§ 11.15 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Lord Bach)
rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 12th March be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak also to the Justices and Justices' Clerks (Costs) Regulations 2001. These regulations have been considered in another place and a Motion to approve was passed on 27th March 2001.
Section 102 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 inserts Section 2A into the Taxes Management Act 1970 which prevents a court ordering a general commissioner to pay the costs in any proceedings in respect of an act or omission of a general commissioner in the execution or purported execution of his duty. That immunity does not apply where a general commissioner is being tried for an offence, is appealing against a conviction or acted in bad faith. Where the court is prevented from making such an order against a general commissioner, the court may instead order the making by the Lord Chancellor of a payment in respect of the costs of a person in the proceedings.
539 In parallel, Section 98(1) of the Access to Justice Act inserts Section 53A into the Justices of the Peace Act 1997 which makes similar provisions in respect of justices and their clerks. Section 53A will prevent the court from making an order against a justice in respect of any act or omission of his in the execution or purported execution of his duty or a justice's clerk when exercising, by virtue of any statutory provision, any functions of a single justice. As is the case with general commissioners, where the court is prevented from making such an order, the court may instead order the making by the Lord Chancellor of a payment in respect of the costs of a person in the proceedings. That immunity against costs does not apply where a justice or a justice's clerk is being tried for an offence, is appealing against a conviction or acted in bad faith.
The regulations, each containing the same provisions, provide first that an order for payment of costs by the Lord Chancellor cannot be made in respect of the costs of a public authority. Secondly, when such an order has been made, they make detailed provision for how the costs shall be determined. The Justices and Justices' Clerks (Costs) Regulations 2001 apply in England and Wales. Northern Ireland will shortly be making its own regulations that are subject to the negative resolution procedure.
The General Commissioners of Income Tax (Costs) Regulations 2001 apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland will be making its own regulations separately. Noble Lords will be pleased to hear that I do not propose to go through each regulation, as they mainly concern detailed provision about the determination of costs. In outline, they provide that a costs order cannot be made in favour of a public authority and, where a court orders that the Lord Chancellor makes a payment in respect of a person in the proceedings, they detail how costs shall be determined.
In my view these regulations are compatible with the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. I commend the regulation to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 12th March be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Bach.)
My Lords, it is right that we should examine these regulations. I have looked at what was said in the other place. This is rather like occasions many years ago when I was at the Bar, when one was instructed in court simply to say, "I agree", or "I have no objection", except that on those occasions one might even be paid a fat fee. I suppose that here one might say that one can collect somewhat modest expenses for turning up on a Friday morning.
It seems to me that there is no objection to the reegulations. I hope that they will be accepted.
On Question, Motion agreed to.