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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am happy to confirm that that is the Government's intention. The noble Lord is right to draw attention to that, for which I thank him. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, it is not the intention of the Lord Chancellor to rewrite the rules. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that the Lord Chancellor will rewrite the rules; he will not. I reiterate that the clauses that we would intend to change would be the minor rules in relation to the rules committee and not those of major consequence.
The matter of desirability is relevant, as the work of the committee may uncover anomalies in the criminal law that could be remedied by virtue of the powers set out in Clause 68. There may be some instances where revision of existing legislation may provide benefits to all those involved in the workings of the criminal courts; for example, using modern language to articulate the law, making it easier for the man in the street to understand. In the strictest sense, changes such as those may not be necessary, but they may well be desirable in bringing about improvements in the running of a trial and helping to ensure that the lay man or woman is able to understand what is happening. That is what we are talking about. In view of what I have said about the affirmative resolution procedure, I hope that the noble Lord will be content.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: I am grateful to the Minister for those words, on which I shall reflect. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
[Amendment No. 102 not moved.]
Clause 72 [Family Procedure Rule Committee]:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 103:
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 103 it may be convenient for the Committee if I speak also to Amendment No. 114, which is not grouped with it but which I can deal with now. I return to the membership of procedure rule committees, particularly with regard to those persons who have knowledge and experience of the lay advice sector or consumer affairs as regards the civil procedure rule committee and as regards the family procedure rule committee, those persons who have experience in and knowledge of the lay sector, lay advice sector or the system of justice in relation to family proceedings.
I can be relatively brief because we had some discussion earlier today with regard to the valuable input that there will be from the lay sector. My questions for the Minister relate to the number of these persons it is felt would give sufficient expertise for the successful operation of these committees and whether that experience should be current. If someone is so good at committee work and so helpful to it, it is seductive to allow them to remainas the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said earlierif one does not have any rules; and, if they are a lay person, they then lose touch with current developments. I have worked most of my life in the voluntary sector and it is very difficult sometimes to let certain volunteers go even though they no longer have direct experience. Therefore, these amendments are probing ones on which to hang those questions.
With regard to the family procedure rule committee in Clause 72, I notice that subsection (2)(o) states that it will have one lay member, but that under Clause 78(3)(g) the civil procedure rule committee has two such persons. Can the Minister tell us why there is a difference between those two committees? I appreciate that there may be a proper reason; I am simply intrigued as to why there is a difference. I beg to move.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Perhaps I may take up the last point of the noble Baroness because I do not have specific briefing on it. What springs to my mind is that the breadth and disparity of civil work may be far broader than that in the criminal procedures. Those in the criminal sphere have to deal with the same ambit of cases, whereas those in the civil sphere could deal with, for instance, both family and commercial matters. I say that as a suggestion.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for beginning with that point, but my question relates to the fact that the first subsection to which I referred deals with family procedure, not criminal, and refers to one lay person, whereas the civil procedure provision refers to two. The family procedure is dealt with separately.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Then the argument gets reversed because that is a specialisation, so only one
The Government appreciate the thinking underlying the amendment, that the lay advice sector members of the family procedure rule committee have experience that is current. We understand the necessity for that. Like the noble Lords, the Government do not want members of the rule committee to be out of touch. However, we are doubtful about the wisdom of adding the word "current". The main problem is that that would exclude someone who has very recent experience of the lay advice sector. For example, an applicant may have built up a vast depth of knowledge over 20 years in the field and left a month before applying for the position. So if the amendment were accepted, the applicant would have to be rejected and that knowledge would be lost, but we understand the point the noble Baroness makes about those who are no longer in practice remaining on committees for a number of years where their practice is not fresh. We understand that that is a difficulty.
There is a difficulty in using the term "current", because what is current today may not be current tomorrow, and then how does one decide what at any given time is current?
We have considered that the breadth of work in family jurisdiction is much narrower. I confirm that it was thought necessary to have only one lay advice sector member. That is the rationale behind it. I hope I have explained why we think these amendments are not necessary.
As regards Amendment No. 114, to which the noble Baroness has spoken, the main difficulty is that it could exclude recent experience. I give an example of someone who has worked for a citizens advice bureau for 20 years but again has stopped the month before. That is the same sort of case. We have not found any reference in primary legislation to the use of the word "current". I hope that that helps the noble Baroness.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister. She has reassured me in some respects but has raised questions that I should have asked the first time round. I do not seek to be difficult: her response was helpful.
I seemed to be fixated with the dreadful word "current" when I sought to deal with the amendments over the Christmas period. I shall have to get out of the habit of using the word. The noble Baroness properly takes me to task on the use of it in this context. But the Minister brings to her defence the example of someone with 20 years' experience of a citizens advice bureau. That can happen easily. People either stay for a short while, moving on to paid employment, or stay for a lifetime. Such a person could have hands-on experience of specialised work but, having left a month previously, under my rules he or she would be disbarred. I am more persuaded by my argument that they may have to be disbarred. I am uncomfortable with the fact that someone with such experience, but
My experience of the judicial system is that one needs that mix of experience and the knowledge of how things are changing to be able to advise properly on rules. We are speaking of changes of rules. It is an important point that I shall consider carefully.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I hear what the noble Baroness says. We envisage that those issues will be taken into account when we recruit. The noble Baroness will know that there are those who progress in the citizens advice bureaux from dealing with individual cases to a more managerial role. Twenty years' experience can mean different things. It can mean no growth and stagnation or dramatic growth over a period of time. In recruiting people, we have to ensure that they have the breadth and freshness of experience so that they can bring the acuity we shall need as regards scrutiny of the rules. The noble Baroness is right. It is critical that those entrusted with this role have the ability to direct their minds to what the rules will have to accomplish.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister for that helpful addition. She speaks of the different experiences of volunteers within an organisation such as the CAB. Many in the metropolitan areas who are paid advisers may have had a long career. The noble Baroness is right. Some people specialise in specific advice. She brings me to the second part of the question that I need to pose as a result of her first answer. She is making it possible for me not to return to these matters on Report, so she is doing a service at least to her own side if not to my own. Perhaps I should not have said that since my Chief Whip is present.
I come to the number of members of the committees. As the Minister said, because the family procedure rule committee has a narrower remit and is more specialised, perhaps one only needed one member. The problem she then raises in my mind was this. What kind of specialist group within the voluntary sector do the Government think relevant? Can the noble Baroness give the Committee an idea of which bodies might have the relevant experience for membership?
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