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Sir Nicholas Lyell: Is it not also the case that the Football (Disorder) Bill contained a series of flaws which were contrary to the European convention and required putting right, and that we tabled amendments to put the Bill right which the Home Secretary accepted?
Mr. Garnier: Yes. I do not attack the Home Secretary for being wholly unreasonable all the time. He sensibly took the advice of my right hon. and learned Friend during the remaining stages of that Bill in this House. However, the right hon. Gentleman cannot blame the Leader of the Opposition for the problem that the Government face with this Bill in the last week of the parliamentary year.
Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): My hon. and learned Friend will have noticed both that the Home Secretary would not give way to me, and his strange argument that the timetable motion was necessary for this Bill, although there are three Bills on the Order Paper. The timetable motion applies only to the Bill that is opposed by
The Home Secretary finally lost sight of the horizon when he tried to rely on the Lord Chief Justice. The hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) has done the House and the debate on the Bill a great service by drawing to the attention of the public the correspondence which has, at this late stage, been provided to us by the Home Secretary. It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman did not feel it appropriate to give us copies of the correspondence rather earlier in the day.
A close look at the correspondence demonstrates that the interpretation that the Home Secretary now wants to place on it does not accord with the thrust of the text. I dare say that the hon. and learned Member for Medway will draw our attention in some detail, in this debate or after the guillotine debate, to some of the more salient points in it.
We also happen to know that the Home Secretary is keen on the Bill for reasons quite other than those given to the House on that occasion or on this. On 26 February 1997, at a criminal justice system planning event held in St Martins lane in London, the right hon. Gentleman said:
Mr. Garnier: I am sure that I can, if given a moment or two, provide my hon. Friend, who I know takes a huge interest in criminal justice, with a list of those offences which fall into the categories that he mentions. The Home Secretary probably has one in his back pocket. But if I may, I shall now come on to the arguments against this rather base motion.
The Opposition's amendment substitutes the word "eight" for "five" in paragraph 1, but even that is inadequate for the discussions that we should be having on the Bill. However, given the Home Secretary's approach to the guillotine motion, we shall have only one and three quarter hours to discuss the Bill's substance, if that. I hope that the other place will take that into account when it comes to consider it.
Mr. Leigh: The key amendment is No. 6, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins), which it is possible will not be reached. The Home Secretary said earlier that I was a member of the Committee and came close to supporting the Bill, but I will support it only if the point about reputation is dealt with. How does my hon. Friend think that we can proceed on that matter? Is he prepared to have discussions with the Government? This is a serious matter and we must find a way to debate properly the issue of the defendant's reputation being considered by the magistrates.
Mr. Garnier: If the Home Secretary is genuine in his intentions towards the Bill and in his claim to be putting a respectable Bill on the statute book, it is up to him to make the advances. This is his Bill, his Government, and his Government's time in which we are debating the Bill, and it is up to him and his team to ensure that the appropriate moves are made. I cannot negotiate with him across the Dispatch Box.
Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe): It appears from the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks that he expects the debate on the timetable motion to run for three hours, as he says that there will be only one and three quarter hours for the substantive debate, so it is apparent from his and his colleagues' interventions that they are attempting to spin out time. Is that because they feel uneasy about grappling with the substantive issues, and perhaps hope not to reach the later amendments?
I should declare an interest which I declared on Second Reading. It is that I am a member of the Bar, and have been for 24 years, and a Queen's Counsel for just over five years. I appeared before juries in a few criminal trials at the outset of my career in the late 1970s, and I have appeared before a good many juries in civil defamation actions since. I am a recorder of the Crown court and have tried a good many criminal cases. I have directed juries in criminal trials on the law, and I have summed up the evidence to them. Like a number of hon. Members, I have direct and long-standing experience of the jury system.
Second Reading took place on 7 March 2000. The Government suffered a humiliating defeat in Committee on the first Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill. It was mauled by Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Cross- Benchers, Bishops and Labour peers. I watched that debate from the Bar of the House of Lords. The Attorney-General made a good speech. He is an accomplished advocate with a sweet tongue, but even his powers of advocacy were insufficient to persuade the other place. Many noble Lords no doubt remember the Attorney-General's vehement opposition to the proposals in that Bill when he wrote and was interviewed on that subject in 1993.
The Government said that they would not let that defeat go unavenged. This Bill was introduced in the Commons. We were threatened that, if the House of Lords defeated the Bill after it had been through the Commons, it would become subject to the Parliament Act.
The Standing Committee met on Tuesday 23 May between 10.30 and 11.25 am, on Thursday 25 May between 10.30 and 11.23 am, on Tuesday 6 June between 10.30 am and 1 pm and between 4.30 and 7.34 pm, so there was not a great deal of time wasting or filibustering; nor can the Opposition, of all parties, be criticised in any way for their handling of the Committee stage. There are no grounds for suggesting that, in Committee, the Opposition parties sought to delay the Bill unfairly, unnecessarily or improperly.
The Bill finally came before us in July, in this, the last week of the parliamentary term. Why was it not allowed to return to the House before now? There have been several days between the Committee stage and now when we have gone home early as a result of a light work load and when the Bill could easily have been debated. If the Government cannot manage to produce the business in the House on time and make good use of the available hours, it is no good their sneaking the timetable motion on to the Order Paper late last night.