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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I rise briefly to support the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, has outlined the case very eloquently from the financial perspective. But I believe that another perspective needs to be outlinedthat of the patients themselves.
A large amount of complex, highly technical and skilled care is now available to the NHS but is not available in the private sector. If a patient has had the misfortune to put forward a complex and unusual negligence claim and he has a rare and complex condition requiring ongoing intervention, he will almost inevitably have to access NHS care. There may almost be a duplication of care provision and continuity will be lost. Perhaps I may cite one simple example. If someone has lost his whole bowel and is dependent on total parenteral nutrition, even if he is managed at home on a 24-hour basis, he will inevitably have to access the NHS.
Legislation made in 1948 was appropriate to the services of the time, but there is a danger that the level of technical care available today bears no resemblance at all to what was scientifically known in 1948. I worry that the care delivered to patients does not, in this sense, offer redress. It does not help them to live with whatever problems they have and it does not help them towards a more integrated and better quality of life.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I say both to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, that I understand the concerns which the amendment seeks to highlight. I am not able to accept the amendment because the implication of the change would not be restricted to personal injury claims involving periodical payments alone, and it is questionable whether the amendment is within the scope of the Bill.
In any event, I do not believe that such a significant change to the substantive law on damages would be appropriate without full consultation. The amendment, as proposed, would also have considerable resource implications for the National Health Service.
In opposing the amendment, we do not wish to pre-judge any recommendation that the Chief Medical Officer might make on possible reforms to the arrangements for clinical negligence cases in the longer term. The Government would wish to consider those before deciding the appropriate way forward. I can certainly tell the Committee that the issues referred to by the noble Lord, and alluded to by the noble Baroness, have been raised and are being considered. We await the report of the Chief Medical Officer with not only great anticipation but interest. I can assure noble Lords that that report will be read with great care, and any recommendations that the Chief Medical Officer may make will be given the utmost consideration.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. It would be helpful to know what kind of timescale we are operating on and whether or not the Chief Medical Officer's report will be made public.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I do not know at this moment and I am not privy to that precise information. I know that we have been anxiously awaiting the report. Particularly bearing in mind the scope of the issues which the Chief Medical Officer must address, the noble Lord will know that we would obviously prefer the consideration to be comprehensive. We await the report within the timescale appropriate to the Chief Medical Officer.
We are very aware how important this issue is. I know that a great deal of care is being taken in structuring the recommendations. If I am able to give the noble Lord specific details, I shall certainly write to him.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. Obviously I shall consider carefully the points that she raised. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, for, again, having brought us face to face with some very practical consequences of the 1948 legislation. Of course the amendment must be within the scope of the Bill or it would never have been accepted by the Public Bill Office. However, I shall reflect on it and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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The noble Lord said: I do not propose to speak at length to the amendment, but it is a further opportunity for us to refer to the duties of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I declare an interest as a previous holder of that office.
We shall debate the issue at length in the many days that are being set aside for Report. I do not wish to pre-empt that. However, I hope that the noble Baroness will assure us that she is conducting wide consultation on the proposals in the Bill as they affect the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. She will be aware that another previous holder of the officeMo Mowlamconducted extensive consultation about a proposed change and then concluded that no change was advisable. There has been no similar consultation period this time, but the proposals have now come forward.
As the noble Baroness acknowledges, some strong views are held on the subject. It would be helpful to have an assurance that widespread consultation is planned or is proceeding at the moment on this important issue. I beg to move.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am not able to accept the amendment. I heard with trepidation the noble Lord's words that he will return to the issue at length on Report. Of course I understand why he says that.
The amendment is deficient. Section 26 of the Justices of the Peace Act says that references to the Lord Chancellor, in Sections 5(1), 6, 7(4) to 7(6), 8 and 25 should be construed as references to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. These sections will naturally be different under the Courts Bill. Additionally, Clause 6(4) of the Courts Bill would need to be amended. So, in any event, we would not be able to accept the amendment in this form.
However, as the noble Lord knows, I have wider and less remedial concerns. First, I should set this question in context. I know that noble Lords are concerned that the provision to transfer the duchy's responsibilities for the appointment and removal of magistrates is unwelcome to some magistrates in the region.
There has been a great deal of concern expressed by the Chamber during the passage of the Bill about the lay magistracy, and the Government's regard and intentions for it. I hope that the Committee will agree that we have gone some distance to meet these concerns. We have promised to restore the Supplemental List. We have demonstrated our commitment to the role of the lay magistracy in its general criminal jurisdiction and its specialist jurisdictions. The plans to extend magistrates' sentencing powers are also a demonstration of the faith in the magistracy. We have enhanced the position of Benches in statute as a step to allay magistrates' concerns about local justice; and also because we believe that Benches are a valuable institution and important to magistrates. I do not think that we can be accused of disregarding those issues.
I welcome the opportunity to explain why Ministers of both departments are in agreement that we should transfer those responsibilities to the Lord Chancellor. The current split of responsibility for appointing magistrates is anomalous even under the current system. It does not apply to professional judges. It does not apply to other ancient duchies. Other historical counties and regions accept that local advisory committees, chaired by lord lieutenants of counties and advising the Lord Chancellor, constitute a valid means of appointing magistrates for the locality. That system will continue in the duchy area, as it will across the jurisdiction. Indeed, many would argue that in such an important matter as the appointment and removal of magistrates, the heightened opportunity for inconsistent practice represented by the split of responsibilities is hardly acceptable.
On the last occasion I answered this question I outlined the nature of the consultation. I went through the fact that when Lord Justice Auld consulted on the matter there was wide consultation about whether there should be jurisdiction bringing all the courts together to unify the system. Those matters were taken into account. Because of the lateness of the hour, I shall not go through the extensive reasons why this
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