Draft Criminal Defence Service (Representation Order Appeals) (Amendment) Regulations 2002

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Mr. Burnett: I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Pike. We support the thrust of the statutory instrument, but I should like to raise a couple of issues about it.

First, we wonder whether the financial services and markets tribunal rules have been produced yet, and whether we shall have the opportunity to debate them; presumably we shall. Secondly, and I referred to the matter earlier, I should like to put on record that my party, and I believe that of the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) has an antipathy to the public defender system. It is early days yet, as the scheme is only in the pilot stage. However, I flag up that when the pilots have been completed they should be evaluated independently. We would like a debate before the Government decide to start them up on a full-time basis.

There is possible injustice in the timing of the regulations in connection with the criminal defence service. Will the Minister confirm that no one has suffered significant prejudice as a result of the delay of the regulations? I endorse the point about costs raised by the hon. Member for Stone. There must be some cost, and it will be borne by the Exchequer, no doubt. Perhaps the Minister will say a few words about that.

4.48 pm

Mr. Wills: Several points have been raised. I shall first deal with the issue of costs. We estimate that they will be fairly minimal. On the point about prejudice and fairness that the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett) raised, we are not aware of

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any cases of prejudice that have occurred since April 2001, when the criminal defence service provisions came into effect. That does not mean that there have not been any cases of prejudice, but none has been drawn to our attention. Therefore, we do not think that any significant burden on the Exchequer, and so the public purse, is looming. Nor do we think that anyone has suffered unfairness; at least, we are not aware of any such cases.

By the same token, obviously FINSMAT has only recently come into effect—in November last year. The estimate is that there will be about 10 to 20 cases. We cannot be certain, as we are in the early stages, but the expectation is that the burden will be minimal. Nevertheless, we believed that the regulations were important. There is an anomaly and a potential gap looming. That is why we felt it appropriate to make the regulations.

The hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon asked about the PDS scheme and for an independent evaluation. I can confirm that that will take place and that there will be annual reports from now until 2004. At the moment, we have no plans to go beyond the pilot period, but we shall have to find out the results of the pilot scheme, as I suggested earlier.

The hon. Gentleman asked when the FINSMAT rules will come into play. We know that they have been made, and I am happy to undertake to ensure that he receives a copy of them. I hope that that deals with his concerns.

I hope that I have covered all the points made. Perhaps the hon. Member for Stone will say whether he feels that I have adequately addressed all his points.

Mr. Cash: I made another point about circumstances in which representation is refused on appeal. Payments still cannot be made because there is no authority to incur costs. I wanted to be satisfied that that would not give rise to difficulties when, for example, representation is refused. What is the justification for saying that payments should not be made? An element of good sense lies behind the principles behind the order, but is it a rule that when representation is refused on appeal, there would be no reasonable case for payment to be made? The argument advanced in the order is that payments still cannot be made because there is no authority to incur the costs. I am considering the merits, rather than the technicalities.

Mr. Wills: In such circumstances, the court would have decided that the defendant should not receive public funding, and therefore there would be no payment. I hope that with those remarks I have concluded—

Mr. Cash: The Minister has not answered my point. I understand perfectly that that is what the court may say. I am asking whether, in some circumstances, the argument that there is no authority to incur costs, which is a matter for the order, gives rise to circumstances in which authority should be made—for example, when there has been a refusal. I gather that the advice being tendered is no.

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Mr. Wills: I hoped that I had dealt with that earlier. The answer is no.

I hope that we have covered the Committee's concerns and persuaded it that the business should now be successfully concluded.

Question put and agreed to.

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    That the Committee has considered the draft Criminal Defence Service (Representation Order Appeals) (Amendment) Regulations 2002.

Committee rose at seven minutes to Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Pike, Mr. Peter (Chairman)
Battle, Mr.
Buck, Ms
Burnett, Mr.
Cash, Mr.
Corbyn, Jeremy
Marshall-Andrews, Mr.
Moffatt, Laura
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Osborne, Mr.
Sarwar, Mr.
Stringer, Mr.
Wills, Mr.

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