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Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford): Will the regulations be made under the affirmative or the negative procedure?

Ms Winterton: They will be made under the negative procedure. It was argued, persuasively, in the other place that in the present climate—in which the courts urge parties at least to consider other ways to deal with disputes—there was a case for considering whether some of the alternative dispute resolution procedures, especially mediation, should be included in the processes that could be accepted as a means of confirming contributory negligence findings for the purpose of calculating NHS costs. The Secretary of State and Scottish Ministers will be able to make regulations covering issues such as the qualifications of the mediator, the nature of the mediation process and the types of statement about contributory negligence that would be needed to be included in the mediation.

Mr. Lansley: Last week I was able to attend the annual general meeting of the Cambridge and District Community Mediation Service. May I make a plea that the Government think positively about ways in which they can support such services' core funding? That is a continuing problem for such organisations, which provide a valuable alternative dispute resolution procedure that we want to use in future if we can.

Ms Winterton: From my previous post in the Lord Chancellor's Department, I am aware of the many benefits offered by mediation.

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Lords amendment No. 120 will make it possible to issue a further certificate specifying a higher amount in NHS costs than a previous certificate only if the reason for the increase is that incorrect or insufficient information had previously been supplied by the person to whom the certificate is issued. Therefore, if a clerical error is made by the scheme's administrators, no further certificate for the correct amount, if that is higher than the amount specified in the original certificate, can be issued. That means that compensators will not have to pay the price of a mistake by the administrators.

Amendments to change the level of parliamentary scrutiny afforded to some of the regulation-making powers in part 3 were also made in the other place in response both to concerns raised and to recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

Mr. Burns: Given the pressure of time, I shall be extremely brief.

We warmly welcome the Government's acceptance of the amendments, which, I understand, followed arguments made in another place by my noble Friend Lord Hunt of Wirral. As the Minister said, it is important to encourage the use of mediation where such a system is feasible in order to minimise some of the problems that might arise if that additional battery of weapons to resolve disputes is not available. For that reason, we are pleased that the Government have accepted the amendments.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 115 to 120 agreed to.

It being one hour after the commencement of proceedings on remaining Lords amendments, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day].

Lords amendment No. 161 disagreed to.

Government amendments (a) to (bb) to the words so restored agreed to.

Remaining Lords amendments agreed to [some with Special Entry].

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to their amendments Nos. 1, 5, 26, 28 and 29: Mr. Paul Burstow, Mr. John Hutton, Mr. Andrew Lansley, Joan Ryan and Claire Ward; Mr. John Hutton to be Chairman of the Committee; Three to be the quorum of the Committee.—[Joan Ryan.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reasons for disagreeing to certain Lords amendments reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.

Sitting suspended, pursuant to Order [10 November].

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7 pm

On resuming—


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),

Question agreed to.

Sitting suspended, pursuant to Order [10 November].

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9.30 pm

On resuming—

Criminal Justice Bill

Lords Reasons for insisting on certain of their amendments to which the Commons have disagreed, considered.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I must acquaint the House with the fact that a message has been received from the House of Lords. The Lords insist on certain of their amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill to which the Commons have disagreed, for which insistence they assign their reasons. They do not insist on certain amendments to which the Commons have disagreed and do agree with the amendments proposed by the Commons to the words so restored to the Bill. They do not insist on their remaining amendments to which the Commons have disagreed.

Clause 41

Application by Defendant for Trial to be Conducted without Jury

Lords Reason: 32B.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): I beg to move, That this House insists on its disagreement with the Lords in their amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment (a) to the words restored, Lords Reason 33G, the Government motion to insist and Government amendments (a) to (h) to the words restored, Lords Reason 34C, the Government motion to insist and Government amendments (a) to (e) to the words restored and Lords Reason 36C, the Government motion to insist and Government amendments (a) to (d) to the words restored.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to raise this issue as a point of order, but we never know when we might get the chance to do so, given the current funny situation. I wish to draw your attention to an answer that I received today from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart). The question, tabled on 6 March this year, was to ask the Home Secretary what the administrative costs were of active community unit grants, race equality grants and refugee integration unit grants in the last financial year. I received an answer this evening from the Under-Secretary, saying:

Is that the way an effective Government operate? It is now November.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, and he has now got it firmly on the record. As we have only an hour for the current business, we should proceed without delay.

Paul Goggins: At this stage of the parliamentary process, hon. Members, no doubt, will be looking for a degree of compromise and agreement, wherever that may be possible. In that spirit, the Government are

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prepared to make a number of concessions that, we hope, will meet some of the concerns that have been expressed.

Clause 41 will provide defendants with the option, subject to the court's consent, to opt for judge-alone trial. It will give defendants a choice that they do not currently have about the way in which they are tried. The Government have been somewhat bemused by the hostility with which that provision has been attacked in some quarters. However, we have listened to the arguments, and we have tabled an amendment, the effect of which will be to give the judge discretion in deciding whether to grant a defendant's application for judge-alone trial. That amendment will alter subsection (3), so that the judge may, instead of must, make an order.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Can a copy of that amendment be found in the Vote Office? I have just been given a series of papers that does not include that amendment.

Paul Goggins: I am sure that others who are better placed will be able to check whether that is true, but I understand that the relevant amendment is available, and I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been unable to find it. I shall press on.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) criticised our earlier amendments to clause 42, to restrict the application of the clause to serious fraud trials, on the ground that they removed some of the judicial discretion contained in the original draft. That was certainly not our intention, nor, I submit, is it the effect. The further amendment that we now propose, however, would confer on the judge an absolute discretion in relation to the making of an order for non-jury trial under this clause. We are also providing further safeguards by requiring the judge to consult the Lord Chief Justice, or a judge nominated by him, before making an order that the trial be conducted in the absence of a jury.

Clauses 43 and 45 deal with the pernicious problem of jury tampering. We listened to the argument made yesterday by the Opposition. Again, in the spirit of constructive dialogue, we propose an amendment—the removal of the second condition set out in subsection (5)—which we hope will satisfy the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield. We consider the burden on the jury imposed by necessarily intrusive police protection to be a very real problem. As I said, however, we have listened to what has been said and, like Opposition Members, our main concern is to ensure a fair trial, which is of course ensured by the condition set out in subsection (6).

On clause 45, we do not believe that continuation of a trial following discharge of a jury because of tampering will necessarily be a "non-starter", as suggested by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield. Clearly, a judge who felt unable to continue a trial alone because he felt that he would not be able to hear it with the requisite impartiality, or who thought for some other reason that the defendant would not receive a fair

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trial, would not be obliged to do so. That established principle is already reflected in the Bill. I hope, however, that our proposed amendments will allay a good many of the Opposition's concerns by making it absolutely plain that the judge will not be able to continue the trial sitting alone unless he is satisfied not only that jury tampering has actually taken place but that the defendant will receive a fair trial. We have also amended the clause to increase the discretion of the judge in this matter.

Having covered the technical detail of the amendments, I want to address the wider issues of this debate. It seems to me that the Opposition are prepared to threaten this House and the electorate of this country with the possible loss of this Bill. We are not surprised that that is the case, given the comments of the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) on 15 July:

He therefore made his position clear. I was somewhat surprised to read in this morning's Financial Times the comment by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield that "If he"—the Home Secretary—

Both the former shadow Home Secretary and the shadow Attorney-General therefore threaten the House with the loss of this Bill.

Let me remind hon. Members precisely of what that threat entails. Loss of this Bill would mean the loss of tougher sentences for those who commit murder, and the loss of tougher sentences for those who carry out dangerous sexual and violent offices, with no release if they still pose a risk to the public. It would mean the loss of a new five-year minimum sentence for firearms offences to help tackle gun crime, and the loss of longer sentences for dangerous drivers who kill—

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