HC Deb 01 February 1962 vol 652 cc1273-4
22. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how long the examination by his Department of fines which can be imposed by courts of summary jurisdiction has continued; and when his new scales will be announced.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

A comprehensive review, involving examination of several hundreds of small statutory fines in consultation with other Departments, has been in progress since 1957. Substantial progress has been made, but I cannot at present say when it will be possible to introduce legislation on this subject.

Dame Irene Ward

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that courts of summary jurisdiction are getting extremely tired of housing simple drunks at less than economic cost? Having regard to the increase in crime in many parts of the country, does he not think that, if fines were increased so as to hit people through their pockets, we might be able to deal with the situation much more cogently than we are now, and does he realise that at least the Newcastle bench on which I sit is thoroughly tired of continuing delay in providing for greater fines particularly for the simple crimes?

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

My hon. Friend is quite right in the principle she puts forward, but the examination of the matter is much more complicated than might appear. It is not possible just to multiply the old fines—some of which go back hundreds of years—by a factor representing the change in the value of money. Some offences may have changed considerably in importance and some of the heavier fines might be quite inappropriate. As regards cases of drunk or drunk and disorderly persons, I agree that the penalties fixed by the Licensing Act, 1872, are inadequate. Perhaps we might have a talk about the quickest way of improving them.