Lord Howe of Aberavon (Conservative)
My Lords, I apologise for the fact that the legislative train that has been steaming so rapidly along the last stretches of line will now move a little more slowly for a time. I shall try to avoid the risk of simple repetition of the helpful debate that we had in Grand Committee on the points raised in Amendments Nos. 49, 50 and 51.
I draw attention in particular to the extent to which there is a significant difference between Amendment No. 50 and Amendment No. 51. That is a result of my consideration of what was said in Grand Committee, of subsequent discussions with a number of people, and of a study of the Public Administration Committee of the other place, to which I have already paid tribute.
Amendment No. 50 was the original amendment. It was based on the rather wide-ranging advice given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, before the BSE inquiry. It can be said to be very subjective and wide-ranging and to raise a presumption. Having considered that, I propose to replace it with Amendment No. 51, which is manifestly more objective and restrained and more related to proportionality. It says:
"the extent to which any person or organisation who may be the subject of criticism in course of, or as a result of, the proceedings may, as a matter of fairness, require legal representation".
That is a more restricted proposition.
I understand the need that has been made clear to be concerned, when considering the management of inquiries, about the need for economy as well as expedition. I have great sympathy with the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Goschen, with the speech that he made in Grand Committee and with the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. From Crown Agents to Bloody Sunday, the need for economy is overwhelmingly established. It is not just mentioned in the Bill but stressed—rightly so. However, the other aspect that is, at the very least, equally important is the need for justice in the management of the inquiry or, to put it another way, the need to avoid injustice and the need for fairness.
At the heart of my case for the amendments is my conviction that it would be a grave mistake to omit from the primary legislation that is intended to set the framework for inquiries in general for years to come any reference to that aspect of the matter and leave it to regulations for the whole field. Expenditure and justice must both be mentioned in the same tone of voice in the legislation.
There is a misapprehension that continues in the mind of some people, and I can understand why. It is that lawyers inevitably, irresistibly, inescapably add to the cost and burden of an inquiry.