The ninth and tenth days of line-by-line consideration of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment bill brought the Committee stage in the House of Lords to a conclusion last week.
In general the pattern was the same as the first eight days of the Committee stage. Subjects discussed included bail, remand, electronic monitoring, life sentences, early release, a new women’s justice strategy commission, youth cautions, offensive weapons and squatting. In all, over 200 amendments have been considered during the ten days. The only amendments agreed were those proposed by the government, a raft of technical and textual amendments. All the other amendments were either not moved or were withdrawn after debate.
So far the only concession made by the government is the withdrawal of clause 12 which would have required the means testing of defendents in the police station. The only other movements of note concerned a new provision to allow appeal against release on bail (Jane’s Law) and the consideration of disclosure of information to members of the public about convictions of violent abusers (Clare’s Law?), the subject of earlier blogs.
The bill will now move on to Report stage for further detailed examination. This process will commence on 5 March. This stage in the chamber gives all members of the Lords opportunity to consider all amendments, with detailed line by line examination of the separate parts and voting. Many amendments were withdrawn at Committee stage on the understanding that the government would look again at the particular aspect of the bill before Report. How the government responds will determine whether or not opponents divide the House.
The government has signalled that it may make some concessions – perhaps on child clinical negligence cases and the definition of domestic violence – if only to avoid the bruising they have received on the Welfare Reform and NHS bills. We shall see.