HC Deb 01 March 1973 vol 851 cc1689-90
14. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department from which organisations he has received representations supporting and opposing, respectively, the Report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee on Evidence (General); and if he will make a statement as to the Government's policies concerning the proposals contained in the report.

Mr. Carlisle

Representations have been received from 25 organisations, although some are of only an interim nature and at least one organisation with a major interest has yet to submit its comments. In general, organisations have indicated that they support some proposals but oppose others, and it is not possible to divide them simply into "supporters" and "opponents".

The Government are studying the representations received and the observations made during the recent debate in another place. No policy decision will be taken until all responsible opinion has been heard, including that of this House.

Mr. Davis

Is it not right that the Bar, the solicitors' profession, distinguished judges, Justice, and a number of other organisations have expressed grave disquiet about the major proposals that have been made by the Criminal Law Revision Committee, in particular, the proposals regarding the introduction of previous convictions, the abolition of the caution and the abolition of the present rules against self-incrimination? Is there not an almost united expression of opinion against these recommendations?

Mr. Carlisle

It is true that certain organisations which have put in representations have taken strong exception to some recommendations of the Criminal Law Revision Committee—including the Bar Council. The Law Society's comments have not yet been received by the Home Office.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

In view of the widespread criticisms by the Criminal Bar Association, the Bar Council and other bodies of the recommendation suggesting the abolition of the right to silence in police stations, and the injustice that this proposal is likely to cause in future in the conduct of a trial, will the hon. and learned Gentleman at least say that he does not propose to implement that proposal?

Mr. Carlisle

No. I can only repeat what I have already said, namely, that we are giving careful consideration to all the representations that have been made. There has been a debate in another place and we have undertaken that we will listen to opinion in this House before coming to any conclusion. I am not prepared, in advance, to reject or accept any particular recommendation.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Who, apart from the Lord Chief Justice, has supported the abolition of the right to silence in interrogation?

Mr. Carlisle

If an individual answer is required to that question I will have to have notice of it. As far as I know, it was recommended by the Criminal Law Revision Committee, which consists of many eminent judges. Certainly we have had representations both ways on all the committee's recommendations.