Clause 182 - Grant of free legal aid: Northern Ireland

Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 16th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 3:45 pm, 16th January 2003

I beg to move amendment No.172, in

clause 182, page 96, line 9, at end insert

'to which the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payments) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002 apply.'.

I am indebted once again to the Law Society of Scotland for alerting us to the issue here. I should like to put on the record my thanks not only to the Law Society of Scotland, but to other organisations for keeping an eye on what is happening in our proceedings. As recently as yesterday morning I received a further note from Mr. Michael Clancy, the very helpful director of the Law Society of Scotland, saying that it had received some reassurances from the Home Office. He has also received confirmation from the Scottish Executive that the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payments) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002 will be amended in the light of the passage of the Bill, if it is passed.

In other words, the Law Society of Scotland persuaded us to table an amendment, which was then selected for debate. As a result, there has been further scrutiny of the matter, and the Scottish Executive have now been able to reassure the Law Society of Scotland that the necessary change will be made to the regulations, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that on the record. That shows the advantage of tabling amendments and has been a good example of the system working properly. I wanted to pay tribute to the Law Society of Scotland on not only originally identifying the point, but keeping me up to date with the progress.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon

It is important that our legislation is correct and that all parts of the United Kingdom take a part in its framing and completion. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath is right—we are all grateful to the Law Society of Scotland for its efforts.

I want to put one point on the record on legal aid, which is effectively straying to clauses 183 and 184, as well as 182, but I seek only—

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara Labour, Knowsley South

Order. The hon. Gentleman should stick only to the terms of amendment No. 172, which refers to the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payment) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002.

Photo of Mr John Burnett Mr John Burnett Liberal Democrat, Torridge and West Devon

In that case, I shall leave some of my comments until later. However, will the Minister confirm that in Scotland full legal aid will be available for the necessary representation of individuals throughout proceedings in extradition

cases, including not only legal representation, but interpretation?

Photo of Michael Wills Michael Wills Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Criminal Justice System IT)

I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.

I was not sure whether the hon. Member for Surrey Heath already said that he would withdraw the amendment, but I will not surprise him by inviting him shortly to do so. I think that he can guess why, and there are two grounds. First, I am concerned that the amendment would change the arrangements for legal aid in Scotland, which is a devolved function and responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. Any such changes should be left to Edinburgh and its Committees. Having said that, the hon. Gentleman's understanding is correct. Scottish Executive officials, to whom he referred, have said to the Law Society of Scotland that proceedings under the Bill will be exempt, and when the Bill comes into effect, the necessary regulations will be amended in the Scottish Parliament. I understand that the Scottish Executive have already given a commitment to make the changes, so there is nothing between us.

Secondly, it is perhaps worth pointing out that the amendment is technically flawed as well, as it refers to regulations rather than primary legislation. As we know, regulations have a habit of changing titles, often simply because of consolidation, and it would be impractical for the House to amend the legislation every time that the Scottish Parliament approved a new system of fixed payment regulations. The amendment also refers to amendment regulations rather than the main regulations, which are the Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 1999.

I hope that on the basis of that the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am entirely happy with that. The Minister has confirmed the position. I moved the amendment to get that on record, and I thought that it was important to pay tribute to Mr. Clancy. I understand the Minister's point about the amendment's technical deficiency, but he will understand that we tabled it in the terms that were given to us by the Law Society of Scotland. It has been helpful to have that, and if we had not tabled the amendment, the Scottish Executive officials may not have been able to deal with it. We have achieved the objective and there is nothing between us, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 182 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 183 ordered to stand part of the Bill.