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Session 2008 - 09
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General Committee Debates
Coroners and Justice

Coroners and Justice Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Frank Cook, Mr. Roger Gale
Bellingham, Mr. Henry (North-West Norfolk) (Con)
Boswell, Mr. Tim (Daventry) (Con)
Brown, Mr. Russell (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab)
Eagle, Maria (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)
Garnier, Mr. Edward (Harborough) (Con)
Gray, Mr. James (North Wiltshire) (Con)
Hesford, Stephen (Wirral, West) (Lab)
Howarth, David (Cambridge) (LD)
Howarth, Mr. George (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab)
Iddon, Dr. Brian (Bolton, South-East) (Lab)
Kidney, Mr. David (Stafford) (Lab)
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham) (Lab)
Michael, Alun (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine (Bridgend) (Lab)
Prentice, Bridget (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)
Robertson, Angus (Moray) (SNP)
Willott, Jenny (Cardiff, Central) (LD)
Wright, Jeremy (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con)
Alan Sandall, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee


Bridget Prentice, Under-Secretary of State for Justice
Maria Eagle, Under-Secretary of State for Justice
Ruth Allan, Ministry of Justice
Geoff Bradshaw, Ministry of Justice
Deborah Grice, Ministry of Justice
Belinda Lewis, Ministry of Justice
Professor Jeremy Horder, Law Commissioner, Professor of Criminal Law, Oxford University

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 3 February 2009


[Frank Cook in the Chair]

Coroners and Justice Bill

10.30 am
The Chairman: Before we begin, I have a few preliminary announcements to make. Members, if they wish, may remove their jackets during Committee sittings, but will all Members please ensure that all mobile phones and pagers are turned off or at least switched to silent running? We do not want any disturbance.
I remind the Committee that there are money and ways and means resolutions in connection with the Bill and copies are available in the room. I should also like to remind Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments if they are to be eligible for selection. For a Tuesday sitting, amendments must be tabled by the rise of the House the previous Thursday and, for a Thursday sitting, amendments must be tabled by the previous Monday. As a general rule, I and my fellow Chairman do not intend to call starred amendments.
Not everyone is familiar with the process of taking oral evidence in Public Bill Committees, so it might help if I briefly explain how we will proceed. It will not only be helpful to you, but it will also be very helpful to me. The Committee will first be asked to consider the programme motion on which debate will be limited to half an hour. We will then proceed to a motion to report written evidence and then to a motion to permit the Committee to deliberate in private in advance of the oral evidence sessions. I hope that we can take both motions formally.
Assuming that the second of the motions is agreed, the Committee will then move into private session. Once the Committee has completed its deliberations in private, witnesses and members of the public will be invited back into the room and our oral evidence session will commence. I hope that that will be at around 11 am.
If the Committee agrees to the programme motion, it will hear oral evidence today and on Thursday. It will then revert to the more familiar proceedings of clause-by-clause scrutiny.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 am on Tuesday 3 February) meet—
(a) at 4.00 pm on Tuesday 3 February;
(b) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 5 February;
(c) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 10 February;
(d) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 24 February;
(e) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 26 February;
(f) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 3 March;
(g) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 5 March;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table—
Tuesday 3 February
Until no later than 12.20 pm
Ministry of Justice
Tuesday 3 February
Until no later than 1.00 pm
Law Commission
Tuesday 3 February
Until no later than 5.30 pm
The Coroners’ Society of England and Wales; INQUEST; the Royal College of Pathologists; Cardiac Risk in the Young
Tuesday 3 February
Until no later than 6.15 pm
Tuesday 3 February
Until no later than 7.00 pm
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; Barnardo’s Internet Watch Foundation
Thursday 5 February
Until no later than 10.25 am
The Magistrates’ Association; NACRO; Victim Support; Prison Reform Trust
Thursday 5 February
Until no later than 1.40 pm
Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions
Thursday 5 February
Until no later than 2.30 pm
The Law Society; the Criminal Bar Association
Thursday 5 February
Until no later than 3.00 pm
Justice for Women
Thursday 5 February
Until no later than 4.00 pm
Information Commissioner’s Office
(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 14; Schedule 1; Clauses 15 to 21; Schedule 2; Clause 22; Schedule 3; Clauses 23 and 24; Schedule 4; Clause 25; Schedule 5; Clause 26; Schedule 6; Clause 27; Schedule 7; Clauses 28 to 31; Schedule 8; Clauses 32 to 38; Schedule 9; Clauses 151 to 154; Schedule 18; Clauses 39 to 48; Schedule 10; Clauses 49 to 55; Schedule 11; Clauses 56 to 82; Schedule 12; Clauses 83 to 100; Schedule 13; Clauses 101 to 119; Schedule 14; Clauses 120 to 124; Schedule 15; Clauses 125 to 131; Schedule 16; Clauses 132 to 147; Schedule 17; Clauses 148 to 150; Clauses 155 and 156; Schedules 19 and 20; Clause 157; Schedule 21; Clauses 158 to 162; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 4.00 pm on Thursday 5 March.
I am delighted to be taking the Bill through under you, Mr. Cook, and your co-Chairman, Mr. Gale. I know that you will both conduct the proceedings of this Committee in a fair and impartial way. This is an important Bill and it is important that it is subject to full and proper scrutiny.
The programme motion largely speaks for itself, so I intend to be brief. I just want to draw the Committee’s attention to one point. On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Cambridge suggested that our putting the data-sharing provisions into part 8 was an attempt to smuggle them through as though they were illicit contraband. Rather than be accused of such smuggling, we have worked the order of consideration so that the amendments to the Data Protection Act 1998 in part 8 will be considered immediately after the coroner and death certification proceedings in part 1. I hope that that reordering will meet with the agreement of not just the hon. Member for Cambridge but other members of the Committee.
There will be two full days for oral evidence followed by five days of the usual clause-by-clause consideration. There is always the possibility—we have the flexibility—to sit a little later on Tuesdays if necessary, but I shall obviously leave that in the very capable hands of the Government Whip.
It might assist you, Mr. Cook, and hon. Members if I advise the Committee that, in broad terms, I will be leading on parts 1, 5, 6, 8 and 9 and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Justice will lead on parts 2, 4 and 7. In the case of part 3, she will lead in the debates on witness anonymity and I will deal with the other chapters in that part. I look forward to a constructive and searching debate on the Bill and commend the motion to the Committee.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): I associate myself and my hon. Friends with the Minister’s remarks and welcome you, Mr. Cook, to the Chair. We also look forward to the chairmanship of Mr. Gale.
Like the Minister, we hope that this will be a constructive Committee. The last occasion that we sat under your chairmanship, Mr. Cook, was when we considered the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill last year and, rather like London buses, Home Office and justice Bills follow each other in whizzing round the corner. My hon. Friends and I will do our best to provide grit on the road so that these buses can gain better purchase on the surface, but I have to say at the outset that this Bill is another plum duff. I accused the Government of producing a great, fat Bill last year—most of it was duff; there were a few plums—and the same can be said of this Bill. I cannot guarantee to be as generous to the two Ministers on this Committee as I was to the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson), to whom I gave a Christmas pudding rather than a plum duff at the end of our deliberations. Unfortunately, the House of Commons shop does not sell plum duffs, so he had to make do with a House of Commons Christmas pudding that looked suitably like the kind of infernal device that one might throw at early 20th century Austrian archdukes.
This is another long Bill. It has 162 clauses and 21 schedules and each of the schedules is divided up into several parts. My complaint at this early stage is that this is too big a Bill and covers too many discrete subjects. It should be divided up into separate Bills. Of course, the Government are in a hurry—time is running out for them—but we will do our best to try to make sense of nonsense and to improve what is almost capable of being described as sensible. We will applaud where appropriate those provisions that we think will enhance the criminal or coronial law.
Although we may take a different view as we make progress, at this stage we can agree with the Minister’s motion for the timetabling of the Committee, but we reserve our right to come back to seek adjustments if necessary. We look forward to constructive if sometimes controversial debate.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): I am grateful to the Government for acceding to my suggestion that we move up consideration of the data-protection provisions in the Bill. Someone in opposition of a suspicion mind might think that all that has happened is that we have not spotted the contraband and that it is somewhere else in the Bill. To that degree, I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Harborough. This is a very long Bill that, at a conservative estimate, contains 28 different topics for consideration. It amends 56 pieces of previous legislation and, even in the time that the Committee has been given, it will be difficult to consider all aspects of the Bill properly. If at the end of our deliberations parts of the Bill have not been considered or have not been considered at the length or with the depth that they deserve, I hope that the Government will think generously about offering more than one day for Report. That has just happened with the Political Parties and Elections Bill, as the Committee got nowhere near discussing all the important matters that it raised. This Bill is even longer, even bigger and covers even more subjects. Although I make that important request, I do not at this stage intend to divide the Committee on the programme motion.
Question put and agreed to.
That, subject to the discretion of the Chairman, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Bridget Prentice.)
That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Bridget Prentice.)
10.40 am
The Committee deliberated in private.
10.51 am
On resuming
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