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Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

Volume 755: debated on Monday 28 July 2014

Committee (4th Day) (Continued)

Relevant documents: 2nd Report from the Constitution Committee, 3rd Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 14th Report, Session 2013-14, from the Joint Committee on Human Rights

Debate on Amendment 73F resumed.

My Lords, briefly, this group contains amendments to the process for making secondary legislation concerning the provision and use of information about financial resources, the provision of information when seeking a costs capping order, and identifying which cases are “environmental” for the purposes of costs capping orders. As the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, said, these amendments are inspired by the third report of this House’s Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which was published earlier this month, on 11 July.

I hope that I may deal very briefly with these issues. That is not to say that they are not important, and we will deal with them by way of a detailed response when we consider later groups that raise the issues covered by the report. The Government are considering how to proceed with the recommendations in that recent report and will set out how they intend to do so in due course. As such, although I am very grateful to all noble Lords for their amendments, the Government are unable to accept them in advance of full consideration of the committee’s recommendations.

I should, however, take the Committee’s time to discuss the role of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, which is composed of members of the judiciary, both senior and more junior, and eminent barristers, solicitors and lay representatives. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report proceeds in part on the basis that the existing structure for the making of Civil Procedure Rules, created by the Civil Procedure Act 1997 and amended by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 pursuant to the principles agreed with the senior judiciary and set out in the concordat on the judiciary-related functions of the Lord Chancellor, does not make the Civil Procedure Rule Committee immune from influence by the Secretary of State, given that he has the power to direct rules to be made to achieve a specified purpose.

I should like to refute any suggestion that the Lord Chancellor improperly interferes with the making of rules, or that the rule-making committees or officeholders in any way play a quiescent role in the making of procedural rules before the making of which they must consult with such persons as they think appropriate. Their experience and expertise is respected entirely and there should be no suggestion of the Government steamrolling or negating the influence of those committees or officeholders on the rules. However, as I have said, the Government are carefully considering the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report and intend to make clear their position ahead of Report. In light of that, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment 73F withdrawn.

House resumed.