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Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): The Home Secretary has been justifying the guillotine motion on the basis of the Opposition's tactics. He is of course aware of the reasoned amendment to Third Reading that has been signed by 18 of his Back Benchers. Perhaps the truth is that the guillotine motion is to prevent his Back Benchers from articulating their opposition to the Bill.

Mr. Straw: That is utter nonsense. The debate will show that there is no suggestion or possibility that those who take a different view on this issue, whether on the right hon. and learned Gentleman's side of the House or mine, should not express their point of view.

What makes most synthetic the Opposition's demand for more time is the fact that they could not find sufficient matters to debate in Standing Committee.

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) rose--

Mr. Straw: I make an honourable exception of the hon. Gentleman. This great issue that the Opposition have raised could take up only four Committee sittings, and the Bill reported by agreement without ever a closure motion being moved. So the idea that there is now insufficient time to debate the issue--we have five hours altogether--is frankly fanciful.

Mr. Malins: The Home Secretary will be aware that there are four groups of amendments and that each is led by one that I have tabled. What evidence does he have that I would choose to filibuster, knowing as he does that all I have ever sought is to debate briefly and to the point? What does he have to say against me?

Mr. Straw: I made an honourable exception of the hon. Gentleman, in respect of whom I have no such evidence. However, I need only look at Hansard for 24 to 26 January to find evidence of the capacity of others among his erstwhile hon. Friends--including the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who smilingly pleads guilty to the charge--to filibuster even matters that Opposition Front Benchers support.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): I was a member of the Standing Committee. I cannot understand why the Home Secretary, with one breath, asserts that we will filibuster, but, with the next, says that those who were members of the Standing Committee were prepared to engage in serious debates, in which the former Attorney- General and others spoke, without filibustering. How can

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the Home Secretary justify--to his hon. Friends, if not to us--restricting to an hour and three quarters debate on a matter as important as abolishing jury trial?

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman makes my point that there has already been adequate discussion as far as the Opposition are concerned. However, having read the report of the Standing Committee, I know that he almost reached the point at which he agreed with the terms of the Bill. I am glad to know that he was persuaded by the eloquence of the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke).

The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) makes my second point for me by pointing out that, although there are four groups of amendments to the Bill, encompassing 14 amendments selected by Madam Speaker, not one of the lead amendments has been tabled by the official Opposition Front-Bench team. There has never been such an incompetent Opposition--they are incompetent even by their own standards. We have moved the timetable motion because we know of the capacity of the current Opposition to attempt to talk out even measures with which they agree. They are complaining that there is insufficient time, so we should attempt to deal with the guillotine motion as quickly as possible so that we can get on to the amendments and Third Reading.

The Bill is not about abolishing the right to a jury trial, and I am flattered that the Opposition feel the need to parody and distort our proposal in order to oppose it. It is about following the practice of every other common law jurisdiction that we can find, which ensures that decisions on which sort of court should try cases should be made judicially by the court, not at the election of individual defendants. I remind the House that such proposals have been the subject of serious discussion for at least seven years. The royal commission report published in 1993 recommended:

In a landmark speech on 21 July 1999, the Lord Chief Justice said to the judges assembled for the annual Mansion House dinner:

that is, the right to jury trial--

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): I hope that this is a point of order.

Mr. Swayne: It is, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Home Secretary's remarks are all very interesting, but what do they have to do with the timetable motion?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I knew that the hon. Gentleman did not have a point of order for me. The Home Secretary is in order.

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Mr. Straw: I shall bring my remarks to a close as soon as I am able to do so. My point is that the matter has been the subject of considerable discussion both inside and outside Parliament for some time.

The Lord Chief Justice continued:

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): Does my right hon. Friend accept that, when the Lord Chief Justice made those remarks, he was speaking in favour of the No. 1 Bill, not the current Bill; that when he talked about magistrates properly taking the decision, he knew perfectly well that there had been put into the No. 1 Bill the reputation clause, which ensured that magistrates would have to take into account matters of reputation and livelihood; and that that clause does not appear in the No. 2 Bill? That is what the Lord Chief Justice was talking about and, since he made those remarks, he has made it manifestly clear that he has serious concerns about the new Bill. In the circumstances, does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is entirely inappropriate for him to pray in aid the Lord Chief Justice?

Mr. Straw: My hon. and learned Friend is wrong in every particular. The Lord Chief Justice was speaking at this time last year, some months before the No. 1 Bill was published, and he was talking at large about the general principle of whether or not mode of trial in either-way cases should be determined judicially or by the defendant.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: Will the Home Secretary give way?

Mr. Straw: No, I will not give way. The one point of principle that the Lord Chief Justice--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We cannot have hon. Members shouting across the Floor of the House. The Home Secretary is entitled to a hearing and he must be heard.

Mr. Straw: The one point of principle that the Lord Chief Justice, entirely properly, raised in discussions with me before the publication of the No. 1 Bill, to which he referred in his speech on the Second Reading of that Bill late last year--five months after making his speech at Mansion House--was whether or not, in contrast to the royal commission's recommendation, the mode of trial should be simply for decision by magistrates without any right of appeal, or whether there should be a right of appeal. We agreed between us that there should be a right of appeal to an experienced Crown court judge against a decision to refuse to transfer jurisdiction to the Crown court, and that provision was put into the No. 1 Bill.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Straw: I shall give way shortly, but I want to answer my hon. and learned Friend the Member for

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Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) first. I have put the correspondence between the Lord Chief Justice and myself before the House, or at least it will be available very shortly.

My hon. and learned Friend's claims are both inappropriate and disingenuous. There was indeed discussion between the Lord Chief Justice at the time and myself about changes that we proposed should be made in the No. 2 Bill. My hon. Friend the Minister of State and I have always said that our reason for making those changes was to achieve a balance. We made them because of concerns expressed in the other place about the No. 1 Bill and on Commons Second Reading of the No. 2 Bill that the inclusion of criteria relating to reputation could lead to two-tier justice.

I shall give an example of the sort of representations that were made on Second Reading. It was said that

Who said that? None other than my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway. We changed the No. 1 Bill criteria to the No. 2 Bill criteria because of representations made to us, including those of my hon. and learned Friend. I will not accept any of the suggestions that he has made outside the House, which are disingenuous and without any foundation, about whether I was forthcoming to the House when I spoke to it.

I shall deal with the exchange of correspondence with the Lord Chief Justice. When we were discussing the issue over preceding months, the Lord Chief Justice made it clear to me that he regarded the issue of whether there was a right of appeal as one of principle. That became clear when he spoke on Second Reading of the No.1 Bill in December. However, unlike the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway, he is in favour of the principle of having the mode of trial determined judicially. My hon. and learned Friend must accept that he opposes not only the position in the No. 2 Bill, which I adopt, but the criteria that the Lord Chief Justice supported. He opposes any suggestion that the right to elect jury trial should be transferred to the magistrates, with a right of appeal, rather than being left with the defendant, as it is now.

What happened? I wrote to the Lord Chief Justice on 21 February to explain our thinking, picking up on the representations that had been made. The Lord Chief Justice wrote to me on 22 February to say that many different things might be relevant in answering the question, which is where the matter may be tried. He wrote that

Towards the end, he wrote:

That was the Lord Chief Justice's position.

I considered in some detail what he had to say and wrote to him on 21 March, providing him with what I

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thought was detailed reassurance, as right hon. and hon. Members will see, on the two cases that he had raised. I concluded:

That was the position on 21 March 2000. As it happened, the meeting on 6 April could not take place. I did not receive any further response from the Lord Chief Justice, and on 18 April it was announced that he would become a senior Law Lord on the Judicial Committee and that Lord Woolf would take over from him on 6 June as Lord Chief Justice. There was never the least suggestion that I was not forthcoming on Second Reading. It will be seen also from the correspondence that the matter had not been closed when I spoke in the House. As with so many other issues of exchange between the Home Secretary and the Lord Chief Justice, we were hoping to reach an accommodation on the matter.

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