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Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 10, line 3, at end insert--


A1. The Secretary of State shall appoint a chairman, or joint chairmen, from among the Commissioners.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 10, line 28, after ("chairman") insert ("(or joint chairmen)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 10, line 35, leave out ("with the second") and insert ("on").

The noble Lord said: The amendment sounds a little complicated but is in fact an extremely simple amendment which refers to the date of the first annual report of the commissioners. The expectation is that the first commissioners will be appointed soon after the Bill comes into force. Clearly, there will be intense interest in their work. As the Bill stands, no annual report is proposed until some time after 31st March 2000. The paper says that the board of commissioners is expected to have completed its assessments by the end of June 1999. By that time, if all goes well, the commissioners' work will be almost over. It seems right, therefore, that

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the first annual report should be on 31st March next year and not postponed until the year 2000. That is what the amendment seeks to do. I beg to move.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: I rise to support this amendment. I am amazed that the Treasury let the Government get away without having financial costs reported annually forthwith.

Lord Dubs: I hear the arguments put forward. Of course there will be interest in the work of the commissioners and it would be helpful if the publication date of the first report was earlier. For that reason the Government accept the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Commissioners' Procedure]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 11, line 17, at end insert--
("(b) confer functions on the chairman (or on joint chairmen, jointly or concurrently).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 11, line 25, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: With regard to the last amendment, I should like to say thank you. With regard to this amendment, this part of the Bill is concerned with the order-making powers of the Secretary of State and this particular bit gives the Secretary of State power to lay down that prisoners cannot represent prisoners in matters concerning the Bill.

It seems to me wholly wise that prisoners should not represent other prisoners in their dealings with the board and with the authorities. That is why I do not want to see this left as a question of "may"--as a power which the Secretary of State may or may not use. That leaves the Secretary of State open to political lobbying and to the expectation of lobbying about it. Given the devious nature of negotiations with terrorist authorities--of which some of us have had experience--this sort of thing can easily be used as some sort of bargaining counter. It is much better to settle the matter now. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: This amendment relates to the rules of procedure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State may make. Those rules are still in preparation.

I understand the point that the noble Lord makes. At the same time, the circumstances in Northern Ireland are such that in some cases a prisoner may wish to be represented by someone he considers to be a colleague. For that reason the provision was intended to allow the Secretary of State to make rules that would prevent such representation but which did not require her to do so.

I can give an undertaking to the Committee that, if the rules do not prevent a prisoner being represented by another prisoner, the intention would be to require that the prisoner had the agreement of the commissioners that he might be so represented. We consider that if that course were to taken it would provide the necessary

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safeguard. For those reasons I believe that the amendment is not necessary and I hope that the noble Lord will not press it.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am not sure that I entirely accept that the amendment is not necessary because the Minister used the word "if" in the middle of all that. Nevertheless, I shall take time to consider what he said and in the meantime beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 11, line 27, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Baroness said: With the permission of the Committee, in moving Amendment No. 50 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 51.

The purpose of this amendment is illustrated by this weekend. If commissioners make a decision in Northern Ireland, whichever way they make it--I do not question the decision--the chances are that half the Province or a hefty percentage of it, will be upset by it. If a decision has to be made as to the order of applications, the commissioners will be put in the same situation as were the commissioners of parades this weekend. If they are left to deal with them in order of receipt, that would be fairer and lead to fewer problems.

I need not extend my arguments further as the Minister used them at the opening of this Committee stage to move the amendment for a joint chairman on the basis that in presenting to Northern Ireland it is better that we have a situation where there is seen to be fairness and understanding rather than argument at the point of decision. I am sure that those arguments apply as much to the amendment about joint chairmen as to moving that Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 mean that decisions are made according to the Bill and not the emotions of the moment. I beg to move.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: Despite the lateness of the hour, I rise to support the amendment. I do not know in what other order the applications could be treated which would produce an impression of fairness. This is an acutely sensitive matter, as we have discussed all through the evening, in which sensibilities will be quivering and people will be waiting to see whether one community is favoured over the other and whether particular prisoners are favoured over others. I recommend to the Government that they think seriously about the amendment as being the best way to demonstrate that there is no fix and that this is being done properly and in sequence.

Viscount Brookeborough: I rise to support the amendment because I believe that it is there for the protection of the commissioners. I am sure that not many people envy the job of the parades commissioners. Neither will they probably do so in the case of these

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commissioners. They should have all the protection possible by our making the decisions here within which they work.

Lord Dubs: The noble Baroness, Lady Denton, has identified an important part of the work of the commissioners; that is, the management of the process of considering applications. The Government expect that the commissioners are likely to receive in excess of 400 applications shortly after the Bill comes into force. Those applications are likely to be received over a relatively short period of time but it will take time to consider each application separately. As such, it will be important that the applications are dealt with in a coherent manner by the commissioners to ensure that prisoners are dealt with fairly.

While the commissioners may wish to take account of when an application is received, they may also decide to take account of matters such as when the prisoner would be released if he received a declaration. The Government would not want to prevent the commissioners from making such provision and so cannot support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. It would mean, in effect, that almost the random factor of when applications are received in the post would determine when they had to be decided. Clearly, if the commissioners believe that some prisoners would be released quickly because they had reached that point in their eligibility while others would not, it would surely make sense to have a system of

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priority rather than simply to deal with them in the order in which they are received. Therefore, I hope the noble Baroness will not pursue the amendment.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: I thank the Minister for his answer. At this stage in the evening I will not pursue the amendment. However, I find his answer unsatisfactory because unless this decision-making has an openness and transparency we will head for further problems and further disputes, as we saw this weekend. I shall withdraw the amendment but I wish to return to the matter at Report stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 51 not moved.]

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Returned from the Commons agreed to.

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