§ 2.10 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will announce their decision on the recommendations of the sub-committee of the Home Office's Advisory Council, regarding the system 5 of preventive detention, and, in particular, whether they accept the recommendation that the system should be abolished.]
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, my right honourable friend has already, as the noble Lord is aware, given effect to the Council's interim recommendation that all preventive detainees should, subject to good conduct, be eligible for release after serving two-thirds of their sentence. Legislation would, however, be required to give effect to the Council's main recommendations that preventive detention should be abolished and that the powers of the courts to deal with persistent offenders by long sentences of ordinary imprisonment should be strengthened. My right honourable friend is not yet in a position to make a statement on these matters.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, can the noble Earl say when his right honourable friend will be in a position to make a statement and, if it is a favourable one, whether legislation will be introduced? Secondly, is he aware that, despite the practice direction of the Lord Chief Justice, many Judges are still sentencing men to preventive detention for petty offences? Does he not think it inadvisable that this should continue, particularly when his Department is taking steps to empty preventive detention prisons and use them for other purposes?
My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord's first supplementary, of course my right honourable friend fully recognises the need for reaching a decision as early as possible on these very important recommendations. When a decision is reached, and if a decision were favourable, legislation would, as I have said in answer to the noble Lord's original Question, have to follow but I do not think that it would be right, or, indeed, protocolaire, for me to give any indication as to when that legislation might follow. On the noble Lord's second supplementary, perhaps, with the permission of the House, I may look into the point which he has raised, and having done so, communicate with the noble Lord and, if necessary, through him, the House. I should much prefer on that not to give a snap answer to-day.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for that reply. I think that it would be advisable in any reply he makes that it should be communicated to the whole House on this important matter. Would he ask his right honourable friend whether, irrespective of legislation, he could announce his decision on the main findings of the Committee? This might be of help in influencing Her Majesty's Judges with regard to the second part of my previous Question.