HC Deb 05 December 1996 vol 286 cc1194-5
9. Mr. Sumberg

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to ensure that convicted prisoners serve their full sentence. [6156]

Mr. Maclean

I believe that there should be greater honesty in sentencing. Accordingly, the Crime (Sentences) Bill contains provisions that will ensure that the sentence actually served matches more closely the sentence imposed by the court.

Mr. Sumberg

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on those excellent proposals, which will ensure that those who commit crimes serve a full sentence? Do not those proposals prove that the Government have responded to widespread public concern on the issue, in contrast to Labour Members, who talk tough in soundbites, but for ever abstain on or vote against measures that will put criminals behind bars?

Mr. Maclean

My hon. Friend is right. The core elements of the Bill will bring in mandatory minimum sentences for persistent burglars and for those who deal in the worst drugs, which are killing and destroying our children, and life sentences for hardened killers and rapists. The Labour party decided to abstain. It is scared to vote for the proposals, but it dare not vote against them. Labour Members sit there, not having an opinion.

Mr. Winnick

Is it not important that prisoners should be convicted in the first place? Is the Minister aware that my constituent, Raghbir Singh, was held in prison for 20 months without a charge being made against him? He was released on Monday afternoon, after I had repeatedly raised the matter, only because of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights—an institution that Tory Members have today criticised. If it were not for that decision last Friday, my constituent would, quite possibly, have remained in prison for months or years to come without charge.

Mr. Maclean

I do not accept that the detention of those regarded as a threat to our national security should be determined by a foreign court.

Mr. John Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, to have honesty in sentencing, we must reform the present arrangements on how time served on remand is taken into account when calculating a prisoner's sentence? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recent decision on concurrent sentences defies logic? Will he confirm that the Crime (Sentences) Bill will be used to put that right?

Mr. Maclean

It is a source of concern that a course of action that has been confirmed by four court judgments since 1967 should be overturned by another court judgment. However, I confirm that the relevant measures in the Crime (Sentences) Bill have been passed in Committee, so we shall now have suitable powers to make the amending regulations.