Lords to defeat Bill limiting jury trials

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Indy Politics

The government is facing an embarrassing defeat in the Lords today over controversial plans to end the automatic right for trial by jury, threatening to overshadow the last day of the Labour conference.

The government is facing an embarrassing defeat in the Lords today over controversial plans to end the automatic right for trial by jury, threatening to overshadow the last day of the Labour conference.

An alliance of Tory and Liberal Democrat peers is set to throw out the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial No 2) Bill at second reading, claiming it amounts to illiberal legislation. It will be the second time in less than a year they have rejected the legislation.

But Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has already made it clear he will overcome the upper chamber's opposition by using the Parliament Act to force through the Bill next year.

The defeat would be the first in a series of expected clashes between the Commons and the Lords. The Government faces a logjam of legislation because it has still 11 Bills to get through the Lords, including the Countryside Bill, which would introduce a statutory right to roam, the Northern Ireland Policing Bill, which implements RUC reform, and the Transport Bill, which could see a rebellion over plans to part-privatise the National Air Traffic Services.

One Labour peer said the Government needs to "pick its fights" better to avoid unnecessary defeats, which had led to an overcrowding of the legislative timetable.

"Nobody would blame us if we are defeated by Tories on issues such as the statutory right to roam," the peer said. "But it is more difficult for us when we are defeated over highly controversial legislation such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill."

Under the Criminal Justice legislation, which has caused widespread anger among peers who regard it as illiberal and alarmed business leaders, the police are to be given the power to intercept e-mails.

Peers expect ministers will be forced to either drop some Bills or delay the next Queen's Speech, which details the legislative programme for each parliamentary session, until as late as early December.

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