|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
'(1) In relation to the Council, the Lord Chancellor may by order make provision
(a) as to the term of office, resignation and reappointment of judicial members and non-judicial members,
(b) enabling the appropriate Minister to remove a judicial member or non-judicial member from office on grounds of incapacity or misbehaviour, and
(c) as to the proceedings of the Council.
(2) In subsection (1)(b) "the appropriate Minister" means
(a) in relation to a judicial member, the Lord Chancellor, and
(b) in relation to a non-judicial member, the Secretary of State.
(3) The validity of anything done by the Council is not affected by any vacancy among its members, by any defect in the appointment of a member or by any failure to comply with section 152(4A) , (4D) or (4E).
(4) The Lord Chancellor may pay
(a) to any judicial member who is appointed by virtue of being a lay justice, such remuneration or expenses as he may determine, and
(b) to any other judicial member or the Lord Chief Justice, such expenses as he may determine.
(5) The Secretary of State may pay to any non-judicial member such remuneration or expenses as he may determine.'[Yvette Cooper.]
Yvette Cooper: This group contains a series of amendments, many of which are technical and drafting amendments. In the time available, I shall concentrate my remarks on the main substantive amendments tabled by the Government. I will not go into detail about why we are resisting many of the Opposition amendments on other topics, although if we have time later, I shall be happy to respond to points that hon. Members make in speaking to their amendments.
The main Government amendments in this group relate to the Sentencing Guidelines Council and result from an extensive and constructive debate in Committee. I have read the reports of those debates, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) for raising some important issues, and all who contributed to the discussion about the composition and role of the council. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn), now the Minister of State, Department for International Development, said in Committee that the Government would consider the issue further. That is what we have done and why we have proposed these amendments.
The argument advanced in Committee was that the membership of the council should be widened to include those from a non-judicial background. The amendments do that. We have not reflected the precise proposals put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North and by the Opposition, and I shall explain why.
There is a series of principles that are broadly agreed. First, our aim is to achieve greater transparency and public legitimacy for the sentencing framework. Secondly, we need to maintain and safeguard judicial independence, which is vital for underpinning the rule of law and for democracy. In particular, we need to ensure that judicial independence in sentencing decisions on individual cases is safeguarded. Thirdly, it will help us to achieve greater credibility and legitimacy for the sentencing framework if there is non-judicial input into the guidelines. Fourthly, democratically elected representatives in Parliament should have a voice in the process, although we do not want to politicise the process of developing the guidelines. Fifthly, we must ensure that we produce high quality guidelines that command the respect of members of the judiciary, who need to take decisions on a day-to-day basis, as well as practitioners and the wider public. The process must be credible with both the judiciary and the public.
Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): I was not a member of the Standing Committee, but I understand that in Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn), now the international development Minister, said that various amendments relating to juvenile sentencing were not appropriate, as the Government plan to introduce legislation to bring together the purposes of juvenile sentencing. Can my hon. Friend confirm that and indicate when it is likely to happen? Will she confirm that the issues of juvenile sentencing that are before the House today can be reviewed at that stage?
Yvette Cooper: I can confirm that much work is under way on some of the issues concerning juveniles. My hon. Friend is aware that that is being led by the Home Office, and I am sure that my hon. Friends at the Department will be happy to write to him about those proposals.
Mr. Allen: Before my hon. Friend gets into the detail, this may be the appropriate time to put on record my thanks, and I hope the thanks of all who served on the Standing Committee, for the way in which the Government have responded to the proposals put before them by all parties, including those on the Opposition Front Benches, who attempted to be constructive in the development and broadening out of the Sentencing Guidelines Council. As my hon. Friend continues her remarks, she will come to issues on which there are certain reservations and others on which I think we could go a little further, but I hope that the Government take great satisfaction from the way in which they involved Members to produce a better Bill than it was when it first went into Committee.
The Bill already makes considerable improvements by setting up the Sentencing Guidelines Council to draw up clear guidelines of high quality. The council's decisions will be informed by the research and the expertise of the Sentencing Advisory Panel. Its draft guidelines will be published and scrutinised by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, but in Committee members on both sides argued that we should go further and extend the membership of the council to include those from non-judicial backgrounds. The Government have done so by tabling amendments in order to improve the quality and authority of the guidelines.
In addition to the judicial members appointed by the Lord Chancellor, the Home Secretary will appoint five individuals to the Sentencing Guidelines Council with experience in one or more of the following fields: policing; criminal prosecution; criminal defence; the interests of victims; and sentencing and correctional services policy. The council will have seven judicial members, as well as the Lord Chief Justice, who will continue as chairman and will appoint a deputy chairman from among the council members. Judicial members will therefore form the majority, helping to maintain the confidence of the Court of the Appeal and the judiciary more widely.
Judicial members will be allocated from those who fall under the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor, so they will be appointed by him in consultation with the Home Secretary and the Lord Chief Justice. Non-judicial members reflect the wider policy interests of the Home Secretary and will therefore be appointed by him in consultation with the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice. The majority of members of the council will already be paid from the public purse, but for those to whom that does not apply, the power to pay a fee ensures that the most suitable people can be appointed.
The Minister will know very well that the judiciary in this country is primarily male and white. Will she consider introducing a provision to ensure that the non-judicial members make the council more reflective of the community in this country? In other words, there should be some provision to increase the representation of women and ethnic minorities.