HC Deb 13 July 1989 vol 156 cc1119-20
6. Mr. Maclennan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the report of the Law Commission No. 177: "A Criminal Code for England and Wales".

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The Law Commission's report has only recently been presented to Parliament. The Government are at present studying its proposals.

Mr. Maclennan

The Minister will be aware that his father was not satisfied with that answer in another place. Does he acknowledge that these proposals, conceived when my right hon. Friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead was Home Secretary 21 years ago, have truly come of age? Does he accept, in the words of the Law Commission, that it is crucial to the liberty of the individual and the protection of society that people should easily have access to the criminal law? Does he also accept that their implementation would save time and money and would modernise the criminal law by making it more accessible, comprehensible, consistent and certain?

Mr. Hogg

I certainly agree that the report was produced by a team of extremely distinguished contributors, both lawyers and academics. The report deserves the closest possible consideration by the Government, which it will be given. There are undoubtedly a substantial number of advantages in codification, but there are also some objections to be considered. We have to come to a balanced view, after full consideration.

Mr. Stanbrook

Will my hon. Friend remember that whereas the existing corpus of criminal law is, for the most part, pretty clear and understandable, the introduction of a totally new code, using new language and new concepts and even introducing changes of substance, as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), would lead to fiendish complexity and give employment only to the lawyers?

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend has identified some of the problems that are foreseen. One could never codify the criminal law in its entirety. It is at least possible that one might inhibit the courts in their development of the criminal law. However, it is a distinguished report which deserves careful consideration.