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8 July 2008 : Column 1299
4.27 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): I, too, was somewhat reassured by what the Minister said about the sunset clause. I was partly reassured by what I took to be an indication that there will be no pressure on the House when that major piece of legislation is introduced in the next parliamentary Session. She is nodding assent, for which I am grateful.

I am entirely persuaded of the need for the Bill, much as I accept the points that were about to be developed by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) when you rightly cut him short, Mr. Speaker. That is partly because of the knowledge and experience of Northern Ireland that I have gained in the three years for which I have chaired the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs. I am delighted that the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) is in the Chamber, because we both know that there are times when it is absolutely necessary to protect the anonymity of key witnesses.

Mr. Hogg: There is an interesting point to be made about Northern Ireland, because in 1992 Lord Diplock, and then Lord Gardiner, held that the anonymity of witnesses could not be allowed in Northern Ireland, because that would impugn the criminal process in the Northern Irish courts.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Yes, but the circumstances were very different, as my right hon. and learned Friend knows far better than I do.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): I appreciate the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), but does the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) accept that increasingly, the evidence in Northern Ireland suggests that those who were involved in paramilitary activity, or who are still involved in it, interfere with witnesses on a regular basis, which makes it difficult for the due process of law to be carried out?

Mr. Speaker: Order. Once again, although we are on an allocation of time order, we have gone back to discussing the merits of the Bill.

Sir Patrick Cormack: I shall not do that, Mr. Speaker, save to say that I accept what the hon. Member for East Antrim says.

We are, indeed, discussing the timing, and although I accept the need for urgency and—unlike my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham—the need to get the legislation through before the House rises for the summer recess, I do not accept that we have to do it all in one day. Some intricate arguments will need to take place. I am not a lawyer and I shall probably not take part in those, but I am mindful of the fact that when we legislate in haste, we often get it wrong, although, as the hon. Member for East Antrim reminded me from a sedentary position a while ago, sometimes we can take four years over legislation, as we did on hunting, and still get it wrong.

Although I accept that the legislation is urgent and necessary, the fact is that we could have had, at the very least, two days. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) quite correctly put me right when she said that the other place was having two half days rather than two days of debate, but my hon. and learned Friend the Member for
8 July 2008 : Column 1300
Harborough (Mr. Garnier) responded from the Front Bench by saying that two half days with a period for reflection in between is better than six hours on the trot.

I realise that the legislation will go through. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mark Fisher) made an impassioned plea for the House to assert its authority, but he knows better than I that the House cannot exert its authority if the Government have a majority and whip the legislation. It is as simple and as depressing as that. On the Liaison Committee last week, I reminded the Prime Minister that if he really wanted to put Parliament back at the centre of the nation’s life, he could take away the power of the Executive to impose a timetable on every Bill. I do not know precisely what happened in the usual channels—once famously referred to as the most polluted waterways in Europe—but I do know that it would have been better if the timetabling of this Bill, as of any other Bill, had been in the hands of those who are not entirely the creatures of the Executive or of the shadow Executive.

So, we will proceed with the Bill. I do not want to make a long speech and delay the debate about the substantive issues, but it is a great pity that the timetabling did not allow for a period of reflection so that we could have returned to the Bill tomorrow or on Thursday. We could have sat one day longer—on 23 July—without any great inconvenience to people. It is fairly inconvenient to come back for two days, a Monday and a Tuesday, so to have added the Wednesday would, frankly, have made the week more justifiable. I rest my case—but I think it is a pity that we are doing things in this way.

4.32 pm

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): In the Lord Chancellor’s oral statement to the House on 26 June, he said that if the Bill before us were passed, it would be repealed in the next Session and subsumed into the forthcoming law reform, victims and witnesses Bill. Will the Minister assure the House that when that Bill comes before the House, we will have at least two days on Second Reading?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. My advice is that the question that the Minister has been asked has nothing to do with the matter before us. There may be an opportunity for it to be dealt with at a later stage.

Question put:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 283, Noes 145.
Division No. 254]
[4.33 pm


Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hoey, Kate
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
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
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
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John

Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Singh, Mr. Marsha
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
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Ussher, Kitty
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mark Tami and
Mr. Dave Watts

Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bottomley, Peter
Brazier, Mr. Julian

Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Durkan, Mark
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Fisher, Mark
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Christopher
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jones, Mr. David
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
McDonnell, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robertson, Hugh
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, Mr. David
Scott, Mr. Lee
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Wilson, Sammy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Jeremy Wright and
James Duddridge
Question accordingly agreed to .
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8 July 2008 : Column 1303

8 July 2008 : Column 1304

Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

4.49 pm

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

In my statement to this House on 26 June, I set out the reasons why the Government found it necessary to bring forward this emergency legislation following the Law Lords’ judgment in the case of Davis. There is no need for me to rehearse at length the arguments that I presented to the House on that occasion. I will just outline briefly the background. It is as follows.

On 18 June, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords—the Law Lords—unanimously overturned an earlier and also unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal criminal division that had allowed the use of anonymised witness evidence in certain criminal trials. The senior Law Lord, the noble Lord Bingham, looked at the common law and found that the courts had arrived at a position on anonymised evidence that was

Their lordships also held that the processes used in the particular circumstances of Davis had rendered the trial unfair under article 6 of the European convention on human rights, although they accepted that, in principle, anonymised evidence was not inconsistent with article 6.

Overall, Lord Bingham said that the matter may now

Lord Mance endorsed that approach, to deal with what he said was

The Government—and, I am glad to say, the House—have accepted their lordships’ invitation urgently to consider filling the void that was left by their judgment of 18 June. Although many points were raised when I made my statement on 26 June, there was widespread approbation across the Chamber for the necessity of introducing an emergency Bill.

There has been an intensive period of consultation since my statement, the product of which is reflected both in the Bill as introduced and in the Government amendments standing in my name. I am very grateful indeed to the spokesman for the official Opposition and to the Liberal Democrats for the constructive approach that they have adopted in the course of the consultation. In the intervening period, too, we have sought the most up-to-date information available from the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the scale of the use of anonymous witness evidence. A paper including that information was published Thursday last alongside the Bill.

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