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Lord Borrie: It might be unwise to be as prescriptive as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, suggests. I too am well acquainted with the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, and with Victim Support. They have been in existence for some time.
However, this Bill is meant to extend over many years. It would be a pity if the wording were so prescriptive that should a body change its name, disappear or merge into something else, that left the Lord Chancellor's Department without a choice, which is available in the present broader wording. Unless the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is so strongly cynical that he feels that the Lord Chancellor's Department cannot fairly and objectively operate the system embodied in the clause, I should have thought it best left alone.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for giving way. I should like to point out that the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux was set up before I was born. I realise that that is just a flash in the pan compared to the experience of the noble Lord opposite. But the Bill contains mention of organisations from time to time. He will know that I am simply seeking to press the Minister to give an idea of the voluntary organisations the Government have in mind. I hope that the noble Lord does not for one moment think that I was trying to entrench two specific organisations forevermore, although I believe that both organisations will be with us for many years to come.
Lord Goodhart: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Borrie; we do not want to be too prescriptive. But perhaps I too can plug an organisation about which I must declare an interest and say that Justice would be an admirable organisation to be represented on this committee. Indeed, it could be said that we need more than two representatives of voluntary organisations on the committee. I agree that Victim Support and NACAB would have a great deal to
Lord Thomas of Gresford: Can the Minister say why it is necessary in Clause 66 to give power to the Lord Chancellor to amend what will be Section 65(2)? An amendment standing in the names of my noble friend Lord Goodhart, myself and the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, is to be debated shortly. Why are those powers taken? I shall be grateful for an explanation.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There seems to be general agreement that it is necessary to include appropriate organisations. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for his kind agreement with the good sense of my noble friend Lord Borrie, which was also reflected by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I shall deal with the amendment therefore in the spirit in which it was moved.
As drafted, the provision allows for flexibility and inclusiveness in the appointment of representatives from across the voluntary sector. The proposed amendments would require the Lord Chancellor to appoint two additional membersrepresentatives from Victim Support and the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux (both excellent organisations of long standing)to the committee.
If accepted, the amendment would enlarge what is already substantial membership at the risk of making the committee unwieldy. However, should increased representation of the voluntary sector prove to be desirable, it could be achieved by order, and the Lord Chancellor is to have the power to alter the membership of the committee under Clause 66. Perhaps I can just pick up on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. One of the reasons for that power being included is to enable the Lord Chancellor to change the membership if the need arises. Furthermore, the amendment may cause unnecessary complications. In the event of either specified organisation changing its name, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, the legislation would need to be amended. I accept that that is not what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, had in mind. The aim of Clause 66 is to ensure that there is sufficient flexibility.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank the noble Lord. The use of the phrase is a common formulation in this context to avoid arguments as to whether someone is representative of a group. The phraseology allows for the president of an organisation to propose that a named individual should be considered as representative of that organisation. In turn, that would enable the Lord Chancellor to form the view that the person "appeared" representative. It does not
I am happy to give Members of the Committee more information on the Question whether Clause 65 should stand part of the Bill. I understand that they wish to have that information on the record so that they can have time to consider it. I apologise if, at the start of the Committee, I did not pay sufficient attention to the fact that it was a clause stand part debate and focused instead on the amendments.
We believe that the framework for making rules for the criminal courts must be overhauled. That sentiment was expressed by various noble Lords on all sides of the House. At present, rules are considered by different committees and made by different means. There is no one forum for the discussion of general improvements to the running of a trial. The existing committees do not meet. Proposed rules for different criminal courts are considered in isolation. Rules, therefore, tend to be fragmented and deal with specific issues. They lack a common purpose and uniform presentation, which makes it harder for the public to understand them.
To modernise and streamline the manner in which the new rules are created, the criminal procedure rule committee will take on responsibility for work on criminal business. It will make rules to determine the practices and procedures to be followed in all criminal courts in England and Wales. By placing responsibility with one committee, more consistent rules should be developed. We hope that that will underpin the goal of greater integration in the criminal justice system. The committee would also participate in the longer-term aim of codifying criminal procedures. The committee will be responsible for the development of the rules governing the practice and procedure to be followed in criminal proceedings in the Court of Appeal, the Crown Court and the magistrates' court. I have already dealt with the role of the criminal procedure rule committee and those whom we believe will be represented on it.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, the committee will be established at the earliest opportunity following Royal Assent in 2003. A provisional or shadow body may be created early in the new year. It would be chaired by a senior judge and would carry out preparatory work in anticipation of the creation of the new committee. It would work in conjunction with existing committees prior to the creation of the criminal procedure rule committee.
The existing Crown Court and magistrates' court rule committees will continue to make rules for criminal practice and procedure for their relevant courts until the new committee is established. It is anticipated that they will continue to deal with the rules of civil proceedings undertaken in the Crown Court and in magistrates' court thereafter.
I have tried to give a full explanation because I hope that it will give Members of the Committee opposite an overview of where the Government hope to be going. We expect to bring together a working group, drawn from the organisations previously mentioned, to be represented on the committees, to consider the type of work to be undertaken and to liaise with the existing Crown Court rule committee. The work will be in parallel with the development of the new initiative to help the smoother progress of the courts.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: If the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, is concerned with the fragmentation of practice in the criminal procedure, why is it that, under Clause 69, the Lord Chief Justice will give directions as to the practice and procedure of the criminal courts? What is the thinking behind that provision, which does not give, as I see it, the criminal procedure rule committee any role in deciding on practice directions?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There is, and always has been, a role for the learned judge in relation to this matter. We hope that the criminal procedure rule committee will provide an opportunity to obtain an overall view of the criminal procedure rules. We said that all will be representedthe judiciary, magistrates, the Bar, solicitors and all representative parties outlined. It is to be decided which level of judiciary will be sitting on the rule committee. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, referred to the Lord Chief Justice.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: I am referring to Clause 69, which states that the Lord Chief Justice will decide on future practice directions. There may be some thinking behind this that I do not understand. If there is to be a criminal procedure rule committee, why is it that the committee will not consider practice directions, but that it is simply left to the Lord Chief Justice, with the concurrence of the Lord Chancellor, on his own?
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