Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Blatch: Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may say that I find deeply depressing what the noble Lord has just said. There is nothing either in the form of the amendments or what is left to discuss about the Bill today which should prevent the completion of the Committee stage. I do not find at all acceptable the noble Lord's justification for withdrawing from this stage of the Bill.

I also wish to repeat on record that I shall continue to consider seriously ideas as regards changes to the code. If the noble Lord wishes to--and I have not yet refused this--I shall meet him either to discuss procedure or the individual amendments. We have done that previously many times on many Bills. I shall continue to ensure that my door is open to meetings of that kind.

I said also that we shall respond to all the amendments as they relate to possible modifications to the code. But this day has been set aside for Committee stage of this Bill and with or without the co-operation of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and other noble Lords who wish to join him, I invite the Committee to continue with this stage of the Bill this evening.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have made myself clear. It is my intention that we shall continue with and conclude the Committee stage of this Bill. We shall take part in all debates other than those on Part II. But on that part, we simply cannot discuss amendments when they are not responded to by the Government. That is the core of the matter.

The Minister has always been personally courteous and, as she rightly says, her door has always been open. I shall certainly take advantage of any offer that she makes to discuss matters. But we must discuss how this Chamber and this Committee can debate the subject matter of Part II which we are not able to do under present procedures. I do not do that out of any spirit of personal antagonism towards the Minister. She well knows that I am obliged to take this stand.

Baroness Blatch: It is important to make clear that there is nothing which precludes us from discussing the substance of Part II. That can be done in the course of discussing amendments to the Bill. It will not be my recommendation to my noble friends or the usual channels that there should be re-committal of this stage. If we complete the Committee stage today, that will be completion of this stage of the Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: That is a point of view. It is a political point of view. The Minister takes one view and I take another. That is life; that is politics. There is nothing that we can do about that. The fact is that Part II involves the code of practice and that is essential to Part II. That has been said by the scrutiny committee and by many noble Lords on all sides.

19 Dec 1995 : Column 1550

I should not repeat this if the opposing point of view were not continually repeated. In a spirit of utter friendliness to the Minister personally, I have given notice of my intention as regards the rest of this part of the Bill. We shall take a full part in the debate on subsequent parts of the Bill. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 71:


Page 11, line 8, leave out ("disclosed") and insert ("revealed").

The noble Baroness said: These are minor amendments designed to remove a potential source of confusion in the Bill about whether material is to be given to the prosecutor or to the accused. At present, the Bill uses the word "disclose" to describe both the giving of material by the prosecutor to the accused under Part I of the Bill, and also the giving of material by a police officer to the prosecutor under Part II. The clauses are drafted so as to achieve the correct disclosure in each case. But the use of the same word to describe two different actions is potentially confusing. It would be clearer if the two actions were described by two different words. These amendments achieve this by replacing "disclose" with "reveal" in Clauses 16, 17 and 20 to describe the giving of material by the police to the prosecutor, reserving "disclose" for the giving of material by the prosecutor to the accused. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This is an issue in Part II which is not affected by the code of practice. I believe that the suggestion made by this amendment is entirely sensible. It will reduce confusion. Nothing can eliminate confusion but it will be reduced. We support the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 72:


Page 11, line 11, leave out ("disclosed") and insert ("revealed").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 73:


Page 11, line 13, at end insert--
("(dd) that where the accused is allowed to inspect material as mentioned in paragraph (d) and he requests a copy, he is given one unless the person allowing the inspection is of opinion that it is not practicable or not desirable to give him one;").

The noble Baroness said: This is a minor amendment designed to ensure that it is possible to give the accused copies of prosecution material he has inspected. As Clause 16 is currently drafted, the code of practice may provide for the accused to inspect material held by the police at the request of the prosecutor. But there is no provision for the accused to be given copies of such material. Subsection 16(1)(dd) inserted by this amendment remedies that.

The amendment also provides that a police officer need not copy to the accused material which the accused has inspected, if he believes that it is not practicable or not desirable to do so. It may not be practicable if, for example, the material is an object which cannot be copied. It may not be desirable if, for example, the material is a statement by a child witness in relation to

19 Dec 1995 : Column 1551

a sexual offence, and the police officer believes that the accused may give the statement to persons unconnected with the proceedings.

I should stress that this in no way affects the obligation to disclose material which meets the test for disclosure. What is at issue is the method of disclosure. The accused will be able to inspect such material and will know what it says, so he will not be disadvantaged in preparing his defence. I beg to move.

Baroness Mallalieu: Perhaps the Minister will help us a little about the way in which the amendment will make changes. At present there are difficulties which I am conscious arise where counsel or solicitors go to a police station to inspect material and where the officer dealing with the appointment sometimes says, "I am not prepared to have that document copied". In those circumstances, sometimes the frankly ludicrous position is reached where subsequently, from the best of his recollection, counsel must try to make a note of the document which he has seen without having advantage of the original.

I appreciate the reasons behind the amendment but I am anxious that the legislation as amended will not provide for any right of appeal. If the police officer in charge of the disclosure at the police station takes the view, perhaps with good reason and perhaps not, that a document may not be copied, what is the right of appeal for someone who is refused a copy of a document by a police officer at the station?

It may not necessarily be a senior officer; indeed, it may be a junior officer who is dealing with the appointment. But whoever it is, he may make a mistake or he may be denying the defence a copy of a document which is needed. Does the defence then have a right to go to the court and ask a judge to make an order? If not, perhaps that is a provision which the Minister will consider adding at a later stage of the Bill's proceedings.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: I am not in a position or sufficiently knowledgeable to give a definitive answer on that question. However, I should have thought that the burden of proof would apply as regards whether it was impractical to do it or undesirable. Of course, proper reasons would need to be given in order for the court to take a view on the matter. I shall certainly check out the position and write to the noble Baroness.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Cranborne: I believe that all Members of the Committee will have appreciated the courtesy with which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made his points during the difference of opinion with my noble friend. It may be for the advantage of the management of business and for the continuance of constructive discussion during this stage of the Bill if Members of the Committee felt able to agree to suspend the present Committee stage for 15 minutes during pleasure. I therefore beg to move that the Committee stage of the Bill be adjourned for 15 minutes during pleasure.

19 Dec 1995 : Column 1552

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 5.31 to 5.46 p.m.]

Lord Strathclyde: In the absence of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and indeed the Minister as well as various other Members of your Lordships' House who are at this moment completing their discussions on how to continue the Committee stage of the Bill, I shall say a few words while I wait for them to appear.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page