Lords Amendment

– in the House of Lords at 1:42 pm on 20th November 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

33Leave out Clause 42 The Commons insist on their disagreement to this amendment but propose the following amendments to the words so restored to the Bill—

33H Page 28, line 34, after "where" insert "(a)"

33I Page 28, line 35, at end insert "and

(b) notice has been given under section 51B of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (notices in serious or complex fraud cases) in respect of that offence or those offences."

33J Page 28, line 39, leave out "both of the following two conditions are" and insert "the following condition is"

33K Page 28, line 39, leave out "must" and insert "may"

33L Page 28, line 41, at end insert— "(3A) The judge must consult the Lord Chief Justice or a judge nominated by him before making such an order."

33M Page 28, line 42, leave out "The first" and insert "That"

33N Page 29, line 3, leave out subsection (5)

33O Page 29, line 9, leave out "both of those two conditions are" and insert "that condition is"

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 33 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 33H to 33O. When the clause returned to another place yesterday, we tabled amendments to meet concerns about safeguards and the discretion of the judge. The clause now requires consultation with the Lord Chief Justice or a judge nominated by him.

We believe that this will ensure consistency in the handling of the application and prevent non-jury trials for serious fraud cases, save where absolutely necessary. We have additionally increased the level of judicial discretion by substituting "may" for "must" in subsection (3).

We have listened with great care to the concerns expressed on this provision, not least that there should be an appropriately tight sieve to make sure that only the most difficult and complex fraud cases would be dealt with. I hope your Lordships will find that, having put on the face of the proposed Bill the need for the consultation with the Lord Chief Justice, your Lordships will feel content that that is a sufficiently secure lock.

I should say that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, the Government and I feel that this provision, along with many others, meets the needs of the case.

Moved, That the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 33 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 33H to 33O.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 33, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 33H to 33O to the words so restored to the Bill, leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendment No. 33".

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

My Lords, as my noble friend explained earlier, Clause 42 has always been a matter of dispute between the Government and the Official Opposition. I have rehearsed the arguments very carefully indeed. The conviction rate is quoted as 92 per cent. Even with these changes, we are not sure what the clause intends to do, other than inappropriately to restrict trial by jury. The Government have a reputation for tampering with our constitutional structure. Our message is that restricting trial by jury in this way is a step too far.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do not insist on its Amendment No. 33, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 33H to 33O to the words so restored to the Bill, leave out from "House" to end and insert "do insist on its Amendment No. 33".—(Lord Hunt of Wirral.)

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State, Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management) 1:45 pm, 20th November 2003

My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, says on the issue. I am somewhat perplexed that he should say it as today an amendment accepting Clause 42 was tabled in the names of noble Lords opposite, which was subsequently withdrawn. We would argue that this is a perfectly proper amendment as put forward.

The noble Lord asks how many cases there were. I think I made it clear when I spoke on the previous occasion that this is not a question of raising the conviction rates but of making sure that the full nature of the criminality, which is evident in these fraud cases, is brought to book. The current way we have to deal with these matters is often piecemeal. Sometimes we have to concentrate on the main players and we are not able to go for secondary matters because of the length and the complexity. That is a matter of great difficulty.

Dealing with criminals who infiltrate our financial institutions in an improper way should be a key concern. We should use tools similar to those adopted in other common law jurisdictions to deal with this real scourge. I ask noble Lords to consider whether in all the circumstances it is right to insist on its removal.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative

My Lords, just to explain, when the Government tabled the amendments to Clauses 41, 43 and 45 and then withdrew them, after having made them available to the Public Bill Office, my noble friend asked for those amendments to be tabled in our name to fulfil the agreement that had been reached. There was a misunderstanding, and the government amendments to Clause 42 were tabled in the name of my noble friend. We immediately pointed out the error; that is why the list was reprinted. I hope that that is sufficient explanation.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 33P) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 160; Not-Contents, 116.

Division number 2

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.