Clause 42

Legal Services Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:00 pm on 19th June 2007.

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Intervention directions: further provision

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I rise because I was wound up to speak to an amendment that was tabled by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, but it was not moved.

I wish to ask a question, which of course is not directly related to the amendment but was promptedby it. The clause is about further provision for intervention directions and, therefore, gives options for interventions. The hon. Gentleman obviously thought about ways in which powers of entry and other things could provide opportunities for intervention.

I would be grateful if the Minister gave some examples of the sort of further provision that she envisages will result from the Bill. What would be an extreme example of a regulation under the Bill? Thisis an enabling clause to allow secondary regulation. Clause 42(6) states that regulations will be made by the Lord Chancellor, but will all regulations be made by him? Will the Minister say what kinds of measures she envisages will be introduced under the clause?

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

As the hon. Gentleman said, this is an enabling clause, behind which lies the idea that, if an approved regulator failed or refused to provide the information that the board required, it could apply to the court for a warrant to search premises and to seize materials.

The clause gives the Lord Chancellor a power to make regulations about what the judge or justice of the peace should consider before granting a warrant, and how such a warrant might be executed. The Lord Chancellor must consult with or, indeed, receive the recommendation of the board before he makes regulations. I do not quite know whether that answers the hon. Gentleman’s question.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I expected the Minister to say what she said, but I would like to ask some further questions. Elsewhere in the Ministry of Justice portfolio, there is a Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, which I anticipate will be discussed on the Floor of the House  on Report and Third Reading in the relatively near future. One of the issues with that Bill is powers of entry, to which the clause also relates. We should not legislate to give powers of entry without people knowing clearly who will come to enter and what powers they will have. Such people should be clearly identifiable as people with authority.

What protection will the Bill provide for a citizen or organisation—by definition, it could be an individual or a company? What does the Bill provide to ensure that people know that a person coming to enter comes with authority? I am troubled because a recent review of current powers of entry under law showed that there are hundreds and that they relate to different people and organisations. The ordinary woman or man should know that people who come to enter do so with authority, and how to check that. How would a person know that another was authorised and what would they have to do to find out? I appreciate that that might be a secondary legislation point, but giving more powers willy-nilly to people to knock on doors and to enter is dangerous, unless we protect citizens against it, except for in the most extreme circumstances. People should know exactly what the score is and have the ability to avoid such action.

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

The hon. Gentleman makes a point that is important for two reasons. First, as he says, if someone comes knocking at one’s door, one ought to be able to know why and under what power they are there. Secondly, we should ensure that the Bill does not contradict the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill. The Lord Chancellor’s consideration of the judge or the justice of the peace is one aspect of the issue, but by way of reassurance to the hon. Gentleman, I shall consider the way in which the provision fits in with the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, so that there is consistency. I shall write to the Committee about that at a later stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 43 and 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 8 agreed to.