The written information procedure

Part of Prisons and Courts Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:45 pm ar 18 Ebrill 2017.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General 4:45, 18 Ebrill 2017

The amendments and new clause deal with independent evaluation. Amendment 94 is about independent evaluation of the operation of the expanded written procedure, and it would require the Government to lay the report of the evaluation before each House of Parliament within two years. I referred previously to amendment 32; it relates to the independent evaluation of the matters in clause 34, which deals with public participation in proceedings conducted by video and audio. New clause 15 also concerns the principle of review. It is about the expansion of the availability of live links. Again, there would be an independent review within two years of the coming into force of the Act, and that would have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

The amendments are sensible, and the Government should not be afraid of them. We are all united in our wish that there should be access to justice. We are of course aware of, and embrace, the new technology that is available. However, two arguments arise. First, we should ensure that there are proper safeguards to protect people, and secondly we should evaluate how the system works as we take it forward.

We heard substantial evidence on the first day of the Committee, and there was also substantial written evidence, much of which highlighted various worries. A two-year review would not in any way impede the Government’s progress on the central aspects of the Bill, but it would ensure that the Government were held to account properly for whether the measures work as we want them to and do not impede access to justice. It would also be a useful reference point for the Government to look again at where the system was not working as well as it should.