Liaison: Select Committee Report — 14 Jan 2004 at 16:17
Moved, That the 3rd Report from the Select Committee, Session 2002–03, be agreed to. (HL Paper 183, Session 2002–03).-(The Chairman of Committees.)
Following is the report referred to:
10 November 2003
By the Select Committee appointed to advise the House on the resources required for Select Committee work and to allocate resources between Select Committees; to review the Select Committee work of the House; to consider requests for ad hoc committees and report to the House with recommendations; to ensure effective co-ordination between the two Houses; and to consider the availability of Lords to serve on committees.
ORDERED TO REPORT
Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill
1. The committee has considered a proposal put forward by Lord Joffe that his Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill [HL] be committed to a Select Committee. A paper from Lord Joffe was considered by the committee and is printed at Appendix 1. The committee also heard Lord Joffe and Baroness Jay of Paddington in support of his proposal.
2. The purpose of Lord Joffe's Bill is to allow competent terminally ill patients to request assistance to die. It was the subject of a major debate in the House at Second Reading in June of this year. Almost 10 years have elapsed since the subject was considered by the Select Committee on Medical Ethics which reported in 1994. Since then other countries have introduced such legislation and public opinion in the United Kingdom has become more engaged in the issue. We consider that a Select Committee of this House would be well placed to consider major ethical issues of this kind and accordingly we recommend the appointment of an ad hoc Select Committee upon the Bill. The Bill will have to be reintroduced in the next Session, read a second time and committed to a Select Committee. Accordingly, we recommend that the committee begin its work after the Easter Recess.
Implications of withdrawal from the European Union
3. The committee has considered a proposal put forward by Lord Moran that a Select Committee be established to consider the implications for the United Kingdom of withdrawal from the European Union. A paper from Lord Moran was considered by the committee and is printed at Appendix 2. The committee also heard Lord Moran, Lord Weatherill and Viscount Falkland in support of this proposal.
4. The purpose of such a committee would be to assess the constitutional and legal position, financial, trade and investment implications, effects on foreign relations and defence, and on agriculture and fisheries. The likely positive and negative effects of partial or total withdrawal would then be assessed. We consider that such a committee would not be timely in view of the current Inter-Governmental Conference on the draft Constitution for Europe. The establishment of such a committee is likely to be regarded as a negative intervention in the process by this House and we doubt whether it would be possible to isolate the committee's deliberations from wider political considerations. The resources required to conduct such an exercise would be disproportionate. We do not therefore recommend the establishment of a Select Committee on the implications of withdrawal from the European Union.
5. The committee has further considered a proposal put forward by Baroness Howe of Idlicote for a Select Committee on Communications. A memorandum from Lady Howe was considered once again by the committee and is printed at Appendix 3. The committee also heard Lady Howe in support of her proposal.
6. When the committee first considered this proposal in February 2002 it then reported:
"The proposed Select Committee would examine a subject on which the House has a great deal of expertise, and which cuts across government departmental boundaries. We believe that it would be a good subject for a House of Lords committee.
"Baroness Howe's proposal is for a sessional rather than an ad hoc committee, to be appointed after the passage of the proposed Communications Bill, probably in late 2003. We would prefer the appointment of an ad hoc committee in the first instance, with a view to making it permanent if it were a success. We will return to the matter with a firm recommendation nearer the time."
We do not consider this to have been a firm commitment and we have reviewed the proposal afresh.
7. The remit proposed for such a committee, it was put to us, might include all broadcasting media, all aspects of the internet and telecommunications, newspaper and periodical publishing, film and video, advertising, and the ownership licensing control and management thereof. In addition to the reasons for setting up such a committee set out in Appendix 3, the forthcoming renewal of the BBC Charter, the consequences of the Hutton inquiry, and questions of foreign ownership were also cited in support.
8. We do not consider that communications has a particular claim to become the subject of a dedicated Lords Select Committee. Furthermore, many aspects of the subject matter have been debated at length recently in the context of the House's consideration of the Communications Bill and in the pre-legislative scrutiny that preceded it. The remit envisaged is also very wide and is more suited to a sessional Select Committee. Upon further reflection we doubt whether the consideration in isolation of a single communications-related subject by an ad hoc Select Committee would be useful; and we are reluctant to recommend to the House that a sessional Select Committee be set up. Accordingly, we do not recommend the establishment of a Select Committee on communications, whether on an ad hoc or on a sessional basis.
Additional Resources for the Economic Affairs Committee
9. The committee has considered a request from Lord Peston for resources to enable the Sub-Committee of the Economic Affairs Committee on the Finance Bill to be set-up at the beginning of the new Session. A letter to the Chairman of Committees from Lord Peston is printed at Appendix 4.
10. The Committee considers that Lord Peston's proposal represents a major departure from the original recommendation of the group on the working practices of the House chaired by the late Lord Williams of Mostyn and which was subsequently endorsed by the Procedure Committee and agreed to by the House itself. This recommendation was:
"When the Finance Bill is introduced into the Commons and published, the committee should begin its work. The committee should report when the Finance Bill finishes its Commons Committee stage, but before Commons remaining stages. The timetable of the committee's work would therefore have to be arranged to fit the legislative timetable in the Commons." (Report from the Leader's group, 2001–02, HL Paper 111).
11. While we appreciate the excellent work of the Sub-Committee on the Finance Bill earlier this session, we do not think that the arrangements agreed to by the House in 2002 should be departed from so soon, particularly in view of the sensitivities surrounding this initiative. The original proposal is due to be reviewed after two Sessions and we take the view that any case for a change in the current arrangement should be considered then. It follows that we do not agree to the first limb of Lord Peston's request.
12. We recognise however that from March to late June or thereabout the Finance Bill Sub-Committee should be able to meet in parallel with the main Select Committee which will no doubt be engaged in an inquiry of its own. We therefore recommend that a Clerk and other resources be provided to allow this to happen.
13. The committee took note of the memorandum from the Leader of the House (Appendix 5).
Memorandum from Lord Joffe
Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill
1. BACKGROUND TO THE REQUEST
(a) The issue of assisted dying is of intense public interest upon which there are passionately opposing views within the House, amongst the public, health and legal professions and religious groupings.
(b) The purpose of these briefing notes is not to rehearse the arguments for and against the Bill but rather to outline why I suggest that the House can only make an informed decision on the Bill if it has the benefit of the findings of a Select Committee.
(c) The purpose of the Bill (as amended by the amendments of which I have given notice) is to prevent unbearable and unnecessary suffering by allowing competent terminally ill patients to request assistance to die. The Bill is accordingly very limited in its application. It does not apply to patients who are mentally incompetent nor to any patients who are terminally ill.
(d) Opponents of the Bill, many of whom are concerned that assisted dying is contrary to their religious beliefs, mainly base their opposition upon concern that if assisted dying is decriminalised, the vulnerable members of society will be put at risk and trust between doctors and patients will be destroyed.
(e) In drafting the Bill, it was recognised that there could be risks to vulnerable members of society and to prevent these risks, a range of safeguards was introduced. However, the Bill's opponents argue that these safeguards are inadequate.
(f) Inevitably the views of the Bill's opponents on vulnerability and trust break-down have to be based on conjecture rather that upon fact.
(g) As there is no available experience of assisted dying in the UK, it is natural to turn to the experience of other countries with similar health provision and similar standards of living which have actually implemented similar legislation. The Netherlands and Oregon qualify under all these headings with experience of patient assisted dying going back to the 1980s in the case of the Netherlands and 1997 in the case of Oregon.
However, the supporters and opponents of the Bill have interpreted the experience of the Dutch and of Oregon very differently. The supporters are convinced that the Dutch and the Oregon experience provides positive support for the view that assisted dying does not place vulnerable people at risk and that there is no evidence of a break down in trust between doctors and patients. The Bill's opponents however argue that the Dutch and the Oregon experience illustrates the dangers to the vulnerable and to doctor/patient relationships.
2. BASIS OF THE REQUEST
The House would be immeasurably assisted in making an informed decision on the Bill if a Select Committee had taken evidence and considered the issues set out below:
(a) The current experience of assisted dying in the Netherlands and Oregon and in particular, whether the vulnerable members of society have been put at risk and whether doctor/patient relationships have been adversely affected.
(b) Whether palliative care can in all cases provide the care which will enable terminally ill patients to die with dignity and free of unnecessary suffering.
(c) Whether recent polls that show 80 per cent percent of the public supporting assisted dying accurately reflect public opinion.
(d) Whether the safeguards contained in the Bill to protect vulnerable members of society are adequate and if not, what further safeguards are necessary. The Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report on 23 March 2003 was of the view that they were but the Bill's opponents are not persuaded.
(e) The effect, if any, on resources for palliative care if the Bill became law.
(f) The effect, if any, on health staff and the families of patients if the Bill became law.
(g) The different views within the medical profession.
3. CHANGES SINCE THE 1994 SELECT COMMITTEE
The Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics which reported in 1994 recommended that the existing laws which make assisted dying illegal, should remain in force. That was ten years ago and much has changed since then including the following:
(a) At the time there was no legislation similar to the Bill in any other country. Since then such legislation has been introduced in the Netherlands, Oregon and Belgium.
(b) The views of the Select Committee were significantly influenced by what they were told about the Dutch system. In the light of developments in the Netherlands since then, I believe that a new Select Committee may form a different view particularly having regard to the facts that:
the Royal Dutch Medical Association (of which the great majority of Dutch doctors are members), the Dutch Government and the overwhelming majority of the Dutch population strongly support the existing system
the most recent Remmelink Report (an in depth series of reports commissioned by the Dutch Government) published earlier this year found no evidence of vulnerable people being put at risk nor any increases in voluntary euthanasia in the last five years.
(c) Three of the surviving members of the previous Select Committee, Baroness Jay, Baroness Warnock and Baroness Flather now support this Bill. This is particularly significant as it demonstrates that a new Select Committee might well come to a different conclusion from the previous one.
(d) The UK is now faced with the sorry spectacle of terminally ill patients dragging themselves in desperation to Zurich to be assisted to die.
(e) Surveys in the UK amongst doctors have shown that a considerable number of doctors have felt compelled on grounds of compassion to agree to requests by their patients to assist them to die even though this is against the law. This sits uncomfortably in a democratic society where the rule of law should prevail.
(f) Likewise wives who have openly broken the law on assisted suicide in order to assist their husbands to die in Switzerland, have understandably not been prosecuted and hopefully never will be.
(g) The issue of assistance to die is now being looked at afresh by the Council of Europe which had previously expressed opposition to voluntary euthanasia and the French National Assembly has just agreed to set up a Parliamentary Commission to investigate issues relating to the end of life and formulate proposals for addressing these issues.
(h) There is widespread support for the Bill amongst Peers on all sides of the House.
(i) The terms of reference of the previous Select Committee were much wider than what is proposed and most of the other findings of that Committee are not being questioned.
I respectfully submit that having regard to the above there is a powerful ease for a Select Committee, the findings of which would ensure that the House is able to make an informed decision on a Bill of significant importance.
22 October 2003
Memorandum from Lord Moran
Proposal for a Select Committee to consider what might be the consequences of a withdrawal from the European Union
The Head of Research Services in the House of Lords Library has confirmed that there appears to be no "authoritative and impartial report on what detachment from the European Union, in whole or in part, would mean for the United Kingdom". (Dr Victory's letter of 28 July 2003, attached.) It is the view of all those who have subscribed to this paper that a report on this is overdue and that a Select Committee of the House of Lords would be the most appropriate body to produce such a report.
Members of the Liaison Committee will be aware that there is no provision for withdrawal in the existing EC Treaties. The draft treaty establishing a European Constitution does, however, include, in Article 1-59, a procedure for withdrawal from the Union. The text of this article is attached. A House of Commons research paper points out that Baroness Scotland, when a Foreign Office Minister, was asked why there was no provision in the EC Treaties for the free and unilateral withdrawal of member states, as there is for the treaties governing NATO and the WTO, and that she replied: "We see no need for the treaties governing membership of the Union to include a specific provision on unilateral withdrawal. It remains open to Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, the logical consequences of which would be to withdraw from the EU The terms of such a withdrawal would be for the Government to negotiate with the other Member States." (HL Deb, 11 January 2000, WA 96–7). This paper also records that Peter Hain told the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee in November 2002: "We saw it for the first time as we did other ideas in the skeleton draft constitution which he put forward and we are having a look at it. It may be a good idea that Member States which are so fed up with the European Union are able to remove themselves from it. We need to look at the detail, we need to know exactly what it means."
Against this background our House on 27 June 2003 gave a Second Reading to the European Union (Implications of Withdrawal) Bill (HL), introduced by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, which would require the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the implications of withdrawal and to publish the result.
During the debate Lord Moran, a Cross-Bencher, suggested that instead of seeking to get the Government to set up such an inquiry it might be better for this House to do so. He said:
"It is of the greatest importance that we should have a thorough, impartial and well-informed study of what detachment from the Union, in whole or in part, would mean for this country. I do not suppose that this Government or any other that is in sight will do this, although of course they should. I believe that in those circumstances the best way forward might be for us to set up a Select Committee of this House to consider thoroughly and to report on the implications of acting in accordance with Part I, Article 59 of the draft constitution. Such a committee must command confidence and be as balanced and impartial as possible.
"A good precedent was the Select Committee on the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference . . . three Eurosceptics were co-opted to this committee to balance the Europhiles-that is, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, and myself as a Cross-Bencher. It worked well and we all signed the report which was, I think, a useful one.
"Such a committee established now could hear evidence from experts in all the relevant fields. A report on these lines, calm, dispassionate and authoritative-would be an enormous help to all those considering our future relationship with Europe and would enable all of us to judge whether withdrawal would be a catastrophe or bring benefits to this country. I commend the idea to the House."
This approach is welcomed by Lord Pearson (who has agreed that if such a Select Committee is set up it would not be necessary to proceed with the further stages of his Bill) and is supported by at least 51 Peers from different parts of the House whose names are attached. These include a former Prime Minister, a former Speaker of the House of Commons, several former senior Ministers and a number of Peers who are distinguished members of the business community.
We think it essential that the Select Committee should command general confidence. It should not be overbalanced by known Europhiles or known Eurosceptics. It should be as dispassionate and authoritative as possible, and this would apply most of all to the Chairman. Its aim should be to shed light on the question, not to generate heat.
In our view it should seek oral and written evidence from the most eminent available experts on all aspects of the question-the constitutional and legal position, financial, trade and investment implications, effects on our foreign relations and defence arrangements and on agriculture and fisheries. It should then set out the likely consequences of partial or total withdrawal, detailing the likely positive and negative effects.
Peers supporting this request: Ampthill, Astor, Baker of Dorking, Beaumont of Whitley, fen, Black of Crossharbour, Blackwell, Campbell of Alloway, Cavendish of Furness, Chalfont, B. Cox, Cuckney, E. Erroll, V. Falkland, Feldman, Forsyth of Drumlean, Glenarthur, Griffiths of Fforestfach, Harris of High Cross, Inge, Kilclooney, Kimball, B. Knight of Collingtree, Laing of Dunphail, Liverpool, B. Mallalieu, Mancroft, C Mar, Monson, Moran, Mowbray and Stourton, E. Onslow, Palmer, Pearson of Rannoch, E. Peel, Pilkington, Renton, B. Saltoun of Abernethy, Sheppard of Didgemere, Shrewsbury & Waterford, Slim, Stevens of Ludgate, Stoddart of Swindon, B. Strange, Swinfen, Tebbit, Thatcher, Vinson, Waddington, Weatherill, DL, Willoughby de Broke.
Enclosures: Letter from Isolde Victory to Lord Moran dated 28 July, 2003
The Draft Treaty Establishing a European Constitution. Text of Article I-59
* * * * * *
Letter from Isolde Victory to Lord Moran dated 28 July, 2003
Withdrawal from the EU
I have been following up your query about whether there have been any authoritative and impartial reports on what detachment from the European Union, in whole or in part, would mean for the United Kingdom.
I could not find any impartial consideration of this question of the kind you proposed for a select committee (HL Hansard, 27th June 2003, col. 561). There have been a small number of pamphlets and journal articles on the subject but none with the balance and range of a Select Committee report.
I hope this is of assistance.
The Draft Treaty Establishing a European Constitution. Text of Article I-59
1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention; the European Council shall examine that notification. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council of Ministers, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3. The representative of the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in Council of Ministers or European Council discussions or decisions concerning it.
4. The Constitution shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, decides to extend this period.
5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to re-join, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article
Letter and memorandum from Baroness Howe of Idlicote to the Chairman of Committees
(previously published in the First Report of the Liaison Committee, 2001–02, HL Paper 84)
PROPOSAL FOR THE HOUSE OF LORDS TO SET UP A COMMUNICATIONS SELECT COMMITTEE
As you suggested when we spoke last week, I am enclosing details of a proposal, which I'd be most grateful if you could put before the members of the Liaison Committee, that the House of Lords should establish a Communications Select Committee. The idea has arisen in light of the Communication industry's ever widening remit, rapidly growing economic and cultural importance to the United Kingdom, and not least because of the considerable expertise and experience of the industry that exists in this House.
As I explained, I wanted to test the amount of support that might exist amongst the 100 or so peers within that particular group before putting the suggestion formally to your Committee and, hopefully, for the idea to receive wider circulation and debate. So far I have had replies from over half of those to whom I wrote on 14th January, with the vast majority supporting both the proposal and its outlined remit. (I have, of course, been warned that resources for Select Committees are scarce, and that there may well be a queue of equally deserving suggestions ahead of this one!)
Enclosed is both a copy of the letter I wrote to each Peer [not printed], and the paper setting out a reasoned case for the establishment of a Communications' Select Committee. Perhaps, however, I might mention that although the proposal is made now, I see the ideal time to set up such a Committee, if the idea should eventually be approved, might well be when the proposed Communications Bill (due to be debated in the Spring of this year) is finally on the statute book. Up to that point their Lordships' expertise will no doubt be fully occupied with that Bill's Pre-legislative Scrutiny Committee, and with the process of the legislation itself.
I obviously hope the suggestion will gain your committee's approval, and if so, I should be most grateful for advice as to what further steps need to be taken.
5 February 2002
PROPOSED COMMUNICATIONS SELECT COMMITTEE
REASONS FOR ESTABLISHMENT
1. Due to almost continuous technological innovation and change in the last 20 years, the whole business of communications is of increasing importance in all our lives, whether as citizens or consumers. Quite apart from its economic importance, we rely on it for information, entertainment and education. It helps mould our culture, our attitude and reaction to events, and we have a vital interest in its accuracy and impartiality-and thus in its ownership, management and control.
2. Moreover, the industry's contribution to the UK economy is considerable and growing at a faster rate than any other part of the economy. The Government White Paper on "A New Future for Communications" reported that UK creative industries generate revenue approaching £60 billion a year, contributing 4 per cent to GDP, whilst the telecommunications industry generates revenues of £3 I billion and contributes 2 per cent to GDP.
3. As another example of the industry's importance, the power of the media to destroy reputation-where inaccurate or biased information is used-is arguably far greater than that of the courts to protect them. Human rights issues for individuals or organisations have, quite rightly, a higher profile since the European Convention of Human Rights became part of UK domestic law. A reformed House of Lords, with an even greater complement of independent peers, could play an increasingly important part in assessing and advising upon the impact of such changes. Moreover, even during the last five years, communication matters have been debated in the House on no less than 21 occasions-not including the time devoted to the current OFCOM paving Bill.
4. These issues become all the more challenging with the spread of international and multimedia ownership. So too because of the overlap between UK controls-statutory, self-regulatory and common law-and those of the European Union; and in other countries from which communications to UK citizens and consumers may increasingly originate.
5. The House of Lords already contains Peers with considerable experience of, and expertise in, the communications industry. (96 have had either career involvement in the sector or have listed communications as a 'special interest'.) A tacit acknowledgement of this expertise is the fact that at least the last two broadcasting Acts have been introduced in the Lords.
6. The creation of a Communications Select Committee, able to require attendance of appropriate witnesses, could have particular value in informing policy development in this area. As an example of this, with the OFCOM Act (and its sister Act, expected later this year), a Lords Select Committee could be especially useful-not least in the assessment, pre and post the BBC's Charter review-of whether the BBC's particular relationship with OFCOM is working in the public interest.
7. The Government's emphasis (in The House of Lords, Completing the Reform) is on using the reinforced independence, expertise and experience of a reformed second Chamber more effectively, but without duplicating or undermining the House of Commons' primacy. Whilst rejecting the setting up of a ". . . nexus of departmental select committees like those in the Commons . . .", the Government sees ". . . the second chamber (as) better placed to examine cross-cutting issues." (P. 11 para 13 in Supporting Documents.) A Lords Select Committee of the kind here proposed, would be addressing exactly such cross-cutting issues as would fall outside the remit of any one Commons departmental select committee.
PROPOSED COMMUNICATIONS SELECT COMMITTEE-REMIT.
Possible areas of coverage suggested so far:
-All broadcasting media and telex: radio and television- terrestrial, cable and satellite.
-All aspects of the Internet and telecommunications (including mobile telephones.)
-Newspaper and periodical publishing.
-Film and video.
Coverage to include ownership, licensing, control and management.
A relatively wide remit may be thought necessary, because of the rapidly developing cross ownership and interactivity-broadband etc-between all methods of communications.
Letter from Lord Peston requesting additional resources for the Economic Affairs Committee
I am writing to you about the resource requirements of the Economic Affairs Committee's subcommittee to which their Lordships gave the task of scrutinising the Finance Bill. When its first report was debated, I indicated to the House that on the basis of this year's experience in future we would do the job in a more systematic and less pressurised way. The subcommittee would be set up immediately after the gracious speech, meeting in parallel to the main committee as it did last time. It would take a first tranche of evidence from witnesses in the period from then up to the budget itself. The witnesses themselves told us that would add to the usefulness of their contributions. This met with general approval from those present at the debate and from others of their Lordships who take an interest in financial and economic matters.
To carry out its task the sub-committee needs a Clerk of its own, special advisers, and some secretarial experience. In essence the purpose of this letter is to ask the Liaison Committee to make available the required resources.
30 October 2003
Memorandum from Baroness Amos
Draft Bills and Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Government Proposals 2003–04
The Government have published nine draft Bills in Session 2002–03. We envisage publishing a similar, or slightly greater, number in Session 2003–04.
The Joint Committee on the draft Gambling Bill will continue its work, to conclude by 8 April 2004.
Draft Bills on Disabled People and a euro referendum have already been promised for next Session. The draft Disabled People Bill has been promised by the end of the year.
A draft Charities Bill and a draft Mental Health Bill (building on the partial draft published in June 2002) have also been announced, though not necessarily for next Session. And the Government have announced that it will endeavour to publish a draft Regional Assemblies Bill in advance of any referendum.
The Government will bring forward further plans for draft Bills, and proposals for what form pre-legislative scrutiny might take if any, through the usual channels as soon as possible after the Queen's Speech.
10 November 2003
rose to move, as an amendment to the above Motion, at end to insert "but with the omission of paragraph 4 and that an ad hoc Select Committee should be appointed without delay to make a brief assessment of the constitutional, financial and social implications of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union and its effect on foreign and domestic policies, including the costs and benefits of continued membership".
On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?
*Their Lordships divided: Contents 58; Not-Contents, 195.
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 is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.
|37 (+1 tell)
|14 (+1 tell)
|99 (+1 tell)
|31 (+1 tell)