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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank the noble Lord for that. A "new code" is a code covering entirely new subject matter. For example, there was recently a new code on the video-recording of interviews. One of the difficulties that I have is in giving the noble Lord any indication as to how often these changes will be necessary. Regrettably, none of us has a crystal ball and we often think that there is no need for revision. Then, because of technological and other changes, we find that a new code to meet the new arrangements becomes necessary, as the noble Lord probably knows from practice. So I cannot say how often that will be necessary, but the fact that it will be necessary we can take from the amount of times that we have had to do it so far. I anticipate therefore that it will be a rolling programme, but I cannot give any better indication than that.

Amendment No. 38 would require the retention of the affirmative resolution procedure for new and revised PACE codes. I have already mentioned that we are content to retain the affirmative resolution procedure for new codes. However, we want to keep some flexibility in relation to amendments, and that is why we intend effectively to give the Home Affairs Select Committee discretion over whether specific proposals should be subject to affirmative resolution or to a simple laying requirement.

I hear the comments of the noble Lord about the complexion of the Select Committees. However, that has not to date stopped them holding this Government to account, and every other government who have come within their view. We do not see that the Home Affairs Select Committee will do anything other than

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behave entirely independently. That is how they have operated in the past and we believe that they will continue to do so.

Amendment No. 39 would require the affirmative resolution procedure for analogous codes covering the work of military police forces. Currently such codes are only subject to negative resolution and, as they tend broadly to follow the main PACE codes, there is a good case for exempting them from any specific parliamentary procedure. Allowing for the government amendments which have already been discussed, we do not support either Amendments Nos. 38 or 39, but they are in the framework of the other proposals we have just outlined. I hear the comments of the noble Lord about scrutiny. That is why I made plain, in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, that we await the Delegated Powers Committee, because we wish to listen to what it might say. That is an innovative way of dealing with the matter.

I know that many noble Lords and others in another place have been concerned about how the Home Secretary will exercise his discretion. This is an appropriate way of giving both Houses the reassurance they seek. If we get an indication that the affirmative resolution procedure is preferred, that is the procedure we shall adopt.

Lord Elton: If we are expanding this group to include the next, I apologise for returning to the point that I have just raised. I draw your Lordships' attention to Section 67 of PACE, which has not been amended in this respect so far as I can see. Under that Act, amendments to codes were put through exactly the same parliamentary scrutiny—that is the affirmative procedure—as the original codes. Therefore, the current proposal is a downgrading. It is not a downgrading from the top line to the second line—from affirmative to negative procedure. It is a downgrading from the top line to the bottom line, which means no parliamentary procedure.

All those who have expressed concern about children and the importance that even minor changes might have for them will agree that that should be looked at with great suspicion. We should possibly return to the issue on Report.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: We are grateful to the Minister for her further courteous explanation on Amendments Nos. 38 and 39. We are not yet clear where we shall end up with Amendment No. 37, given that we have not yet had the report. So while we understand the Government's position, we shall reserve ours. So long as the Minister understands that we may wish to return to it on Report, we are prepared to let the matter rest for the moment.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am grateful for that indication. I hope that when we have an opportunity for further reflection, noble Lords will feel more content. I hear the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, about suspicion. If that view is shared by others, then I am sure that they will ask for the affirmative resolution procedure, which is the higher

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rather than the lowest of the three proposals, and I say, frankly, that if that is the view that is expressed, we would be content.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 33 to 36 not moved.]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 37:


    Page 6, leave out lines 15 and 16 and insert—


"(5) A code, or a revision of a code, does not come into operation until the Secretary of State by order so provides.
(6) The power conferred by subsection (5) is exercisable by statutory instrument.
(7) An order bringing a code into operation may not be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House.
(7A) An order bringing a revision of a code into operation must be laid before Parliament if the order has been made without a draft having been so laid and approved by a resolution of each House.
(7B) When an order or draft of an order is laid, the code or revision of a code to which it relates must also be laid.
(7C) No order or draft of an order may be laid until the consultation required by subsection (4) has taken place.
(7D) An order bringing a code, or a revision of a code, into operation may include transitional or saving provisions.""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 37A to 39 not moved.]

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Power of arrest for possession of Class C drugs]:

[Amendments Nos. 40 to 42 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 11 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Walmsley: We have already had the debate about the powers of arrest for possession of class C drugs. I shall not repeat that debate, although I support the removal of Clause 11. I wish to make three brief points. First, the main reason that these Benches do not support the powers is that we believe they undermine the attempt to develop a credible set of drugs laws focused on reducing harm and concentrating law enforcement on the dealers in hard drugs. We believe that the many benefits of reclassification of cannabis will be undermined and diluted by allowing these police powers to remain in the Bill.

Secondly, in her response to our debate last week on her Amendment No. 6, the Minister commented that I had wrongly stated that the penalties for possession of cannabis would be increased by this Bill. I shall explain how I reached that conclusion. First, those agencies that advised the Government to reclassify cannabis as class C envisaged that a major consequence would be the removal of any custodial penalty for possession. By reclassifying it and then introducing the power of arrest and a two-year penalty the Government are, in effect, increasing the penalty from zero to two years.

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In addition Schedule 24 increases the maximum penalty for offences of production, supply and possession with intent to supply a class C drug from five to 14 years. Many of those who wish to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, or even for leisure purposes, would prefer to grow their own than to have to engage with criminal dealers who also supply class A drugs in order to obtain their supplies. In doing so, they may wish to supply other users or sufferers of pain for which cannabis is a relief. That puts them in danger of a 14-year sentence rather than a five-year sentence. That is what I mean by an increase. If the Government would only allow people to grow their own and supply a small group of friends without running the risk of becoming involved with the criminal justice system, just as people, including my own grandfather, used to grow their own tobacco, the problem would be solved without any damage to society. It is a practical and reasonable solution proposed by these Benches and many drug policy experts, but clearly the Government are not inclined to listen.

Finally, on the matter of the Conservative amendment which we debated last week to remove other class C drugs from the power of arrest, we on these Benches have a great deal of sympathy with the idea and I trust that we will return to it at the Report stage.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Waddington: I have considerable sympathy with what the noble Baroness said. It is not difficult to argue that the position adopted by the Government is fundamentally flawed. As I have argued on many previous occasions, cannabis should not have been reclassified from a class B to a class C drug when hardly a week goes by without new evidence emerging of the harmful effect of the drug and the way in which it can cause mental illness. The cannabis now on the streets is far more potent and potentially dangerous. It is odd and irresponsible for the Government to take a step which is bound to convey to some people the message that the use of cannabis is not a serious matter.

The Government's stance is entirely illogical; downgrading the drug but keeping the power of arrest. I do not believe that we should vote against the clause because it seeks to mitigate the effect of their folly in declassifying. But I am thankful for that small mercy. It does something to correct the mischievous impression they have created—that the drug is harmless—for which we should be thankful.

It would have been far better if they had singled out cannabis among class C drugs whose use would justify arrest. I pointed out previously the absurdity that the possession of, say, anabolic steroids should be arrestable. But there it is; this is making the best of a very bad job. I would therefore not vote against the clause.


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