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House of Lords

Wednesday, 8 September 2004.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

Lord Vallance of Tummel

Sir Iain David Thomas Vallance, Knight, having been created Baron Vallance of Tummel, of Tummel in Perth and Kinross, for life—Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Wallace of Saltaire and the Lord Phillips of Sudbury.

Baroness Chapman

Nicola Jane Chapman, having been created Baroness Chapman, of Leeds in the County of West Yorkshire, for life—Was, in her robes, introduced between the Baroness Masham of Ilton and the Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde.

Draft Animal Welfare Bill

Lord Lucas asked the Leader of the House:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, this is uncharted territory, with few precedents and no rules. Decisions about which Bills receive pre-legislative scrutiny and the method of scrutiny are made on a case-by-case basis. This Session, we have published 11 Bills in draft—more than ever before—and four of them have gone to Joint Committees. The Animal Welfare Bill is being scrutinised by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. We think the balance this year is about right.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, when it comes to matters that so touch on the essential function of this House and on matters where we have granted such great use of our powers in terms of carry-over and procedures, does not the Leader of the House think it appropriate that decisions on which draft Bills this House should participate in discussing should come before the House for approval, as do so many more minor matters? This seems to me to be so important.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will be aware that these matters are normally discussed through the usual channels, but, as I said in my initial Answer, this is somewhat uncharted territory. The usual channels in both Houses considered a set of proposals for pre-legislative scrutiny at the beginning of
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the Session. However, this draft Bill was not on that list and, as the result of an oversight, the usual channels were not consulted. I have apologised for that. Noble Lords will be aware that the decision has been taken that the Bill will now be considered by the departmental committee in another place. There is much for us to learn here, and I shall take that learning away.

Lord Roper: My Lords, does the Lord President accept that the arrangements which are made at the beginning of the Session are relatively successful, although this House would prefer more pre-legislative scrutiny to be carried out by Joint Committees rather than by those of one House? Will it be possible to look again at the procedures for Bills which are not on the initial list but which come up during the Session in order that we do not have another incident like this one?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am well aware that the House would like more pre-legislative scrutiny by Joint Committees. However, there is an overall issue of resources. There are more House of Lords Committees than ever before. In its first report in May this year, the House of Lords Liaison Committee stated:

There is a real issue of resources, but I take on board the point that, where appropriate, it would be helpful to have Joint Committees and to use the considerable expertise that exists in this House. I bear in mind the point made by the noble Lord that, although we have a meeting at the beginning of the Session, we should be aware that Bills do crop up during a Session and that the usual channels should be consulted.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, can the Leader of the House confirm that whatever decisions are made about pre-legislative scrutiny—I agree that it is desirable that there should be Joint Committees on pre-legislative scrutiny—nothing that happens in pre-legislative scrutiny should affect the ability of this House to give full scrutiny to legislation when it comes forward in due time?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, that is absolutely right. Even where a decision has been taken by the usual channels, a formal decision has to be taken by both Houses in regard to taking forward the nature of pre-legislative scrutiny.


Lord Shutt of Greetland asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): My Lords, on intestacy, a surviving spouse is entitled, where there are children, to the statutory legacy of £125,000 absolutely and a life interest in half the remainder. Where there are no children, the figure is £200,000 and half the remainder absolutely. The Government will consult this autumn on revising the current levels of the statutory legacy, and we will set out in the consultation paper our proposals for change.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful response. I am delighted that consultation is to take place. Will the Government bear it in mind that the property that was worth £125,000 in 1993 is, on average, worth £300,000 in Yorkshire and £430,000 in central London, and that when 70 per cent of the population do not at present leave a will, there will now be considerable hardship in cases where a surviving spouse does not have the ability, by law, to remain living in the house? Will the noble Lord also consider the possibility of the figures arising from the consultation being indexed in the future? It has been 11 years since there was a change—indeed, there were only seven changes last century.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, the first two issues and many others will certainly be considered in the consultation paper on increasing the statutory levels. Indexation is an interesting issue and the Government will be reflecting on that as part of subsequent reviews. The priority, at this stage, is to look at the current statutory levels and see if, as I think is self-evident, they require adjustment upwards.

Jury Service Exclusion

Lord Livsey of Talgarth asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): No, my Lords. Jury service is a key civic duty which involves the community in the administration of justice. The changes we have made mean that one's occupation is no longer, in itself, grounds for not serving. That is why judges, Members of another place and of your Lordships' House, including Ministers, are expected to serve. By expanding the pool of potential jurors, we ensure that juries better reflect the communities from which they are drawn.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, perhaps I had better preface this question by saying that I have no direct legal interests or direct interest in the NHS. As the Minister fully appreciates, the impact on crucial
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key services of the imperative in Schedule 33 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 has resulted in the eligibility and appointment of jurors from key occupations in society. That includes barristers, solicitors, GPs and hospital consultants.

In one case, a single-handed GP had to close down her surgery for weeks; in another, a barrister was called for jury service in his own court's area; and, in another, a hospital consultant was appointed to a jury, with the resulting cancellation of operations. In another case, a judge was appointed to a jury. I do not know what the other jurors thought of that. The result is even longer waiting lists for the NHS and court cases. Will the Minister re-examine this matter? It has quite an impact on important aspects of society and services.

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