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Mr. Paul Truswell accordingly presented a Bill to amend the requirements for making quality contract schemes under the Transport Act 2000: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 18 March, and to be printed [Bill 68].
[Relevant Documents: First Report from the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Session 2003-04, HC 48-I and 48-II, on Judicial appointments and a Supreme Court (court of final appeal), and the Government's response thereto, Cm 6150; and the Third Report, Session 200405, HC 275-I and 275-II, on the Constitutional Reform Bill [Lords]: the Government's proposals.]
The amendments are probing; they were designed, as the Minister will see, to write it into the Bill that when we are talking about a head and deputy head of criminal justice or a head and deputy head of family justice, we are dealing with England and Wales. I realise that that is what the Minister intends us to be dealing with. I certainly did not read the Bill as suggesting that we were covering Northern Ireland. I just wondered whether that should be clarified and whether there was any harm in not clarifying it.
It is noticeable that when clause 7 refers to the president of the courts in England and Wales it makes explicit to whom we are referring. While Scotland does not bother me, in the sense that it is a completely different jurisdiction, it seems to me that the amendment might just tidy up the Bill somewhat.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): I echo the comments made by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve). I am looking forward to a tranquil but quite long afternoon, looking at the weight of business in front of us.
Clauses 8 and 9 create new judicial leadership roles in criminal and family justice, namely, the head of criminal justice and the head of family justice. The first role will
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be exercised by the Lord Chief Justice or a person appointed by him. The second role will be exercised by the president of the family division. Those new offices will exist in the judicial system of England and Wales only. In Scotland, such responsibilities are the preserve of the Lord President of the Court of Session, and new equivalent clauses are being tabled for Northern Ireland.
While I understand the rationale for the amendments, I do not think that they are necessary, not least because clause 119 explicitly states that clauses 7, 8 and 9 extend only to England and Wales. There can be no possible ambiguity with the present titles in view of the extent provisions; they can apply only in the judicial system of England and Wales. The amendment would cause more confusion, as the statutory title Head of Civil Justice, which is established separately under the Courts Act 2003, does not refer to England and Wales. That title is not "Head of Civil Justice in England and Wales", even though it extends only to England and Wales.
So, first, as it is not necessary because of the nature of clause 119 and, secondly, for the sake of consistency with other statutory titles in the Courts Act 2003, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the amendments are not necessary.
The Minister alluded to the size of the scrutiny that we have to carry out this afternoon. At the risk of straying a little from the precise matter under discussion, I should like to put it on record that it is unsatisfactory that we should have to consider hundreds of Government amendments at a late stage in the proceedings on the Bill. That is not because the amendments are contentious; many of them are not. However, their sheer volume makes proper scrutiny extremely difficult. I hope the Minister will take that back when considering how Bills are proceeded with in future.
Mr. Leslie: I understand the position taken by the hon. Gentleman and I hope that in the course of today's business, which has broadly been agreed through the usual channels, we will be able to focus on matters of substance. The great majority of the amendments are consequential or supplemental to other principal aspects of the Bill. I hope we will not neglect debate on any signal or important aspects, and I do not anticipate that that will be the case.
Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey) (LD): I had not intended to make my comment at this stage, but as the issue has been raised, I shall do so. I have been observing progress on the Bill from a distance. My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) has been doing the work and sends his apologies today. I am trying to catch up and deal with it. That gave me a chance to reflect on the huge number of amendments.
I make two observations. I accept that many are drafting and tidying-up amendments, and there are not many significant amendments. That will be reflected, I
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anticipate, by the relatively small number of votes today. However, if at this stage in the Bill we are dealing with so many amendments, of which almost all are Government amendments, that shows how necessary it is for Bills of constitutional significance to receive proper consideration. This is such a Bill, and it was considered at length in the House of Lords. Amendments such as those that we are debating, relating to the names of courts, whether they refer to England and Wales as well as Scotland, or whether they have United Kingdom titles, were debated and rightly so, because the courts have different names and traditions in different parts of the United Kingdom.
The Bill is a constitutional measure and we are giving it relatively good scrutiny, even though there is so much to amend at a late stage. That contrasts with the Bill that we considered yesterday, which was about the substance, not the process, of what the courts do. On that we had almost no chance for debate on
The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means: Order. I have allowed the debate to go a little wide of the amendments before us. The remarks that have been made will be noted. I hope that we can now confine our remarks to the amendments under discussion.
This is a small debate, which is quite proper, about the title of courts and the title of people in the courts. I hope we will learn the lesson that we need to give greater consideration to matters of substance, which are much more important.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I could make a similar comment about the sheer quantity of Government amendments, which cover provisions from the 16th century to the 20th century amending other statutes. That presents a practical problem for those who have to deal with it, and further illustrates the folly of trying to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor on a Thursday afternoon and discovering that it takes about a year to find out the vast extent of his functions.
The amendment relates to courts in England and Wales, and it is apposite to remind ourselves that we are not looking sufficiently carefully at the different implications of the legislation for England and Wales and for Scotland. I point out by way of illustration that it became clear at a Committee hearing this morning that the sort of powers conferred later in the Bill to make court rules for Northern Ireland, for example, do not arise from this Bill or from the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, which we discussed yesterday. It will not be possible for the Government to make rules imposing Special Immigration Appeals Commission procedures on the Court of Session in Scotland. In drawing attention to an England and Wales element in the present clause, the Conservative Opposition have usefully reminded us that we need to be careful about the different ways in which the two pieces of legislation impact on the different jurisdictions of the United Kingdom.
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