Monday, 17 November 2008.
The Committee met at half-past three.
[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Pitkeathley) in the Chair.]
Before the Minister moves that the first statutory instrument be considered, I remind noble Lords that in the case of each order before the Committee the Motion will be that the Committee do consider the order in question. I should make it clear that the Motion to approve the order will be moved in the Chamber in the usual way. I also remind your Lordships that, should there be a Division in the Chamber, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.
European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (2006 International Tropical Timber Agreement) Order 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (2006 International Tropical Timber Agreement) Order 2008.
The noble Lord said: This order covers the ratification of the 2006 International Tropical Timber Agreement. The agreement, approved on 27 January 2006, provides for the governance of the International Tropical Timber Organisation.
The objectives of the 2006 ITTA are to promote the expansion and diversification of international trade in tropical timber from sustainably managed and legally harvested forests and to promote the sustainable management of tropical timber-producing forests.
The ITTO is a small organisation. Its 60 members represent about 80 per cent of the world’s tropical forests and 90 per cent of the global tropical timber trade. It is based in Yokohama, Japan, and here I pay tribute to the generosity of the Government of Japan in hosting the ITTO.
The ITTO was established at a time when there was increasing concern about the fate of tropical forests and when it was recognised that, unless tropical forests could provide a significant income to the countries in which they were found, they would be cut down and replaced by agriculture.
The ITTO pioneered ways of measuring the sustainability of the management of forests, and this led to the development of certification schemes. Some 320 million hectares of the world’s forests have now been certified as sustainably managed. Most of these forests are in Europe and North America, where the governance of forests is strong, not least because the institutions, like our own Forestry Commission, are strong.
In Africa and Asia, only 0.1 per cent of forests have been certified as sustainably managed. Problems of poor governance and underinvestment in the capacity to manage and regulate forests have held back many tropical developing countries. The ITTO can help to build that capacity with the information, technical guidance and training that it provides, as well as with project funding.
Since it became operational in 1987, the ITTO has funded more than 800 projects at a cost of $300 million. Project funding has not always been well focused and had become out of step with the approaches to funding favoured by development agencies.
The 2006 ITTA recognises this and provides for new thematic programmes which will focus efforts on a small number of priorities, such as forest law enforcement and governance, forests and climate change, and community forest management and enterprises. In making available to its members up-to-date information about prices from around the world, ITTO’s market information service helps reduce the transfer pricing that used to plague the tropical timber trade.
ITTO has been responsive to the suggestions of civil society and private sector advisory groups by, for example, championing the development of community-based forest enterprises. It has been active in promoting the restoration of degraded forests as part of the Global Partnership for Forest Landscape Restoration, to which the UK Forestry Commission lends its support.
The 2006 ITTA remains focused on the sustainable management of tropical forests and the trade in tropical timber, but builds on previous agreements by focusing future work on new priorities and better ways of working. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (2006 International Tropical Timber Agreement) Order 2008. 30th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Tunnicliffe.)
I apologise to the Minister, first, for my own absence when he started to speak, and secondly, possibly more properly, for whichever of my colleagues was supposed to speak to the order. However, I have listened to most of what the Minister said and I do not want to pose any questions to him, for which he will no doubt be grateful. I welcome the order.
I welcome the Minister’s statement. Although it is technical, it represents a broad and important area of government and global policy on sustainable forests, rainforests and climate change. There have in the past been certification schemes for timber coming into this country which have failed many of the tests, but we now have new schemes—the Forest Stewardship Council and the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification—that have been much more successful. I was struck particularly by the Minister’s statistic that although the agreement has had a major impact in Europe and North America, only a pathetic 0.1 per cent of forests had been certified as sustainably managed in Asia, where the real challenges lie. We know that Indonesia’s deforestation accounts for something like 3 per cent to 5 per cent of total carbon emissions per annum. I am not sure about the situation in South America. Does the agreement have anything other than a cosmetic effect on what we are trying to achieve, and how can it be made better? It is a great and worthy initiative which we all want to make far better, but in reality it has such a marginal effect on sustainable forests that we should say, “Great, get on with this—but now we really need to get on with the real job”.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his points. This is an important issue. Deforestation accounts for 17 per cent of world CO2, which is more than that from all the world’s transport emissions. It is crucial that we tackle it. Recent work has suggested that, by 2020, we could halve it with the right investment, and that, by 2030, we could probably go to a carbon-neutral forestry environment. Those are worthwhile objectives.
The agreement sustains and redirects the ITTO. That is important because the ITTO has achieved a number of things during the past 20 years. It is about creating standards to describe what sustainability is about and an information system that makes the world markets much more transparent. We need those as essential building blocks in the sort of very big initiatives that will be needed by the world as a whole to tackle this problem—and it is a problem that we must solve. For instance, the UK Government are working with the European Commission on a diligence regulation that will require traders in timbers to adopt certain standards in certificating reports, and so on. That can happen only on the basis of the ITTO’s work in the past. The basis of the ITTO’s work in future will be to maintain those facilities and to move to much more directed and thematic operations. So it is right to approve the order.
Although we should not underrate the value of the ITTO, bigger initiatives will be needed to tackle this large problem. Of the various carbon challenges, however, this is the most obviously solvable, provided that we get the right international momentum.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
International Organization for Migration (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the International Organization for Migration (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2008.
The noble Lord said: The draft order will confer the legal capacities of a body corporate and privileges and immunities upon the International Organisation for Migration—the IOM. The draft order also confers privileges and immunities on representatives of the states parties, the director-general and officials of the organisation. These privileges and immunities are conferred in accordance with the co-operation agreement with the IOM which was signed on behalf of the United Kingdom on 6 July 2006.
The co-operation agreement between the UK and the IOM is similar to other agreements entered into by the UK with other international organisations having their headquarters or other offices in the UK—for example the International Maritime Organisation, the Commonwealth Secretariat or the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. By conferring on the IOM the legal capacity of a body corporate, the order allows the IOM to have the legal capacity of a body corporate to assist with its day-to-day dealings in the UK—for example, to contract, acquire and dispose of immovable and moveable property and to institute legal proceedings.
The privileges and immunities to be accorded to the IOM and specified categories of individuals connected with the organisation are similar to those routinely granted to this type of international organisation with offices in the UK. The provisions in the order have been closely scrutinised by the relevant departments, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and have been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Merits Committee of this House. The privileges and immunities to be accorded to the IOM are the minimum necessary to enable the organisation to function effectively in the UK.
Noble Lords may have an interest in the extension of immunity from being sued and legal process to staff working for the IOM. I draw their attention to Article 10(1)(a) of the order, which limits the immunity for all IOM staff, except the Head of Office, to,
“acts done or omitted to be done in the course of the performance of official duties”.
Article 11(1) of the co-operation agreement also states that the privileges and immunities provided for individuals,
“are granted solely to ensure the unimpeded functioning of the Organisation and the complete independence of the persons to whom they are accorded. They are not granted for the personal benefit of the individuals concerned”.
Noble Lords will wish to be aware that the total number of IOM staff in the UK is currently 82. The order being considered today therefore does not provide a large increase in the number of individuals enjoying privileges and immunities in the UK, which is currently around 24,000.
The order also exempts the IOM and its staff from certain taxes; for example, income tax. Again, this is a normal provision with such orders, as exemption from taxation is based on the principle that no member state of such an international organisation should derive undue fiscal benefit from the funds subscribed to the organisation by all its members. Taxation of the IOM, or its staff salaries, would run counter to that general principle.
Managed migration remains a key priority for the Government at home and overseas. The global environment is challenging: there are 200 million migrants worldwide, and the number is increasing. Our task is to make migration work for Britain, creating borders that are open to those who bring skills, talent, business and creativity, yet closed to those who might cause us harm or seek to enter illegally.
The IOM is headquartered in Geneva. It was founded in 1951 as an intergovernmental organisation to resettle European displaced persons, refugees and migrants. Its mission now is no less important than it was then—to ensure that those forced from their countries by the horror of war can be provided with immediate practical solutions, humanitarian assistance and resettlement or return.
The IOM currently has 125 member states, with a further 16 states and 74 international and non-governmental organisations holding observer status. It has offices and operations on every continent, with 5,600 staff members serving in more than 400 field locations in more than 100 countries. It is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration in partnership with Governments and migrants. As a key partner for Governments and non-governmental organisations it helps support and facilitate return and reintegration arrangements, running suitably structured projects in priority countries.
What does the IOM do for us? In close partnership with the FCO, the Department for International Development and the UK Border Agency, it makes a significant contribution to government objectives in supporting managed migration for the UK and in the wider international context. For example, it has been essential in developing and delivering the Government’s assisted voluntary return programmes. Since 1999, these programmes have enabled the return to their countries of origin of over 18,000 failed asylum seekers, and of over 2,600 illegal migrants since 2004. It has supported capacity-building in migration and border management for Ethiopian immigration authorities and recently assisted stranded migrants in Libya to return home to Ethiopia.
The IOM delivers reintegration assistance in countries of origin for foreign national prisoners returning under the facilitated returns scheme. This UK Border Agency programme has returned over 2,000 foreign national prisoners since it was introduced in October 2006.
The IOM is also a key partner in the delivery of the Gateway Protection Programme under which, working with the UNHCR, the UK Government accept and resettle refugees from camps abroad. It delivers the logistics of the programme, including medical screening, documentation and transportation. The organisation has also provided emergency assistance to vulnerable populations in Zimbabwe; information campaigns to prevent irregular migration in Afghanistan; enhanced border-control capacity in Cambodia; and emergency shelter and non-food item projects—such as clothing, bedding and household items and medical kit—in Burma in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.
The IOM is funded through contributions from member states. We contributed around $55 million in 2007 for operational programmes and approximately £1.35 million as our assessed contribution to IOM’s core budget, which is its administrative budget.
The order will allow the UK to comply with its international obligations in giving full effect to the privileges and immunities agreed in the co-operation agreement of which I spoke. This will enable the IOM to continue to develop its strong partnership with the UK. We are satisfied that the order is compatible with the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights, and I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the International Organization for Migration (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2008. 30th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Bach.)
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bach, for that clear exposition of the order but perhaps he could underline one point. In his introduction he made it clear that the order is intended to offer immunities and privileges only to IOM members based here in the United Kingdom for acts that are done, as he put it, in accordance with their proper duties, and that it is not intended for the personal benefit of individuals. The order does not offer the same sort of cover in terms of immunities as that enjoyed by full-scale diplomats based in the United Kingdom. I therefore take it that the order extends only to the 82 individuals working for the organisation here and not to members of their families or any others.
The Minister said that some 125 countries are members of the IOM, but he thought that more might join in due course. Is it likely that the number of people employed by the IOM in the United Kingdom will increase over the years, or will it remain at a relatively small figure for the foreseeable future?
This order takes me back to a Bill on international organisations that we considered in 2004—the first Bill that I was involved with. I should declare an interest, though I do not believe that it gives rise to a conflict of interest here. I was an officer of the staff association of the Commonwealth Secretariat, one of the organisations which the Minister mentioned in his explanation.
I have absolutely no qualms about our membership of the International Organisation for Migration or doubts about its usefulness or ability to resolve several areas of interest to us as a country. I was extremely pleased that we rejoined the organisation in 2001. My problem with introducing such statutory instruments is the plethora of international organisations granted this status. The Minister said that we routinely grant this status, and he is right; new organisations come along and we just grant it.
I should like to say a word or two about privileges and immunities.
There is a Division in the Chamber. The Committee therefore stands adjourned for 10 minutes.
[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 3.52 to 4.02 pm.]
As I was saying before the Division interrupted me in full flow, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, said that these privileges and immunities are granted routinely. In my experience, however, they are not routine. As employees of such organisations are often exempt from UK legislation, their working rights are severely diminished because they work for international bodies. Their rights and entitlements are different from those of their neighbours, the people they come to work with and live alongside. I find it extraordinary. Employees of these organisations cannot understand why the laws of the country in which they live do not apply to them and why they have lesser entitlements than others. The Minister commented on the rather generous contributions that we give to this organisation to cover operational and other core costs. Can he give a mild assurance that the Government will at least seek, through their membership of the board and their financial contributions, assurances that employment standards at the organisation will be maintained, or that there will be an attempt to bring employment standards into line with those to which we as citizens of the United Kingdom are entitled?
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, queried whether all 82 individuals will be entitled to these privileges, in particular an entitlement not to pay tax—I would argue that probably not all 82 will be entitled to it because it would apply to diplomatic status at a senior level—but can the Minister say whether only high officials of the organisation will be entitled to full diplomatic status and privileges, or all 82? If all 82 are entitled, that will have, if nothing else, a deleterious effect on the Exchequer.
I thank both noble Lords for their contributions. There is nothing unusual about what we are doing as far as the IOM is concerned. The representatives who would come from another country to work at the IOM and the head of mission here are given status comparable with what could be described as that of a diplomatic agent. They enjoy most personal immunity and diplomatic privileges, but other members of the organisation have immunity only in respect of their official acts, so there is a distinction. That limited immunity includes exemption from UK tax for all 82. On the principle that I outlined when introducing the order, a member country such as ours should not have the advantage of gaining membership money—which is what, if they had to pay tax, it would be—from those employed by it.
There is no immunity from criminal offences. In answer to a question that has not been asked, people would have to pay the congestion charge and would be liable for parking offences if they ever breached parking regulations, which I am sure they would not.
I hope that that answers the questions. I take the noble Baroness’s point; she has great experience in this field. But the good news is that this organisation does an excellent job. We are proud to be members of it, and the order simply confirms what the agreement of 2006 suggested.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2008.
The noble Lord said: The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 allows ex-offenders not to disclose spent convictions and thereby offers those who have criminal records but have turned away from crime a helping hand into employment. Research repeatedly shows that employment is key to reducing reoffending, and for this reason the Government are entirely committed to encouraging the rehabilitation of ex-offenders into employment. The Act also makes it unlawful to make an unauthorised disclosure of the details of such convictions.
However, hand in hand with this goes the need to protect the vulnerable and to assess a person’s suitability for work of a sensitive nature. The Act therefore grants power to the Secretary of State to exclude application of these general rules in relation to particular employers, bodies and proceedings. The rationale behind this is to ensure that employers and bodies offering positions, professions and licences of a more sensitive nature are able to assess an applicant’s full criminal history before making a decision. This power was exercised in 1975, when the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order came into effect. That order has been amended periodically to ensure that the criminal disclosure regime keeps pace with changes in employment and public risk.
The exceptions order sets out the categories of work to which the Act does not apply, including working with vulnerable groups and in certain other sensitive positions. In the positions and categories of work listed on the exceptions order, prospective workers are not entitled to conceal convictions, irrespective of whether they are spent, and the Criminal Records Bureau is permitted to release information on convictions, also regardless of whether they are spent.
This amendment order serves three substantive purposes, each of which is important and necessary. First, it updates definitions relating to childcare; secondly, it extends the scope of the exceptions order to cover cautions, reprimands and final warnings; and, thirdly, it adds a new category to the exceptions order, that of non-lawyer managers. I should like to address each of these in turn.
First, this instrument updates definitions related to childcare to bring them into line with recent legislation and to ensure that legislation from across Whitehall is consistent in this very important area; namely, the order changes the definitions of childminding and day care to make them consistent with the Childcare Act 2006. From 1 September 2008, childcare provision in England is regulated under Part 3 of the Act, and regulations made under it require enhanced CRB disclosures of those caring for children and others who may have contact with children on childcare premises. The exceptions order already enables those working with children to be subject to CRB disclosures, so there is no change to the scope of those covered; rather, it enables an existing scheme to be continued. In essence, this provision does little more than update a reference to an old piece of legislation and insert a reference to its successor. As such, I hope that it is an uncontroversial, if crucial, technical amendment.
The second feature of this amendment is that it extends the definition of conviction to include cautions, reprimands and final warnings. This will enable us to implement the corresponding provisions in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which some of us had the pleasure of seeing through the House. I should clarify from the start that the order has no impact whatever on the legal status of a caution, reprimand or warning, and that reclassifying them as convictions for the purpose of this order in no way escalates the seriousness of this disposal. Actually, it works in favour of those who have been issued with a caution, reprimand or final warning. Until now, the group of people issued with a minor disposal of this kind could never benefit from the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act because, as these disposals were not convictions, they were never spent. This was an obvious and serious inconsistency, and we hope that the provisions to amend the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which we now seek to implement, have the support of the Committee. However, before these provisions are implemented, it is essential that the exceptions order is updated in tandem. The reason, which I am sure is clear, is to ensure that, where there is good cause, cautions, reprimands and final warnings can still be disclosed under a full criminal records check.
Thirdly, the provision expands the list of sensitive positions which qualify for disclosure of spent conviction information to include the newly created position of non-lawyer “approved legal services body manager”. The Legal Services Act 2007 introduces reforms that will bring great benefits to consumers and the legal profession. However, it is essential that we do not allow the level of probity and integrity of the legal profession and the protection of consumers to be undermined. I remind the Committee that the Act will enable alternative business structures, allowing lawyers and non-lawyers to work together in new forms of business structures to provide a range of services. Full alternative business structures cannot come into force until the Legal Services Board, the new oversight regulator, is operational, which is expected in 2010. In the mean time, the Act enables a limited form of alternative business structure to emerge. These legal disciplinary practices will, for the first time, allow the collaboration of lawyers and non-lawyers in the ownership and control of law firms. Traditionally, a partner in a law firm was required to be either a solicitor or his equivalent, such as a registered foreign lawyer. The Solicitors Regulation Authority, the regulatory arm of the Law Society, plans to regulate these new forms of practice from March next year. This will of course be subject to the approval of rule changes necessary to regulate legal disciplinary practices.
Permitting non-lawyers to manage legal services bodies will place them in a sensitive position. They will potentially have access to sensitive client information and assets and will manage others with such access. They may also have access to the vulnerable individuals whom legal practices frequently represent. For these reasons, they must be assessed as suitable for such a position by the SRA, which will carry out the same vetting procedures for non-lawyer managers as they currently do for their lawyer counterparts.
This provision serves a simple purpose: to protect consumers of legal services and ensure that the recent reforms leave no loophole through which to escape the high standards or erode the public trust which characterises the legal profession. I hope the Committee will accept that there is nothing in the order that has not already been debated and approved by both Houses. However, it is essential that public protection keeps pace with other legislation, and for that reason the instrument serves an important purpose. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2008. 30th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Bach.)
I do not intend to talk about the merits of this new exception order, which I presume is one of a whole series of exception orders that have been put before the House since the original Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. However, as a former member of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, I should ask the Minister to address the point in the Explanatory Memorandum about the vires of the orders. They are dealt with in paragraphs 3.1 to 3.7, where the department confesses that it got wrong the drafting of the original 1974 Act—I presume that it was a Labour Government who passed it, but it has been around for a long time. The Ministry of Justice suggests in paragraph 3.7 that,
“it regrets the error, and will seek to correct the primary legislation at an early opportunity”.
Well, 1974 to 2008 is quite a long time. Will the Minister explain to the Committee—it is important that it is on the record—exactly what went wrong with the original drafting of the Act, why it was not spotted earlier, whether the department thinks that it has the powers to make the order and whether there is any doubt about the technical validity of any of the previous exception orders, of which there have been a number? The Minister said that the first order was made in 1975. As I said, I am perfectly happy about the merits of the order, but it is important that the Ministry of Justice gets the drafting of the legislation right. Back in 1974, of course, it was done by the Home Office. We hope that the department will seek, as it states, to correct that error in primary legislation at an early opportunity.
I have listened carefully to the Minister. The amendments in Article 3, which bring cautions, reprimands and final warnings into the scope of the exceptions order, are consequential to Section 49 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, which brought cautions within the scope of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. We supported that, saw it coming down the road and welcomed it when the Act was going through. I broadly welcome what is being done here, because we on these Benches have always argued for allowing these disposals to be spent in the spirit of rehabilitation—you cannot carry them with you for the rest of your life.
While I have the Minister trapped in the Room, perhaps I may move him on a little and ask him whether the Government are likely to implement the recommendations of the report of the review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, Breaking the Circle, which was published in 2002. This report recommended a new disclosure scheme, including—and this is why I raise the matter in this context—a clean sheet at the age of 18 to help young people to put behind them minor crimes committed in their youth. Can the Minister indicate whether that document is still alive and is being given consideration or whether it has gone by the wayside? We would wish to see many of its recommendations implemented.
Following my noble friend’s shrewdly judged introductory remarks on an order referring to convictions and concerning the processes of rehabilitation of offenders—that is, young people, men and women—in England and Wales, when will the justice department announce the location of new prisons? As to government plans for the north-west and Wales, where will the new prison or prisons be located? Will they be Titans or not, and how many will there be? How soon will Her Majesty’s Government’s decisions be announced—perhaps as part of an imminent capital building programme, perhaps next Monday? Can my noble friend deal with the queries I have raised?
I am grateful to the three noble Lords who have spoken. First, in answer to my noble friend Lord Jones, I cannot give a date when announcements will be made about the prisons. I pay tribute to his interest in this topic over many years and, when a decision is made, he will be the first to know. I am grateful for his interest in this order.
As to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, about the Act, we committed to reforming it following the recommendations set out in the document that she mentioned. We have since had to review the position in the light of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, which was based on the Bichard report recommendations. As she knows, that made significant changes to the disclosure landscape. We remain committed to reform but no time has been allocated to it in this Parliament and no timescale has yet been set. We agree that this legislation now needs to be brought up to date but I cannot give her any clue as to when that might be. The issue is alive, but whether or not it is kicking I am not sure.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, used his lawyer’s skill to put me on the spot about the misuse of the words “paragraph 3(3)” instead of “paragraph 3(2)”—or was it “paragraph 3(2)” instead of “paragraph 3(3)”?—but he makes an important point. However, let me put him right about one thing which I am sure will comfort him: this paragraph had nothing whatever to do with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It was first introduced in the 2008 Act and deals with the exception of cautions which, as the noble Lord knows, was not part of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act until this year. This is the first order made in relation to cautions and so there is no danger of any other amendment orders being ultra vires.
The JCSI, to its credit, found a drafting error in the primary legislative provision. The reference in the second line of paragraph 4(a) to “paragraph 3(2)” should be to “paragraph 3(3)”. The erroneous cross-reference has arisen because paragraph 3(2) was inserted after the original draft clauses were drafted and the cross-reference has not been updated to reflect that. The JCSI is of the opinion, as is the department, that this is a clear case of a simple drafting error. The reference can be properly read as referring to paragraph 3(3) and thus provides the proper vires for this order. The noble Lord will be glad to hear that when the opportunity arises we will correct the drafting error. Parliamentary counsel are, as we speak, making inquiries as to whether the House authorities might be willing to issue a correction slip, given that the error is clearly a mere typographical error. I hope that it will not be necessary to debate the issue.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (Amendment) Order 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (Amendment) Order 2008.
The noble Lord said: The last decade has seen a complete reform of the way in which the justice system deals with young people who offend. At every stage of the process, the Government have introduced measures aimed at steering the young person away from offending behaviour and into more worthwhile and positive activities. At the pre-court stage there are now, depending on the seriousness of the offence, a range of alternatives to prosecution in the criminal courts for those under 18, which involve principally reprimands and warnings. When the young person does go to court, we have introduced the referral order and a new range of community interventions, which will be replaced with and, I believe, improved by, the youth rehabilitation order under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. When custody is unavoidable, we have brought in the new two-part custodial/community order, the detention and training order; and we have transformed custodial provision for under-18s, setting up discrete custodial estates for boys, in 2000, and girls, in 2006.
At the heart of all these changes has been the Youth Justice Board; it was established by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 with a wide remit to advise the Secretary of State on matters relating to youth justice. Its role was expanded in April 2000, when it assumed responsibility for purchasing and commissioning custodial places and general oversight of the secure estate for children and young people. Section 41(6)(b) of the Crime and Disorder Act provides that the Secretary of State may by order provide that any function of his which is exercisable in relation to the youth justice system shall be exercisable concurrently with the board. To enable the board to exercise effectively its new functions in relation to the secure estate, the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales Order 2000 designated a wide range of concurrent functions. These included, for example, power to contract for the provision and running of secure training centres and a number of the powers in the Secure Training Centre Rules relating to the day-to-day running of centres.
Secure training centres are not the only form of contracted-out secure accommodation in the under-18 estate. There are also two contracted-out young offender institutions—Ashfield, near Bristol, and Parc, near Bridgend. The contracts for these establishments have been managed by the Office for National Commissioning on behalf of the Secretary of State. In the case of Parc, we intend to continue that arrangement, as the establishment also accommodates young adults, by which I mean those aged 18 to 20, as well as adult offenders, although the Committee should be aware these offenders are kept separately from the under-18s. It makes sense for the ONC to retain the lead, with input from the Youth Justice Board on the management of the under-18 accommodation.
Ashfield is a different case, because it accommodates only those serving juvenile sentences and remanded young people under 18. We believe that the Youth Justice Board is better placed to oversee management of the contract of a purely under-18 establishment and the main immediate purpose of the order is to give the board the necessary powers to do that effectively. Article 2(3)(c) fulfils that purpose, among other things. In that article, the concurrent powers given to the board in respect of contracted-out young offender institutions mirror the powers which the board can exercise in relation to contracted-out secure training centres. It will of course enable the board to let and manage contracts for contracted-out young offender institutions.
The draft order also makes small additions to the concurrent powers that the board can exercise in relation to secure training centres. For instance, each centre is required to establish systems of privileges, incentives and sanctions appropriate to the classes of trainees and their ages, characters and circumstances. Each centre must also have a library and every trainee is allowed to have library books appropriate to his or her age and to exchange them. The systems of privileges, incentives and sanctions must be approved by the Secretary of State and the right to receive and exchange library books is subject to any directions he may give. These are operational functions for which the board is generally responsible and in relation to which it is well placed to exercise judgment.
The draft order also makes two changes to the board’s responsibilities for placing young people in custody. It already decides placements for the great majority of under-18s sentenced to custody—those who receive detention and training orders. The order will permit the board, additionally, to make placements of offenders sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure under Section 90 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and to long-term detention under Section 91 of that Act.
In addition, under subsection (7A) of Section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, young people whom the courts remand to the care of a local authority with a requirement that they be placed in secure accommodation may be placed in a secure training centre. Such placements at present require the Secretary of State’s consent. As the expertise on placements lies with the Youth Justice Board, it makes sense for the board to be able to give the necessary consent, so the order does this.
Article 3 of the draft order is very similar in effect to Article 2. It expands references to “the Secretary of State” in Rule 13 of the Young Offender Institution Rules, which specifies to whom the governor of a young offender institution may disclose certain information relating to trainees, so as also to refer to,
“an officer of the Youth Justice Board”.
We were advised that, as Rule 13 concerns the functions of the governor rather than of the Secretary of State, it was not a potentially concurrent function under Section 41(6) of the Crime and Disorder Act. It is therefore a consequential change. The effect of the change, however, is the same in that the information may be disclosed to the board in place of the Secretary of State.
Finally, the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales Order 2000 contains a number of references to provisions in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. These have subsequently been consolidated into the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. Paragraphs (1), (2) and (3)(a) and parts of paragraph (3)(c) of Article 2 update those references. Article 2(3)(b) makes a similar updating in relation to Section 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982, where the provisions have been consolidated into the Criminal Justice Act 2003. I commend the order to the Committee.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (Amendment) Order 2008. 29th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Patel of Bradford.)
I start by welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, to what I think are the first statutory instruments that he has put before a Committee. I also welcome him to Ministry of Justice affairs. I trust that he will enjoy it over the years, and I hope that he understands the proceedings as well as I sometimes do—if I do manage to understand them.
I have only one question for the noble Lord. He drew a distinction between Her Majesty’s Ashfield young offender institution, which the Youth Justice Board will be able to take on and in respect of which it will be able to do the job of the Secretary of State in due course, and Parc young offender institution. Parc is also contracted out but, because it also deals with over-18s, he stated that it would not be suitable to be looked after by the Youth Justice Board. If other young offender institutions were created in the future that were similar to Ashfield and not conducted on the same lines as Parc—that is, as part of an over-18 institution—would the Youth Justice Board also be able to take them on, would we need a further order at that point or would this order deal with that? I can see why the noble Lord draws a distinction between the two contracted-out institutions, Ashfield and Parc, but I want to know what the position would be for a second Ashfield, rather than a second Parc.
I, too, join in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, to his new role. Perhaps I may also thank him for the time he took last week, when we thought we would be discussing the order, to speak to me briefly about our concerns with it, or lack thereof, which is a perfectly valid interpretation to put on it as well. I do not have any great concerns with the order, but there are two or three things which I wonder whether I might be able to flesh out.
The Explanatory Memorandum to the order, as well as the Minister in his remarks, refers to Ashfield and explains how it is currently contracted out, but says that the Youth Justice Board wishes to take it under its remit. It says that it will be,
“more appropriate for management of the contract to transfer to the Board”.
That is vague terminology. For those of us familiar with the history of Ashfield—and it was only 2003 when the Youth Justice Board in shock and horror walked away from it, given its extremely alarming track record at that point in time—this seems to be rather cryptic. What does “more appropriate” for the management now mean? Why is it more appropriate now when it was not appropriate then?
Since we had a little bit of additional time, I took the trouble to look up the Ministry of Justice’s NOMS Nationally Commissioned Services annual report. The key performance targets for Ashfield show that of the targets missed, serious assaults cause most concern and continue to be actively monitored at the establishment. So there are still issues. We are not all there with Ashfield. Given the vagueness of how this provision is worded, and with the knowledge of Ashfield’s history, one wonders what is appropriate about doing this now.
Moreover, to be specific, in reading the literature around this, I cannot see the obvious benefit of this transfer. I say that with some reason. Previously, when we have had problems in Ashfield the accountability and the responsibility—particularly in terms of answering here, but generally the accountability—seems to have fallen between the cracks. Each body would say that that particular area concerned was not their responsibility and that it was the other body’s responsibility, whether it was the Probation Service, NOMS, the private contractors running it, or so on. Can the Minister tell us who will now be responsible and accountable the next time something goes wrong?
That was my broad point, and then I have one or two specific smaller queries. They concern Article 3, which makes a consequential change to the Young Offender Institution Rules. Where the board has entered into a contract for running young offender institutions for people under 18, it allows for the director of that establishment to make a disclosure of certain information to an officer of the board. That is a pretty wide purview. What is the relevant interest? Why do they need to be able to disclose this information to an officer of the board? It seems rather macro, individual level information. Why do the people whom the information concerns have to be identifiable? That is the way I read it—they are identifiable. What I am trying to say is, since you are identifying the individual, would this information be for statistical monitoring purposes? In that case, should it not be anonymised so that it is not evident who the particular individual was? Who is an officer of the Secretary of State? Again, there are concerns about data and privacy information here. Would it be any civil servant? If so, why would they need to have access to this information? What evades me in general is why somebody so far removed from the running of the estate should need to have that kind of information. Why would an officer of a young offender institution, rather than that particular youth offender institution, be involved in requiring and possibly storing this information, and how long would that information be kept?
We look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. We have some sympathy with the broad outlines of what he is trying to do.
First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, for their kind remarks in welcoming me to the Dispatch Box. After I finish answering their questions, I will probably be a bit calmer.
The noble Lord and noble Baroness both raised helpful points. Before I answer the noble Lord’s specific question about whether we need another order, it is probably worth putting it on record that despite the fact that Parc is not entirely run by the Youth Justice Board, the board will work closely with the ONC in respect of the under-18s estate. So while it does not have the power completely to manage Parc it still has a key role to play for the under-18s. We do not have to lay another order: this would do for any institution similar to Ashfield, should one come on board.
On the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, up to now Ashfield has been managed by the Home Office and NOMS. Until 2005, as I mentioned earlier, it accommodated over-18s, but now it has only under-18s. We feel that given all the Youth Justice Board’s expertise and work over the past number of years, it is the right organisation to oversee that contract. The noble Baroness rightly referred to accountability. The Youth Justice Board will be accountable to Ministers for Ashfield’s performance.
It is probably worth underlining some of the key issues at Ashfield. It re-roled in July 2005 to accommodate only under-18s; it has its own healthcare facilities and education department and a learning resource centre as well as good recreational facilities. It is seen to be performing well in providing education, with good weekend and evening programmes, and I was heartened to see that it provides 24-hour nursing care. There are good links to the local CAMHS provision, which is particularly important. Few around the country are really good enough.
Ashfield has developed restorative justice programmes and adopted therapeutic crisis intervention as a behaviour management technique. It has also closed its segregation facilities and now runs resettlement programmes from the unit. So we can see that there are some positive issues there.
As to why such information should be disclosed to the Youth Justice Board, it is important to realise that Rule 13 permits disclosure by a governor or director; it does not require it. We do not envisage frequent disclosure of such material, just as there is not at present frequent disclosure to the Secretary of State, but there may be instances in which it is appropriate. If the Secretary of State were managing the contract, this information could be disclosed. For example, the Youth Justice Board will have an obligation to ensure proper performance of the contract and value for money for the public purse, just as the Secretary of State has. That might be a useful area for advice. I hope that that answers the noble Baroness’s question.
It is useful, in considering the board’s role in relation to the under-18 secure estate, to think back to the position before the board was given responsibility for this oversight. The mixing of young people and adults was common, the amount of education provided in young offender institutions was very limited and the standards of the facilities were generally much lower.
It is generally accepted that standards have risen markedly during the past 10 years, and the Youth Justice Board deserves much of the credit for that. Of course, a great deal remains to be done, and the noble Baroness has a lot of expertise in this area. I am sure that there always will be a lot left to be done. But we should ask ourselves whether provision for young people under 18 would be better or worse if the Youth Justice Board had not been overseeing its management. The answer to that is clear.
The draft order represents a very limited addition to the wide powers given to the board in 2008. The order is needed to enable the board to oversee the management of Ashfield Young Offenders’ Institution effectively and other young offender institutions, should they be established. I commend the order to the Committee.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Legal Services Act 2007 (Functions of a Designated Regulator) Order 2008
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Legal Services Act 2007 (Functions of a Designated Regulator) Order 2008.
The noble Lord said: This order is presented under Schedule 22 to the Legal Services Act 2007. It will amend the new Section 9A of the Administration of Justice Act 1985, as inserted by Schedule 16 to the 2007 Act, to remove a restriction on the types of bodies which would satisfy the definition of legal services bodies, and which may therefore qualify to be recognised by the Law Society as suitable to carry on certain legal services.
When commenced, new Sections 9 and 9A of the 1985 Act will allow bodies satisfying a management and control condition and relevant lawyer condition to become legal services bodies. The management and control condition is that at least 75 per cent of the managers, shareholders or holders of voting rights in the body must be legally qualified. The term “legally qualified” is defined to include bodies as well as individuals, but 75 per cent of the bodies’ owners and managers must be legally qualified individuals.
Legally qualified bodies are therefore limited to two levels of ownership—the corporate body and its individual owners. It would not be possible for law firms to have multiple tiers of ownership, where law firms may own other firms, trust or service bodies which, in turn, own other organisations. Following discussions with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Law Society, it became clear that Section 9 of the 1985 Act, as currently drafted, does not restrict recognised bodies in this way and that some of the law firms they regulate currently have multiple tiers of ownership. Should Section 9A be commenced as drafted, bodies with more than two levels of ownership would be in breach of the Section 9A ownership requirements and would be forced to restructure in order to qualify as legal services bodies and thereby fall within the recognised body regime. This restructuring would be of great expense to those firms and would have caused an unnecessary restriction that does not currently exist.
Firms are currently able to structure themselves in a way which is most effective and efficient for their operation, such as allowing easier transfer of ownership in the event of a partner leaving or retiring. Section 9A as currently drafted would have limited firms’ ability to structure themselves to meet their business needs. The proposed amendment to Section 9A will remove this restriction, allowing firms to realise the benefits of outside investment while maintaining the flexibility of the old regime.
This order seeks to ensure that bodies with multiple tiers can continue to operate in their current structures and be recognised as legally qualified for the purposes of Section 9A. If those bodies then meet the management and control condition, and the relevant lawyer condition, they will satisfy the legal services body definition and may be recognised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under Section 9 as suitable to carry on certain legal services.
The order achieves this by removing the requirement in Section 9A(5) for qualifying bodies to be owned by legally qualified individuals in order to satisfy the relevant lawyer condition; by recognising partnerships which already exist and which continue to satisfy the Law Society’s relevant pre-commencement conduct rules as legally qualified for the purpose of satisfying the management and control condition; by recognising bodies corporate which already exist and which continue to satisfy the Law Society’s relevant pre-commencement conduct rules as legally qualified for the purpose of satisfying the management and control condition; and by giving the Law Society power to make rules expanding the category of what is to be legally qualified for the purpose of satisfying the management and control condition.
These bodies must satisfy all the conditions in Section 9A in order to be “legal services bodies”. These conditions are important as they make up some of the safeguards to ensure that legal services bodies do not go beyond what was envisaged under the legal services body provisions. They are, after all, bodies that provide legal services, are majority-owned by lawyers and therefore pose a lower regulatory risk.
It is vital, therefore, that in removing the two-tier limitation on corporate ownership we do not allow full alternative business structures to emerge before the licensing regime set out in Part 5 of the Act is implemented. The 25 per cent limit on non-lawyer management and the requirement for those managers to be individuals will remain regardless of the number of tiers of ownership of a body. The bodies corporate defined as legally qualified in new subsection (6)(g)—that is, those recognised by the Law Society under Section 9 of the 1985 Act—have already undergone stringent Law Society regulation and recognition and satisfied the Law Society that they are suitable for carrying on solicitor services under current legislation. These bodies are also subject to the Law Society’s pre-commencement rules.
The Law Society’s rules that may also permit recognition of other bodies as legally qualified are subject to consultation and a statutory approval process under paragraph 16 of Schedule 22 to the 2007 Act, which includes approval by the Lord Chancellor. The Solicitors Regulation Authority also published changes to its code of conduct on 17 October to take account of the proposed new provisions relating to legal services bodies. The consultation period for those rules closed on Monday, 10 November. Subject to Parliament agreeing this order, those rules will be subject to a robust approval process under Schedule 4 to the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, which requires approval by the Lord Chancellor following consultation with the designated judges. Finally, all bodies must still satisfy the management and control and relevant lawyer conditions in order to be legal services bodies which may then be recognised as suitable to provide legal services by the Law Society.
The procedure for achieving these changes is set out under paragraphs 1 to 4 of Schedule 22 to the 2007 Act, which enables the Lord Chancellor to make an order to modify the functions of a designated regulator or other body. Under paragraph 2 of that schedule, an order may be made by the Lord Chancellor providing that a recommendation has been made by the body to which it relates, and that the body has given its consent. In this case, the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority both recommended on 1 October 2008 that an order be made and gave consent under paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 22.
Before the formal recommendation was made, Ministry of Justice officials had been working with the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority to determine the content of the order. Other relevant stakeholders were also notified in advance of the formal recommendation being made, including the Lord Chief Justice, the Office of Fair Trading, representatives of consumer organisations and other approved regulators.
The Ministry of Justice published the draft order on 6 October, seeking views from legal regulators, the profession and consumer groups by 17 October. Schedule 22 also provides that advice must be invited from the Office of Fair Trading and the Lord Chief Justice. On completion of the consultation period, a total of nine responses were received, all of which supported the order. During the consultation period, some small changes were made to highlight relevant amendments to legislation to indicate that a copy of the relevant pre-commencement conduct rules will be available on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website, and to remove the word “qualified” in the definition of “legal partnership” to avoid confusion. Under paragraph 3(7) of Schedule 22, if the order the Lord Chancellor intends to make differs from that which was published, he must publish a revised draft alongside a statement detailing the changes. This was done on the Ministry of Justice website on 24 October, and the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority gave their consent under paragraph 2(4) of that schedule.
This order is necessary to realise the benefits of legal disciplinary practices as early as possible by allowing recognised bodies to take on non-lawyer managers if they so wish. Those bodies must, of course, still satisfy the management and control condition and relevant lawyer condition that place appropriate conditions on ownership. The order ensures that existing bodies are not forced to restructure simply to carry on with their business; a position which would have been unfair and anti-competitive. I commend the order to the Committee. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Legal Services Act 2007 (Functions of a Designated Regulator) Order 2008. 29th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord Patel of Bradford.)
The noble Lord will be grateful that I intend to be brief and do not intend to discuss the merits or otherwise of the order. After his clear explanation, I wish to make only one comment about the Explanatory Memorandum. I have on a number of occasions expressed concern about Explanatory Memoranda not being as clear as they might be and not assisting the House or the Committee much in understanding what is in an order. On this occasion the reverse is true. I am grateful for a very good Explanatory Memorandum which, in paragraph 7, goes as far as to say what is being done and why. I commend that paragraph heading to future Explanatory Memoranda and suggest that the Ministry of Justice and other departments should always bear it in mind; it would achieve a great deal. To have a paragraph such as paragraph 7, which makes quite clear what is being done and, more important, why, is of great benefit to those who have to scrutinise these orders. I thank the noble Lord and his department for doing that.
I join in congratulating the noble Lord on his appointment and I look forward to dealing with him frequently on Ministry of Justice matters. At the same time, I commiserate with him for having to take on board the Legal Services Act 2007, which is a highly contentious Act, particularly in the area in which he is now putting forward this order.
I do not suppose that when the noble Lord joined the Labour Party he ever thought that he would be supporting fat cat, international and City lawyers against the high street practitioner, who is no doubt familiar to him from where he comes from, as it is familiar to me having been a high street solicitor in my day. The Law Society’s briefing on this gives the game away. It states:
“The Law Society and the City of London Law Society”—
note that it is the City—
“consider that this restriction”—
the one outlined by the noble Lord—
“will have a specific impact on large and international law firms. Furthermore, with the advent of Legal Disciplinary Practices and in turn Alternative Business Structures, it is likely that firms will wish to innovate with more complex corporate structures. It would be a lost opportunity if law firms were unable to compete as effectively both nationally and globally by virtue of an inadvertent technical error”.
So the proposal supported by the Law Society is not supported in the interests of the consumer in the rural areas, the people who may be put out of business by the introduction of alternative business schemes and the legal disciplinary practices envisaged.
I share the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in the Explanatory Memorandum and how full it is. It is full because it contains all kinds of verbiage in order to conceal the precise reason why the order is being brought forward. It includes a revealing extract from Chapter 5 of the Legal Services Bill Full Regulatory Impact Assessment, first published in November 2006, with a supplementary memorandum in 2007. When that was considered in the regulatory impact assessment it was stated:
“There is a risk that the anticipated increase in the level of competition in the legal services market could lead to the withdrawal of some inefficient suppliers of legal services from certain areas of the market”.
That is, your high street family solicitor. It goes on,
“In particular, inefficient suppliers on local high streets and in rural areas may be forced to close down under the pressure of greater competition from lower cost providers. This raises the potential risk of reducing consumer choices and could have an adverse effect on access to justice”.
That was the argument that the Liberal Democrats put forward during the passage of the Bill. It is all very well permitting large firms to come into the market and provide capital when they are not lawyers so as to put out of business the lawyers who currently provide services. I know that north Wales in particular is an area served by the high street. The local supermarket, the AA or organisations of that sort, which have absolutely nothing to do with the provision of legal services or with law, may come forward and provide capital that the partners in large firms will eagerly grasp. The large firms of 200 or 300 partners will happily sell out a share and take the money from large organisations, but you cannot do that if you are a small local solicitors' office.
To say that these are innovations in the legal services market driven by greater competition, leading to new ways of legal services being delivered to consumers in rural areas, is just marketing speak; it has nothing to do with how the legal profession should organise itself. There was an attempt in that regulatory assessment to say that if you bring in outside firms, such as supermarkets or insurance companies, to provide legal services on the side, you will widen the opportunities for more women and people from lower income groups and different ethnic groups. I do not believe that; that is just being—to use a phrase that is over-used—politically correct, by going to these areas and saying that we will do a great deal more for these people.
So what is the order all about? It amends an Act of Parliament. Let us realise its significance; it is not just the ordinary type of order, but one that actually changes the Act of Parliament that was passed, despite Liberal Democrat opposition, in 2007. That is its purpose. Why does it want to do that? Because it got it wrong. As the Explanatory Memorandum says, there are too many legally qualified persons required under Section 9A of the amended 1985 Act, which, in dealing with the legal disciplinary practices, still required that outside influences be limited to 25 per cent of the firm. That meant that the existing arrangements under the 1985 Act were being superseded in a way that did not appeal to the large corporate solicitors’ firms to which I have referred. Let us make no mistake about it, this changes an Act of Parliament in favour of the big guns and against the interests of the local solicitor who provides services to people on the ground.
I am putting down a marker to see how legal services operate in the next five or 10 years. It may be that the Law Society and the City of London are onside, but I want to see whether the services provided to ordinary people throughout this country, outside the conurbation of London and outside commercial lawyers, will be affected. I believe that they will and that there will ultimately be a reaction against the changes introduced by the 2007 Act and these additional changes to that Act made by this side wind.
Of course, today we are considering only the draft order—and we, the Liberal Democrats, will have to consider how we approach the full order when it comes before the House. Again, let me welcome the noble Lord, Lord Patel, into this hornets’ nest, and I hope the buzzing is not too loud to drown out what I am saying.
I am not sure how to thank the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, for his warm welcome. I shall begin by looking at some of the issues. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for his comments about the Explanatory Memorandum. As someone new to this area, I found it helpful and commend his points about paragraph 7, which explains what we are doing and why we are doing it. It provides an important lesson for us all and should be contained in future briefing notes.
This is a complicated but important issue. The order ensures that we do not restrict unnecessarily the organisational structures of bodies. Some bodies have already demonstrated that they are fit to provide legal services through the current recognised regime, and it would be improper to restrict them even further simply to allow them to be regarded as legally qualified. If such bodies wish to become legal services bodies under new Section 9 of the 1985 Act, they still have to satisfy the conditions set out in Section 9A. Strong safeguards therefore remain in place for non-lawyer management of firms.
I have read transcripts in Hansard of what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said during the passage of the Act. It is clear that he is well experienced in these matters and I cannot begin to rehearse many of the arguments that he then put forward. Suffice it to say that the provisions apply also to small firms—for example, to allow partners in small firms to recognise secretaries and non-qualified people who do routine tasks. The legal disciplinary practice is supported by consumer groups and the Federation of Small Businesses. It does not represent an attempt to establish a full ABS; no external investment is allowed.
I know that those explanations will not completely reassure and satisfy the noble Lord because of the many cases that he has put forward, but his arguments are well heeded and heard and are once again on record. I hope that noble Lords will in the mean time agree that the order is an appropriate solution to this matter.
On Question, Motion agreed to.