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Lord Renton: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Anelay has done a lot of work since Grand Committee, and I warmly support the views that she expressed. The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, has been very receptive.
The Bill breaks new ground, not merely in the protection of the country but in the application and extension of the law. We are breaking into unusual legal provisions. The first group of amendments is essential in our effort to get those legal provisions right. I hope that the Minister will regard them sympathetically, for the reasons given by my noble friend Lady Anelay.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Anelay congratulated the Minister on the changes that he has made since Committee stage, in response to our discussions. In my experience of working on Bills in this House, I do not remember a Minister who had such clout with his right honourable friend in another place, and was able to persuade him of so many things after the Committee stage. I do not know what the Minister does to achieve that, but it should give this House a good deal of satisfaction, because it clears up many issues that it is then unnecessary to go on discussing at later stages, here or in another place. I, too, congratulate the Minister.
Any illustration that clarified what precisely we were talking about would be a great help. Perhaps it might still be possible to seek out those examples. It would be interesting to have them, not only for us but for another place, where they will have to struggle with these concepts as we have. I support my noble friend's amendment.
The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): My Lords, it is perhaps a pity that my noble friend Lord Filkin is not responding to this group of amendments so that he could express his satisfaction at the comments of the noble Baronesses, Lady Carnegy and Lady Anelay.
Before turning to the amendments, like the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, I should like to make two points. First, she was absolutely right when moving the amendment to emphasise the importance of international co-operation in these areas. If I may say so, her allusion to the preceding debate was entirely apposite. Secondly, I entirely agree with heras I think would those who took part in the Grand Committee proceedingsabout the extent to which those proceedings added clarity to what is inevitably a technical, albeit important, matter.
The amendments in this group break down into three categories. The first set, Amendments Nos. 1, 5 and 7, seek to make minor changes to the drafting to signify that the clause applies to a document falling into any one of the four listed categories. I confirm that the Government's very clear view, and my clear view as well, is that the current drafting is perfectly sufficient. It is clear that Clause 1 applies to all and any of the types of process that can be described as one of the types listed in one of the paragraphs (a) to (d). Those are drafted so as to encompass all relevant procedural documents. Almost all relevant documents will fall into one of the categories, but, if it happened that a document fell into more than one, then that would also be covered by the current drafting. So we see no need to accept amendments that seek to make those small changes. The matter is clear enough without them.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 2 and 6. As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, these amendments are intended to probe somewhat further on what is meant by administrative proceedings and administrative authorities. We are obliged to provide assistance in connection with proceedings brought by these authorities where the decision may give rise to proceedings before a court with criminal jurisdiction. We have accepted that obligation by signing up to the mutual legal assistance convention, and so removal of those references would render us unable to assist in such circumstances. The amendments as drafted cannot therefore be accepted.
We are informed that in Germany, Austria and Belgium certain traffic offences that would be criminal offences here have been reclassified as administrative offences. That is almost saying that it is a less serious classification. We also understand that the Scandinavian countries classify certain environmental claims as administrative although, again, they would be regarded as criminal here. Not all EU countries have proceedings of this nature; as I said, we do not. As we would classify such offences as criminal, we can alreadyunder existing mutual legal assistance agreements and our own domestic legislationrequest and be provided with mutual legal assistance in relation to them. However, as the same acts are "decriminalised" in those countries, those countries are unable to seek such assistance from us. The extension of Schengen and the MLAC to cover administrative proceedings is designed to ensure that those countries can obtain like assistance for like offences. I hope that that additional clarification, by giving examples and putting them into that context, will help explain and provide reassurance on the point.
Notwithstanding the provenance of the suggestion, we would not accept that the insertion of "judicial proceedings" clarifies the matter. If anything, it is likely to extend the basis under which we can provide assistance to administrative authorities, as other judicial proceedings undertaken by those authorities may have no criminal nexus whatever. As I said, our obligations under Article 3 of the convention are to provide assistance in cases where, ultimately, there is a criminal nexus by being,
Lord Renton: My Lords, one is not allowed to make a second speech on an amendment at Report stage. I therefore put it this way. Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, would he be so good as to explain how
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I shall treat the noble Lord's intervention, which I am happy to take, as a request for clarification. The position is this. Certain countries chooseit is their choice, to which they must be entitledto classify certain matters that we would classify as criminal as administrative. That applies to certain road traffic offences in some countries and to certain environmental offences in others. We would be within our rights if we chose to "decriminalise" in the same way. However, the nature of the conduct and the offence remains the same. Not only is there an obligation, noble Lords may think it entirely appropriate that, as we can request the assistance of those countries in relation to, for example, a road traffic offence that we regard as criminal, they should be able to require our assistance in the same sort of case albeit they classify it differently. In any event, that is our obligation. I hope that that is of some assistance.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General for his response on those three mini-groups of amendments within the larger group. I entirely accept his explanation with regard to Amendments Nos. 1, 5 and 7. He has clarified the point even further. I also thank him for his explanation with regard to Amendments Nos. 2 and 6 and for the examples concerning traffic offences in Germany and Belgium. However, my noble friend Lord Renton made an important intervention which highlighted the differences not only across the European Union but even further overseas.
I have to say that I listened to the noble and learned Lord's reply with bated breath, wondering how he would pick his way across the minefield of whether this country would decriminalise road traffic offences. Had he made such an announcement, he might have found himself, at one fell swoop, the most popular of people in this countrybut perhaps not just yet. I am grateful for the noble and learned Lord's response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.