As I say, the Government will review the consultation, and I know the Secretary of State will look carefully at that. We are committed to not making decisions until the completion of the judicial proceedings. Hon. Members will also be aware that the Speaker has certified this amendment as engaging financial privilege. Our view is that amendment 24 is, at this time, unnecessary, inappropriate and ill-timed.
The Government fully understand the reasoning behind Lords amendment 96, which seeks to provide public funding for legal representation for bereaved families at inquests. It may be almost seven months since this House lasted debated this issue on Report, but the Government’s position has not changed. Our view remains that we should await the report, expected this spring, from Bishop James Jones on the experiences of the Hillsborough families. The Opposition have argued that this issue goes beyond Hillsborough. I do not dispute that, but the experiences of the Hillsborough families will have significant relevance for other families facing different tragic circumstances, and the issue of legal representation at inquests will undoubtedly be one aspect of those experiences. Bishop James’s report will provide learning that could be of general application, so it is entirely right that we do not now seek to pre-empt his review, but instead consider this issue in the light of his conclusions. For that reason, I put it to the House that this amendment is premature. As with the other Lords amendments we are debating, we must take into account the potential significant financial implications of amendment 96. Of course, the resource implications of the amendment are just one consideration, but it cannot be ignored, and, again, the Speaker has also certified the amendment as engaging financial privilege.
Finally, Lords amendments 136 to 142 seek to make further provision in respect of victims’ rights and entitlements. These amendments ignore the extensive reforms and modernisation we are undertaking to transform our justice system, and to protect vulnerable victims and witnesses, and, where appropriate, spare them the ordeal of appearing in court, through an increased use of video link systems and by rolling out pre-recorded cross-examination. The amendments would result in an unstructured framework of rights and entitlements that is not founded on evidence of gaps or deficiencies in what already exists, or even of what victims of crime want and need. Some amendments are unnecessary because they duplicate existing provisions and practices, or are being acted on by the Government already.