Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, before the wedding bells break out, bearing in mind that the provisions of Schedule 19 double the minimum sentences that are currently the guidelines, will the Minister confirm that if the Sentencing Guidelines Council recommended a reduction of what is infamously, in my view, contained in Schedule 19, to its current level, the Secretary of State would follow the council's advice? In other words, the power to amend the schedule includes a power to reduce the minimum sentences if they are shown not to work.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord will know the import of what he has just said,
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with his usual smoothness. Noble Lords will know that I am probably too long in the tooth to swallow that one whole. I recite that the Government stand by their current position: we have presented a framework in the Bill that will apply, and the Sentencing Guidelines Council will have the role that I have outlined in excruciating detail in Committee and now at Report stage. I have said what I have said, which I do not believe can be misinterpreted, in relation to Amendment No. 224.
Usually we say that we will take amendments away and redraft them, but I am not going to do that. I say to the noble Baroness, without reservation, that she has her reward.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, we had a little bit of darkness from the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, but, with the right reverend Prelate in the Chamber, it is a case of let there be light on this occasion. Naturally, I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to accept the amendment.
I have to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, yet again this evening. He tried to discern a measure of support for knocking out the Secretary of State's
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power. Of course, I have made it clear throughout the evening that that was dependent on the whole package, so I am no longer in a position to do that. That was why I introduced the amendment. The Minister got it absolutely squarely right when she said that an affirmative resolution in this case would be tested by the House. As sure as eggs is eggs, if the Secretary of State decided to increase the sentences set down here, he would find a great alliance in both Houses against such a move unless there were extraordinary circumstances requiring it.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.
Transas Group Bill
Bill reported from the Unopposed Bill Committee with amendments.
House adjourned at eight minutes past ten o'clock.