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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I have been described as a romantic yet timorous extremist. I think that that is rather good and I shall have to tell my wife about it.

I have no fear that the independent Bar would beat any public defender service if the accused person was given any choice. I have never been afraid of competition and neither has the Bar. It is one of the most competitive professions in the country. This is not the dangerous step; it is when that choice is removed, as inexorably it will be. I cannot imagine any government sustaining on public funds two separate and competing services, as the Bill proposes.

I shall not weary your Lordships further. I seek the agreement of the House to the Motion.

8.37 p.m.

On Question, Whether the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 27?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 141; Not-Contents, 85.

Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Ackner, L.
Addison, V.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Annaly, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Avebury, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Belstead, L.
Berners, B.
Biddulph, L.
Birdwood, L.
Blackwell, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buckinghamshire, E.
Burnham, L.
Byford, B.
Cadman, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chesham, L.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Coleraine, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Crickhowell, L.
Cross, V.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dholakia, L.
Downshire, M.
Dundee, E.
Eccles, V.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eden of Winton, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Elton, L.
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Fookes, B.
Gage, V.
Gainford, L.
Gisborough, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gray, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. [Teller.]
Harrowby, E.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L. [Teller.]
Higgins, L.
Hogg, B.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hooper, B.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Jacobs, L.
Kingsland, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Leigh, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lucas, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Mackintosh of Halifax, V.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marlesford, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Methuen, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Monk Bretton, L.
Munster, E.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Naseby, L.
Newby, L.
Northbrook, L.
Northesk, E.
Norton, L.
Norton of Louth, L.
Onslow, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Parkinson, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Pender, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Romney, E.
Rotherwick, L.
Rowallan, L.
Russell, E.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Seccombe, B.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Wigoder, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Wise, L.
Wynford, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Uddin, B.
Warner, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.

14 Jul 1999 : Column 423

COMMONS AMENDMENT

28

Clause 14, page 11, line 20, leave out (", except itself providing advice or assistance")

MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENT No. 28

28A

That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 28.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 28.

Moved, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 28.--(Lord Thomas of Gresford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

29

Clause 15, page 11, line 40, at end insert--


("( ) itself providing representation,")

MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENT No. 29

29A

That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 29.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 29.

Moved, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 29. --(Lord Thomas of Gresford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

30

Clause 15, page 11, line 43, leave out (", except itself providing representation")

MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENT No. 30

30A

That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 30.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 30.

Moved, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 30.--(Lord Thomas of Gresford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

14 Jul 1999 : Column 424

COMMONS AMENDMENT

31

Clause 15, page 12, line 25, at end insert--


("( ) an individual who has been provided with advice or assistance funded by the Commission under section 14 is to be taken to have selected as his representative pursuant to that right the person who provided the advice or assistance,")

MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENT No. 31

31A

That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 31.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 31.

Moved, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 31.--(Lord Thomas of Gresford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[Amendment No. 31B, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 31, not moved.]

COMMONS AMENDMENT

32

Clause 15, page 12, line 35, at end insert--


("(10) Regulations may provide that in prescribed circumstances the Commission is not required to fund, or to continue to fund, representation for an individual by a particular representative (but such provision shall not prejudice any right of the individal to select another representative).
(11) The circumstances which may be prescribed by regulations under subsection (8) or (10) include that a determination has been made by a prescribed body or person.")

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 32. I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 33 to 36 and 49. This group of amendments amends Clause 15 which establishes the duty of the commission to fund representation, sets out the means by which it may do so and provides powers to limit the extent to which the defendant may choose his or her representative. Amendment No. 33 splits this now lengthy clause in two: the first clause to deal with the provision of representation, the second choice of representative. The other amendments all concern choice.

It is desirable that defendants should be able to choose their representative, not least to promote their confidence in the criminal justice system. Clause 15(7) enshrines this principle. However, a completely unrestricted choice would undermine our ability to achieve value for money. Therefore subsection (8) contains powers to limit that choice.

Clause 15(8)(c) is the key provision. It will allow the defendant's choice to be limited to any lawyer with a current contract with the Legal Services Commission (or, had that provision prevailed, a salaried defender). Our intention is to ensure that suspects and defendants generally have a choice between several contracted firms and, were salaried defenders to be permitted, with them too.

14 Jul 1999 : Column 425

One of the major weaknesses of the system of legal aid in its present form is its fragmentation. This can lead to help being given under several different parts of the scheme in a single case: for green form advice, advice and assistance at the police station, assistance from the duty solicitor at the magistrates' court, and a full legal aid order. We would have been concerned to ensure the elimination of duplication, delay and unnecessary cost. We would have been concerned to ensure that individuals would stay with the same lawyer throughout the case unless there was good reason to change.

I shall explain how we envisage the system working in practice. A person being questioned by the police will be able to select his or her adviser from any firm holding a contract with the Legal Services Commission. Suspects would be shown a list of all firms based in the area and be informed of the implication of their choice. If the chosen adviser were not available, the individual would use the duty solicitor for the time being. But the duty solicitor would not be considered to have been selected, as a preference had been expressed for someone else.

In dealing with the element of the client's choice we intend to create a criminal legal service which would avoid imbalance. We have already argued that the purpose of the provision which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, was concerned to maintain was to eliminate choice. However as regards Amendment No. 32 there are some categories of very complex case, for example fraud trials, where specialist panels of lawyers may be set up to promote value for money. Regulations under Clause 15(8)(c) will limit choice in these cases to firms on the panel; that is, firms which had demonstrated both the necessary competence and administrative systems to deal with these specialised and weighty cases. However, it may not be self-evident from the outset that a particular case was of such complexity that it required the services of a panel member. Amendment No. 32 deals with this situation by providing in effect for the individual to choose again from among those lawyers competent to handle a case of this complexity. Amendment No. 49 makes regulations under this subsection subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 32.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


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