Skip to main content

Bill Of Rights Bill Hl

Volume 416: debated on Wednesday 14 January 1981

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

10.45 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( Lord Wade.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The BARONESS WHITE in the Chair.]

As no amendments have been proposed to Clauses 1 to 3, perhaps it may be agreeable to your Lordships to consider these three clauses together.

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [ Derogating measures]:

moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 11, leave out ("derogation") and insert ("measures derogating").

The noble Lord said: Many noble Lords will recall that the Second Reading of this important measure was gilded by many memorable contributions, not least from one former Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and no fewer than three Lords of Appeal in Ordinary—namely, the noble and learned Lords, Lord Scarman and Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and my noble and learned relative, Lord Salmon—such is the measure of this important Bill. It is not without irony, or indeed impertinence, that I should seek to add a final polish to the drafting of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, to whom we should be deeply grateful for his persistence and admiring of his stamina. It will not be lost on the Committee that Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are nothing other than drafting amendments, and I think it would be of assistance if I spoke to both at the same time.

I am concerned here purely with a question of consistency of drafting. I suggest that "measures derogating" be substituted for the noun "derogation", in that the words "measures derogating" and the inversion "derogating measures" appear no less than four times in Clause 4 and in the side note itself, and I suggest that it aids the style of the drafting within the clause. Amendment No. 2 is grammatical in substance, in that the adverb "any" is singular rather than plural, and I do no other than suggest that the singular "measure" be substituted for the plural "measures". I beg to move.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Morris, for the brevity with which he discussed the amendments and I agree with him that it would be convenient to discuss both together. I am grateful to the noble Lord for the great care and interest he has shown in the Bill throughout and I echo his references to the noble and learned Lords who took part in the Second Reading debate. The support of such distinguished noble Lords was significant; undoubtedly there was a galaxy of talent present at that stage, and I have been encouraged by the support for the Bill and am sure that the idea, the concept, of a Bill of Rights is growing. It so happens that this is the second time the Bill has been considered in Committee in your Lordships' House. I am not sure whether that is a record. But since it has been examined in Committee twice within about 12 months, it is reasonable that the Committee stage tonight should be taken as expeditiously as possible, and I shall endeavour to help in that respect.

These amendments indicate the thoroughness with which the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has examined the Bill. As he explained, under the first amendment the words "measures derogating" would be inserted in place of "derogation" and, when we come to it, under Amendment No. 2 "measure" would be inserted in place of "measures". I do not think these alterations involve any change in the aims of the Bill and in my view they would constitute some improvement. Under those circumstances I would recommend that they be accepted.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 2, line 19, leave out "(measures") and insert ("measure").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [ Definition]:

10.51 p.m.

Page 2, line 24, leave out from ("means") to end of line 25 and insert ("any Protocol to the said Convention ratified by the United Kingdom which extends or creates any substantive right in the nature of those defined in Articles 1 to 18 of the said Convention:

Provided that any future extension or creation of a right by a Protocol shall, prior to incorporation in this Act, be subject to approval by resolution of each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3, and with the permission of the Committee I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4, as I consider that this amendment embraces the provisions which I feel require to be included in the Bill. I propose to be very brief. It appears to me that the wording of the Bill as it stands provides only for current United Kingdom legislation and the existing European Convention and Protocols and United Kingdom reservations. I am concerned that the Bill should adequately ensure that any future Protocols to the Convention and any reservations should be suitably brought within the ambit of the Bill.

It also appears to me to be necessary to make provision in the Bill to ensure that the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament is fully expressed and exercised in respect of future enactments under the Bill. I believe that the form of wording in Amendment No. 3:

"Provided that any future extension or creation of a right by a Protocol shall, prior to incorporation in this Act, be subject to approval by resolution of each House of Parliament",

will provide for the necessary sovereignty of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to be upheld. With those few remarks, I beg to move Amendment No. 3, and I wish Amendment No. 4 to be considered as well.

As Members of your Lordships' Committee will know from what I said on Second Reading of the Bill, the subject matter of the Bill is one of a character which in our view requires that it should proceed, if it is to proceed to the statute book, after fairly careful consideration in which it would be hoped that a wide measure of agreement would be reached. There are very important problems to be considered in relation to the manner in which, and the substance of the manner in which, this concept should be enacted.

In that situation, the Government would not wish to offer detailed advice on matters in the Bill. However, in this particular case, and in view of the importance of the matter that the noble Lord, Lord Blease, has raised, and his desire to look to the future, so that the Bill will provide for the future, I think that it would be right for me to say that so far as I can judge—and I am very much subject to correction in this matter—the amendments that he has proposed do not achieve the effect which he desires, which is to enable all future rights-creating Protocols which the United Kingdom Government ratify to achieve the force of law without need for further legislation by means of the Affirmative Resolution procedure. The reason why his amendments do not achieve that is that they relate to the interpretation clause of the Bill, and Clause 1, which is the principal operative clause of the Bill would give only such Protocols to the Convention as shall have been ratified at the time that the Bill becomes an Act the force of law. So there is an inherent conflict between the terms of the interpretation clause as the noble Lord, Lord Blease, would seek to modify it, and the basic structure of the Bill itself.

I hope that your Lordships' Committee might find that comment of some assistance in considering this amendment which is of course concerned with an important subject.

First, I should like to say how much I appreciate the helpfulness that the noble Lord, Lord Blease, has shown throughout the discussions on the Bill, and I know that he has the aims of the Bill very much at heart. As to the amendment, when I hear a reference to the sovereignty of Parliament I am very tempted to deliver a lecture on that subject, and when I hear a reference from the Government Front Bench to technicalities I am very tempted to deliver a lecture on technicalities. However, in view of the time and the desire that the Bill should proceed, may I just say the following.

There are some technical difficulties, and I will not elaborate on them, but there is some point in the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I wonder whether, in the circumstances, the noble Lord, Lord Blease, will consider the possibility of withdrawing his amendment.

I have reflected on the implications of the amendments as I tabled them, and since I tabled them, and, having regard to the remarks of the noble Lord the Minister and to the views of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, on this, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[ Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported with amendments.