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Lord Kingsland: My Lords, recently the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General published a list of judges who had given sentences in relation to sexual
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offences. Bearing in mind that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is responsible both for matters of judicial discipline and for the independence of the judiciary, did he have any advance warning of the interview given by the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General after that list was published?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the statistics were published as a result of a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It is wholly proper that my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General gives information in accordance with that Act. It is also a matter of legitimate debate and good administration that, where a sentence is regarded as unduly lenient, there is a means by which the Court of Appeal can put that right. The number of sentences that are appealed in that way is a tiny proportion of the whole. I would not expect my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General to discuss with me every interview that he gives to the newspapers.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend recognise that many Members of the House, certainly on this side, totally endorse the view expressed by the Prime Minister that was the subject of criticism this afternoon? May I, through him, congratulate my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General on challenging the 339 rulings that he deemed to be unduly lenient? As in the majority of those cases the sentence was increased, should we not be cautious about regarding judges as people who never did anything wrong?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, we have a Court of Appeal and a House of Lords to deal with mistakes made by judges, and judges would be the first group of people to welcome a process by which such sentences can be brought to their attention. Statistics over the years show that between two thirds and 80 per cent of such applications are allowed, but that should be put in context. The vast majority of sentences are not characterised as unduly lenient. It is right that those that are should be appealed, but judges are not, by and large, passing unduly lenient sentences.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor agree that the Sun and papers like it would have less traction with the public at large if the public had a better idea of the workings and nature of the job of the average judge? Would he therefore encourage the Law Officers to allow greater access to the judges and greater access for judges to the media in order to explain what they do and how they do it so that there would be better general public understanding?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Lord is right. Since time began, there have been legitimate debates about whether sentencing is too lenient, and it is wrong to say simply that people who criticise sentences as being too lenient do not understand how the system works. People have legitimate, strong views about sentencing, and it is
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wrong to say that it is simply because they do not know the details of an individual case. There will always be a debate about it, and the more that the debate is conducted in public, the better. The judges are perfectly robust enough to deal with the debate—no matter how it is phrased—about the right level of sentencing.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, this is only one example of the extent to which the judges have become restless, primarily because they increasingly believe that they should have rights that many of us believe they should not have. Is it not true that the general good governance of this country is dependent on three groups—the Civil Service, the Armed Forces and the judiciary—and that all three are paid public servants subject to the final authority of the democratically elected Government?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord is right in saying that the judges are restless at the moment. They are, as they have been time and time again, criticised in the press for particular sentences. They recognise that that goes with the territory, but they are not seeking any sort of conflict with the Executive; it is only others who are trying to encourage it. They are coping well, and they understand precisely the point made by the noble Lord, with which I agree, that they are one of the three important parts of the state, all of which are paid by the state and all of which have separate constitutional roles in dealing with, for example, public safety.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I represented one of the Afghan hijackers and therefore I know the background. Why did the Prime Minister not read and understand the reasons for the judgment of Mr Justice Sullivan before he made the comment that he did?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, underlying all the questions from the noble Lord's Benches is the notion that it is because people do not understand the intricacies that they comment as they do. They do understand the issue; we may disagree with them. I, for example, think that it is critical that we should not send people back to death or torture, but I am under no illusions that other people take a different view and perfectly well understand the issues. They should be allowed to say so, and we should have a public debate about it.

House of Lords: Library

3.12 pm

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked the Chairman of Committees:

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The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, the establishment of the Supreme Court will have only a very minor impact on the House of Lords Library. The new Supreme Court will have its own library. In October 2003, the Information Committee agreed that duplicate copies of various text books and other materials will be transferred to the Supreme Court, along with certain periodicals that are used only by Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. The main Library collection will not be affected.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees for that Answer, which is very reassuring. Will he accept from me that all Members of the House greatly value the Library as a reference place and the staff of the Library of the House? Can he confirm that the constant updating of legal books will continue after the court leaves, as I understand that there are regular republications?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House values the work of the Library and particularly of its staff. After 2009, stock acquisitions will take account of the cessation of the House's judicial function. However, the Library is currently noted for its legal collections and will continue to maintain and develop those in accordance with Members' needs and wishes.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am glad to hear from the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees that the Library will continue its extremely useful services. I wish to raise one point with him, which is something of a hobby horse of mine. It is not his fault in any way, but the Government have still not made updated and amended versions of statutes available on the website. All that we can get is the Queen's Printer's copy, which is usually out of date and quite useless. Can the noble Lord draw the Government's attention to the importance of putting statues as amended on to the website?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, as the noble Lord says, it is not really my responsibility, but the question will be noted and the Government's attention drawn to it.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I ask the Chairman of Committees again whether the budget for the law books will remain as it is now and be updated in line with inflation. Am I correct in thinking there is a separate budget for books used by the Law Lords and for those available to the House in general?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am not sure if there is a separate budget. I will have to find out about it and write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, out of interest, what use do we make of the Library? How many of its books have not been borrowed by anyone in the past five years?
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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I have no idea. The House of Lords Library is very well valued. I am sure that certain books are taken out more often than others. Some of them may not rate as a cracking good read, but, nevertheless, it is important that the House maintains a library such as it has. It also has good reciprocal arrangements, as all good libraries do, with other libraries. If the noble Lord wished to find something that was not in our Library, I am sure that arrangements could be made to get it from another one.

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