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That the following provisions shall have effect-
Sittings on 7 and 8 April: general
1. At the sittings today and tomorrow-
(1) any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour, and shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House;
(2) any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill may be considered forthwith without any further Question being put;
(3) Standing Orders Nos. 83D to 83H and 83I(2), (3) and (6) (conclusion of proceedings, &c.) shall apply to proceedings to be taken in accordance with this Order (but with the omission of Standing Orders Nos. 83D(2)(c) and 83E(2)(c));
(4) notices of Amendments, new Clauses or new Schedules to be moved in Committee on any Bill may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time; and
(5) Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.
Wednesday 7 April
2. At today's sitting the following business shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) at the time after its commencement shown in brackets at the end of each sub-paragraph-
(1) proceedings on consideration and Third Reading of the Bribery Bill [ Lords] (one hour);
(2) Committee of the whole House and remaining proceedings on the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill [ Lords] (one hour);
(3) proceedings on the Motion in the name of Secretary Alan Johnson relating to the draft Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2010 (one hour);
(4) proceedings on consideration and Third Reading of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill (one hour);
(5) any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the bringing in of an Appropriation Bill, presentation and First Reading of any Bill brought in in pursuance of that Motion and remaining proceedings on any such Bill, to which Standing Order No. 56 (Consolidated Fund Bills) shall apply (forthwith);
(6) Second Reading and remaining proceedings on the Finance Bill (three hours); and
(7) Committee of the whole House and remaining proceedings on the Digital Economy Bill [ Lords] (two hours).
3. Proceedings on any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill which are taken at today's sitting shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) one hour after their commencement.
4. Paragraph 2(3) shall have effect notwithstanding Standing Order No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union documents).
5. Paragraph 2(6) shall have effect notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the intervals between stages of a Bill brought in upon Ways and Means Resolutions.
6. If the Finance Bill is read a second time, it shall stand committed to a Committee of the whole House and the House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.
7. If, on the conclusion of proceedings in Committee on the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill [ Lords], the Finance Bill or the Digital Economy Bill [ Lords], the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.
8. At today's sitting, the Speaker shall not adjourn the House until any Messages from the Lords have been received and any Committee to draw up Reasons has reported.
Thursday 8 April
9. At tomorrow's sitting proceedings on consideration and Third Reading of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) one hour after their commencement.
10. Proceedings on any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill which are taken at tomorrow's sitting shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) one hour after their commencement.
11. At tomorrow's sitting, the Speaker shall not adjourn the House before a Message has been received from the Lords Commissioners.
12. On Thursday 8 April there shall be no sitting in Westminster Hall.
13. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.
14. The Order made on Friday 12 March 2010 that the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill be considered on Friday 23 April 2010 shall be discharged; and, notwithstanding the practice of the House which forbids the bringing forward of an Order of the Day, the Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee, shall be considered tomorrow.
15. A reference in this Order to proceedings on or in respect of a Bill includes a reference to proceedings on any Money Resolution, Ways and Means Resolution or Order of Consideration Motion in relation to those proceedings.
16. The Speaker may not arrange for a debate to be held in accordance with Standing Order No. 24 (emergency debates) at today's sitting, or at tomorrow's sitting, before the conclusion of the proceedings at that sitting to which this Order applies.
17. If today's sitting continues after 10.30 am on Thursday 8 April, this Order shall have effect as if any reference to the sitting on Thursday 8 April were a reference to today's sitting.
Mr. Djanogly: Under the existing law, prosecutions for bribery cannot be commenced without the consent of the Attorney-General. As drafted, the Bill would give that power to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the director of the Serious Fraud Office or the director of Revenue and Customs prosecutions in England and Wales.
The constitutional position of the Attorney-General, as the individual making prosecution decisions, is enshrined in more than 100 years of parliamentary convention. Our concern remains that if we are to realign the role of the Attorney-General, it should be following a full discussion in the widest context. The Government had a vehicle to allow a full debate on that and many other matters in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, but they did not make use of it. We remain concerned that this Bill's tweaking of the Attorney-General's role is simply putting off the necessary wider debate on it.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): Perhaps this provides the hon. Gentleman with an opportunity to clear up a puzzle that has been on my mind throughout our debates. What is his party's position on the wider debate about the Attorney-General's role?
We also had concerns, as reflected in amendments 1 and 2, that in delegating powers to the directors of the prosecuting agencies, there was a danger that we would lose the opportunity for parliamentary accountability. We voiced those concerns in Committee and emphasised the lack of accountability that could arise if the directors were the decision-makers rather than the Attorney-General. Those concerns were compounded by the fact the directors themselves could delegate such powers to subordinates in their organisation.
That latter concern will be partly resolved by Government amendment 7, which we intend to accept. It is intended to ensure that the prosecutorial power in the hands of the directors of the SFO, HMRC and the DPP cannot easily be delegated to others within those organisations. Given that the volume of cases that reach prosecution each year is, I am told, in the region of only 20, and that
the Government predict a rise in that number of only some 1.3 cases a year, we do not believe that the delegation of that important power would be appropriate, except in the most limited circumstances.
However, even with the Government amendment, we could confuse the lines of authority unless care is taken. By that, I mean that we will now have three people fulfilling a role that has previously been occupied by only one-the Attorney-General. With that increase in numbers comes the potential for conflicting prosecution policies to develop. Business and prosecutors can ill afford that if the vital need for certainty and precedent is to be upheld. We have argued that we must drive for consistency and clarity in the Bill so that the parameters of offences are clearly demarcated. Such clarity will help to ensure compliance. Little that we heard in Committee, or from various other sources, suggests that we have yet given adequate thought to the matter or put in place adequate procedures to ensure that overlap does not occur.
Of course, the matter would have been even more problematic if the directors were able to delegate down the chain of their own organisations, essentially multiplying the number of prosecutorial policies that could be followed. The Government have therefore gone some way to removing our fears through their amendment. We heard from the Minister in Committee that protocols now exist between the directors and the Attorney-General that govern the accountability of their decision making, and we will have to see how those protocols work. Although the Government amendment strengthens the position by preventing the decision-making powers from being passed down the chain, diluting accountability further, we feel that it may not go far enough.
David Howarth: It is a shame that the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) was not able to answer my question about the overall position of the Attorney-General, because it is important to have that clear. It is why I oppose amendment 1.
My view-I wanted to express it during the debates on the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill but the relevant amendments were not reached-is that the Attorney-General should not have a direct role in prosecution decisions about whether individual people are prosecuted across the board, not just in the area in question but in all areas. That originally appeared to be the Government's position, but for reasons that remain obscure because we did not have a proper debate, the Government moved away from that position and moved instead simply to having a non-legally enforceable protocol between the Attorney-General and the three directors whom the hon. Gentleman mentioned.
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