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Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I entirely accept that the Commons did not debate the matter; the time was used for other purposes. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, will recollect that there is a Reasons Committee in the other place which assigns reasons for declining to accept an amendment as best it can.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, if the Government were to go to court on judicial review proceedings and gave as their reason for a decision that it was not appropriate to do something else, does the noble and learned Lord believe that that would stand up for a second? Why, therefore, should it stand up in these circumstances?
Again, the same formulation of words, that it is not appropriate to provide exceptions, is used. Any Member of the House who listened or participated on Report and at Third Reading will know that whether it is appropriate to provide an exception is at the heart of the disagreement between the Government and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick.
Let me develop what the exception would be. Someone who is said to be the perpetrator of unlawful conduct that gives rise to the property should not be subject to Part 5 if the person says that he wants to be tried in the Crown Court, and such a trial does not take place, or it takes place but does not result in a conviction.
That is an enormous exception, which is at the heart of the disagreement between us. While I regret the situation that has resulted from the points made by your Lordships today, but which will be studied with great care, the fact remains that there is a fundamental difference between what the noble and learned Lord proposed and what the Commons had previously agreed, which was a civil recovery procedure scheme that did not carve out a very important exception.
Lord Renton: My Lords, I apologise to the noble and learned Lord and thank him for giving way again. In view of what he said about the matter having been considered, how is it that the Government Motion refers to
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I do not think that that would be right. Nor, is it right for us to inquire into what happened in the Reasons Committee. One must assume that the Reasons Committee, which is the procedure in another place, did its best to assign a reason knowing the view of the House. I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Renton, said, about the other place not debating the issue. No one is trying to hide that. I cannot stress enough that the reason was put forward by the Reasons Committee. It is not the Government's language but that of the Reasons Committee.
The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, I wonder whether I have got it right when I suggest that the executive tells the other place to reject the amendment; it then appoints some of its own members to invent some reasons; and then it sends the amendment back here. Is that correct? Who appoints the Reasons Committee?
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, this is a Committee agreed by the parties in another place. I understand that the Government did not have a majority on the Reasons Committee. They are not the Government's reasons but the reasons of the Reasons Committee in another place.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, with the benefit of having the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, next to me, I shall ask the noble and learned Lord the Minister, about the other place, which is a little tough on him as he has never been there. Is it not the duty of the Reasons Committee to analyse the reasons given in the debate and then decide how to put them into a neat sentence? It is not its duty to invent reasons that are, in fact, the Government's reasons? They cannot be the reasons of the House because the House did not debate the amendment. The Reasons Committee is there not to make its own reasons but to analyse the debate and codify it.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I have not been in the other place, but I have next to me my noble friend Lord Davies, who has. I understand that it is the duty of the Reasons Committee to assign a reason divining as best it can the will of the House. Sadly there was no debate on this occasion, but when a debate has taken place, I imagine that the Reasons Committee knows the will of the House from that. In the absence of a debate, when a programme Motion has been agreed tonot forced on the Oppositionthe Reasons Committee has to find what it believes the will of the House to be. The strong argument against the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, is that it would produce an exception that was not appropriate. Therefore, the reason that has been assigned is entirely appropriate.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, with respect, the noble Lord ignores the fact that the other place had debated the Bill substantially before it came to this House and is able, from that, to know what the will of the House is in relation to this particularly important part of the Bill. This part of the Bill provides for a new form of civil recovery, which was supported in another place by all parties and in this place at Second Reading. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, proposed an amendment to create an exceptiona major exceptionwhich the Government believe, as I have explained at great length on Report and at Third Reading, would make this part of the Bill unworkable.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord comes to the issue with the clarity of mind of a lawyer and he comes fresh not to the Bill but to the issue of the proceedings in another place. Would he be so kind as to tell us how long the debate was in the Reasons Committee? Did it discuss the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd? It had to have some reason; it had not got anything out of the debate in the Commons because that debate did not take place.
Lord Goldsmith: I do not, my Lords; I am being perfectly frank with the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. I suggest that we should draw a line under the reasons why a properly constituted committee of another place reached the conclusion that it did. It has assigned its reasons. I entirely understand and appreciate that your Lordships' House regards this as a matter of discourtesy. I have indicated that people will have to look carefully at what has been said.
However, the point before noble Lords is that, having debated the matter fully on other occasions, another place was of the view that Part 5 was an important part of the effort to produce a system that would prevent the proceeds of crime fuelling further crime in this country; that it was necessary to approach that by way of the new civil recovery process; and that it was necessary to prevent the corrosive effect of the proceeds of crime, as the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, described it, from continuing drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, bank robbery and serious organised crime. It is an important part. Everybody has accepted, with few exceptionsthe noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, was one of themthat Part 5 involves the right approach. Lords Amendment No. 110 would produce an exceptiona huge exceptionand would make this part of the Bill unworkable.
Lord Denham: My Lords, I almost cannot believe that this discussion is taking place in this way. The noble and learned Lord is producing a total "Alice in Wonderland" situation here. He is asking us to accept things that make a mockery of this House and of comity between the Houses. If this had happened in my days as Chief Whip, I should have advised my noble and learned friend who would have been on the Government Benches to take the matter away and to think it over again. I really do not think that we should have a Division on this. It should be taken back. That is the proper thing for the noble and learned Lord to do in these circumstances.
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