HL Deb 26 March 2004 vol 659 cc1003-4

2.55 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.


Clause 1 [Meaning of "executive powers"]:

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

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

When the Bill was given a Second Reading on 5 March, everyone in the House found Part 2, dealing with the Civil Service, satisfactory in the main. However, there was controversy over other parts of the Bill dealing with prerogative powers, treaty scrutiny and war powers. I listened carefully to what was said in the debate and decided that it would be sensible to cut down the Bill so that it became a Civil Service (No. 2) Bill.

Secondly, since that debate took place, the Public Administration Select Committee in its 4th report, published on 16 March, on Taming the Prerogative: Strengthening Ministerial Accountability to Parliament, commended this Bill in so far as it deals with prerogative. However, it suggested that the right course would be for the Government to initiate before the end of the current Session a public consultation exercise on ministerial prerogative powers. I hope that the Government will agree to that, but it is a further reason why I shall make the following proposals to the House.

I shall make only one speech now, as it is my objective to break a land and air speed record in getting these formal provisions through. That will certainly appeal to the business managers of the House. I shall briefly explain all the amendments in one go and then I shall not have to speak to any of them. That may not be the normal procedure of the House but it will certainly shorten our proceedings.

Starting with my opposition to the Question whether Clause I shall stand part of the Bill, everything in the first group of amendments would delete Part 1 of the Bill, which deals with prerogative powers, and Part 3, which deals with public appointments. In addition, Clause 5, which deals with interpretation, becomes a different clause later in improved form. Therefore, the first group of amendments would perform a filleting operation.

Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 12, which form the second group, put into the Bill the nationality discrimination provisions which appeared in the House of Commons draft Bill and which are now in an actual Bill introduced by Andrew Dismore MP. They would remove archaic restrictions, going back to the Act of Settlement 1700, on the employment of aliens in parts of the Civil Service. That is clearly explained in paragraphs 26 and 28 of the House of Commons report which I mentioned. The restrictions are archaic and need to be dealt with.

The next group of amendments—Amendments Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7—are improved interpretation provisions. I am indebted to the House of Commons draft Bill for those. Amendments Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11 deal partly with public expenditure but the rest are entirely formal. The last group of amendments would delete Schedules 1, 2, 4 and 5 because they are consequential on the other amendments.

I hope that I have explained sufficiently clearly what all these apparently technical amendments are designed to achieve. Now, all that is required is for me not to make a complete clown of myself by forgetting to say "yes" when it should be "yes" and "no" when it should be "no" as we go through the Marshalled List. Having said that, I wish to oppose the Question that Clauses 1 to 4 stand part of the Bill, but I understand that they will have to be called separately.

Clause 1 negatived.

Clauses 2 to 5 negatived.

Clauses 6 to 16 agreed to.

Clauses 17 to 20 negatived.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill moved Amendment No. 1: After Clause 20, insert the following new clause—

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