HC Deb 05 December 1996 vol 286 cc1191-2
6. Mr. Merchant

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many criminals who took a gun to a crime have been given a life sentence since 1989. [6153]

Mr. Howard

Some 123 persons were given a life sentence for homicide offences initially recorded in the years 1989–95, in which the method of killing was shooting. Information for other offences is not available separately.

Mr. Merchant

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Does he agree that taking a gun to a crime is a very serious matter, and that, therefore, every effort must be made to crack down on that type of crime? Does he agree that the tough measures included in his Crime (Sentences) Bill will help stamp out second offences?

Mr. Howard

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and I am grateful for his support. Automatic life sentences for those who commit a second serious violent offence will bring home to people the importance of not committing such offences. More importantly, they will protect the public by ensuring that no one who does commit such an offence is released unless and until an assessment has been made of whether they still pose a risk to the public. If they do not pose a risk, they will be released, but if they still pose a risk, they will not be released—even if that means that they will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

7. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many criminals who have used a gun to threaten with intent have received a life sentence in each of the past six years. [6154]

Mr. Howard

It is an offence under the firearms Acts, subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, to be in possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence. In the six years from 1990–95, 717 people were convicted of that offence in England and Wales, and 420 of them were imprisoned, with an average sentence of 36 months. None was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mr. Marshall

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept my thanks for that answer, which explains the need for his Crime (Sentences) Bill? His Bill will ensure that persistent and dangerous offenders are properly punished, and that the law-abiding majority are properly protected. Should not his Bill be welcomed by all those who claim to be tough on crime?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I entirely agree with him. We still await the details of the Labour party's response to those proposals in the crime Bill, although we know that it will oppose many aspects of my proposals. We shall leave no stone unturned as we remind the public of the proposals that we intend to put in place, which are being constantly blocked by the Labour party.