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The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): The Government have today published the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. The Bill includes the following reforms, to:
Phase out the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, by ending by-elections for hereditary peers; provide for the disqualification from the House of Lords of peers convicted of a serious crime or subject to a bankruptcy restrictions order; enable the House of Lords to expel or suspend its Members in certain circumstances; and provide for peers to resign and disclaim their peerages.
Repeal sections 132 to 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, removing the requirement to give notice of demonstrations around Parliament, as well as the offence of holding a demonstration without the authorisation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. The Bill will instead enable the police to be given proportionate, alternative powers to maintain access to Parliament.
Reconcile the time limit for human rights claims under the Northern Ireland Act 1988 and the Government of Wales Act 2006 with that in the Human Rights Act 1998. Due to the interface between this Bill and parallel provision for Scotland in an Act of the Scottish Parliament which has yet to receive Royal Assent, the same provision for Scotland will be introduced by amendment at the appropriate time.
Remove the Prime Minister from the process of making appointments to the new Supreme Court (this complements non-legislative measures ending his involvement in the appointment of other Members of the senior judiciary of England and Wales); and remove the provision enabling the Judicial Appointments Commission to assume responsibility for magistrates' appointments.
The Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (report of 31 July 2008, HL Paper 166-1, HC Paper 551-1);
The Justice Committee (report on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (provisions relating to the Attorney General), HC 698); and
The Public Administration Select Committee (report on Constitutional Renewal: Draft Bill and White Paper, HC 499).
On 3 July 2007, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a major statement on the case for constitutional reform. Alongside this, more detail was given in the governance of Britain Green Paper. A number of subsequent separate consultation papers were published, including on the role of the Attorney-General (CM 7192), judicial appointments (CM 7210), war powers and treaties (CM7239) and protest around Parliament (CM 7235). The draft Constitutional Renewal Bill was published on 25 March 2008 (CM 73423-2) and a Joint Committee of both Houses set up to consider the draft Bill.
A fundamental aim of the governance of Britain agenda has been to reduce the power of the executive, including by ending the use of relevant royal prerogative powers, and to enhance the role of Parliament. The provisions in respect of the civil service and treaties mark a major move in that direction. The Government have already announced that it would ensure that the Commons will have a pivotal position in determining whether the United Kingdom goes to war, by means of a war powers resolution. Drafts of this have already been published and will go before Parliament in the autumn.
Detailed work on the reform of the Lords had been undertaken in parallel with the governance of Britain agenda. A White Paper was published last July (2008, CM) building on the decisions of the Commons in February 2007 in favour of an 80 per cent. or 100 per cent. elected House of Lords. No proposals in respect of the Lords were therefore included in the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill.
a) end the hereditary peers by-elections, thus phasing out the hereditary principle, and
b) provide for the resignation of peers and powers for their expulsion, suspension and disqualification in certain circumstances.
The Government are fully committed to comprehensive reform of the Lords, based on four principles, all of which were endorsed by the cross-party group (see White Paper, An Elected Second Chamber, July 2008, Cm 7438):
The primacy of the House of Commons, enshrined in the Parliament Acts, and in rules and convention;
Independence of Members, supported by their serving a single, non-renewable term of three normal-length Parliaments, and, as set out originally in the 2007 White Paper (The House of Lords: Reform, Cm 7027), by a system of election which prevents a single party gaining an overall majority;
Direct election, such that the second chamber has a democratic mandate underpinning its revising role, but one that is never as a whole more up to date than that of the Commons; and
Sensible transitional arrangements in respect of existing peers.
There remain outstanding questions, which the Government will seek to answer in final proposals after the summer, with draft legislation for pre-legislative
scrutiny as soon as possible. The two key issues are the electoral system and the size of the elected element (80 per cent. or 100 per cent.). The Government are giving careful and active consideration to resolving these questions in such a way as to make best use of a transitional period.
The Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill contained provisions in respect of the office of Attorney-General, following the governance of Britain Green Paper, which set out the Government's commitment to enhancing public confidence and trust in the office, and the Government said that they would listen to the views of all those with an interest. A consultation paper was subsequently published on 25 July 2007. Of all the matters covered in the draft Bill, this has been the subject of most extensive comment, with bespoke reports from the Justice Committee and the Select Committee on the Constitution and extensive treatment-including minority views, with support from across all three main political parties-from the Joint Committee on the draft Bill.
Those reports disclosed a wide range of views on the direction that reform of the office might take. For example, the Justice Committee favoured separating the Attorney's legal and political functions; a majority of the Joint Committee disagreed; and the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution noted that 'there are a number of different ways in which the post of Attorney might evolve', providing an overview of the different options and arguments.
In the event, the significant, necessary reforms to the role of Attorney-General are being achieved without the need for legislation. For example, the Attorney has reached a new settlement with the Directors of Public Prosecutions, the Serious Fraud Office and Revenue and Customs Prosecutions to improve relationships, guarantee prosecutorial independence while ensuring an appropriate degree of accountability and to improve transparency about the relationship, as reflected in the new protocol setting out the respective responsibilities of the Attorney and the Directors. This builds on the Prime Minister's statement in July 2007, that the Attorney-General has herself decided, except if the law or national security requires it, not to make key prosecution decisions in individual criminal cases. Furthermore, the new protocol makes it clear that the Attorney General will not be consulted in any case which concerns an MP or peer or where there is a personal or professional conflict of interest, other than where her decision is required by law. This protocol will be published by the Attorney very shortly. Furthermore, the Attorney-General now only attends Cabinet when matters affecting her responsibilities are on the agenda.
Given that it has been possible to make these reforms to the office of Attorney-General without legislation, the Government have concluded that it is not necessary to include legislative changes in respect of the Attorney-General.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice):
Since its creation in 1968, the role of the Parole Board has changed significantly, from an advisory body to a court-like decision-making body.
It has evolved in light of legislative changes, court judgments and changing caseloads, but its functions, status and resources have not been systematically considered in light of these changes.
Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. They are also available at: www.justice.gov.uk. The Ministry's website also gives details of how to respond to the consultation exercise.
The Government are committed to funding legal aid for family cases, and currently dedicate £582 million each year to family legal aid. In real terms, in the last seven years expenditure on family representation has increased by 25 per cent. while the number of people helped has dropped by 11 per cent. For this reason, we have been working to re-design the system to get the best value for the tax payer and to ensure that our priority of protecting and helping vulnerable children is met.
On 17 December 2008, Official Report, column 120WS, I announced a consultation paper, "Family Legal Aid Funding from 2010", published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Legal Services Commission (LSC) which set out proposals for legal aid payments for family work to apply from 2010. The consultation closed on 3 April 2009, following an extension of the original closing date of 18 March, which was granted following requests from representative bodies.
The consultation paper focused on two new payment schemes:
The Private Law Representation Scheme, which will bring all private family work (excluding advocacy) within a standard fee regime.
The Family Advocacy scheme, which creates a single graduated fee scheme covering payments to both solicitor advocates and barristers for public and private family law cases.
There is a significant overlap between what solicitors and barristers do, and this consultation proposed that barrister and solicitor advocates would receive the same fees for the same advocacy work and most respondents agreed with this principle.
I remain convinced that it is right to proceed with a harmonised family advocacy scheme and intend to do so.
Since the formal consultation ended, the Legal Services Commission has had a substantial amount of constructive engagement with stakeholders. They have provided a considerable amount of detailed advice on how to improve the structure of both the advocacy and representation schemes-primarily to recognise complexity in cases.
Our original proposals have been substantially revised to reflect many of their suggestions. This has required a considerable amount of reworking of the assumptions that underpin the modelling of the fee schemes. I have concluded that in order to ensure that those models are as accurate as possible, further analysis is required before we publish the final fee schemes.
My officials and the Legal Service Commission will be working on the fee schemes over the summer. They will be finalised and announced in time for the September bid round for new civil contracts in April 2010.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Bach, has made the following written ministerial statement:
The Legal Services Commission (LSC) is publishing today a response to its consultation, published in March 2009, on best value tendering (BVT) of criminal defence services. The consultation set out plans to pilot BVT in Greater Manchester and Avon and Somerset and, subject to the outcome of the pilot tender process, to roll-out BVT more widely during 2010-12.
The consultation was clear that the introduction of BVT would bring significant change to the way in which criminal defence services in the police station and magistrates' court are currently funded. However, BVT offers the potential to secure the long-term sustainability of criminal defence work by enabling legal aid providers to offer their services at a sustainable price that reflects the costs of provision in their local area. The proposals have been designed to secure best value for taxpayers' money and provide opportunities for practitioners to undertake more work where they have the capacity to do so.
The LSC intends to go ahead with the BVT pilot as planned, with the tender process beginning in October 2009. However, the LSC has listened carefully to concerns raised by those responding to the consultation and has been persuaded that there is a strong case for delaying the wider implementation of BVT until at least 2013 to enable a full evaluation of the impact in the two pilot areas.
The consultation response also details the final BVT model to be implemented in the pilot areas including the adjustments that have been made as a result of the consultation. In particular, the LSC intends to implement a more flexible, localised approach to maximum market share in response to concerns raised by respondents. It also intends to allow firms to undertake a small amount of police station work outside the area in which they have won a contract so that they can continue relationships with established clients.
Copies of "Best Value Tendering for CDS Contracts 2010: A Response to Consultation" will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The document can be downloaded from the consultation section of the LSC's website at: www.legalservices.gov.uk.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): I have today placed a copy of the Boundary Commission's annual report for the period 2008-2009 in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available on the Boundary Commission website at: www.boundarycommission.org.uk.
The Minister for the Olympics, (Tessa Jowell):
I am publishing today the Government Olympic Executive's quarterly economic report, "London 2012 Olympic and
Paralympic Games Quarterly Economic Report July 2009". This report explains the latest budget position as at 30 June 2009, and outlines some of the many wider economic benefits to the UK.
The Olympic project remains on time and within budget. The overall £9.325 billion public sector funding package for the London 2012 games remains unchanged and the anticipated final cost of the Olympic Delivery Authority's (ODA) programme is the same as it was at the end of March 2009 at £7.234 billion.
On the eve of our three years to go celebrations, the ODA continue to make good progress on the Olympic park, recently announcing that they had hit all of their ten milestones. Good progress is being made on all of the principal venues and on 16 July the ODA announced that the outer shell roof structure of the Olympic stadium had been completed just 14 months after construction started.
The report also confirms that the London 2012 games are providing business and employment opportunities around the UK in challenging times. There are now over 4,000 workers on site. Of these, 10 per cent. were previously unemployed. To date £3.5 billion worth of contracts have been directly awarded by the ODA, 98 per cent. of these to UK companies.
Copies of the quarterly economic report July 2009 are available at www.culture.gov.uk and will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
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