Report (2nd Day)

Part of Criminal Justice and Courts Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 22nd October 2014.

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Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Liberal Democrat 4:30 pm, 22nd October 2014

My Lords, perhaps I may start with a moment of generosity to my much admired noble friend the Minister. He has addressed the concerns which noble Lords expressed in the past by tabling Amendment 122, which provides for a statutory instrument, subject to the affirmative procedure, to be laid and passed before the rules could be brought into effect. I am sure that we are all grateful for that. However, there are problems with that proposal.

The first problem is that even the affirmative procedure gives limited opportunities to those parliamentarians—and there are many in your Lordships’ House with great relevant experience—who would wish to amend what is contained in the rules, because of course even affirmative resolution procedure instruments are not amendable. It therefore makes the affirmative resolution process a blunt instrument in dealing with these important issues.

I am very concerned about the timetable which has been placed upon us. There is a consultation—to which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in his eloquent moving of his amendments, referred—which is to end near the end of November, and the Government’s response will follow two months thereafter. That is way outside the timetable placed on us for this Bill, including today’s debates. It is illogical and quite unnecessary to press a timetable that attempts to force us to reach important decisions today when those decisions might be informed by the consultation and the Government’s response to it. It is not unknown—indeed, it is common in your Lordships’ House—for the consultation process on any important issue to lead to amendment of the primary draft legislation placed before your Lordships. I respectfully entreat my noble friend to look at the consultation as a genuine process, not merely as a symbolic process to confirm what the Government would wish to have decided here today.

It is absolutely essential for us to see at least the shape and flavour of the rules that the Government wish to introduce. On restraint, the consultation document which was published only a few days ago contains one “indicative rule”, as it is described—a sort of suggestion of what might be a relevant rule. That is not a sufficient basis for the provision that we are debating now. Many well informed NGOs—and I declare the interest of having been at one time president of the Howard League, which is one of them—have, with other organisations, declared real misgivings, not so much about what is provided but about what they do not know is being provided. Therefore, in my view, this is all very premature.

We heard earlier from my noble friend Lord Marks the names of Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood. Just before I became president of the Howard League I was asked by that organisation to produce a report on the use of restraint on children in custody. That arose following the death of Gareth Myatt. Organisations such as the Howard League, and people who have been fairly intimately involved, do not let a day go by, when we think about these issues, without reflecting on that death. It seems to me that to proceed in this unnecessarily hasty way on a matter of such importance, without reflecting on the rules provided and whether they take into account the events that led to the death of Gareth Myatt, is not the right thing for your Lordships to do.