HL Deb 10 November 1998 vol 594 cc697-708

(" .—(1) Standing orders shall make provision for establishing a committee of members of the Assembly to exercise, in place of the Department of Finance and Personnel, the functions conferred on that Department by Article 6(2) of the Audit (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 (expenses of Northern Ireland Audit Office).

(2) No more than one member of the committee established under subsection (3) of section (Financial control, accounts and audit) may be a member of the committee established under this section.

(3) The committee established under this section shall, in discharging its functions, have regard to the advice of the committee established under that subsection and of the Department of Finance and Personnel.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment I wish also to speak to Amendment No. 221. Amendment No. 89 provides for the establishment under standing orders of a new Assembly committee which will have the duty of examining the estimate of expenses which is prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland each year, agreeing any necessary modifications with him and laying the estimate before the Assembly.

This is a function currently exercised by the Department of Finance and Personnel. It would not be appropriate for it to continue doing so once the Assembly has been established. In Westminster the Public Accounts Commission examines the estimates of the National Audit Office under Section 4 of the National Audit Act 1983 and this amendment creates a parallel committee to the commission. Our new committee will be quite separate from the PAC equivalent committee and will be allowed to have only one member drawn from the PAC. This is to ensure that while the new PAC equivalent committee can bring its expertise to assist the new committee it cannot dominate it or replace it. The PAC equivalent committee will have some influence over the Northern Ireland Audit Office, and it is not appropriate for it to have any involvement in the consideration of its expenses if the NIAO is to maintain its independence.

Subsection (1) of the new clause will give the new committee exactly the same duties as the Department of Finance and Personnel exercises at present. Subsection (2) stipulates that not more than one member of the PAC equivalent committee will be able to serve on this new committee for the reasons I have already given. Subsection (3) will require the new committee to take advice for the PAC equivalent committee and the DFP. This is modelled upon the 1983 Act.

This is a small piece of the audit jigsaw and our aim in introducing it is to ensure the absolute integrity and independence of the audit process. Amendment No. 221 is a consequential amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, in rising to my feet I may appear to contradict myself in regard to haste. But it may be worth thinking about the voluntary establishment of this committee in shadow form with a slightly wider remit to educate the members of the Assembly on the realities of financial life. Listening to the exhortations from all manner of do-gooder bodies throughout Northern Ireland and some of the promises made by members of the Assembly—looking at it from afar, the same appears to be happening in Scotland—they will be inclined to commit themselves in advance to expenditure that they cannot possibly hope to meet. Therefore, I believe that a word of caution would be profitable for all concerned at this early stage. If it could be established in shadow form and go outside the strict remit contained in this clause, and it felt so inclined to give advice, it would be helpful to those of their colleagues who appear to be more enthusiastic about splashing around public money.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, seeks to achieve, but we have probably already achieved it as regards new Assembly members. A transition programme has been established for some time. That ensures that Assembly members have a chance to learn about the functions of all the Northern Ireland departments so that they get a feel for the work in which they will be engaged when they cease to be in shadow form. I am not sure how far we have got with that transition programme, but I am confident that the need for Assembly members fully to understand the financial basis of the work of the Northern Ireland departments and their responsibilities in relation to that is part of the programme and that the noble Lord's amendment is already being achieved without the need for statutory support.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

7 p.m.

Clause 65 [The Commission's functions]:

Lord Archer of Sandwell moved Amendment No. 90:

Page 31, line 39, at end insert— ("( ) The Executive Committee shall refer in draft to the Commission all Bills which it intends to introduce in the Assembly. ( ) The Commission may advise the Executive Committee whether a proposed Bill is compatible with human rights. ( ) The Executive Committee shall take any such advice into account when considering the proposed Bill. ( ) The Commission may make public its advice.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 90 it may be to your Lordships' convenience to debate also Amendment No. 91 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I suspect that he and I tabled our respective amendments more or less contemporaneously. Clearly, they are alternatives. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support in relation to my amendment.

Clause 11 requires that a Bill shall be referred to the commission as soon as practicable after it has been introduced into the Assembly. In Clause 65 it is provided that the commission may advise the Assembly whether a Bill is compatible with human rights, either when that Bill is referred to it by the Assembly or when it thinks right to tender unsolicited advice. But there is no obligation on anyone to tell the commission about a draft Bill before it has been introduced into the Assembly.

The difference is of vital importance as anyone who has been a member of an advisory body will recognise. After a Bill has been introduced it is known publicly what it contains. The Executive will be largely committed—as we all are—to what has been put down on paper. The commission will be involved in a public dialogue. While the Bill is in draft the dialogue can be confidential. There will be no need to strike attitudes. No damage has been done to anyone's image or reputation. Therefore, there is an important difference between the two stages.

In Committee noble Lords debated a proposal that all draft Bills should be referred to the commission and that the Assembly should take into account its advice. In replying my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn said that it would be wrong to impose on the Assembly a requirement to take the advice into account, particularly since that was not in the agreement. I suspect that we are shadow boxing as to that. It is highly improbable that the Assembly should not even take into account any advice from the commission. But I have taken to heart the words of my noble friend, as I always do. This amendment simply requires that the executive committee shall submit draft Bills to the commission before presenting them to the Assembly. It would not impose a requirement on the Assembly to take account of the advice or any action on the Assembly at all. It therefore does not seek to include something that is not in the agreement. I ask rhetorically: is that not a handsome compromise and also commonsense? I beg to move.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I believe that the Government should take pride in the fact that by this Bill they are establishing a human rights commission in Northern Ireland. It will be the first such body in the United Kingdom. I very much hope that, albeit in difficult circumstances, it will provide a test bed for the concept. I trust that the Government have already decided to create an effective body that is respected by all concerned; otherwise they will be seen to be setting up a weak body that lacks the necessary tools, to be followed after two years with a review. By then the concept of a human rights commission may be so discredited that the second stage with enlarged powers and better tools will be difficult to establish. I should like the people of Northern Ireland to have the kind of commission that they want and deserve. After all, they have waited 30 or more years for it.

I turn to the wording of Amendments Nos. 90 and 91. As the noble and learned Lord said, they are alternatives. The reference to "Bills in draft" appeared in the Belfast agreement. There is slight doubt as to the precise meaning of "in draft". My Amendment No. 91 seeks to overcome that by spelling out that it refers to Bills, before they are introduced in the Assembly". That takes into account the point that has already been made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer.

I ask the Government whether Clause 65(4)(b) allows the commission to make its first comment before a Bill is introduced, as I would like it to be able to do.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, there has been a prolonged and, perhaps to some, welcome period of silence from these Benches. However, I rise to support the two amendments. We should be happy with either amendment.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, said, there is a risk that if scrutiny is not carried out by the Human Rights Commission until the Bill is published, the political positions of the parties will have been frozen and it will be more difficult to achieve the necessary amendments. I add to that the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly, unlike the Parliament of the United Kingdom, will be a single chamber institution. No revising chamber will have the opportunity to put right human rights problems which may arise during debate in the lower House. It is doubtful whether the commission could easily intervene at short notice if a problem arose during the passage of a Bill through the Assembly. It is therefore particularly important to get the matter right first time.

It is also true that human rights defects in a Bill are not always clear at first sight. The matter is one for study by specialists. I suspect that the Assembly will not have access among its staff to the same quality of specialist legal advice as the Government of the United Kingdom. It is extremely important that all Bills, whether or not it is apparent on the face of the Bill that human rights issues may be involved, should be submitted to the Human Rights Commission; and the Assembly should not be left to decide in due course whether a Bill should or should not be submitted to that commission.

It is an important amendment. I am happy to support both noble Lords who moved Amendments Nos. 90 and 91.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I support both amendments but prefer Amendment No. 91. It is important that the human rights issue is discussed during drafting and is not left until the measure is on the Floor of the Assembly, when many other arguments may come to the fore and human rights may yet again take second place.

By discussing the matter beforehand, the correct human rights provisions may be fed into the measure at that stage. It should not be left until later.

Lord Morris of Manchester

My Lords, the House will recall that in Committee I moved a series of amendments to reflect the concerns of Disability Action in Northern Ireland. Its views were put to me by Monica Wilson, the chief executive, and I intervene briefly now to give your Lordships her reaction to the Government's response to my amendments. Her letter states: I write to reiterate my continuing concerns regarding the equality provisions of the Northern Ireland Bill and in particular the limitations of the human rights section". She goes on to say that the Bill currently makes no provision for the Human Rights Commission to initiate investigations without a named victim. This is especially serious for disabled people, many of whom are particularly vulnerable and who are more susceptible to abuse than most other people in society. For example, the Human Rights Commission as currently proposed could not institute a general investigation into day care or residential care, a point which is of major concern to disabled people for whom Disability Action speaks, as many would not be in a position to indicate that they are subject to abusive behaviour.

I hope the Minister will be able to respond positively to the renewed concern expressed to me by a widely and deservedly respected organisation in Northern Ireland.

Lord Renton

My Lords, there is a great deal to be said for Bills being scrutinised thoroughly and carefully, and by qualified people, before they are presented to a parliament. Quite frankly, if this Bill had been subject to scrutiny before it was presented in another place, we might have spent much less time on it. However, we do not know from Clause 38, which sets up the commission, whether the commission will involve people who will have the expertise to scrutinise legislation. There would have to be some lawyers. There would have to be several experienced parliamentarians. My support for the amendment would depend upon the extent to which we could be assured that members of the commission would be so qualified.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I am happy to support the amendment. I consulted my noble friend Lord McConnell—he has a legal background, as noble Lords know, and has held responsible positions in the Stormont Government in various legal departments—on whether there was any procedure in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. We stand to be corrected, but we came to the conclusion that there probably is not as yet. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will remember that in my early days in this House he and I crossed swords in a chivalrous way on the issue of whether we should have a United Kingdom commission. That was supported by our friends on the Liberal Benches. Admittedly, they wanted to think about it. However, in the light of what has been said by various noble Lords today, I hope that we are moving in that direction. It would be of great benefit to many organisations. It would raise the prestige of the Parliament of the United Kingdom if there were in effect a sieve. Bills in draft could be submitted to a human rights commission covering the whole of the United Kingdom.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he may wish to bear in mind that the only scheme whereby the United Kingdom Parliament may have a Bill scrutinised in advance is by referring the matter to one of the Law Commissions. They then often draft a Bill which is in its terms pretty good.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that contribution. I am sure he will bear in mind that we are in the age of Cool Britannia. Therefore we have to move into the next millennium, equipped, I hope, with the Human Rights Commission covering the entire United Kingdom.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, it has been an interesting short debate on a subject that we discussed earlier in Committee. I address two points. First, what does "in draft" mean? Clearly in the rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity part of the agreement, draft legislation referred to the human rights commission by the new Assembly is referred to. Those words refer to Bills rather than Bills in the course of preparation within a government department or, in this case, the Northern Ireland Executive.

Noble Lords may well think that if a Bill requires 450 amendments, as has the Northern Ireland Bill, it has been presented in draft in the first instance. However, it is necessary to be clear what we are talking about. Clearly, both the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, are thinking about Bills in the course of preparation within the department. As both noble Lords said, it is clear that consideration of a draft is easier at that stage. The idea that, given that it is a cross-community Executive and that it is Northern Ireland, there will be no striking of attitudes is going a little far. Nevertheless, it is more likely that a change can be achieved quietly before the Bill is presented to the Assembly for consideration.

The question which remains is whether the legislation should compel the Northern Ireland Executive to refer all Bills at the draft stage. Where Bills are being prepared slowly over a period of time and there is time to undertake all the necessary consultation, that is highly desirable. The agreement does not mention that as such and the Bill provides that the Executive can look to the commission for advice presumably on a draft Bill at any stage of its preparation—or for that matter in respect of a White Paper or whatever. The question is whether to compel it to do so in the case of every single Bill. I am more hesitant about that because, as we know from our parliamentary experience, some Bills will need to be brought forward urgently and it will be difficult to carry out such procedures properly.

That may even place the Human Rights Commission in a false position. A draft Bill may be thrown at it in the late stage of preparation allowing only a day or two for examination. The need for the Bill may be pressing; we have heard that often enough in this House and elsewhere. If the Human Rights Commission is obliged to consider a Bill in a couple of days and then appears to have given its imprimatur, the commission may be placed in a false position. Therefore, with regard to an absolute duty laid down in statute I am more cautious than the proponents of the amendments about writing the provision into the Bill in this form.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, Clause 11(4) already requires the Assembly to send a copy of each Bill as soon as reasonably practicable after introduction to the Human Rights Commission. We certainly intend that the Assembly should refer Bills to the commission at an earlier stage. Should the sponsors of legislation desire it, there is no reason why they should not involve the commission at an earlier stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, is right in saying that the reference at paragraph 5 on page 17 of the agreement refers to considering draft legislation referred to by the new Assembly. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised a similar question about the meaning of draft legislation. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and I agree that draft legislation refers to Bills.

According to the agreement, the Assembly must refer the draft legislation. Until the legislation has been introduced, the Assembly does not have any knowledge of Bills. We believe that the existing provision fairly and accurately reflects the agreement.

There is no reason why at an earlier stage the views of the commission should not be taken. I can give an example of our intention, which has already been announced, about the freedom of information Bill. We have already undertaken in the early part of next year to send the proposals to the relevant committee in another place. If on occasions that is thought appropriate, it is a matter of good working practice, and I do not believe that we ought to prescribe it in statute. I repeat that the agreement is talking about the Assembly being the referring body, not the executive committee.

Clause 65(4) already provides that: The Commission shall advise the Assembly whether a Bill is compatible with human rights". That is already an obligation. In response to the specific question from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, it seems to me that under Clause 65(4)(b) the commission has a very wide discretion indeed. It provides that: The Commission shall advise the Assembly whether a Bill is compatible with human rights … on such other occasions as the Commission thinks appropriate". It seems to me that it would be an organic growth depending on how matters develop within the commission.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, asked whether there are likely to be lawyers on the commission. To the gratification of all lawyers present and to the deep gloom of those who are not lawyers, the answer is probably yes. Obviously, the Secretary of State will be looking for people with relevant expertise.

If the executive committee on every occasion had to take the advice of the commission, that could lead to delays, particularly if the commission were rather slow in coming up with its advice. We would of course expect the Assembly to take into account the commission's advice. I believe that it is counter-productive to have an over-strict requirement in statute.

Amendment No. 90 also allows the commission to make public its advice. We believe that is already covered in Clause 65(9), which makes it quite plain that the commission may decide to publish its advice.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, if he would not mind my observing it, has gone a good deal further than the ambit of this amendment. I understand him to require the rights of those who are disabled to be taken into account. The amendments are not to deal with that matter; they deal with the stage at which the commission's view should be taken.

We believe that we have got the balance about right. There is an obligation on the Assembly, which reflects the agreement, that it does not stop any earlier advice being taken in the kind of way that advice is sometimes taken from the Law Commission in this country, but we do not believe that it ought to be prescriptive.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, surely he must bear in mind that Clause 11(4) and Clause 65 refer to human rights only. However, as I understand the intention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, they wish to ensure that the commission scrutinises legislation in the broad not only from the human rights point of view but from the point of view of whether it is well drafted and whether a great deal of time would be taken up in proving the drafting if it went to the Assembly. Surely, the issue is broader than the human rights one, is it not?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, that is how I had understood the matter. Clause 11(4) requires standing orders to be made requiring the Presiding Officer to send a copy of each Bill to the Human Rights Commission. However, Clause 65 refers only to the adequacy and effectiveness in Northern Ireland of practice relating to the protection of human rights.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, perhaps I may assist my noble friend. It grieves me to reject so generous an offer from the noble Lord, Lord Renton, but we are talking about a human rights commission. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, we are drawing on its expertise. I would not have it in mind that it should advise on matters such as draftmanship and the time taken by the process; only on matters of human rights.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, as always, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell. That is what I had understood and that is the way I made my response.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. As so frequently happens when one initiates a debate, it takes on a life of its own. One is given all kinds of ideas which were not in one's head at the outset.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that on these matters it is good to have expert advice which may not otherwise be available either to the Executive or to the Assembly, and that it is better to have it as early as possible in the process.

My noble friend Lord Williams, in what was something of a disappointing reply, said that one should not impose an obligation on the Executive to take this advice in relation to every Bill. My experience is that one thinks that one does not require advice in precisely those instances where one most requires it. I should have thought it would be much better to say that every Bill should be submitted to the commission.

I take the two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Cope; first, that there is a difficulty about the words "in draft". I should not go to the stake for the words "in draft". It is important that the advice should be taken at an early stage in the process and before people have gone public.

The other point which the noble Lord made is as regards the volume of work which may be generated for the commission. I was one of those in Committee who said that we must not impose too heavy a volume of work on the commission. I certainly believe that it should be in control of its own timetable. For that reason, I should not impose any obligation on the commission to respond in the case of every Bill. It is a matter for the commission to decide what are its priorities. But I see no difficultly in the commission making public the fact that in a particular case it had not had an opportunity to consider the matter. Otherwise, I see that there may be a danger that people would say that the commission had considered the Bill so it must be all right. It should be able to make that public.

That leaves the question of what we do next. I shall leave the decision to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. In a moment, I propose to ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw my amendment, leaving the matter in the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I leave this debate with a feeling that a great opportunity is being missed. I wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, that this Parliament might benefit just as much from a service of this kind. It seems to me that it is a great pity that the Assembly in Northern Ireland does not have that service. For the moment, I shall not beg leave to withdraw my amendment but wait to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, says.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I am sorry, I believe that the correct procedure is for my noble and learned friend Lord Archer to seek leave to withdraw his amendment at this stage.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, can then deal with his amendment. As usual, I defer to the logic of my noble friend and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 32, line 2, leave out subsection (4) and insert— ("(4) The Executive Committee shall refer all proposed Bills to the Commission in draft before they are introduced in the Assembly.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall move the amendment formally in the hope of tempting the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to say something more encouraging than he has been able to do so far. Secondly, I ask him to take on board the very great strength of opinion which was expressed on all sides of the House in favour of the two amendments. Perhaps other noble Lords may wish to take this opportunity to intervene in the debate. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I have already taken on board the sense of what the noble Lord said because I indicated that where we think it appropriate, as with the Freedom of Information Bill, we propose to send a pre-draft Bill to the appropriate committee in another place. It seems to me that if one selects appropriate Bills, one is taking on board the spirit of what the noble Lord said. I believe that I have dealt with the other matters when I responded earlier.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I wish to consider further what the Minister said. I reserve my right possibly to return to this issue on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 92:

Page 32, line 8, at end insert (",and (b) bring proceedings involving law or practice relating to the protection of human rights.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 93, 94 and 96. Amendment No. 94 is in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell and Amendment No. 93 is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton.

Amendment No. 92 makes clear on the face of the Bill the ability of the Human Rights Commission to bring proceedings involving law or practice relating to the protection of human rights. Amendment No. 96 is intended to make it clear that that does not override the need for a victim under the Human Rights Act.

The usual way we see the commission being involved is by offering assistance to individuals under Clause 66. The agreement envisages the commission, in appropriate cases, bringing court proceedings. They might include judicial review on the ground that a particular policy or practice was in breach of human rights other than ECHR rights or that legislation was unlawful because it was discriminatory. There will be nothing to stop it initiating proceedings under Clause 72. Those are examples.

Clause 65(11)(b) defines human rights in a very wide fashion. I should expect most proceedings to be brought in support of specific individuals but the commission will be able to bring its own legal proceedings in appropriate cases. We believe that that fairly and fully reflects the agreement.

The only restriction on the ability to initiate proceedings in its own name is in Clause 67. That is in common with the policy adopted in the Human Rights Act 1997. Clause 67 restricts the bringing of proceedings in respect of convention rights to a victim, as defined in the convention itself.

The proposed amendment in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell is similar to government Amendment No. 92. It, too, would make clear on the face of the Bill the existing ability of the Human Rights Commission to bring proceedings for judicial review, but because there is no equivalent of the corresponding government Amendment No. 96, to which I spoke a moment ago, it would allow victimless cases to be brought by the commission. That is not our intention, bearing in mind that having a victim, including an actual or potential victim, is the policy that has been adopted and enshrined in the Human Rights Act.

Amendment No. 93 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is similar to government Amendment No. 92 and Amendment No. 94. There is no equivalent in Amendment No. 93 to corresponding government Amendment No. 96. I hope that I have explained the Government's position clearly.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, he may be able to assist some of us. What is the extent of the restriction in Clause 67? Does it apply to claims which are brought simply under the convention so that other claims dealing with other aspects of human rights may be brought by the commission?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, yes, it is exactly the same as the structure in the Human Rights Act. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, Amendment No. 92 is an amendment which I warmly welcome subject only to the comment that it is rather surprising that it contains a reference to paragraph (b) when the Bill will not, on the face of it, contain a paragraph (a). That may be a drafting amendment which will have to be introduced on Third Reading.

Subject to that highly technical point, I welcome the extent to which the Government have moved on this issue. From these Benches, I continue to regret that the Government have continued in this case, as in the Human Rights Act, to impose the victim requirement but that is a long argument which has been raised rather exhaustively in previous debates on other Bills and I shall not seek at this stage of this Bill to raise it again.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I very much hope that the pair of government amendments are more comprehensive than my Amendment No. 93. If I can have reassurance on that point, I shall be very happy not to move Amendment No. 93.

Lord Archer of Sandwell

My Lords, once again, I am sure that we all welcome my noble friend's response to some of the anxieties which we expressed in Committee. What troubled some of us was the extent of the restriction in Clause 67 which restricts to the victim the right to bring proceedings for breaches of the convention. If that were held to apply too widely, it might frustrate the judicial protection of human rights in Northern Ireland for two reasons. First, a victim may be reluctant to bring proceedings because he may be under peer-group pressure or be subject to intimidation. Secondly, it might do so for the reason indicated in the earlier debate by my noble friend Lord Morris. Unfortunately, he has had to leave us early and wishes me to express his apologies to the House. My noble friend's point was that the infringement might be directed not at an individual but at a whole group of people; for example, the disabled.

Amendment No. 92 relieves many of our anxieties because it makes it clear that the restriction in Clause 67 is not as wide as some of us feared. In those circumstances, I do not propose to move Amendment No. 94.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Morris indicated to me earlier the reason why he mentioned that specific point. He has domestic difficulties, which we all regret, and he obviously intended no discourtesy.

The only point to which I believe I ought to respond is the one made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. Amendment No. 92 is a shade wider than Amendment No. 93, although, as I indicated, our corresponding restriction is in line with the policy that your Lordships adopted under the Human Rights Act.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 93 and 94 not moved.]

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 95:

After Clause 65, insert the following new clause—