Counter-Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:09 pm on 21st October 2008.

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Photo of Lord Elystan-Morgan Lord Elystan-Morgan Crossbench 3:09 pm, 21st October 2008

I wonder whether I may raise a question which I respectfully suggest goes even deeper than those raised by the noble Lords, Lord Goodhart and Lord Kingsland. Does the golden rule of statutory interpretation which I was taught as a law student a very long time ago still hold good? That rule, as I understand it, is this. Where the language of an Act of Parliament is perfectly clear to understand, that is the meaning of that Act of Parliament, whatever Parliament intended. If, on the other hand, the language is in some way ambiguous, one is entitled to look behind the words of the Act and consider what the intention of Parliament was. It is a very old rule which is common not just to Acts of Parliament but to the interpretation of wills and documents. Is that golden rule still in existence? If it is, then even though there may be a moral obligation on the Government to think twice whether they should use that legislation in a context that may never have been intended in the first place, it does not affect the validity of that situation. I apologise to the Minister for raising that question, but it goes to the very root and foundation of this issue.