HC Deb 13 January 1997 vol 288 cc74-104

  1. '(1) Without prejudice to any other power in that regard, it shall be the duty of the Court of Appeal to consider and review sentencing practice and policy and from time to time to issue guidelines in respect thereof.
  2. (2) Without prejudice to any rule of law, a court in passing sentence shall have regard to any relevant guideline issued under subsection (1) above.'.—[Mr. Straw.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 4—Sentencing guidelines

  1. '.—(1) In disposing of any criminal appeal, the Court of Appeal may, without prejudice to any other power in that regard, pronounce an opinion on the sentence or other disposal which is appropriate in any similar case.
  2. (2) Without prejudice to any rule of law, a court in passing sentence shall have regard to any relevant guidance issued under such subsection (1) above.'.
New clause 5—Unduly lenient sentences (No. 1)'Section 35 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 shall be amended by substituting for subsection (3) the following subsection— (3) This Part of this Act applies to any case in which sentence is passed by the Crown Court.".'.

Mr. Straw

The new clauses seek to impose a duty on the Court of Appeal to lay down sentencing guidelines in respect of all the main offences in the criminal calendar, and to extend the power of the prosecution, through the Attorney-General, to appeal against a much wider range of sentences than is currently the case.

In a paper published a few years ago, entitled "Custody Reconsidered", for the Centre for Policy Studies, Professor Andrew Ashworth wrote: People are right to expect consistency in sentencing, since consistency, together with predictability, lies at the heart of the rule of law. However, he went on to state: The present sentencing system fails to achieve a proper balance between flexibility and consistency. Professor Ashworth's conclusion seems inescapable: the lack of consistency and the absence of proper machinery to enforce and monitor sentencing practice is one important reason why public confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole is so low.

In the paper entitled, "Honesty, Consistency and Progression in Sentencing", which I published last March, I gave detailed figures that highlight the current inconsistency in sentencing between different courts. I provided two tables, one which examined the range of the use of custody by different tiers of the Crown court, and another which did similar work in respect of magistrates courts.

In Crown courts, there is significant variation in the proportion of defendants coming before Crown courts of the same level who are sentenced to immediate custody. For level 3 courts, the range varies from 38 per cent. at Woolwich Crown court, to 67 per cent. at Hereford Crown court, where the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) is a recorder. His practice obviously belies his Liberal rhetoric. That has been my consistent experience of my friends at the Bar—the moment they sit on the Bench, the soft ones end up giving the longest sentences. The reverse is also true. That may explain the liberality of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) on the Bench, although not in the House.

A similar range is apparent in respect of level 2 courts, where the proportion of defendants who are convicted and go into immediate custody varies from 40 per cent. in Gloucester to 65 per cent. in Luton. The same applies to level 1 courts, where the range is from 42 per cent. in Bristol to 64 per cent. in Caernarfon, and a higher proportion at the Old Bailey, but I do not regard that as an equivalent court for the purpose of these comparisons.

There is an even wider range in magistrates courts. On average, 13 per cent. of defendants who appear before magistrates courts receive a sentence of immediate custody, but the range is huge. I refer to indictable offences triable summarily; I am not speaking of motoring offences. At one end of the range, at Staffordshire, Moorlands magistrates court, one in six defendants are given a sentence of immediate custody. At the other end, at Maidenhead magistrates court, one in 66 defendants receive a sentence of immediate custody. Try as I might, I can find no explanation for those differences.

7.15 pm
Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham)

I am sure that, like most of us, the hon. Gentleman believes in local justice and believes that magistrates are local people dispensing justice in their locality. How far does he believe that there should be discretion for local Benches to treat more seriously particular offences that might be prevalent in their area, and therefore to depart from national guidelines?

Mr. Straw

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The same point was made, improbably, by the Secretary of State in an interview in "Constabulary Magazine", in favour of unfettered discretion by local Benches in magistrates courts. None of us could accept complete uniformity in sentencing. It would be odd if every court's sentencing practice was around the average. My concern is that the range is far too wide, and that the differences in practice appear to be informed not by any explicit local policy, but rather by custom and practice.

I shall give a specific example. Blackburn and Oldham are two similar industrial towns in the old county of Lancashire. They have similar social structures and similar rates of crime. A defendant at the magistrates court in Oldham has a one in 10 chance of receiving a sentence of immediate custody. A defendant at the magistrates court in Blackburn has a one in 20 chance of receiving such a sentence.

I do not know which sentencing policy has a greater impact on crime levels in those two towns. With regard to my own constituency, however, I know that because of major problems in the amount of feedback and guidance that magistrates courts are given, the policy of the court in Blackburn—and, I suspect, also in Oldham—is not really a policy, but the way in which the court has behaved traditionally, without any rational scrutiny of that behaviour.

Of course, I accept—this is one of the reasons why we want changes in the way in which the Crown Prosecution Service operates—that if there is a particular problem in an area, the Bench and prosecutors are right to take it seriously and, for example, to issue exemplary sentences as a deterrent against further wrongdoing.

The figures that I have given are for comparisons between courts. Another set of figures reveals inconsistency of a different kind. The public currently expect the court's attitude to offending to equate to their own experience at home, at school or in the workplace.

In each of those environments, the sanction for misbehaviour takes account not only of the immediate offence, but of the past record of the miscreant. That is part of people's natural instinct about what is just and sensible. That is explicitly written into employment law where, save for grave offences, employees are entitled to a series of warnings before they can be dismissed.

Apart from the short-lived aberration of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, such an idea of progression in sentencing, taking account of previous offending behaviour, has long been enshrined as a principle of sentencing in the British courts. In any court on any day, one will hear defence counsel arguing in mitigation for a last chance for a defendant to avoid a custodial sentence. Equally often, in imposing a non-custodial sentence, the Bench will issue a dire warning that further offending will lead to a prison sentence.

However, the idea of proper progression, which I believe is accepted across the House, is not consistently translated into sentencing practice. My paper, like the White Paper, gave examples of what on average may happen to defendants on a first, second or third conviction. The picture painted by those figures can be described only as bizarre and as one that is unlikely to enhance public confidence in the sentencing system.

Let me give some examples that I quoted in my paper. I asked the Minister of State, Home Office, the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), for figures of the proportion of defendants aged 21 or more who had received convictions for domestic burglary and, separately, for drug dealing, and who received sentences of immediate custody, and what the length of the average sentence was. It is true that for domestic burglary and drug dealing, an increasing proportion of defendants received a custodial sentence at the second and third offence, but it is odd that for domestic burglary, the sentence stayed level at 15 months, whereas for drug dealing in class A drugs, the sentence went down from 32 months at the first conviction to 30 months at the third conviction. Those figures do not enhance confidence in our sentencing system.

Mr. Howard

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that both the examples that he has cited will be dealt with by the minimum mandatory sentencing provisions in the Bill? Will he specifically deny that he has given any private assurances to senior members of the judiciary that, if elected, Labour would not implement the Bill's mandatory sentencing proposals?

Mr. Straw

I shall deal with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's first point in a moment. The issue of a drug dealer or domestic burglar who is convicted for a third time is dealt with elsewhere in the Bill. However, such provisions—whatever their merits—are not an alternative to effective guidelines from the Court of Appeal. The proposals affect sentences at a third conviction in only two specific areas of offence within the criminal calendar.

As to the Home Secretary's second question, I have not given any such undertakings—either in private or in public. He will have to wait for my speech on Third Reading—we want to see the Bill's final form—to hear our definitive decisions about its proposals. I am glad that the Home Secretary has accepted, by implication, that the Labour party will form a Government after the election.

As we know from reports in yesterday's newspapers, he has already accepted that fact and is spending more time preening himself for election as Leader of the Opposition than doing his job as Secretary of State.

As hon. Members know, I was not a member of the Standing Committee that examined the Bill, but I have read the Hansard record of debates. I was almost as impressed by the contribution of the hon. and learned Member for Burton in Committee as by the brilliant interventions of my colleagues. The hon. and learned Gentleman supported our amendments and poured vitriol on the ill-thought-through provisions in the Bill so often that I think he must be halfway to defecting to new Labour. He brought to his observations his experience not only as a distinguished parliamentarian but as a recorder of the Crown court. We know that the court in which he sits has a reputation for much softer sentences than the court of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. On at least three occasions, the hon. and learned Gentleman commented that the Bill's provisions would have been unnecessary if the court had laid down guidelines about minimum sentences".—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 14 November 1996; c. 49.] He added: it would have been far better if, many years ago, judges had got to grips with their powers and set out guidelines to introduce the type of sentence that we are having to lay down in statute".—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 19 November 1996; c. 104.] I refer to the question that the Home Secretary asked a moment ago. We shall discuss separately the Bill's so-called minimum sentence provisions, but they will cover only a limited number of cases and criminal offenders—those affected by clause 1, convicted for a second time of a listed offence that already carries life as a maximum sentence; and those affected by clauses 2 and 3, convicted for a third time of offences of domestic burglary or trafficking in class A drugs. The vast range of offences and offenders will be unaffected. Therefore, the need for better machinery to secure consistency and progression will remain.

The achievement of that aim has actively exercised the House for at least a decade. In its 1986 White Paper on criminal justice, the Government proposed giving statutory form to the Judicial Studies Board's function of publishing the Court of Appeal's sentencing guidelines in a more coherent and accessible form. However, they dropped that idea in favour of a limited right of appeal against unduly lenient sentences by the Attorney-General.

When the ill-fated 1991 Act was before the House, one of our main criticisms of the Bill was that it failed to deal with "unacceptable discrepancies in sentencing"—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said at the time. We advanced proposals for a sentencing council to achieve greater consistency in sentencing. It is a measure of how far the Government have moved in six short years that, at the time, our proposal was condemned out of hand by Ministers and voted down by Government Members—including the present Home Secretary—on the risible grounds that it would produce the "dead hand of conformity" and end up like the experience in the United States."—[Official Report, 20 November 1990; Vol. 181, c. 232.] The Conservative party's campaign guide went much further and said that our proposals would have denied the courts the discretion they need if they are to deal adequately with the wide variety of criminal acts that come before them". It added that our position—which was in favour of more consistency—illustrated Labour's traditional mistrust of the judiciary and provides Labour with an institution to shackle them to a rigid penal system. I am glad that the Home Secretary can see the joke. I hope that when he responds to the debate, he will apologise for the position that he took in 1991. The truth is that, if our proposals for proper machinery on sentencing guidance had been accepted—they were widely supported at the time—we would not now need some of the provisions in the Bill.

Despite Ministers' complacency about sentencing practice at the time, the Court of Appeal could—and we believe should—have been more proactive in its development of sentencing guidance. Sentencers have available much excellent work from the Judicial Studies Board, Thomas's "Current Sentencing Practice", and a few guideline judgments from the Court of Appeal—notably on rape. However, Professor Ashworth was correct to criticise the Court of Appeal in 1992 for the manifest abdication of its role in giving guidance for the lower courts. He said that that suggests that the ideal partnership between legislature and judiciary, implicit in the White Paper of 1990, is likely to be realised slowly, if at all". He added for good measure that most of the Court of Appeal's decisions on domestic burglary were a veritable wasteland in terms of guidance". Little has happened in the intervening period. Mr. Ralph Henham, senior lecturer in law at Nottingham Trent university, in a 1995 paper on sentencing policy for the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, commented on the apparent failure of the Court of Appeal to consistently advert to other sentencing decisions in the course of developing sentencing principles, thus hindering the process by creating problems of interpretation. In addition, there is a tendency for the Court of Appeal to concentrate on the immediate case without questioning the general principles behind cases of that type or their inter-relationship with other types of cases thus creating a lack of coherence and direction in the development of sentencing principles. That is strong criticism and I am sorry that the Court of Appeal has not taken it on board properly.

As I said, the alternative proposed by the Government in their 1986 White Paper was for the Attorney-General to have a limited right of appeal to the Court of Appeal. That provision became law in the Criminal Justice Act 1988. In most other jurisdictions—including common law jurisdictions—the prosecution has long had a much more active role in sentencing. The notion has always raised profound anxiety in many quarters. I suspect that we have been held back in many ways by our history. Indeed, many ingrained assumptions of English common lawyers about rules of evidence and sentencing date back to the last century, when many property offences were capital crimes, and when the defendant was not allowed to give evidence in his own defence. There was no general defence appeal against conviction or overly severe sentences until 1907.

Anxiety about the possibility of injustice and of political influence in appeals led my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook to oppose the right of the Attorney-General to make an appeal under the 1988 Act. Significantly, in the same debate he expressed qualified support for a much more comprehensive scheme, whereby the prosecution could suggest sentences to the court. In the event, the anxieties of many about the development were not borne out and we supported measures to strengthen the arrangements in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Today, the Attorney-General is able to appeal as "unduly lenient" any offence triable on indictment only, but just a limited number triable either way. However, a large number of offences tried in the Crown court, and any offence tried in the magistrates courts, are excluded. New clause 5 seeks to extend the power of the Attorney-General to appeal against any conviction that arises in the Crown court.

I should add—this does not form part of the formal propositions of the debate, so we should not take an immediate decision about it—that although there are strong, practical difficulties in extending that principle to magistrates courts, I believe that, in principle, the prospect should be considered. Under current law, there is no possibility of the Attorney-General appealing against an unduly lenient sentence for domestic burglary—a subject that has correctly exercised the Home Secretary—or for quite a number of offences of violence.

7.30 pm

The Government were wrong in 1986 to see a more active role on guidance by the Court of Appeal and a right of appeal by the Attorney-General as alternatives. In our view, one should buttress the other. In its guidance role, the Court of Appeal should, as many have proposed, work through the criminal calendar and provide clear guidance on each of the main offences. It should publish such guidance in draft, encourage informed professional and public debate on it and then promulgate it.

Some judges and practitioners have said that that would be difficult; that domestic burglary, for example, covers a wide range of actions and of culpability. So it does, but that does not mean that the range is incapable of analysis and categorisation. After all, rape also covers a wide range of culpability, and on that the Court of Appeal has issued proper guidance.

In addition to the promulgation of guidance, much improved arrangements need to be put in hand to enhance the memory of the criminal justice system. I have often heard magistrates complain that they are effectively sentencing people in the dark, with little or no systematic feedback on the effect of their sentencing decisions.

My final point is about Scotland. The Scottish legal system is different and it is entirely right that its development should be determined by what is right for Scotland, but too often we ignore better practice there, for example on delays in getting cases to court. The White Paper on crime and punishment in Scotland, Cm 3302, has two proposals in chapter 8 that are fully consistent with our new clauses for England and Wales. In 1995, the appeal court in Scotland, as the White Paper pointed out, was given a power to lay down sentencing guidelines, which I understand has now been activated.

In paragraph 8.23, the Government proposed to extend to the prosecution the right of appeal in all summary cases. I am aware that the definition of "summary" is different from that in England, but it is very much wider than in cases that simply end up in the Crown court. That intention has now been put into effect by a negative statutory instrument, which was approved without any Division in the House.

Those are persuasive examples of why such provision should be made in England and Wales. We need a criminal justice system that has more memory, that has greater and more effective progression, and one that above all ensures greater consistency. When practitioners express concern that the public do not understand how the courts operate, they should bear it in mind that what the public inevitably latch on to is not the average practice in sentencing, but the aberrant practices in sentencing, which too often excite—quite rightly—great public concern, and about which very little can be done.

The Attorney-General has an important role to play, which we wish to see extended, but we believe that there is an overwhelming case for the Court of Appeal to extend its role within the framework that Parliament has laid down for sentencing and to establish effective sentencing guidelines and then ensure that they are properly monitored and put into practice.

Mr. Alex Carlile

The issue is whether the Court of Appeal, criminal division, should have a statutory obligation to promulgate sentencing guidelines for the whole calendar of cases coming before the Crown courts.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) was, perhaps, less than generous to the Court of Appeal in his criticism of the guidelines that it has given hitherto. It is instructive to spend, as some of us have occasionally, a day, or nearly a day, sitting in one of the courts of the Court of Appeal, criminal division, and hear the throughput of cases. First, they work under considerable pressure. It is quite impossible for them to consider each case as a guideline case.

Secondly, the courts work extremely fast. In most appeals against sentence, they are fully apprised of the facts of the case before the appeal is heard and are usually able to put propositions to counsel appearing for an appellant at the beginning of the hearing and come to a rapid conclusion. Thirdly, in most of the cases that they hear, the submissions that are put before them are subjective rather than objective. Many sentence appeals turn on subjective issues arising from the circumstances of the offender perhaps more than from the circumstances of the offence.

The Court of Appeal, under its current procedure, is not really equipped by the nature of its hearings to deal with the issue of guidelines on every offence in every category that comes before the Crown court. It is a demand-led place. It has recognised that its role is to issue guidelines. I suggest to the House that it has done so conscientiously on a very wide range of issues. Drug offences are extremely difficult for judges and, indeed, for defence counsel, to deal with because they cover such a huge range. For example, the supplying of a class B drug can range from offences that are easy to sentence—the biggest—to those that are far less easy to sentence, those near the smallest—supply to a group of friends, supply among a group of students in a university, supply in a club.

Those are offences that courts find very difficult to sentence, and it is helpful to courts throughout the country that the Court of Appeal has issued widespread and detailed guidelines on them. Guidelines have been issued on sexual offences, on offences involving the use of arms and on a wide range of other offences coming before the courts.

I agree with the hon. Member for Blackburn that the Court of Appeal could issue guidelines on the full calendar coming before the criminal courts. In my view it would be desirable that it did so. My view is that the Court of Appeal, provided that it is given the resources, and that is a real issue, would welcome the opportunity to set out in written form, after due debate, each year or periodically, the range that one could expect given certain facts.

Before we could reasonably expect the Court of Appeal to do that, however, having regard to its very considerable work load, it would be necessary to ensure that the assistance that is now given to the Court of Appeal in the form of professional, clerical additions was expanded. Young lawyers are now being appointed to assist the Court of Appeal in preparing cases. The Government would also have to consider creating an increased number of Lords Justices to enable this work to be done. If the Court of Appeal was to promulgate a volume of guidelines periodically, we could not reasonably expect it to do so in its spare time, for it does not have any spare time at present.

Lord Taylor, the last Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, his predecessor, and, of course, Lord Bingham, the present Lord Chief Justice, have shown total willingness to issue guidelines in appropriate cases, and if this new duty were imposed on them by Parliament, they would take it on themselves and carry it out with great efficiency, but they would have to be given the resources to do so.

The more orderly promulgation of such guidelines by the Court of Appeal would make a daily contribution to consistency in sentencing in courts around the country. However, I hope that we all agree that sentencing should never be uniform—that reflects the point that was made earlier about regional variations in sentencing. The stealing of sheep in Montgomeryshire is an extremely serious offence, and one would expect it to be severely punished.

Mr. Straw

It obviously is.

Mr. Carlile

It is, as the hon. Gentleman said. I have the honour to be the honorary recorder of Hereford, which has a tough record on sentencing. It is an orderly city because offences are dealt with efficiently—I am referring not to my conduct, but to that of the judges who sit there more regularly. The sentences that are passed in Hereford reflect the needs of that city. Whether in Hereford, Blackburn, Oldham or Montgomeryshire, it is important to allow variation in sentencing to reflect local circumstances.

Mr. Straw

Is there a connection between the tough sentences passed by the Crown court in Hereford and the orderly conduct of its citizens?

Mr. Carlile

I would not make so bold as to answer that question with a yes. However, I would hazard a guess that if people in a small city such as Hereford—it is much easier in a small city—or in a city such as Chester, which I know extremely well because I practised law there for many years, know that the judges before whom they could appear are likely to be pretty tough on, for example, house burglary, the chances are that they will either do less house burglary or will go and do it in Blackburn. I hope that they will not take the latter approach, but it is a possibility and it argues for greater consistency in sentencing while retaining variation between areas.

The Attorney-General has the power to refer sentences to the Court of Appeal when he is advised or perceives that they are unduly lenient. Many of us were opposed to the introduction of that power. I am not too proud to say that I was wrong to oppose it when it was introduced, because it has worked well. I am pleased to see the Attorney-General in his seat. He has exercised that power more frequently in recent years than in the past. It has made a contribution to the production of guideline cases. I believe that I am right in saying that more guidelines have emerged from Attorney-General's references than from any other category of cases that one could define.

I hope that we shall continue to use Attorney-General's references constructively. There is no logic for allowing an Attorney-General's reference in one category of case coming before the Crown court but not in another. I would hesitate for a long time before extending that power to magistrates courts, as I fear that it would clog up the courts and would merely provide jobs for lawyers, which is usually perceived—in the House at least—as a bad thing.

There is a good deal of sense in allowing the Attorney-General to exercise his discretion on advice and in appropriate circumstances in all cases before the Crown courts. I am sure that that jurisdiction would not be exercised over-generously by any Attorney-General. The Attorney-General is as subject to criticism by the Court of Appeal as anyone else, and wasteful applications to that court are dealt with robustly. It is a constructive suggestion, and I hope that the Home Secretary will support it.

Mr. Stephen

I shall not be able to support new clauses 3, 4 and 5 in the Division Lobby. I have a particular interest in new clause 5. I had thought long before 1988 that we had an extraordinary position in this country whereby, if a criminal considered his sentence too harsh he could appeal, but if it was generally considered to be too lenient, the public could do nothing about it. That caused a great deal of public disquiet and brought the law itself into disrespect among our constituents.

In 1987, I wrote a paper, which was published by the Bow Group, in which I proposed that the Attorney-General should have power to appeal against over-lenient sentences. At that time, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd) was Home Secretary, and I had a great deal of correspondence with the then Minister of State, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor). I received a number of letters from the Home Office—I do not know whether my right hon. and learned Friend read them, but he certainly signed them—which contained some absurd reasons why my suggestion should not be implemented.

7.45 pm

One of the reasons given was that it would be wrong to allow an appeal against an over-lenient sentence because the Court of Appeal would not have heard the evidence in the court below. I responded that that was precisely what the courts did every day when asked to decide appeals by defendants who thought their sentences too heavy.

The next Home Office argument was that it would be wrong to impose double jeopardy on the defendant, to which I responded that the concept of double jeopardy is usually understood to apply to people who have not been convicted of any crime and who, until they are convicted, must be given the benefit of the doubt. I pointed out to the Home Office scribe that here we were dealing with people who had actually been convicted of crime. If people do not want to be subjected to judicial process, the remedy is not to commit crime.

The Home Office eventually agreed that my proposal should be implemented, but said, "Yes, let us give the Court of Appeal power to review those cases upon the application of the Attorney-General, but we think it would be wrong to give it power to change the sentence that the court below had imposed." I responded that it was adding insult to injury to tell the victim of a crime or his family that the defendant had been too leniently punished, but nothing could be done about it. The Home Office eventually agreed that that too was not a sustainable argument.

The Home Secretary of the day agreed in Standing Committee to what are now sections 35 and 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. I recall that the Labour party was opposed to those provisions. The Liberals also opposed them, but the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) had the grace to say today that he had been wrong, and I suppose that a sinner who repenteth is deserving of praise.

When I wrote to the Home Secretary of the day, I wanted all cases to be subject to the right of the Attorney-General to appeal. However, I was persuaded that the power should be restricted to more serious cases, because it would increase pressure on the Court of Appeal—which is a very busy tribunal, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has said—and would also increase the cost to the public. I felt that the power could be justified only in more serious cases, and should not therefore apply to magistrates courts.

When dealing with sentences, we are not, as I have said, dealing with double jeopardy properly so called. Nevertheless, it is desirable, once sentence has been passed, for an offender and his family to know exactly what sentence he will have to serve. Unless a case is serious, it should not, therefore, be subject to a right of appeal.

I am opposed to new clause 5. My proposal in 1987 was that, as an appeal against a sentence passed by a Crown court is a serious matter, the decision should be made only by the Attorney-General and his colleague, the Solicitor-General, personally. As those two Law Officers already have a considerable work load, it would not be right to expand the category of cases too widely so that they became over-burdened and perhaps made mistakes. We all make mistakes, but the more over-burdened we are, the more likely that is. In any event, new clause 5 is not necessary because the 1988 Act already contains the power by statutory instrument to widen the category of cases to which the right of appeal applies. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, who I am glad to see in his place, has already exercised that power on a number of occasions.

With regard to new clauses 3 and 4, let us not delude ourselves into thinking that we can apply some computerised formula that will produce exactly the right sentence every time. Each case is different. The circumstances of each offence are different and each offender is different. The court has to consider both the offence and the offender in deciding upon the right sentence. The criminal appeal law reports are full of guidance which the Court of Appeal is handing down every day to the lower courts. In addition, there are sentencing conferences and other extrajudicial methods by which the Lord Chief Justice and his colleagues can give guidance to the lower courts.

Having attended law school in America, I would caution the House against the use of law clerks, and I recall that a distinguished American lawyer publicly cautioned us against it only a few days ago. As the work load becomes heavier, the delegation to the law clerks tends to increase and, although they are bright young men and women, they are not the experienced judges who sit in the Court of Appeal and whose judgment is expected to be applied to each individual case.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) mentioned the role of the prosecution in the criminal process. When I was at the Bar I found it unsatisfactory. I would listen to the defence counsel—sometimes I would be the defence counsel—pointing out to the court that the defendant was a very good son, who looked after his mother very well and did errands for the old lady round the corner and that it was quite out of character that he smashed a glass and thrust it into the face of his unfortunate victim.

When I sat down, expecting as a result of my orations a lenient sentence for my client—which was sometimes the case and sometimes not—I often felt uneasy that the prosecuting counsel sat mute.It was his duty only to draw the attention of the court in fairly bland and factual terms to the defendant's criminal record. He did not argue that the offence and the offender required a more severe sentence than the defence counsel had argued.

It is often said that judges are not influenced by speeches in mitigation. If that is so, the legal aid fund is wasting a great deal of public money. I do not agree. In some cases the court is influenced by the speech in mitigation and there are circumstances in which a prosecuting counsel—who has that right—should point out to the court that the defendant deserves not a more lenient sentence but a more severe one. If that were the case, perhaps the courts of first instance would make fewer mistakes.

Finally, the hon. Member for Blackburn mentioned the need for courts to be as fully informed as possible before passing sentence. Ten years ago, we could not do much about that, but now, because of the availability of information technology, we have the solution at hand.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has caused a number of studies to be made on the use of information technology in the courts, and so has the Lord Chancellor, but we still have a long way to go. I look forward to the day—not very far hence—when a terminal will be available so that the judge and the clerk to the magistrates will be able to access a database giving full details of the criminal history of the defendant before them—not just the criminal record, but the way in which that individual has responded to the treatment that the criminal justice system has seen fit to impose on him. With the investment of a certain amount of money—of course, nothing is free—it should be possible to have such a system in operation in our courts within the next five or six years.

For those reasons, I oppose new clauses 3, 4 and 5.

Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I support new clause 3 in the name of my hon. Friends. I believe that the Court of Appeal should review sentencing practice and from time to time issue guidelines. In that respect, I return to a subject that I have often raised in the House—the treatment of children by our courts and the sentences handed down to the people who abuse them.

About two months ago a case was heard at Bristol Crown court concerning the abuse of seven children by their parents. A report of the case stated: It was a case of Dickensian deprivation and squalor: hungry children bound and gagged, punched, beaten with belts and sticks, made to take cold showers and sleep in a dark attic on urine-soaked beds … It went on for 11 years. The jury was told that while all that was taking place, the parents dressed and ate very well indeed.

Just as shocking to many of those who attended the court was the reaction of Judge Lester Boothman. The report continued: Although he said the beatings were serious enough to warrant a prison sentence, he added that they amounted to no more than excessively violent punishment, that the physical injuries were not severe and that 20 years ago 'It may be that nobody would have raised an eyebrow.' What a thing to say. He gave the man, who cannot be named to protect the children's identity, a sentence of just 15 months. Of course he was released fairly soon afterwards as he had already served seven months on remand.

The judge passed that sentence despite hearing psychiatric reports that three of the children may never recover from the emotional damage caused by their prolonged suffering and following a catalogue of independent evidence from neighbours, teachers and doctors about the children's ill treatment and their injuries. The three eldest children gave evidence that they had been regularly beaten and assaulted. In one incident, one was punished because he had accidentally broken a glass. His hands were tied in front of him with his father's dressing gown cord and a gag was placed in his mouth to stop him crying out as he was beaten. His brother was told to hold his feet so that he would not move and when he refused he was given similar treatment.

Although the judge said that the offences were "so serious" as to merit a prison sentence and that to do otherwise would "send a wrong message", he said that he had been satisfied that there was always a good reason for the punishment. He said: It may not have seemed a good reason for the child concerned at the time, but I am satisfied that this is not a case that someone uses violence just simply for the sake of it. The House has spent many hours examining criminal justice Bills and moving amendments to improve the way in which children give evidence in court. Although we have done a great deal, we still have not got it right. When a judge can pass such a sentence for that type of crime, it is clear that we have a long way to go to provide justice for our children.

I was so incensed by that case that I wrote to the Attorney-General—I am very pleased to see him in the Chamber tonight, as I know that he has a great concern for children—because I thought that I would get a sympathetic hearing from him. I received a reply from him, in which he said: I received a full report from the Director of Public Prosecutions on the proceedings. I considered the matter very carefully, as did the Solicitor-General, and it is my opinion that this is an unduly lenient sentence and accordingly I have referred the case to the Court of Appeal, for the Court to consider the matter. Thank you for drawing this case to my attention. It should not be necessary for the likes of me to draw the case to the attention of the Attorney-General, so that he can take action, because courts should pass proper sentences. Everyone who is concerned about the mental and physical abuse that is meted out to far too many of our children should be concerned that our courts still dish out 15-month sentences. Something is very wrong with the system. I am convinced that we could do much better in providing justice to our children if the Court of Appeal were to issue further guidelines on sentencing practice and if such cases were examined in far more detail than, obviously, they have been.

8 pm

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), who has identified a terrible case. It is difficult to know to what extent we can improve the system by referring to the occasional terrible case; we must deal with the overwhelming majority of cases.

This debate, in its very low-key and reasonable terms, has caused a change of heart in many hon. Members. Not only the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) has changed his view about lenient sentences being referred to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney-General, because I, too, have had a change of heart. There seems to have been a change of heart on tougher sentences also among Labour Members. The difference is that, whereas the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and I have changed our views on lenient sentences after having observed that no great harm and some considerable benefit seems to have come from the measure, the Opposition have changed their view because of the nearness of the general election and the necessity of giving the electorate the impression that they are tougher on sentences than—after many months of their opposition on matters of law and crime—the electorate, and certainly Conservative Members, believe that they are.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery made a brilliant speech in defence of the Court of Appeal, to which I hope that he will soon be elevated—no doubt to adorn the judiciary. If he does so, it may well be that a little more sense will be shown by that body than it has sometimes shown. He sits in Wales and the Borders—where men are men and sheep are nervous—and perhaps those who steal sheep are nervous when they appear in his court. However, I think that he is wrong in suggesting that there should be an extension of the power to refer lenient sentences.

Although the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery may go to the Court of Appeal, he will never be Attorney-General. I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which we can inflict on an Attorney-General—even one who is backed up by the excellence of the current Solicitor-General—the burden of each year examining hundreds if not many hundreds of cases to determine whether they should be referred to the Court of Appeal. It is simply not possible. Once the power is extended to civil servants and other individuals, who may or may not have had any direct experience of our courts, we would be entering the stratosphere, which would be undesirable.

I am sure that the reason why it would be utterly and completely wrong to pass new clause 5 is that it is totally impractical to expect the Attorney-General to become involved in many more cases. It is a source of wonder to me that he gets through as many cases as he does and still answers summonses to the Chamber to appear on the Treasury Bench when legal matters arise. I pay him the fullest compliments. As he knows, I have enormous respect for him, particularly in the way in which he survived the scurrilous and wrong criticisms made of him in Scott. That concludes my comments on new clause 5, although I should be interested to hear how my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State or my right hon. Friend the Minister respond to them.

On the fundamental matter of guidelines, I again take issue with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. There was no real problem preventing the Court of Appeal from issuing more guidelines than it has done. There is no reason why a Court of Appeal should not have said that only in exceptional circumstances should a professional burglar who has committed three offences escape with a prison sentence of less than three years.

There is no reason why, many years ago, a Court of Appeal should not have said that drug pushing and drug trafficking is such a corrupting and terrible influence upon children in our society that someone who is a professional and has been convicted three times—although he will have been very unlucky to have been caught and convicted if he had offended only three times, as most of those professionals have done it hundreds of times—should only in exceptional circumstances expect a sentence of less than seven years.

I do not know why the Court of Appeal should not have said—it is not terribly complicated—that if someone has raped once and then rapes again, he should be removed from society until it is safe to return him to society, and that the only way in which we can protect society is by a life sentence. That would not have involved the Court of Appeal in too much heartache or consumed too much time, but it never did so. Because the Court of Appeal never did so, we have been forced to make these recommendations for minimum sentences, which is the heart and soul of the Bill. I regret that it has been necessary.

It has been made clear that I sit as a recorder, and so I have enormous respect for the judiciary. I do not want Parliament or, less still, the Executive to replace judges in judgments on legal affairs. I should not like to see that happen, but it is inevitable. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and I attend, as recorders, sentencing seminars. Time after time, in the dozen or so cases in our exercises, we go through the sentencing process and hear the sentence imposed by the Crown court. We then hear what the Court of Appeal has done to the sentence that has been passed, and we are left feeling that something is wrong with the Court of Appeal and that it does not act in tune with the feelings of the overwhelming majority of people—to whom recorders are closer, and to whom magistrates are sometimes very much closer.

Ordinary judges need support. Those of us who sit as judges and agonise when we read social inquiry reports and hear powerful mitigation presented by counsel, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel—

Mr. Stephen


Sir Ivan Lawrence

I am sorry; my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen)—although Arundel is not too far away. It is very difficult to harden oneself and to say that the appropriate sentence is such and such and not the lighter sentence that has been urged upon us. Judges are human. They are subjected to such pressures and respond to them and try to resist the pressures of the people outside the court who have not heard the circumstances of the case.

The result is that we have been encouraging burglars, drug traffickers and even the most violent and serious offenders—rapists and others—by the inadequacy of the sentences that have been passed. With 60 per cent. of seven-time burglars in magistrates courts and 30 per cent. in Crown courts not even being given a prison sentence, something serious has gone wrong with the system. Not only does it not reflect the wishes of the people, it does not protect them, because there is no deterrence in a system in which offenders are not detected. If they are detected they are not convicted. Those who are not convicted are not sentenced and those who are sentenced do not receive an appropriate sentence.

That is why we cannot have second thoughts about the Bill and go back to arguing about what would have happened if only the Court of Appeal had issued guidelines many years ago. It did not and there is no going back. There is too much crime and we have to protect society by removing from circulation for longer those who persistently commit crime in a professional way. We must also lay down proper deterrents, so that criminals know that sentences will be substantial if they are caught and convicted. That will help to reduce crime and protect society. That is why we have the Bill. It is no use, in my respectful submission, going along with new clauses 3 and 4, or even new clause 5. I shall therefore certainly support the Government in opposing them.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield)

I shall speak briefly in support of new clause 3, referring to a constituency case that is relevant to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). As he said, the new clause would place a duty on the Court of Appeal to consider and review sentencing practice.

Having sat here for some time, I am conscious that I am in a small minority of non-lawyers tonight. I speak solely as a constituency Member of Parliament. I do not find the time to do my full-time job as a constituency Member of Parliament. I am full of admiration for my hon. Friends and others who are able to practise at the Bar here, there and everywhere. I accept that they bring relevant experience to this place, but it is beyond me how they find the time to do their job as Members of Parliament.

I am concerned that constituents frequently come to me believing that a court has not acted appropriately in a particular case. Some elements of the Bill have some merit in addressing that problem. There is also strong merit in the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn about regular reviews of sentencing practice.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) brought us down to earth with reference to a specific case. She rightly felt that the court had dealt with the circumstances inappropriately. I should like to refer to a constituency case that has caused me particular concern. It raises questions about how, over a number of years, the justice system has impacted on one individual, who eventually took the life of the daughter of one of my constituents.

8.15 pm

Last September, I was contacted by my constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Roy Wickenden from Middlestown in Wakefield, with regard to the tragic circumstances of the death of their 22-year-old daughter Julia in 1994. Julia was a fourth-year medical student in Liverpool who was killed while cycling in Wavertree, Liverpool. The court heard that she was, as the press report said, tossed through the air like a rag doll and never regained consciousness. A 22-year-old man from Wavertree was convicted of causing her death by dangerous driving. He was gaoled for seven years. The court heard that he had been found guilty of driving while disqualified on 13 occasions and had convictions for reckless and dangerous driving. He had also never passed a driving test.

In September last year, after the trial had been reported in the press, Mr. and Mrs. Wickenden received a letter from the son of a woman whom the same man had killed while driving a stolen car in November 1990. He had received a 12-month probation sentence for that offence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn referred to the relevant issue of past records. Through the efforts of Mr. Wickenden, I have found out that the court service has confirmed that, at the time of the sentence in respect of Julia Wickenden, the judge had no knowledge of the previous conviction. The Home Secretary, whom I am pleased to see here, may have been told about the case by his Minister of State, to whom Mr. Wickenden wrote last year with his concerns. Mr. Wickenden sent me a letter on 16 November last year, which said: I refer to the letter I received today from David Maclean MP written as a reply to my letter written to Michael Howard on 29 September. The points made in this letter fail to address the questions that were put in my letter to Michael Howard. He went on to say: I am appalled to find that someone can be banned from driving on 13 separate occasions (the ones he was caught on) then continue to do the same thing, that is, to drive without any form of licence (and obviously insurance) with no supervision or training. To also drive continuously in a careless and reckless manner over a period of six years. During this period of driving he caused the death of a lady for which a sentence of one years probation was given. It is because this person was not deterred from this persistent unlawful and anti social behaviour that he went on to exhibit exactly the same contempt for the laws of the country and take the life of our daughter. It could have been anyone's life … It is because I do not wish to see a repeat of this situation and others similar to it, that I am appealing for you to consider making changes now! If the legal system had possessed the powers and directions that I feel it needs, then my daughter would have stood a far better chance of becoming the doctor she had so wanted to be. That letter makes my point. The Home Secretary will understand—I appreciate that he has listened carefully—that the family does not believe that the Government have treated the case seriously in the responses given by the Minister of State, who is also here tonight.

I repeat the facts. A 22-year-old man had 13 separate convictions for driving while disqualified, together with convictions for reckless and dangerous driving, and had previously caused a death. Why was he at liberty to cause the death of Julia Wickenden? We need to act on such gross injustices. New clause 3 offers some hope. If the Home Secretary refutes that, I should be interested to hear what he can offer those parents on the circumstances that caused the death of their daughter.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

I intend to follow very closely the theme of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe).

For a number of years, I have had the honour of being a patron of the charity RoadPeace, which is active in giving support to families and victims of road tragedies. I am careful not to use the term "road accidents" because it implies that circumstances could not have been helped. Tragedies such as the one to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield referred would never have happened if the right legislative process had been in place.

One of my concerns, for which I do not blame the Government—I blame us all in this House and society as a whole—is that we view road traffic issues with an attitude of, "There but for the grace of God go I." The simple fact is that 3,000 people die needlessly in this country each year as a result of road tragedies—many of them in the circumstances described by my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield. If one of us walked down Oxford street carrying a loaded shotgun that accidentally discharged, we would be prosecuted not for illegally or improperly carrying a gun but rightly for a charge relating to the resulting death. Yet we accept as a society that we can kill while handling a tonne of steel and face a charge that seldom relates to the consequent death of an individual. Had the Government pursued the arguments set out in the Law Commission's report No. 237, the family of the constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield may have been given some hope.

There is no easy solution. Having read very carefully the Law Commission's arguments and those presented by the Government on proving intent, I recognise that we are not dealing with an area of the law that can be satisfactorily changed at the stroke of a pen; there is no quick fix to this very complicated issue. There is however a powerful argument that this place ought to give some leadership to ensure that, when cases as blatant as the one described by my hon. Friend come before the courts, something is done.

The principle of new clause 5 could provide the Attorney-General with some means of addressing the problem. I appreciate the difficulties facing him. To be totally fair to him—although the matter does not relate directly to the Bill—I should say that he courteously sent me a very gracious letter today apologising for a mistake in his Department. Although I appreciate that the Department is stretched, we cannot allow circumstances such as those we have just heard described to go unquestioned. We have a responsibility to people outside the House to get things right.

It has been said to me that, in the context of death on the road, we have to bear in mind that if unduly severe penalties are related to specific traffic infringements, one of the dangers is that the courts will not press those charges for fear that there might be acquittal." —[Official Report, 22 April 1996; Vol. 276, c. 8.] Does the Home Secretary agree with that line of thought?

Mr. Howard

indicated dissent

Mr. Miller

I am pleased to see the right hon. and learned Gentleman shaking his head in disagreement. That statement was made by the then Minister for Transport in London in response to my asking him whether he would join me in congratulating the Law Commission on its report. Although the then Minister acknowledged my interest in the matter, he went on to use the words that I have just quoted.

We need to take a lead. We cannot allow the confused and unsatisfactory system of charges and subsequent penalties associated with the 3,000 deaths to which I have referred to continue. Many victims' families have written to me as a result of my involvement with RoadPeace, setting out tragic concerns arising from matters that have occurred in coroners courts, magistrates courts and higher courts. The one theme that runs through all the letters is a general concern that the system does not seem to care because the deaths were a result of a road traffic "accident". Such incidents were not road traffic accidents; people were killed. We view death as a result of somebody accidentally discharging a shotgun differently. Why do we not take the same view when a death occurs on the road?

We have a general duty to look very carefully at the way in which lenient sentences are meted out and why there is a great tendency for the prosecution to press for a lesser charge due to the difficulties associated with proof of intent. There is a massive problem in the existing framework of law. I do not deny that we would have difficulties in trying to frame precise legislation around the Law Commission's report, but I think that we have a general duty to bring about such change.

I read at a service that was held by RoadPeace in November and met many families who are looking to the House to bring about the necessary changes so that they can at least feel that justice can be done.I appreciate entirely the efforts that have been undertaken by the Department of Transport to achieve the most important thing—a reduction in the number of deaths in the first place—but given that many of the deaths occur in circumstances such as those described by my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield, we must not allow them to go unquestioned and simply be written off as yet another road traffic "accident".

8.30 pm
Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan)

I intend to speak only briefly. First, I wish to commend the determination and perseverance of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) in his attempts to change the mind set of the Home Office and persuade it that it was appropriate to introduce a right of appeal against soft sentencing in certain specified circumstances. His success and the fact that the Government have legislated on that point have provided great reassurance to the public and improved the reputation of Parliament and of our judicial system. I hope that I will not embarrass my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham by mentioning the fact that the Boundary Commission has not smiled on him in his constituency. I hope that he will soon return to the House, because he has been an adornment to it.

New clause 5 is inappropriate and would impose an intolerable burden on the Attorney-General. I am not averse in principle to the extension of the right of appeal against soft sentences, but some other mechanism should be found. On new clauses 3 and 4, I fully endorse the remarks made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence). Even without any statutory duty, the Court of Appeal could have provided obiter dicta to help the lower courts in their task in the manner suggested by my hon. and learned Friend, but it did not do so. That is why Parliament is considering the Bill and that is why the Government thought it appropriate to introduce tough minimum sentences for persistent burglars, traffickers in hard drugs and violent offenders. If the Court of Appeal had addressed those problems, perhaps the legislation would not be necessary. It is patently obvious that it is necessary, but new clauses 3 and 4 are not necessary or appropriate.

Mr. Howard

We have had an interesting debate that has been marked by some moving contributions from the hon. Members for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller).I shall return to their points in a moment. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston may be counting his chickens prematurely.

The debate has been noticeable for the fact that it has evoked cross-party support from all quarters of the House, although not always explicitly expressed, for the proposition that prison works. I especially welcome the belated conversion of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) to that banner. He was robust in his acceptance of the relationship between the firmness with which the court at Hereford deals with offenders who appear before it and the excellent record on law and order in the city of Hereford. I was, however, alarmed by the emphasis that he placed on the seriousness with which the offence of sheep stealing had to be dealt with in Montgomeryshire. I hope that he was not making any distinction between sheep stealing in Montgomeryshire and sheep stealing on Romney marsh. Had he made any such distinction, he would give great offence to many of my esteemed constituents.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Of course not.

Mr. Howard

I am glad that he does not pursue any such distinction.

I agree with hon. Members on both sides of the House that lenient and inconsistent sentencing can undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system. It is important—I have devoted much of my time at the Home Office to the issue—to achieve a situation in which criminals receive the punishments that are appropriate for their crimes and that, as far as possible, achieve consistency. That is exactly what the Bill is about.

We believe that the public need greater protection from certain carefully targeted categories of serious, dangerous and persistent offenders and that is why we proposed the introduction of mandatory sentences. The Labour party has refused to support mandatory sentences. We have been told this evening that we shall learn the Labour party's final position on minimum mandatory sentences in due course. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said that he does not know what will happen, but the Government have made their proposals clear for long enough and it would be nice to know what his position is on those proposals. However, we know that the hon. Gentleman has many audiences to please and is engaging in the Labour party's usual tactic of pretending to those various and inconsistent audiences that he will give them what they want.

Outside the categories set out in the Bill of serious violent and sexual crimes, house burglary and dealing in hard drugs, judges will continue to be free to exercise their discretion, but it is right that in exercising that discretion they should be guided by the higher courts. The lower courts already obtain assistance. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that the lower courts are, to some extent, assisted in sentencing by guidance given by the Court of Appeal through its judgments on the appropriate penalty range for particular offences. Indeed, that practice has been developed in recent years to a greater extent than previously. Court of Appeal guidelines have been particularly useful in ensuring that the courts take a more consistent view of certain offences and reflect levels of public concern in their sentencing practice.

I do not disagree with the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) and my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) that the Court of Appeal may not have gone far enough, but it is right to give it credit for the extent to which it has given guidance. I shall give a couple of examples. The 1986 guideline judgment in the case of Billam suggested starting points for sentences for rape and that case has had the effect of increasing significantly sentence lengths for rape. The case of Aramah, the judgment on which showed the appropriate penalties for offences involving the importation, supply and possession of class B drugs according to the scale of distribution and quantity of drugs involved, has also had an effect.

Currently, any Court of Appeal judgment in an appeal against sentence, whether it allows or dismisses the appeal, gives a clear sign of the opinion of the court on the sentence passed in the lower court and explains the reasoning behind the decision. In that sense and to a significant extent, the judgments of the Court of Appeal are regarded as precedents for cases in which the circumstances are similar and the court can and does give opinions on appropriate sentence lengths for different categories of offence. There is also the Judicial Studies Board, and we should not overlook its role in disseminating Court of Appeal guidance to the courts and in training the judiciary.

I conclude that new clauses 3 and 4 are unnecessary. The Court of Appeal has the power to issue guidance and frequently does so. There may be scope for increasing the guidance that it issues, but it is not necessary to introduce the statutory duties contained in new clauses 3 and 4. They are cosmetic and would add little, if anything, to the existing powers of the court.

Mr. Straw

I shall deal with the Home Secretary's charge that the new clauses are cosmetic when I wind up in a moment, but I wish to ask him why, if the new clauses are unnecessary in England, the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken a wholly different view on both the issues raised by our debate.

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are significant differences between the legal systems in Scotland and in England and Wales. One of the most significant differences, which is relevant to this discussion of the issues, is the fact that the Scottish system is much smaller and fewer cases come to the court of appeal in Scotland. That fact has a considerable bearing on the different approach to the question there. Where there have been grounds for concern in particular areas, we have not hesitated to act; for example, through the power to appeal against unduly lenient sentences vested in my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and the proposals for automatic life and mandatory minimum sentences in the Bill.

I shall deal with the points made by the hon. Members for Newcastle-under-Lyme, for Wakefield and for Ellesmere Port and Neston. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme told us in moving terms about a particular case in her constituency. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has acknowledged that, on the face of it, the sentence passed in that case appeared to be unduly lenient and he has accordingly referred the matter to the Court of Appeal. She said that she should not have needed to draw the case to his attention. In fact, I understand that the case was drawn to his attention by the Crown Prosecution Service as well as by the hon. Lady. I hope that it will provide her with some comfort to hear that even if the case had not come to her attention as the constituency Member of Parliament, it would have been drawn to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend, who would have pursued it in the appropriate way.

There will be many cases that will cause anxiety and distress of the kind to which the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme referred. That is why it is so important that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General continues to have his power in that matter, and he has said that he intends to use the power in the case to which the hon. Lady referred.

The offence of causing death by dangerous driving can also be dealt with by my right hon. and learned Friend, who has the power to refer to the Court of Appeal instances of unduly lenient sentences for death by dangerous driving, as well as for the new offence that we created of causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston said that the House should give a lead to show the seriousness with which it takes those offences. I entirely agree with him about the seriousness of those offences, which give rise to a number of casualties on our roads. It is no comfort to those whose loved ones are the victims of events of that kind—I share his distaste at the use of the word "accident" in that context—that the numbers of deaths have been reducing over the years. They feel anguish at the fact that they have lost a loved one, and regrettably that anguish is sometimes compounded by an unduly lenient sentence.

The House recently created the entirely new offence of causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink, and it has doubled the sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from five to 10 years. The House has provided my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General with the power to appeal against lenient sentences passed for both those offences. It cannot be said that the House or the Government have failed to respond to those legitimate and understandable concerns. We have taken them seriously and we have responded in a practical way.

In a sense, the concerns illustrate the importance of the power that was given to my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General by the 1988 Act—against, as has been acknowledged by hon. Members of all parties, the opposition of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Following the introduction of the provision, we have taken steady and measured steps to extend it by order as permitted by the legislation. In 1994, it was extended to cover offences of indecent assault, threats to kill and cruelty to a child, together with attempts to commit or incite the commission of those offences. In 1995, it was extended to refer sentences passed in fraud cases. The effect of paragraph 13 in schedule 4 will extend the power to include automatic life sentences and minimum sentences.

It is no use ignoring the present position, which is that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General personally consider every case. The amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Blackburn and the speech that he made have shown not the slightest consideration of the practical implications of the changes that he proposes. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham for his persistence in securing the provision of the power in the first place in 1988.

8.45 pm

If the hon. Member for Blackburn is proposing a new clause in those terms, we need to know his position on this matter. Does he intend that the personal involvement of the Law Officers should continue? If so, the effect of the increased work load would mean that both the Law Officers would spend one third to one half of their entire working time simply considering such cases. Does he intend that some new arrangements should be put in place to take away the personal role of my right hon. and learned Friend and my hon. and learned Friend in the matter? Perhaps there is a case for that, but if so we should be told what that case is and how the hon. Gentleman sees the new arrangements working. We also need to know how they would be paid for.

I am bound to say that the utter failure of the hon. Member for Blackburn even to address those fundamental questions in his speech is the most eloquent evidence we could have that the new clause—in common with his other new clauses—is a pure piece of cosmetics. We know where the hearts of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues lie in these matters. They acted on their instincts when they all trooped into the Lobby to oppose the introduction of the power. Their opposition was expressed in a fundamental way by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), who said that he regarded the proposal as "wrong in principle".

We do not have to go back as far as 1988. Five years later, I announced that we intended to extend the right of appeal to all serious violent and sexual crimes, including child cruelty and indecent assault. The right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), no less, dismissed my proposal as a gimmick. That is the reality behind the position of the Labour party on those matters. Labour's attempts this evening to disguise that baggage are wholly unconvincing, and I invite the House to reject the new clause.

Mr. Straw

We can always rely on the Secretary of State to lower the tone of good debates. Since he referred to the approach of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), I must point out that he should have taken the trouble to read a couple of columns further on in the speech made by my right hon. Friend in January 1988. Along with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) and, I believe, almost all my hon. Friends, I am prepared to say that our anxieties about the effect of giving the Attorney-General the power to appeal in certain offences were misplaced, as it turned out. Those anxieties were widely expressed in the House—including by, for example, the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence).

Happily, our concerns were misplaced and, in retrospect, we should have supported the measure back in 1988—just as the Secretary of State should have supported our proposals at that time to ban the sale of knives to children aged 16 and under and to ban the advertising of combat knives. He voted against those proposals. At that time, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook said: If we wish to change the system so that prosecution counsel become involved in suggestions about the length of sentence, we must go all the way and do what happens in other countries, where prosecution counsel have been known to suggest, after considering the reports to which my hon. Friend refers, that a long sentence would be inappropriate and a short sentence would be more correct." —[Official Report, 18 January 1988; Vol. 125, c. 694.] That shows that my right hon. Friend did not dismiss the idea of involvement by the prosecution but objected to the particular system that had been proposed.

Mr. Howard

Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten that he felt so passionately in 1988 about the need to ban the sale of knives to under-16-year-olds that he was not even present to vote for his party's amendment?

Mr. Straw

The Home Secretary has made that rather silly point before. Pairing was in operation at the time, although it is not tonight. The more important point is that he and many of his right hon. and hon. Friends voted against the ban; had they voted in favour, there would have been a ban on the sale of knives to children under 16 not this year but nine years ago.

I listened with great care to the serious part—short though it was—of the Home Secretary's speech. I do not understand why he opposes our proposals in new clause 3, under which the Court of Appeal would be given a duty to issue guidance in respect of all the main categories of offence. He said that the court currently did that in respect of some offences, but I spelt out in my opening speech the serious criticism made by highly regarded academic observers of the court's practice, regarding the fact that, although there are guidelines in respect of certain offences, the court has not worked through the range of major offences and issued guidelines to cover them all. That was the Government's expectation in 1990 when they published the White Paper on the criminal justice system, but it has not happened.

It is therefore inappropriate for the Home Secretary complacently—unusually for him—to seek to excuse the Court of Appeal's practice on the ground that it has worked out all right, because all the evidence adduced both by him and by us is that the court has not been playing the role that the Government set out for it and that, as I understand from my reading of a great deal of research work, was accepted implicitly by senior members of the judiciary at the time.

The problem of the lack of guidance covering the range of offences has been well illustrated by many of the speeches that we have heard this evening. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) made an eloquent and moving speech about a constituent whose daughter had been killed in Liverpool as a result of appallingly reckless driving by an individual who had the most dreadful criminal record.

The Home Secretary was right to say that the offence for which the defendant in question was ultimately convicted is one on which the Attorney-General can exercise a right of appeal, but my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield also drew attention to the fact that the defendant had not only committed that dreadful offence but had been disqualified on 13 separate occasions as a result of serious driving offences and had previously been convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, a conviction for which he received the risible sentence of 12 months' probation.

I do not believe that any sentencer considering the matter in the abstract would have said that it was appropriate to continue issuing disqualifications against that individual on the 10th, 11th and 12th convictions. It is my belief that anyone approaching the matter rationally would say that to continue disqualifying an individual who had already been disqualified two, three or four times for such an offence raised the most serious questions about enforcement and about whether there was any progression written into the sentencing system.

If the Home Secretary stood back for a moment, he might say that such a record was not only appalling for the individual defendant but raised serious questions about the practice of the courts. Many of the decisions would have been made by magistrates courts. For reasons to which the Home Secretary referred—we are concerned about the Attorney-General's work load—we did not suggest in the new clauses that all offences should be the subject of potential appeal by the Attorney-General. That said, there is an even greater necessity for much clearer guidance from the Court of Appeal about the circumstances in which magistrates courts and Crown courts should stop issuing ridiculous and useless sentences of disqualification that, as anyone examining the record would know, were unlikely to be enforced.

I believe that the public understand the need not only for progression and consistency in sentencing but for machinery to ensure that such progression and consistency are far better enforced than at present. I do not know why we are arguing about that; it can stand entirely separately from the rest of the Bill's provisions.

The Magistrates Association has issued some guidance and I understand that the Lord Chief Justice attaches his name to it but, however worthy the association is, its guidance cannot carry the weight of guidance promulgated by the Court of Appeal. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield pointed out a major defect in the current arrangements and the Home Secretary has not given a proper answer.

There is another defect in that, at the moment, even if the Court of Appeal were more willing to issue guidance judgments, such issuing depends on the happenstance of there being a suitable appeal. Our proposals would not require that happenstance but would place an additional statutory duty on the Court of Appeal to act proactively and issue guidance to cover the major crimes that are dealt with not only in the Crown court but in magistrates courts.

It is worth remembering that, of the convicted individuals who go to prison, 55 per cent. have been sentenced by the magistrates courts. Those courts do not deal only with trivial matters; they deal with important issues, especially in relation to either-way offences.

On the parallel with Scotland, I accept, as does everyone else, that the Scottish legal system is different from that in England and Wales. It is entirely right that the Scottish legal system should be determined by what is right for Scotland. The Scottish system palpably operates more efficiently than that in England and Wales. Cases get to court much more quickly and they are disposed of more rapidly.

We also know that the Secretary of State for Scotland proposed for Scotland a year and a half ago—it has now passed into law—exactly the same power that we propose for England. When I put to the Home Secretary the fact that the Scottish appeal court has a power—which is almost the same thing as a duty—to issue sentencing guidance, all he could say was that the two systems were different. It is clear from the 'White Paper that that power will be used. The Secretary of State cannot explain why that system is appropriate for Scotland but not for England.

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman has just acknowledged that the court of appeal in Scotland has a power. The whole thrust of my argument was that the Court of Appeal in England already has the power to issue guidance; it does not need a specific statutory power to issue it. The argument is about whether it should be under a duty to do so and, for the reasons that I gave, I do not believe that it is necessary.

Mr. Straw

The Secretary of State is wrong. If he looks at the power given to the appeal court in Scotland under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1995, to which the Secretary of State for Scotland refers in paragraph 8.19 of his White Paper, he will see that the power given to the court of appeal in Scotland is different from and, I understand, significantly wider than, the power that the Court of Appeal in England has taken unto itself. He cannot get away from the fact that the Court of Appeal in England, unlike the Scottish appeal court, has not exercised its powers as it should have.

The Secretary of State said that the Bill was about consistency and that it targeted specific offences. Apart from those affected by clause 1, which is about indeterminate life sentences, the Bill targets two offences from the whole criminal calendar: domestic burglary and trafficking in class A drugs. It targets those offences only where there has been a third or subsequent conviction. That is a tiny proportion of the totality of offences that come before magistrates courts or Crown courts for sentencing. Even if the Bill goes through unamended—which, as the Government keep amending it, remains a large question—it will scarcely touch the inconsistency and lack of progression of which the Secretary of State has made so much in the months since he published his crime White Paper. It will leave largely untouched the inconsistency and lack of progression to which I referred in the paper that I published in March and again this evening.

New clause 3 would put a duty on the Court of Appeal to issue sentencing guidance. It appears from the debate that that proposal has wide support in the House. I am sorry that the Government, for the most spurious and artificial reasons, have chosen to oppose it. They will rue the day, because they will be responsible for the lack of progression and consistency in sentencing and for the sort of appalling situation that my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield mentioned. We wish to press new clause 3 to a vote.

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

The House divided: Ayes 240, Noes 283.

Division No. 36] [9.1 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Benton, Joe
Adams, Mrs Irene Bermingham, Gerald
Ainger, Nick Berry, Roger
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Boateng, Paul
Allen, Graham Bradley, Keith
Alton, David Bray, Dr Jeremy
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Ashdown, Paddy Burden, Richard
Ashton, Joseph Byers, Stephen
Austin-Walker, John Cabom, Richard
Barnes, Harry Callaghan, Jim
Barron, Kevin Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Battle, John Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Bayley, Hugh Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Beith, A J Campbell-Savours, D N
Bell, Stuart Canavan, Dennis
Benn, Tony Cann, Jamie
Bennett, Andrew F Carlile, Alex (Montgomery)
Chidgey, David Hughes, Robert (Ab'd'n N)
Chisholm, Malcolm Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Clapham, Michael Hutton, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Illsley, Eric
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Ingram, Adam
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampst'd)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)
Coffey, Ms Ann Jamieson, David
Cohen, Harry Janner, Greville
Connarty, Michael Jenkins, Brian D (SE Staffs)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Jones, Barry (Alyn & D'side)
Corston, Ms Jean Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Dr L (B'ham Selly Oak)
Cox, Tom Jones, Martyn (Clwyd SW)
Cummings, John Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jowell, Ms Tessa
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try SE) Kaufman, Gerald
Dalyell, Tam Keen, Alan
Darling, Alistair Kennedy, Mrs Jane (Broadgreen)
Davidson, Ian Khabra, Piara S
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C) Kilfoyle, Peter
Davies, Chris (Littleborough) Kirkwood, Archy
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)
Denham, John Lewis, Terry
Dewar, Donald Liddell, Mrs Helen
Dixon, Don Litheriand, Robert
Dobson, Frank Livingstone, Ken
Donohoe, Brian H Lloyd, Sir Peter (Fareham)
Dowd, Jim Lloyd, Tony (Stretf'd)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Llwyd, Elfyn
Eagle, Ms Angela Loyden, Eddie
Eastham, Ken Lynne, Ms Liz
Ennis, Jeff McAvoy, Thomas
Etherington, Bill McCartney, Ian (Makerf'ld)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Macdonald, Calum
Fatchett, Derek McFall, John
Faulds, Andrew McKelvey, William
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) McLeish, Henry
Fisher, Mark McNamara, Kevin
Flynn, Paul MacShane, Denis
Foster, Derek McWilliam, John
Foster, Don (Bath) Madden, Max
Foulkes, George Maddock, Mrs Diana
Fraser, John Mahon, Mrs Alice
Fyfe, Mrs Maria Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Galbraith, Sam Martlew, Eric
Gapes, Mike Meacher, Michael
Garrett, John Meale, Alan
George, Bruce Michael, Alun
Gerrard, Neil Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Gilbert, Dr John Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Golding, Mrs Llin Milburn, Alan
Gordon, Ms Mildred Miller, Andrew
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Morgan, Rhodri
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Morley, Elliot
Grocott, Bruce Morris, John (Aberavon)
Gunnell, John Mudie, George
Hall, Mike Mullin, Chris
Hanson, David Murphy, Paul
Hardy, Peter Nicholson, Miss Emma (W Devon)
Harman, Ms Harriet O'Brien, Mike (N Walks)
Harvey, Nick O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Henderson, Doug Olner, Bill
Heppell, John O'Neill, Martin
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Orme, Stanley
Hinchliffe, David Pearson, Ian
Hodge, Ms Margaret Pendry, Tom
Hoey, Kate Pickthall, Colin
Hood, Jimmy Pike, Peter L
Hoon, Geoffrey Pope, Greg
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Powell, Sir Raymond (Ogmore)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Prentice, Mrs B (Lewisham E)
Howells, Dr Kim Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hoyle, Doug Prescott, John
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Purchase, Ken Sutcliffe, Gerry
Randall, Stuart Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Raynsford, Nick Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Reid, Dr John Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Rendel, David Thumham, Peter
Roche, Mrs Barbara Timms, Stephen
Rogers, Allan Tipping, Paddy
Rooker, Jeff Trickett, Jon
Rooney, Terry Tyler, Paul
Ross, Emie (Dundee W) Vaz, Keith
Rowlands, Ted Walker, Sir Harold
Ruddock, Ms Joan Walley, Ms Joan
Sedgemore, Brian Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Sheldon, Robert Wareing, Robert N
Skinner, Dennis Watson, Mike
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, Chris (Islington S) Wigley, Dafydd
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Snape, Peter Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Soley, Clive Winnick, David
Spellar, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Squire, Ms R (Dunfermline W) Worthington, Tony
Steel, Sir David Wright, Dr Tony
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George Tellers for the Ayes:
Stott, Roger Mr. Dennis Turner and
Straw, Jack Mr. David Clelland.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Chapman, Sir Sydney
Aitken, Jonathan Churchill, Mr
Alexander, Richard Clappison, James
Alison, Michael (Selby) Clark, Dr Michael (Rochf'd)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Amess, David Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Arbuthnot, James Coe, Sebastian
Ashby, David Colvin, Michael
Atkins, Robert Congdon, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Conway, Derek
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F)
Baker, Kenneth (Mole V) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Baker, Sir Nicholas (N Dorset) Cope, Sir John
Baldry, Tony Cormack, Sir Patrick
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Couchman, James
Bates, Michael Currie, Mrs Edwina
Batiste, Spencer Curry, David
Bellingham, Henry Davies, Quentin (Stamf'd)
Bendall, Vivian Davis, David (Boothferry)
Beresford, Sir Paul Day, Stephen
Biffen, John Deva, Nirj Joseph
Body, Sir Richard Devlin, Tim
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dorrell, Stephen
Booth, Hartley Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Boswell, Tim Dover, Den
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Duncan Smith, lain
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dunn, Bob
Bowden, Sir Andrew Dykes, Hugh
Bowis, John Elletson, Harold
Boyson, Sir Rhodes Emery, Sir Peter
Brandreth, Gyles Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'ld)
Brazier, Julian Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bright, Sir Graham Evans, Nigel (Ribble V)
Brown, Michael (Brigg Cl'thorpes) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Browning, Mrs Angela Evennett, David
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Faber, David
Budgen, Nicholas Fabricant, Michael
Burns, Simon Fenner, Dame Peggy
Burt, Alistair Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Butcher, John Fishburn, Dudley
Butler, Peter Forman, Nigel
Butterfill, John Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Forth, Eric
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Linc'n) Fowler, Sir Norman
Carrington, Matthew Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Carttiss, Michael Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Cash, William Freeman, Roger
French, Douglas McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fry, Sir Peter Maginnis, Ken
Gale, Roger Maitland, Lady Olga
Gallie, Phil Malone, Gerald
Garnier, Edward Mans, Keith
Gill, Christopher Marland, Paul
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Marlow, Tony
Goodlad, Alastair Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Grant, Sir Anthony (SW Cambs) Merchant, Piers
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mills, Iain
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Gummer, John Moate, Sir Roger
Hague, William Monro, Sir Hector
Hamilton, Sir Archibald Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Moss, Malcolm
Hampson, Dr Keith Nelson, Anthony
Hannam, Sir John Neubert, Sir Michael
Hargreaves, Andrew Newton, Tony
Harris, David Nicholls, Patrick
Haselhurst, Sir Alan Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hawkins, Nick Norris, Steve
Hawksley, Warren Onslow, Sir Cranley
Hayes, Jerry Oppenheim, Phillip
Heald, Oliver Page, Richard
Heathcoat-Amory, David Paice, James
Hendry, Charles Patnick, Sir Irvine
Heseltine, Michael Patten, John
Hicks, Sir Robert Pattie, Sir Geoffrey
Higgins, Sir Terence Pawsey, James
Hill, Sir James (Southampton Test) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hogg, Douglas (Grantham) Pickles, Eric
Horam, John Porter, David
Hordern, Sir Peter Portillo, Michael
Howard, Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Howell, David (Guildf'd) Rathbone, Tim
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Redwood, John
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Renton, Tim
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Richards, Rod
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensb'ne) Robathan, Andrew
Hunter, Andrew Roberts, Sir Wyn
Hurd, Douglas Robertson, Raymond S (Ab'd'n S)
Jack, Michael Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Jenkin, Bemard (Colchester N) Roe, Mrs Marion
Jessel, Toby Rowe, Andrew
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rumbold, Dame Angela
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Sackville, Tom
Jones, Robert B (W Herts) Sainsbury, Sir Timothy
Jopling, Michael Scott, Sir Nicholas
Key, Robert Shaw, David (Dover)
King, Tom Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Kirkhope, Timothy Shephard, Mrs Gillian
Knapman, Roger Shepherd, Sir Colin (Heref'd)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Shersby, Sir Michael
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sims, Sir Roger
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knox, Sir David Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Kynoch, George Smith, Tim (Beaconsf'ld)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Speed, Sir Keith
Lamont, Norman Spencer, Sir Derek
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Spicer, Sir Jim (W Dorset)
Legg, Barry Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)
Leigh, Edward Spink, Dr Robert
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Spring, Richard
Lester, Sir Jim (Broxtowe) Sproat, Iain
Lidington, David Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Lilley, Peter Stanley, Sir John
Lord, Michael Stephen, Michael
Luff, Peter Stern, Michael
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Stewart, Allan
MacGregor, John Streeter, Gary
MacKay, Andrew Sumberg, David
Maclean, David Sweeney, Walter
McLoughlin, Patrick Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Waller, Gary
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Ward, John
Taylor, Sir Teddy Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Temple-Morris, Peter Waterson, Nigel
Thomason, Roy Watts, John
Thompson, Sir Donald (Calder V) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wilkinson, John
Townsend, Sir Cyril (Bexl'yh'th) Willetts, David
Tracey, Richard Wilshire, David
Tredinnick, David Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Trend, Michael Wolfson, Mark
Trotter, Neville Wood, Timothy
Twinn, Dr Ian Yeo, Tim
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Young, Sir George
Viggers, Peter
Waldegrave, William Tellers for the Noes:
Walden, George Mr. Bowen Wells and
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Mr. Richard Ottaway.

Question accordingly negatived.

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