HC Deb 28 April 1966 vol 727 cc923-5
12. Mr. Freeson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to codify sentences imposed by the courts in cases of sacrilege and arson against places of worship.

Mr. Taverne

The maximum penalty for sacrilege or for setting fire to a place of worship is imprisonment for life. It must remain for the courts to decide what penalty should be imposed in any particular case.

Mr. Freeson

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a very strange contrast between the maximum sentence which can be imposed and recent sentences of two or three days which were imposed on members of a Fascist organi-

six years since; and what is his policy regarding oil burners not conforming to the minimum standards of the regulations issued under the statute and still in use.

Miss Bacon

As the Answer to the first part of the Question is long I shall, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. An amendment to the existing Regulations, shortly to be laid before the House, will bring the sale of all oil-heaters, regardless of their date of manufacture, within the scope of the Regulations. My right hon. Friend has no power to control the use of oil-heaters by householders in their own homes.

Sir G. Nabarro

May I congratulate the hon. Lady upon a magnificent and constructive Answer to my Question?

Following is the information:

sation who burned down a synagogue in my constituency at considerable cost—

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to criticise a specific instance of wrong done by a court, he must do it by a Motion on the Order Paper.

Mr. Hogg

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance to the House that he will make quite sure that prosecuting authorities will pursue these cases with the utmost vigilance?

Mr. Taverne

Certainly I will give that assurance. I think that every decent person viewed those particular offences with horror. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State received a deputation from the Board of Deputies of British Jews to discuss recent cases, and members of that deputation expressed appreciation of the part which was played by the police in recent cases of this type.

Mr. Shinwell

While the Minister will no doubt understand that many of us will not seek to criticise a judge of the High Court for imposing any kind of sentence within his discretion, is not the Minister a little horrified at what happened?

Mr. Taverne

It would be very dangerous for us to express any opinion on particular sentences passed by particular judges. It would be wrong for any minimum sentence to be imposed in these cases, because it must be for the judge to determine the circumstances of a particular case and deal with the offender.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is the Minister aware that these offences are increasing, not only in synagogues but in many churches which are open for prayer all day? Will he send a circular to police forces drawing attention to the need to enforce this part of the existing law?

Mr. Taverne

I will look at that matter.

Mr. Abse

Would particular notice be taken of any evidence revealed in cases that have come before the courts that would justify the Director of Public prosecutions taking proceedings against people who are named and who are alleged to be inciting others to go and do these terrible jobs?

Mr. Taverne

That raises a slightly different point.