§ Lords amendment: No. 1A.1.11 pm
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins)
I beg to move, That this House disagrees with the Lords in the said amendment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
With this we may discuss amendments (a) and (b) in lieu of Lords amendment No. 1A and consequential amendment (c).
§ Paul Goggins
As I said on Report, both Houses and all parties should take the credit for progress on a difficult Bill and for the consensus that was reached. As I also pointed out on Report, the consensus includes agreement on pre-charge anonymity. However, we continue to disagree about the route that we should take to secure our objective.
The Government strongly maintain the view that we wish to follow the route of strengthened guidance and effective codes of conduct. As I said previously, we have held discussions with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the media to attain the objective. We also strongly believe that even if it were right to legislate on the issue, it would not be right to do that in the Bill.
Amendment (a) would provide anonymity to persons suspected of an offence under the Bill up to the point of charge. It specifies the details of a suspect that should not be published. It also provides for circumstances in which reporting restrictions could be lifted upon the application by a police officer of the rank of chief inspector or above.
Amendment (b) would provide anonymity for those being investigated for an offence under new schedule 8 so that their names could not be reported until and unless they had been charged or a decision had been made not to prefer charges.
Although we appear to be considering a narrow policy, there are many discrepancies between amendments (a) and (b). Amendment (b) is limited to cases about which a police investigation is under way up to the point of charge or when an investigation results in a decision to take no action. Amendment (a) but not amendment (b) would cover cases in which speculation was rife but no complaint was made or police investigation instigated.
The penalties in amendment (a), including imprisonment up to a maximum of two years, are inconsistent with penalties that have been set for other reporting restrictions, which the level 5 fine limit in amendment (b) reflects. Amendment (b) lists the sex offences to which the reporting restrictions should apply but amendment (a) limits its scope to offences in the Bill. That means that the reporting restrictions would cover neither other sexual offences in previous Acts nor 626 offences relating to child pornography under the Protection of Children Act 1978. There is no obvious reason for that.
The effect of amendment (b) is that the proprietor of a newspaper would commit a criminal offence if a member of staff revealed a defendant's identity, even if the proprietor had no knowledge of that. The amendment provides a defence when a programme is broadcast live, but not in any other circumstances.
Both amendments provide that anonymity can be lifted by the court only on application by police of the rank of inspector or chief inspector, depending on the amendment. I believe that that would place an undue burden and difficulty on the police who investigate the crime. It could slow down progress in identifying and locating a dangerous offender. It would also mean that a victim could not apply for lifting the defendant's anonymity.
Given the nature and tone of the debate throughout the Bill's passage, it would be unfortunate for any amendment on anonymity to be placed in clause 2, which immediately follows a clause on rape. That would fail to show sensitivity to the victims of such a crime and give the issue undue prominence. That would be an unfortunate outcome.
We have listened carefully to representations from those who are worried about the genuine harm that can be caused by reporting defendants' details. We also recognise that much anxiety arises from the damaging publicity that is often generated pre charge. However, we firmly believe that informed and strengthened guidance to the police and the media is preferable to any change in legislation.
The police code of conduct provides that information that comes into police possession should be treated as confidential. It should not be used for personal benefit or divulged to other parties except in the proper course of police duty. The code also demands that police officers have a specific responsibility to act fairly and impartially in all their dealings with the public and their colleagues, regardless of whether they are on duty. They should not behave in a way that is likely to bring discredit to the police service. Unauthorised disclosure of information about a suspect by a police officer is likely to be considered a breach of the code. Disciplinary proceedings may commence. An officer could face dismissal or even prosecution, depending on the circumstances of the case. In 2002–03, approximately 61 such cases were substantiated.
An agreement has been reached with ACPO to amend its media and disciplinary guidelines to all forces to give greater prominence to the rules that govern the release of information about anyone suspected but not yet charged with an offence.
Mr. Humfrey Matins (Woking)
Given the general acceptance of the principle of anonymity for a complainant in a rape case or similar, and that the Minister understands that many potential defendants 627 suffer great unfairness through publicity, will he give us hope that, if not today, at some stage in the future, important measures will be introduced to protect potential defendants who are never charged but often ruined?
§ Paul Goggins
I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxieties and I considered them deeply. I do not perceive a direct parallel between the interests of a complainant and those of a defendant. There is no direct read-across; the position is different, and much evidence suggests that we should consider the issues separately. However, I share his view, which he has often expressed, that anonymity should be preserved pre charge in the vast majority of cases. The question that we are debating is the route whereby we attain the objective. As I said, agreement has been reached with ACPO, which has strengthened its guidelines. The stronger guidance has already been effected, bringing the importance of the issue to the attention of police officers.
The Government have also held proactive discussions with the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, and the press are consequently examining their code of conduct to ascertain how it can be strengthened to ensure that those suspected but not yet charged with offences are not named in the media.
The Government maintain a clear, consistent position on this issue. We agree, as I have just said, that in most cases there should be anonymity pre charge, and that the effective use of police and media codes is the best way to achieve that objective. I have been able to report to the House previously, and I can report again today, that progress has been and continues to be made down that route. Clearly, we are not yet in a position to judge the effectiveness of the route; we need more time to make such a judgment.
I do not believe that the case for legislation has been made. It is clear from amendments (a) and (b) that there is still disagreement on how such a provision would be achieved if it were to be put on the statute book. There are clear differences between the proposals, which will no doubt become more apparent as the discussion unfolds. We are also strongly of the view that if the case were ever made for legislation, it should not simply be in relation to sex offences, but should be more broadly defined. All this is underpinned by the commitment made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on Third Reading that if our efforts to move down the voluntary route do not work, further action will be needed.
After all our deliberations in Committee and on the Floor of both Houses, we have arrived at the point at which a balanced judgment must be made about this issue in relation to the considerable benefits that will be achieved by the Bill as a whole. I hope that, as a result of our debates today, we shall be able to preserve the consensus that has emerged on the Bill. I urge Opposition Members not to press their amendments to a vote, but to support the Government's genuine efforts to build progress down the voluntary route. In the end, 628 this can deliver the objectives that we all seek, and I urge the House that we should commit ourselves to self-regulation rather than legislation.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), may I inform the House that Mr. Speaker's selection on the Criminal Justice Bill is now available in the Vote Office?
§ Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
May I, as usual, thank the Minister for the way in which he has presented the Government's position on this matter? I am mindful that many of the points that he has made have a great deal of force. If we could achieve a voluntary regime that restrained some of the worst excesses of the media feeding frenzies that occur when individuals are being subject to investigation and before charge, I would be heartily glad of it. I confess, however, that I have an inbuilt pessimism that that could happen under a voluntary code. I also take the view, which is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, that this is a serious matter that undermines the processes of justice. That said, I am aware that the amendment passed in another place, which is couched in quite vague terms and lacks detail in certain areas, is there to prompt the Government. It was with that in mind that we came up with amendment (b), to which I wish to speak briefly. I am also conscious that the Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment that strives to achieve similar things, but in a slightly different way.
I acknowledge that the press have a very important role to play in respect of the detection of crime and the exposure of wrongdoing. One matter that has concerned me greatly is that, if we were to have a statutory framework, it should be made clear that it would not provide a continuing prohibition on the press from reporting, with their usual fearlessness, examples of wrongdoing. For example, in an investigation in which a person was arrested but no charges were brought, if the press had material that would enable them to expose that person and face up to the laws of libel 12 months down the road, it would be quite wrong for us to introduce a fetter to prevent that from happening. Some of the early attempts to deal with this matter would have done precisely that.
Bearing that in mind, my amendment is very tightly drawn. It seeks to deal with the specific period between the time at which an allegation is first made to the police and they decide to investigate it, and the point at which they either charge the person or announce that no criminal charges are to be brought. The provision would have to include a guidelines code that perhaps went a bit wider than that. It deals with the specific period during which, as we know from past examples, a media feeding frenzy can be at its very worst. It would not be impossible, in those circumstances, for the system to operate under a statutory code during that time.
I accept the Government's argument that to have a disproportionate penalty in regard to these measures and those in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 relating to revealing the name of a 15-year-old defendant would be quite wrong. It would also be right to reduce the penalty because this should be a form of disciplinary measure against the media, rather than one that leads to people being locked up. For that reason, I differ with the Minister on whether the defence should 629 be available to a proprietor or editor that they did not know what material was going into a broadcast that was not going out live. I believe that it is the absolute responsibility of proprietors and editors to run their operations in a way that ensures that that does not happen. Of course, I accept that other considerations apply to live broadcasts. Indeed, in a recent case, it was precisely the utterance of a private individual during a live broadcast that started a media feeding frenzy, although at the end of the day no one was charged with an offence. I understand that, in those circumstances, it would be wrong for an editor or proprietor to be held responsible. However, if they know that an investigation is taking place, they still have a duty to take reasonably practical steps to ensure that such material is not used in a live broadcast.
If a broadcast is not live, however, and the usual vetting procedures have taken place, excuses are not acceptable, particularly when the penalty is a mere fine. In the case of most of the proprietors that we are thinking of here, that would not be a particularly onerous burden. In that sense, this is akin to health and safety at work legislation, which places responsibilities on people not to act negligently. If they do, I believe that a rap over the knuckles is perfectly proper.
I am mindful that I might not be able to press this amendment to a vote, because another amendment might be pressed by the Liberal Democrats. I regret that, because for reasons that I have already explained to Liberal Democrat Members, I think that my amendment is better than theirs. I also think that it comes closer to meeting the justified anxieties of the Government in regard to the far more draconian sentencing regime.
The Minister said that our amendment contained no provision for others to appeal to get an order lifted. I have considered that, and I fully accept that there might be a way of introducing such a mechanism if the Government wanted it. The difficulty would be that, in the short period that I hope the investigation would take—normally a few months—it would put a heavy burden on the magistrates courts if they became cluttered with numerous requests from the media to lift a ban on reporting the identity of the person concerned, especially as the police are undoubtedly best placed to decide whether such a ban should be lifted if the interests of justice so require. I would hope that such a mechanism would not be necessary. If, however, the Government felt that that was essential, and came up with proposals that included such a provision, I would certainly not stand in their way. I had difficulty shaping my proposal to fit the rather tight drafting that I was trying to achieve.
I do not want to prevent others from participating, so I shall conclude shortly. If the Liberal Democrats press their amendment to the vote, and I believe that they might be better placed to do so than we are, we will support them, not because we wish in any way to obstruct the passage of the Bill—we do not; it commands widespread support—but because there is a message here that needs to be repeated. There is 630 widespread public disquiet on the issue and we want to ensure that that disquiet is fully registered. If that leads to a voluntary code, so be it. If it does not, I make this request of the Minister.
Next year, there is to be a victims and witnesses Bill. There will be an opportunity there to add a defendants' provision, which could be extended far further than sex offences, if that proved necessary. That, of course, would meet the objection that the hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) has frequently raised and which I understand: concentrating on sex offences sends out the wrong message. If we were to go down the road of a statutory prohibition on reporting in that brief period, I would be totally happy to see it extended to all those who are being investigated for crimes, not simply sexual offences.
The Government have an opportunity here, and I hope that the Minister might consider that and respond positively, particularly if it becomes apparent that the voluntary framework is not working.
§ Mrs. Annette L. Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole):
I rise to speak in favour of amendment (a), which in part agrees with the Government's disagreement with the House of Lords, but its intention is to achieve a measure better than that passed in the other place.
Clearly, anonymity is a much debated issue, and there still seems to be a strong feeling in the other place that it should be extended to the point of conviction. However, I believe that the Minister has confirmed today that there is a consensus emerging that anonymity should be extended to the accused up to the point of charge. I do not want to go into the arguments—we have heard those before—but the outstanding issues are whether anonymity up to the point of charge covers all offences or just sexual offences, and whether that anonymity should he achieved by a voluntary agreement or by legislation.
I believe that there should be anonymity up to the point of charge for all offences—I think I have made that clear throughout—and I agree with the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) that it would be good, in the event of the Government not agreeing to our amendment, to have an assurance to revisit what is an important issue among the general public.
There is a case for addressing the issue in relation to sexual crimes. As many noble Lords argued, there is a particular social stigma attached to such crimes. We have had high-profile cases such as that of Matthew Kelly, but teachers, youth workers and many who work with young people feature at local level—their future employment prospects and their standing in the community are affected, even if there is never a charge. That is quite different from a case of theft. We have this opportunity to pass an amendment that will strengthen voluntary negotiations with the media regarding all crimes other than the sexual crimes that we have defined in the proposal.
I appreciate the Government's ongoing talks with the police and I am pleased to hear that an agreement has been reached. It is clear that any police officer releasing 631 information to the media without legitimate authority to do so should be dealt with under police procedures. I am also pleased that the Government are in negotiations with the Press Complaints Commission. Like the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, I do not want to restrict freedom of the press unduly—there is always a balance to be struck—but my hon. Friends and I do not have the confidence that there will not remain a temptation to print and publish certain stories that will make for good sales.
I want to underline a point that was made by my noble Friend Lord Thomas in the other place: if the Government want to try a voluntary arrangement, perhaps they could defer bringing the provision into operation while they make that attempt. In other words, they would have something in their back pocket. Amendments (a) and (b) have evolved from a proposal that was first tabled in Committee by my hon. Friends and me. At that stage, Conservative Members were taking a different approach, but we are pleased that there has been a process of evolution, with both opposition parties incorporating additional ideas as the consequence of discussion, which surely is a good way forward.
Our amendment includes the waiving of the right to anonymity as well as the power to make an application to lift reporting restrictions. I contend that amendment (a) is slightly superior to amendment (b), although there is a criticism that having to go to court to lift reporting restrictions could hold up the process. However, owing to the requirement to apply to a single justice, it should be possible to deal with that quickly.
Further, we have clearer definitions. We have been clear about the fact that there must be an intention to reveal the identity of someone against whom allegations are being made. We have made the sentences in line and consistent with other relevant legislation. The measure is approaching what could be good legislation. There are not great differences between amendments (a) and (b), because the principle that we wish to achieve is exactly the same, but I give notice that we would like to press amendment (a) to a vote.
§ Vera Baird (Redcar)
No Tory in the House of Lords nor any Liberal Democrat there, nor even either of those parties' representatives here today in the Commons, has any interest at all in the welfare of women rape complainants—not a one. They press on with this proposal, knowing perfectly clearly that if they advance this argument in respect of sexual offences it will have a deleterious impact on women complainants.
I hear worries about rape defendants, almost all of whom are male, having to be protected against allegations of wrongdoing against them being made public, in the way that allegations of wrongdoing, whoever they are made against, are made public across the board because the principle is that justice should he heard in public.
§ Mr. Grieve
On that basis, presumably the hon. and learned Lady would not wish to have a voluntary code either, because that is an indication of some fetter that she considers inappropriate.
§ Vera Baird
Probably the hon. Gentleman leapt to his feet as I was about to say the phrase that deals with what he is saying. The principle of justice is that justice is heard in public, and that must be maintained. If, however, there is to be some across-the-board provision, that will not have the sting that this provision—which is aimed at sexual offences, and therefore predominantly at women—inevitably will have.
This provision says that such defendants—basically males, of course—are a special group who must not be exposed to the strain that such allegations expose them to because there is a likelier chance than in any other case that they will be acquitted. Does nobody care for a second about the number of women who are raped and sexually abused? They live lives of perpetual silent anguish, unable to come to court because, with a conviction rate of 5.7 per cent., they are quite unable to be satisfied that they are likely to get support from the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the judiciary or anywhere else. That has been going on for years and years.
As everyone knows, until 1992, there was no law that rape within a relationship was an offence. Of course, that carried forward to other relationships outside marriage, so women simply did not bring such allegations forward. It has taken many years for women to digest the truth that they do not have to put up with whatever is doled out to them just because they are in a relationship. Having started to take that appreciation forward, there is none the less repeated failure in the criminal justice system to achieve just convictions.
Over the past couple of years, the Government have done their best to change things to help the women involved. That began in 1999, when they altered the rules on the admissibility of previous sexual history. The greatest deterrent to women who might otherwise have come forward was the fear that their sexual history would be tossed in their faces willy-nilly in an attempt to discredit them, but the Government have stopped that. The Bill has changed the definition of rape in a helpful way, applying sensible tests to the across-the-board statement "It does not matter what she was doing; I believed that she was consenting". The Government are making progress: they are trying to help women who have lived in silent anguish for a long time.
§ Sandra Gidley (Romsey)
I may have intervened too early. While the explanation of the rape laws has been interesting, I fail to understand how anonymity will affect the conviction rate. Women who are frightened to come forward may be more willing to do so if they feel that they will be better protected if the identity of the accused is kept secret until he is charged. We have reversed the former situation, but I have yet to be persuaded that in this day and age, when the benefits of coming forward are emphasised so strongly, anonymity will have a detrimental effect.
§ Vera Baird
I have not a clue what the hon. Lady means about securing extra protection for complainants by giving defendants anonymity, but she invites me to explain why granting them anonymity only in sexual offence cases would be deleterious to complainants, so I will do so.
633 There are still problems in securing convictions, and in encouraging women to come forward. Years of campaigning by women was finally ratified, as it were, by a joint report by inspectorates of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in March 2002, which stated that cases of this kind were not pursued with sufficient vigour because of a belief among all institutions that bring them to court that they were likely to result in acquittals.
§ Mr. Grieve
The hon. and learned Lady's remarks would make sense if we were dealing with anonymity throughout the trial process. In that context, I have always thought that her comments have real merit. Here, however, we are dealing with the very short period between the point at which the police are seized of the matter and start investigating the person concerned and the point at which they decide either to charge or not to charge. Given that our amendment might also apply to women accused of having sexual relations with underage boys, for instance, I am at a loss to see how it could target women in particular. I am also at a loss to see how it would prevent or hinder women victims from coming forward.
§ Vera Baird
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman is at a loss. The number of women against whom there are allegations of sexual misconduct of the kind that he posits can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand in any given year, and, as he must know, almost all defendants are male. The impact of any measure levelled against defendants in such cases will fall on women defendants: that is 100 per cent. certain. It is therefore not sensible to suggest that there is any parity of concern.
The inspectorates of the constabulary told the police that they were not investigating cases properly because they thought they would fail. The inspectorates of the CPS told the CPS that it was not trying hard enough to make the police investigate, and that it was not pursuing prosecutions vigorously enough because it too expected them to fail. There is even a substantial argument for the case that the judiciary does not put its back into trying to secure proper trials because it shares that expectation. It is all due to the old baggage that we must still carry with us.
The Government have taken steps to improve the position. The police now have a clear policy and clear guidance to ensure that they investigate rapes properly, because the Home Office told them to obtain that guidance. As a direct result of the work of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, who is present, there will be specialist rape prosecutors whose guidance will require them to ensure that the police investigate properly. At long last, the judiciary will have to undertake serious sexual offence training courses to help them to understand the importance of dealing sensitively with rape cases, and of not being cavalier. All those moves convey the message that we take rape complaints seriously from day one until the final outcome. Women are being sent a good message—the message that they will be supported by the powers that be if they come forward, and that they will be given a fair hearing.
634 1.45 pm
How will that message survive, though, if another message is sent by us today? What if the impression is gained that Parliament considers sexual offences so unlikely to lead to convictions that it is earmarking them for special treatment, granting anonymity only to this sector of defendants? This other message will tell people "We have gone through the motions of telling the police and the CPS to try a bit harder. We have asked the judiciary to put behind them prejudices that they have expressed all too often. But we truly, truly do not mean it, because even we think that sexual offences are highly unlikely to produce convictions."
Of course there is concern about people who are accused before being charged, and about the publicity that follows. As almost everyone has conceded, however, that applies equally to offences across the board. The dangers of earmarking sexual offences are very clear. Women who have suffered perpetual anguish, unable to obtain justice, will be sent a message that the criminal justice system is happy in the belief that it is more important for a few defendants in a specific category not to be put through what would probably be a transient anguish. "Stay in perpetual anguish—we will not support you" is not a message that I want the House to send, and I dare say that the Government will not let it be sent.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)
I broadly sympathise with the general approach adopted in amendments (a) and (b), but I want to make four points.
First, if we are to grant anonymity it is probably right for it to apply to all offences, not just sexual offences. I agree with the conclusion of the hon. and learned Member for Redcar (Vera Baird), although I am bound to say that I did not agree with her argument.
My second point is fairly narrow, but it is worth bearing in mind, because the amendments may give rise to legislation. In any definition of the prohibited characteristics of the alleged offender such as appears in subsection (3) of amendment (a), it would be wise to include the relationship of that person with the alleged victim. Although that probably falls within the scope of subsection (2), once we set about identifying particulars, we had best include the relationship with the alleged victim. For example, referring to a close relative of the alleged victim would identify the person involved. That does not fall within the scope of subsection (3), but it probably does fall within that of subsection (2). In any event, I think it worth including as a specific identifying criterion.
My third point is that it is absolutely right to provide a power to apply to the court to disapply the general prohibition. The police officer should be of a rank superior to the rank of chief inspector, which is not sufficiently high for such an important application. The Bill should prescribe the criteria that the officer has to satisfy. In the Bill, we are looking at the interests of justice, but that is a general phrase. However, in most cases, the application will be made to secure the arrest of someone who is seeking to evade arrest. It would be preferable for the criteria to be tightly defined in place of the general language in amendment (a).
635 My fourth point is a technical one, but it is worth making. In law, the publisher is often deemed to include the vendor. The retailer of newspapers can, for certain purposes, be described as the publisher in libel cases. Everyone who is responsible for making something public becomes the publisher. I would be surprised if anyone intends the vendor of a newspaper, as opposed to the editor or the proprietor, to be caught by the provision.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) has identified that possibility in his amendment, but amendment (a) does not cover the situation accurately. It is important to make it plain that the retailer of newspapers, who is entirely innocent in the matter, is not held liable in law, otherwise, we will interfere with free speech. Only people who are genuinely liable should be caught by the penal provision. I acknowledge that my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield has already covered that in his amendment.
§ Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)
Is there not a more general application of the point that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just made about the definition of publisher? Do we not need a new construction of the law because the present construction is rather archaic and unhelpful in defining the difference between someone who publishes a piece of literature and someone who sells it?
§ Mr. Hogg
That may be right, but one would want to look at the definition with regard to particular statutes. We do not want to revisit the general construction or interpretation of statutes measure that was passed at the end of the 19th century to make a general provisions test of the meaning of publisher. We should deal with that on a case-by-case basis.
§ Paul Goggins
It was remiss of me not to offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) on his recent appointment as shadow Attorney-General. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in congratulating him now.
As always in our debates on this issue, the nature of the discussion, while we disagree fundamentally about certain aspects, has been constructive, and our progress on the voluntary route has been genuinely welcomed by Opposition Members, for which I am grateful. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield generously acknowledged that the Government's argument has a great deal of force. Indeed, on a previous occasion, he acknowledged that the voluntary route might work. He was sceptical, as he was again today, but he did not rule it out. I urge him even at this stage to reconsider his decision on any forthcoming votes and say that he is persuaded to give the voluntary route a chance to work instead of supporting the amendment. He argued strongly that he has done his best to draw his amendment as tightly as possible, for which I pay tribute to him. Even so, the amendment gives rise to two difficulties. First, it does not rule out speculation before a police investigation has begun.
§ Mr. Grieve
I entirely accept that. In a free society, that is something that it is difficult—and in some circumstances wrong—to control. If, for instance, the 636 police refused to take action following serious allegations about a high-profile figure, the free press might have a role to play in risking the libel laws and publishing their material. I would not dream of wanting to interfere with that.
§ Paul Goggins
The hon. Gentleman's point is well made, and he has given an example of such action. The expectation out there is that the amendment would catch such behaviour, but it clearly would not.
Secondly, I urge the hon. Gentleman to accept that the point at which it is decided not to make a charge is not always a precise moment in time, so judging when it had been reached would be tricky. In our discussions of the amendments we have said much about the media, but not about the police. I emphasise that our attempt to move down the self-regulation routes applies equally to the police and the media. I am determined to ensure that any hint or evidence that the police are passing information on to the media is dealt with most severely.
§ Paul Goggins
We are working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to toughen the guidelines and make sure that if money changes hands, and if it can be proved to be a criminal offence, the required action is taken. That is possible under the voluntary arrangements sought by the Government, which are not a soft option.
§ Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)
My hon. Friend will know that the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport has been exercised by the problem of the newspapers, particularly the tabloids, paying journalists—[Interruption.] I am sorry, I meant paying police officers for information—paying journalists is another matter. The way in which such behaviour is caught as an offence remains uncertain. There may be disciplinary action against individual police officers, but will my hon. Friend consider including a provision in the draft corruption Bill to deal with the problem more robustly?
§ Paul Goggins
I well remember a question that my hon. Friend asked and which was given a great deal of publicity at the time. He has given an example of something which, like many other matters raised in our brief debate, needs further consideration.
The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) invited us to accept the offer made by her noble Friend Lord Thomas in another place and introduce an amendment that we would not implement. That may be intended to ensure that the message goes out that we mean business, but I hope that the media and the police clearly understand that we do mean business. The fact that we want to go down the route of self-regulation does not mean that we have gone soft. The message is extremely clear. It is important that the House does not give the impression that we pass legislation with no intention of implementing it, as that is the wrong way to legislate and cannot be justified at this point.
637 My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) spoke with her usual eloquence and passion on these issues, and I can add little to what she said. She argued cogently for the need for openness, and reminded us of the wider context in which we are debating this narrow issue. She certainly made a powerful argument about the reasons why, even if we legislated, such provisions should not be included in the Bill.
§ Mr. Grieve
A moment ago, the Minister said that it should be understood that we mean business, but what if the self-regulation route does not work? Is he in a position to give the House an assurance that in those circumstances we would legislate at an early opportunity and, in addition, legislate to cover all offences, which I have always stated would be a better option? I have to use the vehicles available to the Opposition, and we are currently dealing with a big Bill on sex offences.
§ 2 pm
§ Paul Goggins
Earlier in the debate, the hon. Gentleman speculated about future legislation that may be before the House and about attaching provisions in this area to that legislation. I am not going to join in that speculation, although he will have noticed, as I have in the short time I have been a Minister at the Home Office, that there is legislation from the Home Office in most Sessions of Parliament. He can rest assured that, whether on this issue or others, there will doubtless be future legislation from the Home Office.
I acknowledge, as the hon. Gentleman and others did, the widespread public concern on the matter. I make two points. First, I remind him of the comments of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on Third Reading. He made it abundantly clear to the media, the police and everyone else that, if the voluntary route down which we are going does not yield the kind of results that we all want, further action will be taken. My right hon. Friend could not have been clearer. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider that.
Secondly—this is an important point, which has not been made so far—we have established an inter-ministerial group to ensure that the Sexual Offences Bill is implemented across Government. Clearly, that committee, of which I will be a member, will monitor progress in this area to see whether the results and improvements that we hope and expect to see from the voluntary route have been achieved.
I argue this case as I have argued it in Committee and on Report, and I make it absolutely clear that, if I am arguing it in the middle of tomorrow night, I will be arguing I hope just as powerfully and in precisely the same terms. I ask all hon. Members and Members of the other House to reflect on that comment and on my closing remarks.
§ Lords amendment No. 1A disagreed to.
§ Amendment proposed in lieu thereof: (a)—[Mrs. Brooke.]
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—638
§ The House divided: Ayes 173, Noes 338.642
|Division No. 369]||[2:02 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Harvey, Nick|
|Allan, Richard||Hawkins, Nick|
|Amess, David||Hayes, John (S Holland)|
|Ancram, rh Michael||Heald, Oliver|
|Arbuthnot, rh James||Heath, David|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Heathcoat-Amory, rh David|
|Baker, Norman||Hendry, Charles|
|Barker, Gregory||Hoban, Mark (Fareham)|
|Barrett, John||Hogg, rh Douglas|
|Beith, rh A. J.||Horam, John (Orpington)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Howard, rh Michael|
|Blunt, Crispin||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Boswell, Tim||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Jack, rh Michael|
|Brady, Graham||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Brake, Tom (Carshalton)||Johnson, Boris (Henley)|
|Brazier, Julian||Keetch, Paul|
|Breed, Colin||Key, Robert (Salisbury)|
|Brooke, Mrs Annette L.||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Kirkwood, Sir Archy|
|Burnett, John||Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)|
|Burstow, Paul||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Burt, Alistair||Lansley, Andrew|
|Butterfill, John||Laws, David (Yeovil)|
|Cable, Dr. Vincent||Leigh, Edward|
|Calton, Mrs Patsy||Letwin, rh Oliver|
|Cameron, David||Liddell-Grainger, Ian|
|Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)||Lidington, David|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Chidgey, David||Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)|
|Chope, Christopher||McIntosh, Miss Anne|
|Clappison, James||Mackay, rh Andrew|
|Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Maclean, rh David|
|Collins, Tim||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Cotter, Brian||Malins, Humfrey|
|Curry, rh David||Maples, John|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)|
|Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)||Mates, Michael|
|Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian|
|Davis, rh David (Haltemprice &
|Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton
|Doughty, Sue||Moore, Michael|
|Duncan, Peter (Galloway)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Evans, Nigel||Murrison, Dr. Andrew|
|Fabricant, Michael||Oaten, Mark (Winchester)|
|Fallon, Michael||O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)|
|Field, Mark (Cities of London &
|Osborne, George (Tatton)|
|Flight, Howard||Page, Richard|
|Flook, Adrian||Paice, James|
|Forth, rh Eric||Paterson, Owen|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Pickles, Eric|
|Fox, Dr. Liam||Prisk, Mark (Hertford)|
|Francois, Mark||Pugh, Dr. John|
|Garnier, Edward||Randall, John|
|Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)||Redwood, rh John|
|Gidley, Sandra||Rendel, David|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Robathan, Andrew|
|Goodman, Paul||Robertson, Hugh (Faversham &
|Gray, James (N Wilts)|
|Grayling, Chris||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Green, Damian (Ashford)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Green, Matthew (Ludlow)||Rosindell, Andrew|
|Greenway, John||Ruffley, David|
|Grieve, Dominic||Sanders, Adrian|
|Gummer, rh John||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Hague, rh William||Selous, Andrew|
|Hammond, Philip||Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian|
|Shepherd, Richard||Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)|
|Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns &
|Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)||Whittingdale, John|
|Soames, Nicholas||Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann|
|Spelman, Mrs Caroline||Wiggin, Bill|
|Spicer, Sir Michael||Wilkinson, John|
|Stanley, rh Sir John||Willetts, David|
|Steen, Anthony||Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)|
|Streeter, Gary||Williams, Roger (Brecon)|
|Stunell, Andrew||Wilshire, David|
|Syms, Robert||Winterton, Ann (Congleton)|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Winterton, Sir Nicholas|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||(Macclesfield)|
|Taylor, John (Solihull)||Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)|
|Teather, Sarah||Young, rh Sir George|
|Thurso, John||Younger-Ross, Richard|
|Tonge, Dr. Jenny|
|Tredinnick, David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Trend, Michael||Bob Russell and|
|Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)||Mr. Alan Reid|
|Adams, Irene (Paisley N)||Chapman, Ben (Wirra S)|
|Ainger, Nick||Chaytor, David|
|Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)||Clapham, Michael|
|Alexander, Douglas||Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)|
|Allen, Graham||Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh|
|Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)||Pentlands)|
|Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge &|
|Bailey, Adrian||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Baird, Vera||Clelland, David|
|Banks, Tony||Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)|
|Barnes, Harry||Coaker, Vernon|
|Battle, John||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Bayley, Hugh||Cohen, Harry|
|Beard, Nigel||Coleman, Iain|
|Beckett, rh Margaret||Colman, Tony|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Connarty, Michael|
|Bell, Stuart||Cooper, Yvette|
|Benn, rh Hilary||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Bennett, Andrew||Cousins, Jim|
|Benton, Joe (Bootle)||Crausby, David|
|Berry, Roger||Cruddas, Jon|
|Best, Harold||Cryer, Ann (Keighley)|
|Betts, Clive||Cryer, John (Hornchurch)|
|Blackman, Liz||Cummings, John|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)|
|Blizzard, Bob||Cunningham, Tony (Workington)|
|Blunkett, rh David||Dalyell, Tam|
|Boateng, rh Paul||Darling, rh Alistair|
|Borrow, David||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)||David, Wayne|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Davidson, Ian|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Brennan, Kevin||Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Dawson, Hilton|
|Browne, Desmond||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Bryant, Chris||Denham, rh John|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Dismore, Andrew|
|Burden, Richard||Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)|
|Burgon, Colin||Dobson, rh Frank|
|Burnham, Andy||Donohoe, Brian H.|
|Byers, rh Stephen||Drew, David (Stroud)|
|Cairns, David||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Edwards, Huw|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Efford, Clive|
|Caplin, Ivor||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Casale, Roger||Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)|
|Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)||Farrelly, Paul|
|Challen, Colin||Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||Kidney, David|
|Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Flint, Caroline||King, Andy (Rugby)|
|Flynn, Paul (Newport W)||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green &|
|Foster, rh Derek||Knight, Jim (S Dorset)|
|Foster, Michael (Worcester)||Kumar, Dr. Ashok|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings||Ladyman, Dr. Stephen|
|& Rye)||Lawrence, Mrs Jackie|
|Francis, Dr. Hywel||Lazarowicz, Mark|
|Gapes, Mike (IlfordS)||Lepper, David|
|Gardiner, Barry||Leslie, Christopher|
|George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)||Levitt, Tom (High Peak)|
|Gerrard, Neil||Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)|
|Gilroy, Linda||Liddell, rh Mrs Helen|
|Godsiff, Roger||Linton, Martin|
|Goggins, Paul||Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Love, Andrew|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Luke, Iain (Dundee E)|
|Grogan, John||Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)|
|Hain, rh Peter||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||McCabe, Stephen|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||McDonagh, Siobhain|
|Hamilton, David (Midlothian)||MacDonald, Calum|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||McDonnell, John|
|Hanson, David||MacDougall, John|
|Harman, rh Ms Harriet||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)||McIsaac, Shona|
|Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil &||McKechin, Ann|
|Healey, John||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||McNulty, Tony|
|Hendrick, Mark||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Hepburn, Stephen||McWilliam, John|
|Heppell, John||Mahmood, Khalid|
|Hermon, Lady||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia||Mallaber, Judy|
|Heyes, David||Mandelson, rh Peter|
|Hill, Keith (Streatham)||Mann, John (Bassetlaw)|
|Hodge, Margaret||Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)|
|Hoon, rh Geoffrey||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Hope, Phil (Corby)||Marshall, David (Glasgow|
|Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N &||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Sefton E)||Martlew, Eric|
|Howells, Dr. Kim||Merron, Gillian|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Michael, rh Alun|
|Hughes, Beverley (Stretford &||Miliband, David|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||Moffatt, Laura|
|Hurst, Alan (Braintree)||Mole, Chris|
|Hutton, rh John||Moran, Margaret|
|Illsley, Eric||Morgan, Julie|
|Ingram, rh Adam||Morley, Elliot|
|Irranca-Davies, Huw||Morris, rh Estelle|
|Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead &||Mountford, Kali|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Mullin, Chris|
|Jamieson, David||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Jenkins, Brian||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Johnson, Alan (Hull W)||Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)||Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Olner, Bill|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)||Organ, Diana|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)|
|Jowell, rh Tessa||Owen, Albert|
|Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)||Palmer, Dr. Nick|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Pearson, Ian|
|Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)||Perham, Linda|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Pickthall, Colin|
|Khabra, Piara S.||Pike, Peter (Burnley)|
|Plaskitt, James||Soley, Clive|
|Pollard, Kerry||Southworth, Helen|
|Pond, Chris (Gravesham)||Spellar, rh John|
|Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)||Squire, Rachel|
|Pound, Stephen||Starkey, Dr. Phyllis|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Primarolo, rh Dawn||Stevenson, George|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Stewart, David (Inverness E &|
|Purnell, James||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Quin, rh Joyce||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Stoate, Dr. Howard|
|Rammell, Bill||Strang, rh Dr. Gavin|
|Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)||Stringer, Graham|
|Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N &||Stuart Ms Gisela|
|Robertson, John (Glasgow||Tami, Mark (Alyn)|
|Anniesland)||Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry||Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)|
|NW)||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Rooney, Terry||Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Roy, Frank (Motherwell)||Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)|
|Ruane, Chris||Timms, Stephen|
|Ruddock, Joan||Tipping, Paddy|
|Russell, Ms Christine (City of||Touhig, Don (Islwyn)|
|Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)||Truswell, Paul|
|Sarwar, Mohammad||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Savidge, Malcolm||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Sawford, Phil||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Shaw, Jonathan||Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)|
|Sheerman, Barry||Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)|
|Sheridan, Jim||Vis, Dr. Rudi|
|Shipley, Ms Debra||Ward, Claire|
|Short, rh Clare||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)||Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)|
|Singh, Marsha||Watts, David|
|Skinner, Dennis||White, Brian|
|Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Whitehead, Dr. Alan||Worthington, Tony|
|Wicks, Malcolm||Wray, James (Glasgow|
|Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)||Baillieston)|
|Williams, Betty (Conwy)||Wright, Anthony D. (Gt|
|Winnick, David||Wright David (Telford)|
|Winnick, David||Wright Tony (Cannock)|
|Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster|
|C)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Wood, Mike (Batley)||Mr. Fraser Kemp and|
|Woodward, Shaun||Ms Bridget Prentice|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ It being more than one hour after the commencement of proceedings on Lords reasons and amendments, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded to put forthwith the remaining Questions required to be put at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day].
§ Resolved, That this House does not insist on its amendment No. 261 to which the Lords have disagreed.
§ Government amendment (a) in lieu thereof agreed to.
§ Resolved, That this House agrees with the Lords in their proposals relating to Commons amendments Nos. 105, 274 and 291.
§ Committee appointed to draw up a Reason to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to the amendment proposed by the Lords in lieu of the words left out of the Bill by Commons amendment No. 1: Mrs. Annette Brooke, Paul Goggins, Mr. John Heppell, Mr. Humfrey Malins and Ms Dari Taylor; Paul Goggins to be the Chairman of the Committee; Three to be the quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Heppell.]
§ To withdraw immediately.
§ Reasons for disagreeing to the Lords amendment reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.