HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc894-6 1.45 am
Mr. Mayhew

I beg to move amendment No. 82, in page 28, line 26, leave out 'imprisonment for life' and insert—

  1. '(a) imprisonment for life; or
  2. (b) imprisonment to which they were sentenced—
    1. (i)for an extended offence;
    2. (ii)for attempting to commit such an offence;
    3. (iii)for conspiracy to commit such an offence; or
    4. (iv)for aiding or abetting, counselling, procuring or inciting the commission of such an offence;'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this amendment it will be convenient to take amendment No. 25, in page 28, line 26, after 'life', insert— 'unless that sentence was imposed for a crime involving violence'. and Government amendments Nos. 44 and 47.

Mr. Mayhew

These amendments relate to clause 26 and to the provision in the Bill for the early release of prisoners.

In the course of the Committee proceedings much anxiety was expressed by my hon. Friends. They felt that the assurances that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had given, to the effect that the provisions in clause 26 for early release would not be used for those who had been convicted of offences of violence, might not, perhaps, be as watertight as they would like in the event of another Government taking office.

Accordingly I gave an assurance that I would see whether we could incorporate in some schedule a list of those offences of violence that would be exempt from the provision for early release contained in clause 26. That has now been done and the schedules and accompanying amendments form the substance of this group of amendments. That was a matter of interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) and I have reason to believe that his anxieties will be met by the amendments.

The group of amendments relates to that part of our transactions in Committee on clause 26. They now meet the proper anxieties then expressed. I understand the reason for the anxieties and I am glad that they were pointed out. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North will feel that the cause of his anxieties has been removed.

Mr. Bendall

I was extremely concerned about this matter in Committee. I am grateful for what the Minister has said. The comprehensive lists in the schedules that have been provided adequately cover the point that I made.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 44 in page 28, line 32, at end insert—

Mr. Mayhew

I beg to move amendment No. 45, in page 29, line 20, at end add—

  1. `(b) the expedient procedure conditions are satisfied.
  1. (7A) The expedited procedure conditions are satisfed if—
    1. (a) the order does not provide for the release of any persons before one month earlier than they would otherwise be released; and'.
This amendment also relates to what one might call the urgency or the expedited procedure. In the shorthand that is appropriate for this hour of the morning, I can perhaps say that anxieties were expressed about the provision that permits the Secretary of State to make an order for the release of prisoners within a certain category to be specified in the order which normally has to be laid before Parliament but which, in the case of urgency and where the order itself specifies or certifies that there is an urgent need for release to take place, can be done without the prior approval of Parliament.

The Government recognised the validity of those anxieties. The effect of the amendment is to restrict the Home Secretary's power of release without the prior approval of Parliament in urgent cases to prisoners who are not convicted of violent offences and to prisoners who have no more than one month of their period in custody still to serve. This matter was argued in Committee by in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor). It is in response to his representations and to those of the Magistrates' Association that the application of this expedited procedure has been drastically cut down. I am glad to have had the opportunity to consider the matter. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich for raising it. I believe that his anxieties will be greatly, if not wholly, allayed.

It is essential to have this safety valve which would be called into use in circumstances of some urgency during the Summer Recess when Parliament was not sitting. The safety valve will continue to exist, but its size will be reduced considerably. I hope that the proposal will be accepted by the House.

Mr. Parris

My hon. and learned Friend the Minister recalls correctly that a number of hon. Members, principally my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor), were concerned about the proposals. We were concerned not that the Government might wish to take action of this kind but that such action might be taken without the sanction of Parliament. I understand from the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend that the type of prisoner who will be released without the sanction of Parliament is greatly reduced in scope and that such a person could be released in any case only one month before his sentence was due to expire. That is satisfactory to me. I assume that it is also satisfactory to my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich. I am grateful to the Minister for bringing forward the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

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