HL Deb 15 February 1995 vol 561 cc762-84

7.46 p.m.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Lester of Herne Hill.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Incorporation of European Convention on Human Rights into United Kingdom law]:

Lord Lester of Herne Hill moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("1950") to ("and") in line 9.

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, with the leave of the Committee, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12. Perhaps I may explain that these are purely technical drafting amendments, which arise as follows: Clause 1(1) (a) in its present form refers to Section I of the European Convention on Human Rights, (as amended by the Third, Fifth and Eighth Protocols to that Convention)".

In fact, however, Section I of that Convention, which is set out in Schedule 1, has not been amended by any of those protocols. Other provisions of the Convention have been amended, but not Section I. It is therefore unnecessary to include in the Bill the words in brackets. That is why Amendment No. 1 is necessary.

Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are consequential. Schedule 1 should begin "Schedule I of the Convention" rather than "The Convention". Again, the words in brackets in line 5 of the schedule are unnecessary for the reasons that I have sought to explain.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

These amendments are entirely acceptable as they do not conflict with Amendment No. 2 which I propose to move in due course.

Baroness Blatch

Am I right in assuming that Amendments Nos. 1, 11 and 12 are being taken together? I understand that they are purely technical amendments. The current references in the Bill are effectively redundant in that the Third, Fifth and Eighth Protocols relate only to articles in Section III of the convention, which is concerned primarily with procedural matters. Although the Government believe that the Bill itself is unnecessary, in the context of the Bill, the amendments are eminently sensible.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

I am grateful to the Minister.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, leave out lines 13 to 25 and insert: ("(2) The provisions set out in subsection (1) above shall—

  1. (a) serve as an aid to the construction of primary and secondary legislation; and
  2. (b)be taken into account in equity and at common law, so that effect may be given to them in any legal proceedings in the United Kingdom in accordance with the principles established by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.
(3) For the purposes of this section the procedure at first instance and on appeal shall be governed by such Rules of Court or Practice Directions as may be made.").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 13 to the Title which is consequential upon Amendment No. 2. The amendments acknowledge the principle of incorporation, as accepted by this place on Second Reading, but propose an entirely different and alternative means of implementation. The amendments are wholly supportive of the steadfast opposition to the Bill, as it stands, shared by many Members on all sides of the Committee and admirably expressed in the detailed exposition of my noble friend Lady Blatch on Second Reading (Hansard, cols. 1163–1170).

With the consent of the Committee, to save time and for clarification, and for the convenience of the Committee, perhaps I may try to clear the yard arm of the cat's cradle of the amendments to Clause 1. It is understood that the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, does not propose to move Amendments Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 7 which were tabled before Amendments Nos. 2 and 13 were tabled and that the noble Lord proposes to support my amendments instead of his own.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 8 are subsumed by subsection (2) (a) of Amendment No. 2, but leave in place in Clause 1(2), lines 13 to 15, which Amendment No. 2 deletes. Amendment No. 2 substitutes subsection (2) (a), which is subsumed, and subsections (2) (b) and (3), which are not subsumed by the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lester.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 4 are wholly compatible with Amendments Nos. 2 and 13. I hope that we can now get down to substance, having clarified the cat's cradle. I shall be brief. The Committee is much more interested in the noble Lord's contribution to the debate than in my introduction. It is accepted that there should be a domestic forum. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, said on Second Reading, if we cannot go along with the whole Bill, an amendment such as my Amendment No. 2 would set aright: a ludicrous Mad-Hatter's tea party position".—[Official Report, 25/1/95; col. 1149.]

It would be largely effective to avoid the expense and delay of having to exhaust all domestic appellate procedures before taking a case to the Commission or to the European Court of Human Rights. It will tend to alleviate the burden upon the Government of lost cases before that court. It would most assuredly meet the concerns of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, as he expressed them on Second Reading. I am glad to see him in his place.

There is also reason to hope—one can never put anything higher than that when introducing a Bill or an amendment—that the amendment, on objective examination, may commend itself to Members of the Committee who supported the Bill as it stood on Second Reading, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Taylor of Gosforth, who spoke also for the Master of the Rolls, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, whom I think I am relieved—I shall wait and see what he has to say—to see in his place, and the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who is also in his place (which is fortunate) who on behalf of himself and the Labour Party gave warm but, to be fair to the noble Lord, qualified support subject to further scrutiny of the Bill.

In short form—the Committee does not want a long speech —the objections to Clause 1 as it stands are that the Bill derogates from the sovereignty of Parliament. The judiciary would have power to override the legislature; to set aside Acts of Parliament. Parliament would retain no residual power to override the convention, even in exceptional circumstances. In that context, the separation of powers under our unwritten constitution, and safeguarded only by our unwritten constitution, would no longer exist.

The United Kingdom—this point has not yet been taken in discussion—is the only signatory state to the convention which does not have a written constitution. If other states such as Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, France and Sweden have incorporated the convention into domestic law, so be it. Incorporation has failed to afford any effective assurance of remedial action for breach as compared with the excellent record of the United Kingdom in that regard.

There are 89 cases awaiting resolution, of which only three arise in the United Kingdom, two of which relate to judgments. Those figures are as recent as October 1994. Problems of non-compliance with the convention in the United Kingdom could be resolved satisfactorily by a domestic forum, as proposed by the amendment, which introduces no constitutional innovation which derogates from the sovereignty of our Parliament.

As to the amendments, a distinction is drawn between our two sources of law which is not readily intelligible to countries which operate a type of Napoleonic code; first, there are laws made by Parliament or under the authority of Parliament (subsection (2) (a)). Secondly, our judge-made law, in equity and at common law, is dealt with in subsection (2) (b) of the amendment. As regards the laws made by Parliament, under this amendment the judiciary would be enjoined to have regard to the provisions of the convention to serve as an aid to primary and secondary legislation so as to ensure whenever possible that the provisions of the convention are not infringed.

I made a submission to such effect some years ago when opposing the Bill brought forward by Lord Broxbourne. I was reminded of that when I read the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, on Second Reading on 25th January 1995, col. 1149 of the Official Report. I am indebted to the noble and learned Lord for jogging my memory.

As regards judge-made law, the judiciary when applying or extending aspects of equity or the common law would be enjoined to do so in conformity with the provisions of the convention. As regards both types and sources of law, the judiciary would be enjoined to have regard to the jurisprudence of the Commission and the Court of Human Rights. Implementing procedures would be introduced, which is subsection (3) of the amendment. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo)

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I say that, if Amendment No. 2 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 3 to 6 inclusive.

8 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

I rise to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway—

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I am not learned!

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

I humbly apologise to the noble Lord. When I spoke on Second Reading I said that my aim would be to table amendments to improve the Bill brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, in order to bring it more into line with the human rights Bill introduced in the other place by the honourable Member for Nottingham North. It is not easy for a layman such as myself to draft amendments. I looked at the wide range of previous debates which were mentioned by the noble Lord when he introduced this Bill on Second Reading. I noted that few of the speakers were laymen. I give notice to the Committee that by the time we reach the Report stage I hope to have prepared more amendments relating to information and accountability.

I owe the Committee an explanation as to why I have changed my mind and am happy to jettison some of my amendments and to support the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. Two things happened which caused me to change my mind. The first was a report in the Daily Telegraph of 10th February on a decision by the European Court of Human Rights. It decided that Britain had acted unlawfully in trying to confiscate the profits of a crime committed by a drug peddler, a convicted drug trafficker. It states: Nine judges at the Strasbourg court ruled unanimously that a British court acted unlawfully in trying to confiscate £59,000 of Peter Welch's drug profits after he was convicted of a plot to smuggle £4 million of cannabis".

Adding insult to injury, it continued: Britain has also been ordered to pay £14,000 costs and expenses to Welch".

If we are to carry the nation with us it is necessary that decisions can be explained to the general public of this country. Frankly, it is virtually impossible to try to explain to people in the street that decision of the European Court.

That gave me cause for thought. I turn to the second incident. As the Committee will know, I believe that a great deal of the pressure has been motivated by Charter 88. I read a publication by that body which was published in January 1990. The first part deals with its priorities and objectives. After a section on the long-term objectives the medium-term objectives are set out. Under the heading "External", it states: To see enacted into law at least one, if not all of the Charter's priorities, namely: Incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights, electoral reform, a Scottish Assembly, a Freedom of Information Act".

After browsing through the document I saw a photograph printed at the back. It shows Anthony Lester QC holding a placard listing the Charter's demands. The Houses of Parliament are in the background. Glancing down the list I notice a Bill of Rights and Freedom of Information. I understand that the noble Lord was not entirely free with information today, but that is another matter. The list also includes a reformed House of Commons and a democratic Upper House. Of course, he choked back his principles because in 1993 he was elevated to your Lordships' House. I suppose that he managed to swallow his scruples and certainly did not go through the agony involved in his 20 years pondering about whether to stay a member of the Garrick Club.

In winding up the Second Reading debate, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, said that he held no brief for Charter 88. Referring to me he said: The noble Lord made it sound like a communist organisation of the most insidious kind. He spoke as though he was Senator Joe McCarthy".—[Official Report, 25/1/95: col. 1170.]

Given the build-up of such a reputation, one feels that one must maintain it. Therefore, I must say that I regard the activities of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, in this House as those of a Trojan Horse for Charter 88. I do not say that it is a communist conspiracy by Charter 88; I say that it is a conspiracy by a number of academics and intellectual elitists, or rather, I do not. say that it is a conspiracy; I say that there is a plan in which sections of the media are colluding.

Members of the Committee will have noticed that last night's Evening Standard contained a substantial article by the noble Lord about his Bill today. It was no coincidence that on the Saturday after Second Reading The Times published an opinion poll about the public's attitude towards human rights. I could give other examples but I do not wish to weary the Committee at this time of night.

I am anxious to support the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, because he retains some sovereignty for our Parliament. We must carry people with us on these issues because there is a great deal of talk within my party regarding Sidney and Beatrice Webb. They are being written off as theoreticians because of their construction of parts of the Labour Party constitution. In fact, they were Fabians, and the Fabians were known as gas and water socialists. They were so named because they knew that, if people did not have heating and lighting in their homes and water which they could drink without fear of cholera, typhoid and so forth, there was no point in talking about anything else. They are the basic elements. We must make sure that people understand that we are concerned mainly about the conditions in which they live and that these other issues are more for the intellectuals and academics.

I was heartened by the Second Reading speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. He was not in a minority of one because he made comments with which I found a great resonance. I do not believe that a written constitution provides any guarantee. The Weimar Republic had a written constitution but that did not prevent the rise of Hitler. That constitution contained a clause about religious freedoms and freedom from persecution. We have recently witnessed the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and there is a hollow ring in the belief that the written constitution gave any protection whatever. We should start a campaign to stop knocking this country. Some of those in Europe who seem to be so critical of us should bear in mind that had we not stood on our own in 1940 and had we not resisted and held out, all those countries which now seem to think that we are so backward as regards ordinary, decent civilities and rights would still be living under one of the worst tyrannies that the world has ever known. I am pleased to support the noble Lord, Lord Campbell.

Earl Russell

I am sure that the Committee will be pleased to hear that I am not going to answer that speech. However, I wish to take up one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. He said that he believes that the Bill threatens parliamentary sovereignty. I do not understand how that can possibly be so. I have always understood that the two key principles of parliamentary sovereignty are that a parliament can do what it likes but may not bind its successors. I cannot see anything in the Bill which remotely purports to bind our successors. Therefore, if this Parliament wishes to pass this legislation, I cannot see how we can possibly infringe our parliamentary sovereignty by doing so. I should have thought that an argument to say that we infringe our parliamentary sovereignty by doing what we like would run more risk of contradicting parliamentary sovereignty than anything in my noble friend's Bill.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Browne-Wilkinson

I do not have the command of the broad territory which the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, has and I shall confine myself to the very narrow point which, as I understand it, is now common ground between the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway.

As introduced, the Bill would have had the effect that those provisions passed by both Houses of Parliament and receiving Royal Assent which were found to conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights would have had to be struck down by the courts.

There are many different views on the merits or demerits of such a matter but there is no doubt that such a move would have involved a major constitutional shift. When I spoke on Second Reading, I expressed the hope that even if, as I suspected, such a basic proposition was not acceptable, consideration would be given to something more moderate in its scope. To my astonishment, there are now no fewer than two amendments designed to produce roughly the same result.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 4—either of them as far as I can see—produce a major shift in what the Bill will achieve. Perhaps I may explain that. There is no longer any question of a judge or a court being able to strike down any Act of Parliament. Whatever its rights and wrongs, the argument about sovereignty is no longer in the picture because the amendments produce an obligation on the courts, in construing Acts of Parliament or administering the common law, to give effect, so far as possible and subject to Parliament's ability to say, "You cannot do it", to the provisions of the European Convention to which we all, as a country, are party and with which we are bound to conform.

I believe that either of the two amendments will produce a most desirable change. When winding up the debate on Second Reading the statement of the law by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, accorded broadly with exactly what the amendment is designed to produce; namely, a general provision whereby, in giving effect to the law as passed by Parliament, there should be an approach designed to give effect to Convention obligations.

I am afraid that I have still not unravelled the cat's cradle and I do not know which of the amendments will prevail or how. But the amendments will produce what I suspect is the wish not only of the Members of this place but also of the other place when passing legislation; namely, they are not intended to authorise the Executive or anyone else in this country to do things which conflict with the European Convention. Indeed, it is extremely difficult to see how they would do properly otherwise as we are bound by treaty to enforce that.

This amendment will merely enable the courts of this country, in approaching the powers conferred by Parliament in very wide terms, of necessity, to assume that those powers are limited so as not to authorise infringements of the treaty.

I can see no reason why that should not be done. It does not involve impugning the sovereignty of Parliament. It would enable the many cases which arise to be adjudicated upon by English judges in England, albeit at considerable expense, in relation to matters which directly affect the citizens of this country. I would welcome either of the amendments and I hope that I shall be given guidance as to which one to vote for when the time comes. I believe that they both achieve a desirable result.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

It is with some trepidation that I venture to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, particularly because the purport of my intention is to agree with him.

I was not able to be present when your Lordships debated the Second Reading of the Bill. Had I been present, I should have offered the Bill a qualified welcome. That qualification would be in relation to the inclusion of Clause 1(3). Although the noble Earl, Lord Russell, may be right that we cannot bind our successors—to my knowledge that has never been resolved—it is perfectly clear that that was the intention of the subsection.

Perhaps I may share my anxieties with the Committee. I have spent a political lifetime with the non-governmental organisations concerned with human rights. They are not all academics and I am not sure that most of them would claim to be intellectuals. People working for those organisations care about what happens to individuals. I have always believed, with them, that a government should observe certain standards in their dealings with their own citizens. I believe that those standards should embody consensus across a region if not, yet, across the whole globe.

We have that. All the citizens of this country now have the rights set out in the convention. The only question is how they are to be enforced. Is it necessary to go to Strasbourg, with all the delay, expense and inconvenience that that entails? Or is it possible for those rights to be enforced in the courts of this country? Clearly that is in the interest of the citizen and I believe that it is in the interests of the Government because we can then decently dispose of our in-house washing without too great a public performance. Therefore, up to that point, I am totally with the noble Lord, Lord Lester.

But we must reflect what we are doing when we designate a principle as a human right and afford it a special protection. First, we withdraw it from the normal political process. In a representative democracy, the usual way to resolve issues is by the political process. They are debated and, if necessary, the people make a decision on those issues at the polls. I do not suggest that the majority is always right. Sometimes majorities are wrong. Sometimes they are prejudiced and sometimes they are cruel. I stand to be corrected by the noble Earl, but I do not believe that history offers us many examples of where an oligarchy, an elite, a group of Platonic philosophers or even lawyers have proved to be more just, fair or right than the majority. Normally, where there is an issue, I believe that it should be resolved by the electors in a representative democracy.

Therefore, before we embody a principle as a human right, we have to be very careful that there is a very broad and, probably, a lasting consensus about it.

There may be those who want to challenge it. They will not be able to do so in the courts because the purpose of the Bill is to provide that the courts must apply the principles as we have them. If we prevent them from addressing their arguments to the electorate, we shall have silenced those who may want us to reconsider the received wisdom. There have been occasions when they have been the prophets and the innovators. Often, too, it is those who most need the protection of human rights who most need to challenge the received wisdom of an earlier generation.

I hope that we shall not be too rigid. In view of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, quite clearly he is not proposing to be too rigid. I fully accept what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, said; namely, that we would not normally, in any event, wish to place ourselves in breach of the convention. It will not be very easy to change the convention, even should the time come when it ought to be changed in accordance with the needs of a changing world. We make the situation very much worse if we withdraw too wide an area from the political process.

Principles which become enshrined in human rights may sometimes be no more than the reactions of a particular generation to the political problems of that generation. I do not propose to embark upon that argument now, but I could offer examples where I believe that we may be fettered by the perfectly genuine concerns of our grandfathers who initially drafted the convention.

Human rights jurisprudence is not a petrified body of dogmatics; it must live, breath and respond to changing needs. I believe that what the noble Lord is seeking to do in the Bill is healthy: it is to give the electorate time to think again when such matters are challenged. It is to ensure that the Government direct their mind to the impact on individuals of their proposed legislation. But there is a danger—certainly if the proposed subsection is included —that the very purpose of the Bill will be defeated. In other words, it will not give people time to think again. It will ensure that they cannot do so. For that reason, I welcome the noble Lord's amendment.

As regards the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, I await and reserve judgment. I shall listen carefully to the debate. I should just like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Campbell—if he will forgive me; and he knows the spirit in which I say this—that I suspect that my reasons for wanting to amend the subsection are slightly different from his. That does not matter. I promise to judge it on its merits.

Lord Donaldson of Lymington

I shall not trespass again into the question of whether I am in a minority of one or whether I am a voice crying in the wilderness, though crying my own cries as opposed to those of other people. I should like to take up the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, when he said that the Bill as originally drafted did not infringe the sovereignty of Parliament. I accept what the noble Earl said in the sense that he said it. In a sense, it would always be open to this Parliament—or, I suppose a future Parliament—to repeal the Act. However, in terms of real property, while Parliament retained the freehold, it is quite clear that, as long as the legislation in its original form remained on the statute book, if it ever got there, a leasehold interest was being given to others. I personally regard that as an infringement of sovereignty.

Accordingly, I very much welcome the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, as far as it goes. However, the difficulty is that the convention was drafted in 1950 or thereabouts. As I understand it from such reading as I have been able to carry out, it was intended to put up a series of markers or beacons to point out to those countries which were still totalitarian in their systems of government what were the basic tenets of democracies. Necessarily, therefore, they were expressed in very general terms. Again, I can understand that the United Kingdom was prepared to support a convention which had within it a machinery which would enable the signatories to say to Ruritania, "Look, you are not conforming with the principles of democracy. In some respects, perhaps in many respects, you remain a totalitarian regime". I can understand the need in that context for a commission and a court of human rights.

However, the problem which now arises is that the European Court of Human Rights and the commission seem to be approaching the convention on the footing not that it lays down broad principles, not that it shows in general terms what are the indicia of a democratic system of government, but that it is something in the nature of an international statute, which, when construed, will lay down precise rules which must be observed if we are to claim, first, to be honouring the convention and, secondly—and, perhaps, more broadly and more importantly—to be a democratic nation. I cannot accept that.

I would be quite happy if the convention were incorporated into United Kingdom law to be taken into account when construing statutes. I would have a little more difficulty —but not all that much—with the concept of somehow grafting it on to the common law. That would probably follow automatically if it were incorporated into English law. However, I would regard it as essential that we should be able to develop the meaning of the convention in an English context in our own way. I would not expect the French to develop and apply the convention in the same way in their own country; or, indeed, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Norwegians or anyone else. They have different cultures and different historical backgrounds. No doubt their approach would be the same in broad principle, but in detail it might well be different, and properly so.

My difficulty with the amendment all along has been the words, so that effect may be given to them"— that is, the convention— in any legal proceedings in the United Kingdom in accordance with the principles established by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights". That is what sticks in my gullet. I do not believe that that was ever the intention of the founding fathers of the convention. However, it is useless for me to propose any amendments here because, at this stage, that would involve a breach of the treaty by the United Kingdom. All I can do is to express the minority hope—I am sure—that Her Majesty's Government will in due course, having explained the point with care to our partners in the convention, withdraw from the convention, re-enacting it in English law while explaining that we support it completely but we must be allowed to apply it into our own nation in our own way, in our own context and in the light of our own history. As pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, we must let the people have a say and not 27 judges in Strasbourg, only one of whom is English.

Lord Woolf

I hesitate to add to the learning which has already been displayed on the subject by many noble Lords. However, I do so for two reasons. First, I believe that it is most important for us to appreciate the nature and effect of the proposed amendments. As I see it, both the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and that tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, achieve the same result. There is indeed a difficulty in making the selection as to which is preferable. That is a matter to which I shall return in a moment.

Secondly, the advantage of these amendments is that they retain the freehold of parliamentary sovereignty, albeit all that would have been dispensed with otherwise would have been the leasehold, as indicated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. But that is, as he indicated, an important distinction. I welcome these amendments because they avoid the consequences which follow from Parliament inadvertently infringing the Convention on Human Rights where there was no intention to do so because, as often happens with legislation, the exact consequences of that legislation are not foreseen.

The result of having these amendments is that Parliament will retain the right to make it clear that in respect of specific legislation it intends that legislation to prevail over the convention. If it does not do so, when it comes to the courts to construe that legislation, as the amendments make clear, it is the courts' task to try to construe that legislation so far as possible consistently with the convention. It seems to me that that is a happy result. It complies with our treaty obligations and it follows a precedent which has been taken in other parts of the world, in particular in New Zealand and at one stage in Canada, where the very same device was used, not surprisingly in countries which had a similar constitutional tradition to our own.

I therefore have no hesitation in supporting both amendments. When it comes to choosing between the amendments I will merely say this. It seems to me that the solution devised by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, is the one to be preferred because it makes most clear the task of the courts when it comes to construing enactments whenever passed in the light of the convention. It also has the advantage that it is shorter, and that is always something to be desired in a situation of this sort. I merely add this, that whereas the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice did not have the opportunity of considering the precise language of these two amendments when he spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill he expressed two reservations. One of the reservations is met by either of these amendments and he has authorised me to say on this occasion that he would endorse the spirit of these amendments.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am grateful for the illumination which the noble and learned Lords, Lord Browne-Wilkinson and Lord Woolf, have shed upon this. I have not myself seen a perfect alternative as between Amendment No. 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and Amendment No. 4 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. I still, respectfully, am of the view that they are not perfect alternatives. If they were to be alternatives, I for my part would strongly, for the reasons given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, support Amendment No. 4 rather than Amendment No. 2.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway and indeed to the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, who has given his explanation as to why he will withdraw his own amendments. At the outset I refer to the Welch judgment, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cocks. The Government are considering carefully the implications of the judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Peter Welch. The Welch case turned on the narrow point of whether a confiscation order under the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 was a penalty and could not therefore be applied where offences were committed before the Act came into force.

I can assure the Committee that the Government had no intention of creating a retrospective penalty. It may be tempting to say with hindsight that the outcome of the case was obvious but we certainly cannot say with any certainty that the domestic courts would have found for Mr. Welch in this case if they had been able to apply the convention.

It is interesting to note that the European Commission on Human Rights was evenly divided on the issue of whether a confiscation order was indeed a penalty. Had the domestic courts found against Mr. Welch, he would of course in any event have been able to take his case to the Strasbourg courts.

I believe the amendments betoken a recognition of the force of the Government's arguments in respect of the effects of incorporation upon the carefully balanced relationship between Parliament and the courts which lies at the heart of our tradition of parliamentary supremacy. But these amendments, although preferable in many respects to the original proposals in this Bill, do not allay the Government's anxieties on this point.

The Government's concern is that, in construing parliamentary enactments, the courts should look at the words of those enactments first, and only in the case of ambiguity should they look to see which of the possible meanings is consistent with the UK's international obligations. The amendments to Clause 1 under discussion would each (albeit in slightly different ways) increase the number of occasions in which the courts would be entitled, and indeed obliged, to look at the convention before deciding how the words of an enactment should be interpreted, even if those words are clear and unambiguous. In the Government's view, where the words of Parliament are clear, they should be given effect to by our courts.

As far as subordinate legislation is concerned—a matter to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, paid particular attention at Second Reading—the courts already give the most careful scrutiny to whether such delegated legislation is within the powers given by an Act of Parliament. They can, and indeed do, strike it down if it goes beyond what Parliament intended. Should the courts be permitted to go further than this and strike down subordinate legislation because, in their view, it offends against the principles of the convention even though it is within the powers given by Parliament and even though it has in all probability been approved by Parliament under either the negative or affirmative resolution procedure? In the Government's view, the courts should not have such powers.

There is a further danger in interpreting domestic legislation, old or new, by reference to the convention. The interpretation of the rights and freedoms set out in the convention and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the commission is by its nature an evolving process. It is well recognised, not least by the Strasbourg court, that the interpretation of the convention will alter over time as social and political attitudes change. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, made reference to the difficulty of making changes where the social and political attitudes change over time. In the Government's view, it is for Parliament to decide how best to respond to those changes, not for the judges to decide that domestic enactments, whenever passed, must now be interpreted so as to accord with developments in current European social policy.

In short, the Government consider that, even with one or other of these amendments, the Bill would amount to a significant change in the current position in providing for the convention to be litigated in the courts where now it may not be. For the reasons set out in my speech at Second Reading, the Government do not consider that such a change is necessary in order to secure the rights and freedoms protected under the European Convention on Human Rights. Nor do we believe that it would enhance the enjoyment of those rights and freedoms in this country.

As I said at col. 1166 of Hansard of 25th January at Second Reading, the arithmetic is interesting when one compares the UK's record with that of those countries which have incorporated the ECHR. We compare favourably with others in that respect. It is true that there is no diminution of the protection of our citizens both as regards the national law and indeed the European Convention on Human Rights. Accordingly, the Government could not possibly support either of these amendments.

Earl Russell

Before the noble Baroness sits down, could she confirm that, since Parliament is sovereign, Parliament has the right to pass this Bill if it wishes?

Baroness Blatch

I confirm that absolutely. This Parliament is entirely free to pass this law, as many other countries have incorporated the ECHR into their own national law. It is entirely a matter for this Chamber and another place to do the same.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

If no other Member of the Committee wishes to speak—

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

Perhaps I may explain to the Committee some of the background to these two amendments.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Order! Surely at this stage I should respond. I apologise, we are in Committee.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

As I understand it, it is appropriate for me to speak to the amendment which has been tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and at the same time to indicate how it differs from Amendment No. 4, to which I should also like to speak at this stage.

The Committee will know that the purpose of the Bill, as its title indicates, is to incorporate Section 1 of the European convention into the law of the land—that is the central purpose of the Bill—and to put our courts into the position of being able to give decisions locally with recourse being had to the European Court of Human Rights only in the last resort and not at first recourse.

Paragraph (b) of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, dealing with the common law is already covered by the existing Clause 1(1) and (2) of the Bill. I remind the Committee that Clause 1(1) incorporates into the law of the United Kingdom the schedule provisions and gives them full legal effect in accordance with this Act. Clause 1(2) provides that the schedule provisions shall have effect notwithstanding any rule of law to the contrary.

Pausing there, the intention—and I hope the effect—of Clause 1 is to ensure that the convention becomes part of the common law and is taken into account. That applies to law and equity.

Clause 1(3) in its unamended form is similar in its object to Section 2(1) and (4) of the European Communities Act 1972. It is a very strong provision. It commands the courts to construe all existing and future legislation in accordance with the convention and to set aside any inconsistent provisions. Therefore, Clause 1(3) in its present form is a lion rather than a mouse. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, indicated, it would have the effect of empowering the courts to strike down or set aside inconsistent legislation, as they already do in the case of statutes which conflict with European Community law.

I listened very carefully to the much more learned and wiser voices at Second Reading. I also listened carefully to the speech in reply made by the noble Baroness the Minister. It seemed to me on reflection that the wise course was to seek the widest possible consensus across the Chamber for the Bill and to remove any conceivable rational objection to the Bill in the form in which it would leave this Chamber. It is for that reason that I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and all Members of the Committee who have spoken that it would be right to delete Clause 1(3) and to substitute a weaker provision.

The question then is: what is the most appropriate weaker provision? The gap which Clause 1(3) in its unamended or amended form seeks to fill is the gap created by the decision of the House of Lords in the Brind case. In that case, the House of Lords decided that where broad ministerial powers are conferred by Parliament it would be usurping the role of Parliament if the courts were to interpret those powers subject to and in accordance with the convention rights and freedoms. In effect, the Law Lords decided that only an ambiguity in legislation would authorise judges to apply the convention.

That is the gap which a weaker form of Clause 1(3) seeks to fill. It would authorise the courts to interpret all legislation in accordance with the convention unless the context requires otherwise. It would fill the Brind gap. The gap that would not be filled by the weakening of the Bill would be the gap exposed, for example, by the Welch case concerning the retrospective confiscation of profits from drugs. In that case the problem is that the statute itself requires the courts to exercise their powers in a retrospective way. Therefore, if either of the candidates for amendment is accepted by the Committee it will follow that in the Welch case and similar cases where the statute cannot be read subject to the convention the only remedy will continue to be recourse to the European Commission and the Court of Human Rights.

I believe that we should accept that limitation. We would not achieve perfect incorporation but something less. We would be leaving it to Parliament to pass inconsistent legislation and the only remedy would be a European remedy thereafter.

I come to the question of which of the amendments might better achieve the object which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and I and all other Members of the Committee who have spoken except the Minister have in mind; that is, to seek so far as we can to authorise our courts to give effect to the convention locally and make it unnecessary to do so on the international plane.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, will forgive me if I say that I do not believe that subsection (3) of his amendment is a necessary part of the amendment. That would follow as a matter of course in any event. I believe that subsection (b) is already covered by the earlier provisions of the Bill as they stand. Paragraph (a) of the amendment is ambiguous. It merely states that the provisions in the Schedule shall: serve as an aid to the construction of primary and secondary legislation". It does not say how. It leaves that utterly ambiguous. As noble Lords who are judicial or legal in their learning will know, the courts already use the convention as an aid to the construction of primary and secondary legislation where there is an ambiguity, but not otherwise. I believe that in Scotland they do not use it as an aid to ambiguity, either. So the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, would amend the position in Scotland. I do not believe that by itself it would overrule the decision in Brind or make clearer what the interpretation rules should be.

Amendment No. 4 is based upon what is already to be found in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. It is expressed more precisely than the New Zealand provision, but it makes clear that the sovereignty of Parliament is preserved in the sense that, where the context does not permit, the courts must give effect to the legislation and not to the convention. In that rather special use of the word "sovereignty" the sovereignty of Parliament is preserved.

However, the effect of Amendment No. 4 is, I hope, to make quite clear that, except where there is a clear inconsistency, the courts will construe existing or future legislation consistently with the rights which we have defined in Schedule 1. Given that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and I have exactly the same objectives, as I understand it, I very much hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment in order that we may make common cause on this important part of the Bill.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Perhaps I may—

Baroness Blatch

I was about to wind up briefly on that point. If my noble friend wishes to speak before I do so, I give way.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I was coming to the decision on what I would do with my amendment. Perhaps my noble friend wishes to speak first.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to my noble friend. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for pointing out the distinction between the two amendments. That is important, as noble Lords may take a view about which amendment they wish to support.

The difficulties which we envisage in relation to my noble friend's amendment would apply with even more force to the amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, which place a positive obligation—the noble Lord made that clear—upon the courts to construe legislation consistently with the convention wherever possible. That provision still represents a very significant constitutional change. Therefore the Government could not support the amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

No other Member of the Committee wishes to speak. I am obliged to the Minister. I assure the Committee that at this hour it would usurp the whole concept of the way in which we conduct our affairs to seek to emulate the noble Lord, Lord Lester, by going into the technical case of Brind and others, and heaven knows what. I have not the slightest intention of doing so. The reason is this. It is more or less common ground that there is nothing to choose between the amendments. They virtually achieve the same objective. As my noble friend says, the Government apparently prefer my amendment to the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lester.

My amendment removes something that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, does not. I refer to Clause 1(2), which states: The provisions set out in Schedule 1 shall have effect notwithstanding any rule of law to the contrary". That provision remains in the Bill under the noble Lord's amendment. Also under his amendment there is no provision whatever for paragraph (b) of my amendment or the rules of court or practice directions procedure.

At this hour on this important subject I propose to take the opinion of the Committee. Some resolution ought to be made. We do not wish to go on arguing as to whether this amendment is better than another amendment. I shall take the opinion of the Committee.

8.53 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 25.

Division No. 1
Annaly, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Lane of Horsell, L.
Balfour, E. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Marlesford, L.
Burnham, L. Palmer, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. [Teller.] Rankeillour, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. [Teller] Rodney, L.
Denham, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Elton, L. Seccombe, B.
Halsbury, E. Skelmersdale, L.
HolmPatrick, L. Tornington, V.
Ackner, L. Lloyd of Berwick, L.
Addington, L. Macaulay of Bragar, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. McNair, L.
Browne-Wilkinson, L. Mishcon, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L Russell, E
Dubs, L. [Teller.] Seear, B.
Eatwell, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B
Gregson, L. Tope, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Tordoff, L.
Hylton, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L. [Teller.] Woolf, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.2 p.m.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Lord Lester of Herne Hill moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 15, leave out subsection (3) and insert: ("(3) So far as the context permits, enactments (whenever passed or made) shall be construed consistently with the rights and freedoms defined in Schedule 1.").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment, I fear at great length. I therefore beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 5 to 7 not moved.]

Lord Lester of Herne Hill moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 2, line 10, at end insert: (""enactment" includes an Order in Council, any Northern Ireland legislation and any instrument made under an Act or any Northern Ireland legislation.").

The noble Lord said: Again, this amendment presents a purely technical definition. It seeks to define the meaning of "enactment" to include, an Order in Council, any Northern Ireland legislation and any instrument made under an Act or any Northern Ireland legislation".

I do not think it is a matter of controversy. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Remedies for violations of the Convention]:

Lord Campbell of Alloway had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 9:

Page 2, line 29, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: I understand that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, will move that the clause do not stand part of the Bill. In the circumstances, it would be otiose and a waste of time for the Committee were I to move Amendment No. 9. Therefore I do not propose to move it.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Sefton of Garston

I listened with interest to the two debates tonight. In the earlier debate some difference of opinion seemed to arise as to what constitutes Charter 88. I do not know whether it consists of intellectuals or professional men. But I do know one thing: they are so far removed from the ordinary people of this country that Charter 88 will never go down very well.

That brings me to the purpose of my intervention. It is not to debate anything at this moment. It is merely to ask the sponsor of the Bill a question. Clause 4 states: For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that nothing in this Act shall be taken to prejudice the right of any person to petition the European Commission of Human Rights claiming to be a victim of a violation of the rights set out in the Convention". I do not want to argue that point, except to point out that there is nothing in this Bill that would enable an ordinary working-class lay person in this country to go to the appropriate court to defend his right under the convention. The legal system in this country is framed in such a way, and the exorbitant cost of the QCs and other lawyers in this country is so high, that to suggest that working-class folk could have recourse to this subsection means nothing. If we are to break away from this cycle of intellectuals and professionals removing themselves so far from the ordinary people of the country, something has to be done about the cost.

I had it in mind to put down an amendment to this Bill. It is a long time since I first read the convention. I thought then that it was a good thing. When the Bill came up for debate, I read the convention again. I still see it as an excellent thing. I still believe that there is something in it which contradicts the attitude of the Government in certain fields of public relations and public discussion and it should be challenged. I could not afford to have representation—to pay for the solicitors, the banisters and all the other extraneous matters that they bring in. The earlier debate and this one have confirmed that for me.

The only time that I ever became involved in a court case was when somebody made a remark about me that I thought was libellous, and I therefore went to court. In the due process of law, I employed a barrister. The person who had offended me was also a barrister. Believe it or not, the case went on for seven days. I was completely cleared by everybody in the case, including the person who had offended me. Then the court decided to do what it thought necessary to settle the case. My barrister and the opposing barrister went into Chambers. That terrified me. In my absence, without my having to say anything at all, they settled the case. It cost me thousands of pounds. It cost the other party nothing because she had been conducting her own case.

That gave me an important lesson about British law and its availability to ordinary people. The people who are behind Charter 88 ought to keep their feet on the ground. Those who propose the Bill had better not suggest something like, "for the avoidance of doubt you have the right to do this that or the other". I make a proposal that the Minister should consider an amendment before Report stage; namely, that the Bill should empower or compel the Government to set up an organisation or commission (whatever it may be called) that will guarantee to the people of this land the rights and wherewithal to go to the European Court in order to claim their rights under the convention.

If such an amendment is not brought forward, I feel that we would be in a situation similar to that with Charter 88 and talk of sovereignty. Sovereignty over what, I ask? If the sovereignty of Parliament means anything, it means control over our economic affairs. But our economic affairs can no longer be controlled by the Government. We have lost the sovereignty of this country. Intellectuals talk about the preservation of our sovereignty, but nobody has asked whether we still have it. We do not have it. This country has transferred its sovereignty over economic affairs to the board rooms of private companies and PLCs. It is time that we woke up to that fact. Then perhaps, we can translate the principle that we have the ability to control our affairs into this Bill.

Unless people are provided with the means to go to the European Court, this Bill means nothing. I ask the Minister to give the matter some consideration. When that has been done, perhaps the Minister would consider bringing forward an amendment to Clause 4 in order to provide the wherewithal for ordinary people to claim their rights under the law.

Lord Woolf

I oppose the Question that Clause 4 stand part of the Bill. I suggest that it is an unnecessary and undesirable provision, particularly having regard to the amendments which have been made to earlier parts of the Bill. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, was good enough to indicate that he thought that some consideration should be given to the terms of Clause 4 because of its width. It is my suggestion that the best course now is to drop Clause 4 as unnecessary.

Baroness Blatch

The Government too are unhappy about Clause 4, along with one or two other people in this Chamber. While the provisions of Clause 1 lie at the heart of the Government's objections to the Bill, the provisions of Clause 4 also cause considerable concern, particularly in terms of their creation of an automatic right of action for breach of statutory duty, whereby almost any actions by individual Ministers or public servants could be deemed open to challenge, irrespective of the fact that the provisions of the convention were intended to be binding upon governments and not upon individuals.

The Government retain very strong concerns about the provisions in Clause 4 and could not support the inclusion of the clause, although we shall not oppose it on this occasion.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

I hope that Mr. Tony Blair has the same ease in dropping Clause 4 from the constitution of his party as this Chamber has in persuading noble Lords to drop this Clause 4.

Perhaps I may briefly say something about the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton. Oddly enough, I have great sympathy with much of what he said. I have little sympathy with his attack on Charter 88. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Searman, who chairs Charter 88, will be surprised to know that he is leading an out of touch body of that kind. I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, that a MORI poll, with which I and my colleagues had nothing whatever to do, was published in The Times a couple of weeks ago. It showed that the only measure of constitutional reform that has real popularity across the country is incorporation of the convention; 73 per cent. of the people want it. I do not know their class and I am not interested; but more than seven out of 10 want a Bill of this kind. It is therefore not some kind of ivory tower, intellectual, elitist, professorial measure. It is something that people want.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, that access to justice is extremely important, and if this were a government Bill and any government were crazy enough to ask me to be a member of it, for my part I should like to see a human rights commission in the Bill, able to take up cases of merit and fund them. I should like to see legal aid targeted in that way so that people of limited means could have their cases taken up. I should like to see a director of civil proceedings able to take on public interest cases.

But this is a Private Member's Bill and, as the Committee is aware, there are inhibitions on what can be done. Even if it were not a Private Member's Bill, there are still limitations as to what can be done in relation to finance in a measure of this kind.

As I say, I have sympathy with the need to ensure access to justice, not only here but also in Strasbourg. However, that is not possible in the Bill. I can reassure the noble Lord that many working class people—they may not be people of whom the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, would approve—found remedies under the convention. For example, prisoners of various kinds; people seeking legal aid in Scotland who are denied it; a battered wife unable to obtain legal aid for a judicial separation in Ireland; a working-class man in Liverpool unable to obtain records about himself from Liverpool City Council. It is therefore not true that it is a charter for the rich, though I agree that at the moment the rich are more likely to be able to take advantage of it.

The problem with Clause 4 is that it purports to create a general constitutional tort. I recognise that the circumstances in which a Minister or public officer should be liable in tort will vary tremendously from case to case. In some cases one needs a mental element—misfeasance in public office; in some cases no mental element is present —an unlawful search and seizure, a trespass. The great defect in Clause 4 is that it fails to specify with enough particularity the circumstances in which public officers will be liable. I am comforted by the fact that by incorporating Article 13 of the convention into the law of the land, we shall be incorporating a requirement for the courts to fashion effective domestic remedies for violations of the convention. Speaking for myself I am content to leave it to the courts, using their discretionary powers in fashioning relief in judicial review cases, to fashion on a case by case basis appropriate discretionary remedies to give effect to Article 13. For those reasons I support everything which has been said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, in regard to the objections to Clause 4.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Hylton

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will consider at a later stage whether there should still be a reference to the right of individual petition, which should not be entirely lost sight of.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The United Kingdom is committed on the international plane to ensuring the right of individual petition for everyone within its jurisdiction. I am glad to say that the Government recently ratified Protocol 11 to the convention, which will create a permanent right of access to a permanent court of human rights. That is one of the great steps forward that the Government have taken in the European protection of human rights. Now that we have ratified Protocol 11, which I anticipate will come into force within the next two years, it will no longer be possible for a future Parliament to take away that precious right unless it delegates from the convention itself. If the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson of Lymington, will forgive me for saying so, that is something that no member state of the Council of Europe—none of the 34 from Turkey to Ireland —would wish to do. Indeed, they are queuing up to join.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I can say that from my own experience there is a great misconception among many people who believe that unless we have incorporation of the ECHR, somehow or other they do not enjoy its protection. I am not absolutely certain, nor am I convinced, that that point was properly understood when people on market squares and streets throughout the country were posed the question whether they agreed it was a good thing. Does not the noble Lord agree with me that the incorporation of the convention does not increase the protection of United Kingdom citizens; nor does it guarantee fewer referrals to the ECHR; nor does it minimise the cost and nor does it minimise waste of time or effort, as evidenced by the record of the countries where the ECHR has been incorporated in their law.

I hope that the noble Lord will agree that the Bill transfers power and influence from Parliament to the judiciary, in all its forms, making sometimes good decisions, sometimes bad decisions and sometimes decisions of indifference.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

The Minister asked a number of questions which I should like to answer briefly. First, on the issue of the transfer of power, the Bill transfers sovereignty back from Strasbourg to Westminster. By that, I mean that in 1966 when the Government allowed the right of petition and accepted the jurisdiction of the European Court over Parliament, as they did, they transferred sovereignty to Strasbourg. This Bill transfers sovereignty back to Parliament to enact a Bill to empower our judges on limited terms to provide local remedies. That is an affirmation of parliamentary sovereignty, not a denial of it. The Bill also gives effect to subsidiarity. It places our local institutions in the first line.

Secondly, the noble Baroness asked whether the Bill would improve the effective protection of human rights in this country. The answer is that it would, for this reason. It would mean that, where Ministers are given broad powers in a parliament dominated by the Executive and they then violate the convention by disregarding its provisions in the exercise of those powers, the citizen will be able to get a speedy and effective local remedy. Advocates like me will no longer eat in Strasbourg and drink the delicious Alsatian wine, going to the European Court, because our clients will be able to get speedy, effective local remedies from British judges.

Therefore, I believe that this strengthens the protection. I have little doubt that ordinary men and women in this country are quite astonished that a modest mouse of a Bill —which is what it has become—can still be a Bill which the Government feel unable to support.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

The discussion goes far wide of Clause 4 and we are wasting time on incorporation. My noble friend Lady Blatch is absolutely right. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, is, in my view, absolutely wrong for the reasons that I have already given. We are talking about Clause 4 and not Alsatian wine.

Clause 4 negatived.

Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms agreed by the Council of Europe at Rome on 4th November 1950 (as amended by the Third, Fifth and Eighth Protocols).]:

Lord Lester of Herne Hill moved Amendment No. 11:

page 3, line 3, at beginning insert ("SECTION 1 OF").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to these technical amendments and have nothing to add. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 3, leave out line 5.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

In the Title:

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past nine o'clock.