Fraud (Trials without a Jury) Bill
Lord Kingsland (Shadow Lord Chancellor, Constitutional Affairs; Conservative)
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General for the measured and dispassionate way in which he presented his case. This is often a highly emotional subject, and I am very grateful to him for outlining the history of the measure and treating the issues involved very carefully and thoroughly.
I would not wish the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General to think that we in the Opposition in any way underrate the importance of the fight against fraud. We attach the utmost seriousness to this battle and we applaud many of the things that the Government have done in recent years to improve society's position in relation to the fraudster—most particularly the recent Fraud Act, which redefines fraud in a way that I trust will be much more effective in achieving what the noble and learned Lord described as justice in the courts.
The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General finished his observations by addressing the Opposition's amendment. It is true that we seek to defeat this Bill at Second Reading. The commitment to change the rules about jury trial did not appear in the manifesto, so we are not bound by a constitutional convention not to so act. But that is not the main reason why we have chosen to take this course.
As the noble and learned Lord said, under Section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, before the substance of the change to jury trial can be implemented, an affirmative resolution must be passed in this House. That affirmative resolution could not be amended by your Lordships; it would either be yes or no. The noble and learned Lord took the view that, at the end of the day, your Lordships would say no; he therefore chose not to introduce a resolution under Section 43 but to introduce primary legislation. The reason why we are seeking to divide on Second Reading is that we feel that we are in exactly the same position as we would have been had an affirmative resolution been tabled.