(1) The Secretary of State for the Home Department shall within six months of the coming into operation of this Act make an order specifying—
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing the said order or orders may provide for a summary process to be available to a person so arrested for the purposes of vindicating his reputation and obtaining compensation for such pecuniary loss if any as he may have suffered by reason of his said arrest.
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
I hope that we can deal with this new Clause similarly. Its objects are apparent from its terms. Again, my hon. and learned Friends and I have tried to take advantage of our discussion in Committee and, as the result of our consideration of that discussion, we are putting forward a quite different proposal. The objects are the same but we have tried—I believe successfully—to obviate the difficulties in our first suggestion and to put forward a better one.
It would be only fair to the Under-Secretary of State and right and proper that I should say that I understood that in Committee he fully recognised the importance of according the correct treatment and rights to a person who had been arrested. He indicated that he took no less a serious view of the importance of that than we do. Therefore, what is proposed in the new Clause proceeds on that basis.
In Committee, the hon. and learned Gentleman's reply was twofold. First, as to what happens to a person after he has been arrested, the hon. and learned Gentleman said that the existing practice is adequate and it was not necessary, therefore, to have in the Statute provisions about what should happen to a person and what he should be allowed to do. Secondly—I think that it was the hon. and learned Gentleman's second reason for suggesting that the time was not opportune to take action here—he said that his Department had in mind a thorough review of the law relating to arrest and that in the course of that review, it might well be possible to codify the existing provisions as a matter of practice.
If I have correctly summarised the points made by the Under-Secretary, there is nothing between us as a matter of principle. It is a question of mechanics. It was in that spirit that my hon. and learned Friends and I sat down to try to cast this proposal.
We are not satisfied that the arguments advanced in Committee by the hon. and learned Gentleman were good and substantial, for the following reasons. It will be for the convenience of the House and in the interests of speed if I define my reasons into those pertaining to subsection (1) of the new Clause and those pertaining to subsection (2), because they are different. We on this side take the view that it is important that all the matters covered in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (1) should be clearly known.
We agree that in respect of most of the questions that might arise under those paragraphs, there is something that one might call a practice. What we find very difficult on occasion is to ascertain what that practice is. The only way I know of doing it is to search through "Stone's Justices Manual", though, excellent as that book is, I have never been able to find the precise answer I wanted on this question of the practice as speedily as I could have desired. In particular, it is not very easy to ascertain from Stone or anywhere else what are the rights of an arrested person who has not committed any offence and what are the duties of authorities in relation to a person whom they have arrested and who has not committed any offence. That is all that this Clause deals with.
Whilst we have listened to the Under-Secretary's argument and we agree that to some extent it is right to say that practices have grown up which are recognisable, we do not think those practices are sufficiently clearly defined. We are not satisfied that they cover all eventualities, and we are particularly bothered about them in relation to the treatment and rights of an arrested person who has not committed an offence.
We are not alone in this because the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) said that none of these matters are party matters, and in another place at least one Law Lord expressed grave concern about this. We share that concern. Therefore, we take the view that it is very desirable that these rights and duties be specified. Nor do we think that is very difficult. We tend to fob off tasks the answers to which are not crystal clear, on the basis that we must have more time to think about them and that they are not so easy as they look. When somebody has got to get down to something, it is wonderful what he can do in a week. It is wonderful how people can make up their minds when they have got to. If there really is no doubt as to the treatment and the right to be accorded to such person there is no difficulty whatever in setting it out in writing. There is no difficulty at all if it is clear. If there is a doubt, then that doubt should be resolved, and resolved quickly.
I think I can fairly say that I recognise the difficulties of drafting in a statute and certainly, without the assistance of the Government, the precise provisions that one would want. Therefore, we have not sought to come to the House and say that we want these duties specified in the Bill. We also recognise that a little more time for decisions might be a good thing. That is why we have chosen this form in subsection (1) of the Clause, which is mandatory, namely:
The Secretary of State for the Home Department shall within six months of the coming into operation of this Act make an order specifying"—
the matters mentioned in the Clause, and he may by further orders vary the provisions. We have put upon him a duty which should not be difficult if the position is as clear as he says it is, and which really must be performed if it is not as clear as he says it is.
We have given him a long time to do this. When the Clause was drafted, the date for the coming into operation of this Bill was 29th August, 1967. I see that the Under-Secretary has on the Paper an Amendment which may well result in the date being changed to 1st January, 1968. If it is so changed, the effect of this Clause would be that he would have till 30th June, 1968 to do this. I would have thought that was a very reasonable time to give him to do what all would agree would be a very useful job.
No one must think that because I have dealt with this matter briefly we do not think it is very important. In Committee we stressed its importance. Now I am dealing with mechanics and am seeking to meet the difficulties and arguments advanced by the Under-Secretary.
I pass to subsection (2), the reason for which is quite different. Here again we start with a considerable measure of agreement on our hypothesis. I think the Under-Secretary agreed—I shall be grateful if he will indicate to me if I am misquoting him—that whenever a man is arrested there is ipso facto a very real danger of loss of reputation and there is inevitably some loss of liberty. The minute a man has been arrested and taken into custody there is the almost unavoidable danger that somebody will say, "What has old Fred been up to? He has been arrested". A man may be as innocent as ever a man was, but the danger of that loss to his reputation is there. We feel that this House ought to do more than pay lip service to its desire to protect the liberty of the individual, and if there is a way of putting that principle into effect we ought to take that way. This is what the subsection is designed to do.
It was said in Committee that something like this is not necessary. It was said that one can bring an action for false arrest and false imprisonment. So one can, but I want to make it clear that we are not thinking of this kind of remedy at all. I am not sure whether actions for false arrest and false imprisonment lie in a county court, but if they do, it is a cumbersome procedure in which there may be many technical difficulties. It may well be enough for the arresting officer to say that he had reasonable cause, that it was just bad luck for the plaintiff, and he has no right to damages. Those remedies may be suitable in some cases. They may be suitable in cases where there is very substantial damage, but they are cumbersome, slow and expensive.
I doubt whether we can resolve this matter today, but I hope that consideration of it will not stop today. We want the Under-Secretary to consider what I am about to say. We want a simple procedure without attempting to specify now the details of that procedure. The essence of it would be simply that the man would only have to say that he was not about to commit an arrestable offence. Never mind the other technicalities. Speaking for myself, the principal consideration that I have in mind here is vindication of reputation. I want to see a very simple procedure whereby a man can go to the magistrates' court, establish that he was not about to commit an arrestable offence and have it publicly stated that he was innocent. That information gets into the newspaper or, if it does not, and the man hears any whisper that his reputation is suffering, he can say "That is wrong. Look at the decision of the magistrates".
To my mind, this is far and away the most important reason for this provision. But one could very conveniently combine with it modest sums of compensation. What I have in mind is the man who is waiting quietly at a bus stop, who is going to play his banjo in some night spot and a policeman in all good faith thinks that the man has got some hashish in his banjo or is about to start selling hashish, or something like that. In all good faith he thinks that the man is about to commit an offence, so he arrests him. In those circumstances, there could not, I think, be a civil action at present. There ought to be this procedure for allowing him to vindicate his reputation and, if he has lost his wages for that night, to be compensated. If there was no fault on the part of the police, neither was there any fault on his part, and he should not be the loser.
I imagine that the police themselves might welcome this. My experience of most police forces is that they are not beyond admitting a mistake if they have made one, and that they might, with the best of motives and good faith, arrest someone wrongly. In such a case, if there were this simple procedure, all that would happen would be that the man would go to the magistrates' court and, instead of his having to prove his case, the police would say, "Regrettably, a mistake was made here. We wish to make clear that there is no stain on this man's reputation". The magistrates would say, "That is splendid. Thank you for coming to tell us. We have pleasure in vindicating this man's reputation in public".
Even if it did not go as far as that in every case, if in some cases there were an issue as to whether he had been properly arrested, the only issue which would have to be tried by the magistrates, in the sort of scheme I have in mind, would be whether he was, in fact, about to commit an arrestable offence.
The fears expressed by the Under-Secretary of State in Committee, that we might let ourselves in for a very complicated procedure which would cast heavy additional burdens upon the magistrates' courts, are not real fears. They certainly do not arise out of what I have in mind.
Subsection (1) is mandatory. Subsection (2) is discretionary. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will take this as an earnest of our good faith and our desire to be helpful. We do not say that he must do it, because we appreciate that the matter would have to be worked out. We should be happy to co-operate in that. What we say to the Government is, "Please take to yourselves this opportunity to do something useful if the machinery can be worked out".
We have taken that line in subsection (2) as distinct from what we did in Committee because we appreciate that it would be highly desirable to discuss the matter with the Magistrates' Association and the Magistrates' Clerks' Association. Perhaps, after such discussions, reasons may be advanced which convince us that it would be impracticable, in which case we should accept that that was so. But, if the Government have the power and then, after consultation with the Magistrates' Association and the Magistrates' Clerks' Association, a simple procedure can be worked out to achieve the objective, would that not be well worth while? I urge the Government to take this opportunity—it is no more than that—further to investigate what would, if it were possible to work out the practical side of it, be a most valuable procedure.
Subsection (3) is another earnest of our good faith. From this side of the House, it is always tempting to say that every regulation should be subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure. Here, we propose that it should be the subject of the negative Resolution procedure.
Those are the reasons which have moved my hon. Friends and me to put down the new Clause. From what I have heard in Committee, and outside among lawyers, I suspect that there are many who agree. I urge the Government to accept the Clause and make use of the powers proposed.
Again, support from this side ought to be given to this new Clause. I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State accepts the principle of it, that the rights of an innocent person who is arrested ought to be protected. As I understand, that is the reason behind the Clause.
I am not attracted by the argument that there are certain known practices at present, that a person has rights and, therefore, that we need not bother to define them. I am not attracted, either, by the suggestion that there may be something in this proposal so let us consider it in detail at a later date and try to work something out.
Here is a Bill which, by Clause 2, expressly gives to a constable or another person the right to arrest someone for an arrestable offence or to enter into premises. If that right is clearly expressed in that way, we ought also to put into the Bill words showing clearly that the rights of an innocent person arrested in that way are protected. That is all that the new Clause would do. It would give the opporutnity to work something out. It is an obvious corollary to the power to arrest already given.
The new Clause clearly sets out what should be done. First, as regards sub- section (1,a), it is essential that some direction be given as to action to be taken by a constable who has arrested a person under the powers conferred upon him. At present, we leave it at that, not saying what he should do. We simply leave it to the constable who has a suspicion to take the person and arrest him. What harm can there be in putting into clear words a direction as to how the constable should act?
Subsection (1,b) refers to
the rights and facilities to be accorded to a person so arrested".
We are considering here an innocent person who is arrested. What is he to do? Is he to languish there waiting for some action to be taken? Is he to be allowed bail, and, if so, when? What can be done in regard to those matters?
Subsection (1,c) refers to the
powers and duties of the courts in relation to a person so arrested".
Here is an excellent opportunity to give power to state the action which ought to be taken, with the primary object of safeguarding the innocent individual. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will not dismiss the matter lightly, saying that there is a practice in regard to these matters or that he will consider the question at some future time. We want him to take opportunity under this Bill to go into the matter and state what ought to be done. The benefit would be that we should know from the terms of the Order what powers and rights an innocent person has to seek and pursue any remedy.
I am attracted by subsection (2). Those of us who practise in the criminal and civil courts know how difficult it is to establish a claim for false imprisonment. It is a cumbersome claim. One is met by all sorts of technical difficulties. Although one may be absolutely right, although there may be a great deal behind the claim, it is difficult to establish it. If an innocent person is arrested under Clause 2(5) or if there is wrongful entry under Clause 2(6), the innocent person ought in law to have a remedy and ought not to be restricted to the present remedies with all their difficulties and the cumbersome arrangements about pursuing them.
I do not know whether the proposed Clause is precisely right—I do not suppose that the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) insists that this is the only way in which it could be done—but it throws out the suggestion that when an innocent person is treated in this way he ought to have a quick remedy for two reasons.
First, his reputation has been injured and he has suffered damage or loss, and he should be able to get something in regard to that. But, still more important, he ought to have the right to establish at the earliest possible moment, so that the public may know—perhaps because there may be a reference in a newspaper to it—that he is an innocent person who was wrongly arrested. Although the Under-Secretary may say that this is not the right way to do it, I should like to hear him say that there is something in subsection (2) which requires careful examination in order to protect the innocent individual.
I think that the Clause is a good one and worthy of very careful consideration. I hope that the Under-Secretary will not dismiss it lightly. I trust that if we do not get the new Clause we shall have the consolation of hearing from him that, although the Government are always ready to help the police and give them powers for dealing with crime, they are adamant that the rights of the individual should he protected and that when an innocent person has suffered wrongly, full right should be given to him to obtain an appropriate remedy.
I support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) in this Clause. He deployed the arguments very fully and has been cogently supported by the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman).
Subsection (5) greatly extends the powers of arrest of the police. Hitherto, powers of anticipatory arrest have operated with regard to felony but not with regard to misdemeanour. The new class of arrestable offence covers all felonies and many misdemeanours, and so the constable now has considerably increased powers of arrest.
It has never been very plain what is to happen to a person arrested upon suspicion when it is found that the suspicions are unfounded. Obviously, he must be released as soon as possible. Btu: now that the powers are greatly extended, it seems to me that a code for the protection of the citizen ought to be laid down. We welcome the Bill as one which is likely to extend the protection given to the public against criminals, but it is correct that the rights and liberties of the innocent individual citizen should be protected as well. In Committee, we explored Amendments which were designed to achieve this. I make no complaint that we did not get very far with them, because the difficulties of doing so were pointed out by the Under-Secretary.
What we are seeking to do now is to give the Secretary of State power to prepare a code for the protection of the individual citizen. I cannot believe that anybody will quarrel with the desire to lay down a code in which the elementary rights of the citizen in a situation where, being innocent, he is arrested can be laid down so that he will know exactly where he stands. If the new Clause were accepted and these powers given to the Secretary of State, the individual would know or would be advised that he had certain rights and that if those rights were infringed, he would have appropriate remedies. What we urge upon the Government by the Clause is a code for the protection of the liberties of the individual citizen if, being innocent, he is arrested.
I commend the Clause to the House.
The discussion so far reflects the discussions that we had in Committee on this point. I think that all of us would agree that the powers which are conferred upon a constable in Clause 2(5) are really necessary because it makes sense that if an officer suspects that an arrestable offence is about to be committed he should have power to intervene and stop it.
What concerns all who have any idea of the difficulties that arise after a person has been arrested is what is to happen when the individual is taken to the police station. Other hon. Members have spoken about the position of the innocent person who is arrested, but I want to dwell for a moment upon the difficulties for the constable, because his difficulties are probably as great as those which would face an innocent person taken to the police station.
It does not mean that any actual offence has been committed when a man is arrested on suspicion of having committed an arrestable offence. When the police officer gets the man to the police station his difficulties are great. He is bound to want to know how long he can keep him and what he is to do with him having actually got him there. It is incumbent upon my hon. and learned Friend to tell us what will be the position of a constable when he takes a person to the police station under Clause 2(5).
But we go a stage further, and this concerns me because we are all anxious that the standing of the police should not be impaired. I can see difficulty arising when a person who was rightly suspected of being about to commit an arrestable offence is taken to the police station. I cannot find from the Bill what is to happen to him. So we shall be in the situation that it is not the innocent person who will create the problem, but the one the officer has properly taken to the police station. Also, I would point out how unfortunate it will be if, after having been taken to the police station, that person is allowed to leave. He will say to all his cronies, because we all have suspicions of the type of individual who will be taken to the police station, "They took me in and they had to let me go". That is the worst possible thing which could happen concerning the standing of the police.
These points were raised on the Committee stage. I am bound to acknowledge that I was not happy with the explanation that we received, so I am repeating them here in the hope that in the interim my hon. Friend has found an answer which will satisfy the problems which will arise regarding the police officer and also solve the problem of nullifying the jubilation which might come to a man who has been correctly taken to the police station.
I had no intention of taking part in this debate. It is a combination of circumstances which has dragged me to my feet. The eloquence of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) in putting forward the new Clause and an unfortunate slip of the tongue in his speech make it imperative that I should say something on behalf of the Members of Parliament who are here who are honourable but not learned. At the end of his speech he said that he had the support of his hon. and learned Friends. It should be emphasised that that is not sufficient to carry the support of hon. and learned Members, because there are many others who do not carry the skills, forensic and otherwise, of my hon. and learned Friend, but these are our interests as well as those of hon. and learned Members.
I say that as a preamble, because I was interested in what my hon. and learned Friend had to say about the perilous position of a man who is arrested and never charged, but the fact of whose arrest becomes known to the general public. Undoubtedly he incurs a certain amount of odium in his neighbourhood against which he has little or no redress.
I had a case recently of a man who was arrested, handcuffed, taken to the police station, kept there overnight and never charged, but, nevertheless, the police felt entitled to retain certain of his property. After a period of some weeks they went through a procedure, which my hon. and learned Friend will understand much better than I, of going to the court to get an order whether the property should be retained by the police or returned to my constituent. The magistrates' court decided that the property should be returned to him.
This was a case of a man arrested, handcuffed, kept overnight and never charged whose property was taken away from him and only as a result of a decision of the court having his property returned. Surely this man is placed in a very serious and difficult position and there should be some means, as my hon. and learned Friend has argued, of clearing his name in some way or other. Had he been charged he would have been in a better position, because he would have appeared before a court and the court would have cleared him and people would have said, "This man was wrongfully arrested. The court has cleared him. He is an innocent man." However, in this case he has no chance of clearing his name except by some cumbersome and expensive procedure which he is not in a position to pursue.
If my hon. and learned Friend's new Clause has the effect of providing some redress for people in cases such as the one to which I have referred, I hope that the Government will give it their very serious consideration in the interests of the freedom of the individual which is the concern not only of hon. and learned Members but of all Members of the House.
I do not intend to take very long at what I should perhaps call this hour of the night. This matter was discussed at some length in Committee. If my memory serves me, we put down a number of Amendments covering these points individually and not in the comprehensive way covered by the new Clause of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival). We withdrew those Amendments because we felt we had succeeded in persuading the Under-Secretary of State that there was here a serious case which merited investigation. I am disappointed not to find a Government Amendment on the Paper which deals with these points. He did not give us an undertaking, and I will not reproach him in that respect, but it seems unsatisfactory that these matters should be left in this way.
The new Clause is, I hope, aptly drafted, but we are now on the Report stage of a Bill which has come from another place. Perhaps the Under-Secretary might consider whether these Bills which come from the Law Commission would not start better in this House, so that the Under-Secretary of State would not have to advise the House either to accept my hon. and learned Friend's new Clause or accept that nothing can be done to redress these gaps in the law. This is the final stage and their Lordships are naturally more impressed by the authority of the Law Commission than perhaps the Members of this House.
The point which worried me in Committee, and to which I did not feel that the Under-Secretary gave us an answer, was that he said that these particular matters, which have been canvassed this morning by the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) and my hon. and learned Friends, were dealt with on the whole by the practice of the courts—not by the law, but by the practice of the courts. Most of us felt that this was not good enough when we were dealing with matters like the reputation of Her Majesty's subjects. This new Clause is an attempt to make explicit provision for these problems.
As the hon. Member for Coventry, South has said, the person arrested might have been about to commit an offence. Nobody will ever know for certain, because in the case that he assumes the constable took preventive action in time to stop its being committed. I think that any country should be most scrupulous about powers of preventive arrest and confine them very closely. Where it has happened it is obvious that the person arrested has to be released, because he has committed no criminal offence and, almost from the nature of the case, it could not be proved that he was about to, because the police intervened in time. Therefore, according to the presumptions of the law, he is an innocent man, and the question is how quickly he is let out. All that one does in the Bill is to cover the policeman for arresting the man if he had reasonable grounds, as defined in the Clause. That covers the arrest. But there is the man in prison. What is to happen to him? He has committed no criminal offence. There is no procedure laid down in the law; it is done by common sense and practice; and our broad point is that that is not good enough.
The other case is the man who has been arrested on reasonable suspicion of having committed a criminal offence and who is able to show that he did not commit it. He, therefore, is arrested in error, but the policeman in making the arrest was acting reasonably because he had reasonable grounds for suspicion. That man has been wronged and there should be provision, not merely for his release, but also, in a suitable case, for paying him appropriate compensation.
The new Clause provides for these matters. I hope that the Under-Secretary will not be the only person taking part in this short debate against the new Clause, but I have a nasty suspicion that that is just how it will turn out.
This is the last stage and he cannot say that this will be put right in another place. The Bill has come to us from another place and therefore the voice of the Under-Secretary of State will be the voice of doom about the state of the law. I hope that he will do better this afternoon than he did in Standing Committee and will tell us that, even though he may have come here with a restrictive brief and instructions not to accept any Amendments, despite the state of exhaustion he may reasonably be in, he will, persuaded by what he has heard from his own side as well as this side of the House, accept my hon. and learned Friend's new Clause.
The hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) was right to say that no point of principle is involved and that we should be concerned not only with the rights of the police but with those of the individual being arrested, whether rightly or wrongly. One sympathises with these aims. The three Amendments selected, and even that which was not, deal with matters of substance as opposed to some of the others which were not very meritorious.
The hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) said that this Clause vastly increased the powers of arrest, but this is not so, as they existed before. They will exist in some cases in which they did not before and some misdemeanours will now be covered, but although more than 40 misdemeanours are now covered which were not before, in relation to many, statutory powers of arrest are already existing and others are cases in which the power is hardly ever likely to be used because there is no need for summary arrest.
In a few cases, the power is abolished, so there is no vast extension but simply a new provision that, once the distinction is abolished—
I did not take a verbatim note. There is no great extension but only a minor one for certain offences.
The Clause raises largely the same issues which were raised in Committee and if I dealt fully with all the points I would simply repeat those arguments, when I said that of the matters now sought to be covered by a Statutory Instrument and which were sought in Committee to be covered in the Statute, some are now dealt with by the law and some in practice. I did not and do not say that this is entirely satisfactory, but there would be great advantage in putting all powers of arrest—not just these—and the question of what happens afterwards, some of which are now dealt with by the common law, into a statutory code.
It is not completely satisfactory. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) gave an example which seemed unsatisfactory, but the important factor is that the Bill creates nothing new. His example would not be covered by the new Clause and could still happen. The real objection is that the new Clause singles out one circumstance in which a power of arrest is exercised and provides for what will happen after the arrest, and makes no provision for other cases of arrest.
It deals only with Clause 2(5), but such a code should deal equally with subsections (2) and (4) and the other cases of arrest which are not even mentioned in the Bill. Piecemeal legislation dealing with one case is unsatisfactory when what is needed is a review of the law of the powers of arrest and some codification and clarification of what should happen to those arrested. These are the arguments which I advanced in Committee and must repeat.
The powers of arrest will be reviewed and we will bear in mind what hon. Members have said about early action. One might consider whether, before legislating, one could not issue some directions to the police. In the meantime, directions could be issued about what should happen in cases of arrest not only under subsection (5) but in other cases as well. In practice, it is clear—
The drafting of a statutory code would clearly take longer than 12 months. In a recent speech, the Home Secretary laid down the long-term plans for criminal law reform and one of the first jobs will be a review of the powers of arrest. The hon. and learned Gentleman asks why we do not accept his suggestion to amend. It is too late to amend. Also, there is a technical defect in the Clause, in that it refers to subsection (5) of Clause 1, when it should have been Clause 2. That is a misprint, no doubt.
The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that we should put forward a new code of practice dealing with questions of compensation and the important issue of vindication of character by a Statutory Instrument. But this is the wrong way. Even though it would be a simple process and a High Court trial would not be needed, but perhaps only a magistrates' court, questions of whether there was cause for the arrest and matters of compensation would have to be studied, and this provision should not be made by Statutory Instrument.
I am sure that hon. Members would agree that this is the wrong way and that the details could not then be properly examined by the House. Thus, although I sympathise with the purpose of the new Clause, a comprehensive review of the powers of arrest and subsequent events would be much better.
The review of the policy questions and principles concerned in the powers of arrest will start shortly, but I obviously cannot say at what stage legislation on part of a code of procedure would come forward. It could not be drafted overnight and it is not for me to say when it will come forward.
When the debate began, we entered the 23rd continuous hour of debate and I feared that the discussion might not be very detailed, which would be a pity as these matters affect the rights and liberties of the subject and are discussed on few occasions. They interest and concern hon. and learned Members—and hon. Members—on both s des and we have had a non-party debate in which it has been a pleasure to speak. We all hope for a review in which the opinions which have been expressed can be further considered. I hope that I am not introducing a note of sourness—it is not my intention—when I say that I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not feel that he could meet us a little more than he has indicated.
The hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) referred to the wording of subsection (2). Of course, I would not stand on the precise wording. We are all aware of the difficulties of drafting on the Opposition side. But there would be no technical difficulty in putting it right even now if the Government introduced a simple manuscript Amendment, for that would cure all the difficulties. I cannot regard that as a point of substance, therefore. In subsection (2), by making the powers very wide, the precise wording does not matter. It is not limiting. Incidentally, there is a misprint in it. Instead of "penurious" the word should be "pecuniary".
I am glad that the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) raised the question of the point of view of the police. I left it out in moving the new Clause so as not to be too long but, of course, it is a most important point both from the point of view of their personal position and of their public relations. It is in this kind of uncertainty, in which a person does not know his rights and the officer does not know them and so does not afford them to the person which causes and we cannot afford any more between the police and the public. There is enough of it already.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), I am sure that almost every lawyer is delighted that at least one non-lawyer has taken part in the debate. All through the Committee proceedings, the hope was expressed that non-lawyers would take part and we are obliged to my hon. Friend for having done so today.
I said that I was sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman could not go further, and I meant it. I am rather appalled—I must put it as strongly as that—by his suggestion that it will take more than 12 months to draft this code. I do not think that the Home Office can have it both ways. If the position really is satisfactory—that is to say, that it is known to the policeman, which is the minimum requirement for it to be satisfactory—it should not take long to write it out. I agree at once that one should give those writing it out a chance to consider and improve it, but the first step should not take a week if the position is as satisfactory as the hon. and learned Gentleman says. If it is not as satisfactory as he says, it should be ready in less than 12 months. One learns sometimes in the law, when an extension of time runs out, what can be done in 48 hours if one has to do it.
The hon. and learned Gentleman said that there was no point of principle between us. With respect to him, and in support of my request to look at this again, it is not easy to reconcile that with his refusal to meet us or to offer any sort of early relief, and if his argument were that this was not the best way to do it but that the Home Office would look at the matter within six months to see what other means could be found, I would ask leave to withdraw the Motion. All we have from him at the moment is that the position is quite satisfactory now, but that the Home Office is to draw up a code which will take longer than a year to prepare.
The rights of the subject are more important than that. The rights of the subject and the interests of the police demand that this should be clarified within 12 months. Even if the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot offer a glimmer of hope now, I urge him to consider the matter again. This matter cuts across party lines and what hon. Members have said has all been based on experience and the genuine desire to protect the rights of the subject.