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Lord Drayson: My Lords, we have not got to the point of discussing the basis on which any such technology may or may not be sited on UK soil or anywhere in Europe, and so it would not be appropriate to get into discussion of the conditions under which such technology may be deployed.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, does the Minister agree that issues such as extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay, ITAR and JSF will make it much harder to sell the BMD policy to the British public?

Lord Drayson: No, my Lords, I do not agree with that premise. Having recently been in Washington to
 
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discuss the specific matters of the JSF in the context of our strong relationship with the United States, I do not believe that that will be the case.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, when the Government undertake consultation with Parliament and the political parties over any proposals that may be made to us by the United States, will it extend to consideration of the use being made of our law of criminal trespass against peaceful activists protesting against US bases on British soil, such as Miss Lindis Percy?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, I will pass on to my right honourable friend the noble Lord's comments on the scope that he would wish such a debate to encompass.

Lord Judd: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that any decisions that we make on defence in the future will rest on our analysis of what is the threat and nothing else?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, that is absolutely correct. I agree with my noble friend; it is important to say that we do not today see any threat to the United Kingdom that would require a missile defence system. That is not to say that a threat could not emerge in the future, and we must think about such threats, should they emerge. But we do not see a threat to warrant a missile defence system today.

Business

3.31 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with permission, I would like to say a couple of words about business later today, so far as I am able. The House will now consider the Third Reading of the Fraud Bill. Immediately after that, with the permission of the House, my noble friend Lord Drayson will repeat a Statement on the Deepcut review. We shall then consider Commons Messages on the Identity Cards Bill, which have just arrived. Any Member of the House can table amendments to the Bill until around 4.30 pm. A Marshalled List will be issued, and we will start consideration of the Identity Cards Bill as soon as possible after the completion of the Statement, which should be at about 4.45 pm.

These timings are not precise, but they are as close as we can guess. I will of course keep the House informed of any timings; we will do it by the simple technological method of the Annunciator. When we have considered the Identity Cards Bill, the House will proceed to the Second Reading of the Violent Crime Reduction Bill.
 
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Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]

Lord Laird: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.—(Lord Laird.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Northern Ireland Act 2000 (Modification) Order 2006

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 27 February be approved [20th Report from the Joint Committee] [Considered in Grand Committee on 22 March].—(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Government of Wales Bill

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Evans of Temple Guiting on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to which the Government of Wales Bill has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clauses 1 and 2, Schedule 1, Clauses 3 to 27, Schedule 2, Clauses 28 to 58, Schedule 3, Clauses 59 to 87, Schedule 4, Clauses 88 to 93, Schedule 5, Clauses 94 to 102, Schedule 6, Clauses 103 to 107, Schedule 7, Clauses 108 to 144, Schedule 8, Clauses 145 to 148, Schedule 9, Clauses 149 to 159, Schedule 10, Clauses 160 and 161, Schedule 11, Clause 162, Schedule 12, Clauses 163 to 165.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.
 
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Fraud Bill [HL]

3.34 pm

Read a third time.

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 1:

Insert the following new Clause—


"Prosecution of common law offence of conspiracy to defraud
In making a decision whether to charge a person with a common law offence of conspiracy to defraud, regard shall be had to guidance published by the Attorney General."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we on these Benches wanted the Bill to contain a provision to abolish the common-law offence of conspiracy to defraud, as recommended by the Law Commission, and I moved an amendment to that effect on Report. The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General wishes to retain the offence for the time being because, in his view, it may be useful in certain circumstances. But it is agreed that the retention of the common-law offence will be reviewed in three years' time in the light of the extent to which it turns out to be useful in the interim.

The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General offered to show the draft advice which he has prepared for prosecutors and which is intended to restrict the use of the common-law offence to cases which are not adequately covered by the new legislation on fraud. He has sent copies of a working draft of his advice to me and the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. I am satisfied by the advice, but it would be very helpful if the noble and learned Lord could explain it to your Lordships' House and put on record an outline of his advice. In the circumstances, it is my intention to withdraw my amendment at the end of the debate. I beg to move.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, my name also is on the amendment. I thank the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General for expediting this document. It has been extremely helpful in our approach to Third Reading.

The Attorney-General has helpfully summarised in paragraph 8 of his draft advice the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bingham, the then Lord Chief Justice, in the joined cases R v Rimmington and R v Goldstein. The latter part of the portion of the judgment which appears in paragraph 8 reads,

The Attorney-General's draft goes on in paragraphs 12, 13, 14 and 15 to consider the circumstances in which there might be good reason for doing otherwise. Paragraph 15 is quite unexceptionable. It sets out the specific circumstances in which the definition of fraud in the Bill does not stretch to certain potentially undesirable activities. It might, therefore, be appropriate for those to be prosecuted under the common-law offence of conspiracy to defraud.
 
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More interestingly, the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General considers a second category in paragraphs 12, 13 and 14, which is,

This category was not really dealt with in the Law Commission's report on fraud; that report dealt with the substantive law. Here, the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General has turned to matters of sentencing and admissibility.

As I understand the thrust of these paragraphs, there may be circumstances in which it is right to use conspiracy to defraud because prosecuting under statutory offences, even though they cover the activity concerned, would not give rise to an appropriate sentence, and because the collection of statutory offences, unlike the offence of conspiracy to defraud, would not reveal to the court the full nature of the crimes prosecuted. In short, there are circumstances in which conspiracy to defraud will be used by the prosecution for sentencing purposes.

Also included within this second category are admissibility matters, which, again, were not explored, at least with any intimacy, by the Law Commission. The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General refers, particularly in paragraph 13, to circumstances where, under specific statutory accounts, trials might be severed, whereas, if the offence of conspiracy to defraud were used, a trial might embrace all the matters of alleged criminality that were put before the court by the prosecution.

I make no judgment about whether it is appropriate or not to use sentencing and admissibility reasons to retain conspiracy to defraud, because, like the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, I am content that the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General should have his three years to see how these matters progress. But, in replying on the contents of the document, I would be most grateful if the noble and learned Lord could just glance at those three paragraphs and, perhaps, unpack what is said in them.

I am particularly grateful for the way in which the noble and learned Lord has set out his future intentions in paragraph 10. The case lawyer, first of all, will consider and set out in writing why it would be appropriate for the common-law offence to be used; then, that judgment will be looked at again and reinforced, or otherwise, by the supervising lawyer. That seems an eminently sensible and reassuring way in which to progress.

I also note in paragraph 11 that the noble and learned Lord has stated that the information from the records of the case officer or the supervising officer "will be collected retrospectively"—those are his words—and then reviewed in 2009. At that point the noble and learned Lord will take a view on where we stand with regard to the offence—whether we need to continue with it as it is at the moment, or in some different form, or whether we can satisfactorily dispense with it.
 
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Despite the fact that I have asked the noble and learned Lord these questions, I would not want him to think anything other than that I find this document most useful.


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