HC Deb 31 October 1995 vol 265 cc181-2

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.—[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

8.28 pm
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

On the whole the Opposition welcome the Bill, which is a consolidation measure. However, I must draw the Minister's attention to the serious concern felt at the failure of the Crown to use measures that could be taken under the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993. I refer to section 33, which allows the employment of a commissioner in court cases involving the cross-examination of child witnesses. That means that a child can give evidence on commission. Many of us are concerned, however, that screens are being used instead of closed circuit television or the employment of a commissioner. Although I accept the Bill readily, the Government still have much to do to offer protection to child witnesses and other vulnerable witnesses in our Courts.

8.29 pm
Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

I too acknowledge that the Bill is likely to have a fairly swift passage tonight, but I wish to record some dissent with respect to part III, which refers to bail.

I understood that several significant changes would be introduced in the way in which bail would be applied from our courts. I believe that the Bill makes some amendment, but it certainly does not go as far as I was led to understand during the passage of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill earlier this year.

I should therefore like an undertaking from my right hon. Friend the Minister that, perhaps in the not too distant future, bail in Scotland will once again be considered and perhaps some more stringent criteria applied.

8.30 pm
The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

First, in response to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), I am well aware of his great concern and efforts on behalf of children and the need to safeguard them. He specifically mentioned evidence on commission, closed circuit television and the use of screens, and he obviously believes that children should be given more protection.

I will make inquiries about the up-to-date position. I will draw to the attention of the Lord Advocate the arguments that the hon. Gentleman made and ask for a full letter to be sent to him.

To my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) I can say that the Bill merely consolidates existing law. I am well aware of his desire to tighten up on bail. We have severely tightened up on bail already. The Act will be reviewed in due course in the light of experience. No doubt we can return to it in future if there is a further need, just as we returned to the issue of knives when my hon. Friend so successfully piloted a Bill on to the statute book.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills),

That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Dr. Liam Fox.]

Question agreed to.

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 86 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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