Schedule 1 — Amendments Related to Part 1
Criminal Justice Bill
Mr Edward Garnier (Harborough, Conservative)
I heartily agree with what Mr. Heath has just said. My views would be different if we were talking about bail imposed by a court, but we are talking about bail imposed by a custody officer, who is not part of the judicial system but a policeman. To allow police officers to restrict the liberty of a citizen for an unlimited amount of time seems a strange thing for the House of Commons—which is, after all, the defender of the liberties of the subject—to want to become engaged in. I am all for administrative efficiency, but there comes a time when Members of Parliament have to work out where they belong.
Are we interested in administrative efficiency over and above the liberty of the subject? In saying that, I am interested not in giving improper protection to guilty people but in ensuring that legislation, particularly in the field of criminal justice, is properly thought about. The Minister is one of the more honourable and thoughtful members of the Government. I am very concerned, however, that, for reasons that are administratively convenient and useful for the progress of legislation as a whole, he is allowing himself to whip through the House of Commons—I use the word "whip" with a small "w"— a piece of legislation that is careless of the rights of the innocent citizen.
I do not normally lose much sleep over the rights of people who have committed hideous offences, save that they should be incarcerated in humane conditions following a proper trial, but I am concerned that the clause, if unamended, will give powers to police officers—who, as individuals, might be entirely wonderful people—who are outside the judicial process and not susceptible to immediate judicial control. Cases might involve people being arrested at the dead of night, and in all sorts of conditions. We need to be careful before we dance gaily round the legislative maypole and allow clauses of this kind to go through unamended .