§ Mr. Bob Ainsworth
I beg to move amendment No. 132, in page 267, line 5, at end insert—'(6) This paragraph does not confer power to require a person—
- (a) to produce, or give access to privileged material,
- (b) to answer any privileged question.(7) Where a person would be entitled to refuse to produce any material, or to refuse to answer any question—
- (a) in relation to England and Wales and Northern Ireland, on grounds of legal professional privilege in proceedings in the High Court,
- (b) in relation to Scotland, on grounds of legal privilege, within the meaning of Chapter 3 of Part 8,
- the material or (as the case may be) question is privileged.'.
§ Mr. Speaker
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendments Nos. 94, 95, 64, 109, 65 and 110.
Amendment No. 68, in clause 356, page 207, line 31, after "the", insert "current".
Government amendments Nos. 111, 165 and 113.
§ Mr. Ainsworth
Most of our amendments are technical. Amendment No. 132, however, is slightly more than that. It deals with a problem that was raised in Committee. Hon. Members were right to think that there was an infringement on legal professional privilege, and we are putting that right.
As we have little time, I shall deal with amendment No. 68. It would limit the information that needs to be provided to the current name and address of a client. The amendment is not necessary. Its purpose is achieved in the 676 Bill as drafted. It is self-evident in clause 356(1) that only the current name and address of the lawyer's client need to be disclosed, so the amendment would have no effect
§ Mr. Hawkins
The Minister says that clause 356 makes it clear that only the current address can be disclosed, but that is not the case. If it did say that, we would not have tabled the amendment, which is, of course, to clause 356.
§ Mr. Ainsworth
The hon. Gentleman is not right. There is no requirement in that clause to disclose anything other than the current name and address. If he can show me, either now or subsequently, that that is not the case, I assure him that I will address the problem because that is not our intention or policy. I hope that my assurance is clear and unambiguous and that he can accept it. I am more than happy to give him further clarification if he needs it. I commend the Government amendment to the House.
§ Mr. Hawkins
Opposition Members are genuinely grateful to the Government and the Minister for the series of concessions that they have made. I appreciate that he is being brief because of the time, but it is important to go through some of the important things that the Government are doing. The House will note that, although the Government have put their name to a number of the amendments, the Minister did not say that they were our amendments initially. My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) and I can happily say, as the Ministers conceded in Committee, that this is another set of Grieve-Hawkins amendments.
We are pleased, in particular, that the Government have agreed in amendments Nos. 94 and 95 to replace the inelegant drafting of "a view to" with "the intention of'. That is a far better phrase, which is far more familiar to us from other legislation. We made that point in detail in Committee, and we are delighted that the Government have belatedly agreed with us, but however belated their agreement there is more joy in heaven over a sinner that repenteth. We are glad to see that the Bill is being genuinely improved by the Government signing up to amendments suggested by the official Opposition.
The same thing has happened with amendments Nos. 64, 109, 65 and 110, which make the changes that we wished to make to the provisions on production orders and search and seizure orders. The Government have signed up to our suggested amendments to clause 376 and, in amendment No. 113, made an amendment that, while not one of ours, reflects a view that we expressed in Committee on schedule 8. The amendments relate to the deletion of provisions in clause 376 on names and addresses of clients. For the production order, that matter has been removed; for disclosure orders, it has been left in.
The one remaining issue, as the Minister rightly says, arises in our amendment No. 68. It was not only my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield and myself who referred to the matter in Committee; the hon. Member for Redcar (Vera Baird), whose contributions to the debate were very welcome, raised the same issues on 29 January when she said:A person is obliged to provide material. Even if it contains only the name and address, the very existence of something called `material', particularly when produced from a particular place, might be important evidentially, and be compellable under the clause. That is not what the Minister wants to get his hands on."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 29 January 2002; c. 1218.]677 There was then quite a lot of discussion about the significance of documents which might or might not be privileged and might contain a defendant's name and address.
I appreciate that, because amendment No. 68 concerns a later clause in the Bill—clause 356—it will not fall to be voted on tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield and I will, in the hours until tomorrow's proceedings, be considering whether we wish to press the matter. At this stage, however, we say that it is not for us to satisfy the Minister, as he invites us to, that clause 356 could relate only to the current name and address of a client; it is for him to satisfy us. I appreciate that he has, from the Dispatch Box, given a firm indication that only the current name and address is covered and, of course, we will be able to rely on the Hansard record of the debate.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I see the Minister nodding. That is very helpful, and it may be that when my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield and I have considered the matter further, we may decide that we do not need to have a separate division on amendment No. 68. However, the Minister should reflect on the fact that my hon. Friend and I, dealing with these matters in our professional careers, and other hon. Members, including some who were members of the Committee and others who took an interest on Second Reading and have done so again tonight, are aware that when documents are being considered in preparing a prosecution case, those relating to the client's history are often regarded as very material. We are therefore concerned to ensure that any chipping away of the important safeguards of legal professional privilege, about which both the Law Society and the Law Society of Scotland are concerned—as the Ministers know, we debated that a lot in Committee—is strictly limited. I accept that the Government are firmly of the view that there will be occasions when certain documents that relate only to a defendant's name and address may be regarded under the legislation as material and disclosable in certain circumstances. I believe that the Minister will confirm that that is only in relation to disclosure orders. However, if disclosure is going to chip away at legal professional privilege, we need to be careful. I hope that, for the avoidance of doubt, the Minister will at least consider, even if he cannot do so at this stage, reinforcing still further his fair concession from the Dispatch Box tonight. Perhaps he would consider introducing a Government amendment in another place to do what amendment No. 68 does, simply inserting the word "current" wherever it sits most elegantly in clause 356, putting the position beyond doubt. There would therefore be something in the Bill. We would not simply have to rely on the Minister's concession at the Dispatch Box, whereby people involved in a case would have to trawl through Hansard to see what was said in the long watches of the night.
I hope that the Minister will give that further consideration and accept that it is an important issue. However, I am grateful for what he said and, with my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, am particularly grateful that the Government have signed up to a series 678 of Opposition amendments, which reflects once again the good and constructive spirit in which the Government and the Opposition have sought to improve the legislation. That spirit has characterised the vast majority of our debates, both tonight and in Committee.
§ Mr. Carmichael
May I briefly associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) about the Government amendments on legal privilege? I am delighted that our useful debate on the subject in Committee has borne fruit. It is good that the Government now accept that legal privilege and the important lawyer-client relationship can continue to operate without prejudicing in any way the efficacy of the Bill.
Liberal Democrat Members are inclined to support amendment No. 68, which was tabled by Conservative Members. The requirement to disclose a name or address that may previously have been used by a client clearly opens up the possibility of further information that would otherwise be privileged having to be disclosed. Now that the Government have accepted the general principle of the importance of legal privilege, I hope that that final aspect receives further mature consideration.
§ Mr. Wilshire
I hope that the fact that Opposition Members wish to heap praise on the Minister even at this late hour does not embarrass him too much, as I wish to do the same. It is important to put on record the fact that, during a long Committee stage, a huge number of issues were raised. The Minister suggested that he would go away and think about a range of matters that we brought to his attention. It would be churlish not to appreciate the fact that he has done just that and reported back. Indeed, this group of amendments, as well as others that we have discussed, and some that we will come to later, are a direct result of pressure that we put on a Minister who was willing to listen. That needs to be put firmly on the record.
§ As for amendment No. 68, the Minister again indicated—
§ It being six hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Order [this day] put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.
§ Remaining Government amendments agreed to.
§ Bill, as amended in the Standing Committee, to be further considered tomorrow.