HC Deb 20 February 1991 vol 186 cc326-41

'—(1) The Secretary of State shall in each year publish such information as he considers expedient for the purpose of enabling persons engaged in the administration of criminal justice to become aware of the implications of their decisions on the elimination of racial discrimination.

(2) Publication under subsection (1) above shall be effected in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the purpose of bringing the information to the attention of the persons concerned.'.—[Mr. Hattersley.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

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

Labour Members accept that there is no dispute across the Dispatch Box about the principle that we hope to demonstrate and enshrine in law. The Government may not wish to follow the course that we propose, but we accept without reservation that they, no less than the Opposition, want to ensure that courts take decisions free from racial prejudice and without even a hint of discrimination. Indeed, paragraph 1.16 of the White Paper says: There must be no discrimination because of a defendant's race, nationality, standing in the community or any other reason. I repeat that I know that the Government want to pursue that principle.

I think that I can say without undue contention that we want to pursue that principle more effectively and actively than the Government seem prepared to do. I hope that it can be pursued by a statement in law requiring courts to operate in a way that is non-discriminatory or prejudicial to any race or group.

The amendment that would have effected that proposition has not been called, but the principle underlying our intention is in new clause 4, which seeks to provide authoritative, undisputed and indisputable information on the way in which courts behave, in the belief that, if evidence showed prejudice or discrimination in the judicial system, the Government would act on it, or perhaps before they did so the courts would say, "The fears are justified, so we must mend our ways in advance of legislation."

7.15 pm

I have little doubt that the operation of the courts is such that black and Asian British people are more likely to receive a custodial sentence than their white counterparts convicted of equivalent or identical crimes. Almost all the evidence points to that conclusion. In 1985, 12.5 per cent. of our prison population came from ethnic minorities. In 1989, 16 per cent. of the prison population were black and Asian British. The figures for women were 24 per cent. in 1985 and 29 per cent. in 1989. However, only 5 per cent. of the population are black and Asian British.

It is theoretically possible to argue that black and Asian British people are imprisoned more than their proportion of the population would warrant simply because they offend more frequently and seriously and therefore incur custodial sentences more frequently than their white contemporaries, but none of the evidence supports that. A Home Office survey found no discrimination in sentencing policy, but it certainly did not confirm the view that black and Asian British people go to prison more frequently because they commit more offences or because they commit more serious offences.

Members of the ethnic minorities entering prison have, on average, fewer previous convictions than their white counterparts. They are substantially less likely to be remanded on bail than their white counterparts; but, having been remanded, they are much more likely to be acquitted of all offences than their white counterparts. None of the evidence suggests that they commit crimes more frequently, but most of it suggests that they suffer from discrimination.

I do not know whether that discrimination stems from the behaviour of juries or of judges, or whether it is overt or unconscious. I know only that the evidence of the statistics—I shall either entertain or bore the House with more of them later—is that ethnic minorities are more likely to be sent to prison without due cause than their white contemporaries.

A Home Office study, "Sentencing Practice in the Crown Courts", found that there was no racial discrimination in sentencing. Since 1988, other studies on wider statistical bases reached the opposite conclusion. A study by West Yorkshire probation service found that 32 per cent. of white offenders, 44 per cent. of Afro-Caribbean offenders and 45 per cent. of Asian offenders were sent to prison for similar offences.

The Middlesex probation service took an enormous sample of 8,000 men and women who were convicted and sentenced in Greater London. It found that, on conviction for assault, 50 per cent. of white defendants were given custodial sentences, whereas 75 per cent. of black and Asian defendants were similarly sentenced. For burglary, 49 per cent. of white offenders were imprisoned, whereas the figure for black and Asian defendants was 64 per cent.

Whatever else one might say about that evidence, it is impossible to disagree with the contention that there is a potential problem. No one reading those statistics could say, "There is no problem." Some people might say that it is not as great as the statistics suggest, or they may dispute the causes. New clause 4 is a modest attempt to deal with the problem. It simply asks for monitoring of statistics, which would enable us to be aware of the extent of the problem.

I have no doubt that, were this Home Secretary in particular to judge that there was discrimination in sentencing, he would want to move against it. I look forward to hearing an explanation, but I am baffled as to why the Government oppose this course.

Our great hope was that the Government would be in favour of a much more progressive point of view—enshrining in law the obligation of the courts to act in a non-discriminatory and non-prejudicial way. That was the subject of an argument between the previous Home Secretary, Lord Waddington, and me on Second Reading. I told him that I believed that the Home Office had prepared new clauses that would put this idea into effect, but Lord Waddington insisted that that was not so. He agreed that the Home Office had considered that possibility and discussed it with a variety of organisations, but said that it had not been able to provide an adequate new clause to give that effect.

We provided such a new clause—unfortunately, we cannot debate it tonight—and the Minister of State said: I shall look sympathetically at the proposal. The Minister went further, and said: It is likely that further consideration will persuade me of the merits of the new clause."—[ Official Report, Standing Committee A, 6 December 1990; c. 92–103.] We shall never know whether that further consideration would have persuaded the right hon. Gentleman of the merits, because we cannot move the new clause. If he were as good as his word and were prepared to go all the way and accept a new clause that specified that courts must not behave in a prejudiced or discriminatory manner, I cannot imagine that he would not go halfway and agree to a new clause that provided the statistics that would enable us to know whether courts behave in that way.

At column 94 of the Committee Hansard, the Minister again expressed his sympathy for that view. He gave my colleagues the impression—perhaps they misjudged him—that he would support the measure. Perhaps what we read in the newspapers is wrong and the Minister intends to support it.

If this measure does not become law, there will be two results. According to the evidence, there will be a continuation of sentencing policy which means that a black or Asian British citizen is more likely—at least in some courts—to go to prison than his white counterpart. There will also be a deep, and in my view justified, suspicion among the black and Asian British that, although there may be statements of good intentions about their being citizens with equal rights who must be treated identically to everyone else, when the time comes to put those good intentions into force, the "establishment" flinches and does not take the necessary steps. I use the word "establishment" because no one will doubt that, if the Government resist the new clause, in a sense they will be resisting it on behalf of the judiciary.

Sir Antony Buck (Colchester, North)

I am listening carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. What information does he think it is expedient to provide to enable those purposes to be fulfilled? I do not know what he wants published. I can think only of publication of information that would exacerbate racial prejudice, rather than the reverse.

Mr. Hattersley

There should be publication of the type of information obtained in individual court areas and probation areas by reputable statistical methods, but that information has not been comprehensive.

In the Middlesex probation area, 49 per cent. of white defendants go to prison for burglary offences, compared with 64 per cent. of black and Asian defendants. Such information should be available for the whole country. As we said when we argued for a sentencing council, since much discrimination is unintentional, if those presiding over one court discovered from the evidence provided by the Home Office statistics that they were discriminating against Asian or black citizens, they would cease to do so.

We all know that much of the discrimination faced by the black and Asian British is not intentional in the sense that a magistrate says, "This man is black, therefore he is wicked. I shall send him to prison." There is a general aura of discrimination, and a prejudicial act takes place without magistrates knowing that they are behaving in a prejudicial way. If we draw that to the attention of decent people—I am sure that most magistrates and justices are decent people—they would want to rectify the situation. That is our intention.

Mr. Janman

If the right hon. Gentleman's assumptions about the statistics are correct and those statistics were produced, would he want the more liberal sentences given to the whites increased or would he want the harsher sentences given to the blacks and browns decreased? The right hon. Gentleman would have to choose one or the other.

Mr. Hattersley

It is not a question whether my assumptions are correct; it is a matter of my figures, which are correct. The hon. Gentleman can draw what assumptions he likes from the figures, but they are not in dispute.

My answer to the question put by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Janman), which I have a sneaking suspicion he thought was a trick, is the answer that the Government and the Opposition would give: there are some crimes, the most severe ones, for which severe sentences are appropriate; there are other crimes, the less severe ones, for which custodial sentences are not appropriate. As the hon. Gentleman must know if he thinks for a moment, it is not possible for anyone who wants to deal seriously with these matters to say, "I want the severity of all sentences increased," or, "I want the severity of all sentences decreased." That is not a serious question. If the hon. Gentleman has a serious question to ask me, I shall give way to him.

Mr. Janman

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. With the greatest respect, this is a serious point. I am not talking about different offences. I am saying that for any one given offence—the right hon. Gentleman mentioned burglary—if the assumption behind the statistics is correct, to have consistency irrespective of colour, either those who are sentenced to short sentences because they are white should have their sentences increased across the board, or vice versa for non-white people. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He is drawing broad conclusions from statistics. He says that one must draw a conclusion either way as to which sentences will be increased and which will not. He cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Hattersley

I do not want to detain the House much longer, but I shall try to explain the position. I do not know the length of the sentences of those men and women sent to prison; I know the facts of their sentences. I shall give the hon. Gentleman the same example that I have given him twice. We know that, in the Middlesex probation area, 49 per cent. of the whites convicted of burglary went to prison, compared with 64 per cent. of black and Asian citizens. I do not know for how long they went to prison. Can anyone argue that that inconsistency is right? Some of the white defendants who went to prison may have been sentenced for too long or for too short a time. Perhaps the same happened to the blacks. I am asking for equal treatment of the races. I do not know how one can possibly argue against that, but I shall let the hon. Member for Thurrock try.

Mr. Janman

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his clarification. I admit that I slightly misunderstood what he said, but my logic still applies, albeit on a slightly different point. Once the statistics were published, would the right hon. Gentleman conclude that more white offenders who committed burglaries should be sent to prison or that fewer black or brown offenders committing burglaries should be sent to prison?

Mr. Hattersley

The only way in which criminal justice can work is by allowing judges discretion. Most judges will want to exercise that discretion in a non-prejudiced and non-racial way. By giving them these statistics, we shall enable them to do that. We are doing no more and no less than that. I say "no less" because this measure is vital, for two reasons. It is vital for some individuals who would not be in prison if they were white. It is important in terms of the human feelings, obligations and decency towards individual cases. It is vital also in terms of the declaration that the House makes.

I repeat that I have no doubt that the Government's intentions are little different from the Opposition's intentions in this particular. However, very often in such matters, it is not intentions that matter most, but putting those intentions into practical effect. That is what the new clause will do, and I hope that the Government will accept it.

7.30 pm
Mr. Lawrence

What the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said about his justification for the new clause is a serious allegation against the judiciary and is utterly without foundation. I have been practising in courts for 29 years——

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

Good God.

Mr. Lawrence

I do not know the age of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael), who said "Good God" with some disbelief. I do not suppose that he has been practising in our courts for 29 years.

Mr. Michael

As the hon. and learned Gentleman seems to have an interest in the matter, I am 47. I was a magistrate from 1971 until entering this place. I also worked in a community that had a considerable mix of ethnic minorities and I know how well-founded are the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).

Mr. Lawrence

If there is any merit in what the hon. Gentleman says, he must have worked in one of the few disgraceful courts in this country. My experience—I repeat that it is pretty considerable, not only in higher courts but in magistrates courts—is that there is no basis whatsoever in the allegation that members of our judiciary make decisions according to racial bias.

Mr. Hattersley

It is the hon. and learned Gentleman's habit to proceed by assertion, but, looking at the figures that I have given, to what does he attribute the vast discrepancy in sentencing within ethnic groups?

Mr. Lawrence

I shall refer to that matter in a moment. [Interruption.] I shall refer to it.

We have had consistent criticism—I do not mean from Opposition Members, although it may include some of them—that our judiciary is middle-class white. It is my experience that, if anything, middle-class intellectuals are so careful of not being thought to be biased or not allowing themselves to be biased in any way against blacks, browns or any under-privileged group in our society that they have a propensity to reduce—[Interruption.] I am answering the point that was made by the right hon. Gentleman, but he is busy talking. I do not mean that the right hon. Gentleman is showing any discourtesy, but it is an important matter. He asked me a question and I shall proceed to answer it.

I do not doubt for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman's statistics are presented by certain organisations. By that I mean no discredit to such organisations, but I have no doubt that the purpose of their research is to see whether they can establish some kind of racial discrimination. However, one of those statistics shows that more black or brown people are kept in custody on remand than whites. There is a perfectly logical and factual explanation for that, and it has nothing to do with racial bias.

When considering bail for burglary or a serious offence such as assault in particular, a judge must consider whether the accused is likely to turn up for his trial. The judge must consider whether the person has a fixed address, whether he is in work and whether he can provide a surety. The unfortunate fact—again this point is often made by the right hon. Gentleman in home affairs debates, and nobody deplores it more than I do—is that there are areas in which there is high unemployment for black people. That may be discriminatory; I do not doubt it. However, I challenge the allegation that there is discrimination by the judiciary. Being unemployed, having no fixed address and not having people to be sureties—in other words, not being able to conform with the statutory requirements for the granting or refusal of bail—have nothing to do with racial discrimination by the courts. However, they have everything to do with the fact that the necessary requirements, which must be satisfied before a court grants bail for any serious offences, are not complied with. That may be through no fault of the person involved, but because of circumstances which, if there were any other rule, would make the pursuance of justice impracticable. That explains at least one of the statistics.

I now give the right hon. Gentleman an anecdote. I recall having trouble from time to time considering what is the appropriate sentence for coloured people—I include black and brown people—who have been unco-operative with their probation officers. They are remanded to see the probation service and, for whatever reason—there may be many—they are unco-operative. The probation service wants to ask them questions that they do not want to answer. It is very difficult for a sentencer who has in mind doing something with the offender that will stop him going to prison for however short a period if that person is totally unco-operative with the one person who can help him—the probation officer.

I recall several cases in which people who are not white have made matters much worse for themselves because they will not co-operate with their probation officer. We are talking only about differences between reasonably small percentage points, even given the fact that those figures are accurate and explain something.

The implication of what the right hon. Gentleman says is that there is some deep-rooted racism in our judiciary which causes judges to sentence coloured people more harshly or to sentence them to prison, when that is necessary. But that cannot happen accidentally. It must be deliberate discrimination. It is the judge saying, "This man is black or brown, so I must treat him harshly". If this is what happens—and I believe that there would have to be deliberate discrimination in our courts—what on earth is the use of a new clause that requires information to be given to sentencers so that they should be aware of the implications of their decisions on the elimination of racial discrimination? That could be justified only on the basis that such discrimination is inadvertent, that it happens accidentally and that, if only those wicked sentencers knew a bit more about the implications of their decisions, they would refrain from doing so. I cannot see that that can possibly be so. The new clause would have no effect at all.

I quite understand that raising the point gives the right hon. Gentleman the credit for drawing attention again in this great Chamber of Parliament to the wicked state of society in which our judiciary and others are racially discriminatory. However, the new clause would actually achieve nothing. Discrimination in our courts cannot be accidental. It must be deliberate and those who are deliberately discriminating would not pay two minutes' attention to any such information.

I make that point merely on the basis that the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is such discrimination. But I utterly reject it from my experience. It is not true. It does not happen. The right hon. Gentleman is raising a myth, not a fact. He should not be supported on a new clause that gives effect to a myth.

Mr. Archer

At the risk of shocking some of my hon. Friends, I regret that the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) did not serve with us in Committee. Had he done so, he might well have made a speech disagreeing with my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), but I do not think that he would have made the speech that he has just made, and I do not believe that we shall hear such a speech from the Minister. It is true that the Minister rejected our proposals in Committee largely, as I understood it, because he does not believe in "declarations" in legislation, which we were then proposing. I have a great deal of sympathy with that point of view. Declarations do not often help very much, but they are not what we are now proposing.

We are now proposing to start from two propositions which I hope command universal support in the House. The first is that everyone should be equal before the law. The second is that that is manifestly not the case at the moment. On any showing, if people from ethnic minorities represent 5 per cent. of the general population and 16 per cent. of the prison population, those figures cannot be dismissed as a possible margin of error or as statistical flexibility. They must compel us to look for the reason for the difference.

The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Janman) asked my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, "If we discover that there is some kind of discrepancy, what do we do? Do we sentence black people more lightly or white people more heavily?" No, we should ask ourselves the reason for the discrepancy. That is all that the Opposition are seeking.

Several reasons have been suggested. One was explored by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook a moment ago and was raised in Committee when we were asked whether black people commit more offences than white people or whether they commit more offences of a particular kind. The answer is no, for the reason that my right hon. Friend gave. People from the ethnic minorities who receive custodial sentences have fewer previous convictions than people from the white majority. However, supposing that that were the reason, should it not make us want to know the reason, in turn, for that? Should we not want to know the factors which make it happen? Supposing black people do commit more offences—if young people from the minority groups are unemployed, it is possible that in some areas they are short of money, have time on their hands and a chip on their shoulder because they are unemployed, and those are all factors which might lead people to commit more offences, but we know that that is not the explanation.

In a throwaway line, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook asked whether juries are discriminatory. That is not the answer either, because we are considering the proportion of convicted people, which is where the discrepancy arises.

The hon. and learned Member for Burton said that we are saying that there is conscious discrimination by the courts. I have never heard my right hon. Friend say that, I have never said it, and I do not believe it to be the case.

Mr. Lawrence

That was the implication.

Mr. Archer

No, my right hon. Friend did not imply that.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to clarify the point. I was saying that, in our society, discrimination has to be deliberate—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It has to be deliberate for a judge to discriminate because he, above all others, must hold the scales of justice equal. He is trained to do that, and that is why he has been appointed. He is experienced in doing that, and that is why he has the respect of his peers. If there is any discrimination, the judge will know about it, and it will be deliberate. That was the point that I was trying to make.

7.45 pm
Mr. Archer

There are two reasons why the hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong, but I begin by declaring an interest. Some of my best friends are judges—[Interruption.] That is quite literally true in my case. I have great respect for our judiciary, which I think is probably among the best in the world, but I do not think that our judges and recorders are perfect. From time to time, all of us fall into error.

I should like to give two examples of the traps into which we can all fall. First, we are sometimes guilty of cultural misunderstandings on both sides of the cultural divide. I gave an example in Committee. The hon. and learned Member for Burton may be sitting as a recorder. Before him in the dock is an Afro-Caribbean who is chewing. I do not know the hon. and learned Gentleman's views on chewing, but he might very well think, "This chap is showing disrespect for the court." In fact, the youth may be doing nothing of the sort. He may be behaving perfectly normally and it would not have occurred to him that he might be showing disrespect. If he is told to stop chewing, he will have a stereotypical view of the hon. and learned Gentleman as somebody out of the last century. I make no further comment on that.

There are many cultural misunderstandings. I know members of the judiciary who do not like young men with dreadlocks. That is a failure to meet culturally. The problems are exacerbated when there is a generation divide as well as a cultural divide. However fair we try to be, some of us may have at the back of our minds the thought, "Here is somebody who is not taking his offence seriously and who is not even trying to show respect for the court." In fact, the defendant may be doing no such thing.

My second example is similar, but not quite the same. I refer to the trap of the stereotype. I related in Committee that my wife, who is a magistrate, recently had occasion to read a probation report, one sentence of which read: When I discovered that he was Irish, I inquired whether he had a drink problem. I am certain that that probation officer was not trying to be difficult and that he or she did not have anything against Irish people. The probation officer was probably trying to be helpful.

Another example can be found in one of the earliest prosecutions under the Race Relations Act 1976. I refer to the Alexander case, in which the discrimination arose from a report written at an early stage in the prison history of the young man concerned, which read: He is an arrogant person who is suspicious of staff and totally anti-authority. He has been described as a violent man with a very large chip on his shoulder which he will find great difficulty in removing. He shows the anti-authoritarian arrogance that seems to be common in most coloured inmates. I cannot believe that the prison officer who wrote that was consciously being discriminatory. He believed that to be part of the facts of life and of the world in which he lived. If we can learn that such things need putting right, we shall have learnt something worth while.

I hope that the Judicial Studies Board may do something about this problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook was asked who will publish the statistics when we have them. One useful publication would be the bulletin that the Judicial Studies Board circulates to the hon. and learned Member for Burton and myself—because all recorders receive it, as do judges. The bulletin makes us think. A number of useful articles in it have caused me to think about things that I was doing wrong without realising it. I may be mistaken, but I believe that the board is considering what can be done about magistrates in terms of racial awareness.

I do not see why that should not be extended to the judiciary. I do not believe that the judges would feel that their dignity was at stake. If a judge felt that, and felt that he could never be guilty of falling into such traps, he would be saying that he was more perfect than the vast majority of the population. [Interruption.] The hon. and learned Member for Burton is muttering. I was about to say to him that there is a third reason that we must examine. It relates to the matter about which he was speaking—periods spent in custody on remand.

In answer to a parliamentary question on 30 October 1987, the Minister of State, Home Office, the right hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten)—who, I hope, will be answering the debate—gave a breakdown of people in custody on remand who were subsequently acquitted. Among white defendants, 3.9 per cent. were acquitted. For Chinese, Arab and what the Home Office described as people of mixed origins, the figure was 6.8 per cent. For those from the Indian sub-continent the figure was 7.2 per cent. For Afro-Caribbeans, it was 7.5 per cent.

One factor which may give rise to that difference is homelessness, to which the hon. and learned Member for Burton referred. It is probably true that there is a higher rate of homelessness among the ethnic minorities. That does not mean that we do not have to address the problem. It does not mean that, once we have recognised that, we can go to sleep on it. One thing that could be done is to produce more bail hostels. I fully recognise that the Home Office is trying to do that. When such hostels are produced, we may again need to have regard to ethnic factors, particularly among women prisoners. It seems that a much higher proportion of women from the ethnic minorities spend time on remand in custody. They may need single sex hostels, again because of cultural factors.

Another reason which may lead to fewer coloured people being given bail is that a higher proportion of them may be unemployed. If people are unemployed, their advocate cannot use the argument that if they are taken into custody they stand to lose their job. That is another possible factor.

Lastly, at the risk of repeating what I have said before, if we want to reduce crime—which is the purpose of all our debates on the Bill—we must obtain the confidence and sympathy, not of Members of Parliament or even members of the judiciary, but of peer groups. The strongest factor which influences a young Afro-Caribbean male in a certain area of London to remain within the law is not what the hon. and learned Member for Burton or I may say, but what his peer group thinks. If we can persuade other young Afro-Caribbeans that the law is fair and that we are trying to administer it in an undiscriminatory way, we may capture their approval for what we seek to do. That would be more effective than any other single step that we could take.

If the information for which we ask stimulates us to think—I understand that the Minister approved of that in Committee—the purpose of our debate will have been achieved. That purpose is to reduce crime, and it is a matter in which a little thought can pay many dividends.

Mr. John Patten

It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), whose contributions to these criminal justice debates will be sorely missed when he is no longer a Member of the House. He is right that we need more bail hostels for women. The first one was opened a few weeks ago by the Griffin Society. I was there for the opening. I agree with him, too, that it is important to do more for women who have mental problems and need hostel accommodation and perhaps long-stay care.

I ask the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West to treat with care the apparent disproportion of women from ethnic minorities who are on remand. If he examines the figures closely, he will find that they include a large number of women who have allegedly carried drugs into the country from west African and other countries and are awaiting trial. That particularly small sample of women on remand is, alas, biased by the large numbers of women who bring in drugs. We hope to put up warning posters at airports in Nigeria and other countries to warn women not to do so and what they will face when they come here.

I entirely agree with what the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said in his introductory remarks. He said that both sides of the House shared the same aim. There is no dispute about that. He gave a fair analysis of the current position and the difficulty of drawing on all the published literature, including that which did not always support his argument. That echoed the long, helpful and constructive discussions that we had in Committee. All the members of the Committee were clear about the need for fairness and the avoidance of discrimination in the criminal justice system. I made clear in those debates the Government's firm commitment to achieving that essential fairness. I shall not repeat it because it would be otiose to do so.

In Committee, I gave a long list of all the fairly recent changes that we have made in the way in which we collect information about ethnic background in the probation service, the prison service and elsewhere. A formidable amount of material is now available. Again, I shall not take the time of the House to itemise it all. It is on the record.

I entirely appreciate the spirit in which new clause 4 was moved. The proposal was discussed in some detail in Committee and I said then that I was sympathetic to it. It is always helpful for people to have good information available which they can use in making their decisions, whether in economics, politics or sentencing. Making information available cannot be a bad thing. I am in favour of more information being available.

Information of the type envisaged by the proposal in new clause 4, including the variation in sentencing patterns, can be instructive. It certainly makes one ask some questions. Whether we are dealing with the ethnic, sex or age breakdown of categories of offenders, we see wide variations in the sentences given. That makes us ask why the variations occur. There is nothing wrong with having that information available and there is nothing wrong with asking those questions. Such information is useful. The Home Office already publishes a great deal of such information and I can see the merits of pulling together in one publication much of the information that we already publish and issuing it annually so that one does not have to ferret round in probation, prison, police, arrest and other statistics. If the information is available, people can make of it what they want.

Non-discrimination is important. That is why I am broadly in favour of publishing more information. However, I should like to do it in a slightly different way, which the House may like to consider. That is encompassed in the starred Government amendments to clause 77 which will be debated on Monday and will certainly be voted on.

The principle which the Government amendments promote is rather similar to those that underlie new clause 4. We have already said that the cost of sentencing decisions needs to be published every year and that seems to have been widely welcomed. Under the new provisions in the amendments to clause 77, the Home Secretary will be under a duty to publish such information as he or she sees fit on the experience of ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system.

The Government amendments differ from new clause 4 in two important respects. First, they extend the proposed publication of information beyond the issue of race alone to include sex and any other relevant information. That will probably give a wider and more comprehensive picture. Secondly, the amendments make clear the importance of the need to avoid discrimination in the criminal justice system. I have no doubt that any unfair discrimination by those working in the criminal justice system would be unlawful—I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) on that.

The legal position is clear and for that reason we see no merit in a provision that puts a duty on sentencers and others not to discriminate. That would add nothing to the present legal position. It is right that a provision in the Bill, as proposed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, should refer to the need for all those involved in the criminal justice system, not just sentencers, to avoid discrimination. That approach will help to ensure the confidence of all sections of the community in the fairness and impartiality of the criminal justice system.

In the light of my remarks and in view of our amendments to clause 77, I hope that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook will not press new clause 4 to a Division. I hope that he will give a fair wind to our amendments when we vote on them on Monday.

8 pm

Mr. Hattersley

We shall undoubtedly give a fair wind to the amendments on Monday, but just to demonstrate our enthusiasm for them we shall divide the House tonight.

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

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 280.

Division No. 72] [8 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Allen, Graham
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.) Alton, David
Anderson, Donald Hinchliffe, David
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Armstrong, Hilary Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Home Robertson, John
Ashton, Joe Hood, Jimmy
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Barron, Kevin Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Beckett, Margaret Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bell, Stuart Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Bellotti, David Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Illsley, Eric
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Ingram, Adam
Bermingham, Gerald Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Bidwell, Sydney Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Boateng, Paul Kennedy, Charles
Boyes, Roland Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Bradley, Keith Kirkwood, Archy
Bray, Dr Jeremy Lambie, David
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Leadbitter, Ted
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Leighton, Ron
Buckley, George J. Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Caborn, Richard Lewis, Terry
Callaghan, Jim Litherland, Robert
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Livingstone, Ken
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Canavan, Dennis Loyden, Eddie
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) McAllion, John
Cartwright, John McAvoy, Thomas
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) McCartney, Ian
Clay, Bob Macdonald, Calum A.
Clelland, David McFall, John
Clwyd, Mrs Ann McKelvey, William
Cohen, Harry Maclennan, Robert
Corbett, Robin McMaster, Gordon
Cousins, Jim McNamara, Kevin
Crowther, Stan McWilliam, John
Cryer, Bob Madden, Max
Cummings, John Mahon, Mrs Alice
Cunliffe, Lawrence Marek, Dr John
Darling, Alistair Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dixon, Don Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dobson, Frank Martlew, Eric
Doran, Frank Maxton, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Meacher, Michael
Dunnachie, Jimmy Meale, Alan
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Michael, Alun
Eadie, Alexander Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Eastham, Ken Moonie, Dr Lewis
Evans, John (St Helens N) Morgan, Rhodri
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Mullin, Chris
Fatchett, Derek Murphy, Paul
Faulds, Andrew Nellist, Dave
Fearn, Ronald Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) O'Brien, William
Fisher, Mark O'Neill, Martin
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Foster, Derek Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Fraser, John Parry, Robert
Fyfe, Maria Patchett, Terry
Galbraith, Sam Pendry, Tom
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
George, Bruce Prescott, John
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Primarolo, Dawn
Golding, Mrs Llin Quin, Ms Joyce
Gordon, Mildred Randall, Stuart
Gould, Bryan Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Graham, Thomas Richardson, Jo
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Robertson, George
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Rooker, Jeff
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Rooney, Terence
Grocott, Bruce Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Hardy, Peter Rowlands, Ted
Harman, Ms Harriet Ruddock, Joan
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Sheerman, Barry
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Henderson, Doug Short, Clare
Skinner, Dennis Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam) Wigley, Dafydd
Snape, Peter Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Soley, Clive Wilson, Brian
Spearing, Nigel Winnick, David
Steinberg, Gerry Wise, Mrs Audrey
Strang, Gavin Worthington, Tony
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Wray, Jimmy
Turner, Dennis
Vaz, Keith Tellers for the Ayes:
Wallace, James Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Allen McKay.
Walley, Joan
Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Adley, Robert Davis, David (Boothferry)
Aitken, Jonathan Day, Stephen
Alexander, Richard Devlin, Tim
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Allason, Rupert Dover, Den
Amos, Alan Dunn, Bob
Arbuthnot, James Durant, Sir Anthony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Eggar, Tim
Ashby, David Emery, Sir Peter
Aspinwall, Jack Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Atkinson, David Evennett, David
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Fallon, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Favell, Tony
Baldry, Tony Fenner, Dame Peggy
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Batiste, Spencer Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fishburn, John Dudley
Bellingham, Henry Fookes, Dame Janet
Bendall, Vivian Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Forth, Eric
Benyon, W. Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bevan, David Gilroy Franks, Cecil
Biffen, Rt Hon John Freeman, Roger
Blackburn, Dr John G. French, Douglas
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Fry, Peter
Body, Sir Richard Gale, Roger
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gardiner, Sir George
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gill, Christopher
Boswell, Tim Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bottomley, Peter Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Goodlad, Alastair
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brazier, Julian Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bright, Graham Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gregory, Conal
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Browne, John (Winchester) Grist, Ian
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Ground, Patrick
Buck, Sir Antony Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Budgen, Nicholas Hague, William
Burns, Simon Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Butler, Chris Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butterfill, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hannam, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Carrington, Matthew Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Cash, William Harris, David
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Chapman, Sydney Hayward, Robert
Chope, Christopher Heathcoat-Amory, David
Churchill, Mr Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Colvin, Michael Hill, James
Conway, Derek Hind, Kenneth
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Holt, Richard
Cope, Rt Hon John Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cormack, Patrick Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Couchman, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cran, James Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Curry, David Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hunter, Andrew
Irvine, Michael Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Irving, Sir Charles Rathbone, Tim
Jack, Michael Redwood, John
Janman, Tim Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Roe, Mrs Marion
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rossi, Sir Hugh
Key, Robert Rost, Peter
Kilfedder, James Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Kirkhope, Timothy Sayeed, Jonathan
Knapman, Roger Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shaw, David (Dover)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knowles, Michael Shelton, Sir William
Knox, David Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Latham, Michael Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lawrence, Ivan Shersby, Michael
Lee, John (Pendle) Sims, Roger
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lilley, Peter Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Speed, Keith
Lord, Michael Speller, Tony
Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Squire, Robin
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stanbrook, Ivor
Maclean, David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
McLoughlin, Patrick Steen, Anthony
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stern, Michael
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stevens, Lewis
Madel, David Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Maginnis, Ken Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Malins, Humfrey Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Mans, Keith Stokes, Sir John
Marland, Paul Sumberg, David
Marlow, Tony Summerson, Hugo
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Mates, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Maude, Hon Francis Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Thorne, Neil
Meyer, Sir Anthony Thurnham, Peter
Miller, Sir Hal Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Miscampbell, Norman Tracey, Richard
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Tredinnick, David
Mitchell, Sir David Trimble, David
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Twinn, Dr Ian
Moore, Rt Hon John Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Morrison, Sir Charles Viggers, Peter
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Moss, Malcolm Waller, Gary
Mudd, David Walters, Sir Dennis
Neale, Sir Gerrard Ward, John
Nelson, Anthony Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Watts, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wells, Bowen
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Wheeler, Sir John
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Whitney, Ray
Norris, Steve Widdecombe, Ann
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Wilshire, David
Page, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann
Patnick, Irvine Wolfson, Mark
Patten, Rt Hon John Wood, Timothy
Pawsey, James Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Yeo, Tim
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Porter, David (Waveney)
Portillo, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Powell, William (Corby) Mr. John M. Taylor and Mr. Tom Sackville.
Price, Sir David

Question accordingly negatived.

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