Charges of and Penalty for Conspiracy to Defraud

Part of Orders of the Day — Criminal Justice Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 14th May 1987.

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Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney 4:45 pm, 14th May 1987

I am delighted to see my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir M. Shaw) here because he chaired the Committee with considerable distinction, just as he chaired the 59 sittings of the Committee on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. That had got to the Lords amendment stage at the end of the last Parliament, but had to be reintroduced. Any illusion one may have had that the Bill had been well turned over and therefore would go through speedily was set to one side, as there were 59 sittings, which I believe to be a parliamentary record. It has been asserted by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that it was a parliamentary record and, of course, I believe implicitly every word he says.

When my hon. Friend was chairing the Committee, he told us that he suspected we would not have the last word on this Bill. I congratulate him on the ability of whatever gipsy he consults on Scarborough beach, because the prediction was right. I shall not mind in the least having another go at this measure. I am confident that the Government will reintroduce the Bill at an early stage, because it contains matters which are far too crucial to let drop.

I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said, supported by others, about the significance of the extradition proposals. The extradition arrangements must be modernised. We cannot go on appearing to be an inhospitable place from which other civilised countries try to get their criminals back. That merely invites a similar lack of co-operation towards our own efforts. There is a blot on our procedures because, for example, we have only one tenth of West Germany's extradition traffic, so unappealing are our arrangements for our friends and associates within the European Community and elsewhere.

I cannot criticise the other place for deciding that it could not send these matters back to us without full consideration because this was to have been the first substantive change in extradition arrangements for 117 years. We cannot begrudge our revising Chamber the right to examine such matters.

Other parts of the Bill could have been salvaged if other parties had so wished. In particular, I regret that the child video evidence provisions were not saved. I also regret that the increased penalties for insider dealings are not attached to the Bill. This is not a time for partisan points. At least the serious fraud provisions can pass into law. We intend to pursue the other matters at the earliest opportunity.

I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) and to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle). My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North asked whether we would think again about clause 29. My candid answer is that we will have to think about it again in the light of what has happened. Precisely what form those other thoughts will take is not a matter for the present. I am clear—I say this with some pain because of the respect that I have for my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South—in believing that the option of doing nothing is not open, but we shall think carefully about it.

Our commitment to the abolition of peremptory challenge is as strong as ever. That will unite all my hon. Friends in the Chamber.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North for what he said about my personal contribution. He has been with me on a number of committees which have led to significant changes in the law, particularly to changes in the law on animal experimentation which have taken that issue out of its former context.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford for what he said.

No one has been more consistently kind and helpful to me than my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South during my eight years in the House. I have great respect for him for what he did in government and for what he has done since for home affairs and as chairman of our Back-Bench home affairs committee. He will be much missed by all his friends here and elsewhere.

The achievement by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) is formidable. Most of us are elected to the House on the back of a successful ongoing tide. He won his seat in spectacular fashion and held on to it. He has suffered some ill health in recent years, and I regret that that has caused him to announce his retirement. I wish him well. He has many friends in this place.

I regret that this radical surgery on the Bill is necessary. It is unfinished business and we shall not be long delayed in coming back to it.