Human Rights Bill [Lords] — Power to take remedial action — 21 Oct 1998

(c) include within that consultation the options for establishing a Human Rights Commission to fulfil those functions, and

(d) inform Parliament of the outcome of that consultation.'.-- [Dr. Tony Wright.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I move the new clause because I hope that the House will think it important and worth while. Also, it enables Members who are not lawyers to join in the debate, which is always refreshing during proceedings on this Bill.

As we reach the closing stages of this important Bill, the question is whether any gaps remain to be filled--gaps that might prevent the Bill from delivering its potential. We believe that there are such gaps, and seek, tentatively, to fill them by means of the new clause. It argues that, for the Bill to be effective, it will need some underpinning which is not in place and will not be unless the Government put it there. This is the moment when they should do so. They have put such support in place for every previous similar human rights measure--for example, with the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality--that has extended and strengthened human rights.

In each of those cases, albeit 20 years ago, it was believed that some institutional structure should be put in place to ensure that the rights being enshrined in a Bill would be operational in practice. It was necessary to ensure that people could access the rights and that something would happen after the House had passed the measure. That legislation was given the necessary institutional support, and it is crucial for a similar approach to be taken with this measure.

It is crucial, too, that prevention issues be dealt with; for example, how we can prevent cases from even arising by developing good practice in public bodies and private bodies charged with public functions. How can we promote access to justice? How can we advise and assist the people who might benefit from the provisions of the Bill? How can we promote awareness of human rights and develop a real human rights culture in this country? How can we scrutinise draft legislation to ensure that it is consistent with the convention and with other human rights obligations to which this country has signed up? How can we advise Government and Parliament? The latter will need an independent source of advice, and this is our opportunity to ensure that it is put in place. For a range of reasons, it is essential at this late stage in the passage of the Bill that we insert a provision to ensure that all that can happen.

The new clause would provide the support that the Bill requires. As hon. Members may see, it asks the Government to take three steps prior to the Act's coming into force. The first step will be to provide guidance to public authorities on the steps that they need to take to ensure that they comply with the Act.

Everyone who has looked at the Bill knows that it has momentous implications for all public authorities and all private bodies that exercise public functions. The Government accepted that both in this House and in the other place. Indeed, in the other place there was talk of a transformation that would need to occur in the behaviour of public bodies.

21 Oct 1998 : Column 1313

It is not difficult to assemble a long list of the issues that public bodies may have to face as a consequence of the Bill. The current issue of Local Government Chronicle carries the dramatic headline "Human rights Act unleashes legal deluge", and contains a long list of the Bill's legal implications for local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke about exaggerated rhetoric and perhaps the article is over the top, but it is not difficult to assemble a wholly convincing list of matters about which public bodies may be required to respond.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 2, line 1, leave out 'under this Act'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: Government amendments Nos. 6 to 22, 24 to 30, 36 and 37.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 6, in page 2, line 17, at end insert--

Amendment made: No. 8, in page 3, line 21, at end insert--

'( ) a Northern Ireland Minister,

( ) a Northern Ireland department,'.-- [Mr. Mike O'Brien.]

No. 12, in page 5, line 20, at end insert--

'( ) "The Minister" includes the Northern Ireland department concerned.'.-- [Mr. Mike O'Brien.]

I beg to move amendment No. 38, in page 6, line 34, leave out Clause 10.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 40, in page 7, line 17, at end insert--

The House divided: Ayes 110, Noes 362.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 109 (+2 tell)068.5%
Independent1 00100.0%
Lab317 (+2 tell) 0076.5%
LDem40 0087.0%
PC1 0025.0%
SNP3 0050.0%
UUP0 1010.0%
Total:362 110073.7%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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