All 1 Baroness Deech contributions to the Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill [HL] 2017-19 to 2019-19

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Wed 12th Jun 2019
Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill [HL]
Grand Committee

Second reading committee (Hansard): House of Lords & Second reading committee (Hansard): House of Lords & Second reading committee (Hansard): House of Lords

Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill [HL] Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Scotland Office

Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill [HL]

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Second reading committee (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 12th June 2019

(4 years, 11 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-executive member of the board of the Law Commission, the place where I had my first job in 1966. With that caveat, I nevertheless think it is appropriate to pay tribute to the work of the Law Commission, now 54 years old, not just for this Bill but for all it has done to keep our law up to date, thereby earning it worldwide recognition for its distinction.

This Bill is a stepping stone to what will be a far longer Bill—558 pages in the draft proposal when I last counted. It is estimated that in the end it will reduce 1,300 pages of sentencing law to around 450 pages. The project started in 2014 and, when one realises its vast scope, it is remarkable that it has been completed within five years. It therefore behoves Parliament to act as quickly and to progress to the code, which has been universally welcomed by the Bar Council, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Head of Criminal Justice. It is the result of years of detailed and collaborative research by the Law Commission, including close working with practitioners in criminal law. There have been four consultations. It has been calculated, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, noted, that it will save £256 million in terms of time and avoidance of mistakes over the next 10 years.

Sentencing errors, when they occur, are particularly regrettable in human terms to the person affected and also a drain on the judicial system. It is confidently expected that errors will be reduced as a result of consolidating the law on sentencing. Sentencing might also become more visibly rational and accessible to the lay man, which would give support to the rule of law. The consolidation exercise has been mindful of the need to avoid retrospective legislation and not to increase sentences over and above what would have been applicable at the time of the offence. All those involved urge its enactment without further delay.

Given that both Houses have enacted a special procedure for Law Commission Bills in order to ensure a swifter and more specialised passage to the statute book, it is to be welcomed that it is being used now, but one wonders why it is not used more often. The successful enactment of Law Commission recommendations ought to be speeded up, given the record of the commissioners. In recent years, many recommendations have been accepted but not implemented due to a lack of parliamentary time. This ought not to be an excuse. Indeed, we see no particular pressure on time in this House right now. It seems that this Bill is the first to be put through the special procedure since 2017. In total, seven have followed this procedure.

There are three more projects completed by the Law Commission which would seem to be suitable for this procedure, and I would be grateful if the Minister would indicate that he is giving serious consideration to this. The projects are: making land work; technical issues in charity law; and updating the Land Registration Act 2002. They each concern highly technical areas of law which are non-party-political. The Law Commission’s recommendations were reached following detailed examination and consultation with the interested parties. There is strong support for those reforms, which would have significant practical benefits for large numbers of individuals, businesses and the third sector.

Noting the amount of money that this code that we are discussing is likely to save, I think it is clear that money invested in the running of the Law Commission is a good investment with a hefty return, and it ought to be increased rather than reduced. I trust that the Minister will say that more of the Law Commission’s work should be supported.

Finally, I note that in our discussion this afternoon we are joining with the rest of the country in adopting a new philosophy which is very popular. A Japanese author, Marie Kondo, has written a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. Her philosophy is decluttering. She says that one proper clear-out is all you need for the rest of your life. Once you have your house in order, you will find that your whole life will change. Her mantra is: keep only that which sparks joy. Let this be our guide in consolidating the law.