|Courts Bill [Lords]
Angela Watkinson: I think that the Minister answered the question that was on my lips: will any such representative have been nominated by the organisation?
Mr. Leslie: To answer that would then prompt questions about formal nomination and whether there were contested points about who was representative of particular organisations. Flexibility has traditionally been contained in paragraphs such as these to ensure that there is no disagreement about whether somebody represents an organisation in an official capacity.
Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley): Is it logically possible for a person to be appointed who does not represent either a voluntary organisation or, as was mentioned in a previous clause, the Association of Chief Police Officers?
Mr. Leslie: No. The paragraphs specifically state that persons who appear to represent organisations can be part of the composition of committees. That is clear. The reason why the provision says ''appear to represent'' is to avoid disagreement. For example, a president of a victim support organisation might nominate a longstanding colleague or an affiliate of a particular organisation, who may not be at that time a chief executive or a formal representative of the first
Column Number: 152organisation. However, they would still be entitled to come to the committee, even though they did not formally represent that wider organisation.
It would be splitting hairs a little if hon. Members were to seek to push this too far, but if the hon. Gentleman still wishes to raise an issue, this is the place to do it. I do not think that he wishes to do so.
Amendment No. 27 would require that one of the two representatives of voluntary organisations must be from an organisation that represents the victims of crime. We want to broaden the voice of those affected by crime who work in the criminal justice system, which is why we have included certain measures with regard to the establishment of the criminal procedure rules committee. We want to ensure that we have broader coverage and unity across the criminal justice system for procedures in court. Subsection (2)(k) on voluntary organisations has been included so that we can find representatives ''who appear to'' come from those sections of the community and so that they have a voice on a particular committee. That is the intention.
We hope to have representatives of victims' organisations on the criminal procedure rules committee, but it is unnecessary to have an explicit reference, given that it is clear from how we have set out those provisions on the establishment of that committee that there is the capability to have that representation—for the first time, I might add.
Angela Watkinson: I would like there to be a provision that avoids both those representatives being representatives of groups that specifically look after the interests of offenders, so that there is a balance on the committee with regard to looking after the rights of offenders and victims.
Mr. Leslie: I entirely accept that point, which is reasonable.
More than two different voluntary organisations are involved in this work. We want sufficient flexibility to ensure that we get the broadest possible representation on the committee, which is why it would be wrong to start to subdivide areas where there is already subdivision.
I hope that that comment reassures Committee members that we wish many parts of the community, particularly those affected by crime, to have a voice on procedure rule committees. However, I would not want to pre-empt anything by specifying the individuals who are going to be on them.
I accept the spirit of the points that have been raised. The provision has been included in this clause so that we can have those voices represented on the committees. I hope that Members welcome it as a step forward.
Mr. Hawkins: We welcome the provision as a partial step forward, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster rightly said, our concern is that if the Bill is left in its current form it would be possible for both people who appear to represent voluntary organisations to be from organisations that represent the interests of offenders, rather than those
Column Number: 153of victims. That is why both amendments are extremely important. I shall not press both to a Division, however, but I must ask for amendment No. 27 to be put to the vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed: No. 27, in
'one of whom must be from an organisation which represents victims of crime'.—[Mr. Hawkins.]
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 10.
Division No. 2]
Amendment proposed: No. 138, in
(l) one legal executive who has particular experience of practice in criminal courts.'.—[Mr. Hawkins.]
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 11.
Division No. 3]
Mr. Hawkins: I beg to move amendment No. 73, in
No. 74, in
'necessarily incurred in the course of their work as members of the Committee.'.
No. 80, in
No. 81, in
'necessarily incurred in the course of their work as members of the Committee'.
Mr. Hawkins: This is the traditional amendment that would change ''may'' to ''shall''. We think it important that there should be a direct tool for paying
Column Number: 154expenses. We have talked at length about the important role that people have in our criminal justice system, and ''shall'' would be much more appropriate than ''may'' in all the examples in which that word appears in the clause. That is a brief point, and I shall listen with interest to what the Minister has to say.
Norman Lamb: It seems appropriate to impose an obligation to reimburse, and also to narrow it down. The clause clearly defines the expenses as those incurred in the course of the work of members of the committee. I therefore support the amendment.
Mr. Leslie: I understand that the amendment in many ways mirrors those tabled by Opposition peers in another place and subsequently withdrawn, in that discretion would be removed in the payment of expenses to members of the criminal and family procedure rule committees for their work. Obviously, we want to reimburse the travel and out-of-pocket expenses that committee members necessarily incur in the course of their work.
The provisions in the Bill are identical to those that the Lord Chancellor has in relation to the civil procedure rules committee. Members of that committee are routinely reimbursed for their travel and out-of-pocket expenses, and there have not been any problems with that. We use ''may'' rather than ''shall'' to ensure that there is discretion in paying expenses, that we do not have an open-ended and uncontrolled budget on expenses, and that we also can monitor what the expenditure is on those payments and may ensure that they are made in accordance with departmental financial controls.
If there were a compulsory automatic payment and the word ''shall'' were included, my Department's discretion regarding the payment of those expenses could be inhibited. That is why the word ''may'' is used. I am sure that Committee members would not want that automaticity in the Bill, because it could lead to open-ended expenses claims that could not be controlled, tempered or monitored by the Department.
Norman Lamb: Is not the way to control payments to limit them to expenses that are necessarily incurred? If there were a test of necessity, the Department could thus control the expenses.
Mr. Leslie: But then there would be disagreement and potential litigation over the word ''necessarily''. What one person regards as being incurred necessarily may not be regarded as such by another. I am sure that Committee members can think of many good examples in which such a concept would be contested.
The flexibility in the current wording is necessary to ensure that the Department has discretion and that no budget is simply demand led. We intend to honour expenses, and we have a system for properly reimbursing them and for protecting public finances. Discretion must be written in the Bill in this way to ensure that we strike the right balance and safeguard public accounts. I hope that the amendments are resisted.
Mr. Hawkins: I shall not labour the point. It has been helpful to get on the record the Minister's
Column Number: 155assurance that expenses will be paid properly and that the Government do not intend to do otherwise. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 70 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 71 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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