§ Mr. Wrigglesworth
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will publish the report of the Advisory Council on the Penal System on sentences of imprisonment; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
The report, which was commissioned by my predecessor, was submitted to me in February. It is being published today. The House will be indebted to the members of the advisory council for a most illuminating report and for opening up a new area of debate on sentencing policy. I would like to express my personal thanks to them.
The report surveys the historical growth of the existing system of maximum penalties and the sentencing practice of the courts. Its main recommendation is a new two-tier sentencing system, based on current sentencing practice, under which the ordinary offender would be subject to much reduced maximum penalties, but there would be special powers for dealing with the exceptional offender who threatened serious harm to the public. The council proposes that for an initial period the courts might, as an experiment, work within the framework of the suggested new maxima; if the experiment proved a success, legislation could follow.
In the coming months I shall be giving close consideration to the council's detailed recommendations, in consultation with the judiciary and others with a known interest in this field. I shall also be glad to take account of comments from other quarters.