Commons Reason and Amendments
Protection of Freedoms Bill
Baroness Hamwee (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, picking up on the point of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, I think everyone's heart is in the right place on this matter but that we are struggling to articulate what is in our hearts in the right way. I am with those who, as the debate goes on, increasingly see complexity in this matter and a need for us to be very careful in the way we do what we are all trying to do.
We have reached a point in the procedure where what we agree to in the wording has got to be very precise and correct. Some noble Lords have said, "Send this back to the Commons and it can sort it out". However, we know that in practical terms that would be very difficult within what is now almost a matter of hours. To be rather boring, perhaps necessarily so, on the drafting, I said on the previous occasion that I find the term "demonstrate" very difficult. It is not one which I am accustomed to seeing in legislation and I do not know where it rests in the evidential hierarchy, if that is the right way of expressing it. I am worried about the possibility of judicial review around "demonstrate" within new subsection (3)(b)(i).
I am also quite puzzled. I think I am correct in saying that what the Government are proposing in Clause 40(1) is discretionary, and so could come within the review; that Clause 40(2) is not exclusive; and that we, as a House, would be asked to consider what is proposed in particular instances through the statutory instruments procedure. Sometimes, notwithstanding the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, of which I am a member-I was not there this afternoon but I read the green bananas order realising that it might have some application today-it is incumbent on all of us, as a House, to be very diligent with what is coming before us via statutory instruments. However, if there is discretion-I think the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, are not mandatory but discretionary-then, in a sense, what is proposed is something and nothing. However, we are talking about them as if they are mandatory.
As to noble Lord's reference that, essentially, future Parliaments may say, "Notwithstanding that a statute says X, Y, Z, it shall be something else", again that may be something or nothing. However, I wonder what implication it has because no Parliament can bind its successors, as we know.
This brings me back to thinking that we need the review which has not only been promised but is required. I am entirely with those noble Lords who say that two years is too long given the demands that we are all making. It is easy to ridicule departmental inquiries. As I had understood it-I have never been in government -it is the departments that do all the work, with Ministers being advised by them. So we should not be too dismissive of the departments. However, the work needs to be done more quickly than under the timetable the Government are currently setting, and I for one would urge my noble friend on. If the Government can see their way to a quicker exercise, that might take the sting out of this.
I ought to say, finally, that I am vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. However, I have not been briefed by them, or even discussed it with them, and it has not been in my mind as in any way influencing what I have said.