Schedule 1 — Duty or power to suspend or resume investigations

Part of Coroners and Justice Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:15 pm on 12th November 2009.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Secretary of State (Justice) 12:15 pm, 12th November 2009

Again, my hon. Friend has made a good point. One of the deficiencies of the system that the Government have decided to adopt-although at this late stage, it is the best that we shall get-is that the nature of the communications that would take place between the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice is not clear. Lord Bach tried to set out something of the procedure, but it is clear that to a degree it would be marked by exchange of letters and, possibly, a meeting. He made it clear that the exchange of letters is unlikely subsequently to be made public, which is something that I have to accept in view of the system that has been set up. It thus puts a considerable burden on the Lord Chief Justice. However, mindful of the fact that I have been given a very clear indication that he is willing to take that burden on board, I think that to provide the public with some degree of reassurance that the process will not be hijacked by politicians, we have to accept that it is the best we can get.

I agree with my hon. Friend on a move to a much more formalised application system. Indeed, were I ever to succeed in the private Member's Bill ballot, that might be a fertile measure to bring forward, particularly in view of the Secretary of State's agreement that such a system would be a more desirable way to proceed. On the face of it, the proposal appears to command approval across the House, which is the first precondition for getting a private Member's Bill on to the statute book. My hon. Friend has made a very important point.

The proposal is not perfect-at the end of the day there is no perfection in any of these things-and I sympathise with the Government, because I recognise that they have a real and not a manufactured problem. I am sorry that we have reached this stage of the Bill without doing better, but at this stage I believe that the Government amendment, which was offered and passed in the other place, is a considerable improvement. I further believe that my amendment to that amendment is just an additional safeguard and reassurance. For that reason, I very much hope that the Secretary of State will accept it. We could then finish the Bill on a note of consensus, which we have frequently striven to achieve.

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