HL Deb 25 October 1990 vol 522 cc1639-41

172A That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 172.

Lord McCluskey

rose to move, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 172.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, there

is a song which contains the words: It is a long, long time from May to September". However, there appear to be six months from May to October, according to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. That surprises me, but it is due no doubt lo the lateness of the hour or perhaps the fact that he puts his calendar back a month at a time. I trust that I am right in thinking that the relevant period is five months.

I beg to move that the House do disagree with the

Commons in their Amendment No. 172. Clause 51 which is to be summarily left out is a splendid clause which ought to be included in the Bill. It is a reform of a miscellaneous provisions character. It is the clause which inserted into the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975 provision for the Secretary of State by order to make an experimental income-based fines order. That system is already carried out to some extent in Scotland under common law power. Moreover, so far as I know, it has not been successfully challenged. However, this would have been a statutory basis for it. At present it is being used by one or two sheriffs.

The matter was debated in this House and, I

believe, it met with universal approval. It is a tragedy that an excellent and useful clause which would have provided an extra dimension to the powers of the court has been lost for reasons which have not been satisfactorily explained. It is a situation which I regret.

Moved, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 172.—(Lord McCluskey.)

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, I rise to say briefly that I totally agree with everything my noble and learned friend has said; indeed, he said it much better than I could ever have done. I utterly support his views.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, I rise also simply to express my support for the Motion of the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am in grave

danger of joining that consensus, but perhaps I should avoid so doing. When we first dealt with the matter there was no disagreement. However, that is a price which has had to be paid, at least for the time being, because of the difficulties which arose in another place. It certainly would have been a most useful experiment to introduce. But I have no doubt that there will be a future occasion on which to introduce it.

Lord McCluskey

My Lords, I wonder whether I can persuade the noble and learned Lord to change his mind. I understand that those who were on the Committee in another place—that is, the first Standing Committee—and who objected to different parts of the Bill were entitled in such a Chamber to bargain with the Government through the usual channels and say, "We do not like this clause; it must come out". Furthermore, I do not believe that anyone objected to this clause. The Government appear to have sacrificed the clause for one reason only, and that was in order to save time. I believe that if the Lord Advocate were bold enough to accept my amendment, the Commons would instantly agree to it and the clause could go back into the Bill.

Why does the noble and learned Lord not stand up for his rights, as it were, and insist upon this excellent clause going back into the Bill? I am quite certain that it would take two minutes in another place to deal with the matter. When one considers all the preparation, debate and eloquence that has flowed from these Benches today, at least something would have been achieved, if only to save this excellent clause, Clause 51. Would the Lord Advocate accept that modest proposal?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I regret that there are two flaws in the argument of the noble and learned Lord: first, I am not bold enough, but, more to the point, I doubt whether the matter would be as swiftly and expeditiously dealt with in another place as the noble and learned Lord has suggested. There is certainly a strong argument that the clause should have been left for consideration, but at this very late stage, when the matter was not before another place either in an extended Committee or on Report, there is very little prospect of that happening.

Lord McCluskey

My Lords, with sadness, I beg leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 172.—(Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

9 p.m.