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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Volume 534: debated on Monday 31 October 2011

I beg to move,

That the Order of 29 June 2011 (Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Order shall be omitted.

2. Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading shall be concluded in three days.

3. Proceedings on Consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

4. The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.



Time for conclusion of proceedings

Amendments to, and new Clauses and new

Schedules relating to, Clauses 7 and 8 and Schedule 1.

10.00 pm on the first day

New Clauses and new Schedules relating

to sentences of imprisonment or detention for public protection, life sentences,

extended sentences and the release and recall of extended sentence prisoners.

6.00 pm on the second day

New Clauses and new Schedules relating

to referral fees; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to fines on conviction

in magistrates’ courts.

8.00 pm on the second day

New Clauses and new Schedules relating

to section 76 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008; new Clauses and

new Schedules relating to squatting.

10.00 pm on the second day

New Clauses and new Schedules relating

to, and amendments to, Part 1 (other than Clauses 7 and 8 and Schedule 1); new

Clauses and new Schedules relating to, and amendments to, Part 2; remaining new

Clauses; remaining new Schedules; amendments to Parts 3 and 4; remaining

proceedings on Consideration.

6.00 pm on the third day

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 pm on the third day.

I wish to declare, for the purposes of this motion, Report and Third Reading, all relevant disclosures made in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and the ministerial register. In particular, I mention any interest that I may have as a non-practising solicitor who has not received any payment under the legal aid scheme, and my brother-in-law’s ownership of two claims management companies in which I have no financial interest. May I also declare any interest I may have in the insurance sector? My investment holdings are in the hands of a blind trust, and although I do not know what they are, I know that they did include—and therefore might possibly still include—a minority share in the Lloyds Djanogly Family LLP and various other insurance and financial shareholdings as declared by me in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests at the start of this Parliament.

I will briefly introduce the motion. First, I wish to thank the Committee members, many of whom are here today, for the robust debate in Committee and the detailed scrutiny that they gave to the Bill. I look forward to their continued input to the debate over the next three days, which I am sure will be as comprehensive and informed as it was throughout our proceedings. In the 18 Committee sittings, we made excellent progress through this very significant Bill. We managed to consider all 119 clauses and 16 schedules without the use of knives or too many late sittings, and we still managed to finish early on the last day. Given that the Opposition called 47 Divisions, that was a particularly impressive achievement.

There are some considerable Government amendments to get through, and I accept that it is unusual to be adding new topics to a Bill at this stage, but the Justice Secretary explained the reason for that in the previous debate. However, three days on Report will provide adequate time to debate the amendments thoroughly. It is unusual to have three days on Report—indeed, this is the first time that this Government have made three days available for debate on Report. I hope that the additional time will be seen as reflecting our ongoing commitment to the thorough scrutiny of the Bill, and that it will be welcomed by all Members on both sides of the House. We have inserted a few knives—namely, on the second day—to ensure that we have proper time to debate the Government’s new clauses on extended determinate sentences, referral fees, fines, self-defence and squatting. I believe that the motion gives the House plenty of time to debate these matters thoroughly, and we look forward to the forthcoming debate.

I thank the Minister for his declaration of interest.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) talked about a Christmas tree Bill with baubles being added all the time. The Bill has 120 clauses and 18 schedules. At the eleventh hour, as the Christmas tree is being cut down to be taken to the other place, more baubles are being added: 17 Government new clauses, five Government new schedules and 84 Government amendments. During debate today, tomorrow and on Wednesday, many important issues of substance will arise, which our constituents believe are worthy of debate before a vote: domestic violence; clinical negligence; social and welfare law, including unemployment, debt and welfare housing; the abolition of indeterminate sentences to protect the public; the change in the laws relating to life sentencing and to referral fees; the criminalisation of squatting; the clarification of the law on self-defence; and the new extended determinate sentences. There are also changes in the law relating to disclosure of information, knife crime and bail.

On knife crime, I do not know whether my right hon. Friend saw the Lord Chancellor’s helpful and entertaining evidence to the Select Committee on Home Affairs when he seemed to reject the idea of mandatory sentences for knife crime for those aged under 18? That was changed within 24 hours. Does my right hon. Friend accept that we need sufficient time to debate that important change? We welcome it, but it would be good to know what is behind the Government’s thinking.

I underscore the important contribution from my right hon. Friend, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee. When we discuss knife crime on Wednesday, we will also discuss legal aid, litigation funding and costs, sentencing, bail, and release and recall of prisoners. The suggestion that we can have anything like the substantive debate that our constituents demand is folly.

To assist the right hon. Gentleman in his preparation for the debate on knife crime, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee will recall that I was particularly hostile to mandatory sentences for young children. The Order Paper includes an amendment tabled by the official Opposition on mandatory six-month sentences for 12-year-olds and above. I do not think anything I said to the Select Committee should encourage the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) to think I will agree with him when we come to that subject.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is so happy to have a debate, why is he so scared? Let us have proper time for the debate. Let us set aside time for it, and discuss the matter. Let us not have knives in the programme motion. Why is he running away? Let us have the debate, at any time, in any place—[Interruption.] We have no choice but to press the programme motion to a Division. It is important that the other place sees what happens in this Chamber. The Government claim that they want debate, but when it comes to important issues of huge significance to our constituents, what do they do? They run away.

We should recognise that the Government have been unusually generous in providing more time for Report and Third Reading than I remember under any other Labour or Tory Government. There may be Government amendments that are significant in content and import, but it is partly up to us to ensure that we proceed expeditiously.

As there is a motion on the Order Paper to allow the end of the debate to be put back a bit, would the Government be sympathetic to doing that if we could get through all four groups of amendments by extending our proceedings slightly by, say, half an hour? The last group includes important matters of substance that I hope we reach, because it is important to debate them.

The right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) mentioned various changes that have been proposed by the Government and the longer Bill that has resulted. We are not denying that, and that is why we have provided the third day. It was good to see the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) recognising that. The right hon. Member for Tooting says, “Any time, any place,” and that is today, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Question put.