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

30 January 2012

The House of Lords continues line by line scrutiny of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill during committee stage day six today (Monday 30 January)

Members of the Lords are expected to discuss 'damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity' in the workplace. They may also scrutinise the Lord Chancellor's role in relation to 'the financial and commercial viability of the insurance market.'

Catch up on committee stage day five (Tuesday 24 January)

The day's discussions began with Amendment 73 moved by Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat) under Schedule One, which covers civil legal services. He spoke of the traveller community's right to legal aid and issues of unauthorised sites and planning permission.

He said:' In this case, however, it is not only the travellers themselves who will suffer if these amendments are not accepted; the greater levels of harassment and evictions of travellers on unauthorised sites that will inevitably follow the withdrawal of legal aid in planning cases, coupled with the abandonment of a strategy for securing that an adequate number of planning permissions are awarded to meet the needs identified by the Government themselves in their twice-yearly count, means that there will be more unauthorised sites than ever, with the attendant health, education and social problems.'

Lord Avebury withdrew the amendment and looks forward to 'further advice' from the Community Law Partnership during the next stage of the bill (report stage).

Lord Bach (Labour) put his name to Amendment 82, which focuses on legal aid for employment matters and support for victims of 'unlawful practice'. He withdrew the amendment pending further consideration during report stage.

He said: 'The law creates many of these rights because of the fundamental basic inequity of power between employer and employee. If these rights are to be taken away from employees gradually, that balance will shift. We have to make a decision as to whether that is a good or a bad thing.'

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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