Clause 56

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 22 November 2007.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 2:30, 22 November 2007

I understand and accept the hon. Gentleman’s point about the undesirability of the confusion that can be caused by amending unimplemented legislation, but I do not think that one should put it at the top of one’s list of things to chase after, as a Minister. However, I take on the chin the points made by the Magistrates Association and others.

Clause 56 introduces schedule 13, which changes schedule 3 to the 2003 Act, as the hon. Gentleman explained. In mitigation, the original purpose in the 2003 Act—it was before my time in the Department—was that custody plus, the 12-month sentencing power and the procedural reforms in schedule 3 should be implemented at the same time. As the Committee knows, custody plus is not being implemented at present, but there is certainly a lot of support for it. A review last year found a consensus on sentencing among criminal justice agents that replacing the committal procedure with a sending procedure offers benefits. It makes sense to consider bringing schedule 3 into force by itself, hence the clause and schedule 13.

I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point that it is not entirely desirable to amend unimplemented legislation. We should certainly try to avoid it, and I undertake to do so in future. I hope that he will accept that I have listened to what he said. It was an issue worth raising. The Magistrates Association itself said that although clause 56 might create a certain amount of confusion, it does not oppose the clause as part of the whole picture, and that it is probably a good thing. On that basis, I commend clause 56 to the Committee.