§ 3.4 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Clause 9 [Prohibition of certain activities etc. relating to opium]:
LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 7, line 27, leave out from ("Act") to ("it") in line 28.
§ The noble Lord said: my Lords, perhaps I should preface my remarks with a few words of apology to the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. Noble Lords who were present at the time will remember that the proceedings on February 11, the third day when the House was in Committee on this Bill, were concluded, owing to the pressure of 15 other Business, before the noble Baroness had adequate opportunity to move all the series of Amendments to Schedule 4 concerning the level of penalties. We had a fairly full debate on the first Amendment of the series, in which the noble Baroness and certain noble Lords addressed themselves to the general considerations affecting levels of penalty for drug offences, and in my reply I tried to deal with some of the principal arguments lying behind the whole series.
§ The noble Baroness decided not to press that Amendment to a Division, but I think she would have liked to say a little more on some of the later Amendments. I indicated that it would be possible for the Committee to adjourn to another day for this purpose, but I agree that the noble Baroness was left in a very difficult position. I have already apologised to her privately, and I hope that I am not out of order in doing so again, for the Record, at this point in the Bill's progress.
It may be for the convenience of the House if I speak to Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 together since they both deal with the same point. The two Amendments have been tabled to meet the doubts expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, during the debate in Committee on February 9 on the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, to delete subsection (1)(c) of Clause 9. That is the provision which makes it an offence for a person,
to have in his possession any pipes or other utensils for use in connection with the smoking of opium or any utensils used in connection with the preparation of opium for smoking.
Noble Lords opposite were concerned with the position of a person who owned, for example, an opium pipe as a collector's piece. I explained to the Committee that the paragraph as drafted was intended to affect only a person who had such a pipe or utensil in his possession with the intention of using it for opium smoking or in the preparation of opium for smoking. The noble Lords, Lord Beaumont and Lord Foot, however, submitted that the provision might equally well apply in the case of a person who had pipes and utensils in his possession that were capable of being used for the purposes in question.
§ After listening to those arguments, I gave an undertaking to consider whether the drafting of the provision could be improved so that its intention would be put beyond doubt, and that is what these two Amendments are intended to do. Paragraph (c) of subsection (1) is deleted and replaced by some new wording which makes it absolutely clear that the offence of possession of opium pipes and utensils is contingent upon their actual use or intended use. Use or intended use can be either by the possessor of the pipes and utensils himself or by another acting with his knowledge and permission. So far as utensils used in connection with the preparation of opium for smoking are concerned, the new sub-paragraph provides that they must have been used for this purpose either by the possessor himself or with his knowledge and permission.
§ A consequential effect of this change is to remove from Clause 9 subsections (2) and (3) which invoke the statutory defences under subsections (4) and (5) of Clause 5. As the unamended clause stands, it is a defence to a charge of possessing pipes or utensils for use in connection with opium smoking, or the preparation of opium for smoking that the accused had taken possession of them either for the purpose of preventing another from committing or continuing to commit an offence, or for the purpose of delivering them into the custody of a person lawfully entitled to take custody of them. In the Amendment the offence of possessing an opium pipe or utensil is now defined in such a way that there is no possibility of an offence being committed in the circumstances envisaged by these defences. As I said in opening, my Lords, these two Amendments result from the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and I hope he will feel that the changes proposed meet the points which concern him. I beg to move.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, speaks to the subject of this Amendment, as I am sure he will wish to do, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for the explanation he has given to the House of the events which occurred on the third day of the Committee stage of this Bill in relation to my noble friend Lady Wootton 17 of Abinger. I should perhaps explain to the House that she herself is unfortunately unable to be with us for the Report stage to-day. She has a long-standing commitment to visit Portland Borstal, and I know that she set out at a quarter to six this morning. In view of her very great interest and knowledge of the subjects which we are due to discuss, it is a matter of very great regret to us all that she cannot be here this afternoon.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, may I briefly say that the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, meets the point entirely. Perhaps I shall not be considered out of order at this moment if I add that, although I am not happy with the Bill as a whole at the moment, and shall have more to say about this on Third Reading, I am sure many noble Lords would like me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on the way in which he has handled the legal and administrative Amendments which have been put up to the Bill. It is quite something with a controversial Bill of this nature, to which a large number of Amendments were put down for Committee stage, that when we reach the Report stage every single Amendment, with the exception of one drafting new point, should be in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. This is a measure of the way in which he has met our points. If this is a sign of the tact, the sense and courtesy which we may expect from him, we are going to have a much happier time with the Immigration Bill than I ever expected.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 2.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 7, line 33, leave out from ("possession") to end of line 46 and insert—
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.18
§ Clause 19 [Attempts etc. to commit offences]:
LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 16, line 23, leave out from ("any") to end of line 27 and insert ("other provision of this Act or to incite or attempt to incite another to commit such an offence")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 3. In Committee, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, speaking in support of an Amendment tabled by Lord Kilbracken, criticised the drafting of Clause 19 and suggested that it was unnecessary to have two subsections. Lord Conesford also felt that the clause was unnecessarily wordy; while Lord Kilbracken, I think, was not alone in finding the drafting somewhat confusing. Accordingly I undertook to look at the clause again, and I have now done so in consultation with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne. The upshot is this Amendment, which will reduce Clause 19 to a single paragraph instead of the two subsections as originally drafted. The clause as amended will now read:
It is an offence for a person to attempt to commit an offence under any other provision of this Act or to incite or attempt to incite another to commit such an offence,
§ Noble Lords who have followed this matter will note that the Amendment excludes the possibility, however remote it might be, that anyone might be charged with an attempt to commit an offence. In the debate in Committee, Lord Kilbracken, moving his Amendment to leave out "or the foregoing" From subsection (2) of Clause 19, submitted that he would not have thought it possible for a person to attempt to attempt to commit an offence, and Lord Dilhorne agreed. Lord Foot suggested that if these words were excluded the provision might in future be interpreted as allowing for a person to be prosecuted for attempting to attempt to commit an offence. It is very unlikely that anyone would seriously consider prosecuting for an offence in those terms, but the Government completely agree with the noble Lords who put these points in Committee that an offence which is clearly an absurdity ought not to be written into the law.
§ However, the Amendment does make it an offence to attempt to incite another 19 person to commit an offence under the Act. Attempting to incite another person to commit a crime is a common law offence already carrying unlimited penalties, and it is therefore desirable that as regards drug offences it should be made a statutory offence under the Bill so that the limited penalties laid down in the Bill will apply. An example of attempting to incite, given by Lord Foot in the course of the debate in Committee, would be if a person sent a letter to another inciting him to commit an offence but the letter did not reach the person to whom it was addressed, or else it reached him and he did not read it. I should therefore like to thank the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and other noble Lords who have drawn attention to the possible confusion that might have arisen under the clause as originally drafted. As a result, I believe we now have some simpler and clearer language in the Bill, and I hope that this Amendment will commend itself to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for introducing this Amendment, which I think arose from my Amendment, thanks to the support that I received from the noble and learned Viscount. I wish that I could accept it without reservation, and perhaps it is a little ungracious not to do so; but I must say that I am a bit surprised by the inclusion of that little word "other" at the beginning of this Amendment, because, as the noble Lord has just told us, the subsection now begins out of the blue, as it were, with the statement:It is an offence for a person to attempt to commit an offence under any other provision of this Act …".One cannot help asking: other than what? Now the noble Lord knows, and I know, that it means, "under any provision of this Act other than this section", but I suggest that that is not what, in the ordinary use of language, the clause says. I do not see why the word "other" has to be included, because, as the noble Lord has pointed out, it is really impossible and ridiculous to talk about attempting to attempt to commit an offence as being something that can be contemplated. In that case the word "other" is quite unnecessary and I think should be omitted. However, I personally have chased this hare far enough, and I am quite happy to take this Amendment as it stands.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said. This particular clause is a lawyer's paradise. After the debate in Committee I took the opportunity to consult our own legal advisers, the draftsman, and the noble and learned Viscount the former Lord Chancellor on two occasions, and the wording that now appears on the Order Paper is the product of that process. I do not suppose that one can ever satisfy every possible doubt, but I think that the House may feel that this wording, which has now had a very careful and close scrutiny, is the best we have been able to come up with.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 20 [Offences relating to the doing of things outside the United Kingdom]:
§ 3.20 p.m.
LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 16, line 28, leave out subsection (1).
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 4. In the debate in Committee on February 9 on the Question, That the clause stand part, the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, and the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, expressed reservations about subsection (1) of the clause which provides that a person commits an offence in the United Kingdom if
he does any act preparatory to, or in furtherance of, the commission in any place outside the United Kingdom of an act which, if committed in the United Kingdom, would constitute an offence under this Act.
The noble Baroness questioned whether it was right for a person to be punished for assisting in an act which, although it would be an offence if committed in this country, might not be an offence in the country where it was to take place. Lord Dilhorne also drew attention to the considerable difficulty which had been experienced by the courts in defining what is meant by the words,
an act preparatory to the commission of an offence.
Consequently I undertook to study these points.
As I mentioned in Committee, the provisions in Clause 20 are not new ones; they reproduce those contained in Section 13(d) of the Dangerous Drugs
Act 1965, and have been a feature of the United Kingdom drugs legislation for over twenty years. They reflect the obligations assumed by the Government and other parties to international Treaties to co-operate in penalising activities with regard to dangerous drugs in one country having, or likely to have, an effect in another country. The relevant Treaty provision is now to be found in Article 36 of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. Subparagraph 2(a)(ii) of that Article provides as follows:
International participation in, conspiracy to commit and attempts to commit, any of such offences, and preparatory acts and financial operations in connection with offences referred to in this article shall be punishable offences as provided in paragraph 1.
§ My Lords, since the Committee stage we have carried out some research into the origins of the drafting of Article 36 of the United Nations Convention in 1961 which revealed that the words, "preparatory acts" go back to a Convention for the suppression of traffic in illicit drugs signed in 1936. These provisions were intended to help those countries which had no developed juristic system to deal with attempts and conspiracies to commit offences. However, with the modernisation of legal systems throughout the world, there is now, clearly, less need for this kind of help than formerly. In any event, having given further thought to this matter, we now take the view that the provision of subsection (1) of Clause 20 is not essential for the strict implementation of our obligations under the Single Convention. On reconsideration, therefore, of the potential value of this provision in relation to the very learned criticisms expressed in Committee, the Government have come to the conclusion that subsection (1) of Clause 20 is not essential, and need not be retained. That is the reason for this Amendment, which I now beg to move.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend I feel, as one of those who supported her, that I should say how much we appreciate the fact that the noble Lord has accepted what was the wish of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, and has expressed it in the form of this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 23 [Powers to search and obtain evidence]:
§ LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 18, line 43, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—
( ) conceals from a person acting in the exercise of his powers under subsection (1) above any such books, documents, stocks or drugs as are mentioned in that subsection; or
( ) without reasonable excuse (proof of which shall lie on him) fails to produce any such books or documents as are so mentioned where their production is demanded by a person in the exercise of his powers under that subsection.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 5. Noble Lords may remember that in Committee we had a long and interesting debate, initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, on the implications of Clause 23(4)(b). The noble Lord moved an Amendment, the effect of which would have been to remove the whole of subsection (4) of that clause and to insert a similar provision immediately after subsection (1). His object was to make clear that the offence of concealing or tailing to produce books, documents, stocks or drugs related solely to the circumstances contained in subsection (1). In the course of the debate, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, observed, and the noble Lord, Lord Foot, agreed, that paragraph (a) of subsection (4), relating to the obstruction of a person in the exercise of his powers under the clause, was applicable to the circumstances of the whole of the clause and not merely to those of subsection (1). Both Lord Foot and Lord Dilhorne, however, as well as other noble Lords who spoke, strongly urged that the drafting of paragraph (b) of subsection (4), and its position in the body of the clause, should be looked at again to ensure that the offence of concealing or failing to produce related only to subsection (1).
§ My Lords, this Amendment is designed to meet this point. Its effect is to remove the existing paragraph (b) of subsection (4) and to put in its place two new paragraphs (b) and (c), the first dealing specifically with concealing such books, documents, stocks or drugs as are mentioned in subsection (1) and the second with failing to produce any such books or 23 documents. I have taken the precaution of discussing this Amendment in advance with Lord Foot and Lord Dilhorne and I hope that it will commend itself to your Lordships.
§ LORD FOOT
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for having produced this Amendment which, I may say, entirely meets the point I had in mind. During the Second Reading debate, I said that I was glad—and I thought that everyone else would be—that this Bill was in the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham; because although we might not expect to be able to make any major changes in it, the noble Lord would certainly listen to any Amendments which were put and would give them his careful consideration. I should like to join with my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley in expressing gratitude to the noble Lord for the way in which his consideration of these various Amendments has been translated into the Amendments which appear in his name to-day. I think that the whole House is greatly indebted to the noble Lord for the way in which he has handled this matter.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 25 [Prosecution and punishment of offences]:
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 are all consequential upon Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 to Clauses 19 and 20 that the House has just agreed. I therefore move them formally en bloc.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 20, line 1, leave out ("19(1) or (2) or section 20(1)") and insert ("19 ")
§ Page 20, line 7, leave out ("section 19(1) or (2) or section 20(I)") and insert ("that section ")
§ Page 20, leave out lines 11 to 22 and insert ("means the offence under this Act to which the attempt or, as the case may be, the incitement or attempted incitement mentioned in section 19 was directed.").(Lord Windlesham.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ 3.32 p.m.
LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 20, line 23, leave out subsections (4) and (5).
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment deals with a point that has not been previously raised in your Lord-'
ships House. Subsection (4) of Clause 25 provides:
In England and Wales a magistrates' court inquiring into an offence under this Act as examining justices shall not commit the person charged for trial without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions
except where the accused has elected to be tried by jury; and subsection (5) is a corresponding provision for Northern Ireland. These two subsections follow similar provisions in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965, which prohibit a person being proceeded against on indictment unless proceedings are instituted by or with the consent of the Attorney General or by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
§ To find the origin of this procedure we have to go back to 1923, to the Dangerous Drugs and Poisons (Amendment) Act of that year, when the problem of drug dependence and drug misuse in this country was totally different from what it is today. What was originally intended as an additional protection for an offender who did not merit more than summary punishment has now become a requirement which only too often operates against the interests of those charged with drug offences. Removal of these provisions could result in an accused person being committed for trial on indictment, with the higher penalties that that would entail, in a case which the Director of Public Prosecutions might have thought not to merit the higher penalties; but with the great increase in recent years in the number of prosecutions for drug offences and the consequent increase in the experience of the courts and police in handling them, the significance of this possibility is now considerably less than it was when the provision first appeared in 1923. It is considered unlikely that the removal of these provisions would appreciably affect the number of drug cases committed on indictment.
§ In a debate on the Report stage of the Bill in another place, the Member for Wimbledon, Mr. Havers, moved an Amendment to leave out subsection (4) of Clause 25. The honourable and learned Member, with support from both sides of the House, pointed out that as the number of drug offences continues to grow it becomes increasingly unlikely that the Director of Public Prosecutions can investigate each one of them. Everyone interested in the administration of 25 justice is concerned about the long delays between committal and trial; and Members in another place felt that an Amendment on these lines would help to minimise delays by cutting out some cumbersome procedure without adversely affecting in any way the position of the accused.
§ In reply, the Solicitor General undertook to look again at this clause. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has now received the advice of the Law Officers on this point and there have also been consultations with the Government of Northern Ireland. As a result of this further consideration, the Government have come to the conclusion that this provision is not necessary and accordingly I have tabled this Amendment in your Lordships' House to-day. I beg to move.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, I am sorry to have to strike what might be a jarring note in this very harmonious atmosphere, but I must register a strong objection both to the timing and the content of this particular Amendment. With regard to the timing, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, would readily admit that it has appeared at a very late stage in our deliberations. He himself reminded us that it was not raised in the Committee stage during the three days of Committee discussion in this House; nor was it discussed in any detail in another place, for it was not raised once during their "one and a half" Committee stages on this Bill although the clause had been put forward by two successive Governments.
As the noble Lord quite rightly said, it was discussed only very briefly and in the early hours of the morning on the Report stage in another place immediately preceding the Third Reading of the Bill and the honourable Member who moved the Amendment did so in an attempt to reduce the possible delays it might cause in cases being heard. I hope the House would agree that I should be the last person to wish for lengthy remands—and particularly remands in custody—but on that occasion the Solicitor General, replying to the discussion on the Amendment said:In view of the high penalties which the Bill provides for the major offences, it makes sense to preserve the requirement for the 26 Directors' consent to committal. It is on that basis that the truncated, emaciated version of the 1923 provision survives in the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 9/12/70; col. 602.]A little later, in the same speech, he went on to say:There is this residual need for some control on committal in the serious case which might not survive if this provision were to disappear altogether.As I understand from the explanation we had from the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, when moving it, this particular Amendment would remove this control altogether. During our lengthy Committee stage several noble Lords—
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Baroness? I am sure that she would not wish to give a misleading impression. Her quotation was accurate; but the Solicitor General ended by undertaking to look again at this particular point.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, I apologise for not mentioning that. I was only anxious not to detain the House by very lengthy quotations. The Solicitor General did agree to look at the matter; but, in my view, if the Government, having looked at the matter, were in favour of putting down an Amendment on the lines of that tabled to-day, they should have brought it before the House sooner; they should not have tabled it at a time when our conventions and customs preclude us from considering it in some detail. Moreover, the delays due to the postal strike resulted in many of us not seeing this Amendment until it was included in the Marshalled List which, I believe, was published last Friday but which I myself did not see until yesterday evening.
My Lords, turning to the content of the Amendment, we know from our earlier discussions that several noble Lords are concerned about the level of penalties provided for in this Bill. They are very high indeed, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, himself referred to this particular point when introducing the Bill on Second Reading. We are all conscious of the level of penalties. This, I am sure, was the reason why the Government and their predecessors originally included the continuation of this particular control in the Bill. Furthermore, the Sub-Committee on Drug Dependence of which my 27 noble friend Lady Wootton was Chairman, in paragraph 89 recommended:The existing provision under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965 whereby proceedings on indictment are subject to the fiat of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be retained.I am sorry that my noble friend Lady Wootton is not here to tell us in greater detail why the Committee made that particular recommendation which I believe was unanimous and was accepted to the point that it was included in both the original and the successor Bill.
I should therefore like to ask the noble Lord whether he would be prepared to consider withdrawing this Amendment to-day and possibly re-submitting it at a later stage. This would give us more time to consider its implications and possible repercussions. I hope that he will agree to this now in the light of what I have said. Otherwise, I personally should not feel able to agree to this Amendment at this particular moment of time and I hope that my noble friends will support me in this view.
§ LORD FOOT
My Lords, I should like to give what support I can to what has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Serota. I have not yet made up my mind whether it is right or wrong to take this provision out of the Bill, but I think it would be a great mistake if the House were to allow this Amendment to go through, and this provision to be deleted from the law, in face of the opinion expressed by Lady Wootton's Committee that it ought to stand. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said just now that the requirement that the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be obtained before a person could be committed for trial on an offence of this kind was originally introduced into the law as long ago as 1923. He said that the situation had changed considerably since then and that there were many more cases. But it has to be borne in mind that in the consolidating Act of 1965, only six years ago, it was not thought fit to delete this provision from the law. So as recently as that it was decided proper to keep it in. Does the noble Lord contend that there has been some change between the situation in 1965 and the present day as to the number of cases or the nature of the cases to justify cutting out now what was 28 deliberately kept in the law in the Act of 1965?
The other question I should like to ask is this. The noble Lord said that if it is necessary always to get the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions before you can commit somebody to trial, it will mean delay in people's being brought to trial. If that is to be argued, ought not the noble Lord to be prepared to tell the House what is the Home Office experience? Have difficulties been created. Have the Home Office looked into this matter and investigated in what number of cases delay has been involved as a result of requiring the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions? I would support what the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, has said. In this situation we ought to be given the opportunity of looking at the matter more closely before we make a decision; and it would be appropriate, as the noble Baroness suggested, if the Amendment were put on one side now and discussed at a later stage when we have all had an opportunity of considering it.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend. What is the position of the examining magistrates? The police decide to bring a case—they may, or may not, have consulted the Director of Public Prosecutions—and it comes before the examining magistrates. Before they can commit to trial they have to obtain the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. In a case of this description, when the police decide to prosecute, if in doubt they normally consult the Director of Public Prosecutions. The examining magistrates hear the case in outline and then decide whether they should allow the case to go to trial or to adjourn it on the lines indicated by this paragraph. Surely that is a cumbersome and unnecessary type of procedure, and it would be much better to let the normal course of a magistrates' court operate than to have two half-way stages.
Furthermore, the individual concerned, if he comes before examining magistrates, will have to indicate there and then whether he desires to be tried by a jury. That may not come out until the preliminaries have taken place, and may lead to considerable confusion as to what the magistrates should do. It is far too cumbersome, and I hope the noble Lord will take it back with a view to having another 29 look at it to see whether he can meet this particular type of objection.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I appreciate that this Amendment is an important one and that it appears late in the passage of the Bill through Parliament. It is not the case, as the noble Baroness suggested, that the Amendment appeared only in the Marshalled List. It was printed on February 25, so it has been available for some time.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? The last thing I wanted to do was to mislead the House on this matter, and that is why I deliberately checked up this morning in the Printed Paper Office, where I was assured that it did not appear until it was transferred straight into the Marshalled List.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, we shall have to clarify that point between us. My own memory is that it was introduced in the first of the three lists. I have during the course of this debate checked again, and the information that I have is that it was printed on February 25. But let us not pursue that point; I accept that the Amendment appears late in our proceedings, and it is for that reason that I gave a rather full explanation of it. In tabling this Amendment, the Government were well aware that the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, in paragraph 89 of her Report on Cannabis, recommended that this particular procedure—the need to obtain the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions—should be retained. At the same time, we have to recall that the police, in practice, are not likely to prosecute a case on indictment unless they are really sure that there is adequate evidence to warrant such an action. If they are in any doubt, whether or not there is a statutory provision requiring them to do so they frequently do consult the Director of Public Prosecutions.
For these reasons, it seems to us that the removal of this obligation from Clause 25 would be unlikely to make much difference in practice. What we have to consider are the bureaucratic arguments for going through this procedure and obtaining the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, as against the delay that is likely to occur (it may not be the only factor, but it is a contributory factor) between the first 30 hearing in the magistrates' court and committal to the higher court.
But having said that, I see no reason why I should not accept the course that has been suggested by the noble Baroness, with support from noble Lords who have spoken. This debate has been a useful one for the Government. As was rightly pointed out, when it was considered in another place it was late at night and I think only three honourable Members spoke in addition to the Solicitor General. Therefore, without giving any undertaking at this stage, I will withdraw the Amendment so that we can consider the matter again, if appropriate, on Third Reading.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, since my noble friend Lady Serota has no right to speak a second time, I should like on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House to thank the noble Lord for the step he has taken. I am certain that it is the right one, and it gives an opportunity for all noble Lords to consider the matter I can assure the noble Lord that when the Amendment is re-presented on Third Reading we shall deal with it expeditiously.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.