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With this it will be convenient to take new clause 1—Interpretation of sections 52 and 53—
'In sections 52 and 53 the term ''any person'' does not include judges, barristers, solicitors and justices of the peace who are present in, or seeking to enter, a court building for the purposes of their duties.'.
I shall have to be brief because the Division Bell may ring at any moment. I want to make it clear that we feel strongly about new clause 1 and if the guillotine prevents the Minister from responding in detail this afternoon, I hope that he understands that we shall certainly return to the matter on Report.
As I made clear in a debate on a previous group of amendments, we are very concerned about court security, but we are also concerned that those who are representing the forces of justice and law and order
should not have their passage into and out of courts delayed unnecessarily. New clause 1 is simply to ensure that the provisions of clauses 52 and 53 should not delay those who are concerned with the administration of justice. From my fairly extensive experience of practice in the courts—from the Court of Appeal and divisional court to the magistrates courts—there is a greater level of security in some court buildings than others. That is understandable, but we do not want every judge or lay magistrate, nor all barristers and solicitors to have to go through a slow and tortuous searching process along with defendants and witnesses. That would be nonsense.
Even if the Minister cannot accept new clause 1, I hope that he will at least talk to officials to see whether something can be done. Although searching is important—it is right that it should be included in the Bill—it should not delay those who are concerned with the administration of justice. It is a small, shortly stated point, but an important one. I hope that the Minister will respond positively, if not today then on another occasion. If he cannot accept it today, I hope that he will take seriously what I have said, as we shall return to the matter.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
It being after Five o'clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Sessional Order D [29 October 2002] and the Orders of the Committee [26 June 2003 and this day], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Clause 52 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The Chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.
Clauses 53 to 57 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Further consideration adjourned.—[Ms Bridget Prentice.]
Adjourned accordingly at eleven minutes past Five o'clock till Tuesday 8 July at half-past Nine o'clock.