HC Deb 25 April 1968 vol 763 cc633-4

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

10.17 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I invite the Solictor-General to explain why in this Measure we have not consolidated all the criminal appeal procedure in Northern Ireland. The Clause, and I refer particularly to subsection (1), relates to appeals from the Court of Criminal Appeal in Northern Ireland to the House of Lords, but there is the form of appeal in criminal matters from the Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench for Northern Ireland to the House of Lords, and I think that it would have been convenient to have consolidated all the appeal procedure.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Arthur Irvine)

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has a distinguished faculty for taking substantial Measures and seizing upon one item here and another there in a fashion that is not always expected and calls, I hope it will be thought, for a certain degree of versatility in replying, but I shall do the best that I can to deal with the point raised by him.

As I understand it, the Bill does not consolidate the provisions of the Administration of Justice Act, 1960, which relate to appeals from the Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division in Northern Ireland, or from the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland to the House of Lords. I think that that is the matter with which the hon. Gentleman is concerned.

I want to explain to the Committee what is the background of this, because it may help towards an understanding of the point. The position is that until a quite late stage in the preparation of these consolidating Bills—the Criminal Appeal Bill and the Criminal Appeal (Northern Ireland) Bill—both contained a separate part reproducing these provisions. They were relevant to the law relating to criminal appeals in this country and in Northern Ireland. On further consideration, however, it emerged that, having regard to the form and scope of the Administration of Justice Act, this approach had certain serious drawbacks and was even likely to make the consolidation impracticable or impossible. It was with some reluctance that it was decided by those who were concerned in the matter to abandon the idea and to confine both Bills to appeals from convictions and other findings made on indictment.

I can assure the Committee, and I trust that the hon. Gentleman will accept this from me, that the reasons for this decision were of a highly technical character. The process of consolidation does involve technicalities. I have studied them in this instance and I am satisfied that the right course was followed, but it was a technical point affecting what I think I can fairly and reasonably describe as the technique of consolidation.

The Committee will be interested, I hope, to learn that as regards this Bill, the Northern Ireland Bill, the responsible draftsman in Belfast, who had a detailed oversight of the Bill at all stages of its preparation, and the Secretary to the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland concurred in the procedure that was adopted.

With this explanation, I hope the matter will be acceptable to the Committee.

The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Sydney Irving)

In order that the Committee may proceed in an orderly fashion. I hope that the Committee will allow me to put the first 36 Clauses.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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