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Column 1232is that it will take place between the local authority associations and the Government, at the strategic stage, before the ideas are fully codified. From discussions with representatives of the various local government associations, I know how pleased they are about the level of co-operation between themselves and the Government. The idea behind the consultation is not to cut through red tape, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham suggested, but to avoid red tape being placed in the way of the local authorities and their schemes. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will make it clear that, under that process, it is intended that few applications will have to be made through Whitehall.
Lords amendment No. 2 seems very reasonable. We must bear in mind that most of the schemes will be ones that we come across jointly, in both central and local government. The Local Government International Bureau has a fund of expertise because of experience that it has gained from a number of years of overseas co-operation. It would be unfortunate if the Department of the Environment, which has expertise in local government but not in overseas assistance, were to try to second-guess or shadow the work of the Local Government International Bureau.
I should like my hon. Friend the Minister to assure the House that the kind of consultation and co-operation suggested in the Bill will take place, and that the advice offered to overseas local authorities will be joint advice, given by local government associations and central Government.
There must be a degree of certainty about such local government activity. For the reasons already eloquently expressed by my hon. Friends, however, local authorities are accountable to their charge payers. Those authorities must be able to demonstrate that what they are doing is reasonable and worthwhile.
I commend the two amendments to the House and have much pleasure in supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe on this valuable and important Bill.
Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre) : I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words in support of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester). He has done the House a service by introducing the Bill, and I am pleased that it is close to gaining its Royal Assent.
As a number of my hon. Friends have already said, the Bill is most useful. I see nothing wrong in encouraging links between local authorities in this country and those elsewhere in the world. It is clear from the debate that not only eastern Europe but many other parts of the world will benefit from the experience that we have gained from decades, if not centuries, of local government. That experience enables us to provide the technical know-how that is so important to various nations across the world, especially in eastern Europe.
I must admit that I had not thought of councils such as Lambeth advising anybody. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) dealt very well with such a possibility. When one looks at some of our local councils, one sees that we must be careful to ensure that our reputation for local government is not damaged. For example, if certain of the inner-London councils were to give advice to eastern Europe, that would be damaging to everybody.
Column 1233It is important, in respect of both the amendments, that we have consultation and guidance between central Government, in the form of the Department of the Environment, and local government, to ensure that we get the best advice about how to proceed. I have been impressed by the range of activities that are already undertaken across the globe, and the range of links between our local government authorities and those in many other parts of the world.
I hope that, as a result of Lords amendment No. 1, the consultation process will include much of the information and knowledge that we have built up over the years. I note that the councils of Strathclyde and Birmingham are already extensively involved in overseas schemes. I hope that that experience can be brought to bear in the consultation process.
The guidance offered must be of a fairly general nature. It should not be too prescriptive. For example, on the Traffic Calming Bill, which I introduced a year and a half ago, there was considerable discussion about how much guidance the Department of Transport should give local councils in coming up with various traffic calming schemes. After much discussion, it was felt that the guidance in that case should be of a general nature to allow individual authorities to come up with their own ideas within that general framework, allowing them maximum opportunity for developing those ideas.
I should like to have similar guidance under this Bill. It is important that local authorities are given enough discretion to come up with their own ideas, provided that those fit into an overall general model.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington) mentioned the speed with which the guidance and consultation exercise takes place. That is a bit of a worry. Although the Traffic Calming Bill was enacted two months after Royal Assent, the guidance on it took another 12 months to be issued. I hope that it will not take as long in this case and that the consultation exercise, at least initially, will be relatively brief so that councils can get on with the matters that will be so useful, particularly in eastern Europe.
In that respect, I have more confidence than my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham appears to have about co-operation between central Government and local government. We always see where it has not worked well, but we do not always see the majority of cases in which co-operation is effective between chief executives, individuals at the Department of the Environment, and individual councils. That co-operation is working all the time and, generally, it is highly successful.
I am reasonably confident, therefore, that, provided that the consultation and guidance exercise is carried out reasonably quickly, it will act as a spur to local authorities, give them the necessary background information, and result in this initiative getting off the ground quickly.
I am therefore very much in favour of both the amendments and hope that they go through relatively quickly.
Mr. Roy Thomason (Bromsgrove) : Like other hon. Members I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) on introducing the Bill. It is a timely and appropriate measure and I support the Lords amendments before us.
It is appropriate that I should briefly intervene in this debate as I was, for many years, a member of the board of
Column 1234the Local Government International Bureau as well as being chairman of the Association of District Councils. I was, therefore, much involved in early consideration of issues relevant to the Bill. I was extremely concerned at the initial lack of responsiveness shown by Ministers' reluctance to consent to schemes that involved local government talking to eastern Europe, in particular. With other colleagues from the world of local government, I often lobbied Ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of the Environment to press on them the good work that it was possible for local government to do in disseminating best practices and encouraging local democracy in eastern Europe and other parts of the world.
It was, therefore, with great delight that I noted that Ministers listened to representations made by local government. They have given every encouragement to the development of schemes disseminating best practice and information. I was worried that, initially, other Governments were encouraging their local councils to establish contacts and I felt that it was important that British local government should work with foreign Governments because we have something special to offer.
There is much criticism of the relationship between central Government and local government in this country, and of how local government operates, but we should be proud of the work undertaken by men and women who sit on councils throughout the country and of their achievements. We should be proud of their contribution to community life over the years. Naturally, bad examples exist and my hon. Friends have rightly referred to those. Nevertheless, the majority of those who serve in local government undertake a difficult task very well. It is important that other nations are made aware of our experiences.
I welcome the amendment proposing consultation, which is the essence of the thinking behind the Bill. The Government listened to local government in working out schemes and went on to listen to their concern about limiting powers. They have, therefore, supported my hon. Friend's measure and consulted, throughout the Bill's passage, with local government associations and the Local Government International Bureau. I pay tribute to Ministers' work in that respect.
It is important that the general authorisation will be wide enough to avoid excessive scrutiny, because we do not want every scheme to be placed on a Minister's desk and studied in detail. I hope that, as a matter of course, it will include all know-how fund schemes and that de minimis rules will apply so that small schemes can be proceeded with without undue delay or the bureaucracy of formal consideration at departmental level.
I hope that, within certain limitations, local government staffing costs will be excluded in calculating the value of schemes, because it is difficult to quantify the work that may be done in committee and clerking time in considering such measures, and the assistance that is given within an authority in working out and progressing a scheme. I accept that it should not be seen as an excuse for some authorities to engage considerable numbers of staff devoted specifically to developing international work.
I welcomed approaches made in the late 1980s by members of local government in eastern Europe, a number of whom I met. They were seeking ways of understanding the development of their role. I met councillors who did not understand the basics of democratic principles ; how
Column 1235they should open a dialogue with their electors ; or what sort of relationship they should have with the management of local government. All those concepts were strange to them. They had no idea how they operated.
We need not only to disseminate information on the operation of democracy at ground floor level but to help with the development of local government associations so that they can establish the dialogue to which I referred earlier, which allows local and central Government to talk together. Councillors also need assistance in management to ensure that democracy is not discredited by inefficient management. I hope that the schemes will assist in that walished.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry) : First, I congratulate and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) on taking the Bill through the House. We have had a full and considered debate and he and other hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson), have explained the benefits of the Bill and the contribution that it can make. The tearing down of the Berlin wall and the disintegration of the Warsaw pact led to greater opportunities for local authorities here to share their experiences with countries in eastern Europe and elsewhere. My hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West gave an account of what the chief executive of Torridge district council, Mr. Brasington, is doing. That shows that a contribution is being made not just in eastern Europe but throughout the developing world.
My hon. Friends the Members for Fulham (Mr. Carrington), for Southport (Mr. Banks), for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), for Wyre (Mr. Mans) and for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason) made useful contributions to the debate. I hope that I shall be able to deal with them before I am interrupted by the traditional Friday morning 11 o'clock point of order sound bite.
Amendment No. 1 requires the Secretary of State to consult local government representatives before giving a general authorisation. In practice, that will mean consultation with local authority associations.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister was right for once. As you are probably aware from reading this morning's newspapers, there has been a further disclosure. The Minister of State Home Office, the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd), has been referred to as the fourth Minister making representations on behalf of Asil Nadir. A day or two ago the Attorney-General refused to give us additional information. Does the Attorney-General intend to come to the House today to tell us exactly how many
Column 1236other Ministers, perhaps Treasury Ministers, are involved in making representations on behalf of Asil Nadir in return for the money that he has given to the Tory party? Will a statement be made?
Mr. Pickles : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has raised that matter on his own behalf and not on behalf of a national newspaper. May we have--
Dr. Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy) rose --
Dr. Moonie : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I crave your indulgence. The Scotsman has today leaked in detail the Government's White Paper on local government reform for Scotland. We await that White Paper with interest and it is highly controversial. Have you been informed about the leak and, in view of it, do the Government intend to advance the publication of the White Paper so that hon. Members may have a chance to see what The Scotsman has already seen?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Madam Speaker has made it quite clear that official documents should first be presented to the House and has deprecated the leaking from any source of any form of documentation that should first be presented in this Chamber.
Mr. Baldry : Before we were interrupted by English and Scottish sound bites, I was dealing with the amendment which requires the Secretary of State to provide local authorities with guidance about the exercise of the Bill's powers.
We have made it clear throughout that we intend to consult local government on the content of the general authorisation and issue guidance on the working of the Bill. Some of my hon. Friends asked for assurances and undertakings that there would be common sense guidance and consultation. I am happy to give that undertaking. The guidance and consultation will be with all local authority associations, including the National Association of Local Councils which represents parish and town councils as well.
The relationship that has developed during the passage of the Bill clearly demonstrates the generally close working relationship between central and local government. The debate has been full and detailed. My hon. Friends have raised some pertinent issues and the amendments have been properly balanced and examined. I commend them to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Lords Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 agreed to.
Lords Amendments considered.
Lords amendment : No. 1, in page 1, line 12, leave out ("High court or").
This amendment and the others before the House today are the result of a constructive dialogue in another place with which I have had the honour to be associated as the originator and sponsor of the Bill and which has resulted in a much improved Bill, I shall be brief because there are other matters for debate this morning.
The amendment relates to the judge to whom the prosecution may appeal. When the Bill left this House, the prosecution would have had a right of appeal to a judge of the Crown court or the High Court. That was because I wanted the largest possible number of senior judges to be available to hear appeals, because it is obviously of great importance that an arrested person should have his appeal determined as quickly as possible.
However, it has been drawn to my attention that if the prosecution were able to appeal to a judge of the High Court it might involve an application for civil legal aid, which can take rather longer to grant than criminal legal aid. That might result in the arrested person not securing legal representation until a late stage in the 48 hours allowed for the appeal to come on. I was, therefore, content to accept the amendment and I commend it to the House.
Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester) : I think that hon. Members will welcome the Bill, which has been widely welcomed in the other place. The outrage felt by the general public about the events that led to the necessary introduction of the Bill is widely understood. However, I am concerned about the amendment and about some other aspects of what has happened to the Bill since it left the House without a full Second Reading. That concern stems from the fact that we seem to be steadily narrowing the scope of the Bill to which the House gave an unopposed and undebated Second Reading. I particularly question why we think it necessary further to narrow the scope of the Bill by excluding the possibility of a prosecution application to a High Court judge. I fear that, in the absence of a Second Reading debate, their Lordships have not had sufficient guidance about how the House felt about the Bill. Had they been guided by that debate, they might have understood our real sense of outrage.
Is the whole Bill and not just the amendment broadly drawn? I refer especially to instances that have occurred recently in my constituency. As I understand it, amendment No. 1 will bring no comfort to the police in West Mercia, where a driver was recently convicted of driving while disqualified and for a number of related offences. He was granted bail and subsequently committed eight further similar offences for which he was also granted bail. The Crown court judge criticised that, and I believe that he would have been concerned that the Bill would not help the police or the prosecuting authorities in that case.
Only on Thursday this week, in my police force area an
Column 1238individual was arrested at 4 am for burglary from a public house. He was already on bail for an identical offence. By 4 pm on the day of his arrest, 12 hours later, he was on bail again. Nothing, either in the Bill or in the amendment, remedies such a problem. I understand that the problem is even worse than that. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the police are obliged to release people on police bail if certain conditions are not met. The seriousness of the offence provides no ground for resisting bail. Therefore, even those charged with murder, if the conditions are not met, can and must be released on bail.
The scope of the Bill has nevertheless been narrowed time and again. I understand that in the Standing Committee of this place the clause relating to the presumption of the right to bail was dropped from the Bill to enable it to make progress. I fear that this amendment is yet another example of dropping something difficult from the Bill to enable it to make progress. Is my hon. Friend absolutely sure, in his heart of hearts, that this amendment, which narrows the scope of the Bill still further, is essential to enable the Bill to reach the statute book rapidly, as we wish it to do?
From what I have read of the debates in another place, and also from my hon. Friend's remarks, I understand that we are being obliged to make this amendment to the Bill because of concern that the legal aid system is unable to respond quickly enough to requests for new legal aid certificates. The view that High Court judges should be included in the scope of the Bill is, I believe, widely shared in all parts of the House. We are, therefore, being invited to make bad legislation because of bad administration. It is unsatisfactory that the House should find itself in this position. I am sure that all of us regard it in principle to be just as important that High Court judges should be included in the scope of the Bill. However, because of the different legal aid requirements relating to Crown court judges and concern about the speed of issuing legal aid certificates, we are dropping that provision from the Bill.
I ask my hon. Friend for particular guidance on the type of offender who is likely to gain the bail now, without the right of a prosecution appeal, as a result of this House accepting the amendment. I suspect that, sadly, the House will have to accept the amendment, if only to ensure that the Bill makes the progress that we wish it to make.
As I have repeatedly said, I am concerned that even before the Bill began its passage through Parliament its scope was too narrow. The scope of offences that it included could have been widened, to the great satisfaction of the people outside the House who are so concerned about the increase in the number of offences committed while offenders are on bail. Despite that concern, we are restricting the scope of the Bill.
I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to reassure me that my constituents need not be concerned if acceptance of the amendment leads to a particular class of offender being more likely to be released on bail than would otherwise have been the case. If I receive such an assurance, I suspect that, reluctantly, I shall be able to support the amendment. Nevertheless, I must register my real concern that a Bill which was already too narrowly drawn has been virtually emasculated. I am most concerned that we should do nothing to weaken its strength even further.
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam) : I warmly welcome the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) has reflected the great anxiety of the public about this issue and has responded to it in a way that is widely welcomed both in this House and outside. I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff), who regretted that we did not have a Second Reading debate on this most important Bill.
I welcome the amendment, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester pointed out, there is danger when the High Court is excluded, for reasons related to the terms on which criminal and civil legal aid is granted. The right of appeal must be fast ; it must also be accessible. Sufficient Crown court judges must be available at all times. An alleged offender could, for example, be held over a weekend. Custody for him will continue unless the matter is dealt with properly, Therefore, it is appropriate that Crown court judges should be available at all hours, even at weekends. Justice must be seen to be properly done.
The principle of the right of appeal is important. The fact that so many persistent offenders get off scot free when let out on bail must be addressed. There is so much public frustration about it. It is appropriate that we should respond to newspaper headlines. One of these reads :
"Uproar as deaths case joyrider is jailed."
That headline refers to Christoper Lewin, aged 19, who was already on bail for two other driving offences when he killed two small children, Adele Thompson, aged 12, and Daniel Davies, aged nine. Adele was flung 90 ft and Daniel 50 ft. Their crime was collecting pennies for the guy.
It is tragic that the magistrates were not sufficiently alert when Lewin appeared in court six weeks earlier on other joyriding offences. I believe that we should rewrite the English language. We should refer not to joyriding but to deathriding. What is done kills and maims and is destructive. The expression "joyriding" is, I fear, deeply offensive to all those who have been so badly injured and to the relatives of those who have been killed.
When Lewin appeared in court--this is a good example of why the amendment is so important--the police had objected with some vehemence on two previous occasions to his being freed, because he had already been charged with reckless driving and other offences. I wonder whether the magistrates had full access to his previous record. Furthermore, do magistrates have access to the full records of all the people who appear in front of them?
The reason for the deep offence caused to the public and for their strong feelings about the amendment is that car-related crime is a curse. In my Sutton constituency, which I have made something of a landmark--[ Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."]--there is as much car crime as anywhere else in the country. It is what I would describe as a textbook example of the sheer scale of the problem that we face. When arguing about the need to keep persistent offenders in custody, we should bear in mind that we are referring not just to those who have committed murder or rape. In their way, car-related offences are deeply serious, because of their sheer scale, and reinforce the need for the amendment.
I do not want to underestimate the seriousness of charges of violence--for instance, the horrific case of Anna McGurk of Gloucester who was raped and murdered by a
Column 1240man on bail. Bail had been granted, despite strong police objections. Again, such a case justifies the amendment. The details of how that offender came to be freed are terrifying. He had been arrested for the brutal rape of a 20-year-old woman just 24 days before he murdered Anna. Had the amendment been in force, the police appeal against releasing that man on bail would have succeeded and Anna would still be alive.
In February, there was the case of the murder of Cathy Ainsworth. She would not have died had her boyfriend, Adrian Black, not been released on bail. The amendment would have kept him in custody and he would never have been able to shoot Cathy.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has long been aware of the seriousness of the problem. In February 1992 the Home Office produced a paper, "Offending on Bail : Survey of Recent Studies", which suggested that, on average, reoffending crimes increased by 26,000 between 1985 and 1990.
My experience in my textbook example of Sutton is of a demoralised police force. In their professionalism, the police find it frustrating and have almost given up opposing bail. They know that most criminals who appear in court will be released, despite their criminal history and convictions. The police are right. Those young men are temporarily getting off scot free-- and in the present climate, they will do so almost for ever. They swagger off and commit more offences.
If offenders are remanded in custody quickly enough, that can have a sobering effect on young, would-be criminals--especially those in their young teens. There is a lot to be said for catching them young and giving them a clear understanding of what offending can really mean, especially in cases where a caution is not suitable. Magistrates should be schooled more, and be more in tune with appropriate courses of action. Recently, there have been many cases of magistrates misreading the situation. I am glad that the Bill will apply not only to murder and rape but to car-related offences. It may be argued that keeping more people in custody will produce an extra cost for the taxpayer. I maintain that the sheer scale of reoffending more than justifies the taxpayer paying for more custodial accommodation.
Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor and Maidenhead) : Does my hon. Friend agree that magistrates have been discouraged in recent years from committing offenders to gaol in certain circumstances? Some have become demoralised and have left the Bench because they felt that they were not encouraged to take the steps that my hon. Friend advocates.
Lady Olga Maitland : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In some cases, magistrates do not have the power to commit a persistent juvenile offender to a secure unit, because that decision must be referred back to the local authority to make. I hope that the amendment, or perhaps another Criminal Justice Bill, will introduce for magistrates the right to extend their powers. We should listen to magistrates who say that they are being held back from their course of duty.
I heard from members of the juvenile Bench in Sutton that their frustration is supreme, and that the arrogance and rudeness of young offenders appearing in court is beyond belief. They behave almost as though they are making a fingers-up gesture to the judiciary. One boy and
Column 1241girl were so determined to turn the hearing into a circus that they insisted on making a long and affectionate farewell in full view of the court. Nobody could do anything about it. There is insolence beyond belief.
The right of appeal to a Crown court will certainly help to tighten up a difficult situation. There is public support for such a measure. The public are beginning to buck. There are 33 different pressure groups campaigning on behalf of criminals, but only one, impoverished, victim support scheme. It may be impoverished, but it has the support of the public at large. The silent majority are saying, "We have had enough, and now we shall have the last word."
I have great faith in public opinion. More often than not, the public have their fingers on the pulse and know when things are going wrong long before bureaucracy understands and responds. In the west country in February, 2,000 people took to the streets of Plymouth. The local newspaper ran the banner headline :
"City march against rising crime. Enough is enough."
A campaign, "Citizens against Crime," was launched.
All of that emphasises the amendment's importance. My hon. Friend the Minister is looking at me with an eagle eye, but I am becoming used to that. The amendment is totally justified in reflecting public concern.
Mr. Roy Thomason (Bromsgrove) : I join in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) on introducing the Bill and guiding it through the House thus far. It is a great tribute to the influence of the Back Bencher in producing legislation that responds to public concern.
I have every sympathy with the Bill's provisions and with amendment No. 1, but perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister can help to overcome one or two of my concerns. I am alarmed that Crown court judges may not always be as available as their High Court counterparts to deal with matters of urgency. I trust that my hon. Friend the Minister can assure me that Crown court judges will be available within the 48 hours required by the measure.
Can my hon. Friend confirm also that the appeal procedure will be subject to some standardisation in respect of the yardsticks used to determine whether it is appropriate to grant bail? As one who practised occasionally as a junior solicitor in magistrates courts before the Bail Act 1976, I recall that there were often wide variations between the standards that different courts applied in granting or not granting bail and in the conditions that they imposed. Will the appeal procedures facilitate the setting of standards that will provide guidance to magistrates on when they should or should not grant bail and on conditions that they might want to attach
Mr. Hartley Booth (Finchley) : Is it my hon. Friend's experience, as it has been mine, that the availability of High Court judges makes them much more accessible than Crown court judges? We are debating the availability of judicial time at short notice.
Mr. Thomason : That is the point. I trust that it will be possible to establish a procedure to ensure that Crown court judges are made available for the purposes of the Bill when it is enacted. I understand the purpose of amendment No. 1 and the need to address the question of legal aid because of the delays that might arise should an application have to be made to a High Court judge through the civil system,
Column 1242which might lead to an accused person being held in custody longer than is envisaged by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham. Nevertheless, we need clear assurances about the judicial availability of Crown court judges.
May I return to the point that I was making a moment ago and invite my hon. Friend the Minister to confirm that information will be disseminated to magistrates to assist them in determining yardsticks for appeals? It is important that this measure is seen as part of the overall Government drive to deal with the problems of law and order. I trust that we shall see it as an important brick of the wall to protect the community against the increasing threats of disorder and the alarming cases to which my hon. friends have referred. I invite the Minister to confirm that sufficient accommodation is available to hold accused persons, which there was not a few years ago, in the prison and police services to ensure that excessive overcrowding will not arise in the fairly limited number of cases to which the Bill is likely to apply.
Mr. Matthew Banks (Southport) : I should like to follow the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason), because I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister is aware of the genuine concern that the amendment might be interpreted as a signal that prosecution appeals are not being given the highest judicial consideration that those who are concerned about the principle of a prosecution right of appeal should like.
Hon. Members are a little concerned that the amendment would restrict the hearing of appeals to Crown court judges. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister would address that point.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Maclean) : Some of my hon. Friends may wish to say a few further words on the amendment, but it might be helpful if I were to give the Government's view now. I listened carefully to the valid points made by my hon. Friends and to the appalling, tragic cases that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) mentioned. The amendment would prevent prosecution appeals from being heard by judges of the High Court, restricting the hearing of appeals to Crown court judges. Some of my hon. Friends expressed concern that the Bill had not been given a Second Reading in the House, but it has returned from another place in a slightly different state from that in which we dispatched it. The Bill has benefited from the scrutiny of the other place and there has been an opportunity to reflect on the implications of what a prosecution right of appeal might mean to our criminal justice system.
I say "our system" and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) has departed because he would have confirmed that under Scottish law the prosecution has had the right of appeal against bail decisions of the lower courts for a long time. Indeed, without wanting to detract from the drafting skills of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen), I detect some similarity between the Bill and the prosecution right of appeal that operates in Scotland.
That is all to the good. Those who are concerned about the rights of the individual in law and the fact that the Bill