Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Constitutional Reform Bill [HL]

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 6, Schedule 1, Clause 7, Schedule 2, Clause 8, Schedule 3, Clause 9, Schedule 4, Clause 10, Schedule 5, Clause 11, Schedule 6, Clauses 12 to 17, Schedule 7, Clauses 18 to 31, Schedule 8, Clauses 32 to 47, Schedule 9, Clauses 48 and 49, Schedule 10, Clause 50, Schedule 11, Clauses 51 to 68, Schedule 12, Clauses 69 to 99, Schedule 13, Clauses 100 to 104, Schedule 14, Clause 105, Schedule 15, Clause 106 to 108.—(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill [HL]

Lord Joffe: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
29 Nov 2004 : Column 270

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Joffe.)

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.


Lord Grocott: My Lords, I have a word about timing on today's resumed debate on the Address. There are 28 Back-Bench speakers and, as the House has already heard, there is also a Statement today. The good news is that if all contributions could be restricted to around nine minutes, we should finish by ten o'clock. "Restricted" is not too cruel a word really because nine minutes is not bad. So that is the advice for today.

Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by the Baroness Lockwood—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to explain next year's proposed home and constitutional affairs legislative programme, and to put it into the context of the Government's wider reform agenda.

The measures we are proposing for the coming fourth Session build on those we introduced in the past seven years. They are there to provide the nation with a modern legal and constitutional framework fitted to the 21st century, to protect us from existing and new threats at home and abroad, and to provide safeguards for the law-abiding citizen.

This is not a message of doom and gloom. We have many things to be proud of. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the Courts Act 2003 have transformed our criminal justice system. All parts of the system now work more effectively together. We have halved the time it takes to deal with young offenders and introduced more effective community sentences. The British Crime Survey shows rising public confidence in the criminal justice system.

We have moved away from a silo-based system to one where partnership is the key element. Across government we work more closely together, and at local level the local criminal justice boards and crime and disorder reduction partnerships are driving forward change, providing a flexible response to meet public need.
29 Nov 2004 : Column 271

Partnership and reform are the watchwords of our legislative programme for this Session. We are consolidating our achievements and adding extra powers where they are needed: adding value to what we have achieved already. All those aspects are key features of our charities, courts and tribunals, drugs and management of offenders Bills.

The charitable sector in this country is one of our greatest assets. More than a quarter of a million charities are active across every area of our national life, helping to transform the lives of citizens and to revive communities. The Government believe unequivocally that a flourishing, independent charitable sector is essential for the health of our democracy.

The charities Bill will ensure that the framework of charity law within which charities operate allows them to realise their full potential and to sustain the high level of public confidence that they enjoy. The Bill's measures have been the subject of extensive consultation with charities and are strongly supported by them. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has described the Bill as a vital opportunity to modernise charity law and make the necessary changes that the sector wants and needs.

The courts and tribunals Bill will be published as a draft Bill in the coming Session to bring improvements to enforcement and to help responsible creditors who are owed money to have recompense, while at the same time protecting debtors from oppressive pursuit of their debts. By unifying tribunals in a single body and creating a senior president post, we will be giving clear leadership and a single voice to tribunals, and the Bill contains measures aimed at improving the service that tribunals provide to the public.

Our drugs Bill will build on the work that we have done across government to increase the number of drug misusers entering treatment—54 per cent more last year than in 1998-99, according to the National Treatment Agency. We have invested unprecedented resources to tackle the harm that illegal drug use, particularly that of class A drugs, has on individuals, families and communities. The Bill will provide further powers for the police to take tough action against drug dealers and powers to get more of those who commit crime to feed their drug addiction into treatment and away from a life of crime.

Our reforms to the criminal justice system are already changing the way in which we deal with offenders and providing them with more opportunities to turn around their lives. Last year, for example, nearly 50,000 basic skills awards were made to prisoners and 8,500 offenders were placed on drug treatment and testing orders in the community.

Our management of offenders Bill will contribute to the reduction of reoffending by underpinning development of the new national offender management service, known as NOMS. Improvements to sentencing made in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 will be extended by further non-custodial options for the courts in the form of a day fines scheme, and powers to make greater use of modern technology to supervise offenders.
29 Nov 2004 : Column 272

Reform of the constitution is vital if we are to have judicial and democratic institutions that meet the needs of our age. We have been heartened by the large measure of agreement between us, the Lord Chief Justice and the judiciary on important areas of constitutional reform.

The concordat that has been agreed on how measures in the Constitutional Reform Bill will operate in practice is without precedent. We will be continuing with that Bill, which will clarify the relationship between the executive and the judiciary, create a Supreme Court as a beacon of excellence and independence, and provide a modern and transparent means of appointing judges. I echo what the noble and learned Lords, Lord Bingham, Lord Styen, Lord Saville and Lord Walker, said in evidence to the Select Committee earlier this year: that the separation of the judiciary at all levels from the legislature and the executive should be a cardinal feature of any modern, democratic state governed by the rule of law.

Further improvements to our justice system will be made through three Bills. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, which was introduced in the Commons last week, builds on progress in reforming the criminal justice system. Police officer numbers are now at record levels and crime has fallen by 30 per cent since 1997, but we recognise that there is still work to be done, especially in fighting organised crime. The SOCAP Bill will establish the serious organised crime agency and through an overhaul of police powers will radically improve the ability of the police, community support officers and their support staff to work together to fight crime and anti-social behaviour.

The criminal defence service Bill, which was published as a draft Bill in the third Session, will be introduced shortly as a formal Bill. It will transfer responsibility for granting legal representation from the courts to the Legal Services Commission, created under our Access to Justice Act 1999, and will reintroduce a test of financial eligibility for legal aid, ensuring that funds are targeted on the most worthy and important cases.

The nation's youth are our future and it is vital that we take the best steps possible to deal with those who have started offending. The draft youth justice Bill builds on the reforms that we have made to the youth justice system, such as the setting up of the Youth Justice Board and the introduction of more effective community-based sentences for young offenders. The Bill follows full consultation through our policy paper Youth Justice - the Next Steps. It will clarify the main purpose of juvenile sentencing as the prevention of offending and provide a more effective, simplified structure of sentences, with strong alternatives to a custodial sentence.

Our focus is on the law-abiding citizen. We have done a great deal to prevent our freedoms being exploited by terrorists and organised criminals and our citizens becoming the victims of crime. Further to our recent consultation on counter-terrorism provisions, we intend to set out our response and proposals for the way forward on those next year.
29 Nov 2004 : Column 273

Our Identity Cards Bill, which is being introduced to the Commons today, will protect our citizens from identity fraud, deter fraudulent entry to the country and illegal working, and help in the fight against organised crime and terrorism. Identity fraud costs the economy £1.3 billion a year. In London, as many as one in five people has been the victim of identity fraud.

Public support for ID cards remains high at about 80 per cent. We have consulted widely on the principle, starting in 2002 and again on the draft legislation published in April 2004. Safeguards for the protection of privacy and against the misuse of information have been built in. For example, any provision of data without consent, other than in the limited circumstances set out in the Bill, would have to be subject to parliamentary approval. Our liberties will be strengthened if we are able to protect our own identity and use identity cards to access the public services to which we are entitled.

I want to mention some key protections for the individual that our proposals for this Session will introduce. We will publish a draft Bill on corporate manslaughter. The Government take the issue of corporate killing very seriously and are committed to reforming the law. This is an area of law that involves complex questions, and we have been careful in considering the options. We propose in December to come forward with a draft Bill that will offer a more effective sanction for holding companies and other organisations to account where they have paid little or no proper regard to the safety of their workers or the public.

Our Inquiries Bill, published last week, will modernise the framework for conducting statutory inquiries, set up by Ministers, into events that cause public concern. That is long overdue reform. It will bring the clarity of a single statutory framework, making it suitable for any future inquiry. The Bill will clarify the respective roles of the Minister commissioning the inquiry and the chair of the inquiry. It will help inquiries to deliver their conclusions and recommendations in a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost.

Finally, but not least, the Mental Capacity Bill is a vital measure for some of those in society who may not be able to make decisions for themselves, and for their carers. This carry-over Bill will be reintroduced so that we can protect, empower and support people who lack mental capacity. I wish to make it explicit to the House that the Bill has nothing whatever to do with the wider debate about euthanasia, as some have tried to suggest. It is about giving vulnerable people who cannot make their own decisions the benefits and protection that new legislation can bring. They have waited long enough.

The legislative proposals that I have outlined today are vital if we are to achieve our goal of a safer and more secure nation. They build on past progress and lay the framework for further reform and modernisation. There are other reforming Bills in the gracious Speech, such as the draft Civil Service Bill and
29 Nov 2004 : Column 274
the Transport (Wales) Bill, which will give the Assembly the powers that it needs to take forward integrated transport.

I hope that the House will join with us over the coming Session to enact these measures and build the trust and confidence of individuals, communities and society in a better future. I am confident that we will have much work to do, and I hope that my 13 minutes will be an example for brevity.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page