HC Deb 19 November 1976 vol 919 cc1786-8

Lords amendment: No. 52, in page 20, line 5, leave out "this section" and insert "the preceding subsection".

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Ennals

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Speaker

With this we may take Lords Amendments Nos. 53 to 56.

Mr. Ennals

The Bill as it left the House contained provisions for appeal on a point of law to be made to the High Court in England and Wales, or the Court of Session in Scotland, and that the decision of the court on an appeal was to be final. The provisions of Clause 17 were extensively debated in Standing Committee D, in this House and in another place. The Government have given thought to the points raised then, and in another place, and as a result have decided to table a group of amendments to add provisions for a further channel of appeal. These amendments were agreed to in another place and appear on the Amendment Paper as Nos. 52, 53, 54, 55 and 56.

The effect of the amendments taken together is to make provision, on the pattern which is normally adopted under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971, in cases where an appeal lies on a point of law from an inferior tribunal. This means that there might be an appeal as of right to a High Court in England and Wales. A further appeal would lie, with leave, to the Court of Appeal and thence, with leave, to the House of Lords. In Scotland an appeal will lie from the Court of Session with leave directly to the House of Lords.

The Government think it right that this provision for further appeal should be put into the Bill. It was powerfully argued by hon. Members in the Committee. Nevertheless, we naturally hope that the provision for further appeals will be little used. We are advised that points of law are not likely to arise in the context of the Board's decisions. We hope that one appeal will be sufficient to obtain an authoritative decision on any appeal which might arise.

I hope that the decision of the Government, to consider the points which were well argued in Committee, will be accepted and welcomed by the House.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We welcome the Government's acceptance of this amendment. The Secretary of State said in Committee that he was concerned about fairness and natural justice and that he would report to the House on this matter before the Report stage. We are grateful for these Lords amendments. It is right that someone should know the case brought against him and have the opportunity to answer it, and in particular that he should be able to answer back in return once the arguments have been put against him and heard.

Mr. Crowder

The Secretary of State said, "We were advised that there was little likelihood of any appeals taking place." Who gave that advice?

Mr. Ennals

It was simply legal advice, that it seemed unlikely that the new facility for appeal would be extensively used, but it can be used of course. I was in no way seeking to undermine the right of appeal or the additional rights of appeal which have been written into the Bill.

Mr. Crowder

With great respect, the Minister has not answered the question. Who gave that advice?

Mr. Ennals

It is not appropriate on the Floor of the House for me to indicate which of my advisers gave me what advice.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

By leave of the House, and only by leave, I will put the consequential Lords amendments together.

Lords Amendments Nos. 53 to 56 agreed to.

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