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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister has opened the proceedings on Report from the Government Front Bench by, I am afraid, reinforcing all my worst fears. She has made no attempt whatever to address the thrust of the amendments or the issue with which the amendments are concerned. She has made no attempt to address the fears of the Law Society which, after all, represents those people who are responsible for advising accused persons about what their plea should be. She has made no attempt to say that there are other views and that the Law Society may be wrong in issuing advice to such people to plead not guilty in order to obtain the information.
The Minister has relied instead on drafting points alone. I did my best to keep up with them, but when she started by saying that Amendment No. 1 proposed that Part I should apply to any offence, she ignored the fact that subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 1, as drafted, apply to any offence. They are deliberately designed to apply to any offence and to spell out the different kinds of offence in order that subsequent clauses in Part I should apply in different circumstances. We knew that in Amendment No. 1 we were dealing with indictable and summary offences and that the two together add up to all offences. We proposed the amendment in order that our subsequent amendments to Part I should also cover all circumstances in the Bill. I am afraid that the same kind of argument applies throughout the Minister's textual analysis of the amendments.
It would be enormously helpful if our Report stage procedures allowed matters to be debated in a more informal way, but they do not. The procedure is that when, as on this occasion, the Minister rises immediately without, so far as I could see, looking round to ascertain whether any other noble Lords wished to take part in the discussion, that is the close of the debate. She speaks and I have the right to reply and no one else can have anything to say on the matter. I regret that she found it necessary immediately to rise to her
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I hope that anyone with powers of observation behind me will have noticed that I looked all around the Chamber not once, but twice. That was because I fully expected someone to come in on the amendment. Nothing that I have said precludes the possibility or the opportunity for anyone to speak. However, I saw no one willing to rise to speak on the amendments other than the noble Lord opposite.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there is a visual record of what happens here, as well as a written record. I suggest that it would be inadvisable for those of us who disagree genuinely about what happened to do so without the results of a photo-finish.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I rise a second time to say that the noble Lord accuses me of something rather serious. I believe that the test of whether I stood in the way of any Member of the House speaking would be to invite anyone to stand up who wished to speak and was prevented from speaking because I rose at the Dispatch Box to answer the amendment.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister has twice given us her assurance that she looked around, that she did the right thing, and I accept what she said. It was clearly her intention and it must have been my misinterpretation that anything else happened.
The fundamental thrust of the argument has not been addressed in the Minister's reply. There is no opportunity for anyone else to address it now because of the rules of debate at the Report stage. I fear that the Government are determined not to listen to the views of those who are most closely concerned with the practicalities of procedures for primary disclosure and revelation by the police. I am sure that the Minister will not mind me saying that, when she so helpfully agreed to discuss the matter with me between the Committee stage and now, she told me that the Crown Prosecution Service felt that there was no serious danger of an increase in the number of not guilty pleas. I believe that I am right about that and it is the basis on which the Government feel able to resist not just these amendments but any comparable ones.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? Under the rules, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord to accept that I came here to listen to the debate. I took the same view and that is why I did not intervene. That is absolutely straight.
However, the fundamental point remains. Those who are concerned with such matters on a day-to-day basis not only fear that there will be an increase in unnecessary not guilty pleas, but will actually tell their members that they should advise not guilty pleas under those circumstances. I do not think I can do justice to the arguments of those who are best informed in these matters unless I take the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.