5 Lord Faulks debates involving the Northern Ireland Office

Lord Caine Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Caine) (Con)
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My Lords, I committed to tabling an amendment at Third Reading in response to widespread concerns raised by the House over the 2020 Supreme Court ruling concerning the validity of interim custody orders made under Troubles-era internment legislation. We debated these issues at length during the amending stages, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, and my noble friend Lord Godson for raising these matters and for the constructive manner in which they engaged on the amendments that I tabled late last week.

To be clear, it has always been the Government’s understanding that interim custody orders, made by Ministers of the Crown under powers conferred on the Secretary of State, were perfectly valid. To restore clarity around the legal position and ensure that no one is inappropriately advantaged by a different interpretation of the law on a technicality, I have tabled amendments that retrospectively validate all interim custody orders made under Article 4 of the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, as well as paragraph 11 of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973. This has the effect of confirming that a person’s detention under an interim custody order was not unlawful simply because it had been made by a junior Minister rather than by the Secretary of State personally, as was always the understanding of successive Governments.

The amendments would also prohibit certain types of legal proceedings, including civil cases, applications for compensation as a result of miscarriages of justice, and appeals against conviction which rely on the 2020 ruling from being brought or continued. To align with other prohibitions in the Bill, the continuation of pending claims and appeals in scope would be prohibited immediately from commencement.

There is a specific exemption in the Bill for certain types of ongoing criminal appeals, where leave to appeal has already been granted or where there has been a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission by the time of the Bill’s commencement. Importantly, this exception would not allow for the payment of compensation flowing from the reversal of such convictions. I make it clear that this amendment would not lead to convictions already reversed being reinstated. I hope the House will join me in welcoming the legal clarity that these amendments bring. I beg to move.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for tabling these amendments in response to amendments tabled by me and the noble Lord, Lord Godson, which were supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey. I thank the Minister and his officials very much for the constructive way in which they engaged with us to produce this complex amendment in response to our simpler but plainly inadequate amendment. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who is not in his place. He supported the amendment on the basis of the well-understood Carltona doctrine.

I have also been asked to mention the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who is in the interesting position of being the only living Minister who was in Northern Ireland at the time and directly involved with this and a number of other ICOs. I thank him and many other noble Lords for their help with these amendments. They will do a great deal to restore the Carltona principle to its proper place and it will put right a decision of the Supreme Court which was no doubt reached in good faith but which was, in retrospect, wrongly decided.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister, of which I have given him notice. The first is in relation to the commencement date for the two new clauses. They are described as coming into force two months after Royal Assent. I understand what he says about those extant criminal appeals. It seems that delaying this for two months risks there being some further appeals which will go forward on the rather unfortunate premise that the relevant ICOs were unlawfully entered into. Can he clarify that?

Secondly, the second proposed new clause contains an order-making power, for regulations under Section 55(2), which is consequential on the section and allows a Minister to amend this Act. They are subject to the affirmative procedure, but I am concerned, as the House always is, by powers of this scale. I seek an assurance from the Minister: although I know that the current Secretary of State will not be amending the Act to, in any way, take away with the left hand what it has given with the right, it would be useful to have on record the assurance that the Bill does not intend to amend its provisions in any substantial way, particularly those that are the subject of these amendments.

I welcome these amendments and thank the Government very much for their co-operation.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, I support the amendments, but mention has been made of the Supreme Court judgment in R v Adams [2020] UKSC 19, which caused the difficulties that these amendments are designed to address.

On 26 June, on Report, my noble friend Lord Faulks referred to Policy Exchange as having

“consistently and cogently argued that the decision flew in the face of the well-established Carltona doctrine”.

That has been explained as the doctrine that the powers of the Secretary of State may be exercised on their behalf by junior Ministers or officials. My noble friend Lord Butler of Brockwell expressed concern that the Carltona judgment

“has been thrown into doubt by this judgment”,

which he described as “this very extraordinary ruling”. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said that he was

“astonished, frankly, that such a legal error could have been made”.—[Official Report, 26/6/23; cols. 502-6.]

The judgment of the five judges of the Supreme Court was given by the late Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, a distinguished and much-respected jurist. In his judgment, Lord Kerr recognised the role and importance of the Carltona principle. His reasoning was that the principle did not apply in the Gerry Adams case, because of the specific wording of the relevant statutory provision, which expressly distinguished between the making of the detention order and the signing of the order. The statutory provision said that the order could be signed by the Secretary of State, a Minister of State or an Under-Secretary of State. Lord Kerr’s conclusion was that the distinction expressly drawn in the statutory provision between the making and the signing of the order necessarily meant that only the Secretary of State could make the order.

My point is that it is simply wrong to accuse Lord Kerr of ignoring the Carltona principle or throwing it into doubt. The judgment, whether or not you agree with it—different views are, of course, permissible—was based on an analysis of the express terms of the relevant statutory provision. I am concerned that this House should not unfairly impugn the reputation—the well-deserved, high reputation—of the late Lord Kerr.

If I understood the Minister’s opening remarks correctly, he said that the amendment restores the legal position, as it had been widely understood by Ministers, prior to the Supreme Court judgment. With respect, that is not quite right, because Lord Kerr’s judgment refers to the legal advice that was given to the Attorney-General in July 1974 by JBE Hutton QC, later Lord Hutton of Bresagh. Mr Hutton, as he then was, advised Ministers through the Attorney-General. I quote from paragraph 6 of the judgment of Lord Kerr that

“a court would probably hold that it would be a condition precedent to the making of an ICO that the Secretary of State should have considered the matter personally”.

I repeat: I support the amendment, but I hope it is appropriate to put those matters on record.

Moved by
99: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—
“Authorisation of interim custody orders under the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972
(1) Article 4 of the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 is to be treated as always having had effect as authorising an interim custody order under that article in relation to a Troubles-related offence to be made by and with the authority of any Minister of the Crown whose signature was required for the making of such an order (and not just by and with the authority of the Secretary of State personally).(2) Subsection (1) does not revive any criminal conviction quashed before the coming into force of this section.(3) But a person whose conviction for any Troubles-related offence (whether or not quashed) or whose detention (whether or not as a consequence of such a conviction) depended, directly or indirectly, on the validity of such an interim custody order is not entitled, by or under any enactment or otherwise, to receive any damages or compensation in respect of that conviction or detention if the only reason for impugning its validity relates to whether the order was made by and with the authority of the Secretary of State, personally.(4) Subsection (3) applies irrespective of whether the claim for damages or compensation was made before or after the coming into force of this section.”
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, this amendment, which is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Godson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, was debated in Committee. It concerns a judgment of the Supreme Court in a claim by Gerry Adams arising out of his internment in the 1970s and his escape from prison. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether his internment, or interim custody order as it was more formally known, was lawful in light of the fact that the Government could not prove that the ICO had been personally signed and approved by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The lower courts decided that it was, but the Supreme Court, in a single judgment from Lord Kerr, reached a conclusion, which surprised many commentators, that it was unlawful—thus leaving the door open for substantial claims by not only Gerry Adams but a number of others who could rely on the decision.

The most prominent critics of the decision were from Policy Exchange, which has consistently and cogently argued that the decision flew in the face of the well-established Carltona doctrine. This is embedded in government practice and can be found in the cautious guidance given to civil servants about “the judge over your shoulder”. It means, for fairly obvious reasons, that such a decision can be taken by more junior Ministers or civil servants and does not require the personal attention of the Secretary of State to render the decision lawful. This practice was spoken to in Committee by the noble Lords, Lord Butler, Lord Murphy, Lord Howell, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven and Lord Browne of Ladyton, among others.

Your Lordships’ House is always slow to legislate contrary to a decision of the Supreme Court. Parliament affords our highest court great respect, and rightly so. When I had the privilege of chairing the Independent Review of Administrative Law, the committee received a number of submissions, including from Supreme Court judges, suggesting caution in our approach to the reform of judicial review, but it was always emphasised by them that Parliament had the right to legislate to reverse decisions of the court. My committee concluded that Parliament could and should do so, but only after very careful consideration of the arguments.

In advancing this amendment, I am considerably reassured by the criticism of the Supreme Court decision by the former Supreme Court judges Lord Sumption and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, who last week had an article published on the subject by the Daily Telegraph. I will refer to the beginning of the article, although all of it bears close attention. He said:

“In the last few years, almost without exception, every judgment of the Supreme Court, certainly every unanimous one, has seemed to me to be plainly right, and certainly not plainly wrong. But the Court’s unanimous 2020 decision in Adams is an exception. Importantly this has introduced needless legal doubt about one of the most important principles on which the everyday work of government depends. Parliament has an opportunity—with a proposed amendment to the Northern Ireland Troubles Bill, now before the Lords—to put this right. It should do so”.

While on the subject of Lord Brown, noble Lords will probably have noticed that last week he formally retired from the House. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to his immense contribution to the work of this House. His voice has enriched so many debates. Many noble Lords will remember his sustained championing of the cause of IPP prisoners. His instincts were liberal, but he always understood the difficult choices that any Government have to make. It was not always easy to predict which side he would take in a debate, which made his views so well worth listening to. He also made an enormous number of friends right across the House, and we will miss him a great deal.

The Government understandably wanted time to consider their response to the amendment after it was debated in Committee. Their initial response, while not unsympathetic, was that there were legal impediments in the way of the amendment. I was not convinced by those arguments, despite having the opportunity generously afforded to me by the Minister to meet his officials. Policy Exchange, once more, stepped into the fray and published an article that provided a convincing counter to those arguments.

However, I am glad to say that the Government’s position has changed. For this I am very grateful both to the Minister and to the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris. I am also grateful to all noble Lords who have lent their support to the amendment. I understand that the Government need a little more time but are proposing to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading that will reflect the concerns contained in this amendment. I have indicated to them that, if the amendment proposed by the Government does not meet the objectives contained in this amendment, we reserve the right to—and we will—vote at Third Reading. In the meantime, I thank them for their constructive approach. The Bill is about legacy. This amendment provides an opportunity to put an injustice right. It will provide legal certainty. What better legacy could there be? I beg to move.

Lord Butler of Brockwell Portrait Lord Butler of Brockwell (CB)
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My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks. I also echo his remarks about Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, for many years my noble friend in this House and on the golf course. His wisdom and contribution have been tremendous. The very powerful article he wrote in the Daily Telegraph last week could have been the speech he would have made today.

I want to add two things. One is about public administration and the other is about the implications of not accepting this amendment.

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Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful, as always, to noble Lords who have spoken in this short but very important debate led by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, to whom I am very grateful for the constructive engagement and discussions we have had over the past few days. This has been an excellent debate. I join in the tributes to Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, whose contribution to this House over many years has been immense.

The Government are extremely sympathetic to the aims of this amendment. It aligns with our desired policy aim to reduce pressure on the civil courts in Northern Ireland, which currently have a considerable case load. In our view, it would not be appropriate for the Government to give an opinion on the judgment of the Supreme Court in R v Adams, but we are of the view that this judgment, which was unexpected, has led to a degree of confusion in our law that merits clarification in some way. If I may go slightly further than my brief, when the judgment appeared some of us were—to put it mildly—somewhat baffled by its content.

On the numbers of cases in scope, we are aware of around 300 to 400 civil claims being brought on a similar basis to the Adams case, including those at pre-action stage, with 40 writs filed before First Reading of this Bill. It is therefore likely that a number of Adams-type cases will be allowed to continue in spite of the prohibition on civil claims in Clause 39 of the Bill. We are aware that this amendment has a wider application than just civil damages claims, which are otherwise within the scope of Clause 39, but the numbers of other types of cases in scope are limited.

The Government also understand that the amendment covers applications for compensation for miscarriages of justice under the statutory scheme established by Section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, following the reversal, as a result of the Adams judgment, of convictions for escaping or attempting to escape from internment facilities. The Government anticipate that it is unlikely that many more cases could in theory be brought along these lines; based on the numbers of escapees, this is unlikely to be more than around 30 and could be substantially less.

Claims brought as a result of the Supreme Court judgment in Adams are claims for compensation that are not based on any allegation against the state of mistreatment or misfeasance in public office, as other claims in this area are, but on a technical point regarding the signing of interim custody orders, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, made absolutely clear. At the time of their detention and conviction for escape-related offences, and for decades afterwards, these individuals could not have expected the Supreme Court to find as it did.

The Government have always acted on the understanding that those interim custody orders made by Ministers of the Crown, under powers conferred on the Secretary of State, were perfectly valid on the basis of the well-established and understood Carltona principle. This is a clarification that needs to be made, in our view, to restore legal certainty around this crucially important element of the way in which government works in this country.

I listened with great interest to my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford, who is the surviving member of the Northern Ireland Office from 1972 as Minister of State. He gave a very vivid and accurate description of just how difficult life was at the time, and how dangerous and fast-moving the situation was.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, in his description of how the warrant system works in Northern Ireland. As many Members know, I have worked for a number of Secretaries of State, and the signing of warrants is something all of them have taken a huge amount of care over to ensure that they are done properly and within the law.

In response to the noble Baroness, we are not far away from Third Reading, as she will be aware, but I will endeavour to consult with interested parties between now and then.

On this basis, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, indicated, I will commit to bringing forward an amendment at Third Reading next week, following consideration by officials and lawyers, that addresses these matters. In return, I ask that the noble Lord and my noble friend Lord Godson withdraw their amendment, subject to the caveat that the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, made in his remarks.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate, and I am grateful to the Minister for his remarks. I am sure the House is grateful for all those who associated themselves with the comments I made about the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood.

The Minister said with his usual understatement that many were somewhat baffled by the decision of the Supreme Court. The bafflement was widespread, I can assure the House, and the notion that we should wait until another case comes along was never a convincing argument in favour of Parliament not acting to put right this injustice. As the Minister rightly said, Clause 39 of the Bill will not deal with this essential unsatisfactory aspect of the judgment, and there could be many cases arising out of the error made by the Supreme Court.

Of course courts make mistakes from time to time; the whole basis of an appeal from one judgment to another is predicated on the fact that they do. The Supreme Court rarely makes mistakes, but Parliament puts them right when it does. Parliament also makes mistakes, and would then reverse those mistakes. There is nothing in this amendment which shows a lack of respect for the Supreme Court or its decisions in any way.

I look forward very much to meeting the Minister and his officials, to help, I hope, provide an amendment which reflects what is in our amendment—government amendments are always better than amendments put forward by Back-Benchers. Provided it does what this amendment was intended to do, that would be satisfactory.

I need not weary the House any longer at this stage. I have repeated that we will bring back the matter at Third Reading if, sadly, we are unable to find a satisfactory way through. In the meantime, I thank all noble Lords and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 99 withdrawn.
Lord Browne of Ladyton Portrait Lord Browne of Ladyton (Lab)
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My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 155 and 156, and to consequential amendments 152 and 157 to 161. These are supported variously by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and my noble friends Lord Murphy of Torfaen and Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. My preference would be to see the removal of Clauses 39 and 40 from the Bill, as proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and my noble friends Lord Murphy, Lady Ritchie and Lord Hain. However, I will restrict myself to the amendments in my name.

I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for his continued engagement on the Bill with me and others. I am sure we will have an opportunity in future to discuss some of the significant lengths he has gone to since the Committee last met to deal with some of the issues we have raised. In my view, some of these amendments make parts of the Bill—which I do not fundamentally support, but that is another matter—slightly more palatable. The Minister is very open and has done prodigious work in this regard, as have his officials, who are doing a very good job. They are admired by all noble Lords who have been engaged in this process.

Truth and justice are not merely two sides of the same coin; they exist in active relation to one another. They both are—and must be—indispensable elements of an alloy that can carry and sustain a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. Amendment 146 and its consequential amendments delete the time-limiting element of Clause 34, thus preventing criminal investigations being discontinued precipitately. I do not wish to stray into broader territory that is more customarily the stuff of Second Reading debates, but I wish to adduce an example that shows why this is important. In August 1974, John Pat Cunningham was shot and killed by a British serviceman. The soldier in question was finally put on trial in Belfast in 2021, 47 years later.

There are other families from all communities in Northern Ireland in that position—seeking justice for the deaths of loved ones. In earlier debates on this subject we heard of the case of Malvern Moffitt, murdered by IRA terrorists around 40 years ago. That is not an uncomfortable footnote in history but a tragedy whose concentric circles continue to lap at his family. His widow has expressed her profound upset at the prospect of the Bill in its current form receiving Royal Assent. His children gave a powerful and moving television interview in response to the Committee stage in the other place last year—something that should give us pause today.

Noble Lords will be familiar with the rule 9 submission by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, dated 16 August 2022, which specifically focuses on this Bill. The submission is informed by a year’s close monitoring of the Government’s legacy proposals, engagement with the different stakeholders and, during a week-long visit, engagement with the Minister and his officials in the NIO.

I direct your Lordships’ attention to paragraph 15 of that well-written and comprehensive submission, which reads:

“In her September 2021 letter, the Commissioner already highlighted the importance of the interaction of different mechanisms in ensuring justice, truth and reconciliation. With regard to justice, it was noted throughout the visit that other mechanisms than prosecutions, such as inquests, Police Ombudsman investigations and civil proceedings have often been instrumental in uncovering information that could subsequently be used to ensure accountability. Furthermore, the various mechanisms have been able, to some extent, to cater for the different needs of victims, since these will not be the same for all. At the end of her visit, the Commissioner noted in this respect that ‘unilaterally shutting down options that many victims and families value greatly as part of their way of dealing with the past ignores their needs and wishes, and is causing many of them deep distress’”.

This is a question not merely of fairness but of compliance under our Article 2 ECHR obligations. In raising the question of these obligations, I realise that I am failing to conform with recent innovations whereby breaching these obligations is advertised as a bold innovation rather than a prohibition. In the case of Armani Da Silva v the UK, the court ruled that:

“Having regard to its fundamental character, Article 2 of the Convention contains a procedural obligation … to carry out an effective investigation into alleged breaches of its substantive limb”.

The question of effectiveness is crucial. I will quote further from that decision, as it speaks directly to what constitutes an effective investigation. If an investigation is to meet the preconditions of effectiveness, it must have the possibility of leading to punishment. The relevant passage runs:

“In order to be ‘effective’ as this expression is to be understood in the context of Article 2 of the Convention, an investigation must firstly be adequate … This means that it must be capable of leading to the establishment of the facts, a determination of whether the force used was or was not justified in the circumstances and of identifying and—if appropriate—punishing those responsible … This is not an obligation of result, but of means”.

This seems both compelling and clear. It would be useful to know with what elements of that judgment the Government wish to disagree and upon what authority such a disagreement might rest. In this context, it may be worth recalling the words of the Minister for Veterans Affairs, who, in giving evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in 2020, conceded that there had been

“a serious generational problem with the standards of investigations”

carried out into the conduct of British servicemen and that

“a lot of the investigations have not withstood rigour as regards ECHR compliance”.

He concluded those remarks by stating boldly that that

“has been a major problem”.

I regret to say that as it stands, this Bill will deepen and not mitigate that problem.

This same question of Article 2 compliance also underlies Amendments 155 and 156, together with their consequential amendments. Probing Amendment 155 would delete Clause 39(1) from the Bill. That subsection states:

“A relevant Troubles-related civil action that was brought on or after the day of the First Reading in the House of Commons of the Bill for this Act may not be continued on and after the day on which this section comes into force”.

Again, this seems to breach not only the demands of natural justice but our Article 2 obligations. Amendment 156 in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and my noble friend Lord Murphy seeks to defang this particular risk by deleting the words “on or after” from Clause 39(2) and substituting “three years after”. The amendment would ensure that a Troubles-related civil action can be brought up to three years after the coming into force of Clause 38.

Amendments 155A, 161A, 161B and 178A are easy to explain. Clause 52(8)(c) refers to the

“actual date of the First Reading”.

The actual date was 17 May 2022, so the formula proposed in Clause 52(8)(c) is unnecessary if the Bill is otherwise amended to refer to 17 May 2022, which is exactly what this group of amendments does.

Lastly, I turn to the role of the Secretary of State in curtailing criminal investigations. Under these provisions, as it stands, it threatens incompatibility with Section 48(5) of the Scotland Act 1998. Two committees of the Scottish Parliament examined the Bill, and the consequent legislative consent memorandum points out that the Bill makes “novel and unwelcome changes” to the functions of the Lord Advocate as the head of the systems of criminal prosecution in Scotland. In particular, the power of the ICRIR to refuse to refer appropriate cases to the Lord Advocate compromises their independence, a supposedly inviolable principle under-pinning the whole architecture of the Scottish legal system. I would be grateful if the Minister made it clear why, and in what way, he believes that the role of the Lord Advocate is not compromised as I have outlined. Passing legislation aimed at bringing harmony to one constituent part of the United Kingdom by creating constitutional problems in another seems at the very least a somewhat quixotic way to proceed.

I would be grateful if the Minster could answer these questions of compatibility. If he is not disposed to accept these amendments, could he further explain how the Government will ensure that these provisions do not breach our obligations, both in the context of my earlier points on Article 2 of the ECHR and this Bill’s compliance with the Scotland Act 1998? I beg to move.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 154A. I apologise for my late arrival to the debate on this important Bill, and for the lateness of this amendment, in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Godson.

At first sight, noble Lords may be a little bewildered as to where the amendment is directed. It arises out of a decision of the Supreme Court in a case concerning Gerry Adams. The decision was given on 13 May 2020.The only judgment of the court was given by Lord Kerr, who described the regime in Northern Ireland, commonly known as internment. As many noble lords will be aware, the way in which interment operated was initially by an interim custody order, or ICO, which was made when the Secretary of State considered that an individual was involved in terrorism. That person was taken into custody and had to be detained there, to be released within 28 days unless the chief constable referred the matter to a commissioner. Detention continued while the commissioner considered the matter. If satisfied that the person was involved in terrorism, the commissioner would make a detention order. If not so satisfied, the release of the person detained would be ordered.

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Tabled by
154A: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—
“Authorisation of interim custody orders under the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972
(1) Article 4 of the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 is to be treated as always having had effect as authorising an interim custody order under that article in relation to a Troubles-related offence to be made by and with the authority of any Minister of the Crown whose signature was required for the making of such an order (and not just by and with the authority of the Secretary of State personally).(2) Subsection (1) does not revive any criminal conviction quashed before the coming into force of this section.(3) But a person whose conviction for any Troubles-related offence (whether or not quashed) or whose detention (whether or not as a consequence of such a conviction) depended, directly or indirectly, on the validity of such an interim custody order is not entitled, by or under any enactment or otherwise, to receive any damages or compensation in respect of that conviction or detention if the only reason for impugning its validity relates to whether the order was made by and with the authority of the Secretary of State, personally.(4) Subsection (3) applies irrespective of whether the claim for damages or compensation was made before or after the coming into force of this section.”
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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I thank all those who took part in the debate for the support that has been given— wholeheartedly in some instances and with some reservations in others. I am grateful for the debate that it generated. I am also grateful to the Minister for his helpful response. I wholly understand why he was not able to give a fuller response at this stage, and I welcome his reassurance that we will visit the matter between now and Report. This is an important amendment, as I endeavoured to make clear during the course of the debate. It is important in terms of the large number of claims which may result from the decision and in establishing once more the primacy of the Carltona principle in the way the Government work.

Amendment 154A not moved.

Update on Grenfell Response and Building Safety

Lord Faulks Excerpts
Tuesday 5th September 2017

(6 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
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I thank the noble Baroness for those two questions. I assume, although I do not know, that the royal borough is retaining data about the reasons for turning down offers. I will certainly raise that with it. That is a constructive suggestion; I am sure that records are being kept. As we know, some common reasons for refusing offers are that people want to move only once rather than twice and fear the trauma associated with moving. One can understand people wanting to take time over this but I will look at that issue because those comments are absolutely right. In relation to the public inquiry and the diversity issue, that is a matter for Sir Martin Moore-Bick, but certainly we are very open to assessors and would go so far as to encourage that. I do not want to steal any thunder from the public inquiry and indeed I do not know what he will have to say about that issue but I am sure that something will be said at the first preliminary meeting on 14 September, a week on Thursday.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Con)
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My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I must declare an interest as a resident of the borough. I have a connection with the council in that my wife is a councillor and was a cabinet member with responsibility for schools at the time of this appalling fire. I welcome what the noble Lord said about rehousing and how immensely complex this process is. He rightly says that this should not be a question of simply getting numbers for the Dispatch Box but making sure that all individuals have their needs satisfactorily addressed. Those needs will be complex and very different. This process is going to be extremely expensive, of course. Perhaps my noble friend can tell the House whether the Government are assisting in any way and in what respect with the extremely significant cost of rehousing.

Secondly, can the Minister confirm that despite the unfortunate criticism of the appointment and the suitability of Sir Martin for discharging the duty, he has the full confidence of the Government? Those who are familiar with his work have every reason to believe that he will perform his job with extreme diligence and reach a satisfactory outcome.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
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I thank my noble friend, and will perhaps deal with the second question first because it has a more straightforward response. Sir Martin Moore-Bick has the total support of the Government. He is already tackling these issues at pace and we have every reason to suppose that he is the right man for the job. We look forward to the work that he is going to put in on this immensely challenging inquiry.

My noble friend referred to the complex process of rehousing and the costs. Much of this, such as hotel accommodation, will be picked up under the Bellwin formula. As I indicated, the Government are looking at specific requests made by local authorities in relation to the issue more widely. A lot of the cost for Kensington and Chelsea will be picked up by the Bellwin formula.

I think it is right to say a corner has been turned and progress is being made on what is a horrendous situation. I think people are now understandably looking to the future although, obviously, in very difficult circumstances.

Queen’s Speech

Lord Faulks Excerpts
Tuesday 27th June 2017

(7 years ago)

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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Con)
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My Lords, one of the topics for today’s debate on the humble Address is constitutional affairs. This is, indeed, a testing time for our constitution. Most of the next two years seem likely to be occupied with Brexit-related legislation. It will be heavily and appropriately scrutinised by Parliament, particularly by your Lordships’ House. It seems distinctly likely that various issues arising out of our departure from the European Union will find themselves once more before the courts. When and if they do, I hope that we will never see a repetition of the outrageous press response to the decision of the Divisional Court in the Gina Miller case, nor of the failure by the Government explicitly and immediately to condemn such an attack.

The independence of the judiciary is a critical feature of the rule of law. That does not mean that any Government have to agree with the decisions that judges reach—judges are not infallible; there is an appeal system—and the reasoning behind judgments can be criticised with perfect legitimacy. It is even permissible on occasions to question whether judges have entered political areas which they should not enter. What is not acceptable, however, is a failure to defend the independent judiciary on the grounds that this might be tantamount to an attack on the freedom of the press.

The new Lord Chancellor has made a confident start. He has a considerable task to restore the relationship between the Government and the judiciary. If he reads the Lord Chief Justice’s evidence to the Constitution Committee of your Lordships’ House, he will realise just how much work needs to be done. We should ensure that our judges, highly regarded around the world, are properly respected, paid and supported. I welcome the review of their pay and conditions recently announced. The crisis in judicial morale described by the Lord Chief Justice is extremely worrying. There is, I know, a real issue with recruitment. We certainly want a diverse judiciary, but we want one where there is no dilution in merit.

The civil liability Bill is, as I understand it, designed to reform the law in relation to whiplash claims. Although claimants’ lawyers are always sceptical about the figures, I have seen no serious challenge to the fact that the volume of road traffic-related personal injury claims has remained static over the past three years and is more than 50% higher than 10 years ago, despite the fact that there has been a decrease in the number of road traffic accidents from around 190,000 in 2006 to around 142,000 in 2015. I welcome all steps to clamp down on what has undoubtedly been a racket in whiplash claims, but of course we should be careful to ensure that genuine claims result in compensation. There should be a reduction in insurance premiums as a result. Insurance companies should be kept to their promise in this regard.

However, any reductions in premiums that whiplash reforms bring about will be substantially eroded by the increase in the size of premiums necessary because of the alteration of the discount rate announced by the then Lord Chancellor earlier this year. This alteration is, to put it kindly, surprising. Not only will this change affect insurance premiums but it will cause an enormous increase in the size of claims of medical negligence against the NHS and others. I declare an interest as a barrister practising not exclusively but certainly in this area. I am familiar with the astonishing rise in the size of these claims. One has to question whether the changes are desirable. I hope the Government will consider bringing forward changes so that if, as a claimant, you seek a lump sum rather than periodical payments, the choice you make should indicate that while you are not necessarily an adventurous investor, you can be treated as a middle-of-the-road investor for the purpose of the discount rate.

Access to justice is vital. I am sorry that the prisons section of the courts Bill is to go. I hope that much of what the Government want to achieve can be done with non-legislative measures. The courts Bill, as I understand it, will make the courts cheaper and more accessible. The online court is an exciting development. If it increases access to justice while not disadvantaging the digitally challenged, that is to be welcome. I understand why some are sceptical about it; justice must be not only done but seen to be done.

The Government are committed to reviewing the LASPO Act. Part 1 of that will certainly benefit from such a review. I hope they take into account any recommendations made by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, in his review of similar matters. Access to justice must be maintained.

Finally, I return to the rule of law. It is said that the future of this Government is uncertain. The party opposite has said that it will bring the Government down. Some of the comments attributed to its leaders about the use of extra-parliamentary means to do so, if they are true, show very little regard for the rule of law. I note in particular the allegation of murder made by the Shadow Chancellor about Grenfell Tower. Let us wait until the public inquiry has reported. The next two years are likely to provide stress tests on our constitution. I hope that in your Lordships’ House that constitution will maintain its vigour.