HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc859-70

'Notwithstanding anything contained in the Firearms Act 1968 any person found guilty of committing an offence under section 17 or section 18 of the Act shall upon conviction be sentenced to a period of 14 years imprisonment.

On sentencing any person so convicted, the court may at the same time declare the period which it recommends to the Secretary of State as the minimum period which in its view should elapse before the Secretary of State orders the release of that person on licence.'.—[Sir Nicholas Bonsor.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Nantwich)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The purpose of this new clause is to amend the Firearms Act 1968 in so far as sections 17 and 18 apply to firearms and particularly to lethal firearms. The House will be surprised and probably not a little alarmed to hear that some 15 years ago it was proposed that I might take up a career as a parliamentary draftsman. Had I done so, I hope that some of my work would not have been quite as incomplete as the new clause that I have tabled. I would be the first to concede that the spirit of the new clause and its detailed wording do not agree entirely with each other. Should we divide on this, I hope that the House will grant me the indulgence of voting for the spirit of the new clause and not reject it because of its wording.

In sections 17 and 18 of the Firearms Act 1968 not only are firearms of a lethal nature, such as a shotgun, a rifle or a pistol included, but also air weapons of any nature and imitation firearms. The purpose of the new clause is to introduce a mandatory sentence of 14 years' imprisonment for having a lethal firearm in order to avoid arrest or to commit another indictable offence. It is not proposed that those provisions should apply either to all categories of air weapons or to imitation firearms. Therefore, I hope that we can consider the spirit of the intended new clause and vote accordingly.

It would be right to introduce such a mandatory sentence. I say that having given the matter a great deal of thought and being aware that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister and many other distinguished and senior colleagues at the Bar and in the judiciary do not believe in the principle of mandatory sentencing and are understandably reluctant to make a mandatory sentence in any form of prison sentence.

However, two precedents spring to mind. The first and most obvious is murder. If anyone is sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, that automatically means life imprisonment for 21 years, less remission and parole. There is also the provision, which I have incorporated in my proposal, that a judge can recommend the minimum sentence that could be served as the life sentence. In the case of murder, that minimum sentence can go above 21 years. In this new clause it will apply between the minimum sentence that may be served if 14 years is the sentence passed by the court and the 14 years' maximum that may be served if the whole sentence is carried through.

I can best illustrate why I believe that this is a suitable case in which we could look at extending the principle of mandatory sentencing by comparing the crime of taking a firearm in order to commit a serious offence with that of rape. A great deal of public pressure was put upon the House to extend a mandatory minumim sentence to a conviction for rape. I would not have supported that. The reason is that I believe in the principle of allowing, the judiciary as wide a scope of discretion in sentencing as is proper. In most cases that is to give it an absolute discretion, from an absolute discharge to whatever the maximum sentence might be for that offence.

In the case of rape there is an enormously wide differential between the degrees of seriousness of which the crime may be constituted. Some cases of rape are among the most dreadful crimes that can be committed, but at the other end of the spectrum there are cases of rape in which the mitigating circumstances—the circumstances in which the rape has been committed—mean that a much more lenient view can properly be taken of the offence. However, the distinction between that and the offence that we consider tonight is that I argue that here there is no 3uch minimum degree of responsibility or seriousness in the offence.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Will my hon. Friend clarify one point? Can he tell the court—[Interruption.] That was a Freudian slip and served me right. Can he tell the House this? He is contemplating a minimum prison sentence of 14 years in respect of firearms? Does he contemplate a lower sentence if the person is not carrying ammunition?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

At the moment I would not contemplate that, although I appreciate that that point could be debated. The unfortunate victim who will be looking down the wrong end of a 12-bore shotgun will not know whether the weapon is loaded. The fear that is engendered by the use of that weapon is not affected by whether the weapon is loaded.

The question of the degree of responsibility and of seriousness is not affected by that differential. The intention is there throughout to use that weapon to frighten and terrify anyone who might seek to apprehend the person or anyone who may surprise him when he is going about his crime. Therefore, I do not believe that we can lock at that with equanimity, even if the criminal deliberately has not taken a loaded shotgun. The intention to frighten is present on all those occasions.

11.15 pm

This is a case where there is no question of a sudden impulse. This is one of the most premeditated of all crimes. A person who decides to commit some other offence, or decides that he may be in danger of being apprehended by a police officer or a person lawfully attempting to apprehend him, takes a weapon so that he can frighten off Such a threat. It is proper to take a serious view, whether the weapon is loaded or not, if someone has taken a positive decision before going out to commit a crime.

My second reason for tabling the new clause is that I do not see any other way forward. We failed for the umpteenth time last night to have capital punishment restored. We have failed to increase penalties for serious offences. Successive Governments and the House must share the responsibility for that. We have failed to deter the enormous rise in the increase in crime, which has gone on steadily for more than a decade and which has reached proportions that are unacceptable to the people of Britain and, in particular, to Members of the House. There it no other way forward but to make certain that those who commit this crime know that they will be subjected to a lengthy prison sentence.

I may be asked whether 14 years is too harsh a penalty for this crime. I have already said that I view the matter seriously. While 14 years' imprisonment sounds a long time, it would be subject to the normal period of remission of one-third of the sentence and the normal parole facility would be available for another one-third of the sentence. Therefore, in this as in many other cases, the reality is that if 14 years is passed by the court, the sentence served may be closer to five years.

One of the reasons why the Government and the judiciary are opposed to mandatory sentencing is that it fetters judicial discretion. But in this case we have an adequate area in which judicial discretion could be exercised because of the provision whereby the judge can say what minimum sentence should be served for this offence.

The crime may be such that a comparatively lenient view could be taken—the weapon may not be loaded, or the person at whom the weapon is pointed may know that it is not loaded, or suspect that is it is not loaded, and therefore is not afraid. But even if those matters are taken into account, the person who has been sentenced to 14 years can be let out after four years and eight months.

Judicial discretion still arises because, under the new clause, it would be open to the court to say that a minimum sentence of any period above that and below 14 years should be the sentence served by the offender before he is released. That is an adequate discretion to deal with this extremely serious crime.

I believe that the public must be satisfied that this House is determined to take steps to deal with serious crime and, most essentially, to deal with crimes against the person, crimes of violence, and crimes involving firearms. The public must be satisfied that we are not going to allow the rise in the number of offences over a decade to continue unchallenged and unremedied.

I ask the House to support the new clause, and, I hope, to take a positive step forward in controlling crimes of violence and crimes involving the use of firearms.

Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

I warmly support the new clause, and it is a great pity that it is being discussed so late in the evening.

In yesterday's debate, the point was made again and again that capital punishment cannot be proved to be a deterrent in the case of hot-blooded crime but that it serves as a deterrent in that it prevents a criminal from picking up a firearm or any other weapon before committing the crime.

I accept that argument. I voted against the reintroduction of capital punishment and my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) voted for it. I strongly believe that it is incumbent on those of us who voted against to show that we mean business about violent crime. Those statistics have gone through the roof, and my hon. Friend knows that only too well. Something must be done. The public must be reassured. The present situation is a disgrace to a civilised community.

This House will be judged on what it does. I know only too well that the Home Office and judges do not like the new clause. Frankly, the judges are the problem. Criminals are not fools. They read the newspapers and watch television. They are aware of the sentences that are imposed and the remission that is now being given. In those circumstances, is it any wonder that weapons are used more and more frequently in the commission of crime and that our prisons are full?

I entirely accept that the greatest deterrent of all is the certainty of detection, but almost equally there is the balance between crime and the penalty arising from it. Let me give the House a facetious example. If we imposed a six-month prison sentence for parking offences, there would be no need for parking attendants. I am of the sure and certain knowledge that a minimum sentence for the sort of crime we are now discussing will make criminals think twice. It will also reassure the public.

The argument that mandatory sentences are wrong has been made over and over again. My hon. Friend has mentioned the life sentence. I draw attention to the penalty for drink driving offences, which has undoubtedly deterred, as it was meant to do. The same applies in this case.

I strongly repeat my view that those who do not want capital punishment have a duty to put something in its place and to produce some sort of alternative that will prevent these shocking figures for violent crime. The new clause does just that, and I hope that the House will support it.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

The new clause was moved persuasively, and the loss to the Parliamentary Counsel Office has been the gain of this House. However, I cannot accept either of the principles contained in the new clause, notwithstanding the fact that I attach precisely the same importance to the need to deter who would otherwise arm themselves to commit an offence.

The new clause infringes a number of principles and in effect introduces a totally new principle into our criminal system. The hon. Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor), anticipating the criticism that in certain circumstances it might be too harsh to inflict 14 years' imprisonment, said that in effect the sentence served would be very much less—only a third of that under the parole system.

By accepting this principle, we should be introducing into our law the principle that some American states have, of a minimum and maximum sentence for a particular offence. I feel that to do that would be inevitably to set a precedent for other types of offence. In supporting the new clause, the hon. Gentleman drew attention to the fact that there were already one or two other circumstances in which a mandatory sentence could be imposed.

The attention of the House was also drawn to the idea that a mandatory sentence should be imposed for rape. We should be edging open that much wider the door towards mandatory sentence, and be setting a precedent. If we are to do that we must ask ourselves whether that is a desirable precedent to set.

In taking the view that it is not, I am not understating or underemphasising the gravity of committing offences armed with firearms. I take the point about whether the firearm is loaded, and that there may be mitigating circumstances other than that the firearm is not loaded. I ask myself whether it is so much graver an offence to commit robbery armed with a firearm of some kind, or armed with a heavy metal weapon or a knife. If we apply this principle to the firearm, why not to the heavy metal weapon or to the knife?

The reality is that we should introduce by the new clause a principle that would necessarily fetter the sort of discretion that we always say the judiciary ought, rightly, to have. It should have the discretion to examine the circumstances of each offence and decide, in the light of those circumstances, whether the appropriate penalty is the maximum or something below the maximum. We are handing over that discretion in a way that was opposed again and again in Committee when there was any attempt from the Labour Benches to introduce any diminution of the flexibility of the courts. That was opposed on the ground that the judiciary ought to have an ample discretion. The Minister will recall that that was a principle that I always accepted, even though there were circumstances in which I felt that there could be some exception in detail from it.

The second principle that I should object to in the new clause, as a general principle and as setting a precedent, is in the second part—the introduction of the recommendation. We have accepted that in the case of life imprisonment for murder and for special circumstances which the House accepted as an alternative to capital punishment, which was being abolished at the time. Special reasons prompted the House to do that.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with me that, whatever the special circumstances may have been, that has proved to be an invaluable provision and one without which the court would have great difficulty in effectively enforcing the laws relating to murder?

Mr. Silkin

We had some argument about that in Committee. There are many different points of view about that. I think that I said in Committee—if I did not I ought to have—that many judges do not like that power and do not exercise it these days for that reason. They feel it is wrong, at the moment when someone is sentenced, to determine what his future ought to be, perhaps 10 years or, in this case, 14 years ahead. What should be done depends so much on his reaction to the penalty that is imposed upon him. Indeed, the very fact that such a recommendation may be made at the point of consideration of the offence means that all the valuable work done by the Parole Board in considering the individual circumstances and the time when it is right for someone to be released, looking at the gravity of the crime in addition to all the other circumstances, is vitiated by a recommendation from which it feels it is difficult for it to depart. The Secretary of State is under the same inhibition, as I know from the number of constituency cases with which I have to deal.

11.30 pm

I do not see why we should set this further precedent in relation to this offence. I support strongly the view that carrying a firearm should be regarded as a very serious offence. There has been ample legislation over the years making it more serious. I cannot, however, agree with what is proposed in either part of the new clause.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Despite my great respect for the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) I must support the objections put forward by the former Attorney-General, the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin). The arguments that the right hon. and learned Gentleman put against the new clause are compelling.

The object of the new clause is to deprive the courts of effective discretion and to stipulate a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years in respect of offences under sections 17 and 18 of the Firearms Act 1968. I regard than as objectionable. The precedents are extremely limited. They are murder and drunken driving. There may be others but they are not significant. I am very much opposed to extending the precedent. We should not remove from judges the discretion that they now possess. If one is to have a system of criminal law that imposes substantial prison sentences it is important that the sentences reflect the degree of culpability of the defendant. A sentence that does not take account of the degree of culpability on the part of the offender means that the system is defective.

As the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich pointed out, and as my hon. Friend for Nantwich rightly stressed, most cases involving firearms are serious and should attract a very long prison sentence. At the same time, I can conceive of other situations when the degree of culpability is less. I should like to put to my hon. Friend and Member for Nantwich the possibility that an offender would not be carrying ammunition. I would regard that as a factor that greatly reduced the degree of culpability. There are other instances. For example, a relatively young offender might be prevailed upon by a forceful companion to carry a weapon. I would regard that as mitigation.

We should not take away from the judges the power to impose a sentence that reflects as accurately as possible the degree of culpability. If however, that is done—this is the purpose of the new clause—one brings the criminal into disrepute.

Mr. W. Benyon

My hon. Friend is voicing—I intend no disrespect—a typical lawyer's argument. How does he suggest that we deal with the present problem? How do we seek to deter criminals using these weapons?

Mr. Hogg

That is a fair question and I shall respond to it. I am not opposed to heavy prison sentences. As ray hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) probably knows, the maximum sentence that can be imposed for offences under sections 17 and 18 of the 1968 Act is only 14 years. There is something to be said for increasing substantially the maximum sentence that can be imposed. I am opposed to a minimum sentence. We must have a system that reflects culpability, and if we do not we shall destroy respect for the law. That will be the result if excessive sentences are imposed in some cases.

Sir Albert Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

My hon. Friend is using legal language and those of us who are not learned gentleman use practical language. We want to deter. If a criminal knows that the is bound to get 14 years' imprisonment for certain offences, will not that stop him from carrying a firearm?

Mr. Hogg

There was anxiety that I should be brief and I was given four minutes. To intervene in my speech to prolong the exercise seems a slightly curious performance. As I said earlier, I think that in certain circumstances the courts should impose very long sentences. However, I am against very long minimum mandatory sentences that do not take account of the blameworthiness of individual offenders. If such sentences are made mandatory, we shall destroy respect for the law.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

With great respect, I think that my hon. Friend is missing the point that was made so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir. A. Costain). Surely it is the certainty of the length of the sentence that will constitute a deterrent. My hon. Friend will know as well as I do from his experience in the courts that the criminal is by nature a born optimist and always thinks that the judge will be lenient with him until he discovers too late in the day that he was over-optimistic.

Mr. Hogg

That is a fair point. However, I do not believe in the deterrent theory of punishment to the extent that my hon. Friend does. I believe in long prison sentences but not necessarily because they will serve as a deterrent. There are many other good reasons for imposing long sentences, but my hon. Friend should not harbour the belief that such sentences necessarily act as a deterrent. If the law is to be effective, it must be respected. If we impose sentences that are disproportionate to the degree of blameworthiness, we shall destroy the public's respect for the law.

Mr. Best

My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) has said that the criminal is a born optimist and believes that he will always be dealt with leniently. Surely he believes that he will never even be caught. The criminal that my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) and I see in the courts is the unsuccessful one. We should be interviewing the successful criminals whom we never meet.

Mr. Hogg

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I agree with him entirely. I do not want to persist with this line of argument because I have already occupied a good deal of the time of the House.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

It is clear that there will be no need for a ministerial reply in view of the extent of my hon. Friend's speech. My hon. Friend says that he does not accept the deterrent theory. If that is so, what is he doing supporting the possession of Trident missiles and other nuclear weapons?

Mr. Hogg

I shall not embark on a wholly different subject. We can discuss that issue on another occasion.

If we impose a minimum 14-year sentence for offences under sections 17 and 18 of the 1968 Act, it will be wholly out of balance with other prison sentences, and that will be unacceptable. If we impose a sentence for the simple possession of firearms that is disproportionate to an offence of serious rape, for example, we shall bring the law into disrepute. The effect of the clause is unsatisfactory.

Mr. Parris

May I, with my customary brevity, spring to the defence of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg)? My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) accused him of using a typical lawyer's argument. I do not think that it was a typical lawyer's argument and, as one who is not a lawyer, I should like to support what I believe to be the commonsense argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham.

We cannot know the possible range of crimes involving firearms that may be committed. Many may be serious, but many may have strong mitigating circumstances. We have to leave it to the judiciary to order punishments that fit the circumstances. It is imponderable what sort of crimes will be committed and it is not for us to tie the hands of the judiciary. That is not a lawyer's argument; it is a commonsense argument.

Mr. Nicholas Lyell (Hemel Hempstead)

I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) and for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) that severe sentences for armed robbery are important, but I support my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) in saying that it is wrong to fetter the discretion of the judiciary to decide what sentences to impose in individual cases.

If the public saw a 14-year sentence being imposed on a young man who had been forced to carry a firearm that he may never have used——

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Oh, come on!

Mr. Lyell

Let us assume it for a moment. The public might think that such a sentence was extremely unjust. Cases of manifest injustice bring the law into disrepute and lower the deterrent effect and good effect of severe sentences in appropriate cases.

We need to establish that we deeply disapprove of the carrying of firearms and that we have the will, through the judiciary, to impose severe sentences in appropriate cases. It is no good my hon. Friends saying that the judiciary does not have the will. I do not believe that. Those who take part in armed robberies are usually severely dealt with, and they certainly ought to be, but it should be for the discretion of individual judges. When a long sentence is imposed and is not cut short by the Home Secretary or the Parole Board, that has good effects.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

May I take the opportunity to congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on the judicial career on which he is shortly to embark? I am sure that those who appear in a court that he is administering will get their due deserts.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that what he has said about the possible unfairness of a mandatory sentence applies also to the life sentence for murder and the driving disqualification in breathalyser cases? Is it not right that the public interest should override the occasional unfortunate case?

Mr. Lyell

In only the rarest of cases should we have a mandatory minimum sentence. We need a long maximum sentence available, but we should leave it to the judiciary to impose that in appropriate cases and we should show that we expect long sentences in such cases.

Mr. Mayhew

We all understand the concern that lies behind the new clause and every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate has expressed his horror of offences in which firearms are used. We all seek to reduce that aspect of crime, along with all others.

I hesitate to speak, in view of the strictures about lawyers' language from my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir A. Costain), but I must say that the new clause is unacceptable to the Government.

There was a flaw in the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) when he said that he would not support mandatory sentences for rape, although he acknowledged that it could be one of the most serious offences. He gave as his reason for opposing such mandatory sentences the wide degree of culpability that was to be found. I think that he would find that to be a fairly controversial view in certain quarters, but I accept the argument for the purpose of what I wish to say.

11.45 pm

I believe that most people would regard there as being a wide degree of culpability in offences committed by somebody carrying a firearm. There must be a wide difference in the blameworthiness of someone who goes out to rob a bank armed with a Luger with the appropriate ammunition, and somebody who goes out carrying an imitation gun or an air pistol, with no possibility, if he is panicked, of doing any harm to anybody. That must be accepted as pointing the need in this type of offence, as was acknowledged in the case of rape, for a recognition of different degrees of blameworthiness.

I agree with those hon. Members who say that the law should provide for heavy maximum sentences for this type of offence but should not be so rigid that it cannot distinguish the appropriate sentence for the less blameworthy as distinct from the more blameworthy criminal.

Many people talk as though judges are unable to pass long sentences of imprisonment for this type of offence. It should be known more widely that section 17 of the Firearms Act 1968 prescribes two offences, first, using a firearm with intent to resist arrest with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment—which, incidentally, would be abolished by this new clause and for which 14 years would be substituted—and, secondly, possessing a firearm on arrest for or in the commission of a scheduled offence which has a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment. Section 18 contains the offence of carrying a firearm with a criminal intent, which is also subject to a maximum sentence of 14 years.

Those are hefty maximum sentences, and rightly so. It is said that the judges do not impose sufficiently high sentences. However, in an organised robbery where a premises or a vehicle is attacked by men armed with weapons such as a sawn-off shotgun with the objective of stealing large sums of money and valuable property, the ordinary penalty is 15 years' imprisonment, which is a year more than would be mandatory under this clause. Robbery, of course, carries a maximum of life imprisonment and that sentence is frequently awarded. On occasion determinate sentences of longer than 15 years are imposed for that offence.

Therefore, although it is widely held that soft sentences are passed, I suspect that that is because people have noticed, because of publicity that has been given, a case where, no doubt for special reasons, a relatively low sentence has been passed. The special reasons do not come over in the publicity, which instead leads people to suppose that that is the normal pattern for such offences. The norm does not come over.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

Will my hon. and learned Friend accept that of the 15,000 robberies recorded in 1980, 1,149 involved the use of firearms? Will he not also accept that in those circumstances, whatever sentences courts might hitherto have been passing, they have not proved adequate to deter?

Will my hon. and learned Friend accept, too, that although 15 years is longer than the mandatory 14 years, the provision enabling the judge to ask for a minimum sentence to be served would make it a significantly more dangerous penalty for the criminal than 15 years under the present system?

Mr. Mayhew

By definition, in those 1,400 or so cases the existing sentences that have been passed have not been adequate to deter. The offences would not have occurred had those responsible for them been deterred from committing them.

An important point that is not generally understood is that in 1980 the proportion of all robberies in which firearms featured was 7.7 per cent., almost identical to the proportion 10 years earlier in 1970 which was 7.6 per cent. There has been little variation in the intervening years. The increase in the use of firearms—worrying though it is—has gone hand in hand with the general increase in crime. It has not overtaken it. The question therefore is whether we are confident that by imposing a mandatory sentence of 14 years' imprisonment we will deter. I believe that the disadvantages of breaching the principle of not imposing mandatory sentences far outweigh the possible advantages that form the basis of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich.

The idea behind the provision for licences, which forms the second limb of the new clause, comes from the mandatory life sentence scheme for murder whereby a minimum term may be declared by the trial judge. That provision has not been used to any great extent. Only about 8 per cent. of life sentences for murder include any recommendation. The expectation would be that the declaration would be used more frequently for the offences we are now talking about, both as mitigating the harshness inherent in a mandatory sentence of 14 years which would have to be imposed, for example, in a case of criminal damage committed even with an air weapon, and for marking the gravity of some offences.

How in practice would the power to recommend a minimum term be exercised? As drafted it would be discretionary. It would be used in some cases and not others. Given the wide variety of cases there is a real danger of inconsistency of approach. Should the minimum term be subject to appeal thereby giving it the status of a sentence in its own right? What implications would that have for the nature of the recommendation when it came to the question of release on licence? I believe that these are important questions to which anyone advocating the imposition of mandatory sentences of imprisonment must address himself.

Mr. Best

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for giving way. Is not the real test by which my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Sir N. Bonsor) stands or falls whether in the past mandatory sentences have proved to be a deterrent? Will my hon. and learned Friend say whether any argument has been advanced to show that existing mandatory sentences have proved to be a deterrent? Has it proved to be the case with drinking and driving?

Mr. Mayhew

I noticed that my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) relied upon the analogy of the mandatory disqualification for drinking and driving. I do not have those statistics. All I know is what I have frequently read, that it has not proved to be a deterrent. Initially, the numbers dropped but they have very rapidly increased. I do not know whether it is a deterrent.

Mr. W. Benyon

Is my hon. and learned Friend saying that if there were not a mandatory sentence in drink and drive cases there would not be a large increase in those incidents? Can I ask him about the statistical argument? Seven per cent. of a much higher figure of total offences must mean that the number RS increasing rapidly?

Mr. Mayhew

My hon. Friend misunderstood me if he supposed that I did not say that the number was increasing. We all know that the numbers have gone up. My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich has quoted the numbers. The point that has to be made is that the proportion of offences in which firearms have been carried has remained over the past decade at between 7 and 8 per cent. I do not say that long sentences cannot be expected to have a deterrent effect. They plainly have. They keep people out of circulation, but I do not believe that a legal system that imposes mandatory sentences for offences other than murder is one that we should support. I well respect and understand the contrary arguments. I understand those who say "We have not gone for the death penalty so let us go for something really swingeing." For the reasons that have been given I am afraid that once we did it in this case we could not distinguish knives, blunt instruments or any other weapon, and we would then be on the road to mandatory sentences and away from the judges' discretion.

My argument will not improve by repetition. I must advise the House that, however sympathetic one must be towards its intent, this is not a new clause that should be accepted.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 12, Noes 98.

Division No. 148] [10.11 pm
Allaun, Frank Davidson, Arthur
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)
Atkinson, N, (H'gey) Deakins, Eric
Beith, A.J. Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp'tN) Dixon, Donald
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Dormand, Jack
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Dubs, Alfred
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Eadie, Alex
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Eastham, Ken
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Crowther, Stan Evans, John (Newton)
Cryer, Bob Ewing, Harry
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Flannery, Martin
Dalyell, Tam Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Forrester, John Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)
Foster, Derek Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Golding, John Morton, George
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hamilton, James(Bothwell) Parry, Robert
Hardy, Peter Pitt, WilliamHenry
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Powell, Raymond(Ogmore)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Richardson, Jo
Haynes, Frank Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hooley, Frank Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
John, Brynmor Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Soley, Clive
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Spearing, Nigel
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Strang, Gavin
Lamborn, Harry Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Leadbitter.Ted Tinn, James
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Wainwright, E.(DearneV)
McCartney, Hugh Welsh, Michael
McKelvey, William Winnick, David
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Young, David (Bolton E)
McNamara, Kevin
McWilliam, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Mr. Allen McKay and Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe.
Millan.Rt Hon Bruce
Aitken, Jonathan Hamilton, Hon A.
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury)
Arnold, Tom Hampson, Dr Keith
Aspinwall, Jack Haselhurst, Alan
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne) Hawkins, Paul
Atkinson, David(B'm'th, E) Hogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm)
Bendall, Vivian Howell, Ralph (NNorfolk)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Hunt, David (Wirral)
Benyon, Thomas(A'don) Jessel, Toby
Benyon, W.(Buckingham) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Berry, Hon Anthony Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Bevan, DavidGilroy Knox, David
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Lang, Ian
Blackburn, John Lawrence, Ivan
Boscawen, Hon Robert Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) LeMarchant, Spencer
Bright, Graham Lester, Jim(Beeston)
Brinton, Tim Lewis, Arthur(N'ham NW)
Brooke, Hon Peter Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Brotherton, Michael Loveridge, John
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Lyell, Nicholas
Bruce-Gardyne, John Macfarlane, Neil
Buck, Antony Major, John
Budgen, Nick Marlow, Antony
Bulmer, Esmond Marshall, Michael(Arundel)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Mather, Carol
Carlisle, John (LutonWest) Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Mawby, Ray
Chapman, Sydney Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Clegg, Sir Walter Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Cockeram, Eric Mayhew, Patrick
Cope, John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Costain, Sir Albert Mills, Iain(Meriden)
Cranborne, Viscount Miscampbell, Norman
Crouch, David Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Dorrell, Stephen Morgan, Geraint
Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ. Mudd, David
Dover, Denshore Murphy, Christopher
Dunn, Robert(Dartford) Needham, Richard
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Nelson, Anthony
Elliott, Sir William Newton, Tony
Faith, Mrs Sheila Onslow, Cranley
Farr, John Osborn, John
Fisher, Sir Nigel Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN) Parris, Matthew
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Pattie, Geoffrey
Forman, Nigel Percival, Sir Ian
Gardiner, George(Reigate) Pollock, Alexander
Goodhart, Sir Philip Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Goodhew, Sir Victor Price, Sir David(Eastleigh)
Grieve, Percy Proctor, K. Harvey
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'thN) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Grylls, Michael Rees-Davies, W. R.
Gummer, JohnSelwyn Renton, Tim
Rhodes James, Robert Stanbrook, Ivor
Rossi, Hugh Stevens, Martin
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Stradling Thomas, J.
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Silvester, Fred Temple-Morris, Peter
Sims, Roger Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Speed, Keith Thompson, Donald
Speller, Tony Thorne, Neil (IlfordSouth)
Spence, John Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Stainton, Keith Waddington, David
Wakeham, John Tellers for the Noes:
Wall, Sir Patrick Mr. Alastair Goodlad and Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Warren, Kenneth
Watson, John
Wells, Bowen
Wheeler, John
Wickenden, Keith
Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Wolfson, Mark
Division No. 149] [11.54 pm
Beith, A. J. Marlow, Antony
Bevan, David Gilroy Penhaligon, David
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Carlisle, John (LutonWest) Wall, Sir Patrick
Cockeram, Eric
Goodhart, Sir Philip Tellers for the Ayes:
Grylls, Michael Mr. W. Benyon and Mr. Vivian Bendall.
Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Gardiner, George(Reigate)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E) Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN) Gummer, JohnSelwyn
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Hamilton, Hon A.
Berry, Hon Anthony Hampson, Dr Keith
Blackburn, John Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hunt, David (Wirral)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wichW) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bright, Graham Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Brinton, Tim Knox, David
Brooke, Hon Peter Lang, Ian
Brotherton, Michael Lawrence, Ivan
Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n) Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Brown, Ronald W.(H'ckn'yS) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Budgen, Nick Lyell, Nicholas
Butcher, John Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Macfarlane, Neil
Campbell-Savours, Dale McKelvey, William
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Major, John
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th.S'n) Marshall, Michael(Arundel)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Mather, Carol
Cope, John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Costain, Sir Albert Mayhew, Patrick
Cranborne, Viscount Meyer, Sir Anthony
Cryer, Bob Morton, George
Davidson, Arthur Mudd, David
Dorrell, Stephen Murphy, Christopher
Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ. Needham, Richard
Dover, Denshore Nelson, Anthony
Dubs, Alfred Neubert, Michael
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Newton, Tony
Elliott, Sir William Osborn, John
Faith, Mrs Sheila Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN) Parris, Matthew
Forman, Nigel Pitt, William Henry
Proctor, K. Harvey Stradling Thomas, J.
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Rees-Davies, W. R. Temple-Morris, Peter
Renton, Tim Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Rhodes James, Robert Thompson, Donald
Richardson, Jo Waddington, David
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Watson, John
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Wells, Bowen
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Wheeler, John
Silvester, Fred Wickenden, Keith
Sims, Roger Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Skinner, Dennis Wolfson, Mark
Speed, Keith
Speller, Tony Tellers for the Noes:
Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and Mr. Alastair Goodlad.
Stevens, Martin

Question accordingly negatived.

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