HC Deb 27 November 1986 vol 106 cc467-532

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I should tell the House that no fewer than 22 hon. Members have shown their interest in the debate that is to follow. I appeal to them for brief contributions in view of the late start.

I have selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

5.26 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

Mr. Speaker, I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill is the fifth in a series of major reforms of the powers of the police and the courts that we have brought before the House during the past five years. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 established a new structure for dealing with young offenders. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 set out a clear framework for the exercise of police powers. The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 established the Crown prosecution service to provide for greater consistency in prosecution decisions. The Public Order Act 1986 provided the police with strong powers to avert disorder and to protect citizens as they go about their lawful business.

I should like to make two comments on this massive programme of reform. First, I believe that it will be largely completed once the Bill is through Parliament. I realise that the pace of change has been fast, as happens under a radical Government. I know that that has created occasional strains for the police, the courts, the probation service and all those who help to run the criminal justice system. I hope that, after the Bill, there will now be a pause for disgestion, in relation to major new legislation.

I am sure that the electorate will not be foolish enough to elect a different Government who would throw it all back into the melting pot by politicising the police, stripping them of powers that we have given them, removing a crucial part of our defence against terrorism, and, no doubt, putting the police and prison services back to what, under Labour Administrations, has been their historical place at the bottom of that party's list of priorities.

Assuming that the Bill is passed and that disaster is averted, the services that I have mentioned will, before long, have a framework of law adapted to the needs of modern society within which, without further major change, they can steadily build up their effectiveness.

Secondly, reforming the law is not, of course, the whole answer. What the Government are now doing in response to the steady 30-year rise in crime that we share with most other European countries is to intensify all the different sections of our policy. Crime prevention, police strengths, police powers, safeguards for the citizen, inner city initiatives, investment in prisons, development of alternatives to prison, much closer international co-operation—anybody who has followed our decisions over recent months will remember how, one by one, we have built up all those policies, and we shall continue to do so.

Today, we ask the House to endorse in principle another crucial part of our plans—strengthening the legal framework of the criminal justice system.

I should like to take the House through the major elements of the Bill as succinctly as I can given its length and importance. Its main purpose is to strengthen the powers of the courts in relation to large-scale crime and to improve the treatment of victims.

Parts I and II of the Bill carry out most of the major recommendations of the Roskill committee on the reform of fraud trials. Fraud is a major crime with both direct and indirect costs. Indirectly it can, if unchecked, undermine the standing of our major financial institutions, the reputation of which is crucial to their central role in international markets.

The Roskill committee remarked on the fragmentation of effort that can hinder the investigation and prosecution of serious fraud. It recommended an examination of the merits of setting up a unified organisation for investigating and prosecuting complex fraud cases. The Bill provides the statutory framework for a serious fraud office, the director of which will act under the supervision of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. The new office will be responsible for the investigation and prosecution of the most serious and complex frauds and will work in close co-operation with the police. It will have powers to require questions to be answered and documents to be produced.

The committee also proposed streamlined court procedures for fraud trials. The Bill will establish a means by which the prosecutor may transfer serious and complex cases of fraud straight to the Crown court. The most controversial recommendation in the Roskill report was for a specially constituted tribunal to try the most complex frauds instead of a jury. With one dissentient, the committee argued a detailed case for establishing a fraud trials tribunal, chaired by a judge and with two suitably qualified lay members.

The problem of the uncomprehending juror, which the committee emphasised, cannot be brushed aside. There is a danger of random justice when the evidence in a trial is so technical and labyrinthine that the jurors have great difficulty in following it. On the other hand, it is a central principle that a man or woman charged with a serious offence should be tried by jury. We thought that the House would rightly hesitate before moving away from that principle.

We thought very carefully about the proposal for a fraud trials tribunal. We judged that the sensible course would be to give the other proposed changes, which are designed to make the jury's task easier, a chance to prove their worth. They include measures intended to improve the presentation of evidence, provision for preparatory hearings and changes in the rules of evidence. We do not rule out the possibility of returning some time to the idea of a special tribunal, but we shall not be pursuing it in the Bill.

Mr. Nicholas Baker (Dorset, North)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the proposal to set up a serious fraud office is particularly welcome, but in the light of the growing size and international aspects of fraud, does he agree that the estimates in the Bill of the costs of the serious fraud office are likely to be underestimates? Will he not rule out looking at a tribunal in future, purely to attack the problem of the internationalisation of fraud?

Mr. Hurd

I shall certainly not rule out looking again at the idea of a special tribunal. I am not sure that it follows directly from my hon. Friend's question, but I shall see whether I can find the connection.

Part II, which makes extensive changes to the rules of evidence in criminal proceedings, also comes largely from the Roskill report. The changes make possible greater use of documents as evidence and the more frequent taking of evidence abroad. The changes in this part of the Bill are a very substantial response to the Roskill report. They should provide a crisper, tighter and more effective system for the prosecution and trial of major frauds. Taken together with other Government legislation to strengthen the regulatory framework, including this Session's Banking Bill, they should do much to boost confidence in our financial institutions, at home and abroad.

It would make no sense to have different rules of evidence for difference offences. Part II therefore extends to all criminal proceedings. It also includes provision for children who are victims or witnesses in trials—

Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, I hope that he will cover industrial counterfeiting. I am sure that he is aware that there is considerable concern about industrial counterfeiting following the Chanel case. Will he ensure that clause 12, with the provisions following the Roskill committee's recommendations, allows that conspiracy in the United Kingdom to counterfeit abroad shall be indictable here? Will he cover the communication of information and confiscation of the profits of counterfeiting, which come under clause 44 and other parts of the Bill—if not now, perhaps in Committee?

Mr. Hurd

I know my hon. Friend's concern about that matter. The creation of new offences to deal with counterfeiting goods will be outside the scope of the Bill. That falls within the authority of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry because of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. I know that my hon. Friend is discussing his proposal with the Secretary of State. I shall make sure that what my hon. Friend has said today is brought to the latter's attention.

I was referring to the provision in the Bill for children who are victims or witnesses in trials of violent or sexual offences to give their evidence on live closed circuit television. That will spare them the ordeal of testifying in court in the presence of the accused. I hope that that provision, while still providing for cross-examination—this is an important point—will enable more cases of child abuse to be brought before the courts.

Part III makes changes in the jurisdiction and powers of the courts. Three offences—driving while disqualified, taking a vehicle without consent and common assault—can now be tried either summarily or on indictment. Under the Bill they would be reclassified as summary only. A fourth, criminal damage, is made triable by the magistrates only where the value of the damage is less than £2,000, compared with the present threshold of £400.

None of those offences is to be regarded lightly. Driving while disqualified, in particular, is always a serious matter. Disqualification will have been imposed as a result of a serious offence, and continuing to drive involves the wilful disregard of a court order. But the House will be aware of the very considerable increase in the business of the Crown courts and the delays that result from that. The proposals will remove about 5,000 cases a year, which is just over 5 per cent., from the Crown courts and help to relieve a little of the formidable pressure.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hurd

I should like to continue a little. With his ingenuity, the hon. and learned Gentleman may find a way of intervening again. I have already cut out parts of my speech because of the lateness of the start of the debate. I must carry on, but I shall give way later if the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to try again.

The House will know that we have been wrestling with the problem of the damage caused to public confidence by the occasional apparently over-lenient sentence. The effect of such cases is wholly disproportionate to their number because of the publicity that they attract. The White Paper published in March set out three options. Under the first, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general would be able to refer Crown court sentences for the opinion of the Court of Appeal. The purpose would be to influence future practice and not to place an individual defendant in jeopardy. That was in essence the proposal that my predecessor brought forward in the Prosecution of Offences Bill, which did not find favour in another place. The second approach would also involve the reference of cases to the Court of Appeal, but where the court's view was that the sentence was inadequate, under that option, it would be able to increase it. The third approach would build on, and give statutory force to, the practice whereby the Court of Appeal hands down guidelines on sentencing, by requiring the Judicial Studies Board to publish the guidance and disseminate it among the judges.

We spent much time thinking hard about the three possibilities. Any scheme in which the offender stood to have his sentence increased would raise real difficulties. The power to refer cases would need to be used even-handedly, wherever a sentence seemed out of line, rather than as a safety valve in exceptional cases. There would be problems in identifying such cases at the centre; it would be clearly unfair for such a scheme to operate only in cases which happen to have attracted much publicity. The role of the prosecution—which has hitherto eschewed arguing for a particular sentence—would be significantly changed in a way that I know some would find deeply repugnant.

When we published the White Paper, we thought that the idea of giving the Judicial Studies Board a more active role was the most promising option. On further reflection, we found it less attractive. There was a fear that by following that road, the Executive would be trenching on the independence of the judiciary. Sensible guidelines, sensibly applied, still seem to me to be the key to good sentencing practice. I do not rule out the possibility of putting the Judicial Studies Board on a statutory footing at some future time. But the more we thought about the arguments that had so moved those who spoke against the earlier proposal in another place, the more we became convinced that they lacked foundation. A procedure in which, in exceptional cases, the Attorney-General was free to use an individual case that had raised genuine public concern to trigger a wide consideration of the relevant sentencing principles by the Court of Appeal seemed to us practicable, sound and unobjectionable in principle.

That is why clause 29 creates a procedure under which the Attorney-General would be able, with leave, to refer sentences to the Court of Appeal for its opinion on the principles that should be observed in sentencing in similar cases in the future. This proposal and that made in the Prosecution of Offences Bill are not quite the same. The procedure would be expressly confined to cases that appeared to my right hon. and learned Friend to raise questions of public importance. The leave of the court would be required, and the court's attention would be focused on the lessons to be learned for the future.

Those proposals do not involve politicians in the day-to-day business of sentencing. That is a matter for the judiciary and must remain so. However, we have to ensure that the courts have an adequate range of powers available to them. Parliament has approved increases in the maximum sentences for attempted rape and trafficking in class A drugs during the past two years. The Bill similarly proposes to increase the maximum penalty for carrying firearms during the commission of crime to life imprisonment. There has been some discussion on that proposal and some criticism of it on the ground that it would remove the incentive not to pull the trigger. That is misconceived. The proposal is for a maximum, not a mandatory, sentence, and the court can differentiate. Other things being equal, the courts are bound to regard the use of a firearm as the more serious offence and to sentence accordingly. The effect of our proposal is that the highest penalties will be available for the worst cases. Far from weakening the deterrent against pulling the trigger, the proposal is a strong incentive for the firearm not to be there in the first place.

Sir John Farr (Harborough)

In connection with this narrow and rather important point, has the Minister consulted both the police authorities and those who hold unlicensed recreational firearms about the proposals?

Mr. Hurd

I must have notice about the extent of consultation. We have had extensive consultation with the police at all levels, as my hon. Friend knows. I will ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State to check that point and deal with it when he replies.

Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hurd

I shall not give way just yet as I wish to get on, but I shall give way before I sit down.

I now wish to talk about the important proposals for confiscation. They follow the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 which provided the courts with powers to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking. Parliament, across party lines, gave a fair wind to that proposal. We stressed that drug trafficking was a special case, because it was so profitable and because of the revulsion the public rightly feels at the destruction which it wreaks. We made it clear that we wished to move on to cover other offences but would use a different model. That is what we have done.

In part IV we have departed from the drug trafficking provisions scheme in several important ways while still introducing what we believe will be an effective scheme to allow the proceeds of highly profitable crime to be seized. It is an affront to justice that a criminal should, having served his sentence, live comfortably on the fruits of his crimes. The new powers will be available to the courts where the profits involved appear to exceed £10,000. There will be a procedure for freezing the offender's assets before trial and once a confiscation order has been made, the High Court will have the power to order the realisation of any of the defendant's property in order to satisfy the order in full. These are important new powers for the courts which will strengthen their hands in dealing with big-time criminals.

Part V deals with compensation for victims. Clause 71 extends the circumstances in which the courts can make a compensation order against an offender, to include for the first time compensation for the dependants of those fatally injured. It also requires the courts—this is a substantial change—to give reasons in all cases where they have power to order compensation, but decide not to do so. We wish to ensure that the possibility of compensation is not overlooked. Clause 72 allows the proceeds of the sale of property forfeited by the offender to be used to compensate the victim.

A major flaw in the criminal justice system in the past has been the extent to which the needs of victims have been overlooked. We are, step by step, putting that right. We want the victim to be back centre stage. The position of the victim was improved by the Criminal Justice Act 1982. The police are giving greater priority to ensuring a more sensitive reception for victims, especially of crimes such as rape. I was especially glad recently to announce a grant of £9 million over three years to help the development of local victim support schemes in addition to the help we have been giving the national association for some time.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

Does the Home Secretary agree that a person who is arrested, charged with a serious crime and held in prison for a considerable period and who suffers from severe mental stress to the extent that he is under permanent psychiatric supervision but is subsequently found to be innocent of any crime is also a victim of crime? Does the Home Secretary agree that there is no provision in the Bill to compensate such victims?

Mr. Hurd

No, such a case would not come within the Bill. It would come under the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, where the procedure for compensation resulting from complaints against the police was thoroughly examined.

The criminal injuries compensation scheme was established in 1964 by the Conservative Government. It is widely recognised as a tangible expression of society's concern for the victims of violent crime. In the last financial year, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board received nearly 40,000 applications and paid out some £42 million in compensation. The number of eligible applications continues to grow. I announced earlier this month that an additional £114 million will be available to the board over the next three years. Taken together with the increase to £550 in the minimum award, this should enable the board to meet growth in demand and, importantly, achieve some reduction in arrears.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) has conveyed to me the anxieties of the Police Federation about an adjustment in the scope of the scheme which affects the treatment of accidental injuries suffered by the police. I notice from the Order Paper that the Opposition have now latched on to that point. [Interruption.] That is chronologically correct.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

That is most opprobrious of the Home Secretary. The Police Federation came to us and raised the matter with us in exactly the same way as it raised it with the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths). It is a serious point.

Mr. Hurd

It is a serious point and it was raised with me first by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds. I have received a constructive letter directly from Mr. Peter Tanner. Later I observed that the Opposition had put the issue on the Order Paper. I have related the chronology of the matter accurately and not in the least opprobriously.

Such accidental injuries suffered by the police are already largely outside the scheme and count as industrial injuries. But our acceptance of a recommendation of the interdepartmental committee would remove the already very residual extent to which the scheme covered accidental injuries. I have arranged to meet the Police Federation soon to discuss that, and I hope to be able to satisfy its doubts. I shall certainly keep the House informed and I agree that it is an important matter.

The increase in the lower limit for compensation has been criticised by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). To that, I would respond that there has always been such a limit to exclude lesser injuries and to enable effort to be concentrated on the more serious cases. It is not possible to give a hard and fast rule on the size of award which results from particular injuries. But, in general, awards for such injuries as the loss of a front tooth would normally appreciably exceed £550—the new proposed limit—while wounds without lasting effect or scarring, such as minor cuts, sprains, bruising or abrasions would fall below the limit. The question is not whether one has a limit but where one sets the figure, and £550 seems to strike a reasonable balance.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Will the Home Secretary assure the House that the psychological injury, often suffered, for example, by old people who have been mugged but who are not visibly injured, will be regarded as serious injury although there may be only subjective symptoms, so that people who suffer such psychological injury will be included in the criminal injuries compensation scheme?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the board follows the practice of the civil courts in general and I imagine that it would do so in this particular. I shall look into the practice that results from that principle.

Over the years the scheme has evolved into a new social service. We are now spending three and a half times as much in real terms on it as was spent in 1978–79. The number of people receiving compensation has risen far faster than the increase in violent crime. We are now putting still further resources into the scheme.

If we are to use these resources to best effect and begin to work off the arrears that have built up, we must concentrate on those injuries which substantially affect people's well-being. If the Opposition, faced with the facts and figures, pretend otherwise, they are simply playing a silly political game with an important service which was negligible in their time, but which we have built up and on which we now plan further substantial progress.

Part VI makes several changes to the law on juries. The most controversial is the abolition of the defence right of peremptory challenge. That has been steadily reduced over the century and the present proposal takes the reduction in the number of challenges from the seven to the three that was enacted under the Labour Government to its logical conclusion.

It seems to the Government to be wrong in principle that jurors should be removed without reasons being given, and unsatisfactory that in cases with large numbers of defendants the composition of the jury should be radically changed.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hurd

I shall give way to my hon. Friend when I have finished this point.

The wholesale removal in such cases of members of the public of whom the defendants know nothing beyond their name and appearance and who there is no reason to suppose would be other then impartial does not enhance public confidence in the jury system. Indeed, it undermines the random quality of the jury system which is its essence.

Mr. Ashby

I know that my right hon. Friend believes that justice should be even-handed, yet I notice that this provision does not take away the prosecution's right of stand by. Has he considered that aspect, especially in relation to the European convention on human rights which provides for equality between the prosecution and the defence?

Mr. Hurd

I shall come to that point. The accused who has a substantive reason for believing that a particular juror is likely to be biased against him, will be able, as now, to give his reasons to the court and to seek the juror's removal, using the procedure known as challenge for cause. We have accepted that the abolition of peremptory challenge will have implications for the much more rarely used procedure under which the prosecution can stand jurors by for the Crown, giving reasons only when the panel of jurors has been exhausted. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is preparing guidelines which would confine the use of the stand by procedure to strictly limited categories of cases. These will be made known during the passage of the Bill and the House will want to look at them carefully.

Clause 84 widens the base from which jurors are drawn by some 2 million by increasing the upper age limit from 65 to 70. People in that age range will not be required to serve, if they do not wish to do so, but the change will enable recently retired people to carry out this important civic duty. They have a great deal to contribute in terms of experience and maturity and I hope that that change will be widely welcomed and uncontroversial.

In part VIII the Bill returns to the theme of combating major crime and revises and re-enacts the law on extradition. Our present law is plainly out of date as crime becomes increasingly international, so all countries with a democratic system and a reputable legal system need to combine against crime. We need to do much more to buttress the international rule of law and to prevent fugitive criminals from using frontiers as a means of evading punishment. At present, there is the strict requirement that the country requesting extradition from Britain must establish a prima facie case against the fugitive in our courts before its request may be granted. That is a considerable impediment because of differences between our legal system and those of many other countries, including our European partners. A safeguard will be needed and retained to prevent fugitives from being extradited if there is a danger of them facing arbitrary justice. If those changes are made, the United Kingdom will at last be able to accede to the European convention on extradition. We would intend to do that.

Part X contains a variety of measures of which the most significant abolishes the anonymity of defendants in rape cases and extends the statutory protection given to rape victims' anonymity so that it runs from the moment of the offence, rather than from the moment of charge, as it does at present. There may be common ground on this. It does away with the bogus tit-for-tat principle by which the victim and the defendant were put on the same footing.

Two proposals are not in the Bill because we are consulting on them, but I expect that they will find a place in it before the Bill is much older. As the House knows, we recently published a White Paper containing our reactions to the Prior report on prison discipline and we intend to bring forward proposals in Committee, if the Bill gets its Second Reading. [Interruption.] The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) will have read the White Paper and will know the way in which our minds are moving.

In addition, I expect to publish soon the consultative document on proposals for changes in the normal periods for remands in custody.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

The Home Secretary is dealing with miscellaneous provisions and he must know of the great concern about weapons, knives, crossbows and the martial arts. In Committee will he consider dealing with the question of control and banning of many of these odious weapons?

Mr. Hurd

We look at that the whole time and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has drawn out attention to it recently. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 the police have for the first time the power to stop and search if they have reasonable grounds for suspecting the existence of an offensive weapon. Shortly I shall discuss with the London branch of the Police Federation the problems that it says it has in that respect and I shall listen carefully. Obviously, I shall listen carefully to any points made by right hon. and hon. Members. We have proposals ready on crossbows—I do not think that I am offending the rules of the House by saying this—and I hope that there may be an opportunity to make progress on that this Session. On the range of weapons, there are always problems of definition. It is already an offence to possess offensive weapons and I do not believe that that is sufficiently widely known. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of the matter. We must keep it constantly under review to see whether the law can be strengthened and improved.

The Bill fits into our general strategy against crime. It is a common Opposition trick when they have nothing particular to say to criticise the Government on the grounds that, whatever they are doing, they should be doing something else. It is not a logical criticism of the Bill to say that while it deals with fraud, firearms offences and major crime, it does not deal with burglary. Equally, when we take action, as we have done and do, through crime prevention and strengthening the police to tackle burglary, it is not logical to criticise us because we are not dealing with major crime. The Opposition, especially the right hon. Member for Gorton, hop about in that way from one stance to another, while failing to take the one action which they alone can take, to haul back and repudiate the anti-police activities of councils under Labour control. It is remarkable that here, where the Opposition have no power, they chatter about great things for the future, but where they have power, their friends too often use it to undermine and isolate the police.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)


Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)


Mr. Hurd

I have almost reached the end of my speech.

We shall reinforce and intensify all the different parts of our policy. It is crucially important that the House should be able to look at the policy as a whole. That is why we have published today a criminal justice working paper which I commend to the House. When they read it, right hon. and hon. Members will find that it is not in any way complacent or self-congratulatory. We have tried to pull together the analyses of crime and to show how our different policies act in harmony. I am sure that the combination of policies which we have set out is the only sure and sensible way of edging back the level of crime. Obviously, it will be a long business and it must involve, not only the Government and the criminal justice system, but parents, teachers, the media and all those who in different ways fill the minds of the young, particularly teenagers. I am convinced that if we remain clear-headed and steady, as a society we shall succeed in this task.

5.58 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill within whose framework substantially fewer crime victims will be eligible for compensation, which specifically reduces eligibility for compensation for police officers and members of fire brigades injured in the course of duty, and which is entirely lacking in any coherent approach towards combatting the record and worsening crime wave from which this country has suffered since the return of the present Government. This year, 1986, one of our fellow citizens became the victim of the 25 millionth crime committed since the Government came to office. Already under the Prime Minister 10 million more crimes have been committed than were committed under the Labour Government, whom she accused of being unable to maintain law and order. Therefore, the Bill must be judged by the effect that it is likely to have on stemming that terrifying increase in crime and on making more likely the prospect of remedying the alarming 65 per cent. failure rate in clearing up crime under this Government, this Home Secretary and this Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister had no doubt about the importance of this Bill. Two weeks ago, in the debate on the Queen's Speech, she described it as the "centrepiece" of the Government's legislative programme, and promised that it would provide a further strengthening of society's defences against the criminal."—[Official Report, 12 November 1986; Vol. 105, c. 21.] Like all the Prime Minister's utterances on law and order, this statement was long on over-ambitious hyperbole and grievously short on truth. Far from meriting the label of "centrepiece", the Bill is a ragbag of notions, some good, some had, but most irrelevant.

The Law Society was right to say of the White Paper from which the Bill stems: these proposals do not suggest a coherent approach to the criminal justice system. They are symptomatic of vacillation and dithering. It is clear that to pad out the Bill's 128 clauses and 10 schedules, the pigeonholes at the Home Office have been ransacked. Hence, no doubt, the highly pressing provisions on the burning of crop residues and the obsession in the Bill with repealing successive Diseases of Fish Acts, starting with that of 1937.

The Bill is slovenly in its drafting. In clause 98 and schedule 2, it requires that various statements should be drafted in what is described, but sensibly not defined, as "ordinary language". It thus accurately implies that the rest of the Bill is drafted in extraordinary language, much of it incomprehensible even to those who drafted it, if the litter of misprints is anything to go by. On the same page, it is referred to in one line as the Criminal Justice Act 1986 and in another as the Criminal Justice Act 1987. They had better decide what year it will be passed.

Mr. Derek Spencer (Leicester, South)


Mr. Kaufman

No, I shall not give way.

The slovenly drafting leaves one page literally incomprehensible, and we shall move amendments to put that right at the appropriate point. I doubt whether the Home Secretary has read the proofs of the Bill with the care that he devotes to those of his novels, which are certainly better plotted and undoubtedly have better endings.

Some of the proposals will have our support. These include the establishment of a serious fraud office, the videoing of evidence from child victims, a provision very much in line with the proposals that we make in the Labour party policy document, "Protecting our People", the enhanced protection of the anonymity of rape victims and the ending of anonymity for rape defendants. We are not opposed in principle to the confiscation of assets from those who gain in crime, but we note that the system is markedly different from that relating to drug trafficking offences. We are surprised that the Government are so confident in going ahead with this scheme without experience of how the Drug Trafficking Offences Act will work. The provisions for this—24 clauses; a Bill on their own—are so convoluted that there are serious doubts as to whether they are operable. We have misgivings about the inadequate provision for restoration and compensation when confiscation has taken place wrongfully or erroneously.

We deplore strongly the fact that the Bill is before the House for Second Reading without containing the provisions, to which the Home Secretary referred, on the prison grievance and disciplinary systems. It is wrong that the House should be asked to give a Second Reading when these important proposals are to be put in as an afterthought, particularly in the light of the way in which the Home Secretary has botched prison policy in the recent past. In the light of these failures, the Bill is far too free in creating new imprisonable offences, to cram yet more people into our prisons.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the much publicised fresh start that the Home Secretary is trying to impose on prison officers is being rejected by every prison officer branch? Sadly, that is the backlash. Prison officers are responding to the way that they have been treated by the Government, and my right hon. Friend is alluding to this.

Mr. Kaufman

I have had meetings with members of the Prison Officers Association in prisons that I have recently visited, and there is great bitterness among prison officers about the way in which they have been treated by the Government, ever since the degrading events earlier this year. I agree with what my hon. Friend has said.

A number of the proposals in the Bill are bad, and we shall oppose them. It is wrong, in part II, to set aside the hearsay rule, which prevents reliance on secondhand evidence. It is vindictive that overstaying, against which there are already sufficient remedies and penalties, should be turned into a continuing offence. It is dangerous to remove the prima facie rule from extradition. It could pander to the dubious legality prevalent in authoritarian states. In particular, we oppose retention of the Home Secretary's power to send someone to his death in another land.

We deplore the Home Secretary's stubbornness in following his predecessor's deserved rebuff on enacting a power to refer cases to the Court of Appeal when sentences are regarded as too lenient. The poor old Attorney-General has been having a hard enough time lately as it is. It is wrong to erode the nature of his office still further by seeking to involve him in influencing sentencing decisions.

We oppose the abolition of the peremptory challenge in jury trials. There is no evidence that peremptory challenge has been misused. Much to the Government's discredit, there is no evidence on the subject at all. In March, when the White Paper was published, it told us: The Director of Public Prosecutions is now monitoring the use of peremptory challenge and prosecution standby". It went on to promise: The figures thus gathered will be available to inform debate when the Criminal Justice Bill is before Parliament. It is eight months later, the Criminal Justice Bill is before Parliament and we do not have the evidence that the Government promised.

On 9 July, when I questioned the Home Secretary about the monitoring exercise, he replied: the results will be available for informed debate when the House considers the proposals that we set before it."—[Official Report, 9 July 1986; Vol. 101, c. 306.] The Home Secretary did not even refer to that monitoring exercise today, nor did he refer to his promise, which he has broken, that the monitoring exercise results will be available while we are discussing the Bill. That makes all the more deplorable the change that he proposes.

Mr. Ashby

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that those figures will in any event be hopeless and unusable because all that has been done is that people from the Crown prosecution service are noting whether the challenges are to a male or female, and the age of the person. It is not being done in relation to the composition of the jury, and there is no reasoning or anything like that. These figures will be hopeless and useless, and no doubt that is why they have not been referred to.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman commands unique respect for the way in which he approaches these matters. I accept absolutely what he says about the poor quality of the figures. However, whatever the quality of the material, it was promised and that promise has been broken. We would at least have been able to judge its quality if the Government had adhered to their commitment and provided the information.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

The right hon. Gentleman says that there is no evidence that the right of peremptory challenge has been misused, but is he not aware of evidence to that effect in connection with the Cyprus secrets trial?

Mr. Kaufman

That is not evidence. That is the hon. Gentleman's personal and bizarre preoccupation, which is a very different matter from evidence.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that what little evidence there is about peremptory challenge exists only in cases where there is more than one defendant, and that that is where complaints have arisen? There is absolutely no evidence of any complaint where there is only one defendant.

Mr. Kaufman

Once I made the great mistake of not giving way to the hon. Gentleman. After that, I learnt my lesson, and I am now very glad indeed that I learnt that lesson. He has made a very important point. I shall come to the very important matter of multiple cases in which there are several defendants.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I remind the House that interventions are made only at the expense of the speeches of other hon. Members.

Mr. Kaufman

I take into account what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall abide by your request.

With regard to peremptory challenge, the Law Society is opposed to the change. It says: This right can be the only means of removing patently unsuitable jurors. Opponents of peremptory challenge may be irritated with its use by the defence. However, it has been wisely said: It is part of a defence lawyer's role to try to select a jury that he thinks will give his client the best chance of acquittal. Although the Roskill committee suggested the abolition of peremptory challenge, it sympathised with the need of a defendant to have some method of ensuring an appropriate racial or sexual mix on the jury. In pursuit of exactly that objective in the case of Banf and others in Bristol Crown court in 1981, Judge Stocker ruled that the defence could and should use all their peremptory challenges—there were 12 defendants—to ensure that there were black people on the jury.

Abolition of peremptory challenge may lead to the overuse and even, perhaps, to the misuse of challenge for cause. Its use may now expand in our courts. The need for the retention of peremptory challenge was most movingly summed up in "Blackstone", who said: peremptory challenge: a provision full of that tendernes and humanity to prisoners, for which our English laws are justly famous. This is grounded on two reasons. 1. As everyone must be sensible what sudden impressions and unaccountable prejudices we are apt to conceive upon the bare looks and gestures of another; and how necessary it is, that a prisoner (when put to defend his life) should have a good opinion of his jury". That was in the days when there were capital sentences, but a life sentence is a fairly severe sentence, too. I hope that the Home Secretary will not scoff at its importance.

Mr. Hurd


Mr. Kaufman

With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall give way to the Home Secretary.

Mr. Hurd

The right hon. Gentleman is quoting from "Blackstone" a passage that we put into the White Paper in order to show that there was a time when the balance of the system was tilted against the defendant, when sentences were very heavy and when in other respects the defendant had less than a fair chance. It is very hard to argue that that is true today. That is why, throughout the centuries, the right of peremptory challenge has been steadily reduced.

Mr. Kaufman

The Home Secretary's intervention does not carry much credence. If he does not regard a life sentence as very heavy, he is somewhat lacking in the imagination with which we had credited him until now.

"Blackstone" then says: the want of which might totally disconcert him; the law wills not that he should be tried by any one man against whom he has conceived a prejudice, even without being able to assign a reason for such his dislike. 2. Because, upon challenges for cause shown, if the reason assigned prove insufficient to set aside the juror, perhaps the bare questioning his indifference may sometimes provoke a resentment; to prevent all ill consequences from which, the prisoner is still at liberty, if he pleases, peremptorily to set him aside. Those are very important words and I am very sorry that the Government, being aware of them, have decided to ignore them.

We, with many others, are worried about the new life sentence for carrying firearms, even replica firearms, in furtherance of crime. Most curiously, this afternoon the Home Secretary justified the new penalty by assuring us that it is unlikely to be used. But that does not solve the problem. It will be on the statute book, there to be used and outside the Home Secretary's control.

The Association of County Councils succinctly makes the point that there will be the same maximum penalty for carrying and for using firearms. It cannot be denied that such a development could put police officers and members of the public at even greater risk than at present. The Police Federation has written to me about this. It says: We fear that the criminal who believes he faces life imprisonment if he is caught in possession of a weapon will be tempted to use it in order to escape arrest. Its spokesman has said, very tellingly: Laws that lay down maximum sentences, which will not be enforced, make a mockery of the life sentence… The danger must be that the criminal, trapped while carrying a gun, does not appear to face any deterrent from using it or from killing. This is an ill-thought-out proposal which could place at risk the lives of police officers—not that this Government seem to have much regard for the lives or wellbeing of police officers, if their disgraceful proposals on compensation are anything to go by.

At the time of the autumn statement earlier this month, the Government's propaganda machine made much of what was depicted as increased provision for criminal injuries compensation, and the poor, gullible press was taken in by these claims. In fact, the Government are making the predicament of thousands of crime victims much worse. That is saying something, considering how the chances of obtaining compensation under this Government have already seriously deteriorated.

When the Labour Government left office in 1979, 26,299 cases were pending before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. By the end of last month, that queue had more than doubled to 60,000. People are having to wait for deplorably long periods for their cases to be settled. Of cases settled in 1985–86, 30 per cent. had had to wait for over a year. At least 12,000 of those still in the queue have already been waiting for more than a year.

The reason for this is, first, a massive rise in crime, which has led more people to make claims. Secondly, the Government are starving the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board of staff. Two years ago the Select Committee on Home Affairs recommended staff increases. The staff has hardly been increased at all. The result is that, while in 1981 there was one member of staff for every 171 claimants, there is now one member of staff for every 212 claimants. The work load is impossible. That is despite the fact that the Government have taken action to reduce the queue, not by providing the necessary staff to help the claimants but by depriving thousands of potential claimants of the right to claim.

In 1977, the Labour Government increased the lower limit for eligibility to claim from £50 to £150. This was the first increase for 13 years. In announcing it, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) made it clear that the increase is intended to restore its original value without changing the scope and purpose of the scheme."—[Official Report, 15 February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 146.] In four years, not 13, this Government had already twice increased that lower limit upwards, to £400. After seven years, they are planning the third increase, to £550. An increase of £80 would have been enough to keep up with inflation, but the Government are imposing an increase of twice that amount. In any case, two years ago, the Select Committee on Home Affairs denounced the previous increase to £400 as "excessive". It recommended: the £250 minimum which was in force until last year should be used as the base rate for further cost of living increases rather than the current figure of £400. Last year, in their response to the Select Committee, the Government said that this recommendation would be borne in mind by the Government in considering any future increase in the level of the lower limit. That response was hypocritical, and this new increase proves it to have been hypocritical.

In its press statement three weeks ago the Home Office claimed that the increase to £550 is intended to concentrate resources on the more seriously injured applicants. That deliberately deceptive rubbish means that thousands of others will be deprived of the rights to compensation. in 1984–85, 28 per cent. of awards were below £550. So the Government, who snivel on about crime and victims, are actually penalising victims—many thousands of them. Clearly, they are doing that as a covert way of cutting the queue as well as a means of saving money. Their claim is that their changes will cut the queue by possibly 5,000 a year for three years, but at the end of that three years, even if we accept the Government's forecast as accurate, that would still leave the queue twice as long as it was when the Government came to office.

And to save what? The awards to those receiving less than £550 in 1984–85 came to only £2,300,000. That money is minute in terms of Government expenditure, but it means a lot to individual crime victims. The country should note the Government's priorities. Nearly one third of crime victims are to lose their chance of compensation to save a couple of million pounds while £100 million of taxpayers' money is being wasted on the privatisation of British Gas. All that squandered taxpayers' money should have been spent on helping victims of crime.

But there is one special group of crime victims whom the Government are deliberately damaging, and that is the police. Clause 74(7) excludes police officers altogether from compensation if they are injured accidentally while attempting to apprehend an offender, or preventing an offence from being committed. It could also harmfully affect many others including members of fire brigades, nurses and transport staff. That change would mean that a police officer who is permanently disabled or discharged from service following an accidental injury, as covered in the subsection, sustained as the result of attempting to make an arrest or prevent a crime, would receive no recompense for such an injury. He would lose entitlement to compensation for loss of earnings which could run into thousands of pounds.

In the House not long ago the Prime Minister paid a smarmy tribute to the police in the specific context of police who had sustained injuries in the course of duty. She proclaimed: We support the police in the way in which they carry out their duties."—[Official Report, 8 May 1986; Vol. 97, c. 254.] Empty words like that are easy to utter, but the same Prime Minister who uttered those words has her name on this Bill which will deprive hundreds of police of the right to compensation. Those words should stick in her throat.

I make it clear that the Labour party will oppose that subsection. We hope that Tory members of the Standing Committee will have the decency to vote with us and get rid of it. If they do not, I pledge here and now that the Labour Government will restore justice to the police, just as they will extend the right of compensation to the other crime victims now being deprived of it by the Government.

Mr. Hurd

That is another pledge.

Mr. Kaufman

Yes, that is another pledge. Add them up. I am ready to make pledges to the crime victims that the Government are bilking of their right to compensation. Yes, I am ready to make that pledge anywhere. That is a priority pledge, if the Home Secretary wants to know—a priority pledge to the police and to crime victims. [Interruption.] We have said that we shall reduce the level and we shall look with care at the recommendation of the Select Committee on Home Affairs of reducing it to the base level for inflation purposes of £250.

Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I, if not my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, am rather glad to hear the pledge that the right hon. Gentleman has just given. However, I should like him to be precise. Is he saying that he will return to the present position—that where police officers take exceptional risks they should receive compensation—or is he saying that he will go all the way back to the position which existed some years ago when that test did not have to be met?

Mr. Kaufman

I am certainly saying that we shall restore the present position, but we want to go further than that. In our policy document, "Protecting our People", we said: After full consultation, Labour will introduce a scheme to ensure that police officers injured in the course of duty receive compensation without having to apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. We will ensure that the families of police officers killed in the course of their duty also receive appropriate financial support. When we return to office—I give this commitment to the hon. Gentleman—we shall urgently consult the Police Federation in an effort to remedy any feelings of injustice that police officers may have on these matters. We strongly believe—my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersnith (Mr. Soley) and I have considered this carefully with the Labour party—that it is unfair that the police should not have proper entitlement to criminal injuries compensation.

Sir John Farr

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman

No, I shall not give way any more. I have been asked by Mr. Deputy Speaker not to give way. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. He knows that usually I would give way to him.

Yesterday—the Home Secretary has referred to it—nicely in time for the debate, the Home Secretary published, at public expense, a glossy Tory party propaganda document which, using rigged statistics and distorted diagrams, tries to play down the crime increase under the Government.

For a Government or a Tory party document, it breaks new ground because it contains jokes. On page 40, in a chapter satirically entitled "The Way Ahead" it says: If terrorists win substantive concessions from a democratic government in one country they are likely to give encouragement to terrorists in other countries. That cannot be meant seriously in the light of the Prime Minister's statement a dozen days ago in Washington when, referring to President Reagan's sale of arms to Iran, she said: I believe implicitly in the President's total integrity on that subject. The Home Secretary may not have read that document. I offer him the excuse that it is likely that he does not read a great many of the documents that come out in his name,. but this strange document makes crime in Britain seem a remote possibility indeed.

In the document the Home Secretary says that the "statistically average person" can expect an assault resulting in injury "once every century". That reassurance will be a source of great comfort to the 750,000 people in England and Wales alone who have been victims of violent crime since 1979.

The document says that our standard Thatcherite citizen can expect a burglary in the home once every 35 years. That, of course, makes everything perfectly all right for the victims of the 7 million burglaries which have taken place in Britain since the Government came to power.

The document says that there are no simple solutions to the problem of crime". That was not what the 1979 Tory manifesto said when it proclaimed: Surer detection means surer deterrence". But under the Government, detection has become less sure with a fall in the clear-up rate from 42 per cent. to 35 per cent.

The document depicts crime as some natural phenomenon such as the tides or the seasons. The Home Secretary said: The growth in recorded crime seems to have a momentum of its own which has hitherto defied the efforts of any Government to check or reverse it. That is rich coming from a party whose 1979 manifesto implied that the then much lower level of crime was the fault of the Labour Government.

The document says: Crime defies the efforts of any Government to check or reverse it. That is odd coming from a Government whose 1983 manifesto claimed: Already street crime is being reduced and public confidence increased in some of the worst inner city areas. That is a bit of a contrast with this document, which says: The risk of crime is not evenly spread amongst the community. The British Crime Survey shows that people living in inner city areas face a risk of being burgled between three and six times greater than residents of other neighbourhoods. Though high-risk communities comprise just over a tenth of households in England and Wales, residents of these areas were the victims of a third of the burglaries, a quarter of the car thefts and a third of the street crime…reported to the British Crime Survey. That is the party that said, in 1983: street crime is being reduced and public confidence increased in some of the worst inner city areas. The fact is that, under this Government, 10 million more crimes have been committed than under the Labour Government, whom the Prime Minister used to blame for crime. Under this Government, the incidence of theft has risen nearly twice as fast as under Labour. The incidence of robbery has risen nearly three times as fast as under Labour, and that of burglary has risen more than four times as fast as under Labour. The crime figures for England and Wales for the first six months of this year show that the crime crisis in worsening. Compared with last year, in the second quarter of 1986, all crime was up by 8 per cent., violent crime by 6 per cent., theft by 8 per cent., vandalism and criminal damage by 9 per cent., burglaries by 10 per cent. and sexual offences by 17 per cent.

In the first six months of this year, there was one crime of violence against the person every four minutes, one act of criminal damage every 50 seconds, one burglary every 33 seconds, one theft every 15 seconds and one crime of some kind every eight seconds. What will this Bill, this alleged centrepiece in the fight against crime, do about that record crime wave? The answer is, next to nothing. The Bill is not so much about preventing or fighting crime as about what is to be done with alleged criminals when they have been caught, and what is to be done about apprehended criminals when they have been convicted. The plan is to send more and more to prison. But the Home Secretary's own statistics show that 58 per cent. of convicted criminals imprisoned with a sentence of three months or more are back inside prison within two years, and that 69 per cent. of young offenders taken into custody become recidivists and go back into custody.

If this long, complex and largely irrelevant Bill is the best that the Government can do, there is no hope under the Conservatives of any progress being made against the crime wave. Under this Prime Minister, communities have been robbed of the resources that they need to prevent crime. Millions of people are forced by this Government to live without hope or belief in the future. Our nation has become a family divided against itself. In those circumstances, we can expect only an inexorable rise in crime of every kind.

To check and reverse that crime wave, we need to bring the British people together as partners against crime and fear. For that partnership we need not a new Bill but a new Government—a Labour Government who will provide the policies to unite the nation against crime.

6.32 pm
Sir Ian Percival (Southport)

What a miserable, sour speech that was! I do not complain about some of the criticisms that have been made, and I might even share one or two of them, but the Bill provides us with an opportunity to make constructive contributions. If the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) reads the report of his speech, he may find that it contained little that was constructive.

Of course the Bill is not perfect and is not, in itself, a comprehensive scheme for fighting crime. Who could be so silly as to think that a Bill would be? The Bill is part of the Government's strategy, and embraces those parts of the strategy that require legislation. It is fatuous to look at it in isolation. When the Bill is seen in that context, one is staggered by the vast amount that is in it. Many important subjects and technical matters are covered. I shall mention only a few of them. I think that there is a danger, on Second Reading, of falling into the error of looking at each part of the Bill while failing to see the whole Bill in context.

I deal first with clause 2. I, too, welcome the fact that the Government are implementing much of the Roskill report, just as I welcome the fact that they are not implementing the recommendation on juries. It is much to the Government's credit that they have recognised that juries are perfectly able to understand most fraud cases if those cases are properly presented. Of necessity, clause 2 seems to make quite substantial inroads into the right to silence. At this stage, I do not wish to argue the importance of the right to silence, but those inroads should be spelt out so that we all know what we are doing when considering that clause.

In my thinking on clauses 14 to 20, I come close to the right hon. Member for Gorton. After all, credit must be given where credit is due. I hope that there will be the closest possible consultation with the practising bar before the final form of the hearsay provisions is decided. Barristers are practitioners and it is they who can say how the provisions would work in practice. Things may not be half as easy as they seem. Consequently, my plea is for the closest consultation possible with the practitioners. However, that is a matter to be discussed in Committee.

My next remarks touch on clause 29. As a former Law Officer, I say with some feeling that the Government should reconsider the matter. They should think of the extra burden being placed on an already heavily overburdened member of the Government. Whenever anyone complains that a sentence is too lenient, the complaint will be sent to the Attorney-General, who will have to look at it and send for the facts. When he has the facts, he will usually find that the sentence was appropriate, and so he will not refer it. The Member of Parliament involved will then say that the Attorney-General has let down the public once again, and so on. It is a terrible cross to ask the Attorney-General to bear in addition to all his other problems.

The Government should also ask themselves whether that provision is necessary. I do not believe that the Lord Chief Justice would find it difficult to give guidance if he really thought it necessary. One does not need to have an over-lenient sentence to make him do that, but merely an appeal against a proper sentence. It is not, I am sure, beyond the wit of the Lord Chief Justice to say, "Let me have a look at what is coming up in the list. Oh yes, I'll take that one." That provides us with the perfect way of going about things as then all that business of whether to involve the Judicial Studies Board goes by the board. The Lord Chief Justice can say in public just what he wants to say to the public and the judges. I hope that the Government will reconsider that point.

Clause 83 does away with the right of peremptory challenge. I disagree slightly with everything that has been said so far. It is wrong to say that there is no evidence of abuse, though it depends on what one means by evidence. It would seem that on occasion that right has been used for purposes for which it was not designed, and that has not increased public confidence in the system. But just because there may be examples of abuse, it is easy to forget that the right of challenge is also put to good use.

Recently, I went to a seminar and at lunchtime I told one of the judges that I had concluded that we should do away with the right of peremptory challenge. He then put a point that I had never thought of. He said that in the last case in which he had appeared as an advocate he had used the challenge because he thought that his client was innocent, so he wanted a sensible jury that would understand what was going on. He wanted not to get rid of the gentleman in the blue suit and white shirt but to put him on the jury. Consequently we should not allow ourselves to be carried away just because there may have been some abuse.

I wish to raise one point of detail that is not covered in the Bill. It relates to sentencing. At that seminar, the view was universally expressed that it would be helpful to those who had the terribly difficult task of sentencing if they had discretion to suspend youth custody orders in whole or in part. I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and his team to consider introducing such a discretion.

As I have said, I think that there is danger of taking such a Bill clause by clause and failing to consider the entire Bill in the context of the overall problem that it is designed to overcome or diminish. We must ask what contribution the Bill will make to the fulfilment by the Government of their responsibility to preserve law and order and to their overall strategy to fulfil that and their responsibilities. These responsibilities are to prevent crime, not least by deterrence, to catch those who have not been prevented or deterred, to obtain the conviction of those who have been caught and to provide those who have the extremely difficult task of deciding what sentence to impose with an armoury of options that will enable them to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. I know that there are other factors that must be taken into account in sentencing, but the ones to which I have drawn attention are the principal criteria. It bears repeating that when it comes to sentencing the court must be able to punish the guilty and protect the innocent.

The Bill must be tested against those requirements and against the root causes of crime, especially the causes of the crimes that are increasing in number. It seems that the right hon. Member for Gorton found it easy to pick out figures that show where crimes have been rising, but his comments would have merited more consideration if he had tried to relate the figures to the causes.

The House should remind itself that creeping over the world is a wave of evil that the Lord Chief Justice recently found it necessary to describe as something that might overwhelm us and other civilisations. I shall mention two examples. First, there is the Hindawi case, which included three new features which probably have already been forgotten by many. One of those features is the hideousness of the crime which he tried to commit. It was not a matter of placing a bomb in a position where it might have killed one or two people. If the act had succeeded, it would necessarily have killed up to 400 people who had nothing to do with the dispute that caused Hindawi to be hired. To that must be added the way in which he intended to commit the crime, and the fact that he did everything in his power to effect the crime. That all adds up to a new evil and hideousness. We have all heard of hideous crimes before, but the Hindawi case provided a new dimension.

There is another new dimension to the Hindawi case, and it demonstrates to us something we have been reading about in books, but until the Hindawi case it had never come close to us. The case demonstrated that there are international gangs of villains who are ready to commit mass murder for money. Hindawi was not an idealist or a Moslem fundamentalist; the man did it for money.

Thirdly, the Hindawi case brought us face to face with another dimension. Whether we like it or not, we have on our hands and in our prison system for a minumum of 30 years, even with full remission, a member of a gang which boasts that it does not allow its members to rot in other people's prisons. At the moment that Hindawi was arrested, he wrote a letter suggesting ways in which he might be removed from custody.

Another area of evil is the activities of the major drug barons. If a man puts £1 million-worth of drugs on to the market knowing that that will necessarily result in the degradation and then the death of an unknown number of people, mostly young, and does so purely for money, he is indulging in a degree of evil that to me beggars description. We must ask ourselves whether there is any sentence or punishment, if punishment is still an element, which bears any relationship to either of those crimes other than that that person so convicted should forfeit his or her own life.

I do not propose to develop that argument. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has suggested that the Bill is a suitable vehicle for debating capital punishment but I do not agree with him. I think that it is a separate subject. The other matters that are dealt with in the Bill are so important that we should not be diverted from them by discussing the death penalty. Capital punishment is of such importance that it should be discussed as a separate issue. As I have said, I shall not develop it here.

There is a lower level of evil, but a real one, that we must have in mind when we are considering making improvements to our system of criminal justice. We must consider the offences that are rising in number and causing the most problems for the police. These are the crimes to which we should direct our attention when dealing with Bills such as the one that is before us. My first four headings are sex, drugs, civil order and international gangs. If we did not have the civil disorder that we have and the danger from international gangs that led us to have half of the police forces of three counties on duty at Bournemouth when we exercised the elementary right of a democracy of meeting to talk, just think of the use to which those police man hours could have been put in protecting the public in their ordinary daily rounds.

Sex and drugs do and must figure repeatedly in any discussion of crime. That is both because sex and drug offences are growing in number and because of their spin-offs.

Mr. Alec Carlile

And alcohol.

Sir Ian Percival

That is not nearly in the same category. Whether that be so or not, I shall not be diverted from issues which I can clearly establish at least to my satisfaction, where I can establish a danger and I can see some of the answers to it.

There has been an increase in sex and drug offences and many of the increases in other crimes have a relationship to that. How many of the muggings that are carried out by young people are committed by those who find themselves in the hands of drug pushers? These young people may well mug somebody to obtain the money to buy the next filthy shot. How many of the so-called opportunist housebreakings are committed for the same reason? No one can answer that question, but everyone knows that it is a substantial number. There is also the element of corruption. It is no accident that the number of convictions for corruption has risen as well. These are areas of crime that have corrupted society in every way.

Who is responsible for these developments? First, we must identify the cause and, secondly, those who are responsible, for we must get at those who have responsibility. It is clear that there are all too many men and women who cold-bloodedly exploit sex, drugs and pornography for money. All three elements are related directly to one another. I do not believe that anyone who has seen even the minimum of the salacious filth that is available in magazines and videos, and even brought into our homes in television programmes, could doubt for a moment that there is a clear link between pornography and the increase in sexual crime. The people who exploit sex, drugs and pornography and cause so much misery for the young—it is young people who suffer the most—must be ruthlessly pursued and destroyed.

Then there are others who exploit all those things as part of their crusade—to them it is a crusade—to destabilise society by destroying the capitalist system. As long as we identify them and point out to the public what they are up to, I think that their influence can be kept to a minimum.

Another much wider and more important factor is the lack of moral values in so many people. If the House runs true to form, it will not be long before somebody gets up and sneers at the fact that I have had the temerity to refer to moral values. I shall no doubt be accused of preaching or moralising, which is supposedly a nasty thing to do. So let me say this. I know full well that there are very few men and women who are good enough and strong enough to live all their lives strictly according to what they may have been taught to be the normal standard. To put it another way, if I am ever fortunate enough to be invited to the saints and sinners dinner I hope that there will be enough red carnations to go round.

But I know equally well that it is a good thing to have standards and to try to live up to them; and I know equally well that there is no sadder sight—every lawyer in the Chamber will support me—than young people in the dock who have no sense of right or wrong, good or bad, and the depths to which that lack of knowledge has brought them. That is no criticism of the young. How can they know those things if nobody tells them? It is a terrible indictment of all those who have failed them. It is an indictment of those close to them who have failed to give them any values, of those who should have led them by example but have set such a dreadful example, of those who have thrown filth and deviation at them, not least some of those who were so anxious to prevent the House from passing the Obscene Publications (Protection of Children, etc.) (Amendment) Bill presented to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill). They sought to justify their actions in the name of art or, just as spuriously, in the name of freedom. That would be laughable if it were not so serious.

Mr. Tom Cox

I am following closely what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying and I agree with him. I am sure that he would readily accept that many hon. Members are very interested in moral standards. Will he link his comments to the repugnance felt by many people about certain newspapers which go out of their way to pay large sums of money for stories? There have been examples of two brutal cases. One was of someone who murdered members of his family and the other was of someone who, sadly, raped women. The newspapers were prepared to pay large sums for the girl friends of those individuals to tell their stories. Is that not equally repugnant and a lowering of our moral standards?re

Sir Ian Percival

Of course. I am glad that I gave way because I acknowledge that many hon. Members have placed great value on standards. I should not like what I have said to be otherwise interpreted. The hon. Gentleman will know as well as I do that for far too long in the House moral values have been sneered at by some of our colleagues. I am glad that he is happy to stand up and be counted. I am glad that he said what he did. I accept that some of the newspapers bear a heavy burden in that respect. The fact that I have not mentioned them should not in any way mean that I underestimate the importance of that. I am merely trying quickly to catalogue some of the guilty.

To continue that, the lack of moral values, too, is an indictment of the loony fringe of some local councils encouraging promiscuity and homosexuality despite the misery, and now the dangers, to which they are known to lead.

Those in public life and we in the House have a strong duty. Those who have preached in the House to the rest of us and the nation for so many years that it is old-fashioned to have standards, that the permissive society is the civilised society—I have had to listen to that kind of talk and preaching so often—and that in sexual matters "anything goes" have a great deal for which to answer. As long as those people and any others who have contributed to the lack of moral values continue to preach that sort of attitude, and until they start giving the young the assistance which they say they want to give them by helping them to have some standards by which to try to live, we will have to run very fast even to remain on the same spot.

All that we are doing is merely palliative. I am sure that the Government will continue to set a lead in bringing home to all the value of standards. I believe with all my heart that apart from the small number who have unhappily had their lives ruined beyond repair, those of us who believe in what I am saying will find a ready response from the young, many of whom are longing to have some help from those to whom they look for guidance, even if they do not want to come straight out and ask for it.

I remember when I used to have to fix a time for my daughter to come in. There was always grumbling if I said she should be in by, say, midnight. A few years later she said that it was a marvellous protection to be able to say, "The old devil says I have to be in by 12 and if I am not I will not be able to go out again." It is not nearly as complicated as some people make it. There are ways in which we should be able to give guidance to the young. Unless and until we do, as I have said, we will have to run very fast to stay on the same spot. Meanwhile, we must do what we can to improve the situation. I believe that the Bill, as part of the Government's whole strategy, will make a real contribution and for that reason I welcome it.

6.58 pm
Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)

At the outset of the speech in which he commended the Bill to the House, the Home Secretary emphasised the sheer volume and quantity of amendment and reform of the criminal law and the law of administration of criminal justice which has taken place in the past few years. Listening to his Second Reading speech, too, one was bound to say to oneself that here were five or six Second Reading speeches of five or six Bills, each deserving separate consideration and philosophic attention in its own right. When that happens, especially when it happens in association with a public sense of abhorrence for crimes that are increasing in prevalence—the sort of abhorrence to which the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) has given moving expression—there is more than usual danger of standards being cast aside, of principles of justice being neglected and of natural justice being treated as of no account in the anxiety to get new provisions on to the statute book. When that occurs, a responsibility rests upon every hon. Member whether or not he is a lawyer or one who concerns himself specifically with criminal law.

I should like to refer especially and briefly to part IV of the Bill, because it illustrates what I have in mind and enables me to palliate even if I cannot make good a failing on my own part. In the context of the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, a revolutionary innovation was made in the criminal law through the introduction of confiscation. When it was introduced, even those who were anxious and disposed to object nevertheless argued that the offence in question was so dangerous, so abhorrent, such a threat to society that it justified the exceptional innovation. I know that there were others besides myself who were opposed to the principle but let it go by on the basis that it would not be drawn into precedent or extended beyond the context which was originally thought to justify it.

Part IV of the Bill reveals exactly the same kind of proposal as first appeared in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, a lesson—if one were needed—in the rapidity with which something introduced as exceptional to deal with a quite specific and exceptional danger can become a pattern to be virtually carbon copied whenever there is a new phase of criminal legislation.

In effect, part IV of the Bill extends confiscation not merely beyond the original context in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 but to any crime whatsoever that can be associated with pecuniary gain. The Bill extends it to the offences triable in magistrates courts which are set out under schedule 3; but the terms of that schedule have no relevance, because the Minister is given power by order subject only to negative procedure to add to those listed any other offence triable in magistrates courts. The Bill extends confiscation to offences triable in a Crown court upon indictment virtually without any limitation other than that implicit in the nature of confiscation itself. Thus, there is in the Bill what might be described as the explosion of a tentative innovation which Parliament had accepted in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 in the previous Session.

In public, outside this House, I drew attention last year to the dangerous nature of what had happened and expressed the belief that it would not be long before the precedent was repeated. However, I failed to record dissent on the Floor of this House or, if it had been possible, in the Lobby. One of the irrecoverables of life is the dissent that one did not express, the vote that one failed to cast. At any rate, by this brief speech this evening, I am endeavouring to expiate what I left undone last Session.

Mr. Mellor

The right hon. Gentleman knows the respect with which I always treat his contributions. That is what moves me to ask him this question. What conceivable objection can there be to the proposal in the Bill that, once it is known that a convicted criminal has benefited to the tune of more than £10,000 from crime—and that established in the indictment—that person should then be rendered liable to lose property to the value of that sum so that he should not otherwise benefit from crime? I cannot understand how that is objectionable.

Mr. Powell

I was about to refer to what seemed to me the major flaws in the innovation and its major inconsistencies with what people would regard as the principles of our criminal justice.

In the first place, the innovation superimposes what is in effect an additional penalty—and a severe one—upon the penalties which have been prescribed by statute for the offences in question. We go to considerable trouble in legislating to decide what penalties would be appropriate to particular criminal offences from which profit might be drawn by those who commit them. Yet, in part IV of the Bill, we pile on top of these indiscriminately the engine of confiscation.

The second flaw associated with confiscation is that, by its very nature, it puts the burden of proof upon what in part IV would be called the defendant.

Mr. Mellor

indicated dissent.

Mr. Powell

That is obviously a matter that needs to be examined closely in Committee. It may be possible by work in Committee to amend part IV so as to correct some of the inherent flaws. They might at least be considerably reduced, if not eliminated altogether.

The student of part IV of the Bill as it stands finds himself contemplating a situation where, in effect, the defendant is presented with a proposition and it lies with him to make the case against it. The burden of proof—in that sense of the term—is rested upon the defendant in the course of the process of confiscation.

I believe, indeed, that every part of the Bill will require the most exhaustive discussion in principle and detail in Committee; but in this Second Reading debate I believe it right that a marker should be put down especially against part IV, which extends so widely the principle of a procedure introduced out tentatively and in a different context in the previous Session of Parliament.

7.7 pm

Mr. Charles Irving (Cheltenham)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and his colleagues on producing at least some measures that will go a considerable way to combating the rising concern in the community about serious crime and crimes of violence. Generally speaking, we must welcome the increased powers to deal with fraud in the light of the insider trading scandals and it is timely and appropriate to take that matter to a sensible conclusion.

The confiscation of assets of offenders convicted of highly profitable crimes gives the Bill at least the air of justice. The overhaul of the criminal injuries compensation scheme is long overdue and is to be welcomed. Public feeling is quite rightly rising very high indeed about the violence in the community. It is a scar on the face of this civilised nation that thugs, brutes and violators run free while non-violent offenders, fine defaulters and the mentally ill clutter up expensive prison beds. Both Labour and Conservative Governments have falsely promised to reduce the prison population and have so far dismally failed to do so. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have greater success than has been achieved in the past—he certainly cannot have less success.

My commendation of the Bill is, however, tempered with a deep disappointment. The Bill is essentially a ragbag of measures and an administrative housekeeping system. No attempt appears to have been made to reduce the prison population or to make room for those who terrorise their neighbours. The Government have rightly devoted great attention to the needs of the police, the courts and the prison service. They are rightly generous in their allocation of resources to the needs of those services. They have given the police and the courts great powers to deal with the problems of crime and if those powers are exercised our streets may be slightly safer, but they have failed to tackle the problems of non-violent offenders.

The Bill fails by its omission of any proposals to reduce this country's excessive use of imprisonment for non-violent people. We send more people to prison than any other major west European country and we imprison them in conditions that are nothing less than a national scandal. Fewer than one in five prisoners have committed crimes of violence, sex or robbery. Of the 92,800 sentenced offenders entering custody in 1984, only 15,000 had committed such crimes. In addition, 21,800 fine defaulters received short custodial sentences, a very costly administrative hazard.

Fifty-eight per cent. of male offenders leaving penal establishments are back before the courts within two years, and 33 per cent. have to spend most of every 24 hours in overcrowded prisons without easy access to private toilet facilities. What a shambles it is. The only word to describe such a system is "perverse". It seems designed to create and maintain criminality. Unless sanctions other than custodial sentences can be found for non-violent offenders, the Bill is bound to increase the problems because it cannot do other than increase the number of men and women in prison.

My final criticism is that the wrong people are being sent to prison. To pile more people on top of those already there is obscene. In considering the problems that will be increased we should not forget that in the past few years there have been riots in 22 prisons and the resulting damage has cost the taxpayer many millions of pounds and brought even worse problems for prison staff. We must not lose sight of the immense difficulties and dangers that prison staff carry on behalf of society.

For a nation proud of its commitment to youth, Aileen Ballantyne's article in The Guardian of 24 November makes grim reading. It states: In all just over 11 per cent. of under 16 year olds who come before the Courts receive custodial sentences. But there is little evidence that this approach to juvenile crime is having any effect on reconviction rates. 71 per cent. of those sentenced to detention centres and 81 per cent. of those sentenced to youth custody centres re-offend within two years of release. On the same day, The Guardian speculated that the Home Affairs Committee was about to recommend a single sentence of "treatment" for all under 18-year-olds instead of custody. The Bill should have dealt with some such measures. It is a tragedy that it has not done so and I hope that it is not too late to remedy that omission.

Many people feel that the police, the courts and the prison service are not tackling their problems. I believe that the proposal to abolish peremptory challenge of jurors will enhance that lack of confidence in our system of justice. When emotion runs high, as it did in the miners' strike and in the aftermath of the IRA bombings and the inner city riots, the law is rightly seen as the great cohesive force in our society. Anything which weakens that will produce an impossible situation when people's confidence in the courts is already wavering. It is right that on such occasions, and, indeed, on all occasions, the defendant's right to a fair and unbiased trial should be publicly demonstrated and that the defendant should be able to exercise his or her right to countermand public bias. The abolition of the right to peremptory challenge will greatly damage public confidence in the impartiality of the courts.

Unless changes are made in Committee it will be very difficult for me—a strong supporter of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders and the prevention of crime, with a long interest in justice and in the improvement of the prison system—to support the Bill if it came back to the House as now drafted. I hope that the Committee will remove this tinder box of injustice and change the Bill.

7.16 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) has spoken with great eloquence on a number of matters that I had wished to raise in my speech. I agree with his every word and I hope that the Minister will pay real attention to that speech from a member of his own party.

The right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) spoke of the decline in moral standards in this country. I very much agree with him, as I am sure do most, if not all, Members of the House. There is a considerable need to teach the young standards to apply in their adult lives. I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, that any Government who, through their economic policies, lower the material standards of any substantial sector of society, run the risk of lowering moral standards in that sector of society. There is some statistical evidence, which all of us who have experience in the courts would support anecdotally, that that has been the case in this country. Some years ago, before I became a Member of the House, I attended a debate in which a Conservative Member quoted the Prime Minister as saying that unemployment does not in any way contribute to crime. What a misjudgement and a myth that was, and how wrong it has proved to be.

I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman, too, that part of the Bill is designed to deal with a very serious decline in moral standards, not among people who are ill educated and do not know the difference between right and wrong but among those who are extremely well educated and perfectly well aware of the difference between right and wrong, but who are committing massively increasing offences of enormous fraud in high places. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that the Bill in some way makes a contribution on behalf of the Government to raising moral standards in this country, I believe that he has failed to read the Bill properly. As his hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham said, the Bill is no more than a ragbag of administrative measures.

Sir Ian Percival

If the hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting that there is a link between unemployment and crime and is seeking through that to blame the Government, that is a damned insult to the unemployed. Of course a great many convicted people are unemployed. All professional and petty crooks are unemployed and have no intention of being employed, but the vast majority of generally unemployed people lead decent, honest law-abiding lives and ought to be congratulated.

Mr. Carlile

Of course the majority of unemployed people lead honest lives, but where has the right hon. and learned Gentleman been for the past few years? Does he disagree with the deputy Prime Minister, Viscount Whitelaw, who has said in terms that he accepts there is a link between unemployment and crime? The right hon. and learned Gentleman should open his eyes and look at the evidence of what is happening.

When the Home Secretary introduced this Bill he said, in effect, that it was the last piece of the Government's master plan for the criminal justice system in Britain. It was the final piece in the jigsaw, the last of a series of Bills, and no doubt the Government will seek to rely upon it at the next general election for the bogus allegation that they have made law and order their own fiefdom. Why have we had to wait until the eighth and probably the last Session of Parliament of this Prime Minister's Government for the Government's plans for the criminal justice system to be completed? If they thought that they had the answer to those problems why has it taken so long to produce them?

The Bill, therefore, is part of the overall package of measures that the Government have introduced. God knows, we have had many such measures. Some of us, including the Minister of State, suffered for 59 meetings on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mellor)

I attended more of them than the hon. and learned Gentleman did.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman

Look at the Home Secretary's attendance record.

Mr. Carlile

I am grateful for the sedentary intervenion by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). The Home Secretary of the time appeared for a total of about one hour during the whole of those 59 meetings. If one looks at the collection of Bills that have been introduced over the last eight Sessions one sees that the Government have made an enfeebled attempt to address the problems. But at least the people are now in a position to judge what the Government have done because we have been told that this is the end of the Government's criminal justice scheme.

I shall not quote many examples from the avalanche of statistics which condemn the Government's criminal justice policy, but let us reflect on just a couple of the more horrifying statistics. Since 1979 the number of remand prisoners, unconvicted people, has doubled from 4,000 to 8,000 in round figures. Those people are sometimes held in fearful conditions, which the hon. Member for Cheltenham has described. A few days ago an in-depth investigation by The Independent revealed that many are held in prisons pervaded by the smell of urine and faeces. Over that same period from 1979 the waiting time between charge and trial for remand prisoners has gone up by over 70 per cent. That figure is based on the Government's own statistics contained in their glossy publication called "Criminal Justice: A Working Paper" which came out yesterday.

What have the Government put forward to meet the increasing evidence produced by criminologists about the damaging effect of crime, even minor crime, upon the victim? What have they done not merely to deal with procedure in court but actually to stem the massive increase in fraud offences which are revealed daily and on an international scale in our newspapers? Very little.

Some provisions of the Bill are welcome. I welcome the establishment of a serious fraud office and much of the revision of preparatory and trial procedures for fraud cases. They are useful reforms. Simplification of the way in which documents are treated is welcome, and I accept that we have to look at the hearsay rule, though I have grave misgivings about the effect upon a defendant of some of the proposed measures. In Committee we shall have to ensure that we have the checks to go with the balances.

I welcome the provisions that will remove the agony experienced by an advocate who has to cross-examine a child in the full glare of the open court system. I also welcome the provisions that would deprive people of the proceeds of serious crime and I welcome too—though with the misgivings expressed by the right hon. Member for Gorton—the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board being put on a statutory basis. However, I fear that the Bill as it stands suffers from flaws which are so unacceptable as to be fatal.

The Bill makes no contribution whatever to the real problems of burgeoning crime that face society, crimes of violence and crimes in which weapons such as those mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) are used. The Bill fails even to start upon the process recommended by the Law Commission of codification—meaning simplification—of our criminal law: but the real weakness of the Bill is the attack that it makes upon our jury system. Obviously, the Home Secretary agrees basically with my view because he said that the right to jury trial is the central pillar of our criminal justice system.

The right hon. Member for Gorton went back to a quotation from "Blackstone". He got it in first, but I think a number of other hon. Members might have used it in the debate, as part of the proof that the jury system and the right to peremptory challenge are historically fundamental to our criminal trial process. The jury system has been under threat and has been whittled away for many years.

In 1973, under a Tory Government, the right to question jurors was restricted, and a juror's occupation was no longer made available to the defence so that an informed judgment about the juror could be made when deciding whether to challenge. In 1977, under a Labour Government, some cases were removed from juries, and under that same Labour Government the defence right to challenge jurors was reduced. In 1978, interestingly under a Labour Government, jury vetting was legitimised, and in 1984 the number of people disqualified from sitting on juries was doubled by the Juries (Disqualification) Act 1984. Now the right peremptorily to challenge jurors, so the Government say, is to be taken away.

In the White Paper the Government admit that the peremptory challenge can be useful as a substitute for challenge for cause. Challenge for cause means that reasons have to be given in open court. Peremptory challenge can save time, embarrassment and untold complications.

As a practitioner with some experience I foresee terrible arguments in the courts and a huge corpus of case law building up as to whether defence counsel is entitled to challenge jurors because they are black people, women, white people, men, working people, accountants, you name it, on the jury. The peremptory challenge system, against which there is no evidence of misuse in modern times, is a useful shorthand way of avoiding the embarrassment and difficulties which the courts will face if the only challenge by the defence is to be challenge for cause.

As a previous speaker has said, the Government are not even-handed about this. They have destroyed the right of peremptory challenge for the defence but not for the prosecution. Oh yes, we are assured that prosecutors will be given non-statutory guidelines, but they will still have the right of stand by—peremptory challenge for the prosecution—and vetted juries, a system in which the dice are loaded in favour of the prosecution and against the defence. That system will offend our traditions and, as a lawyer, it will offend my instincts and, I think, the instincts of many others in the House. It will lead to injustice and further unfair criticisms of the jury system.

There has been sniping at the way the jury was challenged in the Cyprus spy trial, but nobody, as far as I know, has had the courage to go outside this House and stand up and say that distinguished leading counsel in that case misused their right on behalf of defendants to challenge the jury. It has been said in this House but not outside. It may be that in the case of multiple defendants there are too many challenges, although I think that is an inconvenience we can put up with in order to retain our fair jury system. In any event, I cannot imagine that it would over-tax the Government and their officials to produce a simple, sliding scale system which would keep the total number of challenges down to what we would all regard as a reasonable maximum.

The very right to trial by jury deserves some attention. The Home Secretary said how important it is that that central pillar of our system, the jury trial, should be available for those charged with serious offences. I agree. However, people who are charged with assault and battery are no longer to have the right of jury trials. That means that a police officer charged with common assault is no longer to have the right of jury trial. I am aware that the great majority of police officers who are charged with assault elect trial by jury because they want to be tried by a cross-section of the non-criminal population at large. It is right that they should retain their right to trial by jury, for if they are convicted they will lose their livelihoods, pension rights, self-esteem and the esteem of others and it is quite likely that they will have to suffer—even for a short period—the deep humiliation of a very unpleasant period of imprisonment.

What about the social worker, or the house-parent of a children's home who is charged with common assault? Is it conceivably right that such a person should be deprived of the right to elect trial by jury when their whole livelihoods and future career prospects could be wrecked by a conviction of what might seem on the face of it a minor offence, but in reality is not?

I believe that a charge of committing damage which causes just under £2,000 of damage is not a trivial offence either. It is an offence for which sentences of imprisonment are rightly passed. I believe that where people's liberty is at issue—for substantial periods—they should have the right to jury trial for what are serious offences. The Bill represents a real challenge to our jury system and therefore a challenge to us in this House, upon whom the population rely to maintain their traditional liberties. As yet, these liberties are not contained in any Bill of rights and therefore these liberties must be maintained by the determination of all hon. Members of this honourable House. I hope we shall see more Conservative Members speaking out both here and in Committee in defence of the retention of the jury system.

The Bill will also damage community relations. It will deprive the immigrant overstayer of the right of appeal within the immigration appeal system. It will introduce a new notion of the continuing offence, which will even include the absurd proposition that the immigrant will be guilty of an offence while awaiting trial. That will damage relations between the police, immigrant communities and the authorities as a whole. Surely that cannot be a sensible part of the Government's masterplan for the criminal justice system.

Not only is it wholly unacceptable that the proposed revision of prison discipline is not included in this Bill but, even when the Government finally get round to putting something before the House, they apparently will not follow the recommendations of the Prior committee. The Government, so it would appear, have decided it is worth ignoring the careful deliberations of a committee which devised an excellent system of fair prison disciplinary judgment. The Government have done so to save what appears to be no more than £300,000.

We in this country have always been fearless in providing a safe haven for those who elsewhere face charges for what could be described as political offences. Such charges have been made under systems of justice which are unacceptable to us. We have been able to give sanctuary to many even though we have not always agreed with them. For example, not everyone agreed with everything Garibaldi said but this country was prepared to offer him sanctuary, and protection from extradition.

We must ensure that this country remains a country in which fairness, justice, and fearlessness against foreign Governments who are less just than we, are maintained, so that we can remain proud of our system.

There are many other issues in the Bill which must be considered in Committee and I give the Minister and the Home Secretary due notice that, particularly on proposals against the jury system, many of us will be prepared to argue vehemently and long for the retention of the right of jury trial.

If one can be forgiven for using rugby analogy, the Home Secretary, by introducing this Bill, has made a flying tackle which has left him writhing in the mud while the criminal justice system has run away. Crime is ever on the increase, but in this Bill nothing of substance has been offered to allay the fears of the people.

7.39 pm
Sir John Farr (Harborough)

I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) will forgive me if I did not closely follow his argument. I was gripped not only by what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, but by the excellent speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving), who speaks on these matters with knowledge. He produced some telling statistics. He said that about 58 per cent. of criminals return to prison. He complained about our present prison system and said how inadequate and unsatisfactory it is. Hon. Members must agree that that is a shocking statistic. I am lucky to have in my constituency one of the top security prisons, at Gartree. That prison is regarded as a good one. There is no doubt that many improvements could be made.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will ask his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to examine a report that was sent to him about a month ago from my constituency. It concerns a serving police officer from Market Harborough, who went to the United States on a Winston Churchill Foundation award. For about three months, he studied an American experiment. The worst criminals were generally not those of mature age, but were in their late teens or early 20s. In America, the worst persistent criminals are taken to camps where they live rough for a month and have to depend upon each other. This is an innovation. The police officer's wife, who is a serving policewoman, went with him. A report on what they found lies on the desk of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham said that it is not good enough to be satisfied with over 50 per cent. recidivism. Let us try something different. Let us try to put American expertise into the treatment of persistent young—male and female—offenders in Britain. We may lose, but it is worth a try.

My first criticism of the Bill relates to the fact that certain firearm offences are likely to attract terms of life imprisonment. A range of 40 to 50 firearm offences are specified in the Firearms Act 1968. The worst two types have been selected for this deterrent. Although I support the Bill, I am not convinced that my right hon. Friend's approach will be successful. What will a determined, armed criminal say and do when he is caught? He will know perfectly well that, if he lands inside, he will face life imprisonment. This measure will be an incentive to an armed criminal to use his gun to resist arrest and to escape rather than to leave the weapon in his pocket to reassure him and never think of using it.

If we pass these two clauses strengthening the penalties of the Firearms Act 1968 to provide for life imprisonment, we shall put at greater risk the lives of police officers and all those engaged in protecting property.

This may or may not be an election year—I do not think it is, or will be in 1987. That is beside the point. It always sounds good to say, "We have done something, we have got life imprisonment for armed criminals." What does it amount to when we examine the 40 or 50 offences in the Firearms Act 1968? Some offences are serious, such as shortening a shotgun. Nobody who shortens a shotgun is of good intent. There is a range of grave offences. The 1968 Act stipulates penalties of up to 12 years, accompanied by a fine. Some are substantial terms of imprisonment.

What matters is not the range of available penalties, but how the judiciary and the magistracy will apply them. It frightened me to look at the range of maximum penalties in the 1968 Act—I shut the book quickly. We must examine how they have been utilised by the different benches—by the magistrates and by the higher courts. They have not even paid lip service to the range of deterrents that Parliament has laid down. As I know a little about this subject, I know that what my right hon. Friend intends to do is a bit of eyewash.

The transfer of some matters from a higher court to a magistrates court may or may not be a good idea. I expect that I am not alone in having sent letters to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in the last month or two. Magistrates in my constituency, the chairman of the juvenile court in Leicester, the clerk to the magistrates of the Market Harborough bench, and many other magistrates have written to me. They are worried about steps that have been taken by the Government to withdraw the police presence from magistrates courts. I sent these letters to the Home Secretary. I know that he has a lot on his plate, and I admire the way in which he gets on with what he does.

Nevertheless, in Leicestershire, it is safe to say that the magistrates are uneasy at the prospect—due to legislation that we have passed and which came into effect on 1 October this year—of magistrates courts sitting without a police presence. Very often, the police do not do anything, but it is the opinion of the magistrates that they provide a certain reassurance. They reassure timid witnesses. They could be there to give evidence in future prosecutions.

My right hon. Friend asks the House to approve the transfer of four more offences from the higher courts to the magistrates courts, including serious offences relating to assault and battery. Surely these matters cannot be tried at magistrates' court level without a prominent police presence. The chief constable in the county of Leicester has been approached. He has agreed, on a trial basis, until funds are found from somewhere, or the money is authorised by the Home Office, to have a police court presence for a period of six months, from 1 October 1986.

I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends not to expect us to accept these further four responsibilities being handed down from higher courts to be properly dealt with by the magistrates court unless they can have the reassurance, which they request, of a permanent police presence.

7.49 pm
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

It appears that under clause 121 a person who comes to this country as a resident or refugee and overstays is to be prosecuted and to have no right of appeal. I believe that that should be considered against the background of the conventions on refugees to which this country is meant to be a signatory and which give anyone who claims refugee status and overstays a right of appeal. If we take away that right of appeal, where do we lie in respect to the conventions?

I draw the Minister's attention to the report of the Special Select Committee on race relations of about two years ago in which we showed considerable concern for refugee status and the way in which the British Government seem to fly in the face of many of the Geneva conventions. As has been said, we used to be extremely proud that we were the home of the refugees. Britain, especially under this Administration, which is reluctant to give political asylum to anyone, seems to have become the one country which the genuine political refugee seeks to avoid for fear that eventually he will be thrown back to his country of origin, where often his life is in danger.

I shall not travel further down that line but will return to the main substance of the Bill. Clause 1 will set up the serious fraud office. I welcome any measure that leads to prosecutions in some major frauds of the past few years in which people have escaped prosecution. As we have seen in recent weeks, there is certainly insider dealing. The problem must be tackled, and that requires expertise. As I have said in respect of the Crown prosecution service, if we really want a service that works, we must set it up properly, put in the resources at the beginning, obtain the best, most qualified staff and support them. Financial costs of £3 million or £4 million have been mentioned. If we are to buy the best—and we need the best in starting the service—we should at least invest wisely and properly at the beginning. We might then produce a service that carries out its task properly. I think that is the will of the House.

I should like to put in a plug for the Crown prosecution service, of which I am a fervent supporter. I do not apologise for that. Perhaps, if there were a little more investment in that service, some of the ills about which many people carp and complain would easily be overcome. With the right staffing and the right resources, I am certain that we shall produce a first-class service of which we can all be proud. The Government have failed with that service, but I hope that, with this one, they have learnt their lesson and that there will be an improvement and a service worth having. We badly need a good service. I think that there have been nine prosecutions in the past few years for insider dealing. One need not walk "the square mile" for long to know that nine prosecutions are but the tip of the iceberg. A vast morass of corrupt misdealing remains undetected. We may well in this legislation remedy that wrong.

My next point concerns juries. I must declare an interest as a practicising barrister. I have the advantage, pehaps, of having been both a solicitor and a barrister, which makes me unusal in some ways.

Mr. Keith Best (Ynys Môn)

The hon. Gentleman briefs himself.

Mr. Bermingham


Having watched and participated in the selection of jurors for the best part of 20 years, I have begun to notice something. Since the White Paper was published in March, I have taken the opportunity to ask other barristers around the country for their views. It seems that most barristers do not challenge most of the time. That right is rarely used, but there are places where it needs to be used. The fuss and bother have grown, basically, in the press which has hit upon the exceptional cases in which the peremptory challenge is used and blown them out of proportion. But in perhaps 99 per cent. of cases, the challenge is not used.

The other day, someone said to me, "But what if you go to Bodmin or Mold Crown courts where the juries are drawn from the immediate locale, the villages?" The barristers practising in those areas often find that the defendant says to them, "I think that I know that chap." He may be a shopkeeper or someone who works on the next farm but one. Because the jury in a small Crown court is drawn from the local area, the anonymity of the cities is missing. Those who practise on the western and Welsh circuits fear that they will run into that problem. How will they challenge for cause? Do they stand up before the judge and say, "Your honour, challenge for cause. We think that we know that man."?

Mr. Mellor

Of course.

Mr. Bermingham

The Minister says, "Of course." But that argument can be turned round if one is a member of the jury. People may say, "He was not challenged. What is the relationship between the two?" The questioning against the defendant begins. The minute one starts going down the road of challenging for cause, one starts to create innumerable problems, which we do not have now.

Mr. Best

In my experience in the courts, if there is any question of there being a nexus between a member of the jury and the defendant, invariably the judge, to be absolutely safe, discharges that juror.

Mr. Bermingham

I concede that, but at present, if one feels that way, one makes the challenge and does not have to give the reason. One does not begin to explain before the rest of the jury why certain people should not be on the jury.

Mr. Mellor

I do not want to prolong this matter, but the hon. Gentleman has always interested me greatly. Having started with the appropriate admisson that the challenge is sparingly used, he gave us an example from the very courts in which he will see, if he looks at the figures, that it is rarely used. The peremptory challenge is most often used in the Central Criminal Court. Although I, as a member of the legal profession, am as gullible as any of my colleagues, I think that the idea that the peremptory challenge is used at the Old Bailey because of that does not wash.

Mr. Bermingham

If the Minister of State had listened carefully, perhaps he would have realised what I said. Perhaps he will read my statements. I said that the fear of those who practise on the Welsh and western circuits concerns removing their right to challenge. I agree with the Minister that there are cases in which the system has been misused. But, just because someone commits a crime, one does not abolish the system.

I do not want us to go down the road of the American courts in which four days are spent trying to swear in a jury, which gets around every conceivable challenge. That does no one a service. Our system limits us to three challenges. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) suggested considering a scale of collective challenges in cases involving multiple defendants. Perhaps there is some merit in that, although it needs further consideration. I ask the Minister of State and the Home Secretary to accept that there is a strong feeling in the legal profession that the removal of the peremptory challenge is not a good idea.

I hope that I am lucky enough to serve on the Committee, when we may again consider the review of sentencing. Again, we are treading a dangerous road. Despite what one may say about the Attorney-General being the one person who can decide, the reality of practical life is that the sentences about which complaints are made—for example, from Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne Crown courts—result from the Crown prosecutors speaking to counsel, taking a view on the sentence and then beginning a process of referring the matter through the system to the director's office and, ultimately, to the Attorney-General. In effect, one is saying to the prosecution, "You should have an interest in the sentence passed by the court." Many of us believe that a good prosecutor stands aloof from sentencing. The prosecutor's function is to present the facts of the case to the court.

Mr. Mellor

indicated dissent.

Mr. Bermingham

The Minister shakes his head in disagreement. He should take the trouble to ask those who prosecute day in and day out, as I do, what they think. Perhaps then he will be led away from the advice that he is getting from the Box, which is taking him well away from what he ought to do.

Mr. Mellor

I should not rise to the hon. Gentleman's bait because the choice is either not to listen, or to listen and constantly disagree. I am not taking issue with the proposition that the prosecution does not want to get involved in sentencing. The hon. Gentleman has a sharp mind and should address himself to the proposal before the House, which is not that prosecutors should become remotely involved but that the Attorney-General should decide—as he does at the moment on an alleged misdirection in law that leads to an acquittal—whether it is in the public interest to refer the matter to the Court of Appeal, which will consider, on an application, whether it wishes to hear it. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the prosecution. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to condemn the proposal, he should do so only on a clear understanding of what it is.

Mr. Bermingham

I say again, and with great respect to the Minister, "How wrong you read me." I am merely suggesting that the sentence will land in the hands of the Attorney-General because somebody has taken exception to it and the practice will grow. Once again, we are starting on the wrong road.

Lord Justice Lawton said in the Court of Appeal the other day that he welcomed that proposal, so that he could start reviewing sentences. We all know that the judiciary keeps its eye upon sentencing, and that has worked well in the past. I should like to see further developed the idea of senior judges reviewing the sentences passed by recorders, assistant recorders and Crown court judges. That would provide consistent sentencing, and a series of tariff levels, and there is no harm in that.

However, that does not require us to start on the road of formal review. It was said earlier that sometimes the Lord Chief Justice plucks a case from the list of sentences coming to appeal to give that advice. We all know that that happens, and many of us welcome it because it helps towards consistency. Perhaps it could be developed.

The Bill contains many fascinating features which will no doubt be considered in great depth in Committee. I hope that many changes will be made to the Bill, because we all want to see our criminal law brought into the 21st century on time, and to see justice done. We all pursue that goal. On this occasion the Government have again made several fundamental errors.

8.3 pm

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

When the Bill gets onto the statute book, a big step will have been taken to improve our criminal legal system. There are so many improvements, changes for the better, and actions taken where they have been badly needed, that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) might have been speaking in a wholly different debate, so unnecessarily sour and irrelevant were many of his comments.

The trouble with the right hon. Gentleman's claim to be concerned about law and order is that it is both relatively new and wholly unconvincing. While his party is full of people who spend their energies attacking the police, insulting the judges and urging breaches of the law, it is hardly credible for its members to purport to be of the party of law and order. As the right hon. Gentleman's speech illustrated, their best proposals, such as neighbourhood watch schemes, have, of course, long since been Conservative party policy, and they have been proved very effective.

The Bill is a constructive successor to the many other improvements that the Government have already introduced into the legal system. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which gives sensible powers to the police and more protection for the suspect, the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1984 and other administrative steps to reduce delay—for example, the tape recording of interviews, which is being introduced too slowly, but which, nevertheless, is spreading—will, more than anything else, speed the process of criminal trials and improve justice.

Likewise, the answer given to me yesterday by my hon. Friend the Minister on the setting of time limits for bringing cases to trial was impressive, but it would be far more impressive if he undertook the introduction of a scheme requiring a limit of 110 days, as we already have in Scotland. I hope that it will not be too long before his proposals are fully implemented. Other substantial improvements have been the improvement in pay, training, equipment, leadership and morale in the police that the Government have achieved, the crime prevention measures, which are expanding all the time and which have proved so successful, the extension of the armoury of sentences available to the courts and the radical prison building programme.

The trouble with the Bill is that it is so large, long, diverse and worthy of discussion that to speak for 10 minutes on Second Reading becomes a frustrating exercise. I want to spend what is left of my time criticising those parts of the Bill that I believe are a mistake, or that will require substantial further consideration.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will take it as read that I commend the major parts of the Bill and the important measures of implementing action against serious fraudsters and protecting victims. Putting the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board on a statutory basis will inevitably require more resources to be made available. Crime will be reduced by sensible, helpful and responsible measures such as the attempt to end the unacceptable position whereby those who make fortunes from crime are allowed to hold on to their ill-gotten gains and enjoy them later; the extension of remedies against juvenile crime by holding parents more responsible; the strengthening of control against immigration abuse; and the sensible easing of the rules that prevent us from returning other countries' villains to their own country—in reciprocity that will enable us to get back for trial in this country our citizens whom we suspect of crime. All those measures play their part, and I support them.

My first criticism of the Bill relates to clause 83, which would abolish the defendant's right to challenge up to three potential jurors without giving a reason. In my view, that would be a big mistake.

Some hon. Members who seem to know little or nothing about the operation of our criminal trials have called for that, as have others who believe all they read in the papers, that guilty people are acquitted wholesale because defendants are tailoring the juries. That is utter nonsense. I do not know by what authority that assertion is made, but it runs contrary to the experience of those of us who practice in the criminal courts.

I wonder whether all those who speak loudest for the measure know what a peremptory challenge is. How can one tailor a jury if one is allowed to say no to only three people whom one does not like the look or? One cannot question them to discover that they will not favour one's case. They may very well be replaced by people who are even more ill-disposed towards the defendant than those who were challenged. Hon. Members who are concerned about the practice of tailoring should realise that that is far more likely to happen as a result of this measure because pressure will inevitably build up for an extension of the right to challenge jurors for cause.

Mr. Best

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that it is very unsatisfactory that the right of peremptory challenge should be on the basis only of what a juror looks like, and no other investigation? Has he considered the system in the United States which, albeit lengthy, ensures that where there is a challenge, there is challenge for a very good cause because the individual jurors are examined?

Mr. Lawrence

I am sure that the road down which the United States has progressed is specifically one that would not be attractive to this or any other Government. The spectacle in a United States court of juries being challenged for one, two or three days, to process a trial that takes half a day or a day, is preposterous. Apart from that, it is extremely expensive and very demanding on the time of the jurymen. It may be one reason why, in some of the states in America, the number of jurymen who sit on juries is much lower than 12. Therefore, the example of the United States is particularly bad and should be held up as a dreadful warning to all of us here.

The harm to the system which might be caused by the abolition of that measure is not, I think, always realised. At present it costs very little in financial and administrative terms to operate. What matters above all else, once we are considering the interests of an accused person, as we must in our system, is that the person on trial should have confidence in the jury that tries him. If he sees that the prosecution has a right to stand by for the Crown those whom it does not want to see as jurors, how on earth can any defendant consider that the system will be other than one-sided against him?

If, on the other hand, the prosecution is unable to stand by for the Crown, how many convicted people who have not conformed with the requirements of disqualification, either because they are too stupid or because they wish to ignore them, will sit on our juries? I was told by a colleague only yesterday that in the Old Bailey, out of 52 people chosen for a jury panel, three had convictions. If the Crown had not been able to stand them by, some of the jurymen who had previous convictions would have served on juries. That is wholly undesirable.

If a black defendant cannot have at least some black jurymen if he wants them, if a woman cannot have at least some women, or if a young person cannot have at least some youngish people on the jury, how can we believe that there will be confidence in the jury system by those whose co-operation, after all, is absolutely vital for the process of a criminal trial? We could not try people if they refused to take part in the process, if they lay down on the floor of the dock, or if they made noises and had to be taken away. The whole point is that the defendant in a criminal trial should have confidence in the jury, and the abolition of the peremptory challenge will severely weaken that, because it is a safety valve. A man who has been in custody for a year might never believe that the system has not been weighted against him if he cannot at least have the right to challenge jurymen whose faces he does not like, and in a way that does not upset the jury.

And if I were a juryman, I should not like to be asked probing questions about my views, by biases, where I come from, where I live, how many children I have and all the details of my private life. There must be many defendants who will baulk at challenging someone on the jury if they feel that by doing so they will disturb the equilibrium of the jury and set up opposition to themselves, even though they have no confidence in a juryman.

It is inevitable that if the peremptory challenge goes, there will be many more challenges for cause. The judges will not be able to resist that pressure. It will strip away the privacy of jurymen, questions will take a great deal of time and trials will be considerably delayed and much more expensive. We shall slide down the United States slope.

Opposition to the abolition of that measure has been strong this evening and almost unanimous. It will become stronger as the public realise what the measure involves. The proposal will be rejected by the majority of people in the legal profession and it is they who have to operate the system. This proposal will not, I hope, endure, but if it does, my hon. Friend the Minister of State will have to manage with as much fortitude as he can muster without my support in the Lobby.

My second criticism is about clause 29. My objection is that it is an unnecessary stick for the Government to beat their own back with. I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister of State and the Attorney-General will come to regret the position in which they will be placed. Everyone who feels that a sentence has been less severe than he would like, which is likely to be a high proportion of victims in criminal trials, will clamour for the Attorney-General to appeal, and he will have to say no so often that the impression will get around that the Government are unfavourably disposed towards severe sentences.

Does my hon. Friend the Minister of State think that he will avoid publicity for low sentences by such a measure? There will be publicity when the low sentence is passed, when the Attorney-General says no and when the Court of Appeal says, "We would have imposed a bigger sentence but the Government have not given us the legislation to do so." The question will then be: will the Government introduce the power to impose increased sentences on people whom some members of the public or the prosecution think have been given inadequate sentences? Then one opens up a whole new can of worms. It will not be necessary for me to waste time in my short speech on developing that argument. As it is, a charade will develop in which the Court of Appeal will wish to take no part. It will not wish to sit there and to hear cases presented to it when it has to say, "If we had been the judge, and if we had heard this, that and the other, in a similar case, we would have given such and such a sentence."

The proposal is quite simply not necessary because guidelines can be, and are being, laid down on all subjects of importance—rape, child abuse, City fraud, social security fraud, drug cases and violence. The guidelines are coming out of the Court of Appeal, for the guidance of judges, to bring their sentences into more or less conformity throughout the country. That happens whenever an appeal is lodged against a sentence. The measure is unnecessary. It is an unnecessary creation of a self-imposed misery on the Government and the poor Attorney-General.

Thirdly, the trouble with clause 30 is that the people who are most at risk—the police—are against it. We should listen to them. If one gives life imprisonment for the carrying of firearms, the person who is faced with that may be tempted to say that if he is to be hanged for a sheep, he might as well be hanged for a lamb, and use the firearm to kill. The person in the front line will be the police officer. Either he will be frightened to relieve the villain of his weapon in case he shoots, or he will be bold and courageous, and run the risk of being shot. If the police officer is shot, the villain will escape arrest, and, by escaping arrest, he will avoid a life sentence. If he is caught, he will stand to gain no more than a life sentence in any event. The measure is unnecessary. If a firearm is not used but is only carried, 14 years' imprisonment is quite enough. If it is used, life imprisonment can be given for murder or attempted murder or the use of the weapon.

I have doubt rather than criticism about clause 21. I welcome the idea behind sparing children the horrors of court proceedings, but there are real procedural and technical difficulties in operating such a scheme and in a way which will not do injustice to a defendant in a notoriously dangerous trial area. If a defendant cannot have the right to have the witness who gives evidence against him there in the presence of a jury, however miserable and upsetting such a procedure is, he may think that an injustice is being done. The psychological effect of looking at and cross-examining someone on a video screen is different from that of seeing a witness sitting or standing before one in a witness box.

I am most sympathetic to the Government's proposal, but I strongly doubt whether it will be as straightforward to operate as my right hon. Friend might think. The matter must be examined in greater detail and given more thought. I refer my hon. Friend the Minister to a most interesting article by Professor Glanville Williams in one of the daily papers. He suggested that the measure did not go far enough. However, if it went further perhaps we could introduce refinements that would make it more acceptable than this simple proposal.

With so much good in the Bill I ask my hon. Friends not to spoil it and perhaps jeopardise its chances because of the few measures which do not carry the support of those who must operate the system and will be responsible for making it work.

8.21 pm
Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) remarked on the many deficiences in the Bill. He described it as a ragbag. Indeed it is. It is a little bit of anything and not much of everything. The Bill may be part of the Government's overall strategy, as the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) said. It has much of the pre-election fever about it, but, unfortunately, it falls far short of being a deathbed repentance.

No one can deny that the criminal justice system is in need of reform, but the Bill only scratches at the surface. It does not consider, and it certainly does not present, a positive approach to many of the areas of anxiety that it purports to confront.

It is reasonable that the entire question of the use of video equipment should be given detailed consideration. It should not be presented as a half-thought-out proposal to try to allay the anxiety of the general public about young children being required to give evidence in abuse cases.

The measures in the Bill certainly fail to show any understanding of the distress caused to young children while giving evidence or of the need to protect their young lives from even greater emotional damage. Why has no thought been given to other distressed witnesses, such as old ladies in their 80s and 90s who have been robbed, beaten and raped, or young girls raped by gangs of youths? Why should they have to suffer the indignity, shame, humiliation and distress of giving evidence in open court? Surely if video link evidence is being considered for use in British courts and if we are to make use of modern technology, this important change needs to be given detailed and careful consideration.

Many people, including the Police Federation, do not think that the proposals in the Bill for a live video link for certain assault and sexual offences do much to help child witnesses. Video recordings may be the answer. They should at least have been given serious consideration before the Bill was drafted.

Many other provisions in the Bill seem to raise more problems than they solve. Will the increase to life imprisonment for carrying firearms encourage the use of firearms in the furtherance of crime? If the penalty is so great for carrying firearms, the criminal will have little to lose by using them. Will the confiscation of the assets of crime, desirable though it is, penalise those who receive the assets of crime in good faith?

The Bill misses what our people most want. They want to reduce the number of victims and they want crime to be prevented, not committed and then punished. Prevention and deterrence—that must be the cornerstone of policy. That is the cornerstone of Labour party policy. We want our young, our women, our old, and weak citizens to feel secure on the streets and in their homes. That can happen only when we have a Government who are determined to invest in tackling crime.

I welcome the setting up of the serious fraud office. It will be needed to examine the Government's last election manifesto which promised to do so much to reduce crime in Britain, but which has failed so miserably.

8.26 pm
Mr. Derek Spencer (Leicester, South)

Who is protecting the people? Yesterday the people of Leicestershire discovered that for themselves. They had only to walk into the county hall where they saw the local Labour group objecting to the use of video cameras in the shopping centre in the middle of Leicester. That is what is meant in so many town halls throughout the country in practical terms when the Labour party talks about protecting the people. Or is this yet another activity by a local Labour party which the Shadow Cabinet will hasten to disown?

The Bill is detailed, practical and varied. Far from being a criticism, that is a strength. The Bill combines action on many different fronts. A sad experience of the criminal courts is that, during a 10-year period, different and great changes in the conditions with which they have had to cope have taken place. Therefore, far from criticising the Bill on that ground, I welcome it.

If the transfer system for offences of serious and complex fraud means that we no longer have to sit for 90 days in magistrates courts while foreign witnesses are flown to Britain to be harassed in person by defendants—as I once witnessed at first hand some years ago—the reform will certainly be worth while.

It is a long time since the days of the grand jury, but if committal proceedings are observed today it can be seen that the spirit of the grand jury is still with us. I look forward to returning to this topic on a future occasion because it will be demonstrated that the operation of the transfer system to serious and complex fraud can and should be applied to committal proceedings as a whole. I look forward at some time in the future to their complete abolition.

Part II deals with evidence. Too many of our rules of evidence in the criminal courts are far too technical and exclusionary. The proposals in part II extend the process of abolishing those rules and make the issues matters of weight. Clauses 13 and 14 see the slaughtering of more sacred cows in the area of hearsay. I am amazed that Opposition Members still want to be stuck in the 1930s with the hearsay rule in its un-reupholstered form. I welcome back an old friend—conspiracy to defraud, in clause 12—with whom I spent many hours over the years, until he was largely banished by the ill-conceived provisions of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

The problem with over-lenient sentences is not the habitual over-lenient judge, but misjudgment. Most judges are perfectly well aware of Thomas on "The Principles of Sentencing", the Court of Appeal guidelines, the "Criminal Appeal Reports", sentencing series and all the relevant principles that are to be applied to hypothetical sets of cases. The problem arises when, through an error of judgment, a judge of otherwise sound judgment makes a mistake. If he errs against a defendant, the matter can be put right in the Court of Appeal, but if he errs against the public interest by passing an over-lenient sentence, nothing can be done. That causes widespread demoralisation among the public and, I suspect, members of the judiciary.

So far, the Government have grappled with that problem once unsuccessfully. They are to be congratulated on attempting to deal with it again. The original proposal of publishing additional volumes from the Judicial Studies Board would not have come as close to solving it as this proposal is likely to. Once this section is in operation, as I hope it will be, it too will be seen as a step in the right direction. However, further action may subsequently prove to be necessary to give the Crown a full-blooded right of appeal against sentences which are wrong in principle.

Clause 113, together with the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 and the increase in penalties for class A drugs offences to life imprisonment, have given the courts a formidable battery of armaments with which to tackle this series of offences. It is comprehensive. The various powers in the Bill, especially those of the Customs to grant bail, give the Customs service and police drugs squads all the weapons at their disposal for which they can possibly ask.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Spencer

I am pushed for time and I cannot give way to the hon. and learned Gentleman.

I pay tribute to the work of Customs officers, especially the investigation branch. As civil servants, their rates of pay, as they will ruefully disclose, do not match those of their brothers in the drugs squads in the police units. I saw their work at first hand in the case of Dye and others recently. They are a highly skilled and professional band, especially drugs team F, led by Mr. Hewer, Mr. Houston and Mr. Avery, which is highly skilled in surveillance.

For two and a half months that team kept close surveillance on international drug traffickers, at times literally breathing down their necks and overhearing their conversations. I saw how useful another of the Government's innovations was, the tape recording of interviews.

Peremptory challenges have generated a great deal of heat and controversy. The right hon. Member for Gorton waltzed down memory lane, hand-in-hand with William Blackstone. Although that may be an engaging sight, it is not much of a solution to the problems that we in the courts must face in 1986. Much of the criticism of the reform from members of my profession is emotional and misguided. We shall not have to look for new volumes of law. If hon. Members care to look at pages 312 to 314 in 'Archbold', they will see that the matter has been hammered out in the courts since the Challenge of Jurors Act 1305.

In this area, the approach of the law should be rational, not hunched, demeaning or degrading. I will give only one example from my experience in the Dye case. Each of the six defendants exercised his right of peremptory challenge—some in full measure. About 12 or 13 jurors were removed for the defence. That would have produced a jury virtually all of whom would have been under the age of 25. On behalf of the Crown I exercised the right of stand by to get a jury of greater age range.

That exercise on my part and the part of the other counsel involved in the case is not an attractive sight. It is demeaning and degrading to the fair face of British justice for members of the bar to treat jurors rather like auctioneers at cattle markets, saying aye to some and nay to others. That is not a rational process. I would far rather have a system where somebody had to put their objections on the grounds of reason, not of hunch. I am happy to see this innovation and reform, which will have support of almost unanimous proportions in the country.

I welcome the reforms dealing with young offenders, but draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister to one matter. In every county there is a need for secure accommodation for juvenile offenders. In 1984, the local authority in Leicestershire closed the only secure juvenile home and recently there have been a number of cases where magistrates have wanted to remand juvenile offenders in secure homes. Either they could not do so or they had to resort at great expense to similar homes in other areas. In many instances, young juveniles have been put into care or accommodation unsuitable to their needs and they have absconded. Most young people on the missing persons juvenile list were already in care. It is not good enough for local authorities to wash their hands of this sort of facility and leave it to everybody else simply on the grounds of political bigotry.

The reform of the criminal law is a continuing process. The Bill provides effective and varied steps once again to outflank the criminal who is always astute to sidetrack the law if he possibly can. I end, as I began, with the question, "Who will protect the public?" The Labour party has tonight suggested that we should cut the prison population by thousands, by throwing open the gaols, and that we can improve our system of criminal jurisprudence by measures such as codification. I am sure that when the day comes, and the question is posed to the British public, they will know only too well how to answer it.

8.40 pm
Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

A number of hon. Members have referred to the views of the Police Federation. I should put it on record that the Police Federation will, before we debate the Bill in Committee, make known its views fully and in writing to all hon. Members, clause by clause, in so far as its legislation committee arrives at conclusions. Therefore, at this stage I recommend to hon. Members that they do not take in vain the federation's views, except in so far as I shall make one or two of them clear.

I warmly welcome the Bill, although it is a kaleidoscope and some parts are better than others. I certainly welcome the reforms proposed in the jury system. I am glad that the fastest growing group of our fellow citizens, those between the ages of 65 and 70, are to be allowed to serve on juries.

Their judgment and maturity will be of great benefit. I welcome what is to be done about extradition. I would prefer that the prosecution had a straight right of appeal against excessively lenient sentences, but I recognise the Government's wisdom in understanding that the House would not accept that. What we have on offer is perhaps better than nothing, although I appreciate that that view does not command a great deal of support within the House.

I welcome the abolition of the power of magistrates to remand people to be held in police cells for up to four days. That is good news for the police service. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister of State have recognised the force of some of the criticisms that I, among others, made on behalf of the police service to various parts of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, so that this Bill provides some modest but useful amendments in respect of search of persons in police detention, for example, on the way to the police station.

There is then the thorny matter of the penalties for firearm offences. I am aware of the view of both the Association of County Councils and, at an early stage, of the Police Federation, that the removal of any difference between the penalty that is available for carrying a firearm or for using it would be a mistake. I am bound to say that, subject to further examination, I myself find it almost impossible to oppose the proposed increase in sentences for the carrying of firearms. I shall be surprised if, at the end of the day, the police service goes on record as being against a more severe penalty than the one that at present applies to the carriage of firearms.

The Bill does not do one thing that I wish that it did. It does not crack down on the misuse of public funds by certain local authorities in attacking the police. In particular, I refer to what is known as the GLC in exile. Eleven out of 12 Labour authorities in London still work together at Middlesex house, employing a substantial number of people, largely to attack the police. I put on record one example to which I hope that the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) will address his mind.

The former GLC granted one Herbert Windsor £12,000 to start something called the Police Accountability for Community Enlightenment Group. He set this up and was given by the GLC £145,000 of ratepayers' money to attack the police. Not long ago, this gentleman was taken to court. He had not only been paid a substantial wage, but had raked off about £1,000 a month through false expenses claims and paying wages to bogus staff. He was gaoled for 18 months after being found guilty on six charges involving theft, false accounting and deception. The GLC should never have set up such a body with public funds to attack the police. I wish that the Bill, among other things, had taken some steps to stop this.

I come now to what is for me the major flaw in the Bill, and my hon. Friend the Minister will understand to what I refer—to subsections (2)(b) and (7) of clause 74. The effect of this clause, if it were to be passed, would be to remove police officers and a large number of others involved in law enforcement, such as prison officers, special policemen and bailiffs from the right of obtaining compensation when they are severely injured or killed in cases where it can be shown that the injury, though it arises from their law enforcement duties, is not strictly a criminal matter.

I give just three illustrations. First, I am sorry to say that this morning in Bristol a young woman police officer was killed while driving her police car. Information had been given to her that a suspect vehicle was in the vicinity. She and another officer in the car identified the wanted vehicle and immediately gave chase. Her car went out of control, she was killed and her brother officer was seriously injured, although I understand that he is likely to live. If the Bill were to pass as it stands, the relatives of that young woman police officer would no longer be eligible for compensation, because at the time of her death she was not the victim of a criminal assault. That is wrong.

The second example is that of the police officer, Mr. Taylor, who died the other day in Stoke-on-Trent. He was called to the scene of a break-in, where three housebreakers were apprehended. There was a struggle on the landing, and the policeman fell through the glass wall along with one of the housebreakers. The police officer was beneath the housebreaker. Probably that is why the suspected offender lived and the police officer died.

Because charges may yet be preferred in this case, I want to be careful in what I say, but if the officer was pushed in the course of the melee in such a fashion that he fell through the window and it could be regarded as an assault upon him and a criminal injury, then under the Bill, his dependents would still be entitled to claim compensation. However, if it were to be judged that his falling through the window were purely accidental, then that dead officer's dependents would no longer be able to claim compensation. That is totally wrong.

My third example is hypothetical. Let us suppose that a mugger, a rapist or even a terrorist were to be apprehended by a police officer, and he called on an hon. Member or another member of the public for assistance and the two together gave chase. Let us also suppose that as they were running over a roof top, a field or a street, both of the persons pursing the offender were to fall and injure themselves. The member of the public might have a minor injury and break his wrist. The police officer might break his back. If the Bill were to be passed, the member of the public would be eligible—and rightly so—for compensation, but the police officer would not.

Of the nine Home Secretaries with whom I have worked over the years—I say this, I hope, sparing his blushes—my right hon. Friend is the most sensible and sensitive of the lot. He has told me that he understands the police anxieties about this. Very fairly this afternoon, he said that he will meet the police to see whether it is possible to arrive at an understanding.

My right hon. Friend will have been fortified in that intention by the words of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). I rarely look a gift horse in the mouth. If the Opposition are prepared to take that view for proper reasons, and not because they are trying to climb aboard what they think might be an issue that will do them a little good, then I and the Police Federation will be glad of their support. The Home Secretary is a man of wisdom and perception. I believe that in one way or another he will find a modus vivendi that will avoid discriminating against the police service in this fashion.

I conclude with a few words about the proposed amendment. During my time in the House, with the nine Home Secretaries, I have noticed that crime has continued to rise under all Governments and in all countries. It is therefore facile for the right hon. Member for Gorton to seek to lay the problem at the door of this Government or of any other Government. It is simplism of the worst kind for him to suggest that it is all down to unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman ought to realise that the most rapid increase in crime in this country is among young males between the ages of 13 and 16. By definition, they are not unemployed. The issue is more complicated than the Opposition have been prepared to allow.

I say this, too, to the Opposition. When I look at their record when they were in government—the exodus of police officers, the underpayment of police officers, the appearance of their Ministers on the picket line, their failure to carry any legislation through this House that would have been of assistance in the fight against crime—and when I look, too, at some of their present policies—their backing, as in the case of the Greater London council, for virtually any anti-police brigade that their local authority colleagues can find to support—I have to say to them that their conversion, if it be a conversion, to pro-police attitudes is welcome but is as yet to be carried through into practical form in the town halls.

The Opposition amendment cannot be accepted. The Bill should be welcomed, but requires amendment. I look to my right hon. Friend to achieve the changes that I have suggested to him.

8.53 pm
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

I am glad to be following the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) because I always listen with great care to what he has to say. However, if he wishes to be taken seriously as the spokesman for the Police Federation, he must try to rise above the level of being a party political hack. If he wishes to put the case for law and order, he must be prepared to be rather less partisan. He does his own case no good by going over the top, as he has done this evening.

I wish to refer to two points that were made by the hon. Gentleman. The first relates to clause 30—the increase in the maximum sentence for possessing firearms and for firearms-related offences. I was more impressed by the argument of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who argued that the Government were moving in the wrong direction by increasing the penalty to life imprisonment.

The case that was put very effectively by the Opposition earlier today demonstrates that we recognise that there is a law and order problem. The Home Secretary and his colleagues do not have an exclusive claim to be the only party for law and order. A case can be made for effective crime prevention measures. When the argument is advanced that civil liberties have to be protected and that one has to pay regard to democracy and accountability, the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds would serve his cause and that of the Police Federation better if he and the Police Federation were prepared to accept that there is genuine concern about this issue.

If we express our concern about accountability and civil liberties, that does not mean that the Opposition are anti-police; nor are millions of trade unionists; nor are the hundreds of thousands of individual members of the Labour party. Those who suffer most from crime are not the constituents of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. They are my constituents and those of other Opposition Members. We represent the inner city and the deprived and depressed industrial areas where the crime rate is greatest and where those who are in the most danger are the old, those who are imprisoned in their homes, the very young and those who already lead impoverished lives.

The case that I want to raise has been raised by me with the Home Secretary and his hon. Friend the Minister of State on a previous occasion. I want to use it to illustrate the difference between us. The Opposition are as much concerned with crime prevention measures as they are with prosecuting, imprisoning and thereby punishing those who are convicted of having committed criminal offences.

Clause 30 deals with the penalties for criminal offences that are connected with the use of firearms. About six months ago I explained to a colleague of the Minister of State in the Home Office that there is a massive loophole in the law relating to firearms. Anybody in this country has virtually free access to unlimited supplies of shotguns and ammunition. Anyone who holds a foreign passport and goes to a sports shop or a gunsmith merely has to make a statement that he intends to export the gun that he intends to purchase within 30 days. He is then allowed to purchase a repeating shotgun, or a double-barrelled shotgun, and the ammunition to go with the gun. No record of his purchase in the sports shop or from the gunsmith is made. He does not have to go to the police station to give the serial number of the gun, or to obtain a firearms certificate or a shotgun certificate; nor does he have to go to the police station and, subsequently, to Customs and Excise to demonstrate what he has done with the weapon: whether he has exported it, or sold it legally, or returned it to the shop. In other words, there is a complete absence of controls on those shotguns. I am reasonably satisfied from the case that has been put to me that that is a major source of illegal weapons in Britain.

If the Secretary of State is concerned about the rise in crime involving firearms, why on earth has he not taken action to close that loophle? When he opened the debate the right hon. Gentleman said that he was concerned to follow a programme of crime prevention and that the Bill was merely a part of the Government's overall attack on crime. Unless the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are prepared to demonstrate that they recognise that there are major problems and causes of crime to which the Government are paying no attention, he and his colleagues will not be taken seriously when they argue that they wish to stem the rising tide of crime in Britain.

8.59 pm
Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

I give the Bill a great welcome. It is a robust attack on major crime and it will provide a strong framework to make life so much better for the victims of crime.

My constituents will find it incomprehensible that the Labour party will seek to divide the House on the Bill. They will not understand why the Labour party will be voting against increasing sentences from 14 years to life imprisonment for carrying firearms during the commission of a crime; the confiscation of the proceeds of crime over £10,000 from criminals; and the ability to extradite terrorists and major international criminals from Britain to face justice in the countries in which the offences were committed.

Nor will my constituents understand why the Labour party will be voting against the total reorganisation of investigative and prosecution procedure in relation to fraud cases—the creation of a serious fraud office— when they have been banging the drum about Johnson Matthey and complaining bitterly that the Conservative Government were doing nothing about that.

My constituents will not understand why the Labour party will be voting against the major improvements for dealing with victims of crime. In particular, I draw attention to the provision making the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board a statutory body and raising the limits for payment of damages. That has been criticised today, but it is a modest increase and those who deal with personal injuries will realise that the proposed level is about the level of damages that are awarded if a front tooth is knocked out.

My contituents will not understand the questions that have been raised about the proposal to protect rape victims from the moment a crime is reported—such names will not be reported in the press. They will not understand the opposition to removing the protection presently enjoyed by those on trial for offences of rape from mention in the press and exposure to the media so that the public will know their names. Nor will they understand why children who have been the victims of sexual harassment and crime of all kinds should not be allowed to give evidence by video from their homes. Those of us who have practised for years in the courts realise the major trauma that is caused to children who are asked in court to relive the indignity of the sexual assault, burning further into their minds for the future the horrible acts that have been inflicted upon them, with all the problems that they cause.

The public will not understand why the Labour party want to stop the Government from keeping in custody those people who are swallowing drugs and bringing them into Britain, so that the drugs can be extracted from their bodies, so that such filth cannot be spread about our streets, destroying the lives of our young people and generally destroying much of the fabric of our society.

It is beyond comprehension that a party that complains about the Government—

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

It is beyond the hon. Gentleman's comprehension.

Mr. Hind

—doing nothing about crime will divide the House. Shame on it.

Mr. Cohen

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hind

No, I am sorry, there is no time.

Let me deal briefly with one or two items in the Bill which concern me.

Perhaps I should tell the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) that the party that is so concerned about crime has six out of 208 Members in the Chamber, yet it will seek to divide the House.

Mr. Ron Davies

There are six on the Conservative Benches.

Mr. Hind

The Labour party has spent a lot of the evening dragging Members in to keep the debate going.

Two items in the Bill cause me great concern. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister is aware of my views on the right of peremptory challenge, as I have expressed them before. Having supported that right, I am concerned about the provisions, as there is little evidence to back up the criticisms that have been levelled. I do not think that

I have challenged more than 20 jurors while practising at the criminal bar. I challenged many of those jurors, particularly in fraud cases, because they could not read the oath on the card. If a juror cannot read the oath, he will probably be unable to read a balance sheet or to understand the complexities involved in fraud cases.

I am also concerned about the inequality in the treatment of the defence and the prosecution. The prosecution will effectively have a right of peremptory challenge in asking a juror to stand by for the Crown, but that advantage will not be enjoyed by the defence. If that ever came before the European Court of Human Rights for consideration I am sure that it would take a dim view of it.

More importantly, the provision aims to rectify an evil that occurs when there are many defendants in a case, and counsel for the defence attempts to tamper with the make-up of the jury to the advantage of the defence. There are, however, other ways of dealing with that problem apart from abolishing the right of peremptory challenge. Rules could be framed to deal with cases in which there is more than one defendant, so that such manipulation of the jury cannot take place.

The question of appeals also causes me some anxiety. I fully support what has been said about the Court of Appeal's role in providing guidelines for sentencing in criminal cases. It has done that particularly well of late, as can be shown in the guidelines for sentences given for supplying drugs and rape. In such cases, two outstanding directives have been given by the Court of Appeal. But we are being asked to support a clause that will give the relative of a murdered man, or a man killed through reckless driving, the opportunity to ask the Attorney-General to refer the case to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal judges may say that in the circumstances the sentence is wholly wrong and that such and such should have happened. That would leave the relative dissatisfied. Moreover, the tabloid newspapers, in particular, might apply pressure and press for stronger provisions. Perhaps that issue should be reconsidered.

We could adopt two courses. First, we could bite the bullet about allowing the prosecution a right of appeal. We have never done that in this country, but that is effectively what we are doing. We could go the whole way, and could allow the prosecution, in cases of leniency, to refer the matter to the Court of Appeal. The other option would be to leave things as they are and avoid the double jeopardy that is often given as a reason for opposing such provisions. However, we have a halfway house. That is bound to lead to pressure for the prosecution to have a right of appeal in cases of leniency. I foresee that it is something that we shall be considering within the next few years. It would not surprise me to find ourselves dealing with such a measure in the years to come.

I have expressed two criticisms of the Bill, but we have a sound piece of proposed legislation before us, which deserves to be supported, and the public will not understand why the Opposition are opposing it.

9.10 pm
Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

The Home Secretary's speech and the speeches of the many Conservative Back Benchers who have contributed to the debate, plus the issue of the paper yesterday entitled "Criminal Justice: A Working Paper"—it is clearly a party political paper designed to help the Conservative party during the coming election campaign—have posed an awful warning to the British people. That document, the Home Secretary's contribution and the remarks of Conservative Back Benchers are part of the Conservative party's claim of success in dealing with the problem of crime. A passage in the document states: Much of the action described in the previous paper"— that was issued about two years ago— is now complete. In other words, the Government are running a successful campaign in terms of law and order. But is it complete?

Let us consider the figures that my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) produced when he opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition, on which no one was able to challenge him. Let us consider the overall picture of recent years. What are the Government's achievements? There is more crime than ever before and the rate of increase in the number of offences of theft, burglary and robbery is much faster than under any other recent Government, Labour or Tory. I can push the point home because I can say with confidence that the Governments of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and of Harold Macmillan, as he then was, would not have tolerated these figures.

The present Government have done more to destroy law and order than any other recent Government. That is demonstrated by the crime figures, and we know that we send more people to prison than any other country in western Europe, including Turkey, which traditionally has had one of the highest prison populations in the area. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving)—I am sorry that I missed his speech because I know that he speaks well on these issues—knows full well the disaster that that implies within the prison system. We send more young people into custody than any other country in western Europe, and any other comparable country worth talking about in the western world.

Let us talk about riots. We have had riots of a nature, intensity and frequency that we have not seen for over 100 years. We would need to go back to the 1870s at the very least, and probably the 1850s or 1830s, to find anything comparable. There have been riots in the course of industrial disputes. There have been riots in the country lanes around Stonehenge. There have been riots in the inner cities and riots in the prisons. This is success? God preserve us from failure.

We have the sad sight, seven years into this Government's rule, of the police being put more and more into a paramilitary role, and more extensively than in their entire existence. The Tory party tries to treat the police as if they are its own private army, to be used and abused as it likes.

The Government make the fatal mistake of ignoring the successes that the police have. The fraud squad, which was set up by the Metropolitan police, has been successful. Of 100 completed cases, there have been 81 convictions. The Government have rightly spread the idea to other areas, but we have heard no praise of the Metropolitan police in one of the areas in which it is doing its best. Instead, the Government try to pretend that in other areas of policing there is not a problem. They say, "Support the police." They seem to be saying that the use of some magic word like abracadabra will put everything right. It will not. Unless we deal with the underlying conditions that cause the crime, the riots, the riots in our prisons, the industrial disputes and the mayhem, the only thing one can do with the police is use them to keep the lid on. The police begin to resent that.

Yesterday, I visited Bramshill police college to chair a meeting of senior officers. There was a debate on whether the Metropolitan police were accountable. I have no doubt that a couple of year ago hardly any officer would have voted in favour of the police not being accountable. They would have voted massively in favour of saying that they were accountable. Although the wording of the motion made it clear that they were not accountable to anyone, 26 senior officers voted for that motion and 44 against. We know that some years ago both the independent Police Complaints Authority and the police accountability that the Labour party has been talking about were not popular. Now, they are beginning to become popular. We know that that was happening a year ago when we saw the first poll in the Daily Mail which showed that 50 per cent. of people in this country felt that the police were not sufficiently accountable.

All of that is ignored in this wretched Bill. It is a wretched Bill—but not because there are no good things in it because there are, and we will support them. The real issue facing the Government is that they have produced a Bill that does a few good and encouraging things, which we shall support, and few bad things, but on the whole it does nothing about crime prevention, victim support or proper policing in our society. That is the reality of the Government's achievement. They present that as a success. It will not come over that way. Documents such as "Criminal Justice: A Working Paper" will not help very much either.

The Prime Minister has talked of changing attitudes in this country, as has the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). I often wonder why he does not question the fact that he is always presented in cartoons as a bovver boy or a skinhead. I can see why. The Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Chingford encourage the very dishonesty, disruption and destruction in our country that they claim to speak against, and the Home Secretary has now joined them.

The document is profoundly dishonest in its presentation. It is the first time I have seen a histogram presented in such a way that the so-called clear-up rate of crime shows an increase in the height of the graph against the neighbouring scale. In fact, if one looks at the percentage figures they show a decrease from 42 per cent. in 1978 to 35 per cent. in 1985. One does not need to be a statistician to know that that is a dishonest presentation. There is so much else that is dishonest in the presentation of the figures, such as the comparison between different years, leaving out the years that are an embarrassment to the Government because the crime rate has gone up so dramatically for theft, burglary and robbery.

The other thing said by the Home Secretary, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton so effectively pointed out, is that crime increases under all Governments. Under this Government in certain areas, as I have already shown, it increases much faster and we must take into account all the other points that I have raised, such as the riots and so on.

If we have a Government who fiddle the unemployment figures, fiddle the crime figures, do an about-turn on the economy and pretend that they have not, and send a senior civil servant to Australia and tell him to economise on the truth, what sort of honesty does that show the people of this country? What sort of presentation does that make to the people when the Conservative party claim to be the party of law and order? The Conservative party is interested in law and order only when it thinks that it can get a few cheap votes out of it, as it tried in 1979—I accept that it was largely successful—and in 1983. Conservative Members go around shouting, "We'll get tough. We'll deal with crime." They say, "Give us the powers; we will back the police."

Mr. Hind

We did.

Mr. Soley

I would not argue with the hon. Gentleman. The Conservative party did all that, and it is one of the reasons why the crime figures have gone through the roof and we have had the riots and so on. That policy has failed and the hon. Gentleman knows it. That does something much more serious. There is an acute danger in this country of the police becoming demoralised. The demoralisation will enter the police force precisely because the Government have led them to believe that Government policies would lead to better law and order, and that more police officers and more money for police officers and building more prisons would somehow solve all the problems. The evidence is that that has not worked, that it has failed again.

The Government have created an atmosphere of dishonesty. They have debased the very word "honesty" in their approach to crime, law and order and policing. The Bill contains a handful of useful and important reforms, including perhaps the most important proposal to allow children to give evidence on video. However, that may be difficult to achieve in the way presented in the Bill, but that point can be considered in Committee.

The other parts of the Bill are decorative and intended for an election. The Bill launches another serious attack on the jury system by proposing to abolish peremptory challenge. If the fraud investigation group of the Metropolitan police was so profoundly successful that the Government felt it right to extend that system to the rest of the country—if it was so successful, with a clear-up rate far better than almost any other form of crime that I have referred to so far—why are the Government interfering with the jury? The serious fraud office which the Government propose to set up is welcome. I suspect that it will work. However, that makes it clear that there is no need to meddle with the jury in the way that Conservative Members suggest.

I do not wish to consider the question of peremptory challenge in too much depth because many hon. Members have already referred to it. I would be more impressed by the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Spencer) if he recognised that the right of stand-by by the Crown is to be dropped. At present the prosecution can challenge in that way and vet, but the defence cannot and he knows that.

Mr. Spencer

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the right to check on juries' antecedents was set out by the Attorney-General in the previous Labour Government and details can be found in The Times of 11 July 1978?

Mr. Soley

I accept that that is true and of course we must reconsider that. I make no bones about that vetting must be re-examined. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a fair point. However there appear to be considerable divisions within the Government, and I welcome that, not just for party political reasons. If we can carry those Members in the Committee we might save some of the damage that the Bill might cause. I would like those Conservative Members who have expressed concern about the Government's attack on juries, to carry that concern into voting in Committee.

In the same context, in relation to the firearms issue—

Mr. Hind

The hon. Gentleman referred to a desire to abolish and change the Attorney-General's directive of 1978. Does the hon. Gentleman not think that we should make all efforts to ensure that there are not people on juries who have long criminal records? Those are not the kind of people we want on juries.

Mr. Soley

One of the points which troubles me about Conservative Members is their complete lack of understanding about people on juries. If the hon. Gentleman wants to stop liberal-minded people getting on to juries and letting people off, the people he should want to remove are middle-class liberals. The working-class person will be more willing to reach a judgment against the defendant. There is much evidence for that. There is no evidence that the system works in the way that the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) suggests.

I accept the point that has been made by several hon. Members that to remove the right of jury trial for criminal damage under £2,000, assault, and taking and driving away is unacceptable. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) made a powerful point about the police officer or social worker who has been assaulted. Will they be unable to go to a jury? What about those who think that assault is a serious offence? I believe that it is very serious. What about people in serious criminal damage cases involving £1,000 or even a great deal less who feel that their careers are in jeopardy? They will not be able to have a jury either. For their own sake, the Government had better drop these proposals. Indeed, I suspect that at the end of the day they will have to drop them.

I have dealt with the setting up of the serious fraud office, which we welcome. As for firearms offences, if the Government go through with their proposals despite the warnings of their own Back Benchers they will be sentencing to death the small number of police officers and people in the community who choose to face a gunman. Let there be no illusions about that. The Conservatives completely fail to understand the kind of people likely to commit offences. [Interruption.] It would be easier to be delicate with Conservative Members if they talked a little more sense. The vast majority of offenders who come before the courts and go into prison commit crimes in a relatively unpremeditated way, frequently under the influence of drink.

The group who tend to act in a premeditated way, however, can be especially dangerous. They do not think to themselves that whereas they could have coped with the old 10-year sentence they could not cope with the new 14-year sentence. They simply work out the chances of being caught. Having taken a gun with him in the first place, if such a person knows that he will get a life sentence whether he hands over the gun or simply shoots the person confronting him, he will shoot that person to increase his chance of getting away. Until the Conservatives make some attempt to understand what is going wrong with our society they will continue to get things wrong in this way.

There is nothing in the Bill to deal with the underlying crisis in law and order. We were told by the Home Secretary in his opening comments and in the document released by the Government that all Governments have faced this problem in recent years. That is quite true, but the reason is not so miraculous as the Government make out. It may not be possible to prove any exact cause and effect relationship, but one can say with some confidence that when community and family links begin to break down, behavioural problems of every kind, from crime to mental breakdown, are likely to occur.

What has made the present Government fundamentally different from any previous Tory Government as well as from any Labour Government is that they have introduced policies which have made crime more likely. Massive public expenditure cuts lead to a reduction in the number of caretakers, park keepers, toilet attendants, and so on, who by their presence in public places deter crime, help to clear up the effects of crime and, indeed, assist the victims of crime. The Government have also cut a number of other activities designed to prevent crime such as the repair and renovation of older properties which are so easy to burgle. We can now identify the high crime areas.

If the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) were still in the Chamber, by God I should have a thing or two to say about him. He does not represent the Police Federation on this—he represents the Tory party—so he is taking money under false pretences, and on this, more than on anything else, he is in danger of doing the police an acute disservice. He should be representing the police, not the Tory party, and to do that properly he should bear in mind that the main interest of the police is in the prevention of crime because their chances of getting into difficulty are thereby reduced. Yet there is no suggestion of that in these proposals. [Interruption.] I see that the hon. Gentleman has returned. I will repeat what I said in a moment for the hon. Gentleman's benefit.

The Government's board and lodging allowance system has forced more and more people, especially young people, into homelessness, drug abuse and alcohol abuse when the Home Secretary's own research shows a strong link between these three factors and crime. Last night or the night before—I cannot remember which—I was passing the Riverpoint hostel in my constituency and I saw a big crowd of youngsters queueing to get in. They were desperate to get in and were drinking. In situations like that they drift from drink to drugs and get into trouble with other people. When that happens a few Conservative Members get up and protest about homosexuality and pick-ups and God knows what else. However, it is the Government who have created the circumstances which have made those problems worse.

I shall now return to what I was saying about the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. I accused him of being a spokesman for the Tory party rather than for the Police Federation, and for that reason I said he was taking money under false pretences. I suggested compensation a couple of years ago, so it is not new. If the hon. Gentleman had listened some time ago he would have heard me say that one of the ways we could explore the feeling about this is by allowing police authorities to insure their officers.

If we did what the Home Secretary will not do and introduced a proper system of accountability, it would save police officers having to go through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and that would be a good thing. We would introduce such a system. There is no point in the hon. Gentleman going on about the Police Federation suddenly developing an interest in the Labour party. [Interruption.] We have put forward these ideas without payment. He is paid for the job that he does, but I do not hold that against him. We are doing it for nothing but we will not ask for part of his salary. We do it because it is right.

I should like to put one other point to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and to a number of his hon. Friends. I have yet to hear of one Conservative council anywhere in the country agree to a crime survey. They will not do so, of course, because it would identify the victims and show what sort of policing and local authority response is needed to do something to help them. The Tory party is not interested in that because it costs a bit of money. It does not cost very much, but it would do something for the victims of crime and for crime prevention.

I was in St. Paul's in Bristol last week and saw the desperate need in that area for a crime survey, but the Conservative council will not support that idea because it is not interested. When Conservative councillors or even Conservative Members of Parliament are prepared to put their money where their mouth is, I will believe that they have something to tell us about crime prevention and victim support. The truth is that they have nothing to tell us. It is a cop-out and we all know it.

More than anything else, we need a well resourced crime prevention and victim support scheme. We need economic policies that are designed to help the most devastated area in Britain, because those are the areas where there is a high crime rate. We need crime surveys in those areas to identify the victims and decide how to help them, and we will not get that from the Government.

We need a proper independent police complaints authority. A few years ago the Conservatives and the Police Federation did not want that, but now everybody wants it, except the Tories, who are the only people left out in the cold. We want a proper system of police accountability containing all the safeguards that I and my hon. Friends have spelt out. There is a duty to enforce the law and we need minimum standards laid down by the Home Office and a strengthened police inspectorate, but none of those things is in the Bill because the Government are not interested in them.

If the Government really cared for the police they would give officers a little more training. Is it fair to put 19 and 20-year-olds on the streets of our inner cities with just about 20 weeks' basic training? For that matter, is it fair to put prison officers with about 10 weeks' basic training in prisons which at the moment are explosive? In some cases in Northern Ireland, such prison officers were looking after people on hunger strike or on a dirty protest. Is that doing our duty to the forces of law and order? No, it is not, and again the Government are running away.

The Government should have a coherent policy on the availability of weapons. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) was right. I put to the Government the need to have a well-structured committee in the Home Office making reports on the availability of weapons—crossbows, guns, the lot—so that we could debate those reports in Select Committee and make recommendations.

Let us have a good policy on alcohol abuse rather than this Christmas fernickety bit every now and then. We know that 50 per cent. of murders are committed when the person or victim is under the influence of drink. We know that 50 per cent. of battered babies cases take place when one or both of the parents are drunk. We know that a vast number of crimes in the inner cities are committed under the influence of drink. But there is no alcohol policy. When the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) was a Minister he put up too much the price of tobacco and alcohol—industries that supply money to the Tory party—and he got the sack.

Let us have a proper policy on drugs—[Interruption.] The Minister is suddenly interested in drugs when it means headlines. Suddenly, drugs are interesting in the Daily Mail. For every death from heroin we spend about £1.3 million but for every death from alcohol we spend between £200 and £300. What a policy—yet the Government are trying to present themselves as having a policy on crime.

We can rebuild our fractured community. The British people are not more dishonest, more violent, than any other nations. The British people can do it but only if they are guaranteed the support and help of a Government who care and respond to the needs of the people, not one who care and respond every time an election is in the offing and think they can get a few quick votes by trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the electorate.

9.35 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Mellor)

What an amazing ragbag of ill-assorted prejudices and spleen we have just heard from the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). It was an extraordinary performance. What we have been given is a series of total misconceptions about the Bill and the criminal justice policy of the Government. We have been given a ragbag of the hon. Gentleman's opinions and prejudices about the criminal justice system that in no way amounts to a coherent strategy of a group of people who could seriously be put forward as the alternative Government at some election within the next few months or whenever it may be. I thought that the former Member for Knowsley, North, Mr. Kilroy-Silk, was the master of the all-purpose rant on these occasions but the hon. Member for Hammersmith has served a very good apprenticeship with him in that art form.

Mr. Hind


Mr. Mellor

No, I must get on. I have already given up 10 minutes.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) made an extremely impressive speech, as always, in which he spoke of the many changes for the better that are made in the Bill and said that the Bill was so large, so long and diverse and of such a quality that 10 minutes was a frustratingly short period to deal with it. I think that is a far fairer introduction to the debate than anything we have heard from the hon. Member for Hammersmith.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) described the Bill as an inevitable kaleidoscope in the breadth and diversity of the issues that it embraced That is inevitable when one is dealing, not with the fantasy world of Labour politicians—increasingly desperate to find some shred of semblance or credibility to face the public—but with reality. That is a fair description of a measure designed for a criminal justice system that is a sophisticated piece of machinery that needs to be addressed by a range of sophisticated changes if any effect is to be perceived. That is why this Bill, notwithstanding its diversity, has certain broad thrusts which will commend themselves not just to the House, but to the British people.

This Bill will sharpen our attack on large-scale crime. This is achieved in a number of effective ways. First of all it is done by providing an effective mechanism, which the law has lacked for too long, to confiscate the profits of major criminals. Secondly, it addresses the general concern, mirrored on both sides of the House and certainly within the wider community, about the effectiveness of the procedures against fraud. Thirdly, it addresses one of the principal problems that face us in a world in which crime is becoming increasingly international. How do we make our extradition arrangements compatible with those of some other countries? How do we ensure that our extradition arrangements allow us to get back those criminals who go overseas?

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Nottingham, North)


Mr. Mellor

I must continue; I am sorry, but I shall not give way.

The Bill's broad thrust is to assist the victims of crime by establishing a real breakthrough. For over 20 years the criminal injuries compensation scheme was purely ex gratia. Now a statutory right to compensation will be established. Courts will be required to give reasons for not making compensation orders, as a further incentive to make such orders. Child victims will be allowed to give evidence on a live video link—something which even the Labour party, in its most perverse form, could not find the bare face to argue against. That is assistance to victims.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith asked why more is not being done in the Bill for victims. We do not need a Bill to do what we have just done for victim support schemes. We gave them £9 million to provide full-time co-ordinators. It was only when the Government were elected that any assistance was given to victim support, yet victim support schemes began in Bristol in 1974. For five years of a Labour Government, not a penny piece of public funds was given to assist victim support.

The Labour party talks about crime prevention. What has the Labour party done to further the development of the 16,000 neighbourhood watch schemes in the country? Labour Members have acted like the local council of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), which charged £53 for granting planning permission to put up a sign saying, "Neighbourhood watch scheme." We are tackling this matter in a practical way. We do not need the powers of Parliament to allow us to get the Manpower Services Commission to put £22 million of public money and 5,000 youngsters into schemes, to put locks on old people's homes, to help them to get involved in property marking, and so on. Such provisions are not in the Bill because we can do them anyway and are doing so. The Labour party has, as always, given too little and come too late to this issue.

Those who warmly welcome and support the Bill nevertheless have some reservations. That is inevitable with a Bill of 128 clauses and 10 schedules. History books will show that peremptory challenge has been in retreat for some centuries. It was introduced in 1509 and subsequently ratified in 1530, despite strong, passionate speeches against by the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who was younger in those days! Thirty-five peremptory challlenges were reduced to 20. In 1825, that figure of 20 was ratified. In 1948, a Labour Government reduced the number of peremptory challenges to seven, and in 1977 another Labour Government reduced the number to three. Now the proposal is that peremptory challenges should be abolished altogether. I believe that that is right in principle.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Spencer) said, the contortions that lawyers have to go through to justify what is essentially an arbitrary exercise are demeaning and degrading. He said that it is like treating jurors as stock at a cattle market, and I cannot help but agree with him. I do not criticise—let me make this clear—those lawyers who make use of the existing powers. That is the law, and they are entitled to do it. Is it really an ornament to our legal system?

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) included in an early-day motion a description by a solicitor of a meeting during the Cyprus secrets trial. I gather that that description has never been challenged. The early-day motion states: Robin Simpson said we wanted a young working-class jury. Michael Hill said he really wanted an anti-establishment jury but that we were better off to have a young middle-aged, middle-class jury. Robert Harman said there was a dichotomy of views that we will just take what we get. John Alliott said we couldn't improve on fate. There is a philosopher for hon. Members. Gilbert Gray said if the jury is not too well-educated and of too low an intelligence they may take more note of the judge and therefore we ought to go for people who were young, not unsmart but no women. Victor Durand said that if the jury were young they may be unpatriotic. I do not know whether that happened. It is clear that it cannot be anything other than an entirely arbitrary and rather demeaning exercise for people to speculate in that way to justify flinging someone off a jury because he is not dressed as seems appropriate or because he has a copy of the Daily Telegraph sticking out of his pocket.

If there is good cause for a juror to be taken off a jury, a challenge for cause can be sustained. The retreat over the past 40 years in the peremptory challenge is because of the increasing recognition that it is no longer an ornament to our criminal justice system.

Mr. Ashby

My hon. Friend is a barrister. Would he like to comment on the type of person who makes statements about a confidential meeting? That is totally un-professional. Would he trust anyone who has made such statements?

Mr. Jessel

But no one has denied it.

Mr. Ashby

How could other people? They were not there.

Mr. Mellor

I do not think that that point goes to the heart of my objections. We take this position on a point of principle, but the work done by the Crown prosecution service and the Director of Public Prosecutions on the use of the peremptory challenge makes it clear that it is largely a south-east, mainly Central Criminal Court, phenomenon. The rest of the country is able to get by perfectly well without using it.

Other measures have been called into question. I appreciate the point made by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) about confiscation but I think that it was misconceived. There cannot be something wrong with a provision when its exclusive aim is to remove from the criminal that which a court has found is the extent of the moneys and property he gained from criminal activities. It has never been the law of Britain that that should not be done.

Alas, the previous attempts by the House to deal with this matter have been largely unsuccessful. The criminal bankruptcy provisions in particular, unfortunately, have not been the success that they were intended to be in 1972. Anyone who doubts the need for this provision should look at the revelations in the Noye case. A man made many millions of pounds from processing the gold bullion from the Brinks-Mat robbery. There was no effective way, other than a large fine, to deal with that. There would be such a means if that case were to be tried after the Bill became law.

I have noted the attack by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), which was far more broadly based than any attack by the Labour Front Bench, on proposals to reclassify offences. He cannot have it both ways. He is a practical man. He knows that the criminal justice system is practical. He cannot complain about long waiting lists and the time we must wait before trials come on, if he does not permit measures of reclassification, which carry with them reductions in the maximum penalties. Crown court business has grown by more than 50 per cent. in recent years. Despite an increase in the number of court rooms and judges, it has not been possible to keep pace. I believe that reclassification is a sensible proposal to meet that problem. Lawyers, especially those used to appearing in the higher courts, should avoid being over-patronising about the quality of justice meted out by the magistrates who deal perfectly satisfactorily with more than 90 per cent. of criminal cases.

I note what was said about the review of lenient sentences, but there is a problem that will not go away. We know that it must be met in a constitutionally proper respect, allowing the Attorney-General to say that there is a wider public interest than just a particular sentence that is not thought appropriate. That wider public interest, if confirmed by the Court of Appeal on application to it, would enable the court to look at sentencing principles in the light of a particular case. I am sure that that will prove to be helpful. It is a principled response, which in no sense brings the prosecution into the sentencing process.

I also noted what was said about firearms offences. While I appreciate the sincerity of the view of those who think that the Bill will not help, I must say that if we mean business for those who carry firearms, we must seriously address the point about the penalties that we offer, which should stand outside what is otherwise thought normal for any other sort of offence. But there is within the proposal a flexibility that should commend it to the House. It will not be usual that someone merely carrying a firearm will get life imprisonment, but if he has a bad record and has been doing that repeatedly, life imprisonment might be the appropriate sentence.

It is clear that if someone uses that firearm, if he kills, he will certainly get a life sentence. That will be mandatory. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that those who murder in the course of theft, by using a firearm, will serve a minimum of 20 years' imprisonment. So there is a differential.

Those who say that we are in danger of removing a properly structured sentencing system must consider the case of rape. No one says that rape should not carry the maximum of a life sentence, yet the same applies. A man could say to himself, "I shall murder the victim. I am no worse off than if I merely rape her." In the real world we do not believe that people say that, but we believe that in certain circumstances the rapist deserves to be sentenced to life imprisonment, and so do those who carry firearms in pursuit of crime.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds properly raised the point about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. He knows that only a limited number of accidental injuries have fallen within the scheme in recent years—only those where there is an exceptional risk reasonably taken. In no sense have all accidental injuries in the course of duty been covered. That seemed to be a revelation to the right hon. Member for Gorton, who seemed puzzled when my hon. Friend made that point to him. The fact is that that proposal was made in good faith by the interdepartmental committee of officials who believed that an exceptional risk reasonably taken was a difficult justiciable point. But my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that he listens to and hears what is said. He will meet the Police Federation shortly. Indeed, he set up the meeting before the debate. I hope very much that there will be a sensible outcome.

We are in no sense hesitant about reconsidering the proposal because it does not go to the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is our commitment to the criminal injuries compensation scheme, which means that there has been an increase of over 80 per cent. in real terms in the resources that are made available to it, an extra £114 million more than anything that was ever done by the Labour party—[Interruption.] There is no question of that. More people will be applying for compensation. In no sense have we ever increased the bottom limit of compensation by 300 per cent. But what we see from Opposition Members is the typical tactic of making a range of essentially spurious charges backed up by barracking when those spurious charges are answered. No amount of effort by Labour Members will overcome the sales resistance of the British public to any criminal justice scheme put forward by the Labour party, which is tainted and contaminated by some of those who are tolerated within its ranks and have positions of influence.

I am astonished that even the right hon. Member for Gorton had the bare-facedness to say that it was the Labour party's intention, on crime, to unite the nation and to bring the people together in a partnership against crime. That is what he said. Is that what is happening in Haringey, Lambeth, Brent, Liverpool or, indeed, Manchester? It is about time that we had a look at what the Labour party means by uniting the people together in a partnership against crime when it has the power to do so.

Let us have a look at Labour's file of shame. Let us have a look at the Lambeth council police committee publication. It had a cartoon of a policeman beating in the head of a citizen. It is entitled Policeman suddenly remembering human awareness training". As the policeman beats the citizen black and blue he says, Oh—and have a nice day, sir! Or there are the Labour boroughs that have combined to produce with GLC money a leaflet called, How to make a complaint against the police". That is an innocent enough assertion. The cartoon's caption reads: Note the identity of the officer It shows a citizen, lying flat out on the floor with a policeman's boot on his head and scribbling "PC 37". Will any Labour Front Bench Members repudiate those things tonight? Of course not, because it is deselection that worries most of them and those are the sort of people who have taken over the Labour party.

The taint spreads from London to Nottingham. A Labour councillor from Nottingham has become a prospective Labour parliamentary candidate. The Forest ward Labour party produced a poster for a formal picket to picket a liaison committee meeting between the police and the community. It shows a policeman with a sledgehammer in his right hand and a black youth in an armlock in his left saying, Come on Sonny, Let's go and Consult. Is that drawing the community together? Is that what the Labour party aspires to do on a large scale when in government?

The right hon. Member for Gorton would like to be the Home Secretary, yet his own Manchester city council produces this glossy rubbish, "Police Watch"—anti-police propaganda—at a cost of £200,000 a year to the taxpayers. It spends £200,000 on that publication, £500,000 on its European nuclear-free zone proposals, and £250,000 to back a Left-wing trendy newspaper. That makes £1 million of public money tipped down the drain by an authority which sends its representatives to Westminster to say that it is poverty and lack of public resources that cause crime on the streets of Manchester. That is the most disgraceful cant, and the Labour party should be ashamed of it.

The Labour party has belatedly become ashamed of those people. It is not ashamed of their views, but of other people learning about their views and being embarrassed in public. That is why the leader of the Labour party had to give a private wigging, not telling people to change their policies, but telling them to be quiet. That is why the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), under attack from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, came up with the astonishing assertion that the vast majority of Labour councillors were beyond reproach and that the Left-wing threat came from fewer than 0.1 of 1 per cent." [Official Report, 17 November 1986; Vol. 105, c. 340.] There are 9,000 Labour councillors in England and Wales and 0.1 of 1 per cent. of that number is nine. Which are the nine the hon. Member for Copeland is troubled about in this context? Is it nine of the 40 Labour councillors in Lambeth? Is it nine of the 43 Labour councillors in Brent? Is it nine of the 86 Labour councillors in Manchester, or nine of the 60 Labour councillors in Newham who do not want the police to talk about drugs in schools and charge £53 for neighbourhood watch signs? Is it nine of the 53 Labour councillors in Hackney which has the most appalling record of relations with the police of any Labour council? Is it nine of the 42 in Haringey or nine of the 29 in Nottingham? We have reached 353 already and we have hardly scratched the surface.

The Government have brought forward a principled and continuing response as part of a steady policy to deal with the problems of law enforcement and criminal justice in Britain. The Bill will be effective in adding a further line of bricks to the wall that the community is building in partnership with the Government and the police against the criminal.

In reality there is always a choice and one thing is perfectly clear: if those who vote tonight to try to deny the Bill a Second Reading are let loose upon the country in Government, they will let loose a devastation of the relationship between the police and the community that will utterly demoralise our community's response to crime, exactly as Labour did when it was last in office.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 160, Noes 219.

Division No. 12] [9.59 pm
Abse, Leo Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Forrester, John
Anderson, Donald Foster, Derek
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Foulkes, George
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Barnett, Guy Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Barron, Kevin Freud, Clement
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Golding, Mrs Llin
Bell, Stuart Gould, Bryan
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hamilton, James (M'well N)
Bermingham, Gerald Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)
Blair, Anthony Hancock, Michael
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hardy, Peter
Boyes, Roland Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Heffer, Eric S.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Home Robertson, John
Buchan, Norman Howarth, George (Knowsley, N)
Caborn, Richard Hoyle, Douglas
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Janner, Hon Greville
Clarke, Thomas John, Brynmor
Clay, Robert Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clelland, David Gordon Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Kirkwood, Archy
Cohen, Harry Lambie, David
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Lamond, James
Corbett, Robin Leadbitter, Ted
Corbyn, Jeremy Leighton, Ronald
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Craigen, J. M. Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Crowther, Stan Litherland, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence Livsey, Richard
Cunningham, Dr John Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) McCartney, Hugh
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Deakins, Eric McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dewar, Donald McKelvey, William
Dormand, Jack MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Dubs, Alfred McNamara, Kevin
Duffy, A. E. P. McTaggart, Robert
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Madden, Max
Eastham, Ken Marek, Dr John
Fatchett, Derek Martin, Michael
Faulds, Andrew Maxton, John
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Maynard, Miss Joan
Fisher, Mark Meacher, Michael
Flannery, Martin Michie, William
Mikardo, Ian Sheerman, Barry
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Nellist, David Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Skinner, Dennis
O'Brien, William Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
O'Neill, Martin Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Park, George Soley, Clive
Patchett, Terry Spearing, Nigel
Pavitt, Laurie Steel, Rt Hon David
Pendry, Tom Stott, Roger
Pike, Peter Straw, Jack
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Prescott, John Tinn, James
Radice, Giles Torney, Tom
Randall, Stuart Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Raynsford, Nick Wareing, Robert
Redmond, Martin Welsh, Michael
Richardson, Ms Jo Williams, Rt Hon A.
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Winnick, David
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Woodall, Alec
Robertson, George Wrigglesworth, Ian
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Rogers, Allan
Ross, Ernest (Dundee W) Tellers for the Ayes:
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Mr. John McWilliam and
Sedgemore, Brian Mr. Ray Powell.
Adley, Robert Dickens, Geoffery
Alexander, Richard Dicks, Terry
Alison, Rt Hon Michael du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Amess, David Durant, Tony
Ancram, Michael Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Tom Emery, Sir Peter
Ashby, David Evennett, David
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fallon, Michael
Baldry, Tony Farr, Sir John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Favell, Anthony
Batiste, Spencer Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bellingham, Henry Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Bendall, Vivian Fookes, Miss Janet
Benyon, William Forman, Nigel
Best, Keith Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Forth, Eric
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fox, Sir Marcus
Blackburn, John Franks, Cecil
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Freeman, Roger
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gale, Roger
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Galley, Roy
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Garel-Jones, Tristan
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Glyn, Dr Alan
Bright, Graham Goodhart, Sir Philip
Brinton, Tim Gow, Ian
Brooke, Hon Peter Grant, Sir Anthony
Browne, John Greenway, Harry
Bruinvels, Peter Gregory, Conal
Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam Griffiths, Sir Eldon
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Ground, Patrick
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Grylls, Michael
Carttiss, Michael Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Cash, William Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chapman, Sydney Hanley, Jeremy
Chope, Christopher Hannam, John
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hargreaves, Kenneth
Cockeram, Eric Harris, David
Colvin, Michael Harvey, Robert
Conway, Derek Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Coombs, Simon Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)
Cope, John Hawksley, Warren
Cormack, Patrick Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney
Corrie, John Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cranborne, Viscount Heddle, John
Critchley, Julian Henderson, Barry
Crouch, David Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hickmet, Richard
Hicks, Robert Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hind, Kenneth Porter, Barry
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Powley, John
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Holt, Richard Roe, Mrs Marion
Hordern, Sir Peter Rossi, Sir Hugh
Howard, Michael Rost, Peter
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Rowe, Andrew
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Sayeed, Jonathan
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Hunter, Andrew Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Shelton, William (Streatham)
Irving, Charles Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Jackson, Robert Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Shersby, Michael
Jessel, Toby Silvester, Fred
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Sims, Roger
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Key, Robert Speller, Tony
King, Rt Hon Tom Spencer, Derek
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Knowles, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Squire, Robin
Latham, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Lawler, Geoffrey Stanley, Rt Hon John
Lawrence, Ivan Steen, Anthony
Lee, John (Pendle) Stern, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Lester, Jim Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Lightbown, David Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Lilley, Peter Sumberg, David
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Lord, Michael Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Lyell, Nicholas Terlezki, Stefan
Malone, Gerald Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Marlow, Antony Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Mather, Carol Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Maude, Hon Francis Thurnham, Peter
Mellor, David Tracey, Richard
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Trippier, David
Miscampbell, Norman Twinn, Dr Ian
Moate, Roger van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Nicholls, Patrick Waddington, David
Norris, Steven Waldegrave, Hon William
Onslow, Cranley Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Osborn, Sir John Wall, Sir Patrick
Ottaway, Richard Waller, Gary
Ward, John Winterton, Nicholas
Wardle, C. (Bexhill) Wolfson, Mark
Warren, Kenneth Wood, Timothy
Watts, John Woodcock, Michael
Wells, Bowen (Hertford) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Wheeler, John Tellers for the Noes:
Whitfield, John Mr. Michael Neubert and
Wilkinson, John Mr. Michael Portillo.
Winterton, Mrs Ann

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).