All 12 Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Mon 19th Feb 2024
Mon 21st Feb 2022
Judicial Review and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage
Tue 9th Mar 2021
Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Lords Hansard & Committee stage
Wed 28th Feb 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 29th Nov 2017
Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 14th Jul 2016
Tue 24th May 2016

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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That shows very little faith in a Government of whatever colour. This particular Government will take a view as to whether or not there was a breach of the treaty in relation to the various safeguards contained within it. The Opposition are proposing to repeal the legislation in any event, so the matter might well disappear as a result of such an Act. We must credit the Executive, however, with the power to review and seriously consider if there was a sufficient change of circumstances—a coup, for example—to warrant a different approach.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, I strongly support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford in moving the amendment. We have gone through, in some detail, the question of when this Bill is going to become law and whether it will become law before the changes are effected as a result of the new treaty.

Noble Lords will remember that the Home Secretary is asking us to bear in mind the key part of his evidence that the position has changed since the Supreme Court judgment: namely, the treaty for the provision of an asylum partnership, which was laid before this House in December. Obviously, it is only when the provisions of that treaty are implemented that the position will have moved on from what the Supreme Court found, because the Home Secretary quite rightly is not challenging the finding of the Supreme Court; he is saying the position will change when the treaty is given effect to.

Obviously, this House is very sceptical of what Ministers are saying about when the treaty changes take place. Earlier in the afternoon, Ministers were unable to identify when the law in Rwanda would be changed to give effect to it. Ministers were not able to tell the Committee at all when the monitoring committee was going to recruit a support team, independent experts were going to be appointed to advise the first instance body, and all the other things set out in paragraph 19 of the International Agreements Committee report. We have no idea at the moment whether this Bill will be brought into force before the changes envisaged by the agreement and therefore the place will then become safe, so I am very surprised the Government are willing to go ahead with it before the changes are implemented.

That is the beginning. As far as the end is concerned —as this amendment is concerned with—Ministers will be aware that the agreement that gives effect to the changes, which remedies the problems identified by the Supreme Court and accepted as problems by the Government, ends on 13 April 2027, unless the agreement is renewed. I assume, though I invite Ministers to confirm, that if the agreement with Rwanda is not extended beyond 13 April 2027, it is the Government’s intention that the Rwanda Bill will come to an end. If that is not the position, how on earth could the Government contend that Rwanda continued to be a safe country after 13 April 2027?

In any event, the possibility of changes of circumstances are something that Parliament should be able to debate. The two-year sunset clause the right reverend Prelate is proposing is a means by which that debate could take place. Everybody who has debated the Bill in this House agrees it is a very grave thing that the Government are seeking to do by promoting the Bill. The idea that it is a permanent state of affairs that can never be looked at again without the consent of the Executive promoting another Bill is an inappropriate way to deal with it.

For all those reasons, I submit that this Committee should agree to the amendment proposed by the right reverend Prelate. However, I am extremely interested to know what the answer is to the position if this agreement with Rwanda is not extended beyond 13 April 2027.

Judicial Review and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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I am grateful for that clarification, but I am afraid to say that I still fail to follow how bringing forward a fairly balanced Bill is somehow the Government reflecting an elected dictatorship. But I hear what the noble Baroness says.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, this is a very important debate and in this part of it, I will focus only on whether it is appropriate to empower a delayed quashing order—as proposed in new subsection 1(a)—and whether it is appropriate to give a power to say it shall be prospective only. My overall position is that if the courts want these powers, let the courts develop them. Do not do it by legislation.

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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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Perhaps I might briefly add to that point before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, speaks. An absolutely classic example of legislating for discretion would be Section 33 of the Limitation Act, which courts are applying every single day of the week, which lists a large number of factors which the court may take into account and concludes by saying that it may take any other thing into account. Although I absolutely take the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, there is nothing particularly unusual about setting out in detail the discretion and then, nevertheless, allowing the court to take into account other matters.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I have just two points. First, I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, that no reason is given as to why there is the presumption, but it is worth emphasising that the Explanatory Notes accept that there is a presumption. What is being said is, and it is the intention of the Government, that, if a quashing order is to be made—certain sorts of judicial review will always lead to a quashing order; for example, if a power to prosecute people has been given without justification from primary legislation—there is to be a presumption that the quashing will be delayed and that, subject to the condition in new Section 29A(9), you will use either the delay or prospective-only power.

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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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He is in opposition.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I disagree quite strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said about how suggesting that this part of the Bill be removed is irresponsible. As the impact assessment put forward by the Government indicates, if this part of the Bill goes forward, between 173 and 180 Upper Tribunal and High Court days would be saved, which they calculate at £400,000. We are talking about a saving of £400,000 if this goes through, according to figures advanced by the Government.

As the briefings we have received from a number of organisations indicate, the effect of Cart judicial reviews has been quite significant. Points of law have been established as being wrongly decided by the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal. No criticism of those two tribunals is intended, but that is what happened. They have been of some considerable importance, particularly in relation to human trafficking, duress and asylum status.

In relation to the point about Lord Justice Laws, his judgment in Cart in the Court of Appeal utterly exploded the theory that, simply because it was a superior court of record, there could not be judicial review. It exploded that proposition—which had been the basis of saying that Cart was not the subject of judicial review—so totally that in the Supreme Court, the judges who gave reasoned judgments indicated that he had done such a great job in relation to that that nobody now sought to restore that argument.

I am against this provision in relation to Cart because it does two things which are bad. First, it removes the High Court from considering whether or not the Upper Tribunal has got it wrong. In England—I say nothing about Scotland—it is the High Court that is the absolute cadre that determines the development of the law and the quality of the law, and I am not in favour of it being removed from this for £400,000.

Secondly and separately, as Cart in the Supreme Court said, there are a range of options open to the Supreme Court as to what the test should be for allowing judicial reviews from the Upper Tribunal’s refusal of permission to appeal from the First-tier Tribunal. It considers the ranges, such as exceptional circumstances, or asks whether it should be on the basis of, “We will give judicial review when the Upper Tribunal should have given leave to review it”, or some combination of the two, or a breach of natural justice—something like that. It said that the Supreme Court had a quite broad discretion to determine what the filter should be.

In the report of the group that he chaired, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said that the way that judicial review should develop should be on the part of appropriate deference by Parliament to the courts, and by the courts to Parliament. What I took that to mean is that the courts should be very careful to make sure that, in every case they can, they give effect to what Parliament wants. I took the noble Lord’s reference to deference by Parliament to the courts to mean: let the courts develop the precise ambit of the process by which they will judge illegality or not.

I object to Clause 2, because what is happening here is that inappropriate deference is being shown to the courts. The courts have the power to decide what the filter should be. They made that clear in Cart. The Supreme Court can revisit Cart; it is seven years old and, anyway, it can revisit it if it is 10 minutes old. It, not the legislature, should decide what the filter is in relation to this.

The key thing about judicial review is that it is the main means—not the only means, but the main means—by which the courts uphold the rule of law. Our constitution is based on democracy and the rule of law. Although there are functions within government that determine, or try to protect the state from, breaches in the rule of law, the key vindicator of the rule of law is the courts. Why on earth, for £400,000, is the legislature galumphing in to this area when the courts themselves can give the precise limits of this? It is—perhaps the noble Lord will let me finish.

It is such a mistake to do this. It sets out an ouster clause; that may be used in future, but I am pretty confident that the courts will construe ouster clauses against the background, so the wording in one case may well not work in another case. What is wrong here is that the Executive should not be doing this, because the courts have the power to sort it out themselves, and they should. I apologise for not taking the intervention from the noble Lord straightaway.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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The noble and learned Lord does not mischaracterise the conclusions we reached at all. Quite rightly, we emphasised the respect of the various parts of the constitution to each other and the importance of that. However, he omits to mention a fact we stressed: none of the judges who made a submission to us ever suggested that, when Parliament thought a decision was wrong, it was not appropriate to legislate to reverse the effect of that decision. To suggest that does not do violence to any of the principles that we identified—I think the noble and learned Lord and I would agree about those principles. As for the hourly rate of judges, with great respect, whether they are remarkably good value for what they do does not alter the fact that, if something is bad law, it needs reversing.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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There is a fundamental misunderstanding there. Of course, Parliament can reverse a judicial review on its substance. If the courts conclude that some social security regulations do not meet a particular provision, they can change those regulations and come to the same result they wanted to all along, which is fine. I am talking about the fundamental role of the court in relation to determining whether the Government are acting lawfully. In relation to that, namely the ambit in which the court will operate Anisminic onwards, as it were, do not interfere with it. Let the courts determine that. Ultimately, the limits of that have to be set by the courts and not Parliament.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this introduces a new topic, namely the purpose of Clause 12. Its effect is to impose, in relation to

“any overseas operations that the Secretary of State considers are or would be significant”,

that

“the Secretary of State must keep under consideration whether it would be appropriate for the United Kingdom to make a derogation under Article 15(1)”

of the European Convention on Human Rights. Why has that been introduced? Is it worthwhile? As noble Lords will know, when states sign up to the human rights convention they agree not to violate or take any steps in breach of it. States are entitled to derogate from the human rights convention:

“In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation”.


That is Article 15.1. No state has derogated from the convention due to war with another state. Most derogations have been in response to internal conflicts and terrorism. In these cases, states relying on the power to derogate have tended to rely on a

“public emergency threatening the life of the nation”.

The courts will give states a wide margin of appreciation when it comes to deciding whether there is a public emergency. The UK derogated from the human rights convention in 1970 following terrorist attacks relating to Northern Ireland, and in 2001 after 9/11.

As noble Lords will know, there are very considerable limits on derogating measures. First, states can take measures derogating from the human rights convention only

“to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation”.

That is in the article itself. Secondly, states can never derogate from non-derogable rights; that is in Article 15.2. That means they can never derogate from Article 2 or Article 3, from the articles that prohibit slavery, or from the right not to be convicted of a criminal offence for acts which were not criminalised at the time, and nor can they subject people to greater penalties for a criminal act than existed at the time the offence was committed. What is more, derogations must be consistent with the state’s other obligations under international law. In the context of overseas operations, that means that we in the United Kingdom could never derogate from international humanitarian law.

To some people, new Section 14A might seem a recipe for the state to get away, in relation to overseas operations, from human rights obligations that have been unpopular in some quarters—absolutely not. In effect, all that the right to derogate does is to allow the state—in certain, very unusual circumstances—in practice to detain people without what would otherwise be regarded as a due process, because of the public emergency. Although there are other rights that could be derogated from, in practice that is the only one that would ever genuinely be in consideration in relation to the sort of situation we are dealing with in this Bill.

My concern is that Clause 12, which would add Section 14A to the Human Rights Act, is a totally phoney piece of human rights bashing by the Government, put in only to try to say that we are really “taking on the Human Rights Act” in relation to overseas operations. The only effect of this clause is that consideration would have to be given to the question of whether there should be detentions without trial. I cannot imagine circumstances in which a Government, if that was a possibility, would not consider it without the need for this clause.

I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me that this is not a completely phoney and empty provision made for bad reasons. On any basis, if a derogation is considered and given effect to because of this clause, an explanation should be given immediately to Parliament, and it should be given effect to only with the approval of Parliament. That is why I put my name to the first of the amendments in this group. I beg to move.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, the then Human Rights Bill came to Parliament without a Green Paper or a White Paper or any consultation paper preceding it. It did so shortly after the Labour Government came to power in 1997. Although there were no detailed debates in Parliament about the extraterritorial reach of the then Human Rights Bill, a number of concerns were expressed at the time about whether the convention —the ECHR—was really appropriate in the case of armed conflict abroad. There were those who took the view that there should be an express carveout in those circumstances, but that is not what happened. There was, however, a power in the HRA 1998—as it became—which permitted the Government to derogate from the European convention. It is important to note that the power was not used in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The inclusion in this Bill of an obligation to consider derogation might be regarded as rather unnecessary, since the power exists anyway. I suppose it might be considered to be part of the reassurance agenda vis-à-vis our Armed Forces. In any event, I respectfully ask the Minister about the Government’s interpretation of Article 15. I find it hard to disagree with much of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said about the right to derogate, and I ask her to clarify for the Committee the relevance of this obligation vis-à-vis overseas operations. My Amendment 27, which is supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, is an attempt to grasp a nettle. He would have liked to address the Committee but unfortunately is unable to do so.

Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab) [V]
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There are three amendments in this group, Amendments 10, 11 and 12, which deal with the question of the need for the consent of the Attorney-General before a prosecution covered by the presumption goes ahead. This is an important but quite short series of issues; in effect, the Bill is adding in the consent of the Attorney-General as the third part of the triple lock, before prosecution is brought against military personnel in respect of overseas operations. Therefore, the consent will be required only when a prosecutor has decided that a case where over five years have gone by is exceptional, and the Attorney-General’s consent, or lack of it, will be of real significance only when he or she does not give it.

The consequences of the Attorney-General not giving consent are, in my view, threefold. First, it may well give rise to suggestions that the issue has been politicised. Secondly, the Attorney-General is very frequently involved in making or overriding decisions made in relation to operations overseas. For example, the Attorney-General will often give instruction and advice in relation to conditions of detention. It is worth reading the evidence given by Nicholas Mercer to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, where he described the involvement of the Attorney General’s Office in decisions that he had been involved in as a lawyer when, in foreign theatres of war, the use of force was involved. As such, my second point is that the Attorney-General may well have been involved in decisions that affect that theatre of war. From my own experience as Solicitor-General, I can tell you that that was indeed the case.

My third point is that, if the Attorney-General is going to override the prosecutor’s view that a prosecution should be brought, he will inevitably be increasing the risk that the matter is referred to or taken up by the ICC—because it will see a case where the prosecutor thinks that the prosecution has an over-50% chance of success and the public interest allows it, yet the Attorney-General has not allowed it to go ahead. Fourthly, if the Attorney-General is overriding the view of the prosecutor, which is the only time when this would be significant, questions will arise as to whether that puts the United Kingdom in breach of a whole range of international obligations—the Geneva convention, the United Nations Convention against Torture, Articles 2 and 3 of the human rights convention and the Rome convention, which is the International Criminal Court statute, in effect.

As such, our amendments first require the Attorney-General to give “reasons” as to whether he is giving or withholding consent, and laying them before Parliament. Secondly, Amendment 11 proposes that he must consider whether refusing consent will

“increase the likelihood of the International Criminal Court exercising its own competence”.

Thirdly, Amendment 12 proposes that he must consider whether his refusing consent would constitute a “breach of international law”. These amendments are laid by way of probing. We have real concerns about this provision and that it will not provide added protection but will instead give rise to very significant legal risks. I beg to move.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, these amendments seek to make the Attorney-General and the Advocate-General for Northern Ireland more accountable in relation to what we might call “late prosecutions”, and in particular more accountable to Parliament. The obligation in Amendment 10 provides for a report to Parliament in the event of either the granting or withholding of consent for such a prosecution. I accept what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said—that there may be more interest in circumstances where the Attorney-General does not consent to a prosecution.

Amendment 11 provides that the Attorney-General should give consent if there is an increased likelihood of ICC involvement. In Amendment 12 he or she must give consent if not doing so would lead to a breach of international law. Normally, advice from law officers to the Government is not disclosed to Parliament—nor even is the fact that advice has been sought—so to some extent these amendments are a bit of a novelty.

I have considered a number of lawyers’ views about whether the courts, as opposed to Parliament, could be involved in reviewing a decision by the Attorney-General either to consent to a prosecution or not to consent. The balance of view seems to be a cautious yes, although the courts would be expected to exercise a so-called “light-touch review”. In other words, it is unlikely that the courts would quash a decision of this sort.

I was most interested to hear what the noble and learned Lord said about these amendments because, on reading them, I was not quite sure what would be in the report proposed for receipt by Parliament. What would the law officer have to say? Would he or she simply cite public interest, gravity of offences and reasonable prospect of conviction in the event of a decision to prosecute, and presumably the opposite in the event of a decision not to prosecute? I suppose there might be some reference to the length of time between the acts concerned and the decision to prosecute. Of course, he or she would not be expected to give detailed reasons on the strengths of a particular witness or worries about one aspect of the evidence, or something of that sort. I am not sure what Parliament is going to do with that information, but I accept that accountability to Parliament is generally desirable.

As to the obligation under Amendment 11 in relation to the ICC, my understanding of the ICC—and I have attended one of its conferences in Rome—is that it is a court devoted to the macro rather than the micro, as I said when referring to the evidence of Major Campbell. It is also concerned mostly with offences at a high level.

Such prosecutions are often quasi-political—and I do not mean that in a pejorative sense. I recall that the perceived political element of the court was such that a number of countries walked out of the conference in Rome in the first few minutes as a protest at the alleged political element. Of course, the Rome statute is one to which the United States of America is not a signatory.

In one sense, the failure to prosecute or a decision not to prosecute by the Attorney-General must mean that there is an increased likelihood of ICC involvement, although I am not sure how that can be assessed. I entirely support our involvement with the ICC, but there are often complex reasons, including the availability of resources, which determine whether or not there are prosecutions. Our general support for the ICC as an institution should not be diluted in any way, but I am not sure that fear of ICC involvement should mean that the Attorney-General cannot come to the conclusion he or she thinks appropriate in these circumstances.

Similarly, the question of a putative breach of international law seems to me to be rather superfluous. There is an obligation, as I understand it, on the part of the law officers, as Ministers, to comply with the Ministerial Code. That obligation includes an obligation to obey the law, including international law. I do not want to revisit the difficult territory covered by the internal market Bill, but my understanding of the Ministerial Code, and I am on record as saying as much in your Lordships’ House, is that the obligation includes international as well as domestic law—although sometimes international law may not be as easily ascertainable—so I am not currently aware of the need for this extra obligation.

I acknowledge that these amendments are essentially probing, so that Parliament can understand better the process by which the Attorney-General would be involved in so-called late prosecutions. I share the interest of the noble and learned Lord in how the process might work generally, but I am not for the moment persuaded that any of these amendments is either appropriate or necessary.

Finally, I am uneasy about the alleged political component of the Attorney-General’s involvement. I think the role of the Attorney-General in this sort of circumstance is pre-eminently not a political one, but it is ironic that the involvement of Parliament in some way that is envisaged by these amendments could, in fact, run the risk of some important boundaries being crossed.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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My Lords, three pretty clear themes are emerging around the House. First, you should be able to use the subordinate legislation to change EU retained law only where it is necessary to make EU retained law work. Secondly, it should affect only technical matters; and thirdly, it should not take away any individual’s rights. So there are three requirements: it must be necessary to make it work, affect only technical matters and not take away anybody’s rights. The argument for being allowed to go further has not been made anywhere, and I would be very interested to hear the Minister say why those three principles should not apply to every piece of subordinate legislation under the Act. If the Government want to go further, primary legislation should be used. Unless there is a case for going further, this Act should be appropriately limited.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Con)
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The Bingham Centre makes the very cogent point that there is no clear analysis so far as to what the body of EU law is in an easily accessible form, so that businesses and individuals can ascertain what applies to them. However, the Solicitor-General said in the other place that there are 12,000 EU regulations currently in force in the UK and around 7,900 statutory instruments implementing EU legislation.

I understand the fears expressed around the House, particularly on the opposite Benches about the feeling that the Government have all sorts of sinister plans to take away rights. They will do so if they feel it necessary, by primary legislation, it is said, but no other way. This amendment would make it very difficult to do anything other than by primary legislation. First, a list of so-called technical provisions has to be established—a considerable challenge. No changes can modify any of the matters which are set out in Amendment 21. Those matters seem to cover more or less everything. What is to say that labelling and packaging is not a matter for consumer standards? Matters of health and safety entitlements, equality entitlements and rights of protection—almost anything can come within those definitions. Similarly, there are environmental standards and protection. I am not talking about fundamental matters such as the working time directive, but a great deal of the various regulations and statutory instruments that come from Europe are relatively trivial. Even those who endorse very much what has come from Europe would accept that not all of it is critical or crucial to our society going forward. That will make it almost impossible to change anything, which may be the desire of members of the party opposite who do not want to leave the European Union—or those all around the House.

That is the effect of this amendment. So far as Amendment 22 is concerned, on “human rights protection”, the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, was very succinct; he did not specify what “human rights protection” meant. We had a debate on the Charter of Fundamental Rights—

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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The width of this power seems extraordinary and constitutionally offensive. As I understand the drafting of the Bill, it is open to a Minister to pass regulations which allow him to identify individuals on whom he can impose a sanction or prohibition that he has invented. What is more, the only restriction on him is that it must be for the purposes set out in Clause 2(1). If the Minister honestly believes that the invention of a new sanction or prohibition is justified by “a foreign policy objective” of the Government—for example, gaining support from one country by attacking its nationals in this country—the power given by Clause 39 would entitle them to invent a new prohibition and impose it by regulations. Furthermore, should any primary legislation stand in the way of a Minister inventing such a new prohibition that he or she believes is designed to promote a foreign policy objective, that primary legislation can be amended to get rid of an objection by the very same regulations under Clause 44(2). That a Minister could do by secondary legislation such a thing—for example, restrict somebody’s spending their own money, prevent them leaving their home, take away their car or stop certain sorts of bank account being used—without primary legislation strikes me as well beyond what any responsible Government would think should be done by secondary legislation. Can the Minister confirm that my analysis of what could theoretically be done is right, and explain why it is appropriate that that be done by secondary legislation?

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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The noble and learned Lord puts a rather sinister construction on this clause. I do not want to add to my noble friend’s discomfort, but I need some persuading that Clause 39 is necessary given the width and nature of the sanctions and the purposes. It was important that the Government resisted the attempt to narrow “a foreign policy objective”, which was an amendment that we debated on the previous occasion, but “a foreign policy objective” gives the Government quite a lot of room for manoeuvre having identified an appropriate sanction. While I suspect that Clause 39 was inserted as a “just in case” provision rather than to give Ministers extraordinary power of the sort that has been discovered, it nevertheless remains at least open in theory to a Minister to exercise power in a way I think all noble Lords find difficult to accept.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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I intervene only to say this: I did not suggest that the motive of the Government was to do this. My experience as a Minister is that you put through legislation and many years later, after emollient assurances given in the House of Lords, those pesky lawyers look at what is possible under the Act. What I have described is possible. Let us imagine if those very same pesky lawyers said, “Well, you might have difficulty getting that through with primary legislation because of the extraordinary width of the powers, but actually we’ve found these rather clever powers in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill which allow you to do it without primary legislation”. That is the danger.

Right to Die

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Thursday 14th July 2016

(8 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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I am grateful for that suggestion. There are different views about whether it is appropriate for the Supreme Court to instruct Parliament to do anything. A lot of academic lawyers consider that Parliament is much better equipped to decide these issues. Judges and courts will inevitably consider the matter on a case-by-case basis as opposed to the polycentric view that Parliament will be able to bring to it. I respectfully submit that it is a matter for Parliament.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, there are significant issues about end of life: palliative care, which everyone wants to see better and more widespread; the assisted dying issues which the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, referred to; and also how end-of-life decisions are taken with people who are dying, which is nothing to do with the assisted dying issue. With a new Government and with genuine concern about this issue, what would the Minister think about a royal commission or a similar body being set up to address the issues of end-of-life care, including assisted dying?

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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The noble and learned Lord will not be surprised that I am not able to give any announcement to the effect that there should be some sort of commission at this stage, but clearly there remains great concern. This is a very difficult issue. Polling indicates a move towards the approach exemplified by the noble and learned Lord’s Bill. No doubt any Government, of whatever hue, will have in mind what the public want.

Queen’s Speech

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Tuesday 24th May 2016

(8 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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The noble Lord will know that both Houses of Parliament have had a chance to consider this issue on more than one occasion. The House of Commons has decided by a significant margin that it does not wish prisoners to have the vote, and that remains the position.

As I indicated, the Government have a clear mandate, but I want to address some worries that have been raised and talk about what our proposals will not do. Our reforms are not about eroding people’s human rights. They are not about walking away from the list of fundamental rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Government are and will remain committed to the protection of those rights.

The problems that have been highlighted by many—all over this House and in the other place—about the way in which human rights have been applied are not to do with the text of the convention itself. Rather, they are to do with its interpretation, which has been extended far beyond what those who drafted it ever planned.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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Can we take it from that incredibly encouraging part of the Minister’s speech that the Human Rights Act as currently in our law will continue to reflect in its wording that of the European Convention on Human Rights?

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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What I in fact said was that the Bill when it emerges will reflect all the rights contained in the European convention, not the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act indeed reflects the convention. The way in which the convention has been interpreted is our quarrel with the Human Rights Act, not the contents of the convention itself.

We have seen claims brought by people who have themselves shown a flagrant disregard for the human rights of others. Even where claims are unsuccessful, the fact that they can be brought at all serves to undermine public confidence in the Act. So we will bring forward proposals for a Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act. We want our Bill to protect fundamental human rights but also prevent their abuse and restore some common sense to the system. Our proposals will focus on the expansionist approach to human rights taken by the Strasbourg court. These are of course matters of great importance and there will be passionate views on different sides of the debate, but I hope that noble Lords will approach our proposals with open minds when they are brought forward for detailed consultation.

In that context, I was disappointed to read that Alistair Carmichael MP, the Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, said last week of the Bill of Rights:

“We will try to torpedo this plan in the Commons and Lords”.

First, we have not yet published our proposals, so it is a somewhat premature observation. Secondly, it is a clear manifesto commitment. Surely scrutiny, rather than destruction, is appropriate in the circumstances. Thirdly, if a torpedo is to be fired, the Liberal Democrat numbers mean that its arsenal is located here in Your Lordships’ House, the unelected House. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Marks, when he comes to wind up for his party, would reassure your Lordships that, however rigorous the scrutiny of our proposals might be, it will not amount to an attempt at wholesale destruction. The public who elected this Government surely deserve better than that.

I shall now address the Government’s priorities on matters of home affairs. First, I turn to the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will govern the use of those powers by law enforcement, the Armed Forces, security and intelligence agencies and other public authorities. The Bill responds to three independent reviews of investigatory powers, including the statutory review conducted by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC. The two other independent reviews, conducted by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament and the panel convened by the Royal United Services Institute, have also been carefully considered.

Last autumn, a draft Bill was scrutinised by three parliamentary committees, which received a significant body of written evidence and heard from government and many other groups. The revised Bill, along with further explanatory material, reflected the majority of the recommendations of all the committees and reviews.

I reassure noble Lords that the Government appreciate that these powers, which have an impact on privacy, must be used with great sensitivity. Privacy is at the heart of this Bill, as it provides for greater protections and safeguards for existing powers and ensures that any misuse is punished. Powers are necessary to uphold the security that allows the public to enjoy that privacy. In the revised Bill we made privacy safeguards stronger and clearer, incorporating additional protections for journalists and statutory protections for lawyers. We have provided the time needed for a full parliamentary passage to ensure that Parliament gives the Bill the scrutiny that such an important piece of legislation deserves.

I am sure that noble Lords will agree that our pluralistic values make Britain a civilised country in which to live, but extremists with dangerous views try to undermine those values. We cannot tolerate this promotion of hatred and intolerance, which divides communities and sets people against each other. People in Britain today should never have to suffer hatred and violence because of their race, religion or sexuality; women should not be denied equal access to rights; and children should never be taught to despise the values that we all hold dear. We have delivered the counterextremism strategy to defeat all forms of extremism. As part of this strategy, we will bring forward new legislation to ensure that we are equipped to confront extremists and protect the public.

The gracious Speech also includes the Policing and Crime Bill, which will continue our reforms of the police. Since 2010, a radical programme of police reform has been under way. It has seen the introduction of directly elected police and crime commissioners to ensure greater accountability and transparency in policing. I pause there to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bach—not currently in his place—who was recently elected a PCC for Leicestershire. Although I am not sure that the party opposite wholly welcomes police and crime commissioners, it is good to see that they are joining in the system and embracing it fully.

The programme of reform has driven through efficiencies of £1.5 billion in cash terms. Crime has fallen by more than a quarter since 2010, with 2.9 million fewer crimes a year, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales. The Bill will make the police more efficient and effective, enhance democratic accountability, build public confidence and ensure that the right balance is struck between the powers of the police and the rights of individuals. By providing police and crime commissioners with the ability to create more collaboration between police and fire services, the Bill also enables both emergency services to make significant savings in the delivery of their back-office functions.

The gracious Speech includes a Bill to introduce important changes to the way that this country tackles money laundering. This country has a robust anti-money laundering regime, but we must ensure that we can tackle the increasingly complex mechanisms used to launder illicit funds in order to allow our law enforcement agencies to identify and seize criminal assets. These changes will result in greater disruption of money laundering and activities that finance terrorism, as well as the prosecution of those responsible and the recovery of the proceeds of crime.

The gracious Speech sets out measures on how power is to be distributed across the UK and how decisions are taken. The Government are committed to establishing a secure settlement for the constitutional arrangements across our country—arrangements that provide the different nations of the United Kingdom with the space to pursue different domestic policies should they wish to do so, while protecting and preserving the benefits of being part of the bigger United Kingdom family of nations.

We said we would move quickly to implement the further devolution that all parties agreed for Wales and Scotland and deliver the Stormont House agreement in Northern Ireland. That is what we are doing. The Wales Bill would make the devolution settlement in Wales clearer by introducing a reserved powers model, like the system already in place for Scotland. The National Assembly for Wales will be able to legislate on any subject unless specifically reserved to Parliament. This Bill will also reflect the permanence of the Assembly and the Welsh Government in statute.

Crown Court (Recording) Order 2016

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Wednesday 27th April 2016

(8 years, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Faulks Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con)
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My Lords, the draft order removes the prohibition on recording court proceedings to the extent necessary to enable a judge’s sentencing remarks in the Crown Court to be recorded on a not-for-broadcast basis for the purposes of a test. Before setting out details of the order, I will briefly explain some background to the policy.

As noble Lords may be aware, the recording and broadcast of proceedings in courts, other than the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, is prohibited by Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and Section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. Section 32 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which received Royal Assent in April 2013, enables the Lord Chancellor, with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice, to make an order specifying circumstances in which the prohibitions on recording and broadcasting may be lifted. The Crown Court (Recording) Order 2016 is the second order to be made under that power.

Why are the Government doing this? There is evidence to suggest that the more informed people are about the justice system, the more confidence they will have in it. Of course, few people have direct experience of court proceedings, and public understanding of the way the justice system works is inevitably limited. In principle at least, our courts are open to all members of the public who wish to attend, but in practice very few people have the time or opportunity to attend and see what happens in person. We believe that we should make our courts more accessible and make it easier for the public to understand court proceedings. Increasingly, people rely on television and the internet for access to news and current affairs. It is right to respond to changes in technology and society, and therefore to allow cameras into our courts.

While it is important for justice to be seen to be done, this cannot be at the expense of the proper administration of justice, the integrity of the trial process or the reputation of the courts. The courts deal with very serious matters that can affect the liberty, livelihood and reputation of all parties involved. The proposed test period at the Crown Court venues agreed with the Lord Chief Justice provides the opportunity to examine how we can film in our courts in a way that protects the individuals involved and preserves the dignity of the courts and the trial processes.

I am conscious that there will be concerns about the welfare of victims and witnesses, and the potential for court broadcasting to have a detrimental effect on their experiences in court. In the event that a victim or witness is present in court during the recording of a judge’s sentencing remarks, there are a number of safeguards in place designed to minimise any potential impact that the recording might have. The order does not permit the filming of victims or witnesses, or indeed any other court user, including staff, members of the public, defendants and advocates. It will be a matter for the judge to decide whether or not filming of a particular case should be allowed and they will take into account the interests of victims and witnesses when considering this. In addition, existing reporting restrictions will continue to apply, and Section 32(3) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 provides that the court may stop or suspend filming in the interests of justice, or to prevent prejudice to any person. Any breach of the terms of the order may amount to a contempt of court.

None of the cases recorded during the test will be available for broadcast to the public. Recorded material will be used only by the judiciary, Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service and the Ministry of Justice for the purposes of the test, including assessing whether or not it has been successful.

The Government are committed to increasing transparency and providing the public with information on the operation of public services, and the justice system is no exception. To many people, the law remains mysterious. Public understanding of how the courts work, and sentencing in particular, is critical to maintaining confidence in the system and ensuring that justice is seen to be done. We believe that the order before your Lordships today is an appropriate step forward in testing how we allow for greater visibility of what goes on in our courts without undermining the quality and reputation of our justice system.

At the end of the test period the lessons learned will be considered by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice to help inform their decision on whether or not broadcasting of judges’ sentencing remarks in the Crown Court should be permitted in future. If they agree, we will return to the House with a third order to allow broadcasting of recorded material to commence. I commend the draft order to noble Lords and I beg to move.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I am grateful to the Minister for introducing this very interesting and important order, which my party and I support. I will ask a number of questions about the order itself and the policy underlying it, but before I do so, I will set out our position in relation to this. In principle, more broadcasting and recording of courts is a good thing because it increases public understanding of the court system and allows transparency in one of the important institutions of state.

I accept what is implicit in what the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said, which is that any movement towards broadcasting of courts has to be done carefully. It has to protect witnesses, jurors, claimants, defendants and members of the public—children in particular—from any problems that may arise from the recording of court proceedings. In particular, one is conscious that being a witness in a criminal or civil trial is an anxiety-inducingin any event and one does not want to make people more anxious by having it filmed or recorded. But in principle we consider that there should be much more openness and broadcasting of what goes on in court.

First, the Act allows the lifting of the prohibition on recording what goes on in court, which is prevented by the Criminal Justice Act 1925. If the ban on recording is lifted, is it assumed that live broadcasting can take place or is it envisaged that all that can occur is a subsequent broadcast? I ask because the prohibiting word is “recording”. I respectfully suggest that the right course is that there should be the possibility of near-live broadcasting, subject to a very minimal delay, of what goes on in court but subject to the issues that I have identified.

Secondly, as the Minister said, two orders have been made under the Act: the Court of Appeal order and the sentencing remarks order. Is there a plan that will lead to maximum openness, assuming the process works, subject to the sorts of protections I have identified? That is, you do not want to film jurors, witnesses and victims. Is there a plan? It feels a bit random. We have had a Court of Appeal order in 2013 or 2014 and now a sentencing remarks order. Can the Minister please tell us what the overall plan is?

Thirdly, I understand that the Court of Appeal order has been considered, by which I mean that some review of it has taken place. Can the Minister tell us what the outcome of that review was? For example, what did the judicial participants in the Court of Appeal process think about it? Secondly, to what extent was it thought that there were changes in behaviour in court? I think I am right, although I may be corrected, that in the Court of Appeal the judges and advocates are now filmed as a matter of course. Do the Court of Appeal or the advocates—I hope that the advocates were consulted as well—think that their behaviour has changed as a result? Does it mean that things take more or less time?

I was very grateful for the very clear explanation of this order by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks. I read it in exactly the way that he read it, which is that it allows for the filming only of the judge himself and nobody else in court is filmed. It is for the judge himself, under Section 32, to decide whether or not a particular set of sentencing remarks will be broadcast. I do not see any time limit in the order but I assume that a timescale is envisaged. I am not asking for a time limit, but can the Minister say what time limit is envisaged?

The Minister indicated that the only people who would be assessing this would be judges and people in the Ministry of Justice. I recognise and accept that none of this is for broadcast, but I strongly urge the Minister that the group of people assessing the process should be much wider, obviously subject to appropriate confidentiality and to not allowing the not-for-broadcast test to be broadcast. We need much more, in all honesty, than simply the judges and the excellent Ministry of Justice officials; there needs to be a much wider group, subject to confidentiality, to look at it.

Finally, I have just come from the Hillsborough inquest. It is the most appalling shame that the conclusions of that inquest were not recorded, for either live or near-to-live broadcast. What are the proposals in relation to inquests? It would have been so good if what the jury concluded could have been readily available—for example, on the 1 pm, 6 pm and 10 pm news. You would not need to film the jury, you would have needed only to film the coroner setting out what the remarks were.

I am very supportive of this order but I am terribly anxious that things are going much too slowly. Although I completely agree about the need for care and thought about this, this is the second order after two and a half years with no apparent plan. Perhaps something a bit more focused is required, but we support this order.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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My Lords, I am very grateful for the noble and learned Lord’s constructive comments and questions about this order and I am grateful, of course, for the Opposition’s support of it.

The overall purpose is, as I indicated, to ensure that the public have a clearer idea of what goes on in courts. The noble and learned Lord is right to say that progress is slow, but there are, I respectfully suggest, reasons to go slowly. Great care, as he acknowledges, has to be shown in how we develop it; care has to be shown for all those people potentially affected, including witnesses, as he said. Children are being excluded from this experiment, or test, altogether; clearly, we would be most concerned that children, in so far as they are allowed into court at all, would potentially be affected by expanding the scope of this order.

Of course, the Court of Appeal has been progressing with its own broadcasting and those who are disposed to find such things interesting can see a live feed of the Supreme Court. There is only a limited take-up, but I do not think there is any suggestion that it has adversely affected the way that the judges or advocates behave. Likewise, the judiciary considers the Court of Appeal experiment to have been successful and it has not noted any change of behaviour. I suspect that what happens is that people forget after a bit that the cameras are there.

Office of Lord Chancellor (Constitution Committee Report)

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Tuesday 7th July 2015

(9 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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I am speaking for the present Government.

On the question of whether the Lord Chancellor is adequately advised by lawyers, I say that the quality of the lawyers remains extremely high. I take the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, with his experience of the old Lord Chancellor’s Department and the quality of the lawyers there, but there is a great deal of continuity within the Ministry of Justice now.

I return to the role of the Lord Chancellor and deal briefly with the point of whether combining the role with another Cabinet position helps strengthen his or her position in government. Experience shows that both can be successfully carried out by the same person. I echo the views of the previous Government: we welcome the committee’s agreement that combining the role of Lord Chancellor with that of Secretary of State for Justice does, indeed, strengthen the office. I also welcome the committee’s view that it is not essential for the Lord Chancellor to have a legal background. The last two Lord Chancellors did not, but I suppose I hope that it does not become a disqualification for office if you happen to be legally qualified. The committee instead focuses on the necessary gravitas and status that the incumbent who undertakes the role must have, which does not require specific legal experience.

It may be useful to the House if I set out the current policy remit of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, which I think helps illustrate the benefits of combining the two roles. The Lord Chancellor has responsibility for matters relating to the judiciary, courts and tribunals, coroners, civil, family and administrative law, legal aid, legal services and the legal professions, public records and the Crown Dependencies. The Secretary of State for Justice’s policy responsibilities include prisons and probation, criminal law, sentencing policy, human rights, data protection and freedom of information. It is evident that having one person who is responsible for the effective and efficient delivery of that system combining the functions is of great benefit. It helps give him the necessary clout in Cabinet—or, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, said in evidence before the committee, makes sure that he is not at the,

“far end of the table”.

I touched on the Lord Chancellor’s responsibility for ensuring the proper administration of HM Courts & Tribunals Service. I want to say a little more about this as it is an important example of how upholding judicial independence is critical to the successful delivery of that service. The Lord Chancellor discharges his responsibility for the courts and tribunals in partnership with the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals. He has a statutory duty to provide the support necessary for the judiciary to perform its functions and to ensure that there is an efficient and effective system to support the business of the courts. This duty is discharged in conjunction with the senior judiciary, as laid out in the HM Courts & Tribunals Service Framework Document of 2014, which reflects the partnership arrangement between the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals in relation to the effective governance, financing and operation of HM Courts & Tribunals Service. It is very much a joint venture.

The final point I want to address—and it is a very important point—is the committee’s concern that:

“There is no clear focus within Government for oversight of the constitution”.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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Before the Minister moves on to that, can he identify whether he accepts the central recommendation of the Constitution Committee that the Lord Chancellor has an especial role in protecting the rule of law, or does he, like Mr Grayling, think that the Lord Chancellor has no special role that is any way different from that of the Secretary of State for Health or the Secretary of State for Education?

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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The Lord Chancellor’s role and his oath, as the noble and learned Lord said, is defined by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Clearly, his role is the same as other Ministers’ but must be larger than theirs. Its precise ambit may be a question of some debate but clearly he would regard, as indeed he said in the Legatum Institute talk, that he has a greater and particularly specific role in relation to the rule of law.

I was dealing with the oversight of the constitution. The committee recommended that, “a senior Cabinet minister”—in its view, most appropriately the Lord Chancellor—should have responsibility,

“for oversight of the constitution as a whole, even if other ministers have responsibility for specific constitutional reforms”.

The Prime Minister, of course, has overall responsibility for the constitution. The Cabinet Office has oversight of constitutional policy and has done since 2010. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin, oversees co-ordination of the Government’s constitutional reform programme and is supported by two Ministers and officials from the Cabinet Office constitution group. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster works in close collaboration with the Prime Minister and other relevant Cabinet Ministers, including the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney-General, the Leaders of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This senior ministerial oversight reflects the importance that the Government attach to their constitutional reform programme.

In answer to the noble and learned Lord, I am not aware of any precise protocol, but it is clear that there is a great concentration within the Cabinet Office, in close collaboration with the other offices.

Assisted Dying Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Friday 16th January 2015

(9 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Faulks Portrait The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con)
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My Lords, it is not a question of sympathy. As the noble Lord well understands, it is a question of not committing a future Government as to how they would respond to this position.

It might help if I clarify that the scope of civil legal aid is set out in the LASPO Act 2012. It provides that civil legal services are to be made available subject to satisfying the means and merits and the matter or type of case being within the scope of the civil legal aid scheme. In order to bring a matter within the scope of the civil legal aid scheme, an amendment to Part 1 of Schedule 1 to LASPO would need to be made. The power to make such an amendment by way of affirmative secondary legislation is already set out in LASPO. It would therefore be unnecessary and not usual practice for separate provision to be made in other primary legislation to provide such a power.

That is the position quite apart from the question of exceptional funding, which is concerned, as I said when we were last in Committee, with matters where it could be said that there was a violation of the convention right or, alternatively, a violation—although I do not think it is relevant—of some provision of EU law. That remains an uncertain provision, but it could potentially be relevant, so that is my answer.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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I am grateful to the Minister for his clarification saying, in effect, that there is already power to make sure that this is covered so far as legal aid is concerned under existing legislation. Three points are worth making. First, the key point is that anyone in the situation of considering an assisted death should feel that they would have access to proper legal advice so that the application would not appear to be a burden. Secondly, I completely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, that it is difficult to identify what an individual case might cost and involve. Some cases will involve no opposition, it being completely agreed and clear that this is the right course to take but nevertheless it should still go to the High Court. It would be very helpful to have a lawyer to help the family through that process. Others may involve more. I suspect that most cases would be on the uncontested end of the spectrum, but we have to provide for the other end of the spectrum as well.

I submit that the appropriate course to take would be that this is covered by legal aid. We should also try to build in easy access in hospitals and with doctors so that people know where they can go to get this help. The key thing is that the family should know that if they need legal help they can get it, it can be obtained easily and quickly and if they cannot afford it it will not cost them anything. I agree in principle with the approach that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, is taking. I suspect that it will not need an amendment to the Bill.

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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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In this context, it is for the Committee to consider the appropriate term. I decline to go any further.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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My Lords, this has been a very impressive debate. I completely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said about it being in the right tone.

I shall make three points. First, I acknowledge the speech by my noble friend Lord Cashman, which was of immense power and immense pain. He made the incredibly important point that in the circumstances in which he found himself, he was very clear about the distinction between assisted dying and suicide. I understand the difficulty and the pain that must have been involved in making that speech. All Members of Committee appreciate that.

Secondly, there are two separate groups in this group of amendments. One group is those amendments which wish to change various bits of the wording of the Bill to refer more often to the word “suicide”. Not one of those points has been pursued in detail except for the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, as regards Clause 4, in which he sought to suggest that the use in the draft Bill of the word “self-administration” was in some way euphemistic. It was not. It was used because a vital brick in the Bill is that the person has to do the last act to himself or herself. They have to do it to make clear that it is not euthanasia. That is why that word is there; it is not in any way intended to be euphemistic.

As regards the other matter, the Title of the Bill—which is the key point in the debate—I have thought very carefully about what the Bill should be called. I am always wary when I think to myself, “What will other people think I mean?”. When I hear noble Lords speculating about what the public may think, I am always rather wary; all we can do is to go by the words.

I have used the phrase “assisted dying” for three reasons. First, it is accurate. The purpose of my Bill as drafted is to:

“Enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life”.

That is the wording of the Long Title. Nobody in this debate has questioned its accuracy. What is the right way to convey a Long Title in a short title? In my view the right and most accurate way is by using the words “assisted dying”. That is why, after very considerable thought and having discussed it with people—not just people in favour but also lawyers—I wished to convey accurately what the position was.

The second reason is that to call the Bill “the Assisted Suicide Bill” would, as a matter of law, give the wrong impression. The words “assisted suicide” would give the impression that assistance could be given in any category of suicide. The third reason was that touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, who said that those engaged in helping people as regards suicide are very antipathetic to the words “committing suicide”. There is a moral opprobrium attached to it. For those three reasons I decided that the right wording was “assisted dying”. I urge the Committee to accept the Title as it is.

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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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My Lords, I do not have anything to add on that particular point.

This has been an excellent debate which has gone to the heart of some of the most difficult parts of the Bill. Why is six months the right period? Of course, we have heard plenty of informed opinion about how difficult it is to make a prognosis of any accuracy. In Amendment 21, a period of six weeks is suggested as a better period. It may be that that enables a clearer prognosis to be given, but it seems extremely short for the various practicalities and safeguards to give the Bill any real meaning. Inevitably, six months is something of a compromise; the question is whether it is a satisfactory compromise. It will not, of course, suit everybody.

It is something of an irony that one of the spurs behind this Bill and our debates is the Supreme Court’s decision in Nicklinson, which was concerned with the desire of two men with locked-in syndrome—an almost totally paralysing but not terminal condition—to request assistance to die. The Committee might like to be reminded that the President, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger, commenting in the judgment on the Falconer commission and the six-month period, said:

“That would not assist the applicants”.

I am sure that that is not in dispute. He went on:

“Further, I find it a somewhat unsatisfactory suggestion. Quite apart from the notorious difficulty in assessing life expectancy even for the terminally ill, there seems to me to be significantly more justification in assisting people to die if they have the prospect of living for many years a life that they regarded as valueless, miserable and often painful, than if they have only a few months left to live”.

These are very difficult questions and I look forward to hearing the answer from the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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I am again grateful for a very good debate. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, as ever, that this goes to important issues in the debate. I accept the definition given by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, of these issues, which go to the safeguards.

In looking at the safeguards, it is important to put into context the safeguards in the current draft of the Bill: two doctors, independent of each other, certifying that the patient has a terminal illness which they reasonably expect will end their life within the next six months; the two doctors, independent of each other, certifying that the person has made a voluntary decision, that they have the capacity to make that decision and that it is their firm and settled intention that they wish to take their own life in those circumstances; and that decision is not to be given effect without the consent of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice. Those are the safeguards.

Let us look at the proposals in the light of those existing safeguards. First, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, proposes, in effect, that a person must have as one of the doctors a general practitioner with whom he or she has been registered for the last six months—I understand that registration is a concept that only has relevance to a general practitioner. That proposal, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, has pointed out, appears not to deal with people in the following circumstances: somebody who, for example, moves to live near their relatives, then gets ill and is not registered for six months; somebody whose general practice, for example one run by a sole practitioner, packs up; or somebody who, for example, has a general practitioner who has a conscientious objection to the use of the provisions of the Bill.

If Parliament were to pass a Bill giving people the right to an assisted death, I venture to suggest that it would be a very odd conclusion that your ability to access that right would depend on the adventitious circumstance of whether, for example, you had moved one month before to be near your son and daughter, as my own stepmother did. That does not seem a sensible basis. However, a very powerful thread in this—which has been mentioned in particular by the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Empey—is the idea of a doctor who does not, as it were, properly consider the merits of an individual case but is, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Empey, available for hire. That is something that I would wish to avoid as much as possible. I venture to suggest that there may be three ways to deal with it.

First, I would expect the medical bodies to produce guidance. That can be given effect to, because a High Court judge would have to be satisfied that an appropriate process had been gone through. In addition to that, I note that, according to Clause 3(7), the independent doctor has to be “suitably qualified” in that he,

“holds such qualification or has such experience in respect of the diagnosis and management of terminal illness as the Secretary of State may specify in regulations”.

I would anticipate that the Secretary of State would be able to make in regulations provisions that make it clear that the independent doctor could not be the sort of doctor that the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Empey, and others referred to. If there are better ways of dealing with the doctor for hire situation, I am very willing to hear and discuss them and bring them forward at the next stage, but I am absolutely clear that the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is suggesting it be dealt with is unworkable and unfair and cuts at the heart of the Bill.

Assisted Dying Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Friday 7th November 2014

(9 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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This has been another useful and well informed debate, following on from the first group. I do not think that it is necessary for me to add anything from the point of view of the Government. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, made a particularly helpful clarification about DNR notices. The difference between DNR and DNACPR is probably insufficiently understood and I think that the House is grateful for that clarification. One final thing I should say, in responding to what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said about legal aid, is that nothing I said about exceptional funding, I am glad to say, was wrong, it having been reviewed. However, as yet no assessment has formally been done on availability to cover this situation. I am sure that the House will understand that.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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I understood that. I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, suggested anything to the contrary in his previous answer. We went over quite a lot of this ground in the first debate. Like the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, I agree that this has been a useful debate in a number of respects. However, the key point in the debate is the factor added by the judicial model proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. In addition to provisions required to ensure that the person has a firm and settled view and that he or she has the mental capacity, there is an additional very significant requirement—namely, that to refuse an order would amount to a breach of both Article 3 and Article 8 of the European convention.

In effect, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is suggesting that the judge should make a judgment about the quality of the life of the person who has applied and, in particular, whether the quality of life of the person applying in effect constitutes torture, inhuman or degrading treatment. Only when satisfied of that can the judge make an order under the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I totally reject that approach as being inconsistent with the essence of the Bill, which is subject to appropriate safeguards. It is not for a court to make that sort of judgment; it is for the individual. The purpose of the court’s involvement is to ensure that there has been no undue pressure and no lack of capacity in reaching that conclusion; it is most certainly not to make the sort of judgment that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, suggests. That was my understanding from the way in which the noble Lord put his case in the first debate and it is my understanding that the House has rejected that approach.

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Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks
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My Lords, it is a fundamental principle of the Bill before us that a person seeking assistance to end his or her own life should have the capacity to make such a profound decision. That is at the centre of the Bill and why it has taken up so much time—quite appropriately—in the course of this debate. Some of the amendments in this group seek to include capacity among the eligibility criteria in Clause 1. Noble Lords may see some merit in that approach, albeit that the issue of capacity is addressed in Clause 3.

It is clear, however, that your Lordships are concerned to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place properly to assess a person’s capacity to make these very difficult decisions. It is of course right, as has been observed during this debate, that capacity can vary over a period of time and that assessment can be complicated where a person has both a physical and a mental illness. We have heard in particular how depression can be both difficult to diagnose and can fluctuate. Therefore, several assessments over a period of time may be necessary adequately to assess capacity. That leaves aside the question of a change of mind, on which certain noble Lords were somewhat at cross-purposes. However, it nevertheless remains an important issue, the answer to which seemed to be given, I respectfully suggest, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, which is that the reversibility of the decision is covered by Clause 4(2)(c).

On the question of mental capacity and the relationship between the Mental Capacity Act and the Bill, my noble friend Lord Swinfen correctly reminded us that the Mental Capacity Act presumes capacity. However, that Act emphasises that capacity is issue-specific. As I understand it, the purpose of the Bill is to identify the particular issue in order for it to be determined whether the individual has the capacity to make that particular decision. What we are asking here is: are there adequate safeguards to enable that decision and the capacity to make it to be adequately assessed?

I will of course consider the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about trying to give further guidance. However, at the moment I am not convinced that there is any tension between the Mental Capacity Act and what the Bill does. Whether the House generally considers that the safeguards are adequate is a different matter and one on which there can reasonably be debate.

However, it is clear that there are differences of view about who should carry out the assessment, how many people should do it and whether there needs to be input by more than one person across a range of professions. Psychiatrists, of course, have been identified as key in this, but social workers are also experienced in assessing whether coercion or duress is being brought to bear. Increasingly, they are being asked to carry out capacity assessments for the Court of Protection, and they also play a leading role in safeguarding a person who may be at risk of harm from family or friends. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, was right to emphasise the importance of an assessment of the absence of mental disorder being critical when considering capacity. Your Lordships will have to reflect on whether there is a need for specialist assessment of capacity beyond that being carried out by the attending doctor and the independent doctor and, if so, what the requirements should be.

Finally, your Lordships may think that the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, was right when speaking not altogether flippantly of the capacity of decision-makers to remind us that there is fallibility in experts just as there is fallibility in judges.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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I am obliged to everyone who has taken part in this important debate. Capacity is central to the Bill. May I indicate how the Bill operates, so that we can then address the question of whether the safeguards are sufficient? I completely agree with the analysis given by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, as to what the question for us is.

What the Bill requires before the prescription can be given is that the attending doctor and the independent doctor have separately examined the person and the person’s medical records and each, acting independently, must be,

“satisfied that the person … has the capacity to make the decision to end their own life”.

In addition, as a result of Amendment 4, which was made this morning, a justice of the High Court of Justice sitting in the Family Division must confirm that he or she is satisfied that the person has the capacity to make the decision to end his or her own life. Capacity is defined by reference to the Mental Capacity Act, in Clause 12. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, is right in saying that that gives rise to no tension; how it operates is that, in considering whether the individual has capacity, the doctors and then the court ask themselves whether that individual has a sufficient degree of understanding and judgment to take this obviously very momentous decision. That means an understanding of what the decision is and what its consequences are. That is how the law defines capacity; it is a matter to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Are the safeguards sufficient? The amendments identify a number of possibilities. First, I take the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. She suggests that there must be a psychiatric assessment in every single case. That should be so, she says, even if the two doctors are satisfied and the judge is satisfied. Then there is the Butler-Sloss/Colville amendment, to call it so colloquially, which says that only when you are not sure and there are doubts do you make the assessment. The Murphy amendment also says that only if you have doubts should you have a psychiatric assessment.

My own view on this, although I need to consider it very carefully, is that if you have any doubts at all you could not be satisfied, whether you were the doctors or the court. In those circumstances, you might think that the case was much too doubtful and stop it straightaway, or you might have doubts because you do not know and are not qualified enough, so you should refer it to a psychiatrist. Like the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, I am not inclined to say that you have to get a psychiatric assessment in every single case. In my judgment, there will be cases where it is clear that there is no psychiatric element involved and it is the right thing to do because of the particular circumstances —and the idea that someone has to get a psychiatric assessment may look, on the facts of the case, wholly inappropriate.

My inclination is to consider the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, as the right one. I also need to consider whether one needs to put in the Bill the sort of process that I have indicated, which reflects to some extent the approach of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville. On the basis of the debate that we have had, I think that is the right way to go but I will reflect on what has been said and consider the extent to which this needs to be in the Bill.

I ask noble Lords to remember that, subsequent to their tabling their amendments, the Pannick amendment, if I may call it that, has come in, so a judge will consider this issue. He or she will consider not just whether the right process has been gone through but will have to be satisfied—it is a primary question of fact for the judge—that the person applying to get the prescription has the capacity to make the decision, so you have that final safeguard. If the judge is not satisfied or thinks that a psychiatrist should be involved, there is the protection. I suspect that we should adopt something along the lines of the Butler-Sloss/Murphy approach. The question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, was answered by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. If the noble and learned Lord says what my Bill means, I accept his comments readily and enthusiastically.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, drew our attention to proposed new paragraphs (a) and (d) of his Amendment 65. As I understand proposed new paragraph (a), you cannot be satisfied that the person has capacity if he or she is,

“suffering from any impairment of, or disturbance in, the functioning of the mind or brain … which might cloud or impair his or her judgement”.

Again, I think that is going too far. What happens if someone has a brain tumour that might impair their judgment but the doctors are satisfied that that person’s decision to take their own life is one that they have reached completely aware of all the circumstances? To take another example, suppose someone is depressed because they are going to die imminently but the doctors and the judge are satisfied that, although the person is depressed, which might be an appropriate response to what is happening, they are absolutely clear that that is what they want to do. Therefore, I think that the amendment goes too far. Proposed new paragraph (d) of the amendment states that the capacity of an applicant,

“is not the subject of influence by, or a sense of obligation or duty to, others”.

With respect, I do not think that comes under “capacity” at all because capacity is about whether someone can make a judgment. A person can be completely able to make the judgment and conclude that they hate being dependent on other people. You might think that that is inappropriate and be guided by what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, says, but you certainly have the capacity to do it, so, although we should consider this under other headings, I honestly do not think that is a capacity issue.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, indicated three other points. First, she did not like the word “commensurate”. I have not used that word; it was the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur—take it up with him. Secondly, she was keen—in my view, rightly—that the word “satisfied” should be used, as it is in her amendment. The requirement for the two doctors is that they must be “satisfied”. The requirement in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, is that the judge must be satisfied, so I agree with her and I think that that point has been met. Her third requirement was that of training. Under the Bill, the second doctor has to be an independent doctor who is,

“suitably qualified if that doctor holds such qualification or has such experience in respect of the diagnosis and management of terminal illness as the Secretary of State may specify in regulations”.

I am sympathetic to the noble and learned Baroness’s point and I think that it would be appropriate for certain training requirements to be met before you can be an independent doctor in this context. Therefore, I hope that I have dealt with her point.

I have dealt with Amendment 54 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy. As regards Amendments 71 and 151, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, made a point that I had not seen reflected in her amendments but I am sure that is my fault—that is, what is the position of somebody who has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983? I have assumed that they would not have capacity. It is not specifically raised as I read any of her amendments. However, I will need to consider that important point. My immediate assumption is that, if you are sectioned, you could not possibly have the capacity to make this decision but we need to look at the position in relation to that.

I have dealt with all the specific points made on the amendments. The debate was fascinating, moving and gripping. One of the great temptations in these debates is to veer off from the amendment, because we are all so gripped by this subject, and go into issues that are slightly off piste. I know it is done with the best motives but I am keen that the Committee should give everyone’s amendments a proper shot. I am trying to be disciplined. I ask very respectfully, because the amendments are fascinating, can we try to focus a bit more on the amendments?

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My Lords, this last group has engendered a wide-ranging debate which has called for considerable mental agility on the part of the participants. They have shown themselves well able to do so. I could not attempt to summarise all the issues that have been raised, but well raised they have been, and they have given the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, a great deal to consider.

I shall deal with one point only. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, was concerned, as he always is—much to the benefit of the House—with those aged between 18 and 25, who have not been the main focus of our attention today. I can tell the Committee that the General Medical Council’s core guidance for all registered doctors on good medical practice makes clear that a doctor,

“should make sure that arrangements are made, wherever possible, to meet patients’ language and communication needs”.

This will include consideration of the age of the patient.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton
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The last half hour has been a remarkably focused debate on a series of amendments. I wish to go through each of the points that have been made.

Amendment 11 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, seeks to insert at the end of Clause 1 that a condition of having a right to an assisted death is that someone,

“is able to administer to himself or herself a lethal dose of drugs through whatever route is normally employed for ingestion of food”.

As the noble Lord recognised, that is at odds with the terms of the Bill, which state that,

“an assisting health professional may … prepare … medicine for self-administration by that person … prepare a medical device which will enable that person to self-administer the medicine; and … assist that person to ingest or otherwise self-administer the medicine; but the decision to self-administer the medicine and the final act of doing so must be taken by the person for whom the medicine has been prescribed”.

The Bill then specifically says with reference to subsection (4) of Clause 4, which I have just read out:

“Subsection (4) does not authorise an assisting health professional to administer a medicine to another person with the intention of causing that person’s death”,

so it absolutely underlines that it has to be a final act by the patient himself.

I am against the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, as it would discriminate against weak patients who cannot easily manage medication orally, including weakened cancer patients as well as those suffering from motor neurone disease, where setting up a form of driver would be more appropriate, but leaving the patient to take the final action. Alternatively, a nasogastric tube or even an intravenous drip can be set up and still leave the patient in control of the final action. The key thing here is to make sure that the Bill underlines that it has to be the final act by the patient but gives some degree of flexibility.

Amendment 10, which was primarily referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness, and is in his name, seeks to add a condition that the request for an assisted death should be made,

“on the basis of a fully informed decision”.

The Bill currently says that the person has to make the decision,

“on an informed basis and without coercion or duress”.

The Bill also provides:

“In deciding whether to countersign a declaration under subsection (3), the attending doctor and the independent doctor must be satisfied that the person making it has been fully informed of the palliative, hospice and other care which is available to that person”.

As a result of the amendments made by the Committee, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, the Bill now states that the judge has to be satisfied that the person has,

“a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish”.

As between the Bill and the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, there is no dispute that the person should be informed. I would be happy to insert “fully” wherever “informed” is referred to.

The noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, also has a further amendment, Amendment 70, supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, in which, in effect, they set out what one would expect to form part of the full information given before the decision is made. It includes what the consequences of the illness are, what palliative care and pain relief are available, and what the prognosis is in relation to the illness—considerable detail like that. I would expect all these matters to fall within the words “fully informed”, but I recognise the feelings of the noble Lords, Lord Cavendish, Lord Howard of Lympne, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, all of which suggest support for further spelling out of the meaning of “fully informed”. Can I take that away and come back with a proposal on Report to spell that out? I should make it clear that the sorts of things referred to in Amendment 70 would have been what I would have expected to include in any event. However, I can see that the Committee would get more assurance if it were set out in the Bill.

The next group of amendments were from the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, who was keen in Clause 1 to insert a provision that the decision was being made voluntarily. I am sorry to be wearisome, but the Bill currently requires that the two doctors must be satisfied that the person,

“has a clear and settled intention to end their own life which has been reached voluntarily, on an informed basis and without coercion or duress”.

In addition, as a result of the amendments made this morning, the judge has to be satisfied that the individual,

“has a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish to end his or her own life”.

There is therefore no doubt that the requirement for voluntariness is there at two stages already. With all respect to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, legally it will not make much difference to add that provision elsewhere also.

However, the noble and right reverend Lord touched on the deeper issue of whether we as a House would consider a situation whereby, even though one wished to live, one decided, because one was a burden to those one loved, to go down the route of an assisted death. I would say that that was not voluntary because one wanted to live. That may be an oversimplification in many cases—there may be other cases where the situation is more complicated—but I would not be in favour of putting anything to that effect in the Bill.