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Lord Judd: I too had not intended to intervene on this amendment, but the thoughtful and considered remarks of my noble friends Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Desai made me think that perhaps I should. I simply want to make the point that I do not believe that anyone in this House, including the Government Front Bench, is happy about the predicament in which we find ourselves. We are introducing measures that go against not just the grain but the foundations of the system of justice that we and our predecessors have worked for over many centuries.
I hope that we do not now slip into the attitude that the task is how we perfect the course we have taken. It may indeed be necessary to contemplate improved legislation. I certainly endorse that proposition. If we are prepared to introduce into our legal procedures measures that cannot be reconciled with some of the fundamental principles of our legal system, as we have come to understand them, it is imperative that year by year the justification for continuing to do so is re-established.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I say straight away that the Government understand the importance of review. That is why the provisions in Clause 11 outlined the review that the Government have in mindthe three-monthly reports, then the independent reviewer and the 12-month report.
Let me come to the issues raised so eloquently by my noble friend Lady Hayman. I understand her frustration. Although I cannot compete with her, being a mere mother of two sons, I understand the fortitude that that takes. Therefore, her patience must be renowned. The important thing for all of us is to get the right balance of protection and civil liberties. My noble friend is absolutely right. We all seek an appropriate legislative vehicle.
There are certain issues that we all also accepted. There is a cadre of persons, albeit very small, who are unlikely to be amenable to any legislation dependent on evidence that can be brought before a court. We have been through the reasons about the nature of the evidence that we may have to rely on, on just a few occasions.
We have to accept that within the portfolio of orders, it is likely that, no matter what else we construct, we will need something similar to control orders. Therefore, this Bill should not be seen as the shortest of short gaps, for all the reasons given by my noble friends Lord Desai and Lord Clinton-Davis. Although I can say nothing about the likely time at which any general election might take place, I can rely upon the published dates for the summer recess. The noble Lord is right that we are going to have a relatively truncated period to consider this.
Review is a matter of importance, but, respectfully, a sunset clause of this nature will not help us, because of the many reasons already outlinedthe amount of
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time and the amount of detail. We hope that in a short compass we will be able to bring forward in the appropriate legislative vehicle further and other provisions that might better address the issues of a new offence.
It is very easy to forget the history of the past year and put on it a construct that it does not merit. Therefore, with great temerity, I should like gently to remind the Committee of the chronology of events.
There was, of course, the Newton report and the consideration given to it. That report was published, I think, on 18 December 2003. The Committee will know that the case of Re A moved through the courts in 2004 and, in July, I believe, we had the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal, led by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, which endorsed the provisions of Part 4 as having been sound.
Work of course continued, but it is important to accept that in recasting provisions one has to bear in mind the nature, extent and form that those new provisions may take. Unless and until we had the full judgment of the House of Lords in the case of Re A, it would have been impossible to set in place concrete provisions which did not reflect or could not have reflected the thinking behind that judgment. Now we have, as speedily as was reasonably practicable, brought forward these new provisions at the same time as continuing to work on the broader context of the other offences.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I am mesmerised by the charming way in which she is explaining the sequence of events and I am almost persuaded. But does she not recognise that we all read the newspapers and listen to the media? It is perfectly clear that the Government have briefed the media that there will be no further concessions made on the Bill.
The Minister has sat through the whole debate and Members on all sides of the House are putting forward very persuasive arguments, but that is in the context of a government who have already made up their mind that they are going to make no further concessions. Does the Minister understand why it is difficult to believe the script she is enunciating today when, outside, members of her own Government have been briefing the media that what we do will make no difference at all?
That of course makes it even more important that there is some kind of sunset provision. It seems to have become some kind of political test of virility whether the Bill reaches the statute book and some of us are concerned about the long-term consequences of it. That is where we are at.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I understand why the noble Lord would say that. Of course, no one on the
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Front Bench can be responsible for what is or is not said in the media. That is an aspiration that we all from time to time in our heady dreams have wanted to have, but it is not the reality. We have to confine ourselves to what is said from this Dispatch Box, and I can assure the Committee that we have continued to listen.
I agree with what was said by my noble friend Lady Hayman, endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, and echoed again by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, that no one wants to die in a ditch for provisions which will not deliver what we jointly seek. Therefore, throughout these debates, I have held on to a number of issues which appear from all the debates to be plain: notwithstanding the difference of view that might be expressed from the various Benches, we all wish the same thing.
No one on any side of the House has said anything to indicate that we do not value our civil liberties highly. We fully understand that balancing those things which we are driven to believe are necessary to protect the security and safety of the citizens of this country against those things which we trespass very carefully upon in regard to their civil liberties is a very delicate and difficult excercise. I say again that no one in this Houseand, I believe, in the other placewishes to be in the position in which we find ourselves, where that balance has to be struck.
I do not find in any of the contributions made from any side of the Committee any indication that any noble Lord is not absolutely serious about that issue. The issue for us all is where the line should be drawn: some of us fall on one side; some on the other.
I assure your Lordships that all the debates that we have entered into are being given appropriate and anxious consideration. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made it clear from the inception in the way that he has handled the matter that he would have preferred a consensus. However, we have also made it clear that the Government will do what we feel is necessary to protect.
We have a difficulty in relation to time. We do not believe that November would be an appropriate or convenient date. We have heard what noble Lords have said about the provisions currently contained in the Bill in relation to review, the three-monthly reports made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and the nature of the review after a 12-month period.
Lord Clinton-Davis: If we do not have a certain date, this House will express itself in no uncertain way. The Government have to take into account the overwhelming body of opinion expressed so far. I will not tie myself to 30 November, but there should be a sunset clause. That is the view of many noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. I invite my noble friend to suggest a date, because we are obliged to reconsider the whole legislation.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank my noble friend for that invitation but I regret that I cannot avail myself of it. We will consider the nature of the contributions that have been made. The general tenor
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of the debate indicates that November 2005 is not the appropriate date. I say clearly to your Lordships that the Government's view is that a sunset clause would not be appropriate. The Bill should not be seen as a short stop-gap.
We will have to give careful consideration to the other measures proposed to be brought forward in new legislation which will be contemplated. That will take a little time. It will be done as speedily as we can but it is unlikely to be anywhere near completion by November this year. We have listened carefully and I bear in mind the issues raised by my noble friends Lord Brennan and Lord Judd, because they endorse the points made by my noble friend Lady Hayman. I thank my noble friend Lord Desai for his suggestion of a Joint Committee on the Bill in both Houses.
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