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Miss McIntosh: I am sorry to test the Minister’s patience. The news of the consultation is welcome, but will he consult on the proportion of representatives who will be up for election? There is a ballpark figure in the paragraph to which I referred of 20 per cent., but
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will he consult on whether it should be 20 per cent. or 30 per cent., and what the composition of the elected body should be?

Jonathan Shaw: I cannot tell the hon. Lady the detail of the consultation, but the percentage of directly elected members is clearly something that we will consider carefully for inclusion in the consultation. I hope that that provides hon. Members with some comfort.

Mr. Bacon: Will the Minister clarify his view on paragraph 9 of the Select Committee report, in which the Committee members state that in their view the legal agreements would not be binding?

Jonathan Shaw: I do not have the details to hand, but I will drop the hon. Gentleman a note, and we will make sure that a copy is placed in the Library so that Members considering the Bill in another place are aware of the answer.

Norman Lamb: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way yet again. Will he look specifically at the possibility of using local government reorganisation in two years’ time as a mechanism? Primary legislation will be in place at that point. I appreciate that a different Department is involved, but it is an obvious opportunity to achieve reform, which would be very much welcomed in Norfolk.

Jonathan Shaw: The hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot give him that commitment, but his comments are on the record and I am sure that my hon. Friends in the Department for Communities and Local Government will take note.

I hope I have provided hon. Members with some comfort. There will be a consultation. I am relaxed about the proposal. As hon. Members noted, similar projects have been successful in Scotland and I have had discussions with various members of the boards of national parks and the broads. We all treasure the broads and our national parks. We need to get the arrangements right, and as was pointed out, things change over time. It is important that we respond to the concerns and the accountability wishes of the people of this country.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North, the proposer of the Bill. It is a reasonable and proportionate Bill. I congratulate the authority. There has been extensive consultation and although not everyone agreed, great efforts were made over a considerable time. I hope that we have been able to address people’s concerns, particularly on the issue that has preoccupied the House most this afternoon—elections. I commend the Bill to the House.

6.36 pm

Dr. Gibson: May I associate myself with many of the remarks that have been made—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The hon. Gentleman needs the leave of the House to contribute again.

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Dr. Gibson: With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The only reason that I took up the Bill was that it involved safety issues. It is so important that we have legislation covering the safety of the public across the nation who use facilities such as football grounds, shopping centres or the broads.

During the debate on the Bill we have developed some good ideas, which are beginning to circulate. I am glad that support is coming through, and I have no hard feelings towards those who objected for so long. When they have had the chance, they have been quite positive about some aspects, and we should be grateful for that. One or two issues have been misunderstood and I hope they will be ironed out in the other place. For example, there has been agreement that navigation money from river tolls or broads tolls cannot be used other than for navigational purposes. Such matters need to be clarified.

Another important feature of the Bill is that an independent arbitrator can be set up, with an appeals process to deal with complaints such as those that we heard from hon. Members on the Opposition Benches.

I am pleased that there has been interaction. There is no doubt that when Norfolk people get together, things begin to happen. That is Norfolk soul, and we have seen evidence of that over the past year. Hopefully, the Bill will proceed quickly through the other place and we will maintain a broads facility that is second to none. When people use the facilities there, they will do so in safety and we will have none of the calamities and deaths that we have seen over the years.

I thank everybody who has participated—colleagues in all parts of the House and the Minister. I particularly thank the DEFRA officials who advised us on how to change some of the complicated provisions, and I am sure they will continue to do that.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

6.39 pm

Sitting suspended , pursuant to Order [29 April].

7 pm

On resuming


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

Question agreed to.

Delegated Legislation

Church of England Marriage Measure


7 May 2008 : Column 805

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With the leave of the House, I shall put together the motions relating to trade descriptions and consumer protection.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118 (6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation) ,

Trade Descriptions

Consumer Protection

Question agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I must now suspend the sitting of the House until such time as will be advised on the Annunciator.

7.1 pm

Sitting suspended, pursuant to Order [29 April].

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Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Lords Message considered.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Under the order of the House of 6 May, any message from the Lords relating to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question put.

I have to acquaint the House that a message has been brought from the Lords as follows. The Lords insist on certain amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill to which the Commons have disagreed for which insistence they assign their Reasons; they do not insist on the remaining amendments to which the Commons have disagreed; they agree to the amendments which the Commons have proposed to the words restored to the Bill; they agree to the consequential amendment which the Commons have proposed; they agree to the amendments which the Commons have proposed in lieu of certain of their amendments; and they agree to the amendments which the Commons have proposed to certain of their amendments.

Lords reasons: 9B, 301B and 327B.

8.20 pm

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): I beg to move, That this House does not insist on its disagreement with the Lords in their amendments Nos. 9, 301 and 327.

We had a full debate yesterday on the question of suspended sentence orders, and there was some discussion between the main parties and the Liberal Democrats on this matter. Obviously, I regret the fact that the other place has voted in the way that it has, but there is clearly a big disagreement between the two Houses.

I am firmly of the view that the impact of the clause was positive, but a number of points have been made by the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) and the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth), and also by such august bodies as the Magistrates Association, and what they have said, coupled with the reflection we have had from the Lords, means that we will not press this issue to a Division this evening.

Members know that we are addressing key issues in relation to the prison officers’ right-to-strike provisions, which expire under the joint industrial relations procedural arrangement tomorrow—8 May. I have always had the intention of getting this Bill to Royal Assent by 8 May, and I feel that if we press this issue this evening we will severely complicate those matters. Therefore, I propose that we do not insist on the disagreement with the Lords, and I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Harborough, for whom I have had great regard during the passage of the Bill, and the hon. Member for Cambridge, will accept that with the good grace that I know they have within them.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): I am delighted that the Government have accepted the advice of the other place. I know it is not always easy for a Government with a majority in this House to accept such advice on all occasions, but the other place can proudly claim to have exercised its constitutional
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role properly on this occasion, by inviting a Government to take advice. They have clearly listened to the advice of the other place. I claim no credit for any part in the Government’s decision making; we have all had to do what we have had to do. It happens that the House of Lords’ advice coincides with the remarks that I have been making, but that is a coincidence.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle), for the constructive view that they have taken on this proposal, and I invite the House, including my right hon. and hon. Friends, to accept the concession that the Government have made this evening in the face of the advice of the other place. I ask us all to allow clause 10 to be deleted from the Bill.

David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): Earlier in the day, I had the intense embarrassment of hearing the remarks I made on this matter yesterday cited with approval by not only the Liberal Democrat spokesman in the Lords but the Minister there.

I should reiterate what I was saying yesterday just for one purpose. Clause 10 was trying to deal with a problem that exists not just in respect of summary offences in the magistrates court, but in the Crown court—perhaps to an even greater degree—and in the magistrates court in respect of offences that are triable either way. The Government need to think about a holistic solution to the problem, not just a solution to one particular part of it, because by trying to resolve the problem in parts they threatened to cause a certain amount of confusion in the courts.

Another problem was raised in the Lords, where a fair point was made by Lady Butler-Sloss. The Government’s solution was to say, “Perhaps we will implement this clause and then unimplement it.” However, that would mean excessive change for the magistrates courts, in particular, to be able to follow. There has been too much change in the criminal law, one way or the other, for that ever to have been a plausible way out. I thank the Government for their concession on this matter, but I hope that they will keep thinking about how to resolve the problem, which they have rightly identified, in a more comprehensive way.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords reason: No. 285B.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Maria Eagle): I beg to move, That this House does not insist on its disagreement with the Lords in their amendment No. 285.

I am pleased that at least we will have an offence of inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation on the statute book. That is very positive, and everybody in the House should be pleased about it, as I am. It is a necessary provision.

The other place has insisted on its amendment, and I can advise the House that the Government will not resist it. We had a full debate yesterday, when there was a frank exchange of views. Perhaps not as much consensus emerged at the end as we might have hoped, although the vote was quite large—there was a 202
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majority. We remain of the view that the amendment is undesirable and unnecessary; it does not add anything to the law as it would stand without its inclusion. However, as the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson), has explained, there is an urgent need for the Bill to receive Royal Assent.

I say to the House that between now and commencement we will prepare guidance—we had an extensive debate yesterday about guidance and its importance—explaining the operation of the new offences, taking into account the views and concerns expressed across this House and in the other place. Of course there will be an opportunity—doubtless there will be frequent opportunities—to revisit the issue in due course if it is the will of this House or the other House to do so. On that basis, I would like to propose that we do not disagree with the Lords in their said amendment.

Mr. Garnier: I congratulate the Government or, at least, this part of the Government, on having some connection with rationality; I congratulate them collectively and as individual Ministers on the part that they have played in brokering this sensible solution. I know that it is not easy for Ministers to have to accept alterations to legislation that they have so carefully thought about over many months, but the facts of life have returned to haunt them. I do not wish to crow about that for a moment. It is worth pointing out that of those who supported Lord Waddington—to whom considerable praise is owed—13 took the Labour Whip and two were bishops.

8.30 pm

I hope that every party will now coalesce around this solution and that those who are concerned about issues of detail will suppress those concerns for the greater good of the legislation as a whole so that the provision that is most central to this extraordinary Bill—the right to strike of prison officers—can be put on the statute book as quickly as possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) is at the Prison Officers Association annual conference, and I know that the Secretary of State will be there tomorrow, to read the speech that my hon. Friend has made and to make his own.

I congratulate the Government on their magnanimous approach to this aspect of the Bill and also those of my hon. Friends who have supported Lord Waddington so doughtily in the stance that he has taken— [ Interruption. ] I hear a squeak, probably from the Liberal Democrats, suggesting that this is a free vote. It is a free vote, but we are making public law, and I would hope that all of us could sensibly agree that the position at which we have arrived, while not wholly satisfactory to everybody, is sensible and one that the rational elements among us can agree is the right way forward. I thank the Minister for her remarks and hope that we can now move forward.

David Howarth: I regret the announcement that the Minister has felt constrained to make. I accept that the Government do not want to take this route, but feel forced to do so by the political and industrial relations conditions, but the House should not let this Lords amendment through without some form of protest.

7 May 2008 : Column 809

The Waddington amendment remains unacceptable to me for all the reasons that I gave yesterday. It claims that there is doubt about a statutory provision about which there is no doubt. The new offence of stirring up homophobic hatred is clear. It can be committed only by threats or with intent. There is no doubt about its content. To put into the statute a section that says

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