§ Order for Second Reading read.3.49 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I regret that the industrial action by the Prison Officers' Association makes the Bill necessary. In particular, I certainly would not seek to rush the Bill through the House unless the circumstances demanded it.
It may help the House if I remind hon. Members of the background to the present dispute in prisons. The work of prison officers in establishments is organised within the framework of one or other of two duty systems, known as the Vee scheme and the functional group system. The way in which the systems have operated over the years has given rise to a number of disputes with the Prison Officers' Association over the entitlement of officers to payments for meal breaks. Those disputes were among the reasons, and were in fact the immediate occasion, for the appointment of the May committee.
In the event, the committee recommended that three of the 17 claims referred to it should be accepted. The Government accepted the committee's recommendations without hesitation in final settlement of the whole issue of meal break payments or "continuous duty credits" as they have come to be described.
One of the claims that the Government accepted on the recommendation of the May committee applied only to establishments operating one of the two duty systems—the functional group scheme. The Prison Officers' Association subsequently repeated to the Government its original claim that if staff in functional group system establishments were entitled—as May found they were—to those allowances, they should, by extension, also be paid to staff in establishments working the other attendance system—the Vee scheme—which May did not recommend. The Government could not accept that claim. The payments recommended by the May committee were recommended on the basis that they 212 were an existing entitlement under the committee's interpretation of the conditions of service; the new claim by the Prison Officers' Association constituted an improvement in the existing conditions of service, as the POA recognised.
In coming to a decision on the claims the Government had to consider the position of the prison officers in the context of national economic circumstances. Other recommendations of the May committee, which the Government accepted at the same time, were for a new pay scale for prison officers. Taken together with the subsequent 1980 pay settlement, that gives a prison officer in his first year of service a rate of pay of over £8,000 a year, including normal overtime and taking account of free quarters or rent allowance. In our present economic circumstances we could not conclude that the Prison Officers' Association's claim for an improvement in their conditions of service was justified.
I explained to the House yesterday why I was unable to agree to the Prison Officers' Association's request that the claim should be submitted to arbitration. The May committee itself had already provided an independent assessment of the claims submitted to it by the association. Moreover, the claim itself is outside the terms of the Civil Service arbitration agreement and the association accepts that.
It has been suggested that one means of resolving the dispute would be to ask Mr. Justice May and his committee to reexamine the present claim. I have, of course, considered this, but I am bound to say that I see serious difficulties in the suggestion. I really cannot see how it would be sensible to do this when the May committee's original terms of reference were already so clear and all-embracing. It was asked, among other things,to examine and make recommendations upon … the claim put forward by the Prison Officers' Association for certain 'continuous duty credit' payments and the date from which any such payments should be made".The Prison Officers' Association argued to May that if the committee accepted—as it did—the claim for staff working the functional group system, then:any favourable consideration of the 7k/9b argument should apply equally to all prison officers regardless of their attendance system".213 What did May find? At paragraph 9.28 the committee found:whatever may be the effects of paragraphs 7k and 9b they can confer no right to payment except in cases falling under their terms, and to state the claim in the wide terms noted by the Prison Officers' Association clearly goes well beyond any possible construction of the paragraphs".What could be clearer than that? Moreover, if we now ask the committee to reconvene and look again at this finding, presumably on a different basis, how could the re-examination be limited to just this one of the many claims which were before the committee and which it determined? It would put in question the whole May settlement, which the Government have accepted and implemented. I do not believe that it would be possible.
Our response both to the Prison Officers' Association's claim and to the request for arbitration therefore had not been negative. Separately from the dispute, negotiations are well advanced, which, if they are satisfactorily concluded will lead to the introduction of a new duty system. The new system would be common to all establishments; it would remove the complexity of the existing systems, which has given rise to the current disputes; and it would remove the anomaly, which I acknowledge, that staff working under one of the existing systems receive certain payments that are not available to staff performing a similar pattern of duty under the other.
It is a matter of great regret that instead of seeking a solution through those negotiations, the Prison Officers' Association decided instead to take such serious industrial action. My ministerial colleagues and I have visited many prison establishments. We have been constantly impressed by the arduous nature of many of the prison officers' tasks and by the tradition, which prison officers share with other members of the service, of dedicated service to the public and to prisoners.
The action that the officers have taken is broadly of three sorts. First, they have prevented certain kinds of work from being done in prisons. In particular, they have stopped contractors from entering prisons to carry out work that is essential to the maintenance of the fabric of the prison estate, and they have prevented 214 prison workshops from carrying out contracts with their own customers.
Secondly, the officers have in many establishments acted in ways that interfere with the prisoners' routine, leading, for example, to delays in the service of meals and the delivery of letters and to the cancellation of visits.
Thirdly—and most serious—the officers have in many establishments refused to accept prisoners remanded or sentenced by the courts. As a result, there are now more than 3,500 prisoners in police cells, many of them being held in conditions that are unsatisfactory in human terms and often with a lower standard of security than the public have a right to expect. Those cells are filling up rapidly.
In addition, the extra burden placed on the police by the requirement to supervise those who ought to be in prison is distracting them from their principal duties. The actions of the Prison Officers' Association in this respect are placing the public at risk and represent a challenge to the integrity of the administration of criminal justice. They go far beyond any form of industrial action that could be regarded as acceptable in a disciplined service that forms a vital part of our system of criminal justice.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
It is entirely in my right hon. Friend's favour that he has so carefully discussed these matters with both prison officers and the police. Has he drawn to the attention of the Prison Officers' Association some of the ghastly and indescribable details of overcrowding in police cells, particularly among women prisoners? What response has he had from the POA?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
When I saw the Prison Officers' Association last week I explained very plainly my anxieties about the present situation and my anxieties about what was happening in the police cells, and I made it very clear that it was a situation that I could not continue to contemplate. I believe that the representatives of the association understood that. Both sides at the meeting appreciated that it was a very difficult situation and that a great deal needed to be done in our prisons and that we could only do it together. Alas, for the moment we are not doing it together, but I believe that 215 we shall be able to do so and I am determined to reach that position at the earliest opportunity.
§ Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)
If the right hon. Gentleman is so concerned, why has it taken him over a year—since the May committee made its recommendation that there was no grievance procedure within the prison service and suggested that new procedures should be designed—to deal with the grievances of prison officers? If the right hon. Gentleman is so concerned about the conditions now being experienced by prisoners in police cells, why did he not take action as long ago as March this year, when 150 were being accommodated in police cells and a further 150 were having to sleep in dormitories, libraries and cupboards—all, again, as a result of bad industrial relations in the prison service?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I think that the hon. Gentleman, who has studied these matters very closely, will be the first to know just how much both my Home Office officials and I have done since the May committee sat to make changes in the administration and in many parts of the prison service. One cannot do all these things in one day. I have done my best to push them forward as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
The right hon. Gentleman made a faux pas when he spoke about one day".
§ Mr. Whitelaw
There is no faux pas. I cannot conceivably do all these things, but I am explaining why I believe that it is important to have the Bill in one day. I am equally saying that none of us—the hon. Gentleman included, because he has been in the House for some time—can escape the fact that over the years we have neglected our prison system, and that as a result time will be needed to put it right. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be gracious enough to recognise that.
As I said in my statement to the House yesterday, still more needs to be done. The number of prisoners in police cells is approaching their capacity, and the police themselves are heavily burdened. We shall, therefore, provide extra accommodation to relieve the pressure on police 216 cells. The new prison at Frankland, near Durham, which is nearing completion, will be brought into immediate use for this purpose. It will be manned chiefly by a combination of members of the prison service and of Service men, and will be ready to take its first prisoners on Thursday morning. The police will be on hand to assist with security. Frankland can, if necessary, hold up to 900 prisoners.
Thereafter, military camps will be brought into use as circumstances require. They will be manned in the same way as Frankland and will hold approximately 400 to 500 prisoners. Security is already adequate at Frankland: it has a secure perimeter, and prisoners will be housed in secure purpose-built cell blocks. Any further accommodation will be made as secure as possible.
§ Mr. Mark Hughes (Durham)
In so far as Frankland will be used for the reception of prisoners from outside County Durham, will the cash limits on the police force be raised so that they can cover overtime payments that would otherwise fall as a rate burden on those who live in my constituency?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
That is a very good point for the Member of Parliament for the area to raise. I cannot possibly give an answer now. I shall have to consider the matter very carefully. But I must emphasise that the shorter the industrial action of the prison officers, the sooner we can return to a reasonable position, and the less will be the cost on the ratepayers of Durham or, indeed, on anybody else. I shall do my best to help the Durham position, which I understand, but I can give no commitment.
What I have said so far explains how it is that the Government have had to introduce the Bill. I now turn to the contents of the Bill itself.
The House will see that the Bill consists of two parts. The first contains the temporary powers that the Government are seeking. These are intended to provide a range of temporary measures of relief, which can be used as necessary to keep our system of criminal justice working notwithstanding the effects of the present industrial action. The second part primarily deals with procedural and financial matters, but also contains one important 217 declaratory provision. I shall concentrate on the temporary provisions in part 1, taking these provisions in turn.
Clause 1 would permit the establishment of temporary accommodation to which the prison rules, modified as circumstances demanded, could be applied, and ensure that those with the task of running such places would have the powers and protection enjoyed by prison officers. It is obviously essential in the present circumstances to resort to temporary holding places to try to ensure, so far as possible, that the orders of the courts are observed. The capacity of police accommodation is likely to be exceeded very soon, and that accommodation is ill-adapted to holding prisoners for more than short periods. The quicker we can commission temporary accommodation, the sooner we shall be able to provide some relief for the police service, and the better our chances of avoiding having to activate the provisions of clause 3.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
The Home Secretary said that clause 1 was intended to create a situation in which those who were controlling the approved places would have the powers of prison officers, but clause 6 suggests that they should have the powers of a constable, which are infinitely greater than those of prison officers. Why is it necessary to insert that provision in the clause?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I shall look into the point that the hon. Gentleman raises. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will reply to the debate and will deal with detailed points such as that. I think that it is very important that the debate should be conducted in that way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will await my hon. and learned Friend's response.
The broad purpose of clause 2 is very different. It is not directly concerned with the management of the temporary accommodation so much as with trying to minimise the load on those who are responsible for detaining committal and remand prisoners in the present circumstances. In practice, it is the police who are taking this load. Without clause 2 both the police and those running temporary accommodation would be obliged automatically to produce virtually all remand prisoners to court at least once 218 every eight days. In present circumstances this would impose an intolerable burden. In order to spread the load of holding prisoners in police cells, prisoners have had to be sent to places that are often some distance from the courts that remanded them.
I should, however, stress that what is proposed in clause 2 is in no way intended to halt the ordinary process of judicial review; courts will still be obliged to examine the case of anyone they have remanded in custody in the usual way, and it will remain open to them to require that particular prisoners be brought before them.
In considering whether to use their powers to call up a prisoner, the courts will have to balance the difficulties that there may be for the police in producing him against any special reasons that may exist for having the prisoner before them.
§ Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)
I do not think that I am misreading the clause. Perhaps the Home Secretary will confirm that it will deprive an unrepresented prisoner who has been once remanded in custody of the opportunity to make an application for bail in person on a second or subsequent remand. Is not that so?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I understand from my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State that in regard to an application in person that would be right, but we shall seek to deal with that matter so that the opportunity is given, if not in person. In fact, the prisoner concerned will have that opportunity.
It is important that the details should be spelt out. We have an opportunity to deal with them during Second Reading and in Committee. I should like to hear all the detailed points in the debate, but if I try to answer them now it will make my speech too long. I hope that hon. Members will agree to put their detailed points and have them answered when the appropriate time comes.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
It may be regarded by the Home Secretary as a detail but it cannot be regarded as a detail that an unrepresented man can be put into custody and then have no access whatever to legal advice. The man could be incarcerated interminably without even a solicitor or his relatives knowing where he was. Is that a detail? The Home 219 Secretary should explain to the House what facilities will be provided for access to legal advice.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The hon. Gentleman misrepresents me. I never said that it was a detail; I regard it as a very important matter. I hope that the things that I was saying about the way in which the system will work are details. I wish to have the opportunity of listening to points that are made. My hon. and learned Friend and I will be very ready to respond and to improve, I hope, what we are seeking to do as a result of what hon. Members say. That is the importance of what we are seeking to do. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take that point.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
My hon. Friends have touched on a real difficulty. The Home Secretary may not be aware that we have tabled a manuscript amendment to ensure that a person who is dealt with in this way is at least legally represented. Will the Home Secretary indicate that, given the statement that he has made, when the time comes he would want to look with sympathy at the basis of our points even if they are not totally accurate in the way that we have put them.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The purpose of the debate is to do just that. I will, of course, do so. [Interruption.] Hon Members may laugh, but that is the situation. I wish to make some very difficult arrangements as sensible as I can, with the assistance of the House. I shall, of course, consider what the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) says when the time comes.
In considering whether to use their powers to call up a prisoner the courts will have to balance the difficulties that may occur for the police in producing him against any special reasons that might exist for having the prisoner before them. I am sure that they will do their best in difficult circumstances and that, whether or not the prisoner is brought before them, they will give full weight to any new circumstances that might justify the grant of bail. For example, the police may be able to report that grounds for a previous police objection to bail no longer exist. There will be cases in which the prisoner is already 220 legally represented, and his interests will be protected by his representative. In other cases, where representation appears necessary in the prisoner's interests, the courts have power to grant legal aid for any hearing in absentia.
I now come to clause 3, which would enable me, quite frankly, to override the decisions of courts and to authorise the release of unsentenced prisoners whom courts have decided should be kept in custody. I hope that this will not become necessary, but I have to face the fact that there may be more people held in police custody than the cells will accommodate. Naturally, I could begin to contemplate the use of this power only if the police were stretched to an unprecedented degree. But if I am satisfied—and here I am quoting the words of the Bill—that it is necessary to act in order to make the best use of the places available for detention, this is a power that I must have available to me. I must be able temporarily to release the less dangerous prisoner in order to make room for the more dangerous new arrival in the system.
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
The Home Secretary knows that he is dealing with an extremely important but also vulnerable point. He is saying that it is necessary for him to take measures to override the judiciary to make the best use of available space. He has been repeatedly asked to take such action by hon. Members on both sides of the House in terms of this House legislating to reduce sentences. The right hon. Gentleman has constantly replied that he, as a Tory Home Secretary, will not interfere with the independence of the judiciary. If the same argument to make the best use of available space applies now, it applies as a permanent proposition in the penal system.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view. I have made my position clear—of seeking to proceed by voluntary agreement on shorter sentences in normal circumstances. I am putting forward proposals now—I have made clear that I do not like them—because I am forced to do so by the sort of industrial action taken by the prison officers. I am entitled to say that, because it is a fact of life. The hon. Gentleman might wish for this action to be taken on a pemanent basis. I, personally, do 221 not wish that. I have made clear, however, that I am forced to do it under present circumstances.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The hon. Gentleman says "So much for the independence of the judiciary." I am faced with a totally abnormal situation because of the industrial action of the prison officers. I have to take whatever action is available to me to deal with an extreme position.
I want to stress two points at this stage. First, if it became necessary to use this power it would be quite impossible to assess the merits of each and every prisoner held in police cells and draw up a tidy list in my office. What I would propose to do would be to authorise the police to release any prisoners whom they held who came within a given category, subject to the police being able to register objections and get instructions from the Home Office about any prisoner whose case, in their opinion, presented unusual features. Needless to say, we shall give the greatest weight to any police objections, but the decisions will be taken in accordance with my instructions and I shall remain personally answerable for what is done.
That is an unpleasant situation for any Home Secretary. I believe, however, that it is the only possible way to operate an emergency power, and so I shall take personal responsibility. Everything that goes wrong will be entirely my responsibility. I cannot be fairer than that.
We shall say more about the categories that we have in mind when we come to the Committee stage, but I say here and now that there would be a large category of prisoners who were charged with offences so grave that I would not contemplate releasing them in any circumstances. My aim would be to clear out what smaller fry there were in the system, and I would take a lot of persuading to move very far up the spectrum. At the same time, if it needs saying again, I would use this power only for the very shortest time that it was forced on me. It is a device for easing pressure on police cells if that becomes intolerable. I would not use it for one moment more than I had to, and my aim would be that in each case the prisoner should be returned 222 to the normal court routine as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
In his explanation of clause 3, the Home Secretary appeared to indicate that it would be used only in respect of persons who were in police cells. That does not appear on the face of the Bill. Is that an additional limitation that he is announcing, or is it somehow implicit in the wording?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I cannot be certain of the answer, but the purpose of incorporating this proposal was to deal with those who were remanded in police cells and not able to get to the prisons. Different circumstances apply—I am coming to those in my next point—to those already convicted in the prisons. The clause would be confined mainly to those in police cells.
Clause 4 is designed to prevent any magistrates' court that has been notified that the clause applies to it from imprisoning people for failure to pay any sum of money—for example, a fine or maintenance—or where they have been found to have insufficient value of distress in lieu. The clause does not prevent notified courts ultimately from imprisoning defaulters, because it will remain open to them to do so, if necessary, at the end of the emergency. It therefore merely provides for the suspension of the powers of the courts in these respects. The defendants cannot be regarded as representing a public danger by reason only of their default, so the safety of the public is not endangered by this power.
Clause 5 gives me a power to release sentenced prisoners up to six months before their normal date of release. As for clause 3, I could activate this power only if I were satisfied that I had to do so to make the best use of available secure accommodation. The clause enables me to select what class of prisoners I wished in the exercise of this power, save that life sentence prisoners are excluded, but it would certainly not be my intention to release dangerous offenders in this exceptional way. As with clause 3, I hope that I will not have to use the power, but equally I must ask the House to make it available to give me the room for manoeuvre that I need at this difficult time.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the clause might be used to deal with the general problem of overcrowding, which is not related to the emergency? Will he explain why the power is needed when, presumably, the prisons are accommodating fewer people because 3,000 prisoners cannot get into them?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The power is needed because under certain circumstances in an emergency the conditions in some of the prisons might become so difficult and bad that it could only be right to ease the numbers in them. That is the purpose, and I believe that it is a sensible provision.
Part II of the Bill contains the permanent provisions. Clause 9 cites the title and extent of the Bill, and is purely formal. Clause 7 seeks authority for the necessary expenditure, is brief, and is cast in the common form.
Clause 6 seeks to make a permanent declaratory provision about the legality of a constable's continued detention of prisoners whom he would normally lodge in a penal institution but whom it is not practicable to deliver there.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
In his opening remarks the Home Secretary mentioned the permanent part of the Bill. It is totally unfair to the House to introduce permanent legislation in this way. The right hon. Gentleman should give an undertaking that the whole of the legislation will be removed as soon as the emergency is over. If he feels that any permanent legislation is necessary, it could be introduced in the normal way and not in this rushed manner.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
All that I want to do is to put beyond possible doubt something that I understand has been in doubt for some time—that is, the legal position of the police in such circumstances. I believe that it is sensible to make that a permanent arrangement. It is right to put beyond all question something that is in doubt.
Lastly, clause 8 sets out the arrangements for the duration, expiry and revival of the Bill's temporary provisions in part I. The clause provides that the provisions of part I will run for three months in the first instance, renewable in whole or 224 in part for up to one month at a time by an order subject to affirmative resolution procedure.
Similarly, lapsed provisions may be revived for up to three months by an order under affirmative resolution procedure. The primacy of the affirmative procedure is preserved even where, because of urgent unforeseen developments, lapsed provisions are revived without Parliament's prior consent.
I hope that the Prison Officers' Association—whom I remain ready to see at any time—will soon feel able to look forward to the solution that is available to them through a new duty system and to the better future that the Government are prepared to provide through the wider changes in management and conditions that can follow from the May report. But, as matters stand today, I have to ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
There is a difficulty in the prisons. It has been building up for some time. The issue with which most of the commentators and the Government are concerned is the number of people in police cells. However, other problems have arisen in the prisons. Of course we must act. I want to be helpful because of the situation, but the problem was not created in the last couple of days. It would have been better had Parliament been recalled. We are talking not of small-time legislation but a measure which touches on the basic rights of people in the community. We could have given proper consideration to the proposed measure. We could have had the proper discussions about the freedom of the individual and the powers of the judiciary.
My advice to my hon. Friends is not to vote on the Second Reading. We should use the occasion to amend the Bill on vital issues, to begin the process of penal reform and to consider the problem of over-population in the prisons. My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) was right. If there is a case for interfering in the size of the prison population, it should not be done in this way. In putting that case, the Government have conceded that something should be done about the size of the prison population, not only in the short run. The problem is not new.
225 The Home Secretary spoke at some length about the problem surrounding continuous duty credits. That is the sparking point. I met representatives of the Prison Officers' Association last night, and I have read reports of what happened. Under its terms of reference, the May committee was askedto examine and make recommendations upon … the remuneration and conditions of service of prison officers, … and other grades.The reason for other grades being included was that all was not exactly sweetness and light between prison officers and other grades working in the prisons. We might as well face that. The situation is known to right hon. and hon. Members who represent constituencies containing prisons. The committee was asked to examine in additionthe claim put forward by the Prison Officers' Association for certain 'continuous duty credit' payments and the date from which any such payments should be made.It is important that that should be made clear, because that is the issue through which we must find our way.
The terms of reference were not agreed with the aggrieved parties, because that is not the way in which the Government should proceed. That was what the May committee was set up to do, although we took the opportunity to deal with other problems in the prison service.
It is not for me to put words in anybody's mouth, but I think that there is agreement in the Prison Officers' Association with what I have said so far. There are two matters. If something could be done about them, there would be no need for this legislation on this occasion and we could set about examining these issues in the longer term. The association put to me last night that paragraphs 9.28 and 9.29 of the May report deal with two issues. The first deals with "No. 16"—to use prison service jargon—and the question of continuous duty credits. It was put to me that another group of people in prisons work the same roster as the people who have been granted extra payments. The prison officers want that examined. They believe that the wording of the May recommendation does not meet their point. That is the basic issue. The Walton claim is a minor part of the major issue. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) will forgive me for saying that.
226 The association asked last night for the May sub-committee to be reconvened to examine the two issues. The association says that it knows that it agreed that the May committee should make recommendations, but that problems are being caused because of the people who work the Vee roster. They would like to put their case on that issue and on the minor Walton scheme. The association was to have a meeting a 11 o'clock this morning. If the sub-committee were reconvened, the association says that it would recommend to the full committee on Thursday that the strike be called off.
It is not for me to become involved, and I do not suggest that that is necessarily what would happen. However, full consideration should be given to the Prison Officers' Association's request. I am sure that the Government have considered that possibility, but we should know why that is not the way forward.
We should be told here on the Floor of the House why it is not possible to move in that direction.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this matter is of such importance and that the powers that are being sought are so draconian that there is no reason for not trying that approach instead of the methods that are being suggested, which are so serious for our constitution and our society?
§ Mr. Rees
I shall deal with the legislation and the draconian methods it employs. However, the prison officers felt last night that they could put this argument. They put it to me then and I have read in the newspapers that they have put it to others of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Therefore, when will the Government meet the Prison Officers' Association? The Government should tell us. Up to 4,000 people are now in police cells. In London the cells are full and problems are beginning to arise.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I have set out in considerable detail why I do not believe that reconvening May would be possible in the present circumstances. I have made it perfectly clear that the correct way forward is through the new duty system. Negotiations have been continuing. My officials are ready to meet the prison officers further on the matter at any moment. I, of course, am prepared to 227 see them at any time. I believe that that is the best way forward.
§ Mr. Rees
I have never believed that wage negotiation was well conducted on the Floor of the House. Nevertheless, that is the issue before us. However, we on the Labour side hope that a meeting will take place very quickly. That would end the immediate problem, but whether it would end the long-term problem is another matter. When I was Home Secretary, too often I felt that we achieved something only to find it recurrring a month later in another form. We must apply our minds to that problem.
I turn to the legislation. The Home Sercetary dealt with clause 8 and the temporary nature of the legislation. During the winter of discontent, as it has come to be called, I had to stand at the Government Dispatch Box dealing with the permanent emergency legislation that is on the statute book. Some people reminded me this morning that during that period I was not treated as generously during those four or five difficult weeks as we have sought to be in the past 24 hours [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman thinks that this is ungenerous, he should have been here during the winter of discontent.
There is a process that we normally use with temporary legislation. I do not know whether the Home Secretary can be helpful on this point. I suggest that the legislation should terminate not after three months, as he proposes, but after one month. At first I thought that three months was better than the normal six months, but I have thought further about it. Even if we debate the Second Reading until 10 o'clock and we sit up for the greater part of the night debating the main clauses, we shall not be doing the Bill justice. We should remember that we are removing the powers of the judiciary. There will be block release from prison. If the legislation were being introduced in normal circumstances and in the absence of a strike, we should not be completing all stages in one day. We should have a Second Reading with, some time later, a slower movement through the Committee stage. I therefore hope that the Home Secretary will feel able to accept our amendment completely to remove the Act from the statute book after one month.
228 My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), who is temporarily out of the Chamber but will deal with these matters, put a similar point to Mr. Roy Jenkins when he was Home Secretary and was introducing temporary provisions legislation. The legislation contained a provision similar to the one that we are now discussing. When my hon. Friend advanced the case that I am now making, Mr. Jenkins removed it because the way it had been drawn up—and this provision is drawn up the same—meant that some parts of the legislation would remain after the three months' expiry.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
The point is made in the clause to which the Home Secretary did not refer, clause 9. I understand why he did not refer to it. It contains nothing. However, the implication of what the Home Secretary has told us is that for ever after there will be on the statute book an Act entitled Imprisonment (Temporary Provisions) Act. It will contain two or three clauses. With the words "temporary provisions" in the title, that is ludicrous. The Home Secretary must take this point on board.
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend has put the point more forcefully than I did. If the legislation had been going through under the normal procedures, our case on this point would not have been as strong. However, the fact that it is to go through all stages in one night strengthens our argument for the one month provision.
Whatever happens about the CDCs, these problems will arise repeatedly, as is shown by what has happened in the prisons in recent years. The May report spells out the bad industrial relations that have occurred there in the past five or six years. This leads me to my next suggestion. If the strike ends tomorrow and the Bill, as I hope, disappears, it will be a good idea not to wait for this sort of trouble to erupt again but for the problems of the prisons and for the sort of arguments that the Government have advanced to be put before the Home Office Select Committee. Alternatively, we could set up an ad hoc Select Committee to consider these matters. The same problem will arise again on different issues. It is important that they be 229 discussed. The May committee examined the question of the right to strike. It gave its view. Without giving my views on that, I am asking that we should not look at these problems only in the short term and as a result of an issue that causes us all concern.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
My right hon. Friend said that if the strike ended the legislation would disappear. I am a little worried about that. Do we have an absolute assurance from the Government that the legislation will automatically fall if the strike ends? I understand that if the Bill goes through it will last for three months.
§ Mr. Rees
I was making a big assumption that the Home Secretary would accept our amendment and the argument that I was advancing a moment ago.
I do not want to go into detail on clause 1: we can do that in Committee. It refers to "approved place". So far, we have spoken of the prison in Durham which is called Frankland. I knew it as Low Newton. It is a very good prison. It will be the most modern in the United Kingdom. It will be an "approved place". That designation will no doubt apply to other Home Office buildings and places. Have the Government anything else in mind? I am thinking of Army camps. We may come to that if everything goes wrong in the next week or two. How will Army camps be run? Army personnel will be inside the prisons. They will do the cooking and run the prisons. They will act as prison officers but will be given the powers of constables. I think that that is what the Home Secretary said. Will they be armed?
I remember that when the Maze prison in Northern Ireland was burnt down one evening we quickly, thank heaven, put the Army into the prison. The question whether the troops should be armed arose on that occasion. I ask again whether the soldiers will be armed. As I said yesterday, I want to be helpful. However, a soldier cannot do the job of a prison officer. If those carrying out their duties are armed, we shall have real problems in the weeks ahead.
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
During his speech the Home Secretary, was asked whether Army officers would have the powers of constables, which extend beyond those of a prison officer. There is an important point here. Army officers have greater immunity from civil liability than do either constables or prison officers. Will that degree of immunity from civil action be retained?
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
If the purpose of the Bill is to keep people in Army camps with lower than usual security, and the soldiers are not to be armed, how will they exercise the degree of restraint that will be necessary, because the camps will not be as secure as prisons?
§ Mr. Rees
Again, that is a matter for the Home Secretary. My hon. Friend has expressed the matter better than I did. Frankland prison is not quite ready for habitation. I do not envisage many problems there, because it has been built with all the usual secure arrangements such as gates. It is with regard to Army camps that the problem arises. It was for that reason that I raised the question, and no doubt we shall receive an answer.
I turn to clause 2, to which we have tabled an amendment. A problem was raised in the leader in The Times today. I assume that we have all read The Times; therefore, I shall simply take out the bones. It states:It provides that magistrates would have the power to further remand a prisoner in custody in his absence. Under existing law, prisoners on remand normally come before the courts every week, when they are either released on bail, remanded in custody for a further period, or committed for trial.The article argues what we want to argue—namely, that if a man or woman cannot be present in court the Bill should be amended to provide for legal representation in court. We hope that the Government will consider the matter. If they have any ideas to make that point stronger, that would please us.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
If the legal representative is adequately to represent his client. he must have access to his client. Should we not hear from the Government on that matter also?
§ Mr. Rees
Again, that is a matter for the Government. Presently, legal representatives are not being allowed access to their clients by the prison officers. That is the reason for the legislation. If the Government could find an amendment to that, there would be no need for the clause.
I turn to clauses 3 and 4 and the instruction to the magistrates' court not to commit to prison any person for failure to pay any sum of money. Why not make that legislation permanent? The problem of committing people to prison for nonpayment of fines and maintenance payments is one of the reasons for the overcrowding in local prisons. While that suggestion may not receive great approval on the Government side of the House, if such legislation could be introduced on a temporary basis to deal with the problem of overcrowding, why do we not do it on a permanent basis?
With regard to executive releases, the Home Secretary will have great powers to take people out of gaol. The time has come to use an occasion such as this to introduce a system of release from prison, such as the 50 per cent. release scheme that I introduced in Northern Ireland. It is 50 per cent. all the way through because there is no parole in Northern Ireland. I would settle for 50 per cent. release up to two or three years of sentencing, provided that we keep parole, because the distinction is there. If it is good enough for Northern Ireland in a difficult position, where many of those released have been concerned in murder and bombing, introducing the scheme here for sentencing up to two or three years would deal with people whose crimes were not nearly so serious. I ask the Home Secretary to introduce that out of this legislation. At least, let us introduce it for those concerned with non-payment of fines and maintenance.
Whether there is a short-term or long-term need for the legislation—and that is what I have been discussing—I conclude by appealing to the Government to do something long-term to reduce the size of the prison population. It is the 232 beginning of the next step of prison reform.
We shall use this occasion to look closely at all parts of the Bill and to table amendments. I hope that both sides of the House will consider the amendments on their merits. I may not have received universal approval, but I have attempted to consider the Bill on its merits because of the needs that face the Government. I hope that that is reciprocated. When debating our amendments, I hope that we shall receive help from both sides of the House, because it is a difficult position.
I turn to the question of pay. Again, I realise the problem. but on the two points, 16 and 17, the Home Secretary has said that he is prepared to meet the Prison Officers' Association. The association held a committee meeting today. I hope that it will be in touch with the Home Office. While we are discussing the Bill, I hope that they will short-circuit the need immediately for this legislation. That will give us time to consider the long term. Let us not talk to each other in the House alone. Let the Prison Officers' Association accept what the Home Secretary has done, meet together during the course of the day and come to an agreement which will mean that we can leave the legislation and give it the long-term, deep-seated investigation that it needs. There is a problem in the prisons that should be considered in the House.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
I heartily agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) that we all recognise that there is a problem in our prisons. We recognise that that problem has been made into something more than serious—indeed, a grave emergency—by the action of the prison officers. The exceptional powers that the Bill will create can be justified only by the exceptional circumstances that have made them necessary. The sooner those circumstances are changed, and the sooner that we can dispense with the use of the powers that we are now seeking to create, the better. I think that I reflect the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House in saying that if it were not for the emergency and for the temporary nature of the legislation, I should not touch or support such legislation with the longest of barge-poles. This is something that we 233 must face in an attempt to deal with a particular emergency.
I do not like this legislation because I object to any interference by the Executive with the functions of the judiciary. I do not like, and never have liked, the indeterminate sentence of imprisonment which depends for its length upon an Executive decision. For the same reason, though, I shall support the Government's intentions to introduce legislation which will give new discretionary powers to magistrates in dealing with juvenile crime. However, the decision as to how long someone should stay in prison, and the decision as to what punishment should be imposed for a particular crime, is essentially a duty which must be discharged by the judiciary and not by the Executive.
The other element in the present legislation which I do not like is the interference with the right to a writ of habeas corpus. That right has been interfered with not by the Government but, as has already been pointed out, by the action of the prison officers who are refusing to allow prisoners to be brought before the courts in order that they shall be present when the courts investigate the lawfulness or otherwise of their detention. It becomes necessary as a temporary measure to avoid the necessity of bringing prisoners to the court. But I hope that in all circumstances it will be possible for those prisoners on remand who wish to apply for bail, or to have their future bail looked at by the courts, to be represented in the courts so that their interests can be cared for.
There is no doubt—I think that this is a view which is held by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House—that some of the provisions in the Bill are objectionable, offensive and dangerous. But they are not as offensive, objectionable or dangerous as the consequences of the actions of the Prison Officers' Association. I suppose it is true to say that always in industrial disputes members of the public who are not directly involved in the debate, although they may be immediately and directly affected by the consequences of the decisions which are ultimately arrived at, are bewildered by the problem that has apparently caused the trouble. I do not think that there has ever been an industrial dispute which has bewildered the public 234 more than the present one, which is now the subject of the representations of the Prison Officers' Association.
How can a claim for meal break allowances justify exposing the public to all the dangers and anguish of anarchy in our prisons? I do not think that that will be understood, or that there is any argument that will make it understood, by the public. I find it even more incomprehensible because it should be remembered that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has accepted in principle the recommendations that were made by the May committee to put right what many of us thought was wrong with the prison service. I venture to submit that no one has been more successful than my right hon. Friend in persuading the Government to provide the money in difficult times to fulfil the promises that he has already made. It seems that the Prison Officers' Association isA great-siz'd monster of ingratitudesand that good deeds past are forgotten as soon as they are done.
I should like to touch upon the suggestion that the May committee should be reconstituted to consider some of the decisions, especially the point at present in dispute, upon which it has already made its opinions known. I respectfully suggest that that would be an unwise and perilous course for the Home Secretary to adopt. The chairman of the committee is a distinguished High Court judge. He carried out a deep, thorough and wholly helpful review of the prison service. In the main, his recommendations have proved not only acceptable to the Government but have been of a character which will be of lasting benefit to the prison service. To suggest that he should now be thrust into the centre of this heated debate, with its political overtones, is something which is intolerable. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will consider that it is not a course which it is possible for him to take.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
This Bill does not, upon the face of it, apply to Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, that is only true as regards the face of the Bill. If it were to appear to the Government that corresponding provisions ought to apply in Northern Ireland, they could at present be applied 235 by an Order in Council, which, under the urgency procedure, need not come before the House until it was already in force. Therefore, this is effectively the first and last time when hon. Members representing seats in Northern Ireland can contribute to the debate upon the principle, and as such they have an equal right with any other hon. Members to be heard.
There is also a special relevance to Northern Ireland which was emphasised by matters canvassed in the House yesterday. I must tell the Government and the House that the ambiguous, contradictory and self-defeating action of the Government of Northern Ireland in the face of the threat of a hunger strike in the Maze prison fell with particularly severe force upon the morale of the prison officers in that Province—and, in discussing prison officers, we are essentially talking about a profession which, apart from organisation. is one and the same in both parts of the Kingdom.
What I have just said had regard to the morale and confidence in the Government of prison officers; but the consequences of the Government's ill-judged and ambiguous concession, which has not prevented the commencement of a hunger strike in the Maze prison, go far beyond the prison service. They have called into question the competence and sincerity of the Government of Northern Ireland over a wider field, not excluding constitutional matters. Therefore hon. Members representing Northern Ireland feel deeply and directly involved in this legislation.
My hon. Friends and I do not feel able to support even the Second Reading of the Bill. The circumstances which have arisen, and are pleaded as cause for the introduction of the Bill, lie preponderantly at the door of the Government—and, therefore, necessarily, at the door of the Home Office and the Home Secretary. I say that not because of the general principle that the responsibility for securing a work force that will cheerfully and willingly perform the tasks that its employer is able to afford and considers necessary lies predominantly with the employer, but because we are dealing here with a class and condition of men who, beyond almost any other imaginable, have a vested interest in the avoidance of disruption. In Great Britain 236 and in Northern Ireland there can be none who have more to lose in their personal lives, their duties and their careers than the prison officers have from industrial disruption of the discipline and the administration of the prisons. If, against that background—the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) brought this point out clearly—the Government find themselves unable to arrive at an understanding with those men, which could have avoided the House having to consider this legislation, it can only be concluded that the failure must lie predominantly with the Government It is they who have to answer. It is they who have to make good, if they can, the claim that they are justified in asking for this legislation.
There are two distinct parts to the Bill—and not those labelled I and II. There are the parts which would clearly be necessary if the administration of criminal justice had to be carried out at all in the circumstances that now exist; and there are the other provisions, which are arguably not strictly essential and unavoidable—in present and immediately foreseeable circumstances. I place in the first category the contents not only of clause 6, which in a sense is declaratory—as the Home Secretary described it—but of clause 1. Clearly, if the Army is to be used, as in emergency it must be in order to secure the maintenance of the system of criminal justice and the integrity of the prisons, the necessary legal powers must be conferred, and clause 1 proceeds to do that. If the Government have to provide additional accommodation for those detained and imprisoned, and if they have to do so eventually in camps, they must be given the necessary statutory powers to cover themselves and to cover those ordered to carry out duties for that purpose. I therefore put clause 1, and possibly clause 6, in one category.
I turn now to the remaining clauses, one of which—clause 2—the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and, indeed, I think, the Home Secretary, regarded as standing upon its own merits and as being unconnected with present circumstances. If that is so, to that extent the case for such a clause has automatically fallen. But there is one thing common to clauses 3, 4 and 5 which in my view does not justify the House putting them on the statute book. They 237 all empower the Executive to intervene in and to annul decisions duly taken by the courts of the land for the punishment and imprisonment of persons who come before them. It is an interference of the Executive not merely with the course of justice but with the whole administration of justice in the courts and prisons. If provisions of this sort are placed on the statute book, then—in spite of what is contained in clause 8, on which I shall comment in a moment—everything will be different from that moment onwards. Let no hon. member suppose that even if and when both clauses have expired no precedent—I do not mean a legal precedent; I mean a much deeper precedent than a legal precedent—will have been created. We shall have said that, to increase the convenience of the Government in present circumstances in using existing accommodation as well as providing additional accommodation under clause 1, we empower the Secretary of State to proceed to the block release of prisoners duly serving their lawful sentences. The Secretary of State indicated—I thought the House was less alarmed than it might have been—that, in effect, that would be operated by the police.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Obviously, I did not make myself clear to the right hon. Gentleman, who always understands everything. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will make that point clear in his reply to the debate.
§ Mr. Powell
I am not sure that I always understand everything, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the words "the police will operate" fell from his lips. However, I am glad to hear that it was less alarming than it sounded to at least one hon. Member. I still say that we are creating a different process from that so acidly considered in the context of the prevention of terrorism legislation, where the Secretary of State can exercise his powers only personally and in respect of specific individuals under the safeguards applying to those individuals which are laid down in the statute. There is nothing in the wording of these clauses which obliges anything like the personal responsibility or scrutiny of the Secretary of State to be brought to bear on what has been 238 referred to in this debate as "block release". I do not believe that these powers should be given to the Executive by an Act of Parliament, and we shall find future cause to regret having done so. We shall find future emergencies of one character or another—they might not resemble this one—in which we shall discover and be told that it is not the first time that the Executive has sought to interfere with the administration of justice and the execution of the orders of the courts.
In any case, I am not at all sure—this is something to which we shall no doubt come later—that clause 8 as it stands does in fact wipe the slate clean after three months or even after four months. I think that we would need to be satisfied that the power of revitalisation, if I may so describe it, in clause 8(2)(b) will expire with everything else.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will recollect that precisely this point arose on the second Prevention of Terrorism Bill when we considered it in Standing Committee, and that the Government accepted that an amendment was required to that Bill to ensure that the power to revitalise should be one of the temporary provisions which could be allowed to lapse and not to remain permanently on the statute book. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that such an amendment is also required to the text that we have before us today.
§ Mr. Powell
Yes. I am not sure that exactly the same wording would here serve the purpose as in that Bill, but I think that the absolute minimum with which we should be satisfied is that this legislation will, after a maximum of four months, have disappeared—so far as we can ever make what is done undone—from the statute book and become null and of no effect. If that can be achieved, that would be the absolute minimum; but I am afraid that it does not exonerate us, if we support the Government in their proposals, for having in one day, and for no clearly imminent necessity—that could be claimed as to clause 1, but not as to the rest—placed upon the statute book a power of the Executive to intervene in the profound and dramatic way set out in clauses 3, 4 and 5.
239 It is for the Government to govern. It is for the Government, if they can, to get their legislation. But, for those who do not share that responsibility, it is no excuse for supporting a Bill of this sort to say that there is in it a provision here or there which is probably necessary or even quite useful. It is certainly no excuse for hon. Members to say—I thought that I had caught something of this already in this debate—that something of a different kind, which would reduce the number of persons incarcerated, might be inaugurated by this legislation and, therefore, that they view it with a more tolerant eye. There is nothing in common between clauses 3 to 5—indeed, clauses 2 to 5—and anything that ought conceivably to be enacted in future with a view to reducing the prison population.
There is one thing, and only one, I want to say on the subject of reducing the prison population, for I can go hack at least 25 years and turn up occasions on which, without any great acclaim, I have stated that in my view the most urgent of social services was the creation of additional prison accommodation. I want to say again today that whatever be the reforms which are introduced, whatever will be the limitations of sentence and all other modifications which have been canvassed, the effect of which would be to reduce the total prison population, the idea that we can avoid the scandals of our prisons, which have been scandalous for a whole generation, without additional real, normal prison accommodation is a delusion upon which we have fed ourselves criminally long. That we have done so is no excuse, would be no excuse and ought not be urged as an excuse for touching the Bill. Those whose business it is to scrutinise and censure, those who bear the responsibility by their vote for what reaches the statute book, ought not to further the progress of the Bill into law.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I support the Bill for what it is exactly, no more and no less—a temporary provisions Bill to deal with an immediate—
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
Perhaps I may intervene before the 240 Home Secretary leaves the Chamber. Anxieties have been expressed by the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner), the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) about whether this is a temporary Bill. My impression and my interpretation, subject to what the Home Secretary has to say, leaving on one side those provisions which are labelled permanent and which deal with the powers of a constable, are that clause 8(2)(b) means that this provision can be brought back at any time by the Home Secretary of the day faced with any problems of this kind. If we are at one on this matter, we should be told, because hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about whether this is a temporary Bill or a permanent Bill.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Leon Brittan)
Perhaps I may help the House. As the Bill stands, what the right hon. Gentleman has said is correct, subject, of course, to the very important qualification that the approval of this House would be required.
§ Mr. Griffiths
With respect to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State—and, indeed, to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has an engagement elsewhere, about which I know—I am not sure that that intervention helps a great deal, in that it appears from what my hon. and learned Friend has said that embedded within the Bill is a mechanism by which, if the House should later assent, parts of it could become permanent. This is a matter that will require to be thrashed out in Committee. However, as this is a Second Reading debate, I shall confine myself to what I believe to be the broad principles with which the House is now dealing.
I support the Bill for three reasons. I have three questions and two comments. I hope that I can be brief.
I support the Bill first and foremost because of the indescribable conditions which are now arising in police cells. The reason for those conditions, above all else, is that over the years, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has just said, we have failed to make adequate provision in our prisons. But, none the less, the immediate cause is the 241 callous action of the Prison Officers' Association. As a result of that callous action, the conditions in many police cells now are becoming insanitary, uncivilised and dangerous.
The insanitary and uncivilised state of some of our police cells is, frankly, beyond my ability to describe. When men and women are cooped up for long periods like animals, with insufficient room to sleep, to dress or to undress, to eat their meals or to perform their necessary bodily functions, we create conditions that are a scandal in this country, and no Government could fail in the circumstances to act, and to act now, to deal with them.
§ Mr. Soley
Given that many of the conditions that the hon. Member has described already exist and have existed for many years in our prisons, including, as he will find if he visits them, the fording of faeces outside the walls of the prisons because otherwise the three inmates in one cell have to use the same bucket, and given that we have put up with that for years, does not the logic of the hon. Member's argument mean that we also are callous and indifferent? Or does it perhaps mean that the problem is not as simplistic as the hon. Member would have us believe and that the prison officers are no more callous than we are?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I have only just started my remarks. I accept that we all bear responsibility for this. Indeed, I have said that. But I support the Bill because it is a response to a crisis situation which has arisen in the police cells, and no Government could fail to respond in view of the situation that is arising in police cells all over the country. It is degrading and insanitary, and it is dangerous because of the possibilities of fights between the prisoners in those cells and of violence taking place between them and police officers.
I support the Bill, as does the Police Federation, with which, as the House knows, I have a connection. I support it strongly because it is improper to maintain such conditions in police cells. It is unacceptable that we should ask policemen and policewomen and their civilian auxiliaries to deal with the consequences, including feeding and the cleaning of cells.
242 My second reason for supporting the Bill is that I cannot accept that the Prison Officers' Association should in some prisons be running the show. There is a prison in my constituency, and I have a great deal of regard for the POA, some members of which I have come to know well over the years. I do not underestimate the difficult conditions in which POA members have had to work and the sense of grievance—wrongly, in my view—that they now feel. Beyond all the May arguments and all the debates about meal times and the rest, it cannot be acceptable to any Government or any Parliament that groups of prison officers and not the governors should be determining the regime in which prisoners are kept. For that second reason, it is indispensable that the House takes action to prevent the association from running some of our prisons.
My third reason for supporting what my right hon. Friend is doing is linked with the Government's cash limit policy. My right hon. Friend has been remarkably successful in obtaining from a Cabinet anxious to contain public expenditure substantial increases in the general expenditure of the Home Department. I believe that he was right to do that for the police and I think that he has been generous. However, in the circumstances, he is right to say bluntly that there is no more money. To that extent, I support what he is doing. There follows the necessary conclusion that he has reached—that, irrespective of arbitration and the May report, a Government who have no cash to pay should not and cannot provide it. For those reasons, I strongly support the Bill.
I have three questions with which I hope my hon. and learned Friend will be able to deal. The first is on clause 2(6). Although this is a Second Reading debate, I think that the issue is of general application. I refer to conferring on those who will be looking after the prisons in the appointed places the powers of a constable. I do not understand, as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) evidently does not, why it is necessary for this purpose to confer on those in the Army or on any others the wide and general powers of a constable.
In so far as the powers of a constable may be needed, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will accept that they should be expressly confined within the 243 Bill to the actions of the Army or of any others only on premises where prisoners are being kept or during their duty in escorting prisoners to or from the courts. That would be sufficient for the purposes of the Bill. I do not think that it is right to confer the generalised powers and responsibilities, for they cannot be separated, of a constable on those who for a specific emergency purpose are being asked to perform a limited function. I ask my hon. and learned Friend to address himself to that specific question.
I was surprised and rather sorry that my right hon. Friend intervened to say that in no case would the Army carry weapons while taking part in the emergency. It follows as night the day that, if they are to have the powers and responsibilities of a constable, those will include having access to weapons if necessary. I hope that they will not be necessary. If a constable is confronted with a violent situation, as may well happen in these circumstances, he must be able to use or procure the necessary means to overcome it, and that includes arms. A constable can get arms. If my right hon. Friend is right—and I do not think he is—in conferring the powers of a constable on Army personnel who are to look after our prisons in these circumstances, why is he apparently excluding one of the powers of a constable—that of obtaining weapons if he needs to do so? That is an issue that should be clearly explained.
My second question concerns block or premature release. It falls into two parts. First, there is the release on the Home Secretary's mandate of those who are held in prisons either before they have been tried or after they have been tried and found guilty but before they have been sentenced. The second part of my question concerns the Home Secretary's ability to grant block release or individual release for those who are in prison but who have not completed their sentences—in other words, those who are released prematurely.
If a prisoner has been remanded in custody, or has been found guilty but not sentenced, and is released prematurely, there is a real danger that he will destroy what the police are doing in their inquiries. Inquiries into terrorism and many other crimes are highly complex. If a man is remanded and subsequently 244 released, he will be able to get in touch with his confederates. That will be especially serious when terrorist action is involved. A real danger will arise for the police as an operational fact—I do not attempt to justify it on any other ground—if those on remand are released and are in a position to provide intelligence, warnings or other information to others who may commit acts of terrorism. To release those on remand in those circumstances would be a dangerous action.
I support the Bill and the clause in question, but I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will accept an amendment to the effect that the Home Secretary should always have regard to police objections if they can show that release may interfere with their legitimate inquiries.
The second part of my question concerns the release of those who have been in gaol for terrible and violent crimes such as murder, rape and terrorism. I doubt very much whether my right hon. Friend would ever agree to their release. Of course he would not. He is a humane Minister with great experience. However, the Bill states that he may, if he wishes, release anyone at any time that he likes. The only proviso is that he must be satisfied that by letting them out someone else will get a place who is even more dangerous. That is not a sufficient criterion. There should be an additional provision that the Home Secretary must take into account—the public interest and the protection of the community. That should be expressly stated within the Bill. I have total trust in my right hon. Friend, but the Bill should not pass from the House until a provision has been inserted that will safeguard the public interest and the safety of our constituents.
My final question arises from the prison in my constituency. If prisoners are to be moved anywhere at any time as the Home Secretary judges the best balance between the demand for accommodation and the supply of accommodation, it is more than probable that the categories of prison will disappear pro tem—for example, it may be necessary to keep category 2 prisoners in category 1 prisons and dangerous prisoners may be sent to low security prisons. If the Government are to carry the public with them, it is necessary that some assurances are provided in the House that when prisoners 245 of a high degree of risk and violence are from time to time placed in relatively low security prisons the necessary resources of the Army or the police will be made available. At the end of the day, we are all concerned about the protection of the public. The Government have introduced the Bill precisely for that reason. Surely it is important to prove that they are doing so.
There is great merit in the POA being invited to consider the same arrangements as apply to the Police Federation—namely, the acceptance of a no-strike clause because of the nature of the duties of its members. I merely leave that before the House. My hon. and learned Friend should consider with the association whether in return for accepting a settlement the two sides should proceed towards establishing a concordat along those lines. It would be in the public interest to do so. We should keep those who have no business in prison, out of it. The Police Federation has often suggested that drunks and debtors should not be sent to gaol. This is neither the time nor place to bring about general changes. However, I agree that the Bill should trigger the Government and Parliament into addressing the main question, and those two categories, at least, in the normal sense, should not be put in gaol.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Those who have read the ninth chapter of the May report will know that the prison officers' dispute is a matter of Byzantine difficulty. Claim 16 is responsible for the crisis. The Home Secretary prayed in aid the decision of the May committee in his stance against the prison officers, but it is significant that in paragraph 9.25 the May report states:We have found this claim very difficult to resolve. The manner in which the relevant paragraphs have been drafted creates an unwelcome ambiguity…. Furthermore, in so far as the FGS Code of Instructions is a document which was agreed between the Home Office and the POA, it is plainly undesirable, in the interests of future agreements, whether in the fields of pay, industrial relations, or whatever, that there should be no sanction against the breach of any of its provisions.The implication is that the issue was finely balanced. Strong arguments were put by both sides, and the May committee's decision cannot be regarded as irrefutable. It should not be thought that a 246 reasonable alternative course cannot be taken.
We face a major crisis in our prisons. There have been calls for draconian legislation to be passed within 24 hours and for troops to be brought in to look after prisoners, with all the difficulties that that will create. It is odd that such a crisis should turn on a matter of such minutiae as that particular claim. Perhaps sense will prevail and a reasonable decision will be made. It is not impossible to send this matter to arbitration. The cost of sensible arbitration might be much less than the cost of bringing troops in to deal with the present circumstances and less than the cost of housing prisoners in camps that were never intended for that purpose.
The prison officers have a case. Although I did not have responsibility for such affairs when I was a Minister at the Home Office, I was on the fringe of such issues. I understand the difficulties that the Home Office experiences when it negotiates with the Prison Officers' Association. Such difficulties may also be experienced in negotiations with the police. One has to negotiate with a disciplined service that is not akin to a normal industrial occupation. Usually, workers organise themselves through their trade unions and negotiate with their employers. In such circumstances, both sides understand the limitations of their environment. In the old days, when most prison officers were recruited directly from the Army, there was a tendency to accept the authority of the hierarchy at the Home Office. However, most prison officers have been employed in industry. Many prison officers have worked on the shop floor and have been involved in trade union negotiations. They expect a different attitude from the one that they now receive from Home Office officials. Whatever the virtues of Home Office officials, it is no part of their expertise to conduct industrial negotiations on such finely tuned matters as claim 16. I recognise that the issue involves the Whitley council, but I am not sure that that is a sensible way of discussing such things.
We have created a new quango, namely, the Prison Board. It would be better to give the Prison Board power to negotiate directly with prison officers. There should be a structure similar to that found in business. In that way, 247 better conditions could be created. The May committee had something to say about that, but I am not sure whether it will be translated into the new provisions. There is still some hope that we shall not put the provisions of the Bill into effect. We are dealing not with temporary legislation but with legislation that will remain on the statute book after the three-month period. It can be reactivated by order. Why is it necessary to rush the Bill through in one day?
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was right to say that clause 1 may be justified if no more prison cells are available after tomorrow morning. I can understand why we might have to accept clause 1 in one day. However, we certainly do not have to enact clause 2 in a day. I doubt whether we need to enact clause 5 in a day. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) was right to point out that clause 5 allows people to come out of prison despite the fact that we are dealing with a dispute that has resulted in prison officers refusing to let people into prison.
Perhaps we should take the time to consider legislation that might be needed on a permanent basis to deal with a future crisis. I should be reluctant to accept such legislation, but there may be a case for it. If so, such legislation should be considered with the normal decorum. Today, we need only give the Home Secretary the power to deal with the present crisis. That crisis means putting people into Army camps because they cannot be sent to prison. The Bill could be reduced in scope and we hope that when the dispute ends the legislation could be dropped. If necessary, the Home Office could then introduce further, better-considered legislation to deal with some of the difficulties.
I do not understand why the powers of a constable are needed. It is possible to argue that constables should have the powers of prison officers. If those involved are to have the powers of a constable only whilst acting as persons appointed by the Secretary of State and while responsible for the custody of persons detained in approved places, they will not need the powers of a constable outside such approved places or in any circumstances other than that of taking a person from court to an approved place. One does not need a private to stop a 248 driver for drunken driving. That is beyond the purport of the Bill's powers. Therefore, all that is needed is that he should have the powers of a prison officer.
We could do that quite easily by saying "a prison officer" rather than "a constable". When I asked the Home Secretary about this, I was surprised not to get an answer. The Home Secretary is the first to tell us that he does not always understand all the details of the Bills that he brings before us, but I should have thought that this was more than a detail. Indeed, it is a fundamental principle that one should not create the power of a constable, which is quite extensive, even within the confines of an Army camp, unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I think that I am correct in reading the text of the Bill as meaning that the powers will not be confined to places of detention but are general powers. That would mean that any person—an Army officer, a soldier or anybody else who was moved in by the Home Secretary—could come down here and arrest the hon. Gentleman and me under the general powers of constables, which have absolutely nothing to do with the Bill.
§ Mr. Brittan
Perhaps it would be convenient if I intervened on this point. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) is quite right about the meaning of the words "while acting as such". The power applies only to any person approved by the Secretary of State as an officer responsible for the custody of persons to be detained in an approved place, or one authorised to assist such person. In winding up, I proposed to deal with the powers of a constable. Perhaps it would be better for me to deal with the matter now, as it seems to be recurring. It is really quite simple. It is exactly the same as the powers of a prison officer, because under section 8 of the Prison Act 1952 the prison officer has all the powers, authority, protection and privileges of a constable.
§ Mr. Lyon
I am sorry that when we get an answer from the Home Office it is one that can be so easily blown aside. If we are trying to create the powers of a prison officer, that is what we should say. If the consequence of that is that the prison officer has the powers of a constable through the Prison Act, so be it. But we should not seek to create doubt by trying to create the powers of a constable. I have an amendment down on this matter, and so have many others, so I have no doubt that we shall discuss this point in Committee.
The next point that I wish to raise is the whole question of remanding prisoners. The Home Secretary indicated in his intervention that the clause was not intended to deal with people who might not be legally represented. There is no such provision in the clause. I have an amendment down to create that qualification to the clause, but, as I read the clause, it is perfectly possible for a man who is not legally represented not to be brought before the court under the provisions of the Magistrates' Courts Act in the appropriate seven-day period. Therefore, he will lose that right that he has under the Magistrates' Courts Act to make representations at a regular time about bail and about the possibility of bringing on an early trial and so on. That is a major weakness in the Bill.
Although I hate to concede it, we talked yesterday about the draconian powers in the Bill, but it is a fact that on the whole the draconian powers can be exercised only in favour of a prisoner on remand or in custody and therefore they are to his benefit. But this is one area where it can be done in the other direction. The Minister tells me that it is the only one, and I am glad to be reassured about my reading of the Bill, but that makes it all the more desirable that we should qualify the clause very seriously. This is the one area where there is an intrusion into civil liberties. A man will not be brought before the court unless there is a request by the court. That is not sufficient. If it were, the Magistrates' Courts Act would never have been introduced in the way that it was. If all that is required is that the court should decide when the man should be brought before it, it would not be necessary to make the qualification made in the Act.
250 Therefore, I hope that we might change that point, even if the Bill goes through.
I can leave the rest of the Bill to the amendments at a later stage. It has been suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) that it is a nice point that when we have this difficulty in the prisons the Home Secretary can come forward and introduce a Bill to override the power and discretion of the judiciary without so much as a 24-hour leave. If that is possible in order to deal with a critical situation such as we have at present, what should we do about the critical situation that has arisen over the past 10 to 15 years? The kind of conditions that obtain in the prisons and the cells at present are nothing uncommon in the experience of the past 10 or 15 years. There are many prisons where conditions have been intolerable because of overcrowding for a very long time.
I take issue with the right hon. Member for Down, South about the total scope of the inadequacy of prison accommodation. A considerable section of prison accommodation has been built since the last war. The long-term prisoners, the people in category 1 prisons, are, on the whole, better housed and have better conditions than most of the rest of the prison population. The real threat to the prison population is in the local prisons, which are severely overcrowded. In those prisons the conditions have been intolerable for many years. When people say that we should reduce the prison population, they really mean that we should cope with the prisoners who are serving sentences of less than four years—in other words, the less serious offenders. If we were to halve the sentences of the people who are serving a sentence of four years or less, and if we introduced a maximum of two years, we would reduce the prison population from its present 46,000 to 25,000.
In those circumstances, it seems to me that there is a case, fully underlined by the Bill, saying that we cannot go on saying that the Executive cannot override judicial discretion. The judicial discretion cannot take the resources which are necessary to provide the proper conditions in our prisons. We must decide what they should be. If there are cash limits and restricted public expenditure, and if resources which are allocated to prisons should be allocated elsewhere, it is a 251 matter of public policy to be able to say that the judges cannot send people to prison for as long as they, and they alone, think proper. It must be right in these circumstances for the Government to be able to say "We cannot do it in this way, we can do it only in a different way, and therefore the power of the court must be limited." If that can be done for this crisis and if the constitutional relationship can be overruled now, surely we can set the precedent and do it on a wider scale in the future.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
Surely this Parliament sets the limits on all sentences, and the judiciary operates within the limits laid down by Parliament itself in every statutory offence. That is a very different matter from interference by the Executive, although in this case and for this limited purpose I approve of such interference.
§ Mr. Lyon
The hon. and learned Gentleman has made that point on a number of occasions. I hope that he will visit Holland to see for himself. Compared with overall size of population, the prison population there is half the size of ours. That is because, on the whole, sentences are much shorter. The Dutch have a public prosecutor system. The public prosecutor can suggest to the judge the length of sentence, although the judge is not bound by that. In our system, the judge gets no indication from counsel about the length of sentence and has total discretion, subject to the Court of Appeal overruling him. Holland, like us, is an industrial country. It has the same pattern of criminal activity, and there has been no upsurge in crime because of shorter sentences. That suggests that it is not necessary to have longer sentences to deter crime. Parliament should tell judges that the present level of sentencing is intolerable and should be cut down. We would then cut our prison population and make it easier to deal with those in prison and with prison staff. A case is made out by the Bill for taking that overall view.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if the Bill is passed it will create a precedent by which this House and Parliament may interfere generally with the length of sentences?
§ Mr. Lyon
If the appeal of the Home Secretary to the Lord Chief Justice, reflected in a number of decisions in the past few weeks, does not succeed and a voluntary limit is not set by judges, this House will have to consider whether a maximum length of sentence should be ordained. The Bill sets the precedent.
§ Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)
Many of the May committee's recommendations concerning prison officers have been implemented. We are basically dealing with the question of meal break allowances, which, as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) said, was specifically looked at by the committee. Although it was not quite sure what should be done. it rejected the idea that what the Prison Officers' Association is asking for should be allowed.
With allowances, prison officers, in their first year of service, have an income of about £8,000. If the claim were allowed, these officers would get about £1,000 in back pay. That is what the dispute is about, why the POA has taken action and why the Bill is necessary.
As far as I can ascertain, Labour Members want the matter to go to arbitration. That would solve nothing. We had an independent inquiry, which reported almost exactly a year ago. Arbitration could look at nothing that the May committee has not closely examined. As I indicated, May rejected the claim.
With the honourable exception of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees). few hon. Gentlemen have recognised that the Bill concerns the issue of law and order. It deals with the immediate problem that faces the Home Secretary, which he must tackle as a matter of urgency and emergency, albeit on a temporary basis. I do not imagine that my right hon. Friend wants to exercise those powers other than on a temporary basis. No Home Secretary would exercise such powers without realising the difficult and sensitive issue involved.
The POA's action is a direct interference with the working of law and order and the operation of justice. Until recently, prison officers were in the front line in protecting the system. Industrial action is to be regretted. If prison officers fail to protect our criminal justice system, the Home Secretary must do so. His first 253 priority is to protect the public, and he must support the police, on whom there is an intolerable burden.
The irony or tragedy is that, while we are debating the matter and the POA is taking industrial action, talks on the claim are proceeding at the Home Office. Indications are that they are going well.
A further tragedy is that the militants in the POA do not speak for their entire membership. I believe that a secret ballot would show minimal support for the industrial action. We must not fall into the trap of categorising all members of the POA as militant.
I was until recently chairman of a board of visitors of a training prison. I know that many prison officers regret and reject the increasing militancy of their union. They feel that their disciplined service and sense of duty are being undermined. Prison governors feel that their authority is being undermined. What the Home Office says will not be obeyed unless it has the approval of the militants in the POA. That is no way to run a prison. The Bill affords an opportunity to say so.
Let us make no mistake. This is a battle for the control of the penal system in our prisons. It is a battle that most observers, all prison governors and many prison officers hope will be won. If my right hon. Friend were to give way now, no directive from the Home Office would be acted on without the militants in the POA deciding whether it should be carried out. That would be intolerable, and I believe that most of us realise it.
It would also be dangerous, and we cannot expect the police to handle that dangerous situation indefinitely. The Bill, and especially clause 1, is necessary. It will relieve the police and protect the public. I believe that it will therefore be welcomed on both sides of the House.
The Bill enables the Home Secretary to deal with two other matters that have been pressing for some time. The first is the question of an extension in the granting of bail. Too often magistrates, on the advice of police, who are a cautious body, shrink from granting bail. The Nottingham justices case illustrates that fact. It was decided that once bail had been refused by a bench the application for bail could not be reopened, even before 254 a different bench. That was a restrictive legal decision. It is a matter of law, but if my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is anxious to see the granting of bail extended he should try to reverse that decision.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)
I am sure that my hon. Friend has not forgotten that an offender remanded in custody after the refusal of an application for bail always has the right to appeal to a judge in chambers.
§ Mr. Alexander
I am obliged to my hon. Friend, but a prisoner is not always entitled to legal aid for that purpose and it is sometimes difficult for him to find the facilities or even to know how to go about getting bail from a judge in chambers. We should make it possible for him to go to a fresh bench or a Crown court judge in the local community. That would avoid the need to go to a judge in chambers. It is not always easy for those in small towns to get access to a judge in chambers. He might be far away on circuit.
The other point that could be dealt with in the Bill is that there are a number of offences for which prison is, by common consent, not appropriate. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) mentioned debt and the non-payment of fines. I would add, though it may be controversial, prostitution and drunkenness. There are many offences for which prison is no longer appropriate. We are still in the dark ages in the way that we punish certain offences.
My right hon. Friend can seize out of the present situation an opportunity to support prison governors, to strengthen the prison department and the system of justice and to deal, at the same time, with the anomalies in the bail system and the sentencing system. Out of this temporary measure, may he go a long way towards reforming and reviving our penal system. All those of good will must surely wish the Bill well.
§ 6.3 pm
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
The hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) has experience as the chairman of a prison board, but I ask him to look again at chapter 9 of the May committee report. As the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) said, it is full of equivocation and there 255 are at least two claims on which the committee was unable to adjudicate. The matter is not as clearcut as the hon. Member for Newark suggested.
I greatly regret the need for the Bill. I have three prisons in my constituency. One of my first acts on being elected to the House six and a half years ago was to initiate an Adjournment debate on the situation in our prisons. Those of us who have attended debates on the prison service have been warning for a long time about the problems and the feelings of frustration among prison officers. As recently as August, we had a good debate on the prison service and many pleas were made from both sides of the House about the problem of overcrowding. Both Administrations that have been in office while I have been an hon. Member have not moved quickly enough in dealing with the problem.
I accept that the Home Secretary moved quickly on some of the recommendations of the May committee, and I appreciate that that made a substantial difference to morale in the prison service.
The high security Albany prison on the Isle of Wight was built in the early 1960s and, from its initiation, has had far more trouble than any other prison in the country. The design was wrong and there was low morale among prison officers. They were continually asking to be moved, and at one time there was an insurrection in the prison.
The atmosphere has changed completely and I pay tribute to the governor, Mr. Honey. Unfortunately, he is to be moved and the whole of the top administration and some of the chief officers are going. In the past two or three years Mr. Honey has brought peace to the prison. Lord Belstead visited Albany about a month ago. There is a different outlook there and a good relationship between the governor and the prison officers.
There was also trouble at the old-established prison of Parkhurst. Action lasting more than a year was taken there to prevent the normal working of the prison, but there is now a different attitude at Parkhurst and Camp Hill as well. The improvements in the atmosphere arise largely from the recommendation of the May committee. The prisons on the Isle of Wight are functional group system establishments and 256 the prison officers are paid for their meal breaks under that shift system. Retrospective payments have been made, and that, together with the change of governors, has led to a different outlook in all three prisons. The tragedy of the Bill is that all of that will be put in jeopardy.
Of the 22,000 prison officers in this country, about 13,000 are on the FGS arrangement and are paid for their meal breaks. The 9,000 who work under the Vee scheme are the subject of the dispute. Of course, members of the Prison Officers' Association feel obliged to support their colleagues in their claim for payment for meal breaks. I cannot believe that with more imagination by the Home Office a solution could not have been arrived at by now.
I support the plea of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) that the matter must be resolved. If the Bill becomes an Act, the prison officers at Albany, Parkhurst and Camp Hill will be at loggerheads with their administrations. It is already happening at Camp Hill. Mr. Bester is just about to retire and he finds himself at loggerheads with the administration. The officers will have to support their colleagues, and all the good will that has been created over the past two or three years, and particularly in the past 12 months, will be put in jeopardy. That is something which the House should consider seriously.
There are many other problems still to be resolved. The May committee did not deal with them all. Anyone who has prison officers in his constituency knows that there is a myriad of nonsenses. Not only are there prison officers, but there are officers who are instructors and who do not have the same meal breaks as others. There are civilian technicians. night security guards and all sorts of staff working in prisons under different rules. All this must be dealt with.
There is then the very touchy point of the inconvenience of locality allowance, which May recommends should be phased out. If that is done, it will be another issue that will take the roof off in a constituency such as mine, where the prison officers are receiving the allowance and think that they should be put on a par with Dartmoor.
The very fact that the Bill may be passed tonight will lead to unnecessary 257 grievances and unnecessary disputes within prisons that have gone through a bad time but now, happily, have a much better working relationship. That, in particular, is very sad.
I should like to deal briefly with the Bill. A Bill that contained simply clause 1 would seem to be adequate. I trust that we shall be told not only that Low Newton prison will be provided but that if there is to be other accommodation it will be of an adequate standard and that we shall not take people out of our police cells and put them into disgusting places as alternatives. What is being done about providing places now?
Clause 2 has been dealt with adequately in the debate. We utterly oppose the clause and think that it should be deleted. If it is not, it must be amended. The leader in The Times deals with that matter adequately.
Clause 3 should be seen as the start of a new policy. It is welcome, and I hope that the Home Secretary will make it permanent. This is where we should be getting to grips with the problems of the prison service.
I turn to clause 4. It should also be seen as a matter of course that community service orders be substituted for the ludicrous prison sentences on fine defaulters and others. I believe that the annual turnover is over 16,000.
The early release of prisoners under clause 5 seems to us rather "iffy" and "butty". We do not like clause 5(2)(b). People should not be released simply because they happen to be in a particular prison, which is how the subsection seems to read. It makes a mockery of penal policies and concepts of justice. If people are to be released, it should be on grounds of behaviour and offence and not just because they happen to be in an overcrowded prison or one where the officers are particularly militant. I hope that we shall receive an explanation.
Clause 8 is particularly worrying. I echo the points that have already been made about it. The Minister has already intervened on the subject. If subsection (2) (b) means that the Bill can be reenacted on an affirmative order, how are we supposed to read subsection 5 (b), which says 258it is declared in the order that it appears to the Secretary of State that by reason of urgency it is necessary to make the order without a draft having been so approved"?Does that mean it can be enacted without an affirmative order? We need much more explanation if we are to give the Bill a Second Reading. I am not prepared to support its Second Reading, but if other hon. Members are we should all have assurances about that clause.
I hope that the Home Office will make one final attempt to reach a settlement with the prison officers. I do not see why the matter should go to arbitration. May does not give all the answers in chapter 9; it leaves some questions open, and they seem ideal matters for arbitration. The prison officers are prepared to accept it whether they win or lose. Is not that the answer? It always used to be when positions were reversed and hon. Members now in Government were in Opposition. They were then constantly suggesting that disputes should go to arbitration. It is the only sensible way to resolve the matter, and I beg that that should be done.
§ Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South)
I accept that the Government must break the present attitude that the taking of precipitate industrial action always pays off for those who take it, whatever the merits of their case. I also fully accept that the Government must govern and that this means from time to time not hiding behind the skirts of independent arbitration bodies. I further accept that in the circumstances of the present crisis the provisions of the Bill may well be necessary.
I have to say, however, that in my constituency I have one of the most modern dispersal prisons, at Long Lartin, stuffed full, among its more permanent population, with familiar faces, most of whom would like to blow the place up and some of whom I think have already tried to do so. Naturally, one has had close communication with the branch of the Prison Officers' Association there about this matter, perhaps too close communication. The branch is extremely moderate. I am told that many of its members voted Conservative at the last election.
259 Secondly, the members of that branch would not be beneficiaries of an outcome of the present dispute that was favourable to the association, because they are on a rota duty system which enables them to have compensation for meals. Nor do they particularly like the fact of the dispute, because they know that it is making their job with the prison population increasingly difficult. The prison population at Long Lartin is becoming very restive. The prison officers are also worried about the effects of escalation on security within the prison and the safety with which they carry out their job.
However, my impression is that the prison officers' position is hardening. For instance, I understand that they will be prepared to black Frankland prison indefinitely if there is an escalation, with the use of the Army in that prison, and if the dispute is not settled.
I fully appreciate the dilemma of the Government and of Home Office Ministers, but I am deeply concerned that victory in this dispute may be pyrrhic if the effects are finally to break the brittle morale of the prison service. For better or worse, the prison officers already consider themselves to be the forgotten branch of our services for the maintenance of law and order.
As to the immediate issue that lies behind the necessity for the Bill, if a new duty system is introduced, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said was planned, and if that eventually irons out the anomalies between the different rota systems and the compensatory arrangements for meal breaks, at the least the issue would seem to me not to have the qualities of indelibility.
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) suggested that a compromise might include surrender of the right to strike. If the Government think that a compromise must be found, whether face-saving or not, and perhaps including what my hon. Friend suggested, it should be found sooner rather than later. In this dispute above all others, it is vital that virility is not measured in terms of how long everyone holds out.
A protracted dispute involving the lengthy imposition of the measures outlined in the Bill could be tragic for all 260 sides, not least for the prison officers, who will have to cope in an increasingly explosive situation. The nation certainly has nothing to gain from a prison service whose spirit is broken.
§ Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)
I heartily endorse a great deal of what the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) said. We are, essentially, dealing with the consequences of an industrial relations situation that should never have been allowed to develop to the point that it has reached. That the Bill has had to be presented in the form that it has taken, with the disruption of parliamentary business, is a sign of the Home Secretary's failure properly to do his job. That a Conservative Home Secretary should preside over mounting disorder in our prisons and our police cells, about which he obstinately refuses to do anything constructive, and that he should therefore propose massive alterations in fundamental laws, is a condemnation of his attitude towards the prison officers and the prison service during the months that he has been in office.
It is an erosion of possibly only one aspect of civil liberties but a very important erosion of civil liberties for a remand prisoner not to be called before the court to be able to apply for bail or to give reasons why he should not further be held on remand in custody. Whatever the Home Secretary or his hon. Friends may say, it is a fundamental and serious interference with the independence of the judiciary to bring forward the clauses in the Bill designed to secure early release in the manner that the Home Secretary proposes or to direct not just magistrates' courts, but specified magistrates' courts, that they shall not imprison fine and maintenance defaulters. I believe, sincerely and fervently, in the need to stop imprisoning fine and maintenance defaulters and in a system of early release, but we should legislate properly at our leisure and not impose panic measures to deal with what is necessarily a temporary crisis for which the Home Secretary must bear a great deal of responsibility.
All this is unnecessary. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the prison officers' case in this instance—I do not wish to 261 get drawn into that matter—the fact is that they believe that they have a deep and legitimate grievance. As anyone who has spoken to them will know, they feel strongly that they have been misled and that they have not been properly treated. They feel that they have a justifiable case. That is their belief, to which they are entitled.
On the other hand, it is the Home Secretary's belief that he has treated the prison officers fairly and properly. He may well have done so. He is on record as saying that, even if the matter were to be sent to arbitration, the merits of the case would be clearly on his side and he would win overwhelmingly and convincingly. If that is the case, there is no excuse for all the disruption that is being caused in our prisons and police cells. We live in the real world, not in a world of virility competition. It is not a matter of the Home Secretary maintaining his prestige or status. We have to deal with real people who have real grievances and get them to co-operate willingly and enthusiastically in running the prisons. In those circumstances, I do not see what the Home Secretary has to lose. The right hon. Gentleman says that there has been arbitration before. That is not believed. So there should be arbitration again. If the Home Secretary is right in his conviction that the case is on his side, he will win.
The right hon. Gentleman has nothing to lose and a great deal to gain by announcing tonight that he will accept impartial arbitration. I have been given assurances—I am sure that the Minister of State knows this, because he has also received them—that the industrial action would be called off tonight and there would be no need for the Bill or any of the measures that the Home Secretary will be required to take under it. It is inexcusable for a Home Secretary holding the onerous responsibilities of his office not to accept a decent, reasonable and civilised way out of the confrontation.
I accept that prison officers, as individuals or as an organisation, are not the easiest of persons to deal with. I have been probably as critical, if not more critical, of their actions as any hon. Member. There have been dozens of industrial disputes throughout the life of this Government in virtually every penal establishment 262 It is the prison officers who have held up the Government's wishes to extend the abolition of censorship of mail. It is the prison officers who are thwarting the attempt to introduce pay telephones into prisons. It is the prison officers who have largely prevented visitors' centres or proper access to solicitors and such like. Industrial action at Wormwood Scrubs early this year meant that 150 young offenders had to be accommodated in police cells. Because of a series of disputes, another 150 prisoners had to be accommodated in dormitories, libraries, corridors and cupboards. This is an ongoing situation of industrial disputes and grievances within the prison service. It is nothing new.
In those circumstances, it is remarkable that the Home Secretary did not accede to and implement the recommendations of the May committee. The committee's comment on the grievance procedure was:One of the features of the present system is that except in regard to the arrangements for taking arbitrable matters to the Civil Service Arbitration Tribunal, no guidelines exist for dealing with grievances and other matters which either staff or management would like to pursue".That is stated in paragraph 10.45. The committee went on to recommend the drawing up of a national procedural agreement that would also contain provision for local variations to deal with the Liverpool-type situation. It was essential, the committee said, that such an agreement should includea clear statement of what issues are reserved for national resolution, the nature of negotiations at establishment level, the time to be allowed for each stage, the form in which the regional office will be involved, how the headquarters organisations on each side will operate, what forms of conciliation and arbitration are appropriate (if it is decided to include them) and the nature of unacceptable industrial action.That is stated in paragraph 10.47. More than a year after the May committee reported, the Government have not implemented any of those recommendations. Despite what the Home Secretary says—he is entitled to talk about his other activities in introducing the May committee's recommendations—in this one crucial area of industrial relations that has beset the prison service, not just under this Government but under previous Governments, he has not taken the recommendations sufficiently seriously to 263 try to develop a proper disputes procedure for dealing with legitimate grievances. That could have been done. It should be done now, urgently.
It is not simply the dispute over meal allowances that has angered the prison officers. They also feel, as they have said publicly on many occasions and as they stated to me on Friday and again, yesterday and today, when my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) met them, that they have been consistently neglected by Governments of both parties over a long period of time. They feel that their loyalty has been taken for granted and that the attitude of disregard for the prison service is indicated by the manner in which successive Governments and the House of Commons have ignored the warnings from prison officers, the prison and borstal governors and everyone else about the so-called worsening crisis in our prisons.
It is not just the matter of overcrowding, with about 40 per cent. of prisoners having to be accommodated two or three to a cell built for one in Victorian times and being locked up for 23 hours every day. There are also many people consistently in prison who should never have been put there in the first place. I am talking of the 446 mentally disordered offenders. No one can argue that it is right, proper or appropriate that they should be put in prison. The Home Secretary will acknowledge that prisons cannot adequately care for or treat those offenders. Yet they are imprisoned day after day, not because anyone suggests that this is right or proper but simply because successive Governments and the community have not been prepared to provide the alternative resources in the community and in NHS hospitals to deal with them.
It is immoral and indefensible that such individuals should be in prison. It is unacceptable to ask prison officers who are not trained and are not skilled in dealing with them to care and to contain mentally disordered and mentally ill offenders. The same, it can be said, applies to the 3,074 habitual drunkards imprisoned last year. We put our hands on our hearts, say that they are sick, not bad, and that they should be treated in detoxification units or hostels within the community. As long ago as 1971, the habitual drunken 264 offenders report proposed, as a matter of urgency, a national comprehensive system of care and aftercare with 2,000 hostel places immediately and 5,000 as the eventual target, and with detoxification centres in every major urban area.
Nine years later, we have 65 hostels providing 750 places and two experimental detoxification centres. As a result, we imprison vulnerable, deprived and disadvantaged people who have no pressure group and no trade union, who are not articulate and who have no political clout; and no one cares.
Prison officers care. They have to bear the brunt of the situation. They feel bitter and resentful at being seen as gaolers and warders of people whom they cannot adequately deal with and who they realise should be better and more compassionately treated by other means, in what is claimed to be a caring society.
We are also talking about those dependent on drugs, vagrants and people imprisoned for no other offence than that they are single, homeless people who are found guilty of an offence of begging and sleeping rough. We send them to prison. Many of them are of pensionable age. Between 200 and 300 such people are sent to prison each year. Nobody says that they are sent there because prison is the proper place for them or that they are a danger to society. They are sent there because we are not prepared to provide the alternatives.
The Home Secretary says that in the context of the emergency he intends to take powers to direct magistrates not to imprison fine and maintenance defaulters. I say "Amen" to that. A total of 2,071 maintenance defaulters and 17,044 fine defaulters were sent to prison last year. The Payne committe, the Finer committee, the Wootton committee and the all-party penal affairs group, the Expenditure Committee and the advisory council on the penal system—almost uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all—said that it is an essay in economic and social futility to imprison maintenance defaulters. The same considerations apply to fine defaulters. Yet, while everybody agrees with that, until today no Home Secretary has been prepared to come to the House and seek to legislate to prevent the imprisonment of such individuals.
265 The legislation is offered us as an emergency. If the Home Secretary can say to the public "Do not worry. You will not be threatened; you will not be harmed. In no way will the non-imprisonment of fine and maintenance defaulters destroy law and order or threaten your security", he can ensure that we have a permanent legislative enactment. If he can say that, he can ensure that our judicial and penal systems are no longer slurred and that our overcrowded and obsolescent prisons are no longer clobbered.
The same is true of the early release scheme. The Home Secretary says that he is taking powers to release individual prisoners in spite of the lip service that he and his party pay to the independent judiciary. When a Conservative is Home Secretary, the party's scruples and principles conveniently disappear.
If he could say that there is no threat to the community in releasing prisoners earlier than their official date of release. he could accept the recommendations of the Expenditure Committee, the penal affairs group and the advisory council on the penal system. He could follow the example set by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and introduce a conditional early release scheme to which his Northern Ireland Ministers will pay testimony and which proved to be singularly successful. Prisoners have been released into the community early with no increase in the reconviction rate. If such a system works in Northern Ireland and the Home Secretary can make it work in a temporary measure, he can find the legislative time—I hope that he will—to ensure that such a system becomes a permanent enactment.
I hope that we shall not hear from either the Home Secretary or his hon. Friends, when we are arguing for the House to legislate to reduce the maximum length of sentences which the courts can impose, the hypocrisy that the Conservative Party does not interfere with the judiciary. It is interfering on a massive and extensive scale tonight. If the Home Secretary can rush a Bill through all its stages without a proper opportunity to examine the amendments which will be tabled at 10 o'clock and which we shall 266 debate at 10 minutes past 10 o'clock, and interfere with the judiciary in a massive way, surely he can come to the House and do what we want him to do.
The Home Secretary constantly exhorts the judiciary to impose shorter sentences. He can legislate to reduce the maximum length of sentence across the board so that we do not experience the anomaly and barbarity of having the highest per capita prison population in Western Europe. We imprison more people for longer periods than any comparable civilised country.
The Home Secretary has disillusioned me by introducing the Bill. But he has also heartened me in that, if he can act now, some of the actions for which many of us have argued strenuously inside and outside the House can be taken and become permanent features.
I expect that the Home Secretary will get the Bill tonight, although I and some of my hon. Friends will attempt to delay it at least until the early hours. That will not be difficult. We are also living in the real world. We accept that eventually the Home Secretary will get his Bill. I should like him to get it at 10 o'clock so that I can go home. However, I shall not allow him to do that. He might not achieve the Bill until 5 o'clock or 10 o'clock tomorrow, whatever tomorrow's business.
The Bill has been criticised from both sides, but it could be made better. If the Home Secretary were to accept that it is unnecessary for the Act to remain on the statute book for three months and that a month was more legitimate, that would be preferable. If he accepted that it is totally unnecessary for the Bill to lie on the statute book as a permanent measure to be activated at any time simply by order but that it is, as its long title suggests, a temporary measure and falls at the end of a month, that would be preferable. It would be better if he provided proper safeguards for remand prisoners so that at least they were legally represented every week in court and perhaps could appear in court themselves if they wished.
It would be better if the Home Secretary could indicate that what he is doing to day in terms of fine and maintenance defaulters and early release is part of his long-term strategy for the prison service.
267 I believe that, if he did that, some of my hon. Friends would find their beds welcoming them at an earlier hour.
I hope that all my right hon. and hon. Friends will oppose the Bill in principle on Second Reading on the ground that it is unnecessary. If the Home Secretary had been doing his job properly and been sensitive to and aware of the industrial relations grievances in the prison service, it would not have been necessary to ask for these extensive and inordinate powers. We shall also vote against the Bill as a censure on the Government for the mishandling of their policy's main plank—law and order. The Conservatives have shown themselves to be a party of disorder arid of law-breaking.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
My anger at my Government having to introduce legislation providing for executive bail, interference with judicial sentences and court hearings in the absence of the accused—and I accept the strictures that have been placed on them by everyone who has spoken in the debate—is matched only by my anger and astonishment at the action taken by the prison officers who are the cause of this legislation.
I have always admired the prison officers. I have worked professionally with them for many years. Their dedication to their service has been remarkable. In the past, the service has been a Cinderella service. However, the conditions have improved out of all recognition. Yet the prison officers are led to believe by their new leaders that there is merit in their claim and that they should behave in what I consider to be an astonishing and deplorable way.
The prison officers are trying to blackmail the Government and the nation over a comparatively small claim with nothing less than the threat of anarchy and the breakdown of our system of law and order. They are betraying the cause of law and order which is the very reason for their existence. That is shocking. Those who are leading the Prison Officers' Association should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, and someone in the debate should say so.
I do not believe that the rank and file of prison officers really understand the 268 ramifications of their actions, although they might understand the hardship. Do their leaders really believe that they are justified in their behaviour, which is producing the gruesome effects which were so eloquently outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths)? Do they seriously think that the public are behind them in their attempt to make chaos out of our legal system when their claim is for nothing more vital than allowances for some meal breaks and when the Home Secretary is already negotiating to sort out the anomalies? Do they really believe that the public support them when they have been so generously treated by the award which followed the May settlement and which left most prison officers earning between £8,000 and £10,000 per year?
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
If the claim is so trivial, if it is not the vital issue that the prison officers claim it to be and not worth the disruption, does not the same consideration apply to the Home Secretary? Is it not also unnecessary for him to be so obstinate in refusing to settle the claim which is causing all the disruption?
§ Mr. Lawrence
The hon. Member has already made that point at length. His argument does not find favour with me, the Government or any of my hon. Friends.
I do not think that the public are aware that the prison officers are no longer the downtrodden Cinderella service they once were. In 1978 the average prison officer with some years' service earned £6,350. Now, the same prison officer earns £8,900 without his rent alowances. Taking into account basic salary, shift pay, premium pay, overtime pay—which averages 13 hours—and the rent allowance or its equivalent, the average prison officer earns between £8,000 and £10,000 a year. That is a decided improvement on anything that went before.
Do the prison officers' leaders seriously believe that they have the public behind them when they are holding the Government and the public to ransom over this claim, bearing in mind that what they are seeking has already been examined by a Royal Commission and found not to be justified? Do they honestly believe that they will have sympathy from those in society who have not been fortunate 269 enough to get any improved award, without demanding further improvements? Do they think that the public reaction would be favourable if the public were to realise just how little control of our prison system is in the hands of some prison governors and how much is now in the hands of the Prison Officers' Association or its leaders?
What is the Home Secretary's position? Do the prison officers think that they would have got such a good deal from the Home Secretary if there had been any question of his going back to the Cabinet at this difficult economic time and asking for more? If the Government gave way to the prison officers' demand for arbitration and extra money were awarded, how long would it be before every other group in the public service with some anomaly sought to gain its end by industrial action? What chance then would there be for this country's economic recovery?
The Government, therefore, will not, cannot and must not give way. Since the Bill is the least action necessary in this unhappy state of affairs, I support it. The fears that I have heard expressed today about its detail are exaggerated. I support the Home Secretary's refusal to go back to May. For what purpose should he? Would it be to oblige Mr. Justice May and his committee to change their minds? Is that likely? If they did not, what then?
I hope that the Bill will never have to be implemented and that it will sink back into the dark depths of the Home Office vaults whence it came. It is not too late for the leaders of the Prison Officers' Association to see sense and realise how little support they have in the country and how little justice there is in their claim when all the consequences are properly considered. It is not too late for the negotiators to get down to negotiating the removal of the anomalies, which, as has been said many times, my right hon. Friend is most anxious to see resolved. For goodness sake, let them see some sense. A more responsible and reasonable approach would do more than anything to relieve the longer-term crisis in our prisons, a crisis which has been causing so many of us in the House so much deep concern for so long.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
I listened with amazement and some considerable concern to the Home Secretary's statement yesterday. I heard him go well beyond the position I had expected him to adopt in taking the powers he is seeking. These powers are unjustified and dangerous. At one stage I began to think that he would go on to abolish the courts and Parliament for a temporary period. As he spoke, I considered the well-established idea that democracies are seldom lost overnight but are lost by being whittled away a little at a time. I remembered, too, that emergency legislation has been introduced more and more frequently during this century and has become the norm rather than the exception. That is a matter of considerable concern and it should underline some of our anxieties tonight.
I am sure, for two reasons, that the Government will get their majority tonight. Those reasons have been spelt out repeatedly by Conservative Back Benchers. They are, first, the temporary nature of the powers being sought and, second, the fact that the Government say that there is no alternative to them.
I suggest to the Government, and particularly to their Back Benchers, that the temporary nature of the legislation is dubious. The temporary emergency legislation dealing with Northern Ireland has already been with us for 10 or 11 years. If we care about democracy, we should care very much about Acts of this type and even more about the frequency with which we have found it necessary to use them this century. For me, that is one of the most disturbing of factors.
The other reason why Conservative Back Benchers support the Bill is that they believe that there is no alternative. There is an alternative. A mere 18 months ago, during the election campaign, the Conservatives claimed to be the party of law and order. They produced a poster which stated that 1984 was only five years away. The present Home Secretary issued statements saying that he supported law and order. However, the Government are now not only instructing the judiciary but are taking powers to release people in what can only be described as an arbitrary fashion.
271 Although I accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) that in most cases—perhaps all but one—the balance is on the side of the defendant, other aspects are particularly important. There are people now in prison who are expecting to be released under the Bill. Their families will be waiting for them to come home. If that happens, it will happen arbitrarily. There is no way of knowing who will be released and who will not. An additional feeling of gross injustice will be added to that which already exists in our prisons, among both prisoners and prison officers. My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) said that there is one advantage in that the Home Secretary has said that he is prepared to intervene over the judiciary where appropriate.
I come now to the alternative. I find it unusual to be a defender of the Prison Officers' Association. My relationship with it has been, to say the least, stormy. Nevertheless, I am pleased that it knows where I stand on matters of penal reform and that I know its views. On that basis we are developing a pretty good working relationship. The Government have been led astray, however, if they believe that the May report was the arbitration on this claim that it was described to be. Paragraph 9.10 on page 225 of the report states:We have accordingly proceeded upon a strict basis of entitlement. In some cases we have felt there may be equitable grounds for creating such entitlements"—that is a reference to certain allowances —but in all except one of these cases we have taken the view that this must be left as a matter for future negotiation between the parties.The report then goes on to deal with specific claims. Paragraph 9.29 deals with the so-called Liverpool claim, or claim 17. It states:We made it clear that we could do so only if the claim, upon examination, was shown to involve issues of general principle and application, and that we were not prepared to set ourselves up as arbiters to make decisions upon any disputed issues applicable only to a single establishment.The issue of single establishments is, as the Minister knows, claim 17.
No reasonable person could argue that the Prison Officers' Association does not have a point when it says that arbitration 272 has not fully taken place. Nobody, including the Prison Officers' Association, disputes that the process undertaken by the May committee was, to a considerable extent, arbitration. But the wording of those two paragraphs—and there are other similar paragraphs—indicates to any reasonable man that the Prison Officers' Association has a point. Weight is added to that point if we bear in mind that paragraph 9.28 points out the discrepancy between two officers serving side by side in different situations, with only one of them receiving an allowance. That is one of the anomalies. By settling claim 16, May created the anomaly referred to in claim 17.
In a letter to the Home Secretary today, I said that there is a way out of this position without draconian legislation. I have no doubt that if the relevant subcommittee—although it could be the full committee—was reconvened with instructions to examine the dispute about that claim and make recommendations—I put it no higher than that—prison officers would be strongly disposed to call off the action. That is the impression that I received having talked to prison officers outside the executive of the Prison Officers' Association. If that is the price that the Government are asking us to pay for their legislation, I am not prepared to pay it. The Bill is appalling in every respect. The alternative is clear. Given that it is not an immediate cash issue and that the Prison Officers' Association is prepared to move on the issue, I do not accept that we need such draconian legislation. Even now, it is not too late for the Home Secretary to reconsider the stance that he has taken.
I fear that there are two other reasons why we are discussing this legislation. This may be a dispute about who runs the prisons. If that underlies the legislation, there is no doubt about my position on that. I have always said that it is totally wrong for a local branch of the Prison Officers' Association to run a prison. I say that not because I am not in favour of greater industrial participation generally but because I recognise that if the custody of one group of people is given to another group there is no way in which the staff of an institution can have total control. That is unacceptable by any standards. If the Home Secretary believes that he must demonstrate that 273 he is running the prisons, he has missed a subtle change in the mood of the Prison Officers' Association. It has learnt a great deal from the past bitter few years. That is of extreme importance. Increasingly, prison officers have said to me that previous events in the prisons, including some of their actions, have not been in the best interests of themselves, the prisoners or society as a whole.
We are facing a crisis of morale. Only a few months ago, during the discussion of the May report, hon. Members praised prison officers. They said that they were marvellous people, working in horrible conditions and at times risking their lives. Suddenly, they are calling them callous and unreasonable. The hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) commented on the high salary of prison officers. I wonder whether his salary, as a lawyer, compares with that of prison officers, taking into account the conditions in which they have to work. On a number of occasions both inside and outside the House I have condemned those conditions. They bear repeating. There are three prisoners in a cell 12 ft. by 7 ft. with a chamber pot to be used by three men at night. Because men do not wish to stay in their cell with that smell, faeces are thrown out of the window. One could walk around any of our Victorian prisons and find that substance lying at our feet. Prisoners have to live in those conditions and prison officers have to work in them. It is wrong that hon. Members who such a short time ago praised the prison officers should now describe them as callous, unreasonable and being taken in by their leaders. It undermines the morale of a service that has already been seriously hit.
The declining morale of the service arises not because of money only. It is about the way that it has been ignored. A prison officer at Wormwood Scrubs said to me last week. "It is all very well to hear fine words from Members of Parliament and others, but when will we get some recognition of the job we are doing and some resources to do it well?" Hon. Members who have been so ready to criticise prison officers have forgotten that.
I shall continue to criticise the Prison Officers' Association—when I think that it is wrong—on the running of our 274 establishments and on the way that it has blocked certain reforms in the prison system. I say nothing about the justice of the original claim because I am not convinced of that. I am prepared to keep an open mind. But I have no doubt that the prison officers are perfectly reasonable and within their rights to ask for arbitration. If arbitration means reconvening a sub-committee of May or the May committee itself, that is not an unduly high price to pay to get rid of the Bill.
If the Government go ahead with the legislation, it will whittle away the foundations of democracy in Britain. For many years I have been taught that the House is here to protect our rights. I did not come here to encourage a process that whittles away those rights. When I look back over the history of this century and see how quickly and readily we turn to emergency legislation, I become disturbed.
I shall deal with individual clauses of the Bill in Committee. I am saying to Conservative Back Benchers that the Bill is an attack not only on the democratic rights of the House but on the democratic rights of the people of Britain. We shall go down this road with great danger and, ultimately, considerable sorrow.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
The Guardian newspaper this morning described the events that have precipitated the debate and the Bill as an emergency. We all agree that only an emergency could bring such a Bill before us and cause us to consider so quickly the drastic draconian powers to be placed in the hands of the Home Secretary which will limit the freedoms available to persons on remand. There is an emergency, and we must consider the Bill. But I am not happy about the Bill.
Another emergency has been hinted at by other speakers in the debate. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) mentioned what might happen if we went into full-scale confrontation with the prison service. What will be the result of the feelings of bad will and the failure to maintain a better relationship with those who form such an essential part of the maintenance of law and order in Britain?
275 Something is wrong. Before we consider the Bill in detail in Committee, those thoughts must give us pause. I spoke in the debate on the May report on 1 August. The debate was considerably curtailed because we had to consider another measure before we could debate the report. We were delayed by at least an hour on the question of the selection of juries, if I remember correctly. But, be that as it may, we are now looking at a temporary Bill—at least, that is what I understand.
I have been dismayed at the observations of both Front Bench spokesmen. The Minister of State is an hon. and learned Member of this House and the Opposition spokesman is a right hon. Member and former Home Secretary. Their legal interpretation of the Bill was that it was not a temporary measure, although it is called a temporary measure. The House understands it to be a temporary measure, but it should be realised that in the small print—in clause 8—there is a let-out for the Bill possibly to become more than a temporary measure.
§ Mr. Joseph Dean (Leeds, West)
A few moments ago the hon. Gentleman referred to the May committee debate and the fact that it was held on a Friday and curtailed. I think that we are all trying to be objective in this debate. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government should have given more and ample time to debate that report? I remind him that when this matter was raised at business questions both sides were almost given undertakings that the May report would be debated in full. I submit that the debate which took place on that Friday, and the time allowed, meant that the report was debated in part only, and an extremely small part at that.
§ Mr. Crouch
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, although we are crying over spilt milk. However, at the time my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary told me personally that nothing dismayed him more than the fact that that important debate on that important report was curtailed. However, we are looking backwards and crying over spilt milk. We must now look forward. That is precisely what I want briefly to do.
What has gone wrong? What has precipitated this industrial action? Why do 276 the prison officers feel as they do? Why are they frustrated? Why do they feel neglected? Why is it that they even feel forgotten? Why should they now resort to such dangerous action? These are the very people who are most closely associated with the protection of society against danger, yet something has caused them to take the very action that we would never expect them to take. I wonder why.
I have met prison officers often and, like other hon. Members with prisons in their constituencies, I have been impressed with their dedication to their work and their concern for the inmates. They have complained to me often not just about their pay, conditions and allowances but also about the state of our prisons, the age of our prisons, the problem of three prisoners to a cell and all the degrading details about which we have heard today of what goes on in our prisons and is seen night and day by the prison officers. Yet they feel neglected. I do not think that it is merely a question of pay, conditions and meal breaks which has precipitated this disastrous emergency. Something much deeper exists.
The subject of prisons is not something that we look at too readily or too easily. A lot goes on behind those high walls that we do not fully appreciate or understand. Behind those high walls there are many things that we do not even want to understand or comprehend. It is much easier to comprehend what goes on in the fire service, the police service or the Armed Services. It is much more enjoyable for Members of Parliament to make a visit abroad or to go anywhere in this country to see the Royal Navy, the Air Force or the Army at work. It is easier to visit the police centre and see the computer activity of the police organisation today or to be shown how the police motor car service works and traces accidents and so on.
But how many people force themselves to find out what goes on in the prison service? From talking to the prison officers, I have discovered that they do not feel themselves to be in the same class as the police. For example, they have complained to me in respect of rent allowances. On 1 August I complained that May had not recommended an increase in their rent allowances. I criticised May for that failure. Why should a prison officer in my constituency get a rent 277 allowance of £11.30 a week whereas a police constable gets £18.30? That is not in the same class. There is no pay comparability in that. It does not take a great deal of wit or discernment to appreciate that things such as that, small as they may seem when we are confronted with industrial action, are the last straw on the camel's back.
Prison officers have also told me that they wanted the inconvenience locality allowance. May did not recommend that, and I was inclined to agree with May. I no longer thought that there was a case for the ILA, and I know that the Home Office felt the same, yet many prison officers still wanted it. Perhaps they wanted it only as a top-up to their total remuneration, and they feel that yet another allowance has been taken away from them.
I must confess that I do not understand the meal allowance and its complexity, but I can only assume that it is another straw on the back of the camel. I cannot believe that these men, who do a dangerous and depressing job, have now suddenly changed into monsters of industrial action. It is the duty of the Home Secretary, his Ministers and his officials to give the highest priority—and to regard it as the greatest challenge which faces him as Home Secretary—to finding out the real causes of the danger which has been precipitated.
§ Mr. John Ryman (Blyth)
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the fundamental cause of the prison officers' grievance which has precipitated this action, which I strongly condemn, is that the basic wage of the prison officer is so artificially low that, as Mr. Justice May recognised in his excellent report, there must be a huge amount of supplementary allowances of various kinds which would not be necessary if the prison officers received a decent basic wage?
§ Mr. Crouch
I agree, and I know for a fact that that has been one of the factors which has exacerbated the problem over the years. This is not a problem which has blown up in the lifetime of the present Home Secretary. It has been fermenting away for many years.
May reported that the remuneration of prison officers includes 37 per cent. for overtime—11 hours a week. That is an 278 anomaly which should not be allowed, be it in industry or in a service such as the prison service. It is then used in the wrong way. That is what prison officers have told me. Some of them arrange to work more overtime than others.
I have reported to the Home Secretary—I have written only this morning about the matter—I have had correspondence with the Howard League about it, and I mentioned in the debate on 1 August that some prisoners, who are very canny and aware of what they can do to hurt a prison officer, will lodge a complaint against a prison officer, who is then suspended while the complaint is investigated. Such an officer is suspended on basic pay, which is his remuneration less 37 per cent. A canny prisoner knows how to get his own back on a prison officer he does not like.
That was the question which I put to the Home Secretary yesterday. I said that I had not received an answer to that complaint which had been put to me by prison officers. As I also hinted yesterday, these are not major matters, but one by one they contribute to a feeling of dissatisfaction. I utterly condemn the danger that they have caused, the discomfort that they are causing to prisoners, the danger that they are causing to the public and the danger of precipitating the Bill. When I see us on the brink of so dangerous a measure, I am driven to ask whether there is something that the Government can do, having given this matter the highest priority and having said that it is the greatest challenge facing the Home Secretary.
Is there not something that can be done at the brink? In my view, when we reach this stage we should sit round a table. The Home Secretary says that he has been sitting round a table for many weeks with the prison officers and that he feels that his case is right and just. It probably is, but I cannot help thinking that perhaps he should hear not only the views of the leaders of the prison officers but the views of some of those prison officers who do not go the whole way with their leaders. Perhaps if some of their recommendations could be heard we would be making a step in the right direction and not a step over the brink.
It has been said that in some prisons it is the prison officers rather than the governors who rule. If that remarkable 279 statement is true, could it be true because in some prisons the prison officers are paid more than the governors? What a fantastic base on which to build good industrial relations and good management. I have been checking on the pay and conditions, and it is still true that certain grades of governors are paid considerably less than their prison officers. Today, for example, a prison officer receiving the award that was granted by the Home Secretary in May can receive up to £7,800 a year, whereas a principal prison officer can receive as much as £9,168 a year. Against those figures, an assistant governor, grade I, receives between £7,250 and £8,200 a year, and an assistant governor, grade II, receives between £5,700 and £6,850 a year.
Having come from an industrial background, and having been trained in industrial relations, when I read figures such as that I think that I am in cloud-cuckoo-land, and I cannot understand how we maintain good management. I have stood with prison governors who have said that officers are paid more than they are paid. They talk about it freely, and they laugh about it. A medium-grade officer will say that he will not apply for promotion because it does not pay him because at a higher grade he does not receive the overtime rates that add so much to his pay. I hope that that anomaly has now been corrected.
I have talked about the unfortunate history of this crisis. Much has been said about the May committee recommendations. On the question of organisation, it said:Central administration ought to have shown itself more responsive to growing feelings of dissatisfaction with the organisation and management of the service as a whole, especially in the field of personnel management. The prison service should be reorganised with a view, first, to create within it a greater degree of unity and identity than presently exists; secondly to give the Prison Department more standing within the Home Office"—for which I asked for an assurance yesterday—thirdly, to identify those areas of its administration and work which should be the concern and responsibility of the most senior management.There is an unfortunate history to this whole affair. It does not excuse the prison officers from taking industrial action, and I hope that at this eleventh 280 hour they will consider stopping it and making another plea to get round the table without preconditions. But it does not excuse the Home Office, for, as the employer, something has gone wrong there, not necesarily in the lifetime of the present Home Secretary but over a number of years.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
Whenever Governments introduce offensive and blatantly anti-libertarian measures, they make the same excuse. They say that there is an emergency. Ministers say that they do not like the measure but that it is necessary because there is an emergency. It is remarkable how often the emergency is created, certainly in part, by the Government who are introducing the measure. I cannot believe that there is not a better way of dealing with this difficult dispute than introducing into the House in one day a measure that attacks the whole concept of the independence of the judiciary and the safeguards that anyone who appears before the courts has a right to expect.
I am not impressed with the argument that has been advanced. The Minister of State nodded when that argument was advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon)—that such executive powers to be exercised by the Home Secretary would be exercised for the benefit of the accused or a person held in custody. He is operating closed justice. There is no way in which the reasons why the Home Secretary will grant bail in one case and refuse it in another will be revealed to the public. By exercising such powers as he is given in the Bill, the Secretary of State will cause dissatisfaction and disgruntlement to a person who is refused bail and raise the expectations of those who hope that he will grant bail to them as a result of these emergency powers.
Another factor that all measures of this sort have in common is that the Minister always says that he hopes he will never have to use the powers and that he is introducing them as a long stop. However, when the powers are there it is remarkable how Home Secretaries and other Ministers find their use irresistible, whether or not they are necessary. That is why I find it remarkable that the Home Secretary should include the later clauses in the Bill, which 281 are unnecessary if we are facing simply a temporary emergency situation.
The reason why these draconian powers are being introduced is that the Government say that law and order have virtually broken down. The Government must accept some of the blame for that. It has not suddenly arisen. The dispute and the dissatisfaction in the prison service have been rumbling on year in and year out. If the dispute were settled tomorrow, the overcrowding and the basic difficulties would still be there. I have an awful feeling that if the dispute were settled tomorrow many hon. Members would breathe a sigh of relief and forget all about the difficulties in the prison service.
This debate can serve one useful purpose, at any rate: to alert the public to just how appalling conditions are and have been in our prisons. The test of whether this debate is worthwhile will come during the next general election campaign. I hope that I am not being unduly cynical, but I have a feeling that all the fine words said today and all the forebodings, warnings and anguish about what has happened will not surface very strongly in the manifestos of either of the major parties. I do not think that penal reform will figure very high in the next election campaign. In the intervening years, I do not think that many people will try to influence the public to the view that what we really need is shorter sentences and that it is not merely a question of harder and tougher regimes. Although that may be the most popular thing to advocate, it is not the truth.
There are measures in the Bill for which many of us have campaigned for many years. My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) was quite right. If it is possible for the Home Secretary, in an emergency, to waive certain matters and to accede to the fact that it is not necessary or good to send fine defaulters to prison, why, at the same time, can he not say "That is a measure which I should like to see enacted at some future time by the introduction of legislation"? It should be a long-term objective, and the Home Secretary should say that today. But he has said just the opposite.
282 This measure goes against the whole concept of the independence of the judiciary. It is in danger of creating a situation in which the Executive is in conflict with the courts. I do not know how well received was the letter that the Home Secretary sent to the courts. I suspect that it was not very well received—and quite rightly so. I think that the courts resented being told what to do. But this measure will not only cause the Executive to come into conflict with the courts. It will also create further conflict with the prison service and further dissatisfaction among those who are held in custody on remand and those who have been convicted.
I cannot understand why this dispute has not been settled. Surely it would be far better to send the whole matter to arbitration than to expect the House of Commons—which is envied throughout the world as the custodian of civil liberties—to pass in one day a measure which has not been considered. If a Government overseas were introducing a measure of this sort and if the justification for it were "We have been unable to settle a dispute over meal allowances", we in this House would laugh our heads off. If a Labour Government here introduced it, Conservative Members would be saying "It is the first step towards an East European Marxist State."
The Government should be ashamed of themselves for getting themselves in this mess. They have themselves to blame. I hope that this measure will be opposed vigorously tonight.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Like all hon. Members, I have the greatest distaste for emergency legislation. I agree with all those who say that those of us who are not members of the Executive have an overriding duty to look with very great care at this sort of legislation, which was certainly not envisaged when we fought the last general election campaign on the manifestos which our various parties put out.
Not for the first time, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) touched on what I think are the two main issues in this debate. On the first point, it seemed to me that he was saying that he felt that, if there was a 283 dispute between the prison officers and the Executive, the main cause of it was the employers' position. If I understand him aright on that point, I am bound to say that I disagree with him about it. It is because I disagree with him on that point that I find that, with considerable reluctance, I shall support the Executive on Second Reading—although not on later stages—because it seems to me that if one says that it is the Executive's fault one says "We must be in favour of some form of arbitration and possibly even some form of judicial arbitration."
I want to make plain that I am totally opposed to any sort of reference to arbitration. It seems to me that that would be going back to Clegg and perhaps back to one of the principal mistakes that the Tory Party made before the last general election.
It would be even worse if we went to any sort of judicial arbitration, because, as I hope I shall make plain in what I have to say on my second point, I believe most passionately in the independence of the judiciary from the activities of the Executive.
What is most unfortunate is the way in which successive Governments have called upon judges to head various forms of inquiry into quasi-political disputes, and this has involved the judiciary in political arguments that have arisen.
§ Mr. Soley
The hon. Member was present when I was speaking about May's comment on this matter. Surely he would accept that the quotations which I gave were an indication that to go down that road is merely to finish off the job that has already been started but not completed, and that it would be totally wrong to compare it with a new issue.
§ Mr. Budgen
The fact that some tentative steps have been taken down a road does not necessarily mean that everyone agrees that the traveller should go right down the road. It may be that Mr. Justice May took a few steps along that road. All that I am saying is that it is a very perilous road for a judge to travel.
Therefore, my general attitude towards the Bill is that I support it in so far as I regard the Government as asking for the necessary minimum powers to deal with this dispute. I do not wish to get involved in the minutiae of who is right 284 or who is wrong in this dispute. However, it seems that if one does not want arbitration, and, in particular, if one does not want judicial arbitration, the Executive must be armed with the powers that enable them to break the monopoly position of those who are providing services to them. In my judgment, the powers that are asked for under clause 1 are that necessary minimum.
But then I ask myself whether the powers that are asked for under the later clauses are necessary or whether they go far too far. I believe that the powers for which the Executive are asking the House of Commons under clauses 3, 4 and 5 go very much further than any House of Commons ought to grant. I quite understand the Home Secretary's position. No doubt, like all members of all Governments, he thinks "If in doubt, let us ask for too much." Surely the attitude of the House should be "If in doubt, give him too little." It seems that the powers that are requested in clauses 3, 4 and 5 are a major interference in the principle of the independence of the judiciary and of the administration of justice.
The right hon. Member for Down, South said that if we, the House of Commons, grant to the Government these powers we set a precedent. I agree with him. Subsequent speeches amply supported his observation. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) is active in debates of this sort. He is not in the Chamber now, but I understand that he has another engagement. I make no criticism of him for not being in his place. The hon Gentleman made it plain that he regarded this as a most useful precedent, as did the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyons), who, again, is active in debates of this nature. So that it is not thought to be merely a temporary aberration of the Left-wing of the Labour Party, may I say that the same view was expressed by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), the Liberal Party spokesman. It is regarded as a precedent.
Unfortunately, the tendency of the Executive to move a little closer to the distance that should be kept between the Executive and the judiciary has been an increasing and regrettable feature of my right hon. Friend's observations. Let us consider carefully what he said. We 285 have had his initial reactions to the May report. In suggesting to the judiciary that it should impose shorter sentences, he did not express that view directly from his own mouth. He used the words of the Lord Chief Justice to justify what he was saying. It is proper for the Lord Chancellor or the Lord Chief Justice to make speeches about how the judiciary should act. However, I urge the House that it is not proper for the Home Secretary or any other member of the Executive to offer advice to the judiciary on how it should exercise its discretion in sentencing those who come before it.
It is unfortunate that the circular that the Home Secretary issued to the magistrates about a week ago fell into the same error. I suggest that my right hon. Friend's observations and the circular are more of a constitutional danger than legislation that interferes with the independence and discretion of the judiciary.
If we have a sovereign Parliament, that Parliament is entitled by law to interfere in the discretion and independence of the judiciary. I regret it, but it has that ultimate right. However, that is much more open and much less regrettable than the nudge and the wink and the advice that are given without the force of law and all that that implies. I regret the precedent that I fear is being set.
§ Mr. Budgen
It is true that we do not have an American concept of total separation of powers. It is always a matter of judgment how far the Executive may go in offering advice to the judiciary. I am merely saying—I am trying to put this as neutrally as I can—that the combination of the Home Secretary's observations upon the May report, the circular to the magistrates and this most unfortunate Bill, when taken together, take my right hon. Friend over narrow dividing line.
286 It is because of that accumulation of evidence that I come to the conclusion that the proper course is not to follow the right hon. Member for Down, South in voting against the Bill on Second Reading. I shall vote for the Bill's Second Reading—I recommend this course to those of my hon. Friends who are disturbed about the principle of the Bill—because of my support for the breaking of the monopoly position of the prison officers. However, I shall vote against clauses 3, 4 and 5 and against the parts of clause 8 that allow the powers of clauses 3, 4 and 5 to be reactivated.
§ Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)
I have never been a chairman or a member of a prison visitors' committee or of any committee involved with the prison system or its reform. I am not a member of the legal profession. However, 12 months ago I inherited a major prison in my constituency in central Manchester. I was recently invited by the branch officers' association to visit the prison. I accepted the invitation and went with rather preconceived ideas derived mainly from the media and utterances from politicians. I had the impression that I would be meeting a demanding and rather impossible body of men. It was my third visit in 12 months. I went at the request of the association. I met the branch officers of the association at Strangeways, Manchester.
I found that the officers were not, as had been implied, acting in an irresponsible manner. The visit was enlightening. I met a responsible but determined group of men. They regard the situation as a proper legal industrial dispute with their employers. The difference is that they are in the public sector and, unlike other sectors of industry, have no access to arbitration. Therefore, they have to resort to a dispute to emphasise their claims. On the day that I met them, they had received a directive from their NEC to step up the dispute, and this they were reluctant to do. That was the reaction of a responsible group.
The officers claim, after two and a half years of talking, that they have played their part in being a moderate and responsible body. The present action is not the will of a few militants. It is the result of a unanimous decision of delegates 287 representing 127 branches of the association. It was a private ballot. There was a postal ballot for those who could not attend. They went about it in the recognised and accepted manner.
Strangeways is a transit prison. By its very nature it has a high turnover of prisoners. It relies on the good will of prison officers to make the system work. They make it work for the benefit of the prisoners. This particular prison has a certified normal accommodation level of about 1,021 prisoners. Prior to the dispute, it held 1,750 prisoners. The prisoners are of all varieties and come from the whole spectrum of the criminal world.
They include some of the less fortunate members of society, such as alcoholics, vagrants and others who require hospitalisation rather than imprisonment. A person who requires bathing and dressing needs more attention than a long-term, hardened criminal. However, officers have such duties.
Prison officers are required to take two meal breaks within three and a half hours of each other. Although it is undesirable and inconvenient, they do so in order that the system can continue to run smoothly and for the benefit of the prisoners. Prisoners from a transit prison, such as at Strangeways, Manchester, have to be escorted by prison officers to detention centres and to and from magistrates' courts. Such duties put stress on prison staff. Nevertheless, they are accepted. The prison officers made it clear that they did not want any dispute with the governor. They have a good relationship with the governor at Strangeways. They expressed respect for the governor. However, as a result of Government policy, a divide has arisen between the governor and the prison officers.
The prison officers emphasised that they did not want prisoners to suffer. They asked me to stress that point to the media. They said that the fault lay with the Home Office because it had adopted such an entrenched position. Prison officers are a determined body of men. They said that if, as a result of their actions, men were locked away for 24 hours a day, prisoners would be coming through the doors, walls and roofs.
Talk of troops being brought in to deal with prisoners who are normally dealt with by trained staff means that we are at 288 panic stations. The prison officers' only request is for arbitration. They will abide by such a decision. We have heard alarmist speeches about soldiers with bullets in their barrels and guns at the ready. It is almost as if we were declaring war. The issue concerns parity of payment for meal breaks, yet some hon. Members wish to go to such lengths. The dispute has arisen because complete ignorance as to how the system works has led to such theories being put forward.
Ignorance, combined with a Government who are prepared to go to such lengths to impose their policies on the public sector, is the real culprit. The Government have used the recommendations of the May Committee to arbitrate, although that was not the May committee's intention.
I received a letter from the Prison Officers' Association. It states:By no stretch of any imagination can the May Committee report be regarded as arbitration. And the present state of affairs arose out of the pronouncements of May. Since May awarded payment for unscheduled meal breaks to those of our members who work the FGS system of attendance, but whose claim is identical to those of our members who work the Vee scheme system, and who were denied payment. In equity our claim for parity is just. Let the Home Office prove that their arguments are also just by going to arbitration. We will abide by the decision of an independent arbitrator.The provocative action that has been taken will only entrench the position and destroy the governor's good will.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
Most hon. Members will accept that urgent action is required to deal with an emergency. I believe that the great majority of hon. Members will support the Bill. However, as time goes on, as camps are established and as public concern grows about them, it may be thought that a sledgehammer has been taken to crack a nut. I do not think that that is so. Obviously, there are wider considerations. Nevertheless, we need an effective public relations operation in order to explain why such action is being taken and why this issue does not simply consist of a small wrangle about meal breaks.
Those of us who have some limited experience of labour relations are worried 289 because there appears to be no established procedure for dealing with grievances about wages and working conditions other than general inquiries such as that of May. It is also worrying that May referred to difficulties in dealing with such complaints. It is strange that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should imply that such things should be forgotten between one major inquiry and the next.
My main complaint and concern involve clause 5. It has been suggested that clauses 3, 4 and 5 are the same. They are not. Clause 4 is specific and is related to the duration of the strike. It states that during the dispute the Home Secretary will have the power to suggest to magistrates' courts that they should not send people to prison for certain crimes or offences. Such a provision is restricted to this dispute.
However, I am worried about clause 5, because it has wider implications. The Home Secretary will realise that most of us love, admire and respect him. We think he is a splendid chap. However, those of us who think so are worried about some of the things that the Home Office tries to do. For a long time, it has been clear that some of the so-called liberals, from whom we have heard, believe that it is possible to argue that those who have been sent to prison should be released earlier. There are arguments for and against that proposition. However, such a provision should be incorporated into a general Bill and not slipped into an emergency powers Bill.
Clause 5 gives the Government power to release prisoners six months earlier. The clause states that that is to be donein order to make the best use of the places available for detention.It cannot be argued that that clause is restricted to this dispute. We all know that prisons are desperately overcrowded. At present they are probably less overcrowded than they have been for some time, for the simple reason that 3,000 prisoners who would have been sent to prison have not gone there. The problem of overcrowding might be marginally less serious at present.
What is the object of clause 5? The problem in the prisons has not worsened as a result of the strike. I accept that there will be overcrowding in the 290 approved places. Nevertheless, the Government wish to reduce sentences by six months if there is overcrowding in order to make the best use of the places available for detention.
I do not know whether it was the result of the activities of a mole or whether all hon. Members received a news release, but I found in my box a splendid news release that was published yesterday by the Home Office. I do know where it came from, but it is entitled "Taking offenders out of circulation". It is the work of a Mr. Brody and a Mr. Tarling. They concluded that if people were let out earlier it would not lead to dramatic increases in the overall level of crime. That may or may not be the case. But it is pretty clear that their work is based mainly on those who get a larger proportion of parole—understandably those who are not the more worrying criminals. We have, in fact, a proposal to let prisoners out in substantial numbers up to six months early, irrespective of the circumstances. That is a pretty general move to deal with a general problem.
In order to make it quite clear that this is an emergency Bill to deal with an emergency situation, the Home Secretary should have the power only to release people early in order to deal with problems that arise directly out of this dispute. As far as I can see, clause 5 gives the Secretary of State the power during the period in which the Bill operates—that may be three months, but then, again, it may be extended to six months—to release prisoners up to six months early in order to make the best use of places available for detention and to deal with the problem of overcrowding. I must point out that that problem existed last week. It existed last month, and probably it will still exist next year. It would be quite wrong if the Home Secretary were to seek to bring in a measure to deal with this problem. which is controversial and wide-ranging, in the form of an emergency provisions Bill.
I have no objection to clause 4. It deals with people going to prison. We are having to set up camps and use partly completed prisons. Obviously, in order to deal with that emergency, we do not want to send quite so many people to prison. But clause 5 is totally different. In my view, it is a power to deal with a general problem which can be abused 291 and it would be wrong and rather shameful if it were slipped into a Bill which is meant to be a temporary measure to deal with a temporary problem.
The prison officers' dispute is far more significant and wide-ranging than a simple argument about meal breaks. I support the need for emergency action, but I hope that the Government will make it quite clear, perhaps by means of an amendment, that clause 5 can be used only to deal with problems arising out of the dispute and not with problems of general overcrowding. I hope that such an assurance can be given, otherwise this will cease to be a temporary provisions Bill and will be instead a Bill dealing with permanent problems. That is quite wrong for a temporary Bill.
§ Mr. John Ryman (Blyth)
Enough has already been said in the course of this valuable debate about the constitutional implications of the introduction of the Bill. I want to spend a few moments being realistic about the problems that have arisen in order to analyse what steps should and could be properly taken to resolve the deep-seated difficulties in the prison service.
No political party and no Government can claim much credit for their policies within the prison service in recent years. The House will remember that the establishment of the May committee in November 1978 arose against the background of serious industrial unrest in the prison service precipitated by wholly illegal and unauthorised actions by prison officers who saw fit to take the law into their own hands in deciding what prisoners should be received in prisons. That was a wholly unauthorised action which I strongly condemned, although I fully appreciated the grievances that those officers had at that time.
The history of the matter also indicated that the Prison Officers' Association had wrung certain concessions from the Labour Government and it thought that it could wring more by the actions it took in the summer and autumn of 1978. The then Home Secretary of the Labour Government, in the face of great resistance and pressure, reluctantly set up the May committee. When he spoke in the House at that time, he appeared to be extremely reluctant to establish the committee, but at the last moment 292 he thought that it would be the only way to avoid further serious industrial unrest.
The May committee reported in October 1979 and made certain basic recommendations, which highlighted the inadequacies of the pay structure of prison officers. The point is—I am surprised that it has not been grasped by many hon. Members in this debate—that the prison officers receive a wholly inadequate basic wage for doing a very unpleasant job, and the only way that they can supplement this inadequate basic wage is by using the various means of overtime payments and other allowances which bring it up to a reasonable living wage. Both this Government and the previous Government have known this for years.
In his recommendations, Mr. Justice May made it perfectly clear that the anomalous pay structure of prison officers had to be tackled by the Government and something had to be done to enable prison officers to have a reasonable basic wage, otherwise there would be vast abuse—as there undoubtedly is—of the various allowances that can be earned.
That is the background, and this Government must be realistic about it and appreciate that they are wholly to blame—as were the previous Government—in not recognising the basic grievance of the prison officers and doing something about it. But that is a matter of the past and it is not profitable for me to dwell on it. The question that arises now is what should be done in the present situation. The prison officers, having a perfectly legitimate grievance, are now taking the law into their own hands.
There are many prison officers who live and work in the North-East of England, and they are mostly decent, hardworking men and women who do a fine job in the public service. Yet some of them have now taken the law into their own hands in such a way that there appears to be a decision being made as to what prisoners should be received in certain prisons. As a result, hardship is being caused to the prisoners, substantial interference is occurring in the administration of justice and, just as the industrial action by magistrates' officials last year caused endless delay in future legal proceedings, so this prison officers' dispute will, six or nine months 293 after it has been solved, still have repercussions in delays in legal proceedings. People will be remanded longer and will have to wait longer for their trial or their committals for sentence.
That is the situation facing the Government. What can they do about it? It is no use well-intentioned and well-meaning people saying "Let the prisoners out", "Send fewer people to prison" and so on. Advice on penal policy is valuable and receives a great deal of notice when it comes from people with experience in these matters who know the facts of a particular case and the antecedents of a particular defendant and are able to express views about it. But it is no use suggesting that fewer people should go to prison because we have not got prisons, or saying that people should come out of prison because there is no room for them inside.
The Government are faced with a situation of their own making, and they must deal with it. What they are doing by the Bill, which is constitutionally quite outrageous, is seeking to settle an industrial dispute by imposing, through executive action by the Home Secretary, an edict to the judiciary, ordering it to achieve a reduction in the prison population indirectly at a time when the Government say, in effect, that they will not do so directly. That is what the Bill is about. It is a constitutional outrage. It is an attempted interference by the Executive with the powers of the judiciary.
In Committee, we shall have further opportunity to point out to the Home Secretary and his Ministers the difficulties that could occur if the Bill is enacted in its present form. The Opposition should be constructive and tell the Government what our attitude is to the dispute and how it should be resolved. I hope that Front Bench spokesmen will do so.
The Government have a great weakness to overcome. The dispute has been caused by their refusal to go to arbitration over the meals issue. The Home Secretary argues that there has already been arbitration in the form of the May committee, That is not strictly accurate. The May committee was not asked specifically to look at the problem that 294 is causing the dispute. I recognise the Government's difficulties, but I ask them to reconsider their refusal to go to arbitration. Why do they refuse?
I condemn the prison officers' unlawful action, although I can see why they are taking such action. Do not the Government recognise that the May committee did not have to deal with this point? It is no answer to say that there has already been arbitration. That is the crux of the problem. The Government should seriously consider that point. It is a small concession to make in the interest of solving the problem. Decent, hardworking men and women in the prison service would then cease their industrial action. We have not heard one sensible reason for refusing arbitration.
§ 8.3 pm
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
The debate has covered the merits of the dispute, the Government's response and proposals, the procedures that the House has been involved in as a result and the merits of the Bill.
Ample evidence has been produced to show that the merits of the dispute are evenly balanced, to say the least. One would therfore not have expected the Government to take such draconian measures and introduce the Bill. The Government are using the matter as an example. From our knowledge of the May report, it is clear that the Government could have found their way to arbitration if they were concerned only with this dispute. They want to make an example in the public sector to demonstrate that the Government will take firm, dramatic action to make it difficult for people to get pay rises. They are using this dispute in a wider context. That is regrettable.
The Government's action is generally regrettable. By waving a big stick and making use of Parliament to do so they again devalue democracy. They want to steamroller legislation through the House without proper discussion.
The Government have not sufficiently considered what will happen if the prison officers do not give way. What will happen if the prison officers escalate or extend the dispute, or if it continues on its present level for many months? How 295 will the Government get themselves out of the difficulties that will then arise?
The procedure involved is one of the worst abuses of the House. Emergency measures negate democracy. They stop public debate of measures before they are enacted. Public debate is an essential element of democracy. People should have the opportunity to make representations, and Members of Parliament should have the opportunity to take note of them. In this measure, that opportunity is virtually denied. It may be possible to read a leader in The Times and consult one or two pressure groups, but there is no opportunity for genuine public debate. Worse than that, there is no opportunity for Ministers to listen to representations.
Discussions are taking place in the building and changes in the Bill may occur. Legislation should not be put together as a result of horse trading behind Mr. Speaker's Chair or elsewhere. That is no way for Parliament to operate, but that is being forced on us.
The Home Secretary more or less suggested that questions would not be answered until the winding-up speech. If we get assurances then to allay the fears that we have voiced, we shall not need to table amendments. However, if we do not, we shall have to table instant amendments. The officials of the House will then be in a difficult position in trying to work out a logical selection. They cannot produce a proper selection in the few minutes between the conclusion of Second Reading and the start of Committee. It makes our procedures a farce.
Turning to the Bill, I should like assurances about the number of approved places that will be set up. What will happen to those approved places when the dispute ends? Is there any guarantee that they will disappear straight away? We all know of temporary measures that have become permanent. Prefabricated houses were supposed to have a 10-year life, but 30 years later many are still in existence. It was not intended that prisoners should continue to live three in a cell. It was a temporary measure to overcome a temporary problem.
After we have found approved places and filled them, will they continue in use? Prison officers may black those institutions. There is a grave danger that the temporary use of Army camps and other premises will become permanent. 296 We are all agreed that the prison population has become far too large. It is important that the temporary approved places do not become permanent.
What provision is there for checking the standards in the approved places? They may have to last for three or four months. Will the Government make provision for outsiders to check them? What is to happen about prison uniform? Prisoners on remand are entitled to wear their own clothes, but some prisoners whe are sent to approved places will have been convicted and would normally have to wear prison uniform. The uniform will not be available in approved places. I hope that the Minister of State will confirm that he intends to extend to prisons in Great Britain the provision announced for Northern Ireland that convicted prisoners will no longer be required to wear prison uniform and will be entitled to wear their own clothes.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
The announcement was that they will be required to wear civilian-type clothing, but not their own clothing.
§ Mr. Bennett
I had misunderstood that, but we still want to know what clothing they will be required to wear in an approved place.
I hope that the Minister of State will assure us that modifications required to the Prison Act 1952 will be published. That is an important matter. What procedure will be introduced for complaints about the way in which prisoners have been treated in approved places? Will they be subject to the normal complaints procedure for prisoners, or will there be another procedure? It is important that the right of a prisoner to complain about his treatment is safeguarded.
On the remand provisions, it is fundamental that a prisoner should have the right to go back before the magistrates' court and should not be able to be fobbed off by being told that he has the right to be represented by a solicitor. Some of my constituents have complained that solicitors have let them down at the last minute and have not appeared. Unless prisoners are guaranteed the right to be at the magistrates' court, they cannot be sure that a plea for bail or for a change in the conditions attached to the granting 297 of bail will be made. In addition, they will not have the important traditional right of being brought before the court so that magistrates can see that they are in good health and are not suffering unduly in the place where they are being held. It is important that the Government make clear that a prisoner will have the right to go back to a magistrates' court if he wishes and that the right will be waived only if he agrees.
It ought also to be possible to ensure that magistrates have the right to visit any of the approved places, in order to ensure that prisoners' health and safety are being safeguarded.
Clause 3(2) states:A person released under this section may be required by the Secretary of State to comply with such requirements as the Secretary of State thinks fit.That is a blank cheque. The Secretary of State ought to be prepared to lay those requirements before us, at least as a statutory instrument subject to approval by the House. He should not expect there to be total agreement for him to set out any requirements that he thinks fit.
In clause 3(6) there is a danger of conflict arising between the powers of the Home Secretary to say that a person can be released on bail and the power of a constable to rearrest that person. I hope that in Committee we shall be assured that a person will not be released by one authority and arrested by another. We do not want such a cat-and-mouse procedure.
Clause 6 seems to be permanent legislation and it is disgraceful that it should be included in a Bill which is said to be a temporary measure. If the Government feel that it is important to clear up the position of a constable in holding a prisoner rather than taking him straight to a prison or detention centre, that should be put into permanent legislation and made subject to the full scrutiny and proper procedures of the House. It should not be tagged on to this Bill.
We need a clear answer on whether the provision to extend the powers in the Bill by a statutory instrument will enable the measure to be re-enacted in future years or whether it will expire once it has lapsed.
298 We also need to know whether it is intended that the Bill shall extend merely to England and Wales or whether, in view of the decision of the POA to extend the dispute to Northern Ireland, the Home Secretary will be bringing forward an order to extend the Bill to Northern Ireland. That would be particularly unfair to those in that part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)
It is strange that we should be debating such a serious measure when there are only nine hon. Members in the Chamber. There are two Members on the Government Front Bench but no Conservative Back Bencher is present. I do not know whether that indicates that they wish to have no part of the Bill and will march through the Lobby in accordance with the diktat of the Prime Minister. That would be an abrogration of their responsibilities to their constituents and to the prison officers in their constituencies. However, that is a matter for those hon. Members. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) described himself as a spokesman for the Police Federation—I do not know whether that is a paid appointment—and said that the job of a prison officer was dangerous and highly demanding. Indeed, he eulogised about the sort of people who carry out such work. I subscribe to his view of the difficulties experienced by prison officers.
There is a prison in my constituency. In passing, I hope that the Home Office will soon purchase that prison from the local authority in order to assist the borough council to solve some of its financial problems. The Prison Officers' Association has a legitimate claim. We are faced with what would be regarded in the private sector as a typical industrial relations problem.
I get the impression that the Bill has been lying on the shelf in the Home Office for some time—perhaps two or three years. Perhaps the Shadow Home Secretary is not unfamiliar with it. Perhaps he had knowledge of it during the period of the previous Government. I am not sure whether that has been clarifield during the debate. It would be interesting to know when the Bill was concocted. Perhaps the Minister of State will tell us when he replies.
299 The Bill is consistent with the Government's attitude to trade unions. This Government have illustrated over a very short period since they took office that they prefer conflict in our society. Every decision that they have made in the economic, social and industrial fields has created a measure of conflict. We now have on the statute book the Employment Act. That is a recipe for conflict. It will not be too long before we see some conflict, if we have not already seen it in the picketing in one or two recent disputes.
The Bill is consistent with the class interests of those whom the Conservatives represent. That is why I do not wish to adopt the arguments advanced by some of my hon. Friends about the judiciary and the Executive, about one robbing the other of certain rights, powers or privileges, because, as I see it, both the Executive and the judiciary are part of the State apparatus, and if they are quarrelling about how they operate as instruments of coercion I do not want to get involved in that argument.
The State apparatus exists to protect the interests of one class against the other, one class that is the exploiter and the other that is the exploited. That is the position in which the prison officers find themselves.
It is regrettable that during the discussions in Poland about the establishment of independent trade unions we heard from Conservative hon. Members several statements about the rights that should be protected in Poland, where there was a demand for free, independent trade unions. I mention that merely to say that I deplore the use of the State machine—in this case the Army and whatever other instruments the Home Secretary may consider using under the Bill—whether in Poland or in the United Kingdom. Clearly, that State apparatus is used merely by one class to exploit another.
My speech has been deliberately brief, because I do not want to argue about the technicalities of the Bill. I am prepared to leave that to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and other hon. Members. There are niceties of argument to be advanced about the wording of the Bill, but in my view the Bill serves one purpose, and one purpose only. The architect could have been the Secretary 300 of State for Industry, the Home Secretary or the right hon. Member for Down, South. The product would have been the same.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
Surely the hon. Gentleman will not conclude his speech without explaining which class is exploiting which in Poland.
§ Mr. Thorne
I am sorry to learn that it is necessary for me, a man with very little education, to explain that to a man of the gargantuan intellect of the right hon. Gentleman. Nevertheless, I recognise that his education was obtained in a vastly different set of schools from those where I obtained mine, so I shall do him the courtesy of explaining.
The class that is doing the exploiting in our society is the class that owns and controls the means of production, distribution and exchange, the class on whose behalf Conservative Members operate. The exploited class consists of those, whether they are draughtsmen, prison officers, labourers, coal miners or whatever, who have only their labour power, which they sell to the other class in the process of production, distribution and exchange.
I hope that in due course the right hon. Gentleman will pay tribute for that lucid explanation. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Poland?"] I speak only briefly, because I see the subject as being a pure class matter. Any Opposition Member—whether the Shadow Home Secretary or anybody else—who wishes to support the Bill is, in my view, acting contrary to the class interests of those whom he is supposed to be serving in this House.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
This is one of those Bills for which the Government cannot conceivably claim they were given a mandate at the last election. They presumably did not explain to the electorate that they would trample on the rights of Parliament by pushing through legislation at the drop of a hat in order to solve their industrial relations problems. That is what the Bill boils down to.
One of the interesting things about the Home Office is that there appears to be a fair measure of consensus between the Front Benches on this legislation. Some 301 of us have demonstrated today that we have serious reservations about this method of solving an industrial relations problem. At the end of the day, the prison officers and the Government will have to sit round a table and discuss a settlement.
Nobody supposes that prison officers have a particularly good job. The prisons are a deterrent. The difficulty of working in a prison is that one must face, at least in part, some of the measures and hardships that are imposed on the prisoners to serve as a deterrent to a repetition of the crime for which they are in prison. Therefore, it is not a particularly happy job.
When an offer of arbitration is held out, the Government are being unreasonably obdurate in refusing to go to arbitration. I know that a great deal has been said about the May report and whether the issue of meal breaks was or was not covered. If the Government believe that they have such a strong case, why do they not go to arbitration, in the certain knowledge that they will win? If their case is so cast-iron, why can it not stand up to examination by a third party not involved in the dispute?
Is it that the Government feel that there is a scintilla of doubt? Are there a few reservations somewhere in the bureaucratic Whitehall mind that passes for intellect in the operation of the inner Government? Is there a feeling that they may not win and that if, having reserved their position and reached the stage of confrontation, the Government then lose they will look crestfallen and foolish?
Taking the Government case at face value, everything that they have said points to the strength of their case. I would have thought that the strength of their case would stand up to arbitration. For the Government not to go to arbitration is for the Government, not the prison officers, to push this situation deliberately towards the point of confrontation. It takes two to make a quarrel. In all the platitudes poured out by the Government about how much they regret the position and how wrong the prison officers are, they seem to forget that they also have a part to play. By the simple solution of putting the case to arbitration, the work-to-rule 302 that the prison officers have undertaken could be stopped.
I want to add a few comments about the powers and nature of this legislation. These are draconian powers. It is interesting that an extreme Right-wing Government such as that now in office should push through this legislation to solve an industrial relations confrontation by means of granting the Home Secretary free and unfettered powers to make a prison anywhere. There have been other illustrations. Chile is an example. Similar powers were used. It is possible that a football stadium, a school, a house and, in fact, anywhere can be designated a prison.
Maybe the Establishment is working a little more widely. I tabled an amendment last night. I realise that it was only a formulation, because until the Bill is presented no amendments can be tabled. It was not presented until 3.35 pm, but I gather, from a brief examination, that my amendment is not to be called.
My amendment was intended to put some power into Parliament. The Establishment does not want that. The Establishment is not confined to the Front Bench of the Tory Party. It runs a good deal wider. It seems that there has been no selection—although I hope I am wrong—of an amendment containing a requirement to lay an order before the Home Secretary can start splaying out his decisions to make prisons here, there and everywhere. This is one of the most draconian powers that Parliament has ever been asked to pass. We are told that it is temporary and that it is to last only a few months. The temporary provisions legislation for Northern Ireland comes up every six months. A Government spokesman says that things have not quite settled down and that, although we are winning the battle against the terrorists, we need to keep these powers a little longer. So it goes on, year after year.
Again, the consensus is revealed. There is no difference between the policies that is immediately detectable to the outsider. So the temporary legislation becomes permanent. We know what is meant by the assurance that it is temporary and will have to be renewed by order. We know what is meant by the assurance that the matter has to come before the House. It 303 means that a three-line Whip is shoved out. We know that all the hacks on the Conservative Benches will troop into the Lobby to vote for it at whatever time it is put before the House.
My right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench will bear testament to the fact that when the Labour Party was in power it was a lively period and there was no guarantee, as exists at the moment, that everyone would troop through the Lobby. At least, we exercised a certain amount of scrutiny every now and again. That is not the situation with the Conservatives. One has only to look at the difference between the party conferences. Whatever view one takes of the Labour Party conference, it was a lively occasion. It was better than the gathering of Daleks, carefully cleansed and vetted to make sure that they did not have a naughty idea between them that was out of line with Conservative policy.
We know, therefore, what "temporary" means. It means that at any time the Government choose the Home Secretary can can tell the Whips to get out the "three-liners" and he will get through the measure and extend it for a further three months. That is not very reassuring when we consider the extensive powers of the legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) made some important points about those extensive powers.
I should like to examine some of the details of the Bill—for example, the power of the Secretary of State to release people from prison under the part of the Bill which states:A person released under this section may be required by the Secretary of State to comply with such requirements as the Secretary of State thinks fit.Why is there not a schedule to the Bill? Why is this matter not covered by regulations so that the scrutiny that exists in Parliament, which, I recognise, is not much, can be exercised by those who were elected to this place, supposedly to exercise such scrutiny? Nowhere is the notice prescribed? Why cannot there be prescribed a piece of paper under which a person is released? A person on release could be placed in a difficult situation. He would be open to blackmail. The power of a constable is enormous. A constable can arrest a person who has been released from custody 304if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that that person is not likely to surrender himself … or if the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that that person is likely to fail to comply with any requirement imposed on him under subsection (2)".That allows the Secretary of State to impose such requirements as he thinks fit. These are enormous and widespread powers. One of the safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention is that bit of paper. However, that piece of paper is not prescribed in a proper form. Will the governor simply provide the paper or will the deputy governor do it? Will there be a record in the prison? Will there be a duplicate anywhere?
We are talking about a person's liberty and the right of the police to challenge that liberty in certain circumstances which are ill-defined. We must have safeguards so that the police do not make an error and place a person's liberty in jeopardy when that person has a right to be at liberty. That is another part of the legislation which deserves criticism. The provision should be subject to control by Parliament. That is what we are supposed to be good at. We deal with orders on the Floor of the House. With orders under the negative procedure, at least the Government have to put measures before Parliament. Once again, the Executive has decreed that it will have the legislation and Parliament is to be pushed to one side.
Sometimes it is suggested that legislation can be passed rapidly. We are talking not of legislation which is plucked out of a hat to deal with the Government's incompetent handling of industrial relations but of proposals placed before the people at an election. During election campaigns the Conservatives say that rapid legislation is not possible and that it takes months of careful consideration. We shall take a leaf out of the Tory book. We shall remember this when it comes to the next election. We want some rapid legislation. When the Tories talk about the need for consideration, we shall remind them that they introduced a Bill the day before the Second Reading and remaining stages were taken. We shall remind them how they shoved it all through.
§ Mr. Cryer
No, not at the moment. My hon. Friends have said that they want to go to Durham and Scotland to consult prison officers. They want to go round the United Kingdom—apart from Northern Ireland, which is not covered by the Bill—in order to consult, but they cannot do that.
I can think of some legislation that should be passed rapidly. We would have only to go down the corridor to consult before we introduced legislation to abolish the House of Lords. We shall bear in mind what the Tories have done. It might take us weeks rather than months, but that will be many more hours than the Conservative Government are prepared to give Parliament to consider this reactionary legislation.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I shall sneak briefly because I am not an expert on the subject. However, I am a libertarian and have struggled in many Committees on such issues. I want to place on record my opposition to this draconian measure, as I have on kindred measures.
Whatever is happening in the prison system is the responsibility of successive Governments, including Labour Governments. I denounce the collusion between the two Front Benches on such issues. There was no consultation with any of us. None of us knew what the Shadow Home Secretary was to say yesterday, and many of us did not agree with what he said. I want to place that on the record. We want to be consulted, and some of us are having a long struggle in the background to try to secure that there is some consultation.
The prison system is a disgrace to mankind. It is archaic, it is Victorian and it is utterly disgraceful. Almost nobody does anything about it until we are suddenly assailed. I am sad that the Labour Party has allowed the situation to continue. We expect such behaviour from the Conservative Party. Its members do only what they must do. When they are in the terrible political mess that they are now in, they have to bribe the police and the Army because they expect trouble. This is one of the symptoms of the trouble which is now arising in the prison system. Terrible riots have taken place in many gaols, the most frightful having happened in Hull. It 306 was perfectly obvious to many of us after what happened at Winson Green some years ago to those convicted after the bombings that there was something sick and wrong with the prison system. It is time that the European Court of Human Rights knew something about the position so that it could intervene.
We often hear the argument that, compared with those of other countries, our prisons are good, but we should compare ourselves with what should be, not with what happens in many tyrannical countries, and we should see that things are now going massively wrong. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who represents the Police Federation, intervened in the Home Secretary's speech to say that he could convey to the right hon. Gentleman individual cases which were an utter disgrace. Of course, we all could. When two, three and four people are put in cells that are made for one person, when they have to slop out and go to the lavatory in front of one another, and when they are locked in their cells for 23 hours a day, as happens in many cases, surely, in common humanity, some of the money that has been expended on useless armaments should be used to improve the prison system and build better prisons.
The circumstances with which this Bill seeks to deal arise from the disgraceful prison system. Some prisons are universities of crime. Those who go into them are not reformed but leave them bitter and disillusioned about an establishment that is a bigger criminal than most of them.
In view of the pressure on prisoners and prison officers generally, it is staggering that this crisis has not come to a head long before now. I remember the trouble that we teachers had when we fought for meal breaks, when we fought for the right for teachers to leave the schools and have a break from the children at lunchtime so as to make them better teachers in the afternoons. We had a tremendous struggle but eventually we won. Prison officers are in prisons all day and are in constant contact with the prisoners in conditions that we have imposed upon them. If they want to break, we should support them. We are in a mess now because we refused to listen to them in the past, just 307 as we refused to listen to the prisoners who have complained bitterly about their lot.
The Bill reminds me of the temporary emergency provisions legislation for Northern Ireland. Clause 1 gives the Secretary of State power to approve any place as a temporary place of detention. Clause 2 extends the powers of a magistrates' court to remand a person in custody in his absence. Clause 3 confers a discretion on the Secretary of State. Each clause heaps up the draconian powers, and our Front Bench is colluding with the Government Front Bench to impose these powers on an already grossly overloaded prison system.
Some of us will vote against the Bill, just as we have voted against other similar legislation. Emergency legislation is always needed because the system with which it deals has fallen down and has failed to fulfil its task in previous years. I therefore hope that more people will take note of what is happening and that both Front Benches will get together to alter the prison system and provide better prisons containing fewer prisoners under a better political system. I hope that by spending more money on the prison system we shall avoid coming to the impasse at which we have arrived today.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea East)
As a result of the action of the Prison Officers' Association, the Government face an enormous problem. That problem would face a Government of any colour when devising a system to meet the complications caused by the action of the Prison Officers' Association.
The main worry about the Bill is that every part of it reeks with Executive discretion, and many parts are an affront to civil liberties. In a few brief remarks, I shall illustrate the parts of the Bill that concern me. Clause 2 gives discretion to the Executive to provide that those who have been remanded in custody can be remanded in their absence without appearing before a magistrates' court. It provides that when a person has been remanded in custody by a magistrates' courthe shall not be brought before a magistrates' court at the end of the period of remand unless the remanding court has given a direction requiring him to be brought before such a court.308 There is a similar provision in subsection (2):Subsection (1) shall have effect notwithstanding any other enactment or any rule of law but shall not affect any power of a magistrates' court to require a person remanded in custody to be brought before it".What would happen if a magistrates' court sought to give such a direction but the direction was incapable of fulfilment because the prison officers would not comply with it? What sanction would be available if the prison officers defied such a direction?
The prime concern about the hastily drafted Bill with relation to civil liberties is the danger that certain prisoners on remand effectively may be forgotten during the period of remand because they will not be brought before a magistrates' court. There will not be the check on their health and well-being that is possible as a result of regular appearances before a magistrates' court. Although they may be legally represented, because of the prison officers' action the lawyer may not have proper access to his client.
Because of the real dangers to civil liberty in the clause, are the Government prepared to agree that continued remand in custody without appearing before the magistrates' court will be possible only if the prisoner has access to a lawyer who is able to give the magistrates' court any fresh information that may be available to support an application for bail? There is a danger that, week after week, a person could be effectively forgotten by the system. Do the Government accept that that is a real problem? If so, and if they do not see fit to approve that sort of formula, what other formula do they have in mind to meet the problem?
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
One solution to the problem—and I agree there is a problem—would be to build into clause 2 a requirement that the offenders should be brought before the court at least once every 21 or 28 days.
§ Mr. Anderson
I am prepared to consider any formula on its merits. That may be a partial solution. A better solution would be a provision that a person may have access to a lawyer if he so wishes. The lawyer could then bring up-to-date information to the magistrates' court. If the Government agree that the period should be not more than 309 21 days, that would be better than the open-ended possibility under the current system.
But, again, one faces the problem to which I alluded earlier. What happens if as a part of this industrial dispute the prison officers deny individual prisoners in custody access to their lawyers, as I understand is currently happening in certain parts of the country? Given that, clearly I have no solution. What will be the sanction if a magistrates' court makes a direction which, as part of the industrial dispute, the prison officers will not accept?
I should like to refer to several other points of detail. We are told in clause 3(1) thatthe Secretary of State may directthat a person may be releasedbut the Secretary of State shall not give a direction under this subsection unless he is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in order to make the best use of the places available for detention.Again, that reeks of Executive discretion. What criteria will the Secretary of State adopt in seeking to consider whether it isthe best use of the places available"?Surely, the Government should spell out rather more clearly what they have in mind.
A similar phrase appears in the following subsection, which states:A person released under this section may be required by the Secretary of State to comply with such requirements as the Secretary of State thinks fit.Surely, Parliament has a duty to probe and to ask for greater detail when phrases such asas the Secretary of State thinks fitappear at such frequent intervals in Bills of this nature, which have been put together so hastily in this emergency situation. The precedent of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act is hardly a happy one for such hastily drafted legislation. Therefore, it would be proper for the Government to give some indication of what they have in mind.
These are just a few random thoughts, but we need much clearer answers than we have had so far from the Government 310 before they can expect Parliament properly to discharge its duties in respect of the Bill, which essentially is such an affront to civil liberties.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)
I should briefly like to support one of the points made by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson). He criticised clause 2, and he was right to do so, because it is quite clear that under that clause an offender can be kept in custody for a long time without his being brought before the courts. For reasons that I may have an opportunity to deal with when the matter goes into Committee, I regard that as unsatisfactory.
That being so, it is highly desirable that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should give some consideration to limiting the time during which an offender can be held in custody without making an appearance before the courts. Therefore, I commend to him the suggestion that I put to the hon. Gentleman in an intervention, namely, that we should build into clause 2 a specific requirement that the offender shall appear before the courts at least once in 21 or 28 days. If I have the opportunity at a later stage, I shall move an amendment to that effect, and I hope that it will commend itself to the Committee.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) for the suggestion which he has made, which I am sure will find support on both sides of the House. But the interchange between him and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) illustrates one of the difficulties with which we are faced as a result of the rush procedure that we are suffering in respect of the Bill.
As I understand it, no amendments, even worthy ones such as those that have been discussed between my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman, can be officially tabled, and certainly none can be circulated and studied, until after we have completed our proceedings on Second Reading. We may complete the proceedings on Second Reading in an hour or so. That will be followed by a vote, and the motion in respect of Second Reading may be carried. Quickly after that, we 311 shall go into Committee and the Chairman will call amendment No. 1, which probably very few hon. Members other than the hon. Member who is submitting it will have seen. Certainly no hon. Member will have been able to compare amendments Nos. 2 to 7 with amendment No. 1. We shall be in great difficulty. We should have some time between the conclusion of proceedings on Second Reading and the commencement of the Committee stage—if only one or two hours—in order to draft and circulate amendments and in order to enable hon. Members to consult on the amendments.
I hope it will be possible for that to be considered later. It would be a travesty of our proceedings if we began the Committee stage of the Bill almost immediately after the vote on Second Reading and have to consider amendments that cannot be made or circulated until that time. In such circumstances, no hon. Member will be able to claim that he has given serious attention to the amendments being put forward in Committee. It will make a mockery of the proceedings of the House, and we shall be engaging in a charade if we try to go through a Committee stage on that basis.
I understand why the Government want this Bill to be enacted quickly. There are, of course, precedents for carrying through a Bill in all its stages in a single or extended day in the House. I am not making a special point about that, but if we have to do so let us do so honestly, and we are not doing so honestly if we precipitate ourselves into a Committee stage without an amendment paper at 10.30 pm or 11 pm. We shall be passing pieces of paper amongst ourselves and hon. Members will have to note down what is said. We shall have to consider each amendment without taking into account its effect on other amendments and on the Bill.
I have not been in the Chamber for a large part of the debate and I had no intention of speaking, except to raise that point. But, since I had the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to make two or three further points.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) referred to the deterioration in our prisons, 312 and he rightly blamed Governments of both parties for the progressive deterioration over many years. Whenever we talk about this matter, there are always some people, including some leader writers in the yellower ends of the yellow press, who ask why these do-gooders want to make life easier for "convicts". I remind the House that the deterioration of our prisons involves not only a deterioration in the conditions and living standards of the prisoners but an equal deterioration in the conditions and living standards of prison officers. I suspect that one of the reasons why prison officers have developed a shorter and shorter fuse over the last few years is that they are suffering the natural results of environmental frustration. They are suffering from the effects of living and working in a horrible environment. Of course, that has an effect upon them. It is not only the convicts but the prison officers who suffer from the progressive deprivation of resources from the prison service.
This House—and I do not mean only the present Government; I mean all Governments and all Back Benchers, because we are all equally responsible—has permitted a situation in which a very substantial increase in the number of the inmates in our prisons was not in the least matched, for whatever reasons—we know all the reasons; some of them are horrible reasons—by an increase in resources devoted to the prison service in order to maintain existing standards, let alone to improve them.
I have been down a coal mine three or four times. Whenever I have heard of miners putting in a wage claim, I have always said that I would want £200 a week to go down a mine—without doing any work at all. In the last year or two, for one reason or another, I have had occasion to visit a number of prisons. Whenever I hear of prison officers making a wage claim, I say that I would want £200 a week to go into the joint, before I did my first stroke of work.
I am not at all puzzled by the prison officers becoming militant in this claim. I say at once that I have not attempted to follow or study this particular claim about meal break allowances. I have not the least clue as to how well justified it is. They say that the claim is justified; the Government say that it is not; and so on.
313 But what I have in mind is the number of times that occupants of the Treasury Front Bench have lectured trade unions when they have refused to take a claim to arbitration. Over and over again, whenever there is a dispute and the trade union, for whatever reason, good or bad, has refused to take a claim to arbitration, the occupants of that Front Bench have said "Whatever the merits, there can be no excuse for not submitting a dispute to arbitration." Oh, the lovely curtain lectures that Ministers used to read to trade union leaders! "Arbitration is the civilised way to solve everything," they said.
I repeat that I have not the least clue as to how far, if at all, this particular claim is valid, but I want someone on the Government Benches to tell me what is the case against submitting it to arbitration. As has been said, if the Government are sure—they say that they are—that their case is watertight, what on earth have they to lose? They must be sure that the arbiter will find in their favour and that they will be in the happy position of maintaining their present stance, reinforced by the authority of an independent opinion supporting that stance. Therefore, what have they to lose?
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have described this legislation as draconian. That is not an exaggerated term. It is legislation which puts unprecedented power into the hands of a Minister, away from the courts, to do things which hitherto could be done only by a court of law, with all the safeguards that a court of law provides for the citizen.
That is what the Bill does. It makes the Minister judge and jury, with no opportunity for the defence to be heard. When the Russians, the Indonesians or the Chileans do it, we are all horrified and we all protest. However, the Secretary of State is taking the same powers that produced the Gulag archipelago. They are exactly the same powers; because the Gulag archipelago arises when the functions of the courts are transferred to a Minister and when we blur the distinction between the Executive and the judiciary.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
If the hon. Gentleman reads the Bill, he will note that the 314 only major powers are those that enable the Secretary of State to order the early release of an offender and enable the courts in certain circumstances not to have early remands. Those powers are in no sense comparable with the abuses to which the hon. Gentleman has referred in other countries.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I appreciate that not for the first time he is trying to be helpful. I accept all that. However, the longer one lives, the more one starts to fear the thin end of wedges. When we start on a slippery slope, the slope becomes more and more slippery. The thin end of the wedge in what the Government are now doing is the use of armed forces to carry out civilian duties. That is how all military dictatorships start. They use armed forces for purposes that seem quite reasonable. Once we start to use armed forces for civilian purposes, we can go on and on. The temptation is great.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department was at one time Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. No one envies anyone such a job. There is some justification for using armed forces when there is urban terrorism. However, we are now proposing to use the Army for purposes that have nothing to do with the defence of the citizen from the threat of violence. We are beginning to use the Army as a civilian instrument pure and simple. That is how many military dictatorships started.
I wish that the Secretary of State for Defence were on the Government Front Bench to answer the question that I am about to put to the Home Secretary. What effect does the right hon. Gentleman think that this will have on Army recruitment? Much money is being spent on advertising campaigns to persuade chaps to join the Army. There are the lovely television commercials that feature the professionals. We see nice bronzed young men riding on the turrets of tanks to the admiration of smiling, appreciative populations, including a number of handsome young ladies. There are the television commercials about joining the Army and learning a trade. Are we now to have a television commercial to the effect "Join the Army and learn the trade of slopping out"?
§ Mr. Mikardo
Are we to have the professionals acting as nursemaids to convicts? What sort of image will that give? The Bill has far more implications than would appear from the text. That is my answer to the hon. Member for Grantham. One must not look merely at the text. One must consider all that flows from it. Many provisions in the Bill are gravely disturbing. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East that we could have a crack at improving many of the provisions in Committee. I shall end as I began, by asking what sort of Committee stage it will be if we are precipitated into it without any opportunity to consider and circulate amendments.
§ Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)
Nearly every speaker has deplored the fact that the House has fewer than 24 hours in which to consider an imprisonment Bill which contains unprecedented powers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) emphasised, it is an unsatisfactory way of legislating. The Committee procedure is particularly unsatisfactory because, in theory, some amendments could be produced at the last minute, just before we start. We should have had a separate day for the Committee stage at least.
It is ironic and depressing that this should happen despite the fact that the committee—set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees)—has reported and despite the fact that the Government have implemented many of its most important recommendations. They have done so with commendable haste. The recommendations that have been implemented include reorganisation of the prison service and the implementation of the main pay awards to prison officers. Despite that improvement, we are facing a worse crisis than we have seen for many years. The situation is deteriorating day by day.
The House has shown understanding and admiration for the work of prison officers. Many hon. Members have a unique and special knowledge of the onerous work undertaken by prison officers. Most hon. Members have paid 316 tribute to them. There is no doubt that all hon. Members are desperately anxious to see the dispute resolved. Everything possible must be done to settle the dispute so that the provisions of the Bill do not need to be enforced. Many hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, have told the Home Secretary to go back to May. The Home Secretary has given three reasons for not doing so. I always think that if one gives three reasons it weakens one's case rather than strengthens it. It might have been better if the Home Secretary had given only one reason. His first point was that as May was an independent committee it was a means of arbitration. He argued that arbitration had already taken place.
The Home Secretary's second point was that even if he sent the dispute back to May, and even if May agreed with the prison officers, he did not have the £5 million to £10 million necessary. His third argument was that even if he had that money to spend on the prison service, he would not want to spend it in that way. He would prefer to spend it on other prison facilities. We are left with three arguments, but it is hard to analyse which argument led the Home Secretary to introduce a Bill rather than succeed in negotiations with the prison officers. Even if the Bill is enacted, the Home Secretary should continue the constant effort to resolve this dispute. I believe that that has been the theme of the speeches made by the Opposition. The Home Secretary should look again at page 231 of the May report and he should continue to have discussions with prison officers aimed at resolving the dispute.
As for the Home Secretary's new scheme which, we understand, he has put on the table, we wish it every success, but as far as I can see that will not resolve this aspect of the problem. It is more for the medium and long term. Obviously, that new scheme should also be discussed with the utmost urgency.
The Bill has a more optimistic side which has been mentioned by many of my hon. Friends. It will lead to the greater use of shorter and non-custodial sentences and the greater use of bail. In debate after debate on prisons we have stressed the importance of these measures, not only because of the sense of them 317 but because they will relieve the prison population. All informed opinion on these matters from people who have knowledge of the prison service, of probation and of dealing with offenders now tells us in report after report—and two have only just come out, one a Home Office report—that long sentences do nothing to discourage recidivism and that for a whole range of offences custodial sentences are totally inappropriate.
The message has gone out again from the House to the judiciary that we want to see these measures of shorter and non-custodial sentences introduced to a greater extent. We all look forward to the Minister of State answering the many detailed questions that were put to the Home Secretary. Although the questions were detailed, they were extremely important in their relation to human rights and the effects of the Bill.
We should like to know the exact function of the troops in the prisons in relation to the present police powers. Will the troops carry out any of the work that is at present contained specifically in the powers and functions of the police? Particular questions that I wish to ask relate to three amendments that I have tabled. I ask that a person who is remanded in custody by a magistrates' court and who is prevented from appearing before the court should at least be legally represented at the court when the order further remanding him is made. That is the least that can be done to protect that person's legal rights, and it would go some way towards reducing the great anxieties and concerns of many of my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), who is no longer with us, about the interference by the Executive with the judiciary. It would in some way alleviate the restriction on a person's legal rights that the Bill involves.
We must not allow the Bill to be the thin end of the wedge. It is unprecedented in its measures. Huge powers are given to the Home Secretary and to the Executive. Therefore, there has been constant concern during the debate about the duration of this so-called temporary provisions Bill. Not only are we rushing it through, but we are extremely concerned that these are not temporary provisions. We fear that they will become permanent 318 if they are allowed to do so. Therefore, we ask in our amendments that the provisions of part I should remain in force for one month rather than three unless continued by an order. That would alleviate much of the concern on the Opposition side of the House.
The second point about the duration has already been raised. We shall move an amendment, unless we can be reassured by the Minister of State when he replies, to overcome the provision in clause 8 which appears to make these provisions open-ended. I would think that that is the last thing that the Government want to do, and certainly it is not something that we would want to do. At present, clause 8 would remain on the statute book until repealed by an Act. In theory, in 50 years' time the powers in part I could be revived merely by order, without the need for a new Bill and for the Government to come back to the House to provide further legislation. The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill in 1976 made that error, but it was corrected by us when drawn to our attention. All that is needed is the amendment that we have tabled to add a reference to clause 8 (2) (b) in the first line of the clause.
I hope that the Minister of State will pay careful attention to the concern expressed about the effects of the Bill on civil liberties and the legal rights of people in detention. I hope that he can assure us that, if it has to be enforced, it will be as temporary as possible. We hope that it will never be enforced.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Leon Brittan)
Many hon. Members have understandably spoken of the dispute that has given rise to the Bill in the context of conditions in prisons generally and our penal policy as a whole. To the extent that we focused on those issues, we were continuing the debate on the May report last August, a debate which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) pointed out, did not last as long as we should have liked.
The issues raised, such as the role of imprisonment, its proper length, the correct use of bail, the handling of fines and fine defaulting, are substantial. I hope that in the response to that debate 319 in August and on the many occasions that my right hon. Friend and I have had to deal with these matters we have shown our concern. If we have not rectified the problems of generations overnight, we plead guilty.
Substantial issues relating to penal policy should not be dealt with by way of temporary provisions such as we are debating. Tempting as it would be to use the opportunity in that way, it would be wrong. I say that not to make a constitutional point but to stress the temporary nature of the provisions that we are seeking from the House.
The Bill is designed to deal with a particular situation—the industrial action being taken at the moment. It is, therefore, natural that hon. Members should ask whether a solution could not be found quickly to the dispute instead of seeking those powers.
A number of hon. Members mentioned the possibility of referring the dispute again to the May committee. My right hon. Friend explained why that would be difficult. I say to the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) that the reasons are no worse for being three in number. What matters is their validity. My right hon. Friend made clear that the precise claim that is the subject of the dispute was put to the May committee, which was as independent a committee as one could have had.
To ask the May committee to reconsider a claim which it had before it and which fell fairly and squarely within its terms of reference would be to put it in the impossible position of being asked, at pistol point, to change its mind. No other construction could be put on such a reference.
That is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary stressed that there is an alternative way forward. Referring the matter back to the May committee would be going back. The way forward is to continue the negotiations for a new system to deal with the anomaly that has given rise to the dispute. I see no reason why discussions on that matter should not continue. I regard that as a constructive way forward.
The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) referred to the May committee recommendation on a national procedural agreement and complained 320 that it had not been implemented. We have taken the view that the first priority should be the development of a new attendance system, but we are certainly anxious to make progress towards a new general procedural agreement along the lines recommended by the May committee. If it is of assistance for me to stress that to the House, I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has given me the chance to do so.
The POA has indicated that it wishes to take the initiative by putting forward proposals on that point. We are awaiting those proposals, and we are not saying that that is something which should not be done.
§ Mr. Heffer
Has the hon. and learned Gentleman had drawn to his attention the letter that Mr. John Bartell, the vice-chairman of the Prison Officers' Association, wrote to The Guardian, stating:There are two claims in dispute, one of which May refused to make a ruling on. The other arose out of a ruling he made on a different submission. A ruling has therefore not been made on either claim by May. In any case you are surely not suggesting that we equate the May inquiry with arbitration"?What answer does the Minister have to that?
§ Mr. Brittan
I do not accept the first point as being an accurate interpretation of what was and was not put to the May committee. There are technicalities relating to arbitration, and I do not suggest that the May committee fulfilled all the requirements of what counts technically as arbitration, but the key points are that the committee was completely independent, it had the opportunity of considering the issue, each of the parties put its case on the issue, and the committee formed a view.
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman may not be satisfied with the answer, but he must distinguish between an answer with which he does not agree and something which is not an answer.
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman continues to interrupt from a sedentary position, but I feel that the point made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and which I have reiterated explains the position.
We are perfectly happy to continue discussions on the new system and we regard that as the constructive way forward, but as a result of the action taken by the POA the urgent measures before the House are required. It is plain that no Government could stand idly by in a situation in which people sentenced or remanded in custody by the courts are not being admitted to prisons. It is not tolerable to expect a Government simply to say, whatever the rights or wrongs of an industrial dispute, that they will allow those who have been remanded to custody or sentenced to a term of imprisonment to have their fate determined by a body outside the criminal justice system. Therefore, it it necessary and urgent for us to act.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) and others have made it quite clear that we act with the greatest reluctance and only because of the exigencies of the situation. As somebody who has spent his working life in the law, I find that there is no more painful thing to have to do than to ask the House to give the Executive power to override the decisions of the judiciary. I do so with the greatest reluctance, but I do so because I am persuaded that, in the context of this dispute and the results flowing from it, this is absolutely necessary.
When there is talk about draconian measures, one point cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. I refer to the suggestion made in particular by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) that he as a libertarian had legitimate reasons for objecting to the Bill. With the exception of the one point relating to the Question of remand, to which I shall come later in my speech. the Bill, whether one likes it or not—and I do not like it—is not about putting people in prison. It is about letting people out of prison. In those circumstances, whilst it is objectionable in many ways as the operation of the Executive over the judiciary, it cannot fairly be described as a threat to civil liberties. To do him justice, the hon. Member for York (Mr.
322 Lyon), with whom I do not always agree, accepted that that was so.
I turn to the question of the precedent that the Bill sets. The extent of the anxiety, which is real, must depend upon the degree of danger of what we are doing today being regarded as a precedent which should be followed in ordinary times as well. That was the matter on which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) laid such stress.
What I say is that, tempting though it may be to regard the Bill as a way towards achieving some of the penal reform measures that some right hon. and hon. Members would wish, we are rejecting that temptation and in doing so are making it quite clear that what we are doing today is a temporary measure.
I am sure that I do not speak only for lawyers such as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde, my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and myself in saying that I would not support for one second what is proposed if it were put forward on a permanent basis, as something that should become a regular part of the system of criminal justice.
§ Mr. Brittan
Perhaps I may pursue the point that I am on because it may be the one that my hon. Friend has in mind.
Hearing the explanations from the Opposition Benches leads me to the next point that I was about to make, which is the status of the Bill. Anxiety has been expressed about clause 8 and the extent to which it is permanent. That concern has been widely expressed on both sides of the House, and we have listened carefully to the representations—in particular, those of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), with his experience, who leads for the Opposition on these matters. Those representations have been echoed by many of my hon. Friends.
Recognising the right concerns of the House in a matter as sensitive as this, I am prepared to undertake that we shall move amendments later tonight which will make significant changes in the renewal provisions of clause 8.
Briefly, we shall propose that all the periods of three months for the exercise 323 of the emergency powers specified in clause 8 should be reduced to one month. This means—I think that it alters the whole balance of the Bill—that in order to exercise these powers beyond one month we shall have to come back to this House for its approval. Many of the anxieties expressed—
§ Mr. Brittan
I should like to develop this matter a little further, if my hon. Friends will bear with me, because it is intricate. I think that what I have stated makes a significant difference. It means that the House itself can scrutinise and, as this debate has shown, most certainly and very properly will scrutinise the exercise by the Executive of the unusual and emergency powers that we are seeking.
More significantly, I shall also be tabling amendments which will provide for a new provision under which all the provisions of the Act other than clauses 6 and 9 will terminate at the end of 12 months from Royal Assent unless Parliament approves an order extending their life in the meantime. Renewal orders would run for a further period of a year and the Act would remain renewable at the end of each yearly period. Parliament would therefore have the opportunity of controlling the continued life of the Act each year and, what is more, even while the full Act remained on the Statute Book because Parliament had so determined, the provisions in Part I could be activated only by the procedures—that is, the parliamentary procedures—and with the shorter operative periods of one month instead of three. I hope that the House will agree that this amounts to a real recognition of the concern that has been expressed on both sides of the House regarding this matter.
§ Mr. Loveridge
I am grateful, as I am sure are many hon. Members, to my hon. and learned Friend for what he has said with regard to amendments to clause 8. Many hon. Members were concerned that provisions which had lapsed could be revived by an affirmative order of the House. It appears from what my hon. and learned Friend says that although the period is now reduced to one month there is the possibility of the same revival by an order under the affirmative resolution procedure after the lapse of a prolonged 324 period. That does not amount to as much as many hon. Members had hoped. Will my hon. and learned Friend state whether he means to keep the power to revive much of this Bill by the affirmative resolution procedure only? Should he not have to come back to the House for a full and proper debate in order to revive anything other than the specific permanent powers?
§ Mr. Brittan
After the lapse of the month during the currency of the Bill, it would be necessary to come back to the House if one wanted another month. Whether the month was immediately consecutive or after an interval would make no difference. But the Bill itself would come to a total end and would no longer be on the statute book in any shape or form, with the exception of clause 6, which has not appeared to be the subject of great controversy, unless the House so determined and within a period of 12 months.
§ Mr. Budgen
Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that it might be better to allow the whole Act to lapse after a year? If the Government then wanted to reintroduce it, it would be possible for the new, second Bill to go through all stages of consideration in a conventional way The disadvantage of reintroducing it by order is that there is no provision for line-by-line consideration and for proper and careful amendment.
§ Mr. Brittan
I hear what my hon. Friend says. I do not think that the danger is as great as he says. We have gone a long way to meet the concern of the House in making the changes that I have announced. The operation of the provisions which cause anxiety will be determined by the House, if we want to continue them for longer than a month or to revive them after a month. That is a pretty good safeguard in case we have them wrong or operated them in an unacceptable manner.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I am grateful to the Minister, and I do not wish to weaken the force of what I said earlier. I had not considered a matter raised by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen). I do not ask for a reply tonight. The first time that the emergency provisions Act introduced by Roy Jenkins was brought back to the 325 House, we went through it line by line in Committee because we did not have the chance the first time round. I do not ask for a commitment now because I think that we have done rather well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Sometimes one does rather well by asking in that way. If it is necessary to consider the Bill again next year, we should have the chance to go through it clause by clause again.
§ Mr. Brittan
The right hon. Gentleman accepts that it is not possible for me to give an assurance tonight, but we shall consider what he has said.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
As the Home Secretary is evidently willing to consider the point made by the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), I wonder whether he will take into account that adding to the words "will expire after a year" the phrase "unless renewed for a further year" carries the implication and presumption of a renewal and alters the sense of temporary nature which would otherwise flow from the total expiry after a year. My suggestion leads to the same conclusion as that of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South. Perhaps that final clause needs to be added.
§ Mr. Brittan
I shall consider what the right hon. Gentleman says about the phraseology. However, I must make it clear that I do not want the House to be under the impression that we feel able to go further than I have indicated. Our proposal amounts to a substantial change in that which was originally proposed and it is in response to the representations expressed in the House.
I turn to the provisions. The provision which has caused the most controversy, understandably, is that contained in clause 2 and relates to people being brought into court on remand under the so-called eight-day remand provision. The problem is that if one brings a prisoner into court and the court decides to remand him in custody there is no guarantee, to put it mildly, that it would be possible to return the prisoner to prison. For that reason, action on this front is necessary.
In the overwhelming majority of cases where there is a series of eight-day remands, only a formality is involved.
326 None-the-less, it is a matter of importance. I stress that nothing in the Bill alters the court's need to consider carefully a case, whether or not the alleged offender is physically before it. I appreciate that that does not meet the anxiety expressed by the House. We must seek as far as possible to arrange a provision under which either the court seeks to exercise its power and requires the person to be brought from the prison or, at least, the person is legally represented so that applications for bail and other matters can be made.
In order to consider what is necessary and appropriate, one must examine what happens now, because, although this is a real problem, it is a limited one. The question of legal aid may not at present be considered at the first remand hearing, and the person is then remanded in custody. Obviously, if he is given bail the whole question does not arise. On his second appearance in court, if he is remanded in custody the question of a bail application arises in the sense that, subject to questions of means, the court must offer him legal aid. In practice, that means that on second hearing he will not be represented but that he will be on the third.
Under the arrangements in clause 2, the defendant will not appear in court for a remand hearing unless the court has made a special direction. Therefore, unless we did something about it, on his second appearance in court—the first time he is brought from custody, or in this case, if he would not be brought from custody, the first time the case is considered in his absence—he would not be there and he would not be represented. We think it is highly desirable that defendants should be legally represented in that situation so that their eligibility for bail can be given proper consideration.
We are therefore proposing, by means of a circular to the courts, to ask the courts to give the most serious consideration to the grant of legal aid at the first remand hearing when the defendant is present rather than at the second remand hearing, as now happens. That means that where legal aid is granted at the second remand hearing the court would, in the absence of the prisoner, none the less be able to consider representations made on 327 his behalf by his lawyers for bail. We are, therefore, hoping to achieve by this means a way of securing representation at as early a point as possible for someone who cannot be brought into court.
§ Mr. Anderson
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that it is a question not just of ensuring that a defendant has access to legal representation at the earliest possible stage but of ensuring that the lawyer in question has access to the prisoner so that he is able effectively to put forward the case on the prisoner's behalf? What steps can be taken to ensure that the representation is therefore real representation?
§ Mr. Brittan
I think that the hon. Gentleman might address that question to the Prison Officers' Association, because at the moment, as far as we know, there has been no specific interference with legal visits, but at certain establishments on some days all visits have been prevented. Increasingly as people are not able to be put into prison but are put into police cells, into Frankland or whatever, the situation is different. Those responsible for running Frankland and the police will, of course, make sure that the most ready access is made available.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
My hon. and learned Friend has explained why it is not possible to agree to a specified appearance before a magistrates' court. The reason appears to be that in a large number of cases the offender will be held in a prison where there is industrial action. As I understand the position, however, the majority of offenders appearing before courts in the future will be held in one of the places designated under clause 1. I should have thought that there would be no difficulty about bringing such people before the courts at specified intervals.
§ Mr. Brittan
That is true except that one is envisaging a position in which substantial numbers of people will be in police cells. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) rightly said, the burden on the police is great. That must be taken into consideration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds raised the question of arming soldiers. Service men will not be routinely armed. If there is a threat of 328 serious disorder, the police will deal with it in the normal way. The chief constable will decide whether the police need to be armed and whether military assistance is necessary to deal with the disorder.
I turn to some of the points relating to the release of sentenced and unsentenced prisoners under the provisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds was concerned that those released might impede the police in their investigations. We envisage that there will be bands of offences. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will decide whether a certain group in a band should be released from custody even though they have been committed for trial or remanded in custody. There will be one important proviso that will meet my hon. Friend's point. If in the opinion of the police a prisoner in a category for which my right hon. Friend has ordered release is a person who should not be released—whether for the reason put forward by my hon. Friend or for any other reason—the police will have an opportunity to make representations to my right hon. Friend, who will arrange for them to be considered.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) was concerned about the exercise of the provisions enabling my right hon. Friend to order the early release of sentenced prisoners. I am happy and willing to assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend has no intention whatsoever of using that power other than in the context of this dispute. It is a temporary power that will lapse at the end of one month unless the House orders to the contrary and it is thought necessary by my right hon. Friend to seek the consent of the House to such a course of action.
I readily concede, as everyone on the Conservative side of the House must do, that there could be nothing more distasteful for those of us—and I am sure it covers us all—who are imbued with a passionate belief in the importance of a properly working criminal justice system than to have to come to the House and put forward these measures. I hope that the House will feel that the measures are necessary in view of the position in which we find ourselves. I hope that the House will feel that they are no more than necessary. I hope also that 329 the House will feel that in response to the debate we have shown that we are as anxious as any hon. Member to limit those powers as narrowly as possible. We do not want them, but we need them. I hope that the House will decide that we shall have them.
|Division No. 471]||AYES||[9.55 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Haselhurst, Alan||Pollock, Alexander|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Porter, Barry|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Hawkins, Paul||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Hawksley, Warren||Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Hayhoe, Barney||Proctor, K Harvey|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Heddle, John||Raison, Timothy|
|Best, Keith||Henderson, Barry||Rathbone, Tim|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Hicks, Robert||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Blackburn, John||Hooson, Tom||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hordern, Peter||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Bright, Graham||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman|
|Brinton, Tim||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Brittan, Leon||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Kershaw, Anthony||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Knight, Mrs Jill||Silvester, Fred|
|Buck, Antony||Lang, Ian||Sims, Roger|
|Budgen, Nick||Laurence, Ivan||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Burden, Sir Frederick||Lee, John||Speller, Tony|
|Butcher, John||Le Marchant, Spencer||Spence, John|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)|
|Carlisle Kenneth (Lincoln)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Stainton, Keith|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Loveridge, John||Stanley, John|
|Chapman, Sydney||Luce, Richard||Stevens, Martin|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lyell, Nicholas||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)|
|Colvin, Michael||Macfarlane, Neil||Stokes, John|
|Cope, John||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Costain, Sir Albert||McNair-Wilson, Michael, (Newbury)||Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)|
|Critchley, Julian||McQuarrie, Albert||Tebbit, Norman|
|Crouch, David||Major, John||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Marlow, Tony||Thompson, Donald|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Dover, Denshore||Mather, Carol||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Elliott, Sir William||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Trippier, David|
|Eyre, Reginald||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Waddington, David|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Wakeham, John|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Moate, Roger||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Monro, Hector||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Moore, John||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Morgan, Geraint||Wall, Patrick|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)||Watson, John|
|Fry, Peter||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Murphy, Christopher||Wheeler, John|
|Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Myles, David||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Neale, Gerrard||Wickenden, Keith|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Nelson, Anthony||Wilkinson, John|
|Gorst, John||Normanton, Tom||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Onslow, Cranley||Wolfson, Mark|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)||Page, Rt Hon Sir Graham (Crosby)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouh N)||Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)|
|Grylls, Michael||Parris, Matthew||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Percival, Sir Ian||Mr. Peter Brooke.|
|Abse, Leo||Ashton, Joe||Booth, Rt Hon Albert|
|Alton, David||Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Bradford, Rev. R.|
|Anderson, Donald||Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Buchan, Norman|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Beith, A. J.||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)|
§ his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 167, Noes 84.331
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Race, Reg|
|Carmichael, Neil||Kilfedder, James A.||Richardson, Jo|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cook, Robin F.||McCartney, Hugh||Rooker, J. W.|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||McCusker, H.||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Davidson, Arthur||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||McElhone, Frank||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Dixon, Donald||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Eadie, Alex||McKelvey, William||Soley, Clive|
|Eastham, Ken||McNamara, Kevin||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||McTaggart, Robert||Stallard, A. W.|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)||Stoddart, David|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Maxton, John||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Field, Frank||Maynard, Miss Joan||Tilley, John|
|Flannery, Martin||Mikardo, Ian||Wainright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Molyneaux, James||Weetch, Ken|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)||White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Morton, George||Winnick, David|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Paisley, Rev Ian||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|Haynes, Frank||Parry, Robert|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Penhaligon, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Home Robertson, John||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Mr. Andrew F. Bennett|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—332
§ The House divided: Ayes 165, Noes 77.333
|Thornton, Malcolm||Watson, John||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Trippier, David||Wheeler, John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Waddington, David||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Wakeham, John||Whitney, Raymond||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Waldegrave, Hon William||Wickenden, Keith||Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and|
|Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)||Wilkinson, John||Mr. Peter Brooke.|
|Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Abse, Leo||Heffer, Eric S.||Penhaligon, David|
|Alton, David||Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)|
|Ashton, Joe||Home Robertson, John||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Homewood, William||Race, Reg|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Hooley, Frank||Richardson, Jo|
|Beith, A. J.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Bradford, Rev. R.||Kilfedder, James A.||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Buchan, Norman||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||McCartney, Hugh||Skinner, Dennis|
|Carmichael, Neil||McCusker, H.||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Cook, Robin F.||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Soley, Clive|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||McElhone, Frank||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davidson, Arthur||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Dixon, Donald||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McKelvey, William||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Eastham, Ken||McNamara, Kevin||Tilley, John|
|Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||McTaggart, Robert||Wainright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Weetch, Ken|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)||White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Maxton, John||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Flannery, Martin||Maynard, Miss Joan||Winnick, David|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mikardo, Ian||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|Foulkes, George||Molyneaux, James|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Paisley, Rev Ian||Mr. Anthony F. Bennett and|
|Haynes, Frank||Parry, Robert||Mr. Bob Cryer.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.335
|Motion made and Question put,|
|That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Le Marchant.]|
|The House divided: Ayes 149, Noes 61.|
|Division No. 473]||AYES||[10.19 p.m.|
|Alexander, Richard||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouh N)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Ancram, Michael||Grylls, Michael||Page, Rt Hon Sir Graham (Crosby)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Gummer, John Selwyn||Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Parris, Matthew|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Hawkins, Paul||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Hawksley, Warren||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hayhoe, Barney||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Best, Keith||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Proctor, K Harvey|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Henderson, Barry||Raison, Timothy|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hicks, Robert||Rathbone, Tim|
|Blackburn, John||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Hooson, Tom||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hordern, Peter||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Bright, Graham||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Brinton, Tim||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman|
|Brittan, Leon||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Kershaw, Anthony||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Lang, Ian||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Lawrence, Ivan||Silvester, Fred|
|Buck, Antony||Lee, John||Sims, Roger|
|Budgen, Nick||Le Marchant, Spencer||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Butcher, John||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Speller, Tony|
|Carlisle Kenneth (Lincoln)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Spence, John|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Loveridge, John||Stainton, Keith|
|Chapman, Sydney||Luce, Richard||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lyell, Nicholas||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Macfarlane, Neil||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Cope, John||McNair-Wilson, Michael, (Newbury)||Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)|
|Costain, Sir Albert||McQuarrie, Albert||Tebbit, Norman|
|Crouch, David||Major, John||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Marlow, Tony||Thompson, Donald|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Mates, Michael||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Dover, Denshore||Mather, Carol||nippier, David|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Maude, Rt Hon Angus||Waddington, David|
|Elliott, Sir William||Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Eyre, Reginald||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Watson, John|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Moate, Roger||Whitney, Raymond|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Morgan, Geraint||Wickenden, Keith|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Morris, Michael (Northampton. Sth)||Wilkinson, John|
|Freud, Clement||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Murphy, Christopher||Wolfson, Mark|
|Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Myles, David||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Neale, Gerrard|
|Gorst, John||Needham, Richard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gow, Ian||Nelson, Anthony||Mr. Robert Boscawen and|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Normanton, Tom||Mr. John Wakeham.|
|Abse, Leo||Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Alton, David||English, Michael||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Anderson, Donald||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||McKelvey, William|
|Ashton, Joe||Evans, John (Newton)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Field, Frank||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Beith, A. J.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Maxton, John|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Foulkes, George||Mikardo, Ian|
|Buchan, Norman||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Molyneaux, James|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Haynes, Frank||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Heffer, Eric S.||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Cryer, Bob||Home Robertson, John||Parry, Robert|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Homewood, William||Penhaligon, David|
|Davidson, Arthur||Johnston, Russell (Invernees)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)|
|Dixon, Donald||Kilfedder, James A.||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rooker, J. W.|
|Eastham, Ken||McCusker, H.||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Ross. Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Stallard, A. W.||Winnick, David|
|Ross. Wm. (Londonderry)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Skinner, Dennis||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Tilley, John||Miss Jo Richardson and|
|Soley, Clive||Wainright, Richard (Colne Valley)||Mr. Martin Flannery.|
|Spearing, Nigel||Whitehead, Phillip|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Further proceedings postponed, pursuant to order this day.
§ Motion made, and Question put,
|Division No. 474]||AYES||[10.31 p.m.|
|Alexander, Richard||Grylls, Michael||Page, Rt Hon Sir Graham (Crosby)|
|Ancram, Michael||Gummer, John Selwyn||Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Parris, Matthew|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Hawkins, Paul||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Hawksley, Warren||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Hayhoe, Barney||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Proctor, K Harvey|
|Best, Keith||Henderson, Barry||Raison, Timothy|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Hicks, Robert||Rathbone, Tim|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Blackburn, John||Hooson, Tom||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hordern, Peter||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Braise, Sir Bernard||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman|
|Bright, Graham||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Brinton, Tim||Kershaw, Anthony||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Brittan, Leon||Lang, Ian||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Lawrence, Ivan||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Lee, John||Silvester, Fred|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Le Marchant, Spencer||Sims, Roger|
|Buck, Antony||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Budges, Nick||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Spence, John|
|Butcher, John||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)|
|Carlisle Kenneth (Lincoln)||Loveridge, John||Stainton, Keith|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)||Lyell, Nicholas||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Macfarlane, Neil||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)|
|Chapman, Sydney||McNair-Wilson, Michael, (Newbury)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||McQuarrie, Albert||Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Major, John||Tebbit, Norman|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Marlow, Tony||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Thompson, Donald|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Mates, Michael||Thorne, Nell (Ilford South)|
|Dover, Denshore||Mather, Carol||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Maude, Rt Hon Angus||Trippier, David|
|Elliott, Sir William||Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Wakeham, John|
|Eyre, Reginald||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Watson, John|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Moate, Roger||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Morgan, Geraint||Whitney, Raymond|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Morris, Michael (Northampton. Sth)||Wickenden, Keith|
|Freud, Clement||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)||Wilkinson, John|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Murphy, Christopher||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Myles, David||Wolfson, Mark|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Neale, Gerrard||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Gorst, John||Needham, Richard|
|Gow, Ian||Nelson, Anthony||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Normanton, Tom||Mr. David Waddington and|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouh N)||Onslow, Cranley||Mr. John Cope|
|Alton, David||English, Michael||McKelvey, William|
|Ashton, Joe||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Evans, John (Newton)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)|
|Beith, A. J.||Field, Frank||Maxton, John|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Foulkes, George||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Haynes, Frank||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Cryer, Bob||Heffer, Eric S.||Parry, Robert|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Home Robertson, John||Parry, Robert|
|Davidson, Arthur||Homewood, William||Penhaligon, David|
|Dixon, Donald||Kilfedder, James A.||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Eastham, Ken||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Rooker, J. W.|
|Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
§ The House divided: Ayes 143, Noes 52.339
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Steel, Rt Hon David||Winnick, David|
|Skinner, Dennis||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Tilley, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Soley, Clive||Wainright, Richard (Colne Valley)||Mr. Martin Flannery and|
|Spearing, Nigel||Whitehead, Phillip||Miss Jo Richardson|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.