Virtual Committee (2nd Day)
Relevant documents: 8th and 11th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee
The proceedings were conducted in a Virtual Committee via video call.
Good afternoon, my Lords. This Virtual Committee will now begin. I remind Members that these proceedings are subject to parliamentary privilege and that what we say is available to the public both in Hansard and to those listening and watching.
I will begin by setting out how these proceedings will work. This Virtual Committee will operate like a Grand Committee as far as possible. A participants’ list for today’s proceedings has been published and is in my brief, which Members should have received. The brief also lists Members who have put their name to the amendments or expressed an interest in speaking on each group. I will call Members to speak in the order listed. Members’ microphones will be muted by the broadcasters except when I call a Member to speak and whenever a Question is put, so interventions during speeches are not possible and uncalled speakers will not be heard.
During the debate on each group, I will invite Members to email the Clerk if they wish to speak after the Minister. I will call Members to speak in order of request and will call the Minister to reply each time. Debate will take place on the lead amendment in each group only; the groupings are binding and it will not be possible to de-group an amendment for separate debate. Leave should be given to withdraw amendments. Whenever I put the Question, all Members’ microphones will be open until I give the result. Members should be aware that any sound made at that point may be broadcast. If a Member intends to press an amendment or say “Not content”, it will greatly assist the Clerk if they make this clear when speaking on the group. As in Grand Committee, it takes unanimity to amend the Bill, so if a single voice says “Not content”, the amendment is negatived; if a single voice says “Content”, a clause stands part.
We will now begin. We start with government Amendment 17. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister’s winding-up speech should email the Clerk during this debate. The Minister should allow me to call those Members before seeking a decision on the amendment. It would be helpful if anyone intending to say “Not content”, when the Question is put makes that clear in the debate. As I said, it takes unanimity to amend the Bill in this Committee; the Committee cannot divide.
Clause 4: Extent, commencement and short title
17: Clause 4, page 4, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) Her Majesty may by Order in Council provide for section 2 (including Schedule 6) and section 3(2) and (3) to extend, with or without modifications, to the Isle of Man.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment inserts a new subsection into Clause 4. This allows Her Majesty by Order in Council to extend Clause 2 (including Schedule 6) and subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 3 to the Isle of Man.
My Lords, this government amendment seeks to allow certain provisions of the Bill to be extended to the Isle of Man through what is commonly known as a permissive extent clause. This is a well-established method of enabling UK legislation to be extended to the overseas territories and Crown dependencies.
I should clarify that the amendment was explicitly requested by the Isle of Man Government due to the legislative pressures that Tynwald, the island’s parliament, currently faces. I want to be clear with noble Lords that I am moving the amendment to allow debate and to put on record the request from the Isle of Man Government. I recognise that some noble Lords expressed concerns in the earlier parts of this Committee stage about both the scope and purpose of Clause 2, to which this amendment relates. I will therefore seek to withdraw the amendment once noble Lords have had an opportunity to speak to it.
Returning to the detail of the amendment, this permissive extent clause provides for the addition of a narrow delegated power that, when activated, will allow certain provisions of the Bill to apply in the Isle of Man. The power is exercisable by an Order in Council, which can be made at a time agreed between the UK Government and the Isle of Man Government.
Once made, the Order in Council would extend the Clause 2(1) power to the appropriate authority on the Isle of Man. This would enable the Isle of Man to make its own regulations to implement international agreements on private international law. This power could be used only to implement agreements that the United Kingdom has extended to apply in the Isle of Man, which means that both the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man would be able to operate the agreement between their own jurisdictions and the other contracting parties.
In addition, the amendment would enable the Isle of Man to implement an arrangement to apply the terms of a private international law agreement, subject to necessary modifications, between the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom. Clause 2(3) already provides this power to the United Kingdom. The amendment will enable that power to be extended to the Isle of Man to give it the power to do the same, alleviating the need for it to enact its own primary legislation to implement such an arrangement. Of course, in both cases, the arrangement will be about operating a private international law agreement that the United Kingdom has joined, as anything else would fall outside the scope of the power.
The amendment would not affect the United Kingdom directly. It would require the Queen to approve an Order in Council at a meeting of the Privy Council and would allow the Isle of Man also to make use of this important legislation. Should there be any effect on the UK, it is likely that any agreed arrangement relating to applying private international law agreements between the UK and the Isle of Man could be implemented efficiently both here and in that dependency by mutual agreement.
As I have already stated, this measure is limited to the Isle of Man simply because it issued a formal request for the Bill to include this permissive extent clause. We have engaged with the other Crown dependencies and overseas territories on the Bill; they have not requested that this provision be extended to them. In these circumstances, I beg to move.
I have an obvious question relating to what the noble and learned Lord said. Why does he think that the Isle of Man wants this power but other Crown dependencies do not?
My Lords, I have always understood that the Isle of Man is different and that special provision therefore needs to be made for it, particularly at its request. Long ago, when I was Lord Advocate, I was called to defend an action of the UK Government, which had imposed restrictions on fishing in the waters surrounding the Isle of Man that were different from the common fisheries policy. I was constrained to argue that the Isle of Man was not subject to the common fisheries policy, since it was different from the United Kingdom. I regret to say that the Isle of Man was not sufficiently different for me to succeed.
I support the amendment as something that is utterly important for the Isle of Man and perfectly in order.
My Lords, in Clause 2(7), “relevant territory” is defined as
“the Isle of Man … any of the Channel Islands … a British overseas territory.”
On what basis should there be a differentiation for the Isle of Man as opposed to the others—as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, rightly asked—particularly regarding the two Crown dependencies of Guernsey and Jersey? Would it not be sensible from a UK stance to have consistency, particularly between the Crown dependencies and on our approach to defining “relevant territory”, as covered by Clause 2(7)?
My Lords, we have no objection to the Bill as passed extending to the Isle of Man at its request, but that is of course subject to the whole question of our objection to Clause 2 standing part of the Bill and to any other amendments to the Bill that may be passed to it. In those circumstances, it is right that the Minister is not pursuing this amendment today, and it would be right that we should reconsider our position on Report.
I am grateful to the Minister for indicating that he is not going to proceed with this amendment today and that he has moved it simply to open it for debate. We oppose the amendment because we oppose in principle Clause 2, which inappropriately gives the Government the power by secondary legislation to introduce important changes to domestic law to reflect private international law agreements. At the moment, if that is the principle that we stand on, in our view it is wrong to say that the Isle of Man, of all the parts of the Crown dependencies, should have a special right to do it by statutory instrument. That, as previous Lords have indicated, would differentiate it from everyone else. We are against it for that reason.
We are also against it because this change would allow for differential application of international agreements as between the various parts of the United Kingdom and, for the reasons we gave the previous time this Committee met, we are against that. So, we oppose the amendment.
I am obliged to noble Lords for their contribution to the debate, and note what has been said. Perhaps I may respond to the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Mann, and touched upon by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer—although I have a correction to make there. The reason why this is being done only in respect of the Isle of Man is that the Isle of Man has specifically requested that this mechanism should be available, so that we can proceed by way of an Order in Council from the Privy Council. It will be for the other Crown dependencies to determine whether and when they wish to implement primary legislation within their own legislatures to come within the ambit of such international agreements as the United Kingdom draws down.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, referred to variation between parts of the United Kingdom but of course the Crown dependencies are not part of the United Kingdom. They have a unique status and it is for them to determine whether and to what extent they wish to become a party to legislation that draws down into domestic law international treaty obligations. I continue to believe that this amendment is important and respect the request of the Government of the Isle of Man. However, I recognise the concerns expressed about the links between this amendment and the Clause 2 power to which exception is taken. The noble Lord, Lord Marks, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, made that point. In these circumstances I will therefore withdraw the amendment, but I intend to continue this discussion at a later date. For present purposes, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 17 withdrawn.
Clause 4 agreed.
Schedules 1 to 5 agreed.
Schedule 6: Regulations under Section 2
Amendment 18 not moved.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 19. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. It would be helpful if anyone intending to say “not content” if the Question is put made that clear in the debate. It takes unanimity to amend the Bill in this Committee; this Committee cannot divide.
19: Schedule 6, page 68, line 8, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—
“( ) provision that creates, amends or extends a criminal offence, or increases the penalty for a criminal offence”
This is, in effect, a probing group of amendments, repeating many of the arguments that we discussed on day one in Committee, and the amendments do two things. Amendment 19 would delete the power of the regulation-making authority to create, amend or extend a criminal offence. Amendments 20 and 21 say that the regulation-making power should be subject to the super-affirmative resolution procedure in the UK Parliament; and, in particular, that before any such instrument was made final a consultation would have to be undertaken with the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee on private international law and the European Union Select Committee of the House of Lords.
I make it clear, as I did on the previous occasion, that I am not in favour of this order-making power at all. I refer to Amendment 19 simply to indicate the width of this power, which includes the making or changing of criminal offences. In relation to the super-affirmative procedure, again, I am against it. There should not be that power at all. It gives me an opportunity, though, to make the point that the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee on private international law has been an important source of advice over a long period to the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice on private international law agreements. It was not referred to at all in the suite of maybe a dozen statutory instruments introduced under the withdrawal Act, in the wake of us changing our private international law arrangements with the European Union. That led to a great loss in the preparation of those statutory instruments. I very much hope that the Minister will give an under- taking that in any subsequent changes in private international law, the Government will consult unquestionably the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee and, as much as possible, the European Union Select Committee of this House. I beg to move.
My Lords, first, I draw attention to paragraph 41 of the memorandum concerning the delegated powers, which says:
“We do not anticipate using the power to create, extend or increase the penalty for, a criminal offence very often, however it may be needed, in very limited circumstances, in order to implement effective enforcement provisions for some potential future PIL agreements.”
I stress: some potential future PIL agreements.
I want to speak mainly to Amendment 19, although I support what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said in relation to Amendments 20 and 21 and his criticisms of the super-affirmative procedure. The Committee may recall that in its first sitting, I made comments about the necessity for democratic legitimacy and scrutiny when it comes to the making of legislation in this form. I do not consider that the form of approach of an affirmative resolution on its own is enough. I certainly do not think that the super-affirmative procedure adds very much to that. As for scrutiny, the noble and learned Lord has already referred to the fact that the Lord Chancellor’s committee was not given an opportunity to consider the Bill.
Criminal offences are set against the background that everybody is presumed to know what the law is. To put it another way, familiarly, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Any criminal offence created requires clarity, certainty and proportionality. I illustrate this by referring to what is very much in the public eye at the moment, the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. No draft was laid or approved by Parliament by reason of urgency, and one understands entirely that reason, but the instrument has been amended twice since it was passed in March and the latest version came into force on Monday. It had 12 regulations and two schedules in its original form and Regulation 6(1) provides that everyone must stay overnight at
“the place where they are living”.
There are certain exceptions, including, at Regulation 6(2)(d),
“to provide care or assistance, including relevant personal care within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, to a vulnerable person”.
At that point I gave up further research, but I do not think that particular exception can possibly refer to ordinary childcare. Yet there has been controversy. The Prime Minister and four of the Cabinet have taken one view or interpretation of these regulations and almost everybody else has taken a completely different view on whether what happened was legal or not. An unlimited fine is payable on summary conviction, which can be avoided by complying with a fixed penalty notice. Noble Lords will appreciate that that is typical of the sort of offence that can be created by secondary legislation that nobody understands—I say “nobody understands”; many people understand the drift of it, but the particular detail can be the subject of controversy.
Coming back to the Bill, it is obviously undesirable that there should be a lack of clarity in drafting criminal offences when it is possible for those criminal offences to result in a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment. An unlimited fine is quite a burden, but imprisonment through regulations that refer to other Acts of Parliament—subsection this and sub-subsection that—is entirely undesirable and never gets, whether by the ordinary affirmative procedure or the super-affirmative procedure, adequate scrutiny and understanding by the authorities that have to put it into effect and, most relevantly, by the people who are affected by it and who have to obey the law.
Public international law covers, as we discussed, a wide variety of issues. It is not at all satisfactory for the wide power that I referred to—for some potential future PIL agreements to create criminal offences—to be put in the hands of Ministers. For that reason, this is an aspect of the Bill, never mind the whole of Schedule 2, that I find offensive.
My Lords, the Act referred to in the Bill is dated 1982, which shows that we are concerned with the time when I was Lord Advocate and before devolution. I remember it lucidly. It fell to the Lord Advocate to deal, inter alia, with the Scottish position and what the detail involved. I strongly oppose the group of amendments in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. My understanding of the principle that rules in this area is that when the United Kingdom undertakes an international obligation, that does not become part of the law of the United Kingdom until it becomes part of the domestic law of the United Kingdom and, since devolution, that may apply differently in devolved jurisdictions. A suggestion has been made that the principle goes further and requires that the result can be achieved only by primary legislation doing so directly, without the intervention of subordinate legislation. I do not agree with that. I can see no logical requirement to restrict the power of Parliament in that way.
My noble and learned friend the Minister has already given examples. Since we joined the EU, this has been achieved by a statutory instrument naming the treaty involved, without any further detail. The year 1982 yields another striking example. Section 60 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 confers power by Order in Council to make provision for carrying out the Chicago convention. If the principle were as claimed, surely the Act could not confer this power. I regard the provisions of the Bill as entirely adequate. Once we undertake an international obligation, it seems right to implement it in our law as soon as possible. The ordinary affirmative procedure seems entirely adequate, particularly since the other place now has power in relation to international obligations.
The noble Lord preceding me, an expert in many of these matters, particularly in the criminal law, requires that the criminal law should not be specified except very clearly and very occasionally in statutory instruments. In my respectful submission to your Lordships, this is a space in which the international agreement must have in it the criminal offence in question, because it is only a reflection of what is in the international obligation that will become part of the law under Clause 2. This seems to me to adequately secure the definition of the offence in question. I will add only that I would like to see the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee consulted as much as possible: it is a very well informed, very good source of solid advice. I also add that if the Government’s ambitions are fulfilled for many international agreements in the future, it would be a great pity to saddle the procedure to implement them into our law with unnecessary delays.
My Lords, I shall restrict my comments and questions to parliamentary scrutiny. Private international law agreements are so important for businesses and individuals when they cross borders that to accept new international conventions into domestic law using broad delegated powers seems a step too far. The Government have failed to make a convincing case for why they need such extensive delegated powers here. What are the barriers that led the Government to propose such a low level of parliamentary scrutiny of new agreements?
Of course, this House is not against the Government getting their business through, but there needs to be appropriate scrutiny, challenge and revision. That is, after all, why we are all here. Amendment 20 offers a set of safeguards absent from the Government’s proposals and therefore has my support, as does Amendment 19. It cannot be acceptable to create and impose new criminal offences without consultation and some level of parliamentary scrutiny, the reasons having been eloquently set out by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer. In responding to these amendments, will the Minister give insight and clarity as to why the Government believe they need such sweeping powers? Do the Government accept the conclusions of the House of Lords Constitution Committee? If not, why not? Do they really believe that private international law agreements are produced at such a rate that proper consultation and scrutiny can be set aside?
As the Constitution Committee noted:
“The UK has become a party to only 13 Hague Conventions over the course of nearly 60 years”
so the need for delegated powers to prevent a delay does not seem a very strong argument. Why is it necessary for these delegated powers to extend to matters wider than private international law? How do the Government envisage dealing with a future international convention that needs supplementing for a domestic situation? Where will the parliamentary scrutiny be in such cases?
Finally, is it the case, as has been argued by some, that statutory instruments in this area may be quashed under the Human Rights Act 1998, leading to unnecessary legal uncertainty?
In conclusion, I welcome and support the amendments tabled by my noble and learned friend. These are issues that need further consideration by the Government, and I hope that the noble and learned Lord will agree to look at them again.
My Lords, I will speak briefly in support of the amendments put forward, in the event that such amendments become necessary. I will speak first to Amendment 19.
Private international law, by its very nature, is concerned generally with private individuals and private law. It seems to me, therefore, that if there are circumstances where the ordinary powers of the courts—for example, powers relating to injunctive or contempt proceedings—are insufficient, Parliament ought to have the opportunity of considering whether, in such circumstances, a criminal sanction should be imposed.
As to Amendment 20, it is fair to say that, from my own experience—save as is illustrated by what has happened on this Bill—the Ministry of Justice is fairly good at consulting widely. However, my experience of other ministries is, I regret to say, not as favourable. Therefore, I think it right that, in the event that these provisions become necessary, there be an express obligation, set out in some detail, in relation to consultation.
This has two purposes. First, it makes certain that each department has to think carefully as to whether there is a provision in the agreement it has made, and then set about a proper consultation. Secondly, it is always of value in international obligations to be able to say that the particular obligation concerned, in so far as it affects domestic law, has to be approved by Parliament. One notes that, quite often, this is a matter used by the United States with quite considerable effect. It seems to me that, at this stage, we do not have sufficient experience of knowing how effective CRaG will be.
We have to be very cautious these days in circumstances where framework legislation is now becoming so extensive. If we are to have much more framework legislation—and it looks as if we are going that way—we really have to look much more at our own procedures for considering regulations made under such framework legislation, which this is, in effect.
In the event that it is necessary to have an amendment of this kind, I therefore warmly support that put forward by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton.
Virtually every speaker in the debate has supported what my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer said. The obvious question to the Advocate-General is this: will he reconsider this matter before Report?
My Lords, I would like to say a few words in support of Amendment 19 and make a brief comment on Amendment 20.
Amendment 19 is an issue of principle, rather than detail. Most of what I want to say has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. The only point I add is this: when one is considering imposing a criminal sanction on an individual, you have to have regard to the effect of the sanction on the individual in question. For many people, to have a criminal conviction against them is a major disadvantage in future life, particularly for people seeking further employment who have to provide references to their criminal background, if any. It may also affect travel, particularly in countries which deny travel to people who have criminal convictions. Although it may be easy to say that a sentence of not more than two years is not much to trouble about, it is actually something to trouble a great deal about.
That is why the way in which these offences are created, and the extent to which the wording of the offence can be scrutinised, is so very important. It is not a light matter; it is a matter of great importance to the individual. For that reason, there is an issue of principle, which I think lies behind the noble and learned Lord’s amendment.
I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, will forgive me for saying that the framing of Amendment 20 creates a rather strange situation for the devolved institutions, and the legislatures in particular. The way in which Clause 2 defines the “appropriate national authority” is simple, so far as England and Wales are concerned, because it is simply the Secretary of State. But when you come to Scotland and to Northern Ireland, there is a choice: in Scotland, it is either the Scottish Ministers or the Secretary of State for Scotland; and in the case of Northern Ireland, it is the Northern Ireland department or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
I raised the point at our first sitting that there is some doubt as to what exactly the function is of each of these two people. Take Scotland as an example. In what situations is it appropriate for Scottish Ministers to act alone, and when is it right for the Secretary of State for Scotland to act alone? If one is contemplating the use of the super-affirmative procedure, that is available only to the Secretary of State, because anything done by Scottish Ministers can only be the subject of an instrument laid before the Scottish Parliament. The same is true for the Northern Ireland department: it cannot use the UK procedure because its instruments have to be laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
I make this point in case, by any chance, this amendment is to go further. I am not sure how far the noble and learned Lord wants to do that, but just in case he does, a bit more thought is required as to how exactly one is to relate this amendment to the position in the devolved Administrations. The way I left it at the first sitting was that I would much prefer that the Secretary of State for Scotland was not involved, and that the question of implementation—a devolved matter anyway—was left with Scottish Ministers. But one way or another, the situation will need to be clarified. The presence of this amendment gives me a chance to reiterate my point that there is a lack of clarity in the way that the Bill is framed, as far as the relevant authority is concerned.
My Lords, Amendments 19, 20 and 21 are probing amendments tabled by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton. I welcome the amendments, as we have a chance to debate these important issues again.
As a general rule, I do not like Governments taking Henry VIII powers. It is much better that primary legislation is made or changed, and that both Houses debate and decide on the issue, rather than procedures such as these, which are not a proper substitute, whether they use the affirmative or super-affirmative procedure.
That brings me on to Amendment 19, moved by my noble and learned friend. This is a particularly important amendment as, without it, criminal offences could be extended or amended, and the penalties for offences could be changed. That is unacceptable. I hope all noble Lords will agree that it is a matter for Parliament to decide, and that there is no justification for doing otherwise. I would therefore like to hear from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie, the justification for not accepting the intent of this amendment, if that is the Government’s position this afternoon.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, made the point that this is no way to make new law and new offences. I very much agree with that. There should be no cases of new offences having penalties agreed without the consent of Parliament, where that would normally be the case. But these powers could be used to circumvent that.
My noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley made the point that we have seen very few of these types of agreements in the last 60 years, and that the powers and procedures proposed here do not seem justified in that case. My noble friend also made reference to reports that statutory instruments in this area risk being struck down by the courts. It would be good if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie, could address that point when he responds to this debate shortly.
My Lords, Amendment 19 is a very important amendment to probe the Government on what they anticipate the application of Clause 2 will be. I very much enjoyed some of the other contributions today, particular that of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, which was particularly scathing and deserves to be in a newspaper somewhere. I loathe the Government trying to make these power grabs. The idea that they can just extend the concept of a crime is inherently damaging to democracy.
In particular, the key question that I need the Minister to address is in what circumstances he foresees a private international law agreement creating or amending criminal offences. As I understand it, the Bill and the agreements that it seeks to implement are entirely focused on the resolution of disputes between individual people or companies. Can he tell us what situations would give rise to any criminal liability, as opposed to civil liability? Does he anticipate that we will attach criminal fines and imprisonment to civil disputes? If there are not any good examples, why is this provision contained in the Bill and should your Lordships’ House not amend the Bill exactly in the way proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton?
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 20 to Schedule 6 in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer on the matter of proper consultation, which it would require. As a former Secretary of State for Wales and still living here, I am aware that no legislative consent Motion is required for this Brexit-consequential Bill and that the Welsh Government appear to seem at least content with it. But, as my noble friend Lady Kennedy highlighted, there are real concerns about the delegated powers to join future private international law agreements.
I understand that the UK Government have provided assurances to the devolved Administrations that, first, there are not any agreements in view at the moment that touch on matters within devolved competences and that, secondly, if any such agreement emerges the UK Government will guarantee to consult the Welsh Government, and presumably the Northern Ireland Executive and the Scottish Government. I would be grateful if the Minister specifically confirms this when he replies. I ask because, for nearly four years, Conservative Governments have had a sorry record of failing properly to enable devolved Governments to participate in framing a series of European Union withdrawal and Brexit-related Bills. Consequently, UK Ministers were regularly accused, as noble Lords might recall, of a power grab—of using the transfer of functions from Brussels back to the UK to recover to Whitehall previously devolved powers.
The First Ministers of Wales and Scotland both repeatedly complained about a failure of Whitehall Ministers to consult. Indeed, I have argued exactly that in your Lordships’ House on several occasions. There were also refusals to grant legislative consent Motions in Wales and Scotland until a satisfactory series of outcomes were belatedly conceded by the UK Government. This is not a good advertisement for the unity of the UK when it is under greater threat than ever.
I will put on record some specific examples of a failure to build consent, as Amendment 20 implies must be the case, because these must not be repeated. The 2017 EU withdrawal Bill, as originally drafted, represented a major assault on devolved competence. It was only as a result of very strong cross-party support in your Lordships’ House that the Government were forced to agree to a default position that all powers vested in the EU on matters of devolved competence would revert to the devolved institutions when we left the EU. This has led to a more consensual approach to the work of developing common frameworks where all four Governments agree that there needs to be a shared understanding and approach across the UK.
Whereas, under Theresa’s May’s Government, earlier drafts of the withdrawal agreement Bill were shared with the devolved Administrations, the version introduced after the December 2019 election was put forward without meaningful discussion and without proper safeguards for devolved competence. That was why, for the first time ever, the Senedd—the recently designated name for the Welsh parliament—refused legislative consent, along with the Scottish and Northern Ireland legislatures.
The current Trade Bill was another product of Tory Whitehall unilateralism, and the Welsh Government, for example, have had to work extremely hard to ensure that the Trade Bill contains sufficient safeguards for their requirements. So far these safeguards have only really been given in the form of Dispatch Box commitments by Ministers, rather than formal textual agreements. From the point of view of the Senedd, the fact that the new Trade Bill introduced after the last election removes any oversight role for Parliament has had the side-effect of removing any rights to being consulted on the part of the devolved legislatures. That is unacceptable.
There was also inadequate consultation on the agreement with Spain on reciprocal voting rights in local elections, and elections to the Senedd are now a devolved competence to Wales despite that fact. There was a failure to consult. While the current Welsh Government favour an expansive approach to voting rights for non-UK nationals, this agreement effectively constrains the exercise of this competence by future Senedds that might take a different and less inclusive view of the place of migrants in our society. Understandably, the Welsh Government cannot agree that international agreements which they have not been involved in negotiating should constrict the Senedd’s rights. There were similar arguments about the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, where only after a hard-fought battle and in the context of the 2017-19 hung Parliament were the Welsh Government able to get the UK Government to agree an acceptable way forward.
It comes as no surprise that I view the Bill with some scepticism on the principle of building consent. I therefore ask the Minister to give a copper-bottomed guarantee that full consultation will take place well in advance over any issues that might arise from this legislation that fall within a devolved competence in either Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.
My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, explained in Committee on 13 May, the Official Opposition had no objection to the three treaties covered by the Bill being brought into domestic law via primary legislation, but they had very considerable objections to Clause 2. Their primary objection to Clause 2 on 13 May, repeated today, was that it would allow the Government to change the law by delegated legislation.
I have no doubt that other noble Lords who have yet to speak, like noble and learned Lords and noble Lords who have already spoken, will support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, in his arguments while paying due regard to the contribution of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. For my part, I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, on the matter of principle but gently remind your Lordships’ House that none of his arguments based on constitutional impropriety found favour with the Government of which he was a distinguished member between 1997 and 2007.
I spent a fair amount of time, when on the Opposition Benches, arguing with the noble and learned Lord’s colleagues, as he does now with mine, that the misuse of secondary legislation to alter or extend primary legislation is wrong. I thought it was then and I think it is now. If, as he appears to have done, he has changed his mind, I am delighted, but he must know, having been in Governments with majorities of 179, 167 and 157, why Governments with large majorities resort to this device: it is expedient, it is convenient and they can.
There is generally far too much legislation and most of it is inadequately considered in the House of Commons. Bills are closely whipped and programmed and Governments of all stripes—Conservative, Labour and the recent coalition—have used Henry VIII powers allowing Ministers to make law with insufficient parliamentary scrutiny. I make that observation coolly.
I am neither shocked nor surprised that the Bill contains such provisions, nor that the Official Opposition have taken the stance they have on the question, today and in May. I simply point out, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, must know, that this is what happens and will continue to happen until Governments with large majorities do less and do it better.
I think I am right in saying that only two of us speaking to this group of amendments—the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and I—were Members of Parliament, and government and shadow Ministers, in the other place before arriving in your Lordships’ House. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hain, will not agree with me when I say that we have brought with us a degree of realism or cynicism, but as Front- and Back-Benchers we served on Bill committees and secondary legislation committees using the affirmative and negative resolution procedures. We know how Governments manage the agenda in the other place.
Therefore, when I see Amendment 20, which would ensure that all regulations made under Clause 2 were subject to a lengthy and protracted super-affirmative resolution procedure, I see a procedure which, if it cannot be killed at birth, will be neutered. I do not wish to be unhelpful, and I readily acknowledge that the noble and learned Lord has said that this is a probing amendment, but I fear that what I see is a cul-de-sac. I confess that I took part in similar debates on Henry VIII powers when in opposition to his Government. His fellow Ministers smiled sweetly and the provision was passed into law exactly as they had drafted it. My noble and learned friend Minister will be less direct than me, but one only has to read the terms of the amendment to realise that, but for the noble and learned Lord’s advertised withdrawal of it, it is heading nowhere but the butcher’s block, if not in your Lordships’ House then when it gets to the other place.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, is of course right to highlight the constitutional problem, a problem that he could not see quite so clearly when he was in government. I do not wish to discourage others from arguing against these ministerial powers even if, as I learned when I was in opposition, nothing will come of them today through the Bill. The arguments must be made, but in the context of the Bill I do not want the migration of these conventions into UK law delayed by this bigger constitutional question. I thus urge your Lordships to let it through unamended, not because I agree with the overuse of Henry VIII powers but because it is going to happen anyway and today is not the day to reform their use piecemeal. That said, I hope this very necessary reform will soon come about more widely with the agreement of both Houses and all parties.
My Lords, the Bill is highly technical for a person who is not trained as a lawyer and does not have a degree in international law. I am not one of those legal minds. I have gone through the various features of the Bill and its policy background in some previous debates.
My concern is about divorces. Children often suffer most when a divorce takes place. The Advocate-General for Scotland, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie, said in a debate in March:
“Private international law is viewed by some as a technical and specialist area of law, but it is an essential one. Without private international law agreements, UK businesses, individuals and families would struggle to resolve the challenges they face when dealing with cross-border legal disputes.”
He went on to say that
“if a family relationship breaks down and one spouse moves abroad, they make it easier to sort out arrangements in the best interests of their children.”—[Official Report, 17/3/20; col. 1439.]
These issues become very important when the marriage has taken place in a religious ceremony in a foreign country and one of the spouses is not British and the other is British by nationality. Often the non-British spouse gets the children and goes back to their country of birth. Here I refer to the sub-continent countries such as India and Pakistan. The spouse who is British and lives in the UK finds it difficult to fight a legal battle over the custody of the children when the other spouse is in India or Pakistan. The issue is further compounded because the cost of litigation is high and the British spouse cannot afford it. The other issue is that the legal processes in these countries can take many years to go before a judge because of the calendar of the courts, which have to deal with many cases each day. In many cases the British Embassy tries to lend assistance, but there is a limit to how much it can help.
I do not wish to raise the issue of forced marriages in this debate. I am just raising this issue because I feel that it will raise its head in future. From 1 February this year the UK has regained full competence to enter into international agreements on PIL in its own right. Such agreements with many countries will take a long time and could cause considerable costs and delays to pending court cases. Can the Minister assure the House that special arrangements will be made for such pending cases, particularly where children are involved?
My Lords, this is a short piece of legislation but an incredibly significant one. That why I wanted to speak to this group of amendments.
Before going into the detail, I would like to make a general point to my noble and learned friend the Minister. Does he agree that the very nature of English law—how it has developed and how it is seen around the world—gives us huge potential post December as a tremendous export as it is respected and highly used across the globe, and we really should seek to maximise its positive impact to this respect?
I turn to the amendments. We see, as we have heard from other noble Lords, that it is envisaged that these powers would be used only infrequently—infrequently, yes, but with potentially extraordinarily huge impact for the individual. So, building on other noble Lords’ comments, my concluding question for my noble and learned friend the Minister is: as currently constructed without these amendments, how does he see the necessary level of scrutiny taking effect? What is his overall view of the coherent use of secondary powers and the coherent and sustainable way to legislate not just on matters such as these but across the piece?
My Lords, I am afraid I must start by disappointing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier: I have not been discouraged from pursuing the point that a number of noble Lords have made in this debate. I strongly support my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer’s amendments. I do so for all the reasons that have been given about the need for scrutiny, questioning and elaboration. Because a number of other noble Lords have made those points, I will not make them again, other than to say that they seem to me to have considerable force.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, I am not a lawyer, but I share with my noble friend Lord Hain the honour of having been a Foreign Office Minister. One of the things that was in my portfolio was the consular service. I know in practice from the responsibilities that the consular service laid on me that, particularly where there were criminal cases or the kinds of cases that the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, has mentioned, which touch on people considerably because they have to do with marriage, children and so on, there was a huge expectation on the part of UK citizens that the Foreign Office would be able to offer them competent advice and help through the consular service. Frequently, in order to work out what was needed, we found that we also, although not lawyers, turned to the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee. We tried to make sure that we had a very strong sense of what was and what was not possible, and from that we could work out what sort of help we could—or, sadly, on some occasions could not—provide to British citizens.
The biggest liability for British citizens was of course that, as in many cases in domestic law, they were not absolutely clear about what the law was or what it might imply for them. They could see nothing of considerable relevance to go back to in the debates there had been about it. Indeed, they probably did not even go back to those debates very frequently, but nor could we—the people who were trying to work out what should be provided through the service.
I think that makes the case for these amendments, probing or not, compelling. In Amendment 20(2)(c) there is provision for other persons or organisations representing various interests that might substantially be affected by the proposals. There is a mechanism for consulting those bodies. I do not think it is a matter for consultation only among the legal parts of the state but among all those who have to try to make sense of it for British citizens when they find themselves in trouble. You want the maximum guidance possible and therefore maximum visibility of what has been decided. Henry VIII powers do not generally do that so I say, with great respect, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, that we may all find ourselves arguing for these things in particular cases but the reality is that it needs to be in a clear, accessible and visible form if we are to really help people who fall into difficulty with these laws. In my view, there is an obligation to help them. Private international law is not much discussed. It does not help them at all. We are duty bound to do so.
My Lords, at this point in Committee deliberations, I often find that we have had tedious repetition, some of it very necessary in terms of underlying principles. On this occasion, some extremely valuable contributions have brought in extraneous issues that I certainly had not thought of, including those raised by my noble friend Lord Hain.
I speak in support of the points raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer. He and I shared the pleasure of working together when the Home Office had what are now the powers of the justice ministry. We were, of course, faced from time to time with the desire to engage with a plethora of delegated legislation which would ease our burden and make the business of government easier. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, is correct in identifying that Governments wish to do this and Oppositions seek to check it. That is a perfectly reasonable combination because Governments have the dynamic of seeking to deal with issues that they will return to in an easier form and Oppositions, quite rightly, have to challenge, as is the case this afternoon, the reasons for that and whether they are acceptable.
I take, for instance, my noble and learned friend Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd’s third point about the framework of legislation now, in which we have become accustomed to dealing with underpinning issues. However, when principles relate to the extension of criminal offences and penalties, as my noble and learned friend pointed out at the beginning of this debate, we have to be extremely cautious.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, in a very entertaining and important diversion, referred to our present situation not just in terms of the underpinning measures that allow people to travel great distances but not to stay overnight, which are perverse in terms of trying to get Parliament up and running, by the way. Measures have applied in history, sometimes by necessity, such as Regulation 18B in 1940, but with consequences that had to be dealt with at length, with the picking up of thousands of people, some of whom should never have been interned in the way they were. Caution is always valuable in these circumstances so that consequential and unforeseen actions are avoided wherever possible. An example is the laying of regulations under both Public Health Acts and the emergency powers that we passed through this House on 25 and 26 March this year, which will be laid in the Commons later this afternoon, in respect of unworkable laws attempting to quarantine people coming from countries with less infection than we have ourselves.
Caution is necessary to make good law, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, said. It tries to look down the line at what the consequential outcomes might be. That is why I think this has been a very useful debate and I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, will reflect on this, given that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, said, substantial majority Governments can push through whatever they like but other people have to live with the consequences.
My Lords, on these Benches we are firmly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, in opposing Clause 2 of the Bill, in line with the virtually unanimous view of those who spoke on 13 May and for all the reasons stated on day one in Committee. We will support the noble and learned Lord in opposing Clause 2 on Report. Therefore, it is with some regret that I find myself disagreeing with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, in particular in respect of the creation of criminal offences. He seemed to be suggesting that such offences would derive from the provisions of the international treaties themselves, rather than the provisions of the delegated legislation and, for that reason, the power in the Bill should be accepted.
However, that is not inevitably so. Under the Bill as it stands, new criminal offences could be introduced by the regulations giving the force of domestic law to private international law conventions and the implementation of those conventions, not by the treaties themselves. I therefore agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, on that issue and the possibility that he raised of new offences being introduced under the regulations.
These two amendments are, of course, alternatives to the removal of Clause 2, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, pointed out. Both amendments would plainly be right if we came to the position, contrary to what we believe should happen, that we were stuck with Clause 2. Amendment 19 on criminal offences raises an important principle. I agree with and endorse everything said by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, as supported by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd and Lord Hope of Craighead, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark. In this country we have always had a strong and principled objection to making new criminal offences or otherwise changing the criminal law by secondary legislation. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, expressed that principle forcefully and eloquently. It is an important principle, which I think we should be very firm about upholding.
Amendment 20 is on the super-affirmative procedure. Of course, it would be better than the affirmative procedure and clearly better than any negative procedure —which is not proposed. However, it is a poor alternative to requiring primary legislation to give international treaties the force of domestic law. Paragraph 31.14 of Erskine May says this about the super-affirmative procedure:
“The super-affirmative procedure provides both Houses with opportunities to comment on proposals for secondary legislation and to recommend amendments before orders for affirmative approval are brought forward in their final form. (It should be noted that the power to amend the proposed instrument remains with the Minister: the two Houses and their committees can only recommend changes, not make them.)”
That paragraph is accurate in respect of the super-affirmative procedure proposed by the noble and learned Lord’s Amendment 20. It follows that Parliament would have no right to amend, and that is why super-affirmative is still a poor alternative. It ultimately leaves legislative power with Ministers and not with Parliament.
It is also a fact that success in changing delegated legislation by the super-affirmative procedure comes very rarely—a point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier. We perhaps ought to return to that matter in the future. We should perhaps try to formulate a procedure that goes some way to meet the criticism he made—a procedure that permits Parliament to approve an instrument conditionally on its being amended in a way acceptable to both Houses. That might solve some of the problems that we have with delegated legislation. But I agree that that is for another day. Our position is that we support these amendments if we are stuck with having to use them in place of striking out Clause 2.
My Lords, taken together, the amendments relate broadly to either narrowing the scope of the Clause 2 power or increasing parliamentary scrutiny for use of that power, and I recognise the observations made by a number of noble Lords and noble and learned Lords that this is very much secondary to the opposition expressed to Clause 2 itself. I note the observation of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, that this is essentially a series of probing amendments.
Before I look at the various amendments, I note that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and other noble Lords referred to the role of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Private International Law and the importance of consultation with it, with which I entirely concur. I am now co-chair of that committee, together with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mance. Its recent meeting was extremely useful. We looked at some technical issues surrounding the application of the Hague conventions of 2005 and 2007 at the end of the transition period. We may hear a little more of that in due course.
Amendment 19 deals with the creation of a criminal offence in the implementation in domestic law of a relevant private international law agreement. The use of the Clause 2 power to create a criminal offence there is very constrained. It is true that private international law agreements do not generally require contracting parties to create criminal offences, and there are no such requirements in the private international agreements that the UK is currently considering joining and implementing under the powers in this Bill. However, it remains a very real possibility that we might negotiate or seek to join a new agreement where a power to create or extend existing criminal penalties will be needed to fully implement the international law obligation. Take an agreement on reciprocal recognition and enforcement of protection measures, for example. In England and Wales, protection measures such as non- molestation orders or injunctions may be made by the courts under the Family Law Act 1996 or the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Breaches of those orders are punishable by criminal penalties. Any future private international law agreement in this area on reciprocal recognition of such orders, if successfully negotiated, would particularly benefit those who are most vulnerable in our society and reliant on such protection measures, whether they remain within the United Kingdom or travel abroad, where they would wish to retain the protection of such orders.
If we entered into such an agreement, it would seem reasonable and appropriate to exercise the Clause 2 power so that, for example, we could extend criminal penalties for breach of a UK order to also apply to the breach of an order issued by a relevant foreign court. Breach of an order issued by a foreign court would in effect carry the same criminal penalty as that for breach of an equivalent UK order. But that criminal offence-making ability would of course be subject to the limitations within the Clause 2 power itself as currently drafted. Let me be clear: we could not create an offence under this power which would carry a term of imprisonment of more than two years, for example. That is an important safeguard on the exercise of the Clause 2 powers in this area.
In the absence of being able to use the Clause 2 power in this area, we would need to rely on bespoke primary legislation to implement any private international law agreement whose domestic implementation required the creation of a criminal offence. That in turn could lead to significant delays that could impact particularly on a vulnerable person such as someone who required protection orders. In addition, the Bill contains other safeguards on the exercise of the Clause 2 power to create criminal offences in this very narrow context. It requires that any regulation relating to criminal offences will follow the affirmative procedure. That provides Parliament with the appropriate means of caution and oversight in dealing with these matters.
The Government feel that the proposed use of the super-affirmative procedure as set out in Amendment 20 for all regulations made by the Secretary of State under a Clause 2 power would be both disproportionate and impractical. The bar for the existing use of the super-affirmative scrutiny procedure in Parliament is quite high, and of course it needs to be. It should be required only where an exceptionally high degree of scrutiny is thought appropriate, which is clearly not the case for the implementation of these particular types of agreements in domestic law when in essence the only choice before Parliament is to accept or reject the implementation of an international treaty in its entirety.
To give a flavour of what is already covered by use of the super-affirmative scrutiny procedure, I have two examples. Section 85 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 provides for super-affirmative scrutiny procedures for Orders in Council that deal with changes in reserved matters. Clearly, that is of key constitutional importance and one can understand why it applies there. Similarly, under the Human Rights Act 1998, there is provision for super-affirmative scrutiny of remedial orders dealing with legislation that is considered incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and needs to be rectified. Again, one can understand why the super-affirmative procedure may be used there. But we should remind ourselves that the terms of private international law agreements are generally very prescriptive and precise, and there is little scope to deviate from the treaty provisions in domestic implementing legislation. In those circumstances, I commend the ordinary affirmative procedure to be a reasonable and indeed appropriate approach to the implementation of these agreements—agreements which at the level of international law will already have been the subject of parliamentary scrutiny under the CRaG procedure.
With great respect—and this reflects a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marks—I must say that the super-affirmative procedure will arguably not lead to significant amendments to any implementing regulations themselves under the Clause 2 power, and indeed nor should it, because the treaties are set at the level of international law. In these circumstances, it would lead only to unnecessary delays in the implementation of these agreements in domestic law and serve no real useful purpose in that context.
Of course, we acknowledge the importance of engagement with practitioners, legal stakeholders and wider interested parties in considering when and if private international agreements should be entered into in the United Kingdom, and that is provided for by CRaG. Again, there is a need for consultation—wide consultation, potentially—over the procedural details of implementing these agreements in domestic law under the Clause 2 power. Of course the Government would welcome engagement on those issues with the international law committee, the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee on private international law and the EU Select Committee. Indeed, we would wish to continue to engage inside and outside with these useful forums in dealing with this matter. However, to put into statute the type of consultation requirement which is suggested in respect of the Clause 2 power does not, I fear, lead to any practical result. The Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee on private international law does not have a statutory footing, so reference to the committee in statute is itself problematic. Its members provide their expertise on a voluntary basis, for which we are of course very grateful. The reference to the House of Lords EU Select Committee would also raise issues, at least of drafting, because after the end of the transition period that committee will either suffer a change of name or a change of constitution. In short, Amendment 20 and its overall approach to consultation is unnecessarily prescriptive in nature and therefore we would not support it.
Finally, Amendment 21 taken on its own would provide the Secretary of State for Justice with the ability to bring forward regulations under Clause 2, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, even in circumstances not required by the provisions in paragraph (3)(2) of Schedule 6. As the Bill is currently drafted, the affirmative procedure applies only to regulations brought forward under the Clause 2 power in certain circumstances. They are when the regulations are implementing a new agreement or apply between the United Kingdom and a devolved Administration, a Crown dependency or an overseas territory for the first time, where they amend primary legislation or, as I referred to earlier, where they involve the creation of a criminal offence. In other circumstances, the regulations would be subject to the negative procedure. That is appropriate because there may well be considerable numbers of very modest amendments on which it would not be appropriate or proportionate to require an affirmative debate. For example, in a situation where a bilateral agreement with another country referred to a specific court that would hear disputes, if after we had implemented the agreement for the first time that court changed its name or the country established a new court, it would seem disproportionate to use the affirmative power simply to update an out-of-date reference in the original implementing legislation to take account of such a change. In these circumstances, I would not consider that aspect of Amendment 20 to be appropriate.
I shall touch on a number of points raised by noble Lords. My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern pointed out that essentially, prior to the present time, the implementation of international law obligations in domestic law suffered far less scrutiny than we now propose. Since that became an EU competency in many areas, it is entered through Section 2 of the ECA. There are provisions in statute which allow the implementation of such international agreements by Order in Council, where there is essentially even less scrutiny than we propose in the Bill.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, asked a number of questions. She referred to the low level of scrutiny, but I do not accept that. If we are going to enter into an agreement at the level of international law, Parliament will scrutinise it under the CRaG process and when we draw it down into domestic law it will be subject to the affirmative procedure. It is not going wider than private international law obligations. The whole purpose of the Bill is to draw down the international law obligation into domestic law. I accept that all statutory instruments may be subject to quashing, which is why one approaches their introduction with considerable care and having regard to our ECHR obligations, so I do not see that as a difficulty.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked whether I am going to reconsider the position before Report. I have to say that the answer is no.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked about introducing criminal offences, but I hope I have explained that the scope within which we will be doing that is in order to implement reciprocal obligations with regard to such things as enforcement orders. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulescoomb, asked in what circumstances private international law creates a criminal offence. I hope I have explained that where there is a reciprocal obligation to recognise such things as enforcement orders, we would draw that down into domestic law. My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern made the point that essentially the international agreement is going to provide for that offence in one form or another, and we are drawing that down into our domestic law.
The noble Lord, Lord Hain, asked for a series of guarantees and confirmations, but it would not be appropriate for me to advance guarantees of the kind he was seeking at this time.
The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, made a number of points about the importance of English law and its huge export potential, with which I entirely concur. It is more than just English law; the choice of English jurisdiction is equally important in the context of us having reciprocal enforcement under the provisions of private international law. There will be clear scrutiny by Parliament, by way of CRaG, at the level of international law and by way of the affirmative SI procedure.
Overall, I suggest that these amendments are not appropriate. I recognise that they are probing amendments and that they are secondary to some expressions of opposition to Clause 2, but I respectfully invite the noble and learned Lord to withdraw Amendment 19 and not to press Amendments 20 and 21.
No Member has indicated that they wish to speak after the Minister, so I call Lord Falconer.
I am very obliged to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and I am very grateful for the almost universal support I got from the noble Lords, Lord Marks, Lord Bhatia and Lord Holmes, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, and my noble friends Lord Blunkett, Lord Kennedy, Lord Hain, Lord Triesman and Lady Kennedy. I am dismayed not to be supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, but I disagree with the two propositions he made. The first was that he was happy for the criminal offences to be introduced by secondary legislation under the power of the international private law agreement. As has been made clear, including by the Minister, that is not right. Secondly, I am unfortunately not persuaded by him that it involves a similar degree of scrutiny as that which previously existed in relation to private international law. It most certainly does not. He referred to the Civil Aviation Act 1982. That refers to civil aviation, which was mostly dealt with by the European Union at that time, so it does not support the proposition that he advanced. Indeed, it was not relied on at any stage by the Minister.
I was disappointed in what the Minister said in three respects. First, he said that he was not even going to reconsider the position, even though there was practically universal opposition in the House to the idea of a Section 2 power; secondly, he failed to give any assurance to my noble friend Lord Hain in relation to the devolved Assemblies; and, thirdly, he did not give any assurance in relation to being willing to consult the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee on justice. Of course, I will withdraw the amendment, but we will return to this in seeking to remove Clause 2 on Report.
Amendment 19 withdrawn.
Amendments 20 and 21 not moved.
Schedule 6 agreed.
Bill reported without amendment.
Virtual Proceeding suspended.