HL Deb 20 October 1988 vol 500 c1351WA
Viscount Dilhorne

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to propose amendments of the law concerning the right of silence in England and Wales.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

I told the House in May [Official Report, Written Answers, 19th May 1988, cols. 574–575] that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary saw a strong case for changing the law in relation to the inferences which may be drawn from a failure to answer questions put to a suspect by the police. He considered that more careful work needed to be done before he could bring forward with confidence a specific proposal for legislation, and he set up a working group (comprising officials, members of the legal profession and a senior police officer) to carry out that further work and submit an early report with a view to legislation.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has similarly reached the conclusion that the law of the Province needs to be changed. He has laid before the House a draft Order in Council containing provisions to this effect.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will seek the earliest opportunity after receiving the working group's report to bring forward legislation on this subject for England and Wales. Although the timing of change will inevitably be different in the two jurisdictions, the Government see a clear need for substantial changes to be made in both if the law is to be effectively enforced.