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Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It seems to meyou may agree or disagreethat the Minister is engaging in a wider debate than is permitted under this amendment. It is of quite a narrow structure
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Those are matters for the Chair.
Mr. Garnier: I am just trying to help.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am very grateful for the hon. and learned Gentleman's kind offer of help, but I think that we can now proceed.
Paul Goggins: I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman's comments are always helpful, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The loss of the Bill would mean losing measures to crack down on bail bandits and to tackle reoffending on bail. It would mean losing the extension of drug testing and treatment provision. It would mean that the possibility of the police, prisons, probation service and victims having a voice in sentencing for the first time ever would be lost. It would mean losing the
Mr. Hogg: Will the Minister give way?
Paul Goggins: No, I will not give way.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Minister has made it clear that he is not giving way at this point.
Paul Goggins: I am not giving way because we have a short time for debate. Earlier this afternoon, there was criticism that there was insufficient time for people to make their contributions. I intend to make available every minute possible for other hon. Members to contribute.
In the light of the comments that I have just made, I submit to the House that if the Opposition continue to resist
Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway) rose
Paul Goggins: If the Opposition continue to resist
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. When a Member seeks to intervene, he must not remain on his feet indefinitely if the Minister is not giving way.
Paul Goggins: I have explained why I am not giving way.
If the Opposition continue to resist, they will bring the Bill down and the people of Britain will know it.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield): As I am conscious that we have reached a stage in the proceedings on the Bill when, perhaps inevitably, tempers may get frayed, I wish first to put on record my thanks to the Minister and to Baroness Scotland for the opportunity they have provided us with for dialogue on this very difficult piece of legislation. I am genuinely grateful for that opportunity, in exactly the same way as I have been genuinely grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has conducted the Bill, which covers a wide range of topics. Undoubtedly, some of them are important, and I also believe that this legislation has the potential to do good. I am absolutely clear about that, and I want to make clear to the Minister my thanks to him in particular for this evening's opportunity to talk.
It is really with some regret that I have to say to the Minister that, notwithstanding that, the amendments that the Government have tabledI shall come to them in a moment, because I shall have no difficulty in welcoming them as steps in the right directionunfortunately do not go far enough in my view and that of my colleagues to meet the issues that the House has to consider.
The Minister quoted a statement that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) made on 15 July. The quote was correct, but the Government cannot be surprised about the state into which they have got themselves on the Bill. We have been saying for a very long time that there are issues surrounding jury trial and bad character that are of fundamental importance to the way in which justice is discharged in this country. We are coming to the point when this touches on matters of conscience. When that happens, it is perhaps no surprise that we get into a situation in which agreement becomes very difficult.
I went to the other place this afternoon to listen to some of the comments that were made. The one that struck me most was from the ex-Attorney-General, Lord Morris. Although out of loyalty he suggested that he felt that the Government should have their waya view I cannot sharehe nevertheless went to the heart of the issue when he said that the Government were setting out to undermine jury trial and that that would be the result of what they were doing. Although I believed that we might be quite close to coming to a sensible outcome on the issue of jury trial, I very much regret that that outcome unfortunately still appears to elude us.
This is the Government's Bill and at some point they will have to make some decisions. They will have to decide whether a compromise can be reached so that a good piece of legislation can be placed on the statute book, about which I would be happy to say that although I regret some details, it is of benefit. However, if the Bill comes up against the conscience of many Members of this House and the other place, it will founder. I tell the Minister that if a satisfactory outcome is not reached, it will not be for lack of trying on my part. Although we have not reached an agreement, I rejoice that his willingness to table amendments this evening indicates that the Government are willing to engage in the process.
Mr. Hogg : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is quite scandalous for the Under-Secretary to suggest that if the House of Lords persists in its view, the Bill is necessarily lost? That is not true. The Government could concede on these two small matters and the Bill would be saved.
Mr. Grieve: The matter is entirely in the hands of the Government. Of course, it is right to say that the constitution of this country as it stands at present, and especially that of the other place, is the Government's creation. It does not behove them to criticise the other place for exercising its constitutional rights because they have no grounds to do so.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): Surely my hon. Friend is being too kind to the Government. They always want it both ways. They want us to accept the other place that they have created when that is convenient, but when it is inconvenient, they suggest that because it is an unelected body we cannot listen to it. Surely they have to make up their mind on the constitution as well as the Bill.
Mr. Grieve: My right hon. Friend is right. I do not wish to widen the scope of the debate because I want to concentrate on the amendments, but it is true that the Minister made some intemperate comments toward the end of his speech. Given the lateness of the hour and the process through which we have been, however, that is fairly forgivable. Nevertheless, there is no point in criticising Members of the other place, including many Government Back Benchers, for doing their job in accordance with their consciences and views.
I shall put on the record the problems that remain. We indicated previously that we remain of the view that clause 41"Application by defendant for trial to be conducted without jury"is entirely ill conceived and will lead to the trial process being brought into disrepute by forum shopping. Unfortunately, the tendency of judges to acquire a reputation on specific cases to which forum shopping will befall would be exploited. On top of that, the clause will deprive members of the public who form juries of the opportunity to decide on the guilt or innocence of their peers, which is as important as the right of the protection of a defendant through a jury trial. That situation would be quite wrong, and the Government will find that judges who sit alone will acquit, which will lead to public outrage that would not occur if a jury tried the case. We remain absolutely clear in our minds that clause 41 must go in its totality and must not be seen again.
Mr. Garnier: My hon. Friend suggests that some judges might acquitwell, they might. However, equally there will be case-hardened judges who could take a prejudiced view on specific defences and lines of evidence, which would be antipathetic to the interests of justice and defendants. Would my hon. Friend care not only to nail his colours to the mast on acquitting judges, but concern himself with the fact that justice requires a fair trial for both the prosecution and the defendant?
Mr. Grieve: My hon. and learned Friend is right. It could be said that as the trial process in front of a judge alone is the defendant's choice, on his head be it. It is a bit difficult for him to complain about the judge being hard on him. I prefer to see the other side of the coin, however, which is the extent to which the public may express grave disquiet at decisions that are taken by judges sitting alone in criminal cases which the public do not understand and where justice is not seen to be done. That is the merit of juries. We should have nothing to do with the issue of individuals having choices.