HC Deb 10 February 1994 vol 237 cc433-5
4. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what response he has received from police representatives since the publication of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill.

7. Mr. David Martin

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what response he has received from the police to his announcements of new measures to tackle crime; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard

Representatives of the police service have expressed strong support for the Government's new measures to tackle crime, particularly the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill now before the House. We have had a number of discussions with representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers about the Bill.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. In the fight against crime and on law and order issues, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill is one of the most important Bills ever to come before the House. Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall the statement of the Opposition spokeseman on law and order, the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), that we should not hesitate to applaud the Government when they introduce measures that are correct? Will he now take the opportunity to invite Her Majesty's Opposition to support the Bill in all its remaining stages? If they do not, what conclusion can people draw from the Opposition's stance on law and order?

Mr. Howard

The only logical conclusion that people can draw from the Opposition's reaction to these measures is that they cannot make up their mind about them. When the measures came before the House for Second Reading, the Opposition could not make up their mind whether to vote for or against, or whether to say yes or no—they simply abstained. Since then, in the Standing Committee, we have seen a series of attempts to weaken the measures in the Bill—to neuter them and make them have as little effect as possible.

Mr. Trimble

May I direct the Home Secretary's attention to the provisions in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill dealing with computer-generated pornographic images of children which were introduced as a result of a successful campaign by the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton)? Has he received any representations about the fact that those provisions do not extend to Northern Ireland, bearing in mind the ease with which computer material can be transmitted from one part of the kingdom to another? Is not it essential that the loophole be plugged as soon as possible, preferably this afternoon?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point which I shall certainly draw to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mrs. Peacock

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the great concern expressed by the police not only in my constituency but in other areas about the violent crimes being committed by many young people? Will he assure the House that his tougher measures will be implemented as soon as the Bill becomes law?

Mr. Howard

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we will implement the measures at the earliest possible moment because we understand how urgently necessary they are to protect the public.

Mr. Michael

Will the Home Secretary read the report of the Committee considering the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill and admit that the Opposition have been trying to make effective a Bill that he has admitted will do nothing to cut crime? With crime up more than 124 per cent. under the Tories, and with only one crime in 50 ending with a punishment in the courts, when will the Home Secretary accept Labour's advice to be tough on crime and the causes of crime by providing a legal framework for a local partnership between the police, local authorities and the community to cut crime and protect the victims of crime?

Mr. Howard

I thought that the hon. Gentleman would be the last person to want me to read the reports of the proceedings of the Standing Committee. He has been comprehensively routed by my hon. Friend the Minister of State and by other hon. Friends on the Committee whenever he has dared to raise his head above the parapet.

Mr. Stephen

Will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in condemning the appalling murder of Police Sergeant Robertson in Croydon? Will he give careful consideration to the amendment that I have tabled to the Criminal Justice Bill which would ensure that, when the persons responsible for that murder are caught, life imprisonment would mean exactly what it says?

Mr. Howard

I heard with great regret of the tragic death yesterday of Sergeant Robertson. The House will share my sense of outrage that it should happen to a police officer who was bravely doing his duty. The House will want to join me in extending the deepest sympathy to his widow and children. His death reminds us again of the enormous debt which we as a society owe to our police officers.

As to the specific point raised by my hon. Friend, I will, of course, consider his amendment. He will know that one of my predecessors, Sir Leon Brittan, announced that the minimum sentence served for the murder of a police officer—I emphasise the word minimum—would be 20 years. I have indicated my desire to follow that practice.

Madam Speaker

Order. As the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) was not told that his question was to be linked, we shall now take Question 5.