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Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am disappointed by the line that the noble Baroness has taken. I accept entirely that there are people who deliberately choose to frustrate attempts to make them pay fines that they can afford to pay. However, there are also people who are fined and are desperately juggling with competing debts. They must pay the debt, but there may be real
I was also surprised by the reaction of the noble Baroness on the question of changing the time from the time of the decision to the time of the receipt of notice. There are two aspects, in particular, that I shall point out. First, the statute requires that:
The other point is that it is apparent from the schedule that there must be a delivery. I do not see how, if there is no delivery, the notice can be valid. The Bill says that the notice must be signed, dated and delivered. The problem is the time that the delivery may take. Under the Bill, it is still open to the defaulter to say that the notice was never delivered. That element of the argument was misconceived.
My other point is, perhaps, more importantmore important than simply saying that the 10-day extension should be de facto increased to 12. It is vital that there be some power to extend. I would be content if the Government chose to put in a form of words that made it clear that good cause must be shown before an extension was granted. That is implied in my amendment and I would have no objection to making it express. It is not intended to be, and I believe that it is not, a charter for the indefinite delaying of hearings about fines. I disagree with what the noble Baroness said. I feel strongly on this issue and therefore ask for the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 37. I tabled the amendments to clarify uncertainties that were raised as a result of comments made on Report, when the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, moved a group of 128 government amendments in one block. The House was not given an explanation of the individual amendments at that stage. The Minister said that they were minor and consequential and that there had been careful checking. However, with his usual admirable candour, he went on to add:
I should like to put it on the record that objections voiced from these Benches at that stage were in no way a criticism of the draftsmen and draftswomen who prepared the Bill. We recognise two factors. First, as we had anticipated, the Bill was introduced a little earlier in the Government's timetable than they had originally expected, so it was perhaps not as perfect as they had hoped it would be. More particularly, many of the changes in drafting that have occurred since December have come about as a result of the Government listening to the arguments put by noble Lords. They have responded with significant amendments and we are grateful for that.
The question that I raised on Report concerned the Behring Sea Award Act. I raise such questions every time I am asked to consider amendments that affect territorial waters or the boundaries between the waters off England and Scotland. My interest arises because of my Private Member's Bill and the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill. I cannot imagine the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, doing the same when it comes to the Criminal Justice Bill. However, with 90 or so amendments from the Scottish Law Society in the pipeline, who knows what will happen?
I remarked on Report (at col. 81 of the Official Report) that if the Minister was not able to answer my query, I would give him the opportunity to do so at Third Reading. I simply wanted to know what the boundaries were under the terms of the amendments that he tabled.
I should perhaps say something about my amendments, as I complained on Report that the Minister did not say anything about his. Amendment No. 36 defines the waters which the ship is in as within 12 nautical miles of the coast. Amendment No. 37 provides that the extent to which the coast may project into the designated waters should be defined by statutory instrument.
The amendments are rough and ready tools, but they have had the required effect, because since the Report stage the Courts Bill manager, Martin Jones, has written to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, on these matters and has sent a copy of the letter to me. Mr Jones states that the government amendment does not alter or affect the jurisdiction of ships that is already provided for in the Behring Sea Award Act. He also says that the amendment ensures that any offences committed on a ship lying off the coast can be dealt with by the court whose district includes or abuts the coast. He goes on to say that the amendment was drafted in pursuance of the policy of giving magistrates' courts national jurisdiction, but that it does nothing to alter the jurisdiction of the British Isles.
I am grateful to Mr Jones for giving the assurance that Scotland and Northern Ireland were consulted and copied in respect of changes to this Act and for any amendments to provisions in Acts that touched on their jurisdiction. If the Minister can confirm that this is the Government's position, then I will be able to thank him and withdraw the amendment. I beg to move.
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