Amendment 127

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords am 7:00 pm ar 13 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Judge 7:00, 13 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. I am particularly grateful to the Minister for stressing several times in his reply the Government’s commitment to the independence of the advocate; that is extremely important.

The problem is that that is not expressed clearly enough on the face of the Bill. It is curious, as I pointed out at the beginning, that it appears in the contents but not the text of any of the clauses. That is curious and suggests that something should be done in the wording to clarify the matter further to avoid the impression, which Clause 31(2)(a) gives, that the Secretary of State can dismiss the advocate for any reason.

It is possible to develop my amendment a little further—I am speaking off the cuff—to say that the Secretary of State may terminate the appointment for “administrative reasons” or “having regard to the views of victims” or “because the advocate is unfit”, and so on. The point is that one could spell out in this clause a little more clearly what ability the Secretary of State has to terminate the function without undermining the independence of the advocate.

To some extent, one is talking about the confidence the advocate has in exercising what could be quite demanding functions. In the interests of victims, they could be pressing the Secretary of State to do things that may be awkward, embarrassing, expensive, and so forth. It is very important to get this clarified in a way that achieves the commitment the Minister has very helpfully been stressing in his reply to me. I hope we can come back to this. If there is a possibility of discussing this with the Minister and the Bill team, I would very much welcome that. I hope we can pursue it further that way.