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Lord Waddington: My only criticism of the amendment is that it does not go far enough, for the reasons advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. It seems extraordinary that we should want guidance about the way in which councils should discharge their functions to be laid down by order, but should not at the same time demand that provision about the constitution, procedure and quorum of the councils be laid down by order. I would like the noble Baroness to explain why the Government do not recognise that it is important that the power in subsection (6) be possible to implement only by order.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As I said at the meeting, I want to say straightaway that, in terms of what the Government want and what Members of the Committee have expressed, we are very much at one. That particularly applies to what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, have indicated today, and to what the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said about the purpose and the nature of these issues. We are considering how to give voice to

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that in a meaningful and satisfactory way. I understand absolutely that Members of the Committee are concerned to ensure that the guidance receives appropriate parliamentary scrutiny.

I have explained why I am not in a position to undertake to provide the Committee with a draft now. However, the Government are committed to ensuring that those who use the services offered by the courts, those who dispense justice within them and those who work to support the delivery of justice within them are consulted throughout the process of developing the new system of courts administration. The series of stakeholder events, which I have now mentioned on a number of occasions—they are planned from the end of this month through to April—will involve them in developing that guidance.

I have noted the concerns that Members of the Committee have expressed in general on this issue. I will consider all the amendments that have been put forward, with a view to ensuring that once the guidance is developed, it will be subject to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny. I can say now that I am not opposed in principle to the guidance taking the form of a statutory instrument, although I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, is probably right to say that it would probably be more appropriate to do that in regulations rather than in an order.

Members of the Committee will have noted that all the technical provisions about proposed statutory instruments are located in one place; that is, Clause 97. That would be the place in which to specify whether the negative or affirmative resolution procedure should be used. I cannot give a guarantee at this stage but I can certainly say that we are looking at the matter in a concrete way to try to ensure that the best route is taken to give some reassurance in a form that the noble Lord finds acceptable. We will therefore need to consider the spirit of the amendment in the context of the drafting of the Bill as a whole. We very much take on board the thrust of what is said in this regard.

I hope to be able to give the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, a more positive and definitive response on Report, but I am not able to do so now. We must consider all that is said in relation to the other parts of the Bill to establish how best to manage what has to go where. I am happy to assure Members of the Committee that we are by no means resistant to the thrust of the comments that have been made.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister for those remarks, which may describe her overall approach in this regard—that she is prepared to look at the matter. My noble friend Lord Waddington is right: these amendments definitely do not go far enough and I should not have pressed them on that basis. I tabled them as the opening salvo—a gentle one—in the hope that we can entice the Government into doing the right thing. Of course, the opening salvo may turn into a deafening roar on Report if we are not able to find the right way forward in this regard. Because I am assured that we will go into much greater detail on Report, I shall

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not take up the time of Members of the Committee further at this stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 21B and 22 not moved.]

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 23:


    Leave out Clause 4 and insert the following new Clause—


"AREA COURTS MANAGEMENT BOARDS
(1) For the purpose of implementing this Part, England and Wales shall be divided into areas.
(2) For each area there shall be a board (referred to in this Act as an "area courts management board") which is to exercise the functions conferred on it by virtue of this Act and any other enactment.
(3) Schedule (Area courts management boards) (which makes provision about the constitution of area courts management boards, their powers and other matters relating to them) is to have effect.
(4) References in this Act or any other enactment to an officer of an area courts management board are references to—
(a) any member of the staff allocated to an area courts management board to exercise the functions of an officer of the board, and
(b) any other individual exercising functions of an officer of an area courts management board by virtue of section 5(2).
(5) The initial areas for the purpose of implementing this Part are—
(a) the police areas listed in Schedule 1 to the Police Act 1996 (c. 16) (police areas), and
(b) the area comprising the Metropolitan Police District and the City of London Police Area.
(6) The division of England and Wales into areas for that purpose may be altered from time to time by order made by the Lord Chancellor."

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 28 and 30. These amendments appear in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Goodhart and Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

I propose to set the scene by explaining why we tabled the amendments. That history will be well known to Members of the Committee but it may not be as well known to those who read our debate in Hansard. I leave the meat of this matter—the reasons behind the amendments and the way in which they work—to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, to explain later.

Briefly, the effect of the three amendments would be to create a structure that we believe is preferable to the CACs. We believe that it is vital for the local structure to be the authoritative voice of local justice. I am grateful to all those who have briefed us on these matters—in particular, the Central Council of Magistrates' Courts Committees and the Magistrates' Association, both of which support the amendments.

I note, in particular, that over the past couple of months the Magistrates' Association has taken care to consult its 30,000-plus members to ensure that there is support for any action that it might take over these amendments. Indeed, members feel so strongly that they have written directly to noble Lords on this side

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of the Chamber. I have received letters from, among others, the branches at Bromley and East Yorkshire, whose members very much support the amendments that we have put forward today and who object to the Government's plans for CACs.

I make it clear from the start that none of us will argue for the status quo. We have not objected to the abolition of magistrates' courts committees per se, and we have not sought to oppose the Question that Clause 6 stand part of the Bill. But we do want to move on to a better system for delivering local justice. We argue that, if the committees are abolished, the replacement structure must be better. At present, we do not consider that the CAC structure is better. We are trying to find a system that is.

At Second Reading, we went into detail about how we felt that the Government had done a U-turn. I shall not repeat all those arguments now. In her letter to noble Lords and, again, tonight, the Minister said that what is important is the substance of the role, and not the name. I agree with her. But the difficulty is that we say that the substance of the role of CACs as set out in the Bill is simply not acceptable. It is not merely the name; it is the substance. It is not what the Government first offered in their White Paper. We are afraid that we shall end up with a mere talking shop which will not earn local credibility or respect.

Very briefly—as I said, I shall leave the meat of this issue to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips—the amendments are as follows. Amendment No. 23 seeks to insert a new clause to establish area courts management boards. They will enable national priorities to be interpreted in the light of local circumstances and local needs. The boards will be corporate bodies. Their boundaries will match those of the 42 criminal justice areas for England and Wales. They will be based on police areas but will treat the Metropolitan and City of London as one criminal justice area rather than two police areas. I set that out in response to a comment made by the Minister. I hope that the explanation is sufficient.

The objective of the structure is to maintain and enhance local capacity to meet the Government's aim of improving efficiency by creating common boundaries across all the agencies in the criminal justice system. Our objective is to make the local bodies definitely the authoritative voice of local justice. I beg to move.


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