HC Deb 28 October 1980 vol 991 cc447-8
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

I beg to move, in page 5, line 21, after 'court' add: 'provided that the place where the person is held is notified either to that person's solicitor or next of kin, and arrangements are made for visiting'. This is a simple amendment, but clause 6 is an area that we ought to have spent more time on because it is one of the small parts of the Bill which are permanent. The amendment is pretty straightforward. It says that if a constable has the power to detain someone, there must be certainty for the prisoner that either his solicitor or his next of kin are told of the arrangements and that arrangements are made for visiting.

I would have thought that this was an area in which the Minister could accept the amendment so that we could make rapid progress.

Mr. Brittan

I do not think that I can accept the amendment, but I hope that I can give the Committee some reassurance which will be satisfactory.

With regard to notification to solicitors or next of kin, I can give some reassurance. If a person asks for his whereabouts to be notified, the police so notify. Otherwise, I am afraid that the drafting of the amendment is defective. Someone may have neither a solicitor nor a next of kin, and presumably it is not intended to prevent anyone else from being notified on request. Of course, there could be no objection to the notification of anyone who is reasonably named.

As to visiting, the amendment is too vague for it to be appropriate in any way. What arrangements have to be made to satisfy the implied requirement? In practice, bearing in mind the gross overcrowding in police cells, it would be a mistake for anyone to think that the kind of normal visiting arrangements which operate in the prisons when they are operating normally apply. I do not think that one ought to pretend that they do.

For those reasons, I would not advise the Committee to accept the amendment.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Those assurances go some way, but I do not think that they go far enough. As I understand it, in this clause the Minister is asking for powers to continue indefinitely rather than for powers of a temporary nature. If it is to be a continuing power, there ought to be rather more assurances than the Minister has given at this stage.

I do not want to press the amendment any further now, but I hope that the Government will at least look at this point before the Bill goes to the other place to see whether in respect of this small part of the Bill, which will be permanent, the assurances that he has more or less given are shown on the face of the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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