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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I say straight away that, in opening the debate on the order, I tried to be absolutely clear about the issues with which the court would have to deal. I hope that noble Lords will accept that the statements made by me at
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the Dispatch Box have been accurate statements of the way in which the law is drafted and will now take effect.

Of course, I acknowledge the irresistible temptation, particularly because of the passion that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and others have for this issue, to rerun the long, lengthy, complex debates that we had during the passage of the Bill. With the greatest respect, we have had those debates and the decision of Parliament was that the Bill should become an Act, and it is the Act which now governs our deliberations.

I was intrigued by the humorous allusion of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and Robespierre, but they bear no relation to each other and any such reference would be wholly inaccurate and without foundation.

I shall put the issues raised into context and reassure the House that these provisions have not been brought about to increase conviction rates by deliberately prejudicing the minds of jurors or those who adjudicate upon the matter as magistrates. I also remind the House that magistrates now have to make such decisions from time to time to exclude evidence as being irrelevant and then determine the matter. I remind your Lordships that nothing very much in that regard has changed.

The importance of the provisions is that the court will now be in a position to admit relevant evidence. Much of the value of that evidence is probative and is not outweighed by its prejudicial effect. I say to the noble and learned Lord, all probative evidence is, by its very nature, prejudicial to the defendant because it tends to indicate guilt rather than innocence. I am sure that those who drafted "unduly prejudicial" were referring to any improper or undue prejudicial influence that should not be included. Of course, prejudice flows from probative evidence that demonstrates an individual's guilt. To that extent, that is what we are speaking about.

I hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, says about this being a curate's egg. I do not necessarily agree with her on that, but it is a point that she has made and that we shall consider when looking at orders in the future, whether or not they are best served by separating out the issues. There is cogent evidence in relation to theft provisions to demonstrate why we have included them. I am sure that the noble Baroness will notice that the Joint Committee raised the issue of burglary, particularly because there are various types of burglary. In bringing forward this order, we have confined ourselves to burglaries that involve theft as opposed to other acts. I hope that the noble Baroness and your Lordships will feel that that is a proper restraint on our part.

On the issues of logicality, we say that they are logical. Training was raised by a number of noble Lords. The material that the judges will have to assist them in making an assessment has been produced by the Judicial Studies Board. We all applaud the work carried out by the Judicial Studies Board because
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invariably it is of a high quality, it assists judges in their determination, and it provides a pro forma which assists them in its application, so consistency is thereby maintained. It is right that the training will take some time and that 23 March is a speedy disposal of the matter. The trainers who will be responsible for training those judges have all now been trained.

I gently remind noble Lords—and I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, remembers it well—that there was a time when our judges could be relied on, even without specific training from the Judicial Studies Board, to apply the law with accuracy and with skill and to exercise their own erudite judgment in so doing. I know that a number of other noble and learned Lords present may have had similar experiences and recollections. Indeed, there was a time when judges felt their omnificence was such that no one could possibly trespass on training them.

Of course those days are gone, but by the same token I say without any fear of contradiction that our judges can be relied upon to read the training material and to apply it consistently, notwithstanding the fact that all the training may not be immediately available. Lay justices will have the benefit of training. I remind the noble Lords, Lord Phillips and Lord Dholakia, that justices' clerks will also have proper training and be able to discharge those matters.

I hear what the right relevant Prelate says in relation to rhetoric. But rhetoric, thankfully, does not prevail in our courts—the law and its application does. My other experience of our judges is that they are fairly resistant to rhetoric which is not founded on the law. So I think that we can be reassured by that.

The right reverend Prelate says that it is a series of measures that has no end. It does. The reforms we have put in place are practical. We have created a new framework and the tools and we ask people to apply them. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that if one looks at the changes that have been made, we have a reduction in ineffective trials; we are introducing charging; and we are introducing victim and witness units across the 42 areas. Those improvements are real and go toward improving justice and justice delivery; and they complement the other measures contained here.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is concerned about the disproportionality that might appear. That matter has caused us a great deal of anxiety and care and we intend to be assiduous in making sure that the system applies equally and fairly to all.

The provisions of the Human Rights Act must not be forgotten. Article 6 is an important sanction, as is PACE. We believe that those two together will ensure that, in the proper exercise of discretion, evidence which is probative and relevant is admitted and that evidence which is not probative but is overall prejudicial in its effect will be excluded. Our law, therefore, remains intact as far as that is concerned.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I think that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester put his
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finger on it—the assurances given by the Minister are not matched by the rhetoric with which these particular provisions come forward. We on these Benches are happy to stand alone on the principle of fair trials and justice and we take comfort from the support of the right reverend Prelate and noble Lords on Cross Benches and elsewhere in the House when we take that stand.

We have worked very constructively with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, on this Bill and on many others and I know we will do so in the future. But—if she may take a message back to others—there is no room on the authoritarian Right of this Government and there is no point in going along with this Government in the hope of outflanking them on the Right. You will not do that. So, on that basis I am proud on behalf of these Benches to divide the House on this issue.

On Question, Whether the said amendment to the Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 42; Not-Contents, 90.

Division No. 1


Ackner, L.
Alliance, L.
Ampthill, L.
Barker, B.
Carlile of Berriew, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Chester, Bp.
Craig of Radley, L.
Dholakia, L. [Teller]
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Falkner of Margravine, B.
Garden, L.
Goodhart, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hooson, L.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Lawson of Blaby, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Northover, B.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L. [Teller]
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tordoff, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Walmsley, B.
Walpole, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Worcester, Bp.


Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council)
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Carter of Coles, L.
Clark of Windermere, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. [Teller]
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Gilbert, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hart of Chilton, L.
Haworth, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jones, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Leitch, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
McKenzie of Luton, L.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Maxton, L.
Morgan of Drefelin, B.
Parekh, L.
Pendry, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rooker, L.
Rosser, L.
Rowlands, L.
Royall of Blaisdon, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Truscott, L.
Tunnicliffe, L.
Varley, L.
Wall of New Barnet, B.
Warner, L.
Whitaker, B.
Wilkins, B.
Young of Norwood Green, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

14 Dec 2004 : Column 1275

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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