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We have maintained throughout that at no stage should the independent legal profession in this country be undermined. For that reason, we have pushed to ensure that the independence of the Legal Services Board from Government is protected through the role of the Lord Chief Justice in the appointments procedure. I believe that we were right to push that issue instead of simply accepting that a reference to “consultation” alone was sufficient. The statement of Lord Hunt, the Minister in the other place, on 17 October 2007—only last week—on the matter was telling. He stated:

the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice)—

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I am slightly concerned that, given that we have been considering the Bill for roughly 11 months, consultation with the Lord Chief Justice has involved only a single letter. Consultation on the appointment of other members of the board does not appear to have even reached the letter-writing stage. Lord Hunt also pointed out last week that the Under-Secretary

Perhaps she could advise the House on the outcome of the consultations. I would also be grateful if she confirmed whether she has considered the use of parliamentary confirmation hearings for appointments, as suggested by hon. Members of all parties on Report.

However, the Government have come a long way on the issue. I accept that Government amendments highlight moves towards the crucial recognition of the need to involve the Lord Chief Justice in not only the method of appointment but the decisions. Although we still maintain that they could go further we accept that we have reached a clearer and more transparent position. On that basis, we will not request the House to divide on the matter.

Mr. Heath: The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) differs from the Liberal Democrats on dividing on the matter. We still believe that the principle is important. I accept that the Under-Secretary has travelled a great distance on all sorts of matters—she knows that I appreciate that. Indeed, even on the issue that we are considering, the proposal is much better than what the Government previously suggested. The process that has been outlined is clearly better than what was previously described. I simply want her to take that last little step because it will convey an important signal about what we hope to achieve in the Bill.

I do not believe that there is a huge practical difference between the amount of consultation that has been offered and concurrence, which we believe to be so important. It is inconceivable that the Lord Chancellor would make a political appointment that did not have the support or at least the acceptance of the Lord Chief Justice. The stakes have been raised too high in terms of public and professional acceptability if the Lord Chief Justice were to make a report or simply make public his or her lack of confidence in the person appointed to the post of chairman.

Our acceptance of the principle that the chairman should be a lay member is important to the board’s independence. I am pleased that we included that in the Bill because it means that we have a guarantee of independence from the legal profession. That also guarantees credibility among the wider public. However, credibility must also be shared by the judiciary and the legal profession. In the context that we considering, I do not perceive the Lord Chief Justice as head of the profession—that would be wrong. If it were suggested that the president of the Bar Council or of the Law Society should have any sort of handle on the final appointment, that would be wrong, because it would mean accepting a legal closed shop, which, I hope, we are busting wide open in the process.

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However, as head of the judiciary and in a specific context in our constitutional arrangements, the position of Lord Chief Justice has changed. It is one of the great offices of state. The seal of approval from an independent judiciary as well as Ministers and the House is to be encouraged. I therefore hold to the view that concurrence is a more satisfactory arrangement and that the House should insist on it. I shall advise my hon. Friends to vote against the Government amendments.

1.45 pm

Mr. Kevan Jones: It is like Groundhog day because we have gone over the arguments on numerous occasions. The Under-Secretary has ably conducted proceedings on the Bill and the Government have taken on not only constructive amendments and representations from Back Benchers but even some suggestions from the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly).

I do not understand why Liberal Democrats want to divide the House—

It being one hour after the commencement of proceedings, Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day].

Question put, That this House does not insist on the Commons amendments to which the Lords have disagreed, and proposes Government amendments (a) to (l) in lieu:—

The House divided: Ayes 277, Noes 50.
Division No. 217]
[1.46 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Gordon
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Crausby, Mr. David
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davies, Mr. Dai
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank

Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Lazarowicz, Mark
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McCrea, Dr. William
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mudie, Mr. George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John

Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Tami, Mark
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Wilson, Sammy
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Bob Blizzard and
Alison Seabeck

Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Brake, Tom
Breed, Mr. Colin
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Davey, Mr. Edward
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
George, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harvey, Nick
Heath, Mr. David
Hermon, Lady
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Mulholland, Greg
Öpik, Lembit
Price, Adam
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rogerson, Dan
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Smith, Sir Robert
Stunell, Andrew
Swinson, Jo
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Webb, Steve
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Jeremy Browne and
John Hemming
Question accordingly agreed to.
24 Oct 2007 : Column 311

24 Oct 2007 : Column 312

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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A (7) (Programming of bills ),

Question agreed to.

24 Oct 2007 : Column 314

Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 5

Boundary Committee’s powers

Lords amendment: No. 1.

1.58 pm

The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 23, 215 to 218, 238 and 239.

John Healey: The Bill is about the greater devolution of power to local government, and about greater local democracy. It puts in place a new framework to enable local government to work more closely with local partner agencies and bodies in delivering a full range of services in its area. It goes beyond the expected traditional areas of local government that we have come to recognise in previous local government Bills. For instance, it makes the link to health services, both in their delivery and in the involvement and direct participation of people in local—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Minister might just be metaphorically clearing his throat, but I should remind him that this is not a Second Reading debate. He must address his remarks to the Lords amendments.

John Healey: I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was aware of that, but I felt that it was important to set the context for the large number of amendments in the group. These amendments and those in the other groups reflect the fact that, throughout the progress of the Bill, the Government have listened intently to the arguments that have been put to us, and I hope that other hon. Members will also take that view.

All the amendments in this group were introduced by the Government in another place, and they relate to part 1 of the Bill. They are also a tribute not only to my noble Friend Baroness Andrews, who led the Bill so well through the upper House, but to Baroness Hanham and Baroness Scott, who led for the Opposition. The amendments will ensure that the new processes for bringing about structural and boundary change are effective in all circumstances, and that there are no ambiguities or uncertainties. A number of them are purely technical, and I do not intend to go through those in detail.

The amendments to clause 7 will ensure that the Bill and the invitation process are fully aligned with each other, and that the principles of devolution are properly encapsulated. They simply correct the drafting so that the clause does not require the Secretary of State herself to impose a form of general consultation on local areas, at a later stage of deliberation, that goes
24 Oct 2007 : Column 315
above and beyond that which had been quite rightly undertaken earlier in the process by the local authorities concerned.

The amendments to clauses 8 and 10 will ensure that, when conducting a boundary review, the boundary committee will be able to make a recommendation for no change. It is clearly desirable that the boundary committee, having decided that no change to the boundaries should be made, formally completes the review process by making such a recommendation to the Secretary of State.

The remaining amendments in the group are further technical amendments to part 1 and to the related schedule, schedule 1. The amendments to clause 12 will ensure that the Secretary of State is able to make provision in relation to parish electoral arrangements when she makes an order for structural or boundary change. The Bill already enables the Secretary of State to make changes to parish boundaries and, in certain circumstances, that would require a change to parish electoral arrangements. The amendments ensure that that would be possible.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Can the Minister assure me that the extra powers, with which I am perfectly in agreement, would not extend to a point at which the Secretary of State could abolish a parish? There is a case in my constituency in which two parishes have been abolished. May I be sure that this provision will not increase her ability to abolish parishes?

John Healey: The arrangements and provisions in the Bill should not put the Secretary of State in the sort of position that the right hon. Gentleman fears, certainly from her own initiative.

We are also proposing a number of minor amendments to improve the drafting of the Bill, and to ensure that the provisions in this part of the Bill can be used effectively. I commend the amendments to the House.

Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): It is a pleasure to respond to the relatively new Minister for Local Government. He has not taken the Bill through the Committee with the rest of us, but we appreciate the attention that he is giving it now and wish him well in his role when, on future occasions, we are dealing with each other across the Chamber.

In response to the Minister’s throat clearing, I should like to do a little of my own. I just want to say that the Opposition recognise that a number of concessions were made in the other place, and I shall touch on those later. We still feel, however, that the Bill could have done more on devolution, including dealing with the regional bodies and devolving some of their powers to local authorities. Having said that, some of the matters that we shall discuss this afternoon reflect the fact that changes have been made following the discussions that took place in Committee and in another place.

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