Report (2nd Day)
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill
Lord Cormack (Conservative)
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. We entered another place on the same day in 1970; we have been friends ever since; and I have admired the way in which he has fought against real difficulties and played such a part in your Lordships' House.
I was glad to add my name to the amendment that was so movingly spoken to by my noble friend Lady Eaton. Unlike her and, I suppose, most of your Lordships here, I have not had that personal experience involving a child in my own family. When I heard what she had to say, I felt all the more thankful that my children and grandchildren did not face those problems. However, as a constituency Member of Parliament for 40 years, I came across many sad cases that were similar to her own. They were dissimilar in only one respect, and that the one to which she referred-almost always the parents did not have the means to deal with the problem on their own.
No compensation ever adequately compensates for loss of limb or for any other severe disability. However, when one is dealing with clinical negligence, it is crucial that we treat all children, whatever the problem, in a similar way. My noble friend Lady Eaton made that point with quiet passion, and it was all the more effective for that.
I have a great respect and affection for my noble and learned friend the Minister who will reply to this debate. After the histrionics of the previous debate, I say to him that there cannot be a Member in your Lordships' House who does not have sympathy with a Government who are faced with a pretty dire financial situation and looking carefully to see where they can make savings and cut costs. We all appreciate that and do not need to be lectured on the subject. Equally, however, we in this House all have a duty to try to look at things with a degree of objectivity which is devoid of the acerbity of party politics which so often dominates debates in another place.
In my 15 months in this House the two things that have endeared it to me more than any other place are its collegiate atmosphere and the way that we genuinely respect each others' differences of opinion, even though we may all have deeply held personal political opinions and prejudices. However, we have before us an essentially modest amendment. I know not whether the amendments which the House has just been passed will drive a coach and horses through the Bill. I suspect that they will not and that we will have a chance to deliberate on these matters on another day. This amendment certainly does not do that, nor does it pile any degree of extra expenditure on government.
I take no delight in not supporting my Government. I was able to support them on the previous two amendments, and I should very much like a response from my noble and learned friend that will enable me, with a tolerably light heart, to go into the Lobby with him if a Division is called. I very much hope that one will not be called. I hope that he will be able to accept the spirit of Amendment 31, even if he cannot accept the precise wording.
Those of us who have served in politics for a long time-and I saw the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, who I deliberately call my friend, nodding a moment ago-know that it is difficult for Back-Benchers in another place or Peers in this place to devise an amendment that will be absolutely acceptable in the precise terms in which it appears on the Marshalled List. However, I hope that we will have from my noble and learned friend a response that accepts the spirit of this amendment, and the amendments spoken to earlier, so that we can move on without clash and division and underline the fact that all of us are keen that there should be equality and fairness of treatment to everyone in this country. Although this Government, and every Government, have to act within severe constraints-there is nothing new in that-let us hope that we can recognise the Government's dilemma while asking them in turn to recognise that there is within this amendment, so splendidly spoken to by my noble friend Lady Eaton, a real point of principle that deserves a most sympathetic response.