§ 10 Clause 20, page 16, line 2, at end insert—
§ '(4A) The magistrates' court inquiring into an offence as examining justices is also competent, before it decides whether or not to commit the person for trial, as respects any proceedings before the Crown Court on his trial.'.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10. This amendment inserts into the Bill what is currently provided for under Section 2(1) of the Legal Aid Act 1982. It allows magistrates' courts to make only one legal aid order at committal proceedings which will cover both those proceedings and the defendant's trial in the Crown Court, should the magistrates' court decide to commit him there.
These through legal aid orders, as they are called, were introduced to assist early preparation of cases by solicitors and to enable counsel's advice to be taken early where necessary. This is advantageous to the solicitor and, most important, advantageous to the client. It also assists the court. It reduces administrative work in the magistrates' court and preparation should lead to improvements in the reliability of the information supplied to the Crown court for listing purposes and reduce the number of wasteful late changes of plea. For these reasons, I seek to retain this provision.
I believe that all your Lordships will agree that it is most important that preparation should proceed early and that last-minute changes of plea should, if possible, be avoided.
§ Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.