Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Twenty-Seventh Report

Letter from the Chairman to Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC, Minister of State at the Home Office

Thank you for your letter of 27 October in which you draw attention to Government amendments to Part 8 of the Criminal Justice Bill concerning a right of prosecution appeal, in relation to certain offences, against evidentiary rulings which significantly weaken the prosecution case. As you explain in a supplementary memorandum, there is provision for the range of offences to which this right will apply to be altered by order subject to the negative procedure.

It has not been possible, in the time available, to convene a formal meeting of the committee. Informal conversations with members, however, lead me to make two points.

The first concerns the precedent to which you refer in the supplementary memorandum, section 35(4) of the Criminal Justice Bill 1988. Since this provision (although subsequently amended) pre-dates the existence of the Delegated Powers Committee, it is of limited relevance in determining the appropriateness of the level of parliamentary scrutiny in this case.

Secondly, although the delegated power in this case may be described as administrative, the substantive issue of rights of prosecution appeal is of considerable significance and sensitivity and the House may take the view that, in these circumstances, choice between the negative and the affirmative procedure is finely balanced.

28 October 2003

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