Power of Secretary of State to Set Time Limits in Relation to Preliminary Proceedings for Scheduled Offences

New Clause 19 – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 8th April 1987.

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`The following section shall be inserted after section 5 of the 1978 Act— Power of Secretary of State to set time limits in relation to preliminary proceedings for scheduled offences."Time limits on preliminary proceedings5A. — (1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision, with respect to any specified preliminary stage of proceedings for a scheduled offence, as to the maximum period—

  1. (a) to be allowed to the prosecution to complete that stage;
  2. (b) during which the accused may, while awaiting completion of that stage, be—
  • (i) in the custody of a magistrates' court; or
  • (ii) in the custody of the Crown Court,
in relation to that offence.

(2) The regulations may, in particular—

  1. (a) provide for—
    1. (i) the Magistrates' Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981,
    2. (ii) section 2 above, or
    3. (iii) any other enactment, or any rule of law, relating to bail,
    • apply in relation to cases to which custody or overall time limits apply subject to such modifications as may be specified (being modifications which the Secretary of State considers necessary in consequence of any provision made by the regulations);
  2. (b) provide for time limits imposed by the regulations to cease to have effect in cases where, after the institution of proceedings for a scheduled offence, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland has certified that the offence in question is not to be treated as a scheduled offence;
  3. (c) make such provision with respect to the procedure to be followed in criminal proceedings as the Secretary of State considers appropriate in consequence of any other provision of the regulations; and
  4. (d) make such transitional provision in relation to proceedings instituted before of the commencement of any provision of the regulations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(3) Where separate counts of an indictment allege a scheduled offence and an offence which is not a scheduled offence, then (subject to, and in accordance with, the provisions of the regulations) the regulations shall have effect in relation to the latter offence as if it were a scheduled offence.

(4) The Crown Court may, at any time before the expiry of a time limit imposed by the regulations, extend, or further extend, that limit if it is satisfied—

  1. (a) that there is good and sufficient cause for doing so; and
  2. (b) that the prosecution has acted with all due expedition.

(5) Where, in relation to any proceedings for a relevant offence, an overall time limit has expired before the completion of the stage of the proceedings to which the limit applies, the accused shall be treated, for all purposes, as having been acquitted of that offence.

(6) Where—

  1. (a) a person escapes from the custody of a magistrates' court or of the Crown Court before the expiry of a custody time limit which applies in his case; or
  2. (b) a person who has been released on bail in consequence of the expiry of a custody time limit—
    1. (i) fails to surrender himself into the custody of the court at the appointed time; or
    2. (ii) is arrested by a constable in connection with any breach, or apprehended breach, of any condition of his bail,
the regulations shall, so far as they provide for any custody time limit in relation to the preliminary stage in question, be disregarded.

(7) Where—

  1. (a) a person escapes from the custody of a magistrates' court or of the Crown Court; or
  2. (b) a person who has been released on bail fails to surrender himself into the custody of the court at the appointed time,
the overall time limit which applies in his case in relation to the stage which the proceedings have reached at the time of the escape or, as the case may be, at the appointed time shall, so far as the relevant offence in question is concerned, cease to have effect.

(8) Where a person is convicted of a relevant offence in any proceedings, the exercise, in relation to any preliminary stage of those proceedings, of the power conferred by subsection (4) above shall not be called into question on any appeal against that conviction.

(9) In this section— custody of the Crown Court" includes custody to which a person is committed in pursuance of—

  1. (a) Article 37 or 40(4) of the Magistrates' Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (magistrates' court committing accused for trial); or
  2. (b) section 51(8) of the Judicature (Northern Ireland) Act 1978 (magistrates' court dealing with a person brought before it following his arrest in pursuance of a warrant issued by the Crown Court);
custody of a magistrates' court" means custody to which a person is committed in pursuance of Article 47 or 49 of the Magistrates' Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (remand);custody time limit" means a time limit imposed by the regulations in pursuance of subsection (1)(b) above or, where any such limit has been extended by the Crown Court under subsection (4) above, the limit as so extended;preliminary stage", in relation to any proceedings, does not include any stage of the proceedings after the accused has been arraigned in the Crown Court or, in the case of a summary trial, the magistrates' court has begun to hear evidence for the prosecution at the trial;overall time limit" means a time limit imposed by the regulations in pursuance of subsection (1)(a) above or, where any such limit has been extended by the Crown Court under subsection (4) above, the limit as so extended;relevant offence" means—
  1. (a) a scheduled offence, or
  2. (b) an offence in relation to which the regulations have effect in accordance with subsection (3) above; and
specifed" means specified in the regulations.

(10) For the purposes of the application of any custody time limit in relation to a person who is in the custody of a magistrates' court or of the Crown Court—

  1. (a) all periods during which he is in the custody of a magistrates' court in respect of the same offence shall be aggregated and treated as a single continuous period; and
  2. (b) all periods during which he is in the custody of the Crown Court in respect of the same offence shall be aggregated and treated similarly.".'.—[Mr. Scott.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

With this it will be convenient to take the following: New clause 18— Limit on time between remand and commencement of trial—`After subsection (5) of section 2 of the 1978 ACt there shall be inserted the words:—(5A) No trial of a person charged with a scheduled offence shall commence more than 110 days from the date of that person's first remand for the said offence; when new charges are presented arising from the same circumstances a person's trial shall commence within 110 days from the date of the original remand for the original offence.(5B) No voluntary bill of indictment shall be capable of extending that 110 days period for any person who has been committed for trial in relation to a scheduled offence.".'.

Government amendment No. 31.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

New clause 19 arises from discussions in Committee and picks up the idea behind the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) who was supported by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). It reproduces, in respect of scheduled offences in Northern Ireland, the provisions of section 22 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985.

The new clause will give my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the power to make regulations imposing time limits on specified preliminary stages of cases involving scheduled offences. I must emphasise, however, that it is only an enabling power and that we do not intend to introduce actual time limits immediately. Indeed, I am not in a position to say when it will be possible to introduce such time limits. The fact is that it is unlikely that there will be another opportunity to take the necessary power for at least five years, when this legislation will come up for reconsideration. In the light of the widespread concern that was expressed in Committee about delays in coming to trial and the support given in Committee for the concept of statutory time limits, we decided that it was right to take the power now.

The new clause will give my right hon. Friend a power to set limits on the length of time that a person may be remanded in custody during any of those specified stages and provides that a breach of any such time limit will lead to the release of the accused on bail. It will also confer on my right hon. Friend a power to set limits on the total length of time to he allowed for any of those specified stages. It provides that if any such time limit is breached the accused person should be treated as having been acquitted. It also provides that the courts may, on application, extend a time limit in any particular case where they are satisfied that there is good cause to do so and that the prosecution has acted with all due dispatch. In introducing this new clause I believe that I am maintaining a tradition of concern and action on this matter by the relevant authorities.

My right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have given sustained priority to measures intended to eliminate avoidable delays between first remand and trial, particularly in scheduled cases, in Northern Ireland. A list of the measures taken over the previous couple of years was given by me in a written reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) on 16 December 1986. Additionally, the relevant agencies meet regularly to monitor and evaluate the performance of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. Their recent reports suggest, encouragingly, that the average period between first remand and trial in scheduled cases in Northern Ireland is likely to reduce over the next 18 months or so. This exercise has also demonstrated that the causes of delay are many and complicated and often arise from the defence rather than from the prosecution, notably when a defendant or group of defendants elect to wait until the defence counsel of their choice is available to act for them. I am certainly impressed and encouraged by the efficiency of the courts, the court service and the prosecuting authorities and their collective determination to eliminate avoidable delays. They have a heavy and particularly intractable case load to deal with and cannot be held responsible for the delays that occur in some cases.

4.30 pm

Despite that, and despite the encouraging prospect that average periods on remand will fall over the next couple of years, we have decided that it would be right to propose the new clause. As I made clear in Committee, before introducing actual time limits we would want to take account of the experience gained in England and Wales of the operation of actual time limits in three police force areas. These are being applied from the first of this month, so it will be some time before any conclusions can be drawn.

It is also necessary to gather more data from the current monitoring and evaluation exercise in Northern Ireland that I described in Committee so that we can establish what time limits, if any, it would be desirable to set. Even then we would have to weigh the various arguments very carefully. Our objective is to maintain a degree of pressure on the criminal justice system and to set testing but reasonable targets for disposing of cases, with the aim of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland and thus helping further to isolate the terrorists.

The Government would find it necessary to be confident that any scheme was unlikely to have the effect of procuring the release on bail or even the discharge of a person indicted for serious terrorist crime The background against which we are working in Northern Ireland is more serious and complex than in England and Wales. Therefore, any decision to introduce actual time limits is some way off and will not be an easy one. Certainly before taking a decision the Government will study most carefully the views of all those involved in the criminal justice process. Therefore, at the moment the Government are proposing that there should he an enabling power to introduce time limits. This is a powerful earnest of our concern to do all that we can to reduce delays in the administration of justice, and I hope that the new clause will command the support of the whole House.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell:

In Committee there was a general desire to see some limitation placed on the length of time elapsing between a person being taken into custody and being brought to trial in court. One's initial reaction to the new clause was therefore one of disappointment to discover that it was an enabling power and simply a power to make regulations. This disappointment is not lessened by a study of amendment No. 31, which, under your direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are considering in conjunction with the new clause.

If I understand it rightly, that amendment specifically exempts the new clause from the operation of section 32 of the 1978 Act. This means that instead of the affirmative procedure applying to such regulations so that there would be reasonable debate on the occasion of their being brought into force, we would have the negative procedure, which in practical terms means that we shall not debate them at all.

Much of what the Minister said about the important considerations surrounding this specified length of time makes it all the more desirable that when a time limit is introduced as a matter of law the House should not merely have the opportunity, but should be required, to debate it before assent is given to the regulations. I hope that, even if the House is satisfied at this stage with a regulation-making power, the Government will reconsider tile desirability of making that exception in schedule 1, under amendment No. 31. There ought to be an affirmative power governing the regulations made in so important a matter as this, and there ought to be a review of the circumstances in which that time limit is laid down.

I am sure that I am not alone in feeling disappointed that the Government have not found themselves able at this stage to write into the Bill that which will be written in due course into regulations. This is not one of those cases where the regulations have to be so complicated that it saves time and trouble all round to put the matter into regulations instead of into the Bill. Presumably the time periods that the Government have in mind could perfectly easily have been specified in the Bill by means of amendments to it.

The Government claim that it is too early to assess or to be able to determine, even experimentally, the time limits that would be practicable in Northern Ireland conditions. I am not sure that there will be general assent to that proposition, but even if there were assent there is a different way in which this could have been done. A provision could have been put into the Bill to impose time limits, and the commencement date of that provision could itself be left to ministerial order. If the Minister had proceeded in that way we could have had the time periods in the Bill itself and the Government would have the opportunity for which they have asked to consider the experience in England and Wales, and to consider the circumstances in the Province, without bringing that provision into effect.

Even in its present terms, this is not an offer that those of us who were on the Committee would be disposed to refuse. However, we would be understating the matter if we did not say that we are disappointed at having failed to write the limiting periods of time into the Bill, even with some possibility of delaying the operation of these periods introduced by way of an amendment.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I, too, wish to express some disappointment with what my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office said. That is because what is at the moment in many respects a nebulous Bill becomes even more nebulous through this clause which contains no indication whatever of the time limit involved. My hon. Friend did not even refer to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) that probably 110 days was the ideal time. That is the time specified in his clause. Can my hon. Friend at least say whether he thinks 110 days is too long, or too short? Obviously, even one day is a day too long for a person who may be innocent.

Can my hon. Friend give the House any idea of when he expects these regulations to come before us? He said that that was not easy to assess and that it was still some time off. Can he help the House by telling us the average length of time that a person is held in custody before he is charged with a scheduled offence of the type that we are considering? We are perhaps not anxious to peer too far into the future, but this sort of helpful information must be available to the Northern Ireland Office and would help the House to understand a little better what the Minister has in mind. I have grave reservations about endorsing the new clause in its present nebulous form.

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon , Newry and Armagh

Like previous speakers, I, too, feel a sense of disappointment. In Committee this was one of the areas about which there was a consensus that positive changes were needed. This is a very small and lukewarm step and it is disappointing that the Minister has not seen fit to give us an idea of the time limits that he is considering.

This is one of the most emotive issues in the North of Ireland, and that is perfectly understandable, because some people have been on remand for upwards of three years. In effect, that is the equivalent of a six-year prison sentence, and the person serves it before he is found guilty. That is bad for any society and unjust to any person. I restate my disappointment that the Minister has not taken his courage in his hands, even on this small issue. At least he could have given an indication of the time limits that he envisages, and when those could become operative.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

Many hon. Members who did not have the benefit of serving on the Committee that considered the Bill are understandably somewhat mystified by some of the debates today. I took the trouble to have a cursory glance at the Committee Hansard, and I was impressed by the arguments from both sides of the Committee in favour of making the changes that were mentioned by the hon. Members for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) and for Harborough (Sir J. Farr).

In the Second Reading debate on 16 December my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) said : The time that defendants may be held in custody in Northern Ireland without a trial is a serious matter and one that should be tackled without further delay." — [Official Report, 16 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 1111.] Like the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, I would be interested to know what the trends have been and the average length of time that people are now being held in custody before being brought to trial.

Can the Minister tell us about the numbers of people involved, and whether different offences are treated in different ways by the court? Sometimes the defendants are to blame for demanding a different kind of legal representation or different counsel. How far is that the fault of the prosecution, because of its dilatoriness, and how far the fault of the police? It would be useful to know that.

It is worth reminding the House of what Sir George Baker said in his report : One objective must be to concentrate the minds of the prosecuting authorities on speed or at least on reducing delay…I recommend that any prisoner who has been held in custody for 12 months or more without having been committed for trial must be granted bail without surety. That is a straightforward, sensible recommendation. Although it is good to hear the Minister say that he concurs with its spirit, I hope that we shall move towards that procedure before too long.

I agree with the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) about the kind of procedure that should be used, and that it would be better in include it in the Bill now. I hope that we shall not resort to procedures that deny the House adequate discussions on these important issues.

A comparison has been made with the Scottish 110-day procedure. It is true that Sir George Baker pointed out in his report that the Scottish legal system is very different from our own and from that which applies in Northern Ireland. He said that it was not possible merely to translate the experiences of Scotland into those of Northern Ireland. Have the Department and the Minister had a chance to study the procedures that are used in Scotland? Does the Minister have any sympathy with the suggestion of 110 days that is contained in new clause 18?

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

Clearly, there are deep differences between us about the whole area of emergency provisions. As I apprehend it, we are agreed that there cannot be a complete and precipitate return to normality in Northern Ireland, but we differ in our reactions to which measures are justifiable, which represent too draconian an invasion of individual rights and which serve only to alienate people and thereby bring the system into disrepute. Therefore, we differ as to which provisions are counter-productive.

4.45pm

In the course of our proceedings we have not resolved those differences—so much is clear from the debate—hut we have at least come closer to understanding one another's arguments than at any time—so far as I can recollect—in the past.

The arguments about the length of time during which unconvicted people are remanded in custody will be the subject of later discussion. I imagine that they will reveal deep divisions between us. However, the Minister of State has clearly listened to some of the arguments that we advanced in Committee. To judge from the fact that new clause 19 was tabled at a late stage, I suspect that he may have had long discussions with his ministerial colleagues and, possibly, with officials. I shall not press him for further information about that.

The amount of thought that has gone into a measure is not always directly proportional to the number of words in it. Though it is clear from the length and draftsmanship of the clause that a great deal of thought has gone into it, I do not believe that it meets all the problems that were ventilated in Committee. I agree with the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and other speakers that we should have liked something much more robust. I agree with the right hon. Member for South Down that amendment No. 31 displays a defensive attitude on the part of someone in the Government. If the clause were fresh and we were in a position to table amendments to it, many of us would readily do that.

I believe that we should encourage the Government in well doing. I should certainly not like it to be said of the Minister of State by his colleagues that all that he had achieved was to provide additional difficulties for the Government. We shall be pressing the Secretary of State—he may have made a rod for his own back—to use some of the powers in the new clause. In the circumstances, it represents some advance in the Government's thinking, so I venture to welcome it without prejudice to any representations that we shall make about the use of the powers. It is not wholly absent from my mind that a different Government at some time in the futurebe it near or far —may find it helpful to have the power on the statute book, so in the circumstances I venture to welcome the new clause.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

I want briefly to support the new clause because of a salutary experience that I had when I went with a delegation two or three years ago to visit the prisons in Northern Ireland. We made a point of going to the women's prison in south Armagh. It contained about 34 women and we spoke to every one of them that day. They were being strip-searched weekly and taken across to the court. We even went into the detail of looking at the strip-search book, checking the rooms to see whether they were private, and walking the distance to the court to check whether they had contact with anyone on the way.

That was hard enough for anyone without experience to understand. Even more difficult were the conversations about how long those women had been there without trial. For an ordinary person, 110 days is surely quite sufficient. Some of those people had been there for a length of time that alarmed me. Some of them were there in connection with the Dropping Well pub bombing and, of course, we are shocked by such terrible things, but trial presupposes that the condemned person is innocent until he is proved guilty. It is bound to enrage people—especially those who know nothing about it—if they are kept without trial for an unconscionable length of time. That experience shook me, as it would any ordinary person who did not understand the process. I want to know how many people have been in prison for longer than 110 days, so that all of us understand the position on which to base our attitudes. That is why I support the period of 110 days, which seems a long time to be held without trial.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

If I recall clearly, the Minister said that he thought it would be a long time before the Government would be in a position to bring in the time limits over which they have power in the new clause. There are such time limits in Scotland. There was general concern in Britain about long periods of detention on remand, which are not as bad as the periods that obtain in Northern Ireland. The Home Affairs Select Committee recommended that Britain should consider introducing time limits. The Government responded sympathetically by setting up feasibility studies on implementing time limits. The Minister of State did not tell us anything about setting up feasibility studies in Northern Ireland. Why not?

The Government are taking powers to bring in time limits. We all recognise that this is a new move, that there would be complications and that all sorts of arrangements and preparations would have to be made, but, if there is any good will and any real intention to implement those powers, surely the Minister should tell us that he will start a feasibility study, and tell us something about the time scale. If that is done, we can look forward to the implementation of these powers and to rapid progress in reducing the lengthy periods of remand in Northern Ireland, which are deplored by both sides of the House and by every party.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

I must utter some sounds of disappointment, because what I had hoped was an earnest of good intent and a move in the right direction, albeit modest, has not been welcomed. I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) for being generous in the reception that he gave the new clause. The measure is a step in the right direction. I hope that it will be possible to have time limits, but they should be considered against the background that I outlined and the constraints that will continue to exist for some time in Northern Ireland.

The right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), echoed by others, queried the use of the negative form of approval of the regulations that will be made under the new clause. The regulations will set time limits. There will be exactly the same procedure as will obtain in England and Wales. We sought to follow as closely as possible the procedures under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, which applies to England and Wales. The regulations under that Act will be introduced for England and Wales, when their pilot schemes have been carried through and evaluated, under the negative procedure. We thought it right to follow that procedure in Northern Ireland.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell:

If the Minister had put in his new clause a power, by negative procedure regulations, to apply the same time limits in Northern Ireland as in England and Wales, I certainly would not have raised that point.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

It would be unrealistic to imagine that in the circumstances of Northern Ireland, with the complexity and seriousness of the cases that must be prepared for trial, we could set the same time limits that might apply in England and Wales. I should be surprised if it is possible to introduce time limits that are common across the whole of the jurisdiction in England and Wales. It may well be necessary to apply different time limits to different parts of the jurisdiction — for example, the Metropolitan police area has particular problems with delays in coming to trial and may require different limits from those set elsewhere in England and Wales. By choosing the negative procedure we are following what is happening in England and Wales.

There is much interest, of course, in what time limits might eventually be set. It is much too early to give any precise indication. We have to establish how long, on average, the various preliminary stages take and then decide what limits would maintain a degree of pressure on the system so that it operated without undue delays, without creating any unreasonable constraints on the system. The cases about which we are talking are, by definition, both serious and complicated. Any limits will certainly have to be longer than those applied in the pilot area of England and Wales and eventually introduced under regulation there.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

Does the Minister recall that in reply to a question in 1984 he said that the average time taken for cases to come to trial was 322 days? Surely it is possible to give contemporary figures to show whether that number has increased or decreased. What does the Minister regard as a reasonable time?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

I was about to turn to the latest available figures on delays in coming to trial to show where we are now. In Northern Ireland, in the first six months of 1986, the average waiting time between remand and committal in scheduled cases was about 33 weeks, and the average time between committal and trial was 27 weeks, so we are talking of about 60 weeks in all between remand and cases coming to trial. The present position is unsatisfactory to a considerable degree.

As I said, as a result of the measures that I outlined in my written answer in December 1985, and the pressure that we are keeping up to reduce delays in cases coming to trial—all the prosecuting authorities, the police, the court service and the courts are involved—the next 12 to 18 months will see a substantial reduction in that figure. If we were to follow the proposal of the right hon. Member for South Down and set firm times for the various stages, we would find that they would swiftly be overtaken by the improvements that are likely to take place in any case during that period.

I shall deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short). We are not running pilot schemes in Northern Ireland but, because it is a small jurisdiction, we are able, by monitoring the progress of the various cases through the courts, to have, in effect, the same ability to evaluate what is happening as the pilot schemes will give us in England and Wales. We shall look carefully at our measures to monitor and evaluate the progress of these cases through the courts of Northern Ireland. We shall obviously carefully follow the experiences of England and Wales under the pilot schemes. I hope that, in due course, we will be able to introduce regulations.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. Do the Government recognise that if we can cut the waiting time there will be a tremendous spin-off, by cutting overcrowding in prisons in Northern Ireland? If only we have a policy that seeks to cut the waiting time considerably, big advantages will flow from it.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

That is true. What is more, it is in the interests of justice that the delay should be reduced. Not everyone who is remanded for lengthy periods is found guilty by the courts. Obviously, we do not want people who eventually are found not guilty by the courts to be detained for lengthy periods of remand.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

Where are the main difficulties? Does the RUC require more investigating staff, and should they be provided, or is the obstacle in the judicial process, in the courts? If there is a shortage of personnel in any respect, is anything being done to make good that shortage?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

I refer my hon. Friend to the written answer that I provided for the Committee. It referred to the 13 steps being taken by the different agencies that have some influence and responsibility in these matters. In a sense, by definition, this reflects the sorts of problems that we were trying to overcome.

There remains the right of defendants to choose their counsel. There are a small number of defence counsel in Northern Ireland who have acquired formidable reputations. Often defendants are prepared to wait long periods and spend that time on remand in order to acquire their services. I believe that on the prosecution side we have already taken substantial steps, and the effects will begin to flow through the system in the coming months.

I believe that it will be right in due course to introduce regulations to give effect to these measures. We need more experience of our monitoring exercise to see how the England and Wales experiment turns out.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Reference has been made to England and Wales, but I have some experience from a constituency case. Is there not something to be said for looking at Scottish law in this narrow respect?

5 pm

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea

We have looked at the Scottish experience. At the end of 110 days, people in Scotland are released and regarded as acquitted by the courts. In dealing with the serious terrorist cases that we are talking about, the result of such action would be very dangerous men being released back on to the streets to cause more murder and mayhem. We must consider the special circumstances of Northern Ireland and introduce measures that will reflect its needs, while keeping up the pressure to reduce what I freely accept causes widespread concern right across the community in Northern Ireland.

I hope the House will accept that in introducing the new clause I am giving an earnest of the Government's commitment to reducing those delays, and in due course —although I cannot say when—being able to introduce the regulations.

Question put, That the clause he read a Second time: —

The House divided: Ayes 194, Noes 28.

Division No. 137][5 pm
AYES
Adley, RobertGower, Sir Raymond
Alexander, RichardGreenway, Harry
Ancram, MichaelGregory, Conal
Ashby, DavidGrylls, Michael
Aspinwall, JackHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Hampson, Dr Keith
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Hannam, John
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)Harris, David
Baldry, TonyHarvey, Robert
Batiste, SpencerHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyHawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)
Bellingham, HenryHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Benyon, WilliamHayward, Robert
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnHeathcoat-Amory, David
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnHeddle, John
Blackburn, JohnHenderson, Barry
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterHicks, Robert
Body, Sir RichardHind, Kenneth
Boscawen, Hon RobertHirst, Michael
Bottomley, PeterHolt, Richard
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaHowell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Key, Robert
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardKing, Rt Hon Tom
Brandon-Bravo, MartinKnight, Greg (Derby N)
Brinton, TimKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Brooke, Hon PeterKnowles, Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Knox, David
Bryan, Sir PaulLang, Ian
Buck, Sir AntonyLatham, Michael
Budgen, NickLawrence, Ivan
Burt, AlistairLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Butterfill, JohnLewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Carlisle, John (Luton N)Lightbown, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Lilley, Peter
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulLuce, Rt Hon Richard
Chapman, SydneyLyell, Nicholas
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)Macfarlane, Neil
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Maclean, David John
Cockeram, EricMcLoughlin, Patrick
Colvin, MichaelMcNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Conway, DerekMcQuarrie, Albert
Coombs, SimonMadel, David
Cope, JohnMalins, Humfrey
Cormack, PatrickMalone, Gerald
Couchman, JamesMaples, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Marlow, Antony
Durant, TonyMather, Sir Carol
Dykes, HughMawhinney, Dr Brian
Fairbairn, NicholasMeyer, Sir Anthony
Fallon, MichaelMiller, Hal (B'grove)
Farr, Sir JohnMills, Iain (Meriden)
Fenner, Dame PeggyMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyMiscampbell, Norman
Fletcher, Sir AlexanderMoate, Roger
Fookes, Miss JanetMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Forth, EricMoynihan, Hon C.
Fox, Sir MarcusMudd, David
Fraser, Peter (Angus East)Neale, Gerrard
Galley, RoyNeubert, Michael
Garel-Jones, TristanNicholls, Patrick
Onslow, CranleySpicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Osborn, Sir JohnSquire, Robin
Ottaway, RichardStanbrook, Ivor
Page, Sir John (Harrow W)Stern, Michael
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Patten, Christopher (Bath)Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Pawsey, JamesStradling Thomas, Sir John
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethSumberg, David
Porter, BarryTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Powell, William (Corby)Temple-Morris, Peter
Powley, JohnTerlezki, Stefan
Price, Sir DavidThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Pym, Rt Hon FrancisThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Rattan, KeithThorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyThornton, Malcolm
Renton, TimTownend, John (Bridlington)
Rhodes James, Robertvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWakeham, Rt Hon John
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWalden, George
Rossi, Sir HughWalker, Bill (T'side N)
Rowe, AndrewWalters, Dennis
Ryder, RichardWard, John
Sackville, Hon ThomasWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Sainsbury, Hon TimothyWarren, Kenneth
Sayeed, JonathanWatts, John
Scott, NicholasWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Wheeler, John
Shelton, William (Streatham)Whitfield, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Winterton, Nicholas
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Wood, Timothy
Shersby, MichaelWoodcock, Michael
Silvester, FredYeo, Tim
Sims, RogerYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Skeet, Sir Trevor
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Tellers for the Ayes:
Speller, TonyMr. Francis Maude, and Mr. Michael Portillo.
Spencer, Derek
NOES
Barnes, Mrs RosemaryKennedy, Charles
Beith, A. J.Livsey, Richard
Benn, Rt Hon TonyMadden, Max
Bruce, MalcolmMaynard, Miss Joan
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Meadowcroft, Michael
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Nellist, David
Clay, RobertRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Cohen, HarryShields, Mrs Elizabeth
Corbyn, JeremySkinner, Dennis
Dalyell, TamTaylor, Matthew
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Wainwright, R.
Flannery, MartinWallace, James
Heffer, Eric S.
Howells, GeraintTellers for the Noes:
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Mr. David Alton and Mr. Seamus Mallon.
Johnston, Sir Russell

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.