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Keith Vaz: That goes to the heart of problem about the way in which the Opposition have treated the Bill. I believe that the majority of Opposition Members would, because the Government have consulted,
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probably agree with most of what is contained in the Bill. Here we have a particular example of the Government clarifying the position by amending the Bill. If any of the circumstances mentioned in clause 94 were applicable, I am absolutely certain that the Lord Chief Justice would put his hand on the judge's shoulder, sit him down and offer some informal advice. That happens already, but what is wrong with proceeding, as the Minister suggested, by specifying it clearly on the face of the Bill that such informal advice should be given? Let me tell the hon. Member for Beaconsfield that he is being given something here: why not take it with open arms, thank the Government and move on?

Mr. Cash: What the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) has just said defies belief. On the issue of suspending a person from judicial office where he is "subject to criminal proceedings", I agree as a matter of fact and fully understand the position. It gets far more difficult, however, when we are dealing with questions relating to much less well defined circumstances, which I and my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) believe would be much better left as they are. It does not improve or clarify the situation to give a judicial office holder "advice", a "warning" or "formal reprimand" for disciplinary purposes. In what circumstances are they to be given—in the context of good behaviour or misbehaviour?

Keith Vaz: It is clearly in the context of this clause, which is why the amendment relates to this clause. If the context were different, this amendment would not have been tabled.

I am surprised at the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), who spent all of yesterday telling us that the Bill needed clarity and a defined purpose. He was worried about what the EU would do, given all the treaties that exist. However, it appears that he will not accept what the Government are trying to do with this Bill.

Mr. Cash: There is no need to go over what happened yesterday, other than to say that all these matters— the rule of law, the question of advice, warnings and full reprimands, and so on—have arisen because the Government chose to include them in the Bill. The Government are therefore hoist by their own petard: they have forced us to ask questions on matters that we believe would be better left to people of good judgment, as used to be the case.

A year ago, in my previous capacity, it fell to me to consider these matters when this pantomime started up, and we had the Gilbertian farce involving the Lord Chancellor and whether he was going to sit on the Woolsack. Since then, difficulties have arisen that I predicted were unnecessary. The Government have created a rod for their own back with this Bill—or, I should say, a rod for the British people's back.

Mr. Gummer: My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) will understand that I do not think that this matter has anything to do with the EU, but I hope that the Minister will pay attention to what I want to say. One of the difficulties that arises through trying to clarify matters in so detailed a way is that people's
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natural and proper behaviour gets lost. That has been evident when the House had legislated about its own and other people's arrangements, and about transparency in general.

Transparency is crucially important, but results are often better when people feel that it is their responsibility to interpret general principles in the particularity that is sometimes called for. The Bill makes it more difficult for sensible decisions to be made because it tries to categorise them too much.

I do not intend to divide the Committee on this issue, but I hope that the Minister will talk to his colleagues and accept that we have come a long way by using conventions in these matters. Those conventions work extremely well, and the Bill is not only unacceptably detailed but—if I may say so—rather un-British.

Mr. Leslie: First, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) was concerned about the details of the rules governing disciplinary proceedings and the processes that must be followed. He said that there must be ample consultation, and I assure him that the rules require the agreement of the Lord Chancellor and that they must be published. In many ways, the further enshrinement of the rules' particularities is useful, not only for the members of the judiciary who may be subject to them but for raising the confidence of the wider public.

The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) is one of those Conservative Members who have said that we should not categorise rigidly all relevant rules and decisions. That is why we tabled an amendment to ensure that the Lord Chief Justice's more informal activities will not be constrained. Our aim is to strike the right balance. If legislation is insufficiently specific, we get criticised for leaving gaping holes, whereas we get criticised for being rigidly constraining if we put too much detail in. I hope that we have managed to strike the balance well and achieved broad consensus on the disciplinary arrangements.

6.30 pm

As for the question raised by the hon. Member for Stone on his current favourite subject—good behaviour as opposed to misbehaviour—we have not changed the principles that are to be followed. The Bill does not alter arrangements for the test for removal from office, for example. The present arrangements will continue. If the hon. Gentleman wants to continue our discussion, I would happy to correspond with him on the issue. I hope that the amendments will receive the support of the Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 12, leave out lines 14 and 15 and insert

'prescribed procedures in relation to the conduct constituting the offence.'.

No. 13, in page 41, line 28, leave out 'disciplinary' and insert 'prescribed'.

No. 14, in page 41, line 29, leave out subsection (8) and insert—

'(8)   While a person is suspended under this section from any office he may not perform any of the functions of the office (but his other rights as holder of the office are not affected).'.

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No. 24, in page 41, line 20, leave out 'Minister' and insert 'Lord Chancellor'.—[Mr. Leslie.]

Clause 94, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 95

Disciplinary powers: interpretation

Amendment made: No. 15, in page 42, line 14, leave out subsection (7) and insert—

'(7)   The times when a person becomes and ceases to be subject to prescribed procedures for the purposes of section 94(4) or (7) are such as may be prescribed.

(8)   "Under investigation for an offence" has such meaning as may be prescribed.'.—[Mr. Leslie.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Leslie: Clause 95 provides detailed definitions of when, to whom and in which circumstances the new disciplinary powers set out in clause 94 will apply. It is therefore an essential part of delivering reformed functions for the Lord Chancellor and defining the new relationship between the Executive and the judiciary.

Clause 95 defines—for the purpose of clause 94—first, when a judge is subject to criminal proceedings or to any proceedings for an address in Parliament. That helps to define when suspension powers may be used. Secondly, it defines the meaning of "judicial office" and "senior judge". Thirdly, it makes clear what is meant by "sentence" for the purpose of the suspension provisions. Clause 95 provides that the terms "subject to disciplinary procedures" and "under investigation" may be defined in regulations.

Mr. Garnier: How does the definition in clause 95(2) differ from that for any other person?

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