HC Deb 15 January 1997 vol 288 cc371-401
Mr. Llwyd

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 17, leave out from 'that' to end of line 18 and insert 'it would be in the interests of justice to impose another sentence'.

Madam Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also the following amendments: No. 1, in page 1, line 18, at end insert 'or, where the offence is an offence under section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the court is of the opinion that it would be in the interests of justice to impose another sentence'. No. 32, in page 1, line 23, at end insert— '(4A) Where a person is convicted of an offence the sentence for which would otherwise fall to be imposed under section 1(2) above and the conditions mentioned in section 37(2) of the Mental Health Act 1983 are satisfied, the court may if it sees fit conclude that the satisfaction of those conditions constitutes exceptional circumstances which justify its not imposing a life sentence.'. No. 7, in clause 2, page 2, line 42, leave out from 'that' to end of line 43 and insert 'it would be in the interests of justice to impose another sentence'. No. 33, in page 3, line 6, at end insert— '(4A) Where a person is convicted of an offence the sentence for which would otherwise fall to be imposed under section 2(2) above and the conditions mentioned in section 37(2) of the Mental Health Act 1983 are satisfied, the court may if it sees fit conclude that the satisfaction of those conditions constitutes exceptional circumstances which justify its not imposing a custodial sentence for a term of at least seven years.'. No. 8, in clause 3, page 3, line 31, leave out from 'that' to end of line 32 and insert 'it would be in the interests of justice to impose another sentence'. No. 34, in page 3, line 40, at end insert— '(4A) Where a person is convicted of an offence the sentence for which would otherwise fall to be imposed under section 3(2) above and the conditions mentioned in section 37(2) of the Mental Health Act 1983 are satisfied, the court may if it sees fit conclude that the satisfaction of those conditions constitutes exceptional circumstances which justify its not imposing a custodial sentence for a term of at least three years.'. No. 35, in schedule 4, page 60, leave out lines 2 to 10.

6.45 pm
Mr. Llwyd

I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 7 and 8 and the lead amendment, amendment No. 6, which are principally the same. I am privileged to have had the support of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), who is an experienced criminal Queen's Counsel, and the support of the right hon. Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd), who has been a Home Office Minister with direct responsibility for prisons. That is an example of cross-party co-operation on one of the most important sections of the Bill.

The amendments widen the circumstances in which the courts may pass sentences—other than automatic life sentences under clause 1 and the minimum sentences of seven and three years under clauses 2 and 3 respectively. Courts would not have to find "exceptional circumstances" in order to depart from the mandatory or minimum sentence, but would be able to pass another sentence if it would be in the interests of justice to do so. The effect would be to provide for presumptive sentences rather than automatic or mandatory sentences in the circumstances covered by the clauses. The amendments propose a formulation similar to that proposed by Lord Bingham, the Lord Chief Justice, in a recent interview on the Frost programme in November 1996.

Clause 1 requires courts to impose automatic life sentences on those who are twice convicted of certain serious violent or sexual offences. Of course, I have no truck with those criminals, but requiring courts to pass automatic life sentences on all serious repeat offenders in all but exceptional circumstances would be unjust. Judges already have the discretionary power to pass life sentences for serious violent and sexual offences when the gravity of the crime or the dangerousness of the offender justifies it.

To require courts to pass life sentences in cases which they consider deserve fixed sentences seems to contravene the fundamental principles of justice. Unlike a mandatory life sentence, fixed sentences reflect an individual assessment of the case and of the offender's just deserts. The provision to allow departures from the mandatory sentence only in exceptional circumstances will do little to mitigate that injustice. In Committee, the Minister was unable to refer to any example of an exceptional circumstance, save that of assisting the police, to which the Home Secretary referred in the Second Reading debate. That is not good enough.

The circumstances of offences within the categories vary greatly. The White Paper, "Protecting the Public," published in 1996, observed that of the 3,121 people convicted of such offences in 1994, 65 per cent. received custodial sentences. That means that 35 per cent. of the cases were regarded by the courts as not meriting custody when the full circumstances of the offence and the offender were taken into account. Yet the Bill proposes that such offences would trigger an automatic life sentence.

The White Paper further, and rightly, acknowledged that long sentences are frequently imposed on offenders convicted of violent and sex offences". However, it argued that the proposal would increase public safety for two reasons. First, it stated that determinate sentences mean that the offender must be released once that sentence has been served, even if there is every reason to believe that he or she will commit further serious offences". When life sentences are passed, however, before potentially dangerous offenders are released an assessment must be made to see whether they still pose a risk". Secondly, it stated that an offender released from a life sentence will remain on licence and subject to recall for the rest of his or her life". However, the courts can already pass life sentences on such offenders if they consider that the seriousness of the offence or the dangerousness of the offender justifies it.

The White Paper referred critically to the fact that 10 of the 217 offenders convicted of a second serious violent or sexual offence in 1994 received discretionary life sentences. That point was reiterated by the Home Secretary in his statement on the White Paper in the House on 3 April 1996. Yet it is the Attorney-General who has the power to refer cases to the Court of Appeal where it is considered that the sentence was unduly lenient. He referred only six of the 207 cases in which determinate sentences were passed. It therefore seems surprising that the Home Secretary should argue that the courts' sentencing in such cases is inadequate when his fellow Minister, the Attorney-General, evidently considers that that is so in only a small fraction of cases.

Mr. Maclean

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Attorney-General can refer a case as being lenient only if it stands out from the generality of similar cases in the leniency of the sentence given? There are hundreds of cases on which the Court of Appeal has determined—and which are within the sentencing framework—where it is not possible for the Attorney-General to refer them, and only the House can decide whether the generality of cases is too serious or too lenient.

Mr. Llwyd

The Minister raises a serious point and I agree with him to a certain extent; the mechanism by which the case initially comes to the Attorney-General's attention is questionable. Surely, what the Minister and I have said constitute reasonable arguments for increasing the number of Attorney-General's staff and for having a better and statutory form of supervision and research into the various sentences being handed down. Perhaps the system needs changing—I know not. At present, it is not adequate and does not seem to work.

The matter was referred to in a lengthy article in The Times of 26 November 1996, which stated that in regard to the annual total of references by the Attorney-General there were 26 in 1990 and 81 in 1995. Most of those references were for grievous bodily harm and robbery—22 and 26 per cent. respectively. Curiously, and interestingly, rape came in a poor fourth or fifth—at 11 per cent. It is important to consider that subject. I agree with the Minister to a certain extent that perhaps it would be reasonable for the set-up for initially referring matters to the Attorney-General to be changed; he cannot be expected to do everything with the staff available to him.

In serious cases which do not attract a life sentence, offenders normally receive long fixed sentences. Those are followed by lengthy periods of supervision on licence from which the offender can be recalled at any time if his behaviour causes concern. Those arrangements provide substantial public protection. If a serious repeat offence occurs we should ask why, if re-offending was genuinely predictable, the power of recall to prison was not used. If it was not predictable, even with an automatic life sentence the Parole Board might well have decided in favour of release with no consideration given to recalling the offender.

Automatic life sentences could actually weaken public protection by increasing the risk of wrongful acquittals. In an interesting speech at King's college, London on 6 March last year, the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor of Gosforth, commented: Minimum sentences are incompatible with an existing and important strand in our criminal law. The courts have long followed a policy of discounting sentences for timely pleas of guilty … Defendants who know they will receive a mandatory sentence of lengthy imprisonment, and even more so, a mandatory life sentence, are not likely to plead guilty. Similar comments made in The Times of 12 March 1996 by Helena Kennedy QC have already been referred to, so I shall not quote them again.

In addition to an increase in not guilty pleas, with attendant delays in the courts and probable increased distress to victims who have to give evidence, the prospect of an automatic life sentence will undoubtedly deter some victims and witnesses from giving evidence against the offender. That is an important point and one that was raised on Second Reading by a senior Member of Parliament on the Government Benches, who knew what he was talking about.

Similar considerations apply in cases of domestic violence. On Second Reading, the right hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) said: grievous bodily harm with intent is not uncommon in a domestic context … Would the family be prepared to give evidence if life imprisonment were the consequence?"—[Official Report, 4 November 1996; Vol. 285, c. 952.] That is an important point, which we should all ponder carefully.

The mandatory life sentence will provide an incentive for a greater use of plea bargaining so as to avoid such problems—for example, agreements to accept a plea of guilty to indecent assault in a rape case, or to accept a guilty plea to a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in a case of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Such downgrading of offences can cause great distress to victims, who cannot accept or, indeed, understand the justice of, for example, accepting a plea of guilty to indecent assault when a rape has taken place.

The Bill provides that the court would have discretion not to pass the automatic life sentence in the exceptional circumstances to which I have referred and which we were unable to obtain from the Government during the whole of the Committee stage, with the exception of a single example, to which I have also referred. However, the White Paper emphasised that that provision would apply only to "occasional quite unforeseeable circumstances".

The Government reached the correct conclusion on the issue of mandatory sentencing in their earlier White Paper, "Crime, Justice and Protecting the Public", which was published in 1990. It stated: The Government rejects a rigid statutory framework, on the lines of those introduced in the United States, or a system of minimum or mandatory sentences for certain offences. This would make it more difficult to sentence justly in exceptional cases. With regard to minimum sentences, clause 2 requires courts to impose mandatory minimum sentences of seven years on offenders convicted of trafficking in class A drugs. I have not a shred of sympathy for people who peddle drugs—they deserve everything they get. Clause 3 provides a minimum sentence of three years for offenders convicted of domestic burglary if they have had two or more previous convictions for similar offences. Here, again, the court would have discretion not to pass the mandatory minimum sentence if there were "exceptional circumstances". However, the White Paper emphasised that: it will certainly not be open to the courts to set aside the mandatory sentence merely because it is higher than the sentence they would otherwise have been minded to impose. In other words, the court could not pass a lesser sentence simply because it considered that to impose the minimum length of sentence would be unjust.

I believe that that is a highly objectionable proposal. At present, the main statutory principle governing sentencing is that sentences should be proportionate to the seriousness of the particular offence. To require the imposition of minimum sentences, whatever the circumstances, will prevent courts from achieving proportionality and justice in sentencing. As Lord Taylor commented on 12 October 1995 in a statement on the Home Secretary's speech at the 1995 Conservative party conference: Judges … must be free to fit the particular punishment to the particular crime if justice is to be done. Minimum sentences are inconsistent with doing justice according to the circumstances of each case. The seven-year minimum sentence will apply not only to the repeat offender who directs large-scale trafficking, but to the small-time addict sharing drugs with those in a similarly dire position. As Lord Taylor said in another place, the proposal will simply fill our prisons with addicts who sell small quantities to support their own addiction."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 23 May 1996; Vol. 572, c. 1026.] The three-year minimum sentence for repeat burglars will apply not only to the professional burglar against whom, I am sure, the measure is aimed, but to the drunken opportunist offender and the inadequate youngster, whose amateurish attempts at burglary are bound up with a range of problems that could best be tackled by an intensive probation programme.

As the right hon. Member for Fareham—from whom, no doubt, we shall hear later and I look forward to hearing his contribution—said last year: there will be quite a few cases where such sentences will be visibly unjust and counter-productive. For example, young drug addicts who sell small quantities of drugs to other addicts will get the same sentence as professional drug pushers … The same applies to opportunistic inadequates stealing from the homes of other people getting similar sentences as career housebreakers".—[Official Report, 19 June 1996; Vol. 279, c. 908.] I know that other hon. Members on both sides of the House share my concerns about this aspect of the Bill.

The proposals will not only cause injustice, but will have a range of practical ill-effects. For example, they will damage intelligence gathering about drug trafficking operations because small-scale user-dealers will have little incentive to co-operate with the police in helping to build a case against major traffickers if the seven-year minimum sentence prevents courts from reflecting that co-operation in a reduced sentence.

On Second Reading, the Home Secretary argued that that sort of assistance would fall within the definition of "exceptional circumstances". However, co-operation with the police does not amount to what the White Paper called "quite unforeseeable circumstances" because it is neither unusual nor unforeseeable. Even if the court were to regard it as an exceptional circumstance, the Bill would require the judge to give his or her reasons for a reduced sentence in open court. That could put the informant at serious risk and thereby destroy any incentive to co-operate and it would put out an entirely wrong message to individuals in a similar position.

The Criminal Justice Act 1991 provided that courts could pass suspended sentences only if there were "exceptional circumstances". The Court of Appeal has interpreted that provision very narrowly. As Lord Bingham, the present Lord Chief Justice, said on "Breakfast with Frost" on 10 November 1996: In a very closely related context the courts have had to construe this exception recently and they have done what Parliament intended and they have put a narrow construction on it. They have treated psychiatric problems, financial pressures, family difficulties and threats of suicide as not being exceptional. In the run of criminal cases, these kinds of explanations are coming up all the time and so a judge is going to have to, to be true to the intentions of Parliament, put his hand on his heart and say 'Is this exceptional?' and usually it will not be. The Court of Appeal has made it clear that a combination of factors which in themselves are features common to many cases—youth, an early plea, provocation, mental breakdown—does not amount to exceptional circumstances justifying a suspended sentence.

I return to what the right hon. Member for Fareham said on 28 October: It will not be sufficient to allow judges discretion just in cases where there are exceptional circumstances, as the Bill presently does. The problem will come with cases in which a"— I cannot read the next word—

Sir Peter Lloyd (Fareham)


Mr. Llwyd

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman; he remembers his speech better than I can read it out. To continue: a concatenation of ordinary factors makes the mandatory sentence the wrong one. The court will be left with no option but to pass it."—[Official Report, 28 October 1996; Vol.284, c. 365–6.]

7 pm

Mr. Michael

English being the hon. Gentleman's second language does not help.

Mr. Llwyd

It certainly makes matters more difficult, but one tries.

Mandatory sentences also often prevent courts from passing the sentence most likely to prevent reoffending. An increasing number of burglaries are driven by the need to feed a drug habit. A survey done in March 1996 by the Cleveland probation service of a wide sample of offenders convicted of three or more burglaries found that 36 per cent. of them had serious drug problems. Often this underlying factor does not become evident until after an offender has been convicted on a number of occasions. When such an offender is willing to co-operate with a probation order, combined with participation in a drug rehabilitation programme, that is much more likely than imprisonment to prevent further offending. But if a mandatory prison sentence is in operation, the court is forbidden to use the alternative option.

Although courts would have the power not to impose the minimum sentence in exceptional circumstances, these situations, I submit, are far from exceptional.

It has been argued that minimum sentences for repeat burglars are necessary because there is not enough progression in the sentences currently passed on those with previous convictions. But the figures cited in the White Paper showed considerable progression in sentencing. A sample of domestic burglars sentenced in 1993-94 showed that 59 per cent. of those sentenced at Crown courts received custodial sentences on a first conviction, 71 per cent. on a second conviction, and 75 per cent. on a third or subsequent conviction. The percentages at magistrates courts were roughly similar: 15 per cent., 27 per cent. and 36 per cent., respectively.

The conclusion that I inevitably draw is that, by giving the courts a wider discretion to depart from the mandatory or minimum sentence when the interests of justice require that, the amendments would greatly reduce the injustice that would result from clauses 1 to 3—as well as reducing the extent to which those clauses would deter offenders from pleading guilty or co-operating with the police. I therefore commend the amendments to the House and ask hon. Members to support them in the Lobby later.

I do not often pray in aid the other place, but many people there are highly qualified lifelong practitioners in the judicial system. I am sure that they will bring the necessary pressure to bear to enable common sense ultimately to prevail with respect to these clauses.

Sir Peter Lloyd

The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) has made a compelling argument this evening. I congratulate him on that and on tabling amendments Nos. 7 and 8. I had the same intention myself, but he beat me to it. I am therefore happy to add my name to his and to that of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). I believe it essential that the Bill eventually be changed along these lines.

Before I say why, I should also like to pay tribute to the Home Secretary and the Minister of State, although that is probably the last thing they are expecting at this moment. It is significant to note that these important and necessary amendments were tabled not by Labour Front Benchers but by a Back Bencher. That shows with revealing clarity how far my right hon. Friends have rendered the Opposition leadership terrified of appearing soft on crime. From opposing everything that the Government did to deal more effectively with crime, the Opposition have moved to accepting almost everything—even when the Government's zeal plainly carries them beyond wisdom or justice.

Mr. Michael


Sir Peter Lloyd

I thought the hon. Gentleman might want to intervene.

Mr. Michael

The right hon. Gentleman should not cloud his attack on the Minister by attacking the Opposition too. He knows full well that we have dealt seriously with this and every other issue in the Bill pertaining to law and order, to try to produce what is effective and not just to oppose for the sake of opposition. We have sought to amend and to improve so as to achieve consistency and progression in sentencing.

Sir Peter Lloyd

I understand why the hon. Gentleman says that, but it was instructive to read the Committee proceedings, where the hon. Gentleman led for the Opposition. He probed and questioned and—as he would put it himself—teased; but what he said was not really very constructive. I realise that he was deploying his considerable skills in following instructions from his party superiors, to the effect that he must on no account be quotably out-toughed by the Tories.

Perhaps I do the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) and his fellow spokesmen an injustice, however. Perhaps in Committee he was merely biding his time. Maybe he passed amendments Nos. 7 and 8 to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy out of the kindness of his heart. Perhaps in a moment he will give those amendments such a ringing endorsement that his party colleagues will emerge from the Tea Room or the Library, or wherever they are—they are certainly not in the Chamber—and surge through the Lobby in support of the amendments: we shall see.

I do not want to amend clause 1, unlike the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy by means of amendment No. 6, or even the Opposition by means of amendment No. 1. Clause 1 introduces life sentences where the judge himself decides the minimum tariff. I shall confine my remarks to clauses 2 and 3 and mandatory sentences for drug trafficking and burglary, because it is here that real injustice will inevitably arise.

There may not be many cases when the interests of justice will not be served by the mandatory sentences introduced in the Bill, but there will be enough of them to bring the new arrangements into disrepute—just as the system of unit fines was brought into disrepute by a small number of cases where the courts had to impose fines which they knew were ludicrous. Plainly the Government now accept that the courts must have some discretion as to whether to impose mandatory sentences. They would not otherwise have included the phrase unless the court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances which justify its not doing so. The trouble is, as the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy pointed out, and as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) argued in Committee from the vantage point of a distinguished recorder, that those words do not give the judges very clear guidance to follow. There will be exceptional circumstances, as the Government acknowledge, when a less harsh penalty is needed; but there will be others when a mandatory sentence will be equally or even more unjust or counterproductive. The circumstances, however, will be far from exceptional; they will be all too banal and ordinary: the youth of the offender, his mental health, the occasion in question, the nature of the crime. All these coming together—hence the reference to concatenation—will make the mandatory sentence the wrong one, but no particular aspect of the case will be exceptional.

I shall not take up the time of the House by giving examples—I have done that in earlier debates. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy was kind enough to repeat some of them and to add some more of his own. It is easy to think them up, just as it is easy to dismiss them as contrived, but the trouble with such contrivances is that they occur from time to time. It will not serve justice and the public's respect for the law's firm application to put a judge in a position where the mandatory sentence is plainly wrong but he must pass it, unless he can descry circumstances that make it exceptional—but not if they make it simply unjust.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton argued forcefully that, not being given a clear form of words, the judges will interpret them broadly—in effect recreating, in large measure, the discretion that the Bill is designed to remove. He hopes that he is wrong. It appears that the Lord Chief Justice thinks that he is, as he has said that he expects the court to interpret exceptional circumstances narrowly. In Committee, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said that he thought so too, a decisive reaction on his part as the courts seeking guidance as to Parliament's intention will no doubt construe his words accordingly.

"Quite right" say the enthusiasts—including some of my hon. Friends, who happen not to be here—for clauses 2 and 3. A few sentences may be heavier than justice might otherwise require, but that must be balanced against the benefit to society in that mandatory sentences will deter far more effectively, so there will be less burglary and less drug trafficking, with the essential corollary that that deterrent effect will be nullified if the court, in its wisdom, is allowed to substitute a lesser sentence on those occasions where the needs of justice require it.

I know of no convincing evidence, commonsensical or statistical, to support that view. The interesting articles by Charles Murray in The Sunday Times, under headlines suggesting that more prison was always the answer, did not. He appeared to say that the essential ingredients that had been lacking in the UK to reduce crime were detection and prosecution. He also said, very relevantly to this debate, no doubt to the disappointment of some of my hon. Friends—and certainly to my surprise—that UK judges were just as likely to send to prison people appearing before them now as they were in the stern old days of 1954, after which, he said, it all began to go wrong.

Nevertheless the statistics that emerged with the White Paper and the Bill showing that repeat offenders suffer penalties little harsher than first timers, do prompt questions about the justice and good sense of current sentencing practice. "May" is the operative word here. Those statistics may conceal more than they reveal. The courts may not be being inconsistent. They may be making wholly justified distinctions between cases, which are obscured by averages.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton suggested, and he is well-placed to know, that some judges are firm and coherent sentencers but others are not. Before passing a Bill such as this, we should have had a much more comprehensive and objective picture of sentencing as it is currently practised and of sentencing's relationship with deterrence and rehabilitation. We should have had a fully fledged inquiry on this crucial issue, which could absorb the Charles Murray findings and other research, and which could commission others to fill the gaps.

Meanwhile, it seems that judges do not work to any comprehensive guidance from the senior judiciary—at least there is no such guidance on burglary—as they do for some of the more serious crimes. If that is so, it is a grave lack. There should be guidelines and they should be accessible to anyone who is prepared to take reasonable time and trouble to find them out. Sentencing should not be a mystery to which only the few are admitted.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to add to what was said on Monday and tell us what the position is, but it looks to the layman as if the judges had been slow to respond to public disquiet. However, it also looks as if the Government were keen to legislate before the judiciary had managed to show either that all is as it should be, despite appearances, or that the senior judiciary is willing and able to produce new guidance that would meet the shortcomings that have been revealed. I hope, however, that my right hon. Friend will not simply say that the amendments enabling the courts to substitute another sentence for the mandatory ones when the interests of justice require it will drive a coach and horses through the Bill, because they will not. The amendments would still mean that the courts are generally expected to impose the mandatory sentence.

Mr. Maclean

I am sure that my right hon. Friend has studied the transcript of the Lord Chief Justice's comments on "The Frost Programme", when he was asked what the effect would be of any amendment to substitute the present words with words such as, "according to the justice of case". He said that it would enable the judge to avoid passing a mandatory sentence in any case where he considered it simply anomalous to do so.

7.15 pm
Sir Peter Lloyd

I was aware of those words. It shows that it is difficult to find the right ones. The Government have not done so. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, who moved the amendment, might not have found the right ones, but I am sure that, before the matter returns to the House from the Lords, even if we do not make a change here, the right ones need to be found because the present ones are simply not satisfactory.

The Lord Chief Justice was not as confident in his own form of words as perhaps he should be because the form of words on the amendment paper would still mean that the courts—this is the way in which the Bill is constructed and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, if he reconsiders it, will find that that is so—would generally be expected to impose the mandatory sentence. They would be able to substitute a lesser one only when the judge had explained why that lesser sentence was necessary in the interests of justice. It will have to be the mandatory sentence, unless there are good reasons why not. Those reasons will no doubt be subject to guidance from the Lord Chief Justice and—this is an extra point that is not in the amendments—the prosecution should be able to appeal against them if they find them unacceptable. Far from a retreat, the Government should regard that as giving them a victory on all the essential points, while enabling them to avoid the injustices that the Bill's present wording will certainly produce.

If my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is just going to reject the amendments without the qualification that the Government will reconsider, especially in another place, he will be saying that, in these particular cases, he does not want the courts to take the needs of justice into account. Inevitably, with mandatory sentences, he will, in practice, be writing occasional injustice into the law.

If nevertheless, as I say, the House does not accept the amendments, I hope that another place will give us a second chance. For some of the reasons that I have already given, in a way that would be better. Their Lordships may find a form of words that more effectively meets the needs of justice without frightening the Government that nothing will be changed. Their Lordships should certainly be able to illuminate sentencing practice and show how it can be improved not just for offences that attract mandatory sentences, but for the whole range.

It would be doubly satisfactory if these amendments were first made in the other place. The Labour party would see the undemocratic second Chamber that it wants to replace doing the Opposition's proper job for them, while the Government, who want to preserve the present Lords as a revising Chamber, are obliged to benefit from its revisions. Perhaps that is our subtle Home Secretary's grand design: to demonstrate the usefulness of the other place as it is presently constituted while giving a powerful incentive to the judiciary to turn its collective mind more thoroughly to matters of sentencing, which worry, rightly, many people, so enabling him to accept gracefully a suitable amendment there, "exceptional circumstances" having served its purpose as a catalyst.

Mr. Beith

I have rarely heard a complex case deployed so brilliantly in the House as it has been by the right hon. Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd), after the amendment was competently and ably moved by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd). The amendments go to the heart of the Bill. I will deal with the general principles that they raise, but first I want to refer to amendments Nos. 32 to 35.

Those amendments, tabled by Liberal Democrats, are designed to enable the courts to pass mental health disposals on mentally disordered offenders who would otherwise have to be given automatic life sentences under clause 1, or mandatory minimum sentences under clauses 2 and 3. At present, when a court is satisfied that an offender is suffering from a mental disorder falling within the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983, it can make a hospital order, if appropriate combining that with a restriction or guardianship order. Those options are ruled out by the Bill.

Mental disorder could not be interpreted automatically as amounting to an exceptional circumstance. It is just possible that the Minister thinks that it could be treated as such a circumstance; I hope that in due course he will say whether he thinks that it should automatically be regarded in that way, or whether a court could in any appropriate set of circumstances regard it as such. I consider this a pretty far-reaching use of the word "exceptional", and I think that a court would find it difficult to apply such an interpretation. I therefore proceed on the assumption that, other than in a case that is itself exceptional even within that category, the option is ruled out.

The Home Office and Department of Health guidance document entitled "Mentally Disordered Offenders: Inter-Agency Working", published in 1995, states: Detention in prison is likely to be damaging to the mental health of a mentally disordered person, and the Prison Service is not equipped to provide treatment equivalent to that available in hospital. I ask the Minister to talk to prison officers about the problems that they now experience with people whom they believe to suffer from mental disorder who ought to be in hospitals rather than prisons. The task of running a prison and providing a regime that will rehabilitate at least some offenders is made immensely difficult when—as seems to be the case now—an increasing proportion of those offenders are suffering from mental disorder, and that increase will be very much greater if the court does not have the option to take the mental health route in circumstances such as those that I have described.

According to a briefing prepared by the Law Society's mental health and disability sub-committee, in conjunction with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, While the Committee agrees that the public needs protection against persistent offenders, it believes that this will not be achieved by sending mentally disordered offenders to prison for a minimum of three years. Indeed, imprisonment is likely to have the opposite effect, since the mental health of the offender is likely to deteriorate while in prison, before being released untreated and unsupported into the community … Those mentally disordered prisoners who are eventually released are more likely to continue to pose a risk to the public, since their disorder may well have remained untreated during their imprisonment and it will prove far more difficult to ensure continuity of effective care from prison to the community, than from hospital to the community. We all know how difficult it is proving, within the community care programme, to cater for mentally disordered people with a tendency to commit offences who are now at large in the community. If such people are released from prison without treatment and without follow-up from mental hospitals, there will be even more of a problem.

It is feared that hospital orders made under the Mental Health Act would be inadequate to protect the public from some mentally disordered offenders. I presume that that is why the Government are closing off that option. It is worth emphasising, however, that in practice most offenders who are given hospital orders combined with restriction orders are kept in hospital for longer than they would have spent in prison. They are kept "out of harm's way", as the Home Secretary might like to think of it, and will not be able to commit offences for longer than would be the case if they received prison sentences.

A restriction order can be made when the court considers it necessary to protect the public from serious harm. Most restriction orders are made without time limits: they subject the offender to indeterminate detention. Decisions on release are made by a mental health review tribunal, and the patient is discharged under conditions that entail permanent liability to recall to hospital. All that gives the public much more stringent protection than is available under the mandatory sentence procedure. The procedures are similar in effect to a discretionary life sentence, but they require detention in a mental hospital rather than in prison.

To remove the court's discretion to pass an order ensuring that a mentally disordered offender receives the care and treatment that he or she needs is surely unacceptable. The amendments would retain that discretion, enabling the court to consider alternative disposals more suited to the needs of mentally disordered offenders, which in the long term are likely to protect the public more effectively. If the Home Secretary's watchword is that he is doing all this to protect the public, in the case of mentally disordered people he ought to take a route that is likely to provide that protection.

Let me turn to the wider issues raised by amendment No. 6. It would insert the words in the interests of justice". The arguments advanced so far are very persuasive—for example, the argument that unless that wording is included far more guilty people could be acquitted, and the argument that the abandonment of the parole system, with its system of automatic recall, will seriously undermine the protection of the public. I believe that the Bill's provisions have a more political than penal purpose, and that the Government do not seriously intend them to be carried out. If those provisions are passed unamended, the number of people committed to prison, and the time for which they are committed, will be such as to require—according to the Government's own estimate—the building of 12 new prisons, with 11,000 more prisoners. Other estimates are much higher.

There is no provision in Government finances for the building of those prisons. There is provision for the building of eight other new prisons, but they are intended to deal with existing overcrowding rather than the effects of the Bill.

The provisions will not come into effect fully for 12 years. That, too, is stated in the Bill's financial memorandum. The Government seek to convince the House that, unless the Bill is passed unamended—without amendments such as amendment No. 6—the public will be denied the immediate protection that they would secure from the commitment of large numbers of people to prison very soon, but that is simply not the case. If the Bill's provisions were implemented at all, it would be over an extremely long period. The fact that, without an amendment of this kind, the Bill would require so many prison places is an admission that the Government do not believe that it will deter crime. Far from keeping people out of prison because they do not commit crimes, it will lead to the admission of many more prisoners. That in itself constitutes an acceptance that the measures will fail to achieve their supposed purpose.

If the measures were real and serious in their intent, there would have to be a huge reduction in the funds available for other Home Office functions, particularly those relating to policing and crime prevention. I know of no Minister who has gone on record as saying that he is prepared to sacrifice £1 billion or more from funds for his departmental programmes to provide for those functions, and I know of no indication from the Treasury that it has found resources elsewhere for the purpose. The money is bound to come from somewhere in the Home Office budget. If the courts do not have discretion to apply sensible sentences and are trapped in the mandatory system, the effect on policing and crime prevention will allow many more crimes to be committed, thus weakening protection of the public.

Labour's apparent support for this part of the Bill, and its unwillingness to amend it, imply a similar commitment to the expenditure of substantial resources. I wonder what the right hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) has to say about that. He is supposed to have enjoined all his Front-Bench spokesmen not to make spending commitments, but there is a huge spending commitment at the heart of the Bill.

As I understand it, by not objecting to the mandatory sentence principle and not supporting the kind of amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), Labour is also accepting built-in injustice in the sentencing system. The purpose of amendment No. 6 is to ensure that the courts can take into account justice in the passing of sentences. If we deny them that power, we accept that unjust sentences will be passed, because the circumstances are not sufficiently exceptional. I do not know how the Labour party can stand by that principle, but it appears to be doing so.

It is vital that an amendment along the lines of amendment No. 6 is included in the Bill. I endorse what others have said: if this House does not do it, it will have to be done in another place. I also ask the Minister, however, to look carefully at the points about mentally disordered convicted persons which I made earlier.

7.30 pm
Sir Ivan Lawrence

I do not want to take up the time of the House repeating the argument on this matter—to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd) referred—that I made in Committee, but we are no further forward than we were then. I agree with hon. Members who have suggested that this matter is a very important part of the Bill. The heart and soul of the Bill is minimum sentences, and the issue we are debating is whether judges have a large or narrow gate to pass through if they want to avoid the consequences of minimum sentences.

In this debate, we are talking about whether the phrase "exceptional circumstances" is better than the phrase "in the interests of justice". The answer depends on the point of view with which one begins. If I were a judge, pure and simple, and shared the views of the previous Lord Chief Justice and some other senior judges, I might feel very distressed at the thought that my judicial discretion had been curbed in this manner, and I should like as big a gate as possible to avoid the consequences of minimum sentences. However, I am a politician. As I have spent more time in the past 23 years in the practice of politics than in practice in the courts, I hope that I am more a politician than I am a lawyer.

My experience in politics tells me that the Government are right to introduce minimum sentences, and that they are reflecting the wishes of the people. The people have a right to have their wishes respected, and they have said that the sentences that the courts have been apt to pass on persistent professional offenders—whether they are drug traffickers, burglars or violent criminals—have been inadequate to protect them.

Therefore, I approach the matter in a manner different from that of some senior judges and judges—although not all senior judges, and certainly not all judges. We must provide as small an opportunity as we can for judges to brush away the Bill's provision of minimum sentences, which I anticipate that the House should like to pass into law. The question is whether we should provide a big or a small gate through which exceptions may pass.

In Committee, I expressed the view, which I shall not repeat in detail, that "exceptional circumstances" was still too vague a term, without elaboration, for judges to understand its meaning. More importantly, it is too vague for villains to understand that the commission of a third burglary or drug offence, or a second rape or serious violent offence, will lead to certain consequences. I expressed that view even after attempting to consider the matter through the eyes of the Government and through the eyes of those of us who support the Government's view that the minimum sentences provisions are vital, and that there should be as little opportunity of avoiding them as possible.

I am a believer in deterrence. I believe that the certainty of consequences is important, and that we would be making a mistake if villains thought that there was sufficient possibility of avoiding the consequences of a three-years, seven-years or life sentence.

Mr. Beith

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence

I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman did not stop my train of thought now, because I am not reading from notes, and I cannot return to a previous note. In a moment, I will of course give him an opportunity to intervene.

I am concerned that we provide sufficient guidance for villains and deter them by letting them know in advance the consequences of their second or third wrong action. As a recorder, I am also concerned that I should know—when I have to apply it—the meaning of "exceptional circumstances". In practice, with time, judges and the Court of Appeal will establish guidelines on the meaning of "exceptional circumstances", because they will have to.

When we direct a jury, we will have to open our red book and state what we mean by "exceptional circumstances", because the jury may also want to decide whether the case's circumstances are such that they should convict. The issue of "exceptional circumstances", however, must be dealt with by the sentencer; lack of clarity is no help to the sentencer.

Goodness knows how long it will take judges to work out the meaning of "exceptional circumstances" or—if we change the phrase—"the interests of justice". Meanwhile, while confusion remains in the minds of the judges, the Bill's purpose may not always be effected.

I had hoped that, between Committee stage and today, my right hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary would have consulted senior judges, and particularly the Lord Chief Justice. Once the Lord Chief Justice had been convinced that the Government knew their own mind and the intentions of Parliament, he would honourably help to fulfil those intentions. Perhaps we could have debated the proper meaning of the phrase "exceptional circumstances", or—had the Lord Chief Justice persuaded my right hon. and learned Friend that it was a better form of words—the phrase "the interests of justice" . But that has not happened, and we are none the wiser and not even better informed.

We will have to say to their Lordships in another place, "Please help yourselves and help to express the intention of Parliament, and therefore of the people, by suggesting a form of words that the Government can accept as realising Parliament's intention. We can then write it into the Act, and we will not have to go through the business of waiting, over many years, as guidelines are developed, during which time many villains may go on committing repeat offences because they are not certain that the consequences of minimum sentences will follow." So all is not lost, because the Bill still has another stage to go—during which time, hopefully, the most brilliant legal minds in the land will give their input.

I should tell my right hon. Friend the Minister that I am as dissatisfied now, during this more advanced stage of the Bill's passage, as I was in Committee. If it is defined in a certain way, I do not think that "the interests of justice" will have any different effect from "exceptional circumstances". The meat is in how the phrases are defined. The substance will be in their Lordships accepting that it is the will and intention of the Government—with the support of the Opposition, and therefore with the support of the entire House of Commons—that we should introduce tough minimum sentences which more closely reflect the people's desire to deter villains. Unsatisfactory though the proposal is, it is not completely unsatisfactory. I only hope that the other place will not only assist the Government in carrying out the intentions of Parliament but clarify the law, so that there is no confusion in the courts or in the minds of villains.

Mr. Michael

Now that we are debating serious amendments, it is a pity that we no longer have with us a single one of the phantom soundbite warriors—the supporters of new clause 14—who did not even have the courage to vote on their spurious proposal. They are not interested in the serious business of scrutinising and improving legislation.

There have been some serious contributions to today's debate, not least that from the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence). He has just made a thoughtful and considered speech, which the Minister should take seriously, as it builds on comments that he made in Committee.

We heard an entertaining speech from the right hon. Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd), for whom I have a great deal of respect. He was a good, hard-working Minister, which is probably why he was sacked. However, I was a little sad that he today criticised the Opposition unkindly and unfairly. He is rather like the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd)—I have been provoked into making this point by something that the right hon. Member for Fareham said earlier—in that they talk tough and toe the line in government. The right hon. Member for Fareham was complicit in the massive increase in crime that has occurred under this Government—especially the increase in violent crime—and in the inconsistency of sentencing which we are now trying to tackle.

I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Burton that there is a cross-party wish to achieve more consistent sentencing. Indeed, it was my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), the shadow Home Secretary, who identified the fact that people who commit a second and third very serious offence are often no more likely to receive a longer or tougher sentence than they did on their first conviction. There is no sense in that. The emergence of the right hon. Members for Fareham and for Witney from the chrysalis of office and their being born again as radical reformers is damaged by their record in office.

Sir Peter Lloyd


Mr. Michael

Of course I shall allow the right hon. Gentleman to defend himself.

Sir Peter Lloyd

I just want to correct the hon. Gentleman on one small fact, although I do not suppose that he wants facts to spoil his flow. While I was the Minister responsible for prisons, reported crime fell. The point that I directed to him was that we are discussing important issues that go to the heart of the Bill, and that I hope that he will bring his party out in support of them and not leave it to others.

7.45 pm
Mr. Michael

I am coming to the amendments, but the right hon. Gentleman indulged in some unjustified knockabout, and his comments require a response. There was a minimal fall in recorded crime, but that fall has been reversed in certain categories—violent crime, for instance. In any event, the right hon. Gentleman was talking about recorded crime. It is not the subject of this debate, but he cannot defend the Government's record, or even his period in office, by saying that the Government succeeded in tackling crime—they did not. The Government have an appalling record, and the Bill does little to recover any ground for them.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith)—

Mr. Beith

Right honourable.

Mr. Michael

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed—I beg his pardon before I get stuck in—was also self-indulgent. The fact is that the Liberal Democrats did not regard the subject as serious enough to want to participate in the Standing Committee. They are not so good at the hard work.

We did, however, have the company of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) from a minority party, and he made a significant contribution. It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed to criticise the Labour party and the Government on the Floor of the House in an attempt to look purer than pure, but, as he was not on the Committee, perhaps he should at least have the courtesy to read Hansard and see the constructive way in which we sought to debate the issues.

Mr. Llwyd


Mr. Michael

Of course I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, who did participate constructively in the Committee.

Mr. Llwyd

I have not entered into any party political knockabout, because I believe the subject is too important. Far be it from me to defend the Liberal Democrats, but my place on the Committee was in effect given to me by them, as I asked for it. It was agreed that I, rather than a Liberal Democrat, should sit on the Committee. I say that to be fair.

Mr. Michael

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman sat on the Committee, as I was about to comment on the fact that there were serious contributions from members of all parties represented there. My point is that I am not going to accept knockabout comments from the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed; I want to concentrate on the serious debate to which the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy contributed consistently in Committee, as did the hon. and learned Member for Burton.

We may not have agreed all the time, but the Committee was a good one, and the contributions by the hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Gentleman were consistent with what they have said today. Those who indulge in a bit of knockabout deserve to be put right. Now let me move on to the amendment.

We all want consistency from the courts, and, indeed, progression, which means that those who commit serious offences more than once receive a tougher penalty as a result. To balance that, we also want a mechanism that avoids the anomalies that can arise from very specific or mandatory sentences. We want Parliament to make its intentions clear, and something to protect against those anomalies.

The Government's method has been to set mandatory sentences. That was their position at the time of the White Paper, but—and they were right to do so—between that time and the publication of the Bill, they have accepted that they needed to shift their position, and came up with the phrase "exceptional circumstances". The problem is that their complete refusal to explain what it means has undermined the credibility of Bill's phrasing—a point made in Committee by members of all parties.

The Government have available to them the resources, parliamentary draftsmen and advisers to ensure that they get legislation right. We have been right—on Second Reading, in Committee and again today—to prompt the Government and make sure that they realise that they have not got it right yet. Of course, there is a way that they could move in the right direction.

The hon. and learned Member for Burton said that the real matter at issue is whether there should be a big or small gate for exceptions. We need to understand Parliament's intentions, and the options are either better wording or an explanation of "special circumstances". The Pepper v. Hart judgment shows that the explanation of the intentions of Parliament is significant to the courts. That explanation has not been given.

As the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy said in his introductory remarks, the only example of an exceptional circumstance is that cited by the Home Secretary on Second Reading: Sometimes, someone appearing before a court gives the police exceptional help, which enables them to bring a number of other serious criminals to justice. That would be an important factor, which I would regard as an exceptional circumstance justifying the passing of a sentence shorter than the minimum mandatory length."—[Official Report, 4 November 1996; Vol. 285, c. 914—5.] The trouble is that we have not moved on from there. The hon. and learned Member for Burton made clear the lack of progress in explaining that.

The one example that has been provided creates some difficulties. Co-operation with the police does not amount to what the White Paper described as "quite unforeseeable circumstances". It is neither unusual nor unforeseeable. Have the Government abandoned that definition? What is their definition? The Minister was challenged time and again in Committee at least to give illustrations, if he could not give a definition, to allow us to understand the Government's thinking, but that thinking remains opaque.

That single example also creates problems on the other side of the equation. Chief constables are unhappy with the one example given by the Home Secretary, because, even if giving the police special help were regarded by a court as an exceptional circumstance, the Bill would require the judge to give his reasons for a reduced sentence in open court. That could put the informant at serious risk, thereby destroying any incentive to co-operate.

How would the court get around that problem, except in the devious way suggested in Committee by the Minister? He may have reflected on those remarks, when he seemed to suggest that a court could more or less ignore the problem and dance around it. I hope that we shall have some clarification from the Minister today, because we have had none so far. I shall not labour the point further, because we brought it up time and again in Committee, and it was raised on Second Reading. I am beginning to despair of getting clarification from the Minister.

Amendment No. 1 addresses an important anomaly highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, the shadow Home Secretary, and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) on Second Reading, and by the hon. and learned Member for Burton and me in Committee.

The amendment provides that, in the case of offences under section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the court should be able on a second conviction to pass a sentence other than life imprisonment if it considers that to be in the interests of justice". We are dealing only with that narrow group of offences, but the amendment would give the court wider discretion than the "exceptional circumstances" formulation to pass sentences other than life imprisonment for section 18 offences.

On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn said: The law relating to section 18 is wholly unsatisfactory, as the Law Commission has repeatedly pointed out; and the range of conduct covered by this section is extremely wide."—[Official Report, 4 November 1996; Vol. 285, c. 930.] We had an interesting debate in Committee, during which I reiterated our belief that that would lead to anomalies, and that the Minister had not sufficiently taken into account the danger of anomalies. From his experience in the courts, the hon. and learned Member for Burton reinforced my points strongly and constructively. He said that there was merit in the points that I had raised, and that, if the provisions covered all section 18 offences, a number of consequences would follow: first, an offender would be more likely to plead to a section 20 offence; secondly, the offender would be less likely to plead to a section 18 offence—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig); and thirdly that the inclusion of section 18 in all its width would make it more likely that the Crown Prosecution Service, in its discretion, would decide whether to prosecute under section 20 or section 18. In other words, people would be going round the intention of the law.

The hon. and learned Member concluded: But we must give a little thought to how extensive is the arm with which we enforce the mandatory life sentence if, at the margin, it will do more harm than good to the system to implement it."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 14 November 1996; c. 64.] I call in aid the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Burton in saying that this important issue has still not been resolved.

In an offence under section 18, the wound can be any wound that breaks the skin, even a minor wound. A kick in the leg that draws blood counts as wounding, provided that there is deemed to be intent to cause grievous bodily harm or resist arrest.

Grievous bodily harm has been defined by the Court of Appeal in some cases, notably DPP v. Smith in 1961, as "really serious harm", but in other cases it has been defined as either "really serious harm" or "serious harm." A broken wrist, for example, could be regarded as serious harm. An offence under section 18 therefore need not necessarily involve the intention to cause serious bodily harm, but can involve wounding with intent to resist arrest. As the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy said in that Committee debate, a section 18 offence could be knocking a person's tooth out.

The problem can be illustrated by a series of examples, but I do not intend to delay the House by recounting them. I hope that the Minister has given the matter some thought since the Committee debate, and has something positive to tell us or is willing to accept the amendment. The variety of offences under section 18 are all serious and involve violence, and many are very serious. However, many section 18 offences are at a different level of seriousness from offences such as homicide and rape. Even if the case for automatic life sentences for repeat offenders were accepted for those offences, a wider discretion for section 18 offences would be appropriate.

Only two days ago, the Minister asked us in a debate on a new clause not to devalue the currency when comparing the way in which we deal with violent offenders and sex offenders. We are in danger of devaluing the currency on the less serious section 18 offences. On Second Reading, the right hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) noted that grievous bodily harm with intent is not uncommon in a domestic context", and asked: Would the family be prepared to give evidence if life imprisonment were the consequence?"—[Official Report, 4 November 1996; Vol. 285, c. 952.] I have already referred to the greater reluctance to plead guilty to a section 18 offence, and the increased likelihood that the charges will be plea-bargained down to a lesser offence.

When we debated this issue in Committee, the Minister initially refused to acknowledge that section 18 offences could be anything other than very serious. He said: Section 18 is used to prosecute the most appalling assaults committed by dangerous violent criminals. It is exactly these kinds of people from whom the public need protection and against whom the public will be better protected by an automatic life sentence."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 14 November 1996; c. 65.] We agree with him about the people he was describing, but not with the width of his description of what is prosecuted under section 18. That point was made strongly by the hon. and learned Member for Burton.

The Minister responded by arguing that different cases could be dealt with by variations in the length of the tariff that a life sentence prisoner must serve before being considered for release. Hon. Members—particularly the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), who is more interested in waving and going home than in listening to the debate—should pay particular attention to the Minister's remarks. He said: We should stick with the automatic life sentence for all those convicted of a second offence of grievous bodily harm and let judges reflect in the tariff, as at present they do for life sentences, their view of the person's culpability … I am not aware of a minimum or maximum being imposed on judges. I understand that they have complete discretion in imposing the tariff."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 14 November 1996; c. 66.] He confirmed in later exchanges that the discretion was so wide that a life sentence could, in the setting of a tariff, turn into a three-month sentence, because there is no limit on the discretion available to the judge.

I clarified the Minister's remarks during that debate, when I explained: The judge can give as light a sentence as he wants and still call it a life sentence. … he"— the Minister— tells us that a life sentence leaves the judge with such wide discretion that the words are virtually meaningless."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 14 November 1996; c. 68.] That is surely unsatisfactory, as the objective of the Bill is supposed to be honesty in sentencing. It applies exclusively to section 18 offences, which is why amendment No. 1 is so important.

Surely it would be far more sensible to give the courts wider discretion to pass sentences other than life imprisonment in section 18 cases, so that the more serious offences that the Minister described in Committee would be dealt with in the way he suggests, and offences at the other end of the spectrum could also be dealt with appropriately, without ludicrously having to describe a much shorter sentence as a life sentence.

8 pm

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman said that that would put me right. He has not yet put me right on whether he is prepared to vote for amendment No. 6, or on whether, in believing that mandatory sentences are generally acceptable with only limited exceptions, he agrees with the expenditure of £3.6 billion on building new prisons that will be required, according to the Government's own estimates.

Mr. Michael

We shall come to Government expenditure in a later debate. I should tell the right hon. Gentleman that it gets worse. Some of the Government's amendments increase the cost quite considerably. The Government are responsible for their own amendments to the Bill and for making sure that its clauses are accurate and clear. It would be ludicrous for the Bill to catch people it was not intended to catch. Amendment No. 1 seeks to clarify that anomaly in relation to section 18 offences.

There are a number of ways of addressing the wider aspects involved. One is for the Government to come clean about what is meant by "exceptional circumstances", so that there is sufficient clarity for the definition to apply in the courts and to be taken into account under Pepper v. Hart, or, alternatively, for the intention of the House of Commons to be clarified.

I was most surprised that the Government did not draft amendments to clarify the issue and respond to the points that have been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House in Committee and on Report. The Minister may provide that clarification in his reply to this debate. I suspect that he will not, in which case the prediction of the hon. and learned Member for Burton that the issues will be addressed again in another place is far more likely to come true.

Amendment No. 1 deals with section 18 offences. It is surely far more sensible to give the courts wider discretion to pass sentences other than life imprisonment in that narrow range of offences. The amendment would retain a life sentence as the presumptive sentence on a second conviction for a section 18 offence, but it would give judges wider discretion to tailor sentences to the wide variations in the circumstances of section 18 offences.

Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)

I shall make a brief speech warmly to endorse and pay tribute to the speeches of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd). Interestingly, from a rather different perspective, I found myself in agreement with much of the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence).

Back Benchers on both sides of the House have referred to the need to do justice. The Bill, by introducing mandatory life sentences and minimum sentences, will make it more difficult, rather than easier, to do justice. I agree with those who have said that the Bill needs to be amended if we are not to fall into the serious trap of going down that path.

Some time ago, I introduced a ten-minute Bill entitled Determinate Sentences for Murder. It attracted considerable support in the House. It would not have prevented judges from passing life sentences in many, probably most, cases of murder—I am sure that a life sentence will be appropriate in some cases for which it will become mandatory under this Bill—but I feel that the Bill is moving in entirely the wrong direction.

I believe that, as it stands, the Bill will bring the law into disrepute. If we do not amend it, attacks on the state of the law will be emblazoned across the newspapers when manifestly unjust sentences are imposed because the judges have no alternative. If there are no adequate changes, I am sure that we shall have to return to the issue in the foreseeable future, just as the House found it necessary to do so soon after it introduced the regime of unit fines.

It is interesting that there has been something of a consensus about the current form of words in the Bill and those proposed in the amendments being unsatisfactory. I hope that some changes will be made before the House of Lords has done with the Bill.

Although the Opposition will not like me to say this, I regret the fact that, despite the strong reservations that must exist among their supporters, they decided to walk away from the issue. Those reservations are also felt by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, some of whom have expressed them elsewhere.

There is still an opportunity for us to pull back from the brink. I hope that the other place will enable us to do that, and believe that before we have done with the Bill we shall have some more interesting debates.

Mr. Maclean

This has been a fascinating debate. All the amendments concern circumstances in which a court may set aside the automatic life sentence for a second serious violent or sexual offence in clause I or the mandatory minimum custodial sentences for a third time class A drug trafficking or domestic burglary offence in clauses 2 and 3.

This is a vital issue that goes to the heart of the Bill. I must congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd) on an outstandingly good speech. It is difficult for me to say so without sounding patronising, but I have heard many speeches over the years, and I felt that my right hon. Friend's speech tonight was one of his best ever. However, that does not necessarily mean that I found it entirely persuasive.

The view expressed by my right hon. Friend, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) was straightforward, simple to understand and espoused a principle. They expressed a deep belief that the exceptional circumstances test is too narrow, and they wish it to be replaced with a justice of the case test. I understand that position, and in the next few minutes I shall explain why I disagree.

I was completely perplexed by the view of the Labour party on the issue and the long speech that we heard on an issue that is irrelevant to the principle—whether the grievous bodily harm test should be practically split in two, with much more serious offences at the top of the scale and lesser offences at the bottom of the scale. That is irrelevant to the issue of principle. One can only conclude that some of the darts that were placed by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, and some of the superb stilettos inserted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham, were true. I shall not intrude further on the Labour party's difficulty with supporting us, or opposing us, tonight. I assume that it will have to take the position that it took on Second Reading: to decide later on, perhaps nearer the election.

The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy would replace the exceptional circumstances test in clause 1 with a very different test. The test he proposes would allow the mandatory penalty to be set aside in any case where the trial judge took the view that it would be in the interests of justice to impose another sentence. Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 would, similarly, replace the exceptional circumstances test in respect of the minimum sentences for drug traffickers and domestic burglars in clauses 2 and 3.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham perhaps knows me too well. He tried to head me off from saying that, if accepted, such a change would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. I must say to him that it would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. That is not only my view; I base it on the words of the Lord Chief Justice during an interview on "Breakfast with Frost". I shall quote his words exactly so I am not in error. One can only conclude after reading his interpretation of the interests of the justice of the case that the change would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. I am not trying to pick on my right hon. and learned Friend; I am basing my judgment on the Lord Chief Justice's opinion.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

He is not learned.

Mr. Maclean

I consider my right hon. Friend learned, although perhaps he is not in the House's technical sense.

The essence of mandatory penalties is that they should be imposed as a matter of course in the generality of cases. If they are not, they will not have the salutary effect that we intend and expect. There is no doubt that the amendments would substantially widen the discretion of the court not to impose the mandatory sentence.

The Lord Chief Justice recently said on "Breakfast with Frost"—the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy quoted part of the interview—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) is not listening.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. I think that the hon. Lady is concerned that all rules should be punctiliously observed. She will therefore be aware that seated interventions are out of order.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Is it in order for Opposition Front Benchers to be chatting among themselves when my right hon. Friend the Minister is winding up? That is the rule.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I will be the judge of such matters.

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Those of us who wish to listen cannot hear because of the hon. Lady's sedentary interventions.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I call Mr. Maclean.

Mr. Maclean

Those of us who wish to proceed cannot do so because of interventions.

I was trying to suggest that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy should have quoted further from what the Lord Chief Justice said on "Breakfast with Frost". He quoted the Lord Chief Justice's view, which I believe to be correct, that the term "exceptional circumstances" will be construed very narrowly. I believe and hope that that is the correct interpretation. My hon. Friends may not like that view, but that is the Government's wish.

Mr. Llwyd

Although I think that that may be right, the way in which the Minister is interpreting the question is clearly extremely narrow. Time and again in Committee he was asked to cite examples, and in one speech he said: I could put together a list of 20,000 hypothetical examples".—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 14 November 1996; c. 43.] Would he care to give us 10 or 20 of them now?

Mr. Maclean

Of course not. The hon. Gentleman was obviously not listening in Committee. I said that it would not help interpretation of the Bill to cite many examples of general cases that I or anyone else dreamt up when the court was dealing with individuals before it. Exceptional circumstances will have to be defined in the individual circumstances of each accused or convicted person before the court—not on hypothetical, generalised examples that politicians may bandy across the Floor of the House, which would then, because of the Pepper v. Hart ruling, be read into the law as examples that have to be followed in every case. I went on to say that it would soon be the business of clever lawyers to devise the defence of their accused person around some of the examples that we had bandied about.

Mr. Llwyd

Do I take it, therefore, that the Minister is content, as the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) suggested in his very thoughtful speech, that the Court of Appeal should at some point hand down guidelines that can be followed by the courts? If so, the Minister is negating the whole point of the Bill. He started off with much bluster, saying that we cannot trust the courts and the Court of Appeal to hand out sentences, since they have had years to do it and have not done it. That was the Minister's raison d'etre for the Bill.

Mr. Maclean

We know what "exceptional circumstances" means. We know that it will be interpreted narrowly. Because the Government are satisfied that "exceptional circumstances" will be interpreted by the courts as it has been in the past, we are content to use it and rely on it.

The Lord Chief Justice said when interviewed: One can paraphrase 'exceptional' but it clearly means 'very unusual' at the very least and most of these explanations"— he was referring to the examples given— are not very unusual". The Government are satisfied that the test of exceptional circumstances will be used only in exceptional cases and that it will be interpreted strictly according to the Lord Chief Justice's view as expressed on "Breakfast with Frost".

8.15 pm
Mr. Michael

The question that has to be answered, though, is what is the nature of the gate that is being provided. The Minister must accept that one example has been given—that given by the Home Secretary—which did not stand up to scrutiny; it fell apart on examination. The Government should not then give up and not cite any examples. They have three options. They can change the wording, which they have not, since they have not tabled amendments; they can give examples so that we can understand what they are getting at; or they can seek to explain in a way that would help under the Pepper v. Hart ruling what they intend the courts should do. At the moment, the Minister must accept that he is just abrogating responsibility.

Mr. Maclean

Absolutely not. It is the Government's intention that the courts should interpret "exceptional circumstances" in exactly the same way as they have been in other legislation over the past five years.

Mr. Michael

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Maclean

No, I will not. Such a view is the view that was expressed by the Lord Chief Justice in the interview. Other hon. Members have been relying on the fact that his opinion on that is correct. I believe that it is correct. It is not for the hon. Gentleman to keep insisting on hypothetical examples when he knows full well that any such examples, no matter how nonsensical, will be used in future to interpret the law in the courts and to drive a coach and horses through the Bill.

The hon. Member criticised me for not giving examples and said that we have not tabled an amendment. He has not tabled an amendment. The Liberal Democrats, the Welsh nationalists and my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham have. I happen to disagree with my right hon. Friend because I think that his definition is far too wide and I want to maintain the present restricted exceptional circumstances test. The hon. Gentleman is trying, as the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed said, to hide the fact that the Labour party is in a dither over the matter. It does not like the term "exceptional circumstances", and the best that it can think of is to try to get me to quote dozens of hypothetical examples that it will either try to shoot down in the House or in another place or use in future years to frustrate the intention behind the Bill.

Mr. Michael

I have not said that the Minister must cite examples. I said that he has three options: to amend, to exemplify or to define. He has chosen none of them. I shall therefore put a direct question to him. He is wrong to say that we have not tabled an amendment. We did, I spoke to it and he has not yet addressed it. Would the lower end of section 18 offences, which he has accepted exist and which the hon. and learned Member for Burton addressed especially in Committee, therefore be covered in some circumstances by the phrase "exceptional circumstances"? The answer would help us a little way forward.

Mr. Maclean

The hon. Gentleman is getting into irrelevancies and talking drivel. The minor Opposition parties and my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham have a philosophical objection to the term "exceptional circumstances". I understand their argument; I disagree with it. They are offering substitute words for the term "exceptional circumstances".

It is the Government's view that the only alternative form of words offered at the present moment by the Lord Chief Justice, the Welsh nationalists, the Liberal Democrats and my right hon. Friend would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. It would widen the phrase "exceptional circumstances". We have heard nothing from the Opposition, and there is nothing in their amendment which has anything to do with the principled debate. Do we have "exceptional circumstances" and construe the Bill narrowly, or do we have the "interests of justice" which, in the Government's opinion, would construe the Bill widely? I shall discuss the Opposition amendment in a moment, but I must make some progress.

I have not yet managed to get on the record the words of the Lord Chief Justice, and I intend to do so. When he was asked to define the phrase, the "justice of the case" he said: It would enable the judge to avoid passing a mandatory sentence in any case where he considered it simply anomalous to do so. In any case where the trial judge thought that it would create an anomaly to impose the mandatory minimum sentence, he could avoid it. In our opinion, that means that the mandatory penalty would be set aside in many cases. That would make a nonsense of the concept and purpose of mandatory penalties and it would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. Those are the alternative forms of words on offer tonight.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham said that other forms of words might come from another place in due course. I will be happy to consider any other forms of words, but if it is our view that they can be interpreted as widely as the Lord Chief Justice believes that the "justice of the case" terminology can be interpreted, they would not be acceptable to the Government.

I do not believe that mandatory penalties will lead to injustices. On the contrary, I contend that, without mandatory penalties, justice is not being done to the wider community now. Let me remind the House of the figures. A recent sample showed that the average sentence imposed by the Crown court on offenders convicted of domestic burglary for the first time is 16.2 months. After three or more convictions, the average rises to only 18.9 months and after seven or more convictions it rises to 19.4 months. A total of 28 per cent. of offenders in the Crown court with seven or more convictions for domestic burglary were not sent to prison at all. Our constituents are asking where the justice is in that. It is not justice. We believe that if the stringent qualifying conditions set out in clauses 1 to 3 are met—we intend that they shall be—mandatory sentences should be imposed as a matter of course in most cases.

We recognise that there may be occasional cases where the mandatory penalty would be unnecessary or inappropriate. That is why the discretion is in the Bill to set aside the penalty in exceptional circumstances.

I believe that we have achieved the right balance and that to go further and accept the view of the Welsh nationalists, the Liberal Democrats, my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) would be to go too far and undermine the effectiveness of the penalties.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth raised a point about section 18. I can see no good reason for treating section 18 offences differently from other offences covered by clause 1. The maximum penalty for offences under section 18 is, like other offences covered by clause 1, life imprisonment. Section 18 is used to prosecute the most serious assaults committed by dangerous and violent criminals, such as wounding or causing grievous bodily harm with intent. Such offences are always extremely serious. Frequently they are life threatening or leave the victim permanently disfigured and injured. It is exactly that type of person from whom the public need protection. That is what the automatic life sentence is designed to achieve. Criminals who persist in committing violent assault such as grievous bodily harm—not a simple fracas or a tiny punch-up outside a pub—need to know that they will face a stiff sentence such as life imprisonment. It would be anomalous for such offences not to attract the automatic life sentence.

The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy has suggested that, without the change he proposes, minor offences would attract the automatic life sentence and that that would be unjust. I do not agree. For a lesser assault, a lesser charge can be brought, such as section 20 charges, for example, wounding without intent, or section 47 charges. In such cases, the maximum penalty under section 20 is five years. I do not think that we hear many complaints from the police or our constituents that the Crown Prosecution Service has overcharged people with grievous bodily harm. We all hear, in many cases erroneously, that the CPS has undercharged. That is the view of many of our constituents. If there was any suggestion that the charge of grievous bodily harm was wrongly placed, I am certain that there would not be a conviction. It would not pass the intention test.

Mr. Beith

Apart from the official Opposition we are all anxious to get on with the Division. Between now and the Bill reaching the other place, will the Minister consider the risk that, if the other amendments I have tabled are not considered carefully, we may have more mentally disordered people in prison when the courts, given the option, would have provided a more appropriate regime?

Mr. Maclean

I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was wrongly informed about the mental health element that he proposed in his speech. The court may not simply set aside the automatic life sentence. To set it aside would upset the balance that the Bill provides between the need to protect the public from repeat offending and the need to enable effective medical treatment to be given to mentally disordered offenders. A disposal under the Mental Health Act 1983 cannot provide the lifetime supervision needed. The key point about the automatic life sentence is that there will be lifetime supervision.

If someone with a psychiatric problem is given an automatic life sentence, the Home Secretary can use his powers, and would intend to continue to use them, to move that person for psychiatric treatment. When the treatment is over, the life sentence can continue, including the element of supervision for life. That is the key point. In clauses 2 and 3, a sentence of a mental health restriction order can be imposed instead.

I want to challenge another point raised by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. He said that the proposals would not be introduced for 12 years. That is untrue. It is true that it may be 12 years before the final burglar who has committed his third and final offence is locked up, but, when the Bill receives Royal Assent, we intend to introduce the important provisions as soon as possible, some time later this year. As resources permit, and as we can build the prison places through the private finance initiative, we intend to bring in the other provisions in the Bill, and by 1999 we intend to bring in the burglary provisions. That will protect our constituents better than any of the suggestions made by the Opposition tonight.

Mr. Llwyd

We have had a high-quality debate with speeches from both sides of the House. There have been thoughtful contributions from people who know a great deal about the subject.

I am singularly unconvinced by the Minister's response. It is much the same as we heard in Committee. I do not know whether Sir David Frost realises the constitutional implications of his programme on that fateful Sunday morning. I suspect that law students will seek videos of that programme and depart from their normal studies in order to learn about constitutional law.

I believe that this is the core of the Bill. If this part of the Bill remains unaltered, it will be flawed. In the other place the Bill will be examined by people who are judicially qualified as well as ex-Home Office Ministers and so on. I hope that they will look at the Bill again and amend this part of it.

I am indebted to those on both sides of the House who have contributed to this debate. I am sure that it will be read carefully in the other place, and I sincerely hope that there will be a positive result. With the greatest respect, the Minister's response was typical. It takes us nowhere at all. He stuck to a poor brief. We have heard the quotation from Sir David Frost's programme before and, as the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) said, we are no nearer now than we were in Committee, and that is disappointing.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 35, Noes 266.

Division No. 40] [8.28 pm
Alton, David Lynne, Ms Liz
Ashdown, Paddy Marek, Dr John
Beith, A J Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Nicholson, Miss Emma (W Devon)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Pickthall, Colin
Chidgey, David Purchase, Ken
Dafis, Cynog Rathbone, Tim
Davies, Chris (Littleborough)
Flynn, Paul Skinner, Dennis
Foster, Don (Bath) Steel, Sir David
Godman, Dr Norman A Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Harvey, Nick Thurnham, Peter
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Tyler, Paul
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Wallace, James
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Waller, Gary
Kennedy, Charles (Ross C & S) Wigley, Dafydd
Kirkwood, Archy
Lester, Sir Jim (Broxtowe) Tellers for the Ayes:
Lloyd, Sir Peter (Fareham) Mrs. Diana Maddock and
Llwyd, Elfyn Mr. David Rendel.
Aitken, Jonathan Emery, Sir Peter
Alexander, Richard Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'ld)
Alison, Michael (Selby) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Evans, Nigel (Ribble V)
Amess, David Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Arbuthnot, James Faber, David
Ashby, David Fabricant, Michael
Atkins, Robert Fenner, Dame Peggy
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fishburn, Dudley
Baker, Sir Nicholas (N Dorset) Forman, Nigel
Baldry, Tony Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Forth, Eric
Bates, Michael Fowler, Sir Norman
Batiste, Spencer Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Beggs, Roy Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bellingham, Henry Freeman, Roger
Bendall, Vivian French, Douglas
Beresford, Sir Paul Fry, Sir Peter
Biffen, John Gallie, Phil
Body, Sir Richard Gardiner, Sir George
Booth, Hartley Garnier, Edward
Boswell, Tim Gill, Christopher
Bowden, Sir Andrew Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Bowis, John Goodlad, Alastair
Boyson, Sir Rhodes Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brandreth, Gyles Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brazier, Julian Grant, Sir Anthony (SW Cambs)
Bright, Sir Graham Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brooke, Peter Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brown, Michael (Brigg Cl'thorpes) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Browning, Mrs Angela Hamilton, Sir Archibald
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hampson, Dr Keith
Budgen, Nicholas Hanley, Jeremy
Burns, Simon Hargreaves, Andrew
Burt, Alistair Harris, David
Butler, Peter Hawkins, Nick
Butterfill, John Hawksley, Warren
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Heald, Oliver
Carrington, Matthew Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carttiss, Michael Higgins, Sir Terence
Channon, Paul Hill, Sir James (Southampton Test)
Chapman, Sir Sydney Horam, John
Churchill, Mr Hordern, Sir Peter
Clappison, James Howard, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochf'd) Howell, David (Guildf'd)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Coe, Sebastian Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Colvin, Michael Hunt, Sir John (Ravensb'ne)
Congdon, David Hunter, Andrew
Conway, Derek Jack, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F) Jenkin, Bernard (Colchester N)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jessel, Toby
Cope, Sir John Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Couchman, James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jones, Robert B (W Herts)
Curry, David Jopling, Michael
Davies, Quentin (Stamf'd) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Davis, David (Boothferry) King, Tom
Day, Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Deva, Nirj Joseph Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Devlin, Tim Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dorrell, Stephen Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knox, Sir David
Dover, Den Kynoch, George
Duncan, Alan Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Duncan Smith, Iain Lang, Ian
Dunn, Bob Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Durant, Sir Anthony Legg, Barry
Dykes, Hugh Leigh, Edward
Eggar, Tim Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Elletson, Harold Lidington, David
Lilley, Peter Sims, Sir Roger
Lord, Michael Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Luff, Peter Smith, Tim (Beaconsf'ld)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
MacGregor, John Soames, Nicholas
MacKay, Andrew Speed, Sir Keith
Maclean, David Spencer, Sir Derek
McLoughlin, Patrick Spicer, Sir Jim (W Dorset)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)
Maitland, Lady Olga Spink, Dr Robert
Malone, Gerald Spring, Richard
Mans, Keith Sproat, Iain
Marlow, Tony Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stanley, Sir John
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Steen, Anthony
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stephen, Michael
Merchant, Piers Stern, Michael
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stewart, Allan
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Streeter, Gary
Moate, Sir Roger Sumberg, David
Molyneaux, Sir James Sweeney, Walter
Monro, Sir Hector Sykes, John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tapsell, Sir Peter
Moss, Malcolm Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Needham, Richard Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Nelson, Anthony Taylor, Sir Teddy
Neubert, Sir Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Newton, Tony Thomason, Roy
Nicholls, Patrick Thompson, Sir Donald (Calder V)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Onslow, Sir Cranley Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Oppenheim, Phillip Townend, John (Bridlington)
Ottaway, Richard Townsend, Sir Cyril (Bexl'yh'th)
Page, Richard Tredinnick, David
Paice, James Trend, Michael
Patnick, Sir Irvine Trotter, Neville
Patten, John Twinn, Dr Ian
Pattie, Sir Geoffrey Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Pawsey, James Viggers, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Waldegrave, William
Pickles, Eric Walden, George
Porter, David Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Portillo, Michael Waterson, Nigel
Powell, William (Corby) Watts, John
Redwood, John Wells, Bowen
Richards, Rod Wheeler, Sir John
Riddick, Graham Whitney, Sir Raymond
Robathan, Andrew Whittingdale, John
Roberts, Sir Wyn Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Robertson, Raymond S (Ab'd'n S) Wilkinson, John
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Willetts, David
Rowe, Andrew Wilshire, David
Rumbold, Dame Angela Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Sackville, Tom Wolfson, Mark
Sainsbury, Sir Timothy Wood, Timothy
Shaw, David (Dover) Yeo, Tim
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Young, Sir George
Shephard, Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Sir Colin (Heref'd) Tellers for the Noes:
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Mr. Peter Ainsworth and
Shersby, Sir Michael Mr. Roger Knapman.

Question accordingly negatived.

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