Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Waddington: I do not want to waste time, but one must be clear about the history. This is not a case of the consultation process taking place and being immediately rejected by the Lord Chancellor. A consultation process took place which was accepted by the Government. The Government accepted the conclusions of the consultation process. I have a letter from the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster saying that as the proposals had no support in the county palatine, they would not proceed with them. That is the history of the matter.

Perhaps rather rudely, I wrote back to the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Mo Mowlam, saying, "My advice to you is perfectly simple: tell the Lord Chancellor to get his tanks off your lawn". Apparently she did so and the net result was that the Government did not proceed with the proposals. Having gone through that elaborate exercise with full consultation resulting in a resounding no and that no being accepted by the Government, I want to know why the Lord Chancellor uses this Bill to reverse the decision so recently made by his own Government.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, is excited about the issue in relation to the Duchy of Lancaster. On the previous occasion when we raised this matter in its proper place I promised the noble Lord that I would write to him. I shall do so. We are making inquiries as to the precise nature of the consultation. I remind the noble Lord that the present Bill arose as a result of a desire to unify the system, which is currently separated in the way that we have discussed at length. I hope the Committee will accept that this situation is significantly different from that which prevailed at the time the noble Lord described because of the discussions as to how matters should be arranged between the Duchy and the Lord Chancellor.

This is not a case of tanks on the lawn. The justices, whether lay or professional, provide a service. It is an honourable service and we seek to ensure that those who are entrusted with judicial office serve the people of this country in the most efficient and effective way and deliver a system of justice which works not for the benefit of those people who operate it, but for those who come before the courts seeking justice.

I understand the passion with which the noble Lord speaks, but I must say that it has reached a sad pass to talk about justice and its administration in terms of tanks on the lawn. There are no such tanks. There is one tank. That is justice. It is moving in one direction in order to give that justice to the people of this country.

I return to Clause 59 and to the consultation that the Lord Chancellor will be obliged to undertake with the most senior members of the judiciary as a result of this

11 Feb 2003 : Column 640

provision. It is right that we should bear in mind the history. We are in the happy position that Lord Chancellors, no matter of which complexion, have always enjoyed the benefit of good working relations with their senior colleagues. We do not anticipate that there will be any change in that. There is a huge level of respect between the Lord Chancellor and the senior judiciary. There is no reason to suppose that that will not continue.

As regards consultation, there is a duty to consult, as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said—and I know that noble Lords will be delighted by the way in which it is phrased. That consultation must be a real consultation. We hope that the happy position between the noble and learned Lord and his brother judges will continue. I hope that satisfies the noble Baroness and noble Lords who have spoken most helpfully.

The noble Baroness asks what happens if they all fall out. So far the judges have been of good judgment. They have behaved judiciously and have been able to reach honourable compromises in the interests of justice. I hope that anyone seized of the offices that we have before us will continue to use that good judgment.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her response. My noble friend Lord Waddington is right in saying that the quality of consultation is important. The Minister is right to point out that those who will be consulted in this specific circumstance are a limited but powerful group of people, to whom I am sure the Lord Chancellor should have due regard or else he might find their tanks on his lawn. So there could be difficulties. I certainly pay due regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said.

Perhaps I had a rather mischievous reason for tabling the amendment. It struck me as intriguing—I say no more—that a statutory consultation is so clearly on the face of the Bill with regard to judicial titles and yet as regards the moot matter of the appointment of justices' clerks and their disposition, which we discussed earlier, there is no statutory consultation. I may return to that matter on another occasion. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 61 [Judges having powers of District Judges (Magistrates' Courts)]:

[Amendments Nos. 87 and 88 not moved.]

Clause 61 agreed to.

Clauses 62 and 63 agreed to.

Clause 64 [Criminal Procedure Rules]:

On Question, Whether Clause 64 shall stand part of the Bill?

11 Feb 2003 : Column 641

Lord Hunt of Wirral: It is worth reflecting on the fact that the phrase which seems to have excited the Minister involving tanks on lawns was coined by a previous Labour Prime Minister. We should respectfully remind ourselves of that fact, although on this occasion it was utilised in a moderate discussion by my noble friend Lord Waddington. For the assistance of noble Lords, perhaps we may indicate that we shall return to the issue in debate on Clause 98 and the repeals schedule.

We are now considering rules of court—they will be known as criminal procedure rules—which govern the practice and procedure to be followed in the criminal courts in England and Wales. It is an important provision. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice referred at Second Reading to the provisions. He made the valid point that the new criminal procedure rule committee would face a considerable challenge. He reminded us that the plethora of criminal justice legislation of recent years has created a criminal justice system,


    "that is highly technical and of labyrinthine complexity".—[Official Report, 9/12/02; col. 26.]

We would do well to reflect on that when we consider the rules. It would be helpful if the Minister could outline the timing and procedure now to be followed in establishing this important innovation.

Clause 64(3) confirms that criminal procedure rules may be made,


    "for different cases or different areas".

I understand from the Explanatory Notes that that distinction is intended to enable the committee to make rules in support of new initiatives. It would be helpful if the Minister could outline the initiatives that Ministers have in mind. I understand that at present they are considering a number of pilot schemes. Again it would assist the Committee if we were to have a resume of the pilot schemes to be established.

Clauses 64 and 65 are important clauses. We wish the criminal procedure rule committee well. However, it would be of great assistance if we could hear from the Minister as to how the rules are to be formulated and proceeded with.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: This clause details membership of the new criminal procedure rule committee, which is to include representatives from across the criminal justice system and those voluntary organisations with a direct interest in the work of the criminal courts.

The committee will include as members the judiciary, the magistracy, representatives from both branches of the legal profession, the police and representatives of the other criminal justice departments. The wider community will be incorporated with the inclusion on the committee of representatives of voluntary organisations with an interest in the workings of the criminal courts. Therefore, those with a direct interest will be able to participate in the rule-making process. In his amendments to Clause 65, the

11 Feb 2003 : Column 642

noble Lord, Lord Hunt, proposes amending the membership of the criminal procedure rule committee and removing certain words from the Bill.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: It may be of assistance to the noble Baroness if I say that I was speaking merely to the establishment of criminal procedure rules under the Clause 64 stand part debate and have not yet moved—nor has the Committee—to the amendment to which I think that she began to refer.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank the noble Lord for his intervention, because I thought that he was moving Amendment No. 89.

As the noble Lord said, the case progression project is developing pilots of procedures that will lead to a quicker and more effective justice. The rules committee will develop rules that can be expected to support further development of the case progression project. I hope that that is helpful in describing to the Committee how we shall proceed.

Clause 64 agreed to.

Clause 65 [Criminal Procedure Rule Committee]:

8.45 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Wirral moved Amendment No. 89:


    Page 30, line 30, after "Officers," insert—


"(k) one person who shall represent Victim Support,
(l) one person who shall represent the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux,"

The noble Lord said: We now move to the amendments to Clause 65. Perhaps, in responding to these amendments, the Minister may deal with the other questions that I posed in the Clause 64 stand part debate, to which she has not yet had a chance to respond. Those are the questions of timing; of how new initiatives are to be evolved; of what sort of pilot schemes are contemplated; and, indeed, of what sort of initiatives have given rise to the distinction in Clause 64 referring to different cases or different areas. I raise that point only because the Explanatory Notes make much of it and it would be helpful to hear an explanation.

As the Minister predicted, in moving Amendment No. 89 I suggest that Clause 65(2)(k) is unsatisfactorily worded because it suggests that on the procedure rule committee should be:


    "two persons who appear to represent voluntary organisations with a direct interest in the work of criminal courts".

I find that wording unsatisfactory. I therefore move Amendment No. 89 and speak to Amendment No. 90, which, I think, would give a better opportunity to two important voluntary organisations that not only appear to have but actually have a direct interest in the work of criminal courts.

I speak of course of Victim Support and the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. I suppose that I ought to declare an interest as president of my local citizens advice bureau—although that is an honorary position. But that, and my relationship with Victim Support over the years, has given me the

11 Feb 2003 : Column 643

opportunity to recognise that both those bodies perform enormously valuable service. There are many who could testify similarly in both this Chamber and another place.

Such groups should be appointed to the criminal procedure rule committee. The Bill merely suggests:


    "two persons who appear to represent".

Perhaps the Minister will explain why the Government chose those words. It may well be that they have in mind appointing people who represent Victim Support and the NACAB, but it would be greatly to the benefit of the Committee if the noble Baroness would explain.

What I hope will come out of the Minister's explanation is an assurance that the people who will be asked to serve on the committee will actually work for and with voluntary organisations not just "appear" to represent them. I beg to move.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page