HC Deb 08 July 1999 vol 334 cc1235-58

'.—(1) Before making an order under section 44(5), the Secretary of State shall—

  1. (a) publish a notice of his intention to make such an order and the reasons for his decision; and
  2. (b) consult such persons as appear to him to be representative of news gathering and reporting organisations and any other persons he considers appropriate.

(2) The Secretary of State shall not make any order under section 44(5) until six months after the date of publication of the notice of intention under subsection (1)'.—[Mr. Greenway.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.30 pm
Mr. Greenway

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

As I did in Committee, I remind the House that I have an interest as a consultant to ITV Network Ltd., but none of the matters that we are to debate this afternoon are of concern to the broadcast media. Indeed, as I said in Committee, it is the printed media rather than the broadcast media that have residual concerns about the provisions of clause 44.

Clause 44, which was previously clause 43, seeks to clarify the law on press reporting restrictions on the identification of children and young persons under the age of 18, who may have been involved in criminal offences. The proposals as originally drafted, before the Bill began its passage through the other place, gave rise to huge anxiety and concern that they were too far-reaching and would seriously inhibit media, particularly local and regional newspapers, from reporting criminal incidents of a more or less general nature.

Several well-known crimes were cited as events that the press would have been restricted in reporting. The appalling murder of James Bulger was one. Another was the horrific tragedy at Dunblane. The Bill does not apply to Scotland, but had such an incident occurred in England, it would have been subject to the provisions. Perhaps the most accurate example was the attack on a school playground in Wolverhampton, in which a number of children were injured and considerable bravery was displayed by a teacher, Lisa Potts.

Arising from those concerns, changes were introduced in the other place, including some important defences to publication. One such defence would be that permission had been granted by the parents or guardians. Another would be that the criminal investigation in respect of the incident had not begun, although we still are not clear how wide or narrow that window is likely to be in practice. A third would be the inadvertent reporting of the identity of a young person. The final such case would be one in which the reporting could be considered to be in the public interest, as defined by the open reporting of crime.

Those changes were welcome and we supported them, but the position was still not satisfactory. Many right hon. and hon. Members have been contacted by their local newspapers with expressions of concern about the implications of the restrictions for the reporting of relatively routine incidents. In particular, it was stressed that the local press often play an important and beneficial role—for example, when an incident such as a kidnapping has occurred—in helping the police to trace the whereabouts of the people concerned.

Such an incident occurred recently in the Home Secretary's constituency, Blackburn. As a result of co-operation between the police and local media, the young person, who sadly had fallen into the control of a known sex offender, was located and taken back to his home and to safety. There is no doubt that the press often report such incidents responsibly and constructively, with beneficial consequences for the criminal process.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)

Will my hon. Friend make it clear that we are discussing circumstances in which young people under the age of 18 are the victims of crime, not the possible perpetrators of the crime?

Mr. Greenway

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has considerable experience of these matters. It will become clear that there is a differentiation along the lines that she suggests. That is the essence of our concern and the point of the new clause.

In Committee, in response to the anxieties that I have outlined, the Government tabled an amendment that limited the effect of the immediate prohibition on reporting to the identification of young persons under the age of 18 who were likely to be the accused or the defendant in a criminal case. With regard to victims or witnesses to a criminal incident, the provision will have effect only if the Secretary of State has laid an order that is debated and approved subject to the affirmative resolution procedure of both Houses.

We must consider whether there is a case for a wider prohibition than is currently enshrined in our law in respect of a young person who may be a defendant or an accused in a criminal court. Having given the matter a great deal of thought, Conservative Members have accepted, as I told the Minister in Committee, that perhaps there is such a case.

Perhaps the most celebrated example of the type of abuse that the Bill would now prevent was that of Mr. Adam Dent, an extremely bright 15-year-old who was already an undergraduate. He was falsely accused of rape and his academic career was ruined as a consequence of the publicity. He was not only not convicted but never charged. I have done a little research since the Bill was in Committee and I understand that that case took place when the previous Government introduced the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997. Some consideration was given to whether a prohibition such as that which the Government are introducing in the Bill might have been appropriate to that legislation, but one could not be incorporated because the content of the Bill restricted the actions of the then Government and they could not make such an amendment.

Although we are prepared to accept that there is a case for strengthening the law further to protect young persons who have been accused of a crime, some concern remains. The Minister will be aware of a case that has been cited in the general discussion about the provisions. A 16-year-old girl was arrested as she emerged from a tunnel from which she had been protesting about a road development and a picture of her beaming face appeared across the top of the front page of The Times; I am told that the photograph is still on its website. She was identified by every national newspaper except one. She was never prosecuted. Clearly, if such an incident arose again, national newspapers would have to rely on some of the other defences and it remains to be seen whether those defences will prove adequate.

In spite of our agreement that there is a case in principle for further change, it is likely that the new provisions—even in respect of young persons who are defendants—will cause some difficulty and in due course will test the Home Secretary's willingness to work with the Press Complaints Commission to discuss and review the best long-term approach to these matters. I hope that those remarks are helpful to the Minister.

We come now to the nub of the current continuing difficulty. The Government provided some relief for victims and witnesses and for local newspaper editors by deciding, with the support of the PCC, to incorporate in the Bill the requirement that those prohibitions will not apply to a young person who is a victim or a witness unless and until the House and the other place agree an affirmative resolution in respect of an order to be laid by the Secretary of State. I challenged the Minister in Committee by suggesting that that was an apparent climbdown. I use the word "apparent" advisedly, because we still do not know the Government's long-term intentions.

I tried to test the Minister on that issue in Committee, but his answer was not entirely reassuring. I have revisited what he said. I am not in any way challenging the sincerity of his remarks; I am simply drawing attention to their inadequacy in respect of providing reassurance for the print media. He said the provisions should not be implemented after Royal Assent unless there has been a further debate in both Houses."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 29 June 1999; c. 232.] He gave no indication of what the time scale for such a course of events might be. He also said that the Government did not intend the proposals to have the force of law unless the Secretary of State brought forward an order, subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses, to the effect that the provisions be enacted. There was no suggestion of the timetable.

4.45 pm
Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

I am confused about this matter and I wonder whether my hon. Friend can help me. Does he anticipate that the order made by the Secretary of State will be general, allowing the provision to be implemented in all cases, or will it relate to specific individuals and specific offences?

Mr. Greenway

I anticipate that it will be general. As I understand the scheme that the Government have agreed with the PCC and my noble Friend Lord Wakeham, the provision will not be implemented unless and until an order is made to implement it and both Houses will have the opportunity to hold a debate on the affirmative procedure to say whether they approve of it.

We are not clear about the Government's long-term intentions. Although there is now a sense of relief and they are off the hook because they have accepted an amendment, we are left with the prospect of the provision, which has caused such concern to regional and local newspapers in particular, lying on the statute book waiting for the day when the Home Secretary gets up one morning, decides to lay the order and asks both Houses to approve it in a week or two.

I may have exaggerated what might happen, but that is where we stand. We need more clarification of the Government's long-term intentions. Are they in favour of or against implementing the provision? If they have decided that it is not such a good idea, why incorporate it in the Bill in the first place? What is the point? Why was it not agreed before we began Committee proceedings that there should be a prohibition in respect of persons under 18 who are likely to be the accused in a criminal trial? The witnesses and victims could have been left out of that altogether. But no, the provision remains in the Bill and we have simply this order-making power.

Given that the provision has been incorporated, one can assume only that the Government want to retain the opportunity in case at some future date they are minded to implement it. Today we need to know what the circumstances are which would prompt the Government to implement this provision through the order-making power. I put that question to the Minister in Committee but, as I am sure the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell) will agree, answer came there none. That is why we are seeking further answer today.

Furthermore, the correspondence between the Home Secretary and my noble Friend Lord Wakeham, which the Minister kindly placed in the Library and I have now had the opportunity to review, makes it clear that in any event the PCC has agreed that there will be a review of the code of practice which relates to the protection of children who might be harmed by publicity in relation to a crime in which they were involved. That encourages me to return to my earlier point: in such circumstances if the PCC is undertaking its review, surely it would be better to remove the victim and witness provision from the Bill and await the outcome of the review. Sadly, that is neither the Government's choice, nor the option before us today.

We tabled new clause 3 with three clear objectives. When the Minister responds I hope that he will treat them in the spirit in which they have been proposed and try to give not just us but a lot of worried editors in local newspapers some greater reassurance. Our first objective is to have that greater reassurance about the circumstances which might persuade the Home Secretary to make an order under this provision. What do the Government have in mind that makes them want to keep the provision in the Bill? The second objective is to give voice to the anxieties of local newspaper editors who, from all our experience, generally take a responsible attitude to reporting incidents involving young children. I know that point is of concern to the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson), who raised it in Committee. The third objective is to impose a better framework for the order-making power, should the Home Secretary decide that it were appropriate to implement it.

In the spirit of the reassurances already given, one assumes by implication that the Government are not currently minded to implement these provisions, but we have to accept that the circumstances could change. If they do and the Home Secretary decides to implement this, he would have nothing to fear from a requirement, such as that in the new clause, to announce an intention to bring forward the order and state his reasons. In all respects this first element of new clause 3 is entirely unexceptional and unobjectionable. It simply requires the Secretary of State to state that he intends to make an order and to give his reasons for doing so.

The second element is that the Secretary of State, having made his announcement, should consult. This might occur several years hence when there might be a different Home Secretary and, with any luck, a different Government. Surely consultation would be appropriate. It is unthinkable that the Home Secretary would feel it unnecessary to discuss the issue again with print and broadcast media. It is entirely likely that local newspapers would want to talk to their local Members of Parliament about their concerns about what the Government have in mind. Indeed, if the check of an affirmative resolution of both Houses is to have any value, right hon. and hon. Members will need to know how they are to use their vote. If there is to be no consultation and they are simply to be whipped through the Lobby in five seconds flat because the order has been laid and they have been told to vote for it, that provides no protection whatever. Therefore, we need consultation so that right hon. and hon. Members will know how to vote or, if they are being told to vote for it, at least they will have discussed the matter with their local newspaper and will understand the implications of it for that paper.

Furthermore, there must be consultation to take account of the implications of an order for all aspects of self-regulation of the press and the review of the code of conduct, which the PCC is undertaking and which has been published in the letters that have been laid in the House. It is entirely reasonable to have consultation on a proposal to lay an order.

Subsection (2) of new clause 3 would require a six month delay. Surely time for reflection on the introduction and imposition of such a draconian press reporting prohibition would not be a bad idea. We often talk about the need to avoid knee-jerk legislation. Such a reaction is a bad idea, but it takes five or six months to get primary legislation through the House, unless there is agreement on a fast track approach. An order-making power that is subject only to affirmative resolution could be through the House in two or three weeks. What is wrong with requiring a six-month delay before making an order?

We should resist the temptation to make an order as a knee-jerk reaction to a gross abuse committed by one element of the tabloid press. The best response is to give time for reflection. The local and regional press may have acted responsibly following the enactment of this legislation. They should not be penalised because of the wrongdoing of one tabloid newspaper, which committed such a gross abuse that everyone said something must be done about it. People may say, "The order-making power is already in the Bill, so what's the reason for delay? Let's get on with it." However, we think that it would be no bad thing to have a six-month delay.

If the Government, on reflection, have decided that they will not implement this provision for the time being, and are persuaded by the argument that it will, hopefully, not be necessary, what is wrong with incorporating a six-month delay as a safeguard?

Those are reasonable safeguards and make better sense of the Government's position. They do not inhibit the power to impose the restriction, but they would enable local newspapers and other responsible media to ask the Home Secretary to think again if he were minded to make an order under clause 44(5). Most important of all, it would give right hon. and hon. Members the chance to reflect on and understand the implications and consequences of a decision to restrict press freedom in an important area of public life if the public have a genuine right to know.

The new clause is the very minimum that the House should expect and insist on from a Government who preach the doctrine of freedom of information, and I commend it to the House.

Mr. Viggers

As I have not previously spoken on the Bill, may I say that I welcome it in general terms? Some of us occasionally go out with our local police force and see the behaviour of young people late at night, and we have all heard about young people committing burglary offences. Whatever the crime, the gap between the commission of the alleged offence and the bringing of the offender to trial must be kept as short as possible. That is the main thrust of the Bill, and I very much welcome it.

The detail is important, and we are discussing a particular point about publicity. The courts in England and Wales operate on the principle that court business should be conducted openly. That is an important part of our justice system. Under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, the court may, in certain circumstances, prohibit the name and address of an individual being revealed. As the law currently stands, there are also important provisions protecting young people, specifically section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, which allows a court to prohibit the reporting of the name, address, school or other particulars that identify children and young persons under the age of 17.

5 pm

I come to my first question to the Minister. I have not taken part in the Committee stage of the Bill, so I would be interested to know why the Government propose to restrict reporting of young people under the age of 18, rather than 17. The age at which restrictions may be imposed is being increased, whereas in most other sectors—I think particularly of homosexual law so-called reform—the age is being reduced. I should be grateful if the Minister would remind hon. Members why, in the case of reporting restrictions, the age is being increased, so that people under the age of 18, rather than 17, are protected.

I welcome the fact that the clause relates not only to England and Wales, but to Northern Ireland and to courts-martial. I am always vigilant to see where legislation shall apply. When I was a Northern Ireland Minister, it seemed strange that, frequently, I had to come to the House to introduce legislation relating to Northern Ireland that replicated legislation that had been introduced for England and Wales. In so far as it is possible, legislation that applies to the entire United Kingdom should be introduced.

Similarly, as Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence on two of the past three sessions when it has considered the Armed Forces Bill—the Bill to change armed forces legislation specifically relating to courts-martial and other matters—I welcome the fact that courts-martial are specifically referred to in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill. Again, wearing my hat as Chairman of the Select Committee, it seemed strange that courts-martial should be subject to separate legislation. Again, one would like legislation to be applied to England, Wales, Northern Ireland and courts-martial.

The central point of the new clause is to ask whether the Government have decided to implement clause 44(5). I was surprised when I read how broadly it was drafted. It simply says that subsection (4)(b), which restricts publication in cases of witnesses, or those who have been victims of crime, will apply on or after such date as may be specified in an order made by the Secretary of State. It does not say whether the Secretary of State must introduce an order to implement the whole of subsection (4)(b); I should like to know the answer to that question. Will the Government introduce a broad order that will implement all of paragraph (b), or will it be open to the Government to decide, for example, that that paragraph will apply only to witnesses? Will they perhaps introduce legislation by affirmative resolution to ensure that subsection (4)(b) will apply only to individuals against whom an offence is alleged to have been committed?

The provision is extremely broad and confirms the view that I have had for a number of years that amendments to existing legislation and legislation brought in rapidly tend not to be good legislation. It would be far better if the Government, having not made up their mind on the point and having left it wide open, subject only to affirmative resolution, left the matter and decided that, if they wished to implement the necessary legislation, they would introduce primary legislation.

The manner in which the House is treated by the Government means that we are not overtaxed in terms of legislation. The House could discuss matters of great note for a longer time. The terms of the Bill are far too loose, wide and arbitrary. Knee-jerk reaction to events in the tabloid press can often lead the Government to introduce bad legislation. Do I hear the words, "dangerous dogs"? I ask the House to support the entirely reasonable new clause, which has been effectively moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway).

Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester)

Does the Minister recall the Standing Committee's first sitting, on 25 May, when I mentioned that there would be disagreement about the Bill's reporting provisions? I went on to say: I urge the Government to think seriously about the media's reservations."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 25 May 1999; c. 5.] Does he agree that that one sentence, on which the Government acted, did more to alter the Bill's course than the hours of waffle that we have heard from the hon. Member for Lymeswold—the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway)?

In a previous career, I was a court reporter, and I am approaching the issue from that perspective. Will the Minister tell us why, if there had been so much discussion and liaison with the media, the draconian ban on reporting was proposed initially? I suggest that, far from encouraging less court reporting—especially in the weekly and provincial media—we should be encouraging greater coverage of court cases.

Since the Government's amendments were tabled in Committee, what further representations have Minsters received from the Newspaper Society and the Guild of Editors—who represent those working in the real newspaper world, and have experience of producing weekly and evening newspapers?

In Committee, the Minister gave the impression that everyone in the newspaper world believed that the Government's amendments would resolve the problem. However, they do not believe that. In an ideal world—as hon. Members have already said—the provision would be withdrawn and proposed again later, so that it might be debated fully. Presumably, however, we are simply being asked to accept the lesser of two evils.

The vast majority of cases involving young children that are reported are reported in the weekly and provincial press. Newspapers are wedded to their communities—to which they have a responsibility—and, indeed, behave responsibly. I again ask the Minister to give an assurance that the one or perhaps two occasions on which a national tabloid newspaper has gone over the top will not be used as an excuse for a blanket ban on the weekly press.

I received a letter from the editor-in-chief of Essex County Newspapers—which produces two evening newspapers and various weekly newspapers in the county of Essex—in which she states: Editors and media experts fear that"— the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Billwill prevent publication of matters of legitimate public interest … The Bill will make it an offence for the media to identify under 18-year-olds who might be victims, witnesses or the perpetrators of crimes under investigation. The ban will last until legal proceedings (if any) commence or the young person reaches the age of 18. The provision is a threat to freedom of the press. It would prevent the media from carrying a great deal of inoffensive and unharmful material. Indeed, many items that serve the public interest, by highlighting the effect of crime, would be banned. A newspaper would be barred, for example, from publishing a report about a 17-year-old pop singer who had a precious gold record stolen. It could also prevent a newspaper from printing an interview with a 17-year-old student who saw a fight break out on a football terrace—which is not something that ever happens in Colchester, although it does happen elsewhere.

It is true that an editor could escape prosecution by pleading before magistrates either that the material was in the public interest or that the parties, or their guardians, had given written consent. However, the presumption against publication would serve to discourage the media from pursuing such stories.

Protecting young offenders is not the point of the provision, as they are already provided with anonymity under current legislation. Neither is the point to protect victims of sex offenders, as they, too, are already provided with anonymity.

Irene Kettle, the editor-in-chief, continues: My concern is that the media will find itself unable to properly report a wide range of events if everyone under 18 who is either a victim of any crime or a witness must be anonymous … It is unclear when the ban would become active. Would, for example, a young accident victim or missing child have to stay anonymous because of police involvement and the possibility of a prosecution? She later says: The public interest defence is unsatisfactory. It would place editors in the position of having to second guess a court's attitude.

The new clause relates to the Government amendments moved in Committee in response to the criticisms of the original draft of the Bill on reporting restrictions. We welcome the Government's movement on the issue, but it is only one step and many more are required. The Government amendments were designed to ensure that the reporting restrictions in the Bill relating to young victims and witnesses could be implemented only if a draft order to that effect was approved by affirmative resolution procedure in both Houses. Following widespread criticism of the proposals, the Government have chosen to suspend the implementation of the reporting restrictions and have said that they want regulation to work. We all hope that it will.

In Committee, the Minister said: Given the reach of clause 43's restrictions and the number of reports that they might affect, and given the possibility that our aims might be achievable through other means, it is right that the provision should not be implemented after Royal Assent unless there has been further debate in both Houses. If the amendments are accepted, we"— the Government— are bound to undertake to keep the case for implementation under regular review, and I am happy to give such an undertaking."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 29 June 1999; c. 232.]

We have said all along that we understand and share the Government's aim to provide greater protection for the privacy of young victims and witnesses. However, the Government seemed to get into a mess with their original proposals—otherwise why the rushed amendments? It became clear that the scope of the restrictions and the practicalities were not thought through—again, otherwise why the Government amendments?

The new clause would ensure that should the Government—or a future Government—decide to go ahead with the proposals, an order would have to be placed before Parliament for approval and the Government would be required to consult representatives of the media—more than just Lord Wakeham. A delay of six months before implementation would also be imposed. We appreciate the thinking behind that. It seems clear that consultation was non-existent or substandard before the Bill was published and it is understandable following that failure that we should want to impose a requirement for consultation in future.

The Newspaper Society has welcomed the Government's amendments in Committee, but it feels that the proposals are still hanging over the newspapers. That is particularly true of the weekly and provincial press. I should be happy if the Minister could divide the proposed ban—if it ever came in—to put the national press in a separate category from the responsible provincial weekly press.

The new clause would mean that at least representatives of the media would be guaranteed further consultation if any Government decided to go ahead with the proposals. We support the new clause and we invite the Conservatives to press it to a vote.

Miss Kirkbride

I do not really have an interest to declare, but before I became a Member of Parliament I earned my living as a journalist on a national daily newspaper. It could be said that the interests of my former colleagues give me a specific interest in the debate, but I do not have a financial interest. I share the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway).

We are concerned because of the original proposal. The fact that the Government entered the debate by suggesting a blanket ban on the reporting of any person under 18 who was involved in any way—as the accused or the victim—in a potential criminal offence leads us to have suspicions about their motives.

5.15 pm

It is right and proper that the Government have climbed down by taking on board the legitimate concerns of the press. However, the fact that they started with a draconian ban—which would have been unworkable and unacceptable causes us concern. I therefore support our aim to restrict the Government's ability to introduce a ban in this area.

The use of affirmative resolutions may be dangerous, as major changes to public policy must be made by the proper legislative procedures. They must go through both Houses of Parliament and all stages. There should not be a one-off vote late at night, when many of us may not be totally aware of what is proposed. The proposal must be in the Bill and not in the small print, waiting for a moment when the Government think that they can get away with it.

The new clause must be considered; a resolution could not be pushed through as a result of the six-month consultation period. There would be no question of the Government bouncing the proposal through on the back of disinterest, lack of understanding or potential emotion following an incident that has caused public anxiety.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) asked why we are now talking about the age of 18 for reporting restrictions, when many other activities are licensed at 16 or 17. The extension of the protection of anonymity to the age of 18 seems intriguing.

For victims, or the accused, at risk of potential embarrassment by being named in court—I am thinking of rape victims—there is anonymity. However, we are concerned that the Government are proposing to give anonymity in matters that go beyond sexual offences.

We do not know whether the Government are proposing a blanket ban on naming all victims of criminal offences under the age of 18, or a specific ban in certain circumstances. For example, would it have been possible, desirable or rational to try to introduce a ban on the reporting of what happened at Dunblane? The Scottish example is inappropriate, because Scotland has a different criminal law. Sadly, however, such an event could happen anywhere in the United Kingdom. It is simply not reasonable that the British public should not be informed. The press may have behaved badly at Dunblane, and I do not wish to defend some of the actions of my former colleagues. There may have been painful intrusion into the parents' bereavement, but it is not right to restrict the ability of the press to report an incident such as Dunblane.

A road accident might lead to a criminal investigation. A group of young people died in a bus in my constituency. If a criminal investigation had resulted, perhaps because of the involvement of a drunk driver, would the national or local press have been banned from reporting the accident, which of course was a matter of huge public concern in my constituency and beyond?

What do the Government have in mind? Sadly, young people are sometimes kidnapped by paedophiles for their sexual gratification. Surely the press should be able to report that. The police say that the evidence that they get from the public in the first few days of an investigation, when the incident gets into the press and causes a sensation, often helps them to put together a picture of the offender. I cannot believe that the Government intend to block that.

In all the instances that I have mentioned, the public interest is hugely served by the press being able to report. The Government are setting out to protect the victims, but often they are protected by the facts becoming known. The press should not have to worry about a public interest defence and obtaining consent for publication. The parents in a kidnapping, for example, would be totally traumatised and incapable of a rational decision.

What circumstances could possibly arise in which the Government would want to give anonymity to victims under 18? Do they intend a blanket or a specific ban? If they intend a specific ban on a named individual, how can they hope to legislate through Parliament quickly enough to stop the press publishing? The House, I am pleased to say, does not sit seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. I can only assume that the Government intend a blanket ban. I fail to understand how they will be able to take account of the circumstances that I have described.

Will the Minister give us a very concrete, albeit hypothetical, example of circumstances in which he would use the provision and explain why it would protect the victim under the age of 18? Why should the House give the Government a legislative vehicle to introduce what would, in my view, be an unacceptable restriction on press freedom?

Mr. Dawson

I shall make a brief contribution. It is saddening and unfortunate that so few Conservative Members recognise the crucial element of this matter. They have spoken—rightly—about press freedom and the public interest, about the need to know and about the rights of the press in a free society to report news, but they have not mentioned the interests of children.

The Government's approach is balanced, proper and responsible. I hope that Conservative Members will consider the coverage of children and childhood that appears in the local press, as well as in the national tabloids. I contend that the press does not understand children and the reality that they face in this country, nor that childhood is a time for exploration, growth and development.

What are the Government's reasons for proposing this measure? That question has been asked rhetorically, but I shall answer it. The proposals are necessary precisely because the years before 18 are the time of childhood. Young people below 18 have no vote and play very little part in civic society. They have few forms of redress, and they lack the confidence to engage with their local press.

Mr. Bob Russell

If things are so bad in the weekly provincial press, why have the Government agreed to defer implementation of the proposal?

Mr. Dawson

I think that that deferral stems from the balanced approach that the Government have adopted. The solution lies with the responsible press and with Conservative Members. In Committee, I wondered why editors and journalists, both locally and nationally, do not talk to young people about the coverage that they are given. That is a serious point. What are the perceptions of young people's organisations of the way in which young people are treated?

Miss Kirkbride

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The proposal is to ban items in the press covering possible criminal offences whose victims are under 18. Will the hon. Gentleman give a specific example of when such a ban would be right?

Mr. Dawson

I was about to give an example of detrimental coverage, which involved a young victim of sexual abuse—one of the most serious crimes conceivable. The crime was reported in the local newspaper. The victim's relative was taken to court, and neither perpetrator nor victim was identified. However, the headlines were excruciating. The treatment of the story was grossly insensitive. Nothing in the paper said who that young person was or where she lived, but she knew who she was, and she was mortified by the reports of her case.

5.30 pm

The Government are trying to reflect the fact that even when serious offences are quite properly reported, the press should be far more sensitive to the experience of victims, especially children and adolescents who face a mixture of dilemmas, confusions and difficulties.

Miss Kirkbride

The hon. Gentleman's example would not be covered by the Government's proposals as it is already covered by restrictions on identifying victims of rape. A blanket ban on identifying people under 18 would make no difference. Press coverage would be even more general if it were restricted as the Government propose.

Mr. Dawson

I do not agree. My point is more wide ranging and subtle than that. Opposition Members are being complacent, and they should recognise the problem. Neither in Committee nor today have I heard any Opposition Member recognise insensitive press reporting of children. Children are routinely described as being the root of problems. Children in care—about whom I may feel unusually sensitive—are routinely described either as villains or, in the most saccharine and cloying terms, as victims.

Mr. Viggers

The hon. Gentleman is obviously concerned about reporting of the cases of young people under the existing law. Does he favour implementing subsection 4(b), and if so, why not now?

Mr. Dawson

The Government are wise to strike a balance and to give the media an opportunity to reflect, as all of us should, on its attitudes towards young people. We should listen more to children and take more account of what they say. If the media could do that, we might resolve some of the problems with which the Bill is intended to deal.

Mr. Llwyd

I regret to say that I found the remarks of the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) rather patronising. He implied that Opposition Members have no regard for the rights of children, and I am sure that I speak for all of us in disagreeing with him. I am vice-chairman of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Wales, and I have consistently advocated the rights of children since I was elected to Parliament. I shall continue to do so.

My commitment does not undermine my need to examine legislation. If I thought that the Government's proposal would further the interests of children in any way, I would not speak against it, and I should be obliged if the hon. Gentleman would not adopt such a patronising stance. Speaking as a father, I can say that we all respect children.

Mr. Dawson

May I make it clear that I did not intend to be patronising? I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's commitment to children's rights, and am glad to hear him express it.

Mr. Llwyd

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that acknowledgement and for putting the record straight.

This part of the Bill will have huge repercussions. Earlier, the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) used the word "draconian"; that might be an understatement. The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell) described the offence that would be created. The only way to avoid the risk of prosecution is for editors to apply to a court to lift the ban when it is in place.

There are other concerns about the procedure. The Home Office suggests that the police will decide when the ban is triggered, and that the police will be the first to apply for a court order in such cases. In relation to free speech, are we happy for the police to acquire even greater influence over what can or cannot be published before legal proceedings? Will there be a risk of public prosecution if editors publish uncontroversial stories that magistrates do not like?

I too have seen disgraceful reports, but they are not the general rule; they are very much the exception. By and large, our regional press are extremely good; they serve the interests of the public and of politicians. They do a darn good job. We should not tar them all with the same brush because of the one or two instances of indefensible behaviour to which reference has rightly been made.

A ridiculous situation is envisaged in the measure: that if a group of youngsters were to be named, it would be possible to ask for permission beforehand. That is rather cumbersome. The veto would further complicate matters; it could be manipulated to avoid publicity—for example, where a parent might be in dispute with a local authority as to the standard of its care of his or her child. Even a technical objection would neither give nor veto consent. The public interest defence to which the hon. Member for Colchester referred is not a catch-all to meet concerns. Day in and day out, editors will no doubt be at risk of committing a criminal offence for routine reporting.

Of course, the type of reporting to which the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre referred should be criminal behaviour. However, such reporting does not occur often, thank heavens. By and large, we have a responsible press. Like all hon. Members, I receive letters from the regional press. I refer especially to the Western Mail and the Daily Post—the daily newspapers that serve Wales. Those papers do a good job, although they do not report enough of my party's doings—I shall not go into that now. [Interruption.] However, to be serious, they do a reasonable job. I have been reading those newspapers for about 30 years and, with hand on heart, I can say that I have never seen a report of the kind referred to by the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre. No doubt, he was talking about a tabloid report.

We must try to put the matter into context. Do we really want editors to be constantly looking over their shoulders, having to second-guess whether a court would decide that a public interest defence will succeed or fail? That is not healthy for any kind of press. It is not healthy for freedom of speech—as was pointed out earlier. The measure is astonishing from a Government who are talking about freedom of information.

Editors would be able to plead public interest or written consent in defence before a magistrates court. However, if the Crown Prosecution Service decided to prosecute for the identification of witnesses, the only defence would be that the editor did not know that the ban had been triggered and that the material published identified the young person concerned. It is a tenuous and unsatisfactory matter. The Government have not proved the need for automatic restrictions—especially on the identification of young witnesses. That is not justified.

It is questionable, at least, whether the Bill conforms with article 10 of the European charter relating to freedom of expression. Apart from the uncertainty about when the ban is triggered, there are problems over the written-consent defence, and the reasons why a public-interest defence application for the ban to be listed for the sake of justice might not well apply to many uncontroversial stories.

Of course, the papers can go to the trouble of finding a magistrate or instructing a lawyer, but that is not really practicable, especially in the case of the regional press. I feel that a rather large sledgehammer is being taken to crack a rather small perceived nut. Let me again refer to the section 39 orders, which apply to the identification of youngsters. Evidence suggests that magistrates will be restricted, and that cannot be good for free speech.

Finally, let me say that the absence of a requirement for the Attorney-General's fiat for prosecutions deprives the media of a safeguard, in the form of consistency in prosecution policy. I consider that to be a public-interest matter, and a very important one.

I have the greatest possible regard for children's rights, and if I thought they were being infringed I would not be speaking in this way. I sincerely believe, however, that this part of the Bill is wrong in principle, and may well lead to a denial of free speech. That cannot be good for any of us.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Let me reassure the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) that I am not implacably opposed to the Bill, or to clause 44. I mention the hon. Gentleman because something that he said underlines my reason for wishing to speak. If I remember correctly, he said that the media did not understand children. My guess is that huge numbers of editors, sub-editors, photographers, reporters et al are parents, and sweeping generalisations are at the heart of my concerns and, I think, those of others. It is very easy to have a knee-jerk reaction.

It is a pleasure to ask this Minister questions, and I know that he will respond to them fully. I have a great deal of sympathy with what the Bill seeks to achieve, and, in principle, I do not oppose the powers that are being sought in clause 44. Of course abuses are taking place, and harm is being done to some young people; but—and it is on the "but" that I think we should focus—censoring the media, for whatever reason, should not be undertaken lightly. However sensible the motive may be, it is still censorship of the media.

Let me make a confession. I am one of those people who, every so often, have an overwhelming desire to censor the media. It usually takes me late at night, when I have stopped thinking too clearly. When, on the following morning, I muse on my thoughts of the night before, a little mature reflection reminds me of the inherent dangers of what I advocated the night before. Even when my motives of the night before were good, I realise the following day that reflection pays. I feel that a little mature reflection this afternoon, and a little mature reflection before these powers are used, is needed now.

I did not serve on the Standing Committee, and I have not heard all that has been said about the Bill; but I understand that, according to the procedures of the House, if a Bill comes to us on Report it means that someone—presumably the Speaker—has decided that an issue has not been debated or has not been debated fully, or that there are other reasons for bringing the Bill back to the House. I submit that there is a good reason for us to debate the Bill this afternoon, and I urge the Minister to explain again why he wants the powers that clause 44 would enable him to exercise. Surely there can be some occasions when publication is in the public interest, and even in the interests of the victims themselves. The Government are seeking significant powers of censorship, so I believe that we are right to debate them this afternoon and to require full explanation and justification of the proposals.

5.45 pm

More significant is the need for a spot of mature reflection before the powers, if they are approved by the House, are used, and that is the purpose of the new clause. It would defend the Government of the day, whatever their political persuasion, from the late-night, snap decision forced through the House when perhaps people like me are not thinking as clearly as we might and a bit of time for consideration would not come amiss.

When I look back on some of my instantaneous judgments, I often realise that my motives, the research that was carried out, the analysis I made of the issues and amount of time I spent consulting other people and listening to them were somewhat lacking. I have a sense that the same would be true of any Government that instantly decided to introduce a ban. Just as I try to test my motives the next day, the Government must provide the opportunity for the public at large, the affected media and the House to test their motives, test their logic, listen to their justifications and ensure that they have consulted and arrived at sensible conclusions.

That is why I support new clause 3: all it does is protect the Home Secretary of the day from getting it wrong by indulging in knee-jerk reactions. It simply requires the Home Secretary, before he uses the powers in clause 44, to give notice that he is going to do so—instead of just instantly doing it, he announces that that is what he intends to do. He is then given the opportunity to consult before using the powers. Consulting and listening never did anyone any harm, and the more serious the powers in question, the greater the need for consultation.

The new clause would also make a provision, currently lacking in the Bill, requiring the Home Secretary to explain exactly what he is doing, and why, to the House of Commons. If any institution in this country is the guardian of the rights of individuals, it is this House, so when the rights of individuals are taken away—censorship does take away rights—there has to be an adequate explanation of which the House approves. I would be perfectly prepared to vote with the Minister if his explanation were adequate, so I do not think that he need be frightened of new clause 3. New clause 3 does not strike at the purpose of the Bill, nor would it remove any powers from the Home Secretary. All it does is improve the decision-making process by allowing time for mature reflection.

Thinking about what reply I might receive, I concluded that I shall be told that I am overly worried, that the Government have no intention of doing what I do late at night, and that, since they are such a sensible Government, they do not need protection from themselves. The reply will be put more politely than I have put it—

Mr. Boateng

It depends on how long he goes on.

Mr. Wilshire

If the hon. Gentleman is not in a good mood, I might go on even longer, and he will have even more to explain. If he is tempted to tell the House that he has absolutely no intention of acting instantaneously, he will take away the only reason that he has for opposing the new clause.

Mr. Viggers

I remind my hon. Friend that the Government have so far not lost a Division, and all that is required is that the Home Secretary snap his fingers, and the terracotta warriors will wander through the Lobbies and the Bill will be passed.

Mr. Wilshire

I am incredibly tempted by that course of action, but I have been trying to be helpful and friendly and not too aggressive to Labour Members, so I shall resist that temptation, although I agree with my hon. Friend.

All I am saying to Ministers is that if they have no intention of acting instantaneously, the new clause will in no way mess up their Bill. If they intend to take a decent amount of time to make proposals, consult, listen and seek our approval, no harm whatsoever will come from accepting the new clause. Knowing the Minister of State to be a kind, reasonable man who wants to be generous on a Thursday afternoon, I am sure that he will support the new clause.

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

I shall be brief because I know that the Minister is anxious to respond to the many excellent points made by Conservative Members during the debate.

I entirely accept the points made by those who have said that they do not question the Government's motivations. I am sure that the Government did not get up in the morning thinking, "How can we penalise the media?" They are genuinely motivated by a wish to protect children, as are Conservative Members, but we happen to think that the Government are not going about that in a terribly effective way.

Some in the media do, perhaps, question the motivations of a Home Office that, it will be remembered, not too long ago sought an injunction to prevent the publication of a report that turned out to have been leaked by the Home Office. None the less, I shall pass over that point.

I shall concentrate my remarks on comments made to me by Mr. Mike Glover, the editor of the Westmorland Gazette in my constituency. It is a fine newspaper, which is very well dug in with its local community but which none the less has serious concerns about these issues. Mr. Glover's first point is that the problem with any such legislation, whether or not it comes into effect after the Government have made welcome concessions, is that if we prevent the press from publishing accurate information, we do not stop inaccurate information circulating elsewhere. There will still be gossip and people will retail versions of stories in pubs, on street corners and over their neighbour's fence. If we do not publish the accurate information, we may end up damaging children and causing them more difficulty than if we had allowed the press to report the facts straightforwardly and immediately.

Mr. Glover's second point is that the Westmorland Gazette is a fine newspaper and very successful in its area, but it does not have the largest circulation and it is not the best-known publication in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Boateng

The hon. Gentleman is doing his best to change that.

Mr. Collins

I am, as the Minister says, doing my best. It follows that that newspaper, like many other regional and local weekly newspapers, does not have at its disposal a large and well-financed legal department that is able to offer the editor a great deal of well-researched legal advice on these very difficult decisions. The restrictions could therefore be particularly onerous for local and regional newspapers—national newspapers probably have large legal departments and do not run the risk of editors being caught out.

I might add that since the debate has so far concentrated on the print media, it is worth noting that we are dealing with measures that will also relate to the broadcast media. A station such as Border Television—the smallest ITV station—in my constituency does not have a large legal department. The pressures on editors that we have described are even more acute for television stations because the time between a story breaking and the time when the broadcast media would expect to put it out could, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) said, be a matter of mere minutes. How can stations make accurate decisions on such matters so swiftly?

Mr. Glover's third and final point, which is important, is that the Home Office proposals, which would be aided by new clause 3, would break into the important co-operative relationship between local police forces and local newspapers. A senior police officer, from outside the immediate area covered by a local journalist or a local newspaper, might go to court to seek an injunction to provide a ban, thus souring relationships that had been built up over many years between a local beat journalist and local beat police officers.

If co-operation between the local media and the local police is broken down, the police may run the risk of losing one of their very important assets in the fight against crime. The Government should use the opportunity granted them under new clause 3 for further reflection to think about that, because some local police officers in my constituency do not think that it is necessarily a terribly good idea to put them in an adversarial relationship with their local media.

I now come to my final point, which I do not believe has been made in the debate. In the age of the internet and the ever greater dissemination of information, successive Governments have found that many of their attempts to impose restrictions on the free flow of information are probably doomed to failure. That problem, encountered by the previous Government, is increasing.

When I said that if accurate information was suppressed, inaccurate information would be circulated by other means, I also said that at the moment such information was probably spread by people talking to each another over the garden fence. In future years, increasingly, even local stories will be posted on the internet. One will never, realistically, be able to stop that.

Between 10 and 20 years ago, the "Spycatcher" case showed that it was impossible to stop information being published outside the geographical jurisdiction of a court or a nation. If the Bill passes unamended by new clause 3, there is a risk that such information could be posted on the internet. Even if it is posted simply between Kendal and Ambleside in my constituency, it could go via a server in the United States, be bounced around Australia and then return to the United Kingdom. Legislation of the type that the Bill represents must take account of these things.

My concern is that if one prevents the publication of accurate stories by the practitioners of professional, researched journalism, a bulge of inaccurate information will erupt elsewhere, which may in time come to be more damaging to children and young people than the accurate stories would have been. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity granted them in new clause 3 to think further about these matters.

Mr. Boateng

This has been a good debate, in which we have given this subject the considered and careful reflection that it deserves. To that extent, it mirrors our debates on this and other subjects in Committee.

The new clause provides for the Secretary of State to give notice of his intentions to make an order to activate the provisions of clause 44 in relation to child victims and witnesses; to publish his reasons for reaching his decision so to do; and to consult the media in whichever way he chooses. It then requires the Secretary of State to wait a further six months before making the order even if, in the interim, Parliament has debated the issue in both Houses and has agreed to the order being made.

That is rather unusual. It is an odd and, in our view, unnecessary way of proceeding. I well understand the spirit in which the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) moved the new clause, but we need to get real. It has been suggested by the hon. Members for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) in their careful and considered interventions—later I shall discuss in more detail the arguments made by the hon. Member for Gosport—that the Secretary of State for the Home Department might wake up one morning and, on a whim, bring these provisions into force. That, from two parliamentarians who, with the greatest respect, have been around a bit, demonstrates an ignorance—I believe, a wilful ignorance to enable them to make what they regarded as a good debating point—of the way in which the House works.

Mr. Wilshire

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Boateng

Not at the moment.

The hon. Member for Ryedale knows that one cannot arrange a debate on a draft order in both Houses instantly. The order must be drafted, and then parliamentary time in each House must be arranged—all hon. Members, on both sides of the House, know the difficulties involved in that. Each House must positively resolve in favour of the draft order. Then, and only then, can the order be made. In the event of the procedure being brought into effect by affirmative order, there would be ample opportunity for discussion, for soundings to be taken and for representations to be made.

6 pm

We value enormously the representations that were made by the media in the course of discussion around the clauses. Representations were made through letters from individual Members responding to quite proper communication with their local editors, through national representative bodies, and by individual editors and the Guild of Editors. I can assure the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell), who brings to our debate a wealth of experience from the front line, that we have taken on board the concerns and the representations made by the provincial media, which play an enormously important part that I do not underestimate in the local dispensation of justice. They have an interest, which needs to be protected, and their views have been taken into account.

I must not give in to the temptation offered by the hon. Member for Ryedale and others to accept the new clause if, by so doing, I would be fettering the discretion of future Ministers by binding them to any particular course of action. That is why I cannot respond as the hon. Members for Rye dale and for Colchester would have me do, by indicating what they described as our long-term intentions.

As we made clear upstairs—I am glad to affirm it on the Floor of the House today—our intentions are to proceed by recognising the potential of self-regulation to address the issue, as has been demonstrated during the discussion of the clauses. The issue is a serious one—the welfare of children.

I listened with close attention to the contributions of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson). As a professional solicitor and a social worker working with children, they bring their experience to bear. I hear them both. I do not believe that there is any great gulf between them. It is a question of tactics, rather than objective. The objective that we all have in common is to protect children.

After much deliberation and consultation, to which the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and other child protection organisations made an important contribution, that objective led us to go down the road set out in clause 44. We went down that road because of a number of cases that raised concerns about the impact of publicity on children, whether as victims or witnesses—for example, the difficulty for a child of facing his classmates when he has been publicly identified in the local or national press as the son of a wife-beater or baby-killer; or, if he walks to school, the difficulty of having to pass hoardings that identify him publicly with such a tragedy; or the difficulty of being identified as belonging to a family of thieves or drug dealers, even if the investigation did not lead to any charges. That would certainly merit the editor of a local newspaper taking care to consider the consequences of a careless press report. The hon. Members for Colchester and for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) will recognise that that is already the case in terms of the code of practice laid down by the PCC. We are not giving the Executive powers to ban the publication of particular material; we are making sure that the best standards of self-regulation are applied.

As several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Colchester, have said, the best standards are already being applied by the press and we are ensuring that they will be upheld and become more firmly entrenched in the general approach of the media—the broadcast media, national tabloid and broadsheet newspapers and local media—at all levels. We have to get the balance right, and I do not intend to make a distinction between the tabloids and local newspapers, which is the path down which he tempts me.

It is important to make sure that standards are maintained and developed by all, and I cannot and will not fetter the discretion of future Ministers in that regard. We are debating a requirement under clause 64(3)(a) for the Secretary of State to lay a draft of the order before both Houses. The order cannot be made unless the draft is approved by a resolution of each House. Obviously, the Home Secretary of the day will take into account all the circumstances, not just a cause celebre, before determining so to do. I hope that that satisfies hon. Members. It is important to recognise that those recommendations, which were published in June 1998, came from "Speaking Up for Justice". They have been the subject of considerable consultation.

I want to deal briefly with a number of points that were raised. The hon. Members for Gosport and for Bromsgrove asked why 18 was chosen. I understand their question. Our law—be it the Children Act 1989, the Bill or a range of measures concerning the age of consent, one of which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove—varies enormously for reasons of history, of vulnerability and of consistency within a particular area. It also refers to various ages, for example 16, 17 and 18. We chose 18 because it reflects the current limit in the youth court and the current limit in respect of court reporting restrictions. It would not have made sense to have chosen a lower age.

There is a debate to be had about the wider issues and, when hon. Members consider this matter, they need always to have in mind our determination to ensure—

It being four hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Order [this day], put the Question already proposed from the Chair.

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

The House divided: Ayes 122, Noes 288.

Division No. 231] [6.9 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Jenkin, Bernard
Allan, Richard Key, Robert
Amess, David King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Lansley, Andrew
Beggs, Roy Leigh, Edward
Beith, Rt Hon A J Letwin, Oliver
Bercow, John Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Beresford, Sir Paul Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Body, Sir Richard Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Boswell, Tim Llwyd, Elfyn
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Loughton, Tim
Brazier, Julian Luff, Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Burns, Simon McIntosh, Miss Anne
Cable, Dr Vincent MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Cash, William Maclean, Rt Hon David
Chope, Christopher McLoughlin, Patrick
Clappison, James Madel, Sir David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Maples, John
Collins, Tim Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Colvin, Michael Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Cormack, Sir Patrick Moss, Malcolm
Cotter, Brian Norman, Archie
Cran, James Ottaway, Richard
Curry, Rt Hon David Page, Richard
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Paterson, Owen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Pickles, Eric
Duncan, Alan Prior, David
Evans, Nigel Robathan, Andrew
Faber, David Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Fearn, Ronnie Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Flight, Howard St Aubyn, Nick
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Sayeed, Jonathan
Fox, Dr Liam Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Garnier, Edward Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gibb, Nick Spicer, Sir Michael
Gillen, Mrs Cheryl Spring, Richard
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Guile, Donald Streeter, Gary
Gray, James Stunell, Andrew
Green, Damian Swayne, Desmond
Greenway, John Syms, Robert
Grieve, Dominic Tapsell, Sir Peter
Gummer, Rt Hon John Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Hague, Rt Hon William Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Thompson, William
Hancock, Mike Townend, John
Heald, Oliver Tredinnick, David
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Trend, Michael
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Tyrie, Andrew
Horam, John Viggers, Peter
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Wardle, Charles
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Waterson, Nigel
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Wells, Bowen
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Wilshire, David Mr. Geoffrey Clifton—Brown
Woodward, Shaun and
Yeo, Tim Mrs. Jacqui Lait.
Ainger, Nick Donohoe, Brian H
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Doran, Frank
Alexander, Douglas Dowd, Jim
Ashton, Joe Drown, Ms Julia
Atherton, Ms Candy Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Austin, John Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Barnes, Harry Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Barron, Kevin Efford, Clive
Battle, John Ellman, Mrs Louise
Beard, Nigel Ennis, Jeff
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Etherington, Bill
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Field, Rt Hon Frank
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Fisher, Mark
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Bennett, Andrew F Fitzsimons, Lorna
Benton, Joe Flint, Caroline
Best, Harold Flynn, Paul
Betts, Clive Follett, Barbara
Blackman, Liz Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Blears Ms Hazel Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Blizzard, Bob Fyfe, Maria
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Galloway, George
Boateng, Paul Gapes, Mike
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Gardiner, Barry
Bradshaw, Ben Gerrard, Neil
Brinton, Mrs Helen Gibson, Dr Ian
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Browne, Desmond Godman, Dr Norman A
Buck, Ms Karen Goggins, Paul
Burden, Richard Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Butler, Mrs Christine Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Grogan, John
Cann, Jamie Hain, Peter
Caplin, Ivor Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Casale, Roger Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Caton, Martin Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Cawsey, Ian Hanson, David
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Chisholm, Malcolm Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clapham, Michael Hepburn, Stephen
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hill, Keith
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hinchliffe, David
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hood, Jimmy
Clelland, David Hope, Phil
Coaker, Vernon Hopkins, Kelvin
Coffey, Ms Ann Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Coleman, Iain Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Coleman, Tony Howells, Dr Kim
Connarty, Michael Hoyle, Lindsay
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Corston, Ms Jean Humble, Mrs Joan
Cousins, Jim Hurst, Alan
Cranston, Ross Iddon, Dr Brian
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Illsley, Eric
Cummings, John Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Jenkins, Brian
Darvill, Keith Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Dawson, Hilton Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Pond, Chris
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) Pope, Greg
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Pound, Stephen
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Powell, Sir Raymond
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Keeble, Ms Sally Prescott, Rt Hon John
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Prosser, Gwyn
Kelly, Ms Ruth Purchase, Ken
Kemp, Fraser Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Rammell, Bill
Khabra, Piara S Raynsford, Nick
Kilfoyle, Peter Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Kumar, Dr Ashok Roche, Mrs Barbara
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Rooker, Jeff
Lawrence, Ms Jackie Rowlands, Ted
Lepper, David Roy, Frank
Leslie, Christopher Ruddock, Joan
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Ryan, Ms Joan
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Savidge, Malcolm
Linton, Martin Sawford, Phil
Livingstone, Ken Sedgemore, Brian
Love, Andrew Sheerman, Barry
McAvoy, Thomas Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McCabe, Steve Shipley, Ms Debra
McCafferty, Ms Chris Short, Rt Hon Clare
McDonagh, Siobhain Singh, Marsha
Macdonald, Calum Skinner, Dennis
McDonnell, John Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McFall, John Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McIsaac, Shona Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McNamara, Kevin Snape, Peter
McNulty, Tony Soley, Clive
MacShane, Denis Southworth, Ms Helen
Mactaggart, Fiona Spellar, John
McWatter, Tony Starkey, Dr Phyllis
McWilliam, John Steinberg, Gerry
Mahon, Mrs Alice Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Stinchcombe, Paul
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Stoate, Dr Howard
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Stott, Roger
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Stringer, Graham
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Stuart, Ms Gisela
Martlew, Eric Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Meale, Alan Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Merron, Gillian Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Tipping, Paddy
Mitchell, Austin Todd, Mark
Moffatt, Laura Touhig, Don
Moran, Ms Margaret Trickett, Jon
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Mudie, George Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Mullin, Chris Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Vaz, Keith
Norris, Dan Vis, Dr Rudi
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Walley, Ms Joan
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Wareing, Robert N
O'Hara, Eddie Watts, David
Olner, Bill White, Brian
O'Neill, Martin Whitehead, Dr Alan
Organ, Mrs Diana Wicks, Malcolm
Osborne, Ms Sandra Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Palmer, Dr Nick Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Pearson, Ian Wills, Michael
Pickthall, Colin Winnick, David
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C) Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wise, Audrey
Worthington, Tony Tellers for the Noes:
Wray, James Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth) Mr. Graham Allen.

Question accordingly negatived.

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