(". Schedule ( Proscribed organisations: detention) shall have effect with respect to the detention of persons suspected of being a member of an organisation which is proscribed for the purposes of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996.").
The noble Lord said: This amendment is linked with Amendment No. 53. I am well aware that, when replying to the Second Reading debate, the Minister rejected the restoration of detention. However, he will remember that when he was replying to the debate on the removal of the powers of detention not all that long ago he declared that he could not foresee circumstances when the Government might want to use those powers. "Why retain them?" was his argument. When I intervened on that occasion asking the Minister whether he could foresee circumstances when he might have to return or might want to return to Parliament seeking the restoration of the powers of detention, he was slightly less confident in his reply. He might have given a different answer if we were dealing with that point today. But I am encouraged by the fact that in another place yesterday the Prime Minister, in response to the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition in the other place, seemed not entirely to reject such a suggestion. He seemed to leave that door open.
Much approval was voiced today for the vast improvement in co-operation between the British and Irish Governments, particularly in security matters. Last week I distinctly heard the Irish Prime Minister, Mr. Ahern, reply to a question on whether he proposed to implement the powers of internment which he possesses. Perhaps I may paraphrase his reply. It ran roughly: "We cannot do so because Britain no longer has those powers and terrorists from the Republic would dash to find a safe haven in Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom". Surely we ought to be thinking about what the Irish Prime Minister has said. Perhaps our own Prime Minister had something like that in mind when he spoke in the other place yesterday. Mr. Ahern is probably the first Irish Prime Minister who has co-operated fully, and very courageously, with Her Majesty's Government in doing their best to counter terrorism, with the promise of more to come. Surely, we have a reciprocal duty to start thinking our way back to the position which we should never have deserted and restore the power of detention. I beg to move.
Although we realise that this will probably not have any effect and will not be put into legislation tonight, it is ironical that for years we have been complaining that the Irish Republic would not take extensive measures against terrorists. They have been carrying out cross-border attacks which are well documented. Indeed, we believe that most of the munitions are still south of the border. We have continuously had the problem of there being no strength in their legislation previously or in the attempts to enforce it. Now we have had a really meaningful declaration by the Prime Minister and the parliament of the Republic stating that they will support our crackdown on terrorism to the greatest extent they can, but we have dropped the one thing on which they might have co-operated with us.I am not opening up the argument of whether we should have used detention this week, last week or next week. We are trying to bring our legislation into line with one another. It seems rather foolish that we have dropped detention and prematurely, as we well know from what has happened since Christmas. It is only an example, but since Christmas we have had a large number of city centre or town centre bombs, many of which have not come to fruition, thank goodness. Tragically, of course, Omagh did. Those bombings were committed by what we know to be a relatively small band. I know that I spoke about this earlier. It is a relatively small band of known people. In the fight against terrorism at all times, whether it has been through the Irish Republic or this Government, there has been a band small enough to de-activate or disrupt. By taking out the key people it would undoubtedly save lives. We had six months in which to do that when the band was well known. We did not do it because we had dropped the ability to detain people. This evening we have heard arguments which suggest that these new laws are not going to work either. So we have the rough edge of both ends. It may well be that it is the people of Northern Ireland who will suffer. Although I realise that internment will not come about this evening, the Government should seriously think about this matter.
As I made clear in my speech some hours ago at Second Reading, I believe that internment should have been kept on the statute book. It has some advantages over the proposals in the Bill before us. Until yesterday I had been discouraged by the fact that the Government had set their face against internment and abolished those powers a few months ago. But in the past 24 hours I have been encouraged to think that internment might come back into the frame as a possibility by the remarks of the Prime Minister yesterday, to which the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, drew attention just now and which I heard with interest yesterday in another place. There is also the increased Anglo-Irish co-operation over security generally, which I hope is leading to the Irish Government pressing the British Government to agree to reinstate the power of internment so that it can be used if necessary. I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux.My question is whether the possibility of the reintroduction of internment will be included in the review of anti-terrorist measures which is now taking place so that we have a report on that matter as well as on the other matters in what is described as the "near future". Is internment to be included as one of the possibilities to be considered under anti-terrorist measures in that review?
I am happy to support these amendments proposing the re-introduction after a brief interval of the power to intern but with more safeguards built in this time round, thus bringing us once again into line with the Republic of Ireland, with whose anti-terrorist laws Her Majesty's Government are evidently in the process of harmonising our own to the maximum possible degree. In the Second Reading debate this afternoon it was striking to hear how many noble and learned Lords of enormous distinction supported the principle of internment in extremis, and they certainly preferred it to Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill.If, over the past 30 years, between 48,000 and 49,000 people had been killed on the British mainland—that is the proportionate equivalent of the numbers killed in Northern Ireland—as a result of terrorist activity, one could be absolutely certain that internment and far more extreme measures would have been introduced on the mainland. Not a single marginal or semi-marginal seat would be safe unless the sitting MP had voted for such extreme measures. Because, thankfully, so few people have been killed on the mainland, and because Northern Ireland has such small representation, the theoretical idealistic opposition to internment was able to triumph. But realistically I think we know in our hearts that if proportionately the same number of people had been killed in England, Scotland and Wales, internment would have been introduced here. Therefore I think there is a good case for accepting these amendments, in particular because that would bring us once again into line with the Republic of Ireland.
I think there are two further ancillary arguments. First, the fact that three citizens of the Irish Republic who came from Dundalk to Omagh were killed and Spanish guests of that country were killed has undoubtedly made it much easier for the Irish Government to act firmly because the feelings of people in the Republic of Ireland are far more directly engaged than they have ever been before. This is a moment to move if we are going to, and I strongly suggest that we should.The other argument is that this measure would enable people to be put away without threat to the continuing sources of intelligence—I believe this point was made by a noble and learned Lord—but also it would mean that we would not see (as I fear we otherwise will) the RUC threatened, attacked and vilified for attempting to make this imperfect legislation work. It is not going to work and the RUC will get the blame for it. Therefore that is another reason for seriously considering internment as a way of creating safety and putting away dangerous people and not exposing the forces of law and order in Northern Ireland to the kind of vilification they will otherwise suffer at the hands of Sinn Fein/IRA.
Yesterday the Prime Minister in another place was surely signalling that the Government's mind is not closed and that the Government are not saying they are incapable of visualising circumstances in which internment would be appropriate. Given that, surely it can be accepted that it will be desirable for the Government to have their tackle in order on a contingent basis. As I understand it, that is the sole purpose of the group of amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux. If you have decided that the circumstances are appropriate, you do not want to have to go through all the paraphernalia of laying the orders de novo; you want to be able to activate something which you have previously put in place. Mr. Bruton has criticised the Government's repeal of the provisions for detention. I listened to Dr. Garret Fitzgerald on a radio programme some 10 days ago saying he could not understand why the British Government had repealed it.Surely no options would be closed off if the Government were to accept these amendments. On the contrary, they would be acting consistently with the signals that they have been given which are, when all is said and done, only prudent and sensible signals if these amendments are to be accepted. I felt very sad that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, was withdrawn rather than having it tested before the Committee. But the realities, I suppose, are as they have been described. We cannot do anything now. I hope that the Government will now consider it only consistent with the prudent stand taken by the Prime Minister yesterday and will accept the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, which get the Government's tackle in order on a contingent basis.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, gave very lucidly the various reasons why at some time internment may be the only way to deal with the problem. There is just one other reason that I would add. These terrorist organisations are mainly controlled by godfathers who take good care to keep their noses out of it and to keep themselves clean. It would be almost impossible to incriminate them or find them guilty by any clauses such as we have covered today in the Bill. These godfathers are also running the most evil financial organisations connected with drugs and other things. It is vital, in closing down terrorism, as we hope will happen, that we take these godfathers out. I do not see any other way than detention for doing that.
May I deal first with two specific points that were raised. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, that the Government's review of terrorism will include internment within its scope.Secondly, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Park, when she implies that this legislation will not be effective and that the RUC thinks the same, that the RUC supports this legislation. It is wrong to suggest otherwise.
Forgive me, I certainly did not intend to imply that. If I did I most categorically withdraw it. That was my interpretation. I had no intention of suggesting what the views of the RUC were; I do not know.
I thank the noble Baroness. If I misunderstood her as well, that clarifies the matter.We have spent a great deal of the past 10 hours considering safeguards for individuals under this legislation. Many noble Lords expressed concern that there were, in certain instances, inadequate safeguards under the provisions of this Bill. We are now having the call for internment, which would most emphatically be a decision by government to deprive individuals of their liberty without trial and without the normal safeguards which the law provides for the protection of the accused. That is what internment is and that is what this particular amendment asks for. Its use could only ever be justified as a last resort. As has already been explained, the purpose of the Bill is to target the existence of dissident terrorist groups using the due processes of the law and the courts. Surely that is a better way forward, if we can make it work, and I believe we can. That said, the Government have made it clear that they would act to re-introduce internment if they could be convinced as to its effectiveness. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister said he does not rule out taking the power of internment in the future. In reaching a decision in the future about that matter, the Prime Minister would obviously pay careful attention to the views of the Taoiseach. At present both governments agree that the operational co-operation in place, together with the political co-operation, represent the best way forward. The Government remain to be convinced that at this point in time internment would be an effective measure. I understand the reasons why noble Lords are putting it forward but I believe that it would not, at this time, be appropriate. This Bill represents a better way forward and one which is more consistent with a democratic society that believes in the rule of law.
Mention has been made of co-operation with other Irish Prime Ministers in statements made recently by others. In case someone might feel left out, I refer to one Prime Minister, Mr Haughey. He was not always regarded as being co-operative. I do not know whether it is known formally that for somewhat over a year when he was Prime Minister and I was leader of my party we made speeches to each other over the airwaves and through the newspapers without the news industry understanding what was going on or reading the signals. In a curious way, I believe that we paved the way for that which has now come to pass.It may also strike Members of the Committee as somewhat unusual for a member of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland to suggest that we play fair with the Irish Prime Minister and the Irish Government of the day. That applies with even greater force now. I beg Her Majesty's Government to have the courage and fairness to opt for full reciprocity as a matter of real urgency, not least because 28 persons lost their civil rights in Omagh. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 not moved.]
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 [ England and Wales]:
[ Amendments Nos. 29 to 31 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 32:
Page 7, leave out lines 29 to 33.
The noble Lord said: I intend to speak briefly on this amendment and to later amendments. I have the impression that another place is rather anxious to see the return of the Bill. I dare say that some Members of the Committee in this House are anxious to see the departure of the Bill.
Some criticisms have been made by many people better qualified than myself on the matter about the drafting of the Bill. Yesterday Mr Robert Marshall-Andrews, an eminent QC in another place, described it as possibly the worst drafted Bill he had ever come across. I put down the amendment relatively late following the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. In taking one example, he picked out subsection (6) of new Section 1A in Clause 5. If I paraphrase him correctly, he said that it was incapable of being understood. The noble and learned Lord may have been wrong in that description. If so, no doubt it will be relatively easy for the Government to explain exactly what the words in subsection (6) mean. I move the amendment in order to ask whichever member of the Front Bench will respond to explain exactly what the words in that clause mean. I beg to move.
It was very unkind of Mr Marshall-Andrews to say that this was the worst drafted Bill he had ever seen. But of course he has much less experience than many of us here in such matters.It is a quite simple explanation. Subsection (6) explains how subsection (4) is to be interpreted in respect of reference to the commission of an offence. As the Committee has seen, subsection (4) is designed to catch behaviour not necessarily triable at present in England and Wales. If we leave out subsection (6) nothing in that new Section 1A will work. Subsection (6) is the means by which new offences of conspiracy, defined in new Section 1A of the 1977 Act (referred to at the top of page 7 of the Bill), are embedded in existing conspiracy law, Section 1. That is the purpose of it. It looks a little opaque, but I hope that I have shed some light on it. It really is quite simple, and I am sure it is all the fault of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, for confusing us!
I said earlier that I expected proper answers from the Government in response to the points that I and others put. On this occasion I shall have to do something similar and I shall have to read carefully what the noble Lord has had to say about this because I am not sure I understood what he said and I still find subsection (6), as he put it, pretty opaque. No doubt the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, will want to look carefully at what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has said, and he might wish, along with myself, to pursue this matter in correspondence. At this stage of the evening I do not think I can pursue the matter further, but, as I have said, I shall look carefully at what the noble Lord has had to say. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 33 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 34.
Page 8, line 34, leave out ("Subject to subsection (6) below,").
The noble Lord said: The amendments that I speak to are Amendments Nos. 34, 37, 40 and 43. They refer to the removal of the safeguard of the consent of the Attorney-General. This was a provision which puzzled Mr. Alun Michael in another place. It certainly puzzled the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. The reason for this puzzlement was that it was not explained until four o'clock in the morning of what is now yesterday, when Mr. Michael was fully briefed upon the subject.
The suggestion here appears to be that despite all the talk of the safeguard of the Attorney-General's consent, there should be categories of cases for which the Secretary of State may, by order, remove that protection. Mr Michael was saying that the type of cases could be paedophile cases or child abuse cases and so on.
I would resist this matter for a number of reasons. The first is that it is completely unprecedented for there to be a power within a Bill which requires the consent of the Attorney-General to prosecute and for there to be a power for that consent to be removed by the Secretary of State, by order, in this way. There are many provisions throughout the criminal law where the consent of the Attorney-General is required, and that is the end of the matter. The matters are thought to be sufficiently serious to require that safeguard for defendants.
When one turns to the merits of the proposals one observes that this is a complicated question as to whether a prosecution should be brought at all. I do not propose at this time to go through all the arguments that have been set out in previous debates concerning the type of decision that has to be taken but just to look at the provision itself.
Conditions have to be fulfilled. Those conditions are set out in subsections (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the proposed new section. The matters that have to be examined are the nature of an offence in a foreign country, and that decision has to be decided in the Crown Court by a judge alone. It is a question of law which will require evidence of foreign law. I cannot imagine that conspiracy charges, which have to be tried on indictment under the Criminal Law Act 1977, will be brought all that frequently. If there are 50 or more in a year I would be extremely surprised.
I would have thought that when one is using this extension of extra-territorial criminality, which really is what this clause amounts to, careful scrutiny by the Law Officer is required. He is the person who is charged with making an independent decision, unaffected by partisan considerations. He is charged with a heavy responsibility and a duty to look coolly and impartially, no doubt consulting with colleagues, but considering the public interest in its broadest sense. For every conspiracy prosecution brought on indictment, it is my view, strongly held, that impartial consideration by the Attorney-General will be necessary in cases under this section. I beg to move.
I rise to offer my support to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, for his amendment, Amendment No. 34. As the noble Lord will be aware, I have also supported him in Amendment No. 37 and I should have put my name to his amendment, Amendment No. 34, just as I imagine, looking at the other amendments in this group, he should probably have put his name to Amendment No. 40 and, when we come to Amendment No. 43, possibly it should have been the noble Lord rather than his noble friend Lord Holme who put his name to that. The point is that all of us are in agreement about these four amendments.I touched on this point in my opening remarks at Second Reading when I referred to the report from the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. It is important that all governments take particular notice of reports from that committee. It made its concerns forcefully in the report that appeared some time this morning. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the time to read what Mr. Alun Michael said in another place at 4 a.m.—I received my copy of Hansard for that part of the proceedings only at about 11.30 a.m. or 12 o'clock and I have not been able to study it in detail. However, when that Select Committee makes various recommendations in such a report, I believe that it behoves a Minister when he introduces a Bill to make some response to that report. It was with some regret that I noticed that in the 39 minutes that the Minister devoted to introducing this Bill, he did not touch on that point. Indeed, I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, did not touch on it either when he wound up the debate. That is to be regretted. Since then, the matter has been touched on to some extent in Amendment No. 11 which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, had to deal with Amendment No. 11 and that took an hour and a half. The amendment took a considerable amount of time. The noble Lord said—perhaps I may paraphrase him or even quote him—that hackles had been roused. I believe that hackles have been roused quite rightly because I think that when that Select Committee makes recommendations it is right that Ministers respond to them, and particularly when introducing legislation. I believe that I have the support of all my noble friends on the Front Bench in saying that, once we had established the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation, we always did that when we were in government. The House has grown to expect that Ministers will respond to such reports. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will do so on this occasion, in responding to this amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. There may or may not be a point here; I do not know whether the Select Committee got it right, but we certainly always followed its recommendations. I think that on this occasion it is right that the noble Lord should give an absolutely clear answer to the points that it raised—an answer which all of us can study in due course and, I hope, an answer with which all of us will be satisfied when the noble Lord has finished.
As Amendments Nos. 37 and 43 are also being spoken to, I should point out to the Committee that if Amendment No. 37 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 38 or 39 and that if Amendment No. 43 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 44 or 45.
I am grateful for what my noble friend has just said about the Select Committee. I speak as a member of it but, of course, for only myself tonight. The present Government have been just as scrupulous in heeding, concurring with, and implementing the recommendations of the committee as were their predecessors. Therefore, perhaps one might have felt a tiny bit ruffled that the committee's recommendations were not mentioned earlier today. However, there is now an opportunity to put that right. I have advanced my own arguments as to why these provisions are offensive. I have heard the intention that has led them to be put into the Bill but, unfortunately, the Bill goes much wider, as drafted, than those narrower and acceptable intentions.
I am grateful for this opportunity. I did touch on this matter when I dealt with the great clutch of amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, because a number of noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Elton, had concerns about it.I am sorry if I did not deal with the recommendations of the Select Committee. I cannot remember when it was today that I received them but it was certainly rather late. However, when I looked at subsection (6), it struck me as being rather strange. I was troubled as to whether or not Mr. Hardy, who wrote to The Times, might not have had a point. In fact, before I read his letter, I specifically made inquiries as to why this was needed. The answer was plain and to me at least, satisfactory. It is not a basis for the Secretary of State overriding a refusal of consent in a particular case. I do not believe that any Attorney would tolerate that if it were a particular case. An Attorney would have to resign or persuade the Secretary of State to change his view. I am most grateful to see the support coming from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew. It arises because we already have legislation relating to, for example, sex tourism carried out in Thailand. We went through a good deal of discussion about that when we passed the legislation. To launch proceedings in those circumstances, the Attorney's consent is not required. I can see the sense of that because there are not likely to be the public interest sensitivities which were identified by so many noble Lords when we talked about conspiracy generally and in particular in the context of political dissent. Therefore, one would have the anomalous situation where, if one were looking at conspiracy in the context of this legislation when it becomes law, one would need the Attorney's consent whereas, if there were prosecutions under the sex tourism legislation for exactly the same activities, the Attorney's consent would not be needed. Therefore, this is simply put into the Bill to give the Secretary of State the opportunity to take out any particular class of case. It may not be limited to sex tourism. There may be others which, in due time, may be thought appropriate; for example, revenue, drug trafficking and money laundering offences. The power will never be used to deal with the category of political offence which is where the true sensitivity and public interest starts. That, therefore, is the thinking behind this. I repeat that I was surprised when I looked at it because I was afraid that the Executive might try to interfere with the Attorney and not have learnt the lessons of the previous Attorney in the Campbell case. That is not the position at all. I hope that I have given an explanation which satisfies Members of the Committee. I have repeated some things I said before because of what the noble Lord said and, of course, because of what the Select Committee said about the necessity to have an explanation. That is the explanation. There is nothing sinister about it at all. It is simply a way of making the present laws work hand-in-hand in a sensible, coherent way with what the new laws will be if this Bill is passed by your Lordships and another place.
Before the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, decides how to respond to this matter, perhaps I may say that I am grateful for the Minister's assurance that the Secretary of State will use this power only in the manner in which he described it. I should be grateful if he will repeat that assurance.I should inform the Minister that, as I made clear on Second Reading, we shall wish to return to this matter when dealing with criminal justice legislation. We shall wish to look again at this clause because it is extremely important and unusual. The Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee was quite right to invite the House to look at it carefully. This Bill is going through very quickly and we do not wish to damage it. However, we shall wish to return to this at a later stage. That will not be on this Bill but on a Bill as yet unknown but which may appear in the programme for next year's legislation.
That is most generous of the noble Lord, bearing in mind that we specifically decided after some thought and consultation that it should be an affirmative resolution and that I should not be in the position of being pressed by noble Lords opposite on why the Government had not gone for an affirmative resolution. I hope that in that form we have recognised the importance of the point that has been raised.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has referred to sexual offences. He referred to me as someone who had indirectly been connected with that legislation. I draw his attention to paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 and ask him to write to me to explain how that provision will operate and whether or not it is consistent with what he has just said in connection with the role of the Attorney-General.
I shall do that and place a copy in the Library.
I should like to raise a slightly different issue. As I understand it, the provisions in Clauses 5 and 6 are to do with conspiracy and not a particular offence; namely, a situation in which a person conspires with others to do a particular act. My understanding is that the offence of conspiracy carries a possible life sentence and is a very serious crime. Members of the Committee on all sides have referred to the fact that the safeguard against prosecutions under these clauses is that the Attorney-General will have the final say as to whether or not a prosecution should be brought. That safeguard can be derogated by the Secretary of State on the basis of secondary legislation.Conspiracy is a very serious offence which may result in a life sentence. On what basis do the Government suggest that the safeguard identified by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee can be derogated by secondary legislation? I believe that that is a crucial question which the Committee faces at this stage. I welcome any assurance that the Minister can give in this respect. It may be that my interpretation of the effect of these clauses is wrong. If so, I welcome any assurance that the Minister can give but this matter gives rise to genuine concern.
I am grateful to my noble friend. The purpose of the Attorney-General's fiat is not related to the sentence for the offence but is much more subtle; it is to do with general questions of public interest. For instance, if a person is charged with murder in this country, the mandatory sentence is life imprisonment. The Attorney-General has nothing to do with that in terms of giving his fiat or not. That is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service. The Attorney-General's fiat arises on wider public interest matters which need to be assessed by someone with his authority in government as an independent legal officer. We believe it is right that if there is a conspiracy to commit politically-related offences abroad the Attorney-General should be involved. If there are conspiracies, for instance, to take part in drug trafficking or money laundering, the wider public interest sensitivities are not present and the involvement of the Attorney-General is not needed. That is the reason for it.
I have already explained my reasons for opposing the clause as it stands because of the complexities that are involved in the particular offences of conspiracy as defined in this new clause.The Government will be handing over to the Crown Prosecution Service the decision whether or not to prosecute for extra-territorial offences. It may well be that the 1996 Act permitted sexual offences abroad to be prosecuted in this country without the Attorney-General's consent. That is a matter which should be looked at again. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that this is not the moment to determine these matters finally. I am content, with him, to wait for further consideration at some future time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendments Nos. 35 to 39 not moved.]
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 [ Northern Ireland]:
[ Amendments Nos. 40 to 45 not moved.]
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 [ Scotland]:
[ Amendment No. 46 not moved]:
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 [ Report to Parliament]:
moved Amendment No. 47:
Page 10, line 28, leave out ("a") and insert ("an independent").
The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 in my name. These amendments relate to the new Clause 8 which was accepted by the Government in another place at the last moment yesterday morning. The clause was accepted without any discussion. It states:
"The Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament at least once in every 12 months a report on the working of this Act".
Our concern was that we wished to see the report produced by an independent outsider. That is why these three amendments offer two alternative ways of setting about that process. We have since heard from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in winding up, that "traditionally" in these matters—I believe that that was the word he used—the Home Secretary does choose independent outsiders for the reports. I merely seek a further assurance from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, or the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that that will be the case. I think I should like him to drop the word "traditionally" and hear an assurance that on all occasions when seeking reports the Home Secretary shall find an independent outsider of the sort we are used to in the case of these kinds of reviews of Northern Ireland legislation and one in whom we can have considerable trust. That is not in any way to denigrate the activities of officials within the Home Office who might otherwise be asked to conduct such business. I think it right to have an assurance from the Government that such a review would be conducted by an independent outsider. For that reason I ask that that assurance should drop the word "traditionally". I beg to move.
If that is a point of substance, yes.
One is always grateful for absolute categoric assurances from Ministers sitting on the Government Benches. All I can say is that I am grateful to the noble Lord for that assurance. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[ Amendment No. 48 not moved.]
Clause 8 agreed to.
[ Amendment No. 49 not moved.]
Clause 9 agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 50:
After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—