HL Deb 26 February 1996 vol 569 cc1219-20

2.37 p.m.

Lord Ackner asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the review of the law of murder announced on 24th January 1995 has yet been completed; and if so, when a report of the review will be published; and if it is not yet completed what is the reason for the delay.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords, the report of the inter-departmental group of officials has been received by Ministers and is at present under consideration by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and his colleagues. The issues are complex, but we hope that it will now be possible to reach final decisions and announce the conclusions of the review as soon as possible.

Lord Ackner

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer, though not quite with the degree of intense gratitude that I had anticipated. Will the noble Baroness confirm—perhaps I should have said "re-confirm" because she confirmed it on 24th October when I last raised the matter—first, that the inquiry was set up as a result of the unease experienced by the public in regard to the verdict of murder brought in against Trooper Clegg; secondly, the purpose of the inquiry was to decide on the merits of reducing from murder to manslaughter in those cases where excessive force was used in self-defence or in upholding the law; thirdly, recommendations that that should occur had been provided by the Criminal Law Revision Committee 16 years ago, by your Lordships' own Select Committee seven years ago, by the Law Commissioner in adopting it in the draft code six years ago, by the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland in the Clegg appeal, and by your Lordships Appellate Committee on the appeal in the Clegg case—

Noble Lords


Lord Ackner

—when my noble and learned friend who gave the leading judgment said that the recommendations point all one way? Why should there be any further delay in announcing the conclusion?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I have given one reason and I believe that the noble and learned Lord hints at it; namely, that it is a complex and sensitive issue about which there are different opinions. The noble and learned Lord was absolutely right when he stated the reason for setting up the review. The review itself relates to the use of lethal force in self-defence or in the prevention of crime. The review focuses on the use of lethal force in the maintenance of law and order, including the use of the yellow card. I believe that the noble and learned Lord knows that the regulations about the yellow card are also being reviewed as part of this exercise. I can also say that the review did not consider the mandatory life sentence or the law of provocation. All the references made by the noble and learned Lord are being taken into account in coming to a conclusion.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, will the noble Baroness confirm that the review will be published?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I cannot give an absolute guarantee about that at the moment. What I can say is that the Government will come to Parliament with their conclusions and they may include the report or a summary of the report. I note the noble Lord's concern.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I was a member of the Select Committee. Whether or not the conclusions are published—I suppose that they will have to he—can my noble friend say that they will be considered in this House before any decision is taken to implement them?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, certainly my right honourable friend plans to bring his conclusions to the House. It will be for the usual channels in the House to determine how to take those forward.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, we have already been waiting for a substantial period for the report of this review. Why cannot the noble Baroness tell the House that it will at least be published? The Government constantly say that they are in favour of open government. Why cannot they give some demonstration of their enthusiasm for that by publishing this review?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am in a difficulty to say what information my right honourable friend will bring forward when he comes to his conclusions. It is highly likely that the information that he received and what he took into account in coming to a conclusion will in fact he made available to the House, but I am not able to say at this moment what form that will take.