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Lord Campbell of Alloway: As a practitioner, my opinion about sub-paragraph (ii) is that there are problems about the draft. So often in practice, where there is an illiterate accused, the draft is prepared by the police officer and the accused then says "No". I do not think that that is a very good idea. However, sub-paragraph (iii) is an excellent idea. All these matters require consideration.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: I hesitated to intervene in the earlier exchanges between the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and the Minister when he was seeking to persuade her to be a good deal more forthcoming than she had been up to that point. However, I think I must now do so because, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said, this amendment includes specific proposals which go beyond, or in some respects are different from, paragraph 5(3) of the draft code of practice.
I fully understand what the Minister said and I am sure it will be the wish of the Committee that she should consult further on the draft document, although, as I said earlier in today's proceedings, it is quite wrong that a draft should be brought before the Committee which is so short of what we believed to be its final form and with consultation still to take place. However, that having been said, I would believe it to be improper for the Minister to have brought before the Committee a draft code of practice which did not represent her department's present view of what the final draft should contain. I mean by that--as I have already said, as the noble Baroness said earlier and as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has fully acknowledged--that the draft code may be modified in a number of important respects before it finally comes before the House. But when it finally comes before the House we will not be capable of amending it, so this is the only occasion on which we can express a meaningful view about the details of the code itself.
Speaking as someone with some experience of these procedural matters within a department, I do not understand--I want to emphasise that--why the Minister cannot give a substantive reply to the questions which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has asked and which are expressed in this and other amendments. I see no reason why she should not say that she believes either that the proposal is an interesting and attractive one which in the circumstances she is prepared to write into a further draft or, having considered the draft before the Committee, that she and her department have considered the matter fully and they do not believe that such a change should be made. This is a very straightforward matter. With the greatest respect to the Minister, if she is not more forthcoming it will open up to ridicule the whole difficult procedure which we are following. As long as this House has no other way of considering the code of practice--perhaps we should find one--except by putting down amendments, we are in a position in which all Members might feel highly frustrated.
Baroness Blatch: We saw the amendments on Friday, or at least they were tabled on Friday. As noble Lords know, I did not see them until Sunday. Even if the issues had not been as vexed as noble Lord opposite have claimed, in the normal course of taking a Bill through the House I would have seen them only on Thursday. As I have already said, it is not only courteous but proper form not to take a definitive view about a code and to make sure that there is proper consultation about the suggested changes with those who have to operate under the code, for whom it will be an operational necessity and a requirement. That is what we intend to do. They will be considered and we shall respond in the normal way. I shall write to noble Lords, as I have done in the past. But it is right that we should seek advice from those who have to operate the code.
It is also a great discourtesy, if I may say this to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, to dismiss all the work that has been done on the code. It has twice been out for consultation among all the key people who will have to operate under the code and who have lent their own professional advice. That has already been incorporated. The code is substantially the result of a great deal of work that has been done so far and a great deal of advice that has been gained from the judiciary, the police, the Crown Prosecution service and others. We would want them to see these.
Whether the noble Lord puts his ideas in the form of an amendment or whether the noble Lord writes to us with suggestions about the code, whatever form he chooses, those ideas will be considered. That is proper consultation. But what is before me today, as the Minister responding at the Dispatch Box, is a set of amendments to incorporate on the face of the Bill some proposals which simply copy what is in the code of practice and others which modify parts of the code of practice. There are also some wholly new suggestions to add to the code of practice. They will be considered and they will be consulted upon. We shall reflect on those ideas but it is not the purpose of this stage to consider in detail the code of practice. It would be no more than academic if across the Dispatch Box I discussed these proposals in detail at this time.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: If noble Lords will forgive me, perhaps I may ask the Minister a direct question. How does she think that we can consider the code of practice? It was said by the scrutiny committee and by many noble Lords on Second Reading to be the core of the Bill, so how can we consider Part II of the Bill unless we consider the code of practice? How, procedurally, can we consider the code of practice in any other way than that which we have tried? How can we get answers from the Government to our observations?
Baroness Blatch: I have explained how the noble Lord can get answers to the suggestions that he has made. I shall respond in detail to the noble Lord's suggestions about improvements to the code of practice. I shall do that and I shall take counsel on it. Earlier today I said that I would take away the amendments which suggested that there should be a different procedure, the affirmative resolution procedure, whereby both Houses would approve the code of practice. I mean that. I shall take away the amendments, reflect seriously on them and report back on Report. Therefore, we are talking in a vacuum; first, in terms of the procedure that is laid down in the Bill at the moment; secondly, on the amendments that were tabled earlier today; and, thirdly, about my response to those amendments, which I shall consider. I shall notify the noble Lord of my response.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: May I make a constructive suggestion to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey? Obviously, my noble friend the Minister cannot answer today. Obviously, I take the point that this is the only way in which an answer can be sought from the Government and that noble Lords opposite--indeed, noble Lords anywhere--are entitled to a response from the Government. If that response cannot be given today--obviously it cannot--and as the personal opinion of my noble friend the Minister is not what is sought--and would not be any use anyway--if some undertaking could be given that the substance of the amendments could be dealt with on Report when there has been an opportunity for my noble friend to take advice and to come to the House to give the Government's response, would that be a constructive and acceptable way of dealing with this matter? I do not know whether it is acceptable to my noble friend. I do not know whether it is acceptable to any of your Lordships, but it seems to be the only way out of this difficulty.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: Perhaps I may say something about the Minister's earlier remarks in response to my own. By no stretch of the imagination can there be any possible discourtesy in referring to the draft in the way that I did. I entirely appreciate that it represents consultation with a number of important bodies and for that reason I take it seriously.
However, there are two important points here. First, although the Minister did not use the word "improper", she said that it would be wrong in the circumstances to incorporate the amendments on the face of the Bill. However, as I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is not proposing that they should be incorporated on the face of the Bill because he said clearly that he was not going to move those amendments. All that he is doing is asking for a view from the Minister of the present draft of his amendments--
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