Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill: Committee day seven

01 February 2012

The House of Lords continues line by line scrutiny of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill during committee stage day seven today (Wednesday 1 February)

The debate continues with amendments to Clause 45 which looks at 'recovery of insurance premiums by way of costs'.

Lords will examine a new section in the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, enabling the Lord Chancellor to make regulations.

Catch up on committee stage day six

Members started the day's scrutiny of the bill with a large group of amendments dealing with Clause 43 and the conditional fee agreement, or 'no-win no-fee'.

Lord Thomas of Gresford (Liberal Democrat) moved Amendment 118, which he said: '...provides for the success fee to be calculated not just as a percentage of damages, but also, as an alternative, as a percentage of the fees which would normally be charged.'

He withdrew the amendment after the minister's response and hopes to discuss the issue again at report stage.

Lord Bach (Labour) discussed a further group of amendments starting with Amendment 123, preventing professional people 'preying' on 'impecunious' clients. Lord Bach withdrew the amendment after what he stated was an 'unsatisfactory' response from the government.  

He then spoke of damages for defamation and invasion of privacy in Amendment 124, using the recent phone hacking scandal as a case study. The amendment was not moved.

The bill's progress so far

The previous stage of this bill to be completed in the Lords was the second reading, which took place on 21 November 2011.

Some key areas of the bill:

  • The bill takes certain types of case out of scope for legal aid funding and provides that cases would not be eligible for funding unless specified in the bill.
  • It abolishes the Legal Services Commission.
  • It makes various provisions in respect of civil litigation funding and costs, taking forward the recommendations of the Jackson Review.
  • It makes changes to sentencing provisions, giving courts an express duty (rather than the current power) to consider making compensation orders where victims have suffered harm or loss, reducing the detailed requirements on courts when they give reasons for a sentence, allowing courts to suspend sentences of up to two years rather than 12 months and amending the court’s power to suspend a prison sentence.
  • It introduces new powers to allow curfews to be imposed for more hours in the day and for up to 12 months rather than the current six.

What is the committee stage?

During committee stage, detailed line-by-line examination of separate clauses and schedules of the bill takes place. Any member of the Lords can take part. It can last for one or two days to eight or more. This stage usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading.

The day before committee stage starts, amendments (proposals for change) are published in order in a Marshalled List. Amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a 'groupings of amendments' is published on the day. Lords must agree to every clause of the bill and vote on the amendments. All proposed amendments can be discussed and there is no time limit for discussion.

After the committee stage, the bill is reprinted with all the agreed amendments and is moved to report stage for further examination.

Further information

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