§ Order for second Reading read.3.39 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Leon Brittan)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill before the House has reached its present form as a result of a process of consultation and review such as can rarely have been accorded to any piece of legislation before. The first version of the Bill was published almost a year ago following widespread consultations on the report of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure. The House then had the opportunity in the last Parliament to give the Bill its detailed scrutiny.
As hon. Members will recall, after detailed consideration in Committee — when more than 300 amendments were made or promised — the Bill lapsed while on Report on the Dissolution of the last Parliament. On taking office as Home Secretary, I regarded it as essential to ensure that before reintroducing the Bill there would be further review and consultation. That, too, has now taken place, and significant changes have been introduced as a result. I shall briefly remind the House of the four main elements of the Bill.
The first and largest part of the Bill lays down powers needed by the police for the investigation of crime and the safeguards for individual citizens in respect of the exercise of each of these powers. It makes detailed provision for what the police may and must do when searching persons and premises, when arresting persons suspected of crime, and when detaining them after arrest. These provisions are largely based on the proposals of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure. The second part of the Bill makes a number of practical reforms to the law of evidence in criminal proceedings. For the most part, these are modernisations proposed by the Criminal Law Revision Committee. The third part establishhes a new Police Complaints Authority empowered to supervise the investigation of complaints against the police. It will also take over the present responsibilities of the Police Complaints Board, which it replaces. This part of the Bill also reforms the handling of police disciplinary cases. The fourth part of the Bill includes a provision underpinning arrangements for consultation between the police and the local community, following Lord Scarman's recommendations.
This is, then, a wide-ranging measure, raising issues of vital concern in a free society. It is needed for three very simple reasons. Each provides a strong case in itself, but taken together I believe that the case is compelling. First, the present state of the law is unclear and contains may indefensible anomalies. Secondly, the police need to have adequate and clear powers to conduct the fight against crime on our behalf and the public need to have proper safeguards against any abuse of such powers if they are to have confidence in the police. Thirdly, these measures play an essential part in an overall strategy designed to create more effective policing. They do not solve, or pretend to solve, all the problems of policing in Britain today, but they have an important part to play alongside 26 administrative and other measures needed or being dealt with already to ensure that the police can operate efficiently, fairly and with the active support of the public.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
The Home Secretary said that what is required is a more effective police force. Many hon. Members would not disagree with that, but does he not agree that the return of stop and search powers to the statute book will alienate many members of the public from the police, and in areas such as Merseyside will lead to great alienation between young blacks and the police?
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the stop and search power already exists. The Bill provides safeguards for its exercise.
No one can doubt that the present law is in need of reform. The Labour Government who set up the Royal Commission on criminal procedure in 1977 can certainly have had no doubt about that; nor did the members of the Royal Commission. The present law governing the investigation of crime has developed in a piecemeal fashion; it does not provide the police with clear and satisfactory working rules and it does not provide the public with safeguards enabling them to have confidence in the way the police use their powers.
The illustrations given last year retain their validity. It cannot be right that the police should have powers to search for wild life but not for a murder weapon; it cannot be right that the police should be allowed to stop and search a person for possession of stolen goods but not for offensive weapons; and it cannot be right that a policeman may arrest someone for gaming in the street but not for indecent assault. Nor—on the other side—can it be right that the rules governing the questioning of suspects should be left vague and the time limits on detention left open; nor that any police officer should have the right to set up a roadblock for any length of time or for any purpose he chooses.
The concerns to which those sorts of defects gave rise have not gone away. They are, if anything, still more relevant and pressing today than they were six years ago. We owe the Royal Commission a great debt of gratitude for exposing so clearly the defects and anomalies of the present law; for examining each individual aspect of the investigation of crime; and for making recommendations which form the basis of the Government's proposals to create—for the first time in the history of policing—a full, coherent and balanced framework for bringing criminals to justice.
This modern framework is not just a matter of clarification, codification and tidying up, it has an immediate and practical purpose. The police must have the powers to investigate crime, but no more than the powers they really do need. And the public must have the protection that is required against the abuse of such powers. A modern and coherent framework is one important means of securing that contract between the police and public which I believe is so essential, riot only in the fight against crime, but for the health of society itself. But it is certainly not a panacea or the only action required to give effect to that contract.
It is part of a wider strategy to ensure more effective policing. The police service now has more manpower, and more and better equipment, than ever before. The quality of the vast majority of its officers is high and morale is 27 good. The resources are in place. What we need to ensure is that there is effective management and supervision to use them to the best effect. I am determined to encourage and support good management practice in the police service in every possible way. That is of direct concern to the public. It means, for example, ensuring that resources are concentrated on priority tasks, and particularly on the effective combating of the type of crime of greatest concern to the public, such as burglary and street robberies.
Effective management and supervision must be supported by effective training at all levels. We are improving training for all supervisory and management ranks.
I am particularly concerned to continue to improve relations between the police and the ethnic minority communities. Urgent attention is now being given by all forces to the working party report on community and race relations training for the police. And we are following up urgently its recommendation that all officers should receive this kind of training at the various stages of their careers. But perhaps the training having the greatest impact on the ground is revised training for new recruits. They will now have about seven months training before they are allowed to patrol alone and will have a carefully phased programme of further training until their two-year apprenticeship is over.
§ Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Knowsley, North)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that whatever benefits there may be in the Bill in terms of better police-community relations, particularly with the ethnic minorities, they are more than likely to be offset by the increased conflict and tension that will result? Does not his own Department's research into the effectiveness and impact of stop and search measures show that blacks are three times more likely to be stopped by the police and twice as likely to be searched as whites?
§ Mr. Brittan
I do not share the hon. Gentleman's assessment. If one takes the view that the power is necessary, but that it is a dangerous power if it is abused, the right course is not to take away the power but to take action to make abuse less likely. That is the approach of the Bill. I shall remind the hon. Gentleman, as this is the second time that reference has been made to this provision, of the words of Lord Scarman in his report on the Brixton disorders.
Lord Scarman, who is not exactly unresponsive to concern of the kind articulated by the hon. Gentleman, concluded that the power of stop and search isnecessary to combat street crime … The state of the law is, however, a mess, as the Royal Commission on Criminal Proceedure has shown … I respectfully agree with the Commission's proposals for the rationalisation of the law and for certain additional safeguards.I do, too. I have provided for the rationalisation of the law, and I have also provided for the additional safeguards.
Having dealt with training, I shall now deal with further management supervision and training, an issue which I know lies behind some of the points made from the Opposition Benches.
Hon. Members will no doubt have seen recent references in the press to a draft report on the Metropolitan police by the Policy Studies Institute. That report, which 28 is to be published very soon, makes the point that rules and legal constraints are not, by themselves, sufficient to ensure that powers are used properly.
The managment deficiencies outlined in the report were identified by the present commissioner when he first took office and he has already taken many steps to remedy them. Indeed, the commissioner has said that securing citizens' rights must be a central objective of the police service. I wholeheartedly endorse that and I fully accept that merely having a proper legal framework is not the whole answer. However, that is not a reason for not having such a framework.
Management and supervision have a vital role to play, but if clear powers and safeguards are not sufficient in themselves, they are necessary. Indeed, they are a vital management tool.
Many provisions of the Bill make it a legal requirement that senior officers should authorise certain decisions, when there has been no such requirement in the past—the decision to set up a road check is one example—and that such decisions are properly recorded. Again, there has been no such requirement in the past. Those are legal changes, and they are but examples—many more could be given — and they are developments which will buttress initiatives for better management in the police.
Clearer powers and better safeguards are crucial in securing more effective policing. We have heard much about the overall balance of the Bill, but it is the balance between powers and safeguards in each of its individual provisions which is crucial. In looking at the individual provisions, I have been guided by the tests set by the Royal Commission. The rules governing the actions of the police must be fair, they must be open, and they must be workable.
Nobody who has read and considered the Bill should seriously claim that the Government have simply set out to increase powers. In some cases they have done so—and rightly. Providing a power to arrest someone who is reasonably suspected of indecent assault is an example of a fresh power. However, in other equally significant cases the Government have restricted existing powers, including, for example, the power to set up road checks which, at the moment, is unfettered.
In a third category, there are powers that have been clarified. One example is the provisions dealing with evidence seized during a search. Fourthly, there are powers that have been enhanced, but with the addition of safeguards that did not previously exist. The stop and search provisions, to which reference has already been made, are one example.
The Government's approach has been the same as that of the Royal Commission. They have asked themselves what powers the police need to deal with the various situations that confront them, some every day and some only infrequently. They have then had to consider what safeguards are necessary in each case. We have looked at each power by itself and have taken full note of the views of the Royal Commission and others. In each case, we have tried to strike the right balance.
To those who look to the Royal Commission's report, which is a reasonable starting point, and make comparisons with it, I point out that, in a number of respects, the Bill confers a lesser power than the Royal Commission proposed or strengthens safeguards which the Commission recommended.
29 For example, the Bill does not give effect to the Royal Commission's recommendations that all imprisonable offences should become arrestable offences, that there should be no overall limit on detention without charge and that confessions other than those obtained by the most extreme methods should always be admissible in evidence. Those are all proposals which we did not follow.
Just as there is a broader policing context in which the police powers provisions of the Bill have to be seen, so we should look at the other parts of the Bill that are designed to heighten public confidence in the police and improve effectiveness. The most obvious example is our proposals on police complaints and discipline, which I shall explain later.
The creation of a Police Complaints Authority, with powers and duties extending into new areas, shows our commitment to the principle of accountable complaints investigations. There is a clear interest—and, indeed, a police interest — in ensuring that investigations into complaints are fully and fairly carried out and are seen to be so carried out.
It will be a primary task of the new authority to provide that independence, the absence of which has dogged the present system, and it is equally vital to the integrity of the system that police officers, too, should have the assurance of a fair deal when suspected of misconduct.
The Bill makes other important contributions to the enhancement of public confidence. I have deliberately taken on myself an obligation to proceed to the tape recording of interviews with suspects. The accusations, whether or not justified, that suspects' statements have been misrepresented or that unreasonable pressures have been brought to bear are highly damaging to the public perception of the police. I believe that tape recording will go a substantial way to prevent such allegations in the future. I shall say more about that, too.
§ Sir Edward Gardner (Fylde)
I emphasise that it is the general belief of those who practise in the civil and criminal courts—particularly the criminal courts—that the introduction of tape recordings will not only satisfy the demand for better justice but will save hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of court time that is now taken up by useless cross-examination.
§ Mr. Brittan
I am extremely grateful to my hon. and learned Friend, who has such great experience in these matters, for his confirmation of the view that we have reached.
Another important provision of the Bill is the statutory arrangements for consultation between the police and the communities they serve. There is nothing new in the principle here; the police have always relied on regular contacts with the public. My predecessor took steps, in the light of Lord Scarman's recommendation, to reinforce that contact by issuing guidelines on local consultation in June last year.
I am encouraged by the fact that in many areas of the country arrangements have already been established to ensure regular and structured discussion of local issues that affect the work of the police. I know that arrangements are being developed elsewhere and I hope that that will continue in the coming months. Clause 96 requires the establishment of arrangements for consultation. The principle is national. The provision sets the framework for the arrangements but rightly leaves the detail for local decision.
30 Another important development, which also forms part of the wider background to the Bill, is the White Paper on an independent prosecution service, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and I presented to Parliament on 26 October. Those proposals are a serious earnest of the Government's intent to establish a prosecution service that is manifestly independent of the police. The existing solicitor-client relationship will be broken.
The White Paper proposals reflect the importance attached by the Royal Commission to the principles of fairness, openness and accountability. The respective roles envisaged in the White Paper for the police and the proposed new service are designed to produce prosecution arrangements that are more efficient and effective and which will enhance public confidence in the operation of this part of the criminal justice system.
Changes have been made to the Bill since the House considered it in the previous Parliament. Every amendment that the Government accepted in the previous Session remains in the Bill and every undertaking that the Government gave during that Session has been honoured. During the summer, I and my ministerial colleagues have been through every one of the provisions in the Bill to consider whether they are needed or could be improved and we have taken full account of the anxieties expressed during the passage of the previous Bill and subsequently.
The main structure of the Bill remains unchanged, but, as a result of our review, the measure before the House differs from its predecessor in a number of significant respects. In some cases, principally the provisions establishing the Police Complaints Authority, we have been able to develop proposals which were included in the previous Bill only in embryo. In respect of other provisions—such as those on intimate search—we have been persuaded that a different approach is needed. I hope that the House will see those changes as a genuine attempt by the Government to find the best solution to the issues raised and as a sign that we have been ready to consider constructive proposals for change, and adopt them where appropriate.
The first change to which I draw the attention of the House concerns the definition of "serious arrestable offence" in clause 105. This is important because several powers are conferred by the Bill only in relation to serious arrestable offences, although in some circumstances at present they are available across the board. My aim was to introduce as much objectivity and certainty as possible to the definition, but I had to take account of the widely varying circumstances of individual crimes. The new definition is based on the approach suggested by the Law Society. Under this, certain offences, such as murder and rape, are always serious arrestable offences. Other arrestable offences may count as "serious" if, in the circumstances of the case, they meet certain specific tests. As before, offences which are not arrestable will never qualify for those enhanced powers.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
Does the Home Secretary agree that the provisions of clause 105(7) include, in the definition of "serious arrestable offence", offences which, seen objectively, are far from serious? They may involve, for example, the theft of small items which have mere sentimental value and which may result in the lengthy detention in custody of suspects who would not otherwise be held in custody for such a period.
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman should pursue that point in Committee, if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading. His point relates to the fact that in assessing the seriousness of an offence that leads to pecuniary loss, it is not the absolute value of the item that has been stolen that is important but what that item means to the individual from whom it was stolen. To adopt any alternative course would be to give less protection to the poor man than to the rich man, and that would be a strange principle for the Alliance to adopt.
The Bill also contains new provisions concerning intimate body searches. For the first time such searches will be prohibited absolutely when their object is to secure evidence of an offence. But I came to the clear conclusion that the existing power to search for protective reasons —where there is a justifiable fear that a detained person is concealing a weapon—should be retained subject to new safeguards. We had a salutary reminder of the dangers facing the police in the recent much publicised case in which a detained person had a penknife taped to the roof of his mouth.
It would have been easy, and politically attractive, to drop the provision for protective body searches, but in all conscience I could not do that. We owe it to the mentally disturbed suspect, and to the police, to protect him or them from being maimed, or worse. I envisage that this power will be very rarely used, and in nearly every case I would expect a doctor to carry out the search. We have kept reserve power for police officers to do so only where it is absolutely necessary, but it is intended only as a last resort.
I come now to police complaints and discipline. What matters, surely, is not who investigates the complaints but to whom the investigators are accountable. I agree with the Select Committee that there is no reason to believe that some special force of investigators would be more effective or pursue complaints with greater vigour than policemen—the Select Committee was right about that—provided that policemen are under the direction and control of a fully independent outside body, which has the necessary powers.
The new authority will have the duty to supervise the investigation of all serious complaints against the police; for example, police action causing death or serious injury. It will also have the power to supervise the investigation of any other complaints where it decides that it is in the public interest to do so. There will be an unfettered right to invite the authority to take on the supervision of any case, and provisions to ensure that certain sorts of cases are drawn to its attention. I intend the supervision to be an active rather than a passive process. The authority will have full powers to give advice and formal directions to investigating officers. At the end of the investigation it will be required to inform the complainant whether the investigation was properly carried out. The authority will also take over the existing responsibilities of the Police Complaints Board, which will be abolished. The new proposals will command a wide measure of public support and will substantially increase confidence in the police complaints system.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Since my right hon. and learned Friend has, perhaps for good reasons, extended the ability to make complaints against the police to a wide range of bodies, such as the police monitoring groups in London, and since most of those 32 bodies are advised at public expense by lawyers, why does he resist the idea of the police officer complained against by such a body having a lawyer to represent him?
§ Mr. Brittan
I am coming to that point now, and I was going on to say that it is equally important that police officers should have a fair deal. The Bill provides—for the first time — a statutory right for officers facing dismissal or demotion to put their case to a tribunal, with legal representation if they wish. That tribunal — again for the first time — will include one member who is a retired officer from the ranks of the appellant's own staff association. Those are major changes designed to ensure that policemen, too, have a fair deal.
Another important proposal now contained in the Bill is a specific provision for the tape recording of police interviews with suspects. Clause 53 places a clear duty on the Home Secretary to introduce tape recording and to issue a code of practice to govern its use. There could be no clearer sign of the Government's commitment to tape recording. The necessary field trials of equipment and recording procedures will show us the best way to do it and will enable a proper assessment of the resource implications to be made. I am determined that we should have the best scheme possible. I must obviously have regard to the availability of resources before bringing the scheme into force. It would be irresponsible for any Secretary of State to do otherwise. But I am not committed to waiting the full two years of the trials before making the next step. I shall be watching progress closely and we shall move as fast as we can to implement the Bill's provisions.
I now draw the attention of the House to the provisions of clause 42, on detention after charge. This clause has been considerably expanded. It now ensures not only that persons detained in custody after charge must be brought before the next sitting of the competent magistrates' court, but that this sitting will take place as early as possible. That change completes the circle of safeguards in the Bill which give effect to the Royal Commission's recommendations that detention should take place only if it is necessary, and only for as long as it is necessary.
In that context it is right for me to say something about my approach to the other detention provisions of the Bill. I know that anxieties have been raised, but I make it clear that this part of the Bill confers no new powers on the police. On the contrary, it closely restricts and defines powers which are at present vague, open-ended and subject to no effective form of review.
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helen's, South)
Does the Home Secretary agree that clause 42 should be read in conjunction with clause 41, which replaces old clause 36? The old clause 36 dealt with the right to legal aid for representation at the hearing which arose after the arrest. Under clause 41 that right to legal aid is withdrawn. Does the Minister agree that that is a reduction, rather than an increase, in the right to protection?
§ Mr. Brittan
I shall deal with legal aid in a moment.
The power to detain, for the purposes of questioning, a person who has been arrested on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence exists already. It is not new, and it would not have been right to remove it. For those who have suggested that it is new, I have a refutation from the Court of Appeal. It is reasonable that the police should be able to ask a subject questions to show whether the suspicion that justified arrest was or was not well founded.
33 The Bill does not remove the suspect's right to refuse to answer questions. On the contrary, it ensures that he is aware of his rights. Obviously long detention is undesirable, but in a very small number of serious and complex cases detention up to 96 hours may be necessary. I examined with great care, as the House will imagine, the possibility of reducing the maximum period for detention without charge, but my study of the relevant cases persuaded me that it would be unsafe to do so. Prolonged detention will remain very rare under the Bill, not least because of the wholly new requirement to bring an uncharged suspect before a magistrates' court after 36 hours. The claim that greater use will be made of the power to detain when it has been regulated and placed on a statutory basis has been made, but in my view can in no way be justified.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
In support of his proposition that he has not extended the period of detention, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has cited the authority of the Court of Appeal. However, I draw his attention to clause 38 and to the case of Regina v Lemsatef, in the Court of Appeal during which it was clearly stated:It must be clearly understood that neither … nor police officers have any right to detain somebody for the purposes of getting them to help with their inquiries.Clause 38(1)(a) clearly gives the police that power. The Home Secretary is extending the power of the police in an important way and he ought to acknowledge that he should consider the position.
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman is not right. In the case of Mohammed-Holgate v Duke, reported in the law report in The Times on 16 July 1983, the Court of Appeal quoted with approval the Royal Commission on criminal procedure, thatthe period of detention may be used to dispel or confirm that reasonable suspicionjustifying—a suspect's arrest by questioning the suspect or seeking further material evidence with his assistance.That was the decision of the Court of Appeal.
I now draw the attention of the House to clause 59. This clause now requires the Home Secretary to issue various codes of practice. Before, it merely empowered him to do so. I have already published the first draft of a new code concerning the search of premises and the seizure of property. This code is intended to reinforce the safeguards contained in the Bill against any possibility of so-called fishing expeditions and general searches. And it goes into substantially greater detail than the Royal Commission envisaged. I believe that this code also provides clear and sound working rules for the police. In addition, I have published revised drafts of the codes published with the former Bill. These incorporate a number of new and, I believe, significant features.
Finally, I should like to mention one change to the Bill that has not yet been made, but which I intend to bring forward. As the House will know, the Bill gives suspects in police custody a statutory right to consult a solicitor privately. To make this right effective, arrangements are needed for solicitors to be available at all times when legal advice may be sought. I believe that that is what the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) had in mind. In order to assist the legal profession, the Government plan to strengthen the Law Society's existing powers to make duty solicitor schemes with the aim of 34 ensuring that sufficient solicitors participate in the scheme. A new clause to this effect will be moved in Committee.
The Government recognise that strengthening a suspect's rights in this way will place an extra demand on resources. We have made provision for this, thereby showing in a practical way that the new safeguards in the Bill are not a mere paper exercise. We are putting public money where our mouth is.
These, then, are the main changes that we have made to the Bill. I believe that they improve it and will be welcome to the House. Uppermost in our mind has been the concept of balance, which has been such an important feature of discussion of the Bill. We have considered this concept in relation to each of the Bill's separate provisions. Alongside each power which the Bill gives to the police is a corresponding obligation designed to ensure that the power is exercised fairly and only in the express circumstances for which it was designed. The purpose of our review was to ensure that the balance was right on each occasion as well as to satisfy ourselves that the Bill made a proper contribution to the broader strategy of increasing police effectiveness and enhancing public confidence.
It is now for the House to consider the Bill. The House will be dealing with highly sensitive and emotive issues which potentially affect every citizen in the country. We have a responsibility to consider the provisions in detail and with care, but we also have a responsibility not to arouse groundless fears by making ill-founded generalisations of an alarmist character. Where there have been legitimate apprehensions about the substance and likely effects of the Bill, we have gone to substantial lengths to respond to them. We shall continue to consider with care arguments about individual parts of the total package. But the Government are confident that the Bill's aim and purpose is sound. This measure helps to protect the public as a whole from crime, but it also protects the individual citizen's liberties against unjustified encroachment, and, I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
No member of Her Majesty's Government has a greater responsibility than the Home Secretary for protecting the fabric of our democratic society. He has a duty to uphold freedom within the law. He is charged with maintaining the Queen's peace and ensuring that citizens can go about their lawful occasions without molestation from oppressive authority and that, so far as is possible, their persons and possessions are safeguarded from lawlessness.
Every action that the Home Secretary takes must be judged by those tests. He is required to take measures to prevent crime and to pursue criminals, but he must avoid tampering with the civil liberties of those who, often innocently, become involved in that pursuit. That is a fragile balance, but he must endeavour to maintain it. It was because it dangerously upset that balance that Lord Whitelaw's first attempt at a Police and Criminal Evidence Bill last year encountered so much hostility in so many quarters.
Mercifully, that Bill fell with the general election, and now a new Home Secretary has brought forward a revised version. The manner in which he presents it is curious. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's principal boast is that the Bill is different from that of his predecessor. Apprehended in the felonious act of trying to slip a bogus 35 Police and Criminal Evidence Bill through Parliament, the accused man Brittan tries to evade the charge by grassing on his accomplice, the old lag Whitelaw. "That Whitelaw, he was a real rogue," he says, "but me, I'm going straight now— honest, I am." The Home Secretary expressed himself rather more delicately than that at a press conference on the publication of this measure. He said:I have however made a number of further changes to individual parts of the Bill which, I believe, are significant.This somewhat Stalinist attempt to rewrite history is made somewhat more crudely in a curious document entitled:Police and criminal evidence briefing guide.That document, when I first examined it for an imprint, appeared, from the solemn ingenuousness of its contents, to have been issued by the foreign languages publishing house in Moscow. However, on further examination, I found that it emanated from the closeted sanctum of room 528 at the Home Office.
The briefing guide explains:the Home Secretary considered that it would be right to carry out a full review of its provisions in the light of the representations made during the passage of the previous Bill. The present Bill embodies the results of that review. It incorporates substantive changes whose purpose is to give better effect to the general objectives of modernisation and clarification of the law.That is Home Office officialese for saying that Whitelaw made a hash of it. However, what the House has to argue is not whether the Brittan Bill gives better effect to this or that than did the Whitelaw Bill, but what we would think of this new version if there had never been an earlier Bill and if this was the only Bill on these matters.
The first thing that we would have to do would be to reject out of hand the tendentious claims made by the Home Secretary that this Bill follows the recommendations of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure, endorsed in some respects by Lord Scarman's report on the Brixton riots, and, where it departs from those documents, it does so even-handedly.
The Royal Commission was set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), but neither he nor anyone else on the Opposition Benches is required to regard its report as gospel. We have our criticisms of it. In any case, this Bill departs seriously from the report's recommendations on certain fundamental issues, and it is faulty in many other ways as well. For example, clauses 15 and 19 give certain powers to police constables not only under this Bill but under unspecified future legislation which at present does not exist—what these clauses describe asan Act passed after this Act.The clause 15 power is not so bad, because it is restrictive of police activity, but the provision in clause 19 gives the police wide powers of seizure. It is unacceptable to extend these powers to provisions of future legislation the contents of which we cannot know.
Again, in clause 96 — the clause that contains the Bill's inadequate povisions for consulting the public on policing in their areas—subsection (8) provides:The Common Council of the City of London shall issue guidance to the Commissioner of Police for the City of London concerning arrangements for the City; and the Commissioner shall make such arrangements after taking account of that guidance."36 When no other local authority is given any power over the Metropolitan police, it is incomprehensible that this unique power should be given to the most undemocratic local authority in the country.
The latest version of the Government's notions on dealing with complaints against the police is once again unsatisfactory both to the public and to the police. It still lacks the independent element in the investigation of complaints that was recommended by Lord Scarman. In clause 99, the Home Secretary has removed the amendment inserted in clause 69 of the old Bill which gave police officers the right to legal representation at any disciplinary proceedings where they risked dismissal, demotion or a fine of more than three months pay. The Opposition regard that as most unjust, and we shall seek to reinstate that amendment in Committee.
Worst of all, instead of being able to call upon a complaints procedure which is clear and simple, people will be deterred from making complaints by the sheer complexity of the machinery proposed. Here, for example, is just part of what is said about complaints against senior officers in the White Paper "Police Complaints and Discipline Procedures", published with the Bill:In supervising investigations into complaints against senior officers, the relationship between the Police Complaints Authority and police authorities will be the same as that already described between the Authority and chief officers in the case of more junior officers. Police authorities will be required to refer or notify to the Authority any complaints against senior officers which come to their attention (whether received directly from the complainants, through chief officers, or from any other source) if the complaint falls into the category for mandatory reference or notification … In any other case (including cases such as those described in paragraph 16 which fall short of a formal complaint) in which the police authority decides that the Authority's oversight of the investigation would be desirable, it may bring the case to the Authority's attention. The Police Complaints Authority will also enjoy a reserve power similar to that described in paragraph 17.After reading that and a great deal like it, it is obvious to me that the official who wrote that White Paper was seconded to the Home Office from the rate support grant division of the Department of the Environment.
The main criticisms of the Bill must be levelled against those substantial parts of it which deal with the treatment of people who become enmeshed in the detention procedures which may be triggered off by clause 1. That provision introduces, for the first time, nationwide powers of stop and search. When we examine these and other provisions, we must remember at all times that these powers will apply not to convicted criminals but to suspects, and to suspects who not only may not be convicted but may not even be charged with any offence.
A Home Office press release claims that these clausesgive effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure as endorsed by Lord Scarman.The Home Office briefing guide rather differently boasts:Lord Scarman fully endorsed both the new powers and the new safeguards recommended by the Royal Commission.It is the briefing guide that is right. But its very accuracy—rare in 67 overwhelmingly dishonest pages—gives the lie to the Home Office press release, because what Lord Scarman endorsed was what the Royal Commission proposed, and what the Bill contains is in important respects very different from what the Royal Commission and Lord Scarman recommended. The Home Secretary misrepresented that position again today.
The Royal Commission specifically did not accept road checks based on the nature of an area, yet clause 4(3)(b) 37 allows road checks in an area simply because of what it calls the "pattern of crime" there. Give a district a bad name—Brixton, say, or Moss Side—and the police can have road checks there to their heart's content. But it would be very different in Richmond, Yorkshire, or Witney, Oxfordshire.
Other stop and search powers are ludicrous, worrying, or both. Clause 1(4) gives a constable power in certain circumstances to search a vehicle in a garden or yard. Clause 2(11) applies this power to vessels, aircraft and hovercraft as well. So we can all rest easy that if a jumbo jet or a hovercraft turns up in the next door garden, an intrepid bobby will soon be along to tell it to move on.
The powers of search under these clauses apply to persons suspected of carrying offensive weapons. Clause 1(9) widens the definition of such weapons toany article … intended by the person having it with himfor causing injury to persons. The briefing guide explains that such a weapon may be a bunch of keys. So it is open to any constable to stop anyone in the street, with the ominous warning, "You look like the kind of person who may be carrying a bunch of keys," search him, and haul him off to the jug. In theory, the constable is required to explain what he is up to, but clause 2(6) absolves him from this duty if he thinks that the person concerned would not understand what he was talking about. That could lead not just to bafflement but to serious difficulties for Asians, for example—especially for Asian women.
Although some of these powers may sound absurd, their consequences could be profoundly serious.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
If there is reason to believe that the person concerned does not understand the reasons that the police officer has given him, because he is either mentally handicapped or does not understand the language, is not the officer duty bound to explain his reasons to another person who is with that suspect?
§ Mr. Kaufman
Unfortunately, there is a let-out on that as well. He is duty bound, except when he is not duty bound. That, basically, is what the Bill says. I recommend the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) to read it for himself — [HON. MEMBERS: "Anti-police."] The Opposition are seeking to protect the hon. Gentleman's clients. That is our aim.
The Royal Commission report, referring to these powers, said:Some of us consider that this extension of the stop and search power"—that is, the stop and search power recommended by the Royal Commission, which is not the same as the stop and search power in the Bill—brings with it a risk of random and discriminatory searches which could further worsen the relationship between the police and young people, particularly black youths".In the forthcoming report of the Policy Studies Institute, to which the Secretary of State referred, we find grim confirmation of those forebodings. This enormous survey of the Metropolitan police was commissioned by Scotland Yard, and the former commissioner deserves credit for one of the most important examinations ever conducted of policing in London. It is not due for publication until the end of next week, but its contents are profoundly relevant to this debate and it is right that the House should be informed of what has become available. A document was sent to me by a journalist, and the House will be glad to know that it is protected as excluded material under clause 10 of the Bill.
38 The report states:The powers of the police in London to stop and search people on foot and in vehicles … largely depend on the criterion of reasonable suspicion. Our findings … agree in showing that this criterion does not act as an effective constraint on police officers in deciding whether to make a stop. In a substantial proportion of cases where stops were reported in the survey of police officers, the officer did not give what we judge to be a 'good' reason for making the stop. We could see no good reason for the stop in one third of the cases recorded in the course of our observational work".The report goes on:it is clear from the way that police officers talk about stops that the question of what their legal powers may be does not enter into their decision-making except in the case of rare individuals. They do, of course, consider the chance of getting a 'result', but factors that they associate with the chance of getting a 'result' are often unconnected with any concept of 'reasonable suspicion'. One reason why the legal powers have little relevance is that most people do not know what they are. We never saw anyone openly challenge the right of the police to stop, search and question them, nor did anyone ever refuse to answer questions … only a small proportion of the individuals who are stopped (between 3 per cent. and 5 per cent.) are arrested as a result, and the survey of Londoners shows that a further 5 per cent. are reported for an offence (generally a traffic offence). Overall, about one in every 12 stops leads to a 'result' (an arrest or a report) … This strike rate seems low: it certainly means that the great majority of people stopped must be presumed to be 'innocent persons'".It goes on, and I make this point so that nobody should suggest that I am omitting it:
On the other hand, our findings show that the stops made in London (amounting to well over a million a year) result in the detection of a very substantial number of offences— perhaps more than 100,000 a year.The report continues:Our observations produced examples of a number of cases where officers behaved rudely or abusively to people they had stopped and were not shown to have committed an offence … selective stopping policy is divisive: it meets with the support or indifference of the majority who are not affected, but tends to create opposition among the minority who are.
§ Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the abuses that he quotes—which to an extent are true — will be minimised by the Bill, which proposes that the police officer should tell the person why he is detaining him? It goes further, because he must make a record of so doing. There is the further safeguard that chief constables and chief officers must list in their annual reports the numbers of stops and searches on a monthly basis.
§ Mr. Kaufman
If the hon. Gentleman believes that all that will happen, he is living in a world of self-delusion. The PSI report points out that the safeguards are not observed in a large number of cases. Indeed, one reason that the report gives for that is that theconsequences for individual police officers, where they were shown to have exceeded their powers in stopping and searching people or vehicles, would probably not be very serious.In other words, the penalty for not observing the rule is not great enough to ensure the observance of the rule. That is brought out substantially in the PSI report.
The worst effect of stop and search powers is that, even if unintentionally, they turn out to be racially biased. The report says:the proportion of young West Indian males who have come into conflict with the police is perhaps dangerously high.The statistics given in the report are disturbing:A substantial minority of the population have been stopped by the police one or more times in the past 12 months, but certain population groups are few more likely to be stopped than others. Within certain groups, the chance of being stopped within a 39 12-month period is over 50 per cent. and a high proportion of these groups have been stopped several times in that period. The groups most likely to be stopped are likely to be young people, men and people of West Indian origin, and young men of West Indian origin have the highest chance of being stopped.Thus, the report concludes that stops bring the police into frequent contact with members of certain highly specific groups, but rarely bring them into contact with the majority who do not belong to those groups. The policy is therefore in a sense divisive. If there is a price to pay in terms of police-public relations, it will be in relations with specific groups and in a sharp division of experience and opinion between the minority who are stopped and the majority who are not.
Sir Kenneth Newham, the commissioner, summed up the dangers of the situation in an important speech that he made last week. He said:The evidence suggests that if you are young and black and live in the inner city, the ties in the law and order contact with police officers are likely to be at their most tenuous.It is true that, in a small proportion of cases, these powers will lead to arrests, but the powers of the police to make arrests are highly capricious. A constable is empowered to arrest someone suspected of committing even the most trivial offence—for example, if he has reasonable grounds for doubting whether the name he gives is his real name. That means that he is free to arrest almost anyone about whom he feels suspicious.
A police officer can arrest someone if he feels that that person may cause serious harm to himself or to someone else by means of serious disease. As a police constable is not required to have medical qualifications, how can he know? Nor is he a telepathist, yet clause 22(3)(d)(iii) says that he may arrest someone to prevent him from causingan affront to public decency.It says to "prevent" him, which means that he must anticipate the committing of the offence.
For three years I have been living in the sheltered world of local government finance, so I looked up the Home Office briefing guide to find out what an "affront to public decency" might be, and page 32 of the guide enlightened me. It gave the example of a man "flashing" in a busy shopping street. Buried away, as I have been, among grant-related expenditure assessments and tapers based on discontinuous linear schedules, I was under the impression that "flashing" was a manoeuvre carried out with his forelock by the Secretary of State for Defence so as to win a standing ovation at the Tory party conference. Now I know better. How does a police constable know in advance that someone will behave in that way? Does he play safe and arrest anyone wearing a shabby raincoat? If so, clause 22 of this measure will be strongly endorsed by Aquascutum and Burberrys.
§ Mr. Robert Atkins (South Ribble)
If the right hon. Gentleman saw someone in the street about to undo his trousers, does he agree that that act might possibly be construed as a potential affront to the public? Does he accept that in those circumstances a police officer could make an arrest? Surely that is fairly obvious.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Unfortunately, I do not have the hon. Gentleman's mind. What he said would not necessarily occur to me.
The most worrying arrest provisions are those which hinge on the definition of a "serious arrestable offence". 40 The definition was so vague in the original Bill that it covered almost anything. The Home Secretary claims that it has been tightened up and that it is now much more effective. However, clause 105 is almost as imprecise and, therefore, almost as dangerous as it ever was. An arrestable offence becomes a "serious arrestable offence" if it is likely to lead to a variety of consequences that can be defined in any way that the arresting constable cares to define them. Once he has defined them in that way, he gains extra powers over the suspect.
Under the Bill, the routes to the police station are many and varied, and when a person gets there he will be searched. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, he may be the subject of an intimate search. One of the major beneficial changes between the first version of the Bill and the one that we are considering is that the grounds for an intimate search have been considerably limited. However, the form of such a search is as objectionable as ever. An intimate search is the physical examination of the body orifices. The Law Society categorically states:such searches can never be justified without the informed consent of the suspect … such searches conflict with the standards of a civilised society".However, the Bill empowers such searches without the consent of the subject. The British Medical Association insists in such cases:The search should always be carried out by a medical practitioner.The Bill empowers such searches to be carried out by an 18-year-old police constable. It is obvious that grave damage could be inflicted by such inexpert meddling against the will of the person being interfered with, and women could be especially at risk.
The Bill, in overturning a safeguard in clause 47 of the previous Bill, allows a constable to take certain intimate body samples. The same applies to fingerprinting. At present, someone may have his fingerprints taken against his will only with the authorisation of a magistrates court. The Law Society believes that that should remain so. However, clause 54 provides for forcible fingerprinting on a superintendent's authority. I have mentioned only some of the indignities that are liable to be inflicted on a person who is completely innocent and who is held against his will at a police station.
The Bill provides that such a person can be held without charge for 24 hours. That sounds bad enough, but when does that period start? It does not necessarily start from the moment of arrest. For example, if the arrest is in another town, the period will start when the suspect arrives in the town where he is wanted for questioning, or 24 hours after he is arrested, whichever is the earlier. That means that there could be 48 hours' detention without charge at the start of the process. If the individual is arrested in Scotland, or Northern Ireland, the 24-hour period begins when he arrives at the police station where he is wanted in England or Wales. The Law Society observes that loss of liberty begins at the time of arrest, not on arrival at the police station where he will be interrogated.
The 24 hours, whenever the period begins, is not the limit of the time during which the individual can be held without charge. The Bill allows a superintendent or a more senior officer to extend the period to 36 hours. However, the Royal Commission, which the Home Secretary again today claimed as his authority, states categorically that 41 subjects "must" be released or charged within 24 hours unless brought before a magistrates' court sitting in private.
Yet, perversely, if in the initial period the police ask a magistrate to allow them to hold the suspect for longer than 36 hours and the magistrate says no, if the 36 hours have not elapsed the police still have the power to hold the person for the remainder of the 36 hours.
What other rights does the individual who is being held without charge have? The draft code of practice on the detention, treatment and questioning of persons by the police states that he has the right not to be held incommunicado except when he may be held incommunicado. It provides that he has the right to see a lawyer except when he is prevented from doing so. It lays down that a record must be made of questioning at the time that it takes place except when it need not be made at the time when it takes place. Almost every right that is conferred in the code is removed on another page, and sometimes on the same page. All that is missing from the title page is the statement, "This code shall be observed except where it need not be observed."
The Home Office briefing guide, in effect, says that there is nothing to worry about really. It states for the first time, that, once the Bill is enacted, a person will not be allowed to be held for more than 96 hours without charge. But then it gives the game away. It is admitted that hardly anyone is held beyond the 96 hours. A survey carried out in the Metropolitan police district showed that, out of a total of 83,000 cases, only three persons were held for as long as 96 hours. The 96-hour limit, about which the right hon. and learned Gentleman boasted again today, is no concession. The power to hold for up to—
§ Mr. Kaufman
No, I shall not give way. The hon. and learned Gentleman writes letters to The Times, but never states that he is the Parliamentary Private Secretary of the Attorney-General when he does so. He pretends that he is an anonymous Back Bencher in the same way as the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle), who also writes letters to The Times and he never discloses that he is the Parliamentary Private Secretary of the Minister of State, Home Office.
§ Mr. Kaufman
The power to hold for up to 36 hours is a real power which may increasingly become the norm. For a person to be held for that time, probably without anyone knowing where he is and without any contact except with the police who are holding him, is to deprive a suspect — not a criminal — of the right to silence, which is fundamental to a civilised society.
Even that is not the end of the possibilities. Clause 27(2) states:A person arrested by a constable at a place other than a police station shall be released if a constable is satisfied, before the person arrested reaches a police station, that there are no grounds for keeping him under arrest.That means that someone can be arrested on the street or at home and released before reaching the police station. That sounds very nice, but what will happen to him meanwhile? What will happen to him while he is being held? To what sort of pressures may he be subjected? We have legal provision for unrecorded periods of detention. 42 The custody record begins and such safeguards as there are apply generally only when the person who has been arrested arrives at the police station.
Clause 7 repeals a collection of old laws that are superseded by the new provisions. One of these is section 8 of the Vagrancy Act 1824, which states:It shall be lawful for any constable, peace officer, or other person apprehending any person charged with being an idle and disorderly person, or a rogue and vagabond, or an incorrigible rogue, to take any horse, mule, ass, cart, car, caravan, or other vehicle or goods in the possession or use of such person, and to take and convey the same, as well as such person, before some justice of the peace, and for every justice of the peace by whom any person shall be adjudged to be an idle and disorderly person, or a rogue and vagabond, or an incorrigible rogue, to order that such offender shall be searched, and that his or her trunks, boxes, bundles, parcels, or packages shall be inspected in the presence of the said justice, and of him or her, and also that any cart, car, caravan, or other vehicle which may have been found in his or her possession or use shall be searched in his or her presence".That means that 159 years ago an antiquated statute brought in the protection of a justice of the peace much earlier than this brave new Police and Criminal Evidence Act of—significantly—1984. No wonder a shame-faced Home Secretary wants to brush it under the carpet. However, the Government cannot brush away their record in the same way.
Two weeks ago, The Harrovian published an interview with the Prime Minister. The interviewers recorded:within seconds, a raised finger, a frigid stare and a quiet sentence had reduced us to a state of terror.It appears that those two schoolboy journalists were treated exactly as if they were members of the Cabinet.
In the course of her harangue, the right hon. Lady told those cowering Harrovians:There are certain things that only government can do—the defence of the realm, law and order and defence of the currency.How do the Government score using the Prime Minister's criteria? First, defence of the realm. Britain has become a puppet of United States foreign policy, a dumping ground for cruise missiles at home, and, ever the invasion of Grenada, was permitted no more than a three-minute telephone call protest. Next, defence of the currency. After four years of the right hon. Lady's Government, sterling is worth 28 per cent. less abroad and 57 per cent. less at home.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
I assume that the right hon. Member is making only a passing reference to these matters.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I am leading up to the big stuff.
We come to law and order, which I understand from the Order Paper is relevant to today's debate. Since 1980, crimes of violence against the person have increased by 12 per cent., burglary by 30 per cent., theft and stolen goods by 20 per cent., fraud and forgery by 17 per cent., and robberies by 52 per cent. We have more policemen, as the Secretary of State said today, but the increase in crime has far outstripped the increase in the police force. Offences as a proportion of police have increased, often dramatically in every category.
Under the Government's policies, our people are more vulnerable to serious and violent crime than at any other time. The Bill will do little if anything to give the nation the protection from crime that the Government promised, but have failed to provide. On the contrary, it will 43 seriously undermine civil liberties in ways which again are unprecedented in modern history. Charged with upholding freedom within the law, the Government are eroding both freedom and the law. That is why we shall vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)
I am grateful to have caught your eye today, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to have the opportunity to make my maiden speech in an important debate.
I pay tribute to my predecessor, Phillip Whitehead, who over a period of 13 years served the constituents of Derby, North well and to the best of his ability. I believe that he is one of the lucky casualties of 9 June, in that he has quickly re-established his outside career. He now presents the ITV programme "Credo", a job to which I believe he is well suited, and I wish him well.
The constituency of Derby, North, as its name implies, comprises the northern part of the city of Derby and the adjoining areas of Spondon, Darley Abbey and Allestree. Someone once said that the north starts at Derby. While I am not sure that that is the case geographically, it is true that the people of Derby share with the people of the north warmth, friendliness and frankness and a dislike of unnecessary euphemisms. I am delighted and honoured to represent the constituency.
Industry in Derby is wide and varied. Despite some justified current concern about their future, Derby's two main industries remain British Rail and Rolls-Royce Ltd. —and long may that continue. Rolls-Royce, as many hon. Members may know, has recently announced the V2500 project, in which it hopes to partake together with four other nations in the development of a new civil aero engine. I hope that in due course my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, when he considers the application by Rolls-Royce for assistance, will decide to give this project Government support.
While, on this occasion at least, I do not wish to be too controversial, I feel that I should mention a matter that is giving rise to great anxiety in Derby. I am referring to British Rail's proposal, which is regarded by many as unnecessary, to demolish Derby railway station. Why the management of an industry, which in many instances correctly complains of a shortage of funds, should wish to waste millions of pounds on a new building when the existing one has elegance and character and could be refurbished has not been explained. I hope that before long BR will see fit to review its decision.
I share my right hon. and learned Friend's view on law and order and have every confidence in his general approach. Clarification and codification of the law in this area are long overdue. I believe that, generally, the Bill is to be welcomed, but I express some worry about the proposals in clauses 38 and 39. I feel that I should be failing in my duty to the House were I not to do so. My humble view is that 24 hours is long enough for any suspect to be held in custody without the matter being adjudicated upon by a magistrates court. It may fairly be said that these two clauses do not introduce any new powers, but surely, while we have the opportunity to examine an area of law, we should ensure that we achieve the correct balance. I am not convinced that we have achieved the correct balance with these two clauses.
44 It is not appropriate to say that detention should continue basically because the police wish to continue asking questions. If a defendant has chosen not to admit an offence within 24 hours, surely, in the absence of other factors, such as a non-permanent address or fear that he may commit further offences, he is entitled to be released, or at any rate to have his continuing detention adjudicated upon by magistrates. The right of a suspect to silence is not entirely compatible with allowing a suspect, under these circumstances, to be detained in custody.
Some hon. Members may say that the procedure is worth while if the longer period in custody leads to more confessions and, in turn, to more convictions, but surely we are interested in ensuring that only the guilty are convicted, and not those who are weak-willed or innocent, or who, in order to be released from the relatively oppressive surroundings of a police station, or the relative oppression of a police interview, decide, after a number of hours, to make a confession, irrespective of their guilt.
I have some experience of the various constabularies in England, having undertaken prosecution work for the Leicestershire constabulary and defence work in Leicestershire and Derbyshire. Most police are honest, trustworthy and have the correct regard for their job, but our duty is to protect against possible abuse.
I am talking, not necessarily of a dishonest officer, but of an officer who is prepared to cut corners and who may be tempted, when a suspect is not answering all his questions, to make promises. He may say, "Tell us you did it and you can have bail." He may say, "Tell us that you did it and you can phone your wife. I bet your children are wondering what has happened to you." One can understand, but not excuse, that attitude in a police officer who has had a trying day and is faced with a suspect who is not answering his questions and not admitting an offence.
Such a promise by a police officer increases in attractiveness the longer a suspect is under lock and key. Some may say that the ultimate safeguard is the court, and that when the suspect is charged and appears before the court he can say that his confession was made under duress, was not voluntary and therefore should not be taken into account in evidence, but can a defendant successfully make such an objection if he has a criminal record?
A rule of evidence in Britain is that, before a verdict of guilty, a tribunal, whether it is the jury at the Crown court or magistrates, does not know whether a defendant has a criminal record. He is given that shield of protection while the evidence is examined. A defendant loses that shield if he seeks in his defence to attack the prosecution's character. Would not an allegation by a defendant that a police officer promised him bail or said that he could see or contact his family lead to a defendant losing that shield? The court would then be told that he had been convicted of previous offences. What chance of acquittal does he have then if he seeks to dissociate himself from a statement made under duress? We must tread warily.
I support the Bill's general aims. I want the police to be given adequate power to help in the maintenance of law and order, but in our fight against crime we must be careful to maintain a balance between powers which allow the police to carry out their job and certain restrictions which protect the rights of the innocent. I am not sure that clauses 38 and 39 achieve the correct balance.
§ 5.2 pm
§ Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Knowsley, North)
I did not like seeing and hearing the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) in the Chamber today, for the simple reason that he has replaced a good friend of mine, Philip Whitehead, who was a noble servant of the House. However, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his maiden speech and thank him for his gracious references to his predecessor, who had a fine record as a civil libertarian and was the chairman of the all-party civil liberties group.
The hon. Gentleman by his speech today showed that he might be joining the dissidents in the House. The controversial nature of his criticsms will not have escaped the Home Secretary. We welcome the hon. Member to the House and to the civil liberties group. We hope to hear more from him on the subject in the long months and nights ahead in Committee.
The hon. Gentleman, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and the Home Secretary, spoke of balance. Everyone talks of the need for a balance between the powers, responsibilities and resources necessary for the police effectively to perform their job, and the rights and responsibilities of the individual citizen. It is a reasonable argument. It is difficult to draw the line between giving the police the necessary powers and retaining essential civil rights and liberties. That balance has already gone too far in favour of the police. They have excessive powers, and often abuse them. The evidence for that contention can be found in research by the Home Office, in the Scarman report and in the autobiography of the former Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Sir Robert Mark.
I acknowledge that the contention is arguable, but if one accepts that the balance has already gone too far towards the police, one must examine every proposal, such as the Bill, in terms of three questions. The first is: does it tip the balance back in favour of the individual citizen? The second question is: does it help sustain, restore and maintain the credibility of the police force and the public's confidence in it? The third question is contingent upon that. Will it result in a decrease in the number of offences and in the number of offenders detected, caught and convicted? I believe that the Bill fails on all three counts.
Clearly, the Bill does not tip the balance back in favour of the citizen. Indeed, it goes the other way. I acknowledge that it contains other elements — for instance, I welcome the independent prosecuting system. It makes a half-hearted attempt to introduce an independent element in investigations of complaints against the police. The Bill provides for tape recordings of interrogations of suspects. Perhaps by the time that the Bill is passed we shall be talking of video recordings. Such provisions are welcome in that they try to impose additional safeguards for the citizen, but they are half-hearted. The complaints system is not to be fully independent as my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) and I suggested in our minority report from the Select Committee. We shall have to wait a long time for an independent prosecuting system and for the tape recording of interrogations.
§ Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I accept the argument about tape recording. Experiments have taken place in Scotland and the average length of a tape recorded 46 interview is between four minutes and 10 minutes compared with non-recorded interviews which last between two and three hours.
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
Similar considerations apply to experience of stop and search powers and recording in those circumstances. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to use that instructive experience in Committee.
Even if one likes the liberal, progressive and constructive elements in the Bill, other provisions are half-hearted and we shall have to wait a long time before they are implemented. The Bill tips the balance further in favour of the police and that will erode further the credibility of our police force and public confidence in it. Consequently the level of crime will be increased, not decreased. As the Home Secretary will acknowledge, the effectiveness of our police force in detecting and catching offenders depends largely on the trust and co-operation of the public. Almost 100 per cent. of crimes are detected through the public's help and co-operation, which is crucial to the effectiveness of a police force. In that sense, instead of contributing to the maintenance of law and order, the Bill will in many ways rapidly undermine it.
An example is the proposal to extend stop and search powers. The police throughout the country will have the power to stop and search individuals on suspicion of them having committed an offence, having offensive weapons or being equipped for burglary. On the face of it, that is a reasonable proposal, except that such a system already exists in some parts of the country. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton said, we therefore have evidence of the way in which that power has been used. On almost every occasion, it has been thoroughly abused. That is not my evidence but the evidence of the Royal Commission, which had a survey conducted for its consideration that showed that only 10 per cent. of all those stopped in the Metropolitan police area were further proceeded against with charge or prosecution. The Policy Studies Institute, which has been quoted today, looked at 1 million stops in the Metropolitan area and found that only one in 12 of those stopped had been legitimately and properly stopped in terms of being further proceeded against on criminal charges.
The Home Office research and planning unit produced a report called "The Use, Effectiveness and Impact of Police Stop and Search Powers". That shows that only 8 per cot. of those stopped in the Metropolitan area are proceeded against. In the provincial areas of Greater London the figure is only 2 per cent. The report says that these are exaggerated figures because the police record only 50 per cent. of the cases where they stop people. That appears to be a great misuse of the stop and search powers affecting hundreds of thousands of individuals who are being improperly, inappropriately and unnecessarily stopped. According to the Home Office, the figures underestimate the scale of abuse by the police who already possess those powers.
The Home Office research unit goes further and says that the abuse is racial in many cases in that black youths are three times as likely to be stopped and searched in the Metropolitan area as are white youths, and are no more likely to be prosecuted as a result of the stop and search. That emphasises the inappropriateness of that procedure for those youths.
47 The police are not only abusing the powers by using them on a larger and more extensive scale than is warranted by the results of stop and search, but they are imposing on law-abiding citizens. They are creating a good deal of resentment and bitterness, which, on the evidence of the Scarman report after the Swamp 81 operation, was found to be a major contributing factor in what happened in Brixton. As some of my hon. Friends, if they catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will demonstrate, such powers were clearly factors in what occurred in Toxteth and Moss Side.
It is easy for the Home Secretary and his hon. Friends to say that the police need these powers. However, they do not say why the police need the powers and have given no evidence of the dire necessity for them. Even if they did, the reality in practice is that the powers are counter-productive, and do more harm by stirring conflict, bitterness and resentment than good in apprehending offenders and bringing them before the courts.
The Home Office research unit confirms this when it says that many of the offences are committed by otherwise law-abiding individuals who have no previous conviction for obstruction or assault, but who resent being challenged in the street and stopped and searched by the police.
For those good reasons, it is unnecessary for these powers to be extended, and it will be counter-productive to the relationship that should exist between the police and the public. Rather than decrease the incidence of law-breaking, the powers will increase it. That is beside the other objectionable features of the Bill, many of which should be opposed on principle, such as the powers of arrest, of detention, of intimate body searches or of searching the homes or workplaces of innocent individuals. They are objectionable in priniple and clearly wrong in terms of a pragmatic estimate of what their impact will be on the ordinary, decent, law-abiding, constructive members of the community who come up against police using these powers excessively.
Above all, we now want a series of proposals and measures that will boost the confidence of the public in the police. We want our police force to regain—if it ever had it — the confidence of the public, to retain its credibility and to be able to act as an effective and successful servant of the community. Therefore, we need from the Government a series of radical measures that will restore the confidence of the public in the police. We need to make the police force subject to greater democratic control and more publicly accountable. We want to ensure that complaints against it are seen to be properly investigated independently, so that it will inspire the trust and confidence of the public. If we could do that, we could then say that it may be necessary to give that police force additional powers to make it successful on behalf of the community that it serves. That is how we should be approaching this matter. That is the way to restore the links between the police and the community, rather than by following the route that the Government are taking, which will undermine the credibility of the police and destroy public confidence in them. That way will contribute, not to more law and order, but to less, to greater alienation of young people and to an increase in bitterness, resentment and law-breaking among that part of the community.
§ Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)
I shall pursue some of the points made by the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), but I first thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to say a few words on Home Office matters —the first opportunity that I have had to do so for some four and a half years.
You will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Parliamentary Private Secretaries share with the Whips and with you considerable restrictions on what they may say in the House. I hasten to add that I am not uttering a word of complaint. The enforced silence that I had to endure was a small price to pay for the privilege of working with my noble Friend Viscount Whitelaw, a man of enormous experience and wisdom, as well as of great kindness. History will regard him as one of our great Home Secretaries, both for the way in which he shouldered far more than his fair share of problems and emergencies of all characters, and for the wide range of legislation that he steered through Parliament during his period in office.
The Bill is a legacy of that period. It is, quite literally, unfinished business. I reject the caricature of the original Bill by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), as well as the travesty that he presented of this Bill. It is true that the original Bill was much improved during its passage through Parliament, thanks largely to the work of my hon. and learned Friend who is now the Solicitor-General, who went out of his way to accommodate critics and was then criticised for making so many amendments.
I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on taking advantage of the break in proceedings on the Bill and the passage of time to improve the Bill still further and to link with it further proposals. On behalf of the House I thank him and his officials for making available to us the clear brief, which would satisfy the most reasonable critic of the Bill. Unfortunately, there are one or two right hon. and hon. Labour Members who do not fall within that category.
There are few aspects of government that have been of greater public concern in recent years than that popularly labelled law and order, although I prefer the expression "freedom under the law", because that is what it is all about. People look to the Government to provide just that, and they have gone a long way to meet that demand.
The public expect the authorities to have adequate facilities to deal with offenders. The Government have introduced plans for more prison accommodation. That is not a new factor, because on several occasions the Labour Government brought forward plans for the introduction of more prison accommodation, but within a matter of months the plans were scrapped. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on the contrary has said that he intends to expand and accelerate such plans. The Government have introduced more attendance centres, instituted more detention centres, expanded the community service order and provided more probation officers.
Our constituents expect the courts to possess a range of adequate powers to deal with offenders. Several Acts passed during the previous Parliament gave the courts those powers. The public look to the Government to provide a strong police force, which has increased by about 9,500 since 1979.
In seeking freedom under the law, the public expect the police to have adequate and clearly defined powers to 49 detect and deter crime. Such powers should be balanced with proper rights for the accused. Confusion and lack of uniformity exist in this area, and these are matters which the Bill seeks to correct. In that respect, the Bill hangs together with previous measures.
I do not intend to detain the House by undertaking a detailed analysis of the Bill, as that will take place in Committee. I am pleased that the Bill retains the stop and search power. I suppose that criticism of the Bill was inevitable and predictable from the right hon. Member for Gorton and the hon. Member for Knowsley, North. I believe that the figures justify the powers, provided that they are hedged around with reasonable safeguards, as they are in the Bill.
The Bill clearly states that when stopping and searching, a police officer has to identify himself and say why he is carrying out the search, and a record shall be made of the search, which can be seen by the person searched. Such a provision does not exist at present. To use figures compiled by stop and search surveys carried out under the present law is inaccurate and misleading. The most accurate figures available are those relating to Scotland. They show that, of those who were stopped on the ground that there was reasonable suspicion that they were carrying offensive weapons. 27 per cent. were found to be doing so and proceedings followed.
We must ask whether the price that we pay in subjecting innocent people to the inconvenience and indignity of being stopped and searched is reasonable if a substantial number of people can he prevented from carrying out crimes. I believe that most of our fellow citizens would consider that to be a reasonable price.
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
On that criterion, perhaps everyone should be stopped, and then there would be no crime. My argument is as valid as that of the hon. Gentleman. Is he not aware that similar safeguards already apply? According to the Home Office research unit, many of the reasons given by the police for stopping and searching people, were silly or bad. The survey by the Policy Studies Institute showed that the police did not record more that 50 per cent. of the cases in which people were stopped and searched. In those circumstances, the safeguards in the Bill are meaningless, especially if they are not followed up by a sanction for breaching those safeguards.
§ Mr. Sims
A few weeks ago I attended a conference of fifth and sixth formers in my constituency—people of the age who could well be affected by such measures. A Miss Cohen, from the National Council for Civil Liberties, made a speech similar to that of the hon. Member for Knowsley, North. At the end of her speech one of the youngsters asked, "Why are you making such a fuss about the stop and search powers? Surely it is far better that the police should stop and search people, even if some are innocent, thereby preventing crime, than have to spend so much time detecting crime." That question was greeted by a round of applause from the youngsters present. I suggest that Opposition Members should consider what their constituents think about such an entirely reasonable measure. Surely it is far more important to deter than to detect crime.
50 On road checks, too, the Bill clarifies the law, and its provisions are more restrictive than the present regulations.
I was surprised by the change in the Bill as it relates to intimate searches. It seems to me to be entirely desirable that, in certain circumstances, the police should have the power to carry out such searches. I do not intend to deal with the detailed discussions that took place in Committee and are liable to take place again. It is obvious that men and women can conceal items about their person which only an intimate body search will reveal. The Bill rightly gives power for a senior officer to authorise such a search where reasonable grounds exist for believing that someone has a weapon about his person with which he could harm either himself or others.
I notice that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has dropped the power to make such a search where it is believed that other evidence is concealed. My right hon. and learned Friend mentioned that fact during his opening speech, but he did not give a reason. People may have drugs or gems concealed about their person which could not be detected without an intimate search, and which could be disposed of when they went to the lavatory. I think that the police should have that power, as they did under the previous Bill. I shall be interested to hear in Committee why my right hon. and learned Friend has dropped that provision.
I believe that the Bill is valuable and that it stands four square with other legislation that has emanated from the Home Office. The measure merits the support of the House.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I wish to relate what happened to one of my constituents last week in an incident that is highly relevant to the issues that we are debating. She left her flat, walked down the stairs, and crossed the road to the local shop. She was stopped in the street by two plain clothes police officers w ho did not say that they were police officers when they took hold of her arm. After a conversation, they informed her that she was being arrested but did not read her her rights before doing so. Her flat was searched without a warrant. She was not allowed to make a telephone call from the police station to which she was taken. She was strip searched, although not intimately within the provisions of the Bill, but as near as made no difference. The police officers refused to give their names and she was not informed, when she asked, upon being released, how to make a complaint about the way in which she had been treated. I should add that she was completely innocent of any crime. She had gone out simply to go to the shop, but she suffered an extremely distressing three-hour ordeal at the hands of the police.
Various police procedures and regulations were clearly breached in that incident and I am naturally taking the matter up with the local commander. The important point, however, is that the lady in question was extremely distressed and distraught as a result of the experience. When she came to me she almost broke down and wept. The Bill provides for a relaxation of the existing safeguards, which were clearly breached in that incident. The safeguards will not be completely abolished by the Bill, but they will be severely dented.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman's statements about the behaviour of certain police officers are most distressing, but as he is using the privilege of the House to make serious charges against them and as he is also availing himself of the complaints machinery, if the investigation shows that the story was not quite as he described it, will he apologise in the House to the officers whom he has aspersed?
§ Mr. Smith
As many Opposition Members have said, it is crucial to ensure that civil liberties are safeguarded. Many of the provisions in the Bill, such as intimate body searches, the ability to search premises without a warrant in certain circumstances and the power to stop and search, undermine civil liberties in two important ways.
First, the Bill provides a number of reserve powers which may be exercised in certain exceptional circumstances. The Home Secretary said that some of the powers would be used extremely rarely. Nevertheless, in matters of civil liberty, however slightly the door is opened, there is a danger of further erosion of our liberties.
Second, and even more important, the Bill is written on the basic assumption that every person who falls into the hands of the police is guilty. The way in which it is constructed and the powers that it confers on the police are designed to elicit guilt, not to protect innocence.
§ Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
For information and interest, will the hon. Gentleman support his last sweeping contention, that the Bill is designed to seek convictions rather than to protect the rights of the individual, by naming the powers to which he refers?
§ Mr. Smith
I shall happily do so. It cries out from virtually every clause in the Bill. Clause 17, for example, confers on a policeman the power to enter and search without a warrant premises in which an individual may be present, in which the officer may have reason to believe that an individual may be present, or in various other circumstances. Those powers are conferred on the assumption that the policeman is absolutely correct and right to follow that line of inquiry.
Every law passed by the House must be passed with a concern not just to catch the criminal but to protect the 52 innocent. It is my grave concern that the Bill goes too far in the direction of making it easy to catch the criminal but difficult to protect the innocent. That is why I oppose the provisions.
The Bill is deficient in other ways, too. Some have already been mentioned. It institutes a new body to which complaints may be made if police practice or procedure is deficient. Such a proposal is welcome in itself, but as it still falls to the police to carry out the investigation the process remains deficient.
The Government's commitment to setting up an independent prosecution service is absolutely right and proper. Such a system has operated for many years in Scotland with great success. It is a pity, however, that the setting-up of such a service is to be so long delayed.
The Bill also provides for liaison between the police and the community, but the liaison is purely advisory. The position in London, for example, will not be changed in the slightest. The Metropolitan police will remain responsible to the Home Secretary and not to anyone elected the by the people of London. My concern is to ensure that the police in London, the way in which they operate and the priorities that they observe, are in some measure accountable to the people of London. At present they are not, but they should be. The Bill makes no provision to improve matters in that respect.
Most important of all, the Bill in no way addresses the major problems of policing and the preservation of the law in inner city areas such as the one that I represent. Police response times in reported instances of violence and burglary in my area vary between half an hour if one is lucky and five hours if one is not. The clear-up rate for burglaries in London as a whole is 9 per cent. On council estates in my constituency it is 2 per cent. Those are the main areas of concern about the success rate of the police in their work in my area, but the Bill will do nothing to improve matters in that respect.
I wholeheartedly support the need for proper and sensible policing practices — the police must be supported in that regard — but the Bill will damage rather than enhance the prospect of improvement in that respect. I urge the Government in Committee to think again about their proposals because they are throwing away many of our cherished liberties. That is far too high a price to pay, especially when the gain is so fundamentally flawed.
§ Mr. Humfrey Malins (Croydon, North-West)
I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech on the important Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.
I should like, first, to pay tribute to my immediate predecessors in Croydon, North-West. Mr. William Pitt was elected at the 1981 by-election. In a short time he proved himself to be a devoted and hard working constituency Member. Before him, the constituency was represented for some years by Robert Taylor, whose untimely death led to the 1981 by-election. Robert Taylor was highly regarded in the House and much loved and respected by his constituents.
Croydon, North-West is an area of great character and variety. It is largely residential to the north in Norbury and Beulah hill and it stretches down to Thornton heath and Broad green, close to the centre of Croydon, where our commercial and industrial employment is concentrated.
53 Businesses and home owners are greatly helped and encouraged by the very low rates that are levied by our outstanding borough council. In 1983 Croydon has been honoured by a visit from Her Majesty the Queen to celebrate our centenary and by the elevation of our Member of Parliament for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Weatherill), to the Speaker's Chair in the House.
In north-west Croydon, large numbers of Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities have settled—and settled well. They contribute enormously to the area's business life and they hold in high regard the concept of the rule of law and the central roles of religion and family.
In common with other areas in south London, my constituency has its problems, some of which are in housing. Despite the outstanding work of the local authority, overcrowding and decaying buildings still exist. The many elderly people who live in north-west Croydon rightly remain worried at the level of violent crime. They look to the police and the House for reassurance. We can be proud of our police force, which is still the envy of the whole free world. In Croydon we are well served by a force which has introduced the neighbourhood watch scheme, thus involving the whole community in the detection and prevention of crime. The force recognises the real value of a loyal and effective bobby on the beat.
That brings me to what I hope are a few constructive points on the Bill. The Bill's purpose is to modernise and rationalise the law governing police powers. By and large, it is welcome, but I start with the preposition that a policemen is a citizen who is paid by the public to attend to the prevention and detection of crime. Thus, every power that is given to the police and is over and above the powers that are given to other citizens must be given with caution and only when absolutely necessary. The balance between giving the police too many powers and giving them too few is difficult, but we must achieve it to enable the police to do the job and to enable public confidence in them to be maintained.
I should now like to make a few detailed comments on the Bill. Clause 54 enables a suspect's fingerprints to be taken by the police by force — without the suspect's consent and without the authority of the court. I wonder whether that is right. I rather think that we should stay with the existing system, under which, if no consent is given, prints can be taken only as a result of obtaining a magistrates court order.
Clause 49 deals with intimate body searches. The Bill provides that, in certain circumstances, a police officer can carry out an intimate body search without the suspect's consent. I also wonder whether that is right. I should be happier if, when consent is given, such searches were always carried out by doctors. I should be happier still if they could not be carried out if consent were not given.
Clause 52 restricts a suspect's right to access to a solicitor. As I am a solicitor, I should declare a financial interest. Access can be delayed in the case of what the Bill calls "a serious arrestable offence". I accept that suspicion of the commission of a grave offence might justify the exclusion of a solicitor in certain circumstances, but I wonder whether the wider definition of "serious arrestable offence" is justified.
On general grounds for arrest, clause 22 provides that when any offence has been committed, a police officer may arrest a person if it appears to him that service of a summons is impracticable or inappropriate because the person has failed to furnish a satisfactory address for the 54 service of that summons. That could give rise to circumstances in which a man who was stopped for speeding or for careless driving and who could not provide an adequate address for service of a summons was arrested and taken into custody. I wonder whether clause 22 might operate unfairly against people who are genuinely homeless, students, those who work for trave1ling entertainments such as circuses and, indeed, tourists. I hope that it can be altered.
Every Bill that is presented to the House has its problems. I have tried to identify four areas that cause me some concern. There is much in the Bill which I welcome and which will be gratefully received by the general public. They are determined—as are we—that the battle against crime should be won.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
As one who only recently made his own maiden speech, my congratulating the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Malins) on his maiden speech is rather like one virgin congratulating another on her performance. I sincerely congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his maiden speech. It was made with incredible ease and elegance. He showed a nice feel for some aspects of civil liberties which Liberals and Social Democrats support.
My congratulations are, however, tempered with sadness because, by the hon. Gentleman winning, we lost a hard-working Liberal Member of Parliament. William Pitt's many hours of work in Committee on the previous Police and Criminal Evidence Bill are well known, especially to me, as I have had to take over his responsibility. It has taken me many days to read the papers on the subject which he carefully put together.
The Liberals recognise the need to codify the law on the collection of evidence, including collection of evidence by interview. It must not be forgotten that in many criminal cases, the most telling evidence is collected during interviews. We recognise also the need to codify the Law on the use of evidence that is collected during the investigation. We accept responsibly the need to strike a balance between the necessity of detecting crime, some of which, such as burglary, is now of epidemic proportion, and the need to protect members of the public from the abuse of power. Our fear about the Bill is that there remain many important areas in which there is the prospect of a serious abuse of power.
It is right to remind the House that Liberal Members abstained on the Second Reading of the previous Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. Welcome improvements have been made. I do not altogether share the reservations that have been expressed about the code on the questioning of suspects. Indeed, we welcome some of the drastic changes in that code; but we believe that the improvements are insufficient. We shall again suspend our judgment tonight, so that we can objectively examine the Bill's provisions after the measure has passed through Committee. We shall then be able to give a fully informed view after considering the complete debate.
The Bill still contains elements that have all the ingredients of a continuing conflict between youth, minority groups, the broader community at large and the police. In a short debate on such an important measure it is not possible to explore every aspect, but there is far too much slack in the Bill—slack which could be taken up by the police and abused.
55 Experience shows that the stop and search powers, if enacted, will focus on black youths and youths from minority groups in the cities. There is a strong argument that it will be less damaging to community relations if police, suspecting the presence of stolen or prohibited articles, were forced to use substantive powers, such as those contained in clause 21—which they might hesitate before using — rather than the swingeing powers contained in the stop and search provisions. Such powers would, for example, render an item such as my ordinary bunch of Ford car keys liable to the interpretation that they are an offensive weapon.
An appalling provision is in clause 4. It gives the police the power to set up random road checks in any town or city that has a high rate of serious crime. Clause 4(3)(b) must be amended. It cannot go on the statute book in its unamended form, because if it does there will be serious abuse by the police.
§ Mr. Alton
On Merseyside, a home is now broken into every 20 minutes on average, and a crime is committed every four minutes. Will not the Bill be totally irrelevant in trying to tackle that problem? Instead of alienating the police and the public by these new stop and search powers, surely there should be a return to community policing, the opening of neighbourhood police stations and an independent police complaints procedure which does not so closely identify the watchdog with the burglar as the system advocated in the Bill.
§ Mr. Carlile
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. The Bill does nothing to speed up the detection of burglaries. I intended too, to comment on the lack of any independent input into the investigation of complaints against the police that are made by the public from time to time. It is far from difficult to devise a scheme under which there could be an independent input into such investigation, and that is what we favour.
The random road check provision in clause 4(3)(b) raises the distinct possibility of conflict between the police and ordinary members of the public, as well as the communities against which the provision is aimed. Indeed. it may well remove the right of civil redress which is available to certain members of the public.
We are worried about the definition of journalistic material which is to be excluded from the rigours of the provisions on entry, search and seizure. Will acquisition of material for the purposes of journalism include the well-informed, non-journalist expert who writes the occasional column for a Sunday paper and who may well obtain highly confidential information from his contacts? We are firmly of the view that the Bill as drafted excludes that material from the protected categories and that it should be included, possibly by substituting for the definition of journalistic material a category covering material obtained for the purposes of "publication".
The intimate searches provision is puzzling. Presumably the medical practitioner employed by the police will be a police surgeon or deputy police surgeon. One assumes that such a person would not accept the job unless he believed it to be acceptable to carry out the forms of examination laid down by Parliament. It is extraordinary to suggest, as the Bill does, that when a police surgeon has refused to carry out an intimate search, a police constable can do so instead. That provision is 56 presumably intended to deal with occasions when a police surgeon is unavailable, but if that is the case the Bill should say so and not provide so much slack that can be abused.
We are extremely worried about the way in which the definition of "serious arrestable offence" is drawn. Clause 105(7) enables the police to regard what on any objective view is a trivial and minor offence as a serious arrestable offence and to detain members of the public for up to four days while they investigate such an offence. As Professor Zander commented in the New Law Journal on 4 November, that provision clearly needs further attention.
We have worries also about the provisions in clause 69 which perpetuate the principle that tainted confessions may be admitted as evidence. In a legal system such as ours, with codes on questioning and, as the Bill intends, on the use of evidence, it is wrong in principle for tainted confessions to be available to the prosecution as evidence in criminal trials. More serious than that is the provision in clause 69 which enables material obtained as a result of oppressive interviews—not the interviews themselves—to be used in evidence.
Clause 69(6) means that if the police use severe oppression—for example, physical violence or severe moral threats relating to the detained's spouse or children, which regrettably happens from time to time — the information obtained can be used and permitted in evidence. That is wrong. Indeed, we hope that it is something that the police do not want.
We should like to attack many other provisions in the Bill which we consider to be seriously in need of amendment. The Bill will need more than the blunderbuss approach which the Government are giving all the signs of intending to use. There was a mature and helpful debate in Committee on the previous Bill, as is plain to anyone reading the record. It is to be hoped that the signs that the Government wish to bulldoze the Bill through with as few changes as possible are misleading, and that when the Bill returns to the Floor of the House it will be much changed, and changed in a way that will enable us to support it.
§ 6.1 pm
§ Mr. Warren Hawksley (The Wrekin)
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the Second Reading debate on the Bill. On Second Reading of the previous Bill we discussed at some length whether we were getting the balance right. There were arguments about whether the balance should be in favour of more powers for the police or whether the civil liberties lobby should have additional safeguards. At that stage I argued that the balance was just about right. Unfortunately, the position has changed considerably.
This Bill is different from that which started its passage through the House a year ago. Compared to that Bill we are now seeing greater protection offered to the individual, but no increase in police powers. That is the result of the Committee stage on that previous Bill during the last Parliament. I had the pleasure to serve on that Committee. The way that the Government gave way to demands and pressure from the Opposition and from the various lobby groups was extraordinary. I have never known a Bill on which so much ground was given by a Government to the Opposition. I do not know whether that was because the Home Secretary of the day thought that the arguments were so just, or whether the approach of the election, 57 possibly taking place in the autumn, as most people thought at that time, meant that the Government wished to get the Bill on the statute book.
I am anxious that, with so much ground having been given at that stage, the Government should today, in asking for the Bill's Second Reading, reassure the House that they intend to give no more. It was interesting that the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) thought that the Government were trying to force the Bill through. I hope that he is right. I also hope that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, replies he will be able to give the assurances that the Government will oppose any further weakening of police powers in the Bill and that they will resist the arguments that will be put by those in the civil liberties lobby. We have already seen certain action groups opposing the Bill. Yet again the BMA has raised its head as it did when I tried during proceedings on the Criminal Justice Bill to secure an amendment to reintroduce corporal punishment. I then saw at first hand the BMA working hard to oppose my proposals. It was interesting that on that occasion the BMA did not speak for many members of the profession. Many doctors wrote to me to say that they disagreed with the view taken by their own professional body.
§ Mr. John Ryman (Blyth Valley)
In castigating the various pressure groups who succeeded in obtaining concessions from the Government when the Bill was last in Committee, does the hon. Gentleman include all the Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops?
§ Mr. Hawksley
I do. I hold no brief for them. I shall add them to the list of groups who opposed the Government's proposals and put pressure on the Government. The Opposition tried to make the Bill an issue at the general election but the majority of the public, irrespective of what pressure groups say, wanted the police to be given the tools to do their job. They want support for the police and they want the criminal defeated. It is important that police powers should be clearly specified and that those powers should be supported in the House.
We have seen in many ways changes beyond the realms of legislation. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said earlier that a great deal of the day-to-day running of a police force is dependent on the way legislation is implemented. I served for four years on the West Mercia police authority and I am fully aware that the chief constable is in a unique position. He is able to implement, within the law, his own policies. I am worried that we have seen a change that is not necessarily for the better.
Hon. Members have spoken about policing with consent. I agree with that, but I ask whether we have not gone too far in responding to the demands of minority groups. Lord Scarman's report, which has been mentioned more than once today, may have a lot to answer for in persuading people that that is the way we should go. I do not believe that we should consider reverse discrimination, or that two standards of policing for different groups in society is acceptable. I can give two recent examples. At the Notting Hill carnival a police officer was dancing down the street with a lady on his arm and a bottle in his hand. That would not have been acceptable in my area. If that had happened at the Wellington carnival in my constituency I am sure that the officer would have been put on a charge.
58 A second, more recent example was the press reports yesterday that the Thames valley police authority in the area of Greenham common has instructed its officers not to wear the Remembrance day poppy on their uniform as many officers do. We should not appear to be pandering to a minority for fear of upsetting those so delicate ladies who are camping out at Greenham common.
We should not alter our police system in any way to cater for minorities. We should treat everyone within the law in exactly the same way. The agencies of law and order are there for everyone — the minority and the majority. It is important that we should make it clear that we expect our police to treat the public in all our constituencies in exactly the same way. If the police are to be given the extra powers in the Bill, we must be sure that that happens. There must not be two standards. Everyone must be treated alike and we must be sure that we do not create any no-go areas in our cities.
The Government's record on the police, with the increase in the number of police officers, shows that the Conservative party is trying to improve the lot of the policeman and to support his fight against crime. I hope that the Government will continue to increase the number of police officers, and especially the number of special constables.
I was interested to hear the intervention of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) in which he spoke about community policing. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has forgotten that it was the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) who, as Home Secretary of the day, took policemen off the beat and put them into panda cars. I welcome the change that we are now seeing.
The Bill seeks to provide for other areas of the country powers that have already been given to the police in London and in many of our cities. Surely no law-abiding person can oppose the proposals in the Bill dealing with the power to stop and search. My constituents would rather be stopped and searched or have their car boot examined by a policeman than be stopped by a mugger or have their home or car broken into. We have to strike a balance, but I believe that at the moment the balance is tilted towards helping the criminal. That is done in the name of civil liberties and it is time now to reverse that trend. Only the villains complain: not people who are going about their lawful business. It cannot be right, for instance, that the police do not have the power to search for a murder weapon. We must give our police much more support.
Three safeguards in the previous Bill caused dispute. The fact that they have been changed is a credit to the new Home Secretary. I believe that the establishment of the Police Complaints Authority will be an improvement on the previous proposal that the only independent element should be the chairman of the complaints board. That did not go far enough and the new proposals, although they will need to be studied in detail, are a great improvement.
We hear that there are to be tape recordings of interviews with suspects. There was considerable debate in Committee on the previous Bill on that subject. I ask only whether we are sure that instead of lawyers arguing that their clients have made a statement under duress, they will not now say that someone has meddled with the tape. I am not a lawyer and I note with interest that there are many lawyers here for the debate. I hope that we shall be given an assurance that it is possible to guarantee that tapes have not been meddled with and that it will not be possible 59 to make such accusations against the police. Otherwise, we may find that we have changed to a system that is no better than the present and costs a great deal more.
I support the move towards an independent prosecution system. It works in Scotland and it seems a desirable change. My one reservation, which I am sure will be shared by most police authorities, relates to finance. Will extra resources be provided or will the Treasury reduce the grant to police authorities? If we are to give police authorities more money and thereby release police officers, who have been carrying out prosecutions, to get on with other work, I shall be in favour of the scheme. But I shall be worried if we reduce the budgets of police authorities by the amount that it is thought that prosecutions cost them.
I said earlier that there are areas in which I believe that the Government have moved too far in the concessions that they have given. One example is the definition of a serious arrestable offence. There should be an increase in the number of offences in the investigation of which the police are given additional powers. Clause 105 mentions serious injury to any person, but I should prefer to see a definition that specifically includes mugging and assaults. Those are clearly serious offences and the police should be given the powers that they need to investigate them.
I am also worried about the alteration in the proposals on intimate body searches. The new proposals will be a charter for drug smugglers. I believe that the concealing of drugs on a person's body would increase considerably if the present proposals become law. I hope that consideration will be given in Committee to returning to the original proposals.
I end as I began, by supporting the Bill and hoping that the Minister of State will reassure us that the Government will oppose any further weakening of the powers of the police and will not give in to further pressure from the active civil rights lobby.
§ Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)
Those who successfully fought the general election and met many of their constituents face to face on their doorsteps understand the widespread desire — after four years of Tory Government — that we should fight street crime, burglary and offences against the person.
When the then Home Secretary introduced the previous Bill, he declared with some pride that there were 9,000 more police officers in England and Wales than when he took office, and he added that they were better trained and better equipped than ever. Those facts were restated in the Conservative election manifesto.
However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said, there is another side to the coin. It is that the number of thefts has increased by 30 per cent. and the number of robberies by 52 per cent. The rise in the crime rate has far outstripped the increase in police numbers. The Conservatives' election promises have not alleviated the sense of unease in our communities about the increase in crimes of all descriptions.
We in the Labour movement will do all that we can to protect civil liberties, but we also believe that our streets should be free for people to walk in at night and that our senior citizens should not need to bolt their doors in fear 60 at the setting of the sun or fear to cross from one side of the street to the other at the sight of a gang of youths, however innocent their intent, coming the other way.
We are conscious, too, that those who live in fear of crime are among the poorer groups in society — those who live on the council estates and in the terraced houses of my constituency; those who are part of an ethnic community; those who are on low incomes; those who live near our football grounds and live in fear from one home game to another; those who board their windows because they fear for their safety and their property; and those who work on our bus routes late at night and have to suffer the consequences of hooliganism and lack of responsibility.
To all those groups of people, I say that we in the Labour party know and understand their problems. We understand their yearning for a sense of security in their homes and their desire to lead a life of serenity, free from fear and uncertainty.
The protection of civil rights and a concern for law and order are not mutually exclusive, and we are anxious that the narrow bridge that links the desire for better protection of the citizen to the police powers that impinge on the freedom of the citizen should not be crossed, with the result that those freedoms are eroded. After all, what is the price of freedom? Winston Churchill told the Italian people in 1944 that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
As we approach 1984, we should not be seen to be falling victim, however innocently, to Orwellian newspeak. This Parliament is capable of saying one thing, but enacting another—of saying that the police depend on public support, but giving the police powers that weaken that support, and of saying that the police rely upon the co-operation of ordinary citizens, but ensuring that such co-opertion is withdrawn by enacting legislation such as the Bill.
The previous Home Secretary said that the investigation of crime by the police must be fair, open and workable. The public perception of those powers must also be taken into account. The public perception of the police's handling of the Ripper case was hardly laudatory, to say the least, and the fact that there appears to have been hardly any effective follow-up in the Nilsen case when those who had nearly been his victims came forward with their stories is another cause for concern. The police do not seem to have used the powers given to them in the past. I wonder why they are seeking new powers.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
Will the hon. Gentleman concede that because, on occasions, a policeman does not measure up to the high standards of other members of the force, that is no reason for not giving the police the powers they need to conduct themselves properly in the main?
§ Mr. Bell
In 1610 John Donne said:Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.A person whose liberty is diminished in any way is a loser in our society.
Those of us who believe in an extension rather than in a diminution of civil rights will be discouraged by the Home Secretary's persistence with those clauses dealing with detention without charge. When the Bill was 61 published for the second time, The Times said of the clause that provides for a person to be held for questioning for up to 36 hours without charge and without judicial warrant:That form of detention is an extreme invasion of liberty. It should not be permitted to go beyond 24 hours without the intervention of a magistrate. And application to the court should be renewed for each further period of 24 hours up to the total of 96 hours allowed for in the Bill.A police officer of the rank of superintendent shall decide whether a person is to be held for between 24 and 36 hours without charge for offences of a serious nature. The danger is that that maximum will become an automatic minimum and that all persons will be held for 36 rather than 24 hours. I have no idea why the Secretary of State seeks to make magistrates redundant at an early stage in the proceedings. Even when brought before a magistrate at the striking of the 36th hour, the application to hold for a further period shall be made inter panes by a constable supported by an information. That is, there will be a private hearing on an essentially public matter. It is abhorrent to our concept of justice ft at an information should be laid in private rather than in public.
The Minister will no doubt quote section 43 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980, which permits people to be held in exactly those circumstances so long as they are suspected of committing an offence, and subject only to their being taken before a magistrates court as soon as practicable after 24 hours. But in this case the person will not come before a magistrate for 96 hours. If he is then not charged, what happens to co-operation with the police, to building good will between the public and the police, and to building a bridge between civil rights and the tracking down of serious crime? In those circumstances, the Bill is likely to be seen as a charter for harrassment.
Although there are provisions to deal with police discipline and complaints against the police, they will be of little consolation to a person who has spent 96 hours in police custody without being charged. Having tangled once with the sharp end of police bureaucracy, he will hardly be anxious to repeat the performance with the less sharp end.
I agree with the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) that there is no reason why a person should not be brought before a magistrate after 24 hours, with due rights of appeal thereafter if the magistrate agrees that he should be detained still further. To add an additional three days in police custody, making four days altogether before a charge may be laid, is an unacceptable erosion of civil liberties and is totally unnecessary to the thrust of the Bill. It smacks of the principle practised in continental countries, whose concepts of justice are the reverse of ours, and where a person who has fallen into the hands of the police is thought to deserve a few days in the cooler, even if in the end no charges can be laid against him. It is the judicial equivalent of there being no smoke without fire, even if the fire cannot be proved.
I shall oppose the Bill because it does little to meet the criteria of a free society and to win the support of the public. It is full of aspirations, but the perspiration is likely to come later. It will alienate large sections of the community and drive us further from rather than nearer to that noble goal defined and described by the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. On 28 August 1963, at the Washington memorial, he said:This is a beautiful symphony of the brotherhood of man.62 The Bill will not bring about such brotherhood but will have the opposite effect. It will not bring the police and the public closer together, but will drive them apart.
§ Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)
I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House for the first time during this important debate. The last time that a Conservative won Leicester, East was in 1935, so it is a great privilege and honour to be a Member of the House now, and I thank my electors for their trust in me.
I pay tribute to my predecessor, Tom Bradley, who would have celebrated 21 years this year as a Member of Parliament. After belonging to the parliamentary Labour party for 19 years, and being party chairman from 1975 to 1976, he joined the Social Democrats as a founder member in 1981. He worked diligently in the House and was the first chairman of the Select Committee on Transport. He is a man of principle who served his constituents well. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me in thanking him for his service and in wishing him well for the future.
The cathedral city of Leicester lies at the centre of England. The Romans came to Leicester as they built the Fosse way across the country from Exeter to the Wash, and they established it as a garrison town. It is a city full of history, rich in tradition, and surrounded by some of the best—if not the best—countryside in England. Of brief historical interest, Leicester offers a mixed list of past associations. It was the home of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who is remembered as a founder of our parliamentary system. King Richard III died there and was buried there after the battle of Bosworth field. The broken Cardinal Wolsey died there, and he has acquired a new immortality by having his name stamped on thousands of stockings and knitwear. The original Thomas Cook ran his first little excursion out of Leicester railway station.
With a population of just over 280,000, Leicester is the third largest non-metropolitan district in Britain. Its colleges of learning include the university and the polytechnic, both of which provide first-class education. There are three main groups of industry; hosiery and knitwear, including spinners, dyers and finishers: footwear manufacturing; and engineering, with Leicester at the forefront of innovation. Each of those leading industries has given Leicester its place in the economy, and they all emerged from small beginnings. Of special note is the growth in engineering, such as quarrying machinery at Frederick Parker plc, motorway lighting and television studio lighting at Thorn-EMI Lighting, and machine tool manufacture at Wadkins. It is right to mention those companies because they employ many of my constituents, a great number of whom I have visited recently. Small businesses play a vital role in Leicester and in the county, and more than 180,000 people are employed in such businesses, no doubt helped by Government incentives. I am proud to represent a constituency with such hard-working, skilled and loyal people.
Leicester has its own local evening newspaper, the Leicester Mercury, and BBC Radio Leicester, which was the first local station to be set up in Britain, will be 16 years old tomorrow.
Leicester, East, with an electorate of just over 67,000, has an immigrant population of about 14,000, mainly living in the Belgrave, Charnwood and Latimer wards. 63 Well supported by the local community are the Jam-E-mosque, the King Faisal mosque and the Shree Sanatan Mandir, which is the largest Hindu temple in Britain. The Asian and West Indian communities make a valuable contribution to life in the city. Community relations must be among the best in the country.
In our election manifesto we undertook to reintroduce the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. The Bill in its revised form will help the police to bring criminals to justice. It will also reinforce public support for the police by laying down clear rules for the proper treatment of all suspects. The Bill will modernise police powers, but in many instances it will restrict rather than increase them.
In particular, I welcome the tape recording of police interviews with suspects. This is being done on an experimental basis in my constituency, throughout the city of Leicester and in five other areas. I am glad that the whole of the interview is to be recorded. The provision of a complete record of the interview will protect both the suspect and the police officer. I am also satisfied that the Home Office guidelines for the field trials are fair and in the interests of justice. The interviews should take place only at a police station and after the person has been cautioned.
The core of the Bill is the definition and regulation of police powers of search, arrest, questioning and detention, both before and after charge. Lord Scarman stated that the power to stop and search was necessary to combat increased street crime. He was right. The police need to know whether the person concerned is carrying an offensive weapon. The new power will apply to the whole country, not just to parts of it.
The powers of entry, search and seizure needed to be modernised. It is right that search warrants will now be more detailed, and that the named officer will have to explain fully the grounds on which the application is made and satisfy the magistrate that a serious arrestable offence has been committed. All search warrants, valid for a month, will have to be returned for review. I am confident that police officers will exercise their powers of arrest only if absolutely necessary and in connection with offences punishable by five years imprisonment or more.
I feel some concern about clauses 38 and 39 which deal with detention without charge. The Bill permits the police to hold a person for questioning for up to 36 hours without charge, although admittedly the last 12 hours would be permissible only in the case of a "serious arrestable offence". The Royal Commission recommended that detention without charge should be limited generally to 24 hours. I should be unhappy about any detention without charge being extended beyond that period. I suggest that the police should be obliged to apply to the court at intervals of 24 hours, in exceptional circumstances only, to extend the period to the maximum of 96 hours. A recent Metropolitan police survey shows that more than 98 per cent. of persons arrested were released from police custody within 24 hours. The period of 96 hours, therefore, seems unnecessarily long. I hope that that provision will be amended in Committee. The Bill clearly defines "serious arrestable offences" as being only major crimes, such as murder, kidnapping and rape.
The new Police Complaints Authority has power to supervise the investigation of the most serious complaints against the police. This provision is welcome, particularly 64 to the police. However, my concern is for police officers on disciplinary charges. It is right that police officers should remain accountable, through both the courts and their chief constables, to the public and to the police. I am convinced that the initial hearings will be carried out in accordance with natural justice and that the chief officers will be scrupulously fair. However, I believe that an officer should be legally represented from the outset. An officer's career may depend on how he represents himself, as, unfortunately, allegations tend to stick. The Bill gives an officer a statutory right to appeal to an independent tribunal against dismissal or reduction in rank. That is a tremendous improvement, but it might be too late by then. I hope that those arrangements will be considered again in Committee.
There are over 120,000 police officers in this country, including 1,739 in Leicestershire. There should be a common code of practice within the criminal justice system. Public confidence in the police springs fundamentally from the knowledge that they apply the law impartially. Our demands on the police, however, are conflicting. We want them to reduce crime, but we become alarmed when they seek to spread their powers in order to do so. The Bill will ensure that suspects are fairly treated under the new guidelines.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary recently launched an overall strategy for the fighting of crime. Criminals will now be deterred by stiffer sentences on conviction. The law will be enforced, and the punishment will fit the crime. The law-abiding public will have nothing to fear from these new measures, which will help the police to make Britain a safer place in which to live. I shall support the Bill in the Lobby tonight.
§ Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)
It is ironic that it should fall to me to offer the congratulations of the House to the new hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels), but it is also a pleasure, because I used to live in Leicester and work in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The House will have been delighted by the hon. Gentleman's obvious affection for his constituency. I was very pleased that he referred to the great contribution made in Leicester by the ethnic minorities. I, too, can personally testify to the importance of that contribution. I am sure that the House will enjoy listening to the hon. Gentleman on many occasions.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) pointed out that during the past few years there had been an unacceptable continuation of an increase in the crime rate, especially of street crime in the inner cities. I need few lessons in the misery caused by that form of criminality, because many of my constituents become the victims of such crimes. Sadly, the Bill will do little to abate those problems or to offer hope.
I want to concentrate on the stop and search powers. The Moss Side area falls within my constituency. Moss Side knows only too well what price the community has to pay when the relationship of trust between the police and the community breaks down. It knows what price the community paid in the summer of 1981.
The residents of Moss Side are, therefore, keenly aware of the damage that can be done in an inner city area by the stop and search powers.
Since the riots in 1981 a debate has been taking place locally, throughout the country and in this Chamber about 65 the balance that must be drawn between the rights of the individual and the need to protect society. However, it is fair to point out that the police force has a dynamic and a discipline of its own. It has its own culture. We must remember that and draw a similar balance between the rights of the individual and the powers that we give the police force. Mirroring to some extent what other hon. Members have said, I submit that we can police our country—and especially our inner cities which have the most contact with the police—only by consent and trust.
If we are to talk meaningfully about consent and trust, we have to understand that both the powers of the police and the means of operating those powers must be accepted by those innocent people subjected to the exercise of those powers. In all conscience, I do not feel that that can happen with the stop and search powers.
In itself, stop and search is a fundamental threat to individual liberty. It exposes the individual to a humiliating experience at the hands of the police. In my view the House will need a great deal of convincing, even if we talk simply about a general abatement of individual liberty, that the stop and search proposals in the Bill are not flawed in other ways.
The stop and search powers are inefficient and almost certainly irrelevant in combating crime. They are open to widescale abuse. I do not suggest that it will happen, but the possibility exists. Perhaps most importantly, there is the potential under the stop and search powers of a rapid and serious deterioration of relations between the community and the police at the very time when many communities in our inner city areas are recovering slowly but surely from the events of the summer of 1981.
Hon. Members have already referred to the published evidence which suggests that very few of those stopped and searched are ultimately brought before our courts. The figures given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton suggest that fewer than 10 per cent. of those stopped and searched are charged. That simple statistic ought to raise very serious doubts in our minds. The Scarman inquiry also concluded that during Swamp '81 in Brixton, fewer than 8 per cent. of those stopped and searched were ultimately charged. We are asked to accept the unacceptable, in that we are prepared to violate the liberty of individuals in nine out of 10 cases of people subjected to stop and search.
I also made the charge that such operations were basically irrelevant in combating crime. That is borne out by the Scarman report, which talks about the effect of saturation policing and points out that, if anything, the effect is very temporary. Lord Scarman even hypothesises that the main effect may simply be to move crime from one locality into another.
If we accept that stop and search can operate as a deterrent only if people believe that there is a chance of their being caught, and even accepting the figure quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton that in some areas there is a one in two chance that an individual will be stopped in the space of a year, is not sufficient to be a deterrent, but obviously it is sufficient to be grossly offensive to the individuals involved and to us as a society.
In my view stop and search is irrelevent in our fight against crime. Instead, we should look at the powers of the police to arrest if suspicions are sufficiently great to warrant it.
I have also suggested that stop and search may give rise to abuse. People, including many of my constituents, feel 66 that the stop and search powers in the Bill are an attempt to resurrect those which operated under the old sus law, which we abolished only a few years ago. The similarity is obvious. In both cases the degree of suspicion that the police officer is required to have is tenuous and minimal. It allows him to operate the powers almost at no cost.
Only those who believe that harassment never occurs can be genuinely sanguine about the introduction of stop and search powers. Lord Scarman accepted that harassment occurred. A report published recently by the Greater London council's police support committee suggested that harassment by police officers on a racial basis was sadly on the increase. It commented:A pattern emerges from the evidence in which arrest for a trivial matter rapidly escalates due to the abusive, aggressive and sometimes violent manner in which it is conducted.In other words, as a tool of harassment stop and search can become self-fulfilling in leading to arrest, not on charges related to the original suspicion, but precisely because of the method of operation of the stop and search powers.
I also find it hard to accept that the so-called safeguards claimed to be built into the Bill will achieve anything. Already doubt has been cast on those safeguards, and perhaps all I need add is that since there is no significant penalty for non-compliance, I do not believe that there is any great incentive for the police to take them seriously. For those reasons I am convinced that the potential for abuse remains a matter for concern.
I end with what I regard as the most important argument against the stop and search powers, since I represent a constituency with a large ethnic population. If these powers are introduced across the country and continue in those areas where they already operate, they will jeopardise police-community relations. We have heard already that on many occasions the overwhelming majority of those stopped and searched are innocent. The high probability is that they belong to certain well-defined groups—they are black, young and male. It is obvious that the young black male will feel that there is harassment. The perception of harassment will exist. As long as it does it is almost certain to mean that the belief throughout the community will continue.
Lord Scarman's report talked of the hostility of the young towards the police. The Hytner report, which looked into the riots in Greater Manchester, talked of positive hatred. Lord Scarman said:The hostility affected older members of the community who, hearing the stories of many innocent young people who had been stopped and searched, began themselves to lose confidence in the respect for the police.My fear is that the position will deteriorate. That is why proposed stop and search powers are no simple academic debating point in Moss Side. There is widespread anxiety, and not only amongst members of the young black community, that if this part of the Bill becomes law it will jeopardise relations between the police and the community.
The stop and search powers should be rejected. They are an affront to our society, because they represent an unacceptable erosion of individual liberty, but in our inner city areas they will seriously flaw any attempt to operate policing by consent.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
The importance of the Bill is well illustrated by the fact that four hon. Members have seen fit to make their maiden 67 speeches about it. The House has been fortunate to hear the eloquent way in which they have expressed their support — my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) especially—or their anxieties.
I confess to a sense of déjà vu, having been involved in infinite debates on the Royal Commission's report, on Second Reading of the Whitelaw Bill, if I may describe it as such, and in a Committee stage which set a record by having 46 sittings and debating nearly 1,000 amendments and new clauses.
In a sense, we have been here before. But if the music is the same, the conductor and the orchestra are different. I welcome the presence of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and congratulate him on the way in which he has struck the right balance in the Bill. I am certain that the House—I speak as well for the Police Federation — will also welcome the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd) who, as Minister of State, has already had a meeting with the federation, on which he made a powerful impression, as did the Home Secretary.
While I am in this welcoming mood, may I welcome the arrival on the Home Office scene of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) who, if only for constituency reasons — we all recall the Moss Side riots — has an intimate acquaintance with the problems of law and order. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) also served on the original Standing Committee with great distinction. I am sure that he will contribute valuably to these proceedings.
I regard this Bill as a civil liberties measure. It provides for civil liberties in two particular ways. First, the main civil liberty for which the people yearn is the quiet enjoyment of their lives and property. They want to be able to walk the streets in peace and not to be mugged or raped. The Bill goes a considerable way, as the Royal Commission recommended, to sustain the basic civil liberty for the quiet enjoyment of our citizens' lives. Secondly, there must be concern for the civil liberties of the individual against oppression, and the debate has been much concerned about that interface between police powers and the civil liberties of the citizen.
There can be little doubt that the Bill fortifies civil liberties in a number of ways: for example the commitment to introduce tape recordings; body searches, which so upset the medical profession, will be confined to searches to prevent, for the most part, the concealment of weapons; the new definition of "serious arrestable offence" is much simplified and made more precise; the many exclusions in respect of searches for confidential data concerning the medical and caring professions — whatever that means, because the police are a caring profession, in my submission — and journalists; an independent prosecution system; and a new Police Complaints Authority.
These are substantial additions to our safeguards for civil liberties, though, if I have the doubtful pleasure of again serving on the Committee, I shall express reservations about each one of them. However, on Second Reading it must be accepted that the Home Secretary has gone a long way to fortify both the individual civil liberties with which hon. Members have been concerned and the broader civil liberties of the general public.
68 In short, my right hon. and learned Friend has struck the right balance between clarifying and, where necessary, strengthening the powers of the police to investigate crime and apprehend and charge wrongdoers, while defining more clearly the limits of police authority and the rights of subjects in custody or under interrogation, and providing for the independent surveillance of complaints against the police.
It is essential that the Bill speedily becomes law. The volume and violence of criminal activity and the public's growing anxiety make it imperative that the criminal law, which in recent years has been tilted in favour of the criminal and has handicapped the police, should be tilted back in a way that will provide for the more effective support of crime prevention and detection and the punishment of offenders.
§ Mr. Bermingham
Will the hon. Gentleman concede a point made in the monthly magazine of the Police Federation for October, which he has no doubt read fully, in a talk given by a Mr. Tanner to police superintendents dealing with the independent investigation of the police? Does he agree that there is considerable feeling in police circles that the independence of the investigation would enhance the standing of the result?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I had intended to deal with that matter. Most speeches today have been short and I do not wish mine to be the exception, although it may be.
The Government, despite striking the balance to which I referred, must nevertheless expect a great deal of opposition to the Bill. It will come not only from Labour Members but from many of those sincere though misguided representatives of doctors, clergy and journalists who sought, and to some extent succeeded, in emasculating the previous Bill.
Again, I fear, we shall see a picture being painted of a police service whose members are licking their lips at the prospect of being able to perform intimate body searches of prisoners without medical assistance, to break down the doors of anyone's home, armed with a new kind of search warrant, and take away anything they find there, and arbitrarily to seize the private and confidential records of doctors, accountants, priests and social workers. Such a picture represents a grotesque caricature of the Bill and the police service.
Throughout the Bill, wherever there is a proposal to create a new power for the police, there is a corresponding proposal to give to the citizen a safeguard that previously was not available to him. An example of that is the proposed powers of stop and search. They do no more than confirm, and extend to the rest of the country, powers that have been available to the Metropolitan police for 150 years. Thus, if a policeman stops and questions suspects in the street, he will, after the Bill becomes law, be able to do so only on grounds that he can justify to a court of law. He will also be required, for the first time, to state his name and purpose for searching and his reasons for doing so. Henceforth, too, a constable will be expressly forbidden to require a suspected person to remove his coat, jacket or gloves in the street, and if ever there is reason to believe that the person to be searched may not be able to understand the reason for the search — for example, because he does not understand English or is deaf or mentally handicapped — the constable, before proceeding, must give an explanation to some other person who is with the suspect.
69 The same scrupulous balance between police powers and civil rights is provided in respect of warrants to obtain confidential files in the case of serious arrestable offences. Warrants will not be available to the police except with the authority of a court, and the judge, before granting the order for such a warrant, will have to be satisfied that a serious arrestable offence has been committed, that the information sought by the police relates specifically, not generally, to that offence and that other methods to obtain the evidence have been tried without success or have not been tried because they would have been bound to fail. The judge must be satisfied on all those points before granting a warrant, and then, even when the warrant has been issued, the person concerned will have a seven-day period of grace before having to produce the evidence, with a statutory right of appeal against the order to higher court. There is not much of a police state there.
I come to the other side of the coin, and the House will understand that I speak on behalf of the Police Federation. First, there is the question of police complaints. I remind the House of the statement made at the 1982 conference of the Police Federation by the previous Home Secretary, now Lord Whitelaw:Justice for the police officer is no less important than justice for the complainant.It is against that criterion that I must judge the proposals in the White Paper which has been issued with the Bill on complaints against the police. I shall illustrate some of the problems that can arise.
In Oxford, a young police constable found himself at the scene of an accident. An ambulance crew spent an estimated 40 minutes dealing with the leg injuries of a badly injured man, even though it was obvious that he was suffering from serious head and internal injuries from which he subsequently died. The young police officer suggested, perhaps rather bluntly, that no more time should be wasted on the man's leg injuries and that the ambulance crew should get the mar, to hospital. A complaint was made about the officer's incivility. For that complaint he was taken before the chief officer and punished.
In Durham a deputy chief constable has recently been conducting a purge on breaches of discipline in respect of the copious force orders on entries in police pocket books. In one instance an officer faced a number of charges stemming from discrepancies in the entries that he had made in his pocket book. One of the offences, for which he was disciplined, related to an order and an entry in his book that was more than six years old.
I have given two small examples of how police discipline can be conducted in a manner that I believe all Members on both sides of the House will regard as hopelessly out of date in an age of industrial tribunals and the rights that this House has given to all employees or servants before their superiors.
A more glaring example was provided by the recent case of two constables in London who went on trial for having shot Stephen Waldorf. I say nothing about the trial, because the outcome has been decided. However, those two men must now face disciplinary charges. No doubt that is right. But the deficiency in the police discipline system is that they will be examined, whereas the wider responsibility of their superiors and the policy of the force may not be examined within the same proceedings. By any measure, too, the comments that have been made since the case was decided, by both the press and Members, in 70 demanding that these officers be sacked, though found to be innocent, must have prejudiced any possibility of a disciplinary tribunal being conducted objectively.
I welcome the efforts of my right hon. and learned Friend and his Department to meet some of the serious problems that were raised in Committee when the previous Bill was being considered. I raised some of them on behalf of the Police Federation. I welcome the fact that for the first time — in this instance, the federation takes a somewhat different view from me—the Home Secretary is taking power to issue guidance to chief officers on the conduct of all disciplinary proceedings. That power will be statutory.
Chief officers will also be statutorily required to have regard to my right hon. and learned Friend's guidance. I have no doubt that he will include in it the requirement that the proceedings are conducted in accordance with the rules of natural justice. That means that hearsay evidence will be excluded and that witness statements will be edited to remove matter that is prejudicial to the accused. The right of silence of a police officer under discipline is also to be secured, and I welcome that. I am especially pleased, too, that the White Paper includes the phrasethere shall be a right to consult a friend"—that is specifically the federation—at all stages.There are some material improvements.
I welcome, too, my right hon. and learned Friend's attempt to improve the nature of the police appeals tribunals. It was my own suggestion that they should be extended to include a third member, who should be from the staff side of the service. I believe that the inclusion of such a person will be helpful.
There remains, however, within the joint central committee of the federation the gravest disquiet about the totality of the package. The federation asks me to reiterate its commitment to the policy that is set out in the joint document of the federation and the Law Society, which asks for an independent investigation of complaints against the police coupled with—this is its quid pro quo—the right of legal representation at all disciplinary hearings. That is the federation's position, and I am bound to say that, until it gets that result, many members will remain dissatisfied.
The Bill is proposing, in effect, a two-tier disciplinary system. In some instances a lawyer will be in attendance as of right for charges that go to the tribunals because of the possible nature of the punishment. However, there are many other charges that can be brought against a police officer that will not carry with them the right for the officer to have a lawyer in attendance on his behalf.
The federation remains opposed to the proposal that has been brought into the Bill—I too am opposed to it—to enable chief constables to deal with so-called minor criminal charges through the disciplinary system without any reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The proposal goes against the undertaking that was given to me specifically in Committee by the former Home Secretary Viscount Whitelaw, when we were considering the previous Bill. The federation rightly said that no criminal charge should be preferred against a police officer unless the director has been able to consider the matter and form a judgment, as he may do in the case of other citizens, on the merits of the case. It is a mistake that the Bill has dropped the provision for police officers to be prosecuted 71 for criminal offences without reference to the DPP but has left the disciplinary alternative intact. I find that unacceptable.
The Bill's provisions on the Police Complaints Authority are so wide that allegations against the police will be able to be made by virtually every public agency, including, by definition, the GLC police committee, all the monitoring groups and all or some of what might be described as the stirring-up groups. Most of those bodies, too, will be able to process their complaints to the board through lawyers, who will be paid out of public funds. If a complainant goes to a pressure group, he will be supported by a lawyer from the outset, but the police officer will have to wait until he has been sacked or has lost his rank before any lawyer can appear on the scene on his behalf. That is a double standard that both sides of the House will reject.
I turn in conclusion to a new threat to public order—a new challenge to the authority of the democratic state. This was well described by a leading member of Christian CND in The Times this morning. He said that civil disobedience "has become holy obedience." He proceeded to justify the breaking of the law, violence against public property and the suborning of public servants — police officers or soldiers—on the ground that it is justified by the gospels
This is not the time or the place to debate religion, but as we debate the further clauses of the Bill, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will bear in mind the difficult task confronting the police when they are surrounded by large numbers of people who maintain that, because they feel passionately about peace, education, unemployment or any other matter, they are justified in arrogating to themselves the right to break the law and challenge the authority of this House. If we lived in an unfree society, where there was no opportunity peacefully to change the Government, to alter the law or even to change the election system, there would indeed be justification for civil disobedience. Indeed, I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend and I would be among the disobedient.
However, we do not live in such a tyranny. We live in a country where, for all its faults, there is a right to protest, to dissent, to demonstrate, to change a Government by election, to create new parties and to alter the political system by peaceful means. So where we have an attack on the foundations of the very system that alone safeguards that protest and dissent, we pass the proper limits of protest in a free society. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will recognise the problem that this challenge poses to the British police.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I agree with only the early remarks by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) that a Bill providing for the codification of police powers could, at least in principle, provide some protection for individual citizens' rights by making more generally understood the extent of the powers and by removing any obscurity. It is true that the police powers of arrest, detention, questioning and of the use of evidence gained by entry and search are scattered throughout inumerable statutes and in the common law in a way that makes it extremely difficult for the citizen to know his rights and the limits of these police 72 powers. To that extent, I welcome the Government's attempt to pool these disparate elements and to render them into a compendious and understandable form which itself should go some way towards clarifying the liberties of the subject.
The Government, however, in translating their proposals into the Bill, have fallen short of what is necessary. It was a pity that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), in opening the debate on behalf of the Labour party, did not choose to give his or his party's assent to the desirability of such a codification. He rested his entire speech upon criticisms of particular provisions in the Bill, many of which are sustainable.
I have two specific criticisms, but I believe that a general test of principle must be applied. The test that I seek to apply is that of Commissioner Newman of the Metropolitan police who has said more than once that the essence of fighting crime is fostering confidence between the police and the public. The Bill contains a number of proposals that will not foster confidence between the police and the public. Unless some of the new powers, especially those relating to stop and search, are used with great sensitivity, the Bill could exacerbate the position between the police and the public. I believe that the police do not wholly welcome this protracted debate about the extent of their powers, although I am afraid that they must suffer it. It is necessary to seek greater definition. The sooner the debate is concluded, the better will the police be satisfied and the greater will be the benefit to the public.
In our anxiety about the scope of some of the new powers, I believe that it is reasonable to pray in aid the unpublished report of the Policy Studies Institute, to which the right hon. Member for Gorton and the Home Secretary referred. I regret that the report is not before the House today, but it will be available before the conclusion of our discussion. The report shows that, at least in the metropolis, there have been frequent departures from the rules affecting evidence, that bullying tactics have been used in interrogation, that there has been abuse of the powers of arrest and stop and search in London and, above all, that there has been persistent and pervasive racial prejudice in the exercise of these powers. It is against that extremely worrying background that one looks at proposals to extend police powers.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds said that the stop and search powers are not new. That is only partially true; they are not new for the country at large. We have experienced them in the metropolitan area with stolen goods and in Scotland since the Criminal Justice Act. There has been some disquiet about the exercise of these powers in Scotland and in the metropolis. We do not have the protection of a code of practice to regulate the use of the new powers. Although I accept that there is a case for the use of these powers and giving the powers to the police generally, that case could fall if it leads to a deterioration of relations between the police and the public. I should have liked to hear the Home Secretary's willingness to accept amendments and whether he has been persuaded by the judgment of the House that he has the balance wrong.
The Home Office appears to suggest that the last words have been said. I hope that the Home Secretary will make it clear that there is scope for further consideration at least. I also hope that he will agree that the powers will be kept 73 under close scrutiny and that if in practice they prove to be detrimental in the way that I suggested he will not hesitate to legislate to restrict their use.
The Bill extends the powers of arrest to preventan affront to public decency; or … an obstruction of the highway",when the officer reasonably thinks that arrest is necessary to prevent injury to persons or property and when a person is suspected of having committed a minor offence and does not identify himself adequately. In three out of four of those cases the arrest is preventive and that carries risks. There is no rule of a general nature that a summons should be preferred when possible. It seems that in some cases at least trivial action could lead to arrest.
However, the most serious infringement of individual civil liberties is involved in the proposed powers of detention. The Bill's provisions must be amended in Committee. A number of Government Members in their maiden speeches have spoken of their doubts about detention for more than 24 hours without recourse to the courts. The matter is not light. We do not accept the need for detention for up to 96 hours for serious arrestable offences and for up to 36 hours without recourse to a solicitor. A code is intended to govern the operation of such powers, but it is not enforceable at law and does not provide sanctions other than disciplinary sanctions when the powers are abused.
The Home Secretary seems to have got the existing law wrong in relation to questioning in detention. The Royal Commission spelt out the law clearly on page 22 of its description of law and procedure. Lord Justice Lawton said of the case of Regina v Houghton and Franchiosy:The Court wished to state 'in the clearest possible terms that police officers can only arrest for offences. If they think that there is any difference between detaining or arresting, they are mistaken. They have no power, save under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976, to arrest anyone so that they can make inquiries about him … Maybe the police should have powers to detain for inquiries such as this. They have not got them now. Parliament might have to decide whether they should have them. The courts cannot do so'.
§ Mr. Brittan
That case is different from the case that I cited. The case that the hon. Gentleman cites means that there is no such thing as anything other than an arrest under the circumstances described. The arrest can take place on the basis of reasonable suspicion. In the absence of that an arrest is unlawful. The question then arises of what is lawful during the period after the arrest') Then comes the question of what can be done. The case that I cited showed that the Court of Appeal supported with equal clarity the view that if the original arrest is lawful according to the criteria that I have just enunciated it is lawful to ask questions for the purpose of establishing or negating the initial view that there were reasonable grounds for believing that an offence had been committed. That is the full statement of the law as it stands now.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I accept that that is a fuller and more accurate statement of the law as it stands than the Home Secretary's statement earlier in reply to my intervention. However my statement of the law was a direct quotation from the Court of Appeal. If the Home Secretary wishes to quarrel with Lord Justice Lawton he should take his arguments elsewhere.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I have already given way, but I shall gladly do so again when I have finished what I am about to say. The point at issue is the meaning of clause 38 which provides thatthe detention of that person without charge is necessary to secure or preserve evidence relating to an offence for which he is under arrest or to obtain such evidence by questioning him".That is the novelty and that is what is unacceptable.
§ Mr. Brittan
The hon. Gentleman does himself less than justice by suggesting that I was disagreeing with Lord Justice Lawton. I was explaining that the Court of Appeal case that I cited and the case that he cited were not consistent but dealt with different aspects. My argument is that to cite one without reference to the other is less than complete. Collectively, Court of Appeal cases make it clear that where there is power to arrest on the basis of reasonable suspicion there is a lawful right to ask questions to establish whether the suspicions are justified. The hon. Gentleman may think that the law is right or wrong, but that is the starting point from which to proceed.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I can assume only that the Home Secretary's sensitivity is recognition and awareness of the force of my argument—that clause 38 introduces a new power to enable a police officer to detain if hehas reasonable grounds for believing that—(a) the detention of that person … is necessary … to obtain … evidence by questioning him".That matter will be pursued further in Committee.
Other matters are of equal importance. Notable is the provision relating to access to a solicitor and whether it conforms with article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That provision may well be struck clown because it does not conform with our international obligations.
I promised to be brief, but I should have taken less time if the Home Secretary had not intervened so often. The Bill contains new proposals for dealing with complaints against the police. They are a substantial and important movement in the right direction, but the movement does not go far enough. There is much to be said for providing, as the Bill does, for independent supervision of complaints against the police, but I do not comprehend, nor do commentators in The Times, the Financial Times and other newspapers, why the Home Secretary has boggled at involving an independent element in investigations of the police.
It is not necessary to go the whole hog. Indeed I should resist strongly any suggestion that a police force should be established to police the police. An independent element in complaints against the police is a step that can be taken without difficulty. It is bizarre not to make police participating in an inquiry answerable to the Police Complaints Authority. The reasons in the Government's White Paper are far from compelling. The argument that a policeman not engaged in conducting an investigation could not be deployed on other work cannot be sustained. Furthermore, it is argued that the inquiries will be conducted nationally and not regionally. That, too, must be a mistake. The investigation will, for the most part, be conducted locally, although supervised nationally.
I regret that there is not time to deal more fully with the arguments that should be deployed on the Bill, but this debate has already shown the widespread disquiet in the House about a number of particular measures that are embodied in the Bill, which will undoubtedly lead to careful and continued probing in Committee.
§ Mrs. Marion Roe (Broxbourne)
It is a considerable disappointment to many, including its supporters, that the Labour party is in complete opposition to the Bill. This can only show that it is out of touch with the vast majority of people, who are demanding greater protection for themselves and their property against the criminal. Public confidence depends on the ability of the police to catch criminals and bring them to justice. The tone of the Labour party's argument is based on the premise that every policeman is nasty, hostile and crooked, and must never be given powers because these will be abused.
If one uses the Labour-controlled GLC as an example, one can see that any power can be abused, but one cannot set up criminal law on that basis. Not only must the leadership of the police give clear instructions to the force that it must act under the code of professional ethics, but the Bill provides for a Police Complaints Authority to be set up, with wide-ranging powers to supervise the investigation of complaints against the police.
There is no doubt that the Royal Commission on criminal procedure, which was set up by the Labour Government, was right in saying that both the powers of search and those of arrest were in a chaotic state and must be rationalised and modernised. If we want better detection rates, the police must be given basic powers of arrest. In giving statutory definition to the powers at the disposal of the police and the rights belonging to the citizen in the relevant circumstances, the Bill strikes a new balance between the requirements of law enforcement and protection from repression, as many of my hon. Friends have said.
The further points that I shall make in this debate arise from my experience as the former Conservative leading opposition spokesman on the GLC's police committee, of which I am still a member. During the progress of the previous Police and Criminal Evidence Bill through Parliament, which was a casualty of the June general election, the Labour GLC orchestrated the Labour party's national opposition to the Bill and was the source of massive anti-Police Bill propaganda, at enormous cost to London's ratepayers. Over 450.000 leaflets were sent out for mass distribution, together with 35,000 copies of a special issue of the GLC publication "Policing London". Even a conference was organised, called "Policing by Coercion", to brief Labour party activists, including a working group being set up to discuss campaigning against the Bill in the community after the new law was passed. Now, the whole charade is about to start again.
Last July, before the content of the new Bill was known, the Labour GLC granted over £38,000 of London ratepayers' money to an organisation called "Campaign Against the Police Bill", in respect of a period of six months for the salary of two full-time workers, printing, advertising, publications, rent, telephone, postage and sundry expenses. A couple of weeks ago a further sum of £52,450 was allocated by the GLC police committee for the production, distribution and advertising of information and background material relating to the Bill. This included the approval of two extra temporary clerical officer posts at County Hall for six months.
I shall give an example of the double-talk that the public should expect from London's county hall in the coming months. The Left-wing Labour GLC takes great pride in the activities of its women's committee and its policy for 76 the promotion of women's rights. It is sheer hypocrisy that while the GLC is indulging in so-called caring for the interests of women it should, at the same time, oppose a Bill that is providing greater protection for women. I refer hon. Members to clause 21, relating to indecent assault on a woman. Surely the absurdity of a situation where at present someone can be arrested for making a noise and causing a breach of the peace but cannot be arrested for indecent assault must be rectified. In all the propaganda relating to the previous Bill during the early part of the year there was no mention of this proposed benefit to women.
Once again, highly selective material will be used against the Bill. I hope that some of those well-meaning but politically naive groups, which unfortunately were deceived by the previous Labour anti-Government propaganda, will appreciate the political motives that lie behind the Labour claims that the Bill can only lead to a worsening of relations between the public and the police. If the Labour party is so concerned about relations between the police and the public, why is it so opposed to a Bill that sets out proposals for statutory consultation between the police and the community through the liaison committees?
The Lambeth borough liaison committee and the last Notting Hill carnival demonstrate how successful working together can be. One can only assume that the passage of the Bill through Parliament is being used by the politicians of the extreme Left as an opportunity to promote their anti-police, anti-Government propaganda, and try to justify their policies for political control of the police, which they misrepresent as democratic accountability.
The Bill will provide a major step towards more effective enforcement of the law, because it will modernise and clarify the powers of the police, while simultaneously providing appropriate safeguards for the liberty of the citizen against unwarrantable interference. The Bill provides the reforms to restore public confidence in the police and the morale of the police themselves.
§ Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helen's, South)
When I began to read the Bill and what was being said about it, I began to look for its friends—I say that in all respect to the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe). I should perhaps declare a dual interest as a practising solicitor who has a criminal practice that deals with many thousands of cases a year and a wife who prosecutes for the police. In such a double-edged position, one is able to ask many people what they think, hence my question to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). I know that a number of police officers have shown grave reservations about the way that the Bill deals with discipline and with the procedure for the investigation of complaints. The problems with the old Bill have not been helped by the new Bill. The joint approach of the Police Federation and the Law Society concerning independence of the investigation, which would lead to credibility, is something that many of us on both sides of the House would welcome if it were to come about.
I know many doctors who have grave worries about the infringement of personal human liberties to be found in the Bill. There are lawyers, with no political axe to grind, who did a resume of the Bill for me and gave me a series of questions and worries about the terms and conditions of various clauses.
77 The Home Secretary was posed a question earlier in the debate to which he did not reply. I heard with some disquiet, having referred to the subject of legal aid in the police station and at the detention point, that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle), who just happens to be the Minister of State's Parliamentary Private Secretary, just happened to write a letter to The Times on Saturday, but we have failed to get a coherent answer today. I make no bones about the fact that I sent the Minister of State a further note this afternoon suggesting that he might care to reply to the matter in his winding-up speech. It is absolutely useless for the Government to use—I put it as simply and bluntly as this—the old fraud of the green form to advise somebody who is detained in a police station cell, and for whom they are seeking, in a quasi-secret hearing before a magistrate, to extend the time of detention. I say that as a practising lawyer. The green form is limited to £40 worth of work. If the detainee requires his own lawyer, who may have to be fetched in the middle of the night — contrary to the Home Office's belief, many lawyers turn out in the middle of the night to go to the aid of their clients—the £40 limit will, to all intents and purposes, be used up long before the hearing in camera begins.
Some Conservative Members may not accept what I have said about representation, but it relates back to the Home Secretary's earlier comment about checks and balances. Every time we find a check or balance in the Bill, we also find an exception to it. Such is the whole tenor of the Bill. Rights may exist, but they will not apply in various circumstances. That is no safeguard. The Bill has not been drawn by anyone — I say this with great respect—with any personal experience of what happens in real policing.
§ Mr. Bermingham
You may say that, my friend, but I have probably seen the inside of more police stations than you ever will and I know exactly what goes on in them.
When Conservatives critise Opposition Members who seek to protect liberties by saying that we are loonies from one group or another you do yourselves no service at all.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
Order. There was nothing unparliamentary in that. I shall decide what is parliamentary or unparliamentary. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) must not, however, address all his comments to me personally.
§ Mr. Bermingham
My apologies, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am at fault. I become annoyed when lack of experience is trotted out as dogma, as is happening with the Bill.
I know very few lawyers who consider all policemen to be bad. Most policemen do an excellent job. They do not wish to be criticised, abused and argued with simply because they are given powers that many of them do not want. They do not need them. Recently, for an unexplained reason, we have sought to change the emphasis of our policing. Some years ago, an excellent police sergeant gave me a piece of advice that I have never 78 forgotten. He said that the ideal case to bring before a court was one in which he did not need to interview the defendent because he had secured the evidence before the man was arrested and charged. Far too many rows have taken place in the court rooms of our land about what was or was not said in a police station. A real investigation depends upon evidence. Evidence is not obtained by interrogation. All that happens in an interrogation is that one tries to obtain the self-fulfilling prophecy of one's own suspicions.
The primary flaw in the Bill is the shift from investigation to interrogation in police work. Many other aspects in the Bill would cause any right-minded person who believes in fairness and justice to say that the balance has shifted. Do we really want the type of society in which people are lifted on suspicion, detained on suspicion, interrogated on suspicion and detained in custody because an application has been made to a magistrates court that further evidence might be obtained which could lead to further interrogation? That is not English justice as I and many other members of my profession have known it for a long time. That is the first step on the road to a centralised police state. That is why I and my colleagues who have the courage — I say that looking to the alliance Benches — will go into the No Lobby tonight, not because we are anti-police or do not want the police to have all the facilities to keep our streets safe, but because we want the police to be given a system that enables them to investigate rather than interrogate, and to obtain evidence in co-operation with the public.
Many people know that if something goes wrong in a police station it is not just the defendant who is against the police thereafter. His mother, father, uncle, aunt, neighbour and anyone else he tells will regard the police in the same light. We must not put the police in that position. We must create a system that is fair to police officers, fair to citizens in the streets and, above all, just.
For the benefit of those hon. Members who do not believe that I am not alone in holding such a view, I refer to Lord Salmon's comments in the case of Inland Revenue Commissioners and another v. Rossminster Ltd. He said:Once great power is granted, there is a danger o' it being abused. Rather than risk such abuse, it is … the duty of the courts so to construe the statute as to see that it encroaches as little as possible on the liberties of the people of England.In that case he was talking about the powers of the Inland Revenue. The Bill contains many powers far greater than those which Lord Salmon worried about in that case.
Create a power and it will be abused. We should not create that power. We should retain the old liberties and provide the police with the adequate means to do their job. We do not need the Bill. All that we need is a system whereby the police and the public can co-operate to make our streets safe.
§ Mr. John Wheeler (Westminster, North)
The duty of the House is always to see that the law is maintained and to protect and preserve the liberty of the individual.
The core of the Bill defines and regulates police powers of search, arrest, questioning and detention before and after charge — areas of the law which have long been regarded by the courts and by the police as defective and imprecise. The Bill seeks to strike a fair and proper balance between the powers that Parliament allows the 79 police and the rights and liberties of citizens. In considering the Bill, it is important to recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their function and duties depends on public approval of their existence, their actions and their behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain the public's respect.
In this context, I, too, refer to the report by the Policy Studies Institute, the details of which we have yet to see. It is worth remembering that the work of that body began at the request of the police themselves when the former Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Sir David McNee, welcomed a detailed inquiry into the operation and efficiency of the Metropolitan police in regard to the exercise of various powers. The present commissioner, since his appointment in October 1982, has also been carrying out a wide-ranging review of the operation of the police and studying especially how the police may work with the public to prevent offences from occurring and how relations between the police and the public can be improved. It is significant that in our society the police themselves feel keenly about police-public relations.
It is true that the stopping of people in the streets is probably carried out to excess. All the evidence in the possession of the Home Office, from various research inquiries and elsewhere, shows that stopping people in the street produces very little result. The police themselves must learn to accept new tactics for controlling crime. It is worth remembering that 85 per cent. of the reported crime problem in this country relates to motor vehicles, auto-crime — stealing of or from vehicles — or to burglary, petty theft or vandalism, which causes great distress on many council estates. Those are essentially crimes of stealth. They occur when no one is looking, often in private places or on private property. Once they have occurred, they are extremely difficult to detect unless a witness volunteers to the police the information that X committed the offence. In seeking to detect such crimes, the police start off cold, and it is now generally accepted that strategies for prevention are to be preferred in this context. That is exactly the strategy that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary seeks to pursue in the Bill.
All that, however, does not invalidate the need for the police to have reasonable powers. So far, very little has been said in the press, or, indeed, in today's debate, about the statutory safeguards contained in the Bill, about the additional safeguards in the codes of practice, breaches of which are actionable, attract the police discipline code and will result in the exclusion of evidence, or about the introduction of the national custody record which will provide an unprecedented level of police accountability.
Much has been said about the increase in stop and search powers and in powers of arrest. The powers of stop and search are certainly to be widened but only to provide a proper and warranted investigatory power to make inquiries about and establish possesion of offensive weapons and articles for use in burglaries and theft. It is nonsense that police officers should have to exercise powers of arrest for possession of such articles in order to prevent crime without having any power to establish possession or to inquire as to the intent behind possession. I believe, therefore, that the Bill greatly advances the liberty of the subject as a police officer exercising his right 80 under the Bill may seek to establish whether an article that a person is carrying is being carried for a lawful or an unlawful purpose.
Powers of arrest are not to be widened. The arrest provisions in the Bill represent a simplification and a reduction in the powers of arrest. They will allow the police to arrest without warrant only for arrestable offences or for non-arrestable offences when the actions of the accused prevent the use of a summons, but it is made abundantly clear that the expected and preferred method is by way of a summons. It is notable that the Bill repeals without replacement more than 70 separate powers of arrest without warrant. That cannot be represented as a wide increase in the powers of arrest, let alone the beginnings of a police state.
The Bill makes important changes with regard to detention. At present, the general requirement is that an arrested person must be brought before a court or released within 24 hours. The Bill reflects the general rule that detention without charge should be limited to 24 hours, and I welcome that. It proposes that detention from 24 to 36 hours should be permissible only in the case of a serious arrestable offence and on the authority of a police superintendent or other officer of senior rank. The police would be able to detain a person without charge for up to 96 hours only on the warrant of a magistrates court—not an individual magistrate, but a court of law—where the suspect would have the right to be present and to be legally represented. At present, detention without charge is an open-ended arrangement in serious cases. The Bill, for the first time in English law, imposes severe restrictions on police powers in this respect, and I welcome that.
The proposals will stir up considerable debate, however, due to general ignorance of their true nature. Many people will say that the absolute limit on detention without charge should be no more than 24 hours. The facts gathered from the police service throughout the country show that about 75 per cent. of people detained are charged within six hours, very few indeed are detained beyond 24 hours and fewer still beyond 48 hours. The detaining of persons is a very serious event and it is in the interests of good police-public relations that it should be recognised as the most important of police executive functions. I use the term "executive functions" because the Bill allows a police superintendent or other senior officer to make these executive decisions. That in itself is an advance, because it means that senior management in the police service will become more accountable than ever before for what happens in police stations. It is important, however, that there should be accountability to the courts in cases of detention. Whether detention beyond 24 hours and up to 96 hours should be allowed must be seriously examined in Committee, and I share the concern expressed by hon. Members on both sides that that should be so. The Government will have to prove the necessity for powers of detention beyond 24 hours by citing actual examples.
This is a complex Bill which deals with fundamental issues. On the whole, it strikes a good balance between the reasonable powers of the police and the maintenance of the citizen's liberty. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is to be congratulated on what I think is a well-prepared and judicious measure. I wish it well.
§ Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)
As a Scottish Member of Parliament I rise with some trepidation to speak on what is essentially an English and Welsh Bill. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) is grimacing. He expressed no such qualification, although he spoke from what the Social Democrats might like to call the Front Bench.
Some of the powers which are being introduced already exist in Scotland, which has been the guinea pig for the Government's methods of achieving law and order. It is, therefore, right that we should consider what has happened in Scotland.
My basic complaint is that for some reason or other the Labour party is considered not to be the party of law and order. It is now apparently a Conservative preserve. That is absolute nonsense. We represent the people who really suffer from crime. Anyone who has visited my constituency and looked round areas of multiple deprivation, such as Castlemilk where there is 30 per cent. unemployment, will understand what I mean.
People regularly come to my surgeries saying that they want to be transferred to a different area because their house has been broken into several times, their children have been assaulted in the streets, or they cannot leave their cars parked outside without their lyres being slashed or the engine removed. I shall not forget the man who took off his shirt and showed me the wounds that he had sustained when two hooligans entered his house at 8 o'clock one Sunday morning and knifed him as he went to make his wife a cup of tea. Those are the people who really suffer from crime. Most Conservative Members have no appreciation of what that means. It is not possible to solve the problems of law and order by giving the police repressive powers. They must be solved by creating an atmosphere in which the community co-operates with the police and creating an economic and social climate in which crime cannot exist.
In Scotland, the police have already been given powers of detention. They are considerably less than those provided by this Bill. The police in Scotland have power to detain people for up to six hours only. Even with that limited power, in the first 18 months of its operation, from June 1981 to December 1982, 34,000 people were detained. If we project that figure forward to estimate what might happen in England and Wales, about 250,000 people will be detained in a similar period. Moreover, major cities in Scotland do not suffer from the racial overtones that persist in major English cities. Therefore, the number of detentions in England is likely to be even greater. Only 47 per cent. of the 34,000 people detained were charged.
Hon. Members may say that that is a high proportion. However, I argue that it is low and that it is extremely worrying that so many people should be detained when the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 says quite clearly that a constable must have reasonable cause to believe that a person has committed or is about to commit an imprisonable crime before detaining him. Police officers cannot have had reasonable grounds to detain the other 53 per cent.
The Scottish Office has not produced figures of the numbers of those who, once charged, go to court, or, having gone to court, are convicted of a crime. It has 82 produced only limited figures which, although confidential, I have been given by the Scottish Council for Civil Liberties. I do not know where it got them from.
The Home Secretary and Conservative Members argue that the Bill's purpose is to codify many police powers to make them clear. That is exactly what was said about the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. It was then argued that the powers of detention would replace voluntary detention. That has not happened. In fact, police powers of detention have been extended, not replaced. For example, in Strathclyde the number of people who are asked to go voluntarily to help the police—we all know what "voluntary" means—is increasing. It appears that the powers of detention are not being used as the Scottish Office requested in circulars.
Another worrying thing is that the use of powers of detention varies widely according to region. It is worrying that the powers can be used to detain many people in one area and comparatively few in another. The fair town of Ayr, which is represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland, lies in the Strathclyde region. In that town about 400 people were detained in six months, whereas in Paisley, which is not known for its respectable, middle-class citizens, only 53 people were detained in the same six-month period. Such regional variation is worrying. It might mean one of two things. Either the way in which the police compile the statistics is different in each area—if so, there is no proper monitoring of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980—or there is a difference in the way in which the same police force uses powers of detention in different areas. Scottish people are worried that the Act is not being used as it should be.
One Conservative Member made great play of the fact that there is a 25 per cent. success rate in the use of stop and search for weapons. I find the use of the term "success rate" puzzling. The Act provides that a constable must have reasonable cause to suspect the person of carrying an offensive weapon. If 75 per cent. of those who are stopped are found not to be carrying offensive weapons, how can it be claimed that there was reasonable cause for suspicion?
Again, there are regional variations. The 25 per cent. is true for the whole of Scotland. However, Strathclyde provided 812 of the 1,315 people who were stopped and searched in Scotland. Of those 812 only 190 were charged with having an offensive weapon. Again, we do not know how many of those cases continued to the courts or how many people were found guilty. Therefore, the 25 per cent. figure for Strathclyde may be lower than the 190 cases to which I have referred. In Strathclyde, many people who are stopped and searched for offensive weapons simply do not have them.
The size of the Scottish figure is also worrying. Having spent so much time getting these powers through the House at the request of the police, it is difficult to believe that within an 18-month period only 1,315 people were stopped and searched for offensive weapons. It seems that in many cases the police are not reporting that they have stopped and searched, nor are they recording cases if an offensive weapon is found.
Some hon. Members may argue that the success of these new measures compensates for the loss of civil liberties. However, during the period that those new powers have been in operation, the number of crimes in Scotland has increased. The powers there have not worked 83 or succeeded in solving the problems of law and order. Why, therefore, does the Minister think that they will do better in England and Wales?
As in Scotland, the powers in this Bill are a breach of civil liberties. In areas where crime is most prevalent, they will cause a breakdown in the relationship between the police and the community. Those hon. Members who represent areas such as mine or that of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) will know that above all else the police need people to come forward as witnesses. That will not happen if people are suspicious of the police and see them as the enemy.
We must give the police more facilities. Strathclyde police are undermanned because of cutbacks — [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] As a result, they are unable to do their job properly. We need more policemen working and, if possible, living within the community. They must be part and parcel of the community. They should not ride around in cars and be remote from the community. With community policing, we might begin to see a decline in the incidence of crime. However, the best way to change the pattern of crime is to reverse the Government's economic policies which create the unemployment and social deprivation that lead to crime.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
Any Bill that seeks to define and restrict the rights of citizens must be viewed with considerable care, and by its very nature the Bill seeks to do just that. At the outset we should realise that a considerable amount of work has already been done on the Bill's provisions, especially in view of the work done on its predecessor.
The task of the Bill is to give the police the up-to-date powers that they need to apprehend criminals, while at the same time to provide basic and proper safeguards against abuse of those powers. On the basis of that aim the law-abiding man in the street is entitled to look to this House for a common purpose and common determination to fight crime, yet it would seem to anyone listening to this debate that that common purpose is conspicuously lacking.
The existing laws on the exercise of police powers are in an unholy mess. How can we justify, let alone tolerate, a system under which a search warrant can be issued to look for birds' eggs but not to look for a murder weapon? How can we put up with the fact that the search for stolen goods depends upon the city in which the police are operating? What sort of system is it when the tools of trade of a discerning burglar are no longer the black mask, striped jersey, jemmy and swag bag of old, but an AA route map on which are ticked the names of the various cities in which he can burgle with impunity?
The rationalisation of these powers, with the attendant safeguards provided by the Bill, can only be of benefit to us all. Even the proposed power to detain for up to 96 hours without charge in exceptional circumstances is no more than is justified in the light of experience. Once the Bill is passed, the provision of bail before charge will no longer be entirely at the discretion of the police, yet even today, when it is a matter of police discretion, a survey in the Metropolitan police district shows that 98 per cent. of arrested persons were released within 24 hours and that the 84 proportion of cases in which the person was detained for 48 hours or more amounted to a minute 29 out of 83,000—just one third of 1 per cent.
I am sure that I speak for many experienced criminal advocates when I say that I have no doubt that the time limits laid down in the Bill, with the restrictions and safeguards imposed, strike a proper balance between the needs of the suspect and the needs of society.
One does not need vast criminal experience to claim that these safeguards are needed to protect innocent people. Anyone who, like me, has earned his living representing criminals in the courts and working well within the rules knows that the odds are loaded in favour of the criminal and that the rights of a suspect, even under the present law, are properly safeguarded. At present, any good criminal lawyer knows that things are very much on his side when protecting the rights of a criminal whom he represents.
There is no room for abstainers in the relentless fight against crime. To look to the police when we are in need of their protection but to carp at every exercise of their powers is inherently dishonest.
Labour Members have made much play of the fact that they belong to the party of law and order because they represent the downtrodden masses. They have accused Conservative Members of having no experience of these things. Many of us have, because many of us have made a living out of representing criminals in the courts.
I have a much closer acquaintance with the sort of powers about which we are talking. Last week I was stopped at 2 o'clock in the morning in Brixton. I was told fairly briskly to stop the car and get out. I was then questioned and the police searched the car. To describe that as an enjoyable experience is an exaggeration. I agree with the hon. Member who said that it was a humiliating experience. I was questioned coldly, if correctly, but it is fair to say that when the police discovered nothing untoward their manner became more friendly.
Having said that, I go on to say that the police in the 20th century would need the patience of a saint always to use the politest language and to act in a genial and friendly manner to someone whom they believe is up to no good in an area such as Brixton.
§ Mr. Nicholls
I shall in a moment. When the police discovered that I had a perfectly reasonable explanation — I was lost — they were almost over-apologetic. Yet why should they have been, because in questioning me, in stopping my car and searching it and in subjecting me to what was apparently a humiliating experience, they were protecting me, they were protecting my property and ultimately they were protecting my life as well. If that is the price that one has to pay for ensuring that society is properly defended, I, as an innocent person, was more than happy to pay it.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
What reasonable grounds did the police have for suspecting that they would find stolen or prohibited articles in the hon. Gentleman's car, or was he just the subject of one of the random types of stop and search which we fear very much?
§ Mr. Nicholls
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and perhaps I should say for the benefit of other Members that I did not engineer it. The mere fact 85 that that question could be asked in the light of the anecdote that I have just given the House shows the absolute depths of irresponsibility to which the alliance has sunk. What an extraordinary thing to say. I do not know why the police stopped me, but I guess that they said to themselves, "Here is a person driving around in an area of this type late at night who does not seem to know where he is going"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—I did not think that it was my position to start interrogating the police. I have enough confidence in the police to think that if that was all that I was subjected to, they were acting in a perfectly proper manner. It is wholly naive for Opposition Members to be so righteous about the fact that the police might have to behave in that way.
In everyday matters the police represent the absolute front line when it comes to protecting the values of our society. We should be giving them the powers they need instead of denigrating them and carping at them. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have no doubt about where we stand and it would be nice to think that we could say the same about the alliance, but whenever there is a two-sided issue the alliance can be guaranteed to find at least three arguments about it.
As we have heard from the press tonight, the alliance is not too concerned about the debate itself because it has already made up its mind to abstain. There is nothing exciting about that, because a long time ago the Liberals managed to raise indecision to the level of political principle. The fact that the alliance has nothing to tell us about a measure of this nature is no surprise to anyone. The real question tonight is for the Labour party. It talks about the need to fight crime, but introduces arguments about unemployment to try to explain away lawlessness. When it talks in that way people have a right to say to the Labour party, "Come off it, whose side are you really on?"
§ Mr. Terry Fields (Liverpool, Broad Green)
It is nonsense and reprehensible that the Opposition, when speaking clearly and unequivocally about the defence and extension of democracy and accountability, should be seen as the villains of this argument and debate. The discussion about accountability and lack of accountability is not new. It has been going on throughout the history of the police force and the various vested interests which have been pulling law and order about during that period.
The police have not always been unaccountable to local pressures and local democracy. One would think that the number of voices of disquiet raised about the lack of accountability of the police and some of the features of policing this country which give grave cause for concern would permeate through to the Conservative Benches.
When the Metropolitan police and the police forces up and clown the country were created in 1829 they were under the control of watch committees made up of local councillors who fixed pay and conditions and looked after the everyday running of the police forces. When the county councils were formed in 1880, they had standing joint committees — 50 per cent. county councillors and 50 per cent. local magistrates—with powers similar to watch committees and absolute control over the running of those police forces. Chief constables made weekly reports to the county councils as a duty, but continuous pressure from Government to establish greater central control, as today, was resisted by local interests. During the 19th century the Home Secretary's main role was the 86 maintenance of adequate police forces and establishments. Perhaps that is what certain Home Secretaries should be confining themselves to in modern times.
The relationship at that time was not only a matter of convenience but a reflection of the balance of class forces in society and the political relations that flowed from them. At that time borough councils were dominated by industrialists and commercial capitalists who paid the police out of the rates and therefore legitimately insisted on democratic control over the police. The industrial middle class was suspicious of Government which it associated with extravagance and unnecessary expenditure — a crime of which it would not accuse the present Government—and which it feared would interfere in its affairs on behalf of the aristocratic oligarchy which dominated Government at the time. The demand again was for local democracy and accountability. This was before the working class became an independent political force in society.
When the majority of the working class obtained the vote in 1918—women obtained it in 1928—there was a complete change of tune on the part of the ruling class of this country. It arose not out of a fear of the aristocrats, who had served their purpose and no longer posed a threat, but out of a fear of the growing strength of the Labour movement. At the end of the first world war Labour councillors were elected, and in some areas there were Labour-controlled local authorities. The attempt by the state to take control out of local hands and to centralise it was made even more urgent after the police strikes of 1918 and 1919, which were a reflection of what was taking place in society. After the strikes, the Desborough report made recommendations for the overhaul of the structure of the police force. It made recommendations on appointments, promotions and discipline within police forces. There was an attempt to take those responsibilities out of the hands of watch committees and to give them to chief constables to interpret, which was resisted in the House until 1964.
During that period, the powers of chief constables were strengthened and the element of democratic control through watch committees was strangled. The demand for democracy brought about a Royal Commission in 1960 which identified the main problem as the control of chief constables. The Royal Commission's idea of resolving the problem was to make chief constables more accountable to central Government and not to the watch committees made up of local people with an interest in their localities. Despite all that, the local authorities still had to pay 50 per cent. of the cost.
At that time, we saw the establishment by chief constables of the principle that operational matters were beyond the purview and outside the scope of police committees. The new police committees that were set up were not even made up of local councils and councillors but were independent statutory bodies divorced from local councils and local affairs.
Chief constables have consistently resisted attempts at democratic control by local authorities and councillors. In so doing, they have suggested that such accountability would make them subject to political pressure and control. In effect, they are perpetuating the myth — which is important for them to gain public acceptance of their role in the past — that the police are an arm of a neutral state, above politics and removed from the everyday events in society.
87 Let us look at the reality of that so-called neutrality, in the stormy events of the 1970s and since. We saw a new decade of crisis which brought real and significant changes in planning and the training of our police. If we look at the events of 1971, with the Government of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and his Industrial Relations Act, we see that the police came into sharp conflict with the trade union movement. That was brought to a sharp point in 1972 with the miners' strike and the battles at Saltley gate where the police were defeated and forced to retreat by miners with the support of the trade union movement.
It is with no great pleasure that we talk about the defeat of a group of workers. We identify the police as workers, subject to the same economic pressures as any of us, our families and others in society. Such a defeat of workers gives us no pleasure.
More important, the defeat of the police and the Heath Government was a crushing blow to the Tories. It demonstrated the weakness of the capitalist state when faced with an organised and mobilised labour movement. It brought about an immediate review of security policies. We had the police on the streets to deal with insurrection, a national security committee was set up and in 1977 we saw riot shields on our streets for the first time. To protect the working class? Certainly not. It was to protect Fascists in Lewisham. Anti-Fascist demonstrators were subjected to oppression by the police and there were deaths on the streets.
Also during that period, we saw the army supporting the police in their repressive attitudes towards the working class and the general public. Of course, not only the outlook of hard-line police chiefs is involved. The events of the 1970s opened a new perspective to the ruling class. they saw that social peace and the post-war boom were over, and they saw the onset of crisis in our society, which is endemic in the system. They foresaw a catastrophic decline in our economic base, the inevitable erosion of living standards of ordinary people, and a headlong clash with organised workers and the labour movement.
In August this year the Liverpool Echo carried an exclusive article revealing that the ruling class—people like Basil de Ferranti, Sir Hector Laing and the Duke of Kent — have regular meetings with the Duke of Edinburgh in Buckingham Palace. They are worried about what is happening in the inner city areas such as Liverpool and they fear what will come about because of unemployment and social unrest. Those statements were made not by me but by the Liverpool Echo. The article added that the police and the armed forces were prepared to go on to the streets when industrial or civil unrest took place. No attempt has been made to hide their views.
We must look at the myths and realities of the present situation. On one side we have the law and order lobby, the so-called supporters of peace and democracy, and on the other we have us scallywags on the Labour Benches. Any criticism of the excesses of police constables are attacked as an attempt to undermine the fight against crime. The previous Home Secretary told the Tory party conference in 1977 that it was a Left-wing mythology that there was something despicable, almost immoral, in discussing the prevention of crime at all.
We are not opposed to the police taking action to catch criminals and to protect people's safety and property. 88 Working people are naturally worried about crime and increasing violence, but the Conservative Benches and Tory party spokesmen elevate moral issues and abstractions of law and legality and seek to turn attention away from the social roots of crime. We are not just do-gooders. We live the experience of people in inner cities. We do not pass through in our cars occasionally and get lifted by the bobbies.
In an article, not written by a Left-wing lunatic or a Marxist, the Boston police commissioner, Robert Di Grazia, said:We are not letting the public in on our era's dirty little secret, that those who commit the crime that worries citizens most—violent street crime—are, for the most part, the products of poverty, unemployment, broken homes, rotten education, drug addiction and alcoholism, and other social ills about which the police can do little, if anything.The same applies in Britain. After the Brixton disturbances, the Prime Minister talked about the breakdown of respect for the law, and the erosion of moral values. She and her Government cannot accept that their economic policies have had a shattering effect especially on youths and have helped to create the conditions for conflict on the streets. If there has been a breakdown of previously accepted social norms of behaviour and of traditional morality, the Government have failed to see that the terrible alienation of young people, created by the profit system, has been a powerful contributory factor.
We will not solve such problems by arming the police, or by providing them with riot gear, better water cannon, more CS gas and plastic bullets. I am supported in that proposition by ex-Chief Constable Alderson of Devon and Cornwall, who is perhaps persona non grata with some other chief constables. He said:One thing is certain, it is no answer to resort to brute force to control people.He may be in the minority and considered to be a do-gooder or a liberal, but nevertheless his view is supported in our society. The emphasis should be on crime prevention, and unless the police have the confidence and support of the people whom they protect, there is no hope of fighting crime.
Recent events do not show that the public support the police massively. Some chief constables are coming to grips with the fact that society cannot put the emphasis on social welfare, and are preoccupied with the task of defending the status quo and of upholding authority, which they define as law and order. They are not concerned with the protection of ordinary people from violent assault, burglaries and so on. I emphasise the fact that it is not Labour members or people such as myself who make such statements. On the BBC "Question Time" programme on 16 October 1979 the following statement was made:I think that from the police point of view that my task in the future … that basic crime as such—theft, burglary, even violent crime—will not be the predominant police feature. What will be the matter of greatest concern to me will be the covert and ultimately overt attempt to overthrow democracy, to subvert the authority of the state, and, in fact, to involve themselves in acts of sedition designed to destroy our parliamentary system and the democratic government in this country.Chief Constable Anderton of the Greater Manchester police force said that. That is the real role and perspective of some chief police officers. In reality, to the police sedition and subversion mean attempts by working people to use their democratic and trade union rights to defend themselves, their interests and the interests of those whom they represent.
89 Recently, chief constables have resorted to the blanket use under the Public Order Act 1936 of bans on demonstrations and general street activity by trade unionists and the Labour movement. They have done that on the pretext of attacking and banning Fascist organisations that have come on to the streets. But there are similar bans against democratic organisations of the Labour movement which have a far more serious effect on democracy. However, on several occasions we have seen enormous numbers of police officers being used to escort those Fascists, marching in small numbers through the streets. Again, that is done in the name of so-called democracy.
While chief constables and others pretend that everything is hunky dory and that we have no problems, the police are being tooled up and geared up to take on the working class in later events. Recruits are advised towatch out for people who, although not dishonest in the ordinary sense, may, owing to extreme political views, intend to harm the community you have sworn to protect.The manual also states:While there are subtle differences between these type of extremists and thieves, it is difficult to put one's finger on the material distinction.That is routine policy in some sections of the police.
Some time ago, while travelling from Preston to London, I overheard a conversation that perhaps I should not have heard between a cadet at Hendon police academy and one of his friends. He informed his friend that during one of their lectures a police sergeant had told them that since the Americans had intervened in Afghanistan, the working class of Britain would be out demonstrating on the streets. He said that the cadets were the protectors of law and order, that there would be battles on the streets, and that the police should prepare themselves for it. That is an example of the education in our police establishments, which is preparing the democratic police for events that will unfurl as time goes by. Accountability and control will lead to the strengthening not the diminution of democracy in Britain.
The nature of society and the motives of the Tories and the ruling class are clearly characterised and put to the front in this Bill. The Bill contains draconian measures to stop, search and arrest; it provides for detention for four days without charge; it provides powers to search and fingerprint; and it provides for access to personal files. The Labour movement does not condone violence, but it condemns the appalling counter-violence fostered by business interests through films, television and the media. Nor does the movement, while understanding the causes for crime, support robbery as an individual way out of the problems that face workers. We have no sympathy with the vicious criminals who are as much a menace to the workers as are the big property owners, and whose activities provide the state with excuses for strengthening repressive powers. However, the need to counter criminal activity does not give the guardians of law the right to act as though they were above that law. Fighting crime does not justify the harassment and ill-treatment of suspects, or the denial of legal defence or the fabrication of evidence against them. Socialists believe that to overcome crime we must eradicate the social conditions that produce crime. But in this society the democratic accountability of the police, far from undermining the fight against crime, would remove the obstacles created by an undemocratic, unaccountable and increasingly repressive police force.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
Order. It might be helpful if I were to inform the House that the winding-up speeches are expected to begin at 9.10 pm.
§ Mr. Nicholas Lyell (Mid-Bedfordshire)
If there is public anxiety about this Bill, the reason for it is clear. It is plainly misunderstood, if it has been read at all, by many of its critics. I had the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee which considered the Bill earlier this year. It was a constructive Standing Committee which produced, from a fairly rough-hewn start, a polished Bill which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has put into the thoroughly well-balanced state in which it comes before the House today. I remind right hon. and hon. Members that it was described by The Times, even at its outset, as well balanced, although it had faults, which we have now put right.
We should not forget that the Bill is overwhelmingly the product of the Royal Commission. So long as people know what it genuinely contains, they will feel no alarm. They will recognise that it is a beneficial measure. They will also recognise that it is part of the coherent strategy for freedom under the law which is one of the central planks of Conservative policy. We began to put that strategy into effect by improving the grossly depleted pay and morale of the police and giving them proper equipment and better training. We followed that, up with the Criminal Justice Act, which gave back to the courts the powers to give appropriate punishments—severe where necessary, enlightened where appropriate — to fit the crime. Now, the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill gives the police the power to prevent crime where possible and to catch criminals — especially violent and serious criminals—and bring them to justice.
I deplore the standard of some of the speeches, not because I believe that there has been deliberate distortion, but because they have been based on ignorance. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) gave examples of the alleged abuse of police powers. However, if he analysed those examples he would find that there is protection against all the abuses to which he referred either in the Bill or in the existing law. Had he known that, he would not have made those attacks. Those who purport to protect civil liberties make misguided attacks almost every day.
We respect the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who now speaks for the Opposition on this subject, for his knowledge of the environment. His performance today, however, shows that he has much reading and understanding to do before he gains the same respect on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about molestation by oppressive authority. The Bill seeks to prevent molestation by criminals. In that context, the power of the police to stop and search in the street is highly relevant. Whereas it is a crime to carry an offensive weapon in the street, in large parts of the country a police officer who reasonably believes that somebody is carrying a cosh or a stiletto has no power to stop that person and search him for it. That is nonsense, and the Bill will put it right.
In Scotland, during the first 10 months of the operation of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, 25 to 30 per cent. of those stopped were found to be carrying offensive 91 weapons. That clearly justifies the power in the Bill. The power, like others in the Bill, is balanced by safeguards. A policeman cannot stop and search unless he gives the reason, identifies himself as a police officer and records the search and its outcome.
Another aspect of the Bill that has given rise to much ill-informed criticism is the maximum period of 96 hours that is permitted between lawful arrest and charge or release. That power is subject to tighter safeguards than ever. In a small minority of cases there are good reasons for allowing it. I am not thinking only of the 29 cases out of 83,000 in which it was exercised last year. Let us consider a slightly shorter period of detention. The Royal Commission found 212 occasions in the last quarter of 1979 on which it was necessary for the police to exercise their power to detain for more than 72 hours. The exercise of that power, where people's civil liberties are at issue, will now be subject to detailed control.
Before anyone can be detained on any offence for more than six hours, written reasons have to be given. No one can be detained for more than 24 hours except for a serious arrestable offence — now objectively defined. No one can be detained for more than 36 hours until after a review by the magistrates, held in public, at which he can be legally represented and be given legal assistance for the purpose. Thereafter, every nine hours — and initially after six hours—written reasons have to be given for the person's detention.
I was speaking to a former Labour Member who told me—and it should be recognised by the Opposition—that in a sense the Bill did more for civil liberties than any other statute passed this century and possibly in the history of legislation. I do not intend to overstate the case. A Bill which deals with civil liberties deserves careful and detailed scrutiny. I hope that the Standing Committee which is to convene shortly will give it that scrutiny. But it must be on the basis of a proper understanding of what the Bill contains and an avoidance of that repeated distortion which has given rise to so much unnecessary alarm.
I also welcome the new police complaints procedures which provide for independent direction and control of all serious cases and the power for the new authority to exercise such independent control over any case as it sees fit. That is a very important new measure, as is representation for the police who come up on serious disciplinary matters once those matters get to appeal.
The Bill is well balanced. It will help the battle against crime. It will improve the protection of the liberty of the subject. It should be recognised as such, further improved in small ways in Committee and find an early welcome to the statute book.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
I begin by welcoming the words of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who echoed the feeling of a large part of the House when he said that he welcomed the concept of the Bill and the meaning behind it, although he had some doubts about individual clauses. I, too, feel that about the Bill.
I have been a practising member of the criminal Bar for about 20 years so that I have seen and dealt with a large number of criminals, whether their offences have been 92 trivial or serious. I am proud of being part of our system of justice, although I am not unaware of its imperfections. We have a system that has not many checks and has very few balances. We have relied upon a strong judiciary to see that an overall fairness is maintained in criminal trials and we have relied on a strong and forceful Bar and solicitors to ensure that justice is available to all.
We have very few controls over excesses. Our only real control over the evidential behaviour of the police has been in the judges' rules and various Home Office circulars. These are only rules. They do not have the force of law, and they are frequently more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Many lawyers have suggested that they be scrapped altogether since so often they are not followed.
If the Bill is to provide the force of law to control what previously were only rules and—this is an innovation—is to back up the law by providing the sanction that any evidence obtained in breach of the law is inadmissible, we shall go a very long way along the road to providing a Bill of rights for the citizen, at least in his dealings with the police.
I see nowhere in the Bill any sanction for failing to observe its terms. In the realms of the criminal law, I warn the House that without a sanction this Bill, too, will be more honoured in its non-observance than in its observance.
There are two areas about which I have the gravest reservations, one graver than the other. The first is the powers of arrest being given to police officers over matters which are normally commenced by summons. That was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Malins). By their nature, offences which commence with a summons are trivial — motoring offences or offences against by-laws. The list is boundless and the only factor that binds them is that they are relatively trivial.
The provision in the Bill for a constable to arrest a person whom he suspects of committing such an offence—because he does not know the name of the person or doubts whether the name is genuine, or doubts the address or does not think that the address is a good one for the service of a summons—is bad. Considering the small number of cases where the person cannot be traced, we are taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Our freedoms are too precious to be thrown away because of the mere irritant of not being able to serve a summons or the fact that somebody may not appear on what is, after all, a trivial matter. That right to liberty is the most precious freedom of all. We do not need that provision in the Bill. Having studied it carefully, I cannot think of a way to improve it. It would be better out of the Bill; it spoils what is otherwise a good measure.
The part of the Bill that concerns me most is that which has been repeated frequently in the debate. It worries many of my professional colleagues and in particular the Criminal Bar Association. I refer to the ability of the police to detain for up to 96 hours. The freedom of the individual is a liberty beyond price and to deny that liberty for a moment requires a very strong reason indeed. To deny it for an hour or a day requires the strongest of reasons. That is the premise on which this argument must begin in any civilised society which believes in the rule of law.
Having said that, let me make my position clear. I welcome the fact that at long last this House is tackling comprehensively the problem of detention and arrest. That 93 is the importance of the Bill. I welcome the stipulation in it that the period of detention without charge is 24 hours, unless the exceptions occur, but I am concerned that there is no provision for a lawyer to be present within those 24 hours. No man or woman should be detained in custody without the benefit of advice.
§ Mr. Ashby
I was coming to that. My hon. Friend will be aware that that rule prevails today, though, as I said, it is honoured more in the exception. Often in cases of serious crime one finds that an excuse is made for a lawyer not to be available. The availability of a lawyer should be an absolute right because in most other countries—for example, in the United States—persons detained have an absolute right to a lawyer. That right should exist in this country and there should be no exceptions.
The need to detain at all can only be because the police do not have sufficient evidence to charge the suspect; if they had that evidence, it would be their duty to charge. It follows that the purpose of holding a suspect for questioning is that that person should confess, and that in itself is an enormous pressure on the person and an added reason why a lawyer is vitally necessary. I do not know whether many hon. Members have been locked in police cells. Most lawyers who practise in the criminal courts have had that experience with their clients. To describe it as a pleasant experience would be far from the truth. The cells are long narrow rooms. They have no outside windows and it is not possible to know whether it is day or night. There is a board to sleep upon or to sit upon and a lavatory that can be flushed only from the outside. Normally there is a light on all night and there is a small wicket door which a police officer uses to ascertain whether the suspect or prisoner is in good shape.
Those who are placed in police cells are always searched and their watches are taken from them. They do not know whether it is day or night and they all talk of being disoriented. They have a feeling of timelessness and hopelessness. They all say that they have the feeling of being locked away for ever and that an hour seems like a day. Those are the circumstances in which people are locked up and that is why the time scale is so important. The need for a lawyer in those circumstances must be all the greater.
Why is the presence of a lawyer not mandatory? It is often said, sotto voce, with almost a nod and a wink, that solicitors are not to be trusted. Solicitors are members of an honourable profession and if they are not to be trusted, how can police officers be trusted? It is my experience that there are black sheep to be found in every segment of society but that, by and large, the overwhelming majority of lawyers and police officers are trustworthy.
Another reason for not allowing those in custody to see their lawyers is the fear that a lawyer might remind the suspect of his right to silence. Indeed, he may even advise silence. He would be failing in his duty if he did not advise the suspect of that right. However, police officers are supposed to give that same advice in the form of a caution. It is my experience that when solicitors have been present at interviews they have confined themselves to ensuring that the interview is taken down accurately and that there are no trick questions.
94 I am concerned about the 96-hour provisions. I echo the feeling of other hon. Members that 24 hours is long enough and that thereafter the individual should be taken before a court. In my humble opinion, the suspect should have an absolute right to a lawyer after 24 hours have passed. When that period has elapsed, there should be no interviewing of the individual who is in custody unless his lawyer is present or unless he and the police officer sign a common statement that they do not want a lawyer to be present. If those conditions do not prevail, the evidence that is produced should be regarded as inadmissible because, prima facie, it has by its very nature been taken under duress.
I shall support the Bill on Second Reading because it has so much to commend it. However, there is a great deal that I hope will be amended in Committee, and I hope that that will happen before I am asked ultimately to accept it.
§ 9.3 pm
§ Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
One of the advantages of being the last Back-Bench Member to speak in the debate is having had the opportunity of hearing the entire debate. I have listened with great interest to the speeches of Labour Members and tried to follow the reasons for their objection to the Bill. It has not always been easy, especially when following, for example, the line of thought of hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields). I am sorely tempted to invite the hon. Gentleman to my constituency, and to pay his expenses. The more that the public hear the true voice of the Labour party as expressed by him the better. As the hon. Gentleman is not present, I shall write to invite him to Banbury and explain that I shall gladly bear his expenses.
I suspect that the Labour party's opposition to the Bill is contained in one of the sentences uttered by the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Kilroy-Silk). The hon. Gentleman said that the police have excessive powers which they abuse. The majority of the opposition to the Bill stems from the fact that the Labour party is inherently anti-police and does not trust the police. That is why the Opposition have made such speeches this afternoon.
The Bill ensures a balance between the powers that the police need to catch criminals and the necessary safeguards to protect the citizen. Overall, the Bill is a commendable balance of powers and safeguards. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lyell) said, one problem is that far too many of the Bill's critics have not read it.
The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) gave the example of one of his constituents who was arrested by two plain clothes officers who did not tell her why she was being arrested. She was taken to a police station and searched and not told why she was being searched. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should read clause 25 on the information to be given on arrest:Where a constable arrests a person, otherwise than by informing him that he is under arrest, the arrest is not lawful.That is repeated in clause 25:No arrest by a constable is lawful unless the person arrested is informed of the ground for the arrest at the time of, or as soon as is practicable after, the arrest.A person may be searched at a police station only to the extent that the custody officer considers it necessary to ascertain the property that a person arrested had with him when he was arrested.
95 Many of the criticisms of the Bill are made out of ignorance of its safeguards in an attempt to present the legislation as a draconian measure, which it is not. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) fell into a trap when he said that the Bill denied the right to a citizen of access to a solicitor. For the first time on the statute book, there is to be a provision to ensure that a citizen has the right of access to a solicitor. At present, he can be denied that right by any officer of any rank at any time if that officer—
§ Mr. Baldry
My hon. Friend will be aware of the Latin tag, ubi jus, ibi remedium—where there is a right, there must be a remedy. With the present rules, as with the judges' rules, there might be a right, but there is no remedy if there is a breach. For the first time, a statute will ensure:A person arrested and held in custody in a police station or other premises shall be entitled, if he so requests, to consult a solicitor privately at any time.That is a great step forward. Another step forward is that for the first time the judges' rules are to be codified and statutory strength given to them. For a long time, those of us who have been practising at the criminal Bar have known that all too often a breach of the judges' rules does not result in evidence being omitted.
I have listened to the debate all afternoon, but I am not certain whether the Labour party—the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) might explain this in his reply—is opposed to the police having any powers of stop and search at any time. It seems that each Opposition Member who has spoken has accused the Home Secretary and others who want to introduce these powers of supporting draconian measures. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) described them as the first step towards a centralised police state.
The people are entitled to know whether the Labour party does not want the police, when they have reasonable suspicion, to apprehend anyone whom they believe is in possession of an offensive weapon or housebreaking tools. It is difficult to find evidence for an increasing number of offences, including car thefts and petty burglaries, unless the person responsible is apprehended at the time of or shortly after the crime.
The Bill is a major step forward in providing real protection for the citizen. Of course, for every power that the police are given in the Bill, a new statutory safeguard is provided either in the Bill or in one of the codes—[Interruption.] Opposition Members guffaw, but all that we heard from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was the complaint that the Vagrancy Act 1824 was to be repealed. Perhaps Opposition Members will identify any new powers that do not have safeguards. So far their objections to the Bill are based on total ignorance or on a desire to mislead the House and, more important, the electorate about what the Bill is intended to do and what it will do when it is passed.
§ Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)
I congratulate the three Government Members who made their maiden speeches in 96 this long and interesting debate. The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) was against the detention provisions and considered that some powers were liable to be oppressive. The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Malins) was also critical. He was worried about fingerprinting, intimate body searches and several other matters. The hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) was worried about the length of detention without charge.
I am sure that we shall hear more from hon. Members who spoke for the first time today. I am not saying that I agree with all that they said, but I am glad that they were willing to be critical. I hope that they have not talked themselves out of the chance to serve on the Standing Committee on the Bill.
The Opposition recognise the anxieties about law and order. We view the Bill in that light. I judge the Bill by applying a number of tests and asking a number of questions. First, will it result in more criminals being caught? Secondly, will it protect the public in their homes and in the streets? Thirdly, will it result in better cooperation between the police and the public? The police are always telling us—I am sure that they are right—that that is their main way of catching criminals. Fourthly, does it give the public an adequate say about the type of policing in the community? Fifthly, and most importantly, what is its effect on civil liberties and the rights of the individual? The Bill fails each of those tests.
The Government have said that they have made a number of concessions. The Home Office has issued a number of circulars to that effect. The Bill contains some improvements, the majority of which were secured during Standing Committee debates earlier this year or are the result of commitments by the Minister in charge of the previous Bill. The Home Secretary may shake his head, but he was not a member of that Committee.
I welcome the changes. I also welcome the element of statute rationalisation in the Bill. The Government made a major mistake when they thought that they could take on in one go the bishops, the lawyers and the doctors. No Government in history have beaten that alliance, and the Government capitulated. I refer to the confidentiality of documents and whether the police should have access to them.
Former members of the Standing Committee will see the current Bill in terms of a bad film that they are watching for the second time, even if the seating arrangements for some of us are slightly different. I welcome the Government's concessions, particularly that relating to tape recording. It is a pity that we shall have to wait for so long before that proposal is implemented. The system has been operating in Scotland for some time and experiments have begun in England. The tape recordings are not a perfect safeguard, as many hon. Members will be aware. Interviews can take place elsewhere than in a particular room in the police station—they can take place in a police car or on the station steps. It is often alleged that the tapes can be doctored, adjusted or amended, although I remind the House that there was one occupant of the White House a few years ago who found this process rather beyond him.
In the Committee debates we asked for an independent public prosecutor, and this is a good idea. However, it is a particular regret that, although there is a commitment that this post will be introduced, that will not happen at the same time as the Bill. The Royal Commission regarded 97 it as an essential safeguard that should go along with an increase in some of the increased police powers that the commission suggested were reasonable. I do not agree with the Royal Commission in all respects, but this was one of the balances that it sought to achieve. Therefore, it is a pity that we shall have to wait some time before an independent public prosecutor will become part of our process of prosecuting.
The policing of our inner cities is not easy and demands much of our police officers, who are often young, not much older than some of the young people with whom they come into contact on the streets. The judgment of many police officers about the Bill should be, and, I suspect, is, that it will not help them in their difficult task, and, in a number of respects, will make their task more difficult. Before I go into some of the details to elaborate on that point, I shall comment on the speech made by the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), who was speaking, I understand, for the Liberal party. He attacked the Bill as soundly as any hon. Member, but said that the Liberal party would abstain from voting. I could not follow the logic of a speech that was as effectively critical of the Bill as any other, but which resulted in a conclusion that suggested an unwillingness to take a positive stand on that point.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why it is not legitimate to view a Bill such as this in a way designed to improve it, with the desire that it should eventually be effective if enacted?
§ Mr. Dubs
I interpreted the hon. Gentleman's speech as being clearly critical of the Bill, and if it was as critical as it sounded, I should have thought that if the hon. Gentleman had objections in principle, to which he seemed to be giving voice, he should go through the Division Lobby instead of remaining in a sedentary position while the rest of us go to vote.
In speaking of the specific features of the Bill, I start with the vexed and controversial issue of the stop and search powers. My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) was one of many hon. Members who spoke about this, and he was critical of it. For all that Conservative Members have said, the Bill embodies a major extension of police powers in this respect, and this will have a major impact on the streets of many inner city areas. The Bill extends to the whole of England and Wales some of the existing powers in London, but also adds a new power, the one concerning offensive weapons.
I obtained a figure from the police in Wandsworth, the district in which my constituency is, when I asked them how many stop and searches there were under the existing and narrower powers than those in the Bill. I was told that, for the eight-month period from 1 January to early September this year, there had been 16,565 stop and searches. In Camden in 1982 there were 32,065 stop and searches, under the existing and narrower powers. I had hoped to have some information from the Home Office about London as a whole, and I put dawn a number of parliamentary questions, for which the answers were not available today. I suspect that that was wise from the point of view of Home Office Ministers, because they might have found the figures difficult to cope with had they been quoted against them in the debate. The stop and search figures in the London area, as confirmed by the Wandsworth figures, show that, of the total number of stop 98 and searches that took place, only 8 per cent. led to charges being preferred. When I asked the local police how many of those charges led to convictions, I was told that that figure was not known.
I wish to refer to the Home Office briefing guide to the Bill to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) referred earlier. I recommend the little green document, which is interesting and polemical, to those hon. Members who have not seen it. I thought that the document was interesting and that it would help us to understand the Bill. As I began to study the document, it seemed to put forward the view of the Home Office rather than the views expressed by Ministers either during the opening or the winding-up speeches on the Bill. Such is the political nature and content of the document.
In referring to stop and search, the document states:The obligation to make a record of the search will make it easier for senior officers to supervise the actions of officers on the streets.That sentence is in the future tense. I can only assume that it means that supervision at present is not especially good. Otherwise, changes in the Bill would not be regarded as an advantage.
Doubts must exist as to whether all stop and searches which take place at present are reported. If supervision is not good, the likelihood is that the present figures understate the number of incidents which have taken place. If a stop in the street by a police officer is unsuccessful, there must be a temptation not to record the fact that the incident took place.
The Minister may say that the stop and search procedure in Scotland resulted in 27 per cent. of those searched subsequently being prosecuted. The fact that the figures are much lower in London makes one suspect that many more stop and search incidents take place and that they are carried out more in the nature of random stops and fishing expeditions than stops made on the basis of reasonable suspicion that the individual is carrying an object that he or she should not have in his possession.
The booklet also replies to possible criticism of the Bill. Paragraph 2.13, which deals with people who are black, states:The mere fact that a person is black would never of course of itself be sufficient; and a search conducted on this sole basis would be unlawful. The person searched would have a remedy at civil law.Leaving aside the tortuous civil law process which might be available to an individual, I wonder whether the briefing guide is honest in what it states. If we consider the Home Office document on stop and search, which was published earlier this year, and which was edited by Carol Willis, the following statement appears on page 22:Blacks, and particularly young black males, are much more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than whites. Nevertheless, the proportion of persons stopped who are subsequently prosecuted is the same for blacks as for whites.In other words, many hon. Members suspect that from their observations in the street and in their constituencies, black people tend to be stopped more than whites for the simple reason that they are black.
The document refers to some figures, although I will not weary the House with too many. Comparing the stop rate per 100 males aged 16 to 24 the figure in Kensington for the relevant period was 123, compared with 298 for black males. A similar doubling of the figures occurred in Peckham for black males as compared with the overall male population. The Home Office figures suggest that 99 this is a matter of concern. Where is the supporting evidence for the contrary assertion made in the briefing guide?
I regret that the Policy Studies Institute report was not available to the House before the debate, although many hon. Members have quoted leaks that have appeared in the press. According to The Guardian, which seems to have had the fullest version of the leaks, the reportnotes that the London police powers to stop and search people depend upon reasonable suspicion"—there is no dispute about that—This criterion does not act as an effective constraint on police officers in deciding whether to make a stop … We could see no good reason for the stop in the course of our observational work.That is the answer to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter), who described how he was stopped by the police when driving through Brixton. In reply to the hon. Member for Montgomery, the hon. Gentleman protested that he was very happy to be stopped, but the point at issue is whether the police had any power to stop him. Having listened to that interlude in the debate, I can only conclude that in behaving as they did the police exceeded their existing statutory powers. The hon. Gentleman may still welcome that, but I suggest that it is dangerous to seek to justify conduct by the police which goes beyond the powers given to them by the law.
So far, no one has mentioned football crowds—the one circumstance in which police officers can justify stop and search powers. The Home Office research document refers to investigations at Watford and Luton but points out that for the police searches carried out there, either at the turnstiles or within the ground, the powers provided by the Bill were not required. If the police can carry out searches of that kind under the present law, that seems a reasonable model for the use of stop and search powers at football matches generally.
It seems inescapable that the Bill will allow the police to establish road blocks in any inner city area whenever they wish. I do not believe that the Minister will be able to deny that.
Many hon. Members on both sides have expressed concern about the long period of detention without charge allowed under the Bill. It is extraordinary that the Parliament of a country which prides itself on setting an example to the world in human rights and civil liberties should be discussing a Bill containing the following rubric:Limits on period of detention without charge"—a phrase more typical of some of the repressive regimes in the world than of the traditions to which we are accustomed.
Draft codes have been provided to replace the judges' rules and I welcome them as far as they go. They are simpler and far easier to understand. Regrettably, however, there are no powers in the Bill dealing with admissibility of evidence in statements obtained by police officers in breach of a code of practice. Ministers may say that such behaviour by a police officer would be a breach of discipline—I see the Home Secretary nod—but short of using the very complicated police complaints procedure, an aggrieved individual has no remedy. He will simply have to wait for the new complaints authority to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. Dubs
I shall not give way, as I am short of time. We conceded a few minutes' extra time to Back Benchers, so the winding-up speeches started late. It is thus no discourtesy if I do not give way now. [Interruption.] I hear the Home Secretary muttering from a sedentary position. His colleague will have 25 minutes to have a go at me later on if he wishes.
On the vexed question of the definition of a serious arrestable offence, this has now reached its fourth version. The first version was in the original Bill. There was then an amendment, followed by another proposal. We now have yet another version. I am worried that, for all the apparent objectivity, there is still a subjective element in subsections (3) and (6) which would allow offences against the person — except common assault — under the Theft Act 1978, and the Criminal Damages Act 1971 to be arrestable offences. The danger is that such offences would be laid open to being classified as serious arrestable offences and all the powers that the Bill provides in that connection.
I shall give an example which will be unpalatable to Conservative Members. If a peace demonstrator were arrested for writing "No cruise missiles" on a wall, would she be liable to the full force of measures in this Bill because that offence might lead to serious harm to the state or to public order? That is how far we have got with this legislation. [Interruption.] I knew that Conservative Members would not like that. They are predictable.
Telephone tapping has not been dealt with. Home Office Ministers invoke the Royal Commission time and again. I remind them that the Royal Commission recommended that use of surveillance devices by the police, including telephone tapping and the intervention of mail, should be authorised by a magistrates' warrant. There is no mention of that in the Bill. We made many efforts in the Standing Committee on the previous Bill to include such a provision. Such activities are a departure from what the Royal Commission suggested. I remind the Home Secretary that in a court case of 1977 concerning a Mr. James Malone, the judge said that the subject cried out for legislation. I shall leave it at that. The Committee has an important responsibility there.
There are some minor changes with regard to police complaints in the new Bill. I appreciate that they represent some improvement, but it all still adds up to one major criticism — the police will continue to investigate complaints against themselves. I appreciate that there will be a body which will oversee the process by which that happens and that there will be some small safeguards. Nevertheless, we are still left with an arrangement about which the public have been complaining for years. It is unsatisfactory by any standards.
In 1982, there were 32,000 complaints against the police in England and Wales, including the Metropolitan police area. About 15,000 of those complaints were not proceeded with. Why? Because people who wanted to complain were persuaded not to do so on the ground that it would not be worthwhile. Moreover, all hon. Members come across people who, on the strength of our advice, say that they cannot be bothered, that it is a whitewash and that it is not worth pursuing a complaint.
I concede that there is a marginal improvement in that respect in the new Bill. Nevertheless, I predict that those improvements will not stop demands for independent investigation of all complaints against the police. Lord Scarman put it clearly in his famous report. He said: 101if public confidence in the complaints procedure is to be achieved any solution falling short of a system of independent investigation available for all complaints … is unlikely to be successful.That is the accusation against the Bill.
Many people want more say about policing in their areas. In other words, they want accountability. The best safeguard against abuse of police powers is for the police to be under the control of a democratically elected police authority. It will be argued—one Conservative Member so argued—that such action would put the police under political control. The police in London are already under the control of the Home Secretary. Surely he will not argue that he does not exercise any political control. I do not believe it. Conservative Members' main criticism of police authorities is based on the fact that they do not like the prospect of the political control that would ensue if local people were given power to elect their police authorities. That is the dispute. The dispute is not about political control but about the fact that in some inner-city areas Labour supporters would be in control.
This is a thoroughly bad Bill despite the minor improvements that have taken place since earlier this year. It will not make people in the streets, in their homes or in their businesses safer, nor will it help the police to do their job better. It is damaging to civil liberties and the rights of the individual, and I hope that the House will reject it by a large majority.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
The debate has been distinguished by maiden speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Derby, North (Mr. Knight), for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Malins) and for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels). They had qualities in common. They were all clear in analysis, quiet in tone and compelling in the personal authority with which they spoke. My hon. Friends had obvious knowledge of the issues in the Bill. We greatly enjoyed listening to them and hope to do so again.
It is not possible in 25 minutes to deal with all the points that were raised, but I shall try to deal with the main ones against the background sketched by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
The policing of this country is going through a period of rapid change. Every hon. Member who is in touch with his police force and police authority will confirm that. The police are responding in many different ways to public anxiety about the crime figures and to much more general changes in society. Recruitment is up, the quality of recruits is high, management and training are being reformed and modern equipment is being introduced.
However, every police officer worth his salt knows that these necessary changes will not fully succeed without the unwritten contract of mutual help and understanding between police and public, to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred. The powers and safeguards in the Bill must be looked at against the background of rapid change, which my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler) sketched in a particularly cogent speech.
We do not claim that the Bill alone will solve all the problems, but it is an essential part of our strategy, and if we did not bring it forward there would be a clear deficiency in our efforts to bring security to the citizen.
However admirable the recruitment, training and equipment of the police, they could not succeed on the 102 basis of the present powers. However responsive the police were to the opinions and sensitivities of the public, particularly minorities within the public, they could not succeed in winning trust on the basis of the present safeguards. Both the powers and the safeguards are ragged, unclear and insufficient. No one can read the Royal Commission's report without realising that.
In the Bill we propose to construct the balance of powers and safeguards that is absolutely essential to the success of a modern police force in a democratic society.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) criticised the Bill. As I listened to him I could not help being reminded of the moving and persuasive article that appeared under his name in The Times today in which he complains of the lack of support and facilities for Opposition Front Benchers which makes it impossible for them to deliver anything except inadequate and ineffective speeches.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I refer him to the article that I wrote in The Times today, in which I said that Labour Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), could make outstanding speeches without briefing, whereas Ministers made poor speeches with briefing.
§ Mr. Hurd
The right hon. Gentleman made his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) an exception to the general rule that Opposition Front Benchers cannot speak effectively. I think that the right hon. Gentleman adequately proved that point himself today.—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Battersea was frequently invited to give way, but refused to do so and, having allowed the right hon. Gentleman his fling, I shall not give way again.
The right hon. Gentleman did not tackle the Bill. He read parts of it without appearing to relate them to anything else. His speech tailed away amiably but irrelevantly to no clear conclusion. Later many important points were made and I should like to deal with some of them. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about stop and search powers, on which a great deal of time has been spent. It is still suggested by some that the Bill gives massive new unsafeguarded powers to the police which will aggravate their dealings especially with young and black people. The leaked report of the Policy Studies Institute was prayed in aid of that argument. I shall set out again as succinctly as I can the present position and our proposals.
103 The present police powers of stop and search vary across the country and depend partly on the accident of local legislation. In some places a person reasonably suspected of carrying stolen goods can be stopped and searched — in others he cannot. Surely that cannot be sensible. The powers in the Bill will apply across the country.
The present powers do not go far enough. There is a power in respect of firearms but there is not power to stop and search in respect of flick knives or razors. Is it seriously argued that the police should not have the power to take timely action that could prevent serious injury to innocent people? If that is the view of the Opposition—and it breathed through many of their speeches—it is absurd.
In Scotland—I take issue with what was said by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton)—the police have had since 1981 the power to stop and search for offensive weapons, and that power has proved its worth. In the first 22 months of its operation it led to the finding of 439 people carrying offensive weapons. However one looks at those figures they show that a large number of people in Scotland today have been protected from attack and injury by the existence and timely use of the power. Is it seriously suggested that people in England and Wales should not have the equivalent protection?
There has always been the danger of abuse of powers, but the fact that someone who is stopped and searched may be innocent of an offence is not itself evidence of abuse. It may well be reasonable for the police to take precautions for the protection of the public, and hon. Members would complain bitterly if they did not do so. What matters is that the powers should be used sparingly and responsibly. That is why in the Bill we are for the first time introducing powerful new safeguards. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), whom I do not see in his place, argued that the safeguards are being relaxed. That is nonsense. New safeguards are being introduced and the whole system of safeguards is being substantially strengthened.
The safeguards on stop and search powerfully strengthen the rights of the citizen and strengthen the basic safeguard of reasonable suspicion. Because they do that they will make misuse of powers much easier to detect and therefore much less likely to occur. The Opposition should look at what the Bill says and at the possibilities it opens up for deterring and curbing any misuse of existing powers which may take place.
§ Mr. Hurd
I shall not give way for the reasons I have given.
Another issue that was discussed at some length and about which some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have doubts was detention. The spotlight was turned on the proposals in the Bill. Once again it is worth pointing out that we are not introducing a power—we are regulating and restricting an existing power. Most people detained are released within 24 hours. There will be cases when that is not possible — for example, complex cases where several people are being arrested and questioned in different parts of the country at roughly the same time. The question arises: what is a fair and reasonable balance to be struck? My right hon. and learned Friend the Home 104 Secretary has thought particularly carefully about the matter, because he recognises, as we all do, that detention is a serious business. It is not fun or pleasant.
Under the Bill, detention without charge is limited to 24 hours. Beyond that, it will be allowed only in the case of serious arrestable offences and only on the authority of a senior police officer. After that there will have to be recourse to a magistrates court, where the suspect would have the right to be present and to be legally represented. That is a big step forward in safeguards, because it places detention beyond 36 hours in the hands of the judiciary and not of the police. The maximum would be 96 hours, whereas there is no maximum now.
The hon. Member for Battersea talked of a police state. It is worth pointing out to him that in Sweden the parallel provision is for detention without charge for five days and in the Netherlands there can be detention for six hours on the authority of a junior officer, for 48 hours on the authority of a senior officer and a further 48 hours on the authority of a public prosecutor. I do not think that Holland and Sweden are recognised as examples of a police state, and we are proposing stronger safeguards for our citizens than are possessed by the citizens of those countries.
Another important consequence has not yet been brought out. Reference has been made to the right of silence, as if it were being taken away by the Bill. The right of silence is surely the right not to answer questions. The Bill permits detention, where it is necessary to obtain evidence, for the times that I have described. However, if, after 36 hours, the suspect made it clear to the magistrates' court that he would not answer any more questions, the court would find it difficult to justify issuing a warrant for further detention for the purpose of questioning.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), in an interesting speech, criticised the Bill on grounds that I found a little hard to follow. He said that it diminished the right to legal advice. Surely the effect of the Bill is exactly the opposite. It does not take away, but provides for the first time the statutory right to legal advice for someone in detention. It draws more narrowly than at present the cases in which that right can be delayed and gives an absolute right to legal advice after 36 hours.
Another matter raised by several hon. Members was that of intimate body searches. There was a division of opinion on the matter. My hon. Friends the Members for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) and The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) thought that the proposals in the original Bill were not unreasonable and wondered why they had been dropped. Under those proposals, the police could conduct intimate searches for investigative purposes to find evidence.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary looked carefully at the matter in the light of evidence produced by the police and thought that, on balance, it was right to rule out the possibility of intimate searches for investigative purposes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West took the opposite line and argued, as did the right hon. Member for Gorton, that protective intimate body searches should also be outlawed. I ask the House to think about the cases for which the Bill would still provide. They are cases where someone in detention is concealing — as David Martin did with a knife taped to the roof of his mouth—weapons which could be used against himself, if he is of a suicidal tendency, or against those immediately around him, if he is of a murderous tendency. Is it right 105 to say that the police should have no power to make such a person yield up such a weapon through intimate bodily search? That would be an extremely hard decision. It is wrong to wait until a tragedy occurs in a police station, because then it would be too late.
My hon. Friends the Members for Croydon, North-West and for Leicestershire, North-West raised several points about the power of arrest, especially about the power of arrest for failure to give a satisfactory address. I should make it clear, especially as one hon. Member referred to the homeless, that the address need not be a home address, but any address where a summons can be received on behalf of the suspect. The bias of this part of the Bill is in favour of proceeding by summons, but we do not accept that it is sensible that someone can refuse to give an address or can give a bogus address and drive away scot-free. Either we have such a provision or we must increase substantially the number of arrestable offences.
§ Mr. Hurd
I do not believe he would, but my hon. Friend can pursue that matter in Committee if he is able to do so.
The hon. Member for St. Helen's, South (Mr. Bermingham)—I apologise for missing the first half of his speech—repeated the point about legal aid that he made during an intervention in the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend. The Secretary of State told him about the new clause that we propose to introduce to strengthen the Law Society's existing arrangements, and also told him that money would be available for that purpose. We can examine the details later, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall do what is necessary through the Bill, and through the provision of resources, to ensure that the right to legal advice is effective both in connection with alleged offences and in connection with applications for warrants of further detention.
The hon. Member for Battersea asked plaintively why the independent prosecution service is not provided for in the Bill. Those who have followed matters carefully will know that the Government are fully committed to the independent prosecution service and that the White Paper set out our proposals for it. However, some points must be further discussed, especially the relationship between the central authority and the local prosecutors, their accountability to the House and the provision of resources. Our proposals are there and we are committed to legislation, but it is more important to get the independent prosecution service right than to have it tomorrow. If the hon. Gentleman disagrees with that, I refer him to an admirable article by the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) in today's Police Review, in which the hon. Gentleman answers admirably the complaint of the hon. Member for Battersea.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) dealt carefully and scrupulously, as one would have expected, with disciplinary offences, and we listened with great care to what he said. We realise that the Police Federation continues to favour the right of police officers to have legal representation at hearings of the first instance. As he knows, this matter causes 106 difficulty, as it did in Committee last time. It would lead to the legal representation of others, such as those who bring the case and the chief officers concerned. That would change the nature of discipline in a disciplined force. But the demand which underlies the federation's proposal is reasonable and right—the demand that no police officer should lose rank, let alone be dismissed or be required to resign, without having his case heard before an independent tribunal, established now for the first time by law, at which he can be legally represented and which from his point of view is fairly composed. These are big new steps forward and we hope that on consideration the Police Federation will find them acceptable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds also referred to the reference of minor criminal matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Under the previous Bill, chief constables could have brought criminal charges against members of their forces in minor cases without reference to the DPP. In Committee, the previous Home Secretary accepted the weight of argument against this procedure and amended it so that no criminal proceedings could be brought without reference to the DPP, but that the chief constable could decide that the matter was not serious, so that although a minor criminal offence might be involved, the matter could be dealt with by way of discipline. I understand that that was the position reached in the previous Bill, and the amendment then introduced remains unchanged in the new Bill.
As some hon. Members have acknowledged, the Bill has had a good reception in the initial skirmishes outside the House. Newspapers which attacked the original Bill have praised this one. The Law Society has welcomed the changes made to the Bill, and in particular the new definition of a serious arrestable offence. The British Medical Association, although it would have wished us to go further, has welcomed the changes made on intimate body searches. The board for social responsibility of the General Synod of the Church of England has given the Bill a cautious welcome. So far, so good. To a surprising extent, the remaining criticisms are based either on a misreading of the Bill or on a misunderstanding of the existing law. I sometimes feel that there are two Bills. There is the Bill that we are now discussing, in which a careful balance is struck between powers and safeguards, and there is a phantom Bill in the minds of some of its critics—a Bill which never was on land or sea—which confers sweeping new powers on the police but includes no safeguards for the citizen.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lyell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe). They have helped to explode some of the myths on which discussion was based. We recognise, however, that behind the myth lies a real concern about the relationship between the police and the public—especially certain sections of the public such as the young and the black people. Every police force in the country is now working to meet that concern. The consultative arrangements which under clause 96 will for the first time become part of the law are one way of working towards this purpose.
It is illogical to use that concern about public confidence as a reason to oppose the Bill. The right answer cannot be to leave the law in its present uncertain state. Still less can it be to deny the police the powers that they evidently need to catch the criminals. That would not help 107 the young. It would not help the black people. It would help only the criminal. The right answers to concern about the relations between the police and the public lie in recruitment and training, contacts between the police and the community, and safeguards for the citizens against any abuse of police powers. We are making advances in all these fields, and the Bill embodies many of them.
The Opposition's attack on the Bill today has been lame and low-key compared with the venomous attack which the previous Bill received. I hope that the reason for this change is that the Opposition have realised what dangers would lie before them if it became apparent that, for the Labour party, the problem of law and order was a problem of protecting the citizens from the police. In the eyes of the public, the problem of law and order is the problem of protecting the citizens from the criminal, and the police are an ally, not an enemy.
We have made changes in the Bill. It will now go into Committee. We shall listen and learn, although, as my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin said, the changes that we have already made will to some extent inevitably limit the changes that we can make in the future.
This is a good, balanced Bill. It will give the police the powers that they need to catch the criminal, and it will give the citizen the safeguards that he requires against any abuse of those powers.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 339, Noes 188.110
|Division No. 61]||[10 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Budgen, Nick|
|Alexander, Richard||Bulmer, Esmond|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Burt, Alistair|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Butcher, John|
|Amess, David||Butterfill, John|
|Ancram, Michael||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Ashby, David||Carttiss, Michael|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Chalker, Mrs Lynda|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Chapman, Sydney|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Chope, Christopher|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Churchill, W. S.|
|Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)||Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Baldry, Anthony||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Clegg, Sir Walter|
|Batiste, Spencer||Cockeram, Eric|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Colvin, Michael|
|Bellingham, Henry||Conway, Derek|
|Bendall, Vivian||Coombs, Simon|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Cope, John|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Cormack, Patrick|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Corrie, John|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Couchman, James|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Body, Richard||Critchley, Julian|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Crouch, David|
|Bottomley, Peter||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Dicks, T.|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Brinton, Tim||Dover, Denshore|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Dunn, Robert|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Durant, Tony|
|Browne, John||Dykes, Hugh|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Eggar, Tim|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Evennett, David|
|Eyre, Reginald||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Fallon, Michael||Key, Robert|
|Farr, John||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Knowles, Michael|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Knox, David|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lang, Ian|
|Forman, Nigel||Latham, Michael|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Forth, Eric||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Fox, Marcus||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Franks, Cecil||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh||Lightbown, David|
|Freeman, Roger||Lilley, Peter|
|Fry, Peter||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Gale, Roger||Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)|
|Galley, Roy||Lord, Michael|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||MacGregor, John|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Gorst, John||Maclean, David John.|
|Gow, Ian||Macmillan, Rt Hon M,|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Greenway, Harry||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Gregory, Conal||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)||Madel, David|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Major, John|
|Grist, Ian||Malins, Humfrey|
|Ground, Patrick||Malone, Gerald|
|Grylls, Michael||Maples, John|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Marland, Paul|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Marlow, Antony|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mates, Michael|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Maude, Francis|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Harris, David||Mellor, David|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Merchant, Piers|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Hayes, J.||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Hayward, Robert||Mitchell, David (NW Hants)|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Moate, Roger|
|Heddle, John||Moore, John|
|Henderson, Barry||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Hickmet, Richard||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hicks, Robert||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Hind, Kenneth||Mudd, David|
|Hirst, Michael||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Needham, Richard|
|Holt, Richard||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hooson, Tom||Neubert, Michael|
|Hordern, Peter||Newton, Tony|
|Howard, Michael||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Normanton, Tom|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Norris, Steven|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Onslow, Cranley|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Oppenheim, Philip|
|Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Ottaway, Richard|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Hunter, Andrew||Parris, Matthew|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Irving, Charles||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Jessel, Toby||Pawsey, James|
|Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Jones, Robert (W Herts)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Porter, Barry|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Powley, John||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)|
|Price, Sir David||Stokes, John|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Sumberg, David|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Tapsell, Peter|
|Raffan, Keith||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Rathbone, Tim||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Renton, Tim||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Tracey, Richard|
|Rost, Peter||Trippier, David|
|Rowe. Andrew||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Ryder, Richard||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Viggers, Peter|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Waddington, David|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Walden, George|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Waller, Gary|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Walters, Dennis|
|Shersby, Michael||Ward, John|
|Silvester, Fred||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Sims, Roger||Warren, Kenneth|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Watson, John|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Watts, John|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Speed, Keith||Wheeler, John|
|Speller, Tony||Whitfield, John|
|Spence, John||Whitney, Raymond|
|Spencer, D.||Wolfson, Mark|
|Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)||Wood, Timothy|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Squire, Robin||Yeo, Tim|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Steen, Anthony||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Stern, Michael||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Abse, Leo||Callaghan, Rt Hon J.|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)|
|Alton, David||Campbell, Ian|
|Anderson, Donald||Canavan, Dennis|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Ashton, Joe||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Clarke, Thomas|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Clay, Robert|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)|
|Barnett, Guy||Cohen, Harry|
|Barron, Kevin||Coleman, Donald|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Bell, Stuart||Conlan, Bernard|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Cook, Frank (Stockton North)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Blair, Anthony||Craigen, J. M.|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Crowther, Stan|
|Boyes, Roland||Cunningham, Dr John|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Dalyell, Tam|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Brown, N, (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Deakins, Eric|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Dewar, Donald|
|Caborn, Richard||Dixon, Donald|
|Dobson, Frank||Marek, Dr John|
|Dormand, Jack||Marshall, David (Shsttleston)|
|Douglas, Dick||Martin, Michael|
|Dubs, Alfred||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Maxton, John|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Eadie, Alex||Meacher, Michael|
|Eastham, Ken||Michie, William|
|Ellis, Raymond||Mikardo, Ian|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Ewing, Harry||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Nellist, David|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||O'Brien, William|
|Fisher, Mark||O'Neill, Martin|
|Flannery, Martin||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Park, George|
|Forrester, John||Parry, Robert|
|Foster, Derek||Patchett, Terry|
|Foulkes, George||Pendry, Tom|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Pike, Peter|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Prescott, John|
|George, Bruce||Radice, Giles|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Randall, Stuart|
|Godman, Dr Norman||Redmond, M.|
|Golding, John||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Gould, Bryan||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Hardy, Peter||Robertson, George|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Rogers, Allan|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Rooker, J. W.|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Ryman, John|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Home Robertson, John||Sheerman, Barry|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Hume, John||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Snape, Peter|
|John, Brynmor||Soley, Clive|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Stott, Roger|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Lambie, David||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Tinn, James|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Torney, Tom|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G|
|Litherland, Robert||Warded, Gareth (Gower)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Wareing, Robert|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Welsh, Michael|
|Loyden, Edward||White, James|
|McCartney, Hugh||Wigley, Dafydd|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|McGuire, Michael||Wilson, Gordon|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Winnick, David|
|McKelvey, William||Woodall, Alec|
|Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|McTaggart, Robert||Tellers for the Noes:|
|McWilliam, John||Mr. Harry Cowans and|
|Madden, Max||Mr. Frank Haynes.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No.42 (Committal Bills)