Clause 2: Crown application
1: Clause 2, page 2, line 33, leave out subsections (2) and (3)
My Lords, I am grateful to the House for Members’ engagement on the Bill throughout its passage. The amendments in this group are all consequential on the removal of the delegated power contained in the former Clause 2 of the Bill. I am moving Amendment 1, and support Amendments 2 and 3, as the provisions to which they relate do not function without the delegated power.
Before I turn to the detail of the amendments, I wish to make clear from the outset that we believe that the delegated power contained in the former Clause 2 of the Bill was a necessary, proportionate and constitutionally appropriate measure, for the timely implementation in domestic law of future private international law agreements which the Government had decided that the UK should join. Subject to a successful application, this could have included the Lugano Convention 2007.
Any decision for the United Kingdom to join a treaty or agreement in this area of law would still have been subject to successful completion of parliamentary scrutiny procedures under the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The former delegated power in the Bill did not alter the well-established approaches to parliamentary scrutiny of treaties and wider ratification processes under CRaG. Instead, it was simply a mechanism to draw down the treaty obligations into domestic law in readiness for ratifying the treaty.
I will now speak to Amendment 1, in my name, which seeks to remove from the Bill subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 2, formerly Clause 3, which establishes the Crown application of the Bill. These provisions were consequential on what was, originally, Clause 2, containing the delegated power. They provided that regulations made in the exercise of the delegated power in former Clause 2 could bind the Crown, subject to exceptions which reflect those contained in Section 51 of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982, as referred to in subsection (1).
The Government are bringing forward this amendment to remove these subsections from the Bill, as these two interlinked provisions were originally intended to apply to regulations made under the delegated power and therefore serve no function following its removal. As I have indicated, this is purely to ensure that the Bill is workable for its introduction into the other place, given the outcome of our deliberations in this House.
I have also put my name to Amendment 2, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. The amendment seeks to remove Schedule 6 from the Bill. It details how the delegated power could be exercised in practice, including the parliamentary procedures to be followed for making regulations. I accept that the House has made its view clear, and without the delegated power in the former Clause 2, Schedule 6 serves no useful purpose. In these circumstances, purely to enable the tidying up of the Bill, we support the amendment to remove Schedule 6 from the Bill at this point.
Amendment 3, also in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, seeks to amend the Long Title of the Bill. Again, this is a consequence of the removal of the delegated power. Given that the new title more accurately reflects the content of the Bill as amended by the House, namely the implementation of the 1996, 2005 and 2007 Hague Conventions under Clause 1, in these circumstances the Government are content to support the amendment.
I beg to move.
I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord. There is no dispute between us; all three amendments should be approved, to reflect the changes resulting from removing the wider power. The Minister repeated his argument for why that power should be there. We have had this argument three times now. It was rejected when he put it to the Delegated Powers Committee, rejected when it was put to the Constitution Committee, and massively rejected when it was put before your Lordships’ House, so there is no point repeating it again.
The Minister said that we should be dealing with subsequent conventions by secondary legislation. We have made amendments in this Bill to the three conventions that we are bringing in today. We could not have done so if his Clause 2 powers had been there. I hope that he will bring back what was the view of everybody in the Chamber, apart from him—namely that the Clause 2 power should not be there.
My Lords, as is often the case with legislation bringing treaties into domestic law, the meat of this Bill is to be found in the schedules rather than the clauses. Unfortunately, there was some gristle in Clause 2 that made it less palatable. That said, there has been a universal desire to see the three conventions in question come into our post-EU domestic law, and, subject to the already-announced recognition of the points made on Report on 17 June by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, in relation to the Hague Convention 2000, the real substance of this Bill has been agreed. I congratulate my noble and learned friend the Advocate-General, who has been carrying the Bill more or less on his own.
However, I also commiserate with him on coping with the gristle. He has not looked, still less asked, for sympathy from any of us. I dare say that he might have hoped for more voluble support from this side of the House, but as the experienced advocate that he is, he has not revealed his disappointment, even when the noble and learned lord, Lord Mance, disobligingly compared him to Monty Python’s armless and legless Black Knight.
Unquestionably, the provisions in Clause 2, which gave the Executive the extensive future law-making powers originally in the Bill, have been shown to be constitutionally awkward and unwelcome, by the Constitution Committee, the Delegated Powers Committee and contributors to these debates. When the Bill goes to the other place, I trust that the Government will not use their large majority there to restore the Bill to its original form.
Having said that, I would not want the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton—who is just as much a politician as he ever was in government 15 years ago—or the Labour Party, to claim that the amended Bill shows them in an altogether angelic light. In these proceedings they have no halo to burnish. As they know only too well, and as was graciously accepted by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, in Committee, there were times when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and his colleagues in government enthusiastically gave the Executive extensive Henry VIII powers—powers he now decries. The same could be said of my Liberal Democrat partners in the coalition Government and, I readily confess, of me.
However, let us in a Bill of this type and content, cast political point-scoring aside and do two things. First, we should send this Bill to the other place with our strong advice that those Henry VIII powers that were once in the Bill should stay out of it so that the three conventions can be brought back into our national law as soon as can be sensibly arranged. Secondly, we should invite a Joint Committee of both Houses thoroughly to investigate and review the use of Henry VIII powers and make recommendations on their future use. The Clause 2 powers were by no means the most egregious example of them, but I am not alone in thinking that Ministers should not make or amend the criminal law or the substantive law more generally by secondary legislation. That should be confined to administrative and simple regulatory matters.
I too warmly support these necessary amendments. I do not wish to traverse the arguments that took place on Report or prior to that. I merely add a word about the Lugano convention. It is universally agreed among lawyers that although it may not be the best solution, it is probably the best available solution to the position that we are likely to find ourselves in at the end of the year. It is of the upmost importance to many in the United Kingdom economy, but in particular also to those who conduct legal business in London, that we adhere to the Lugano convention. I see no reason why the other parties to the convention will not agree. I therefore express my earnest hope that if that takes place there will be no delay whatever in bringing forward the necessary legislation to make it part of our law. Any delay in the matter of the reciprocal enforcement and recognition of judgments can do nothing but damage the position of the United Kingdom as a whole and in particular London as a dispute resolution centre.
My Lords, I enjoyed the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, especially when, having made a couple of political points, he asked us to cast political points aside. It is nice to see that he is in his usual jolly form.
I am very pleased that the Government have decided to remove Clause 2 and Schedule 6 from the Bill. I agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer. We would not want to give the Government carte blanche on any agreement, especially at a time when the Civil Service is being taken over by political ideologues—friends of Mr Cummings. But, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, having made a couple of political points, I have two specific questions for the Minister. First, on the state of play in discussions with the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, have any memoranda of understanding been agreed, and what does he expect the final outcome to be?
Secondly, as a delegate from this Parliament to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe I noted that paragraph 5 of the Explanatory Note states that
“Agreements containing PIL rules may also be negotiated through the Council of Europe.”
I am keen to know what agreements would come into that category. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond today, but if he cannot, I would appreciate his response in writing.
My Lords, I too am glad to see that Clause 2 and the schedule will go and I fully support the amendments brought forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. Is it the Government’s intention to replace Clause 2 and in particular Schedule 6 when the matter goes to the other place? If so, is it their intention to have criminal offences, which are punishable by imprisonment, by secondary legislation? I made that point at an earlier stage of the Bill. In principle, it is quite wrong for imprisonment to be imposed as a result of secondary legislation. In this particular instance it is even worse, because the scope of private international law is so wide that anything could be the subject of it within the principles of private international law. There is no clarity at all about where a criminal sanction involving imprisonment would be imposed. I would be grateful if the Minister could deal with that point.
My Lords, these are sensible amendments and I support the Bill as it now stands. There was an interesting exchange on Report in relation to devolution issues, particularly in relation to Wales following the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Hain. It was an informative debate. During that discussion, I raised the issue of the arrangements in place to involve the devolved Governments in the discussion of international treaties. There is a commitment in the concordat between the UK Government and the devolved Governments to ensure that there is prior consultation in relation to appropriate international treaties.
In that debate on my noble friend’s amendment, I asked specifically if it might be appropriate at some stage for us to move towards an institutional framework for the involvement of the devolved Governments in the agreement of negotiating mandates for international treaties, rather than simply a preference from Government to Government on consultation. I heard the response of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, on that day and I read it again afterwards. The Government’s wording is carefully chosen. He said:
“We are very conscious of our responsibilities under the devolution settlements, and our approach in this area is always to seek to engage early and often when any questions arise. It is my view that such an approach of early engagement is the best way to make consultation genuinely meaningful.”—[Official Report, 17/6/20; col. 2251.]
That is of course very sensible. But will the Minister reflect on the opportunity for this and other Bills that will come before us as a result of our departure from the European Union and other factors to prompt us along the road of a better institutional framework for the engagement of the devolved Governments in negotiating mandates for international treaties? Perhaps, outwith a piece of legislation that might just polarise us in debate, there might be scope for a debate on this in your Lordships’ House in the future.
My Lords, I support the three amendments, largely for the reasons already eloquently elucidated by other noble Lords. I spare a word for my noble and learned friend the Minister in his dogged determination in the way that he has taken this Bill through. Perhaps he, like others, will agree that the Bill will now leave this place in a better state than when it arrived. We all hope that we are bidding au revoir to Clause 2 and hope that when the Bill appears in the other place it will in no sense be à bientôt.
In making those points, I underscore the important place of London as a centre for international dispute resolution. I ask my noble and learned friend, as I have on each occasion, to underline our gift—a gleaming jewel—in having English law and the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
My Lords, it is a little disconcerting to end up being thought by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Garnier and Lord Falconer, to be on the side of the angels, but I concur with the consensus that has emerged on the Bill. When we left the European Union, we did not leave in order to give the Executive more power. The argument that was put was that power would be transferred back to the British Parliament. There is a substantive difference between Parliament and the Executive in our democracy, and it would behove the Government in future to be significantly less reliant on so-called Henry VIII powers. That is not taking back control of democracy; it is ceding control to the Executive. That will come back and bite the Executive politically in the view of the general public at some stage in future. I am pleased that we have a consensus today.
Finally, I add to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, to clarify what the situation will be in relation to Northern Cyprus.
I welcome these sensible amendments which tidy up the Bill, but I also welcome them for an important reason, which is that in removing Clause 2 this House made an important constitutional decision. I welcome the thrust of much of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, said. However, I doubt that we need a thoroughgoing review of delegated legislation or the powers to delegate legislation. What we need is to respect more thoroughly the views of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the principles that it applies, which are well known and are often stated and applied by this House and were importantly so stated and applied during debates on the removal of Clause 2.
I regard it as a shame that the Minister opened this afternoon’s discussion with a reassertion of the position that he enunciated during earlier stages of the Bill— that Clause 2 was constitutionally proper and not inappropriate. This House decisively rejected that view. I hope that the Government will listen to what has been said today and, more importantly, will consider the arguments that were advanced during the earlier stages of the Bill, change their mind and decide not to reinstate Clause 2 and send it back to this House, taking advantage of their majority; and, rather than having a thoroughgoing review, will decide to exercise some self-control in future and not put before us Bills which contain delegated powers that most of us regard as entirely wrong and inappropriate.
My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and my noble friend Lord Holmes observed, it is important that we maintain the position of English law and the jurisdiction, particularly in London, with regard to commercial dispute resolution just as it is maintained under the New York convention with respect to arbitration. That is why we have made our application to the council of the Lugano convention to join that body, but it is step that can be taken only with the consent of the member states and the EU. We recognise that if our application is accepted it is a matter of urgency for us to draw down that treaty into domestic law, which in part explains the position that we have adopted with regard to Clause 2.
It is not often that I find myself in a position where I have to correct the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock. Indeed, I regard this as highly unusual, but I observe that where he said that the Government had decided not to proceed with Clause 2 that was not entirely accurate. It was decided for us, and there is a distinction to be drawn there. As regards the state of play with the Crown dependencies, the provision with respect to the Isle of Man fell with the amendments to the Bill in this House. As regards the Council of Europe, while in theory it may seek to promote some issues in respect of private international law, I do not understand that it has done so or that it imminently intends to do so, but I will make further inquiry and if necessary write to the noble Lord.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, talked about a matter of principle with regard to the introduction of what would amount to a criminal offence of some limited penalty by way of secondary legislation or something other than primary legislation, a situation that has obtained for almost 50 years since the European Communities Act 1972.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, raised prior consultation. I reiterate the points I made at an earlier stage with regard to that. Both the Government of Wales and the Government of Scotland granted an LCM to the Bill in its original form, so they appeared to be relatively content with its provisions.
I am not clear about the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, to Northern Cyprus in the context of the Bill, but I understand the complications that arise with regard there to private international law, and I would be content to speak to him later if there is a further point that he would like to elucidate, and I would be happy to consider it.
The Government are content to support this group of amendments as they relate to elements of the Bill which no longer function without the delegated power previously in Clause 2. However, as I have made clear, the Government’s position on the Clause 2 delegated power has not changed.
Amendment 1 agreed.
Schedule 6: Regulations under section [clause removed]
2: Schedule 6, leave out Schedule 6
Amendment 2 agreed.
In the Title
3: In the Title, line 1, leave out from “2007” to end of line 3
Amendment 3 agreed.
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.