BBC World Service: Finances

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Wednesday 24th April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I hear clearly the proposal from the right reverend Prelate, which has also been suggested by the director-general. I accept the premise of his question; that model existed until 2014. It is important that we make full leverage of funding. It is a challenging fiscal environment, but the Government have demonstrably shown that when we need to provide additional funding to the BBC World Service, we do so. The funding review being undertaken by the DCMS provides an opportunity to look specifically at the funding of the World Service.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, this Question has a familiar ring to it. On 12 March, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, said the World Service was

“one of the most powerful soft-power tools that this country possesses”.—[Official Report, 12/3/24; col. 1916.]

He was followed by a range of noble Lords, including the Foreign Secretary, agreeing with him, just as we do this afternoon. The problem is that, as the retiring director has pointed out—I associate myself with the words from the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on her work—as things are, the World Service will not be able to deliver that soft power unless it is given proper long-term funding. Given the range of agreement across the House, surely there is the opportunity now for the Government to produce a long-term, well-funded financial plan for the World Service that can meet the desires of the country and this House.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord will know the deep affection I have for him and his views, to which I listen very carefully. He will accept that the DCMS review, as I said earlier, will be looking at the World Service specifically. Soft power around the world is needed at a time of conflict and need. I alluded earlier to the Gaza conflict. The BBC World Service provides important signposting at times of conflict, such as where to go and where to get information. That is a vital example of what it does. Of course, I acknowledge the opinions expressed in your Lordships’ House. As I said, the review of the whole BBC funding envelope will look at every element of BBC funding but also specifically at how we protect this valuable asset when it comes to our global power across the world.

European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere and the European Space Agency (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2023

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Tuesday 6th February 2024

(5 months, 1 week ago)

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The agency’s growth in Harwell is more important than ever when we consider how our reliance on space missions and technology has evolved in recent years. Global telecommunications, cutting edge technologies, and the way that space exploration can inspire young people to study STEM disciplines, mean that we need to foster close relationships with domestic and international space communities. The European Space Agency is key to that work, and I assure noble Lords that the UK remains committed to the organisation as it develops its headquarters in the UK. I commend the order to the Committee.
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, that apology was delivered with the sincerity and clarity which one has come to expect from the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, in dealing with this place. In some ways, I feel rather guilty. I put my name down for this debate because I am interested in the space industry, but I feel a little bit guilty that a Minister who is usually working for us in some of the tightest spots in the world is delivering an apology for a drafting cock-up from some five or six years ago. However, it gives me great pleasure to work together on this with the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, again. Over 10 years ago, we were together in the coalition Government. Since then, as I said, his contribution, particularly in our foreign affairs in some of the most difficult and dangerous positions for a Minister, has done great credit to this House.

The instrument corrects an error. It will bring the provision of UK domestic law in line with the headquarters agreement. Most of all, as the Explanatory Memorandum says:

“It is important that the European Space Agency … has a solid presence within the United Kingdom with an identity that is aligned with the strengths of the United Kingdom space sector”.


That is really why I wanted to speak. I thought that whoever replied could reaffirm this Government’s commitment to a space programme. There are not many times that I stand to speak in praise of Boris Johnson, but as Prime Minister he certainly gave real leadership to the space programme and real encouragement to the departments working on it. I hope that, in welcoming this order, and playing host to and participating in these organisations, we are reaffirming our commitment to space exploration.

I grew up in the 1950s, reading that famous comic, the Eagle. I draw noble Lords attention to that because the adventures of Dan Dare, who was the great spaceman in that comic, were set in 1985. In the 1950s, it was assumed that we would be flying to Venus and that we would have settlements on the moon and all kinds of things. Yet it is now 50 years since a man walked on the moon. The need to recommit ourselves to space is very important.

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere has an establishment in Chile, which is home to the very large telescope, known to its friends as the VLT, and the extremely large telescope, known as the ELT. It is quite simply unparalleled in terrestrial astronomy and totally deserving of our participation. I saw a television documentary on it; it is amazing what they are doing there.

I suppose the first thing we have to convince the Government of is that the European Space Agency is not an EU body, so we are not frightening the horses in this case. It is a major player in space, and it is vital that we continue with its work as part of a national policy to support the future growth and viability of the sector. The UK is the largest destination for space investment after the USA, and it is projected to take up some 10% of the global space market—a market already valued at £400 billion in 2022. Space technology already underpins key functions in communications, navigation, climate and weather forecasting, as well as in financial transactions and services.

As I said, it is 50 years since a man last walked on the moon, but the real exploration of space is only just beginning. The agencies cited in this order will be essential in ensuring that we receive all the benefits of the new space age.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his contribution and his apology, which I too think was well meant. We fully understand the reasons for it. I normally congratulate the Minister on his longevity in post. Of course, this is only the second time he has addressed this statutory instrument; I have had the fortune to address it three times. It is quite a horrendous story that an important protection that we are required to give under international conventions has been so difficult to implement. I ran into the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, last night; she introduced the original SI, and when she responded the first time it was presented she said that the road had been a difficult one, full of potholes and a lot of stumbling. I think that is true.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said:

“Although that 2018 version was made … it still did not implement all the immunities correctly … the treaty has not been ratified. FCDO told us that the error was identified in mid-2018 but its correction was delayed by the requirement to prioritise other legislation for Brexit, COVID-19, and then sanctions connected with the conflict in the Ukraine. Although FCDO says that there has been no actual detriment to the seven individuals involved, this unfortunate series of events casts doubt on FCDO’s competence in drafting effective legislation.”


I hear what the Minister said about double-checking that, but we need a very clear response from him about the impact this may have. As the Explanatory Memorandum says, the siting of this headquarters and bringing it into the UK has a positive economic effect. It is something that we should be encouraging more of, so when we make this sort of mistake it has an impact, as the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee specified, and we need to address it.

The Explanatory Memorandum says that the presence at Harwell

“is attracting businesses and research organisations to locate near to the cluster to enable them to easily access facilities, services and funding that the cluster offers”.

That is a good thing, and it really is a shame that we have not been able to properly implement those protections for the leadership of that cluster. What is the estimated economic benefit of this facility? How much have we been able to attract in locally to benefit that community?

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee received assurances from the department that there has been no detriment to the individuals. I find that difficult to understand, but anyway, that is what it says. However, the Explanatory Note says:

“An Impact Assessment has not been prepared for this Order as no, or no significant, impact is foreseen on the private, voluntary or public sectors in the United Kingdom”.


Here we have an organisation whose leadership has been impacted by this. Have they suffered a detriment? The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said there has been no detriment, but we need to have an assurance that some form of assessment was conducted about the potential impacts on the individuals, the organisation and, as the committee said, on our reputation of being able to facilitate these sorts of arrangements under international conventions.

Obviously, I read the debate on the SI in the other place. My honourable friend Stephen Doughty made it clear that we welcome this statutory instrument, its provisions and the facility in Harwell, so I do not want to pour scorn on this. It is a positive move and a good thing. The Minister said that the Government are taking action to ensure this does not happen again, but there must be some sort of reputational damage to us, particularly if we are to try to be a centre and to bring other international organisations into the United Kingdom. I apologise for being a little bit negative about this, but I accept that the Minister has given an apology and that we are putting something right. That is the most important thing.

BBC World Service

Lord McNally Excerpts
Thursday 1st December 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, as ever, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and I associate myself with the questions he has just asked. I think they belong to a wider debate we must have about the BBC. Nevertheless, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on the timeliness of this debate, as was illustrated by the Urgent Question that went just before it.

On Monday, the Prime Minister made the traditional foreign policy speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, in which he set out his views on Britain’s place in the world. In examining that role in the world, it is essential that the strength and influence of the soft power provided by the World Service is recognised. “This is London calling the world” still carries a resonance and respect that is unmatched by any other international broadcaster. The World Service could have no higher compliment than the efforts which authoritarian regimes such as Iran, China and Russia make to try to silence it.

The noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Stevenson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, set out many of the facts that are put in strength of this case, and five minutes is a short time to make all the points. Therefore, although I am grateful for the many briefings I have received, and I assure the authors that they will not go to waste, I want to concentrate on this question of funding. It is important to ensure that the funding of the World Service and its remit are considered in wider terms, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has just said. These decisions should be made by government and Parliament assessing all factors rather than by a cash-strapped BBC under constant attack from vested political and commercial interests.

That would mean reversing the decision taken in 2010 to place responsibility for funding the World Service with the BBC. In 2011, the Foreign Affairs Committee in the other place warned that this would have

“major long-term ramifications for the future of the World Service”—

and so it has proved.

I was a member of the coalition Government at that time and must accept my share of collective responsibility for it. It was clearly a mistake, and I support calls for a new regime, for funding the World Service, or a return to the former one, in the light of today’s realities. I suppose my defence for this change of mind is the dictum, often attributed to Lord Keynes, that when the facts change, I am entitled to change my mind—and, my goodness, have not the facts changed in the last 10 years?

A decade ago we were about to open the new “golden age” in our relations with China to which the Prime Minister referred in his Mansion House speech. Putin’s Russia had not emerged as the aggressor it is today, Brexit had not occurred, and an influential wing of the Conservative Party had not targeted the BBC in its culture wars. Whatever the rationale behind the decisions taken in 2011, they do not apply to the conditions we face today.

World Service funding needs to be assessed and provided in response to specific needs and national priorities, not as a response to the immediate budget constraints of the BBC. Its funding, as has been said, should revert to being a parliamentary grant in aid, with all departments that benefit from its work sharing the burden. In making that assessment we should also recognise the benefit of the World Service to our whole broadcasting ecology by providing correspondents with deep empathy and understanding of their home territories. This feeds into the BBC’s general news coverage and more general provisions, from documentaries to specialist podcasts. Here I associate myself again with a tribute to the courage and fortitude of the correspondents who carry out this work for us.

I wish the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, well in his maiden speech. I hope that this debate will give Parliament and government pause for thought about how we keep and sustain the soft power assets of the World Service and its wider cultural and reputational benefits during those difficult times.

In his Mansion House speech when he was Chancellor, the Prime Minister promised that the integrated review of foreign policy would be with us early in the new year. I hope that the Minister can assure us that the review will include an assessment of the contribution of the World Service to achieving our aims, along with a clear commitment that the World Service will have the budget to fulfil those objectives in the years ahead.

The UK’s Relationship with the Pacific Alliance (International Relations Committee Report)

Lord McNally Excerpts
Monday 1st February 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and his committee for this report. I am pleased that the Government drew our attention to the Canning agenda in their response, which was launched in 2010 by the then Foreign Secretary—now the noble Lord, Lord Hague. That was, of course, a statement of the coalition Government’s policy, and I am reassured that it remains the basis of the present Government’s approach.

Latin America always has difficulty in getting high up the list of British government priorities. We had only one colony on continental South America: Guyana. Spanish and Portuguese are the dominant languages. Customs and laws reflect their colonial past. Political and economic instability has too often been the norm, and external influences have often contributed to it. Little wonder it takes a little courage and fortitude to do business there. No one pretends that making a reality of building better, stronger and longer-lasting links with the Pacific Alliance will be easy, but global Britain should try.

In the brief time available, I will raise three points that would benefit from the Minister’s response. The first is the brush-off given in the Government’s reply to trade envoys. This is an error. This is not a job application, by the way, but I think it is a concept worth developing rather than sidelining. I have no direct experience of being a trade envoy, but I share an office with my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter, who was for five years the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Mexico. I can testify to the time, enthusiasm and hard work she devoted to that role, and how appreciated that work was by the Mexicans. The concept of Prime Minister’s trade envoys enables HMG to show a little tender loving care to countries and regions that may not qualify for a full ministerial visit. To inspire confidence, however, they should be clearly separated from any idea of personal patronage by the Prime Minister, although I see merit in associating the Prime Minister’s name with their mission.

Secondly, I mentioned that our only mainland South American colony was Guyana, but there are many Commonwealth members in the nearby Caribbean. Is there scope, in developing closer links with the Pacific Alliance, to encourage closer links between the Pacific Alliance and the Caribbean Commonwealth?

My third point concerns a more difficult part of our relationship. Mexico and Colombia are major sources of drug trafficking. Can our closer co-operation with the Pacific Alliance—and, if we foster them, its closer working relations with the Caribbean Commonwealth—help in the war on drugs?

It would be interesting to know whether the Foreign Secretary plans another Canning lecture any time soon, and whether it will contain any of the vision and sense of urgency contained in the 2010 speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hague. Will we, as he said in 2010, be keen to broker

“a strategic alliance between Latin America and Europe on climate change”,

or seek to make the UK

“the partner of choice in education and culture, offering new English language skills to a wider audience and fostering knowledge sharing and creativity in arts and science”?

The Canning House paper published in 2020 to mark the 10th anniversary of that speech noted some fear in the region that it would once again slip down our priority list. I know the Minister will be reassuring in his reply because he is the Minister for reassuring replies, but action, not words, will determine how far we have moved from the vision presented by the noble Lord, Lord Hague, on behalf of the coalition 11 years ago and the reality of our future relations with the Pacific Alliance.

Treaty Scrutiny: Working Practices (EUC Report)

Lord McNally Excerpts
Monday 7th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, I thank the chairs and members of these committees for their excellent reports, which are as topical as tomorrow’s headlines. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, for her contribution. There was grave danger of this being a rather herbivorous Committee, with us all agreeing and, knowing that the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, is himself a very skilful soother of worried brows, that we would have gone home tonight thinking that there is no problem and that it is all done and dusted. So I am grateful to the noble Baroness because I suspect that what she said was closer to what No.10 is thinking than any other contribution around this table tonight. I say to her that, yes, I am a remoaner, but the onus is now on her and her Brexiteer friends to deliver what they promised to the British people, which was sovereignty back to Parliament.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, is giving the new committee a dry run, and I hope it becomes a Joint Committee. There is an absolute reason for reform of the CRaG Act. As somebody else pointed out, it was written while we were fully embedded in the EU, with the European Parliament taking on a lot of the heavy lifting on these treaty matters. The CRaG therefore needs to be reformed.

On the royal prerogative, I do not go as far back as Bagehot, but I do go as far back as Tony Benn. I remember him putting forward reform of the royal prerogative to the then Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan. Unfortunately, Jim was far too much of a small “c” conservative on these matters to tolerate it—but in fact he was right. The quote from Bagehot that was given is right as well. The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, suggested some of the ways forward in looking at the royal prerogative, but the status quo is certainly not enough.

I also worry because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge—I am sorry that he is not here today to contribute—has given us ample warning of the overuse of Henry VIII powers in legislation. Along with Tony Benn, another voice from the 1970s and 1980s, Lord Hailsham, warned us of the danger of the democratic dictatorship, where, unless Parliament builds in the checks and balances to ensure both transparency and accountability, we will not be in a new era of parliamentary democracy in this country. We will find it very difficult.

This is the moment for a Parliament to exert itself. In a year’s time or two years’ time, we will be blithely told from the Dispatch Box, “Well, the precedent was established when we saw X Bill through or Y Bill through.” This is the moment of maximum leverage for Parliament. The Government have a lot of business to get through. If they want the co-operation of both Houses of Parliament in doing that, they should give cast-iron assurances that they will make the kind of amendments to our checks on the Executive called for in these three reports.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]

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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords—

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I want to raise with the Minister the question of how the amendment we are discussing can come into force. It is not covered by the existing list of sections that come into force when the Bill receives Royal Assent. Therefore, it requires to be brought in by regulation. If it is correct—and I must say, I assume that the authorities who have spoken on it already are certainly correct—that it is contrary to the legal rights of the territories, it may be that the regulations seeking to bring this provision into force would be challengeable by judicial review.

In any case, we know from experience that the mere fact that something has been put into statute does not mean that it will happen; if it is subject to being brought into law by a ministerial action, it may never be brought into law at all. I have fairly profound experience of that myself. Certainly, considerable consideration of this by the law officers of the Crown would be required if the Government were going to make an order under the commencement provisions in respect of something that is legally challengeable.

I raise this question as a matter of justice, and justice of course requires that justice be done to all. One of the difficulties with this provision is that attempting to do justice in these territories may lead to injustice to these territories, in that the business they have will go to other places where there is no such regulation, doing nothing to help the ultimate situation and in fact bringing into effect a different type of injustice. Justice is a difficult thing to operate across the world, as we all know, and it may not be easy to effect it in this situation.

My main point is on the commencement provision and the extent of the Bill, which is subject to Privy Council regulation. There is a fair amount to be done before this becomes law.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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My Lords, I gladly gave way to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, because I know from long experience that his contributions are always of great help to the Minister at the Dispatch Box, as they were for me for a number of years.

The overseas territories cannot say that they have not been represented in the House this afternoon. There have been passionate speeches, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. I am not going to be so hypocritical as to advise him that he should not challenge the wisdom of the other place, having only a couple of hours ago extolled to your Lordships the very virtues of this House occasionally challenging the views of the other place.

Following on from the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, this has to be put in context. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger, said that we had no direct interest in this legislation, but when places are called the British Virgin Islands or the British Overseas Territories, we have a reputational responsibility we cannot avoid. If we do, we will damage our reputation. It is therefore right to look at this issue.

I was Minister for the Crown Dependencies—I see the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, nodding—and my noble friend Lord Beith and I worked closely together precisely to avoid the impasse we have now reached. We recognised that we had to work out the problems so that Britain could take on its proper responsibilities for these matters without doing too much damage to the dependencies which were trying to catch up. The way it has worked is one of the reasons why the dependencies qualify so well in the temperature-taking of various international organisations.

However, we have to go beyond the technicalities. Much of the cynicism, particularly among young people, is caused by issues such as the Panama papers and other exposures. Yes, the City of London has to take responsibility for the obscene avoidance of taxes and its co-operation with criminality in moving large amounts of money around in a dark economy. It is that which produces the cynicism that undermines our democracies. Ever since I have been in politics we usually blame the French, but we cannot simply use the argument that if we stop doing it, the French will do it. That is not an excuse for not doing the right thing and trying to set standards. David Cameron was quite right in trying to do this.

It is quite clear, not least from the interventions of the distinguished jurists we have in this House, that there is a problem. The solution was given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown. My opinion of the Minister is boundless—he is going to have a couple of tough years ahead—and it would give him an opportunity to engage with the overseas territories to see whether the full implications of this legislation can be avoided by co-operation and initiatives, rather than the kind of process suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay. We have to see this in the context of a general public who are looking with nausea at what seems to be the ability of this money to find a home outside proper accountability.

I refer the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, to the briefing from 12 highly respected charities, and I understand the passion of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in defending Oxfam. Although he did not name the Members of the other place, I will do so. In fact, Margaret Hodge and Andrew Mitchell are very well respected for their knowledge of and interest in these areas. We have to realise that the other place has been neither impetuous nor ill-informed in what it wants to do. But within the wider moral context set out by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I hope that the Minister will find this debate useful in the very difficult diplomatic task that he now faces.

Lord Hunt of Wirral Portrait Lord Hunt of Wirral (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. I want only to say how much I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, when he paid tribute to my noble friend Lord Naseby for giving us the opportunity to discuss this matter. When the noble Lord, Lord McNally, was in charge of our overseas territories, together with others, he embarked on a very positive consultation with them. What we are now trying to put right are a number of intemperate comments made in the House of Commons during its debate, and here I want to thank my noble friend the Minister for the way in which he opened the debate in this House. He recognised that a number of people in the British Overseas Territories feel outraged about some of those comments. However, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, pointed out, we are in the process of legislating for British Overseas Territories without proper prior consultation with their respective parliaments. I think it was my noble friend the Minister who said that this in effect disenfranchises their elected representatives.

Because of my connections to one of the territories, Bermuda, I am aware of the huge concern about some of the comments which have been made. It is sad that this year Bermuda’s constitution will celebrate 50 years of enactment. Moreover, Bermuda’s Parliament dates back to 1612 and is the third-oldest continuous parliament in the world, with the first assembly meeting in 1620. The Bermudians are very proud of that, and rightly so. When those intemperate comments were made, one person emailed me immediately to say that the Bermudian Mary Prince was the first slave to present an anti-slavery petition to these Houses and the first black woman to write and publish an autobiography in 1831. Her experience of the horrors she endured was the first of its kind to be documented by a slave and her words were instrumental in this House in contributing to the abolition of the slave trade in British colonies in 1838, some 30 years following the abolition of slavery in this country. We have to recognise the huge amount of pride among Bermudians about their history. I think that they have every right to feel insulted, which is the word that several of them have used to me.

Furthermore, under the Bermudian constitution, the application of an Order in Council to the island would be technically illegal, and I hope that my noble friend the Minister will think carefully about the words of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, in that there really must be a way through this somewhere. I suppose we ought to put on the record that for some 80 years Bermuda has been a world-leading public authority with a central register of beneficial ownership which long predates those in developed countries, including the United Kingdom. At every stage the island has shared this information upon request with legitimate international authorities. Moreover, Bermuda provides the information within 24 hours or, in extreme cases, two hours. I hope that my colleagues understand that we must have this debate to put on record the case for the overseas territories and what they have done so well for so long.

European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2018

Lord McNally Excerpts
Wednesday 9th May 2018

(6 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure that I speak for myself and the noble Lord, Lord Collins—perhaps more for him than for myself. I am sure that he saw a captive audience at the back of the room; he was very impressed by the fact that we would have someone looking in. That was quickly diminished because, as noble Lords can see, the captive audience is made up of my officials.

I welcome the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and my noble friend Lady O’Cathain to the debate. It is good to hear that this issue has interest in it. The order is interesting. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, will no doubt remember, the order was laid before the House on 29 March. It amends the European Space Agency (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1978 and the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2009. I am sure that those orders are well-known to my noble friend Lady Goldie.

I start with the importance of the space sector. The European Space Agency and the European Organisation for Astronomical Research—also known as the European Southern Observatory, or ESO—are both important to the UK. We contribute more than £20 million annually to the ESO budget, for a share of just over 16%. We also contribute more than £300 million to the European Space Agency, making the UK the fourth-largest contributor. We are one of only six countries to host a European Space Agency, at the European Centre for Satellite Applications and Telecommunications in Harwell, Oxfordshire. This centre is a vital part of our strategy to develop the UK space sector—an area I know well from my time as a Minister at the Department for Transport. This is an important sector for the development of the UK economy in the future. The centre provides a focal point to showcase UK capability and partnerships. Working in partnership with the ESA, we are planning to develop an extension to our Oxfordshire campus which will house a meeting and exhibition space and a new conference centre. This will provide benefits not only to the space sector but to all sectors involved in the use of satellites, which currently contribute £250 billion to the UK economy. The space sector offers significant research and economic opportunities for the United Kingdom. British academics and businesses working in the sector are recognised internationally as leaders in the field and are in a strong position to take advantage of those opportunities.

I turn to the details of the order as it relates to each organisation. I turn first to the European Space Agency, established by a convention in 1975. The United Kingdom acceded to the convention and joined the agency the same year—although we had been collaborating with other European countries in this field for some decades before that. In 2013 we welcomed the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications to Harwell in Oxfordshire. This order amends the European Space Agency (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1978, which afforded privileges and immunities to agency staff and high ranking officers. The revision confirms the immunities and privileges to which staff are entitled and the number of high-ranking officers that the UK will recognise.

Specifically, it confers the status of high-ranking officer on the head of the Harwell centre, and also provides for the ESA director-general and a maximum of seven further members of staff working at the centre to be considered high-ranking officers. This means that they are entitled to certain privileges and immunities, including exemptions from social security contributions. They are not, however, entitled to immunity from suit or legal process, except for actions carried out during their official functions or inviolability of residence. These high-ranking officers play a significant part in shaping ESA policy, and are world leaders in their field. The presence of high-ranking officers at the space centre in Harwell strengthens our capability and credibility and is crucial for the growth of the UK space sector and for attracting inward investment.

I want to reassure noble Lords that the privileges and immunities afforded to officers of the agency are limited to those that are required for them to conduct official activities. They are in line with those offered to officers of other international organisations of which the UK is a member.

If I could perhaps pre-empt questions before they are asked: leaving the European Union will have no direct impact on the UK’s membership of the European Space Agency. The ability for UK staff to work effectively for the organisation before and after the UK’s departure from the European Union is controlled by our adherence to legislation that accurately reflects the convention and its protocol and the privileges and immunities it affords to staff.

I now turn to the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere. The Committee may recall that some of the provisions of the order that relate to that organisation were debated in this House early last year. That earlier version of the draft order exempted only high-ranking officers of ESO from social security contributions. Having reconsidered the position, my department came to the view that we can properly exempt all members of staff from these contributions. We regret that this issue was not addressed fully during the debate on this order on 30 March last year. Rather than continuing with the 2017 draft order and amending it in short order, we have decided it would be better to lay this further amending draft order and to include in it the new provisions in relation to the ESA, which were not contained in the 2017 draft order. I beg to move.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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My Lords, I address the orders, which I welcome and see as perfectly sensible for international organisations. I have two particular points. Yesterday, we debated in the House how Parliament will deal with the tsunami of SIs that are coming our way as a result of Brexit. As the Minister has just done in his conclusion, I draw attention to the fact that these orders contain three apologies for errors in previous orders and two corrections. This is a fairly simple, straightforward endorsement of the workings of multinational organisations in our country and abroad. There were five mistakes in one SI. With the best intentions in the world, we have to look at the real problems we will have in dealing with statutory instruments and the need for accuracy and effectiveness.

I can see a little scepticism in the room about me talking about the space industry. That is one of the great things about being in the House of Lords. I served as one of the main spokespeople for the party on the Space Industry Bill. We greatly enjoyed taking it through, but I immediately started getting letters that began with, “As an expert on the space industry”. I am not an expert but I should declare that my son, James, is a space engineer working in Munich for a Franco-German company.

My views are all my own and they impinge on the way in which the Minister introduced these orders, with reference to the space industry. I agree with the Minister that the prospects of the space industry are among the most exciting that face us. I am very proud that, under the coalition Government, the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, and Vince Cable did a lot to reinvigorate the space industry. I am reading Ken Clarke’s memoirs at the moment. He talks about the 1980s, when he was in the DTI, and how he and most of his colleagues had little interest in the space industry as a growth industry for the future.

Now, it is the exact opposite. There is tremendous excitement and a great deal of potential there. The Government have done a lot of good things since 2015 to carry the industry forward. I understand that the legislation covering the European space industry and other international commitments relating to space has nothing to do with our membership of the European Union. As I said, my son works in a Franco-German company; he works with Poles, Italians, Germans and the French as well as Brits. It stretches credulity not to imagine that an organisation such as that, which depends so much on international co-operation, will find it more difficult outside the EU to partner.

Space ports are a good example. When Europe looks for its space port, I wonder whether the Scottish, Welsh or Cornish bidder will have a better chance than the Portuguese when Europe makes its decision. It is the same with Galileo: we have already seen the removal of one of the Galileo preparatory units from Portsmouth back to mainland Europe. We have to face the fact that what is a very exciting industry will have some question marks over it, because of the decision on our membership of the EU. I once saw a very interesting documentary about what is going on down in Chile—although the ESO headquarters are in Munich, not where my son works, its main work is of course down in Chile. The documentary showed that it is exciting and right at the cutting edge of space exploration.

My only words to cloud this optimism is that I remember very clearly where I was 50 years ago, when man landed on the moon. Those of us who were alive then could not imagine that, 50 years later, we would have made so little progress in space exploration. On the other hand, my father, who was born in 1899, used to talk about how, as a boy growing up in Liverpool, he remembered seeing the first aeroplanes flying and what happened to flight in the 20th century. What I learned from the Space Industry Bill is that the space industry is probably where they were in the early 20th century and that it could make similar amazing progress. Along with that, the progress regarding satellite technology, deep space probes, the mining of asteroids and so on are on the agenda of our scientists and could make a massive difference to the century ahead.

I support the passage of the regulations, but I just give those two gypsy warnings about the difficulty of dealing with the SI tsunami that we face and the problems of making our space industry viable outside EU partnerships. Again, some of us are old enough to remember Blue Streak and other adventures into space and that going it alone did not work.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I know it is late in the day, so I will try not to bang on too much. I must admit, I did not expect to be making this speech again; as one of my brothers in the trade union movement used to say, it is déjà vu all over again. I do not know whether the Minister has had the opportunity to read the Lords Hansard from the last time we had this order but, if he has not, I will remind him of some of the contributions that I made. One mistake I made the last time we debated this order is that I managed to speak without saying the words, “the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere”. I realised this because, when I was searching for my last contribution using the Hansard search facility, it did not bring up my contribution, as I had managed to not say those words. So, for the record, I have said them now, so that just in case we have to return to this subject again, I know I will be able to find it.

I appreciate the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and I share his sentiments completely, and those of the Minister, about the importance of this. It is, strictly speaking, a sort of HR issue. This is about how we are going to treat employees of this organisation in accordance with an international treaty. I do not object to that—it is quite proper and should be done.

The concern I have is that this relates to a convention from 1962, according to the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie. We may be talking about other issues, but the protocol that we agreed to in the 2009 order—which took effect in 2012—and which we were talking about last March, was discovered to be defective in June 2014. There was a considerable period of time when this error went unnoticed but we now have to return to the subject. Last time we discussed it there were 40 employees: 38 in Chile and two in Germany. What is the score now? How many people are we talking about? What has been the impact of this error? Have people suffered a detriment? What is the cost to those individuals? If there has been a cost or a detriment to these individuals, what is the Foreign Office doing to address that? Will there be some form of retrospection?

When the Minister, Sir Alan Duncan, wrote to me, he acknowledged the parliamentary time that had been taken up and he regretted that it had been wasted. I accept that errors and mistakes happen, but this order has had a rather unfortunate journey, and I think we need an explanation. We need an assurance that things will be put right, and that the error has not resulted in people suffering a detriment. It may be that over this period of time, people have gone into and out of employment, which may complicate matters even more. I do not want to put too many onerous questions to the Minister. We have had a busy day already and are at the final hurdle but I hope that he will be able to answer me. The noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, was unable to answer me last time but I am hoping that the Minister will be able to on this occasion.

United States: Foreign Policy

Lord McNally Excerpts
Thursday 18th January 2018

(6 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Lamont of Lerwick Portrait Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con)
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My Lords, I first refer to my entry in the register of interests as a consultant to a number of companies in the Middle East and also to my role as the Government’s trade envoy to Iran. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, for introducing this debate. I agree with him on two particular points. One was the emphasis on diplomacy in tackling problems, and he may be surprised that I agree with him on the second point. In or out of the EU, on many issues we have to co-ordinate our policy with Europe, and the Government should develop a deep partnership.

I was slightly hesitant about speaking in this debate because I was worried that it would develop into an anti-Trump bandwagon. Although I share many criticisms of President Trump we have to accept and respect that he is the President of the United States, and not everything single thing that he has done has been wrong. None the less, I want to concentrate on one issue relating to the United States policy that is wrong, which is its policy towards Iran.

I was in Tehran last week with Jack Straw and Sir Peter Westmacott, our former ambassador to the United States. Naturally, we raised the cases of the dual citizens: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Foroughi. We also expressed concern about the riots and what was happening there and told them the world would be watching. My view, and it has been my view for a long time, is that, with Iran, we need a policy of critical engagement. Engagement—but critical—because, although it is in many ways an authoritarian country, to my mind it is one with a capacity to change and is much more open than many of the other countries with which we are closely allied in the neighbourhood.

On the issue of riots in Tehran, there are of course many interpretations. One thing that struck me particularly while I was there was the reaction of President Rouhani. He not only defended the rights of the demonstrators to demonstrate; he went further. He said this is an opportunity for us to listen and to learn. He went even further than that and said that this is not just about economics, it is about freedom. Lastly, just the day before I left, he said that the young in his country have a completely different view of the future, and they cannot go on imposing their way of life on them. President Rouhani renewed his commitment to honour his election promises about more freedom and more economic benefit.

My view is that the best way to help those who were demonstrating and felt compelled to riot is to make sure that we make the nuclear agreement effective and give the Iranians some benefit from the agreement. President Trump has indicated that he wants to tear it up and that he thinks Iran is not complying with the agreement, despite the fact the International Atomic Energy Agency has issued 10 reports indicating that Iran is 100% compliant. His own State Department does not agree with him. I do not think the CIA agrees with him. No European Government agrees with him. None the less, he has indicated that, although he has signed the waiver on sanctions this time, in another 90 days he will not do it again. If that is to happen, it will make the agreement really ineffective. It will be extremely difficult for Europe to carry on on its own, and I would like the Minister to comment on one point.

I gather there was a meeting between Mr Zarif and EU Foreign Ministers a few days ago in which there was discussion of whether Europe could isolate itself from American sanctions by some legal mechanism, rather similar to what Mrs Thatcher did with sanctions against Libya in the 1980s and sanctions against Russia. We took action then, so could we not take action again? If America retains some sanctions it is very difficult for EU banks to make trade at all possible.

From an Iranian point of view, there is this huge feeling of betrayal. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, put the emphasis on diplomacy. Henry Kissinger once said that we want Iran to be less of a revolutionary cause and to become more of a normal state. It will only be able to do that if it actually feels that diplomacy pays and that agreements are honoured. If that agreement is simply torn up it will be the worst possible signal towards Iran. We need Iranian involvement in dealing with the crises in Yemen and in Syria, and we want the Iranians to feel that diplomacy is necessary to reaching a solution in those areas. Even after we have left the EU, I hope that the Britain’s cooperation within the EU3 will continue because such diplomacy, in co-ordination with our European partners, is extremely important. We should not simply follow the United States on this issue because on this, I am sorry to say, it is profoundly wrong.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords—

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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Oh, I do apologise.

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Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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My Lords, I had better start by saying that I thought that that was an excellent speech and I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, for trying to deprive the House of it. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, on bringing this topic before us and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, that the tone of the debate has been well set.

Early in March 1974, I was in the back of a limousine, returning from Foggy Bottom to the British Embassy with the new British Foreign Secretary, James Callaghan, who had just had his first meeting with Henry Kissinger. I was a 31-year-old, very enthusiastic political secretary—we did not call ourselves spads in those days. I was enthusing to Mr Callaghan about just how well the meeting had gone and how well he had got on with Dr Kissinger. Mr Callaghan leaned back and said, “Tom, it is part of the job description of a British Foreign Secretary to get on with the American Secretary of State”. That is perfectly true—it is a priority that the British Foreign Secretary should have to this day, and I hope he has.

Over the last 40 years, Britain has had a unique foundation for its foreign policy as the only country with membership of the UN Security Council, NATO, the Commonwealth and the EU. These interlocking relationships have given us a unique combination of hard and soft power. We have also had, as the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, referred to, the BBC World Service, an instrument of soft power underpinned by its expertise and integrity.

The idea that our departure from Europe gives us an opportunity for some new global role is fantasyland. To proffer the Commonwealth as a practical alternative to the European single market is a delusion. The Commonwealth is a tremendous example of our soft power but it is not, and never can be, an alternative trading bloc. Every Commonwealth country has its own regional trading commitments and will rank its relations with those trading commitments, and with the EU, above any bilateral trading arrangements with the UK.

Let us look forward to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the spring, but let us do so while playing to the Commonwealth’s soft power strengths. If the Government try to play the Commonwealth as some alternative to EU membership they will run into trouble, not least from Commonwealth countries themselves.

On other fronts, as we have heard, there are various thoughts about where we go next in keeping the links with the EU and possible new links with the USA. On 16 January, Tony Barber wrote an interesting article in the Financial Times, headed “Britain’s Transatlantic Bridge Looks Shaky”. In it he makes two points of great relevance to this debate. First, he draws attention to the 28-page document drawn up as the basis of Germany’s new grand coalition Government. He tells us that the document,

“said much about German co-operation with France to deepen EU and eurozone integration. It stated that US, Chinese and Russian policies obliged Europe to assume more responsibility for its future. But on Brexit, and on the UK generally, the CDU-SPD document is deafeningly silent. For all the wishful thinking in London, Brexit is not a top priority for German politicians”.

Barber’s second point is that, between 2005 and 2015, the UK ran an average annual trade surplus of over £28 billion with the United States. The US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has already made it clear that, if the UK wants a far-reaching deal, Washington expects London to depart from any close regulatory alignment with the EU. In other words, any bilateral trade deal is going to be as tough and hard-nosed as we know our American cousins can be.

This does not mean that we do not continue to build on our US relationship. A very old friend of mine—an American academic, John Reilly—in the Christmas newsletter he sends out to friends, summed it up like this, “Ours is a vast and resilient country, with a people still younger than most, a continent still richer than most, an economy more innovative than most, and an international record prouder than most”.

As has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and others, the tectonic plates are moving and we are going to need the kinds of foreign policy initiatives that have already been enunciated, as well as, I say again, a well-skilled and well-resourced Foreign Office. I remember Jim Callaghan saying in 1974, as we were settling in, “This is a Rolls-Royce department”. Perhaps it is time to get the Rolls-Royce off its bricks and put it back into service.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
Wednesday 17th January 2018

(6 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham
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My Lords, I support what the noble and learned Lord has said. My own view is that the power in the Bill gives far too great a power to Ministers. The fact that this specific power is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure is not a sufficient safeguard, not least because—a point I have made time and again—the procedure does not provide a power of amendment.

Let us consider for a moment what this power enables the Government to do. It could be used in amending, revoking or repealing existing legislation or to extend classes of offence to which the amended legislation applied. It could be used to increase penalties. It could be used to remove statutory defences. It could be used to amend the definition of criminal intent. Indeed, it could make absolute offences that presently require proof of a specific intent. Because it is an amending power, it could be used to give further powers to the investigating officials or to increase the penalties imposed by the courts.

One can get a very good guide as to what could be done from the clause of the Bill on enforcement, Clause 16, where one can find among other things that the regulations could impose a sentence of imprisonment of up to 10 years. That could be done by regulation—without the power to amend. There is a further objection if one actually considers, just for a moment, the purpose that can be used to justify the regulations. Clause 1(2) states:

“A purpose is within this subsection if the appropriate Minister making the regulations considers that carrying out that purpose would—


(a) further the prevention of terrorism, in the United Kingdom or elsewhere,

(b) be in the interests of national security,

(c) be in the interests of international peace and security, or

(d) further a foreign policy objective of the government of the United Kingdom”.

Paragraph (a) is all right, but paragraph (b) is becoming pretty broad and paragraph (c) is even broader, and paragraph (d) refers to an objective that might never previously have been discussed by Parliament or even disclosed to an admiring public. We are enabling a Minister, by fiat, to introduce regulations of that kind.

There are well-intentioned Ministers on the Front Bench such as the noble Lord, Lord Young. We have known each other for almost 60 years. I would no doubt be very content to let him have those powers. But then I ask myself whether I would want to give those powers to Mr McDonnell or Jeremy Corbyn. I suspect that nobody in your Lordships’ House tonight would wish to do that—certainly not the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, very sensible fellow that he is. I suspect that we would be paving the way to the elective dictatorship of which my father wrote and spoke.

If we are to do these things we do them by primary legislation, surely not by secondary legislation over which we have precious little control and when I know that the Whips will be very active with noble Lords who have never read the legislation. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord will press his amendment, but, if he does, he will have my support.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, John Major once gave some wise advice to the Conservative Party after it had been in office for nearly 18 years. He said, “Always remember that one day we will have to take the Conservative Party into opposition”. I always think it is rather reckless of a Government to legislate with the assumption that they will always be in power and that the powers they are giving themselves will always be used in the benign way that they intend.

I am pleased to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. When I first came into this House, his father used to sit in the same seat. One of his more unnerving habits was to keep up a running commentary on speakers in a not so sotto voice. But the noble Viscount is quite right: 40 years ago in the Dimbleby lecture, his father warned precisely against an elective dictatorship—a Government with a majority in the Commons who could force through various Acts that would not be suitable in a parliamentary democracy.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has done a great service to Parliament by challenging the Henry VIII clauses that are coming like a great flotilla down the channel towards us in the legislation that the Government have in mind.

I make only one plea, and not just to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad; I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Young, is on the Front Bench as well. He is somebody with the parliamentary experience to tell No. 10 that it must think of a different way of dealing with this kind of legislation. Up with this the House will not put—I think I put that in the Churchillian way. Anyway, it will not. The Government must think again and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and others have offered to help them.

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Let me say at the outset that between Committee and Report we have considered many matters raised by noble Lords. I listened very carefully to the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and others, although I felt at one point, after hearing the contributions of my noble friend Lord Hailsham and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, that I should be handing over the Bill file to my noble friend Lord Young. I notice that he has escaped before I could avail myself of that opportunity.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally
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When the Whips desert you, you are in real trouble.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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I am sure, though, that the noble Lord will agree that I have a very formidable Whip to my left. I am delighted to be joined by my noble friend Lady Goldie, who I can assure noble Lords is very well equipped in the robust defence of the position and policy. However, I am sure noble Lords will understand that I cannot accept this amendment but I will offer some comments in this regard.

First, the power in the Bill is not unusual. It is worth noting, indeed, that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, in its report on the Bill, made no comment on the inclusion of this delegated power. However, I recognise that the House has concerns, reiterated today, about the breadth of the regulation-making powers conferred by the Bill and I hope I can provide some reassurance that this particular consequential power is both appropriate and necessary. Importantly, the power can be used only to make savings provisions or other provisions that are consequential, supplemental, incidental or transitional to the sanctions or money laundering regulations. I assure noble Lords that it does not confer the power to make any changes to legislation that are independent of the sanctions and money laundering powers. It provides a tool to make changes to ensure that the statute book works but it does not give the Government the ability to change swathes of legislation without regard to that specific purpose.

Specific questions have been raised in this respect and, rather than detain the House, I shall offer those reassurances at this point. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and my noble friend Lord Hailsham both raised the issue of the substance. I believe the phrase, which is not the most legal of terms I have heard from the noble and learned Lord, was “nothing to bite on”. I will look up the constitutional books in that respect, but of course I understand the substance of his point. Let me assure the noble and learned Lord that the regulations in the Bill can be made only for the purpose set out in the Bill and impose sanctions of the type set out in the Bill. This clause permits only amendments consequential on the types of sanctions imposed for these particular purposes.

The noble and learned Lord also made a general point about Henry VIII powers. I assure him that they are there to serve a real purpose: to enable Ministers to make the necessary updates to the statute book that arise solely as a result of the sanctions and money laundering regimes.

My noble friend Lord Hailsham raised the list of uses of this power. I assure him that this can be used only to make amendments that arise as a consequence of the imposition of sanctions or rules against money laundering and not to make free-standing changes; for example, to change rules of evidence in an unrelated case. Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, rightly raised the issue of the courts and scrutiny, and how courts will police the use of these powers. I can say on behalf of the Government that we welcome and respect the scrutiny of the courts: they act, indeed, as a check on Ministers, as a useful safeguard which I hope will also reassure noble Lords. I hope that the assurances I have given have added clarity in the context of the powers in the Bill and shown that they are appropriately limited to what is deemed necessary. On the basis of this explanation I hope that the noble and learned Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]

Lord McNally Excerpts
Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick
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Perhaps I may add one brief point to what was said so powerfully by the noble and learned Lord, which is to remind the House of what was said by your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, of which he and I are members. The committee’s eighth report of this Session, which was on the Bill, stated in paragraph 21:

“We are deeply concerned that the power in clause 16 may be used to create an offence for which a sentence of imprisonment for up to 10 years may be imposed, and that rules on the evidence to demonstrate that the case is proved, and defences to such charges, are subject to ministerial regulation. We consider that such regulation-making powers are constitutionally unacceptable and should not remain part of the Bill”.


The Minister has dealt in Amendment 46 with the second part of that criticism, which is the quite extraordinary suggestion in the original Bill that a Minister, by regulations, should have power to alter defences to charges and to address rules on evidence, such as the burden and standard of proof. This was a quite extraordinary suggestion and I hope that the House will never again see such a provision presented in a Bill by Ministers. However, to his credit the Minister has accepted in Amendment 46 that that provision should be removed. What remains is the suggestion that Ministers should have the power to create offences for which a sentence of imprisonment of up to 10 years is imposed—and on that I entirely agree with what the noble and learned Lord said.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, perhaps I may intervene here as a non-lawyer because I see our lawyers fluttering into their places, rather like that scene in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. I would like to make a wider point to the House, which is one I have made over the last 20 years in Parliament. It is that one of the crucial roles of this Chamber is to defend the constitution and, above all, to defend it in terms of the relative powers of the judiciary, the Executive and the legislature.

Just over 10 years ago I was on the Cunningham committee, which looked at conventions between the two Houses. If I left a mark on that committee, it was in the clause that states and retains the right of this House to say no. It is the most important power that this House has. It is a nuclear power and something not to be used very often, but it makes the other place come into dialogue and it makes Governments think again. What worries me about the process now under way is that because of the sheer volume of Brexit legislation that will come our way, with a whole flotilla of Bills, it is quite clear that the members of whatever team is looking at this in the Cabinet Office have said, “We can only do this by using secondary legislation and Henry VIII powers on an unprecedented scale”. If they were successful in doing this we would, in my submission, tilt the balance away from the legislature to the Executive in a way that was not intended—and certainly not intended by those who argued for Brexit as a way of returning power to this Parliament.

This is one of the early tests of it. Funnily enough, the earliest test was in the little-noticed Space Industry Bill where there was a whopping great Henry VIII clause which, after the intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, the Government withdrew. By voting for and carrying this amendment today, right at the start of this process, we will send a message that will make the Government think again—and think more imaginatively and more constitutionally—about how they are going to deal with this legislation without adopting these practices, the dangers of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, so eloquently explained.

It is a real danger. If we are forced in Bill after Bill to carry amendments, the House of Lords will be accused of exceeding its powers. I do not think that we are exceeding our powers. We are doing what Lord Hailsham referred to almost 40 years ago: trying to avoid the dangers of a democratic dictatorship where the other place simply argues that we must obey. We must not just obey, particularly with clauses such as this which tilt the balance away from the way in which law, and in particular criminal law, is made, in a quite unacceptable way. By voting for this amendment tonight, we will send a message which will avoid a constitutional car crash further down the road.