Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill

– in a Public Bill Committee on 12th July 2011.

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[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering 10:30 am, 12th July 2011

Before we begin, I have a few preliminary announcements for the Committee. Members may, if they wish, remove their jackets during Committee sittings. Please will all Members ensure that mobile phones, pagers and other devices are turned off or switched to silent mode during our sittings?

As a general rule, I and my fellow Chairs do not intend to call starred amendments, which have not been tabled with adequate notice. The required notice period in Public Bill Committees is three working days. Therefore, amendments should be tabled by the rise of the House on Monday for consideration on a Thursday, and by the rise of the House on Thursday for consideration on a Tuesday.

Not everyone is familiar with the process of taking oral evidence in Public Bill Committees, so it might help everyone if I briefly explain how we will proceed. The Committee will first be asked to consider the programme motion on the amendment paper. Debate on that is limited to half an hour. The Government have tabled an amendment to the motion. We will then proceed to a motion to report written evidence and then to a motion, which I hope we can take formally, to commit the Committee to deliberate in private in advance of the oral evidence sessions.

Assuming that the second motion is agreed to, the Committee will move into private session. Once the Committee has deliberated, witnesses and members of the public will be invited back into the room, and our oral evidence session will begin. If the Committee agrees to the programme motion, we will start to hear oral evidence this morning.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I beg to move,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 am on Tuesday 12 July) meet—

(a) at 4.00 pm on Tuesday 12 July;

(b) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 14 July;

(c) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 19 July;

(d) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 6 September;

(e) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 8 September;

(f) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 13 September;

(g) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 15 September;

(h) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 11 October;

(i) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 13 October;

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:

TABLE

Date

Time

Witness

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 11.30 am

Criminal Justice Alliance; Prison Reform Trust; Howard League for Penal Reform

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 12 noon

NAPO; Prison Officers’ Association

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 12.30 pm

Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses; Victim Support

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 1 pm

Magistrates’ Association; Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 5 pm

Law Society; Bar Council; Family Mediation Council; Leigh Day & Co Solicitors

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 5.20 pm

Director of Public Prosecutions

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 5.40 pm

Legal Services Commission

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 9.40 am

Rights of Women; National Federation of Women’s Institutes

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 10.25 am

G4S; Serco; Sodexo

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 2.15 pm

Shelter; Citizens Advice Bureau; Law Centres Federation; Advice Services Alliance; R3

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 3 pm

Liberty; Justice; Legal Aid Action Group

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 3.45 pm

NSPCC; Local Government Association; Standing Committee on Youth Justice; Children’s Commissioner

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 4.30 pm

Association of British Insurers; Association of Personal Injury Lawyers; Action Against Medical Accidents

(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 8, Schedule 1, Clauses 9 to 23, Schedule 2, Clauses 24 to 30, Schedule 3, Clauses 31 to 36, Schedule 4, Clause 37, Schedule 5, Clauses 38 to 40, new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 1, Clauses 41 to 52, Schedule 6 and 7, new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 2, Clauses 53 to 57, Schedule 8, Clauses 58 to 72, Schedule 9, Clause 73, Schedule 10, Clauses 74 to 88, Schedule 11, Clauses 89 to 93, Schedule 12, Clauses 94 to 101, Schedule 13, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 14, Clauses 107 to 109, Schedule 15, Clauses 110 to 113, Schedule 16, remaining new Clauses, remaining new Schedules, Clauses 114 to 119, remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 13 October.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

With this we may discuss the amendment,

‘(a) in the fourth entry for Tuesday 12 July, in the third column, leave out ‘Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges’;

(b) in the fifth entry for Thursday 14 July, in the third column, after ‘Children’s Commissioner’ insert ‘for England’.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for that introduction. I and my colleagues are looking forward to serving under your chairmanship over the coming weeks. The dates are set out in the motion. There will be 18 sittings over nine days, including four sittings to hear evidence. We think that that is adequate time for consideration of the Bill. We have invited a broad range of witnesses and taken some helpful suggestions from the Opposition about them, and we look forward to hearing from them over the coming days. We propose to consider the Bill in order, with schedules taken with relevant clauses. We propose to debate any new clauses and schedules when we get to the end of each part of the Bill.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Justice)

May I say what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Mr Hollobone?

The Opposition have already made it clear to the Government that we think that the timetable for the Bill’s Committee stage is not adequate, and that at least one extra day is needed for taking evidence. The fact that the Minister has to amend the timetable for evidence, because one of the important witnesses, the Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges, cannot come at that time, is evident of the rushed nature of the proceedings. That began by not allowing adequate time between the publication of the Bill and the debate on Second Reading, and it is continuing now. We have already made it clear that we think there should be more days for line-by-line consideration of the Bill extending further into October. We will oppose the programme motion this morning

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice)

I also look forward to serving under your chairmanship today and throughout the course of the Bill in Committee, Mr Hollobone.

I will be brief because there is an irony in taking a long time to debate the programme motion—it takes time from witnesses. However, this is a very important point. It particularly refers to the two days of witness evidence. In a way, it is a tribute Clerks’ work in accommodating almost all the 35-odd witnesses who have been suggested by the Government and the Opposition. The consequence of that is that there is such a short time to deal with each witness that their evidence becomes, not irrelevant, but so severely curtailed as not to give fair representation of their views.

Let me consider two examples of that. Today, we have one hour to hear from the Law Society, the Bar Council and two other very important witnesses in one session. The Law Society and the Bar Council alone no doubt have comments to make about all the different aspects. This is a Christmas tree Bill, which has many important and differing parts to it. On Thursday 14 July, we will take, in the course of four to five minutes, evidence from Shelter, Citizens Advice, the Law Centres Federation, the Advice Services Alliance and R3, which has a particular brief on insolvency. How on earth can the Committee, with the number of Members it has, adequately question those witnesses in that time? We made a very reasonable request for a third day of evidence, which, at least, would have given the expanded time to do that. We have not been granted that.

We also asked for a modest four additional days for consideration, clause by clause, of the Bill. Let me specifically comment on the evidence today. The oral evidence sessions will not be adequate to the task. It is a subversion of the purpose of those sessions, which is to allow adequate time for these very important witnesses to give evidence. We will oppose the programme motion on the clear basis that we wish to see one additional day’s evidence.

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer Conservative, Ipswich

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Hollobone.

I wonder whether I could give a little reassurance to the hon. Member for Hammersmith. The Justice Committee has looked in great detail at the Government’s legal aid proposals—considerable detail over many weeks and many thousands of words of evidence. The Government have made some key changes in response to their consultation, but the great bulk of proposals is as presented to the Justice Committee, and we investigated them at considerable length.

I know that the hon. Gentleman is a keen reader of the Justice Committee’s official journal, but if he were to reacquaint himself with it, he would find ample time given to the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Family Law Bar Association, and a whole series of other organisations that gave evidence in detail. He could inform himself thereby. This afternoon’s evidence session is perfectly adequate for looking at the Government’s changes to the existing proposals.

Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone.

Adverting to what the hon. Member for Ipswich just said, I am also a member of the Justice Committee. We do not have a monopoly on wisdom. If it means anything at all, this process means starting again. We cannot dictate to a Standing Committee what should be changed in the law. It seems to me the whole purpose of today is to ask experts in the field to give their opinion of a very important measure. I do not know how the three esteemed bodies are going to do it in half an hour each. It is almost offensive to them. We are just going through the motions and that is not good enough.

Photo of Dave Watts Dave Watts Labour, St Helens North

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone.

I am a bit worried about the way the debate has gone. It seemed from the contribution of the hon. Member for Ipswich that he had come here with a predetermined view of the Bill. It is a Bill Committee’s job to scrutinise Bills line by line and make recommendations and decisions. It is not the job of the hon. Member for Ipswich to come to a Committee with a predetermined view.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston

Likewise, I find it a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Mr Hollobone.

I support the comments of colleagues who have spoken for more time. I want to add that, in my previous experience of sitting on a Public Bill Committee, we had the opportunity to question the Secretary of State in an evidence session. I am surprised and disappointed  to discover that the Committee is not being offered the opportunity to meet the Lord Chancellor. It is a further gap in our gathering of the evidence.

Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Conservative, Wyre and Preston North

I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship and look forward to doing so into the autumn, Mr Hollobone.

I am rather surprised to be lectured on programme motions by the Opposition, and from someone who, in the previous Parliament, was in a Government who abused the guillotine to such an extent. I remember sitting in this very room waiting for some evidence from a former director of MI5 that was blocked by the previous Government in case she said something that they did not like. “Pot” and “kettle black” comes to mind.

The Opposition are asking us to reconsider the programme motion when, so far, the Opposition have not tabled a single amendment to the Bill. How can we disagree with a programme motion when we do not know what the Opposition are going to put forward to amend the Bill? So far, their ideas—like their policy—are completely blank on this Bill. They are asking us to vote against a programme motion just because they do not like it, but there is a deafening silence on any alternatives to the Bill.

Amendment made: ‘(a) in the fourth entry for Tuesday 12 July, in the third column, leave out ‘Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges’;

(b) in the fifth entry for Thursday 14 July, in the third column, after ‘Children’s Commissioner’ insert ‘for England’. —( Mr Djanogly.)

Main question, as amended, put.

The Committee divided: Ayes 11, Noes 8.

Division number 1 Decision Time — New Clause 6 - Fees and charges

Aye: 11 MPs

No: 8 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 am on Tuesday 12 July) meet—

(a) at 4.00 pm on Tuesday 12 July;

(b) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 14 July;

(c) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 19 July;

(d) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 6 September;

(e) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 8 September;

(f) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 13 September;

(g) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 15 September;

(h) at 10.30 am and 4.00 pm on Tuesday 11 October;

(i) at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm on Thursday 13 October;

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:

TABLE

Date

Time

Witness

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 11.30 am

Criminal Justice Alliance; Prison Reform Trust; Howard League for Penal Reform

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 12 noon

NAPO; Prison Officers’ Association

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 12.30 pm

Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses; Victim Support

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 1 pm

Magistrates’ Association

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 5 pm

Law Society; Bar Council; Family Mediation Council; Leigh Day & Co Solicitors

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 5.20 pm

Director of Public Prosecutions

Tuesday 12 July

Until no later than 5.40 pm

Legal Services Commission

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 9.40 am

Rights of Women; National Federation of Women’s Institutes

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 10.25 am

G4S; Serco; Sodexo

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 2.15 pm

Shelter; Citizens Advice Bureau; Law Centres Federation; Advice Services Alliance; R3

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 3 pm

Liberty; Justice; Legal Aid Action Group

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 3.45 pm

NSPCC; Local Government Association; Standing Committee on Youth Justice; Children’s Commissioner for England

Thursday 14 July

Until no later than 4.30 pm

Association of British Insurers; Association of Personal Injury Lawyers; Action Against Medical Accidents

(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 8, Schedule 1, Clauses 9 to 23, Schedule 2, Clauses 24 to 30, Schedule 3, Clauses 31 to 36, Schedule 4, Clause 37, Schedule 5, Clauses 38 to 40, new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 1, Clauses 41 to 52, Schedule 6 and 7, new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 2, Clauses 53 to 57, Schedule 8, Clauses 58 to 72, Schedule 9, Clause 73, Schedule 10, Clauses 74 to 88, Schedule 11, Clauses 89 to 93, Schedule 12, Clauses 94 to 101, Schedule 13, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 14, Clauses 107 to 109, Schedule 15, Clauses 110 to 113, Schedule 16, remaining new Clauses, remaining new Schedules, Clauses 114 to 119, remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 13 October.

Resolved,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Mr Djanogly.)

Written evidence to be reported to the House

LA 01 LASA Charity UK Limited

LA 02 Professional Negligence Lawyers Association

LA 03 Kirit Champaneria

LA 04 Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association

LA 05 Scope

LA 06 Simon Green

LA 07 Prison Reform Trust

LA 08 Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

LA 09 Bar Council of England and Wales

LA 10 Consumer Justice Alliance

LA 11 The Law Society (including annexes A & B, only circulated electronically)

LA 12 Barnardos

LA 13 Just Rights

LA 14 Public and Commercial Services Union

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Copies of memoranda that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.

Resolved,

That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Mr Djanogly.)

The Committee deliberated in private.