§ Order for Third Reading read.4.32 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Leon Brittan)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The genesis of this Bill, as the House will recall, lies in the Royal Commission on criminal procedure, established by the Labour Government in the light of growing concern at the unevenness and uncertainty of police powers in a range of areas. As a result of the Royal Commission's deliberations a package of proposals emerged dealing with the various stages of police contact with the public and suspected offenders, and asking at each stage what powers were necessary to enable the police to perform their task and what safeguards were needed in respect of each power to ensure its proper use.
That "necessity" principle—that the police should be given only the powers actually needed for the job—and the principle that powers should be balanced by safeguards, which was integral to the Royal Commission's proposals, have been the basis of the Bill from the start. That was the basis of the Bill that my predecessor Lord Whitelaw presented to the House in 1982, and that remains the case with the Bill before us now. As I emphasised at Second Reading, the Bill's approach of clarifying the present state of the law in order to give the police the powers they need, and the public the safeguards they have a right to expect, is an essential part of my overall strategy to create more effective policing. The police cannot do their job properly without a clear statement of the powers available to them. Nor can they do so without public confidence that those powers will be exercised responsibly.
The fears expressed about the Bill in its original form were, I believe, based upon an imperfect reading of its provisions. But the Government did recognise that some quite genuine anxieties had been aroused, particularly so far as powers of entry were concerned, and made very substantial efforts to provide that the situations about which fears had been expressed, however unlikely they might have been to occur in practice, could not arise, even in theory.
When I took office last summer I made the decision that the various changes made or promised to the Bill by my predecessor should be honoured, and I further set in hand an extensive and thorough review of the Bill's provisions. As a result of that review, further changes were made before its reintroduction. I decided to make explicit on the face of the Bill my commitment to the tape recording of police interviews with suspects. The definition of what constituted a serious arrestable offence was substantially changed. The power to conduct an intimate bodily search of a detained person was restricted to protective purposes only. And the previous Bill's provisions in regard to police Complaints were substantially developed, leading to the creation of a new and powerful Police Complaints Authority.
The Bill has again received a thorough and searching scrutiny in this Chamber and in Committee. As the House will know, it now holds the all-comers' record for the number of sittings of the Standing Committee—59.
The House has in the last two days agreed to 245 amendments. To these must be added the amendments 379 made in Committee. Certainly the fact of 59 Committee sittings and the amendments to which they gave birth give the lie to suggestions that have been made that the Government have been rushing or steamrollering the Bill through Parliament. But although these amendments in my view certainly improve the Bill, its structure and its principal provisions remain intact.
I shall now summarise the main amendments to which we have agreed. In part I of the Bill, the scope of the power to stop and search for stolen or other unlawful articles has been clarified, to ensure that the ability of the police to protect the public from assault and theft is not artificially impeded. At the same time the safeguards governing the power have been strengthened. There are additional requirements to provide information to a person who is to be searched, and then to record it. These requirements will strengthen the fundamental safeguard that searches may be undertaken only on the basis of reasonable suspicion of the individual concerned, and not on any random or discriminatory basis. The provisions regulating the use of road checks have also been clarified in a way that will make them easier to follow and preserve the ability of the police to trace possible witnesses to serious crime.
In part II, additional protection has been provided for material that is subject to legal privilege. The uncertainties of the law have been resolved in favour of a clear statement that the police may in no circumstances search for or have access to such material without consent. We have clarified the provision in regard to journalistic material although, as I told the House last night, I am not persuaded that it would be right to retreat from the undertakings given last year.
In part III, new safeguards have been introduced to ensure that any delay in taking an arrested person straight to a police station is necessary for the immediate purposes of the investigation and has to be fully accounted for. Clause 22, which empowers the police to arrest an offender if, but only if, the summons procedure would be ineffective or inappropriate, no longer employs the somewhat uncertain test of the prevention of an affront to public decency. Instead, the clause makes it clear that the purpose of arrest in these circumstances is solely to prevent the commission or repetition of criminal offences of this kind.
In part IV, there is now a substantial new protection against the unnecessary detention of a person in custody at a police station. The court which reviews the need for such detention on a police application for a warrant of further detention will be empowered, if it grants the application, to authorise continuing detention for no more than 36 hours without a further full review. In any case, therefore, in which — very unusually — it proves necessary to detain a person suspected of serious crime for more than 72 hours without charge, there will have to be at least two full hearings at which he must be present and will be entitled to be legally represented. Another important new safeguard reinforces the overall time limits on detention by ensuring that the grant of police bail does not turn the detention clock back to zero.
In part V, there are new requirements for the publication of information about intimate searches and new safeguards on the taking and destruction of fingerprints and body samples. The Government are determined to make the right to legal advice effective on the ground, and not exist simply on paper. This is given effect by the new provision for the establishment of duty 380 solicitor schemes at police stations, backed up by substantial additional provision for expenditure on criminal legal aid.
As to the codes of practice for which part VI provides, the House will see that we have published a further revised draft, again incorporating new safeguards and protections, particularly in respect of the vulnerable and handicapped.
In the evidence provisions of the Bill, parts VII and VIII, we have been concerned not only with important matters of principle but also with complex legal and technical questions. As a result of wide consultation about the impact of high technology on material available to the courts, we have been able to simplify considerably the provisions relating to the admissibility of documentary records and computer evidence, while ensuring that sufficient and stringent conditions are reliably met.
A further significant change is in the area of police discipline. In reviewing the previous Bill in the course of the summer, I accepted the principle that no police officer should lose his or her job or rank without the opportunity to have his or her case presented by a lawyer. I sought to achieve this by a substantial reform of the discipline appeal system. The Bill provides for the first time a statutory entitlement to an appeal tribunal, where legal representation is an established right, in all cases where one of these penalties has been imposed, Further, the Bill provides that such tribunals should be enlarged to include a retired officer from the ranks represented by the appellant's own staff association.
Those changes were welcomed by the police representative bodies, but there was continuing concern that a legal adviser should be available for the first hearing of the case before the chief constable. Therefore, we considered the matter again and announced in March that we were considering how such an entitlement might be provided. As the House knows, this pledge was made good by the new clause that I moved on representation at discipline hearings. Under that clause, unless legal representation has been offered it will not be possible to impose on the officer the punishments of dismissal, requirement to resign or reduction in rank.
The main changes to the Bill which I have summarised are, of course, supplemented by numerous other amendments to make its provisions clearer in meaning and more certain in effect.
I want now to turn to the main purposes of the Bill. It remains, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, the Member for Whitney (Mr. Hurd) and I have stressed on many occasions, both a law and order and a civil liberties measure. A proper balance between the interests of society in curbing crime and the interests of the individual suspected of committing it is maintained throughout. That is true of the provisions on stop and search, searching for evidence, and detention—to name but three of the most important areas.
But the Bill's provisions are important for another reason, too. That is that they provide the right legal framework for modern policing. The Bill's critics have desperately tried to portray it as a vehicle for oppression. The reverse is the truth. It is in the interests of society and the interests of the police that powers and safeguards should be clarified and set on a firm legal footing. Policing which takes place in a grey world of confusion between legality and illegality has no place in modern society. The police do not want that, and nor does the public.
381 Modern policing requires that the police should have the powers that they need to prevent and detect today's crime. Yet today's police powers have developed in a patchy, haphazard way over nearly two centuries and all too often bear the marks of their origin. For example, powers of arrest are today contained in about 70 different Acts of Parliament. The anomalies and inconsistencies are legion. No one—least of all the Royal Commission, or presumably the previous Labour Government who set it up —doubted that.
The police need clearer improved powers in order to deal more effectively with those crimes which must worry the public, particularly in our inner cities. The police need the power to stop and search for weapons if they are to respond properly to the appalling incidents of street violence which we read of daily in the newspapers. They need the power to stop and search for stolen goods—not in some cities but not others as at present — but everywhere. They need that power if they are to make the bigger impact on burglaries and theft of any kind which the public rightly expect. They need the power to take fingerprints and body samples from suspected criminals if they are to use to the full the resources of modern forensic science. If the public seriously want to see those criminals caught—which I am confident they do—legislators must provide such a power.
The public are shocked, and rightly so, and hon. Members write to me, and again rightly so, when tragic incidents occur in police custody. But we cannot expect the police to prevent disturbed or dangerous people from inflicting wounds on themselves or on those around them if we do not ensure that the police have the power to have a doctor conduct, or in the last resort themselves to conduct, intimate body searches to remove concealed weapons.
Of course, it would be more comfortable if we lived in a world where the police did not have to have such powers. But we do not live in such a world and legislation has to recognise that fact. What is necessary, and indeed long overdue, is the proper definition of the power, and this is provided for in the Bill.
Indeed, modern policing does not require a general extension of police powers, but rather their reform in the light of modern society's needs. It is crucial that stronger, better, clearer safeguards should be provided for the individual—both in those areas where police powers are necessarily extended and in other areas too. Policing by nod, nudge and wink is unacceptable to the police and society alike.
I shall not go through in any detail the safeguards provided in the Bill, but I do want to remind the House how important and substantial they are. I have already mentioned detention by the police without charge and the new safeguard of a further review by a magistrates court for which we are now providing. The provision for tape recording of suspects' interviews at police stations, which is now on the face of the Bill, constitutes another move in the same direction. The safeguards built into the stop and search provision are just as important and, like those on detention, entirely new. I stress that point. When stopping and searching someone whom the officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting of carrying a weapon or stolen goods, a police officer will now have to identify himself, to state the purpose of the search and the grounds for 382 undertaking it, and to make a record wherever practicable to do so. The person searched will have a right to obtain a copy of the record. This procedure will act as a check on any tendency to use the power in a random or discriminatory manner.
Reformed powers balanced by reformed safeguards have one overall purpose — to provide for effective policing carried on with the confidence and co-operation of the public. Of course, the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill will not and cannot achieve that on its own. No legislation, however complex or comprehensive, could do so. But because it fits in with the broader strategic approach to modem policing which we are determined to pursue, I am confident that it will provide an enduring legislative framework for policing for many years.
Modern policing should not be aimless or random, but should concentrate scarce and costly resources where they will have most effect. That is the approach adopted by the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis, and by many other chief constables, and it is one that we are encouraging. The improved powers in the Bill to prevent and detect crime complement that approach.
Modern policing must also be conducted without discrimination and with courtesy and should make the fullest use of public co-operation. The Metropolitan commissioner's new statement of aims for the Metropolitan police and complementary handbook of professional conduct will recognise these crucial points. Throughout the country, neighbourhood watch schemes are drawing local communities into more active involvement in crime prevention. So are crime prevention panels. Pursuing the same approach, this Bill gives a statutory basis for police consultation with the community which I am confident will build up links of respect and cooperation between police officers and the local public they serve.
The new prosecution service — independent of the police—for which the Government hope to introduce legislation in the next session will reassure the public that those who assemble evidence and bring a charge are not responsible for conducting the prosecution. The same philosophy lies behind the new police complaints procedure which the Bill introduces under which the investigation of complaints by the public will be subject to independent scrutiny and control.
The Bill before the House is, therefore, designed to provide a sound and enduring framework for policing with consent over the years ahead. It is the result of much thought and debate. Many changes and improvements have been made to the proposals which originally came from the Royal Commission. But the Bill still remains firmly based on the key principles identified by the Commission, that the law governing the investigation of crime must be open. It must be fair and it must be practicable. It must also strike a fair balance between necessary powers and appropriate safeguards. It is because I believe that the Bill as it now stands fully satisfies those criteria that I commend it warmly to the House.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
The House is relieved to hear that, following an intensive search by air, land and sea, a missing person has now been traced, namely, that the Home Secretary has been found and returned to his loved ones or, in lieu of such persons, the Government Chief Whip, although, if the speech that 383 the House has just heard is anything to go by, he is clearly suffering from selective amnesia. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems little the worse for his ordeal. An intimate search has revealed that the cliches that he always carries about his person have not been tampered with, and are in full working order.
For months now, the Minister of State, Home Office has been doing the real work on the Bill to the best of his ability, for what that is worth. The right hon. Gentleman has inherited from the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) when he was a Minister of State at the Department of the Environment the position of the man who follows the Lord Mayor's procession with the broom and shovel, and it is the Bill now before the House on which he has worked so hard.
We are coming to the end of the consideration of a Bill which has lasted in the House now for more than six months. It is one of the longest and most meticulous examinations of a piece of legislation in the history of the House. I thank my hon. Friends who served on the Standing Committee, and whose hard work, care and dedication have led to a great many of the changes in the Bill. We have just listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman giving a list of changes, and attempting to imply that these were changes that the Government have volunteered out of their wisdom and goodwill. Almost all the beneficial changes of the Bill have come about as a result of pressure by the Opposition in those 147 hours of debate.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was present for three of the 147 hours, and absent for 98 per cent. of the Committee proceedings, so he is not qualified to make any knowledgeable comment on what took place there. He will not have been aware, for example, that the Bill, the revision of which he boasts about, was so badly drafted that, even at the end, we had to suggest to the Government that one perpetuated power in one schedule would have been repealed in another schedule. We had to put that right for the Government, just as we had to put so many other things right for them.
When we commenced Second Reading of the Bill, on behalf of the Opposition, I listed the principal matters to which we objected in a Bill that as a whole we regarded as highly obnoxious. On some of these matters, we have managed to obtain improvements. We have managed to obtain legal representation for police facing disciplinary charges. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) ought to know that he would have not had a hope of achieving that had the Opposition not voted with him, together with others of his hon. Friends. It was our pressure, our presence and our votes that made that possible, and the hon. Gentleman had better know it, because, of course, the change was made between the two previous Bills.
In the last day alone, we have achieved the possibility of a code of practice on stop and search. We have achieved the requirement of an additional application to the magistrate for a prolongation of detention without charge, and we have achieved greater safeguards for those arrested away from the place in which it is intended to question them.
As a result of the amendments that we have moved, and to which response has been made, there is a tighter definition of intimate body samples. Our major complaint on Second Reading and in Committee to which the Government at first failed to respond, about the danger of 384 unrecorded arrest and release before the police station is reached, is now rectified, because such an arrest has to be recorded. There are greater safeguards for people who are forcibly fingerprinted. There is some tightening of the definition of serious arrestable offence. These are all matters about which I complained in my speech on Second Reading.
The Opposition have achieved a number of other major changes in the Bill, including greater safeguards on the search of a vehicle, and greater safeguards for newspapers receiving unsolicited material from people who obtained the material in an unauthorised fashion. The phrasean affront to public decencyhas been replaced by the phrasean offence against public decency.There are greater safeguards for children and young persons who have been arrested. There are greater safeguards for people from whom non-intimate samples are forcibly taken. There is the abolition of the common law power of search of persons.
All these matters are ones on which we put forward amendments, for which we argued, against which in many cases the Minister of State resisted our arguments, and. to which in the end the Government yielded. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, that is true. That came about because the Minister of State was placed in such appalling difficulties that in the end he had to concede. The right hon. Gentleman had better go back and look at the Committee debate on why a private garden is a public place before he preens himself on the way in which he has conducted himself on the Bill. All these changes have brought about improvements in the Bill — sometimes marginal, sometimes a little more than marginal. However, as far as the Opposition are concerned, the Bill remains a profoundly obnoxious measure.
The Secretary of State in his speech began by saying that the Government were acting upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure. I regard that as a statement of the most extraordinary effrontery, because repeatedly in the Bill the recommendations of the Royal Commission have been overridden. When we have quoted those recommendations, the Minister of State has repeatedly said, "Oh, well, on this one we disagreed with the Royal Commission." To say that the Bill is in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission is such a departure from veracity that that in itself ought to be an offence under a clause in the Bill.
Let us look at the major matters—because there are also many minor matters—in the Bill which we regard still as unacceptable. There are the intolerably wide stop and search powers which, if one extrapolates from the London figures, could affect up to 7 million people a year in the country. There are the road search and road block powers which are also far too wide and can be conducted on the recommendation of a superintendent, although the Royal Commission said that any recommendation ought to be given by an assistant chief constable. There is the fact that the police can still carry out forcible intimate searches. We are relieved to hear from the Home Secretary's speech that such searches will be carried out with courtesy, though I am not sure what good that will do the people who are searched.
385 The police will still be able to take intimate bodily samples; they can still forcibly take fingerprints without having to go to a magistrate for permission, which is an innovation.
The definition of journalistic material is still ludicrously imprecise and is a danger to press freedom. For the Home Secretary to claim that the Government have clarified the definition of journalistic material is yet another example of his lack of familiarity with his own Bill.
The term "serious arrestable offence" can still mean pretty well whatever the police want it to mean. The general grounds for arrest in the Bill amount almost to a blank cheque. The Home Secretary claimed some credit on accountability, but the accountability provisions in the Bill amount to little more than a charade. As for the complaints procedure, that is a violation of the recommendations of Lord Scarman, because it contains no independent element of investigation and, therefore, no confidence can be had in it.
Above all these other matters to which we object very strongly, there is the provision for detention without charge for up to 96 hours and detention without charge and incommunicado for up to 36 hours. That is an unacceptable infringement of the liberties of the subject.
Although this is the third version of the Bill—the first was brought in by Viscount Whitelaw and the second was introduced by the Home Secretary on 7 November —and about 300 amendments were incorporated into the Bill on Report this week, it is still a Bill that no one, except its ministerial progenitors, loves or wants.
The Police Federation certainly does not want the Bill. Its representatives have made that clear to me.
§ Mr. Kaufman
They want extra powers, but they do not want the Bill, and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) was present when they told me that they do not want the Bill.
The police may want greater powers—I do not differ from the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds if he is saying that, though I would oppose the police being given greater powers—but they do not like the Bill because they have asked for a clarification of their powers, so that officers carrying out their duty to prevent or detect crime can know what they are allowed to do, but the Bill, far from clarifying the duties and powers of the police, obfuscates them.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I know that the last thing that the right hon. Gentleman would want to go out from the House is the impression that he has put into the mouth of the Police Federation something that it does not believe. The federation has a number of reservations and criticisms about the Bill, but it believes that it would be a tragedy if the measure did not get a Third Reading and go onto the statute book.
§ Mr. Kaufman
I am not putting anything into the mouths of the Police Federation; I am saying what the Police Federation put into my ears. Representatives of the federation told me that they do not want the Bill. I am happy to go on record saying that. [Interruption.] It is no good the Home Secretary muttering; he has hardly 386 bothered to trouble himself with the Bill over the past six months. We may come back to omissions for which he is responsible, but let us content ourselves with the Bill for the moment.
The Bill does not clarify the duties of the police. It imposes a mountain of bureaucracy on a force that is hard-pressed in any case. It imposes duties with regard to the training of, for example, custody officers, though it provides no more money. Indeed, the rate support grant provisions will affect the police badly.
Lawyers do not like the Bill. The Law Society certainly does not like it and has made it clear to us throughout the passage of the Bill that it believes that the measure infringes many legal safeguards. The defenders of civil liberties certainly do not like the Bill, because it contains unprecedented statutory infringements of civil liberties.
What about this as a Bill to fight crime? The Home Secretary made some claims for that, and is not alone in doing so. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) has handed me a leaflet that is apparently circulating in Birmingham and, since it was printed in Smith square, it may be circulating more widely. It says:The Conservative Government is pledged to crack down on crime and make the streets safer for you and your family.Well, really! After five years of this Government, they are still circulating such material, which ought to be liable to prosecution under the trade descriptions legislation.
Let us look at a handful of the statistics about crime under this Government. All offences recorded by police totalled 2,396,000 in the last year of the Labour Government and 3,071,000 last year— an increase of 28.2 per cent. Offences of violence against the person numbered 87,073 in the last year of the Labour Government and 111,230 last year—an increase of 27.7 per cent. The Home Secretary had the effrontery to refer to the Government's fight against burglaries. The number of burglaries has risen from 565,710 in the last year of the Labour Government to 813,386 under this Government —an increase of 43.8 per cent.
In 1982, the last year for which statistics are available, only nine crimes were cleared up for each policeman in England and Wales. The clear-up rate in the last year of the Labour Government was 42 per cent. Last year, the rate was 37 per cent. We have an unprecedented crime wave under a Government who came to office deceiving and misleading the electorate into believing that they would reduce crime or combat it more effectively. The crime statistics are at record levels and our constituents — certainly my constituents and those of my hon. Friends — want an effective fight against crime and action to deal with it.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
My right hon. Friend referred to the document that is being stuffed through letter boxes in my constituency and in others in Birmingham. Does he agree that instead of wasting their efforts peddling such trash around the city of Birmingham, the Government would do better to make serious efforts to reduce the number of burglaries and other crimes to which my constituents and others are subjected?
§ Mr. Kaufman
I should have thought that the document might be described under the Bill as a prohibited article and that anyone carrying it should be subjected to the stop and search powers as soon as the Bill becomes law.
387 For the past six months, we have debated the Bill in great detail and we know that it will do nothing effective to fight crime. However, it will erode the liberties of millions of innocent people. The overwhelming majority of the millions who will be stopped and searched will be innocent. The overwhelming majority of those detained without charge, and detained incommunicado, will be innocent. That is why I say — I say it clearly so that there can be no misunderstanding—that the next Labour Government will repeal the Bill. We will do what the present Government have failed to do, although they have claimed to do it. I mean that we shall bring in measures effectively to fight real crime. As a demonstration of our wish to fight real crime, of the paper-thin nature of the Bill before us and of the fact that the Bill is a profound violation of civil liberties, we will vote against it today.
§ Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)
As the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has said, we are nearing the end of a long road. For those of us who sat through the 59 Committee sittings the road has been especially long, and it has been longer still for me because I also sat through the 41 sittings of the Committee on the previous Bill. That makes a total of 100 sittings. Before that, I was involved in assisting my noble Friend Lord Whitelaw in preparing the White Paper which preceded the Bill and stemmed from—although it was not intended to be a carbon copy of—the Royal Commission report.
In view of that background, the House will not be surprised to hear that I think that this is a good Bill. However, I have one reservation, and there is also one area on which I should be grateful for some assurance from my right hon. and learned Friend. Clause 49 precludes the police from undertaking intimate searches for evidence. I expressed my views on that point on Second Reading and in Committee, and the matter was ventilated again in the early hours of this morning. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will not come to regret his decision on that clause.
I would be grateful for an assurance on clause 39, which deals with detention. I believe that the review periods and the 96-hour maximum are about right. They strike the balance which we seek to maintain throughout the Bill between giving the police adequate powers to investigate crime and maintaining the rights of the individual. I was surprised that some of my hon. Friends voiced doubts about this point yesterday. I think that the correct balance has been struck.
One of the provisions requires that detention shall be reviewed by the court after 36 hours, unless a sitting of the court is due within six hours. This provision is causing some concern to the Justices' Clerks' Society and the Association of Magisterial Officers. They are concerned about what will happen if no sitting is due during that six-hour period. It is assumed that there will be a special sitting of the court. The Magistrates Association has made it clear that, in accordance with their public duty, the magistrates would be willing to appear at such courts. However, representatives of the court staff pointed out to me at the weekend that if sittings were to be held at weekends — perhaps on bank holiday weekends — a standby clerk would have to be ready at any time to open up the court, not to mention a caretaker to unlock it. There 388 are financial implications. Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend could consider that point and write to me about it.
I believe that the Bill in its present form is a good Bill. I believe that the Committee and its predecessors did a good job in improving and refining the provisions. I am referring not only to the Ministers who have dealt with this Bill but to those who worked on its predecessor. I am sure that we would all include the present Solicitor-General, who did much work on the previous Bill.
The Bill has been consistently misrepresented. There was an example of that a few moments ago. We are accustomed to certain clergymen and members of other groups launching into print or speech without studying the proposals which they criticise, but there is no excuse for the campaign of deliberate distortion and misrepresentation carried out by the Labour party, and by the Labour party masquerading as the GLC and spending £179,000 of ratepayers' money on opposing the Bill. There is no excuse for the efforts of various other organisations also financed by the GLC.
Much material has been produced by those who oppose the Bill. One of the most widely circulated leaflets, which was put through doors throughout London, announced that "The Police Bill is back". It claims that, under the Bill, people can be frisked in the street by force, and suggests that that is a new power in the Bill. As we all know, the Bill restricts the powers of the police to stop and search, and surrounds them with conditions. The leaflet refers to the powers to set up random road blocks. It does not refer to the present conditions under which road blocks may be set up. The Bill in fact restricts the powers of the police to set up road blocks, and builds in safeguards. There are also references to detention and to the 96-hour period.
The Opposition know perfectly well how unsatisfactory the present law is and how it is improved by the Bill. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton referred to literature being circulated in Birmingham. The inaccurate literature distributed in the London area at the ratepayers' expense is far more deserving of criticism.
There is also something which calls itself the National Campaign Against the Police Bill. The headline on its leaflet reads: "No Police State!" That is nonsense. The leaflet states:The Government is out to destroy rights and freedoms which working people have fought for for centuries.That is absolute rubbish. Anyone who studies the Bill must realise that there is no shred of truth in it. It is a statement that one might expect from some of the hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen who are named as sponsors of the campaign, but it is disappointing to see there the name of the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs), who usually takes a balanced view.
It is to the credit of the Opposition that, in Committee, in general, they were constructive in their criticism and co-operative in the Committee proceedings. However, it was strange to hear the right hon. Gentleman both criticising the Government for the number of Government amendments that have been made in order to improve the Bill and boasting about the extent to which he has obtained concessions from the Government. He must make up his mind. If the Government had announced their intention to push through the Bill whether people liked it or not, the right hon. Gentleman would have been equally critical.
Despite their activities in Committee, the Opposition presence on Report was minimal. If the Opposition's 389 friends at county hall had seen the empty Benches in the Chamber during the past couple of days, they might not have thought that their money had been well spent.
This is an important Bill. I believe that it will be one of the most important Bills to be passed during this Parliament. It has been very well considered, and I believe that the final product deserves the full support of the House.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
In Committee we asked about the cost of the necessary training of police forces to ensure that officers who use the extensive powers provided in the Bill are properly aware of its provisions. What assistance and advice is the Home Office offering police forces on that training? What will be the scale and extent of the training? What is its expected cost? Will the Government provide extra money to make the training possible?
Whatever the Opposition's views on the subject, I am sure that I do not need to labour the sense of making plans well in advance when such an extensive measure is introduced. The training must be organised and carried out properly. Who will be the trainers and who will train the trainers? I am sorry that the Home Secretary has had to leave again — perhaps he will reappear later. The industrial and commercial world is alarmed by the rate of turnover of those for whom the training is provided. I am told that about 90 per cent. of graduate recruits to the West Midlands constabulary leave within two years and that about 50 per cent. of other recruits also leave within two years. Therefore, the Government must think again if they believe that the training will be a once-for-all exercise. I have no reason to believe that the turnover rates in the west midlands are exceptional, so training must be continuous. We know that it is expensive but that is no reason for giving up the attempt to ensure that it is adequate and that there are trainers in post to conduct it effectively so that training is renewed and repeated as people come and go.
Time is another important factor in training. It is regrettable that, especially in metropolitan areas, the police seem to have adopted a far too reactive style of policing. To take the analogy of a fire station, it is as though they wait for the bell to ring, get into a car and rush off to deal with the problem. I am not being critical but trying to address reality. Such policing has a bearing on training, the time available for it and the Home Secretary's aspirations for the Bill. One of the things that he said with which I agree was the critical importance of relations between the police and the public in the battle against crime. If that relationship is to be encouraged, developed, nurtured and sustained, far more attention must be paid to the community aspects of policing as opposed to the reactive policies that have been adopted by many forces.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that Sir Kenneth Newman is the inventor of the not terribly agreeable term "pro-active policing" because he accepts the hon. Gentleman's diagnosis and is trying hard to move in that direction.
§ Mr. Corbett
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I am sure that senior officers are aware of what I am describing. I raise the point because it is a real problem and is relevant to the establishments of some police forces. The Home 390 Secretary should examine that. We know that, in the past couple of years, there have been more policemen on the beat but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) rightly observed, there has been a continuing rise in most branches of crime.
It has been explained to me by someone who has good reason to know what is happening that it is not so much community policing that is carried out as policing that is geared to inhabitants of the area concerned. It is a case of, "Do what you can to keep them sweet." On the edges of big cities such as Birmingham, in, for example, Sutton Coldfield, Solihull and Edgbaston which are inhabited principally by professional people, I am told that the police take the view of, "Play it by the book and do not upset them." If we regard cities as a dartboard, closer to the centre of the board, almost anything goes. It is precisely in the inner-city areas where stop and search, for example, will have the most serious impact. In inner-city areas, which my right hon. and hon. Friends often represent, where ethnic minorities tend to live, policing must be conducted with the utmost sensitivity. However, because of pressures on police time and reliance on reactive policing, we run the risk of doing the most damage to the relationship between police and public.
No doubt Conservative Members are fed up to the back teeth hearing what I am about to say, but it is our strongest argument against the Bill. There should be no doubt about our wanting a well-equipped, well-trained and responsive police force because working people and their families suffer most from the rise in crime. We favour law and order but we want police forces to be more sensitive to the communities of which they are a part. We want them to consult more but, by thrusting new powers on them, the Bill means that we run the risk of going in quite the wrong direction.
Anyone who gives the matter a moment's thought will realise that someone who is stopped on the street under stop and search powers is potentially a friend lost by the police unless that stop—and especially the search—is carried out considerately and sensitively. It is all too often the case that, because of pressures on the police and shortage of manpower on some shifts, things get done in a hurry, words that were not meant are said, the tone of voice is wrong and the next time that the offended person is able to assist the police with their inquiries, co-operation is withheld. It is precisely that co-operation on which the police rely.
§ Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)
Much of what the hon. Gentleman has said is absolutely true, but does he not accept that the safeguards provided by the Bill nine times out of 10, prevent the very events that he has described?
§ Mr. Corbett
I am afraid that I must say, quite flatly, that I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's point for one moment. We all know that, whatever safeguards are written into the Bill or the code of practice, no Minister can stand at the Dispatch Box and guarantee 90 per cent. — let alone 100 per cent. — compliance. In the real world of policing on the streets, especially in large cities, the police are under pressure or, perhaps, inexperienced. A policeman's station sergeant or senior officer might be on his back because he has not processed enough bits of paper and is therefore regarded as not doing terribly well. He is therefore under tremendous pressure to stop, search or arrest people. These are the pressures that are experienced on the ground.
391 I shall allude to the leaflet about crime in Birmingham. I detect from the back of this leaflet that it was printed in January 1984. It was clearly part of the thrust of the Conservative party in my city of Birmingham to try to keep that jewel in the Tory crown. As we all know, it did not work. It did not deserve to work, because this leaflet is an affront to anybody's intelligence. We know from my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton that there has been rising crime in Birmingham, and I have already said that this is particularly in the inner-city areas, where people are afraid to go out in the street and where the rate of burglaries is unacceptable in a society that likes to think of itself as civilised. The leaflet says:The Conservative Government is pledged to crack down on crime and make the streets safer for you and your family.That is a cheapskate way of standing the facts on their heads in a bid to buy votes at the ballot box.
The Bill is a dangerous one and is going in completely the wrong direction. I was extremely pleased to hear my right hon. Friend pledge that when the Labour party is again in government it will repeal the Bill.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
I shall vote against this Bill. My first reason is the one to which I alluded yesterday when I spoke on Report. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and his party have said that they will repeal this Bill. I understand that the Liberals and the SDP will be voting against the Bill. I said yesterday, and I repeat again today, that a Bill such as this has wide constitutional implications. It demands consensus politics and agreement between the major sections in Parliament and in the House, and the fact that we have not got that agreement must mean that the Bill is fundamentally wrong in some important particulars.
The Bill is fundamentally wrong because, although it deals with an issue on which there is broad agreement on both sides of the House, an issue of liberty and freedom, we have been unable to agree on it. There is not the consensus that one would want for it. One wonders how the Bill will be enforced if there is no such agreement.
We want certainty, and a law that will stand the test of time. I am saddened that the Opposition have said that they will seek to repeal the Bill if they are in a position to do so—I hope that they never are—because parts of it are good. I should seek only to amend it. However, as I said yesterday, and as the right hon. Member for Gorton also said yesterday, this Bill reaches a pinnacle, and the pinnacle is the 96 hours detention. That is the most important part of the Bill.
The very fact that we needed a Bill such as this in the first place, and the fact that I voted for it on Second Reading, is a sign that the present law is a muddle. We have no proper rules about stop and search or about search warrants. Those have been dealt with in the Bill; I support those measures and think that they are right. However, in other areas the law was in a mess and remains in a mess. The Bill has failed to grasp that and to come to terms with the failures in our law.
There is a complete failure to do something about the law relating to identification. This was dealt with in the Royal Commission report, but is not seen in the Bill. Lord Devlin's report to the House on 26 April 1976 was on this subject, and the law of identification is still a complete and utter mess. It is no better now than it ever was. Cases are decided by identification alone, and it is for the House to 392 deal with this problem, but it has failed to do so. That is a failure in a Bill which has been applauded as a major step forward.
Lord Devlin's report referred to the Court of Appeal in the case of Turnbull, but the Court of Appeal is not a legislative body. It does not make law; it defines it. All that it could say was that it was worried about identification, and Lord Devlin has shown how worried one should be about identification. However. at the moment, all that we can do is say that in cases where there is identification evidence, the courts should give a warning about how dangerous it is to convict on that evidence. However, we still have convictions on fleeting identification, on fleeting views of people. We have all had experience of thinking that we have recognised somebody, only to find we are wrong. People we know well have not identified us correctly. The most dangerous evidence of all is identification evidence, which is not dealt with in the Bill.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
My hon. Friend says that the Bill does not deal with identification and that we have failed to tackle the matter. With respect, I think that he has failed to read the documentation. The draft code of practice deals with identification of persons by the police. If he reads our proceedings, he will see that the Committee tackled the problem, although it may not have arrived at the same conclusions that my hon. Friend would like. However., to suggest that this problem was not dealt with is absurd.
§ Mr. Ashby
My hon. Friend is wrong. The code does not deal with identification. There is only one solution for it, and Lord Devlin made it perfectly clear—that there should be corroboration of a material particular of identification, but there is no attempt to deal with that, or with identification. It is a matter of evidence and has not been dealt with by the Bill.
§ Mr. Hayes
Much of what my hon. Friend says on identification is right; he has been at the Bar for some 20 years and should know. However, I take issue with him on one point. The case of Turnbull is clear. The judge had to direct the jury members, as I am sure my hon. Friend will accept, to the fact that there had been only a fleeting glance, and that they must not convict on an identification.
§ Mr. Ashby
I wish that I had the feeling that my hon. Friend has that that is a safeguard, because that is not what happens now. All that the judge has to do—my hon. Friend should know this as he is also a practising member of the Bar—is warn the jury of the dangers. The jury can still, and juries do still, convict on the basis of fleeting identification. This is a dangerous thing and there have been a number of cases at whose outcome I have been deeply disturbed. There must be many cases of a miscarriage of justice through mis-identification.
Another matter to which I refer is accomplice evidence. The Bill makes no attempt—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member, but I remind him that on Third Reading hon. Members must consider what is in the Bill, not what they believe should be in it.
§ Mr. Ashby
I shall endeavour to keep to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I referred yesterday to entrapment and agents provocateurs, which should be fully debated in the House.
393 The last great muddled area in the law is detention. The Bill has got it wrong in legislating for detention of 96 hours. The legislation has dealt with that matter in a way that will be less than helpful to the courts. A maximum period of 96 hours detention will result in less respect for the law and perhaps less respect for the police. People will feel that the law is not fair and just. Successful laws would mean that people would believe that the laws are fair and just. That is a consensus approach, and why I say that the Bill deals with a major constitutional issue. We need a consensus approach.
I deal daily with the actions of the police at the sharp end, when I see them giving evidence and being cross-examined. Sometimes I wince on observing the contortions they must employ because of the legal procedures and failures in the law. I generalise that aspect as a muddle in the law. No odium can be attached when the police keep within fair and sensible procedures. Fair and acceptable laws will mean that the actions of the police within those laws will be looked on favourably and that respect for the police will increase. If the procedures are unfair and unacceptable, the lack of respect for the police will continue.
I repeat what I have said already: this is an important Bill for civil liberties. Other parts of the Bill are good, but they are mere minnows compared with the whale of the period of detention. Because the House on Report was unable to accept a period of 48 hours detention, which I believe most people would see as fair and reasonable, I cannot support Third Reading.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Members of the public might not understand the courage it takes to make a speech such as the one made by the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby). His approach was profoundly different from that of the Government. He revealed his intention to vote against a Bill to which the Government attach great importance. Those of us who agree with him that a matter of such seriousness should be approached in a non-partisan spirit can only congratulate him and wish him well. We share his hope that his attitude will influence those in the other place who must consider the Bill.
The Government's purposes in bringing forward the Bill were well described by the Secretary of State at the beginning of the debate. I made it plain on Second Reading that the Social Democrats and Liberals accept the need to assist the process of policing by clarifying and codifying police powers. That exercise is a necessary development in our society, because powers, which have developed in a random and haphazard way, vary from city to city and between one part of the country and another. It was right to seek, as the previous Labour Government did, to bring some order into this chaos by setting up the Royal Commission and to bring forward legislation in this regard.
I repeat, sadly, that the Bill's progress through the House has not resulted in substantial improvements that will enable my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Liberal and Social Democratic parties to support the Bill. We shall, therefore, vote against the Bill.
The Bill embodies a number of provisions that are repugnant in a civilised society. I shall not dwell on those 394 matters in detail, because of the number of hon. Members who wish to speak in the debate. The provisions in clause 49(7) for intimate body searches to be carried out by persons other than a doctor are profoundly repugnant. arAlthough the Secretary of State said that those intimate searches would be carried out only in the last resort, I am afraid that that is not how it appears from the wording of the Bill. It seems to be a matter of convenience only.
The powers for stop and search are regularised and made universal throughout the country. We genuinely welcome the undertaking given on Report —[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I cannot follow the hon. Member's speech because of a fringe meeting that is going on. If the discussion were conducted sotto voce, I might be able to hear the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I shall endeavour, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to give you the benefit of my basso profundo at full volume.
The Bill's provisions on stop and search are wider than are strictly necessary. Although the attempt to codify the power of the police is entirely justifiable and welcome, a major defect is that the Bill does not back up the code of practice with any effective sanctions for its breach. We do not doubt that the Secretary of State pulls the strings, although he does not always appear to defend his case. The Bill would have been enormously strengthened had it included a provision to exclude from a criminal hearing evidence that was obtained either illegally or in violation of the code of practice.
I did not find the arguments deployed earlier against the availability of a discretionary exclusionary power to the courts in the least persuasive. The organisation Justice has called it the fruit of the poison tree doctrine. I hope that when the Bill is considered in another place, their Lordships, especially the Lords of appeal in ordinary, will address themselves to the issue. Such a provision would not undermine the Government's purpose, but would assist in giving the public confidence that the code, which is an integral part of the package, will not be breached. Without such assurances, and without a different complaints procedure against the police, the Government's best efforts will fail to reassure public opinion that the safeguards built into the system are adequate.
I acknowledge that the Secretary of State has sought to effect changes during the passage of the Bill. That is the purpose of lengthy Committee and Report stages. But all the efforts to modify the powers and to increase the safeguards are undermined by the non-availability of sanctions for any breaches of the code. The Minister shakes his head. I hope that he will refer to the matter when he replies to the debate. He may argue that there are other remedies, such as disciplinary action against the police. However, the threat of victimisation and the cost of pursuing any remedies may prevent most people from seeking a remedy. Indeed, the complex nature of any remedies will put them beyond the reach of those most at risk.
The most serious defect in the Bill is undoubtedly the provisions for detention without charge. I find it surprising that the Government have said so little to justify such draconian provisions. I shall not repeat the points made about 98 and 36 hours detention before access to legal representation. In a civilised society, such a provision 395 should not stand, and it must be repealed at the earliest opportunity by another Government. It is in that respect that the Bill overbalances in its attempt to enhance the powers of the police without proper safeguards.
There is a clear and serious risk that, notwithstanding the code of practice, those held for 36 hours, incommunicado and without access to legal representation, could, and I fear will, be subjected to unjustifiable pressure that will be made worse by the codification of the law in clause 39(2)(a), which allows the further detention of an individual to obtain evidence by questioning.
The issue was raised with the Secretary of State on Second Reading. I fully acknowledge what he said then about the Court of Appeal case, which I have subsequently read. However, it does not in any way detract from the force of my argument. To codify that provision gives the police a power that I believe we should have been abridging, not embodying in statute.
The main purpose of the legislation should be to seek to strengthen the powers of the police in a way that does not undermine the confidence of the public. The police have an incredibly difficult task. In a society that is under huge social and economic stress, their task is almost impossible in many areas without very close co-operation with the community. The benefit of such co-operation can be clearly seen. I have read a moving account of developments in one of the more lawless parts of London that comes under the Metropolitan police. Canon Charles Walker was a chairman of the community police consultative group in Lambeth. In a letter to The Times on 24 March, he drew attention to the sharp downturn in crimes of violence, especially muggings, in that borough in 1983 compared with 1982. He spoke of the work of the community police consultative group in bringing that about. Such dialogue is essential if the appalling crime rates in certain parts of London are to be reduced. That task will be greatly assisted by clarifying the frontiers of police powers. Because the Bill gives the police certain powers—especially those of detention—that are open to serious abuse, it cannot be sent on its way to another place with the benison of alliance Members.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I am sorry that I am not wearing the fifty-niners badge that the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) had struck for those who served for so long in the vineyard of Standing Committee. In making that apology, I assure him that I have it between two other items of which I am proud. One is the Police Federation bowl, given only to those who have rendered distinguished service to that organisation. I understand that the only other hon. Member who possesses one is the previous paid adviser to the Police Federation, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan).
My fifty-niner badge resides between that bowl and something else of which I am proud — a gift that I received for such work as I was able to do in the area of race relations. I apologise for not wearing that badge.
The Bill is a historic measure. It is long and complicated and, frankly, it could have been better. I have no doubt that it deserves to come onto the statute book for these reasons. First, it will help the police to combat crime, to uphold the Queen's peace and to retain the confidence of the public, without which they cannot be effective. Secondly, the measure will help the public, in 396 general, better to understand the law and, therefore, to respect it. Thirdly, it will help the legal system, including the courts, to administer the law. To that extent, I should like to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who bore the brunt of the Bill in Committee, on their achievement in piloting through this place a measure of which the Government can be proud.
Having said that, of course, I am bound to make a number of criticisms of the Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend will understand that I make them in the context of being, overall, its steady supporter.
The reasons for needing a measure of this kind are self evident. The previous Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth set up the Royal Commission. It worked extremely hard and produced what I believe everyone will agree was an extremely valuable report. I find it odd that the Labour party, which set up the Royal Commission, no sooner received the report then said, almost without reading it, that it was against it. I believe that that coloured its attitude to the Bill from the start.
The Royal Commission's work commenced and continued for two reasons. First, the enormous increase in the volume of crime to which our people are subjected and, secondly, the dramatic change in the character of crime, which we now experience. Crime is becoming more violent and more complicated. It is involving more young people and, incidentally, many old people as victims and perpetrators. I am afraid that it is becoming more industrial, political, ideological and even more racial. It is against the background of the increase in the volume and the disturbing change in the character of crime that a measure of this complexity is required.
The Bill generally makes the powers of the police more relevant to the task that they have to perform. I hope that it will make their powers more effective. I shall do my part to see that those powers are better understood. At every stage where the police powers are defined, clarified, and in some cases, extended, they are often marginally weakened. The Bill seeks to balance that by safeguards for the individual and, rightly, for civil liberties.
The greatest civil liberty is the right of the majority of our people to live in their homes and walk in their streets in peace. It is because I believe that the Bill sustains that civil liberty that I believe that it is worthy of support.
I said that I would mention some criticisms. First, I should have liked to see the Bill deal more effectively with the menace of drugs. I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend is considering further steps on that, and I hope that he will move as speedily as possible because the drugs menace is serious. I should have liked to see the Bill tackle the problem of public order and, to a degree, it does. I recognise again, that my right hon. and learned Friend is reviewing the complex of public order powers and he will understand why I stress the urgency of that, not least because even today, as The Times reported this morning, the chief constable of Nottinghamshire, Mr. McLachlan, has once again demonstrated the urgent need—when he used the Riot Act powers—for some codification and definition of the law in respect of public order. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to move as quickly as he can on that matter.
The Bill will impose upon the police service an enormous new volume of paperwork. The number of forms and schedules that they will have to fill in, store and 397 make available is legion, and it alarms me. When my right hon. and learned Friend can see his way through the forensic and research departments of the Home Office perhaps he will consider the electronic notebook. I believe that the police officer must move in that direction. It will be one way to keep up with the volume of forms that he has to complete.
The Bill does not strike entirely the right balance between the new responsibilities of the police and the resources needed. The financial memorandum attached to the Bill is misleading. There will be substantial additional costs for training and, when soon we reach the tape recording of evidence, there will be a substantial capital outlay. The police service and police authorities feel some anxiety that, within the cash limits that my right hon. and learned Friend has to respect in view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's larger policy issues, there may not be room to create the additional resources that are needed to implement the Bill in full.
Those are some of my broad criticisms, but I have a number of detailed criticisms, some of which will be familiar to the fifty-niners. First, it is a mistake to deny the police for the first time the ability to search in the street under the headgear of those who may be carrying weapons or drugs. We have debated that issue in full. I believe that it is a weakness, and that we shall come to regret it.
Secondly, it is wrong to prevent the police from carrying out a superficial search of a suspect after arrest unless that search is related to specific grounds of reasonable suspicion. At the moment the police make it a general rule to search. It is wrong to take that power away from them because there will be times when, if that search is not done, a police officer, as a consequence, may have his life put at risk.
Thirdly, on the disagreeable subject of intimate search, it is a serious mistake to make it impossible for the police to make the necessary intimate searches for drugs, the fruits of crime and other items that may be important for the prevention of the most terrible tragedies. That is a matter which we have debated in some detail, but in my judgment and that of the police service, there is a lamentable failure to recognise the facts. The facts are that significant quantities of drugs are regularly carried in their body orifices by professional criminals. My sources for saying that are the crime committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Metropolitan police criminal investigation department.
Drugs are being taken in that way to the inmates of our gaols and they give rise to hallucinatory violence. My sources for saying that are the superintendents association and senior officers responsible for investigating such cases in our prisons.
Because the street value of heroin and cocaine is high, terrorist organisations which need money to finance their activities in London organise drug trafficking by the carriage of cocaine and heroin in body orifices. My source of information is the anti-terrorist officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Despite that police experience, henceforth police surgeons will be barred from searching for offensive items. That is hardly what the majority of the Conservative party was led to expect in relation to law and order.
My fourth criticism is that the Bill puts an end to the police practice of invariably taking arrested persons to a 398 police station. It is argued that that might become apparent well before a suspect arrived at the police station that the reasons for the arrest had disappeared or were no longer valid and it would be vexatious in that case to go through the motions and haul the suspect to the police station. I understand the force of the argument, but there are overriding reasons why the police are anxious to keep the safeguard of taking all arrested persons to a police station.
The police would risk being charged with corruption if they could release suspects in the street. That experience is well known in the United States. Further, safeguards are available for both parties at police stations. The arresting officer and the suspect were safeguarded, whereas now the arresting officer is able to release suspects in the street at his discretion.
My final detailed criticism concerns the position of the custody officer. I congratulate the Royal Commission and my right hon. Friend on the creation of a new concept of policing that I believe will become world famous. I predict that in future people will come to this country to study the job of custody officer. He will be the main point of contact with the public at a police station. He will be the custodian of civil rights, guardian of the statutory procedures under the Police Act, from finger printing and access to solicitors to the provision of meals and soap. He will be keeper of the cells and monitor of good police behaviour vis à vis arrested persons.
For all those reasons the Government deserve great credit for creating the job of custody officer. Yet the Bill withholds some of the means, while it wills that good end. The custody officer should be a sergeant, otherwise he will lack the authority to do his job. He should not be given duties that would interfere with his role as a custody officer, save in emergencies. There is no provision in the Bill for a custody officer to hold a particular rank in every case, nor is there protection against the Bill's massive new code of practice, which covers almost 200 newly defined police duties to be carried out by the custody officer. There is no protection against an infringement of the code that might render him liable to disciplinary proceedings. There needs to be much more precision with regard to the role and duties of a custody officer and the provision of resources to meet those new tasks.
I am critical of details, but my general support for the Bill is undoubted. I should put it on record that the police service as a whole has the same view. The Police Federation, like me, would have preferred that different clauses be inserted into the Bill. But the Police Federation would deeply regret it were the Bill not to be given a Third Reading and put on the statute book as quickly as possible. That goes for the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales as well as the Police Federation.
The Police Federation is especially grateful to the Government and to all Committee members for the changes that have been made in the discipline proceedings. So that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) will not think me churlish, I must recognise his support for the changes in Committee. The support of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who represented the alliance parties, was very important and welcome. I thank the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman for their support.
The Government have a clear majority in the House. It was only against the background of that majority that the reforms could have been achieved. This charter of the 399 rights of police officers was won largely because of the attitude of the Home Secretary and the Minister. I thank them for that.
The Bill has had a long and complicated passage through the House. It would be a tragedy if it did not rapidly make its way into the statute law of our country.
§ Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)
I am grateful for the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). Not only did he sit through 59 sittings on the Bill, but I understand that he sat on the Committee discussing the Bill's predecessor, so he deserves two badges.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the Bill as a historic measure. I subscribe to that view in some ways. The Bill is likely to be a historic watershed. We thought that the Bill would help the police and would gain public confidence in the force. We believed that it would help the administration of justice and add to public understanding of the law, but that may turn out to be a pious hope, because public confidence in the police will diminish once the Bill's effects are felt. I do not believe that the Bill will enhance the administration of justice. It will, rather, confuse public understanding of the law.
The Home Secretary, in commending the Bill to the House on Third Reading, said that the powers and safeguards of the police should be clarified and set out on a firm legal footing. We agree with that. The Secretary of State also referred to the anomalies that were legion before the Bill was introduced. The Opposition have said in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading that we are witnessing a further accretion of power to the police, which means more power for the state.
We have heard much of the concept of rolling back the frontiers of the state, but the Bill rolls back the tide of civil liberties. My right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) was the instigator of the Royal Commission report during the last term of office of the previous Labour Government. The Commission report was referred to by the Home Secretary as well as by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths).
The terms of reference were, first, to have regard both to the interests of the community in bringing offenders to justice and to the rights and liberties of persons suspected or accused of crime. The third reference took into account the need for efficient and economical use of resources. It did not escape the notice of the Committee or of the House that the Opposition placed great emphasis on the rights and liberties of those suspected or accused of crimes.
The Home Secretary referred to the safeguards that were written into the Bill. We have always regarded them as flimsy, fragile, spurious and bureaucratic. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds has said so himself. He believes that additional paperwork would be involved. In Committee, he referred to the additional costs for training, the electronic notebook and the new post of custody officer. He said that the new code of practice would be about 200 pages long.
Although we relate the word "safeguard" to the code of practice and the various roles to be fulfilled by custody or review officers, I refer the House to a reply by the Under-Secretary to a question asked two days ago about the directions on entrapment that were given to the Metropolitan police. The Minister said that specific instructions on entrapment would be available to the 400 Metropolitan police. A Conservative Member asked the Home Secretary what guarantee he could give that the code of practice would be followed. He replied that he could not give such a guarantee. The safeguards and code of practice written into the Bill do not suggest that civil liberties will be safeguarded. There will be much heart-searching on this later when people find themselves in police custody, are confronted with the custody officer and the rigmarole of regulations and are as confused and confounded as they will be in those circumstances.
The hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), whose perception of the Bill derives from 20 years at the Bar and a knowledge of what happens in the real world when people are incarcerated by the police, made it clear that he intended to match his eloquence with Ms courage and to vote against the Bill. On Report, he quoted Martin Luther King's comment:Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.That was part of a speech on 28 August 1963 at the Abraham Lincoln memorial in Washington. I believe that, whenever we seek to define a human right, we reduce that right because we take something away from the subject and his liberty. In the same speech, Martin Luther King referred to the symphony of the brotherhood of man—there is certainly very little of that in the Bill.
Constituents who are incarcerated without charge will have a tale to tell when they are released, as will those whose property is entered and searched without a warrant. Those who are stopped and searched or subjected to road checks will also have a tale to tell, as will those who fall within the ambit of the "serious arrestable offence". Those on whom is cast the veil of "reasonable suspicion" which pervades the Bill will also have a tale to tell. It was in 1610 that John Donne wrote:And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.This Bill tolls for the egalitarianism in society in which we believe, as opposed to authoritarianism. It tolls for liberties that are known, understood and enjoyed by all now. It tolls for future generations who will be brought up to acquiesce in a society that takes as a matter of course 96 hours' detention without charge, systematic road checks and entry and search without warrant. The House will come to rue the day that the Bill is passed and to look forward to its repeal.
§ Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)
I am afraid that I have not earned a fifty-niner badge as I was not a member of the Standing Committee, but I have read all that was said in Committee. I should make it clear at the outset that I shall not be tramping through the Government Lobby with a spring in my step. This is not a wonderful or even particularly good Bill, but it is now a perfectly adequate one. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary was right when he said that the Bill seeks to maintain a balance between safeguards and powers. By and large, that balance has been achieved, although it sometimes wobbles off course, as I shall describe later.
To give credit where it is due, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) whose speeches I have read and listened to intently, has achieved a great deal from the Government. If he will forgive my saying so, however, I wish that he would try to prevent the reflex action of his foot, which seems to edge its way towards the groin of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home 401 Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman tries very hard to control his foot—one sees him quivering at the Dispatch Box with the effort—but then off it goes all the same.
I am sure that the right hon. Member for Gorton, in his heart of hearts, accepts that this is not an obnoxious Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) rightly said that we needed clarity in the law. Citizens must know the offences with which they are charged and the constituents of those offences. Having practised in the criminal courts for the past seven years, I know that some areas of the criminal law are a complete mess. The Government deserve credit for clarifying the law on stop and search. I am sure that Opposition Members do not really believe that the Bill represents the "bell tolling" for democracy and the liberty of the individual. The liberties of the individual have a far better chance of being protected than before as a result of some aspects of the Bill.
The law on confessions, too, has been a mess for years. At last, clause 69 makes the position clear. All the case law has been brought together and properly clarified. It is clear that confessions will be excluded if they are not given voluntarily. Further, there is the new, common-sense aspect of "unreliability". My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State was right to boast of those provisions as a great achievement by the Government.
I shall not go into detail about the stop-and-search provisions, but the Government were right to add a provision stating that the police must not take advantage of the present situation by stopping a car on the pretext of dealing with excise licensing matters or traffic offences. That provision must be especially welcomed.
Sadly, however, great opportunities have been allowed to slip through our fingers. Having read Hansard and discussed these matters with Members on both sides of the House, I believe that one message must ring loud and clear in the Government's mind. The House and the public at large will not put up with the present operation of section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act. It is utterly unacceptable that police officers should act in any way as agents provocateurs. I welcome the comments of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State about the code of conduct and the steps to be taken on this matter. I hope that the Government will consider this most carefully and perhaps introduce legislation along the lines suggested by the Opposition.
Another major lost opportunity—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind the House that on Third Reading hon. Members must confine their remarks to what is in the Bill rather than saying what they believe ought to be in it.
§ Mr. Hayes
I am obliged to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I intended to mention the provisions of new clause 10.
It is appalling that, in a democracy such as ours, a court of law can admit evidence that has been unlawfully obtained. There is certainly food for thought there. I draw attention again to the view of the Lord Chief Justice in the case mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) yesterday. The view of the Lord Chief Justice in 1978 rings true today. He said: 402It was open to Justices to apply their discretion and to decline to allow evidence to be given if it had been obtained by police officers by trickery, oppressive conduct, unfairly or as a result of behaviour which was morally reprehensible.
The Government should have another think about that.
I am especially concerned about two aspects of the Bill. First, on the question of detention for 96 hours without charge, it is sad that we always seem to need to look to Scotland for better laws. I sincerely hope that the Government will reconsider this aspect. The concessions on the 24-hour limit are welcome. The 96-hour provision, however, will work against the police, because, if a person has been detained for that length of time without being charged and without the opportunity to see a solicitor, nine times out of 10 a robust judge or a sensible jury will simply throw out any confession made in those circumstances. The provision will not assist the police and I hope that the Government will reconsider it.
My final anxiety follows the lines of the thoughtful and sensible speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). It is ludicrous that police officers cannot make intimate searches of suspects for drugs or articles which are likely to cause injury to a member of the public. Customs officers have that power. I have defended and prosecuted many people. In one case, the only evidence against the defendant, who was charged with stealing a motor vehicle, was that he had hidden the keys up his back passage. The police, noticing that he was walking peculiarly, searched him. It is ludicrous that we should now ask the police to investigate crimes without that power. [Interruption.] I must be short, so I shall not give way.
§ Mr. Hayes
I have heard of a ready wit, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell the House when his is ready.
It is ludicrous that customs officers should have that power but that police officers should not. The Minister hates to admit it, but the truth of the matter is that the British Medical Association has the Government over a barrel. I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter. It is not a wonderful, nor even a particularly good, Bill. It is adequate, but it has a great deal of room for improvement. I shall support it—just.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
Having listened to the misgivings of the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes), all I can say is that it is a pity that he does not see fit to follow the example of his hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby).
As my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) said, the SDP-Liberal alliance shares those misgivings. We agree with some parts of the Bill, where the law has been codified and uncertainty removed. However, we are not satisfied with many of the important aspects, especially the powers of detention and stop and search. Even if the Bill brings greater certainty into the law than was there before, there is no merit in having put within a statutory framework a practice which is not wholly satisfactory.
The SDP-Liberal alliance will oppose the Bill. On Second Reading, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) said that he hoped that the Bill would be sufficiently changed for him to support it on 403 Third Reading. He mentioned the areas which should be improved. We regret that there has not been sufficient improvement.
The provision that permits the police to set up road checks in areas where there is a regular pattern of crime is open to abuse. We are dissatisfied with the position regarding the definition and inclusion of journalistic material, and with the definition of "serious arrestable offence", which should be an objective test. Clearly we do not object to the part of the Bill which, under "serious arrestable offences", includes murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping and other clearly defined statutory offences. However, clause 105(6) includes an area where the police can use a subjective test and put a suspected citizen into a position of doubt. An example of that is an offence that would entail serious financial loss. Does that include a case in which a passer-by whips the widow's mite before she can put it in the bowl? It would be a serious financial loss to her, but is it a serious arrestable offence? That area lacks clarity.
I shall not repeat what was said yesterday about the powers of detention. It is wholly unacceptable that people can be detained for four days without charge, despite the Bill's safeguards. The Minister was happy to cite the Scottish example in justification for the stop-and-search powers, but he did not say why the Government were not prepared to consider the Scottish example on the powers of detention. The hon. Member for Harlow urged him to consider the Scottish approach to detention. I also urge that approach on him—albeit with a degree of Scottish bias.
We welcomed the Government's announcement yesterday that they would consider a code of practice for the stop and search powers. We cannot support the clause as it stands. It opens up the possibility of indiscriminate use of the power. The Police Studies Institute has cited a vast number of cases in which the present power was not used properly. There is no reason to believe that the position will be improved by the clause.
The Bill does not pass our test, nor does it pass the test set by the Home Secretary when he spoke today. He said that policing should be without discrimination and should seek co-operation. In Committee and on Report we expressed the fear that many communities could feel discriminated against by the application of the stop-and-search power and feel less inclined to co-operate with the police.
Policing will not necessarily be done with courtesy—yesterday the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) described the traumatic nature of an arrest—and, as the police must deal with difficult people, I do not blame them. It is not all nice Dixon of Dock Green stuff. Many of these powers will be used against innocent people. Therefore, the powers are not conducive to greater public confidence in or co-operation with the police.
Finally, the theme throughout our discussions has been to ensure balance between the powers necessary to enable the police to carry out their duties—to protect the peace and successfully investigate crime—and the fundamental rights of citizens, which this House has safeguarded for many centuries. The Bill does not achieve a proper balance. The reason for that was given away by the Secretary of State today. He said that the balance to be achieved was between the necessary powers for the police on the one hand and proper safeguards on the other. I interpret that as meaning that he sees the balance tilted 404 towards giving the police powers and finding safeguards to restrict those powers. My right hon. and hon. Friends believe that the civil rights of the citizen come first and foremost. The onus rests on the House to prove a case for removing those rights—albeit with proper safeguards.
In Committee, the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) quoted from the 1929 report of the Royal Commission on police powers and procedure, and it is worth repeating. It states:A policeman possesses few powers not enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and public opinion, expressed in Parliament and elsewhere, has shown great jealousy of any attempts to give increased authority to the police. This attitude is due we believe not to any distrust of the police as a body, but to an instinctive feeling that, as a matter of principle, they should have as few powers as possible which are not possessed by the ordinary citizen and that their authority should rest on the broad basis of consent and active co-operation of all law-abiding people."— [Official Report, Standing Committee E, 6 December1983, c. 212.]
That is an acceptable summary of the principle. We do not believe that the Government have struck the proper balance. Accordingly, we shall vote against the Bill.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
This is a bad and unpopular Bill, and it is not good enough for the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) to try to explain away its unpopularity by saying that the public have been misguided. The public understand only too well what is being done, and they do not approve.
The Bill demonstrates the Government's misguided approach to law and order. There is no doubt that the British people are dissatisfied about how safe they feel at home and on the streets. My constituents want to feel more safe when walking along the streets and when they are at home, and they are extremely distressed by the many burglaries in the area and the lack of police attention to that crime. But we know from experience that the way to deal with the problem is not to throw massive resources and powers at the police. Since 1979, there has been a massive increase in Government spending on new equipment for the police, including riot shields, CS gas and plastic bullets, and many more policemen have been recruited. However, crime has also increased, and the increased expenditure has not resulted in greater security in areas such as mine.
Now the Government are trying to enlarge police powers on the excuse that the existing law is muddled. It is not good enough to say, as did the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes), that because the law has become muddled, anything that replaces it is better. Of course muddle is undesirable, but an enlargement of police powers is not an acceptable alternative. We can get rid of muddle and at the same time have acceptable levels of police power.
While mentioning the speech of the hon. Member for Harlow, may I tell him that everyone with whom I have discussed the Bill believes that the provisions for forcible internal body searches are the most disgraceful and disgusting parts of the legislation. I am shocked and surprised to hear him advocate an extension of those powers.
The Bill will cause an increase in hostility between the police and the public. Police with enlarged powers in areas such as mine will push people round, arrest them and stop and search them in increasing numbers. They will put up more road blocks, and especially in the poorer inner city 405 areas they will cause more conflict, more aggro on the streets, and more uncertainty and fear for the elderly who live in those areas. The Bill will bring about exactly the opposite of what the Government claim it will.
We should have learnt from the mistakes of the Government. Since 1979, they have thrown money and resources at the police, but have achieved nothing. We need a different remedy. Some of the best experiments in policing point to a different remedy: getting the community and those who police it closer together, and to know, trust and respect each other. The police alone cannot deal with crime or make our communities safe. They have an important role, but the most important policing force is the community. If it is bound together, trusts its police and tries to look after everyone on the streets and in their homes, that is how we shall achieve law and order. It is a tragedy for all of us that we are moving in the opposite direction. It is especially a tragedy in areas such as mine, where people wish to live in harmony and security.
It is no accident that the new powers are being introduced when we have record youth unemployment and not long after we had riots in the inner cities. It is the first time in my lifetime that such riots occurred under a Government who claimed to be improving law and order. Most of my constituents and many of those who are worried about the Bill believe that there is increasing alienation in society, increasing poverty and unemployment, and a massive increase in police power, so that the police will become a repressive force, holding down the people who might wish to rebel and protest against what is happening to them. That is the political context as seen by many people outside the House, and I believe that they are right.
In Committee and today my right hon. and hon. Friends have drawn attention to many objectionable provisions of the Bill. The most disgraceful is the provision that people can be held for questioning for four days. The Government's attempts to claim that this is simply a tidying-up measure that does not change the basic provisions of the British legal system are dishonest and misleading. Whatever the abuses of the past, our tradition is clear: each and every one of us is free to go anywhere, to walk around and to be at liberty, unless there is evidence that he has committed a crime. Only in those circumstances can we be deprived of our liberty and be arrested.
The assumption behind all the provisions of our law and of police power is that the police have no right to question suspects. The right of silence protects our liberty not to be questioned. Traditionally, a confession was admissible only because it was thought that if someone voluntarily said something against his interests, it must have some importance. The provisions that people can be detained for questioning for four days turns that tradition on its head. We are now moving to the dangerous position of saying to the police, "If you have a vague hunch that someone has done something, you can pick him up, hold him for a long time and interrogate him." That is a dangerous and regrettable shift in our traditional legal system. It is disreputable for the Government to pretent that this is not a major change but is simply tidying past practice. What they are doing is legitimising past malpractice.
406 The Bill attempts to entrench the processes of consultation that Lord Scarman recommended after the Brixton riots. But that is an inadequate method of local control over local police. The real safeguard would be for local people, through democratically elected representatives, to control the actions and behaviour of their local police force. That is supposed to be part of the British tradition, which says that the police are of the community and should police the community in the way that the community wishes. The outrage expressed by Conservative Members about the proposal that the police should be controlled by democratically elected local people shows how narrow their notion of democracy is. Democracy must mean more than one vote every five years to bring in an enormously powerful central Government who can do anything. Democracy is a system by which people can have their say, express their fears and have the system which controls their lives adjusted to those fears over time.
A final example to show how far we have gone from that tradition of local control is the way in which someone has been able to summon police officers from all forces in the land to the Nottinghamshire coalfield, without the local people whose police they are supposed to be being consulted. Many policemen from Liverpool are in Nottinghamshire at present, and the Liverpool police committee has said, "We do not want them there and we will not pay for them." We claim that we do not have a national police force, but that is the way we are going — a national, centralised police force with massive powers and expenditure. It is not the way to achieve law and order, nor is it the way towards a happy and peaceful society.
§ Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington)
As the Bill comes before the House on Third Reading I am sure it contains much that is necessary and right and that should be supported, but my right hon. and hon. Friends know that there is one matter which concerns me and hon. Members representing inner London—the growth in the traffic in heroin, which is of concern in Kensington in particular. This is too serious a matter for Ministers to adopt a namby-pamby approach to it.
Ministers know that I and other hon. Members are worried about the provisions of the Bill in regard to intimate body searches. I am sure that the Home Office has not given this matter sufficient attention. The Bill should be changed before it passes into law. Therefore, sadly I shall not be able to support the Government in the Lobby this evening. Naturally, I shall not vote against the Bill, but I shall have to register my protest by abstention.
§ Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)
I have been involved with the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill in one form or another for the past 18 months. Despite the efforts of my hon. Friends and myself it is still a bad Bill. It was a bad Bill when it was introduced in the last Parliament and it was still a bad Bill when it was reintroduced in this Parliament following the election.
The Government claim that there have been a number of concessions. The Home Secretary spent a great deal of time in his speech making just that point and claiming credit for concessions that had been won from the Government almost entirely by the efforts of the 407 Opposition in Standing Committee in both Sessions of Parliament. Of course, those concessions have made some improvement to the Bill, but it is our contention that they have not improved it nearly enough. It is still a bad Bill.
Before I deal with the details of the Bill and with why it is bad, may I on behalf of the Labour Opposition give our thanks to the organisations and individuals who were very helpful to us, especially during the Committee stages. I single out in particular the National Council for Civil Liberties, which provided a great deal of assistance to us on this complicated piece of legislation. I also mention the GLC police support unit, the Children's Legal Centre, the British Medical Association and the Police Federation, which was very helpful in its briefing. I also thank Justice and the Law Society. I hope I have not failed to mention others who were particularly helpful.
The proceedings in Standing Committee were protracted, because we gave the Bill as much detailed scrutiny as we could. As we have virtually finished consideration of the Bill in this House, I seek to apply to it seven tests. By each of the tests the Bill fails.
The first test is whether it will help the police to catch criminals. Because the Bill will lessen co-operation between the police and the public, it will reduce the willingness of young people, particularly young blacks in inner-city areas, to co-operate with the police in catching criminals. It will make the task of the police more difficult and the crime rate will not be helped.
My second test is whether the police want the Bill. There has been disagreement in the earlier part of the debate as to the views of the Police Federation. I have here an extract from a document sent to all members of the Standing Committee by the Police Federation. The first sentence, under the heading,A Bill for all seasons?",said:It is an understatement to say that the Police Federation is disappointed with the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.That was hardly a statement of support. The document continues:This is a Bill which, whilst it seeks to simplify and codify existing law or practice, is likely to create almost as many problems as it seeks to solve.I put those two quotations directly from the Police Federation's own document against the view attributed to the Police Federation by the hon. Member for Bury St., Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). It seems that the Police Federation is, at best, not ecstatic about the Bill as it stands.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Those words were written in the context of the Police Federation's passionate concern that the Bill would not deal with discipline problems. Since then, it has been amended so that it does. Many of the Police Federation's criticisms remain, as I have said, but its broad view is that the Bill must go on the statute book.
§ Mr. Dubs
The two quotations that I read out to the House hardly seem to be confined to the one narrow aspect of the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I read the introductory sentence of the Police Federation document and I can only come to the conclusion that the Police Federation is not too enthusiastic about the Bill.
I should like also to quote the view of the National Council of Civil Liberties:The Bill fails in its main objective to clarify the powers of an accountable police force and prevent abuses. This failure will lead to a further deterioration in police-community relations and lack of confidence in policing in this country.408 There the NCCL put its finger precisely on the point.
My third test as to the effectiveness of the Bill is whether it represents a scheme clearly thought our by the Home Office. Despite 18 months' deliberation and many goes at it, we have in the last two days on Report still had some 250 Home Office amendments; that is hardly a sign that the Bill reflected the clearly thought-out conclusions of the Home Office. I put it to the Home Secretary that if the House were to reject the Bill and if we were to go through the whole process again, we would again have to make hundreds of changes and hundreds of amendments would be coming from the Home Office at a late stage.
My fourth criterion is whether the Bill reflects the direct views and recommendations of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. Clearly it does not. In many respects the Government for their own reasons have decided to come to conclusions different from those of the Roy al Commission.
The fifth test is whether the Bill effectively clarifies the law and in particular achieves the right balance between statute law and common law. Again it is my contention that by this test the Bill fails.
The sixth test is whether the Bill protects the civil liberties of the citizen—surely a worthwhile aim for any piece of legislation affecting the powers of the police. It is clear to almost everyone who has examined it that the Bill fails to protect the civil liberties of the citizen.
The seventh test is whether, after all the exposure through the media of what the Bill is about, the public are enthusiastic or clear about wanting the Bill. My view, based upon discussions with many people, attendance at many public meetings and an examination of letters from constituents, is that the public do not want the Bill. During the 18 months that we have been discussing the legislation, I have not had one letter in support of the Bill from any member of the public. On the contrary, I have had many letters and representations expressing the most widespread concern about what the Bill will do.
I want to pick out briefly some of the main criticisms of the Bill, although I shall not necessarily deal with them in order of significance. The power to stop and search, which was discussed in detail in the House yesterday, is one provision which will lessen the willingness of the public to co-operate with the police and which will have a particularly damaging effect on the attitude of young people, especially young blacks. It will do nothing at all to make our streets safer.
A very draconian power is being given to the police to set up road blocks in virtually any inner-city area they choose. Many hon. Members are most concerned about this provision which, when used, will lead to many complaints to hon. Members by members of the public who do not like it.
Perhaps the single most onerous feature of the Bill is the provision to hold people in detention without charge for 96 hours. We should all regret this as a feature of the law in a country that traditionally has prided itself on its civil liberties. The pretext for having this power is to allow the collection of evidence or for people to be held for four days for questioning. Few people other than hardened criminals would not give in after anything approaching four days of questioning. Few people other than hardened criminals are likely to resist that form of coercive questioning, as experience has shown in police station 409 after police station. They would rather sign a confession statement than put up with being held in those circumstances.
Moreover, the 96-hour provision effectively denies the right of habeas corpus to our citizens. It effectively means that we have said goodbye to habeas corpus after the many hundreds of years in which that has been a basic safeguard of our civil liberties. The provision for intimate body searches includes the intimate body searches of children. Surely that is something which no hon. Member would willingly see happen.
The state of the law on admissibility of confessions in the courts is tangled. The Government have refused to allow the courts to throw out confessions obtained illegally or improperly. The system of police complaints will leave the police investigating complaints against themselves. That is something which most members of the public do not accept and do not like. They will not be taken in by the small step forward of having independent supervision of complaints rather than independent investigation of complaints.
Of course, we welcome one or two features of the Bill. We welcome the fact that the Home Secretary has given a commitment that he will bring forward an independent public prosecutor system. I question whether, if we had an independent public prosecutor, the decision of the police to prosecute coal miners for riot would ever have gone ahead. I welcome taking such decisions out of the hands of the police, because it means that we will not have the sort of draconian incursion into the law that we saw in Nottingham only the other day.
The Bill will make a major impact on the public. Most members of the public will be aware of that. They will be aware of the changes if the Bill goes through the other place in its present form. Those will be changes for the worse. I hate a great deal of what is in the Bill because of the effect that it will have on many of our fellow citizens. Of course, the reason for the Government's action is their fear of what the unemployed of Britain have to say.
§ Mr. Dubs
My most dramatic memory of the election campaign is talking to a young black man in his early twenties who said that he was going out of his mind with boredom. He had nothing to do and was unable to find a job. No wonder there are threats of riots. The unemployed do not want to stand for unemployment any longer. That is why the Government, in their fear, are bringing forward a Bill with these measures. I am happy to reiterate the commitment given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that the next Labour Government will repeal this nasty piece of legislation.
§ 7.1 pm
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
Let me take this opportunity to thank all my hon. Friends who soldiered on in Committee and to whose help the Bill owes a great deal. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Chiselhurst (Mr. Sims) that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State met representatives of the 410 Justices Clerks Society yesterday and discussed with them the point that he raised. My hon. Friend has promised further consultation on the mechanics of implementation, and I shall write to my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) reasonably asked about a training programme. A general and specialised programme will be needed. We are consulting the Association of Chief Police Officers about a standard training package, and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis is doing the same. It is not yet possible to say exactly what training will be involved or what it will cost. The implementation of different parts of the Bill will be phased to take account of training needs and the resources available.
We come now close to the end of a long story which began on 30 November 1982 when the first version of the Bill had its Second Reading. Historians will remark clearly the contrast between the storm which beat upon the first Bill, of which my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General bore the brunt so gallantly, and the relative quiet which accompanied the passage of the second Bill. That was partly as a result of changes introduced by my noble Friend Lord Whitelaw to reassure doctors, social workers and other professions who wrongly believed that there confidential records were at risk, and partly because of the changes made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary when he took office. However, basically we have kept the balance of the Bill intact.
People have come to know more about what is in the Bill and what is not. The GLC and others have done their best to frustrate understanding. They have continued to churn out pamphlets and campaign buttons. There has been the most elaborate and futile campaign of misrepresentation that London has seen since the days of Titus Oates and the Popish plot. It has not worked. The streets are empty. The mood is calm. The campaign has flopped. It is left to the London ratepayers to pick up the bill. The proof of that is in the conduct of Labour Members in Committee and on Report. I do not want to shop those hon. Members, but, if they believed all the rubbish that the GLC was putting out, they would have handled the matter quite differently. They must have been a sad disappointment to those who were egging them on. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Hurd
One could not have a more vivid demonstration of the point that I have just been making than that demonstration in the Strangers Gallery.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has a predicament. I understand that he has to give a different account of the proceedings and a grossly exaggerated account of his achievements. What happened in Committee is what ought to happen in Committee. We listened carefully. We responded where we could to sensible comment. The impression given by the right hon. Gentleman, that we were forced to yield and to make concessions, when we had a majority both in Committee and in the House, is obviously absurd. We were conscious of the concessions already made and of the need not to overload the police. We were not willing to win an easy 411 cheer or two by concessions on, for example, the detention timetable. That would, in our judgment, have seriously prejudiced the ability of the police to protect the public.
I hope that the Bill will achieve its Third Reading. We shall then have a continuing task in explaining what is and what is not in the Bill and putting across some simple points. The Bill does not encourage random stop and search. It extends the power to offensive weapons, and that must be right because it will make our streets safer. The safeguards in the Bill should rule out the random stop and search about which hon. Members have been properly exercised.
The Bill does not give any new power to set up road checks. Rather it regulates and introduces safeguards for part of a power which already exists. The Bill does not establish 96 hours as the norm for detention without charge. For the first time, it fixes an absolute maximum of 96 hours. For the first time, it provides a timetable of ever more strenuous tests which the police have to meet if they are to hold a person, including two separate sessions before magistrates courts. I have quoted precise examples of serious crimes where investigations and questioning have needed to go on for two or three days for good and genuine reasons. The critics of the provision have not faced that point, but we have to face it. We are not prepared to take the risk of telling the police that they must bring investigation and questioning to an end within 24 or 48 hours. What we do say is that the police have to satisfy a magistrates court that further detention is necessary. It would have been easy in parliamentary terms to reduce the timetable of detention and it would have given us a smoother passage — it might even have secured the vote of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), although that cannot be certain—but that would have been a bit too easy and a good deal too dangerous.
On the positive side, the Bill includes three major reforms which, in our slightly absurd world, are less noticed because they are less controversial. We have reformed the complaints procedure. A new authority will provide independent supervision of the investigation of complaints. We have introduced tape recording of interviews in police stations and provided for consultations between the police and the community throughout the country. Each of those reforms would have been worth a Bill in more leisurely times.
When the pamphlets are pulped and the speeches forgotten, this will be seen as solid, sensible and necessary legislation. I am glad, looking back, that we had a record number of Committee sittings. I am glad that we secured the Bill in Committee without a guillotine, and without a single Government defeat. The Bill clears away cobwebs in this part of our law. It gives the police the powers that they need to defeat crime, and it surrounds those powers with the safeguards for the individual on which the House and this Government should always insist.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 190.415
|Division No. 303]||[7.09 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Alison, Rt Hon Michael|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Amery, Rt Hon Julian|
|Amess, David||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Ancram, Michael||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Arnold, Tom||Forman, Nigel|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Forth, Eric|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Fox, Marcus|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Franks, Cecil|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Baldry, Anthony||Gale, Roger|
|Batiste, Spencer||Galley, Roy|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Beggs, Roy||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bellingham, Henry||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Bendall, Vivian||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)||Gorst, John|
|Benyon, William||Gow, Ian|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Best, Keith||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Greenway, Harry|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Gregory, Conal|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)|
|Body, Richard||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Grist, Ian|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Ground, Patrick|
|Bottomley, Peter||Grylls, Michael|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Hannam, John|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Harris, David|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Harvey, Robert|
|Brinton, Tim||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)|
|Browne, John||Hawksley, Warren|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Hayes, J.|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Hayward, Robert|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Budgen, Nick||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Heddle, John|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Henderson, Barry|
|Butterfill, John||Hickmet, Richard|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Hicks, Robert|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Hill, James|
|Cash, William||Hind, Kenneth|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hirst, Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'tn)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Holt, Richard|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hooson, Tom|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hordern, Peter|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Howard, Michael|
|Cockeram, Eric||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Colvin, Michael||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'Idford)|
|Conway, Derek||Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Coombs, Simon||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Cope, John||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Corrie, John||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Couchman, James||Hunter, Andrew|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Critchley, Julian||Irving, Charles|
|Crouch, David||Jackson, Robert|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Jessel, Toby|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Dunn, Robert||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Dykes, Hugh||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Eggar, Tim||Key, Robert|
|Emery, Sir Peter||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Evennett, David||Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Knox, David|
|Fallon, Michael||Lamont, Norman|
|Farr, John||Latham, Michael|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Powley, John|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Price, Sir David|
|Lester, Jim||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Lightbown, David||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Lilley, Peter||Rathbone, Tim|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Luce, Richard||Renton, Tim|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Rhodes James, Robert|
|McCrindle, Robert||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|MacGregor, John||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Maclean, David John||Rost, Peter|
|Madel, David||Rowe, Andrew|
|Maginnis, Ken||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Major, John||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Malins, Humfrey||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Malone, Gerald||Shersby, Michael|
|Maples, John||Sims, Roger|
|Marland, Paul||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Marlow, Antony||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Mather, Carol||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Speed, Keith|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Speller, Tony|
|Mellor, David||Spencer, Derek|
|Merchant, Piers||Squire, Robin|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Stanley, John|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Stokes, John|
|Moate, Roger||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Moore, John||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Murphy, Christopher||Thurnham, Peter|
|Neale, Gerrard||Trippier, David|
|Needham, Richard||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Nelson, Anthony||Waddington, David|
|Neubert, Michael||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Newton, Tony||Walden, George|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Walters, Dennis|
|Oppenheim, Philip||Ward, John|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Watts, John|
|Osborn, Sir John||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Ottaway, Richard||Wheeler, John|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Wolfson, Mark|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Yeo, Tim|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Porter, Barry||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)||Mr. Ian Lang and|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Mr. Archie Hamilton.|
|Abse, Leo||Benn, Tony|
|Alton, David||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Anderson, Donald||Blair, Anthony|
|Ashby, David||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)|
|Ashton, Joe||Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Bruce, Malcolm|
|Barnett, Guy||Buchan, Norman|
|Barron, Kevin||Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Campbell, Ian|
|Beith, A. J.||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Bell, Stuart||Canavan, Dennis|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Clarke, Thomas||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Clay, Robert||Loyden, Edward|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Cohen, Harry||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Coleman, Donald||McGuire, Michael|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Conlan, Bernard||Maclennan, Robert|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Corbett, Robin||McTaggart, Robert|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Madden, Max|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Marek, Dr John|
|Craigen, J. M.||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Crowther, Stan||Martin, Michael|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Dalyell, Tam||Maxton, John|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Meacher, Michael|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)||Michie, William|
|Deakins, Eric||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dewar, Donald||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Dixon, Donald||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Dobson, Frank||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Dormand, Jack||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Douglas, Dick||Nellist, David|
|Dubs, Alfred||O'Brien, William|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||O'Neill, Martin|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Eadie, Alex||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Eastham, Ken||Park, George|
|Ellis, Raymond||Parry, Robert|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Patchett, Terry|
|Fatchett, Derek||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Faulds, Andrew||Pendry, Tom|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Penhaligon, David|
|Fisher, Mark||Pike, Peter|
|Flannery, Martin||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Prescott, John|
|Forrester, John||Radice, Giles|
|Foster, Derek||Randall, Stuart|
|Foulkes, George||Redmond, M.|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Freud, Clement||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|George, Bruce||Rooker, J. W.|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Hardy, Peter||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Home Robertson, John||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Snape, Peter|
|Howells, Geraint||Soley, Clive|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Stott, Roger|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Strang, Gavin|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Straw, Jack|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|John, Brynmor||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Wallace, James|
|Kennedy, Charles||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Wareing, Robert|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Weetch, Ken|
|Kirkwood, Archibald||Welsh, Michael|
|Lambie, David||White, James|
|Lamond, James||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Wilson, Gordon|
|Leighton, Ronald||Winnick, David|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Woodall, Alec|
|Wrigglesworth, Ian||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Young, David (Bolton SE)||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Mr. Allen McKay.|
§ Questions accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.