|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Walmsley: Amendment No. 35, in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, would retain the existing provisions for making amendments to the PACE codes of practice, so that any changes to the safeguards for children are subject to wide consultation. The amendment has been suggested by the major children's organisations.
Clause 9 changes the current situation, under which the Home Secretary is obliged to undertake public consultation on any changes. The Bill proposes that he can amend or revise the codes with limited consultation. Government Amendment No. 32 amends that.
This significant change has received cross-party opposition in another place as well as in your Lordships' House. The Home Affairs Select Committee also expressed concern. There is a lot of support for the need to extend the breadth of consultation to, among others, the Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as the Law Society and the
Consultation can improve the codes and act as a check and balance to ensure that safeguards for children are maintained. The recent review involved 80 organisations and produced very few problems. The interaction between consultation and parliamentary scrutiny is well established and the resulting codes are robust and comprehensive. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has quoted a clear example in which such consultation has resulted in a very beneficial change to the code.
I hear what the Minister has to say about the need to remove bureaucracy when minor changes are envisaged, but I remind her that on an earlier group of amendments her noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws pointed out that a significant organisation was ignored in consultation on another matter in relation to the Bill. I hope that I have made the case for the widest possible consultation.
Lord Elton: I endorse the view that the case of children needs the most careful consideration. There is much in what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has said. However, the need for consultation runs right through the Bill, regardless of who is concerned.
I warmly welcome government Amendment No. 37, which produces a properly parliamentary procedure, but it seems to contain an oddity. As I understand it, subsection (7) of the amendment says that the normal procedure for a code will be to bring an order to Parliament under the affirmative procedure. However, subsection (7A) appears to leave a range of options. It says:
The difference is important. Affirmative orders have to be brought forward by the Government for debate, but negative orders appear on the Minute as such and offer themselves for selection by other Members of the House. However, I think that those that are simply laid
Lord Renton: I am impressed by most of the amendments. However, Amendment No. 36, spoken to by my noble friend Lord Hodgson, says that consultations carried out before the code is formulated should include,
Lord Clinton-Davis: I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, which I rarely do. He is seized of a very important point. Amendments have to make sense. I do not believe that the proposed measure makes a real contribution to our deliberations. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, made a very important point. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, will readily discard what is tabled in Amendment No. 36.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The Minister's amendment was predicted in the Government's memorandum to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of which I am a member. The committee states at paragraph 9 of its report that the matter,
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: It might be helpful if I respond to the two points made about Amendment No. 36. I think it is fair to say that victim support organisations could be consulted. I say to my noble friend Lord Renton and to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, that defendants are not necessarily criminals. They may be innocent people who have been through the system and therefore have a view about the operation of the codes. As regards lay and professional witnesses, while I do not for a moment claim that the amendment is perfectly drafted from a parliamentary draftsman's point of view, it is an attempt to ensure that the generality of the public are involved in the matter on the grounds that it is altogether too important to be left to lawyers.
Lord Renton: Before my noble friend sits down could he explain who would be the representatives? Which bodies would be the representatives of victims, of lay and professional witnesses and, separately, of defendants?
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I do not wish to be so prescriptive as to suggest that the Government should lay out a list in primary legislation. I merely say that categories of bodies exist that represent the interests of victims, witnesses and defendants and who could be consulted.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: Clearly a large number of organisations have already been consulted, if you like, in terms of the lobbying that they have put before us, some of which is of exceptional quality in a number of areas relating to this Bill and to several in which we have been involved recently. I have in my time represented organisations that deal with witnesses, victims and perpetrators. Sometimes it is extraordinarily difficult to separate out those groups. I add my voice to the wish that those groups continue to be consulted not in the interests of bureaucracy but because the comments that they make to an open-minded government can add quality to the codes on which the latter are consulting.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page