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Yvette Cooper: I think that there may have been some confusion over the matter, which was picked up in the Select Committee's report. It is not our intention to introduce regulations in this respect; it will be for the courts to decide what serious misconduct amounts to, according to the circumstances of individual cases. We will not bring forward guidance or regulations on that matter, but leave it to the courts to decide. The right hon. Gentleman is right in that a wide range of potential third parties are included—the media, as he said, but also jurors, or perhaps people entering the court to sabotage court proceedings. It is appropriate for the courts to decide what counts as serious misconduct in particular cases.

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Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) rose—

Yvette Cooper: I will give way to my hon. Friend, who has not intervened before—but I have been speaking for some time, and I know that other hon. Members want to speak.

Mr. Soley: I am slightly puzzled. I am particularly interested in this part of the Bill and I am strongly in favour of its provisions, particularly those dealing with newspapers and others who are responsible for the collapse of trials, or wrongful convictions. In many respects, I am happy to leave that for judges to decide. However, I am puzzled because clause 93(4) states:

and then provides further examples. It expressly refers to regulations, so I am puzzled about the implications, and I am glad that the Minister is better equipped to understand them than I am.

Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right, and my officials have hastily provided me with a detailed note clarifying the position. There will be regulations, but not guidance. The confusion that arose is about the guidance that the Attorney-General said that he would issue about the way in which trials could be prejudiced. Guidance is separate, but my hon. Friend is right to say that regulations will be made in respect of those matters.

I am aware of the issue of the timing of regulations, which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). He made a good point about timing, but we have to consider some issues further and will return to the issue as part of our general response to the Select Committee's report.

The Bill introduces a series of measures on the civil and family courts. For example, clause 77 creates a family procedure rule committee with the power to make rules of procedure for the magistrates courts, the county courts and the High Court when hearing family proceedings. That will help to promote clarity and consistency of approach across the various tiers of courts hearing family disputes.

The provisions in clauses 98 and 99 will strengthen the civil courts' power in personal injury cases to award damages in the form of periodical payments rather than a lump sum. Regular periodical payments provide a more appropriate way of compensating claimants for future loss and care costs. They will help to ensure that seriously injured people receive the compensation to which they are entitled for as long as it is needed, giving greater security to claimants, who will be able to plan for the future without any anxieties about the award running out.

Rob Marris: I should declare that my constituency party receives money from Thompson's, a firm of solicitors that does a considerable amount of civil work. Can the Minister say whether the provisions will save or cost the insurance company money—save, because people who die shortly after receiving a huge lump sum

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currently keep it, or cost, when someone who lives for a long time receives many periodic payments? Has any assessment of cost to the industry been made?

Yvette Cooper: If my hon. Friend will allow me, I shall ask my fellow Parliamentary Secretary to respond to that in her summing-up speech.

Part 6 contains provisions to improve the public's perception of the courts. For example, it changes the ways of naming people in the judiciary, allowing female judges of the Court of Appeal to be styled "Lady Justice" rather than "Lord Justice", and allowing the Lord Chancellor to modernise other judicial titles further. Coupled with the consultation on court dress currently being run by the Lord Chancellor's Department, those measures are part of improving the public impression of the justice system.

The Bill will have a powerful effect on the delivery of modern, efficient and flexible courts. It will promote better management and administration, with potentially fewer delays, and a greater focus on the communities that the courts must serve. The Bill improves support for victims and witnesses, and provides a fairer means of compensating those who have suffered personal injury, while removing unnecessary complexity and outmoded traditions. Those measures will make a real and practical difference to the courts, while supporting our overarching aim of "Justice for All". I commend the Bill to the House.

6.15 pm

Mr. William Cash (Stone): The Bill is important and has been given serious consideration in the other place. On Third Reading, there was a great deal of sensible and, in my view, merited mutual congratulation as between one side and the other. The noble Baroness Scotland of Asthal said:

From my reading of the proceedings and from the amount of industry put into the work, it speaks well of the other place that the Bill has been improved so much. Irrespective of some of the more confrontational issues that sometimes divide one House from the other, it remains possible greatly to improve a Bill as a result of the efforts of both Houses.

I particularly congratulate the noble Baroness Anelay of St Johns, who played an enormous part in the proceedings. She would be the first to recognise that a certain friend of hers—she will know what I mean, if nobody else does—played an important role in helping her as the Bill progressed. Others also deserve special mention: the noble Lord Hunt of Wirral, the noble Lord Renton and the noble Viscount Bledisloe. I hope that I have not left anyone out.

Mr. Heath: Lord Goodhart.

Mr. Cash: And the noble Lord Goodhart. Baroness Scotland herself referred to the noble Lord Goodhart as having played a major part in the proceedings. It would be invidious, as I have mentioned so many peers, not to

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mention the noble Lord Bassam of Brighton. Debating in either House depends on people being prepared to listen and to recognise a good point when it comes up. In fact, I would go further and point to the significant number of improvements that were made, some the result of consultation with various bodies—the Magistrates Association, the Central Council of Magistrates Courts Committees, the Justices' Clerks Society, the Association of Justices' Chief Executives, the trade unions and, of course, the Law Society. Many people have been diligently employed in trying to improve the Bill. I also congratulate the officials who have given such wise advice on the significant number of amendments that the Government have—surprisingly, in view of their attitude to amendments in other Bills—accepted.

When votes took place, the margin was, in many cases, narrow. That applies to amendment No. 132, which goes to the heart of the important question of the amount of fees payable, and requires the Lord Chancellor to have regard to the need to facilitate access to justice. I shall deal with the matter in broader terms when we debate clause 1. The vote on that amendment—and I do not wish to cast aspersions on the noble Lords who voted against it, because such things happen when the Whip is operating—showed that the Contents were 37 and the Not Contents were 36. That is a margin of one. Given the importance of some of the amendments, I hope that the Government will not be tempted to change some of the great improvements that have been made. Everything that I say today is without prejudice, because I hope that the amendments will be retained—

Rob Marris: Subject to contract.

Mr. Cash: Indeed. I also believe that further improvements will need to be made, and we shall carefully scrutinise the entire Bill.

Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman mentioned the closeness of one vote on an amendment, but on the very amendment that the Minister prayed in aid earlier as an example of how the Government had listened, the vote was 90 to 89—a single vote. So we must hope that there is no backsliding in this House.

Mr. Cash: We have taken careful note of the narrowness of some of the votes and, as the hon. Gentleman says, we hope that that will not lead to an attempt to reverse them. That would cause much unhappiness and lead to us perhaps changing our attitude to the Bill. After all, our attitude will depend on what the Government are prepared to accept, given the tremendous efforts made by all the parties concerned.

The Minister mentioned the important question of access to justice, and that remains a critical question, together with people's financial ability to obtain justice. The two issues run together. I pay tribute to the original and sensible approach that has been adopted by the new Select Committee on the Lord Chancellor's Department, and I am glad to see that the Chairman of the Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), is in his place. In fact, several members of the Committee are present for the debate. It was an exercise not just in pre-legislative scrutiny but in

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current legislative scrutiny. Theoretically, Bills can be referred to Committee by motion of the House and subjected to a process of cross-examination by counsel. That would happen in unusual circumstances, but it has happened on a few—very few—occasions. The procedure adopted on this Bill is novel, but encouraging, because it provides a method for considering issues that are complicated and esoteric, but of enormous importance. It ensures that the issues are weighed in the balance, and I was glad that it was followed in this instance.

The questions that the Select Committee raised in its interesting report—which will have to be judged against the Committee stage in this place—include the issue of accessibility and court closure. The Committee suggested that the general duty in clause 1 should be framed in such a way as to impose on the Lord Chancellor a duty to provide a system that is accessible as well as efficient and effective. I hope that the Government would regard that as sensible, as a matter of principle. Reference has already been made to the question of the local courts boards, and it is also proposed that the Lord Chancellor should be required to consult them about decisions on places, dates and times of magistrates court sittings. That is also a sensible idea. What is the precise role of the courts boards? The Minister explained the Government's thinking to some extent, but we will need to pursue the matter further in Committee.

The Select Committee also questioned the extent to which the proposal to make justices' clerks civil servants might affect the effective performance of their functions, and it also explored how proposed powers for new fines officers might impact on those on very low incomes. I have been deeply concerned for some time about the question of enforcement of fines, and we will want to examine closely the way in which the new fines officers' powers will work.

Last year, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) and I raised the issue of fines enforcement in magistrates courts. The then Parliamentary Secretary gave us a not very convincing answer. My question attempted to put the issue into a practical context. I said:

I trust that the Government will address that issue in the consideration of the Bill, but we will have to wait for the Committee stage for details. Part of the problem is inability to pay, but it is also clear that there is some inefficiency in the system. I trust that that will be addressed.

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