Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Moved by
1: Clause 2, page 2, line 33, leave out subsections (2) and (3)
Lord Keen of Elie Portrait The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the House for Members’ engagement on the Bill throughout its passage. The amendments in this group are all consequential on the removal of the delegated power contained in the former Clause 2 of the Bill. I am moving Amendment 1, and support Amendments 2 and 3, as the provisions to which they relate do not function without the delegated power.

Before I turn to the detail of the amendments, I wish to make clear from the outset that we believe that the delegated power contained in the former Clause 2 of the Bill was a necessary, proportionate and constitutionally appropriate measure, for the timely implementation in domestic law of future private international law agreements which the Government had decided that the UK should join. Subject to a successful application, this could have included the Lugano Convention 2007.

Any decision for the United Kingdom to join a treaty or agreement in this area of law would still have been subject to successful completion of parliamentary scrutiny procedures under the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The former delegated power in the Bill did not alter the well-established approaches to parliamentary scrutiny of treaties and wider ratification processes under CRaG. Instead, it was simply a mechanism to draw down the treaty obligations into domestic law in readiness for ratifying the treaty.

I will now speak to Amendment 1, in my name, which seeks to remove from the Bill subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 2, formerly Clause 3, which establishes the Crown application of the Bill. These provisions were consequential on what was, originally, Clause 2, containing the delegated power. They provided that regulations made in the exercise of the delegated power in former Clause 2 could bind the Crown, subject to exceptions which reflect those contained in Section 51 of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982, as referred to in subsection (1).

The Government are bringing forward this amendment to remove these subsections from the Bill, as these two interlinked provisions were originally intended to apply to regulations made under the delegated power and therefore serve no function following its removal. As I have indicated, this is purely to ensure that the Bill is workable for its introduction into the other place, given the outcome of our deliberations in this House.

I have also put my name to Amendment 2, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. The amendment seeks to remove Schedule 6 from the Bill. It details how the delegated power could be exercised in practice, including the parliamentary procedures to be followed for making regulations. I accept that the House has made its view clear, and without the delegated power in the former Clause 2, Schedule 6 serves no useful purpose. In these circumstances, purely to enable the tidying up of the Bill, we support the amendment to remove Schedule 6 from the Bill at this point.

Amendment 3, also in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, seeks to amend the Long Title of the Bill. Again, this is a consequence of the removal of the delegated power. Given that the new title more accurately reflects the content of the Bill as amended by the House, namely the implementation of the 1996, 2005 and 2007 Hague Conventions under Clause 1, in these circumstances the Government are content to support the amendment.

I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord. There is no dispute between us; all three amendments should be approved, to reflect the changes resulting from removing the wider power. The Minister repeated his argument for why that power should be there. We have had this argument three times now. It was rejected when he put it to the Delegated Powers Committee, rejected when it was put to the Constitution Committee, and massively rejected when it was put before your Lordships’ House, so there is no point repeating it again.

The Minister said that we should be dealing with subsequent conventions by secondary legislation. We have made amendments in this Bill to the three conventions that we are bringing in today. We could not have done so if his Clause 2 powers had been there. I hope that he will bring back what was the view of everybody in the Chamber, apart from him—namely that the Clause 2 power should not be there.

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Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD) [V]
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I welcome these sensible amendments which tidy up the Bill, but I also welcome them for an important reason, which is that in removing Clause 2 this House made an important constitutional decision. I welcome the thrust of much of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, said. However, I doubt that we need a thoroughgoing review of delegated legislation or the powers to delegate legislation. What we need is to respect more thoroughly the views of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the principles that it applies, which are well known and are often stated and applied by this House and were importantly so stated and applied during debates on the removal of Clause 2.

I regard it as a shame that the Minister opened this afternoon’s discussion with a reassertion of the position that he enunciated during earlier stages of the Bill— that Clause 2 was constitutionally proper and not inappropriate. This House decisively rejected that view. I hope that the Government will listen to what has been said today and, more importantly, will consider the arguments that were advanced during the earlier stages of the Bill, change their mind and decide not to reinstate Clause 2 and send it back to this House, taking advantage of their majority; and, rather than having a thoroughgoing review, will decide to exercise some self-control in future and not put before us Bills which contain delegated powers that most of us regard as entirely wrong and inappropriate.

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and my noble friend Lord Holmes observed, it is important that we maintain the position of English law and the jurisdiction, particularly in London, with regard to commercial dispute resolution just as it is maintained under the New York convention with respect to arbitration. That is why we have made our application to the council of the Lugano convention to join that body, but it is step that can be taken only with the consent of the member states and the EU. We recognise that if our application is accepted it is a matter of urgency for us to draw down that treaty into domestic law, which in part explains the position that we have adopted with regard to Clause 2.

It is not often that I find myself in a position where I have to correct the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock. Indeed, I regard this as highly unusual, but I observe that where he said that the Government had decided not to proceed with Clause 2 that was not entirely accurate. It was decided for us, and there is a distinction to be drawn there. As regards the state of play with the Crown dependencies, the provision with respect to the Isle of Man fell with the amendments to the Bill in this House. As regards the Council of Europe, while in theory it may seek to promote some issues in respect of private international law, I do not understand that it has done so or that it imminently intends to do so, but I will make further inquiry and if necessary write to the noble Lord.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, talked about a matter of principle with regard to the introduction of what would amount to a criminal offence of some limited penalty by way of secondary legislation or something other than primary legislation, a situation that has obtained for almost 50 years since the European Communities Act 1972.

The noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, raised prior consultation. I reiterate the points I made at an earlier stage with regard to that. Both the Government of Wales and the Government of Scotland granted an LCM to the Bill in its original form, so they appeared to be relatively content with its provisions.

I am not clear about the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, to Northern Cyprus in the context of the Bill, but I understand the complications that arise with regard there to private international law, and I would be content to speak to him later if there is a further point that he would like to elucidate, and I would be happy to consider it.

The Government are content to support this group of amendments as they relate to elements of the Bill which no longer function without the delegated power previously in Clause 2. However, as I have made clear, the Government’s position on the Clause 2 delegated power has not changed.

Amendment 1 agreed.