Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. It goes further than was possible when we covered the matters in a grouping on the operation of the pilot schemes.

27 Mar 2003 : Column 1016

I remind the Minister that the Select Committee put its approbation of the negative procedure in the context that it applied only if Parliament approved the pilot scheme, which we have not yet done. That is why I do not wish to take the matter further, even if I disagreed wholly with the Minister, which I do not.

I shall consider the Minister's explanation in the light of the discussions we shall have on Report. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 144A:

    Page 52, line 2, after "officers)" insert ", section 68 (power to amend legislation in connection with Criminal Procedure Rules) or section 75 (power to amend legislation in connection with Family Procedure Rules)"

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 144A, I shall speak to Amendment No. 145. Clauses 68 and 75 contain powers for the Government to amend legislation in connection with criminal and family rules respectively. At the moment, they are subject only to the negative resolution procedure. Our view is that that is inadequate, and the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform agreed with that view in its second report, dated 11th December, 2002.

I simply tabled Amendment No. 144A in order to ask the Government when they intend meeting the commitment that they have already given on this matter to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee—in their response to the Committee's report on the Bill at Annex 2 of the seventh report of the Committee—and the commitment given by the Minister on 11th February at col. 658.

After hearing the commitment made by the Minister on that date, I eagerly awaited sight of a government amendment. However, naturally patient as I am in all matters, last week I gave up on patience and tabled my amendment.

Earlier today the Minister was gracious enough to accept another amendment. I live in hope that she might accept this one. However, if she is unable to do so, I should love to know why the drafting is wrong and why the Government are to table an amendment at a later stage—or, indeed, if they will bring one forward.

I shall speak briefly also to Amendment No. 145, grouped with Amendment No. 144A. I tabled this amendment in response to paragraph 17 of the Select Committee's report. We have debated at length the Government's plans to divide England and Wales into administrative areas to be known as local justice areas. That is dealt with in Clause 8.

Clause 97(4)(a) states that the first order under Clause 8 shall be laid before Parliament only. In other words, it is not subject to the affirmative or, indeed, the negative procedure. Subsequent orders under Clause 8 will be subject to the negative procedure, as set out in Clause 97(5). The reason for the Government doing that is that the first order,

    "will simply be renaming petty sessions areas as local justice areas and will not change any boundaries".

27 Mar 2003 : Column 1017

But, as the Committee points out, the power to make the first order is not limited in this way. The Committee goes on to state that it considers that unless it is so limited, there is no reason why the first order should not be subject to the same procedure as subsequent ones. I agree on that matter too. It is another case in which it is to be hoped that the Minister will say that she will accept the amendment or, indeed, return with a better drafted amendment. But how on earth one could draft something better than leaving out paragraph (a), I shall live and learn! I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: Amendment No. 146 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford and myself is also in this group. It deals with the statutory instruments made for the purpose of changing court fees. The existing position is that an order to vary fees must be laid before Parliament. It is not subject to any parliamentary scrutiny and it cannot be prayed against.

Clause 87, taken together with Clause 97(4) would keep the existing position. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee criticised this and recommended that a fees order should be subject to the negative procedure and so could be prayed against. In response to the Committee, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said in his letter:

    "The Committee was also concerned about the scrutiny afforded to Clause 87, allowing the Lord Chancellor to set fees by order. I have carefully considered the views of the Committee and agree that it would be preferable that this clause be subject to negative resolution".

This amendment does exactly that. It takes the order under Clause 87 out of the list of orders referred to in Clause 97(4) which lists those amendments which are not subject to parliamentary procedure.

Orders relating to fees under Clause 87 would then fall to be covered by Clause 97(5) which applies the negative resolution procedure to all statutory instruments not otherwise dealt with. As the Government have not put down their own amendment I hope that they will accept ours. I, too, support the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in her Amendments Nos. 144A and 145.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I think that I shall make noble Lords happier, though I feel rather mean because I believe that my noble friend Lady Scotland should be doing so having toiled as long as she has today.

I shall work through each of the amendments in turn. Amendment No. 144A is similar to an amendment tabled earlier in Committee. On that occasion, I said to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart—at col. 658 of the Official Report of 11th February 2003—that it was the Government's intention to follow the recommendation of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform with regard to Clauses 68 and 75.

The Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform reported that it was not satisfied that the Government had made the case for the negative

27 Mar 2003 : Column 1018

resolution procedure in those clauses. As a consequence, in January the Lord Chancellor responded to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, stating that he accepted the recommendation and would consider an appropriate amendment to the clause.

I want to reassure noble Lords once again that this remains the Government's intention. We shall bring forward an amendment to the Bill on Report addressing the issue. The amendment will provide that any order made under these clauses to amend or repeal primary legislation would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

The effect of Amendment No. 145 would be to make the first order made under Clause 8 setting up local justice areas subject to the negative resolution procedure. We are grateful to noble Lords for raising the matter. If the amendment has been prompted by concerns that the Lord Chancellor would radically alter local boundaries when making the first order under Clause 8, then the amendment is unnecessary. I can assure noble Lords once again that the boundaries of local justice areas will be the same as those of petty session areas when the new arrangements set out in the Bill come into operation.

As I said during our debate on Amendment No. 35, we shall spell this out in the transitional provisions of the Bill to be introduced as a government amendment. Current petty session area boundaries are of course subject to changes made by magistrates' courts committees using the existing procedures. In our view it is not necessary to make the first order under Clause 8 subject to any parliamentary procedure.

Finally, I turn to Amendment No. 146. Its effect would be to make orders under Clause 87 subject to the negative resolution procedure. The current, separate fee-setting powers for each of the three tiers of courts are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny and Clause 87 sought to replicate that position. However, following the reports of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform and the Human Rights Select Committee, along with the views wisely expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in his remarks at Second Reading, the Lord Chancellor has considered the matter again and has determined that it would be preferable if this clause was subject to the negative resolution procedure.

While the Government agree with the principle behind the noble Lord's amendment, I am afraid that, as currently drafted, it is technically deficient. On page 52 of the Bill, the word "or" should be inserted at the end of line 6, while the word "or" should be deleted at the end of line 8, in addition to the noble Lord's proposal to omit paragraph (c) in line 9.

I can confirm that the Government intend to bring forward an amendment on Report to achieve the same effect and I therefore invite the noble Lord not to press his amendment.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: We wait with bated breath to see what superior drafting the Government bring forward, but we welcome the commitments just

27 Mar 2003 : Column 1019

made by the Minister. However, I am little concerned with regard to his response to Amendment No. 145 when he spoke of the government amendment being part of a package of transitional provisions. Naturally we shall want to look at that to ensure that it properly covers the point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 145 and 146 not moved.]

Clause 97 agreed to.

Clause 98 [Minor and consequential amendments, repeals, etc.]:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page