§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John MacGregor)
I beg to move,That if the War Crimes Bill is read a Second time, no order shall be made for the committal of the Bill and it shall be ordered to be read the Third time upon a future day; and upon a motion being made for Third Reading the Question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided, though opposed, after the expiration of the time for opposed business.The House will recall that the War Crimes Bill was first introduced on 8 March 1990, following debates on the principle of legislation, which had taken place in both Houses of Parliament the previous autumn—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
That, at this day's sitting, the Motion in the name of Mr. John MacGregor relating to War Crimes Bill (Procedure) may be proceeded with, though opposed, until half-past Eleven o'clock or the end of a period of one and a half hours after it has been entered upon, whichever is the later.—[Mr. Kirkhope.]
§ Mr. MacGregor
The House voted decisively in favour of action to implement the principal recommendations of the war crimes inquiry, and that support was sustained on Second Reading on 19 March, when the Bill was passed by 273 votes to 60, on a free vote. The Bill subsequently passed through its remaining Commons stages, and was sent unamended to another place. The House will also recall that the Bill was refused a Second Reading in another place, again on a free vote, by 207 votes to 74.
My predecessor made clear, once the Government had had a chance to consider the implications of the debates and votes which had taken place, that we would be reintroducing the Bill this Session. That decision was reaffirmed in the Gracious Speech. We concluded that it was right for Parliament to give this matter further consideration. The Government recognise and respect the strongly held views, here and in another place, on the issues raised by the Bill, but the strength of support in this House was such that we believe that an opportunity for further reflection has to be provided.
It would not be right for me to go over the issues again; that is for Monday's debate. I will deal solely with the procedure we propose.
In bringing the Bill back before Parliament, we have inevitably kept in mind the provisions of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949. My predecessor made plain the Government's hope that the Bill would secure the support of both Houses. That remains our clear objective. The Parliament Acts exist, none the less, as an instrument for the resolution of intractable disagreements between the two Houses of Parliament, and we believe that the possibility of their use should be preserved in this case. The view of this House was unequivocal on the last occasion, and if that remains the position this time, I believe that hon. Members will in the last resort expect their views to prevail.
But the Parliament Acts place certain constraints on the freedom of action of this House in considering a Bill the second time. To attract the provisions of the Parliament Acts, for example, Bills must not pass this House until a clear year has elapsed since the earlier Second Reading. Moreover, and most immediately relevant to the motion before the House, a Bill returned to another place on a 902 subsequent occasion must do so in precisely the same form as before. A Bill cannot be amended beyond the purely technical changes necessary to reflect the passage of time since it was considered before. Thus, the Bill which has now been reintroduced, and to which we shall be giving substantive consideration next week, is the same Bill as the House considered last time, which it passed unamended. The House should not attempt to amend the Bill in any respect, if it wishes the Parliament Acts provisions to remain in reserve, in the event of unresolvable conflict.
The Parliament Acts make provision for the House of Commons, if it thinks fit, to put forward suggested amendments which are not actually inserted in the Bill, but which the House of Lords is required to consider. If accepted by the House of Lords, such amendments would be treated as amendments made by the House of Lords and agreed by the House of Commons, but, if not accepted, the offer of suggested amendments would not prevent the Parliament Acts from being used to secure the enactment of the Bill in its original form, should the Lords reject it.
The Government have carefully considered whether it would be appropriate to offer suggested amendments in this case and they have concluded that it would not. The Government's aim is that the Bill should implement the recommendations of the war crimes inquiry and should ensure that any prosecutions are well founded and well prepared, and that any defendants have proper and effective safeguards. We believe that the Bill, as originally presented and as reintroduced this Session, achieves that aim. As I have said, it was approved in this form by a substantial majority of this House last Session.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Although I have been a Member of Parliament for a long time, I have not often experienced this procedure. Therefore, it would help me, and perhaps other hon. Members, if the Lord President were to say what method is used to ascertain whether the House agrees with any specific suggested amendment.
§ Mr. MacGregor
We are not proposing any suggested amendments. However, it has to be done on a motion that is outside the normal scope of debate. In other words, amendments to the Bill cannot be tabled. In this case, however, we are not proposing suggested amendments. The hon. Gentleman was probably not right when he said that he had not been here on a previous occasion.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I agree that he did not quite say that. However, we are broadly following the precedent of a previous occasion when the Parliamentary Acts could have been brought into play.
If the House of Lords wishes to suggest changes, it is open to it to do so. It would then be a matter for this House to consider, on a free vote, whether any such changes were acceptable. That is the right way to proceed —not to have suggested amendments in this case.
It is against this background that I am moving the procedural motion before the House. It is unnecessary to preserve the formality of Committee and Report stages, nor do we need a further debate on Third Reading, when the issues will already have been fully considered on Second Reading as well as last year. Thus, the motion, which I commend to the House, provides that no order 903 should be made for the Bill's committal, in the event of it receiving a Second Reading, that it should be ordered to be read the Third time upon a future day and that the question should be put forthwith on Third Reading.
I believe that this approach gives due recognition to the gravity of the issues raised by the Bill, while at the same time paying proper regard to the procedures of this House and the pressures of time on hon. Members. The War Crimes Bill has been exhaustively considered by this House already, but we think it is important to provide yet another full day for a Second Reading debate this as well as a further opportunity to debate the money resolution immediately thereafter. If the House remains of the view that the Bill should proceed, then I believe that this should happen as quickly as possible and without the imposition of unnecessary stages here. The important thing is to return the Bill to the other place as quickly as possible, once the statutory time limit has expired.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)
My right hon. Friend said that we are in untotally unchartered seas, but will he clarify one point? What exactly, if any, are the rights of the House of Lords to amend the Bill when it comes before it? My right hon. Friend referred to suggestions. Can the House of Lords amend the Bill?
§ Mr. MacGregor
No. The suggested amendments would be for this House to consider, and we are proposing none. The other place can suggest any amendments it wishes and can vote, if it wishes, on any amendment. The amended Bill, if it were passed by the House of Lords in that form, would then return to this place.
§ Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Bill is very exceptional? It breaches substantial precedent and principles of justice in this country. Therefore, it is not an ordinary Bill, in terms that I understand. The other place decisively rejected the Bill on Second Reading. The proposals before us would effectively silence the view of the other place. In those circumstances, what does my right hon. Friend believe to be the point of the other place?
§ Mr. MacGregor
We are following the Parliament Acts, which have been followed on other occasions. It is perfectly appropriate for us to do so, if the House so decides. However, I have already made it clear that the Government hope that the Bill will be passed in a form that both Houses can accept.
§ Sir Giles Shaw (Pudsey)
There can.be little doubt that this is one of the most extraordinary measures that has come before the House. It was rejected by the other place. If I understand correctly my right hon. Friend, the other place can pass amendments, but he has already said that the Parliament Acts can be used. The measure is peculiar, and the proposed changes to the judicial system in order to deal with the issue are extraordinary. It is, to say the least, original for my right hon. Friend to suggest that the procedure should result in the Bill's passage through the House being accelerated.
§ Mr. MacGregor
It is not original; with one tiny technical exception, it broadly follows the procedure when the Parliament Acts were last used. We are following that precedent. The House must decide, but given the vote in this House last year, the Government felt it right to give 904 hon. Members another opportunity to consider the Bill. The procedure that we are suggesting is the most appropriate for doing so.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
My right hon. Friend often quotes precedents. What were those precedents, what subjects did they cover and when were they?
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
What would be the purpose of the Parliament Act if it was not used when there was clear disagreement between this House and the other place, and when the Government had decided that the wishes of this House should prevail? Those who oppose the motion—they are prefectly within their rights to do so—voted against the Bill last year. They believe that those who are held to be responsible for monstrous crimes against humanity should not be brought to justice.
§ Mr. MacGregor
As the hon. Gentleman says, those who oppose the Bill are perfectly within their rights to do so if, for whatever reason, they believe that it is wrong to proceed with it. They will have an opportunity to vote on that next Monday.
It is right to give the House the opportunity to use the Parliament Acts if it wishes to do so, but it is for the House to decide. It will be decided on a free vote, which is why I am proposing this procedure tonight.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
I support what my right hon. Friend has said. Would it be appropriate to argue tonight or on Second Reading why the House should prevail, if necessary by using the Parliament Acts?
§ Mr. MacGregor
My hon. Friend can use either this evening or the Second Reading debate on Monday. It may be appropriate to advance his argument at a later stage, if it is reached.
It is important to return the Bill to the other place as quickly as possible after the expiry of the statutory time limit. I hope that it will be possible for Third Reading to be taken before Easter, thereby giving members of the other place an opportunity to reflect on the Bill. They may wish to table amendments. If so, this House will have to consider whether they are acceptable within the overall scheme and objectives of the Bill. It is important to initiate that process as quickly as possible within the time scale of the Parliament Act, and the motion seeks to achieve that.
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
The Leader of the House proposes that the Bill be introduced under the procedure set out in the motion. The Bill will be introduced without change and will not be considered in Committee. It will have a formal Third Reading and will proceed to the other place.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, the presentation of the Bill raises the possibility—almost the certainty—that the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 will have to be invoked. Looking back at the debates on those two Acts, I was struck by the extent to which these issues are enduring. What was said many years ago—40 years ago in the case of the Parliament Act 1949—applies to today's debate. The then Labour Home Secretary—James Chuter Ede, the Member for South Shields, said on behalf of the Labour Government: 905I noticed from the reviews in the Press yesterday and today that it is not anticipated that anything very new will be said in the course of this Debate, but it is essential that we should fully review the circumstances in which the Bill comes before us and consider again the arguments in its favour". —[Official Report, 31 October 1949; Vol. 469, c. 45]As hon. Members know, the Parliament Acts lay down special procedures whereby a Bill may be presented for Royal Assent when it has been passed by this House only. A non-money Bill, such as the War Crimes Bill, may be so presented where it has been passed by the House of Commons in two consecutive Sessions and where the Lords have failed to pass it in each of those two Sessions.
As we know, this Bill was first introduced in the 1989 Session. It received its Second Reading in this House on 19 March 1990. Its Report stage and Third Reading were taken together on 25 April. The Bill then proceeded to the Lords and was thrown out by a very substantial majority on 4 June. Its reintroduction this Session is a clear signal to the other place that the Government are determined that it should be passed, even if that necessitates invoking the Parliament Acts.
The content of the Bill is of undoubted importance. It raises fundamental questions of justice and of rights. Their Lordships rightly looked at these issues in detail and were helped in that task by two things. First, there is a great deal of legal expertise and experience among their membership. Secondly, they were able to draw upon the personal experiences of many of them during the second world war.
The issues that were so fully debated by their Lordships have been overtaken by a more fundamental question, which we are debating today—the supremacy of this elected Chamber over the other place. The writ of that question runs far wider even than the important issues raised in the Bill itself—issues such as retrospective legislation and the reliability of evidence now 50 years old, especially evidence relating to identification.
If the other place fails to pass the Bill in this Session, the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 will, I assume, be brought into operation. That is, indeed, a serious matter. The Leader of the House was wrong to suggest that the Parliament Acts were invoked in 1976. That is not true. The then Labour Government accepted the amendments in the House of Lords on the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill and passed the Bill as amended by their Lordships. The Bill was not enacted by invoking the Parliament Acts.
The procedure that we are discussing has been used only three times—on the Welsh Church Act 1914, the Government of Ireland Act 1914, and the Parliament Act 1949. It is that issue which is of supreme importance today. The principles on which the Parliament Acts are based have been debated at length. Unlike the Conservative party, the Labour party has consistently supported the supremacy of this House over the other place. The Conservative party has consistently ducked that issue. It was a Liberal Government—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may protest, but every time a Liberal or Labour Government have invoked the Parliament Acts, the Conservative party has opposed them. That is the record, and there is a supreme irony in the position of the Leader of the House today. I do not suppose that many of his hon. Friends envy him his task in creating a little political 906 history as a Conservative Government invoke the Parliament Act against their own inbuilt majority in the House of Lords.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Let me make the position clear for the sake of accuracy. I said that the procedures that we were following now were the same as those followed in 1976, with the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act 1977. I did not say whether it was necessary to invoke the Parliament Acts, because we do not know.
§ Dr. Cunningham
We shall see. A Liberal Government introduced the 1911 Act, opposed by the Tories. A Labour Government passed the 1949 Act, opposed by the Tories. The principle that we support, and always have supported, was neatly summed up by, of all people, Winston Churchill. As Home Secretary in the Liberal Government of 1911, he succinctly stated:The House of Commons, freely chosen to represent the electors, is the power which shapes policy and makes and maintains administration. The House of Lords, on the other hand, represents nobody".—[Official Report, 2 May 1911; Vol. 25, c. 262.]I could not have put it better myself.
§ Mr. Latham
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman wants to turn this into a partisan issue. Is he really telling the House that the Parliament Acts should be supported, and that he supports their use, whatever the merits of the Bill? I support the Bill, but surely it is exclusively a moral issue.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I am talking not about the Bill but about the procedure that we are following tonight. We shall come to the Bill next week. My party will have a free vote on this issue, as we shall on the Bill itself. I shall be urging my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote, if there is a vote, with the Government because we assert, and have consistently supported, the supremacy of this House.
I am sorry if the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) and his hon. Friends find the record of the Tory party a bit embarrassing, but that is a matter for them. It is important for us to be clear about the record of the Tories on this issue. I quoted Winston Churchill. He got rather carried away when he said:We regard this measure as territory conquered by the masses from the classes".—[Official Report, 15 May 1911; Vol. 25, c. 1772–72.]He was speaking as part of a Liberal Government. Unfortunately for democracy, he soon changed his mind when, as Leader of the Conservative party, he realised the huge advantages to be gained from the Tory majority in the House of Lords. When Leader of the Tory party, he opposed the use of the Parliament Acts, although he had supported their use when a Liberal.
Opposition Members support today, as we did in 1949, the view that the House of Lords, unrepresentative as it is, should be allotted the subordinate role which must, in a democracy, be assigned to an unelected Chamber.
I said that the procedure had been resorted to on only three occasions. On the first two, a Liberal Government were having trouble with the inbuilt Tory majority in their Lordships' House. On the third occasion, the Parliament Act 1949 represented a Labour Government from being obstructed. There have been a number of other occasions within the memory of some of us when, although there were confrontations, the direct application of the Parliament Acts was not, in the event, necessary.
907 I am thinking in particular of the difficulties put before the Labour Government on the nationalising of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries in the 1970s following a specific manifesto commitment.
Those efforts were continuously frustrated by the House of Lords.
§ Dr. Cunningham
My hon. Friend is right.
The stark fact is that it is almost always Governments on the left who have difficulty and are frustrated or undermined by the unelected and unrepresentative upper House—until now, that is. There is a double irony in the Government's sudden favourable disposition towards the use of the Parliament Acts. The first irony is their need to use a measure which in the past they have always opposed. That gives rise to a wry Opposition smile.
There is a somewhat more bitter irony in that the Bill that the Government seek to force through is weak and fraught with difficulties and problems. Although I support the Government on the use of the procedure, I shall not support them on the War Crimes Bill itself. I hope that I make myself clear to the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham).
§ Dr. Cunningham
I have reservations about it. We shall have a free vote on the issue, as we had in the past. I did not support the Bill when it was last before the House, and I shall not support it next time. There are valid reasons for my position.
Few Conservative Members can feel pleased about the predicament in which the Leader of the House and the Government find themselves. They are creating a precedent for Tory Governments by invoking the right of this elected House to enforce the legitimate mandate of an elected Government. I support that principle without hesitation, as the Labour party has always done on such occasions, but it is a pity that that has to be done in support of a somewhat disreputable measure which, as I have said, I shall not support. I understand the arguments of those hon. Members who support the War Crimes Bill, and I appreciate that their view is as passionately held as mine.
§ Mr. Winnick
I entirely accept my hon. Friend's sincerity. He has as much right to oppose the Bill as have to support it. Does he agree that, when there has been a vote on the Bill, the overwhelming majority of Labour Members have voted in favour and that much of the opposition came from Conservative Members? That should be placed on record.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I agree with my hon. Friend's interpretation of the record. I concede without hesitation that my hon. Friend passionately, fervently and honestly holds some views which are different from mine.
When, under a Labour Government, we debate the future of democracy in our country, perhaps we can at least hope that reform of the upper House—we can never accept an upper chamber based on the totally unacceptable principles of patronage and inheritance— will at long last be supported by Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said that the motion was about a very exceptional Bill. The motion is designed to set aside the normal process of parliamentary scrutiny. I was disappointed by my right hon. Friend's response when I asked him to quote the precedents for this legislation. He has often said that there are precedents, but in his reply he did not give one.
I asked when this device for setting aside the judgment of the House of Lords had last been used, and my right hon. Friend quoted a case in which it had apparently been attempted but had not succeeded. That is not a precedent. My right hon. Friend ought to get his tackle in order and cite proper precedents. We have had to rely upon the Opposition to provide proper precedents when the process was used to a successful conclusion. Those are precedents.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Tonight the point is whether the procedure that we are proposing has a precedent, and it has. There is a tiny technical difference, but the precedent —the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill in 1976 —is very similar. I cannot say tonight what the House of Lords will decide to do, so that part of the argument is irrelevant to answering my hon. Friend's questions.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
That is not the point—it is whether there has been a precedent in which the judgment of the House of Lords has been set aside on behalf of a special piece of legislation which has already been passed by this House. As we understand it, that was not the case with the 1976 legislation. One is interested to see that the cases quoted by the Opposition involved constitutional procedure—for example the Government of Ireland Act 1914 and the Parliament Act 1949, which restricted the delaying power of the House of Lords. It is self-evident that that is an important constitutional matter.
This device to set aside the judgment, decision, wisdom and expertise of the House of Lords should be used only for a constitutional matter of that magnitude. It should not be used for this Bill, which involves extending the criminal law so as to confer jurisdiction upon British courts where it had previously not existed. Certainly that is an important matter. One might say that it is a breach of the good faith that everyone should have in the criminal law of this country. However, it is not a precedent in the same sense as the other cases quoted, as they were matters of great constitutional importance.
That is why I am against the motion: in effect, it says that we should not seek to amend the War Crimes Bill ourselves. For example, we should not give ourselves the opportunity to consider how we might increase the chances of prospective defendants obtaining a fair trial, and we should not consider whether the limits set out, rather exceptionally, in the War Crimes Bill on the extension of jurisdiction should be extended.
Many people might well have said that the War Crimes Bill that was produced last Session had one main defect: that it did not extend jurisdiction generally to cases of this kind, but was restricted to events that occurred during the war, in German or German-occupied territory. Those are severe limits on the jurisdiction to be conferred on British courts. There is a great weight of opinion to suggest that, if we confer jurisdiction upon British courts, we should confer it wholly, so that anyone who committed crimes 909 during the period to which we are referring and beyond, can now be tried, as well as anyone who has secured British nationality since the commission of the offence.
Those matters are worth serious consideration, not merely by the House of Lords—although no doubt it will be considering them—but by this elected Chamber. By virtue of being elected, this Chamber claims to be superior in its wisdom and responsiveness to the electorate. As I am sure Opposition Members agree, we often rely upon the House of Lords to provide expertise and experience on what might otherwise be regarded as esoteric matters, so as to assist us in coming to a correct agreement and judgment on legislation.
Many tributes have been paid to those in the other place for the amendments that they have tabled to Bills, especially to Bills involving technical matters. This is a technical matter—a matter of legal expertise. We have always been grateful to the other place for suggesting amendments of this kind, but in this case, the House of Commons, by its own motion, is preventing itself from considering any improvement. We are preventing ourselves from making any change that might make the Bill more acceptable to the House of Lords—which would be the proper way of proceeding—or more acceptable to the public at large.
This will be bad law. The motion is totally misconceived. It runs against the grain of British fairness and common sense. What is proposed would deprive us of our own power in respect of legislation. That is utterly wrong, and I am very disappointed that the Government should proceed in this way.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I regret that the Leader of the House, in moving this motion, did not enlighten us on the procedures whereby the House might make amendments with a view to satisfying the other place. Thus, we might avoid invoking the Parliament Acts. I accept—and I believe that the members of my party, without exception, accept—that, if there is a straight clash of wills between the two Houses of Parliament, the will of the elected House must prevail. But this is a piece of legislation of great general, and of some constitutional, importance. It profoundly affects the jurisdiction of the High Court.
During the debates on last year's Bill, a great weight of the argument in another place was deployed against it. That argument deserves very careful consideration. I do not feel confident that the Government, in concluding that in this case there is a direct conflict of wills between the two Houses, have ascertained that that is the settled mind of this House. If the House of Commons is not given the opportunity to consider detailed suggested amendments, it will not be possible for it to be so satisfied.
I should have liked to hear the Leader of the House speak in his role as Leader of the whole House and not just as a spokesman for the Government, which is the role that he adopted at the Dispatch Box. I should have liked to hear from him suggestions about how we might take a course of action that would communicate to the other place the views of the House of Commons in respect of some of the matters with which the Bill deals.
910 There is no doubt that, when the previous Bill was debated in Committee, many matters were canvassed, and it was considered in detail. Some of the objections, including several of those to which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) referred on Second Reading, were met. But time is very much of the essence.
§ Mr. Maclennan
The hon. Gentleman is right, but provisions were incorporated in other legislation to take account of the objections that had been raised by several hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook.
This is not a matter of such constitutional moment that opinion in the two Houses should be regarded as so deadlocked that the Parliament Acts could be invoked with propriety and good sense.
The examples given by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham)—especially that of the most recent invocation of the legislation, in 1949—go to the heart of our constitution, and to the conflict between the parties. A minority party in the House of Commons tried to frustrate the will of the Government in the upper House. That is not in any way parallel with the present circumstances. We must ask whether it is appropriate to judge that the time has come for us to invoke the Parliament Acts, although no hon. Member, surely, would deny that in some circumstances it would be appropriate to do so.
There is another Session of Parliament to run. The present Parliament, I understand, will not be exhausted until July 1992, and the Government surely do not consider it urgent to present their popularity to the arbitrament of public opinion at an early date. I do not see why we should not treat the Bill as a perfectly normal measure. If it meets the same fate as its predecessor in another place, the Government will be able to reintroduce it next Session, and that will be the time at which to bring the Parliament Acts into play.
§ Mr. Winnick
I seem to remember that, in a debate in December 1989, the hon. Gentleman was very sceptical about the Bill. When his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) spoke on Second Reading in March last year, he was passionately in favour of the Bill—unlike the hon. Gentleman, and far more than me, because I recognise some limitations in it. I wonder where the hon. and learned Gentleman is now?
§ Mr. Maclennan
I do not think that I speak on this issue as a party man; nor, I think, did my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). Opinions were divided, as they are in the hon. Gentleman's party—almost as divided, perhaps, as the opinions of the hon. Gentleman and those of the hon. Member for Copeland.
I am dealing with what I consider an essentially constitutional question: when is it appropriate to invoke the Parliament Acts? I would say that it is only rarely sensible and appropriate to do so, and that it should be done only when there is a clear and settled view in the House of Commons that its wish and will is being frustrated by another place. I suggest to the Minister that there is no evidence that that is the case now; indeed, I suspect that, if the Bill went through the House of 911 Commons again, the other place would exercise a self-denying ordinance—not opposing it in principle but seeking to ameliorate and amend it.
That is the way in which the other place has operated for many years; only thus has it been possible to sustain the relationship between the two Houses—this House and the unelected House, which is so dependent on heredity and patronage. It is clearly an unsatisfactory means of composing such a House, if its authority is to be equal to that of the House of Commons.
The Minister should test the opinion of the House of Commons again—test it on the detail of the Bill, as on the principle—before invoking the Parliament Acts. He should give it another year to see whether there is a change of mind. The opportunity to invoke the Acts remains; and, if the Government are correct in their view that the House of Lords is dead set on rejecting our opinion, let them invoke the provisions of the Acts next Session.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
It seems to me that this is an occasion not to argue the merits of the Bill. There is common agreement that it raises matters of morality and conscience—I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin), who made that point in an intervention. This seems to be an occasion on which to concern oneself primarily with the question, should the will of the House prevail in a matter such as this over that of the House of Lords?
That really raises the question, what is the function in our constitution of this House and of the House of Lords? As I see it, each occasion on which the Parliament. Acts 1911 and 1949 are likely to be invoked will raise different questions. For me, the role of the House of Lords is basically one in which a collection of wise old men— sometimes, not necessarily always—of experience, not only judicial but in the wider world of business and commerce and many other areas, who have acquired a great deal of intellectual acumen, offer a second opinion.
They are not required to make decisions. They can raise issues, of course, but decision making belongs to elected representatives, who are in this place. Our function is to represent, having first of all ascertained the popular sentiment. In other words, we are by definition more in touch with gut feeling than their Lordships. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to make decisions about public policy, and assessment of what is politic, necessary or expedient is not for the House of Lords but for us. Their Lordships can offer academically respectable opinions, but it is for us to reconcile practicalities. Therefore, I entirely agree again with my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare that this is a matter of morality.
The question for us to decide tonight is: whose conscience matters most in our system of government? Is it that of the elected or that of the elite? In my view, it is the job of the elite to offer advice, and the job of the elected to make decisions.
§ Question put:
§ The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 17.913
|Division No. 93]||[10.47 pm|
|Allason, Rupert||Ashby, David|
|Alton, David||Atkins, Robert|
|Amess, David||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Baldry, Tony|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Beggs, Roy||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Bell, Stuart||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Key, Robert|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Boswell, Tim||Knapman, Roger|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Lamond, James|
|Bowis, John||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Boyes, Roland||Latham, Michael|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Brazier, Julian||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Lewis, Terry|
|Burns, Simon||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Butterfill, John||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Carrington, Matthew||McCartney, Ian|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Chapman, Sydney||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Chope, Christopher||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Cohen, Harry||McMaster, Gordon|
|Conway, Derek||McNamara, Kevin|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||McWilliam, John|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Mans, Keith|
|Cousins, Jim||Maples, John|
|Crowther, Stan||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Cryer, Bob||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Curry, David||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Darling, Alistair||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Day, Stephen||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Dixon, Don||Moss, Malcolm|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Nellist, Dave|
|Eggar, Tim||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Fallon, Michael||O'Hara, Edward|
|Fearn, Ronald||Paice, James|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Pike, Peter L.|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Forman, Nigel||Raffan, Keith|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Redwood, John|
|Forth, Eric||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Foster, Derek||Rhodes James, Robert|
|George, Bruce||Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Gorst, John||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Gregory, Conal||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Ground, Patrick||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Hague, William||Skinner, Dennis|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Hardy, Peter||Snape, Peter|
|Hayes, Jerry||Squire, Robin|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Steen, Anthony|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Stern, Michael|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Stevens, Lewis|
|Hind, Kenneth||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Hoyle, Doug||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Irvine, Michael||Thorne, Neil|
|Jackson, Robert||Thurnham, Peter|
|Janman, Tim||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Janner, Greville||Vaz, Keith|
|Wakeham. Rt Hon John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wheeler, Sir John|
|Wilson, Brian||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Winnick, David||Mr. Tom Sackville and|
|Wood, Timothy||Mr. Irvine Patrick.|
|Bellotti, David||Mates, Michael|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Mitchell, Sir David|
|Bottomley, Peter||Rathbone, Tim|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Sir Hal Miller and|
|Knox, David||Mr. Jerry Wiggin.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That if the War Crimes Bill is read a second time, no order shall be made for the committal of the Bill and it shall be ordered to be read the third time upon a future day; and upon a motion being made for third reading the Question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided, though opposed, after the expiration of the time for opposed business.