My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister and to all noble Lords who spoke in this debate. To be clear, I do not see how these so-called checks and balances work here; one could be attempting to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. A restriction might not even have been considered before counsel to one or other interested party in an inquiry brought into the course of proceedings someone’s long-spent conviction.
It is never nice to be on the opposite side to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, but there are two principles in this context: the public interest in favour of the rehabilitation of offenders, and the public interest in the openness and fairness of any public inquiry. It seems that it would not be disproportionate to have a debate of this kind every time a committee chair said, “We really need to get at spent convictions in the context of this material”. This amount of parliamentary time in your Lordships’ House is not disproportionate to that public interest. If that is thought too cumbersome, surely either the Inquiries Act or relevant rules of procedure might instead have been amended to require a committee chair in any inquiry to state at the outset that this is the type of inquiry that will in principle require the use and admissibility of spent convictions. That has not been done; the filtered approach that the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, suggested has not been adopted in this case. Instead, we have this overbroad, unfiltered system.
In the light of this overbroad secondary legislation that might well undermine the principle of rehabilitation and personal privacy, I beg to test the mood of your Lordships’ House.
Ayes 172, Noes 125.