Serious Crime Bill [HL]
Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Shadow Minister, Home Affairs; Conservative)
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her response but I am particularly grateful to all noble Lords who have expressed a concern similar to mine about Clause 2(2)(b). My noble friend Lord Waddington emphasised the importance of certainty in the law and of people knowing the consequences of their actions under legislation that is passed. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said that there should be either Schedule 1 or Clause 2(2)(b)—that one should have one or the other but not both. That is very much behind what the noble Lord, Lord Dear, was saying; it might be better to add offences to the schedule than to leave a wider discretion.
The Minister responded by saying that we need the flexibility—and flexibility is the mantra of any Government, of course. The example that she gave was assault, which is a clear example of an offence in which there can be a whole range of seriousness. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, pointed out that, under criminal procedure, we would not have to worry so much, because in sentencing one would consider the range of assault to judge how serious it was. But we are in civil procedure—and here we are stuck with Clause 2(2)(b). There are considerable concerns. I can see why the Minister wishes to keep that flexibility, but my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew pointed out that this is really not a judicial function and Clause 2(2)(b) goes too far, and I want to consider further what he said.
I am minded to consider further before Third Reading what appropriate measures I should take and whether I should bring the amendment back in a different form or bring it back at all. The killer blow in a sense was given by my noble friend Lord Onslow, who referred to the report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I have done a speed read of that report; it was not vastly long, but neither has been the time between its publication and our debates this afternoon. Today, at lunchtime, we have also had the publication—