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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, all the purposes set out in Article 2 of the order seem to be wholly appropriate

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purposes for the Law Society to spend the money it raises from fees for practising certificates. There is, of course, a question as to whether there are any further purposes on which it might also be appropriate to spend money, but the Law Society made it clear in the brief which it circulated that this order corresponds very closely to its own proposal. In those circumstances, it seems that there is very little to be said other than that I am happy to support the order.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for such a careful and comprehensive explanation of the order. I do indeed recall our debate on the Access to Justice Bill, as it then was, in 1999, when we pressed the Government to ensure that any regulations should be by affirmative order. So this is an important opportunity to look at what the Government are proposing. This also gives us the opportunity to look at the overall regulatory framework governing the legal profession and at the Access to Justice Act itself and the way in which it is working.

First, however, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is to be praised for closely following the Law Society's own suggestion on the terms of the order, which will enable the society properly to carry out its important regulatory activities while at the same time continuing to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. In view of the overall debate about standards in the legal profession, I would strongly urge the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to ensure that the core values of solicitors—independence of advice, integrity and the avoidance of conflicts of interest—must be preserved.

I turn for a moment to the framework within which the order is set out. A number of well argued responses, in particular one from the Law Society itself, were made to the Lord Chancellor's consultation paper entitled In the Public Interest? As the president of the Law Society, Carolyn Kirby, has warned, client protection must be at the heart of any changes, and choice must not come at the expense of quality and access to justice. Currently, however, a shadow of uncertainty hangs over the legal profession, caused by some wide-ranging and fundamental proposals. I hope that the Lord Chancellor will move swiftly to lift the shadow of uncertainty. It would be helpful if the Minister, if he felt able to do so, could give us at least an indication of the timetable by which the Lord Chancellor intends to proceed.

I turn to access to justice itself. This morning, there was a very worrying report in the Daily Telegraph that the cost of the compensation culture, which in many ways has been exacerbated by introduction of the new no win, no fee arrangements, now amounts to 10,000 million a year. That is an alarming figure. If access to justice is to be meaningful, we really do need to ensure that steps are taken to improve access.

In our debates on the Access to Justice Bill, I recall the criticism, particularly from noble and learned Lords, and especially from the Cross Benches, about the introduction of the new no win, no fee

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arrangements with virtually no research, combined with a lack of proper resources for the civil justice reforms. I believe that those arrangements have been introduced at a very high price.

I praise—as I have on previous occasions—our reforming Lord Chancellor. However, I urge the Government to go back to the three Rs, as reform is truly successful only when it is preceded by proper research and when sufficient resources are made available to make the new system work. So reform, research and resources are a proper prescription. I recall hearing a very convincing speech last week by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, in the Second Reading in this Chamber of the Courts Bill, in which he stressed that there was a serious lack of resources to enable access to justice to work.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, declared an interest, I should remind noble Lords that I am senior partner at Beachcroft Wansbroughs. That firm undertakes a great deal of work which closely mirrors the access to justice provisions. However, I feel strongly that the no win, no fee supermarket mentality combined with the virtual overnight abolition of civil legal aid has been a bad deal for the consumer. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, who knows this subject very well indeed, that the public must have access to legal services which are reliable, trustworthy, good value and, above all, a model of excellence. In signifying our agreement to the order I hope that the noble Lord will respond to the points that I raised.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their kind and generous contributions and in particular for their broad agreement with what is proposed.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for skilfully travelling slightly wider than the remit of the order. He is right to praise my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, who has achieved many great reforms during his period in office and will continue to do so. The order ensures that the Law Society can carry out the valuable educational work to which the noble Lord referred. He is right to remind us of the importance and the value of the three Rs of reform, research and resources. It is right to place on record the fact that the Government have rigorously followed those three Rs in this field. We have rightly been praised for our reforming programme.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has a longer experience of government than I and will be aware of the importance of ensuring that policies are well researched before they reach the statute book. At all times we must be mindful of resources. The Government have allocated many resources to the area of public law. We recognise the importance of resources as a means of enabling people to gain access to justice.

I agreed with the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the compensation culture, although one should always be a little wary of believing

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everything that one reads in the Daily Telegraph other than the sports pages, which are undoubtedly excellent.

I turn to the specific question of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on the timetable for the consultation paper. As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, the consultation period concluded on 22nd November this year. We need to analyse the contributions and take some care in planning our response to them. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that the measure needs to be well researched and factually based. We intend to issue a response in the spring of next year and a report setting out subsequent proposals in the summer. Although that may lead to a period of uncertainty it should not last too long. The issues which have been raised in the public interest merit full and careful consideration. I wish to put that point on the record. I am most grateful for the contributions that have been made to the debate. I trust that the House is satisfied that the order is satisfactory.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.37 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.54 to 8.37 p.m.]

Licensing Bill [HL]

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill.

Before I finally move that Motion, I shall respond to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, about the guidance framework. The correct framework is the one that the noble Baroness has been using, which I am glad to say is on the website. That version was also distributed at the all-party briefing meeting on 21st November and was sent to the noble Baroness by officials when the Bill was introduced. Unfortunately, a slightly earlier draft of the framework was placed in the Printed Paper Office in error. It was not significantly different, but I apologise for the fact that an incorrect version was put in the Printed Paper Office by mistake. That has now been rectified; the wrong version has been torn up and shredded, and there are now plenty of copies of the right version in the Printed Paper Office.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House again in Committee on Clause 4.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 75:

    Page 3, line 12, at end insert—

"( ) the protection of the environment"

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The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 80.

These are probing amendments that seek to establish why the Government do not view the protection of the environment as an appropriate issue for consideration in licensing policy. Those of us who have been familiar over the years with the ambience of an urban area, such as parts of the City of Westminster, know the problems that a proliferation of licensed premises can make for a local environment. Westminster Council's "Clean Up Soho" campaign is one example of a local authority using the various powers at its disposal to improve the environment of an area without detriment to its thriving social life. Will the Bill give local authorities any leeway in that respect? If not, is it a matter that the Government might be prepared to consider further?

The same arguments might apply to a rural area. One can imagine circumstances in which a quiet riverside scene might be considered environmentally inappropriate for some kinds of entertainment or licensed activity. Would a local authority be able to take into account the potential impact on a delicate natural environmental or an historic building, for example, when determining its policies? Will it be illegal for an authority to try to protect such vulnerable areas in that way? It would be helpful to have clarification from the Minister.

Equally—here I speak also to Amendment No. 80—can the Minister explain the rationale of the words in Clause 13(2)(d) on the protection of the environment? Amendment No. 80 would remove from paragraph (d) the provisions applying to the work of local authority officers supervising licensed premises; namely, as the paragraph states,

    "minimising or preventing the risk of pollution of the environment".

It would apply those words to the licensing objectives overall. How can the local authority officers act within those powers if those objectives are not included as part of the overall objectives of the licensing policy envisaged by the Bill?

There appears to be an inconsistency at least in including the words in paragraph (d) and resisting them in this regard. It sends mixed signals to those who will be responsible for operating under the framework of the Act. The protection of the environment is one of the key roles of any local authority and it commands the widest public support. Can the Minister explain why that overarching imperative should not come into play in the operation of policy under the Bill? I beg to move.

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