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Criminal Justice and Courts Bill: Carry-over Extension

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2015

I beg to move,

That the period on the expiry of which proceedings on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill shall lapse in pursuance of paragraph (13) of Standing Order No. 80A shall be extended by 54 days until 30 March 2015.

As we have just concluded a debate on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, I shall keep my remarks brief. This carry-over Bill was introduced on 5 February 2014, and as set out in Standing Order No. 80A, proceedings on such a Bill will lapse 12 months from the date of its First Reading. That date is fast approaching, and although I am confident that the sensible package of amendments that the Government have offered and the House has today accepted will meet the reservations of the other place, now seems to be a sensible juncture to extend the time that we have available, as a precaution.

As hon. Members are aware, the Bill makes wide-ranging reforms to the justice system and contains targeted provisions designed to protect the public better and to reduce reoffending. The Bill has at its heart a vision of a more robust and fair justice system. With proper progress in both Houses, I am confident that we can reach Royal Assent in the coming weeks, not least by 30 March, so that the important provisions in the Bill make it on to the statute book.

This is a significant Bill; there are even parts of it with which we agree. We are pleased that both Houses have had an extended opportunity to debate its controversial parts and have made clear on numerous occasions their opposition to part 4, particularly the provisions on judicial review, and those on secure colleges.

There is a slight irony in the fact that when the carry-over motion to bring the Bill into this Session was first proposed, we thought the reason the Government were doing that with this and some other Bills was that there was so little legislation in this Session and they were trying to pack it out. Well, this Bill has certainly fulfilled its role. It has had such a chequered existence, ping-ponged between the Houses because of the appalling proposals in part 4 in particular, that the Minister can be satisfied that it has at least made this zombie Parliament look slightly less sleepy.

Like the Minister, I do not intend to detain the House. We have made our arguments. I of course hope that the carry-over motion is necessary because the Members of the other place will be batting the Bill back here for a third attempt. Obviously the Government fear that, too, or they would not be looking so anxiously at the time running out on the Bill. We will not oppose the motion.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do not intend to engage in the same badinage that I did with Madam Deputy Speaker last night.

We wait ages for a carry-over extension and then three of them come along at once. The questions we need to ask ourselves were asked last night by my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) and by me. However, I do not intend to detain the House for as long tonight because Members can read our contributions in yesterday’s Hansard.

I have been chided for being a little charitable to the Government Chief Whip in the litany of those who are responsible for this. Basically, there are two driving forces behind these carry-overs. One is that the Government will not accept the sensible, reasonable and just amendments made in the other place. We saw that last night when they sided with the ticket touts against the fans of sport and music. The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) looks up. He will be accountable to the football and music fans in his constituency in May for siding with their exploiters rather then with them. The Government did not accept those amendments and that again seems to be the case tonight. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter) said, we hope that they finally see reason in the intervening period.

The second reason is that we have an almost unique collection of people who do not understand the business of this House and the other place. Therefore, we see a series of difficulties resulting from the failure to deal properly with procedure. For example, I understand that the next carry-over resolution that is due was passed some 10 months ago in the House, and one has to ask what the Government have been doing since then. It has been patently obvious during the last few months that there is very little serious Government business, but they do not seem to be able to pull it together. It may be the result of all the internal tensions and difficulties of this ill-starred coalition coming together as the election approaches, or perhaps they do not have much of a programme and do not know what to do about it. But it is clear to the House, and it will become increasingly clear to the public, that they do not have a clue, and these carry-over motions are part of that. They have not run the business properly up to now, but it is probably as well to let them through because at least we will have something to do during the next couple of months.

Question put and agreed to.