Legal Aid Bill: Lords report stage day five

21 March 2012

The House of Lords concluded report stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill with three votes yesterday (Tuesday 20 March)

Discussions started with amendments to Clause 54 of the bill which considered rules against referral fees in respect of claims for personal injury and death.

Lord Beecham (Labour) moved Amendment 144A to insert the text: 'and in either case, the regulated person and the person by or to whom the business is referred, each act in the course of a business carried on for profit'. 

He explained: 'We are entirely at one with the government in seeking to ban referral fees made to commercial organisations simply for the purpose of making profits. However, some organisations - be they charities or membership organisations - receive referral fees from firms of solicitors and perhaps from others ... whose contributions help those organisations carry out their main purpose.'

His amendment led to the first division (vote) with 173 members voting 'content' (for) and 257 'not content' (against).

Baroness Corston (Labour) moved Amendment 151AZA, before clause 60, to insert a new clause suggesting a Women’s Criminal Justice Policy Unit. The vote that followed resulted in an equality of votes (draw) with 217 members voting both for and against the suggested clause. As there was no majority, the vote meant a government win.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick's Amendment 153, to insert the new clause on 'duty to release certain prisoners serving a whole life sentence' before clause 116 went to the final division (vote). Sixty-two members voted 'for' and 90 'against' leading to a government win.  

Next stage: Third reading

Third reading is the final chance for the Lords to debate and change the contents of the bill.

The day before third reading starts, amendments are published in a marshalled List and amendments on related subjects are grouped together and published on the day.

Amendments at third reading in the Lords are often used to clarify specific parts of the bill and to allow the government to make good any promises of changes to the bill made at earlier stages.

Report stage so far

What is report stage?

Report stage in the chamber gives all members of the Lords further opportunity to consider all amendments (proposals for change) to a bill. It usually starts at least 14 days after committee stage. It can be spread over several days (but usually fewer days than at committee stage).

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of a bill takes place during report stage. Voting can take place and any member can take part.

Before report stage takes place

  • The day before report stage starts, amendments are published in a Marshalled List – in which all the amendments are placed in order.
  • On the day, amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (“groupings of amendments”) is published.

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.

Further information

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