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Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, does my noble friend recollect that, prior to her very welcome translation, the House was assured from the Front Bench on more than one occasion that a regime change formed no part of the Government's purpose because that would not be a lawful justification for military action, although admittedly it was implied that if that were an unintended consequence of the invasion the Government would not be inconsolable? That being so, how can the Government justify condoning the imposition of a totally new economic regime which has not been endorsed by the people of Iraq?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the Iraqi Governing Council is seeking to carry out a number of responsibilities, and the CPA and the occupying forces want to hand over power to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible. For example, as my noble and learned friend will know, a constitutional group is meeting and has made proposals to the Governing Council to which the Governing Council will have to reply. As for my noble and learned friend's point on regime change, we have always been absolutely clear that our reasons for entering into conflict related to the flouting of UN resolutions and the threat of WMD in Iraq.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, with all due respect to the noble Baroness, surely she could be putting a rather stronger case in meeting the very acute criticisms and comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. Surely Resolution 1483 does empower the occupying power and indeed the Governing Council to go ahead with the necessary restructuring. Surely one outcome of that has been some very substantial moves forward in currency reform, in inward investment, in the reinvolvement of some of the great trading families of the Middle East, in the renewal of infrastructure and in the fact that electricity is now running at the same levels as it was before the invasion and heading for even better levels. Is there not a very strong case for encouraging both the provisional authority and the Governing Council to continue these economic reforms which, despite all the difficulties in the Sunni triangle, are leading rapidly to a better Iraq which will be more prosperous for all its people?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, of course improvements are happening every day in Iraq. I take the noble Lord's point although, as he said, the security situation remains fragile. However, I return to my original Answer. We are seeking to hand over power to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible. With all due respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, we cannot have our cake and eat it. We cannot talk about handing over authority to the Governing Council, but complain
Baroness Amos: My Lords, UN Security Council Resolution 1483 set out the terms under which the next phases in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq should take place. In that context, the Governing Council, fully supported by the CPA, made decisions with respect to the economic future of Iraq.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I gave notice that I objected to Clause 148 standing part of the Bill. Grouped with the objection is a series of amendments, one of which, Amendment No. 239BA, a technical consequential amendment, stands in my name. Since I gave notice that I objected to the clause, I have received the support of the noble Lords, Lord Goodhart and Lord Dholakia. I also welcome the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, has added her name. She has very helpfully spotted a whole host of consequential amendments that had completely escaped me. I can therefore be relatively brief on this matter. However, it is important to put on the record why we objected and why it is welcome that the Government have accepted the proposition that the clause should not form part of the Bill.
The Bill already makes a major extension to magistrates' maximum sentencing powers, from six months to 12 months for a single offence. In Clause 148, the Government propose to take the power further to extend this maximum, by secondary legislation, to 18 months for a single offence, and to an overall maximum of two years in the case of multiple offences for which consecutive sentences were then imposed.
We expressed our views in another place that that was an improper use of secondary legislation. In this House, we were much encouraged by the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which said:
We certainly welcomed that view from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. It seems that the Government have accepted it by adding their names to the objection to Clause 148 stand part. In
Lord Carlile of Berriew: On behalf of these Benches I broadly agree with what has just been said. There is a fundamental objection to delegated powers being used to increase sentencing powers for something like 97 or 98 per cent of the criminal offences which come before the courts in this country.
As has frequently been said, the way in which orders are dealt with is extremely unsatisfactory as they are unamendable. One of the procedural changes which ought to be considered by this House and the other place is to make orders, particularly those subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, amendable so that proper parliamentary debate with the opportunity of change can be achieved.
Lord Renton: I can be very brief as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on the Liberal Democrat Benches has already put forward very clearly the objection to Clause 148 and to the later references in the Bill giving power to the Secretary of State to increase sentences. Surely in our democratic society it should be for Parliament to prescribe what should be the maximum sentence for any offence. The granting of powers to a Secretary of State merely to increase sentences is surely wrong in principle. It is for Parliament to state maximum sentences, and that is a principle to which we should adhere.
Lord Goodhart: As a former member of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, I am very glad to see that the Government have taken on board the recommendations of the present committee that this matter should be dealt with by primary legislation if it is decided to extend the sentencing power beyond the proposed 12 months. It is not always easy to see the appropriate dividing line between what can properly be done under the affirmative resolution procedure and what requires primary legislation, but I think that in this case the committee was absolutely right to say that primary legislation was needed for a change as important as this. I am very glad that the Government have accepted that contention.
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