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Lord Winston: My Lords, the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which I once had the honour of chairing, conducted an inquiry into science in schools. We found a severe deficiency in science training, particularly between the ages of 11 and 16, which meant that children left school less scientifically literate and numerate than they should have been.

One of the issues for the committee was that, whereas Shakespeare and Chaucer do not change from year to year, science is a continually moving target. What plans are there in the new funding arrangements for better personal career development for teachers of science and for such teachers to teach the subjects that they are qualified to teach, rather than teaching all sciences as a blanket subject, as happens too often?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Winston, about the importance of science. We have discussed that in your Lordships' House on several occasions.

In the key stage 3 strategy, which covers children aged from 11 to 14, we have focused on science to allow for the changing nature of science—precisely the reason that the noble Lord gave. We must acquaint our children and young people with the current issues and ensure that they understand how quickly scientific progress is being made. That is also the reason why we have extended "Science Year"—now called "Planet Science"—for a further year. It will do several things. It will recruit ambassadors for science, particularly young, bright, motivating people who can go into schools and help young people to learn. They can encourage them not only to take up science but to continue with it, which is important. It will also help

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with training materials, through work with partners who can provide the expertise that we need in the training of teachers.

I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Winston, specific figures. We have announced them, and I am happy to set them out in detail for him. I hope that he will consider that they are good news.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I understood the Minister early in her Statement to say that secondary schools would receive grants of 125,000 for a number of purposes, one of which could be a change in the leadership of the school. She also said that the Government wanted to ensure that weaker schools used the grant in the best possible way. What does that mean? Within the present law, how can 125,000 be used to change the leadership of a school? Does it mean that the Government will ensure that in a weak school they obtain the right leadership? That is important because, to my Scottish soul, it is a strange statement for a Minister to make. I am not aware of exactly how things work in schools in England, but I would like to know what is intended.

Furthermore, I do not believe that the Minister answered the excellent question from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. How much of the enormous sum of money which the Government are taking from taxpayers to give to schools will come from council tax payers?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the money I have announced today is coming from taxpayers centrally. It is for local authorities to determine what they do in addition. I apologies if I did not answer the question directly, but the money I am focusing on specifically today is that available for local education authorities and for schools.

The noble Baroness, as always, picks up on the detail. I said that we are providing 125,000 for the 1,400 schools in the inner cities and in challenging circumstances beyond the inner cities. I said, too, that in the weaker schools the money can be used to change the leadership of the school. The focus is on the word "change". Within what I am describing—and we want schools to develop the system for themselves—is the possibility perhaps to buy in the additional support they need in order to support the leadership. We want them to be able, perhaps, to recruit and to use the money in challenging circumstances where additional resources might be needed to attract people of the right calibre to the school. We want them to be able to work in collaboration with other schools, perhaps with more joint working. In other words, we want to make changes by enabling them to say everything from, "We need new leadership in this school and we have the resources to obtain it", to, "We need support and development mechanisms and the additional people coming forward who will help us".

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the Minister spoke about making further education and skills more responsive to the needs of learners, employers and communities. In my 30 years' experience as an employer, I often

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found those in conflict. The question which always arose was: to whom does the training belong? Does it belong to the person being trained, who will want to do what he is interested in, or does it belong to the employer who will want him to gain the skills he needs for his business?

The answer to that—and it may be an answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin—is to extend the training and broaden it out. As well as teaching specific skills, we should also teach managing people, productivity through lean manufacturing, basic costing, taking responsibility, ethics and all the other subjects which are increasingly important as we become a service economy. Will the additional funds be directed towards such subjects?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, makes an important point about the value of training. I answer his initial point by saying that this is a partnership. The role we want to have, and the role of the Learning and Skills Council, is to try and identify the needs of the individual in terms of skills training and also, as all good projects have done for a long time, to focus on the skills required by local employers. The routes into employment are fundamental and important.

As regards the specifics of the training, I fear that my colleagues at the department who have ministerial responsibility might not be too happy if I were to give a categorical assurance of what is to be included. I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied if, in response to his comments, which I fully accept, about the need to help train people in a variety of different ways, not least in terms of managerial responsibility, I say that I shall obtain an appropriate and proper answer from the Minister responsible.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I understand the higher education moratorium and the reasons for it, but there is one question that the Minister could answer. As of now, in each year, a residual amount, which she has not been able to announce today, will be set aside for higher education. By what average percentage per annum will that residual amount rise in real terms over the three years beginning April 2003?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am sorry. I hate being unable to answer the noble Lord's question in full. However, I cannot prejudge what will be announced in January. Although the noble Lord may believe that the residual amount is a simple calculation, there are within it issues to be discussed about exactly how the funding is to be used. No doubt negotiations and discussions will be required with others outside the department.

I apologise that I cannot answer the question now. If I can obtain a satisfactory answer, I shall write to the noble Lord and place a copy in the Library.

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Courts Bill [HL]

4.55 p.m.

Second Reading debate resumed.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, the remainder of the debate may take other contributors to it by surprise. However, I had intended to apologise to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for having the feeling that the Bill is not the more exciting of the criminal justice Bills being introduced in this parliamentary Session. As seems usual, the other place gets the first crack at the more controversial and interesting Bills and, only after it has finished debating them or, as is so often the case, completed its work without adequately debating them, do the Bills come here. Well, we must today muster as much patience as we can before we tackle the highly charged subjects of double jeopardy, the admission of previous convictions and the possibility of certain trials being by judge alone without a jury.

What this Bill and the Criminal Justice Bill now before the other place have in common is that they both have a foundation in the comprehensive and weighty report from Sir Robin Auld entitled Review of the Criminal Courts in England and Wales, published in October last year. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is to be congratulated on asking Sir Robin to fulfil this mammoth task. Whatever now happens regarding the outcome of these Bills, his report will for many years stand as a major source book for the facts and issues on all these matters.

What Sir Robin said about the management of magistrates' courts was that it was highly complex, a product of history and,

    "an increasingly tortuous legislative overlay".

That same sort of point can be made about many aspects of our criminal justice system.

When I was a newly called barrister in the 1950s, I spent a lot of time in magistrates' courts, usually prosecuting, and often in central London courts manned by professional stipendiary magistrates, now called district judges. Conditions have changed so much that I would not dream of drawing on my experience of magistrates' courts of 40-plus years ago as being particularly relevant today. But I will indulge in just one recollection to make a general point about judicial appointments.

One court building I went to frequently had two stipendiary magistrates sitting in adjacent courts. In one sat a stipendiary with a well-founded reputation for toughness in his verdicts and his sentencing. The other had completely the opposite reputation—extreme leniency was his watchword. Each had sat on the Bench for some 20 years. Each day they had more or less the same kind of caseload of petty cases and, although they had completely different attitudes, they both, I thought, had been in the job rather too long and suffered from an occupational hazard that was not good for justice.

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I believe that many improvements have been made in the system since those years. Judges at all levels are given a much more varied diet of different kinds of cases and district judges—stipendiary magistrates—now have the prospect of promotion to the circuit bench. I like the flexibility mentioned by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in Part 6 of the Bill which will enable judges to take a different range of cases in different courts.

But I would like to be reassured by my noble and learned friend that there will be a degree of monitoring of judges' performances over their years of service and that they will have training opportunities to help keep their minds fresh to new legislation and fresh to new research in criminology and the penal system.

Compared with a much more modest number in my early days at the Bar, we now have some 150 stipendiaries and there may be some advantage in mixing professional and lay magistrates in certain criminal cases. Each kind of magistrate, the professional and the lay, could well benefit from such joint sittings, in the same way as Crown Court judges and lay magistrates do when they sit together on appeals from magistrates' courts in the Crown Court. Lord Justice Auld comments that in many areas today there is an atmosphere of resentment and distrust between the lay and professional magistrates. Working together, as lawyers and others do in, for example, employment tribunals, may be part of the answer.

The proposals in the Bill to unify court administration—I noticed, as I am sure we all did, the general approval for them of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice—are sound. Following the unifying of court administration above the level of magistrates' courts in the Courts Act 1971, there has been a measure of unfinished business. Perhaps the Bill will finish the business of unification and sensible administration.

After all, the aim of the Bill is the worthy and proper one of better service for all those who have to do with the courts. I agree with the creation of national standards and a strategic direction from the centre under the new executive agency described by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in partnership with local court administration councils. As I understand it, to use a European word as it were, subsidiarity should be an essential principle of the new dispensation, with local accountability and responsiveness to local needs and, as Lord Justice Auld said,

    "the maximum delegation of managerial responsibility and control of resources to an accountable local manager working in close liaison with the professional and lay judiciary".

But, as has been said already in the debate, short as it has been so far, the Central Council of Magistrates' Courts Committees, in a briefing on the Bill, argues that the Government have not kept to the intentions

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stated in the White Paper of July of this year, Justice for All. The Central Council of Magistrates' Courts Committees feels that local management boards have been relegated to being merely consultative bodies. Obviously it is difficult to get the right balance, here as elsewhere, between central strategic direction and local accountability, but clearly this is a sensitive area, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, indicated earlier. Bearing in mind the fine centuries-old tradition of service to the community of lay magistrates, without which the whole British criminal justice system would either collapse or have to be very radically altered, it is most important that magistrates do not feel that the views of their representatives will count for little. Magistrates—lay magistrates in particular—should be cherished and not spurned.

I welcome with enthusiasm the part of the Bill dealing with the enforcement of fines imposed by magistrates' courts. At present, 40 per cent of fines are never paid, and we know about the haphazard nature of fine collection and the variation in collection rates from one part of the country to another. In the words of the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in another place, this has resulted in the payment of a fine as an almost voluntary activity.

I like the combination of sticks and carrots in the introduction of discounts for prompt payment and surcharges and other penalties for delayed payment. I listened to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in regard to car clamping and the difficulties involved in clamping cars and the problems that might arise in selling them. The Committee may wish to consider with considerable care the implications of Schedule 2 in regard to that.

Generally, however, I commend the Bill and I hope that the House will give it an enthusiastic Second Reading.

5.6 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, I associate myself warmly with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, in regard to members of the lay magistracy. I agree that they should be cherished and that it is very important that they should not feel that the views they hold about the provisions of the Bill will not be taken into account by the Government. It is a pity that the Magistrates' Association has not yet, as far as I am aware, publicly commented on the parts of the Bill that bear upon its courts. No doubt it will very shortly, and we should all heed what it has to say with great care.

As the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said, it is true that the Central Council of Magistrates' Courts Committees has expressed great anxieties about certain proposals, to which I shall return in a moment. However, by way of preface, it is perfectly obvious that a great deal of work has gone into the preparation of the policy of the Bill, no doubt beginning with the massive work of Sir Robin Auld.

It seems to me that there is plenty of scope for rationalisation. I rather liked Sir Robin's point early in the report where he stated that one can scarcely talk

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about a criminal justice system, so great is the mish-mash of overlapping ingredients—at least I think he said that; if he did not, I do—especially at local level. He referred to,

    "a muddle of administrative complexities and responsibilities".

As to previous and current well-intended efforts to address these problems, he stated:

    "There are pilot studies, working parties, steering groups and reviews all over the place".

For my part, I counted 49 current government research projects and pilots in Appendix 3 to the White Paper. So although I am not by temperament a centraliser or an interferer with something that seems to be working fairly well, I readily concede that there is ample scope at least for rationalisation in the criminal justice field.

However, I do not at present believe that the Bill's proposals for the magistrates' courts can be justified, either in pursuit of the objective of modernisation and greater efficiency, or at all. I am sorry to have to say that they constitute a quite unjustified exercise in centralisation, one which has the potential to impinge dangerously upon the independence of the lay judiciary.

I see no justification for turning justices' clerks into civil servants and, in the process, bringing them under the control of the Lord Chancellor and his department. I agree with the comments of my noble friend Lady Seccombe and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, on this matter.

What is the case for the proposed change? In a nutshell, it comes down to wide variations in performance. I do not doubt that there are such wide variations. But I should want to know rather more about the reasons why 87 days is taken to bring a case to completion in Bedfordshire, as opposed to 37 or so days in Surrey. I should want to know how many lay magistrates there are. I should want to know a good deal about local circumstances before I could know what weight to attach to that fact.

It seems to me inevitable that there will be wide variations. Goodness knows, there are wide variations in the Crown Courts—which are much more liable to direction from central authority than are the magistrates' courts. At present, I am far from persuaded that it is right to impinge, in the way the Bill does, on the present set-up in the magistrates' courts by turning justices' clerks into civil servants.

Under the present system, justices' clerks are appointed by the magistrates' courts committees. There is, it seems to me, ample scope for the selection of the candidates to be influenced by local considerations. I believe that to be very important—and for the following reason. The relationship between magistrates and their clerks is a very personal one. This was referred to with becoming modesty by my noble friend Lady Seccombe, who has been a magistrate for many years. One knows how intimate such a relationship needs to be if there is to be the necessary mutual trust that has been referred to.

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The justices' clerk advises his or her Bench on technical matters in terms of law and on administrative matters. But he or she does not go into the retiring room with members of the Bench. They, and they alone, carry the burden of producing the adjudication. If members of the Bench do not have confidence in their clerk, I suggest that they must have the power to get rid of the clerk, because the system will not work without such confidence. It is a local matter. The power that they have at present is by no means in practice a dead letter.

I am worried, but not surprised, by the opposition and the grounds for it that have been published by the central council of Her Majesty's courts' committees. The council believes that the clerk will not be able to serve two masters—it is seldom that anyone is able to do so. It is particularly important in this case, because in practice and in law the clerk will serve the Lord Chancellor alone. His career will be in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, or of his Permanent Secretary. A failure by his Bench to meet the target of the day will be his failure in professional terms, regardless of whatever local considerations have led his Bench to make the relevant decisions and set the relevant priorities.

It seems to me that there is not sufficient comfort in the substitution of courts administration councils for the magistrates' courts committees. As has been powerfully pointed out, they are no more than consultative. They will not appoint the clerks. They will have no executive authority whatever. They will advise the new board, higher up in this administrative or bureaucratic change. So there is no answer to the point that has been made several times already—and alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie— drawing upon the statement on page 148 of the White Paper:

    "The aim of the new agency"—

the criminal justice board—

    "will be to enable management decisions to be taken locally by community focused local management boards, but within a strong national framework"—

and so on. I do not believe that that is a sufficient answer to the creation of the new board at local level; namely, the criminal justice board. It is certainly not a sufficient substitute for the power of the Bench itself to appoint its clerk.

It gets worse. The Bill empowers the Lord Chancellor, by order, to confer some judicial powers on justices' clerks—powers which could be exercised by a single justice sitting alone. It is true that they have marginal powers of that character at present. The Bill enables the Lord Chancellor to enlarge those powers. This has set alarm bells ringing among the lay magistracy—and I believe that they ought to ring in this House. I do not believe that it is at all safe that these extended powers should be available to servants of the executive.

As a consequence of the Bill, lay local decision-making input into the location of courts, the appointment of staff, the priorities of expenditure and accountability for performance will be removed altogether. It is pointed out in a statement placed in the

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Library that there is to be a lay magistrate on the local criminal justice board. But, as has been stated from the Front Bench, that does not appear in the Bill. I do not know how the Lord Chancellor reckons that he will, through his staff, improve upon the present performance of the magistrates' courts' committees.

What went wrong between the point at which the part of the White Paper that I have cited was written and the formulation of the Bill? It is hard to think of a reason other than a rush of centralising blood to the head. There will be no community-focused local management board. The one that we have already will have had its throat cut. This approach to getting the criminal justice system "right at the start", to quote from the White Paper, seems to me rather erratic.

A tribute to the lay magistracy might not have come amiss in the Lord Chancellor's speech. There is time for such a tribute to come from the Front Bench opposite at the end of this debate.

It will be helpful to learn publicly what the reaction from the Magistrates' Association will be. It has a long history of constructive participation in the formulation of policies which are designed to modernise and make more efficient the administration and jurisdictions that it has historically performed. It is an historic office, but it is ever vigorous and ever important.

I noted that in the list of approving bodies read out by the Lord Chancellor, the Magistrates' Association did not feature; nor did the Justices' Clerks' Society—unless I missed any mention of them. It is true that the Association of Justices' Chief Executives featured in the list; but that is a very different kettle of fish, and not one that altogether inspires confidence in respect of the anxieties that I have expressed.

The magistrates represent a body of the judiciary which is unique to this country, or at least to a small part of the common law world. They need to be cherished. They provide a staunch check against abuse of executive power at local level. They also reinforce public confidence in the operation of the law at levels that are especially important to local communities. I put it no higher than to say that they may well need to have the continued provision of an exceptional jurisdiction and an exceptional mode of administration.

5.19 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, further to a point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, one of the reasons why lay justices have a low profile in England and Wales is that we are becoming evermore metropolitanised and centralised in what we do and in how the nation is governed. Lay justices are the Cinderellas of the justice system. I applaud what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and my noble friend Lord Goodhart said about the lay justices.

The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said that he was a practitioner in stipendiary courts at the beginning of his legal career. I was a practitioner in lay justice courts

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and sometimes sat as a temporary clerk to justices. I shall comment largely on the position of lay justices under this Bill in tribute to my late father, who died in May. He spent 50 years as an advocate in lay justice courts and more than 30 years as a part-time clerk. I was reared in the law in the shadow of that remarkable institution.

Given our deep concern about the malaise of democracy and participation in this country, with predictable results, we should recollect that lay justices are still deeply embedded in the culture and history of our country. Those 30,000 men and women, of all sorts and conditions, are at the heart of the justice system. Lay justices dispose of over 93 per cent of all criminal cases. The only direct experience that the majority of our fellow countrymen will have of the law will be a visit to a magistrates' court, whether as accused, applicant, witness, friend or professional.

Benches of magistrates were almost wholly self-governing until the Justices of the Peace Act 1949, pursuant to which they have functioned within magistrates' courts committees, which are established for each administrative county and certain non-county boroughs. In the past decade, the number of magistrates' courts committees has been reduced from more than 100 to 42. Alongside that, there has been a steady amalgamation of Benches and petty sessional divisions. Chief executives of MCCs, many without any legal experience or background, have been appointed under the 1999 Act. Meanwhile, the closure of local courts has continued apace. Last year, I instigated a debate in this House on that subject, which provoked an all-but-unanimous condemnation of the impact on local justice and local people of what is still happening. Around 400 magistrates' courts remain.

The Bill continues down the same one-eyed track that this Government and their predecessors pursued vis-à-vis court closures by enshrining the phrase "efficient and effective", as if those words comprised a clear and comprehensive statement of what is needed for local justice. That verbal formula is, no doubt, behind the Government's pretending to weigh the pros and cons of closures of tens, and indeed hundreds, of magistrates' courts without including in the costs-savings balance the expense to the public, the police, magistrates and advocates of getting to and from distant courthouses.

One of the amendments that I will table at the next stage will seek to import into Clause 1 the much broader set of yardsticks employed by the Lord Chancellor in his most recent departmental report; namely, to,

    "enable criminal justice to be dispensed fairly, effectively and without undue delay, promoting confidence in the rule of law".

I suspect that, if that is the keystone of this legislation, some of the unnecessary damage that will be done to the lay justice system and the magistrates' courts committees will be avoided.

Yet, the Access to Justice Act 1999 reforms have scarcely bedded down. As Sir Robin Auld said, they are still in transition. As is the fashion, the Bill will uproot them long before their success can be properly

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assessed, thus throwing the system into further chaos and demoralisation. The Civil Service and politicians do not consider that factor enough.

Last week, a delegation of chairpersons of magistrates' Benches came to see me. They made it plain in the most powerful terms that they and their colleagues view the proposed changes to court organisation as likely, if not certain, to result in further resignations of some of their best JPs and the deterrence of some of their best potential recruits. They see the changes as likely to cause the further distancing of justice from those over whom it is exercised, and that they will lead to greater inefficiency and ineffectiveness of justice in their courts.

How often have we been promised radical improvements in administration and efficiency in affairs of state—health, education, transport, you name it—only to end up with increased lines of communication, loss of local input, demoralisation, additional bureaucracy and diluted citizen ownership. The last factor, to which the Lord Chief Justice referred earlier, is crucial.

As the Suffolk Magistrates' Court Committee said in its most recent report,

    "the Committee is conscious of the effect that low esteem can have upon staff morale and, to a degree, the Auld review may also be less conducive to a "feel good" factor amongst staff. There are some signs that this is beginning to translate itself into a difficulty in retaining staff".

I suggest that that is typical. In fact, over one-fifth of the committee's staff resigned last year, along with over 10 per cent of justices of the peace. Yet, I suspect, Suffolk is better than most.

Another example, only too well known by the outdoor staff of my London firm of solicitors, is the impact of the forced merger of the Westminster and Bloomsbury County Courts five years ago to form the Central London Court. That has led to a catastrophic drop in efficiency and effectiveness. As I was told, you never see the same staff twice, they all seem to be young and experienced, and, too often, the result is poor service.

My noble friend Lord Goodhart, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, spoke effectively about the impact of the proposals to abolish magistrates' courts committees and replace them by court administration councils—or "CACs", as they will undoubtedly be known, giving a new meaning to the expression "cack-handed". The problem is that Clause 4 leaves it entirely up to the Lord Chancellor to decide how many CACs there will be. One confident prediction is that there will be a mere 10, coinciding with regional administrations. What hope is there, then, for local justice?

Whereas magistrates' courts committees make decisions on where their courts will be, who shall be the chief executive, the appointment of justices' clerks and other staff, the terms of those appointments and where justices' clerks will sit, CACs will be responsible only for making recommendations in all those fields. They will have no decisive powers. I am informed that they were not called court management councils precisely because they will have no management powers.

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Whereas magistrates' courts committees comprise 12 justices of the peace practising in the area concerned, a CAC will have only one justice of the peace. If we really want justices who know their patch, know what is needed, know what resources there are and how best to deploy them, with a sense of "owning" and running their own courts, and having responsibility for them, it will scarcely be achieved by replacing a committee comprised of 12 serving magistrates by a council comprising only one. It is not merely that the courts committees are comprised of serving magistrates; they are selected by a panel, to which representatives of every Bench in the area are elected. We have in place an extremely effective, democratic, accountable procedure to ensure that magistrates' courts committees are run effectively by those responsible for the courts. All that will go. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that the new proposals will keep the courts,

    "in touch with the communities they serve".

He also said that they will not be "a centralising measure", that they will be better responsive to local needs and that they represent "decentralised management". Either the noble and learned Lord is reading a different Bill or I have to say that I disagree with him totally and absolutely, and so do others of your Lordships.

Justices of the peace will in future not serve as part of distinct petty sessional divisions—which are to be abolished—and will be commissioned on a countrywide basis, but will serve in what are poetically to be known as "local justice areas", to one or more of which the Lord Chancellor will assign them. I am not sure where local Benches sit in this reorganisation. If the local Benches are to go, that will be a retrograde step of the first order, because the morale, cohesion and self-knowledge of Benches is a critical part of the effectiveness of lay justice. I am sure that I do not need to elaborate on the effects to local justice of all this. That has been made clear enough already.

Court service circular 199, emanating from the Lord Chancellor's Department, issued on 29th of last month, said:

    "the national jurisdiction means that a summary offence can be treated in the same way as an indictable offence and will allow proceedings to be brought anywhere in England and Wales, rather than in the local justice area where the offence was committed. This will have the effect of reducing delay by allowing bulk processing of cases"—

that is the key phrase—

    "and will allow specialist courts within an area to hear certain types of cases".

JPs, who are after all volunteers, will swiftly tire of a diet of, as the circular puts it, "bulk processing of cases". Many have told me so and it is pretty obvious. Unless good justices of the peace have a good cross-section of cases, including some of the most difficult in terms of law, fact and judgment, they will simply walk away, as many of them have already done because of workload, court closures and the like. Apart from that, centralising a certain type of case in a certain court

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inevitably means even greater distances for all those involved to travel, with all the other consequences already touched on.

The Government were partly frustrated by this House in their comparable attempts to centralise control of county probation committees and county police authorities. This is an even more important battle to win for the sake of justice. If it is true, as I think it is, that this country is distinguished by a level of probity and respect for law and order among the vast majority of its citizens—despite the lamentable crime statistics that we hear so much of—those characteristics of Britain have a great deal to do with the role of justices of the peace at the heart of communities up and down the land since the 14th century. Although one can exaggerate and dramatise the impact of reorganisations such as that proposed, I strongly believe that for the magistrates' courts committees to be replaced by recommendatory councils would be an own goal and a self-destructive move of the first order.

5.34 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Lymington: My Lords, when I first received a print of the Bill, I started, as one would, with Clause 1. I was puzzled as to why it should set out this extensive duty on the Lord Chancellor. Could it be an aide memoire in case he had forgotten? Could it be a coded "Trespassers will be prosecuted" notice sent to the Home Secretary? I really did not know, but as I read further I came to the conclusion that it was an attempted justification for the enormous centralisation to which the Bill gives effect.

There is of course a widespread requirement for consultation, but if I were a Minister I do not think that a requirement to consult would blow me much off course. It would, of course, delay, but that is about all. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor may be different; he may be swayed by the results of consultation.

I looked to see whether anywhere the Bill says that anyone has to concur. In paragraph 281 of the Explanatory Notes I found a power in relation to Northern Ireland that requires the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. I then looked at the Bill. Unfortunately, it was a typographical error—it is, in fact, consultation again.

When I was in office, I was one of those who had to concur in the fees. Even in 1992, when I left, there were considerable anxieties among my brethren, which I shared, about the extent to which increases in fees would close access to justice. That has been highlighted recently in statements by one of my successors. I well understand the four heads of division saying that they no longer wish to accept responsibility for the fees being charged. But it would be difficult for them to oppose. The issue relates to the provision of the sinews or resources necessary to run the system.

I noticed with surprise the comment by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice that, in working out the costs of accommodation, a notional

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capital cost is now put on the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. I did not know anything about that. Of course, there are heavy maintenance costs as it is a listed building and a very extensive one. However, it seems odd to put a capital cost on it because, as many of your Lordships will know, it cost not a penny piece to build. The sensible course was taken of having a look at the enormous sums in the court funds that were never going to be claimed. It was then provided by statute that that money could be taken to build the courts, provided there was an indemnity that would provide payment for anybody who turned up to claim it. I commend to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor the thought that we might do that again. It is over 100 years since it was done. That might build a new commercial court.

Then there were the civil procedure rules. I was a member of that committee for a long time. Under the 1981 Act, the Lord Chancellor and at least four members of the committee had to concur. In other words, there was a right of veto on both sides. That was replaced under the Civil Procedure Act 1997 by a requirement for eight members of the committee to agree, giving the Lord Chancellor a veto—the right to approve or disapprove.

Clause 80 of this Bill allows the Lord Chancellor to "allow, disallow or alter" the rules. Paragraph 195 of the Explanatory Notes accurately comments on that, but it requires careful reading before anybody realises what the facts are. It says this is not a new power and goes on to talk about the county court rules. It is not a new power in relation to county court rules, but it certainly is a new power in relation to supreme court rules. So much for that.

I turn to appointments of staff. Justices' clerks are to be appointed under the provisions of subsection (1) of Clause 2. They are defined under Clause 22. As was pointed out, they are to be civil servants. They are to have powers to do anything that a single justice of the peace can do. Under Clause 24 they are to be independent in the sense that the Lord Chancellor's Department cannot require them to do anything in particular. I am reminded forcibly of the apocryphal story of the managing director who summoned the office boy and said, "Well, Brian, you really must comb your hair properly and have clean fingernails. I am not, of course, giving you an order, I am just making a suggestion. But I do hope that you will remember who is making the suggestion". I cannot help thinking that such a relationship might exist between some justices' clerks and the department.

Clause 30 gives justices' clerks an indemnity if they are sued. That is quite right, but subsection (5) of Clause 30 leaves it to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to decide whether they should have an indemnity. I accept that there are rules and approaches which no doubt would fetter his discretion but I consider that provision rather unfortunate.

The provision of fines officers is a welcome development. Any system of fines where recovery is problematical is bound to lack all credibility. It is the experience of all citizens advice bureaux that large

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sections of the population are quite incapable of managing their financial affairs. That can lead to those who are fined getting into genuine difficulties. They need help to get them out of those difficulties rather than a penal sanction. There are, of course, a few who just will not pay. I accept that sanctions must be imposed on those people, but I have slight doubts about paragraph 9 of the second schedule which provides that there shall be an uplift. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor says that it would be imposed by the court. That may be the case, but paragraph 9 reads differently. Paragraph 9(2) states:

    "An increase is imposed on the fine which is the subject of the order".

Paragraph 9(3) states:

    "The amount of the increase is to be determined in accordance with fines collection regulations but must not be greater than 50% of the fine".

Paragraph 9(4)—the key provision—states:

    "The increase is given effect by treating it as part of the fine imposed on P on his conviction".

So it is a deeming clause. Is that really a provision that either represents what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said or that would pass scrutiny under the Human Rights Act? For my part I have doubts.

I wish to say a few words about administrative councils. I can quite understand why they are being introduced, albeit I do not altogether approve of the form in which they are being introduced. But they involve the abolition of the magistrates' courts committees. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that the magistrates' courts committees serve a very important localising function. But if they are to go, instead of having just one lay justice on the new body, could we not have several? Even more importantly, ought they not to be nominated or elected by the magistrates and not appointed from on high? I also note—I am not sure how this works—that under Clause 5 the councils' recommendations are limited to matters specifically relevant to their own area. But there may be matters which relate across the board and which affect them. I certainly hope that they will be able to make recommendations on those matters.

The supplementary list should never be abolished. Many people up and down the country have given years of voluntary service. It is right that that should be recognised by their being allowed to put the letters "JP" after their name even if they have passed the point at which they are able actively to adjudicate. That may be due to age or merely due to the fact that they have adjudicated for a quarter of a century and they consider enough is enough.

I turn to damages. I wholeheartedly welcome the provision with regard to structured settlements. My only qualification is that it would be a good idea if the media were taught that a structured settlement does not necessarily involve the millions of pounds that they usually attribute to such settlements. In most cases the amount involved is much less. Only in a worst case scenario, as it were, would the costs run to the sort of figures that the media mention. That causes litigants to think in terms of unrealistic figures for settlements.

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I return for a moment to fines officers. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor mentioned clamping and appeared to regard the registration of a keeper as having something to do with ownership. It has nothing whatever to do with ownership. I am bound to say that if I was threatened with a fine, or even if I received a summons from a magistrates' court, I would give careful consideration to who ought to be the keeper of my motor vehicle. I am reminded again of an apocryphal story concerning King George V who asked one of his Ministers what was the state of the economy, to which the answer was, "Well, your Majesty, if I were you, I would put the colonies in the wife's name". I should have thought that that would certainly be the reaction of anyone whose vehicle was threatened with being clamped.

Subsection (1) of Clause 58 concerns nomenclature in the Court of Appeal. The justification for the proposed changes is said to be that the term "Lord Justice" is gender indicative. I do not agree for one moment. A large number of offices contain the word "Lord" none of which, so far as I know, has ever been treated as gender indicative. There is, for starters, the First Lord of the Treasury. The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, occupied that office for a long time. I do not believe that she ever considered that her femininity was called into question. There is—this is perhaps closer to home—the Lord President of the Council. There are perhaps—if not, there will be—female Lords Lieutenant. There are Lord Mayors, for example, the Lord Mayor of Westminster and the Lord Mayor of the City of London. Both those offices have been occupied by women who have been called Lord Mayor. There must be many other examples.

I was so puzzled by that provision that I had a look at my own patent. I did not want to bring it to the House as it has a heavy seal, I took a photocopy. Apart from referring to me as,

    "Our trusty and well beloved"

which I appreciate, it continues,

    "Sir John Francis Donaldson Knight, one of the justices of our High Court of Justice".

The style relates to the office. The document continues, having said "do give and grant",

    "the Office of one of our Lords Justices of Appeal".

It is an office. It has nothing to do with what one calls oneself. Section 4 of the 1991 Act says that the puisne judges of the High Court should be styled "justices of the High Court".

We all know that, long even before there were women judges of the High Court, judges were universally called Mr Justice so-and-so. It was quite logical that when women High Court justices were appointed they should call themselves Mrs Justice. I say "logical", but of course none of the Mr Justices was a Mister, because they were all Knights, and none of the Mrs Justices was a Mrs because they were all Dames. Subject to that, however, it was perfectly logical and it did not require any statutory approval.

If there is a sensitivity, as there is, although I believe it to be misguided, among the lady members of the Court of Appeal about the title of "Lord Justice", the

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obvious answer is to modify the Bill to provide that the word "Lord" shall be removed from the style or description of the office. If the office were known as "Justice of Appeal", the present incumbents would be free to do what their puisne brethren and sisterhood have done, which is to put some indication on the front of their title as to which gender they subscribe. In that way, life will be able to go on as it is at the moment.

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