HC Deb 20 November 2003 vol 413 cc1025-36
Mr. Speaker

Order. I have to acquaint the House with the fact that a message has been brought from the Lords as follows: the Lords insist on certain of their amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill and disagree to certain Commons amendments, for which insistence on disagreement they assign their reasons. They propose certain further amendments; they agree to certain Commons amendments; they did not insist on certain of their amendments. Under the order of the House of 18 November, any message from the Lords relating to the Criminal Justice Bill will be considered forthwith, without any question being put.

Lords Amendment: No. 32

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett)

I beg to move, That this House does not insist on its disagreement to the Lords amendment.

Mr. Speaker

With this it will convenient to take the following: Lords amendments Nos. 32E to 32L; Lords amendment No.33, Government motion to insist on their disagreement thereto, Government amendments (a) to (j) to words restored and Government consequential amendment (a); Lords amendment No. 34J; Lords amendment No.121, Government motion to insist on their disagreement thereto and Government amendment (a) to the words restored; Lords amendments Nos. 126 and 131H and Government motions relating thereto and Government amendment (a) to the words restored.

Mr. Blunkett

Before addressing the amendments and propositions before us tonight, I reiterate what the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and the President of the United States have said outside the House about the terrible bombings that occurred in Istanbul today. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the consul general and of all the staff and civilians who were killed. This reiterates the terrible threat that those who are prepared to bomb, kill and maim others are dealing out to innocent people across the world.

Despite the knife-edge nature of the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill, not least over the last 48 hours, we are on the edge of getting a flagship Bill that I think most people in the House would agree has considerable and notable agreement across the parties in terms of the benefit that it will bring in transforming the well-being of people in our constituencies and the respect that they have for the criminal justice system. That can only be a good thing. To protect people from thuggery, organised criminality and the disruption caused to the justice system that we have experienced and debated over the last few months has to be the right thing to do.

We want to provide sentences that match the seriousness of the crime, to ensure that life means life, to avoid the double jeopardy rule which, under new DNA and forensic science, would have allowed criminals to go free even though we could prove that they had committed the most horrendous crimes, to have the new sentencing guidelines council, and the involvement of the public, as well as those engaged in the criminal justice system, in shaping sentencing for the future, involving imaginative new sentences—including intermittent sentences, custody minus and strong community sentences—that underpin more severe sentences for dangerous criminals. I mention all those things because I believe that, despite the acrimony that we experienced on Tuesday and yesterday evening, we shall now have a modernised criminal justice system fit for the 21st century.

More than 98 per cent. of the measures that we put to the House on Second Reading have been agreed, and many changes that have improved the Bill have been agreed without acrimony in the two Houses. Over the last 48 hours, additional amendments have been introduced and have gained consensus. Despite the provocation offered earlier in relation to the shadow Leaders of the House, I do not intend to respond to it. The provisions that have been taken over the last 48 hours in relation to avoiding the intimidation of juries and ensuring that we have clear and understandable procedures for dealing with bad character, and the way in which we shall respond tonight in respect of juveniles, have made the Bill a better measure, and a better vehicle for taking forward the intentions of both Houses of Parliament.

Tonight, I want to take up the challenge of a final agreement, which has been reached between the political parties in the House, and hope that we can take things forward. It is important to have achieved that because, in addition to the measures that I have already enunciated this evening, tackling gun crime head on and dealing with those who misuse vehicles as tools for killing people in circumstances that have horrified Members of the House indicate the significance of reaching such an agreement.

I have consulted with the spokespeople for the two main parties. I have not been able to reach agreement yet with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews), who forms almost a party of his own on these issues, although I know he has been consulting regularly over the last 48 hours with the Opposition parties, so he will he familiar with the issues that we have been debating. [Interruption.] I am sure that, as has rightly been pointed out from a sedentary position, we will secure measures to avoid his intimidation, just as we have with juries.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Is the Home Secretary aware that the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) is a dab hand at the monologue? He will be producing one at a concert in February. The Home Secretary had better look to his laurels.

Mr. Blunkett

I have heard a few monologues in the House, never mind the poetry that always comes from the retiring Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). I thought I had already said au revoir to him, but I say it with great spirit tonight because this is his swan song in the shadow Home Affairs brief.

We secured agreement in relation to had character on clauses 96 and 93, but we are tonight linking it to securing agreement on clause 101, which relates to juveniles. I am proposing—in the spirit of agreement, I think this is an improvement—that any juvenile who has committed a crime would not be subject to these amendments and these proposals unless the crime was of a sufficient nature to warrant being reintroduced. In other words, it would have to be an indictable offence, which, by its very nature, would be severe enough for it to be introduced.

On Tuesday afternoon, most people in the House would have gathered from the debate my overwhelming enthusiasm for clause 41. I remember my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) questioning me on it. My demeanour and my robust defence must have given her the impression that Lord Justice Auld's enthusiasm for that measure was not entirely shared by those on the Front Bench. In that spirit. I have been prepared to concede that clause to get agreement on the remaining clauses this evening.

In the same spirit, we have also been prepared to discuss clause 42, having secured clauses 43 and 45. Clause 42, as the House will know, dealt with the issue that we debated on Tuesday—serious fraud. People will be aware of the Roskill and Auld proposals. Roskill, of course, preceded the operation of the Serious Fraud Office. We have adduced that it would be very sensible indeed if, given the controversy that has arisen over clause 42, we were able to secure agreement in a way that joined us together in finding a solution for the very, very small number of cases in which there is a major problem in securing a jury, and securing the retention of the jury, as well as in being able to secure the confidence of the SFO that, in taking such cases, it could secure a conviction where one was rightly warranted. It will, in other words, secure justice.

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First, in moving to a single judge sitting alone we are prepared to have to secure the consent of the Lord Chief Justice. Secondly, we are prepared to agree that we will not implement the proposals set out in clause 42, as amended, while we seek an improved way forward that does not rely on a single judge sitting alone.

During the debate, proposals in relation to how specialist advice and support might be offered have been made, including measures drawing on a specialist range of expertise for a jury. On Second Reading and again on Report, I said that I was not against looking at such measures, so I find no difficulty tonight in offering the opportunity to the two main Opposition parties working with the Attorney-General, the Serious Fraud Office and the senior judiciary to take a further look at how that might be taken forward. We are able to look at that in relation to the SFO in a way that Roskill could not. In that light, I will not press for implementation of the clause. I am prepared to offer an affirmative resolution, should that be required.

I am prepared to do that because of two pieces of legislation: the draft corruption Bill, which we have been scrutinising, and a measure in relation to domestic violence, crime and victims that will be in the Queen's Speech next Wednesday. That, together with the measures on multiple offences that we discussed across the Dispatch Box on Tuesday, will give us the opportunity to secure an improved provision that will provide the safeguards that Members have sought without giving way on the principle that we should not undermine the task of the SFO in bringing criminals to book who are engaged in serious crime, which has eluded many past efforts.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

The Home Secretary knows that his statement on this issue is welcome. Some of us have argued for a long time that for serious fraud cases there should be an alternative to the conventional jury, which keeps the principle of jury trial. I seek a public clarification from him, which I have asked for privately. Is the it implication of his remarks that, as a result of the Bill passing into law tonight, there will not be any serious fraud trial by a single judge in England and Wales?

Mr. Blunkett

I am prepared to give that undertaking. It is part of the agreement that we will retain the clause, but move forward towards looking at the alternative solutions that I have mentioned and that could be incorporated in one or other of the two measures that have either been consulted on or will come before the House in the Queen's Speech. That safeguard is appropriate. I give a binding undertaking that we will follow that agreement.

This legislation has been difficult to achieve because of the way in which the two Houses have, rightly, had to scrutinise detailed measures, many of which have been subject to the scrutiny of those whose primary background lies in the law. Many of us whose background does not have been concerned to ensure that we secure for the British public a set of proposals that maintain our commitment to a safer, more secure Britain in which the law seeks truth. Parliament seeks to ensure that justice is done, and we are better equipped to enable the police to do their job, the courts to secure justice and the legal profession to join with us in ensuring that it is truth, not just pyrrhic victory, that is gained in such trials.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney)

This is the third time that the Government have attempted to change the jury system. Will the Home Secretary pledge to leave it alone for the rest of the Parliament?

Mr. Blunkett

I have given all the pledges that I am going to give tonight, including a pledge not to leave alone, on clause 42, the question of how we will deal with the jury system. I thought that I had indicated that we are prepared to look positively at the proposals to be brought forward, so I had better not give a commitment that reverses the pledge that I have just given in case I am accused of duplicity. Many Members of the House would disagree with what I say, but my honour remains intact, and I have every intention that it should.

I invite the House to return the Bill to the Lords with the changes that we have proposed; I invite the House of Lords to hold to the agreement that we have reached tonight; and I invite the British public to rejoice, along with those of us who are somewhat exhausted by what has been going on in recent days. I thank the Officers of the House and those who have worked this evening, over the two hours since agreement was reached, to put together the papers. We appreciate what they have done in recent days and in difficult circumstances. I thank, too, Members of the House for their tolerance and forbearance—even the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Gamier), whose interventions on Tuesday rightly earned me a rebuttal and a slap on the knuckles from the sketchwriter in The Times for being my usual, irritable self.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)

I join the Home Secretary in extending our condolences to the family of the consul general and the other members of staff killed in Istanbul in an absolute outrage. All Members of the House will unite with the Home Secretary in extending our thoughts to the Turkish Government and all who have had relatives killed or injured in the incident.

This is, thank goodness, the end of a long process in which it has been a privilege to participate, although I have to say to the Home Secretary that there were one or two occasions in the last 72 hours when I began to think that it had an endless quality to it. There is, of course, much that is good in the Criminal Justice Bill. I remember so well the Home Secretary, in introducing the measure, indicating that what he really wanted was a measure that would stand the test of time and be accepted irrespective of which party was in government. I say to him that it was in that spirit that we participated with the Government and other parties in trying to achieve a workable Bill.

It should come as no surprise that at the end of that process there were outstanding issues that caused serious difficulty, and for the most part I welcome the way in which the Government approached the process of debate and discussion that enabled those matters to be whittled down. That said, I cannot escape the fact, which is perhaps inevitable in these matters, that as one gets closer to the end, so the Moloch of the Government's grinding-down machine starts to come into operation. It is greatly to the credit of my friends in the other place, Lord Kingsland, Lady Anelay and Lord Hunt, that they and others resisted that pressure consistently so that we could arrive at the end at an outcome that protects the principles of jury trial. I very much regret that the Government, perhaps not in the person of the Home Secretary but certainly in the person of the resident of No. 10 Downing street, seemed to be so hellbent on cavalierly undermining those principles.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)

Does my hon. Friend note that the advantageous alterations about which we heard this evening have arisen because of the detailed discussion of the Bill, clause by clause? Does he agree that the rest of our legislation would be much better served if the same careful consideration were given in this House and the House of Lords, instead of constantly being excluded by guillotined Bills?

Mr. Grieve

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. On this Bill, the Government Whip went to great trouble, despite the mischief of the guillotine, to make available adequate time for scrutiny. Inevitably, when we came to the final stages of the Bill, all of that tended to go out of the window. It is only because those in another place can do the job of scrutiny at leisure that we were protected from implementing legislation that would have been extremely harmful.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

I do not want to be unduly critical because I have already been critical of the Home Secretary, which obviously caused him some upset. Perhaps my hon. Friend misspoke. The House of Lords dealt with the Bill not at leisure, but thoroughly.

Mr. Grieve

The other place has the leisure to deal with legislation thoroughly. The problem in this place is that we are constantly hurried, to the point that amendments were being so rushed today that they appeared in the wrong place on Order Papers and nobody knew whether they had been passed in another place. We should reflect on that.

As the House knows, matters have centred on trial by jury. I am delighted that clause 41, with its dreadful option of giving a defendant an opportunity to apply for trial to be conducted without a jury, so undermining the essence of the jury trial system, has at long last been abandoned by the Government. The credit for that goes to those in all parts of the House who finally persuaded the Home Secretary of the error of his ways. I pay particular tribute to the hon. and learned Members for Redcar (Vera Baird) and for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews), who argued the point so forcefully.

On clause 42, which deals with fraud trial, there has been a bit of an argument, which has gone on a long time. It was the final argument in respect of the Bill. I do not wish to revisit that. I should prefer to go home and remember in my dreams the sotto voce imprecations that I remember hearing from the Home Secretary during the debate earlier this week, some of which were directed at me and some at my hon. Friends and other hon. Members. That will be a good memory.

The Government have had to climb down totally on clause 42, and have come up with a face-saving formula to mask what they had to do. I thank the Home Secretary for applying sufficient pressure on the Prime Minister to allow him to do that, as I am strongly of the view that that is where the mischief came from that prevented us from resolving the issue days ago.

With regard to the double lock mechanism, which means that the measure can never be implemented without an affirmative resolution of both Houses, I have two comments to make to the Home Secretary. I know from my colleagues in another place that they will shortly make it clear that they will not be bound by any constitutional convention whatsoever in respect of the statutory instrument mechanism. In addition, under no circumstances will they allow the measure to pass through the other place unless or until it is part of a total package of reform that is acceptable to this House in exactly the same way as any primary legislation.

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I also say sincerely to the Home Secretary that we accept that this may be an area that requires detailed scrutiny and examination, and we undertake, if he comes up with proposals, to work with him to examine any representations made by the Serious Fraud Office that justify any departure from current practice. The Home Secretary will be aware that, in Committee and on Report, it was the Opposition who tabled proposals that might allow for specialist juries in such cases. However, one thing is clear. We shall resolutely uphold the principle of jury trial. I said previously and I say it again: I do not wish to live in a country where jury trial is denied to those charged with serious crime, and I will work night and day to prevent that from happening if the Government ever do it again.

I hope very much that in any further examination of these issues the Government will adopt a slightly different approach on consultation from what we had in the Bill. It was unfortunate that the proposals crept in as they did.

We have had to consider other areas, and here I can say much kinder things to the Home Secretary. I want to thank him for the way in which he has approached the whole issue of jury tampering. He knew at the outset that we supported the principle that it was essential that it should be possible to do justice where juries were being tampered with, and I hope very much that we have come to a final conclusion on that which, while there are areas about which I have reservations and anxieties, will prove workable and fair. I thank him and his colleagues in the Home Office for the way in which they have approached that matter, because I always felt that we were able to have a completely constructive dialogue on it. I particularly thank the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins). He has behaved impeccably during the Bill's passage and I have particularly enjoyed negotiating with him.

In respect of the other outstanding matter, which was bad character, we were broadly supportive of what the Government were trying to achieve. I am left with a note of regret that I still do not think that it is as good as it should be. I am constantly reassured by the view of the hon. and learned Member for Medway that it will not make a blind bit of difference because the measure is pretty unworkable and the judiciary will have to sort it out. I am not sure that that is a good way to legislate, but we have a better outcome than I feared at the outset.

May I ask the Home Secretary two specific questions? He knows that the main mischief in this proposal was clause 96, and I should like him to confirm to the House that, despite the inclusionary presumption, it will be for the prosecution to establish that propensity evidence is relevant to the issue in any case. I believe that Baroness Scotland previously did that, but I should like to hear from the Home Secretary that that is indeed what will happen. Secondly, I should like to hear from him a confirmation that the prosecution will be required to give notice that, through any line of questioning to the defendant, they intend to raise an issue under section 96(1)(b).

Mr. Blunkett

I am very happy to give the assurances on both counts, and I am also happy to give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that our lawyers disagree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) and think that the measures will make a substantial difference, and I would not have moved them if I did not think that they would.

Mr. Grieve

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his comments.

I should like to finish with one other observation. As I said, the Bill has been a long one. I believe that it may do good, but looking to the future, I come back to the basic principle—our desire to see justice done for victims, to prosecute criminals successfully and to punish them properly must never allow us to undermine the principles of fairness that have made our trial system a model of its kind in the world. I hope very much that the Home Secretary, who has constantly said that he believes in the principles of jury trial, will continue not only in what he tells us here, but in what he does in his office, to uphold them.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

I should like to take a couple of minutes of the time of the House to make a couple of points, one of them general and one brief. The general point is to give a strong welcome to the Bill and to recognise the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and his team. The Bill will be deeply welcomed in areas such as mine, where we are attacked daily by antisocial behaviour. Some of the measures that have been introduced are long overdue and I wish to put on record my thanks to him for the way in which the matter has been pursued.

My specific point is to thank all the parties that were involved in the Committee stage of the Bill for their open-minded efforts in trying to secure a sensible sentencing guidelines council—an aspect of the Bill that has not been remarked upon to any great extent. We are in a position in which the judiciary, this House and the Executive almost seem locked in a constant battle as to what the appropriate sentence is for any given offence. I hope that the efforts that people from all parts of the House put into that work to try to get a well-balanced sentencing guidelines council will be taken further. I believe that we are halfway there in getting that broad-based council. It will be a great achievement if all three arms of the constitution are finally represented on it, perhaps next year or the year after, so that decisions on sentencing can achieve a broad-based consensus throughout society.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are debating the amendments rather than Third Reading.

Mr. Allen

I welcome the amendments that we are considering, which do not include the question about drug testing at 14, to which 1 would have referred if it had been in order to do so.

I put it on record for my right hon. Friend the now Secretary of State for International Development and hon. Members from all parts of the Committee that some great progress has been made. I thank the Home Secretary for what he has done today.

Simon Hughes

The Home Secretary was kind enough gently to mention that, possibly to the great relief of the Government, this may be the last Home Office Bill for which I am responsible in the near future on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I have been very happy to have that responsibility for the past four years, and I say sincerely to the Home Secretary, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Paul Goggins), and their now Cabinet colleague, the Secretary of State for International Development, that there has been a successful method of co-operation throughout the Bill in terms of extreme courtesy and a continuing ability to have dialogue with Ministers. I pay tribute to them as a team. Of course, we have had differences of view, which have sometimes been very strong, but the Home Secretary and his team, as well as Baroness Scotland and her colleagues in the Lords, have worked hard to ensure that, where there could be maximum agreement, it has been achieved.

I wish to give other inevitable thanks, but I am extremely happy to do so. First, I thank the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and his successor, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), as well as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who has served on the Bill throughout its passage. He and his colleagues in the Lords, whom he has mentioned, together with colleagues such as the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins), who, like me, slaved on the Committee day in, day out, have contributed hugely both from experience and principle to make this a much better Bill.

Last, but absolutely not least, there is my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and my four Lords colleagues, who did a huge amount of work—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will address his remarks to the amendments.

Simon Hughes

Baroness Walmsley, Lord Dholakia, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Roper worked over the past three days, as they worked with us previously—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have asked the hon. Gentleman to speak to the amendments.

Simon Hughes

My colleagues in the Lords equally worked on the amendments and their drafting and participated in meetings and negotiations in a way that has delivered us with the changes that are before the House.

I shall make a couple of comments on the remaining matters that have occupied us over the past few days and led to the amendments that we are considering. We were left with two substantive matters when the Bill left the Lords on Monday night. We were left first with the question of character and whether any bad character of a defendant could be brought back into play. I tell the Home Secretary that the answers that he gave to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield and the statement on the record in both Houses give us much more reassurance that the principle that a person is presumed innocent until proved guilty will be protected. That must be a fundamental principle of English law because, if changed, it would do away with one of the things that gives people most confidence in the system.

The matter that has occupied us most is whether to keep jury trials. We are grateful to the Home Secretary for accepting that clause 41, which would have meant that people could have elected out of jury trials for serious offences, could go. The clause would have produced a two-tier system. We are grateful that the Home Secretary and his colleagues were able to work with us to ensure that only in exceptional circumstances after jury nobbling could there be a move away from jury trials.

The most difficult measure was the subject of the negotiation that went right up to the wire this evening. We insisted that even in serious fraud cases, there must be a trial before a jury. We hugely welcome the Home Secretary's reassurance that clause 42 will not be implemented, the safeguard of the order subject to the affirmative resolution in both Houses and the prospect of getting a variant of jury trials that will work in such cases.

We have dealt well with the intimidation of juries, but I hope that the amendments will show three other things that will send a message from this place. We have stood by the independence of the judiciary, we have reaffirmed the independence of the magistracy and, above all, we have reaffirmed the primacy of juries. Today has been a good day for Parliament—and both Houses of Parliament—because both Houses have worked to ensure that the amendments that will finally be agreed tonight will uphold those three principles of the English justice system. We have done that part of our work well. We are right to be proud of that and our constituents who go to court in future will be grateful that if their case is serious, they will have a jury to judge them. That principle has stood the test of time for 800 years and this Parliament will uphold it today.

Vera Baird (Redcar)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the amendments and the calibre of the Bill, which will fulfil the functions that he set out to make it fulfil and update and toughen up the criminal justice system. He has always said that trial by jury was not under attack by him at all but that he meant always only to strengthen it by ensuring that it was protected from abuse, especially by hardened criminals who would try to tamper with its functioning. Clause 43, when amended, will satisfactorily ensure that it will be better protected than it has been in the past. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary assured me recently in the House that it would be a last resort to remove a jury from such a trial and the amendments that he is making to the clause will make that position even clearer, so I congratulate him on that.

Clause 41, which will be removed from the Bill, would have allowed an opt-out on jury trials but was never central to my right hon. Friend's purpose, as he perhaps conceded tonight. The greatest and cleverest of us are frequently bedevilled by the law of unintended consequences. It is a great tribute to him, although I am not sure that he accepts them at their fullest, that some of the horror stories that have been put forward as possibly following from the clause are truly realistic. None the less, it is a great tribute to my right hon. Friend that he has acknowledged others' concerns. It has not been his main purpose, but he has been ready to relinquish the clause for the sake of caution and prudence.

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As my right hon. Friend well knows, there were two real concerns. The power to put previous convictions almost automatically into trials was a real worry. That has been well moderated by linking the power more closely to relevance. It will be a more effective provision and a fairer one as a result of the amendments that have been agreed to.

I move on to clause 42 and fraud. I reject entirely any suggestion that there has been any climbdown by those on the Government Benches. The clause remains in the Bill and, in due course, it may come into operation. If there is to be a further examination of it, I hope that my right hon. Friend will not ignore Labour Back-Bench Members who have taken a close interest in the clause.

As one of those who has taken such an interest, and one who combines the role of being a lawyer with being a dutiful and certainly a hard-working Member, I am extremely interested in protecting my constituents from the adverse effects of crime. I say to my right hon. Friend that there is no conflict between those two roles. It is the firm intention of lawyers who are Labour Back-Bench Members to fulfil both roles properly. I congratulate my right hon. Friend. He has shown appropriate resolution with appropriate flexibility. It is now a good Bill.

Mr. Garnier

I had not intended to speak because it is late and people want to go home. However, the Home Secretary mentioned me by name. I am sorry that I irritated him to such an extent that he was put to reading The Times, which clearly tickled him.

The shadow Home Secretary in 1993, the current Prime Minister, said during the course of the debate on the Runciman royal commission on matters similar to this: Fundamental rights to justice cannot be driven by administrative convenience. I hope that that is something that sticks with the Labour party to this day. I have had my doubts over the past few months as we have discussed the Bill. However, here we are, and a Bill and an arrangement seem to have been arrived at.

The Home Secretary said that he wanted the Bill to be part of the modernisation of the criminal justice system, and he hopes that it will lead the way to a criminal justice system fit for the 21st century. I leave him with two thoughts. Perhaps we could stop passing Criminal Justice Bills every year and allow the system to bed down a touch. Those of us who have the enjoyable duty of attending Judicial Studies Board courses at regular intervals find ourselves being laughed at by those who are judges but not Members for allowing extraordinary numbers of Bills to go through that alter the system pretty well every other Wednesday. At the same time, we have the tiresome duty of having to learn it all up, which is not everybody's joy.

If the Home Secretary wants to do one thing to modernise the criminal justice system, I ask him to consider, if nothing else, that criminal law legislation needs to be codified as soon as possible. That would do all of us a great deal of good. The right hon. Gentleman might even provide himself with a monument that would be worth looking to.

Lords amendments Nos. 32E to 32L agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 33 disagreed to.

Government amendments (a) to (j) to the words so restored agreed to, and Government consequential amendment (a) agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 34J agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 121 disagreed to.

Government amendment (a) to the words so restored agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 126 disagreed to.

Government amendment (a) to words restored agreed to.

6.19 pm

Sitting suspended, pursuant to Order [10 November].

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