs of the ordinary people in a domestic Bill of Rights. Accordingly, I hope that the result of the introduction of this Bill will be that all our citizens will have the dual protection of a concrete declaration of right allied to practical remedies. For these reasons I support the Bill.

5.49 p.m.

My Lords, I have not hitherto presumed to address your Lordships on the subject under debate. Obviously, there are powerful arguments on both sides which have been put forward on this, as on previous occasions, and noble Lords for whom I have very great respect and noble and learned colleagues have differed on this measure. Your Lordships have heard today a sober and far-reaching speech from my noble and learned friend Lord Salmon. There is an old piece of political wisdom; namely, that the best can be the enemy of the good. It may well be that a statute of liberties is the best; it may well be that a commission on human rights is the best. But because I have come to be convinced that this Bill embodies the good I hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.

I have come to that conclusion for three main reasons. The first is that the human rights with which we are concerned, those in the convention, are already vouchsafed to the citizens of these islands, but in order to vindicate them they have got to go to the commission and then to the court, at great expense and with great delay. Justice, not least when it is concerned with the vindication of human rights, which is made expensive and delayed is a denial of justice. Moreover, by having to go to the commission and to the court the views of the judges of these countries who will know the local application is lost.

The second reason that has impelled me to this conclusion arises from a reference made by my noble and learned friend Lord Diplock in a previous debate to the jurisdiction of the Privy Council. All over the Commonwealth in the former dependencies there are written constitutions embodying the sort of rights with which your Lordships are concerned today and expressed in somewhat similar terms of generality. The noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, thought that that would lead to uncertainty, but I think the experience in the Commonwealth has shown that that is not so. Moreover, what it has shown is that judges who are trained in the English legal tradition have no difficulty that I have seen in applying the embodiment of these rights to the forensic situation with which they are concerned. Nor when the matter comes to the Privy Council have the English and Scottish judges any difficulty that I have seen. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, is in fact a conspicuous example—although he himself is an opponent of this Bill, or was previously—of how an English judge can deal quite brilliantly with the sort of concepts with which your Lordships are concerned in this Bill.

The other thing that we have found in the Privy Council is the great value of local consideration of the issue. Very often where we do not have the local consideration the case is remitted for local consideration in the light of the ruling of law. I think my noble and learned friends would agree that that is almost an invariable practice and is quite valuable. That shows how really perverse it is to say that these rights, with which your Lordships are concerned, may be considered in Europe but must not be considered in the United Kingdom by a United Kingdom judge.

The other thing that strikes me about the Privy Council jurisdiction relates to the apprehension that these sort of entrenchments of human rights will bring judges into politics. The first thing is that judges already are concerned with human rights in so far as—and it is a very considerable extent—they are vindicated by the common law and by the statute law of the United Kingdom. And the second thing is that the Privy Council jurisdiction shows that the judges can exercise their jurisdiction dispassionately, that they are not in any wrong sense brought into politics.

The third main reason can be stated very shortly; that is, I am convinced that this Bill will give a measure of flexibility to our law in several respects in which it is at the moment stultified. Again the noble Lord, Lord Boston, mentioned one matter that struck me, and that is privacy. I see no hope of legislative advance in that sphere after the Younger Report with its dissent; and so long as Parliament cannot move the judges cannot move, unless they are given some such charter as this which will enable them to give a little more flexibility and justice to the law. For those three main reasons I have been convinced of the desirability of this measure, and I hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.

5.57 p.m.

My Lords, I hope I shall not disappoint any noble Lord who thought the debate was coming to a conclusion just now, but my name was unfortunately omitted from the list and at the last moment I thought the most satisfactory remedy was for me to contribute at the end. This accounts for my intervention at this stage.

I am not a founder member of the club; I have not been here before. I have supported this Bill right from the beginning and when positive support was called for I gave it, but I have not previously troubled your Lordships with my point of view. I think that this Bill becomes more relevant and to some extent more urgent as time goes on. I shall still refer to it as a Bill of Rights, though I fully appreciate the weighty concept of a statute of liberty which was put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Salmon. But in these days of tourism so many people, more people, have seen the Statue of Liberty that there may be some inconveniences about the confusion that might arise between the Statue of Liberty and a statute of liberty. So I think the noble and learned Lord might wish to reflect a little further on whether he has made the right choice of title.

I am sure your Lordships are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wade, for his persistence. There should be a kind of Parliament Act in reverse, so that when your Lordships' House has passed a Bill four times it should go to another place and immediately receive the Royal Assent. Or, at the very least, provision should be made in the business of another place for a Bill which has had weighty and repeated support in your Lordships' House. Any tiddly Bill can come from the House of Commons and claim your Lord-ships' time. I think that we are coming to the stage when that little grievance between the two Houses might receive some attention.

Where power truly lies in this country is becoming of increasing importance to the good order and stability of society. We speak of the sovereign power of Parliament in which, as Sir Winston Churchill once said, a majority of one vote is enough. But the theory of our law-making is that Acts of Parliament are enacted by the Queen with the advice and consent of your Lordships' House and of the Commons. In practice, under our constitutional Monarchy, the Crown is believed and expected to be advised by Ministers and to do whatever is the will of Parliament.

However, I think that the question arises as to whether the Royal Prerogative any longer offers any protection against the actions of an elective dictatorship. Whether there are any conceivable circumstances in which the Crown would demur or even decline to give the Royal Assent I do not know and I am certainly not going to speculate. However, presumably the Labour Party Conference regarded the abolition of your Lordships' House as giving rise to no problem of that kind, whether after a referendum or otherwise. Indeed, it has been confidently suggested that, in the event of a Government having trouble with a Bill to abolish the House of Lords, some hundreds of stooge Peers could be created to get the abolition Bill through this House. That presumably rests upon the precedent, which is frequently referred to as historical fact, that King George V assured Asquith that he would consent to making enough additional Liberal Peers to get the Parliament Bill 1911 through the Lords, if that proved necessary.

I do not think that it is desirable to pursue the question as to whether the Crown would, in certain extreme conditions, exercise the Royal Prerogative to withhold consent from a Bill which had passed through both Houses of Parliament. We must assume that the Crown would not. We must assume that the doctrine of the sovereign power of Parliament is firmly rooted in our constitutional practice. If we do that, then I think that it imposes upon us the duty of ensuring that the institution, wherein lies the reality of sovereign power, is composed, constituted and properly empowered to exercise that power.

The existence of two Houses of Parliament, each complementary to the other, used to provide a safeguard against an abuse of power by either House. But the Parliament Act and subsequent Acts have removed much of that safeguard. As regards expenditure and taxation, for example, we in this House have no power or responsibility. A majority of one in the Commons is enough to impose taxation upon the people, no matter how unfair or however burdensome. How far the judges can or should have power to protect the citizen from injustice at the hands of Parliament is a matter upon which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, recently gave a fascinating and lucid Dimbleby Lecture.

However, if we are to have a supreme court on the model of the United States, then we must either have a written constitution or a Bill of Rights; or, if neither, the court would then have to build up an extra statutory body of law out of decided cases. And, as my noble friend Lord Boston of Faversham has pointed out, it would not be complete; it would be spasmodic and confined to cases that came before the judges for decision. I think that it is difficult to see how the courts could in any case then avoid a clash between the judges and Parliament which might become very dangerous in various ways. So I leave that aside as a possible safeguard against the abuse of political power.

Therefore, the choice remaining seems to me to be between a Bill of Rights or a reform of Parliament, and it could be a combination of the two. But certainly I have diminishing confidence in our electoral and parliamentary system to safeguard the citizen from the abuse of power by constitutional authority. If nothing or too little is done to make the institution of Parliament more representative and more accountable, then a constitutionally entrenched Bill of Rights becomes essential. That is becoming more clearly necessary as we see the gulf widening between the two main parties into extremes of doctrine and policies.

The greater the polarisation of our politics with extremes of Right and Left, the more imperative it is to ensure that our elected Parliament reflects the body and strength of political opinion within the electorate. That is not practical under our electoral system today. That is the case for electoral reform and I think that we must take that matter more seriously. It has not been mentioned in the course of the debate so far.

Although I do not share quite the same sombre spirit of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Salmon, I believe that our Parliament cannot last if we continue as we are at present. Already at this very time we are hearing the insistent challenge to the authority of Government. Under our present system Governments of both parties have become unpopular and under pressure and threat within months of being elected. That is simply because the authority of the Government, the authority of the majority party in the House of Commons, rests upon a false mandate under our electoral system, or may do so and usually does so.

I shall not in this debate rehearse the overwhelming case for change, and nor shall I spend time on meeting the misguided objections to it. But I firmly believe that there is in this country the basis of greater unity and of greater strength in our people if only they were not torn violently apart by unnecessary incitement and aggression within the body politic. If we fail in this regard, then I think that we shall have to go through much more anguish. Power is already slipping away from Parliament. Parliament has neither the representative strength nor the resources to stop it. Popular movements to bring down the Government have been heard of more frequently since the mineworkers were credited with having brought down the Heath Government in 1974. While Mr. Foot insists that only the ballot box can be used to bring down Governments, unless Parliament itself resolves to do it, other voices are urging other ways, and they will become louder.

My concluding thought is that this Bill should be kept on the hotplate while our politics and Parliament show whether they can withstand the wrath to come. I hope that I am not being unduly pessimistic. I am not quite as pessimistic as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Salmon. I do not think that Britain can have a totalitarian Government with a reformed electoral system. I know that our institutions have withstood many upheavals, but there comes a time in history when they collapse or are overthrown. The world is a dreadfully unsafe place at present, and it is important to make sure that the democratic base of our own society is fair, firm and secure.

6.10 p.m.

My Lords, I share the disappointment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, that this particular speech is not being made by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, but unfortunately on this occasion it has fallen to me. As a newcomer to the scene, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wade, will not consider me presumptious if I add my congratulations to those which have gone before, not only on his perseverance but also on the very gracious and informed way in which he introduced this Bill for the fourth time to this House. I am sure that we are all satisfied that no member of his family has better earned the family motto, to which he referred, than he himself.

I should also like to say (if I may do so without presumption) how much I appreciated the many new ideas that were brought forward, although this debate has taken place on a number of earlier occasions. I think that there was very little repetition of what was said before, which I am sure is something that we should appreciate. I should also like to say how pleased I was that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Salmon, is with us, and also the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale; and that they have participated on this occasion and made such significant contributions to the debate. In doing so, of course, I also appreciate all the other contributions that have been made.

As your Lordships know, this is an extremely important subject and it is one to which a good deal of consideration has already been given. Among the considerations that have been given to this subject, I should like to refer to the Select Committee of your Lordships' House, and pay tribute to the work of that committee. I should also like to take this opportunity of joining in the tribute which the noble Lords, Lord Wade and Lord Boston of Faversham, paid to the late Lord Gordon-Walker, who played a valuable part in the work of that committee. The fact that a Select Committee of your Lordships' House should divide six to five on this matter shows how difficult the question is and how finely balanced are the considerations on both sides. Paragraphs 32 and 33 of the report summarise the arguments for and against a Bill of Rights. Perhaps I could attempt—and this is without disrespect to what has already been said—to summarise, perhaps even more briefly, the two sides of the argument.

To try to summarise, the advantages, it might be fair to describe them as: first, a positive and public declaration of rights, especially valuable at a time when there is concern among many people about the growth in the power of the state, and these fears have been expressed by some of your Lordships; secondly, a possible improvement in the actual rights of individuals; thirdly, British litigants would be able to seek a remedy from British judges in British courts instead of having to go to the European Commission and Court at Strasbourg; and, fourthly, we would be bringing our practices more into line with our European neighbours in the Council of Europe, which is important when we are growing closer and closer to our colleagues in the European Community.

The main arguments against can perhaps be summed up even more briefly as; first, introducing a substantial and wide-ranging element of uncertainty into our law; secondly, the transfer from Parliament to the judiciary of decisions involving the interpretation or balancing of conflicting rights; thirdly, a fundamental change in the task and burden of the courts; and, fourthly, we could still find that decisions made in Britain were overruled at Strasbourg, and the embarrassment of that could continue.

The present situation is that the Government have not yet reach a conclusion upon whether this particular Bill of Rights is the appropriate way forward in the field of human rights. That brings me to mention the questions which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, put to me earlier. As was explained on the last occasion, the attitude of the Government to this is that such a matter of fundamental constitutional importance should if possible, proceed by agreement of all parties. Accordingly, the Government expressed an intention at a suitable time to attempt to set up constitutional talks between all parties to see whether we could reach agreement upon the manner in which the human rights problem should be taken forward. As the noble and learned Lord said, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor wrote to the representatives of the parties in your Lordships' House by way of a preliminary inquiry, and we are hoping that in due course talks on these lines will, in fact, get under way. Nothing has so far happened. A number of matters have claimed the attention certainly of those in the Government who would participate, but it is hoped that arrangements may be made to see whether all-party talks on this subject could be set up.

My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord would forgive me for interrupting him, have Her Majesty's Government considered the position of Northern Ireland in relation to this Bill? Do they propose at some time—it does not appear to be possible at the moment—to bring forward some measures for making the Bill apply to Northern Ireland? I put this point, not for argument but because of the gravity of the situation. Might it not be very disastrous in relation to Northern Ireland, in view of what my noble friend said, to talk about withdrawing jurisdiction from Strasbourg while a religious civil war is taking place in Northern Ireland, which we all know is not susceptible of easy solution in terms of easy definitions? I do not think it would be right to take this jurisdiction from an international court which has won a good deal of respect and which has achievements which few of us, who take a rather gloomy view of human rights in the modern world, had hoped could be established. If we say that we are taking this jurisdiction away from Strasbourg, then we shall have added fuel to the fires of hostility in Northern Ireland and we shall have given to those whom we call rebels—and, in my view, rightly call rebels—a new form of attack and a new form of antagonism.

My Lords, perhaps I should make it clear that Her Majesty's Government have no intention whatever of withdrawing from the existing Convention on Human Rights, with the jurisdiction of the Commission and the European Court of Human Rights. Indeed, I do not think I understood anyone who has taken part in the debate in your Lordships' House so far to suggest that. The only question is whether some additonal remedy should be available under a Bill such as this, incorporating the convention in our law and giving a domestic remedy, not in substitution for but in addition to, the remedies which presently exist under the Strasbourg Convention.

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord was expressing the philosophic views of the matter and was enunciating the propositions. One was that we should have the two Acts together; and the other was that we should have one Act separately, and that is precisely the point he put.

My Lords, I may not have made myself clear, in which case I must apologise to your Lordships for misleading you about the position I was trying to take up. I was summarising the arguments in favour and against a Bill of Rights such as the noble Lord, Lord Wade, has proposed. But I have never understood this Bill of Rights to be in substitution for our accession to, and ratification of, the Strasbourg Convention. In that Her Majesty's Government are at one with our predecessors. The Government have been fully committed to complying with the requirements of the 1950 convention, subject to the derogations that have been entered to it and our one reservation. I think, as the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, said, really we are all agreed about that, and I certainly do not wish to cast any doubt upon that whatsoever.

This attitude of Her Majesty's Government has been underlined by the decision announced by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in the other place, and in reply to a Question by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, in this House on 25th November, to renew for five years our acceptance of the right of individual petition to the European Commission and of the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, has already referred to that.

The attitude of the Government is that the difficult questions that have been discussed in this debate today, and have been discussed before, are matters upon which, if at all possible, it would be desirable to reach an understanding, a consensus, and, with a view to doing that, the Government will seek to set up talks for that purpose.

So far as the present Bill is concerned, the Government have not reached a view and it would be quite premature for them to do so in advance of the talks to which I have referred. I also understand that the state of business in the other place is such as really to give a Bill of this sort, which would require, as has been said, full and detailed discussion, little chance of finding its way to the statute book. While fully committed to conserving human rights and doing what we can to promote their interests within our jurisdictions in this country, the Government are not in a position at the moment to support the Bill for the reasons which I have given.

6.23 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have taken part in this Second Reading debate. In my view, it has been a most important debate and every one of those who have taken part is a Peer of great distinction. The speeches which they have made have been not only worth listening to but I believe worth reading afterwards. Each speech deserves a full reply, but if I were to attempt to do that I should spoil the whole debate. I am well aware of that. May I therefore make just one or two brief comments and be forgiven for not saying all the polite things that I could quite properly have said.

The noble Lord, Lord Boston, has debated with me before. I was going to say that this was the fourth round, but that sounds rather like a boxing match and he is so polite I could not compare any contest with him to a boxing match. We know that he is opposed, and that he believes that legislation should not be in a specific form. I think those were the words he used. At any rate, I know what he means. My answer to that is that of course the principles in the European Convention are in a more general nature, and we are bound by them under the convention if not in an actual statute. The other points he made, I respectfully suggest, were answered by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Gardiner and Lord Scarman.

I noticed that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, said that we were suffering from lack of incorporation, and in that I agree. He referred to that important Article 1 in the convention under which we have undertaken to secure to everyone within our jurisdiction the various rights and liberties. So we have given a promise, only it is by treaty and not by statute.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, is a great stalwart of this cause, and of course I listened to everything he said with great respect. He has mentioned the new elements in the situation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Salmon, said that in earlier days he believed in the concept of an unwritten constitution. I think many lawyers were brought up on that belief. But times, as he said, have changed.

As to the statute of liberties, I am rather inclined to agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I would just say that so far as our Select Committee was concerned we were bound to put forward proposals which came within our existing constitution. Whatever we may think about a statute of liberties it was beyond our terms of reference, and we were trying to think what could be done now in the light of the present situation, and it was out of that that this Bill emerged.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Salmon, referred to Lord Denning. In my copious notes, which I have not used, I had one which said, "I do not agree with Lord Denning". Then I crossed it out because I thought it would be impertinent on my part, with so many law Lords here, for me to disagree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. But now I can say that I do not entirely agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, said in his address which was shown on television.

May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blease, for helping to organise that very interesting conference in Northern Ireland, and thank him for his remarks. The very fact that we went to Northern Ireland for two or three days to discuss human rights shows that we are serious about human rights. I have already referred to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, but I am bound to say that I did not know beforehand which side he was going to come down on or what he was going to say. Therefore, his support was all the more impressive when I heard it.

I come next to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I am delighted that my old friend Lord Houghton has spoken. I welcome what he said. I am aware that he has had such long experience of parliamentary life in both Houses. I agree with him about the dangers inherent in the present system.

That brings me, after that rapid survey, to the winding up by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I should like to thank him for his reply. May I mention one small point: it was a narrow majority on the Select Committee, but it was a rather more substantial majority when the matter came before the whole House, and I think that point should be noted. I understand that the Government have not yet reached a conclusion. As to talks, the noble and learned Lord used the expression, "in due course". Those words are used frequently in both Houses of Parliament. I have never found a precise definition of the meaning of "in due course". I hope that it means early. With that, I should like to thank all those who have taken part. I beg to move that this Bill be given a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

East Timor

6.30 p.m.

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their policy on the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia, and whether they will publish the documents relating to this matter, including those which have been leaked to various Australian and British newspapers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I begin by expressing my warmest appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for coming here this evening to answer this debate when I am aware that the car in which he was a passenger was involved in a serious accident and that the driver of it was badly injured. I hope the driver will make a quick recovery and that the noble Lord will not suffer any long-term effects. I am indeed grateful to him after such an unpleasant experience for coming to the House immediately to answer this debate.

The week before last the New Statesman published some extracts from secret documents which they claimed showed the complicity of Britain, Australia and the United States in the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia. They said it looked as though Britain and her allies, while in public making the right noises about self-determination for the people of East Timor, were secretly at the same time actively encouraging the Indonesians in their aggression.

Before the Portuguese withdrew, leaving a vacuum in the territory, all those with a finger in the pie made categorical statements recording their determination that the people of East Timor should decide their future for themselves. The Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Mr. Adam Malik, wrote to one of the leaders of Fretilin, the Frente Revolucionaria de Timor Leste Independente, Mr. Jose Ramos Horta, on 17th June 1974 saying:

"The independence of every country is the right of every nation, with no exception for the people of East Timor".

The Portuguese Minister for Interterritorial Co-

ordination, Mr. Almeida Santos, during a visit to East Timor in October 1974, pledged:

"Timor will be what the majority of its people want it to be".

Then, in August 1975 civil war broke out between Fretilin and the Democratic Union of Timor, UDT, which also advocated independence, but with some qualifications. By the end of September, Fretilin was in de facto control of the whole country, the Portuguese authorities having by them withdrawn. The Fretilin leadership called for the election of a constituent assembly in 1976, leading to de jure independence. The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Gough Whitlam, criticised Portugal saying that, as the occupying power, it should accept responsibility instead of

"clearing out and dropping its bundle".

That view was later endorsed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Conservative coalition which took over in Australia in December 1975. But the Indonesians, Portuguese and Australians were unanimous in opposing a handover of power to Fretilin without involving the other two parties—UDT, which I have already mentioned, and Apodeti, which stood for integration with Indonesia, though there was practically no discernible support for that policy.

After the end of the civil war, order was restored and the Fretilin Administration was universally accepted, according to those who went to the territory, although severe economic disruption had been caused by the conflict. At the end of September fighting started again on the border with Indonesia. The Indonesian authorities claimed that none of their own forces were involved but only the remnants of UDT and Apodeti who had fled into Indonesia after their defeat. But they refused to allow any foreign observers to visit the Indonesian side of the border with East Timor.

It was in December 1975 that Indonesian forces began a full-scale invasion of East Timor. Mr. Kissinger had given them the green light, having said on 4th December, during a visit to Jakarta in the company of the then President Ford, that the United States would not recognise independent East Timor and that they understood Indonesia's position on the question. Three days later Indonesian forces landed in Dili to begin a campaign which was to be marked by atrocities worse than any committed during the Japanese occupation, and according to the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr. Adam Malik,

"50,000 or perhaps 80,000 people might have been killed during the war in East Timor. It was war … Then what is the big fuss?"

What was the attitude of the British Government? On 13th November 1975 the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, wrote to Mrs. Sheila Oakes of the National Peace Council, saying:

"We continue to support attempts to reach a solution based on self-determination for the people of the territory … The Indonesians as well as the Portuguese have continued their efforts to settle matters peacefully".

After the invasion, the noble Lord wrote to Mr. Hugh Dykes, MP, explicitly denying an assertion that we had supported Indonesian policy. Not only had he himself conveyed to the Indonesian Ambassador in London our deep concern at Indonesian military action in Timor, but the United Kingdom representative, as President of the Security Council, had been instrumental in securing on 22nd December 1975 the unan-

imous passage of a resolution reaffirming the right of the people to self-determination and authorising the sending of a special representative of the Secretary General to the region. Incidentally, that seems to have been about the only occasion when Great Britain voted in the United Nations against Indonesian aggression and occupation of the territory of East Timor.

But what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, was saying in public seems to be in sharp contrast with the glimpse of British policy given by the documents published in Australia recently, extracts from which, as I said, appeared in last week's New Statesman. Reference is made there to a report by Mr. Gordon Duggan, who was then head of Chancery in Jakarta, and, although the report itself is unfortunately not in the collection, the Ambassador's covering letter transmitting it to the Foreign Office is very revealing. He says:

"The people of Portuguese East Timor are in no condition to exercise the right of self-determination … The territory seems likely to become steadily more of a problem child, and the arguments in favour of its integration into Indonesia are all the stronger … Developments in Lisbon seem now to argue in favour of greater sympathy towards Indonesia should the Indonesian Government feel forced to take strong action. Certainly, as seen from here, it is in Britain's interest that Indonesia should absorb the territory as soon and as unobtrusively as possible; and that if it comes to the crunch and there is a row in the United Nations, we should keep our heads down and avoid siding against the Indonesian Government".

I am not suggesting that because the Ambassador said that it was the policy of Her Majesty's Government, but it would be valuable to know what was in the report by Mr. Duggan and what other documents are in the possession of Her Majesty's Government which did not form part of the collection which is now being published in Australia, and in particular to know whether these documents might have any bearing on the tragic death of five journalists, three Australian and two British, who were murdered by Indonesian soldiers while filming Indonesian military activities near Balibo for Sydney Channel 9 TV. An eye-witness, Mr. Guido de Santos, said that one of the newsmen was machine-gunned to death as about 300 troops entered the village where they were based, and when the others came out of the house putting their hands up shouting "Australians, Australians!", they were put up against a wall and shot. The Australians knew of the murders because they were intercepting Indonesian radio messages, among which there was a report of the killings, but it did not suit them to make a fuss. A cable of 29th October 1975 from the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta, Mr. Richard Wollcott, read:

"Although we know it is not true, the formal position of the Indonesian Government is still that there is no military intervention in East Timor. If the Minister said or implied in public that the Indonesian Government was lying, we would invite a hurt and angry reaction".

When Mr. Laurie Oakes of the Melbourne Sun wanted to blow open the assassination of the journalists, he was stopped by a D-Notice, a practice which the Australians have unfortunately taken over from the United Kingdom, although the news got out shortly afterwards. When Mr. Jose Ramos Horta, who was by then the Minister for External Affairs in the Government of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, visited London in February 1976 he disclosed for the

first time that two of the murdered newsmen, Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters, were United Kingdom citizens.

Incidentally, it is not for me to tell our Australian parliamentary colleagues how to handle the matter of disclosure, but if their rules on parliamentary privilege are the same as ours, then any of these documents which were read out in the Australian House of Commons would then become public property, because anything which is said in either House in the United Kingdom, as we know, may be printed in the newspapers or may be dealt with on radio or television. Assuming that the Australians have also inherited this practice, the way to get these documents into the public domain in Australia would be for those Australian parliamentarians who have an interest in making sure that the people of Australia know the truth to ventilate them in either House of the Australian Parliament.

Continuing with the history of our own involvement, Mr. David Ennals, answering a Question in another place on 18th February 1976, gave the Indonesian version of the deaths of the newsmen—that the men were sheltering in a house that was hit by mortar fire. He added that in the circumstances then prevailing in East Timor the Government had no way of ascertaining the precise truth. The Minister meant that he did not want to discover the truth, because if it were to have been proved that our citizens had been cold-bloodedly murdered, there would have been enormous public opposition to the cynical policy of encouraging the Indonesians to annex East Timor.

I should like to ask the noble Lord—perhaps he cannot answer for the previous Government, but it must come out sooner or later—what efforts did the Government make to get at the facts? Mr. Ennals said then that we were in close touch with the Australian Government about the case. So did they obtain, for instance, from the Australian authorities transcripts of the radio messages between the Indonesian authorities in which the deaths were announced? Did they interview the eye witnesses, one of whom I have mentioned? What questions did they put to the Indonesian authorities regarding the return of the victims' effects undamaged, and how could this be reconciled with the tale about the house which they were occupying having been destroyed by mortar fire?

The other documents in this collection which I have read are all of Australian origin. It will not be denied, I believe, that we were kept fully informed by the Australians, and we knew, for instance, from the Australian Ambassador's letter of 17th August 1975, that it was:

"Settled Indonesian policy to incorporate Timor, as even Malik admitted to me on Friday".

So that at the same time as we were making all the right noises in public about self-determination, we knew of, and were conniving with, Indonesian aggression. And our record since the invasion confirms the differences between our real policies and those that we pretend to operate. While nearly a third of the population of 600,000 people of East Timor have perished by the actions of the Indonesian armed forces, and since then by deliberate starvation of the population, our representative in the United Nations accepted in April 1976 the lies of the Indonesians regarding the situation in the territory and their promise to withdraw from it.

Now our policy seems to be to try to forget about the whole episode. In November 1979 President Soeharto was received here and was entertained at Buckingham Palace. Great efforts are made to increase British trade with Indonesia, including trade in arms. And among the weapons that Britain is selling to Indonesia is the Hawk aircraft, which as the manufacturer's literature makes quite clear, can be used either as a trainer or in the ground attack role, by a very simple change in the field.

Of course it is said that we are selling only the trainer version, but if the manufacturers claim that it is so easy to convert, how in fact could we prevent the Indonesians from doing it themselves? In answer to a Question last April, the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, said that we would not sell arms to a country that was guilty of torture. Then in a later debate he corrected himself and said that it was only arms that could be used against the civilian population that we would not sell to such a réegime. In yesterday's debate the noble Lord restated the Government's policy on this matter, as he put it, in clear terms. I quote from yesterday's debate; at column 415:

"We would not sell equipment which, in our judgment, could be used for internal repression, to a régime which is known to practise torture".

But this equipment, the Hawk aircraft, can certainly be used for internal repression. It would be an ideal weapon to use against the villages of East Timor, into which the Indonesian colonialists and aggressors have herded the population. By this simple modification in the field of adding pylons to the wings, bombs, rockets, napalm and so on could be deployed against the civilian population. I do not think it would be denied that atrocities have been practised on an enormous scale and are fully documented in, for example, the recent work of Arnold Kohen and John Taylor, An Act of Genocide, Indonesias's Invasion of East Timor, and in the many issues of the Tapol, the Campaign for the Defence of Political Prisoners and Human Rights in Indonesia. Last July's issue, for example, included the headline: "Prisoners tortured in Aceh". It is clear from a mass of evidence that the Indonesian Government do practise torture on an enormous scale, and yet we are still prepared to sell them these fearsome weapons.

I see that the Australian Government are going to the most extraordinary lengths to intimidate journalists who seek to expose the policies of their own Government. They are bringing an action in the English courts to force the New Statesman to disclose the source of the documents that it printed. They are too late to stop publication, and presumably they are hoping to make an example of the "mole", so as to stop it happening again. But if the New Statesman merely took extracts from the book, which has been suppressed in Australia itself, it might be totally unaware of the identity of the source.

I say seriously to the Australian Government that many people in this country think it highly objectionable when the Home Office, the Attorney-General, or the British Steel Corporation harass and intimidate journalists, and try to prevent material of wide public interest from being disclosed. If foreign Governments are now going to use the same legal weapons against journalists in this country, that seems to me to constitute a totally unwarrantable interference in the internal affairs of our country, notwithstanding the fact that the documents in question originated overseas.

Returning to the policy of our own Government, I understand that it is still officially our attitude that the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination should be upheld. Why then does the United Kingdom abstain when United Nations resolutions on this matter are put to the vote? Is it true that we have committed £10 million in aid to Indonesia in the current fiscal year, compared with only £1 million last year? If those are not the correct figures, could we perhaps be given them, if not on this occasion, then at some convenient time in the near future?

We have rightly taken a very strong line in condemning Soviet violations of the sovereignty of the Afghan people and the genocide practised by Russian colonialists in that territory. We certainly would not abstain on any United Nations' resolution condemning Soviet aggression in Afghanistan. We do not rush to sell the Soviet Union any arms, whether or not they can be used against civilian populations, and we certainly do not press them to accept economic aid.

The Indonesian Ambassador has written to me saying that I would not be permitted to visit East Timor in my capacity as Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group. Will the Government use their best endeavours in the United Nations and elsewhere to set on foot an investigation of Indonesian misrule in East Timor, as the United Nations have done already in the case of, for example, the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza? Will the Government reaffirm our policy that ultimately the people of East Timor must be allowed to exercise their right of self-determination, which is enshrined in the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which I believe Indonesia is a signatory? And will they, in the meanwhile, reconsider their policy of assiduously cultivating friendly relations with a state which commits crimes against humanity which dwarf those committed by the USSR?

6.51 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has made a very comprehensive factual statement, and only briefly do I want to support him in his plea to the Government. Many of us have great admiration for Indonesia. There was its magnificent resistance to Japanese occupation, and then its splendid courage in seeking its own national independence from Dutch occupation. Many of us felt at that time that it had set a precedent to very many other nations. We became deeply disappointed after the coup, when the Indonesian Government imprisoned thousands of people and when we became aware of the reports of Amnesty International, and others who had visited Indonesia, of what was happening to many of those in prison, and of the allegations of torture. That disillusionment with Indonesia was accompanied by its policy in East Timor. At first the Indonesian Government said that the attacks upon the people of East Timor were by their neighbours on the island, but later they acknowledged that they were engaged in the occupation.

I am speaking tonight because at that time I was very much involved in discussions in this House about what Indonesia was doing in East Timor. I put repeated Questions to my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts. Let me say that I deeply regret his ill-health because I am quite sure that if it had been physically possible he would have participated in our debate tonight. But your Lordships have only to look up the Official Report to see the Questions which I put to Lord Goronwy-Roberts and the Answers which he gave to me. More than once he said that the Government at that time were absolutely in favour of self-determination by the peoples of East Timor. Not only that, but our representative on the Security Council of the United Nations had taken the initiative to raise the matter there, with the result that a supporting resolution was carried and the Security Council asked the Secretary General to visit East Timor to find out the facts. I have no doubt whatsoever that the intentions of our Foreign Office representatives on the Front Bench at that time, both in this House and in another place, were to demand the self-determination of the people of East Timor.

It is very disturbing indeed if, at the same time as those assurances were being given in Parliament, officers abroad, and particularly an ambassador, were making statements and pursuing policies which were a denial of what was quite sincerely urged on the Front Benches as the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I agree with my noble friend Lord Avebury that that demands some investigation. Unless Foreign Office officials abroad are reflecting the policy which is stated in this House and another place, they are sabotaging the efforts which the Front Benches are making.

I remember that time very acutely. I remember how disturbed we were when Henry Kissinger, for the United States, declared in favour of the actions of Indonesia. Henry Kissinger, seeking to mobilise all over the world opposition to communist régimes, was inclined to think that any resistance to any Government which was sympathetic to the West was naturally communist; and, with no evidence at all that the national opposition of the people of Eastern Timor was communist inclined, he dismissed it as a communist resistance and endorsed the attitude of Indonesia. I am not surprised that the recent revelations of correspondence which passed have indicated that the United States supported Indonesia in its occupation of East Timor.

I acknowledge at once that I do not have the same evidence about Australia. I had not seen it before the publication of these recent documents, but I suppose that in the case of Australia one must also accept the fact that that vast white island was fearful of what would happen in South-East Asia, in case developments there meant that many Asians might penetrate their island. But, in addition to saying that, I want to say very firmly as a journalist that Her Majesty's Government ought to resist very strongly indeed any efforts at censorship of publications in this country. The federal Government in Australia has not only brought court proceedings against newspapers there which sought to serialise the book published by the two Australian journalists; it has brought an action even against a publication in this country of the responsibility and authority of the New Statesman. I think that, fortunately, their legal letter did not arrive in time and the New Statesman had already published most of its edition—a few more than 600 did not appear because of the communication from the federal Government. The High Court in Australia has now decided on the right of newspapers to publish the information which is in this book and in these documents. All that the High Court of Australia has said is that there must not be quotations which would infringe copyright. I hope that that judgment by the High Court in Australia will enable the New Statesman in this country to publish the facts which are in that book and in that document.

Secondly, I not only ask this Government to resist these tendencies towards censorship but I ask whether the Government will raise this matter at the United Nations Security Council. Ought not there to be an investigation as to what is going on in East Timor? There has been an almost complete boycott of news coming out of that territory since the Indonesian forces marched in and repressed the nationalist movement there. The time has come for this; because such reports as we have received indicate that resistance is still bravely being made to this external occupation. I am asking the Government whether they will not take the initiative to see that this matter is raised in the United Nations Security Council so that we may know the facts of the present situation.

7.2 p.m.

My Lords, I am sorry that tonight two noble Lords have raised this Unstarred Question so long after the events. I have had the opportunity of going to Timor and I have been visiting Indonesia ever since 1945–46. I was there with the allied forces and saw then how many difficulties there were and how many people got injured and killed—which is usual when the people of a country are struggling to get their independence. We, as allies, were there to keep the peace on behalf of the Dutch. I understand the difficulties, but I resent one or two things which were said by noble Lords.

Having been to Timor, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that the people were not herded into the mountains. They went there for two or three reasons. One was that they were being conscripted by the Portuguese to go to Mozambique, in many cases and also they were frightened of what was happening else where. But they were not herded at all. I should like to say, too, that I do not think that at the moment he has much to fear about sales, because, owing to the textile dispute, the Indonesians have stopped taking our goods. I believe there is to be a conference about this later this month, but for the moment, anyway, it has stopped.

I resented very much the manner in which the noble Lords have spoken because I do not think that either noble Lord has been to Indonesia or to East Timor; and I am wondering whether Amnesty International ever had a representative there, either. All the quotations came from questions replied to by the then Government in power. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, cannot be here. He would have given me quite a lot of support. I think, too, that the attack on Dr. Kissinger was unfair.

I should like to give a little of the background history because I do not think it is known. To consider the past history of East Timor, originally the whole island was a vassal state of the empire of Sriwija, with the capital at Palembang in Sumatra. It was in the year 1672 that all the 72 islands formed this empire. This was followed by another empire, the Mojopahet Empire, with Gazah Mada who was the Prime Minister from 1331 to 1364. About this time the Portuguese attacked Malaka, in Malaya, and from there went on to other places. The Sultan of Tirnate waged war from the Maluku Islands and, together with other sultans, fought the Portuguese for many years. They did not want them there at all. Finally, the Portuguese settled in Flores Solor and Timor, and until then Timor had had its own sultan.

In 1633 the Dutch arrived—and I should have thought that the two noble Lords would have been glad to think that there is no colonisation going on at the present time. When the Dutch arrived, they only thought of the western part of Timor; the Portuguese remained in the East. Then the Japanese occupied the island in 1942 for three and a half years until they surrendered to the allied forces; and the Timorese again left East Timor to the Portuguese. Before the Japanese there had been struggles against the Portuguese. In 1949 many people were massacred at Los Palos. Previous to that the people had tried to rebel. There was a rebellion in Cekusi, in 1700, and another in 1910 in another part of the island. That proves to me that they were not happy under the Portuguese rule.

The Portuguese decided in 1974 to allow political parties. It is interesting to know that there had been no political parties since 1500. They were not allowed. Perhaps with the idea of divide and rule, they had five parties: the UDT, the Fretilin, Apodeti, Kota and the Trabalhista. The Portuguese supported the Fretilin and gave them arms. Why? Because they wanted them to be the leading people in the island. They were considered to be a radical element. This was very unfortunate. Talks were held before integration on 19th July, 1976 between the then Foreign Minister, that famous man Adam Malik, who later became the President of the United Nations, and the Foreign Minister, Mr. Soares, in New York. Malik, when President of the United Nations, did all he could to help.

Seven different further talks were held—Indonesia and Portugal in Lisbon in 1974, Indonesia and Portugal in London in 1975; there was the Macau conference in 1975. Then there were the two Indonesia-Portugal conferences in Jakarta in 1975; and the Rome conference also in 1975. No agreement was arrived at and so the Fretilin declared independence on 28th November 1975. Then the other four political parties followed the Fretilin. A decision was taken for the integration by the People's Assembly, an elected assembly, in Jakarta, May 1976. Fighting has been mentioned and of course the reports of numbers of deaths vary. There were no permanent troops, I understand, in East Timor. They were brought in as and when necessary.

The civil war had lasted about four years and I gather that there were about 60,000 dead. Then the Portuguese Governor and his officials fled from the capital, Dili Atauro to the island of Atauro in 1975. The Portuguese then asked the Indonesian Government to send a ship to help them to evacuate and to provide food. This was done. But in a very short time they abandoned the island, leaving a vacuum in East Timor. In 1976, as I mentioned before, the final integration then took place. During the final period of Portuguese rule, as I mentioned, many people fled to the mountains to avoid being conscripted. It is rather interesting to note that the present Vice-Governor of East Timor, who is Portuguese, was sent to Mozambique to fight with the guerrillas. No wonder that the people went to the mountains; they did not wish to receive that treatment. He, fortunately, managed to get away. Now, besides being the Vice-Governor, he works as a customs officer.

I was met by him and his wife on arrival and I called on the Governor, a Portuguese, who was installed in 1976. This is rather interesting: he is at last learning the Indonesian language, having married a charming Javanese girl who is giving him quite a lot of help.

The Indonesian Government have spent since 1976 £380 million for education, housing and health. The Portuguese used to spend about £6 million a year. There is only one main tarmac road and a lack of piped water. Even the hotel I stayed in had no piped water. Some of the money that I mentioned goes for youth organisations, rural development, agricultural equipment and, for the young, to the Scouts and Guides. The last day that I was there I went to an exhibition in Dili. The population of Dili is about 16,000 and it was reckoned that there were 8,000 people there. I was able to move about freely, and I was very interested to see the voluntary organisations which have been set up and the part that the young were playing. I felt completely safe walking about. There was a competition and I was asked to present the prizes.

Australia are now going to build them new schools because 90 per cent. of the people were illiterate under Portuguese rule. I should like also to mention that family reunions have been made by the Australians for 99 people. But Portugal itself is reluctant to have any people back again because they have so many refugees from Mozambique. It seems extraordinary to me that the population after hundreds of years should be so badly looked after—90 per cent. illiterate and less than 10 per cent. had ever been to university.

East Timor is stated to have the highest percentage of malaria and TB in the world. They have been suffering from skin diseases, gastro-enteritis and malnutrition. No wonder they wanted to be free and get the Indonesians to look after them in a better way. I had an hour with the Red Cross, including the International Red Cross, the Swiss. They have done an excellent job especially in the outlying districts which are very difficult to get to. They have to use small planes to get food and supplies in because the roads are so bad. There has been a very bad drought. At present they have eight or nine medical teams, with one medical doctor and two para-medical workers in each team, for outlying districts. An excellent card system has been started using different colours according to the type of nourishment needed. Therefore people are able to come along and get the necessary vitamins that they need. The Indonesian Red Cross will continue this health programme.

In regard to religion—and we have heard so much about persecution—like the rest of Indonesia, anybody can follow which religion they like. Despite the fact that the Roman Catholics have been there for most of the time that the Portuguese have been there, most of the people are Animists in East Timor.

In principle, foreign journalists are allowed to visit. Three visited this year from Associated Press, the Far Eastern Economic Review and the Zurich Daily News. In view of what I have said in regard to the struggle for independence over hundreds of years, the unfortunate state of Timor is now very much better off. It is better off now but it could not have been worse off. We say, "Let the people decide". The Timorese did decide, and I met at a meeting 24 people, five Portuguese. There were no officials present. There were also Arabs and Chinese present and they expressed themselves to be better off and happy with the existing conditions. I emphasise that no official was present. I had an interpreter. I can still understand quite a lot of the language but of course I am out of practice and it was better to have an interpreter.

I should like to defend the action taken by Sir Archibald Ford. We do not want to interfere in the affairs of other people's countries, especially when revolutions are going on in various parts of the world and considering all the difficulties that we had when the allied Forces were there. Although we were able to keep the country fairly quiet, the Indonesians still wanted their independence. When we left they fought the Dutch and obtained their independence. I think that it is very unfortunate that we have this debate today. We want all the friends that we can have in the world and I do not think that this debate is going to be helpful in keeping future friendships. I do not think that it has done any good raking up things which we have heard about or read about and about which neither of the noble Lords have any definite proof because they have not been there and seen things for themselves.

7.18 p.m.

My Lords, first I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his commiserations following my little bump last night, and for raising this matter which gives us an opportunity to consider this subject. I will answer the second part of the noble Lord's Question first, and then return to describe more fully Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the territory. As your Lordships will be aware, it has not been the general practice of successive Governments to publish documents containing confidential advice other than in the context of the 30-year rule. This applies whether or not they have appeared in the press, here or abroad. There is no reason to depart from this principle in the present case, nor do I intend to comment on the contents of the documents in question.

I turn now to East Timor itself. East Timor has always been a remote territory, short of all types of infrastructure and natural resources. The underdevelopment of the territory before 1975 is not contested. It is regrettably true that there has been, in East Timor, enormous loss of life and the emergence of a huge number of refugees.

In such territories this is the almost inevitable consequence of a period of political chaos such as that of the mid-1970s. There can be no doubt that the Indonesian intervention of December 1975 contributed significantly to the territory's recent social and human problems. But I must say that there is no good evidence to support allegations that the Jakarta Government pursued a policy of genocide, or of any deliberate intention on their part to cause suffering to the inhabitants of the territory. The Indonesian Government, stretched as it is to govern an already poor and populous country, could not possibly expect to reap any advantage from such a policy.

Moreover, I think it essential to put the Indonesian intervention into perspective. In June 1975 Fretilin members had refused to attend a constitutional conference in Macau and seemed to prefer to pin their hopes on developments in Lisbon rather than the balance of political forces, such as they were, in the territory itself. They demanded complete independence immediately, while other groups preferred a transitional period. This attitude seems to have been responsible for the seizure of power by the other parties in August of that year. In response, Fretilin seized the arms of the remaining Portuguese army units and suppressed all opposition in the territory. Their political opponents fled to West Timor in Indonesia and were followed there by many thousands of refugees in the succeeding weeks. An Australian Council for Overseas Aid assessment in October 1975 suggested that at least 2,000 lives had already been lost in the civil war. Yet the Indonesian Government did not decide to intervene until Fretilin's Unilateral Declaration of Independence of 28th November. I make these points not to justify the Indonesian intervention, but to point out that the situation in the territory was extraordinarily confused and that Fretilin itself has never been able to substantiate its claim to represent the East Timorese people as a whole.

As I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is aware, the Indonesian Government has in recent years allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross, in co-operation with the Indonesian Red Cross and the Catholic Relief Services, to work in East Timor. For a long time the distribution of food throughout the dislocated territory was both difficult and inefficient, particularly to those who had fled to remote regions to escape the fighting. But the ICRC had indicated by the end of 1979 that the situation had much improved and that they were satisfied with the support given to their efforts by the Indonesian authorities. Their reports, and those of journalists who have visited the area, suggest that extreme poverty and malnutrition are the real problems and that they are now being tackled with vigour and considerable success. This is no doubt due in part to the very much reduced level of fighting in East Timor in the last two years. I acknowledge, however, that impartial information is indeed hard to obtain, and the British Government will continue to urge the Indonesian authorities to make it easier for visitors and others to go there.

May I turn now to some of the points made during the course of the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in his opening speech raised a number of points, including in particular the question of British aid to Indonesia. Despite the success of the Soeharto Government in improving Indonesia's living standards, it still remains one of the poorer developing countries. That is recognised by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and indeed all OECD countries. Britain is not one of the major aid donors. Our current contribution is running at about £8 million a year, although because of public expenditure restraints we were unable to make a new capital pledge this year. Our aid contributes to improving the lot of many poor people, particularly in rural areas.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also referred, as did the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, to the problems of human rights in general and torture in particular in Indonesia. It is fair to say, I think, that the Indonesian régime is indeed authoritarian by our standards but it is very concerned about security, particularly, I gather, as regards Muslim extremists. Given the history of separatism and turbulence in the country, that is understandable. We do not consider the violation of human rights in Indonesia as a whole to be comparable with that in many other states in the area. The human rights position has greatly improved with, for example, the release of virtually all political prisoners at the end of 1979. On the other hand, I should not want to pretend that the situation is by any means perfect.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also referred to the specific incident of the journalists, who were said to have been murdered by Indonesian soldiers. We have never received a conclusive report about the deaths of those journalists. The circumstances of their deaths are still not clear. Contemporary reports which reached Her Majesty's Government through Jakarta suggested they had been caught in cross-fire when a mortar hit the house in which they were sheltering.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also asked about the sale of Hawk aircraft to Indonesia. It is true that eight Hawk aircraft have been sold. These are for training purposes only and are not suited to operational use in East Timor, particularly given the small number of the remaining active opposition there. In any event, Indonesians already possess different aircraft much better suited for the ground attack role.

My noble friend Lady Vickers in what, if I may say so, I thought was an impressive speech—which only went to show, I suggest, that there are two sides to any question—painted a picture which was very different from that painted by the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Brockway. My noble friend clearly speaks from detailed and recent experience. She referred to the current difficulties arising out of the textile dispute, particularly in relation to the Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft, which she raised during the debate on foreign affairs which we had a week or two ago. I am sorry to say that it is true that British Aerospace has lost the contract for the sale of two Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft for the Indonesian State Airline. This will, we believe, now go to Fokker. British Aerospace are now unlikely to get the contract for a further eight aircraft which the airline will need for their re-equipment programme. Negotiations over two Hawker Siddeley 748 Coastguarders are currently stalled due to the textile dispute—the same textile dispute—and therefore we can have no indication of what the outcome will be.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also referred several times, as did the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, to the Australian legal action against the New Statesman. I understand the Australians have taken out an injunction against the New Statesman, alleging breach of copyright in respect of certain documents. This must clearly be a matter for the Australian Government, but I can say that the Australian High Commission has kept us informed as to what is going on.

I turn now to the international aspects. Successive British Governments have not felt able to recognise the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. It is unacceptable to us that a territory can be taken over by force, whatever the previous situation there may have been. We cannot believe that an act of self-determination could properly have taken place in the conditions prevailing immediately after the Indonesian intervention, when substantial fighting was still going on and a large proportion of the territory's population had become refugees. The United Kingdom therefore voted for the United Nations Security Council's resolutions of 1975 and 1976, which condemned the Indonesian intervention and reaffirmed the right of the East Timorese to self-determination. But, in common with the previous Administration, we have found that resolutions tabled in the United Nations General Assembly in subsequent years have been unconstructive. In the first place, they have always prejudged the result of a process of self-determination by assuming that the people of the territory would favour an independent status. They have also given undue emphasis to Fretilin—a group which, as I explained earlier, we cannot accept as representative of the East Timorese people as a whole. Moreover, the resolutions have had no effect on the situation in the territory, and have done nothing to improve the condition of its inhabitants.

We believe that the conditions required for the definitive exercise of self-determination in accordance with the Security Council resolutions can be created only through co-operation between the two Governments directly concerned, those of Portugal and Indonesia. We have, therefore, with our partners in the European Community, abstained on the General Assembly resolutions. Of course, we welcome recent reports of willingness by the Portuguese and Indonesian Governments to work to resolve the problems bilaterally. In this context, we are prepared to do what we can to help. My Lords, the question of East Timor is a complex one on which simple conclusions are dangerous. Our hope is that the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal will together take steps to comply with the views of the Security Council. I can assure your Lordships that the British Government would support any such moves.