HC Deb 12 December 1979 vol 975 cc1454-72
Mr. Rowlands

I beg to move amendment No. 13, in page 3, line 4, at end add— '(5) Nothing in this section shall preclude the institution or continuance of criminal proceedings arising out of any Order in Council made under section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, or any statutory provision implementing any resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations providing for the imposition of economic or other sanctions directed against Southern Rhodesia.'.

The Chairman (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

With this we may take new clause 1–Restriction on amnesty— 'No immunity from prosecution shall arise under this Act from criminal proceedings for breach of any sanctions legislation which has been reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions prior to the passing of this Act '.

Mr. Rowlands

This amendment and the clause in the name of my hon. Friends return to the issue that was raised during the Second Reading debate by Opposition Members about the position of companies in the United Kingdom that may be under investigation, or subject to prosecution, as a result of evading or breaking sanctions. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will confirm that clause 3 provides amnesty to people under the law of the United Kingdom, while amnesty within Rhodesia will be the subject of Governor's ordinances.

Clause 3 covers illegal acts and wipes the slate clean for those on both sides of the confrontation. We seek confirmation that that is the case. I hope that the slate will not be wiped clean for those companies that are subject to investigation as a result of activities concerning the breaking or evading of sanctions. Our amendment is designed to establish that beyond any shadow of doubt. I understand that the new clause, in the names of my hon. Friends, is intended to achieve the same end.

We seek a clear undertaking from the Lord Privy Seal that amnesty will not be extended to those firms that are subject to investigation, or whose cases are before the Director of Public Prosecutions. When the Minister wound up the debate he referred, rather disturbingly, to the possibility that a statement might be made in the next few days. The Opposition will be totally dissatisfied if we do not get that assurance and clarification. A clear distinction can be drawn between wiping the slate clean as regards actions on all sides of the conflict and the cynical, deceitful behaviour of an individual company that has tried to cheat and break United Kingdom law concerning sanctions. We do not believe that the same sort of amnesty should be given to those activities.

I do not think that I need elaborate on the reasons why that distinction should be made. A British company that knowingly broke sanctions, and knowingly broke a United Kingdom law that successive Governments have endorsed, re-endorsed and approved on an annual basis until November of this year, should not just walk away scot-free and say "Even though we were cheating, we should now be given redemption and the slate should be wiped clean".

We believe that there is a strong, material difference in the whole attitude, approach and behaviour of companies in relation to United Kingdom legislation that successive Governments have supported and upheld each year since sanctions were introduced in the 1960s. That is the basic distinction that we hope the Government are making in clause 3. We do not believe that there should be an amnesty for a company that is possibly subject to prosecution or investigation, because that is different from giving an amnesty to an individual who has committed illegal acts on either side.

I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will confirm that clause 3 does not give such a broad amnesty to sanctions busting and that our amendments are, therefore, unnecessary. Secondly, in the process of doing so, we want from him a clear, categorical statement. As I said during the debate on Second Reading, we would be very aggrieved if there were a hole-and-corner approach to this matter, as a result of which we received an answer to a written question from the Attorney-General, either on Christmas Eve or even in the next few days.

In taking the Bill through all its stages, hon. Members can rightly expect the right hon. Gentleman to say here and now exactly what will be the Government's position in relation to firms that are subject to investigation or possible prosecution under United Kingdom sanctions legislation.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I hope that I can help the Committee. First, I should make it clear that the statement to which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary referred had nothing to do with this Bill but was rather to do with an amenesty in Rhodesia that will be granted in due course.

Secondly, the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) is partly right about clause 3. He is right in saying that it does not relate to companies that have broken sanctions. But it does not even relate to individuals who have broken sanctions. In other words, it has nothing at all to do with sanctions. There is power to provide an amnesty for sanctions offences in section 3 of the Southern Rhodesia Act that we passed a few weeks ago, but clause 3 of this Bill has no application at all.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there will be nothing hole-and-corner about this. Following the lifting of sanctions measures this evening, the Government will consider the question of amnesty offences and a statement will be made. As I said, the matter does not arise under this Bill.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I listened with some care to what the right hon. Gentleman said. He referred specifically to the Bill and its provisions, but he did not really answer the substantive point that is contained in the amendment and the new clause.

I do not intend to rehearse the whole episode of sanctions breaking or go into any great detail about the Bingham report, except to say that the report showed clearly that sanctions were broken and that parts of the report prepared by Mr. Bingham were not published because it was felt that the material in them was prejudicial to the possibility of any prosecutions that may take place, and therefore, presumably, it was thought that they might affect the possibility of a fair trial.

We certainly understood that to be so at the time and welcomed the possibility that the matter had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but it seems that when sanctions were in force the big fish got away. They were never taken to court. It was only the small fry who were actually prosecuted and sentenced for breaking sanctions. I hope that we shall not say that there is to be a complete amnesty for those who broke sanctions.

On Monday I tabled a question to the Attorney-General, asking when he expected action by the DPP on matters referred to him arising out of the Bingham report. The answer was I shall be making a statement to the House as soon as possible."—[Official Report, 10 December 1979; Vol. 975, c. 429.] We shall await that statement.

The new clause is a very modest proposal.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that he can have taken in what I said. This clause in the Bill has no application to what he is talking about at all. Therefore, his new clause is quite unnecessary. There is no amnesty, or anything relating to amnesty, about sanctions offences in the Bill at all. Therefore, the new clause and the amendment are totally redundant.

Mr. Hughes

There are two things that I would say in response to that. First, the new clause is in order. It has been accepted for debate. The fact that there is nothing in the Bill, in clause 3, that covers the point that I am making does not mean that a new clause cannot be added to the Bill. I am perfectly in order in discussing the amendment that has been selected. Not only is it technically in order; I am arguing that there ought to be added to the Bill a clause that specifically takes care of the points that I am trying to make.

The Minister shakes his head, but I hope that he will allow me to deploy the arguments, listen to them and, perhaps, provide some answers to the questions that will be raised.

The proposal in the new clause is very modest. Looking at it, I am surprised at how modest it is. I am not asking in the new clause that there should be no immunity from prosecution for all time. I am not saying that if in, say, 12 months or two years evidence becomes available of a major breach of sanctions about which we do not now know, such a case should be proceeded with. I am not asking for that, although I am not ruling it out. All that I am saying is that the restriction on immunity that I propose to add to the Bill refers specifically to those cases already reported to the DPP.

We must not underestimate the seriousness of the breach of sanctions. Those who broke the sanctions regulations were collaborating with and allying themselves with the illegal Smith regime, who were prosecuting the war against the people of Zimbabwe, and they bear a very heavy responsibility for the period in which UDI was able to stand up. They were the people who made sure that many lives were lost.

I have no great expectations that the Lord Privy Seal will accept the new clause, but I would be much happier, as would my hon. Friends, if we got a specific assurance that prosecution, or non-prosecution, will be decided purely on the basis of law. The information is before the DPP. Whether or not he decides to prosecute ought to be a question of law. The Attorney-General ought to decide whether the prosecution is to go ahead purely on the basis of law. If the facts sustain the possibility that a prosecution will succeed, it ought to be proceeded with and not be set aside on the basis of some political decision.

11 pm

I hope that we can have that categoric assurance from the Lord Privy Seal. It is the least he could give, because I hope that what I have always understood to be the principle of British justice remains. It is sometimes called into question by others, but I hope that the principle, as I understand it, that prosecutions are taken out on the basis of the evidence and of the law and are not influenced by political decisions still stands. If the right hon. Gentleman can give us that assurance I believe that he will go a long way in satisfying us that it is not the intention of the Government suddenly to decide that they will offer a total amnesty for all those who broke sanctions.

Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

I do not wish to delay the Committee. The Lord Privy Seal said that he believes that the new clause is otiose, in that it does not relate to the rest of the Bill. The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has been trying to make is that that is not an argument for excluding such provisions from this Bill if there remains an area of concern about what may happen in the matter of prosecutions for sanctions busting.

Sir Ian Gilmour

That is not my argument against the new clause. The new clause says that the Bill should not confer immunity. If, as I have told the House, the Bill does not confer immunity, that must surely be quite a strong argument against the new clause.

Mr. Whitehead

Not at all. The right hon. Gentleman is highly amused at his own logic. We are appalled by it, because we feel that the House must have a certain latitude in discussing both the former Bill and this one tonight in the brief time before it passes into law. We feel that it should be possible to say quite specifically, through the agency of this Bill, that there should be no immunity from prosecution. I accept that no such immunity is granted, but the right hon. Gentleman must grant a certain meed of suspicion to the Opposition after all these years. That meed of suspicion is precisely that we feel that there may well be some announcement—in the not too distant future—that there will be no further prosecutions and that the whole regrettable episode of sanctions busting has been swept away and forgotten. We feel that the Government might say: "Let us start with a clean sheet. It is better not to go back over these things."

That is precisely why we wish to go back over these things. We regard the sanctions busting period as a very shabby episode. It is an episode from which neither of the parties that have formed successive Administrations emerges with great credit. Looking back at some of the things that happened in the 1960s, that was certainly true of the Government of those days.

Through the agency of this new clause we hope to insert an assertion that, whatever happens consequent on independence, the possibility of prosecution will still be open of those who were involved in sanctions busting whether they were major employees in the big companies which have been named—and since the matter is before the DPP I do not propose to go into details—or the smaller fry who were engaged in the same operation in Rhodesia directly or in Mozambique and South Africa. This is my only point of substance. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is?"] It is a good thing to be able to make one point of substance in three minutes at this late hour. The people involved in sanctions busting were, in part, citizens of the State of Rhodesia, under the illegal Government, who had dual nationality or who came and went between Rhodesia and South Africa. Those are the people, as well as the big time sanctions busters here, we intend to see brought to justice if possible.

It seems to me that some of those people will be able to point to the legislation going through the House tonight and say, in relation to all the immunities that are being granted, that all they were doing in the 1960s was upholding the Government of the illegal Smith regime. They could say that everyone else had been cleared of any possibility of prosecution for upholding the treasonable regime in Rhodesia. They could ask why they had not been cleared and say that all they were doing was a little trading on the side.

It is to withhold from such people the comfort of an assurance that they may get away with it as others have done that we have introduced this new clause tonight. For that reason I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will take the argument seriously.

Mr. Dobson

I support the new clause. The Government owe this clause, if not to the House, to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The secret part of the Bingham report, together with the published part, was referred to the DPP as long ago as September 1978. Since then several hon. Members and I have made inquiries about progress. We inquired of the Attorney-General how long the DPP had taken to consider the cases that had come to court. Unfortunately, the DPP's records are so poor that he was unable to supply that information. He is not able to tell us how long, on average, it takes his office to consider and report on any matters drawn to his attention.

We are in danger of bringing the DPP's office into gross disrepute. The other cases of sanction busting that reached the courts did not involve collusion by Government officials and Ministers. From the Bingham report we know that sanctions busting did involve collusion by successive British Governments and Ministers. It is invidious that the only known case of sanctions busting that involved politicians and was referred to the DPP took so long to consider that it was continued for more than a year and passed the time when the Government decided to grant an amnesty to politicians who were once Members of the House or Government officials who, for all we know, are still in the employ of the Government.

The Lord Privy Seal owes it to the DPP and to anyone who strives to uphold the reputation of British Government institutions to ensure that the DPP is not brought into disrepute. He must assure us that no squalid fix was made, because the Bingham report appears to reveal such a fix. I hope that when the DPP makes his recommendation we shall discover the contents of the secret part of the Bingham report. It would be unfortunate if the DPP were to make a recommendation to the Attorney-General and the Attorney-General were to make a decision on the basis of information that was not known to the rest of us, particularly about the only known case of sanctions busting involving people who have held ministerial positions and who still hold distinguished posts in the Civil Service.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)

Amendment No. 13 and new clause No. 1 must be in order, otherwise they would not have been selected. The Lord Privy Seal argues that they are unnecessary because nothing in the Bill suggests that immunity from prosecutions will be granted to anyone who may be subject to criminal proceedings for breach of sanctions. Perhaps it is the Lord Privy Seal's opinion and that of those who drafted the Bill that the provisions cannot be used in that way.

We have all had experience of Bills passing through the House and becoming Acts, believing that they did certain things, but when they reach the courts—this is particularly true of trade union legislation—they are interpreted in an entirely different way from that intended by the House. Nothing that the Minister who presents a Bill may say about what it is meant to do is noted by the courts. The lawyers and the judges look at it and interpret it as they see fit.

Sir Ian Gilmour

What the hon. Gentleman says is true, but if he doubts what I say will he tell me and the Committee to which part of clause 3 he thinks that could possibly apply?

Mr. Lamond

I have already said that I am prepared to accept that the Lord Privy Seal and the draftsman of the Bill believe that they have covered all the loopholes. If I were able to point to a loophole immediately I would do so, but I cannot. But that does not mean that no loophole exists. Those more practised in the law than I will examine the Bill in great detail, and it is possible that they will put an interpretation on it that will allow a case to be dropped.

Mr. Whitehead

If my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) looks at clause 3 (2) (c), he will see there a reference to conspiracy. That might be interpreted—particularly by a Rhodesian citizen—as a reference that would get him out of anything in which he had been involved in connection with sanctions busting.

Mr. Lamond

Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) has pointed to a loophole. No one can be sure that no loophole exists unless we add the amendment or the new clause submitted by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and a number of my hon. Friends.

If it does not change the Bill, why not accept the amendment and make sure that there is no loophole? The new clause and the amendment specifically mention the cases about which we are anxious and which the right hon. Gentleman agrees, apparently, should not be given immunity. Why not make the matter clear so that anyone trying to interpret the Act in a court will know exactly what we mean?

If anyone who has been involved in sanctions busting is given immunity under the Bill, or Act as it will be, we shall weaken one of the few weapons available to the United Nations. I know that there are many arguments put forward by hon. Members that sanctions are never effective as a weapon. Examples in the distant past are quoted. I agree that sanctions were not very effective in our attempts to bring down the illegal regime in Rhodesia, but some countries still want to use sanctions rather than military force. We have all seen in the press recently that the United States Government are contemplating the use of sanctions against Iran. American officials have been to Britain, I understand, to ask how we would react to that. It might be a good idea to try to help the United States solve its difficulties in Iran by assisting it in applying sanctions.

If we give sanctions busters immunity from prosecution, we shall make sure that any future attempt by any country to involve us in sanctions against a third country will fail, because we will have shown that at the end of the day we are prepared to wipe the slate clean on sanctions busting. Therefore, to protect ourselves in future, it would be a wise precaution to make clear in the Bill that there will be no immunity from prosecution for those who have taken part in sanctions busting.

11.15 pm
Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will consider the arguments that have been advanced by my hon. Friends. I accept that it is not his intention to give an amnesty for sanctions breaking, but the courts are not bound by any opinion held by the Minister or expressed in the House. They can interpret the Act as they wish.

It is possible—I put it no higher than that—that one could argue that a breach of sanctions comes within the effects of clause 3(2)(a), (c) or (d). If one takes (a) and (c) together, they say that there is an amnesty in respect of any act related to the purported declaration of independence… and any act…preparatory or incidental to any act falling within paragraph (a) or (b)". Clause 3(2)(b) refers to the purported making of constitutional provision for Southern Rhodesia It is arguable that an act that is incidental either to the declaration of independence or to the making of a constitution is covered by the amnesty conferred in the clause.

If one takes clause 3(2)(d), the argument is even stronger. I do not necessarily say that it would be accepted, but the possibility is certainly there. Paragraph (d) says: any act which would have been lawful if the instruments mentioned in paragraph (b) had been lawfully made". Therefore, it could be argued that if one provided goods for someone in Rhodesia under the unlawful constitution, and the contract would have been lawful had the constitution been lawful, there was not a breach of sanctions. I do not necessarily accept that that would be accepted by the courts, but if the Lord Privy Seals feels so strongly that he never intended to give that effect or to confer such immunity, why does he not agree to our amendment and avoid any possible doubt?

Sir. Ian Gilmour

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) said that we owed it to the Director of Public Prosecutions to accept the new clause. We do not owe it to him, because it would not have the slightest effect on him. The new clause says: No immunity from prosecution shall arise under this Act". As I have already explained to the Committee, no immunity arises under the Bill.

The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) concedes that he put forward a tortuous legal argument. If he looks at the clause more closely, I think that he will agree that that is not an argument that he would like to make in a court of law. There is a more compelling argument, which I put forward in my first intervention. There is already in British law a provision for amnesty for these offences. That is the Act that we passed last month. What on earth is the point of trying to prevent immunity from prosecution being granted under this Bill when the power to grant it is already given under another Act? This amendment is plainly redundant on both grounds.

I come to the serious point of substance. Of course, I undertake that decisions on these matters will be made on legal grounds. The Attorney-General, as the Law Officer, has particular responsibilities which have been clearly placed on him ever since the Campbell case in 1924. Therefore, it follows that the decision on the cases that worry hon. Members will naturally be made on legal rather than on political grounds. The Attorney-General told the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) in a written answer on Monday that he would make a statement on these matters in due course. I emphasise that it will he a statement, not a written answer. There will be nothing hole-and-corner about it.

That is the point of substance. I hope that the Opposition will agree that the rest is riot a point of substance. There is no amnesty for offences under the Bill. There is a potentiality for an amnesty under an existing Act.

Miss Joan Lestor

Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that prosecutions by the Director of Public Prosecutions for the breaking of sanctions will proceed?

Sir I. Gilmour

I said that the Attorney-General, who in a sense is responsible for the Director of Public Prosecutions, would make a statement to the House. He will base his decision, as he must in view of the responsibility of his office, on legal grounds. That must be sufficient.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

It is well known that the power of the Attorney-General to prosecute is circumscribed by the prima facie evidence against the accused, plus whether he thinks it is desirable in the public interest to take the prosecution. That was confirmed in the Attorney-General's latest case before Lord Denning, that of Gouriet.

In those circumstances, it is arguable for the Attorney to say, when Rhodesia has returned to legality, that in the public interest he does not wish to proceed. It would be desirable for the Committee to reflect the opinion held by the Opposition that those prosecutions should continue. It is in the public interest that they should do so.

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman seems to think that many points are arguable tonight. He is pretty liberal in his attitude to what is arguable.

The Attorney-General will make his statement. It is a matter for him. The question does not arise under the Bill. However important the Opposition think the matter—no doubt it is important—the decision of the Attorney-General will be announced to the House by him in a statement. The matter is remote from the Bill and does not arise under it.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Obviously we are disappointed at the response so far. I understand from what the Lord Privy Seal said that the decision whether to prosecute will be taken on the basis of the available evidence. The phrase "within the law" may mean anything. It may mean within the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979. I hope that the Minister based his remarks on the normal legal judgment that would apply to evidence.

I do not complain if the right hon. Gentleman seeks to put the point that the new clause is defective in its drafting. In the past I have refused amendments on those grounds. I do not know the Minister's intentions about the Report stage. Perhaps on Report the Opposition could submit a manuscript amendment which would have the effect of amending the Southern Rhodesia Act that we passed a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. Rowlands

I understand that the Lord Privy Seal is saying that there is nothing in the Bill that gives immunity to firms or individuals who are subject to investigation or reports to the DPP in relation to breaking sanctions. The Lord Privy Seal nods in agreement. That is confirmed.

The first part of the argument is whether, despite that, it is worthwhile adding amendment No. 13. Although the Minister said that the proposal was redundant, many pieces of legislation have a catch-all final subsection which makes doubly sure that there are no loopholes. That is frequently done. Indeed, clause 3(4) looks pretty like one. Irrespective of what went before, that subsection was added to make doubly sure. We are suggesting the addition of a subsection (5) to make doubly sure that the statements made by the Lord Privy Seal are well and truly enshrined in the Bill.

The second point, which has been pressed by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) and others, is not so much in relation to the Bill as to the Government's intention about outstanding cases. The Lord Privy Seal said that the Attorney-General would behave in a propor legal manner in reviewing the cases and that political considerations would not come into it. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for York about that aspect of his judgment—called the public interest—is also relevant.

The Lord Privy Seal said that we should be discussing not this Bill but the Government's powers to make orders under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979, presumably to clear the decks and to wipe the slate clean. There is no power in the 1979 Act to clear the decks.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I said that there was the power. I did not say that we would use it.

Mr. Rowlands

There is the power, but the right hon. Gentleman has not said whether the Government intend to use it I suggest that the assurance given to us by the Lord Privy Seal is not worth much if, whatever the Attorney-General does in respect of existing law, the Government subsequently come forward with an order under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979 to clear the decks and wipe the slate clean in respect of those who are subject to investigation and possible prosecution under our sactions legislation.

It may be that the amendment and the new clause are redundant, according to the Lord Privy Seal, but we have not had a categorical statement from the Government of their intention with regard to outstanding cases. In our view, the Government should not wipe the slate clean as regards the acts of individuals in Rhodesia or, indeed, in the United Kingdom.

We shall watch with great suspicion and vigilance every order that comes forward under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979, because one of them could be the order to which we object most strongly. If the right hon. Gentleman brings forward such an order there will be the strongest possible objection by the Opposition, for the reasons that we have advanced.

We have not had the assurance that we seek. The Attorney-General's traditional legal position since 1924, and so on, is scarcely of any relevance. The key issue is whether the Government intend to exercise the power to bring forward an order under the 1979 Act to wipe the slate clean. We have not had a declaration of intent from the Lord Privy Seal. However, we expect him to come to the Dispatch Box to make such a declaration as soon as possible, not in any hole-and-corner way. He has given us that assurance. Therefore, as we shall return—

Mr. Robert Hughes

I have looked at section 3 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979. The expression "amnesty from prosecution for sanctions breaking" does not appear anywhere.

Mr. Rowlands

It would be all the better if it were not in the Act. I suspect that the Lord Privy Seal is not well versed in and briefed on that matter. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is capable of pointing to which part of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979 is relevant to the points that we have made. Is it section 3(1)(b)(ii)?

Hon. Members

Call for the Attorney-General.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The right hon. Gentleman is seeking the advice of the Attorney-General.

Mr. Rowlands

We need not call for him, because he is here.

11.30 pm
Sir Ian Gilmour

It is section 31(1)(b)(ii).

Mr. Rowlands

We shall watch with great interest and vigilance any of the orders produced under that subsection.

Does the Lord Privy Seal or the Attorney-General wish to elaborate on that sub-paragraph, which says in connection with the repeal, revocation, expiration or lapse of any statutory provision relating to sanctions"? When we debated that Bill, because the House was treated in a shameful fashion we probably did not consider it in as much detail as we should have done. We took clause 3, as it was, to mean the removal or reimposition of sanctions. We thought that it was the provision to enable the Government, if everything went dreadfully wrong in the interim period, to reimpose sanctions. It was in terms entirely of lifting or unravelling sanctions, as well as the possibility of reimposing them in extreme circumstances, that we read that sub-paragraph. That shows that the House should not rush legislation through.

There will be a terrible row if the Government attempt to wipe the slate clean for those who have been cheating on sanctions or who have been subject to investigation and possible prosecution under the existing law. That is a different matter from the commission of illegal acts by individuals in Rhodesia. We are talking not of that but of cynical, deceitful acts carried out for monetary gain by companies which knew that they were breaking the law. That has nothing to do with the political passions which have rent Rhodesia and which should have the amnesty provided by the Bill.

In view of the assurance that the Bill does not give any such immunity I shall ask leave to withdraw the amendment, but we shall certainly return to the issue in the very near future, and we expect the Lord Privy Seal to do so, too.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Robert Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I understand that if a Bill is unamended in Committee there is no Report stage, and it proceeds directly from the Committee stage to Third Reading. An important point has arisen out of the debate.

The Southern Rhodesia Act 1979 contains provisions for anyone, any company, anybody or anything to be granted immunity from prosecution if such an intention had been in the Government's mind, it would have been proper for them, when drafting the Bill, to have included a clause which specified the possibility of an amnesty in the way in which we now gather the Act does.

My point of order is that the Government have shown no willingness so far to accept any amendments. There is a distinct possibility that the Bill will finish its Committee stage without being amended. In those circumstances, if I or my hon. Friends can draft a suitable manuscript amendment to schedule 3, which deals with repeals, will you accept it? It would seek to repeal part of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979. I ask you to consider whether that would be in order.

The Chairman

I thank the hon. Member for raising his point of order. I shall have to see the manuscript amendment before I can make any decision on it.

Mr. Whitehead

I do not wish to delay the Committe unduly, but this a serious matter. Conservative Members who are here to keep the Committee should remember that we are rushing legislation through tonight. There is a good reason for doing that, but I think that it is worth while asking the Attorney-General to intervene and explain precisely how an immunity provision is explained in the legislation that is being raised in this debate.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. Would the Committee be assisted, and the purpose of the Government made plain, if the Attorney-General were to say precisely that there will be no immunity in relation to the matters under consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions at the moment and that he will take his decision on prosecution on the evidence and on the criterion of the public interest, which is the way in which Attorney-Generals normally take a decision about prosecutions? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman were to give us the assurance that no immunity is intended, I am sure that the whole of the argument would fall.

The Attorney-General (Sir Michael Havers)

I did not hear the beginning of the hon. Gentleman's intervention, but if he is referring to Bingham I can deal with that.

The Chairman

Order. I think that this should be dealt with on the Question, That clause 3 stand part of the Bill.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Attorney-General

If the Committee is asking me whether I intend to make a statement on the matters referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions as a result of the Bingham report, regardless of any immunity or amnesty that may or may not be granted under the Southern Rhodesia Act 1979, I can give that assurance. That will be done as soon as possible and will be independent of any amnesty that may be considered by the Government.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I am grateful to the Attorney-General for that statement because, as he will have seen from new clause 1, which was not moved, that is precisely what we are trying to achieve. I asked the Lord Privy Seal for an assurance that the decision of the DPP would be related to the evidence under the normal legal procedures for deciding whether there was sufficient evidence to proceed. If that is what the Attorney-General is saying tonight, I am grateful, but I want as clear clarification as I can get.

The Attorney-General

The statement that I shall make—I hope very soon; I am sorry that it has been delayed—in respect of the decision of the DPP on matters referred to in Bingham is that it is not simply a question of sufficient evidence; there is the public interest aspect as well. It will be a decision that will be totally unrelated to any decision that the Government may take about amnesty in respect of that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 4 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

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