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Schedule 1 - Constitution and procedure of courts boards

Part of Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 26th June 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 3:00 pm, 26th June 2003

We are very pleased that the defeat inflicted on the Government by the combined forces of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in another place has been accepted. The Minister referred to the amendment tabled by Lord Phillips of Sudbury, which was supported by my noble Friend Baroness Anelay of St. Johns. Lord Goodhart neatly encapsulated the reason why we felt it vital to have two magistrates—two lay justices. He pointed out what could happen if a single magistrate were the appointee under the original proposals:

''If there were only one magistrate on the board, he might be ill or have some unavoidable other commitment. There could therefore be a meeting of the courts board at which no magistrate would be present. That would be absolutely wrong.''—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 May 2003; Vol. 647, c. 1198.]

The belief of Lord Phillips and my noble Friend Baroness Anelay was that it was essential to have at least two lay magistrates—there could be more.

We have no difficulty with the Government's further clarification in their amendment, and I am delighted that Ministers have written to my noble Friend Baroness Anelay and I; no doubt they have written to others, too. We accept the principle of the Government amendment. Lord Filkin wrote in a letter to my noble Friend on 19 June that the Government simply want to tidy up the drafting. The Government amendment achieves that, and we welcome the fact that, as a result of the work by those in another place, we have improved the Bill. That is a good example of how this House and another place work together.