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

23 January 2012

The House of Lords continues line by line scrutiny of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill during committee day five today (Tuesday 24 January)

Members of the House of Lords will start the session with amendments under Schedule One of the bill which focus on civil legal services.

Lords are expected to discuss issues relating to housing and immigration appeals in the chamber.

Catch up on committee stage day four (18 January)

The debate, which ran late into the evening, started with Lord Clement-Jones's (Liberal Democrat) Amendment 36, 'to ensure that young people aged between 16 and 25 with special educational needs continue to be eligible for legal aid when appealing against decisions made about special educational provision.'

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Liberal Democrat), Advocate-General for Scotland, responded on behalf of the government saying: 'We believe that we have focused resources on education cases of the highest priority. I hope that the House will recognise that.'

Lord Clement-Jones was 'very content' with the response and withdrew the amendment.

Members then discussed a group of amendments concerning civil legal aid services and domestic violence. Baroness Butler-Sloss (Crossbench) put her name to Amendment 42. She stated that: 'The definition of domestic violence currently proposed is, in my view and I think the view of many others, inadequate and requires to be much broader, particularly in relation to threatening behaviour and psychological behaviour.'

The amendment drew a 'powerful' set of speeches from Members with experience in the Family Division, Public Prosecutions and the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence.

Amendment 42 was withdrawn after reassurance from the government. Said Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat): 'I assure the noble and learned Baroness that when I say that I shall be taking the matter away, I mean that I shall be taking it back to the Lord Chancellor.'

The debate turned to civil services provision to victims of human trafficking, in Amendment 61A (later withdrawn) put forward by Baroness Butler-Sloss.

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.

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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