Crime and Courts Bill report stage day four

13 December 2012

The Crime and Courts Bill continued report stage, a further chance for scrutiny, yesterday (Wednesday 12 December).

The debate began with a discussion around immigration cases. Baroness Smith of Basildon (Labour), moved Amendment 118ZA, saying: ‘This amendment would require the secretary of state to set in place a procedure to allow for entry clearance officers to communicate - I know that that is a radical step - with applicants during the application process, particularly if the applicant has not provided all the information needed in applying or if there is a need to clarify what may be a minor technical detail. The amendment was inspired by the details of the many cases of visa applications that have been sent to me by individuals over the past few months following debates we have had in this House, and indeed in committee, on immigration issues.’

Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat), followed, saying: ‘A great many of the refusals of applications for leave to enter have been due to misunderstandings about what information is required, and there ought to be a simple procedure for rectifying elementary omissions.’

The amendment was later withdrawn after the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Conservative), said: ‘If the amendment... was successful it would put a significant resource burden on entry clearance officers to make inquiries with the minority of applicants - it is a minority of applicants - who do not provide sufficient information with their application.’

The discussion then moved onto driving under the influence of drugs. Baroness Hamwee (Liberal Democrat) put forward Amendment 118N, concerning the proposed drugs to be covered and the limits that should be set, she said: ‘I am very keen that the decision should be made on the basis of evidence. This amendment is to suggest that the evidence base should be in the public domain and easily accessed before we are asked to deal with regulations.’

The amendment was withdrawn after Earl Attlee (Conservative), said: ‘The government do not consider that such a requirement is needed. Clause 29 already requires the government to consult before specifying in regulations the drugs and limits for the new offence. The government also intend to publish a copy of the report of the expert panel on drug driving shortly... The consultation will set out the evidence base for specifying particular controlled drugs and limits in regulations.’

Lord Dear (Crossbench), then moved Amendment 119, saying: ‘The amendment seeks to curb what I believe is an increasing misuse of the criminal law so as to curb or prevent the proper exercise of free speech. The amendment intends that the word "insulting" should be taken out of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and that Section 6 of that Act should be similarly amended to take account of the earlier change... I ask this House to recognise the current abuse of the criminal process, to reflect on the need to protect basic freedoms under the law, to remember that freedom of speech is one of the most important civil liberties - some would argue, the most important civil liberty - and to support the amendment.’

The amendment was later agreed after going to a vote, with 150 voting for and 54 against.

Third reading, a final chance to amend the bill, is scheduled for 18 December.

About the Crime and Courts Bill

The bill was introduced in the House of Lords at its first reading stage (formal introduction) on 10 May. It aims to establish the National Crime Agency and proposes abolishing the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Policing Improvement Agency.

It also examines the structure, administration, proceedings and powers of courts and tribunals and addresses issues like border control and drugs and driving.

More about the Crime and Courts Bill

What is report stage?

Report stage gives all members of the Lords further opportunity to examine and make changes, known as amendments, to a bill.

Report stage usually starts 14 days after committee stage. It can be spread over several days (but usually fewer days than at committee stage).

Before report stage starts, all member's amendments are recorded and published. The day before a report stage debate the amendments are placed in order - a marshalled list.

During report stage detailed line by line examination of the bill continues. Any member of the Lords can take part and votes can take place.

After report stage the bill is reprinted to include all the agreed amendments. The bill then moves to third reading for the final chance for the Lords to debate and amend the bill.

Further information

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