|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I would not have taken the exceptional step of telling your Lordships of the intention to bring this back under the Parliament Act if this were voted down today but for the extraordinary step that is proposedto vote this down on Second Reading. I did this so that it is absolutely clear that the opportunity to amend or improve this Bill, which I had thought the parties opposite had been asking for each time that they stopped us proceedingsaying, Lets go through this on a Billwill be denied to the whole House.
I can tell the noble Lord behind me that I am not opposed to assessors as a matter of principle; if that is what the House wants, we can look at it. The problem is that if the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, is passed then we will not even be able to consider it, but if the Bill comes back then it will come back as it stands.
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, that is not my understanding of the Governments position at all. Before this Bill was introduced, we had the right under Section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to receive in the form of a draft affirmative order and to vote on it. The noble and learned Lord knew full well, two or three months before the tabling of the order was envisaged, that the House was likely to vote against it. He therefore changed tack and decided to introduce primary legislation, knowing that one consequence of doing soif the House did not agree with the contents of that legislationwould be Parliament Act procedures. His decision to do that had nothing whatever to do with any expressed desire by the Opposition of preferring primary legislation because, unlike an order, they could amend it.
Lord Goldsmith: I am sorry, my Lords, but I had not wanted to get into the history of all of this. I had thought and hoped that we were here to look at the substance of the proposals. The fact is that a Motion was tabled, but not two or three months before the resolution came to the House. After it had been passed in another place, it became apparent that the resolution would not be accepted in this HouseI entirely agree and was perfectly open about thatand a resolution was tabled, or was about to be, I believe by the noble Lord, making it clear that the Opposition wanted to debate this through the course of primary legislation. Indeed, they put down amendments to the Fraud Bill.
I had thought, from the fuss that there was about how much consultation there had been and the demands for Motions that the parties opposite wanted to discuss the possibility of changes. Yet that is not possible if this Bill is voted down today. I am sorry, but I find the explanation for taking that view and going against the conventions of this House extraordinary.
The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, also said at one stage that there was no point in having amendments because the Government had made it clear in the Commons that it did not like the amendments that
20 Mar 2007 : Column 1200
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, raised a similar matter to that raised by the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General. There is a simple logic behind tabling the amendment at Second Reading, as we have done today. If we went on to Committee, we would table do not stand part amendments to every single clause in the Bill. What is the point of doing that? Indeed, I wonder whether it would be procedurally acceptable if we sought to do it. The decision to amend the Second Reading flows ineluctably from the position that we would have taken in Committee.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, our very good recent debates on the future of this House have focused on one aspect: that this is a revising Chamber. This amendment will stop us from revising this Bill. I want to conclude
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, before my noble friend does that, does he agree that if the Opposition were to succeed tonight, this approach would apply to every bit of legislation of which they disapprove?
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the logic of my noble friends position is for everyone to judge. This Bill is not an attack on the jury system and repeating the contrary proposition, however often, does not make it true. It is ultimately about justice and about ensuring that those who are responsible for fraud on the grander scale can be called to account as effectually as those charged with more everyday offences.
We want the sharks to be caught and not just the minnows, to take the analogy that was used behind me. Many distinguished people and senior judicial figures over the years have proposed non-jury trial as a solution to this particular problemand Parliament enacted it in 2003. Lord Justice Aulds dictumthat our present position puts justice at riskhas been referred to several times. That is the basis on which this Bill is put forward, and I commend this Bill to the House.
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I shall be relatively telegraphic. First, in my submission the Government have not made out a case for the measure. From what the Government wish to do in procedures for fraud trials run by a single judge, we know that they will not be any shorter; indeed, it is highly likely that they will be longer. I do not think that that will give the public any more confidence in non-jury trial than they have in some of the existing trials. So, they will not be shorter.
Secondly, in the mind of the Government there is clearly no problem about complexity. The Solicitor-General, in another place, said in terms that the problem was not complexity but the length of time that the trial took and the burden which that placed on the jury. That may well be true; but that problem applies to all long and complicated trials, not just fraud trials, which is why some of your Lordships raise question marks about the underlying intentions of the Government with respect to jury trial. If the logic behind this measure is that long and complex trials are burdensome to juries, it is easily extended to all such trials. That may not be the intention of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General but it is the logic of his argument.
It would be extremely easy for a future Governmentor, dare I say it, a future noble and learned Lord, a future Attorney-Generalto apply that logic to a whole other range of criminal trials. The noble and learned Lord shakes his head now, and I am sure that his intentions are sound; but the logic is clear.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the noble Lord is simply failing to take account of what I said. It is not just the length and complexity but the particular circumstances of serious, complex fraud cases that involve considerations, financial instruments and all the rest that is outside the normal ken of most of us that adds an element of complexity that is not present in other cases.
There is a wider dimension to this case, which is that we are not just talking about a procedure in the context of a particular offence. We are talking about jury trial in general. If there are two principles that infuse the liberties of the citizen, they are the principle of habeas corpus and the principle of jury trial. They are both under threat from this Government. Happily, we have managed to prevent the Government from extending the time in which someone can spend in detention without charge to 90 days; but I suspect that very soon we will have another battle on our hands.
The noble Lord said: I have observed that there is a difference between the arrangements in the two Houses. Clause 2(3) deals with the arrangements for deciding which functions should be exercised as joint functions under the mechanism to be set up by this Bill. We have been told that the proposal is for only computers and information technology to be jointly managed, but the Bill is deliberately worded much wider than that. It would allow other functions to be made joint, subject to this subsection.
It was clear at Second Reading that there is some favour for the idea that other functions should be made joint; for example, the Library, the refreshment department and potentially other things. In your Lordships House, changes in the functions can be made only with the approval of the whole House. But in another place changes can be made with simply the approval of the Commission. In other words, the
20 Mar 2007 : Column 1205
Lord Norton of Louth: I support my noble friends amendment, which I touched on at Second Reading. On the face of it, an asymmetrical relationship between the mechanisms will be adopted for the two Houses. It may be that there are legitimate reasons for that. As I mentioned at Second Reading, it may be a matter for the other House to determine its own procedures, but it would be interesting to tease out the reasoning, so that it is on the record.
Baroness Amos: I think that it would be helpful to clarify that this is not a government Bill. I am taking the Bill through this House because there is no mechanism for something which affects Parliament to be brought forward except through the Government. I confirm that this is not a government Bill, it is a parliamentary Bill. I recognise that this is an issue that has concerned the noble Lord, Lord Cope, and the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, who raised this when we discussed the Bill at Second Reading. There are different governance arrangements between the two Houses. Clause 2 provides that in exercising certain functions under the Bill, the Corporate Officer of the House of Lords may act only in accordance with recommendations made by the House Committee of the House of Lords and approved by this House. That is the way that we do business. The Corporate Officers are the Clerks of the two Houses.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, suggested that the draft Bill should be amended to include the Floor of the House requirement. We were happy to agree that and the Bill was amended prior to its introduction. This amendment would require a decision on the Floor of the House in another place. It would be highly unusual for this House to amend a Bill in this way, given that it touches on a matter of internal House of Commons procedure. I hope, therefore, that having had the opportunity to raise the issue and my having explained that there are different governance arrangements between the two Houses, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I must first apologise if I appeared to be treating the Lord President as though she were speaking for the Government. I realise that she is actually speaking as Leader of the House. As far as the amendment is concerned, the Leader of the House is quite right to say that, in the end, it is for another place to decide how they wish to do things. Having drawn attention to the matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
A joint department shall, by 30th September each year, lay before both Houses of Parliament a report of the departments operations and financial affairs in the financial year ending on 31st March in the preceding year.
The noble Lord said: The amendment provides for an annual report. It stems from the idea that these joint departments are to be, in effect, self-standing joint subsidiaries of the two Houses. I think it would be wise to ensure that the affairs of such departments are not solely to be judged by being disentangled from the consolidated reports and accounts of the two Houses, but seen first separately as individual departments.
When I look at the consolidated accounts of a great company, I like to be able to unravel what has happened in the various subsidiaries of that company. That is all the more important in the case of a subsidiary jointly owned by two different companies. That is the analogy here.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|