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Mental Capacity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:30 pm on 1st February 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Constitutional Affairs) 10:30 pm, 1st February 2005

I might have known that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, would find the mistake in the Bill. I can always rely on the noble Lord to do that and I am grateful to him. I feel a little like saying to your Lordships that I cannot quite win, because I take great note of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I was taught when I first became a Minister that it was a committee that I should not only take note of, but to whose requests I should immediately accede. If the committee had asked me to take action on this matter, I would have done so. I also urge noble Lords to accept that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee does a fantastic job. It holds the Government to account on these issues and makes recommendations.

Perhaps I may also say, in a slightly churlish manner at this hour, that we thought very carefully about this matter. It is worth saying that from the Law Commission's earliest draft Bill through to the Joint Scrutiny Committee, no one suggested that we needed to come forward with anything. It was our decision to make some kind of parliamentary scrutiny available. The scrutiny that we put forward was accepted by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

The code will be statutory guidance and that is important. As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, knows, people will be under a duty to have regard to it. It will be admissible as evidence in relevant court proceedings. So I think that it has great force and that it is an important document.

The critical point is that we are going to consult very widely to ensure that the code is the best that it can be. It will be a living document. I expect it to change, grow and develop because, as time goes on, we shall wish it to do that. Therefore, I would be deeply reluctant to keep bringing it back in any way.

I recognise that those involved in Parliament will want to ensure that we develop the code. I shall be happy to ensure that all the Members of your Lordships' House and another place—well over 100—who have shown an interest in this matter receive copies of the code. I shall also be happy to ensure that they are invited to take part in the consultation. I have no desire to prevent that happening in any way. But, having brought in a procedure that we did not need to introduce and having cleared it with the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which holds us to account on these issues, I am a little reluctant to bring back the code through the affirmative procedure. The way that we have talked about the consultation and the way that we have put it before Parliament, enabling people to pray against it if they wish to do so, has been right. In that spirit, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, to withdraw his amendment.