Amendment 150

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Report (4th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 21 May 2024.

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Photo of Lord Bellamy Lord Bellamy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 8:45, 21 May 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, for his amendments, which seek to remove Clauses 49 to 52. I am extremely sorry to disappoint the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and others, but the Government laid out their position in Committee and nothing the Government have heard since or this evening alters that position.

As I think I have said previously, Section 3 of the Human Rights Act is a procedural, not a substantive, provision. Clauses 49 to 51 effectively disapply Section 3 in relation to prisoner release legislation. Let me start by reiterating that nothing in these clauses removes or limits any convention rights enjoyed by prisoners. If I was asked, as I think I was, to confirm that the full range of substantive rights under the ECHR remain: yes, of course they do. Nothing in these clauses removes or limits any convention rights enjoyed by prisoners. A breach of human rights may still be pleaded before any domestic court or in Strasbourg in the usual way, and we would not want to prevent such action by prisoners where it is warranted.

I respectfully respond to the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, by saying that this provision does not represent either an invitation or still less an instruction to the courts to disapply the Human Rights Act; nor does it imply, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and perhaps by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that the Government believe there is any breach of the European convention in relation to this legislation. That is not the case. The Government do not accept that there is any breach whatever in this legislation. It is the Government’s position that a matter as important as the public protection test should be for Parliament and that it should not be open to the so-called writing-in or reading-down provisions of Section 3, which is an interpretive position which means that the courts may be required to go further than usual in interpreting legislation that would otherwise be compatible with convention rights. Although this has happened less often in recent years, it can require courts to stray from Parliament’s original intention, and the Government do not think that that is appropriate in this context. The real issue is the balance between the courts and Parliament from a procedural point of view.