My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Berridge for introducing this amendment, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said, has given rise to many learned contributions in the course of debate. As has been indicated, the amendment would place the tribunal in a position of the primary decision-maker; it would allow matters to be considered and decided by the tribunal without the Secretary of State having considered and decided them.
The tribunal exists to consider appeals against the refusal of an application by the Secretary of State. That is why the Bill provides that the tribunal may not consider matters that have not first been considered by the Secretary of State unless the Secretary of State consents to it doing so. Picking up the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, nothing in the proposal in any way reflects on the work that has been done by the tribunal. Indeed, the point he made from experience about it being more appropriate than the cases that went to court is in no way a reflection on the tribunal.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights stated in its report that the provision relating to the Secretary of State’s consent may not be compatible with the principles of equality of arms, right of access to a court and the separation of powers because it allows one of the parties to an appeal, the Secretary of State, to determine the scope of the tribunal’s jurisdiction. Of course, ultimately Parliament sets the jurisdiction of the parameters within which the tribunal will operate.
However, the principal reason why the Government have proposed this measure is that we do not believe it is right for the tribunal to be the primary decision-maker. I certainly will reflect on the points made on that principle. I noted that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, said that it was more practical for the tribunal to deal with this matter although, technically, the decision-making body was the Secretary of State. I think that my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern made the point that the primary decision-maker in these matters is the Secretary of State. Therefore, I do not think it is such a clear question of principle as perhaps has been suggested. The noble and learned
Lord, Lord Woolf, maintained that there were compelling practical reasons. However, the primary decision-maker is, indeed, the Secretary of State. The role of the Secretary of State—