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Page 2, line 13, leave out ("either").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 7 is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 8. Both are concerned with the definition of "serious crime" which is used for the purposes of Clause 2 but not used for the purposes of Clause 1.

The more I read the definition used in subsection (3B), the more I think that virtually any kind of crime could be covered by this definition. There are two elements in it. First, it involves the use of violence. That is not serious violence or any particular kind of violence but violence which,

That is not an illegal purpose but any common purpose, whether protesting about the poll tax, drowning one's sorrows about Euro 96 or protesting against the Newbury bypass. One does not have to agree with any of those issues to say that those are legitimate occasions and it is very difficult to determine who is or is not responsible for an offence at such a mass occasion.

The second part of the definition is that:

    "the offence or one of the offences is an offence for which a person who has attained the age of twenty-one and has no previous convictions could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years".

I acknowledge that that is tougher than it seems on the face of it. I acknowledge that it does not refer to all crimes which have a maximum sentence of three years or more. It means that for a first offender, an adult could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and, to that extent, the provision is more limited.

Now we come to the problem. Having defined the offence which is called a serious crime in paragraph (a), in terms of the circumstances in which it takes place and the purpose for which it is committed, and in paragraph (b), as regards the seriousness with which the courts will consider it, the two points are linked, not by an "and" but an "or". In other words, there is a possibility that some conduct which involves the use of any kind of

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violence or is part of a demonstration by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose, even if paragraph (b) does not apply, will still come under the category of serious crime. Conversely, if the offence meets the conditions of paragraph (b), even if it does not involve,

    "the use of violence, results in substantial financial gain or is conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose",

it still meets the definition of serious crime.

It is difficult to imagine what is not covered by serious crime as defined in the provision. At the very least, the Government should agree to make both paragraphs necessary parts rather than alternative parts of the definition. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, Amendment No. 7 gives me an opportunity to put on record once more one key fact. Ministers have made clear throughout the Parliamentary passage of the Bill that the Security Service's work in the serious crime field will be directed against organised crime. The service will be tasked to act against crimes against which its special skills and expertise can most effectively be deployed. The National Criminal Intelligence Service will ask the Security Service to employ those skills against organised crime.

That point was a key element of the conclusions of the inter-departmental/inter-agency working group, to which I referred in opening the Second Reading debate, and which met last year to consider what contribution the Security Service might make to the fight against organised crime. So let there be no doubt that the Security Service will be acting against organised crime. No statutory definition of what is organised crime exists and the Home Affairs Select Committee in another place recommended that effort should not be wasted in trying to create one. That is the reason why the Bill refers to serious crime. Nevertheless, on the basis of the assurances that have repeatedly been given, and which I am happy to reinforce--that the Security Service will be deployed only against organised crime--I hope your Lordships will accept that some of the more fanciful speculation of the kinds of minor crimes that the Security Service might be set against is utterly without foundation.

The definition that is in Clause 2 of the Bill was carefully chosen. It was picked because it exactly replicates the definition that is contained in the Interception of Communications Act 1985. It is the definition that is used to govern the issue of serious crime interception warrants to the police, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and those intelligence agencies that already have a serious crime function. The definition has been in place for more than a decade, there have been no problems, and it has worked well.

Warrants issued under the Interception of Communications Act are subject to scrutiny by an independent commissioner. None of the three distinguished members of the judiciary who have held the office of Interception Commissioner--the noble and learned Lords, Lord Lloyd, and Lord Nolan, and Lord Bingham of Cornhill whom we were delighted to

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welcome to your Lordships' House yesterday--has ever found cause to complain about this definition of serious crime, which is further evidence of its efficacy.

There are good arguments for consistency in legislation. In particular, it would be odd if the Security Service were to find itself subject to different definitions when applying for interception warrants and property warrants, as would be the consequence of passing this amendment. This is especially true as the service may well find itself needing to apply for both kinds of warrant in the same case. In such circumstances it would seem illogical if a different test of serious crime were to pertain.

In the light of the obvious benefits of consistency combined with the knowledge that the definition has been around for 10 years in different legislation, and has worked well--and noble Lords do not have just my word on that, but that of three very distinguished independent Members of your Lordships' House--I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister used the amendment as an opportunity to reiterate the Government's determination to pursue organised crime with all the legitimate means at their disposal. Therefore I can use the amendment as an opportunity to reiterate our support for that objective, and for the fundamental principle of this Bill in seeking to provide additional weapons in the fight against organised crime.

I am glad that I am not a lawyer because if I were I should be worried about the way in which the Minister always refers to organised crime when referring to the objectives of the Bill, although the word "organised" does not appear as such. However inadequate it may be, and however remote the analogy may be between this and the previous legislation, I appreciate that the definition of serious crime has been used before, and I appreciate the virtue of consistency in legislation. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 7.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 not moved.]

Family Law Bill [H.L.]

6.25 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene at this stage just to ensure that I have the right papers with me. I have a Marshalled List of the Commons amendments and I have a copy of the amendments that it is proposed to be moved in that respect. However, I do not have something which we generally have on such occasions; namely, a list of the Government's recommendations on our consideration of such amendments. It would not surprise me if my noble

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and learned friend intends to ask the House to accept all the Commons amendments. That is perhaps why we do not have the usual document which is supplied to us. Nevertheless, I just want to be sure that I have not missed a document which I might need.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, my noble and learned friend correctly anticipates my intention. I intend to invite your Lordships, along with one of my colleagues, to accept all the amendments that the Commons have proposed to the Bill without any further amendment or qualification. I suspect that that is the reason why we have no document setting out different points of view in respect of the various amendments. I believe that my noble and learned friend has all the documents that I have, except possibly those containing some additional help in prompting me as to what to say when I come to make recommendations to your Lordships about particular amendments.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The page and line refer to Bill (82) as first printed by the Commons.]

1 Clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out 'to save it' and insert ', whether by marriage counselling or otherwise, to save the marriage'.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. In speaking to this amendment, I wish to speak also to Commons Amendments Nos. 20, 27, 28, 40 and 41. I am very pleased to present these amendments to the House. I am well aware of the concern felt by many Members of the House about the provisions of the Bill in relation to marriage counselling. That was eloquently expressed by many noble Lords and right reverend Prelates during the passage of the Bill through the House. This group of amendments has, I believe, improved the provisions of the Bill in this respect and will therefore, I trust, meet with the approval of your Lordships.

I shall deal, first, with Amendment No. 1. It builds on the suggestion made to the House during the passage of the Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard; namely, that we should have a general principles' clause at the beginning. The other place has obviously warmly endorsed that and has used it to elaborate somewhat the provisions that it thought should be made in that respect. Indeed, the amendment raises the profile of marriage counselling by ensuring that it is referred to within the clause.

Amendment No. 20 provides that one of the purposes of the information meeting is to provide parties with the opportunity (and to encourage them to take it) of attending a meeting with a marriage counsellor. Amendment No. 27 provides for regulations to specify the way in which such a meeting must be held and to specify the qualifications and appointments procedure for marriage counsellors carrying out such a meeting. Amendment No. 28 provides for such meetings to be free to those who qualify for legally-aided mediation on a non-contributory basis.

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Amendment No. 40 provides that when making grants under Clause 20, the Lord Chancellor shall pay particular regard to the desirability of services being available when they are first needed. Your Lordships may remember that I sought to make that point repeatedly during the time that the Bill was in your Lordships' House. I believe it to be extremely important that, where money is available, it should be applied to provide for services when those services are first needed, otherwise it may well be that matters have gone too far for any real help to be effective. The amendment makes clear that proper emphasis will be given to services aimed at preventing relationship breakdown before a couple reach the point where they are, sadly, considering divorce.

Amendment No. 41 introduces a new clause which provides for the funding of marriage counselling during the period for reflection and consideration. Marriage counselling under this amendment will be state funded for parties who are eligible for non-contributory legal aid. The provisions give the Lord Chancellor the powers to prescribe the circumstances in which the provision of funded marriage counselling is subject to the approval of the Lord Chancellor to ensure that standards of service can be set and maintained.

I believe that the amendments strengthen the Bill in precisely those areas which have been of most concern to your Lordships in this House. Such concerns have been taken up in the other place.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

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