– in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 30th November 1982.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
We bring the Bill before the House as a major step towards more effective enforcement of the law. To enforce the law, and thereby to protect our freedoms, we look primarily towards the police. They serve us with great professionalism and devotion. The Government have been determined, in spite of economic difficulties, to improve their pay and conditions and to increase their numbers. As a result, there are now in the police service in England and Wales more than 9,000 officers additional to the total when we took office. They are better trained and equipped than ever before.
An apt example can be seen from these words in the report of the Philips Royal Commission, which examined these matters with such care:
if Parliament has made it an offence to be in possession of a particular article in a public place, the police should be able to stop and search persons suspected on reasonable grounds of committing that offence".
Yet nowhere in England and Wales can a constable who suspects someone of carrying an offensive weapon in a public place, for example, stop and search him.
The Bill will correct that inadequacy in the law, and also right many similar needs that are the less obvious and pressing. Not the least of them is the need to bring greater clarity to an extraordinary hotchpotch of statute and common law. I shall shortly outline the effect of its provisions, which in the main owe so much to the recommendations of the Philips Royal Commission.
First, however I should like to say a word about the need to counterweight the powers that we give to our police with safeguards against unwarrantable interference with the liberty of the citizen. It is in a free society that the police have to work, and it is a free society that they protect. It is possible to achieve order at too high a price in terms of freedom. The Philips Commission said that the success of the police depended on public support, on the co-operation of ordinary citizens. We agree with that, and so do the police themselves. Therefore, we must so shape the law as not to forfeit that support and forgo that cooperation, as we should certainly do if we conferred powers on the police that would be seen to be unreasonable. Equally, we must remember that the fundamental support for public confidence in the police derives from their ability to catch criminals and bring them to justice. If their powers are too circumscribed to allow them to do that, the public will not see the police as succeeding.
As the shortcomings in the law relating to the investigation of criminal offences identified by the Royal Commission in part I of its report call for remedies of a special urgency, the greater part of this lengthy Bill is devoted to those matters. In constructing it we have adopted the Royal Commission's criteria for the arrangements that should govern police investigation of crime: they must be fair; they must be open; they must be workable. In the proposals that have resulted, we believe that each of those qualities is established.
We have been able to provide additionally in the Bill for three important matters. These are the police complaints procedure, for which the provisions were foreshadowed in our White Paper; a duty upon police authorities to make arrangements for public consultation on policing matters, with a view to securing help for the police; and certain important aspects of the law of evidence in criminal proceedings, including the admissibility of confession statements. No change in the law is needed for a tape-recorded statement to be admissible, but I shall say more about tape-recording—which I strongly support—a little later.
A number of provisions in the Bill bear directly on the investigations conducted by other law enforcement bodies, such as Customs and Excise and the military police. They operate very much within the same framework of powers and constraints as the police. It is therefore proper that the Bill should apply to such bodies with suitable modifications where necessary.
The Bill appears after a prolonged and intensive process of consultation. That process has included a good deal of discussion at various times in the House. The Government are very grateful to all those who participated in the process of consultation, including consultation over the draft codes of practice for the treatment, questioning and identification of persons suspected of crime published simultaneously with this Bill.
I shall now briefly take the House through the main provisions of the Bill.
Part I closely follows the recommendations of the Royal Commission on powers of stop and search. It will enable the police, on reasonable suspicion, to stop and search a person in a public place for stolen goods, offensive weapons or instruments for housebreaking or similar purposes. These powers are necessary to help the police to control street crime and burglary. The power to search for stolen goods is not new. It is already available in London and certain other parts of the country.
The power to search for offensive weapons is already available in Scotland. It has proved its worth there. In the first 10 months of the existence of the power, over a third of those searched were found to have an offensive weapon.
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned offensive weapons several times. Can he define an offensive weapon? As I understand it, the courts have ruled that a bunch of keys counts as an offensive weapon. I accept that that is possible if the keys are in someone's hand but if they are in the pocket surely they are no longer an offensive weapon. It would therefore be unreasonable to stop and search someone for a bunch of keys.
The Bill defines an offensive weapon. In the interests of time, I ask the hon. Gentleman to read the relevant clause.
As Lord Scarman said in his report on the Brixton disorders, the power to stop and search is
necessary to combat street crime".
He added that there should be safeguards and that he agreed with the safeguards proposed by the Royal Commission. The Bill provides those powers and safeguards. The constable must automatically state his name and the purpose of the search; he must give his grounds for searching if asked; he must not subject people to personal searches in the street; and he must, where practicable, make a record of the search, which includes the object of the search and his grounds for it.
As the stop and search powers have been shown to cause great ill-feeling and to be ineffective and counter-productive, what evidence does the Home Secretary have to show that the use of such powers will lead to a reduction in crime?
Lord Scarman made it clear that he believed that it would lead to a reduction in crime. I believe that what both he and the Royal Commission said gives these powers a very good parentage.
The safeguards do not just stop there. The Bill, in addition, provides that they should apply also to the various powers of stop and search which are already available to the police and which will continue to be available: powers, for example, in relation to drug offences. So the new safeguards are applicable to old as well as new powers. The result is that the safeguards will help to ensure that all these necessary powers are used properly and responsibly, and will expose their use to proper scrutiny and supervision.
I should make it clear, too, that the Bill does not revive the offence of sus. The Government repealed sus, and have no intention of reviving it. Sus was an offence by itself, that of loitering with intent as a suspected person. The Bill creates no new offences: it simply enables the police to establish, by means of a quick search, whether the person concerned has on him something whose possession is already of itself an offence.
I shall not give way, as I have a long speech to make and the Bill is lengthy. I think that it would be better if I did not give way again, because hon. Members will have an opportunity to speak in the debate.
Part II deals with police powers of entry, search and seizure. It places on a statutory basis the present common law powers of the police to enter premises without a warrant; it provides new powers for the police to enter and search premises for evidence of serious arrestable offences under a justice's search warrant, with a special and more rigorous procedure for evidence held on a basis of confidence; it places beyond doubt the ability of the police to search the premises for relevant evidence of a person who has been arrested for an arrestable offence; it introduces important additional safeguards governing the issue and execution of all search warrants; and, finally, it provides clearly for what articles the police may seize in the course of a lawful search. These are all important matters directed to clarifying the law, removing areas of hitherto unproductive dispute, and simultaneously allowing those responsible for the issue of warrants to exercise more informed and exacting quality control.
The present law developed piecemeal. As a result, it is inconsistent. It gives a power of summary arrest for some offences and for others no power of arrest at all. The Royal Commission sought to remedy that confusion. It recommended that all imprisonable offences should become "arrestable offences". The Government have rejected that recommendation as too sweeping. Its effect would be to extend the power of summary arrest beyond any objective requirement, and that seemed too high a price to pay for simplification.
The Bill therefore adopts the following scheme. The present category of "arrestable offence" is retained, on the basis that it is familiar and generally gives the right results in practice. Broadly, the category comprises offences carrying a statutory liability to at least five years' imprisonment. A number of offences are added to that category, including particularly those where the safety of the public requires this. It is quite wrong, for example, that indecent assault on a woman is not now an arrestable offence. All other offences fall into a general category, and all specific statutory powers of arrest are cleared away.
Under the Bill the police will not be able to arrest anyone reasonably suspected of an offence in the general category unless certain specific conditions are met. They will, however, be able to resort to arrest if it is impossible to proceed to prosecute by way of summons or if arrest is necessary to prevent some immediate mischief. This part of the Bill also proposes other changes. It places on a statutory basis the present power of the police to search the immediate surroundings when they have arrested a person. It makes it clear that anyone at a police station is there either voluntarily or under detention. There is no halfway house between liberty and detention.
Part IV, which covers detention, deals with an area which the courts have recently and very properly held requires urgent clarification and review by Parliament. The fact is that it is now an open question how long the police may detain someone they have arrested before bringing him before a court. With the exception of cases under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976, the Bill replaces this uncertainty with a new, comprehensive scheme for detention. It defines the conditions that must be satisfied for detention to be at any time lawful, sets clear time limits on lawful detention and makes a designated uniformed officer at each police station responsible for all matters concerning the detention and treatment of detained persons.
The Bill provides for an absolute limit of 24 hours on detention without charge, except in the case of serious arrestable offences. In such cases detention may be extended on the authority of, first, a justice's warrant for a further 24 hours and then, if further detention is still necessary, the authority of a full magistrates' court. At this point the detained person may appear and be legally represented. If satisfied after argument before it, the court may issue a warrant of further detention for up to an additional 48 hours.
This scheme differs from that recommended by the Royal Commission in two main respects. First, there is to be an absolute limit on detention without charge of 96 hours, whereas the Commission fixed no upper limit. Secondly, the arrangements for the periodic review of the need for detention are graduated so that the longer detention continues the more justification it requires.
Part V relates to the treatment, questioning and identification of persons suspected of crime. Amongst other things, it restates and develops the present statutory right of a detained person to have the fact of his arrest notified to someone he chooses. It also establishes clearer and stricter criteria governing the ability of the police to override that right. It creates, for the first time, a statutory recognition of the right of a detained person to obtain legal advice, and again strictly limits the circumstances in which the exercise of that right by a detained person may be delayed. This is a very substantial new safeguard and is directly based on the Royal Commission's conclusions.
As to identification, the Bill reflects the Commission's views in reducing the minimum age of compulsory fingerprinting from 14 to 10, the age of criminal responsibility. It also sets out clear criteria for compulsory fingerprinting and the taking of samples of blood, saliva and so on. It introduces arrangements for the supervision and authorisation of such fingerprinting. These provisions place the responsibility for police action where it belongs—on senior police officers.
Part VI, clause 52, empowers me to issue the codes of practice, to which I have referred, for the treatment, questioning and identification of persons suspected of crime. With Parliament's approval they will replace the judges' rules and place clear and comprehensive duties on the police. The codes will not only be admissible in court proceedings, but will be enforceable through the police disciplinary procedures.
Part VII deals with the admissibility of evidence obtained during police questioning. It complements corresponding provisions in the draft code. The Royal Commission recommended that all confessions, save those obtained by extreme methods such as, for example torture or the use of violence, should be admissible as evidence. As we explained during last year's debate on the report, we share the doubts over whether it is right to move so radically away from the principle that confessions should be admissible only if obtained voluntarily.
In clause 60 we have conceded that confessions which are not voluntary—in the sense of having been obtained by oppression, including torture or the use or threat of violence—or whose reliability there is reason to doubt, should automatically be excluded. That formula is based to a large extent on that recommended by the Criminal Law Revision Committee in its report on evidence in 1972. It places the admissibility of confession evidence on clear and defensible principles.
In those ways we have sought to respond comprehensively to the Royal Commission's recommendations in part I of its report. The Government's debt to the Royal Commission is apparent, and I should like to express again our gratitude. In the same spirit I should like to acknowledge the initiative and foresight of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) who, recognising that the time was ripe for a comprehensive review of this area of the law, set up the Royal Commission in the first place.
It has not been practicable to follow all the Royal Commission's recommendations. I realise that some people consider that the Bill should deal also with the recommendations on prosecution. The Government accept that there is a strong case in principle for a prosecution service independent of the police. What I do not accept is that we should not act on part I of the Royal Commission's report until we can deal also with prosecution, where there remain substantial differences about how exactly to proceed.
Debates here and in another place revealed little enthusiasm for the local police and prosecuting authorities recommended by the Royal Commission. On the contrary, there was a wide range of views on how an independent prosecuting service could best be organised.
To establish a prosecuting service would be a major reorganisation, and a more detailed examination than the Royal Commission was able to give to a wide range of options on potential prosecution arrangements is evidently needed. Therefore, I have asked a working party of officials to investigate those urgently. For the present we are convinced that to legislate on the matter at this stage would be premature.
Similarly, although the Bill does not deal explicitly with the tape-recording of police interviews, there can be no doubt about the Government's commitment to the principle of tape-recording. We announced that commitment when the House debated the report of the Royal Commission last year.
We prefer the recording of entire interviews to the proposed recording of summaries only, which has proved unpopular. The code-making power in clause 52 is deliberately wide enough to include tape-recording. The tape-recording field trials in about six police areas announced on 15 November are, however, necessary, because we need to know not whether tape-recording of interviews is feasible but how tape-recording may best be introduced into our system.
Obviously I am aware of the difficulties reported as besetting the rather different Scottish experiment. While we must be wary of jumping to conclusions about that experience, it seems fair to say that it underlines the principle of proceeding cautiously. No change in the substantive law is needed unless we wish to exclude from evidence all interviews that are not recorded on tape—and we do not.
Can the Secretary of State give a time scale within which he would feel it desirable to move towards the tape-recording of all interviews and statements in Britain?
That will depend upon how the field trials proceed. My short answer would be "As soon as possible".
As to the rest of part VII, we have taken the opportunity to bring forward some modest reforms to modernise the law of evidence and help streamline the work of the courts. Thus, the Bill extends the categories of certain documentary records which may be admitted and puts beyond doubt the general admissibility of reliable computer records and authenticated microfilm copies of documents. Those measures will apply also in Scotland.
In respect of England and Wales only, the Bill introduces provisions for streamlining the manner and circumstances in which convictions and acquittals may be proved. It widens slightly the court's discretion as to the time at which the accused gives evidence. It clarifies and extends when an accused's spouse can give, or can be compelled to give, evidence. It also requires the parties in trials in Crown court to disclose in advance the substance of any expert evidence they propose to adduce.
Part VIII deals with a wide range of matters. I have already referred to the proposal in clause 67 to give statutory force to Lord Scarman's recommendation on community consultation. The important point is that police and local authorities should continue, or where they have not already done so they should begin, to co-operate in developing arrangements to meet their areas' needs. Different arrangements will be appropriate to different force areas. Sometimes different arrangements will be desirable even within one police force area. The Bill will continue to allow that local flexibility.
The purpose of the local arrangements is to make a reality of community involvement in crime prevention, to get down to work on local problems, and to develop between the police and the community the mutual understanding and support that is essential to police effectiveness. If that is to be achieved, it will call for constructive effort, not just by the police, but from the community and its elected representatives.
That initiative will support the police and enhance their standing in the interest, amongst others, of increasing their effectiveness. There is no question whatever of handing operational control over the police to local political interests.
Clause 66 is also significant in contributing to the new statement of powers and responsibilities with which the Bill is concerned. It seeks to implement the Government's proposals for reforming police complaints procedures contained in the White Paper of 19 October, in which the Government replied to the report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. The Select Committee examined this important subject with great care. The Government are grateful for the work that it did to expose the central issues and cap prolonged public discussion about the best way forward.
The Government attach great importance to reforming the complaints procedure. The proposals substitute a new, three-tiered structure for the present uniform and inflexible system. Less serious complaints will be open to informal resolution with an element of conciliation. More substantial complaints will, as now, be investigated by a senior officer and remain subject to the independent scrutiny of the Police Complaints Board and, where appropriate, of the Director of Public Prosecutions. For the most serious complaints, there will for the first time be an independent element in the investigation process itself.
The independent assessor who will carry out that duty will exercise powers vital to enhancing public confidence in the complaints procedure and therefore in the police themselves. He will be either the chairman or deputy chairman of the Police Complaints Board. His role will be to ensure that the complaints which he independently decides should fall to him are investigated thoroughly, impartially and expeditiously.
However, I want to stress that nothing in the Government's proposals has sought in any way to set aside or diminish the legitimate rights of police officers. Complaints procedures must enjoy the confidence of the police service as well as of the public if they are to succeed. Throughout the discussions on this subject I have made clear the importance that I attach to this, and the Government's objective remains to attain a more flexible and responsive complaints system without in any way eroding those rights. I understand entirely officers' reasonable apprehensions on that score, and I have under consideration proposals which they have made to me for changes in police discipline procedures.
Finally, the rest of the Bill deals with lesser but important issues. They include changes to the police service rank structure, the position of the federation in discipline proceedings—itself a significant gesture towards the position of officers—the regulation-making powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the powers of certain Metropolitan Police officers in their work outside England and Wales.
I am just about to finish, so I shall not give way.
This is a long Bill and is directed largely to the police service. At the end of the day, however, the Government are anxious that no one should lose sight of the vital part that the community at large plays in the prevention and detection of crime. That has two consequences. First, it has influenced how we have sought to construct the main proposals and support them with provisions relating to community consultation and police complaints procedures. Secondly, it means that Parliament, which represents the community at large, bears a heavy responsibility. That is because not only must it see that the long-outstanding overhaul of the law relating to the investigation of crime and the treatment of suspects is conducted with success, but it must ensure that that technical success is matched by a regard for the need in a free society to win the support of the population at large. That support alone can guarantee a workable and lasting resolution of all the important issues in the Bill that go so close to the heart of maintaining the civil peace in our society.
It is, therefore, in that spirit that I conclude by commending the Bill to the House. The Bill is part of the Government's policy to deal with crime. It is a significant initiative to that end. It seeks to attain that end by complementing powers with safeguards. It recognises that the effectiveness of the police depends ultimately not only upon the support that they are given, but upon the support that they are able to win.
The Opposition will divide the House against the Bill for three distinct, but directly related, reasons. First, we believe that the Bill contains proposals concerning arrest, detention and interrogation that are, or ought to be, unacceptable in a free society. Second, the Bill proposes extensions of police powers that will alienate the police from the public whom they serve, thus making the prevention of crime and the apprehension of criminals more rather than less difficult. Therefore, the Bill seems to us to be wrong both in practice and in principle. Third, we believe that it is an opportunity lost. I shall give the Home Secretary an example of what I mean by that.
The Home Secretary knows that the Opposition have a commitment to a wholly elected police authority with strategic and policy control over the police. I would not vote for a police Bill that did not include that reform. However, looking at the relationship between the police and the police committees from the Home Secretary's point of view and the friction that has existed between police committees and police constables in the recent past, is it not extraordinary, even on the Home Secretary's principles and criteria, that he did not take the opportunity of the Bill to clear up some of the ambiguities that have complicated the relationship between police and police committees? Such ambiguities and doubts caused many problems in Liverpool after the riots in that city. I hope that before the day is out we shall be told why the Home Secretary seems to believe that the definition of relationships in that area is so perfect that it is not capable of improvement in the Bill.
The Bill is inadequate in the whole area of the governance of the police and therefore the relationship of the police with the public whom they serve. The most obvious omission and the most depressing example of my point is clause 66. It creates a new system for the investigation of police complaints, as foreshadowed in the October White Paper.
The Home Secretary has brought forward the proposals in a way that I concede is wholly consistent with the Tory tradition to which he belongs. When there is an irresistible clamour for reform, he concedes as little as seems to him necessary to avoid real trouble. Unfortunately, the Home Secretary's calculations on these matters are normally wrong, as he demonstrated with his immigration regulations two weeks ago and as I now fear he is demonstrating with his half-hearted proposals for a so-called independent investigation of complaints against the police.
The Home Secretary's proposals do no more than provide an independent assessor to supervise some investigations. Apart from complaints concerning deaths or the most serious injuries, the involvement of the independent assessor is at the discretion of the chief officer of the force. Even when the assessor is obligatorily involved, his influence will at best be oblique. The Home Secretary cannot believe that that new system of investigation will satisfy those of us who are concerned with civil liberties. It will not satisfy other parties to those arrangements. It certainly will not satisfy the police.
In this month's edition of the Police Journal, the article describing the Home Secretary's proposals is headed:
Government plan for police complaints puts officers more at risk than ever before.
The judgment of that article was clear and correct. It states:
So much for the pious hope that the plan would end controversy on the issue".
Of course, what the Home Secretary does satisfies no one, and meets none of the legitimate fears and none of the real needs. The Home Secretary must not convince himself or try to convince us that by moving in clause 66 he is doing anything like meeting, understanding and accepting the real and urgent needs in that area.
In a moment I shall outline some of our specific complaints about the parts of the Bill where civil liberties are eroded and the police are likely to be alienated from the public. Before I do so, I shall deal with what the Government said about the Bill's origins and genesis.
The Home Secretary was properly cautious. He described the Bill as owing much to the Philips Commission. However, there have been other claims, including one in the handout describing the Bill which was issued on the day of its publication. It makes much more precise claims about the Philips Commission being the true genesis and intellectual justification for what we are debating today.
The assertion that the Bill is the product of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure does far less than justice to the men and women who sat together to produce that document. I was and remain highly critical of many of the Royal Commission's recommendations. However, what it proposed in many particulars was significantly different from what the Government offered to the House this afternoon. The Government have done exactly what I feared they would do and what I prophesied they would do when we debated the Royal Commission's proposals on a Friday eight months ago. I said that the Government would adopt the tougher proposals and abandon the safeguards altogether. That is exactly what has happened.
Mr. Walter Merricks was a member of the Royal Commission and a robust defender of the report. Shortly after its publication he seemed to spend a great deal of time—I do not blame him for that one iota—saying that the criticisms of the likes of me were unfounded. No wonder that he wrote in The Times on Friday 19 November that the Government have
pulled apart a package that we had carefully stitched together.
The Royal Commission made a number of proposals that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends found unacceptable, but most of them were hedged about with safeguards of some sort. Those safeguards have been largely removed by the Government. I shall give one blatant example of how the Government have operated along those lines. I am astonished that the Home Secretary did not describe it in some detail when he introduced the Bill.
The Royal Commission introduced the concept of grave offence—grave offences being those commissioned in such a way and of such intensity and seriousness that in the Royal Commission's opinion they justified the exercise of new and harsher powers. To its credit, the Royal Commission attempted to define a grave offence with some precision. The Government have exchanged the idea of "grave offence" for the notion of "serious arrestable offence," which, according to the Home Secretary, can be judged against specific criteria. Those were his words.
According to the Bill, the commissioning of a serious arrestable offence justifies a number of actions which many of my hon. Friends and I would regard as draconian—for instance, the erection of a road block. That is justified, according to the Bill, by the definition of a serious arrestable offence which the Home Secretary assures us is a matter of specific criteria.
Clause 74 defines a serious arrestable offence as
an arrestable offence which the person contemplating the exercise of the power considers to be sufficiently serious to justify his exercising it.
That is the most perfect example of the circular definition it is possible to construct. It should appear in a school book on logic as an example of how circular a definition can be. The definition allows a police officer on his own judgment to decide that such an offence has happened in virtually any circumstances, because the criteria are in his mind and the judgment is a matter for him.
It is intolerable that the definition of the heightened offence and therefore the heightened action is solely in the mind of the policeman. It is intolerable for civil liberties and it is an unfair burden to place on the shoulders of individual policemen.
I shall give specific examples of where, very often—not invariably—judged against this amorphous definition of whether they should be used, the use of the new powers and the circumstances in which they are used will cause a deterioration in the relationship between the police and the public. However, because of the pressure of time, I can do no more than mention many of the criticisms of the Bill. There is, for example, the forcible collection of evidence from innocent witnesses; the right to arrest any person with a police record who refuses to give his fingerprints, whether he has committed or is even suspected of committing an offence; the exclusion from the limited safeguards in the Bill of actions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
I must ask the Home Secretary a question which is only partly rhetorical. I promise that, if he wants to take my question literally, I shall sit down to let him answer. Since we are deciding today, if the Bill receives a Second Reading, to exclude all the safeguards it includes from the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976, how much faith should the House and the country put into the inquiry into the Prevention of Terrorism Act which is currently being conducted by Lord Jellicoe? It was extraordinary that on the eve of the renewal of that Act a few months ago we were told that any suggestion that it might be inconsistent with our traditional liberties could be met by the promise of an inquiry which would report to the House if the Prevention of Terrorism Act went too far.
While that inquiry is sitting, a Bill is being presented to the House which asks us to exclude the Prevention of Terrorism Act from all the safeguards on civil liberties it contains. The Home Secretary will know that I dislike intensely the Prevention of Terrorism Act and I am increasingly conscious of the desire and, indeed, the overwhelming strength of the argument that the Opposition should vote against it when next it comes before the House for renewal. If anything were necessary to solidify and confirm that view, it is the decision about that Act in the Bill before us.
I should like to deal with some of the specific criticisms, points and objections. I begin inevitably and properly with the right to stop and search embodied in clauses 1 and 2. The Bill extends the right to stop and search in two significant ways. First, the right to stop and search for stolen goods is to be extended to cover the whole country. Secondly, a police officer will become entitled to stop and search for offensive weapons if he reasonably suspects that an offensive weapon is being carried. Yet all the evidence on stop and search, including the substantial body of evidence which was prepared for and presented to the Royal Commission, demonstrates that stop and search is a most ineffective way for the police to behave. In the survey carried out for the Royal Commission, only 10 per cent. of the people stopped, even when the stops were recorded, were arrested and charged, yet thousands of innocent citizens were stopped by the police while going about their lawful occasions and as a result were alienated from the police. Indeed, it was the stop and search in Swamp '81 which sparked off the Brixton riots, an operation which Lord Scarman called a serious mistake.
I have no doubt that in Britain, as is now the case in the United States of America, stop and search will be used selectively. It will become a feature of life in the inner cities but not of life in the prosperous suburbs. As a result, the relationship between the police and the ethnic minorities will tragically deteriorate.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, since the House agreed that they should be available, the same powers of stop and search have been in operation in Scotland for the past two or three years. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that as a result of that there has suddenly been a massive deterioration in relations between the police and the public in Scotland? There is no evidence of that.
There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that, when innocent people are stopped and asked to account for their lawful behaviour, they are alienated from the police. I take it a priori that if this is happening in Scotland—and all these matters are naturally and inevitably subject to the discretion of wise chief constables who do not totally inhabit the land—it is unavoidable that free men and women will be offended by being stopped and will be antagonised by the police as a result.
The same principal applies to clause 4, which deals with road checks. The alienation effect applies also to the power to stop vehicles. The legal power to set up road blocks exists only in limited circumstances, although the police told the Royal Commission that the powers they possess under the Road Traffic Act 1974 were often misused. It seemed extraordinary that the Royal Commission should argue that since the powers were often misused there was a case for making them legal and having them used properly. It is even more extraordinary that the Government should have enshrined them in the Bill.
On this occasion the Home Secretary was less than frank with the House, for it was his habit to draw our attention to those occasions when the Government had softened the Royal Commission's proposals, although he did not draw our attention to those occasions when they had been hardened. This is one instance—there are many more to which I shall come in the next few minutes—when the Government specifically and explicitly have gone further than the Royal Commission recommended. Indeed, they have gone into an area that the Royal Commission reommended should not be traversed.
The Royal Commission was specific in saying that the nature of an area should not be used as a justification for setting up a road block, and that the jusification should be the suspicion of a specific offence rather than a concept in the mind of the police about the nature of an area. In the Bill, the nature of an area can be used as a justification—the pattern of crime in an area, as the Bill describes it. As a result, I have no doubt that there will be one law for Carshalton and Solihull and another for Lambeth and Sparkbrook. That is wholly undesirable.
I represent a rural constituency and I return to it many times late at night. At this time of year, all fanners and people in rural areas positively welcome the occasional stopping of road vehicles as it prevents the theft of many turkeys and other Christmas goods produced on the farms. Law-abiding citizens living in rural areas who are far removed from both Lambeth and Carshalton positively welcome the proposals.
As in so many matters, the hon. Gentleman reacts to life with a calm logic that is not available to us all. Many people, some of them in this House, would react very strongly indeed if they felt that they were stopped on the way home without any cause or justification. Indeed, the newspapers are littered with examples of people of distinction and eminence who have taken the greatest exception to being stopped in their motor cars while going about their lawful vocations.
The hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. Wells) has now left to make sure that his turkeys are still intact. That concern for privacy and the right to progress freely is clearly felt in my constituency and, I believe, in the constituencies of many other hon. Members.
Part III, dealing with the power of arrest, in only one particular deals properly with the need to clarify and simplify police powers in this area. As the Home Secretary said, the Royal Commission suggested that all imprisonable offences should be arrestable. So far as I could follow the right hon. Gentleman, he seemed to be saying that the Bill reduces the opportunities for arrest and that there will be fewer possibilities of arrest than there would have been had the Royal Commission's proposals been implemented to the letter.
That is not my view. More importantly, it is not the view of the many commentators who have remarked on clause 17. The general view of clause 17 is that it virtually allows arrest for any offence. The example that has been quoted in some learned journals and some serious newspapers is that if a youth drops a cigarette packet and when told that he has offended against the litter laws refuses to give his name and address, he can be arrested—[Interruption.] I am delighted to see the Minister of State nodding, I think to the Home Secretary, but no doubt to the House as well. It is intolerable that the power of arrest should be extended in that way.
If someone breaks the law, however trivial the right hon. Gentleman may think the offence to be, why should not that person give his name and address?
That is the wrong question, because the person should do so. No one is arguing about that. But if a man refuses to give his name to the police, is that a just cause for his arrest? There are two reasons why I think that it is not. The first is that arrest in itself is a punishment, and it is intolerable that people should be arrested for comparatively trivial matters.
One would expect a law-abiding citizen to provide his name and address when requested, but it is wholly intolerable that his refusal might result in arrest—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because I believe in a free society. When, as I now propose to demonstrate, the arrest can also lead to detention without charge, that compounds the draconian nature of this provision.
As the Home Secretary knows well, clause 25 makes a proposal which, were the Bill to contain nothing else to which I objected, I regard as sufficient reason for voting against its Second Reading. For the first time in our history, there is a statutory provision for a citizen to be held in custody without charge. The Home Secretary told us that the Bill contained no new offences. That is true. But it contains a number of new occasions when a man or woman can be arrested and held in police custody. The Bill does not create new offences; rather it creates new conditions under which men and women can be held in police custody without having committed an offence and without being charged. That is epitomised by clause 25.
That clause provides that in certain circumstances a man or woman can be held without charge. Indeed, one of the clauses qualifying that principle contains a margin note that I am astonished to find in a Bill coming before a free Parliament in a free country. It states:
Limits on period of detention without charge".
It is genuinely shocking that we should be discussing such a concept.
The Home Secretary said that in a number of particulars the right to hold without charge was different from what the Royal Commission proposed. He is right. He has softened the Royal Commission's proposal in respect of the indefinite length of the holding operation. But in every other particular—two examples are the right of a man being held without charge to be present at the magistrates' inquiry after the first day and the right of that man to appeal to a higher court—the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to toughen what the Royal Commission proposed. I hope that the Minister of State will explain why both the selective and draconian alterations proposed by the Royal Commission have been chosen.
By definition, it is self-evident that a man or woman should not be held in police custody unless he or she is about to be, or has been, charged with committing a serious crime. That does not mean that everyone charged must automatically be prosecuted. I understand why there is a distinction between charge and prosecution. Indeed, if the independent prosecution service—which the Home Secretary almost endorsed in principle—comes about, the distinction between charge and prosecution can be made much clearer and more definite. Under any system, a man or woman in prison ought to be charged so that they know the offence for which they have been incarcerated.
The right hon. Gentleman said that for the first time clause 25 provides a statutory power for someone to be held in custody who has not committed an offence and who has not been charged. Has he overlooked section 43 of the Magistrates' Courts Act, which permits people to be held in exactly those circumstances so long as they are suspected of committing an offence? Indeed, they can be held without statutory limit, subject only to their being taken before a magistrates' court as soon as practicable after 24 hours.
The Minister of State knows perfectly well that that is one of the ambiguities to which the Home Secretary referred. He claimed that that ambiguity had now been cleared up. However, because of those ambiguities, some protections are available, one of which is the example given by the Minister of State—that a person must be taken before a magistrates' court after 24 hours. That is very different from obtaining the permission of a magistrate after 24 hours to keep people longer and not to allow them to be present while such permission is being obtained. I give the Minister of State credit for understanding the difference between the two. He may suspect that the Opposition do not know the difference, but I assure him that there is a great difference.
I have two other points to make. The first concerns a fundamental issue that divides the House on the Bill—interrogation and the protection of the man or woman who is being interrogated. In our view, the so-called protection against improper interrogation that is enshrined in the Bill is inadequate. It protects only against the grossest abuses. That will not do. The Bill ought to include what has come to be called a general inadmissibility rule. It should include the disqualification from evidence of all material that has been obtained improperly.
I should be prepared to allow the prosecution to argue in court for the waiving of the rule when the breach of the normal and proper procedures had been trivial and inadvertent, but the improperly obtained information must, as a basic assumption, be excluded from evidence. That is the only real protection against abuse. It is the only safeguard that the suspect has. We and, I hope, other parties who may be represented on the Committee will press as hard as we can for the inclusion of that safeguard.
Despite what I hope are strong criticisms of the measure, it is not an appropriate one for the normal knock-down drag-out debate of the party dog fight. If the Bill gets a Second Reading today and proceeds to Committee, I hope that the Committee will consider the Bill's inadequacies with the calm and objectivity that that requires. That obliges the Government to respond to our attempts for the Bill to be discussed in that way.
It is obvious that the Bill has been drafted hastily. The Home Secretary talked about the long period of consultation. I wish that he had used some of it to give the parliamentary draftsmen the opportunity to avoid what is called "little errors" in the newspaper industry. Time and again there are cross references to paragraphs that do not exist, there are words omitted and numbers that do not appear in the proper array. The Bill shows all the signs of hurried construction. The briefings—I know not whether they are inspired or accidental—suggest that the Bill is to be rushed through the House. That would be intolerable.
May I make it absolutely clear that there is no question of rushing the Bill through the House. I greatly welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about his party's constructive attitude in Committee. The Government will respond to that. There is no question of rushing the Bill through.
I am delighted by and grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's response.
In the spirit of ecumenicism, may I make another suggestion that seems likely to promote a sensible package? It would be equally intolerable were the consideration of a Bill that affects the civil liberties of the subject and law and order in Britain to be considered in Committee without the benefit of the Home Secretary's advice and opinion. It would be ridiculous if the contribution that he made to the debate on what he regards as a central issue for the Government and the country were limited to the reading of a 30-minute speech. It is essential that the Home Secretary should be on the Committee to deal point by point with our contentions. They are that the civil liberties of the subject are constantly eroded and that because of the alienation of the police crime will continue to rise. We fear that the unthinking will demand another twist in the dreary circle—more draconian measures, more alienation of the police from the public and more increases in the crime rate, going on and on.
We propose to vote against the Second Reading and to pursue what we believe is a more enlightened and more practical measure for policing the United Kingdom.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) for leaving the Chamber, but I was in the Chair of a Committee elsewhere at 5 o'clock. I presided for exactly two minutes and returned to the Chamber as quickly as possible.
I am surprised, though perhaps I should not be, that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) should try to persuade the House that, far from increasing public confidence in the police or police powers or safeguards for those who are arrested by the police, the Bill is likely to alienate the public.
There is one part of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman cannot possibly say will alienate the public. It is the part that deals with the new procedure for police complaints. I think that anyone who examines the Bill's provisions carefully must come to the conclusion that the powers that are given to the police are nicely and precisely balanced by the safeguards that are provided for suspected persons who are being interviewed by the police.
I am happy that the Bill does something to cure some of the imperfections of our criminal trial procedure. Unhappily, it does not deal with all the imperfections, and many imperfections will remain. One imperfection is the way in which the police record interviews with suspects. The recording is done in a notebook, and what is put down is usually recorded some considerable time after the words in question have been spoken.
Time and again juries are asked to believe that what a police officer has written down perhaps three hours after interviewing a suspect at a police station are the precise words that were used by him and by the suspect. It is not surprising that juries often do not accept that kind of evidence. They reject it because of the doubt that is sown about the nature of the interview and the way in which it has been recorded, and I venture to suggest that verdicts of not guilty are returned more frequently than they ought to be.
The public frequently complain, but the jury is made up of members of the public. One cannot be too critical of their incredulity when they hear evidence of that type. The way out is to use tape recorders to ensure that what is said both by the police and the suspects is correctly recorded. The Royal Commission on criminal procedure said that tape recorders were almost infallible and recommended their use.
I was happy to hear my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary say today that he strongly supported the use of tape recorders. I agree with him. There is no need for any alteration of the law if tape recorders are to be used. They can be used now. The question is why are they not used and what can we do to encourage their use? Moreover, how can we make their use mandatory in some circumstances and not leave the matter within the discretion of the police?
The progress of the tape recorder towards respectability and acceptance by the authorities, including the Home Office, has been slow, to say the least. For years, long before 1972, people were suggesting that tape recorders should be used by the police when interviewing suspects. In 1972 the Criminal Law Revision Committee recommended in its eleventh report that tape recorders should be used on an experimental basis for interviews with suspects, but nothing happened. In 1975 the then Home Secretary set up a committee and, through its terms of reference, invited it to consider whether the experimental use of tape recorders was feasible. The committee concluded that experiments of that kind were indeed feasible, but again nothing happened.
In 1978 the Royal Commission on criminal procedure was appointed. Among the matters that it examined was the possibility of using tape recorders for police interviews. In 1980 the Royal Commission reported, recommending that tape recorders should be used. In November 1981, almost a year ago, in a debate on the Royal Commission report, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that he accepted the use of tape recorders—subject, of course, to the problems and cost of using them.
On 15 November this year, in a written answer to me, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced that field trials were to take place in six police divisions. I was much comforted by that announcement and warmly welcomed it. Nevertheless, I was somewhat disturbed to learn that the field trials would not take place until after the financial year 1983–84 and that they were expected to last at least two years. My right hon. Friend is setting up a steering committee which will be responsible for the experiments and for examining the results. One of its terms of reference is to assess the cost of using tape recorders and the savings that might be enjoyed as a result.
The Royal Commission considered that very point, because it is vital, and concluded that if the police used tape recorders in all cases to interview people outside police stations the cost would be about £24 million in the first year and £13 million in each subsequent year. That is a great deal of money. The Royal Commission also considered the cost of using tape recorders to interview suspects inside police stations in cases of indictable offences and concluded that the cost of that would be £6·5 million. Again, that is a considerable sum.
I submit that the savings that would result from the use of tape recorders inside police stations would be incalculable. I shall not guess at what the savings would be, but I say with some confidence—in this I have behind me the authority of a number of bodies, including the criminal Bar Association—that the use of tape recorders in such cases would undoubtedly reduce the length of trials, avoid most of the challenges now made about police records and, in many cases, eliminate the need for what is known as a trial within a trial. I am also satisfied that it would encourage more pleas of guilty.
At present, what has a determined and clever criminal to lose by going to court and doing his best to blacken the police, alleging that they have compelled him to do something in a way that would be outrageous if it were true? Allegations of that kind are made every day in the courts and such issues—most of them, I suggest, wholly empty of merit—take up the time of the courts, exhaust the patience of juries and cost the taxpayer a gold mine. Therefore, I do not believe that I exaggerate when I say that if tape recorders were properly used for interviews inside police stations an enormous amount of time and money could be saved.
My hon. and learned Friend speaks with considerable experience and authority, and I agree broadly with what he has said, but will he answer this question? If a professional criminal being interviewed by the police deliberately blurts out in the course of a tape recorded interview something that he knows must be deleted if the tape is to be admissible, how will that practical problem be resolved?
That takes me back to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, which I concede do not entirely coincide with the present thinking of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I appreciate that my right hon. Friend must be flexible in this, but I hope that in time and as a result of the experiments he will come closer to the view of the Royal Commission. Certainly major difficulties arise. For example, in the Scottish courts it is now held that the whole interview must go in. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) suggests, a suspect may blurt out—probably deliberately to thwart and frustrate the interview process—that he has a criminal conviction, which must be inadmissible. I know little about Scottish law, but I understand that under the Scottish ruling the whole interview would have to be excluded.
That, however, is contrary to the recommendation of the Royal Commission, which takes a very narrow and practical view. Written statements of the kind that we now have are frequently challenged as to the manner in which they were taken and whether the words written down were actually said by the accused, even though they are signed by him. The Royal Commission took the view that using a tape recorder at the same time as the statement was taken down would provide verifiable evidence which would not just corroborate the written statement but would prove fatal to any objection that the written statement was not dictated by the accused and written down accurately by the police officer.
I shall not go into too much detail but it was also suggested that the police officer might make a summary on tape of what the suspect or accused had said, and the accused should then give his consent on tape to the accuracy of the record. I believe that that would be a practical way of dealing with the matter.
The Scottish research on this matter has not been encouraging. According to those doing the research, the police reaction has been, if I correctly use the words in The Times yesterday, "overwhelmingly negative". I should like to think that that does not help very much in reflecting on how successful tape recorders will be in this country, because our procedure and law are so different from those in Scotland. I should like to think also that the British police would not be an obstacle to this use of tape recorders if they are—I emphasise the words—properly used.
I draw the attention of the House to paragraph 4.29 in the report of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure which says that
the time for further experiments to test feasibility is past …tape recording could start now on the basis of administrative guidance from the Home Office.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consider those words, as I am sure he has, and, if he has, to consider them again.
I echo every word spoken by the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) about tape recording. I also welcome, if I took it aright, the welcome that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), no doubt speaking on behalf of those people whom he occasionally represents in the House, gave to the hon. and learned Member's speech. It looks as though we may on that basis have a little consensus in the House about tape recording.
I speak on this Bill substantially because before I came to the House I became involved in a case that has become known as the Confait case after the victim of the case, rather than after any defendant. In that case, three young constituents of mine were sentenced for murder, manslaughter and arson on their confessions alone. After a substantial campaign—and the convicted would not have got out without a substantial campaign—the case was referred by a Labour Home Secretary back to the Court of Appeal where the convictions were quashed as being unsatisfactory. Subsequently, Sir Henry Fisher, a former judge and then head of an Oxford college, was asked to conduct an investigation, which he did. He made a number of recommendations, which were one of the factors that led to the setting up of the Royal Commission.
It is fair to say—I am sure that Sir Henry Fisher would admit this if he were a Member of the House—that he did not have all the evidence before him. The subsequent evidence that came before the Attorney-General and the Home Secretary enabled them to make statements absolutely exonerating my three constituents from any part in the murder and arson, and enabled them to receive £65,000 compensation, which at the time was a record amount. That at least served to point out to the public that it is possible, under our present law, for our courts to convict people for murder simply on their confessions when those confessions have no basis in fact. That is what led to the setting up of the Fisher inquiry and to the Royal Commission, which mentioned the Confait case in its introduction and addressed itself to it.
I shall address myself particularly to the need for an exclusionary rule. However, I just point out that one of the two policemen who took the confessions in the Confait case is still a member of the Metropolitan Police and was recently promoted to being head of the Flying Squad. There is a responsibility on the Commissioner, whatever qualities he feels exist in his officers, to have regard to involvement in this type of case before putting his officers in very responsible positions of this kind. The Commissioner should be sensitive to the House in the way that he disposes of his men.
With regard to the exclusionary rule, because the Fisher inquiry led to the Royal Commission, it is important to remember that even Sir Henry Fisher, writing a report with inadequate evidence before him and believing that two of the three youngsters in the Confait case might have had some part in the murder—he now knows that they did not—recommended on page 18 that confessions obtained in certain circumstances should be excluded
unless that evidence is supported by other evidence not obtained in any of such circumstances".
I shall not go through all the particular circumstances. However, Sir Henry Fisher, considering the Confait case before the Royal Commission came to it, advocated an exclusionary rule in certain circumstances. I put particular emphasis on that point, which was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).
Mention has been made of tape recording, and I support the move towards that, although I agree with the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde that it has been tortoise-like and painfully slow in Britain. Anyone reading the results of the Scottish evidence knows why the police do not like tape recording evidence. All the evidence from Scotland shows that interviews tend to become less than half their normal length once a tape recorder is there because policemen cannot use the techniques they normally use.
Is the Home Office in a position to make tape recording compulsory in Britain? The only way that it is possible to make tape recordings compulsory is by an exclusionary rule. The only way that one will compel the police to have a tape recorder, or some other evidence such as the presence of a lawyer to compel them to follow the rules, is the sheer knowledge that if they do not follow certain rules that evidence will not be admissible in court. I do not say that this will stop all further miscarriages of justice, but it will make them immensely less likely.
The present rule about confessions is that confessions must be voluntary. However, as was shown in the Confait case, and I am sure that the Minister of State will admit it, for a defendant to prove that the confession is not voluntary or even to rebut evidence when the prosecution is attempting to prove that the confession was voluntary is almost impossible because all questions come down to his word against that of a police officer.
I am carefully following the hon. Gentleman. However, he will concede that the Bill establishes an exclusionary rule in two important respects, and establishes it in a statutory form for the first time. The first is if the issue is raised and the prosecution cannot establish that it was not obtained by oppression, and the second is if the issue is raised and the prosecution cannot establish that it was not obtained in circumstances liable to make the confession unreliable.
I was about to concede clause 60 of the Bill and its link with the draft code of practice, which is, I freely admit, an advance on the present position. I should not want to deny that. However, the plight that a defendant is put in a court in attempting to rebut the evidence that there has been no oppression, for instance, or prove that the confession is unreliable is a difficult one if there is no independent evidence of any kind. The court has to make up its mind who is lying—the police or the defendant.
The Bill establishes that the defendant does not have to rebut the confession; the prosecution has to establish beyond reasonable doubt that it was not obtained by oppression or in circumstances likely to make it unreliable.
The point will no doubt be pursued in Committee. In the Confait case seven or eight policemen gave evidence that the confessions had been obtained without oppression and were reliable. I accept the Minister's point that a requirement that was not statutory before will become so, and that is an advance. However, it remains difficult for a court to decide whether there has been oppression or whether the statement is reliable unless there is some independent evidence. The best independent evidence is that provided by a tape recording or some person who is connected neither with the police nor with the defendant.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's fears. Does he accept that clause 60 provides for the introduction of extraneous evidence to prove whether a confession is likely to be false? If that is established so as to create a doubt, other than a fanciful one, the prosecution will not have discharged its burden under the clause.
I am surrounded by a host of lawyers and as a humble layman I feel overwhelmed. If the Bill is passed, clause 60 will have to be tested in court and we shall have to see how the courts deal with the matter. I remain sceptical about how defendants who have a record or are uncertain in court will be treated. A complete exclusionary rule would be better that the partial one that is proposed, although that partial proposal is an advance on the present position.
I am pleased at the way in which the draft code that gives a defendant the right to a legal adviser moves forward a little. However, the police have fairly wide rights to exclude a solicitor. If the police were to use those wide powers to exclude solicitors from defendants to the extent that they do at present, that section of the Bill could be rendered nugatory. I believe that we need a total exclusionary rule as outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook. One further reason for the exclusionary rule is the instruction book for the guidance of the Metropolitan Police force, which has appeared on the House of Commons Order Paper recently. That book, which is not secret, is labelled "For police use only'. It was put in a local jumble sale in London 18 months ago and bought at a fairly low price by a passing banister.
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that barristers cannot afford to go to other places?
After the book was given to me I asked the Home Secretary to put it in the Library, but he felt that he could not. I asked the Librarian, and he felt that I could not. The only sensible course was to put down a motion on the Order Paper to say that anyone who wanted to see it could do so in my office.
My hon. Friend is treating this matter with levity. It is shocking that in 1982 hon. Members cannot get such documents officially. A Bill is being discussed and the Home Office will not let us have the instruction book.
I apologise to my hon. Friend for treating with levity a matter about which I feel strongly. If I am deadly serious about everything that I say in the House it produces a certain flatness.
The instruction book gives guidance on things to say such as "Never say `Hello'." It instructs the Metropolitan Police never to use a slang expression, and that when cycling and saluting an officer should not let go of the handlebars when turning the head and shoulders towards the officer being saluted. It gives an exact description of women's boots which can either be made of leather or plastic that looks like leather. It contains a range of similar matters to which I shall not refer, although I do not see why they should not go into the Library.
Chapter 6, paragraph 9, is an example of material that should be available in court to defendants against whom the police are making allegations. It deals with police notebooks and says:
Notes must be made at the time of the occurrence or as soon after as practicable
—that is fair enough.
If they appear insufficient, the officer may make a fuller entry in continuation as soon as possible after the occurrence.
—that is all right.
Where two or more officers are present at an occurrence, the details of which can be easily remembered, notes should where practicable be written by each officer separately and independently and without consultation. When, however, in
more complex or lengthy cases two or more officers witness the same incident or are present at the same interview or interrogation, there is no objection to these officers conferring together when proparing their notes so that the notes may be as full and comprehensible as possible.
I do not object to such instructions being in that form, but I feel strongly we should know about them.
If the adversary system between the police and the defendant is to take place, with the defendant having one arm tied behind his back by not knowing the instructions that the police should follow, we should put the book in the Library. The Library has all types of material and I am sure that the book will get there before long.
I realise that one copy can now be seen in my hon. Friend's room. Is it not essential that those hon. Members who will serve on the Standing Committee on the Bill should be able to consult a copy, not at some future time when it reaches the Library, but very soon? Much of the material is relevant to the proceedings. Will my hon. Friend press the Minister to make sure that every hon. Member serving on the Committee has a copy?
I hope that the Minister will deal with this issue in his reply. It would be sensible if the hon. and learned Gentleman did the decent thing. It is my understanding that if an hon. Member, either on the Floor of the House or in Committee, refers to a paper, it is then his duty to lay the paper on the Table. If I felt confident that I could lay it on the Table without the Minister taking it back to the Metropolitan Police and burning it, that is what I would do.
My hon. Friend will, I believe, find that the rule is that a Minister, if he quotes, may be asked to lay a document on the Table and that, through custom and practice, he would invariably do so. If my hon. Friend were to hand his document to the Minister tonight and ask him to lay it on the Table, I am sure that the Minister would be only too pleased to do so.
I am sure that the Minister is as expert in laying papers as he is in laying eggs or anything else.
This handbook exists within the Metropolitan Police. It would be helpful to hon. Members serving on the Committee to know whether it exists in other police forces and whether such handbooks will be made available to hon. Members.
I hope, as I have already stated, that the Minister will deal with this matter in his reply. Hon. Members would like the subject to be made public. I hope that this can be brought about.
The Royal Commission was a package. I criticised the Royal Commission for trying to put a package together. I do not think that that is the purpose of Royal Commissions. They should say what they think is right. Sir Cyril Philips openly admitted that he had tried to construct a political package. An integral part of the package was the public prosecutor system. For the Minister to untie that package, to take pieces out and to leave pieces like the public prosecutor system lying about separately seems to me a real breach of faith with the Royal Commission. To carry on with the police both as prosecutors and investigators seems to go clean against the whole spirit of everything that the Royal Commission stated.
I wish to make some remarks as a South-East London Member. Stop and search powers in London are more substantial than they are outside the Metropolitan Police area. Any move by the House to increase stop and search powers for the police can only exacerbate an already tense situation on the streets of Lewisham. We in Lewisham, know, more than those in any borough in Britain—even, in some ways, to a greater extent than in Brixton, where one recalls the events of 1978—what can happen to a city centre and to a whole population when the tiny boundary between tension and explosion is crossed and when violence takes place and injuries are caused not just to shops and streets but to the whole morale of the people and the trust between police and public.
Lewisham has taken a long time to get over the events of 1978. It has made very good progress. If, however, the police in Lewisham are to be virtually encouraged to take over more stop and search duties than are permitted under existing Metropolitan Police rules, I can only warn the House that the events of 1978 are more likely to occur again. I beg the House not to introduce any such enactment.
I wish to be brief. Therefore, I do not propose to follow in any particular the remarks of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price), although I must say that I enjoyed every minute of his contribution. I always find the hon. Gentleman's speeches stimulating and thought provoking. I also enjoyed the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) who speaks with great knowledge and experience on these matters. Indeed, the debate so far has cleared the air substantially. I look forward to hearing my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State when he replies to the debate.
Although the House, I believe, is aware of the fact, it is only proper that I should declare an interest. For many years I have been the parliamentary adviser to the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales. For myself, I warmly welcome the Bill. I must be careful what I say about the police service, because my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) represents by far the larger part of it, but I should think that the service as a whole welcomes this measure.
The Bill strikes a good balance between giving the police effective powers and the need to safeguard individual and public liberties. The two are, after all, coterminous. One cannot enforce law and order in a democracy like ours unless the police use their powers and are seen to use them properly and fairly. Equally, the innocent should have no fears of the powers vested in the police by Parliament.
My only disagreement with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) arises over his reference to eminent people who resent being held up in their cars when the police stop them. That is not my experience. I am pleased when I find evidence that the police are exercising surveillance—a view, I venture to suggest, shared by the vast majority of people. The law-abiding, the innocent, the weak and the unprotected have nothing to fear from the police. For that reason, the Bill strikes a good balance. At long last an attempt is being made to make clear the provisions in regard to police powers which have developed, in piecemeal fashion over the years, or, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary described them correctly, as a hotchpotch. Now these powers are to be put in a state of order.
Having said that, it seems to me essential that the police should not be unduly restricted in their tasks. They must never be deterred from carrying out their lawful duties by unnecessary administrative chores or by the threat of disciplinary proceedings. Indeed, that is one of the criteria by which I shall judge the Bill.
I wish to restrict myself to police matters that should be examined in detail in Committee. For example, clause 52 provides that a failure to observe any provision of a code of practice shall render a police officer liable to disciplinary proceedings. While it is right that the enforcement of the rules should be left to the police, surely any act of omission should be one of wilful intent, not one of mere oversight.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde said that the new complaints procedure would be welcomed by all who wish to ensure fair treatment of persons making genuine complaints against the police. All hon. Members have experience of complaints against the police and they can judge for themselves whether a complaint is trivial or whether, as sometimes happens—fortunately such cases are in a small minority—it is genuine.
I understand that criminal offences committed by police officers are dealt with independently and in a uniform way by the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, the new proposals under the Bill to send the papers either to the DPP or to the chief officer for a decision on prosecution could lead to different standards of application. There are, after all, over 40 chief police officers. I doubt, therefore, whether this provision will be welcomed with enthusiasm by the police service.
The provision could he unfair and possibly counter-productive. If, say, the chief officer decides against prosecution, the papers will still go to the Police Complaints Board, which can decide to submit the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions. That procedure does not appear to be an improvement, certainly not for the officer concerned, who I think would prefer the impartiality of the director.
As to the procedures for the resolution of minor complaints by conciliation, will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary give an assurance that any police officer complained against will have the opportunity to insist upon a full inquiry if he feels that any allegation against him is unjustified? Such points must be clarified if the Bill is to command the confidence of the police service, and the sooner they are clarified the better.
We must also examine the wider implications of the Bill. Clause 26(1) states:
At every police station there shall at all times be in attendance an officer known as the 'custody officer', who shall perform the functions assigned
by the Bill. My hon. Friend the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds knows more about that than I do, but I understand that in most cases those functions will be performed by a sergeant. I am advised that five sergeants will be required at each police station to ensure adequate cover. May we have an assurance, therefore, that the necessary increase in establishment will be forthcoming?
It is no use making provisions in a Bill that are incapable of being implemented simply because the manpower is not available.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, West made interesting comments about clause 60. Where a confession by an accused is given in evidence, the clause appears to permit him to say that the confession was obtained either because he was oppressed—that is bullied or intimidated—or because of dubious circumstances at the time which would render any such evidence unreliable when the case was brought to court. Even if the confession is true, the court will not allow it unless the prosecution proves beyond reasonable doubt that it was not obtained by either means.
As I understand it—I may be wrong—a judge has discretion at present to allow a confession even if it was obtained contrary to the judges' rules. However, as the Bill stands the defence has only to claim improper conduct by the police and the onus shifts at once to the prosecution to show beyond reasonable doubt that that which is alleged did not occur. This is a burden of proof which may seriously reduce the number of convictions.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde suggested that the procedure might have the effect of increasing the number of convictions. Senior police officers who have studied the Bill have told me that they believe that it may seriously reduce the number of convictions. Perhaps there is room for doubt. I bow to my hon. and learned Friend's knowledge of the courts, but some clarification is needed. If the police are correct, how will this provision serve the cause of strengthening law and order?
Of course, the tape recording of interviews is likely to remove most of the doubts about what took place at an interview, but I understand that the new procedure will not be fully introduced until some time in 1984. It is a matter of regret that the introduction of tape recorders in police stations has been delayed once again following the proposal still further to experiment. Should there not be second thoughts about this? Following the work that has been done by the Royal Commission and others, is it not possible to make a positive start to the tape recording of interrogations, thereby removing allegations against police officers which, if clause 60 is enacted, will have to be disproved beyond reasonable doubt?
Generally speaking, everyone is in favour of tape recording interviews. It has been alleged that the police doctor their notes. Surely it is possible also to doctor a tape. I have had recent experience of the BBC doctoring a tape. How will we overcome that difficulty?
I have spent over half a lifetime in broadcasting and I know that there are distinct advantages in having one's broadcasting doctored in the way that the hon. Gentleman has described. It can be much improved. However, I take his point. It is not a point, however, for me to answer. I am not technically equipped to do so, but it is an important point and I am sure that the Minister of State will hoist it in. The issue should he clarified beyond any shadow of doubt in Committee.
Did the hon. Gentleman read the report in yesterday's edition of The Times about the difficulties that have been experienced in Scotland? Surely it would be a good idea for him to advise the organisation that he represents in this place to ensure that the men under its control use tape recorders properly. Difficulties seem to have been experienced by police officers who have conducted interviews in Scotland when there has been a lack of supervision by senior officers.
That sounds good common sense. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's words will be conveyed to the proper quarter. We are in an age when we must expect new technology to be employed in every part of our national life. It is right and proper that those who use these new techniques should be properly instructed. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman.
With these few criticisms and doubts, I welcome the Bill. I think that it will do much to strengthen law and order. May I say that it is high time?
In considering the Bill, many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, the Royal Commission, and Government spokesmen have all talked about balance. It is of course important to get a balance between a proper regard for the powers that the police require effectively to perform their function and a proper regard for the individual liberties of the citizen. It is my submission, and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that the balance has swung too far in favour of the police. Indeed, the police already possess powers that are unnecessary and powers that they actually abuse.
In taking that as a starting point, we shall look at any proposed Bill to amend the powers of the police with certain objectives in mind. First, we want a Bill that redresses the balance, tipping it away from the police and in favour of the individual citizen and his civil liberties. We want a Bill that places the police firmly under democratic control and accountability. Certainly we want a Bill that enables us to restore the trust and confidence which the public once had in our police, and which has been so seriously and regrettably eroded in recent years.
Judged by those three objectives, this Bill fails, and it fails on all counts. Not only will it not tip the balance in favour of the individual, but it pushes it much further and firmly towards the police. It will make the police less, not more, democratically accountable. Many of its provisions will cause more, not less, friction between the police and the public. That is certainly true of the Bill's proposals on street powers and street offences, and I shall concentrate on that issue in my brief remarks.
First, as has been said several times, the Bill extends the power of the police—certainly outside the metropolitan area—to stop and search suspects. It gives them power throughout the country to stop and search people who are suspected of having stolen goods and of carrying offensive weapons or devices or implements which can be used in carrying out a theft or burglary.
When I intervened in the Home Secretary's speech, I asked him what evidence he had that there was a major cause for complaint of the ineffectuality of the present powers of the police. I asked him where the demand came from for these new additional powers on a countryside basis. I also asked him for the evidence. Presumably there is evidence. I would not like to think that a Government could legislate in such a sensitive and important area, giving new powers to the police, unless they were convinced, on the basis of verifiable and objective evidence, that there was good reason for the powers and that they would prove effective. Unfortunately, however, the Home Secretary was unable to give me any assurance of a clear stated demand for these powers or—more important—that the granting of the powers would lead to a reduction in crime and make the police more effective.
Would the hon. Gentleman be reassured to learn that, since the equivalent powers of search for an offensive weapon were granted in Scotland, over one-third of those searched were found in possession of an offensive weapon?
But two-thirds of those people were ordinary law-abiding citizens who had been unnecessarily stopped. Those two-thirds were also searched, humiliated and subjected to a major indignity, and were found not to be carrying illegal weapons. The hon. and learned Gentleman may nod his head, but I and many of my hon. Friends who represent inner city areas can tell him that one of the major causes of friction, concern and ill-feeling between the public and the police is the way in which the police conduct these search operations. That was one of the reasons that led to the Toxteth riots. The Swamp '81 programme and the random searches that were introduced on that occasion contributed in large measures to the resentment and ill-feeling of the black population in Brixton. I know from my experience and from my contacts on Merseyside that the way in which the police conducted the stop and search operations in Liverpool was largely responsible for what took place in Toxteth. Again, the powers have been seen to be counterproductive. Few people were caught carrying offensive weapons or being equipped for crime. Nevertheless, many of the people stopped and searched in that fashion developed a hatred of the police and a resentment which were expressed, not in robberies but in riots. Certainly that happened in Toxteth and Brixton.
The hon. and learned Gentleman points to what he believes is the effectiveness of stop and search powers in Scotland, where only one-third of the people stopped and searched were found to be carrying offensive weapons. He could equally have pointed to the fact that of the people stopped on suspicion of carrying illegal drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 75 per cent. were found not to be carrying illegal drugs, and 88 per cent. of the people stopped in the metropolitan area in one month in one division were not subsequently arrested. In no way could they be said to be in breach of any law.
Moreover, we are talking here only of the figures and percentages of the stops and searches that are recorded by the police. There is some evidence to suggest—not least the verbal evidence of the police themselves—that many more people are stopped and searched than are recorded. Thus, the percentages of people not arrested would be considerably higher than the 75 per cent. and 88 per cent. in the examples that I gave.
It is also true, as all hon. Members know, that the powers already possessed by the police in many areas to stop and search for specific reasons are largely abused. They are used to harass, intimidate and humiliate young people, particularly black people. That was demonstrated in the powerful article published in The Guardian of 23 November this year. The article was written by Pat Horne, and it gave details of the stopping of her son and his friends and the humiliating and degrading way in which they were treated. Conservative Members will of course say—some of them already have said—that no law-abiding person would object to being stopped and searched. Unfortunately, that is not true. I would object to being stopped and searched. Many of my constituents, who are equally law-abiding and who want to help the police and co-operate with them, nevertheless deeply resent being accused by implication of being bent upon a felony and being subjected to what they regard as the indignity and humiliation of being searched. In my opinion, these powers should not exist.
The Home Secretary said that there are safeguards, in that the policeman has to give his name and explain to the person being stopped and searched the reason for the search. and that he also has to keep a record. That is not a proper safeguard. In many cases we know that the police will not give their name. They will not give their name to a young black boy who is stopped at midnight in Brixton or Toxteth. They will not give their name, or give their reason or record it. They will simply say "Hey you, come over here. What have you got in your pockets?" That is what happens on every day of the week in inner cities and in my constituency. That has led largely to the alienation of many young people from some of our police forces.
The Home Secretary's safeguards will not overcome that problem, particularly as safeguards established in the past have been broken with impunity by the police, on their own testimony. Sir Robert Mark, in his autobiography, said that the police regularly and with impunity broke the judges' rules. In police testimony in evidence to the Royal Commission they said that they set up illegal road blocks. Indeed, the Home Secretary admitted that the police—certainly in Toxteth, but also in Brixton—broke the 1965 guidelines, which set out the circumstances in which the police are allowed to use CS gas. There are many other examples where this House, in legislative form, and the Home Secretary, in circulars, have tried to establish guidelines of good practice, and lay down safeguards that the police must adhere to in exercising their powers, all of which have been broken consistently and habitually. However, no sanctions have ever been imposed on the officers involved. The same will apply to contravening any guidelines governing the action of individual officers who stop and search suspects. We have nothing like the stringent controls called for by the Royal Commission.
I also entertain some of the hon. Gentleman's fears, although I think that he has gilded the lily a little in some of his comments. Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that when a police officer stops and searches a suspect he has a duty to state not only his name and the purpose of the search, but the ground for undertaking it? Although the hon. Gentleman may be particularly sensitive, if the police officer told him the reason for undertaking a search he might feel that in certain circumstances the search was reasonable.
A British citizen should retain the perfect right to say "No, I have done nothing wrong and I am not prepared to be questioned, to give my name and address or to be searched." We possess that right and we should cling to it jealously and fearlessly. I accept that a citizen may want to co-operate with the police, but he should not be compelled or coerced into doing so.
If the police officer is convinced that the person has committed an offence, he can arrest him and suffer the consequences of a civil action for wrongful arrest if that proves to be the case. It is a matter of principle that the police should not possess such powers. Either the citizen should be required to give his consent before co-operating with the police, or the policeman should resort to arresting him.
It is wrong that the Government should give additional powers to a police superintendent. The powers are to be given not to the assistant chief constable, as recommended by the Royal Commission, but to a superintendent. He will have the authority to decide when, where, for what purpose and for how long road blocks should be instituted. We have no evidence to suggest that police efficiency or effectiveness is being undermined by the lack of that power. There is no evidence to show that the power will reduce crime or bring about the law and order that Conservative Members call for. It is another example of the way in which the Bill goes well beyond the Royal Commission's proposals, which mentioned setting up road blocks only for grave offences.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) pointed out in a very entertaining passage of his speech, the superintendent will be able to determine whether his reason for wishing to set up a road block is covered by the Bill. That power is unnecessary, undesirable and represents a great infringement of civil liberties. Let it be put on the record that it will give rise to great resentment among those who do not have close contact with the police. As a result of the proposal, a future Government may introduce a Bill that will place the relationship between the police and the public on a completely new footing.
It is possible daily to get away with the alienation of young people. They are not as articulate as others, are not well organised and do not have the political clout to get their grievances redressed. If the police are given the powers they will use them and will set up road blocks indiscriminately. Once they interfere in the ordinary lives of middle class, law-abiding and articulate people the confidence of that group in the police will be destroyed. That will lead to a massive and radical overhaul of police public relations.
The Bill proposes a further extension of police powers to arrest without warrant, and extends it to trivial and non-imprisonable offences. Again, the individual officer is allowed to make a subjective decision that is not balanced by objective considerations. Again, the proposal goes much further than the Royal Commission's recommendation. Again, the powers are so vague that they are almost bound to lead to abuse in implementation and interpretation. There is no evidence that such a power needs to be given to the police. No evidence has been put before us, or the Royal Commission, to suggest that the power will be sensitively and properly used and will lead to a reduction in crime. In the proposals for the detaining and questioning of suspects in police custody and in all of the Bill's provisions, the Government have given way to the demands and arguments put to them by the police. Unfortunately, and regrettably, the Government have sold out to the pressure of the Police Federation and its allies.
However, the Home Secretary keeps telling us—and several Conservative Members have reaffirmed this—that the effectiveness of our police depends on the confidence and co-operation of the public. The police detect crime and catch culprits only because information has been given to them by the public. If we continue down this road, the public will lose confidence and our police will become less effective. It is perhaps no accident that the police authorities with the lowest rates for clearing up serious crime happen to have witnessed the major riots and disturbances of recent years. They would appear not to have the public's trust and confidence.
We shall only establish the trust and confidence in our police force that is so necessary to a proper system of law and order if the balance is tipped away from an increase in police powers and towards the rights of the individual. That can be achieved only by having a wholly independent system for investigating complaints against the police, by having an independent system of prosecution, by using a system involving the tape recording of suspects and allowing more local and democratic control. Unfortunately, the Bill does not contain any of those crucial features. Therefore, it will do nothing to restore public confidence in the police, although it is essential to the future of effective policing in this country.
This is a lion of a Bill in its scope and it has already caused a roar. Shortly after its publication, the National Council for Civil Liberties said that the plans to increase police powers
will set back law reform 20 years".
I fear that the Bill will be controversial and some Opposition Members have already mentioned the areas in which they consider it unsatisfactory. However, I have listened to the speech made by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) and other Opposition Members and their criticism seems to focus on what the Bill omits. However, they have not scrutinised the Bill's contents. Their points justify criticism and scrutiny in Committee, but do not give them an excuse for voting against the Bill in toto. I shall be surprised if many Opposition Members vote for the Bill's total defeat.
The Bill tries to achieve that delicate balance between giving the police the powers that they need and safeguarding individual liberty. Whether it achieves the correct balance is a matter for debate and can be properly determined in Committee.
We do not have a Committee stage only to deal with drafting mistakes. I do not wish to embarrass the parliamentary draftsmen, but clause 35 refers to paragraphs which do not exist. That is accepted to be a mistake. However the purpose of the Committee stage is also to test the efficacy of the proposals.
I welcome the abolition of the judges' rules which are replaced by a power enabling my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to devise codes of practice for detention, treatment, questioning and identification of suspects by the police. I should have thought that that measure would be welcomed by Labour Members. I have heard many of them say that the police and the courts should be subjected to greater parliamentary scrutiny. The Bill makes the Home Secretary responsible for those codes of practice and he is responsible to the House. I also welcome the police complaints procedure which is enshrined in the Bill and which introduces that independent element.
I wish to dwell briefly upon some of the proposals which cause me, and I am sure many hon. Members, concern. The Legal Action Group and the hon. Member for Ormskirk feel that a person should not be stopped and searched without his consent. An alternative might be to enable a person to be stopped and searched only with his consent, that consent not to be withheld unreasonably.
Clause 1 gives the police power to stop and search on reasonable suspicion. However, it does not clarify what that reasonable suspicion should be—whether of a person having stolen or prohibited articles on him or whether it be of an offence in connection with those stolen or prohibited articles. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will clarify that when he replies.
Clause 2 deals with the power to search. What happens if, as was postulated by the hon. Member for Ormskirk, a police officer does not give his name, the purpose of the search and the ground upon which it is being undertaken? That might be impractical on many occasions or, if not impractical, the constable might fail to do so. If he does, it will be a disciplinary offence because it is the police officer's duty to do so. What will be the effect of that upon the person who is stopped and searched?
What will happen if a plain clothes officer stops a member of the public—as he can under clause 2—and that person does not believe that the man who has refused to identify himself is a police constable, and therefore does not allow himself to be searched? I suspect that the police officer will arrest such a person for obstructing the police in the execution of their duty.
Any person who was so accosted by a person representing himself to be a police officer should ask to see the police officer's warrant and, if he did not have one, he should resist the search.
My hon. Friend makes the point. If a constable in plain clothes refuses to show his identification, what will be the effect on a person resisting a search? I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will satisfy my mind on that.
Clauses 9 and 33 refer to a magistrate being satisfied that a serious arrestable offence has been committed before giving a police constable a warrant to search premises. Clause 74 defines "serious arrestable offence" as
an arrestable offence which the person contemplating the exercise of the power considers to be sufficiently serious to justify his exercising it.
That means that magistrates throughout Britain will be exercising an entirely subjective view as to what constitutes a "serious arrestable offence". I am concerned that that may lead to disparity throughout Britain which would not be in the best interests of the police.
Clause 10 deals with a constable's application to a circuit judge for the obtaining of confidential information for use in evidence. Clause 9 enables a constable to go to a justice of the peace, who must be satisfied that a serious arrestable offence has been committed before giving an officer power to enter and search premises. Why then does clause 10 refer to a circuit judge when it encompasses premises where stolen goods may be found—
evidence which is in the possession of a person who has acquired it—
(a) in the course of any trade."?
Surely that would include the pawnbroker—a person who has acquired the stolen goods. Will a police officer have to go to a circuit judge in order to obtain a warrant to search premises where it is felt that in the course of trade or business a person has in his possession some stolen goods or other items?
What will happen to photocopies of documents gathered as evidence in the event that no arrest is made or no offence disclosed? Nothing in the Bill ensures that such documents will be destroyed. That may lead to some public concern and is another matter which needs to be looked at.
Clause 33 enables written representations to be made by a detained person when the matter is referred to a magistrate after the initial 24-hours detention. What concerns me—it may well concern other hon. Members—is that a detainee will not know what will be alleged against him to justify further detention. That is remedied in clause 34 which allows for legal representation at the next stage in the magistrates' court. Clearly the case against further detention can then be made by a legal representative or the detainee. However, on the initial appearance of a detainee before a magistrate after 24 hours there will be no means of knowing what will be placed before the magistrate and written representations made by the detainee may be entirely off the point.
The Committee will have to consider carefully the maximum period of detention. A recent article in The Economist strongly suggested that it should be no more than 24 hours, which, according to The Economist, is what the Royal Commission intended.
Will my hon. and learned Friend the Minister consider the position of illegal immigrant suspects as well? At the moment they do not come within the Bill.
The provision for confession statements being tested in the courts by the burden of proof being placed on the prosecution to show that a confession statement has not been obtained either through oppression or by inducement is a major advance in giving safeguards to the person accused of crime. One knows from personal experience of a number of cases when evidence against a person charged, arrested and coming to trial for a certain offence is circumstantial, but, if the person pleads not guilty and the case goes before a jury, what more often than not determines his conviction is the fact that he has made a confession statement admitting to the offence.
In the absence of a confession statement, other evidence may be circumstantial. It is the confession statement that betrays the individual. Therefore, when it is alleged that the confession statement has been obtained unlawfully either through oppression or inducement, it is proper that it should be tested properly. That is what the Bill seeks to do. That is one of the reasons why I give the Bill a fair wind.
I welcome the Bill. It tries to achieve the proper balance that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. It may not have it right now, but I hope that by the time it emerges from Committee and reaches Report it will be right and will go on the statute book as a major advance in criminal law.
I have to leave quickly after my speech for an important engagement in my constituency. No discourtesy will be intended to the next speaker if I walk out on him.
It is important that in all cases where reform is intended and needed the objective should be to make people clear about their rights. The Bill starts on that path, but it falls short and is incomplete. I shall not do a specific tour of the Bill because that would take too long and we shall consider the Bill in detail in Committee.
The most important aspect of the Bill is the power to stop and search. Many illustrations have been given of the worry felt in inner London by hon. Members who represent constituencies there and fear that if further powers of stop and search are granted to the police over and above the present powers in section 66 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 the situation in an already volatile community could become worse. I agree with that. I know the problems in Brixton intimately as I worked there for six and a half years. I knew what was happening in Mayall Road and Railton Road during Swamp' 81. I am sure that if the stop and search powers had not been used the situation would not have been so volatile and the riot may not have taken place. We should carefully consider the matter before we give greater powers of stop and search. The law must be specific on that subject. It falls short on a number of specific points. I ask the Home Secretary to reconsider the provisions of stop and search.
The Liberal Party generally welcomes part III in that it makes matters clearer. I must allude, as other hon. Members have done, to clause 17 and specifically to clause 17(2)(b)(i). It is a massive loophole. It gives carte blanche to any attitude taken by a police constable. He cannot have reasonable grounds for suspicion unless he has considerable familiarity with the facts and antecedents. The officer will not know that the correct name and address are given, unless the person gives a ludicrous name such as Father Christmas or Mickey Mouse, which are obviously false. However, he could call himself John Smith. Unless the arresting officer has real grounds to suspect that someone is giving a false address, this part of the clause is too wide of the mark and attacks the problem with a scatter-gun principle about which I think many hon. Members would have considerable reservations.
My colleagues on the Liberal Bench—I hope that I also speak for my colleagues on the Social Democratic Party Bench—welcome clauses 20 and 21 and the provision for the custody officer, the custody order and custody record. Custody record systems in Northern Ireland have already proved to be substantial against intimidation. One small addition that I suggest to the Home Secretary is that custody records should be made available to defendants. That could be done through a suitable amendment in Committee.
We welcome the recognition that there should be a clear provision governing the length of time people should be detained. However, the right procedure is not being used. I am talking specifically about detention before a magistrate. We cannot have an ex-parte application in the first stage. If a person is to be detained there must be inter-parte application right from the start so that the defendant can be properly represented at the start of the case.
I have spoken to a number of magistrates on that matter, who are concerned at the provision that an ex-parte application should be made on two occasions before an inter-parte application can be made. That is a profound change not only in the letter but in the spirit of British justice. I ask the Home Secretary to reconsider that we have inter-parte representation before the magistrate at the earliest opportunity.
I have taken a rough canter round the course because it is the intention of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party to append amendments, should any of us be members of the Committee. However, we should continually draw the attention of the House to a number of omissions. There is no provision for an independent prosecutor. Had the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party been fortunate, the Committee would have been given an instruction on that. We see how efficiently and effectively the independent prosecutor works in Scotland. We also see how efficiently and effectively the independent prosecutor works in every other country where such a person exists. We should consider carefully the provision of an independent prosecutor while we have a chance to do so in the Bill.
No proper police authority for the Metropolitan district is created in the Bill. Whatever we may think about the political control of the police authority in the Metropolitan district, it is anomalous that the Home Secretary should be in charge of the largest police force in the country because in the first place it was not intended that the Home Secretary should be in charge of a large police force. That happened because of concern about security in the early part of the nineteenth century. That should be seriously reconsidered.
My right hon. and hon. Friends and I do not go along with the horrifying thought of Mr. Ken Livingstone running London's police. However, London's police must be accountable at least on a par with other police authorities in every other part of the country. I should like the Home Secretary to consider an addition along those lines. He might consider redrawing the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police district so that it comes within the same boundaries as the Greater London Council, so that it would be London's police force.
There should be a completely independent complaints procedure. I concede that the complaints procedure as outlined in the Bill goes some way to creating an independent police procedure, but it is not completely independent. We shall never be able to restore complete confidence in the police service until there is a completely independent and objective police complaints procedure. I shall seek to table amendments on that subject or I shall support amendments that are tabled by other hon. Members.
With that in mind, after a considerable amount of discussion with colleagues and legal advisers, and after speaking to magistrates and other people in the community since the Bill was published, I and my colleagues in the Liberal Party will abstain. We shall await what we shall find when the Bill reaches Report stage and Third Reading. If the Bill is not sufficiently amended to make it workable, suitable and sensible, I shall recommend to my colleagues that we should vote against it on Third Reading.
I feel that it is better to allow the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt) to speak for itself.
Above all, the Bill is about civil liberty. Many hon. Members who have spoken in the debate have suggested that the main threat to civil liberty in our country comes from the police force. That is a most extraordinary proposition. In my view, the biggest infringement of civil liberty in this country must be laid at the door of the criminal, the bully and the lawbreaker. It is the mugger and not the policeman who denies to elderly people the civil liberty of walking freely to their homes after dark. It is the thief and the burglar and not the policeman who violate the householder's civil liberty to enjoy his home and his possessions in peace. The same is true of those who promote violence in the street, be they political, industrial or racial extremists. It is they and not the police who deprive their fellow citizens of their civil liberties under the law. It is important that the House should begin with that perspective, for the public, at least, understand it.
From time to time, people quite rightly complain about police behaviour. Whenever the police are at fault the officers concerned, provided that they are proved to be guilty, must be sternly dealt with, as, indeed, they nearly always are, but, in my experience, the complaints of the great majority of our fellow citizens overwhelmingly are directed against those who break the law and not against those who enforce it. Indeed, more often the police come under criticism from the majority of ordinary people not for being too hard but for being too soft. It is in that context that I warmly welcome the Bill.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on having delivered on an election promise. The Bill will assist in maintaining public order. It will assist the police in apprehending criminals and bringing them before the courts for judgment and, by and large, it will assist relations between the police and the public.
I should like to deal with some of the details of the Bill and, in so doing, warmly congratulate Sir Cyril Philips and his colleagues, with whom I had the opportunity to have a number of valuable discussions during the course of their work, on their balanced report and to congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State on having drawn from the report of the Royal Commission a wide range of the ideas and proposals that have found their way into the Bill.
I would describe part I of the Bill as the rationalisation—not the introduction—of powers to stop and search. I noticed that the proposal was endorsed by Lord Scarman in his report on the Brixton disorders. I should have thought that Scarman plus the Philips Commission was a fairly sound foundation for the proposals to be put forward. The power to stop and search in the manner described in the Bill has existed in London for more than a century, but many other parts of the country are without it. It is time that they had it.
What is important is the introduction of the new safeguards. They are introduced so that the person being looked at must be told what is being looked for and there must be a record of what takes place. That, in the main, reflects what is already good police practice. It is time to make it statutory.
Part II of the Bill deals with the power to enter and search premises. Again, it virtually restates in a statutory form the common law powers of entry which are already available to the police. It does, however, provide them with new powers to obtain evidence of serious arrestable offences. Those powers must be justified. They are urgently needed if the police are to be able to deal effectively with cases, particularly fraud, where it is now extremely difficult to obtain the evidence needed for a conviction. That power is therefore wholly justified.
Part III of the Bill deals with the powers of arrest. One feature of the Philips report that I totally endorse is the need to unify, codify and simplify the many powers of arrest already in existence. The commission was right to call for that and part III of the Bill will clarify what at present is a wholly unclear area of the law.
Part IV deals with detention and, again, the Bill introduces a new statutory scheme which makes detention lawful only if specific detention conditions apply. Those are similar, in my view, to the so-called necessity principle proposed by the Philips Commission. The Bill proposes that a uniformed officer at each police station be designated to have overall responsibility for people detained there and for their treatment. That is a perfectly proper and completely practical suggestion, although I am bound to say—I ask my hon. and learned Friend to take note—it will add greatly to the paperwork that is required to be done in police stations.
A good deal of comment has been made about the period of detention. I am aware of the views of Mr. Walter Merricks which have appeared in The Times and which I have read with some care. The proposal that in exceptional cases detention beyond 24 hours and up to 48 hours should be permitted will require the authorisation of a magistrate and beyond 48 hours the authorisation of a full magistrates' court will be required. Thus, the absolute limit on detention without charge will be 96 hours—a long time—but with the safeguards provided in the Bill a proper balance is struck between the civil liberty of the individual and the civil liberties of the wider community whom the Bill and the police seek to protect.
Part V deals with the treatment of suspects and is a complicated—
In the case of detention, is it not true that the police simply prefer a holding charge while they carry out their inquiries into a more serious charge? Does that not undermine what the hon. Gentleman is saying?
For a period of detention beyond 48 hours, what will be the role of the magistrate in deciding and determining whether it is right for a suspect to be detained for further questioning? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Magistrates' Association is unanimously opposed to these provisions?
With respect, the hon. and learned Gentleman is not correct in what he has said about the Magistrates' Association. Indeed, the magistrates with whom I discussed the matter were broadly favourable to the proposals in the Bill. However, there is a difference of opinion. In short, the conditions of detention are set out pretty fully in the Bill. Perhaps they should be added to or subtracted from, but, given those conditions, I should have thought that they met the bulk of what the hon. and learned Gentleman said.
Part V deals with the treatment of suspects while in custody. I, and I am sure other hon. Members, have read the suggested draft codes which the Home Secretary published along with the Bill. They are fairly comprehensive. Once again, they codify proper police practice.
My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State has said—I think that the Home Secretary repeated it in his speech today—that any breach of those codes will be evidence of a disciplinary offence. The police discipline regulations approved by this House could cover any action that appears to be in breach of these non-statutory regulations, but it would be odd if the police discipline regulations were to be altered simply by statements from the Dispatch Box. In my view, they should be altered by being properly laid before the House after the widest consultation with the police staff associations. Any suggestion that some new offence that says "Oh well, the police officer did not observe these lengthy Highway Code-style regulations" will simply be imported into the disciplinary code is not acceptable.
Part VIII is the only part of the Bill on which I must part company with my right hon. Friend. The Philips report used three principles in measuring its recommendations—that they should be fair, open and workable. Having examined diligently the proposals in the White Paper and, thereafter, in clause 66, I believe that they are not fair to the police service, they are most certainly not open—they are exceedingly opaque—and, above all, they are unworkable.
I do not propose to go into this matter in great detail, but I remind my hon. and learned Friend that the subject of complaints has a painfully long history. Some of us have spent hundreds of hours in Committee dealing with complaints in the suspicion that what Governments of both complexions were doing would be inadequate or insufferable both to the police and their critics. So it is yet again.
The White Paper on police complaints procedure is one of the worst drafted and least comprehensible White Papers that I have ever had the misfortune to read in 17 years' membership of the House. The Home Office has produced a dog's dinner and has described it as a fair balance but it is nothing of the sort. Unless the Committee is able to save the Government from their own advisers, this part of the Bill will upset the police service without in any way satisfying either their critics or the general public. The police at all levels, quite rightly, will resist it.
The basic objection of the Police Federation, in which I have an interest, is that these changes will worsen the position of an accused police officer. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary undertook to rousing applause at the last Police Federation conference not to be a party to giving greater opportunity for complaints against the police if that were achieved at the expense of justice for the accused police officer. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend meant exactly what he said, and I welcome his statement today. As one of the Home Secretary's admirers and strong supporters, I do not believe that this part of the Bill will fulfil that promise. On the contrary, it will do—indeed, it has already done— damage to the credibility of my right hon. Friend and the Government with the police service.
The objections are threefold. First, there is the independent assessor. I am in favour of that. It is certainly the least obnoxious proposal in the White Paper. It will add another layer of bureaucracy and will result in a mountain of further paperwork. I doubt whether it will satisfy critics of the existing system. The vital question that must be asked is "Who will be the top dog?".
The chairman of the Police Complaints Board is to be appointed as the independent assessor. What will be his relationship with the Director of Public Prosecutions? Under the proposed arrangements, police investigators will in many cases be reporting simultaneously both to the DPP and the assessor. The White Paper specifically envisages that, but neither the DPP as to prosecution nor the Police Complaints Board as to discipline will be able to make any decision on the disposal of a complaint against a police officer until the assessor has certified that the investigation has been carried out to his satisfaction.
The assessor can give directions to the investigating officer, but in criminal cases he must obtain the consent of the DPP before issuing those directions. Bearing in mind the problems that arose between the officers investigating complaints during "Operation Countryman" and the office of the DPP, this is a sure recipe for conflict and confusion.
The second objection is to the handling of minor complaints. I support the Select Committee proposal that there should be some conciliation method to dispose of the large number of minor and trivial matters that can be dealt with informally. However, as the Police Federation magazine stated:
The genius that dreamed up the procedure on offer in the Bill should qualify for the Bumbledom award of 1982".
At present in the police service there is a perfectly sensible and informal procedure for dealing with minor complaints. Every day, irate citizens arrive at police stations demanding to see senior officers because they are dissatisfied with the way in which some junior police officer has either spoken to them or dealt with their problems. That is particularly so with motorists and householders. In practice, nine times out of 10, a sergeant on the desk is able to sort out the problem, to offer an explanation or, if necessary, an apology and, if he thinks it appropriate, to promise to have a word with the copper concerned. Ninety-nine times out of 100, the angry citizen is mollified. He probably does not want to press his case all the way to formal procedures, but he is glad to have made his point and he is entitled to his say.
That will no longer be the case. If the Bill goes through unamended, humble sergeants and constables will no longer be good enough to sort our these everyday incidents. Henceforth, the complainant will have to be seen by an inspector, assuming that one is available. The inspector will be required to ask the complainant whether he wants the complaint to be dealt with informally or whether he wants the full treatment of the complaints investigation procedure. He must then tell the complainant that if he opts for the informal procedure the outcome of the incident will be recorded in a register open to investigation by the police authority and by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, and that at any time within three months of the outcome the complainant will be entitled to a copy.
The draft codes of practice go on to explain that the complainant must also be made to understand that if he agrees to the informal procedure no reference to what takes place may be used in any subsequent disciplinary or criminal procedures. However, if anything comes to light during this informal conciliation that suggests that the complaint should after all be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure or might amount to a criminal allegation, the whole procedure will be halted and dealt with under the formal machinery.
Furthermore, all that will be explained by the inspector to the complainant. Nothing that is said or done in the informal procedure will be admissible in any subsequent civil proceedings by the complainant or by the police officer. The complainant must also be told, if the inspector considers it to e desirable, that the matter can, if the complainant so desires, be referred to a meeting at which the inspector and the complainant will discuss the complaint in the presence of a lay person. He will be drawn from a special panel that is maintained by the police authority. His job will be to ensure fair play and help towards a reconciliation of the issues.
The police officer who is subject to the complaint that is to be dealt with under that formal procedure cannot be compelled to attend such a meeting if he does not want to do so, but it is implicit that the procedure can and would go ahead without him and against his wishes.
I am in favour of informal procedures. I want there to be conciliation. In nine cases out of 10 that happens already, but such is not the formal procedure that is proposed in the Bill. The Bill will inject rigidity, formality and paperwork into the generally successful grass roots handling of minor complaints. That will prevent and not facilitate the speedy resolution of the most trivial complaints.
I have one other difficulty with clause 66. At present, all complaints against the police officer for an alleged criminal offence must go to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The new proposals will change that. They will leave it to the chief constable to decide whether a case that involves crime is referred to the director. He will decide whether to prosecute the police officer for a lesser criminal offence or he can deal with the matter, in some circumstances, under the police discipline code. That will not do.
The enormous advantage of the DPP from the policeman's point of view is that he guarantees a consistent approach. He authorises prosecutions when he believes that the public interest is so served, but he must be satisfied that there is a 50-50 chance of a conviction. However, the practice of chief officers will vary from one part of the country to another. Many of them who are under local pressure will be inclined to put accused officers before the courts, not because they believe that they are guilty but because it is far easier in face of public criticism to let the courts decide.
I predict that the almost certain result of that will be that many more police officers will be hauled before the judges, not because there are more police assaults but because in a case that may have attracted wide publicity or even political comment the local chief constable will not be able to view prosecution with anything like the same objectivity as can the DPP.
Those are serious matters. It will be right to deal with them in some detail in Committee.
Does my hon. Friend extend his criticism of the opportunities for lack of consistency to the existing system whereby chief constables are the prosecuting authority and have the say-so over prosecuting matters when it comes to deciding whether someone in the community is to be prosecuted?
I shall deal with that matter later. The police officer is in different circumstances. He can be dealt with by the chief officer not only as a matter of prosecution but under disciplinary proceedings.
The Bill will give new discretion to deal with officers whom the chief officer has, for one reason or another, not sent to the DPP nor charged before a court. He will deal with them under discipline. That is where the distinction between the rights of an accused police officer and the rights of an accused offender are so different.
When a police officer is charged under discipline, no legal representation is allowed, the rules of evidence do not apply, witnesses do not give evidence on oath and they cannot commit perjury. However, hearsay evidence can be admitted and often is and police officers can be found to be guilty of serious disciplinary offences, not so much on the basis of what has been proved as on the basis of the chief officer's view of where the truth probably lies. A police disciplinary hearing is not even rough justice. It can be all too similar to the justice that was dispensed by Bligh on the "Bounty".
It is vital that the House should recognise that if we are to improve the ability and rights of ordinary citizens to bring complaints against the police—I accept that that will happen—it is no less necessary to ensure that the police have justice when they are accused. They do not have it at the moment. That is why I hope to move some form of amendment in Committee, if I have the opportunity, to define some of the rights that accused police officers should also have when confronted by their disciplinary procedures.
I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary say that he was considering and expected soon to be able to say something about proposals for changes in the disciplinary procedure. We may be able to welcome what he says. In the meantime, however, I strongly hope that my hon. and learned Friend will take seriously the anxieties that this clause and the draft codes of practice have introduced into the police service.
Having said so much about one clause, I should like to conclude by warmly welcoming the Bill as a whole. My right hon. Friend has kept his pledge to the country and to our party by introducing a measure that will materially assist in the maintenance of public order and the apprehension of criminals. The Bill is well balanced and will generally provide greater civil liberty for the majority of British citizens. I ask only that civil liberty shall not be denied to the police.
Like the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), I should like to stress the importance of establishing law and order so that people can go about their lawful business without fear of being attacked, assaulted, mugged or harmed in any way. Nevertheless, it is also important that in our desire to ensure that we are a law-abiding society we make sure that we do not accidentally injure anyone in the attempt. I fear that the Bill will go some way towards making it more likely, rather than less likely, that some people will suffer.
I agree with the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds that the House has a bad track record on police complaints procedure. I remind the House that in 1975–76 we produced the legislation that is now being amended. It was interesting for any hon. Member who served on that Committee to note that after two or three sittings it became clear that there was considerable disquiet about the measure among all of the then Conservative Opposition. There was also considerable disquiet among most Labour Party Back Benchers.
As a result of all that disquiet, there was agreement across the Committee that we should adjourn for about six sittings while my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) had further discussions with the then Home Secretary, now the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), to try to find a new procedure that would not produce a vast bureaucracy and would satisfy those who wanted a proper complaints procedure. Sadly, we failed to convince the then Home Secretary that he had made a mess of things and that we needed something far more effective. I think that the passage of time has now convinced everyone. Labour Members of the Committee were reluctant to allow the Bill to go forward, but decided in the end that it was better to have bad legislation that would demonstrate to the country that it did not work rather than to defeat the Bill and be accused of preventing any complaints procedure being established.
Not only has that legislation proved to be bad, creating a bureaucracy without giving any satisfaction to the public, but it is now being amended and I am riot convinced that the amendments will improve the situation. Indeed, I think that the changes may even make it worse. We need a fresh start so that the minor and trivial cases can be separated from the serious ones. I believe, as I did on the previous occasion, that serious complaints should be investigated only by a truly independent investigator and not merely by an independent overseer. There should be a quick, simple procedure to get rid of a large number of minor complaints. I am not convinced that the Bill will achieve that.
I cite an example from my constituency. On the Health Service workers' day of action, there was a large demonstration and a considerable number of police were called out to control it. A provocative situation had been created by the area health authority, but the behaviour of senior members of the police force and of all but one police officer was extremely good. They showed good sense and behaved in a friendly, jovial way. As a result of their good sense, the demonstration passed off without any difficulties.
One police officer, however, behaved in what I regard as an unreasonable way. I do not complain about his arresting somebody—that is a matter for his judgment—but in carrying out the arrest he used unnecessary force. It was not a great amount of force, but it was unnecessary. The officer twisted the man's arm behind his back, frogmarched him across the road and pushed him into a hedge. The result was that other demonstrators who saw the incident felt that the police were being unreasonable and their memory of that day is of one policeman's unreasonable behaviour rather than of the good behaviour of all the other policemen who were there, who showed good sense and tact and were a credit to the police force.
Naturally, a complaint has been made about the officer concerned. If that was the only occasion on which he had behaved in an unreasonable way, using unnecessary force, I believe that it would be sufficient for a senior officer to tell him to make sure that it does not happen again. The whole incident could be forgotten in a matter of days because people would have had satisfaction and would know that that is not the way in which the chief constable expects the police in Stockport to behave.
Under the existing procedure, a complaint against the police must be made. One is then told that the complaint cannot be investigated until the case of the person arrested has gone though the whole legal procedure. As a result, those who complained feel that no satisfaction has been achieved. It will be a long time before the incident is investigated and a decision reached. Meanwhile, the poor policeman has to wait, possibly for months, not knowing what the position is and wondering what will happen. All that was necessary, if it was his only lapse, was for him to be told not to do the same thing again. If a policeman repeatedly behaves in that way, of course, a senior officer must take action to make it clear that that person is not suitable for those or indeed any policing functions.
I firmly believe that the Bill will not help situations of that kind. It is important to separate incidents of that kind, so that they may be dealt with promptly, from serious incidents in which the police are involved either in "stitching someone up" or in corruption or crime on their own account, which must be thoroughly investigated through an independent system.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds said that it was important to secure the co-operation of the community for the police. To me, that is the most disquieting aspect. Looking back over the past 20 years, I believe that the community's attitude to the police has changed markedly. That is one of the most serious problems to which the Bill should address itself. It should seek to ensure that the community returns to a situation in which the natural reaction is to respect and co-operate with the police. I fear that for far too many people today that is not the first and natural reaction. We must ask ourselves why that is so.
In my first teaching practice I taught fourth-year school leavers, as they then were, in a fairly rough area of Birmingham. We were carrying out a project on law and order and I was impressed by the attitude of those youngsters, who believed that the police were fair but hard. I was particularly impressed by their belief in the fairness of the police. Talking to youngsters in my constituency now, I do not have the impression that they believe that the police are fair. Their attitudes suggest the reverse. Where do those attitudes come from? They come partly from other youngsters, but also from adults.
One of the problems is the way in which the police become involved in various motoring offences. We all believe that we should not speed on the roads, but I suspect that few people here could swear that they have not exceeded the speed limit even in the past seven days. Most people feel that if they are caught speeding they are unlucky, and often their resentment at their misfortune, as they see it, is directed towards the police. That is one area in which the police come in for major criticism, particularly from motorists, to the effect that in some way they are neither fair nor objective.
The police themselves also have a great deal to answer for. At the time when they were so keen to get into panda cars and drive rather than walk around, they often did not treat individuals with the courtesy that they deserved or show sufficient interest in many of the minor problems that affect the general public. If the police do not show interest in those minor problems, the general public become disillusioned and unhappy with the police.
Finally, a major problem among youngsters is the feeling that they are sometimes harassed by the police. I cite an interesting case in which I believe the policeman behaved perfectly correctly. Nevertheless, perhaps because of the climate of opinion, the youngster involved believes that the police behaved unreasonably. He then tells the tale to his friends and it grows in the telling into a major criticism of the police. The youngster and a friend were running through the centre of Manchester fairly soon after 11 o'clock at night, taking short cuts through back streets. A policeman stepped out and told them to stop. One of the youngsters stopped—probably the one nearest to the policeman—and the other ran on. The one who ran on was not stopped by the police later. The one who stopped was asked why he was running, and he was detained for about three or four minutes while he answered questions. As a result he missed his train back to Stockport—the last train— whereas his friend caught it by the skin of his teeth.
The youngster who stopped believes that that was harassment and points out that he is black, but the other lad is white. I think that it was almost impossible for the policeman to see the colour of either person and I assume that it was just luck that one stopped and the other did not. However, he feels that it was harassment. If someone has just missed his train from Manchester to Stockport, he will feel resentment.
That is one of the problems—the combination of the attitude of many young people and circumstances such as that—that lead to youngsters saying that they have been harassed by the police. I accept that it was pure chance that one youngster was black and the other white, but the youngster concerned does not see it like that. He believes that it was because he was black that he was stopped.
There are many parts of the Bill where that type of harassment and that type of erosion of support for the police will do the police far more damage than they will gain from the legislation. Much that the police have done in the past few years has started to win back support for them from the community. Community policing has made a major improvement, and the Government's policy on unemployment has done much for the police, accidentally.
There was a time when a large number of older policemen left the police force to go to other jobs. Very few are now doing that because the other jobs are not there. Therefore, the average age is slowly increasing. It makes a difference to youngsters if they are stopped in a friendly way by someone in his 30s and 40s who appears to have some experience of life. That is preferable to being stopped by a youngster who does not appear to be much older than them, lacking in experience and often in authority.
The Bill will put back much of that progress. The powers to search, particularly for offensive weapons, will cause major problems. I asked the Home Secretary today about the definition and he said glibly that it was in the Bill. He may be satisfied by what is in the Bill, but I cannot think that many others will be, particularly when it says that
'offensive weapon' means any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use by him or by some other person". That is particularly dangerous.
I should have thought that if I had in my hand a screwdriver and was walking along the street brandishing it late at night, that would clearly be an offensive weapon because of the way in which I was carrying it. On the other hand, if it were in a bag or in my pocket, one could not construe it as an offensive weapon. The legislation does not do that. It simply asks about the intention of the person. I could say the same thing about a bunch of keys. If someone had a bunch of keys in his hand and it looked as though he was about to shove it into somebody's face, it would clearly be an offensive weapon. However, if the bunch of keys was in his pocket, it would be difficult to decide whether it was an offensive weapon. It is really a question of attitude. If somebody was about to thump me at night, I should look in my pocket for my keys to see whether I could use them to defend myself. There is a danger with that and many other definitions.
There is the question of searching premises for confidential documents. I hope that the Minister will assure us that it will not be possible for the police to search premises to find confidential documents, whether they belong to doctors, lawyers, social workers or Members of Parliament. On reading the Bill, it is difficult to see whether there is any guarantee that those confidential documents will remain confidential.
I could say much more, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I hope I shall be on the Committee and be able to pursue many of the detailed points. The Bill fails the country, and the police. We should reject it and the Government should introduce a new procedure for police complaints legislation that will set up independent investigations into serious offences. We should return to the chief officers of police all the minor complaints so that they can deal with them with common sense and tact.
There are three vital elements necessary for the reduction of crime. First, the criminals must be caught. Secondly, they must be convicted. Thirdly, they must be properly sentenced. The Government have so far taken large steps to ensure that more of the guilty are caught. They have done that by helping to recruit more policemen, putting them on the beat and making them more efficient and effective, and they are proposing to do more of that by measures enshrined in the Bill.
Broadly, I welcome the codification, clarification and rationalisation of the stop and search powers that will catch more criminals and may deter from committing crimes some who might otherwise be criminals. However, it is obvious that we must look carefully at some of the detail of the measures. In particular, I have a doubt about the desirability of broadening the suspicion from the individual to the circumstances as being the basis upon which that search is made.
The Government have taken steps about punishment—enshrined not in this Bill but in the Criminal Justice Act. That will, I hope, reassure the public that some at any rate of those who are caught and convicted will now be, where perhaps they were not before, properly and adequately sentenced.
It is on the second of my requirements—that we convict more of the guilty—that I had hoped that the Bill would have more to say. I am disappointed that it does not. I welcome the inclusion of the independent element in the police complaints procedure, for which many of us have been asking, and which embodies the Scarman report recommendation. I appreciate that if the public acceptability of police behaviour is widespread, there will be more public support for police activity and more criminals will be convicted.
The aspects of the Bill that cause me most trouble are those concerned with the process of convicting the guilty. It is all very well having a code of practice but if it is not law, why will it be of any more value than the judges' rules? They were not law and they were not followed and not enforced, and by their abuse they have been responsible for more malpractice than any other single cause in our system.
What is the significant change that is claimed for requiring a confession to be voluntary before it is admitted? That has clearly been the established test in countless decisions in the courts in recent years and all our courts follow that practice. The problem is not whether a confession is to be voluntary before it is admitted. It is the evidence that is the problem. If a defendant said "This is not a voluntary confession", and two police officers said that it was, and the court accepted the evidence of the two police officers, and the person being wrongfully accused of making a confession was thereby convicted, a grave injustice would be occasioned. This new format does nothing to prevent that.
I see in these provisions very little protection for the suspect, and I see and note that in these provisions an exceedingly unsatisfactory position remains for the prosecution. As the position now exists, and the Bill continues the position, an innocent man can still be verballed. A guilty man can still allege that he has been verballed and the police can still be attacked unjustly. Their morale will still be undermined. Acquittals will still result. Time will still be wasted in our courts by attacks upon confession evidence given by the police. The guilty will still be tempted to plead not guilty in the reasonable expectation that some courts will find them not guilty because the only evidence against them has been police evidence of a confession. Trials will continue to take too long. Witnesses will continue to die, forget their evidence or become scared. The cost of the whole process will continue to escalate. Justice will continue to be more of a game and less than the serious matter required by society to protect it against lawlessness.
I have repeated my views in similar debates. I believe that there should no longer be the presumption of innocence that follows automatically from silence, and no silly caution that tells the guilty man that he need not say anything and provides an opportunity for lying and malpractice. If the system were changed along those lines, it would be unnecessary for a solicitor to tell his client that he need not say anything and unnecessary for the police to rely upon a wholly bogus exception to the judges' rules for not allowing early legal representation.
A decision of a jury or of magistrates as to whether an admission of guilt was true or false, whether the explanation was given or not given because of fear, panic, or legal advice that nothing need be said, would be all that was required.
Those are matters which in this day and age juries, which are composed of far more intelligent people than in the past, can decide. It is possible to rely upon the good sense of the jury, judges and magistrates to decide, without these rules, which have led to so many acquittals of the guilty and abuses of the system. But, with many of my colleagues, I have asked time and again for real protection for the innocent and the falsely accused policeman—the tape-recorded interview. No evidence of interviews at a police station should be given unless it was backed up, if questioned, by tape-recorded proof of its truth. How many more years shall we have to wait for that? The Criminal Law Revision Committee first talked about it in an official document 10 years ago. We have had feasibility tests and tests as to whether it is feasible to have feasibility tests. There are schemes in Scotland and a scheme in Kent. I mean no disrespect to the officers involved, some of whom were kind enough to come to this place and assist some of my hon. Friends as to the efficacy of the scheme in Kent.
The questions that were asked about the operation of the scheme, although technically important, were of no assistance as to whether the real fear of tape-recording was that it would deter the guilty man from making any admissions. That question was never considered during the experiment and we could get no answer. It seems that the authorities responsible for introducing the experiment have never had their hearts set on the introduction of tape-recordings. Yet until such a measure is on the statute book the guilty will continue to get off and the system will continue to be expensive. Civil liberties will continue to be infringed. That is my first major disappointment with the Bill.
My second is this. Nothing slows up magistrates' court proceedings more than forcing a defendant to plead not guilty because he has no idea of the strength of the case against him. Prosecution statements are not always made available to the defence. If they were, the defence solicitor or barrister could advise a client about whether to plead guilty. How much longer shall we have to wait for that rule to be enforced? The opportunity was presented by the Criminal Law Act, 1977. Repeated questions asked during Attorney-General's Question Time have attracted the answer that the proposal is being considered and worked on. That is the sort of measure that would speed magistrates' court proceedings and make the prosecution of the guilty more effective. Why is it not in the Bill?
My third disappointment is the Government's failure to accept the Royal Commission's recommendations on the need for independent prosecution. At a time of a high crime rate and pressure upon the police, it is important that the public should have complete confidence in the honesty, integrity and reliability of the prosecution system. I agree that it is possible to exaggerate the criticism of the existing position where the police are both prosecutor and witnesses, but the Royal Commission did consider it undesirable to continue with a procedure where the prosecution is not independent. I support that view.
Although one can speak for hours about the good red meat in the Bill, we have only a few minutes. I hope that my concentration on those principal objections does not convey the impression that the Bill is wholly unacceptable. Those aspects of the Bill where the catching of the criminal is made more effective are good. I hope some of those good areas can be extended in Committee. I am heartened by the fact that the Bill is an implementation of promises made in our manifesto, and is a genuine attempt to improve the system. I give it therefore my guarded welcome.
The police have a great deal of power already under existing legislation. Many hon. Members are worried about occasions, which I hope are not too frequent, when those powers are abused. All hon. Members can point to instances of individual police officers having abused their powers. It is not antipolice to say so. It is the reverse. If we pretend that there is nothing wrong with the way in which some police officers operate, we do a disservice to the police.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is not here. I was rather surprised by one or two things that he said. He spoke about police disciplinary procedures and suggested that when senior police officers discipline junior police officers the proceedings are a travesty of justice. One cannot have much confidence in the police if they do not adhere to the principles of justice when dealing with their own disciplinary matters.
I apply three criteria to the Bill. First, does it do anything about the increase in the crime rate and the low clear-up rate? In the Metropolitan Police district the clear-up rate for serious crime in the most recent year was 17 per cent. Second, what does the Bill do about individual liberties? Third, what does the Bill do about relationships between the police and the public, particularly young members of the public? By these criteria, the Bill cannot be judged a success. It shifts the balance of power towards the police without providing any of the compensating safeguards suggested by the Royal Commission on criminal procedure—not that the results of the Royal Commission were ones of which I approved in all respects, but the Bill is even more distant from those safeguards.
I wish to refer to the powers of stop and search in the Bill. Even the present stop and search powers are sometimes exceeded by the police. I fear that the extension of stop and search powers will worsen relationships between the police and young people in the inner cities. A greater strain will be imposed on young police officers. Many of the officers on the streets of London are aged between 21 and 23. They are not always of a maturity to cope with the difficult situations confronting them. Their task will be more difficult as a result of the extension of the stop and search powers.
There are serious dangers that the proposed power to carry out road checks will worsen relationships between the police and certain communities where these powers are likely to be used more frequently. I am not arguing that the motorist should be protected from the rigours of having to obey the law. Indeed, in one respect, I should like to see the law strengthened. I believe that there should be random checks to enforce the breathalyser law on people who have had too much to drink. I fear, however, that the consequence of road checks will be adverse.
The Home Secretary has referred to the draft code for treatment, questioning and identification of suspects. I understand that transgression of the draft code will not amount to a criminal offence by the police officer, although he might be subject to disciplinary proceedings. I should have thought that some aspects of the draft code could be included in the main legislation.
My principal concern is that four safeguards have not been included in the Bill. First, like a number of hon. Members, I regret that there is no reference to an independent public prosecutor who would have a different view of how the case had been prepared and who would be able to oversee the way in which the evidence had been collected. This would have represented a significant safeguard. I regret that the Home Secretary has not been able to include it in the Bill.
The second safeguard that is absent relates to tape recorders. As other hon. Members have also referred to this matter, I shall merely say that it is something that could be introduced straightaway. I do not understand the argument that a further set of experiments is required before tape recorders can be used with success.
The third safeguard that is absent is adequate machinery for investigating complaints against the police. I find clause 66 bewildering and almost incomprehensible. I wish, despite the rush to draft the Bill, that it had been possible to present clause 66 in such a manner that it was comprehensible to the public and to hon. Members. The constant reference to the Police Act 1976 makes it difficult to follow what clause 66 suggests. Our deliberations on Second Reading and in Committee would have been much improved if clause 66 had been decently drafted. It is not just a muddle of presentation. The content also is unsatisfactory. The idea of a conciliation procedure represents certain progress. I also welcome the idea of an independent assessor for the most serious categories of complaint. I regret, however, that the range of complaints proposed for mandatory reference to the independent assessor is drawn so narrowly that many of the issues about which complaints are made will be excluded. Bruising and superficial laceration are, for example, excluded.
It seems that the Home Secretary has excluded from mandatory evidence to the independent assessor many of the complaints that cause most concern to the public. I trust that the Standing Committee on which I hope to serve will be able to extend the criteria.
The Home Secretary has sought refuge in the views of the Home Affairs Select Committee, of which I was a member. Select Committees are sometimes wrong. In this instance, the majority of the Select Committee came to the wrong conclusion. There should be a totally independent system for investigating complaints against the police. Without a totally independent system, I do not believe that the public will have full confidence in the manner in which complaints are investigated. Secondly, it would be much easier to achieve conciliation if there were independent people seeking to conciliate than if the main burden of conciliation was left to be borne by the police.
Three arguments are used against a totally independent system for investigating police complaints. The first question that is asked is how the system would be staffed. In the interim, there would be difficulties, but I do not believe that it would be impossible to develop and train staff, some of them perhaps legally qualified, who would be capable of investigating thoroughly, properly and professionally a range of complaints against the police.
It is argued that a separate police force would be established. There are, however, precedents. The Home Secretary mentioned the military police and Customs and Excise. There are also one or two others. However the argument that has perhaps influenced the Home Secretary most is that the police would not like an independent system for investigating complaints. The Bill represents only a small step forward. Before too long there will be further outcries among the public who will make known their demands for a properly independent system.
The fourth safeguard that is absent concerns accountability and democracy. It is inevitable, sooner or later, that police forces up and down the country will be accountable to elected people in local communities. If the consultation arrangements suggested in the Bill are a step in that direction, there is no need to complain too much. If, however, they are an alternative to a properly accountable police force, I regret such a move deeply.
Many of the complaints that people make about the police would be remedied if the police force was subject to democratic accountability and control. Many of our services, nationally and locally, are subject to democratic accountability. I cannot see why, in a democratic country, police services, which serve local communities, cannot similarly be held to account. I hope that a determined move will be made in Committee, assuming that the Bill receives a Second Reading tonight—I hope that it will not—to remove the consultation arrangements and replace them with a method under which the police force was made accountable and democratic.
I welcome the Bill as a further necessary instalment of the Government's law and order policy which has been pursued with consistency and admirable fixity of purpose by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It is a measure that helps law enforcement while seeking to safeguard the civil rights of individual citizens. This is bound to be a difficult and controversial balance for any legislation to strike. In the light of the Philips Royal Commission, which advised the House to seek a balance between individual rights and the interests of the community, the Bill is to a large extent successful.
I welcome the fact that part I seeks to rationalise what, as a layman, I believe to be a confusing miscellany of police stop and search powers. At the same time, it seeks to introduce certain safeguards for members of the public who could be concerned about the changes. The powers in part I will be especially valuable to the police in their efforts to combat street crime. However, I should like to learn more from my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, either tonight or in Committee, about clause 4 and the problem of road checks. It seems that some of the criteria are fairly broad. I have in mind the seven-day maximum and the area in which a certain pattern of crime is taking place.
In part II it must be sensible to seek to rationalise the powers of entry and search, subject to safeguards. I do not know very much about these matters, but I understand that the new rationalised powers in this area will be especially useful in combating crimes of fraud and dealing with suspected cases. That is important, because fraud is a crime that needs to be dealt with severely.
Part III should also have a useful effect in clarifying the police powers of arrest. In doing some preparatory reading I noted the worries that were expresses about clause 17 by Mr. Michael Hill and Mr. W. M. Denison, respectively the chairman and vice-chairman of the criminal Bar Association. I hope that at some stage I shall hear a considered reply from my hon. and learned Friend to the argument contained in the letter that bore the signatures of Mr. Hill and Mr. Denison.
Another possible worry is the width and scope of clause 19 on fingerprints. I often wonder whether fingerprints are kept on record indefinitely or whether they are eliminated beyond a certain stage. I wonder whether the Bill's provisions on compulsory fingerprinting are too ambitious, or whether they have the balance about right. I want to hear further arguments on that score in Committee before making up my mind.
Clauses 20 to 22 introduce some sensible safeguards in the realm of powers of arrest. These are safeguards for arrested persons. I am pleased that the well-known phrase about "helping the police with their inquiries" means that those concerned remain free to leave the police station unless formally arrested. However, I was impressed by the argument advanced by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), who opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition, about the apparent circularity of the definition of "arrestable offence" in clause 74. Is there a precedent for such a definition, or has it been dreamt up for the purpose of the Bill? If it is the latter, I feel sure that the legal draftsmen can do better in the interests of the law-abiding community.
Part IV introduces a limit of 96 hours detention without formal charge. I understand that if the police went that far there would have to be endorsement on two occasions, once by a magistrate sitting alone and secondly by a magistrates' court.
I appreciate that there are substantial safeguards in the Bill. They provide that the offence should be serious, that it should be in the arrestable category and that at least one of the five detention conditions set out in clause 25 should be satisfied. The House, and subsequently the Standing Committee, will benefit if they are told more about the precedent that my hon. and learned Friend cited in an intervention, which derived from one of the magistrates' Acts. Detention law should be carefully and clearly drafted, as it raises issues which can be traced back in their importance to the original principle behind the writ of habeas corpus.
I understand why my right hon. Friend and the Home Office should have sought to introduce codes of practice as the best way to give guidance on the treatment of suspects while in detention. That must be a sensible middle course between writing everything into the Bill and relying solely on good police practice. It will be helpful to me, and presumably to the House as well, to know roughly how the codes of practice will be enforced and how it is envisaged they will be carried out in accordance with what is laid down in the book that is available in the Vote Office. It will be helpful also to know whether it is satisfactory that in the most serious cases it is permissible to have a delay of up to 48 hours before allowing access to a lawyer. I am not a lawyer, and I am not aware of the finer points, and some explanation would be helpful to those of us who are laymen.
I warmly commend the Government's intention in part VII to retain the two principles of the accused's right of silence and only voluntary confessions being admissible in evidence. I support the conservatism of the Government on those two principles.
I suspect that the police complaints procedure will be one of the most controversial parts of the Bill. I welcome the balance that has been struck by my right hon. Friend. His compromise solution, which is what I take it to be, of the introduction of an independent assessor for the most serious categories of complaint is probably the right way forward at this stage, bearing in mind what we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) and what we have read in the press and elsewhere to the effect that the police themselves seem to be sensitive about extending any independent element into the complaints procedure. They should move with the times, in their own interests. On the whole, they have an admirable reputation in the eyes of the public. I urge them to think again about their initial response to these proposals.
I think that the police will be helped by the division of police complaints into three tiers. It must be right for the bulk of complaints against police practice to be dealt with by local and informal resolution. Equally, it is right that the existing arrangements should continue for the second tier of complaints. It is right also to introduce a new and outside investigative element with an independent assessor for the most serious cases. That is probably a sensible compromise. It is vital for us to try to get these things right. It is in the long-term interests of the police and of the community that relations between the police and the public should be as good as possible. It is only in that way that we shall achieve a continuation of satisfactory policing.
The same broad objective of adequate relations between the police and the public will be assisted by clause 67, which provides for local consultative arrangements between the police, representatives of local opinion and local authorities. We already have the beginning of such arrangements within the London borough of Sutton. I am informed that they are working well. I intend to play my part in them, along with other representatives of local opinion. This is the way to bring the police more closely in touch with local problems. It will enable those who are prominent in the local community to bring their experience and expertise to bear and to help the police do their job on behalf of the entire community.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was right to say in his speech of 19 November that
policing is not just for the police".
I agree with him. The police need the unstinted support of the entire law-abiding community if they are to do what is a difficult job in difficult times. This measure contributes to that end, because it clearly fulfils the excellent principle set out in paragraph 4.115 of the Philips Commission report, which says:
Society should be prepared to give clear and open expression to the rights to be enjoyed by suspects, to the safeguards provided for them, to the rules to be observed by the police and to the exceptions to the generality of those rules where necessary to enable the police to perform their duty of enforcing the law and protecting the public.
I say "Amen" to that.
I believe that the Bill will improve relations between the police and the public, improve the detection of crime and the enforcement of law, and improve the legitimate safeguards that must be available to all citizens in a civilised society.
This debate is about achieving the correct balance between the powers of the police and the rights of the suspect. I disagree with the hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman), who thinks that the Bill carries through the balance that was suggested in the Royal Commission report. Ample testimony was given to that effect by spokesmen for those who were on the Commission, who made it clear that the Royal Commission's recommendations had been unravelled and that a balanced package was no longer retained in the Bill.
When the Royal Commission report was published, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), who speaks for the official Opposition, condemned it, saying that the report put the balance too much in the hands of the police, that it was weighted in their favour. The Government, in selecting items from the report's recommendations and putting them in the Bill, have moved in the opposite direction. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook wanted to move more in favour of the rights of the suspect. It is clear from the Bill that the Government have moved more in favour of the powers of the police. I and my colleagues believe that the Royal Commission got the balance right between the two, and we regret that the Bill does not carry through the report's full recommendations.
The Bill contains a number of proposals which clarify the powers of the police and the rights of the suspect. To that extent, it is very welcome. Unlike some hon. Gentlemen who have spoken this evening who are concerned about the problems of the inner city areas, I and my colleagues are concerned not only about the effect that these powers may have on the communities, and relations between the communities and the police and between sections of the communities, but we are also aware of the terror. fear and horror, particularly in inner city areas, at what goes on in the streets around them. In parts of central London, Liverpool and Glasgow, and other cities, many people are afraid to leave their homes, not only in the evening but during the day. Those people need to have confidence in the police's ability to carry out their functions properly and to apprehend criminals and do the jobs that this House rightly expects of them.
The uncertainty that has existed up to now about the powers of the police and the rights of the suspect creates fertile ground for abuse, both by the police and by the suspect. The Bill takes us forward, in that it clarifies the powers of the police and the rights of the suspect. There has not been clarity on the issues of stop and search and entry and seizure, the powers of arrest, the questioning and search of persons in detention, and the powers of the police over people in custody. Some progress is made in clarifying those powers and putting them on a single statutory basis, as we are doing here, instead of having a plethora of legislative measures that have been amassed piecemeal over many years. That is to be welcomed.
Those who oppose some of these powers—hon. Members on both sides have said that they are opposed, and I have some reservations—should be more positive. It is all very well to criticise the powers to stop and search, but what do they put in their place? What rights should the police have to apprehend the suspected criminals? That is one example. There are other areas, too, where it simply is not good enough to criticise without saying what powers the police should have.
My hon. Friends have not said that. They have said, in my view correctly, that the present powers of stop and search result in a very small number of arrests and that they provoke more trouble than they are worth. Surely it is not for my hon. Friends to say what is needed. They merely point out that the proposals in the Bill will worsen police public relations and will not catch criminals anyway.
I shall come to that matter in respect of one group, which I believe does give rise for concern. Nevertheless, the Minister of State said that there was some evidence—I think that it was from Scotland—that these provisions lead to arrests and criminals being taken before the courts. That is a consolation to the people who are worried about the criminality on our streets today. If we do not have that power, it must be substituted by another means of obtaining arrests and convictions.
My worry, which has been expressed by hon. Members on both sides, concerns the impact that stop and search powers, in particular, will have on the ethnic communities. There it is widely open to misunderstanding and possible abuse.
I am concerned about two other issues. One is a straightforward political issue, and the other relates to getting the balance right. The only way in which we can hope to stop these powers being abused is by having effective countervailing forces in the legislation to stop the abuse of those powers. I and my right hon. and hon. Friends have tabled an instruction on one of those issues to which I shall come in a moment.
One of the most worrying aspects, and it is reflected to some degree in other forums in the country, about the developments in this sphere—it was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) in the debate on the Queen's Speech—is the way in which the whole issue of the police is being politicised, not so much by hon. Members, as by the actions of some of those in local authorities. During the debate on urban affairs, my
right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby said:
Some authorities, largely Conservative dominated, will never criticise the police, even when they should … while other authorities, largely Labour dominated, never support the police, however justified it would be to do so."—[Official Report, 5 November 1982; Vol. 31, c. 245.]
There is an example of that not far from here. The GLC is spending about £200,000 from its police budget on local monitoring groups. The Lambeth monitoring group received £14,000. The money is often used in a way that is most detrimental to police community relations. I was interested to note that one hon. Gentleman decided to withdraw from that group and supported instead the work of the liaison committee that was officially sponsored in that area.
I sense that such politicisation is spreading to other parts of the country and is greatly damaging police community relations. If it continues, the prospects are horrific. I hope that those hon. Members who have any influence over members of local authorities will seek to ensure that the politicisation of the police's role in the community is brought to an end.
There are some major defects in the Bill and they have tipped the balance in an unsatisfactory way. My right hon. and hon. Friends tabled an instruction that has, unfortunately, not been called this evening. It states that the Committee considering the Bill should amend it
to ensure that a statutorily based prosecution service for every police force area should be established".
That relates to the recommendation in the report of the Royal Commission that a Crown prosecution service should be established throughout the country. It is deeply regrettable that the Government have decided not to take action. Such a move would have helped the police and would have been beneficial in the ways that the Commission pointed out. In addition, it could have had a role in the complaints procedure. It is clear from the debate that that is a controversial measure.
The Crown prosecutor at local level could have been involved in the complaints procedure in the way that the Home Affairs Committee recommended and that would have satisfied many of the criticisms made. My major criticisms of the complaints procedure focus on the inadequate way of dealing with the Government's second category—cases of serious complaint—in which the independent assessor's influence is not felt at all. Many complaints are involved and there will inevitably be difficulties unless there is an independent element.
My colleagues and I believe that we need an independent complaints procedure if there is to be full confidence in the police service. The involvement of the Crown prosecutor would have helped considerably.
Another deficiency is the measure to push the length of time that a detainee can be held to 96 hours. It is not proposed in the way suggested in the Royal Commission's report. It is puzzling that the Government should apparently reject the advice of a body containing two senior police officers, a judge, a Queen's Counsel and a former permanent secretary to the Home Office. If the measures that the Royal Commission put forward were sufficient for such people, I am surprised that the Government are not prepared to accept them.
There should be a clearer definition of the serious arrestable offence. In Committee I hope that we shall be able to probe that provision further. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) wrote to The Times in clear terms the other day about this matter. That serious defect needs to be probed. Reference has been made to the fact that tape recording will not be introduced for a very considerable period of time.
The hon. Gentleman said "a very considerable period of time", but that is quite wrong.
I am delighted to hear that, and I heard the right hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks. However, many of us have been influenced by the piece in The Times, which seemed to suggest that there might be a considerable delay.
If the hon. Gentleman believes everything that is written in The Times or any other newspaper, he is remarkable.
Of course, I learnt not to do that a long time ago. Indeed, that is why I welcome the Home Secretary's assurance that that is inaccurate. We look forward to the introduction of tape recordings in the near future.
I echo the dissatisfaction that has been expressed about the unclear status of the code of practice. In Committee we shall want to probe that issue to see whether a clearer role for the code can be established. I hope that the statutory provision for police and community relations liaison will prove to be a real advance. In Committee, I trust that we shall be able to strengthen and clarify those plans. From the clause, it is not clear how the provision will operate, who will be responsible for what, and what rights and responsibilities are involved.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook spoke about the timetabling of the Bill. There is much in the Bill and many of today's speeches have illustrated the importance of the Committee stage. I hope that the Government will be generous about the amount of time that they allocate to the Committee proceedings. If necessary, there should be discussions through the usual channels about the timetable so that large and important chunks of the Bill are not left without adequate consideration by the Committee. It would be terrible if, for example, the complaints procedure or police community liaison were left undebated in Committee. With good will on both sides of the House, I trust that a timetable will be achieved that will allow us lengthy discussion of such issues and that will also permit us to probe and improve the Bill before it returns to the Floor of the House.
There is sufficient in the Bill, in clarifying the powers of the police and in making progress on the rights of suspects, for my colleagues and I not to obstruct its passage today. However, should the Bill not be improved in Committee, I fear that it will be necessary to vote against it on Third Reading.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on Second Reading of this Bill. It is an important measure which will influence British police forces and the courts for many years to come.
The Home Secretary was right to talk about the increased police numbers under our Government. We have also paid police officers better and are now seeing the results of that. The Government's policy has given chief constables and police authorities the opportunity to reverse the policy of putting policemen into panda cars. That was a policy instigated by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) during his period as Home Secretary. It is a policy that has a lot to answer for.
While the crime rate has increased rapidly over recent years, relations between the public and police have become more distant. I shall return to that point when I consider the clauses of the Bill which deal with obtaining the community's views.
Although I welcome the Bill, I hope that in his reply my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will assure the House that the Government will take an open-minded view in Committee and be slightly more receptive than usual to any amendments that are proposed.
As many hon. Members have said, there is a danger in trying to balance police powers in the Bill with the counter checks that are sought by the civil rights lobby. In some respects the Government have compromised in order to satisfy all sides and have failed to satisfy anyone.
The counter measures in the Bill can obstruct policemen from carrying out their duties on our behalf. In addition, they are sometimes too bureaucratic and costly in police time. Two examples of that are to be found in the duty of the custody officer and the records of detention that are required by the Bill. Common sense may prevail, but people could abuse these powers. There is a danger that the anti-police members of society—there are many around today—would use the bureaucratic powers to their advantage to attack the police whenever possible. It is important that the House should give the police its full support and also ensure that we give no comfort to those who wish to weaken and discredit our police force.
I support the unifying of the various powers of entry for search and seizure. It is right that the position should be clearly stated and that we should legislate for the whole country and not, as in the past, rely on local byelaws. It is also right that certain loopholes should be closed by the Bill.
The Bill may work well in metropolitan areas, but some of its provisions are not practical for forces operating in rural areas. Clause 31 provides that the review officer must have at least the rank of inspector and not be directly involved in the case. In my county of Shropshire it would be difficult to find a person of suitable rank. He could be 30 or 40 miles away. Although the clause allows for the postponement of a review, if that is done too often we may find that those who are opposed to the police will attack them for not carrying out the spirit of the Bill.
The alternative might be for an authority to enlarge its police force and it would not be right to do that purely and simply because of the bureaucratic burden put on police authorities by the Bill.
I welcome the independent element in the complaints procedure. I hope that that will reassure those who doubt whether the police adequately investigate complaints against themselves. I believe that they do, but I accept that there are many who do not share that view. Although the Bill improves the position, I share the reservations that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) expressed earlier.
It is wrong that in clause 66 the independent element should be the chairman or deputy chairman of the board. It would be better if the independent element could be a judge or someone of similar standing. It is wrong that the chairman, deputy chairman or even a board member should be the independent element when he is also a member of the board.
My last point about the content of the Bill concerns the Government's response to Lord Scarman's report on the views of the community. I support a close and friendly relationship between the public and the police. The return to the bobby on the beat is desirable and will help greatly. I support authorities such as my own, which have regular consultations with interested groups—ethnic minorities, parish councils and residents' associations—but I am apprehensive at the attempt to formalise these arrangements in law. In most cases, with a responsible police authority, it will work well but when unfortunately there is a politically motivated police authority it may mean that an unacceptable amount of police time or resources go into activities that the House would consider inappropriate.
As a safeguard, I hoped that the Home Office and Parliament would insist on two things—firstly, that any bodies that are set up under the legislation should be chaired by a senior police officer and, secondly—this is probably more important—that the Home Secretary should retain powers to veto consultative machinery when it becomes political or disruptive.
I regret that two aspects of police work are not included in the Bill. First, the Government have missed an opportunity to review and either repeal or amend drastically the Bail Act 1976. That Act allows bail too easily. The cases that have hit the headlines about criminals on serious charges who have been convicted of further serious offences while on bail must cause us all great concern.
I believe that natural justice should be seen to be carried out, so the second aspect that I should like to see in the Bill is important. It is the right of a police officer who is on a disciplinary charge to be legally represented when he appears before his chief constable. Why should not those men, who in so many cases support us and serve us well, have the right if they are accused under disciplinary procedure of proper legal defence before their chief constable? My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds was right when he warned that problems would arise if the disciplinary procedure were not amended.
Despite those two omissions, the Bill will go a long way to help the police to carry out their work on our behalf. The public can be reassured that the police powers given in the Bill will not be misused and that the complaints procedure will be better with a truly independent element. I look forward to supporting the Bill in the Lobby tonight.
It seems that the parliamentary hogs have been at it again during the debate by speaking at length and denying the rights of both Conservative and Opposition Members to speak at reasonable length on a subject that they believe is of great importance to their constituents.
I was glad that the Home Secretary intervened to clarify the position on tapes and their admissibility in evidence. In doing so he has set aside some of the worries. I took what he said to mean that we can look forward in the near future to an order being brought before the House to deal with the matter so that our anxieties can be allayed.
The Home Secretary said that the reason for the introduction of the Bill was to secure and preserve the law. I believe that the best way to preserve the law is by sanity in social, employment and economic policies, because deficiencies in those areas lead to the law being undermined, certainly in the inner cities.
Because of what was said earlier, I hope there will be a liberal discussion of the Bill in Committee and that Conservative Members will not feel restricted in making their contributions. The level of consensus and objectivity in the House should not be precluded from the Committee's deliberations.
Three questions should be asked about the Bill. First, will it strike a balance between protection of the community and the rights of suspects who are innocent until they are proved guilty? I believe that the answer to that question is "No" and I shall qualify my remarks in a moment. Secondly, will it help to foster good relations between the police and the community? I believe that again the answer is "No". Thirdly, will it satisfy the needs of the local authorities and other lobbies which have made representations about the Bill?
One matter that is omitted from the Bill—it was the subject of considerable representation—is the operation of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886. Although clause 73 deals with expenses incurred in consequence of the provisions of that Act, some hon. Members would submit that, arising from the provision of that Act and the increased dangers that exist in parts of our country, there is today an even greater obligation on the Govenment to make changes to that Act.
The 1886 Act obliges the police authority to compensate people whose property is damaged by riots. The word "riot" had been interpreted widely by the courts, with the result that police authorities have found themselves paying compensation following incidents that are outside the colloquial meaning of a riot. The Home Office does not pay the normal 50 per cent. police grant on this expenditure, because it doubts the statutory requirement to do so. At the moment, the whole cost falls on the ratepayer.
The Association of County Councils said in its submission that it regarded the 1886 Act as anachronistic, for two reasons: first, that it is based on an outdated idea that civil disturbance is attributable to default by the authoritiy; and, secondly, that it assumes that insurance for damage to property is the exception rather than the rule. That, of course, is no longer true. Many insurance policies exclude riot damage, but that is almost certainly because the Act exists. If it were repealed, the market would soon get rid of these exclusions.
The obstacle to the repeal of the 1886 Act is well known. It is that in some inner city areas insurers would be reluctant to provide cover. The problem is that while insurers do not move, it is ratepayers who pay. About 18 months ago, there was an incident in Keswick in my constituency which would be described by some as a riot. The county authority has been required to pay compensation to the tune of £20,000. We believe that that obligation should be placed on the State. The atmosphere that led to the riot was not created in my constituency, but arose from matters outside my constituency. The people involved were almost wholly from other parts of the country. Therefore, we believe that this is a matter for which the nation as a whole should bear some responsibility.
Local authorities—certainly Labour-controlled authorities—believed that the Bill was an opportunity for the Home Secretary to re-establish the relationship between police committees and chief constables. Having listened to the Home Secretary and to his hon. Friends, it appears to me that the Government have pursued a safe course in trying to appease the demands of their Back Benchers and other forces in the country. Perhaps the Home Secretary has not been as rational and objective about these matters as many of us would want.
The country wanted a brand new independent complaints procedure. That demand was reflected in the lobbies that came to the House, but once again we have a compromise, and it is inevitable that if the Bill becomes law the House will have to re-examine these arrangements.
We must also consider whether the Bill will foster good relations between the community and the police. The stop and search provisions are a cause for anxiety among not only my hon. Friends but several Conservative Members.
In referring to articles classified as "offensive weapons" the Royal Commission stated:
The worry is that because of the wide range of articles that can be classified as 'offensive weapons' and the necessity to prove intent 'this extension of the stop and search power brings with it a risk of random and discriminatory searches which could further worsen the relationship between the police and young people'.
That is so. These procedures may be accepted by the police authorities in London, but they are now to be extended to the provinces. In other parts of the country which have traditionally enjoyed good relations with the police, such as in my constituency, the introduction of these new arrangements, and the feeling among some police officers that they should use them, could generate the sort of antipathy and resentment which hitherto have been characteristic of the inner cities. I therefore hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider the whole area of stop and search.
I should have liked to speak on a number of other matters that concern me, but I shall give way to other hon. Members who wish to speak. In doing so, I again express the view that it is for the Chair to intervene if hon. Members abuse the proceedings of the House by speaking at great length, thereby precluding others from taking part in the debate.
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). I apologise for the fact that I was unable to be present for the speeches of both my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).
I endorse what the hon. Member for Workington said about the need for self-disipline among hon. Members in the length of their speeches. That will be of enormous importance in Committee, when the Bill will require the most careful scrutiny.
I welcome the Bill. The Government have got this delicate and important balance broadly right, and we shall argue about the details in Committee. This is perhaps one of the most important Bills of this Parliament. In a sense, it is the second limb of the Government's law and order policy.
The Criminal Justice Act—I had the privilege of serving on that Bill's Committee—restored to the courts the powers to give appropriate sentences in appropriate cases. It provided for a wide range of sensible sentences—severe and constructive as appropriate. This Bill gives the police better powers to apprehend the guilty and clearer powers to procure their conviction. It also, quite rightly, seeks to safeguard the liberty of the individual both in his home and if he should fall under suspicion. It is absolutely essential that this difficult balance should be as right as it is humanly possible to achieve, otherwise neither objective will be achieved.
If one tips the balance too much in favour of the liberty of the subject the guilty men take advantage of it and go free. If one tips the balance too much in favour of draconian powers for the police, the public will rebel sooner or later and say that there is no justice in this world. Then not only will there be individual injustices but guilty men will go free because juries will refuse to convict. The Bill gives an excellent framework and our duty now is to scrutinise it carefully in Committee.
We shall scrutinise stop and search. I shall illustrate the importance of proper powers of stop and search with an example. If people, especially old people, are to go freely about their business on the streets, it is part of their liberty that they should not be molested and frightened by muggers. In Scotland, where the wider powers that are now to be extended to England were introduced about two years ago, I understand that in the first 10 months, one-third of the people who were stopped and searched by the police were found to be carrying offensive weapons.
That suggests that the police were using reasonable discretion. They are conscious of the need to use their powers with discretion. They have almost had a basinful of advice on the matter. The advice was probably necessary but we must remember that they have rights and privileges and difficult duties to carry out.
I endorse what the hon. Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) said about the disgraceful attacks on the police by the GLC and the scandalous fact that £200,000 a year is being wasted by the GLC's so-called police committee. It consists of a lot of expensive young men who spend their time muckraking through past police annals to produce a broadsheet that is no more than a public and deliberate slur on police activities for reasons that I regard as highly dubious.
As I said before, we shall scrutinise, with care stop and search, arrest, and the powers of the police to enter people's private homes and premises. It is important to get the balances right. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. and learned Friend will examine carefully the constructive points that were advanced in The Times today by the chairman and vice chairman of the criminal Bar Association. I am sure that they will test that type of point in Committee with the open-mindedness that I know that they demonstrate in Committees on matters such as this.
I shall be brief as I know that another hon. Member wishes to speak before the winding-up speeches start. We should proceed with tape recording as fast as we can. We must demonstrate that real motivation which is necessary to find the best possible method of introducing a sensible system of tape recording as soon as may be. I am glad that the judges' rules are now produced as a code of practice. That will require scrutiny and provide an excellent foundation for the future.
My final point concerns the police complaints procedure. I wholeheartedly welcome the fact that there is to be an independent assessor. Nevertheless, may we not consider whether the role of the independent assessor might be extended a little more widely than it appears to be in the present drafting of the Bill? There is no doubt that he should deal with the most serious cases but he should, perhaps, have some surpervisory role at least over the intermediate series of cases. Perhaps he could have some overall surpervisory role even over those who are wisely to be dealt with by informality and reconciliation.
As to who the independent assessor should be, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should look for someone with great energy, as it will be an arduous task, and of unassailable independence of mind and position because if the new system is to work a huge burden will fall on his or her shoulders. The new approach is greatly to be welcomed, but we should look once again with an open mind at the details of how it should work.
In conclusion, I give the Bill a broad and enthusiastic welcome. It will mean a great deal of hard work for the Standing Committee and I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will approach constructive suggestions with his usual open mind. In that spirit, I gratefully welcome the Bill.
It is important that members of the public should be protected by the police and that the police should have the necessary powers to protect the public. It is equally important, however, that the public should have access to powers and procedures for accountability of the police. In particular, the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty must not be qualified or reversed by unclear or unaccountable criminal procedures. That is certainly a main cause of concern for the Opposition, as I suspect that it will be for the Standing Committee.
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Lyell) for leaving me time to contribute to this debate. It is the third occasion recently on which I have sat for several hours benefiting from the contributions of others, but the first on which I have been called.
The hon. and learned Member for Hemel Hempstead set out a judicious balance between the rights of the citizen and the need for effective policing and I was impressed by that part of his speech. Unfortunately, however, he then slipped into a simple slur on the powers of the GLC police committee. He expressed concern at the expenditure of some £200,000, but the damage that can be done in inner urban areas—not just direct damage to property, but indirect damage to persons—through policing procedures that do not effectively represent the community may cost a great deal more than that.
Much reference has been made to the powers to stop and search. We are told that in Scotland one-third of the persons stopped were found to be in possession of an offensive weapon. We cannot overlook, however, the very open question of what constitutes an offensive weapon. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) has said, a bunch of keys has been held to be an offensive weapon. In fact, the effect of indiscriminate stop and search powers, especially in inner city areas with substantial ethnic minorities, has been extremely negative.
It is all very well for clause 7 to repeal section 8 of the Vagrancy Act 1824 and other provisions now more than a century old, but we must know under what terms and conditions charges will be made and cases brought under the new stop and search powers. Will the Minister of State give assurances about the use of the new provisions? Will there be an end to mass stop and search operations, frequently carried out at night, in which the search too often occurs in the back of a police vehicle away from public view? Such procedures are equivalent in effect to those of the special patrol group which had such a devastating impact on police-community relations in inner city boroughs such as Lambeth. Indeed, the stop and search procedures of operation Swamp '81 were arguably the underlying cause of the events in Brixton in 1981.
Part II of the Bill deals with powers of entry, search and seizure. There is considerable concern about the provisions of clause 8 regarding powers to enter premises and search without a warrant. I am more concerned about the powers to enter premises to search for evidence of serious offences under the subsequent clauses.
For instance, clause 9 provides for the issue of a warrant by a justice of the peace and clause 10 for an order or warrant from a circuit judge. But under clause 11(3) a constable may use force to enter and search any premises occupied or controlled by an arrested person to seek evidence on the authority of an officer of the rank of inspector or above. Clause 10(3) provides that
the evidence to which this section applies does not include communications between a professional legal adviser and his client".
As we are in 1982, not 1828, we might well ask what of "her client"? We should be clear on this point unless we wish to disfranchise women in the legal profession. It is another example of the sloppy drafting of the Bill.
Besides how can an officer conceivably discount evidence that becomes available through such a search affecting correspondence between a legal adviser and the arrested person? Why cannot a legal adviser be present at the time of such a search? This is hardly a hypothetical case. One of my constituents, Mr. M. H. Francois, had his premises searched during his presence after his initial arrest and being charged and released on bail, but in the absence of a legal representative and without a warrant.
Despite my constituent's protest, his defence files were taken to Brixton police station and made available to officers from another station who were concerned with the prosecution against him. The two police officers confirmed in writing that they would like to see the defence files, and were inadvertent enough to leave this written evidence in the files when they were returned.
I have already made representations to the Home Secretary on this matter and was at the time advised that the case had to go through the courts. It has, and Mr. Francois is now being detained at Her Majesty's pleasure in Wandsworth prison, after the prosecution had access to and sight of his whole defence case. The Bill provides no assurance by statute that such practices will not again occur. I shall want to take this further with the Home Secretary and hope that I shall have a chance on the Standing Committee to seek to reinforce those elements of the Bill that relate to the searching of evidence, and affecting the defence of individuals.
Part III of the Bill concerning powers of arrest must be amended in Committee, especially as clauses 16 to 24 enable constables to execute arrests and commitment warrants without being in possession of a warrant at the time of the arrest. This principle of getting the warrant afterwards could certainly lead to a post hoc ergo propter hoc principle of British law as infamous in its way as habeas corpus is justly famous. It should be amended.
A major part of the Bill is voluble on police powers to detain and to extend detention without charge under warrant and other matters. But the Bill is virtually silent on advice to clients about their right to legal representation or on any proposal for a lay visitor scheme sufficient to ensure that the rights of arrested persons are respected. The right to advice is simple if notices on such rights are prominently displayed in charge rooms, but there is no provision obliging the police to do this.
Also, if arrested persons are advised of their rights to legal representation and informed of how to get it, the issue can in the main be met. But, again, on the key principle of preserving that just balance between effective police powers and the rights of the individual, the Bill is weighted towards the police.
A lay visitor scheme would be more complex. There are clearly issues on which any such scheme introduced with the backing of statute would need to be clear, including the nature and rights of access, where much has been made of non-accessibility to "rest rooms" that otherwise may become the centre of unwarranted activity. There is also the selection and rotation of lay visitors plus their representative status in relation to the local community. Further, there is the issue whether lay visitors could be called upon to give evidence by either the person charged or the police.
These issues should not delay the introduction of the lay visitor scheme, which should be part of the Bill and subject to detailed consideration in Committee. At a meeting with hon. Members from Lambeth the Home Secretary stated that he could not consider the introduction of such a scheme, even on a pilot basis in one borough, unless he were to do the same in all boroughs. That is despite the recommendations contained in the Scarman report. He has missed the chance to pioneer a pilot scheme in a borough crucial to police community relations and has failed to take advantage of the experience that that would give for a proper consideration of such a scheme.
It also is important to stress that provision for elected police authorities and the need for accountable democratic police committees and procedures is missing from the Bill.
There is no credible proposal for dealing with complaints against the police. If the engagement of an independent assessor depends on reference by the police, then they will remain their own judge and jury and community-police relations will be undermined against a background of increasing tension, especially in inner city areas. It is crucial that provision at least should be made for an independent assessment of police complaints similar to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration who can make inquiries at the request of a Member of Parliament. None of these provisions will itself resolve the problems of policing in inner city areas while there is unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, on a major scale.
We should not ignore the fact that the senior police officer in London is bringing the techniques of Ulster to the home capital. There is second generation unemployment on estates in Belfast which are associated with the worst terror in Northern Ireland. We face long-term permanent unemployment in inner cities. Legislation to deal with the police alone cannot resolve such a major underlying problem. But a police Bill that fails to consider the needs of the community and police accountability will do little or nothing to promote the consensus essential for the preservation of rights and freedom in a civilised society.
I think that this is a good Bill, but I should like to commend to the House the thought that the Committee should think about the complaints procedure. I believe that there has been a misconception. The police have always been accountable. They are accountable to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who provides 50 per cent. of their money. They are accountable to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Chief Inspector is responsible to the Home Secretary. The chief constable is responsible to the local police authority and there is a local element of accountability there. The chief constable is accountable also in law.
That accountability needs to be stressed, because when one looks at the complaints procedure people usually start discussing the merits of accountability. My criticism is that the present procedure is based on a scheme that is 20 years old. It was considered by the Royal Commission on the police in 1962 and was implemented during the mid-1960s and early 1970s by the Police Act 1976. Criticism of that Act is made by the chairman of the Police Complaints Board, who drew attention to the fact that the machinery he had available did not work effectively. He found, as shown by evidence to the Royal Commission on criminal procedure, that letters to the complainant often arrived six months after the complaint had been made. He said that there was relative slowness in getting things started and that no reason was given to the complainant for the Director of Public Prosecutions deciding not to prosecute. I should like the Home Secretary and hon. Members who will serve on the Committee to consider carefully how the triennial report of the 1976 foundation of the board criticised its own work. Its members found that they were not able to carry out the tasks required of them.
It is necessary not only to consider the procedure of the law but also to gain a public perception of how the complaints procedure is seen. The public want to believe in the police. The police want the public to believe in them. Unless there is a clear, smooth and clean procedure, this cannot happen. There is need to restore public and police confidence in the procedure. Without public confidence in the police and police confidence in the public, that procedure will not work.
I recognise the step forward taken by my right hon. Friend. I should have liked to have seen a much bolder stride. I hope that it will be achieved in Committee.
The Home Secretary has referred to the vital part that the community at large plays in the prevention and detection of crime. Both sides of the House agree about that. As the Home Secretary will, I am sure, admit, many crimes are cleared up as a result of information and help provided by the public and not by the police themselves. Public cooperation and confidence are therefore essential if crime is to be prevented and detected.
It is regrettable that the Bill greatly extends coercive police powers but provides little in the way of effective safeguards for the public against abuse of those powers. The Opposition, and, I believe, some Conservative Members, feel that the new stop and search powers are open to abuse and will damage police relations with the community. The Bill's provisions are not merely a simple clarification of the law, as some Conservative Members have suggested. In some parts of the country, the Bill introduces a power to stop and search for stolen goods and for implements to be used in connection with theft. In all parts of the country, there is a new power to stop and search for offensive weapons.
My hon. Friends the Members for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) and for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) have already asked how an offensive weapon is to be defined. It could be a comb, coins, a pocket knife or an umbrella. Must the person have such an article in his hand? These are questions to which the Minister of State should give attention when he replies. It was this part of the Royal Commission's recommendations that the two dissident commissioners, Mr. Jack Jones and Canon Wilfred Wood, had in mind when they argued that it would lead to
a great tide of ill-feeling between the police and the public".
This was emphasised by my hon. Friends the Members for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) and for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and also by the hon. Members for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt) and for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth).
The power to stop and search in the street involves a particular risk of causing community friction. No hon. Member who has had dealings with the younger, especially the black, population in London can doubt the deep resentment—I choose my words carefully—and, in some cases, open hatred and detestation of the police that many young blacks, innocent of any crime and who have never been convicted of any crime, feel about the number of times they are stopped and searched and the manner in which those searches are carried out, occasionally by insensitive policemen. Policemen are human, too. If such conduct is allowed to occur all the time, the attitude of the policeman towards the person stopped inevitably slackens. More than two or three young men from that part of London have told me that they deeply resent being told, even in an affable manner, "Come over here, sunshine, while I have a look at you." The stop and search provisions and their extension to all parts of the country will lead to further alienation among young people, particularly those from ethnic minority groups.
Many of my hon. Friends have already pointed out that, as the Home Office's own figures show, stop and search is a completely ineffective way of reducing crime. will content myself with Lord Scarman's comment about Swamp '81: "It was a serious mistake."
Will the Minister of State also confirm that a police officer must now divulge his name to someone arrested under stop and search powers? If I am wrong, the Minister of State will correct me. He is very good at correcting hon. Members on both sides of the House when they stray on legal matters. So far as I am aware, he does so without a fee. However, if this is the first time that police are to be compelled by law to divulge their name, it would make more sense if all policemen exhibited their names all the time. It is not unreasonable in the 1980s for a policeman in uniform who wishes to stop somebody to have his name exhibited above his lapel. The American police have done it for many years. It is not necessary these days for policemen to be known only by a row of digits. Since all policemen have names, there would be less confrontation and certainly less confusion if their names were immediately apparent.
The Home Secretary said earlier that he had abolished the sus law that is much resented in London and some other parts of the country. Many Opposition Members regret and fear that he has replaced the sus law with something that is likely to be far worse for community relations.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) mentioned clause 4 and road blocks and the same subject was mentioned by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braille). The recommendations of the Royal Commission on this matter have again been diluted. The Commission said that such road blocks ought to be authorised by somebody of the rank of assistant chief constable or above whereas the proposals in the Bill are that such road blocks can be authorised by superintendents.
I hope that there is room for compromise and that, in Committee, the Home Secretary will be prepared to say that the minimum rank ought to be chief superintendent—a divisional commander—rather than someone at a lower level. I know that the Home Secretary is anxious to serve on the Committee, and if he has difficulties about getting time off to fulfil his important duties in Committee, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Morton) will be anxious to co-operate.
Another point about road blocks that worries many law-abiding members of the public in certain parts of London and in other cities is the tendency in recent years for beat policemen to stop motorists, presumably to while away a boring, rainy evening, while they check their documents. I am not as well qualified as the Minister of State to say whether such action is legal under the Road Traffic Act but the fact is that motorists are stopped in this way all over the country and the problem is likely to become a serious bone of contention between motorists and the police.
The hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman) and the hon. Member for Thornaby asked a pertinent question about the definition of arrestable offences in the Bill. It is something that worries hon. Members on both sides of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall said correctly that the Bill provides the unprecedented power of arrest without warrant. I hope that the Minister of State will comment on that, too.
The provision about detention before charge in part IV is also eminently contentious. As I understand it, the Bill will enact, for the first time in English law, the principle that the police may arrest and hold a citizen without charge. It draws on the recommendation of the Royal Commission but seriously dilutes its safeguards. The Royal Commission proposed that there should be detention by the police for more than 24 hours only if detainees are suspected of a grave offence and if such detention has been authorised by a magistrates' court after a hearing at which the accused was present and legally represented. That is surely the key paragraph.
The Royal Commission recommended that magistrates should be able to authorise successive periods of detention of 24 hours and that after the first extension the suspect should have a right of appeal. However, the Bill will enable the police to detain suspects for more than 24 hours if they are suspected of a serious arrestable offence, which the Bill fails to specify, or if this course has been authorised by one magistrate in private. This could mean that a suspect will be detained for 48 hours without a lawyer. Even after that time, when the subject will have to be legally represented, the police will be able to apply for a warrant for further detention for another 48 hours. There is no right of appeal at any stage in this process. A suspect will be able to be held in detention for questioning only for up to 96 hours.
I am sure that my hon. Friend does not wish to make a false point. Does he appreciate that under existing law a suspect has a legal right to contact a solicitor by telephone as soon as he is taken into custody?
The short answer is "Yes".
It is clear that an upper limit on detention is necessary. It is clear also that it is wrong that anyone should be detained for up to 48 hours without seeing a lawyer. It is wrong that anyone should be subjected to the deprivation of his or her liberty for 96 hours when eventually there may be insufficient evidence to allow the police to bring a charge.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have had much to say about clause 66 and police complaints provisions. I think that we all agree that an effective system is essential both to hold the police accountable and to increase public confidence in an area in which public confidence has almost collapsed, as various polls which have been reported in the newspapers have shown, especially in The Observer. As Lord Scarman said in Cmnd. 8427:
if public confidence in the complaints procedure is to be achieved any solution falling short of a system of independent investigation available for all complaints… is unlikely to be successful.
I do not think that any of us could have put it better. Even the Police Federation said in a rather drastic change of policy earlier this year—I quote from the fourth report from the Select Committee on Home Affairs, Volume II, page 3—
There appears to be no way in which the public… will be convinced of the fairness of the system so long as the police appear to be judges in their own cause.
Again, I do not think that any of us could have put it better.
Neither side of the House is satisfied with the provisions set out in clause 66. I am sure that both sides will be anxious to improve it in various ways in Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman must count his majority before he says things like that, unless he is hand-picking the Committee, and I hope that that will not happen.
In clause 67 the Bill merely pays lip service to the idea of consultation with the community. Clause 67 provides that arrangements shall be made and periodically reviewed for obtaining the public's views
about matters concerning the policing of the area and for obtaining their co-operation with the police in preventing crime.
We believe that the Bill's arrangements for consultation are wholly inadequate.
The Bill puts the police under no obligation to take part in or to take notice of anything that is said by the public. In London, of course, the arrangements will be made by the police themselves. The Bill makes no provision for improving police accountability to elected police authorities. Clearly, it could not do so in London, but it does not do so for the rest of the country.
The proposed consultation operates in only one way. No duty is imposed on the police to take part in the arrangements, provide any information, or to take into account the public's views in determining their priorities and policing methods. Lord Scarman recommended that a statutory duty be imposed on police authorities and on chief officers of police to co-operate in such arrangements. He recommended, in paragraphs 569 and 839, that liaison committees be given "real powers". That has not happened. There is no definition of arrangements or conditions about who should be consulted or how often. If it is intended that an occasional public opinion survey or an annual public meeting should suffice, where a police authority chooses to set up a liaison committee, there are no conditions about who should be members, whether the meeting should be in public, whether the press should be present, or even whether the police themselves should attend.
The arrangements for London make no provision for consultation between Scotland Yard and the GLC. The Bill exposes the complete absence of a viable police authority for the metropolitan district, made up of locally elected representatives. It creates the absurd position whereby the metropolitan commissioner has a duty to establish the arrangements but, like his counterparts in the regions, he is under no obligation to participate, having established those arrangements.
Consultation between elected members of police authorities and chief constables is a thorny problem throughout the country. Earlier this year there was some controversy between the chief constable of the Greater Manchester area and his police committee. I happen to know personally the leader of the Greater Manchester county council. He works in the industry that I used to work in. He is a member of my trade union. Until recently, he had two sons who were members of the Greater Manchester police, and I understand that one son still is a member. There is little consultation—I put it at its most generous—between the police committee in Greater Manchester and the chief constable. The committee thinks—quite fairly, in my view and, I am sure, in the view of my right hon. and hon. Friends—that there should be some consultation. Of course, police committees, whether in London or elsewhere, do not want responsibility for the day-to-day operations of their police forces. In the West Midlands we are fortunate to have a more enlightened chief constable who regards it as his duty to consult his police committee on police matters under the 1964 Act.
The elected representatives in Manchester surely have the right to say to the chief constable "Do we really need this concentration of police officers on sex shops? Do we really need police officers spending their tours of duty locked in public lavatories in case of consenting adults importuning? Surely there are other matters of greater concern to the people of this district than in narrow areas of that nature". That is what they are saying, but they are brushed off by the chief constable, because he says that the responsibility for policing in the area lies entirely and exclusively with him and he regards any consultation as simply not on.
I should like to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I do not have much time.
The Greater Manchester county councillors are as concerned as all of us in the House should be about headlines such as the one in The Sunday Times earlier this year, when a member of the tactical action group—an organisation set up without any reference to the county council's police committee—is quoted as saying about his Saturday night patrol:
If someone needs a thumping we will give them one.
That sort of sentiment may appeal to one or two Conservative Members until they, members of their family or one of their more respectable constituents find themselves on the receiving end of that Saturday night thumping. Then they will change their tune.
We believe that there is a vital need for sensible and constructive community policing and for community involvement in that policing. The police should be an integral part of the community that they serve and should surely he in contact with those who make the local decisions on the local authority. In all too many areas, they are not. Our concern for the community and for policing in it means that we feel that there should be far more police officers on the beat.
We actually believe that the police should prevent as well as detect crime. Too many Conservative Members appear to believe that crime is all about retribution. They seem to think that if they are quoted in the newspapers often enough, demanding hanging and flogging, people will believe that they are doing something about law and order. However, since 1979 they have been failing to do that in all too many areas of our country.
These days, the bobby on the beat is almost a threatened species. Our police system is largely regarded as being top heavy with technicians, specialists and policemen who sit at desks—[Interruption.] I realise that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) has got to earn his money, but I would appreciate it if he would do it more quietly or do it elsewhere. As Mr. Brian Hilliard, a former inspector with the Metropolitan Police wrote in The Sunday Times on 26 September—
The very last thing that I should want to do is to interrupt the hon. Gentleman's speech, but he knows my position just as he knows that of many other hon. Members. He could be a little more mannerly and withdraw that offensive remark.
Both sides of the House are used to that sort of pretentiousness from the hon. Gentleman.
On 26 September, Mr. Hilliard wrote in The Sunday Times:
Many forces have now reached the point where there is one supervisor for every beat bobby.
The British police force in many parts of the country resembles a Latin American army, with as many generals as there are privates. The number of police constables available for beat duty has been eroded by the proliferation of so-called specialised and certainly less important forms of duty. A police constable can join the CID, become a traffic patrol officer, volunteer for the Special Patrol Group, transfer to one of the many squads set up to deal with vice, pornography, drugs or gaming. He can become a dog-handler, a collator, a court officer, a clerk, a computer programmer or a royal bodyguard. The one role for which he apparently receives no support from his superiors is that of a beat constable. Despite the emergence of this highly technological police system, clear-up rates for crimes remain depressingly low. Yet the humble beat bobby accounts for a disproportionately large number of crimes that are cleared up. The low status accorded to the beat bobby by the police hierarchy is even more depressing. Mr. Hilliard again states:
For the dedicated and professional policemen who do choose to stay on the beat, the system reserves a unique insult. Any officer in a special dept found guilty of some disciplinary wrongdoing is 'returned to uniform'".
In other words, beat duty is used as a threat and a punishment. The crime rate for the past three or four years shows that better detection can be achieved only by restoring the police so that they are a visible presence on our streets. It cannot be done by nonsensical and silly talk about retribution. The police are more likely to catch offenders if they are on the street. They can hardly do worse than their current methods of detection. In 1981, there were more than 700,000 recorded burglaries in England and Wales. Only 30 per cent. of them were solved. In the Metropolitan Police district only 9 per cent. were solved. The national detection rate for serious crimes—crimes investigated by the CID—was apparently 43 per cent. There must be considerable regional variations. Research in the 1970s suggested that in the Greater London area the true clear-up rate was about 3 per cent. When Sir Robert Mark was Commissioner, he said that a clear-up rate of 5 per cent. would be an optimistic estimate.
The plain truth is that the present system does not work. It does not represent fair value for money, which I would have expected the Conservative Party to be concerned about. The general public are now paying 15p in every pound of rates and 4 per cent. of all income tax to the police. Surely they are entitled to demand that the party which makes such a great platform of law and order should achieve a few successes rather than produce a record of continuous and abject failure, which has been the experience since 1979.
The Tory election manifesto in 1979 promised to restore respect for the rule of law and to give the right priorities to the fight against crime. That should be set against the manifest failure of the Conservative Party in office. Even sicker was the claim in the same manifesto that both in Government and Opposition the Labour Party had somehow undermined the rule of law. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] Conservative Members say "Hear, hear". However, between 1970 and 1974 when the Conservative Party was in power, serious crime rose by over 25 per cent. Under the Labour Government, between 1974 and 1978, it went up slightly less, by 22 per cent. In the lifetime of the present Government, from 1979 to 1981, serious crime has increased by 24 per cent. and detection rates have plummeted. Under the Tories the incidence of crime has increased more in two years than in the entire five years of the last Labour Government, and the Tories are the party of law and order.
The Bill is an illiberal and dangerous measure. The Labour Party, which I have the honour to represent at the Dispatch Box tonight, will vote against the Second Reading and will be fighting hard to bring some much needed changes to the Bill in Committee.
So great is the scope of the Bill that it has understandably given rise to many Committee points in the course of this Second Reading debate. I am not sure that many of the points so entertainingly made by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) would be regarded as relevant even in Committee.
I shall try to write to those right hon. and hon. Members whose points I am not able to answer tonight. However, I begin by making one or two remarks about the general thrust and the character of the Bill.
Throughout the debate a great deal of reference has been made to the concept of a balance between the powers of the police on the one hand and the rights and entitlements of the ordinary citizen on the other. That is not surprising, because it was a notion that was adopted by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), when, as Prime Minister, he announced the establishment of the Philips Royal Commission several years ago.
At the outset of its report the Commission said that at first sight the notion of a fundamental balance was unarguable and, indeed, almost axiomatic. Only when one came to consider the matter did several difficult questions arise which, in the last analysis, were perhaps insoluble. That thought was reflected by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) in a speech almost a year ago during the debate on the Royal Commission reports. He said that what was in issue was not whether there was a balance, but where one elected to put the fulcrum. I understand that.
I agree with the Commission's conclusion that in speaking of a balance between the interests of the community and the rights of the individual issues are formulated which should be the concern of not only lawyers and police officers, but every citizen. That is why it is so regrettable that the Labour Party is to vote against the Bill tonight.
It is common ground that a reformulation is needed. Indeed, it is common ground that in many cases a formulation needs to be made for the first time of the relationship between the duties of the police and the rights of the individual. It is common ground that things should not be allowed to muddle along as they are. We did not need a Royal Commission to tell us that, although it told us that in vivid and trenchant language. Recognition of that truth was inherent in the appointment of the Royal Commission in the first place.
The Bill represents a measured and careful settlement of some, although of course not all, of the issues. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary emphasised, there are other questions falling outside the Bill's already lengthy provisions that need further work to be done on them before we can formulate proposals to give substance to the sympathy that we have publicly expressed and reaffirmed today in the House.
Proposals for the tape recording of interviews in police stations as the norm fall into that category, and obviously also falling into that category are the enlargement of the independent status of the Police Complaints Board and the provision of an alternative to the present arrangements for prosecuting authorities.
The Royal Commission identified certain areas in which remedies are, in our judgment, especially urgently needed. They require preparation that is not nearly so long. For example, there are the areas already inadequately covered by the judges' rules dealing with the questioning and treatment of suspects detained before charge at a police station.
Another example is the haphazard and inconsistent extent of the powers of the police in various parts of the country to stop and search people or vehicles in public places, they suspect of carrying prohibited articles. It is absurd that those powers, however we think it right to formulate them in the end, should not be available consistently right across the country, but should be available, some in London, some elsewhere and some only in Scotland. That must be absurd. That is absurd at a dangerous time when street crime is the cause of so much fear and anxiety, particularly when Lord Scarman in his report on the Brixton disorders said that he was convinced of the need for those powers as formulated in the Royal Commission report as a means of combating street crime.
Another example of the need for urgent reform is one on which the Select Committee has pronounced. It is the need for improved and more independent police complaints procedures. For all those issues, among many others, the Bill contains proposals, counter-weighting new powers with safeguards.
Those proposals are controversial, but if the concept of balance gives rise to insoluble questions, as the report says, that does not absolve a responsible Government from the duty of trying to make the best possible arrangements. If those matters are, to use the language again of the Royal Commission, the concern of every citizen, surely the Bill at least merits the detailed scrutiny of Parliament, where every citizen is represented.
It is a thousand pities that the Opposition will vote tonight to deny the Bill that. So will the Liberal Party, as we were told by the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt).—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] The hon. Gentleman has kindly told me that he cannot be here. After long deliberation the Liberals came to the conclusion that they would abstain. I understand that the Social Democratic Party did, too. That is a thousand pities.
Will my hon. and learned Friend help me and, indirectly, Opposition Members, because if I were a member of Her Majesty's Opposition I should be deeply confused? We were told by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) that he would ask his colleagues to vote against the Bill, but he then said that he would seek to amend it in Committee. I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman wants to vote against the Bill and defeat it, yet seek to amend it in Committee.
Even the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East has his sombre moments. On this occasion realism has broken through.
I should like to take up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths). Let us remember that it is not the police who are the principal threat to our freedom today, but the criminals—robbers, rapists, burglars and vandals. It is from their threat to our freedom that we ask the police to protect us. We must therefore see to it that we do not force the police to lay themselves open to the risk of civil action by, for example, stopping and searching for offensive weapons where they know they will be criticised for failing to act if they do not, as they told the Royal Commission frequently happens now.
One can accept that some of the provisions that have been introduced are controversial, but some matters have not been dealt with. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether it is the Government's intention to introduce further legislation in due course, particularly with regard to the independent Crown prosecutor?
My right hon. Friend has already expressed sympathy for the notion that we must move away from the present organisation of prosecuting authorities, but that is different from some of the other provisions that we have felt able to include in the Bill.
The Royal Commission's proposals, when they had been debated and consulted upon, found few friends. Therefore, it is necessary to examine a wide range of options and not to undertake the major reorganisation that would be involved by plumping for a particular scheme, on insufficient information, so as to avoid the criticisms that have been made about omissions from the Bill.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook criticised particularly the stop and search provisions, the road check provisions and the formula for serious arrestable offences and the powers of arrest. He said that the Bill provides for the first time a power by statute for a citizen to be held without charge. That is not correct, because the existing law provides, and has always been understood to provide, such a power for up to 24 hours and thereafter, in certain circumstances, to an unlimited extent. Lastly, he dealt with the issue of the independent prosecutor, to which I shall not now return.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there was no evidence that the powers of stop and search were an effective deterrent to crime or effectively help the police to prevent crime. Since the powers have been introduced in Scotland over the past two years, it has been found that more than one third of those who have been stopped on reasonable suspicion of carrying offensive weapons were, in fact, carrying offensive weapons. Is that a good thing or not?
The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), when I ventured to put that to him, said that two thirds of those concerned were not carrying offensive weapons and that we should think about how they must have felt. I agree that one has to consider how people feel when they are stopped and searched. It is for that reason that we have incorporated certain safeguards into clauses 1 and 2. The police officer must now give his name. He must say what it is he is searching for, and he must be prepared to say, if asked, why he suspects the suspect of carrying it. He must make a note of what has transpired, and the suspect—a member of the public—is entitled to a copy of that note if he asks for it within three months.
Opposition Members endlessly ask what will happen if everything goes wrong; what will happen if the police officer is a crook. One cannot legislate for people who are determined in all circumstances to break the law—
I cannot give way. My time was intruded upon and I must get on.
These provisions represent the safeguards which the Royal Commission considered were necessary. I believe them to be sound and they meet the fears that have been expressed.
With regard to road checks, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that the Bill went beyond what the Royal Commission proposed. It is necessary to provide a power to have road checks, but the new power circumscribes the power under the Road Traffic Act which enables a constable to stop traffic and to give no reason for doing so. Under the Bill that can be done only at the request of a superintendent or someone more senior and must be on reasonable suspicion of a serious arrestable offence having occurred, or an offence being likely to occur, having regard to the pattern of crime in the area. Both of those were recognised as proper reasons by the Royal Commission. That can be found in paragraph 3.32 of the Philips report.
If a police officer sees someone committing an offence for which there is no power of summary arrest, asks the person to give his name so that he may be prosecuted thereafter by summons and the person refuses or says that he is Mickey Mouse, I fail to understand the right hon. Gentleman's indignation that in those circumstances the Bill gives the power of arrest.
When I asked the right hon. Gentleman why he should be so cross about that, he said that he believed in a free society. Most people would reckon that a free society requires that people should be accorded the satisfaction of having the law not laughed out of court. It is, therefore, right to give the power of arrest where name and address are refused.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) warmly welcomed the Bill, and, along with other hon. Members, regretted that greater progress had not been made on tape recording as a norm. I share that regret, but it is not the case that we have been doing nothing. No lack of sympathy or falling off in support has led us at this stage to fail to say "In future all interviews in a police station shall be tape recorded."' A great deal more work must be done. We have announced our sympathy and support for tape recording. My right hon. Friend gave his strong support today. However, we are departing from what the Royal Commission said. It recommended that there should be a tape recording only of a summary. In our opinion, that is too late. If any damage of the kind anticipated is done through unfair interrogation, it will have been done before a summary. Therefore, considerable inquiries must be made about the type of tape recording equipment that will be necessary and the effect that tape recording of interviews will have on individual cases carried through the courts. Unhappily, that is why it is necessary to have the six field trials that will begin in the coming financial year. That will ensure that we do not perpetrate an expensive and perhaps damaging nonsense.
Regret has been expressed that there is not an exclusionary rule for evidence obtained in breach of the rules. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) spoke of that, as did many other hon. Members. Experience in the United States is a dire warning of what can happen. Hour after hour and day after day are devoted to discussion, not of the real issues of the criminal trial, but in determining whether the rules have been broken.
The Bill contains safeguards. There is the keeping of the custody record, with a copy available to the suspect. Chief officers will be required to report annually on the use made of the powers. The power to delay access to legal advice is seldom used, as a recent survey has shown. In those circumstances, we believe that the present formulation of the Bill is correct.
I apologise to the Minister for returning to a point that he made a few minutes ago. I did him the courtesy of reading the two paragraphs in the Philips report. If he reads paragraph 3.31, he will see that he was wrong to say that the Royal Commission approved of the idea of stop and search because of the pattern of crime in a specific area. The Commission comes out against that argument in paragraph 3.31.
Having referred to the fact that a procedure is open to the police
when a clear pattern of serious crime is observable",
the Commission adds:
If such checks are to be allowed, they should be confined to particular types of serious crime and should be regularised by the introduction of a measure of supervisory control.
That is exactly what the Bill does.
Many other important points have been made. I especially welcomed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine). I hope that he will allow me to write to him on the detailed points that he raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds knows the concern with which my right hon. Friend has received the anxieties of police officers about the police complaints procedure. I reaffirm my right hon. Friend's assurance that he is considering measures that may go some way to meet those anxieties. I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to pass over his speech in the interests of time.
I am especially grateful for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman). He welcomed the balance that the Bill strikes. I hope that others of my hon. Friends and hon. Members will permit me to write to them to the extent that I have not been able to answer their points.
The Metropolitan Police handbook is an interesting work. I shall be happy to write to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West about the matter.
The Bill represents a major step towards making law enforcement more effective. It modernises the law—in many respects, the law on the investigation of crime needs modernising.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it satisfactory for the Minister to say that he will write to individual hon. Members rather than to inform the whole House, as all hon. Members are interested in the debate, not merely those who raised points?
I am sorry but I cannot help the hon. Gentleman. The Minister must be responsible for his own speech.
One way of dealing with the problem is to make no reference to any point. I know that that is frequently done.
I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will accept that he is treating the House extremely cursorily. He may be amusing those of his hon. Friends who have enjoyed a good dinner, but those of us who have sat through the whole of the debate are surely entitled to some answers from him.
I think that the hon. Gentleman has received more answers than he has understood.
The Opposition intend to vote against the Bill. In doing so, they will be seeking to reject what The Times described as
the first comprehensive and coherent attempt in England to define the balance between the powers of the police and the rights of the individual in a free society".
The same leading article went on to to say that the balance on paper seemed right, but that is not the point for the moment. The crucial point is that when the Opposition are presented with a Bill offering such a settlement—compiled in the light of the report of a distinguished Royal Commission that they themselves set up, and after copious consultation—their response is not to allow Parliament to scrutinise it and improve it but to turn their back on it.
Such a response in such circumstances can be respected only if an Opposition believe that there is no need to make any change, but nobody who has read the Royal Commission report can believe that. None of the proposals in the Bill and none of the omissions from the Bill that have been criticised today, alone or together, can justify the course that the Opposition propose to take.
On 12 November, the New Statesman published a long review of the Labour Party's attitude to law and order and the police. The article was written by Mr. Taylor, the author of a book entitled "Law and Order: Arguments for Socialism". Mr. Taylor concluded:
So the radicalism of Labour's Programme 1982 on law and order is partial. It is targeted almost exclusively on the police. But, with the police, it has already adopted a one-sided, negative and perilous position, not positively clarifying what it does want of police forces in the future".
Tonight, the Labour Party's back will remain resolutely turned on that challenge. We prefer to face it and to seek the help of Parliament in our task.
With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise simply to express my astonishment that the Minister did not deal with the central issue of the Bill, namely, the definition of arrestable offences—
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
|Division No. 23]||[10 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Dover, Denshore|
|Aitken, Jonathan||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Alexander, Richard||Dunn, Robert (Dartford)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Dykes, Hugh|
|Ancram, Michael||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Arnold, Tom||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Eggar, Tim|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)||Elliott, Sir William|
|Atkins, Robert(Preston N)||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone)||Eyre, Reginald|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Faith, Mrs Sheila|
|Bendall, Vivian||Farr, John|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Fell, Sir Anthony|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Best, Keith||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Blaker, Peter||Forman, Nigel|
|Body, Richard||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fox, Marcus|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)||Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)|
|Bright, Graham||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Brinton, Tim||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Goodhew, Sir Victor|
|Brotherton, Michael||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)||Gorst, John|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Gow, Ian|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gray, Rt Hon Hamish|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||Greenway, Harry|
|Buck, Antony||Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds)|
|Budgen, Nick||Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Grist, Ian|
|Burden, Sir Frederick||Grylls, Michael|
|Butcher, John||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Hannam, John|
|Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hastings, Stephen|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Heddle, John|
|Colvin, Michael||Henderson, Barry|
|Cormack, Patrick||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Corrie, John||Hicks, Robert|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Critchley, Julian||Holland, Philip (Carlton)|
|Crouch, David||Hooson, Tom|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Hordern, Peter|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)||Renton, Tim|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Bryant Godman||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Rossi, Hugh|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rost, Peter|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Kimball, Sir Marcus||Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Kitson, Sir Timothy||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Knox, David||Scott, Nicholas|
|Lamont, Norman||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lang, Ian||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Latham, Michael||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Shepherd, Richard|
|Lee, John||Shersby, Michael|
|Le Marchant, Spencer||Silvester, Fred|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Sims, Roger|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Spence, John|
|Luce, Richard||Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Sproat, Iain|
|MacGregor, John||Squire, Robin|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Stanley, John|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Steen, Anthony|
|Madel, David||Stevens, Martin|
|Major, John||Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)|
|Marland, Paul||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Marlow, Antony||Stokes, John|
|Mates, Michael||Stradling, Thomas, J.|
|Mawby, Ray||Tapsell, Peter|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Thompson, Donald|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Trotter, Neville|
|Moate, Roger||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Viggers, Peter|
|Morgan, Geraint||Waddington, David|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Wakeham, John|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|Murphy, Christopher||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Myles, David||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Neale, Gerrard||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Needham, Richard||Waller, Gary|
|Nelson, Anthony||Walters, Dennis|
|Neubert, Michael||Ward, John|
|Newton, Tony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Watson, John|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)||Wells, Bowen|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Parris, Matthew||Wheeler, John|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Wickenden, Keith|
|Pawsey, James||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Percival, Sir Ian||Williams, D. (Montgomery)|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Pollock, Alexander||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Mr. Robert Boscawen and|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Mr. John Cope.|
|Abse, Leo||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Adams, Allen||Golding, John|
|Allaun, Frank||Graham, Ted|
|Anderson, Donald||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Harman, Harriet (Peckham)|
|Ashton, Joe||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)|
|Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)||Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Homewood, William|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Howell, Rt Hon D.|
|Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Campbell, Ian||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Canavan, Dennis||John, Brynmor|
|Cant, R. B.||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kerr, Russell|
|Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Crowther, Stan||Lambie, David|
|Cryer, Bob||Lamond, James|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Dalyell, Tam||Leighton, Ronald|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'Ili)||Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Deakins, Eric||Litherland, Robert|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Dixon, Donald||McCartney, Hugh|
|Dormand, Jack||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Douglas, Dick||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Dubs, Alfred||McKelvey, William|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McMahon, Andrew|
|Dunnett, Jack||McNamara, Kevin|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||McTaggart, Robert|
|Eadie, Alex||McWilliam, John|
|Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)||Marks, Kenneth|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Faulds, Andrew||Meacher, Michael|
|Field, Frank||Mikardo, Ian|
|Fitt, Gerard||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)|
|Flannery, Martin||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Ford, Ben||Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)|
|Foster, Derek||Morton, George|
|Foulkes, George||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)||Newens, Stanley|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||O'Neill, Martin|
|George, Bruce||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Palmer, Arthur||Stott, Roger|
|Park, George||Strang, Gavin|
|Parker, John||Straw, Jack|
|Parry, Robert||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Pendry, Tom||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)|
|Prescott, John||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Tilley, John|
|Race, Reg||Tinn, James|
|Radice, Giles||Torney, Tom|
|Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Richardson, Jo||Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Wardell, Gareth|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)||Watkins, David|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Weetch, Ken|
|Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)||Welsh, Michael|
|Rooker, J. W.||White, Frank R.|
|Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)||White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Ryman, John||Whitlock, William|
|Sever, John||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Sheerman, Barry||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon R.||Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)||Winnick, David|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Woodall, Alec|
|Skinner, Dennis||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Snape, Peter||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Speller, John Francis (B'ham)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Stallard, A. W.||Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe.|