An Independent Review Body

Prayers – in the House of Commons at 9:30 pm on 16th June 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

'1. The Secretary of State shall establish an Independent Review Body to advise him on the annulment, cancellation or revocation of a conviction applicable to cases currently considered by himself and by the Court of Appeal.2 The Independent Review Body shall consist of a legally qualified Chairman and up to 12 additional persons appointed by the Secretary of State.3. Membership will include a proportion of criminal lawyers but legal experience will not be regarded as the sole qualification.4. Casework would be distributed to a panel of up to three persons but in all cases the conclusions would be endorsed by the Review Body as a whole.5. The Review Body would be extra-judicial but would have the widest discretion as to the procedures to be adopted in any individual case.6. The Independent Review Body would be supplied with the relevant facts and papers relating to a case by the Home Office and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State after either

  1. (a) an informal inquiry or
  2. (b) a full hearing with legal representation on both sides with the ability to recommend the award of legal aid in respect of representation by Counsel.'.—[Sir John Farr.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

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

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

With this it will be convenient to consider amendment (a) to the new clause, to leave out 'currently considered by himself and by the Court of Appeal' and insert `in respect of which representations have been made to him.(1A) The independent review body shall determine which cases, falling within subsection 1, it shall consider after consulting the Secretary of State.'.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

New clause 2 puts into effect the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Home Affairs which has never been debated. The Select Committee reported in 1982 and recommended, among other things, that an independent review body of the type described in new clause 2 should be established by the House as soon as possible.

That Select Committee was an all-party committee and after exhaustive discussions there were no dissenting names to the recommendation. As the House has never debated its recommendation, now is a useful opportunity to do so. New clause 2 embodies exactly the recommendation made by that Select Committee in 1982.

Some of the hon. Members who made that decision six years ago are no longer hon. Members. The Chairman of that Committee is now in another place. However, four hon. Members are still in this place and I have notified them that I will mention them today. They are my hon. Friends the Members for Westminster, North (M r. Wheeler), for Ravensbourne (Mr. Hunt), for Reigate (M r. Gardiner)—who was a member of the Select Committee for only part of the time—and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight). They shared in the unanimous recommendation, and I am sure that they may see what they can do to get the new clause on the statute book later.

Those of us who read the report will recall that the excellent Select Committee on miscarriages of justice made two other recommendations, both of which were implemented by the Government of the day. In its deliberations the Select Committee called for the establishment of a Crown prosecution service, and we now have that. It called also for a remedy to be taken in relation to ineffective sentencing; in other words, the right of appeal against a sentence considered to be too lenient. Both recommendations have been adopted. Strangely enough, hon. Members on both sides of the House think that the most important of its recommendations was for the establishment of an independent review body, but that has not been acted upon by the Government.

At the hub of the report's recommendations is the establishment of the review body. One might ask why that recommendation was made—it was a unanimous conclusion in 1982. The Select Committee heard a number of witnesses, including representatives of the Criminal Bar Association, which submitted a memorandum proposing a tribunal even more elaborate than the one proposed in my new clause. The Criminal Bar Association, with its expert knowledge, proposed a tribunal with a secretariat and what one might call a full legal aid system covering all its actions.

Sir David Napley was invited to give the Law Society's views, and he supported a form of independent panel. In his letter to the clerk of July 1982, Sir David said that on a number of occasions people had expressed to him their sense of disquiet about particular cases and had pointed out that as appellate courts, either on appeal or on reference under section 17, had refused to interfere with the verdict, they felt themselves unable to intervene. Sir David went on to comment that he had no doubt that a significant number of the injustices that occur are attributable to the studied policy of the Court of Criminal Appeal and that during his professional life he found that it was its practice to avoid holding retrials.

Sir David Napley was not the only person strongly in favour of some form of independent tribunal. Nearly all the information I am giving the House comes from the recommendations of the Select Committee which considered this matter. Among the witnesses that the Select Committee heard in 1982 were representatives of Amnesty International and views were given on behalf of Lord Devlin, who, in his book, criticised the role of the Court of Appeal.

Some of the decisions that have been made by the Court of Appeal in recent years, certainly since the Select Committee sat in 1982, have caused a great deal of anxiety.

It being Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill stood adjourned.

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Criminal Justice Bill [Lords]may be proceded with, though opposed, until any hour.— [Mr. Alan Howarth.]

Bill, as amended, again considered.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

A number of the decisions that have been taken by the Court of Appeal since 1982 have caused a good deal of anxiety. It has been said that the Court of Appeal has increasingly taken upon itself the role of deciding cases once and for all, which has given rise to serious criticism.

The Select Committee, in its findings, pointed out that the Home Secretary has the power to set up independent tribunals without further legislation. Indeed, in the Confait case and the Timothy Evans case, that was done. However, since 1982 the power seems to have fallen into disuse.

Lord Devlin, in his book and in a lecture to All Souls college, criticised the present system. He said of the Luton murder case a few years ago, that Cooper and McMahon were sent back to the Court of Appeal four times and each time the appeal was rejected by that court.

In his book, Lord Devlin specifically argues that the Court of Appeal is no longer providing the guarantee in Britain of the right to trial by jury in cases that involve fresh evidence. Instead, as Lord Devlin said, half the evidence can be heard before one forum—the jury—and the other half, the fresh evidence that may come to light subsequently, can be heard by an entirely different forum —the Court of Appeal—many years later. Lord Devlin went on to say that in his view that violates the principle of right to trial by jury in which it is axiomatic that one forum should hear all the evidence and assess it.

In addition, the Court of Appeal's approach in, for instance, the Birmingham and Guildford cases and the four cases of Cooper and McMahon, appear to demand a different standard of proof from that dictated by the constitution. Instead of the prosecution having to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt in the above three cases and others, it seems that the defence has had to prove the innocence of the defendants beyond reasonable doubt.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

Surely the Cooper and McMahon case is a clear example of the malfunctioning of our ability to review miscarriages of justice. That case was referred to the Court of Appeal on a number of occasions and was constantly refused. In the end, the Home Office decided that they should be released. The matter was deeply embarrassing because everybody knew that those men were not guilty. Surely our experience of that case shows that the present system for reviewing miscarriages of justice does not work, and if it is not changed our criminal justice system will be brought into disrepute.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her remarks. No doubt she will be able to make her contribution later.

Another criticism that was considered by the Select Committee related to the view that was held by many people, as expressed in the Tucker and Donovan reports some years ago, that that approach by the Court of Appeal nullifies the right to a retrial provided in the Criminal Appeals Act 1968.

The Tucker and Donovan reports, dealing with youth trials in criminal cases and with the Court of Criminal Appeal, specify that new evidence should be put before a jury for retrial. The present approach of the Court of Appeal denies that, in that unless the Court of Appeal is satisfied of the innocence of the accused it will not quash the conviction and order a retrial. The Court of Appeal tends to demand instead that appellants as a first prerequisite convince three judges of their innocence.

For a number of years there has been informed criticism of the Court of Appeal. Critics have included Lord Scarman and Lord Devlin. The organisation Justice for many years expressed serious disquiet at our inability to undo clear miscarriages of justice. It could be said that if we establish an independent tribunal, a proposal that new clause 2 has extracted from the Select Committee recommendations, we shall go a considerable way towards correcting miscarriages of justice.

Photo of Dr Gerard Vaughan Dr Gerard Vaughan , Reading East

It has always seemed quite wrong to me that the Home Secretary, when rejecting appeals, gives no reasons for his rejection. If the new clause were adopted and the tribunal set up, would the reasons for consideration and rejection be made public?

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

That was touched on at some length during the Select Committee hearings. All the Committee's members expressed the feeling that much of the proceedings in the present system wore an unnecessary cloak of secrecy and should be much more open, giving appellants a better chance to understand why their case had failed. That is all dealt with in the Select Committee report.

In cases such as that of the Birmingham six—there has been considerable doubt about the wisdom of the Court of Appeal's decision recently—the Home Secretary has the power to initiate a review, as was done by the then Home Secretary in the Timothy Evans and Confait cases. In addition, the Home Secretary could act as my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Whitelaw did. He released Cooper and McMahon after three unsuccessful references by three different Home Secretaries to the Court of Appeal. That approach, however, is not altogether satisfactory because it still leaves convicted murderers who have no right to compensation or to have their names cleared. Some of us feel that much the best thing to do is to establish the additional tribunal of inquiry as the Select Committee recommended.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

Is my hon. Friend aware that what he is recommending is an additional tier within our judicial system—and, what is more, a court that would not necessarily be composed of judges or people of long judicial experience, yet would have the power to overrule all our courts, without the slightest real qualification to overrule what has served the country for at least 100 years and served it well?

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, whose expertise in legal matters we all recognise. I ask him to look at the Select Committee's recommendations in paragraph 32, on page viii. After several days of consideration, and having examined many expert witnesses, the Select Committee said: We conclude by summing up the general effect of our recommendations. We would wish to see a revised procedure for the handling of alleged miscarriages of justice which would operate as follows. Petitions from convicted persons would continue to be directed to the Home Office and would be examined in the first instance by officials. If it appeared to them that new evidence, defined in the way we suggest, had emerged since the trial, the case would be referred to an independent review body whose Chairman would allocate it to one or more of its members for consideration, or submit it to a formal hearing if necessary. The review body would then advise the Home Secretary either not to intervene or to invoke the Royal Prerogative in order to remit the sentence or to set aside the conviction. That unanimous recommendation has never been discussed in the House. If new clause 2 were to be adopted, the establishment of this body would achieve a fairer system for dealing with legal affairs than is the case at the moment.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I rise to offer the Opposition's support for the new clause and to add that, if the measure is too radical for the Government, our amendment would be a fallback. We do not regard that as desirable; we should prefer the new clause to be passed into law as it stands. Nevertheless, we offer the amendment as a possible escape route if the Government regard the new clause, modest though it is, as too extreme to adopt. It is a hypothesis that the Government regard the new clause as too extreme. No reasonable person could so describe it. It was the unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee, one of whose Members was the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight).

The hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) has proposed a modest and, in our view, necessary change to the law. Let me explain why I regard it as a modest change. I do not believe that it would add another tier to the judicial system. In a sense, that additional tier is there. The Home Secretary could recommend a review.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

The additional tier is not really the Home Secretary, but a section of the Home Office. A number of officials review cases and make recommendations to the Home Secretary. The additional tier is inundated with files. It consists of efficient, or inefficient, civil servants who are never called upon to answer for their recommendations. The Select Committee has recommended a much more efficient and open system for conducting reviews.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The theoretical tier is Home Office civil servants who prepare papers and make recommendations to the Home Secretary, on the basis of which he has to form a judgment. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short), with her special and, dare I say, inside knowledge of these events, is right to draw the House's attention to the fact that the tribunal replaces what is not essentially the established Civil Service making recommendations on these matters. I regard civil servants as wholly inappropriate for that task, not because I am suggesting that they are corrupt or partial, but because they are unqualified, and by their nature they are likely to perform the task badly.

As I understand it, the new clause is in no way an attack on the Home Secretary's judgment or integrity. It is simply an assertion that he is incapable of carrying such a burden, and it is intolerable to ask him to carry it. Therefore, something rather more appropriate should be put in its place.

10.15 pm

The hon. Member for Harborough was right to say that it was not possible to move the new clause tonight without thinking about some of the occasions when a judicial review would seem or might have seemed appropriate. All hon. Members who have taken part in the debate, and certainly all hon. Members who vote in the Division, will think of the Guildford bombing, the Birmingham bombing and Maguire, and will consider that on other occasions the operation of such a review system at the very least would have reduced genuine, understandable and legitimate public disquiet. The review might even have changed verdicts, certainly when it was examining verdicts which in my view were over-reliant on evidence obtained through confession of the convicted parties. Even if it were not to have that result, it would have the advantage of reducing the very genuine concern that is felt about many cases in which a miscarriage of justice is either suspected or alleged.

Photo of Mr Timothy Devlin Mr Timothy Devlin , Stockton South

Is the intention behind the new clause that evidence which would not normally be admissible in the criminal courts should be considered by the tribunal?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

Of course. One concern is that when matters go to the Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal considers the case on what I will call, without wanting to be dismissive or offensive, legal technicalities. The Court of Appeal is inclined to say, or perhaps is required to say, not, "Is this man innocent or guilty?" but, "Have the regularities of the law been observed?" We are aiming for a tier—if the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) cares to put it that way—or an institution, if one wants to describe it in other terms, which will not necessarily come to an adjudication, but will consider whether the new merits of the case require a further fundamental examination, not whether previous legal technicalities have been observed.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I can see that the hon. Gentlemen are burgeoning, but, before either of them blossom, let me make another point.

The description that I have given of our reservations about the Court of Appeal's commitment to the technicalities is not necessarily a criticism of that tier of the law. That is its function; that is what it is supposed to do. We are not saying that it should be doing something different; we are saying that, by its nature, it is prevented from doing something different, and therefore something else has to be put in its place. We are all conscious that very senior and distinguished judges from time to time have said that the stability of the legal system—the reputation of the courts—sometimes requires avoiding admitting a mistake, even when one has occurred, rather than admitting the mistake and seeing that new justice is done. The idea of an independent body prevents that inbred feeling that the continuation of a proper reputation requires that mistakes should be overlooked rather than exposed.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire

Presumably the right hon. Gentleman envisages that the Court of Appeal will still hear the case. How does he see the relationship between the independent review body and the Court of Appeal and how the Court of Appeal would consider the recommendations and examinations of the review body? What weight would it place on those deliberations?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The hon. Gentleman is wrong to think of the final verdict being taken by the Court of Appeal. Were I a prudent Member, I should say that he should address his question to the hon. Member for Harborough, but I am rash enough to give my own answer. I see the body fulfilling a function which is or is not fulfilled by the Home Secretary and his civil servants. It is the trigger mechanism that starts off the inquiry. The judicial review that follows may be formed in a number of ways. It is essentially the process by which it is determined that a new investigation should be mounted. After that, some judicial body will examine it.

I emphasise that the Opposition want the new clause to be accepted, but we understand that for that to happen the tribunal might be involved in the examination of 2,000 or more cases a year. In the name of justice, that is a burden worth carrying by the Home Office; but if the Minister says that for some practical reason—such as that which requires the Home Office to cut down the number of civil servants dealing with immigration, but does not require the Treasury to reduce the number of civil servants dealing with minor fraud—it is not possible to deal with 2,000 cases a year, there is an amendment that prevents the Government from saying that such a practicality invalidates the entire principle. We should prefer the whole new clause to be passed, but there is a fallback position if the Government are doubtful about it.

Photo of Dr Gerard Vaughan Dr Gerard Vaughan , Reading East

The Select Committee said that there would be about 2,500 cases, but pointed out that 90 per cent. of them were routine motoring offences, and cases of that sort. Only a small number of cases would go to the new body

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I do not want the hon. Gentleman—still less the Minister—to believe for a moment that I am arguing that the new clause is unworkable. I am merely trying to prevent the Minister from saying that he will not accept it because it is unworkable. If that is his excuse, I hope that we have blocked it by providing a less satisfactory alternative that stops him saying that he likes the idea in principle but cannot afford it in practice. I hope that he likes it in principle and in practice and will accept the new clause in its entirety. That is what we shall support.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

I am not one of those who think that a recommendation by a Select Committee must necessarily have great authority in the House—least of all a recommendation by a Select Committee that can clearly be shown not to have gone into the facts and evidence in any great depth. I am a member of a Select Committee, and I must confess from personal experience that, composed as they are of busy hon. Members who have many other things to do, Select Committees often do not go into subjects as closely as those subjects require. The Chairman generally does the work.

I do not believe that any half dozen Members who are given a problem with which to deal and on which to report are necessarily endowed with any special authority, even of a representative kind. So my view of the apparently unanimous report of the Home Affairs Select Committee—issued slightly before the time when I joined it—is that it will not necessarily give us any great guidance.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I am fascinated by the hon. Gentleman's theory of government—that half a dozen hon. Members do not have any particular authority. I take it that he believes that 650 do. What is the number at which authority begins to be assumed by a collection of Members of Parliament?

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

That is an interesting question to come from the deputy Leader of the Opposition, who should know better. Half a dozen hon. Members could easily be chosen from among the most completely unrepresentative Members of the House. They could be put on a Committee to keep them quiet, or because they will take a particular course of action. There are all sorts of reasons why hon. Members get themselves on Select Committees. That was especially true in the days before the great reform that was achieved when the Government came to power.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

For what reason does the hon. Gentleman think that one hon. Member appointed as a Minister—we all have views of the way in which ministerial appointments are made and the sort of people who hold those positions—would have more authority, independence and time to review miscarriages of justice in serious detail than six members of a Select Committee?

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

I do not think that the way in which we select Ministers is better, more representative, more clever, more sensible or more logical. Much depends on individual preferences and the colour of their eyes or shoes. However, the collective will of the House must be expressed. It is expressed when votes are taken in the Chamber and every one of the 650 Members of Parliament has an opportunity to say what he or she thinks. Shame on those who vote according to what the Whips tell them and not according to their own consciences.

The proof that the Home Affairs Select Committee went wildly wrong in its recommendations is contained in the first part of the new clause, which factually is quite wrong. It says: The Secretary of State shall establish an Independent Review Body to advise him on the annulment, cancellation or revocation of a conviction applicable to cases currently being considered by himself and by the Court of Appeal. The Home Secretary does not have that power. His only power is to refer cases back to the judicial system. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Wrong."

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

That is an entirely different dimension. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) is suggesting that the Home Secretary has power to annul, cancel or revoke a conviction. He has not; he has power only to refer to the judicial system cases that he is satisfied deserve re-examination. All the blather in which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) indulged gave a misleading impression.

The proposal is that the Home Secretary should have the right to consider a problem, have his civil servants consider it and say that the jury, the Court of Appeal, and the House of Lords were wrong and that for that reason the case must be reconsidered. That is quite wrong. The proposal is quite outrageous. It suggests that the system of justice that has been established in this country for at least 1,000 years is wrong and inappropriate. For hundreds of years we have followed a system by which a conviction may be reviewed by legally qualified courts in the presence of a jury to establish the truth or falsity of the evidence.

If there is any perceived error in the verdict of the jury, which is advised and directed by the judge, we have a system of appeal. At that stage the Court of Appeal looks at the record of the whole case—and there is even provision for extra evidence—and if, in the minds of those learned gentlemen who are experienced in these matters, all of whom have probably been trial judges, there has been a miscarriage, they allow the appeal or give appropriate directions about a retrial. If it is still contended that there is a point of law, there is a right to take the matter to the House of Lords, our ultimate court of appeal.

10.30 pm

It is proposed in the new clause that all that should be set aside and that a so-called independent—which presumably means independent of the judicial system—review body should have powers above those of the existing judicial system and be able to set aside verdicts which have been arrived at by our present time-honoured system.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

My hon. Friend has it wrong. The Home Secretary has powers to grant a free pardon, a conditional pardon or the remission of all or part of the penalty imposed by the court. We claim in the new clause that, if he had a tribunal to advise him in the exercise of those powers, he would use them more efficiently.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

I am obliged for that elucidation of the case. Of course, my hon. Friend is talking about the power to recommend the exercise of the Queen's prerogative by the Home Secretary, who is an officer of the state and who is bound by rules which have evolved over the years.

The new clause proposes a different, separate tier within, or superior to, the judicial system, one composed not of judges with wide and long experience of the operation of the criminal law but of people who would bring to it fresh minds, apparently people who would be untrammelled by the rules of evidence. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that it was a virtue of the proposed system that they should not be lawyers or be trammelled by legal rules. Under the proposed system they would not have to bother with rules of evidence.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

We are interested in justice and are concerned for people who have been wrongly convicted. We are worried by the fact that our system cannot deliver justice to people who are wrongly convicted. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), a lawyer and member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, would not wish to mislead the House by suggesting that we are proposing powers that do not already exist.

The Home Secretary has powers to refer cases to the Court of Appeal, to refer them back to, or not to, a jury, to release people, to set up a tribunal and to release people with or without a free pardon. He exercises those powers all the time, so the hon. Gentleman must not mislead the House. Although he rightly claims that our system has worked well for thousands of years, that system has evolved, has changed and has been improved over the years. We are now looking for an improvement because it is not working well.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

The hon. Lady is right to say that this is about justice. Over the centuries this nation has evolved a system which gets as close to justice in any individual case as it is humanly possible to get. She is saying that some people allege that certain cases were wrongly decided —that the jury made a wrong decision and that experienced judges, on looking at the whole case, thought the jury were right. Nevertheless, she says that, because there was a wrongful conviction, this system must be set wholly aside so that there may be created a new power for many people who may be laymen, so far as one knows, observing rules of their own, denying all the roots and experience of history.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

Has my hon. Friend considered that the reason for the prerogative is the straitjacket which is imposed by the judicial system? It is there in order that justice may be achieved despite the judicial system. It is really the prerogative that we are talking about. It exists but is merely a different way of achieving it.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

I am not inviting my hon. Friend to interrupt me again, but is he suggesting that because the judicial system sometimes gets it wrong there must be imported into it somebody answerable not to the judicial system, not subject to the rules of evidence, but some abstract concept of justice of their own, not subject to any rule of any principles whatsoever?

Several Hon. Members:

rose——

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

I am endeavouring to make my speech and then I will sit down.

Somebody untrammelled by all the historical devices which we have evolved to produce justice in courts will be able to upset decisions made within the existing judicial system. I am surprised that my hon. Friend, being a member of the Bar, should suggest that our legal system is not capable and should be amended and modified to meet fresh demands which are made upon it. Historically it always has been. The whole concept of equity was evolved because we were sticking too closely to legalistic notions and we had to have a new system allied to the old but within the judicial system, staffed by lawyers, who could see the equity in any problem. We have had comparatively recently in contemporary terms a judge, Lord Denning, who himself evolved the law to meet the needs of modern society and modern problems.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

I seriously want to understand the hon. Gentleman's argument. Is he saying that there ought not to be a prerogative power, or is his complaint simply that the new clause as drafted goes beyond the prerogative power? If it is the former, apparently he wishes to take away the power which already exists.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

I am not saying that there should not be a prerogative power, but I am saying that it should only be exercised on behalf of Her Majesty, subject to recommendation, by an officer of the Crown, which is the present system. Unfortunately, my hon. Friend, in trying to deal with a perceived problem, wants to import into our judicial system something which has none of the restraints or the framework which have been built in to protect other citizens against the abuse of power.

If we provide outside our judicial system a body which can upset the decisions of all the courts below, we shall demolish the whole system and its importance. There will be no restriction on the number of people who may apply to the independent review body, once they get the chance. No one could ever be convicted in future without saying afterwards that he had the right to go to a bunch of largely laymen to set aside his conviction.

The review body will be totally overworked. It will not work for the right reason anyway. The principle remains that if we are to have a system of justice it has to be formed on the basis of experience and qualifications, and it has to be within the established rules and the rules of evidence which apply. Certainly let us modify it, but do not let us destroy it completely.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

I thought at one stage that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) was going down a dangerous road. He started by saying that the House of Commons could be wrong —we could face that—and that Select Committees and Ministers could be wrong, and I thought that at any minute he would say that Prime Ministers could be wrong. The hon. Gentleman is right. I want to take the argument further and say that juries and the Court of Appeal can be wrong. We must investigate that aspect. To say that is to mean no disrespect. We are talking about relatively few cases. Home Office staff dealing with motoring and similar offences submit their recommendations to the Home Secretary. In my day, they did that through a junior Minister.

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

Could advisory committees be wrong? If so, then what?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

I am afraid that most things may well be wrong, but we are trying to make improvements. We do not have it absolutely right.

The Court of Appeal was set up in 1907 because it was felt that the decisions of some courts were not correct. That was 81 years ago, not a thousand years ago. Even so, the judiciary felt that all was lost because the Court of Appeal was set up. It is possible to reconsider. The Select Committee on Home Affairs has made recommendations and my right hon. and hon. Friends have tabled an amendment to the new clause, which I do not pretend is correctly drafted.

I support the proposal because I have operated the system and it needs improvement. We should take note when people of the eminence of Lord Devlin suggest that the procedures of the Court of Appeal, without a jury, need to be examined. It may well be that the Home Secretary should set up an interdepartmental committee anyway to look at the workings of the Court of Appeal. That is a thought.

I support the new clause because of a case in which I was deeply involved and which worried me, and because I am concerned about the Guildford bombing case, like another former Home Secretary, a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and two former Law Lords. I cannot rest on the argument, "I am deeply concerned; therefore, if I were Home Secretary, I would do something about it in a particular way, with the benefit of other advice." I simply say that I am very concerned.

When I visited one of the women—Carol Richardson—in Styal prison, I was even more deeply concerned that there had been an error of judgment. I have not become involved in the Birmingham case—although I have read the book written by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin)—because I do not know too much about it and I do not believe that it is my duty to jump in and say that I support that case as much as I support the other case.

I support the rule of law. I ended detention in Northern Ireland because I thought that the system was wrong. One should not lock up people, as I did, by a sort of ukase. It is much better to go before a court. I understand the problem of there being no jury. I believe that there cannot be a jury system in Northern Ireland. I support the rule of law and the courts, but that does not stop me believing that courts can be wrong. It does not weaken the judiciary to argue in that way. I believe that Ministers can be wrong. I have never been a judge, but I have been a Minister. The Court of Appeal needs change, and we suggest one way in which the system can be improved.

10.45 pm

The Home Secretary takes advice from a very good source—C4, if it is still called that—in the criminal department. Good and sound people come forward with a large number of minor cases and the occasional important case. We suggest that, while maintaining that system, and keeping the Home Secretary's powers, we should provide 12 additional persons to look into cases and advise the Home Secretary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) talked about the number of cases. I can remember a case in which we did not take the advice that came forward. The details do not matter but it was a case of murder in Peterborough. The evidence put forward was that something had been wrong with the station clock. Shirley Summerskill, who was the junior Minister, disagreed with the officials. I read the papers. As my predisposition is to support junior Ministers whenever possible—they do not have the best of lives—I agreed with her, and the man got off. That was one instance in which we disagreed with the officials. The officials collect the information and make recommendations according to the case law that builds up; we recommend that additional advice should also be available.

Let us consider what the Home Secretary can do. One case that has worried me, because it was obviously very wrong, is the case of Cooper and MacMahon. In June 1980 I wrote to the then Home Secretary, now Lord Whitelaw, asking him to help me by reminding me what courses of action were open to the Home Secretary. I also reminded him of what happened when I was Home Secretary, but that is another matter—[Interruption.] He may not have had access to the precise papers but he had access to the same papers; and there is a subtle difference between the two.

The then Home Secretary, in his letter to me, said: On the first point … there are three things. A Home Secretary can refer a case to the Court of Appeal under section 17. The main purpose of this is to consider new evidence. I did not find that provision in the Act, but that is what he said, and it is certainly what I have been advised. The letter continued: Second, a Home Secretary can exercise the Royal Prerogative of Mercy so as to grant a Free Pardon or remit the sentence.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

The question of new evidence and the fact that the amendment would not require it are very important. In some cases everyone is convinced that there has been a dreadful miscarriage of justice and they hunt around for new evidence to bring the case legitimately within the system. We must open up the system to enable cases in which large numbers of people are convinced that there has been a miscarriage of justice to be re-examined without the need to find new evidence to get the case reopened.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

I referred to that a moment ago. That is the usage that has built up, and it is one aspect that ought to be considered, even if it is not mentioned in the procedure in the new clause.

Lord Whitelaw continued: Finally, if the person is serving a life sentence, as is the case here" — Cooper and MacMahonthe Home Secretary may be able to release him. What follows is important: There are statutory limitations on this power to release lifers: the Home Secretary can order a release only if he is recommended to do so by the Parole Board and after consulting the Lord Chief Justice and, if he is available, the trial judge. My successor reminded me of those three aspects of the Home Secretary's powers.

We are not setting up a new tier: it will still be the Home Secretary taking advice. In the Guildford bombers case, on which the Home Secretary held a police inquiry, he went outside the system to have the matter examined. In a way, our amendment would institutionalise such a procedure.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I understand precisely what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, and he speaks with great authority and knowledge, but at the end of the day, it is a recommendation to the Home Secretary, is it not? The Home Secretary still has to decide. The buck stops with him. Let us suppose that he disagrees with the conclusions of that august body. Inevitably, it would be leaked, and he would have to explain to the House why the press were reporting that the review body had arrived at one conclusion and he had decided to overrule it. Would that really assist the Home Secretary in his quasi-appellate role?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

I remember things like that happening almost every day of the week. The Home Secretary is almost a whipping boy for many of the things that happen. But the Home Secretary must make the decision, and it is not discussed in Cabinet. I would like more evidence to come forward. That might make it easier to reach a decision.

I kept all the papers relating to that case in a file because I was worried about the case of David Cooper and Michael McMahon, in which I played a part. I also kept the written answer given by the former Home Secretary. The case related to the murder of a sub-postmaster in Luton. The second paragraph states: Since then the case has come before the Court of Appeal on no fewer than five occasions, four of them as a result of a reference by the Home Secretary of the day. The outcome is that the court has quashed the conviction of Mr. Murphy after hearing fresh alibi evidence on his behalf, but has not disturbed the convictions of Mr. Cooper and Mr. McMahon. I played a part in that.

The former Home Secretary went on to say that he did not question the decisions of his predecessors, who acted with scrupulous regard to the constitutional conventions and all the rest of it. He then said: I have accordingly decided to recommend Her Majesty to remit the remainder of their sentences."—[Official Report, 18 July 1980; Vol. 988, c. 719–20.] The real reason for that was that the case had gone on and on. Nothing had changed, and no more evidence had been provided. Time was the factor. They had been inside for so long that the royal prerogative was being used. It was not done earlier. I did not make the correct decision, but my successor did. He did it not on fresh evidence but because so much time had passed. He thought that they had been locked up for too long.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

Especially as they were not guilty.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

The point is that I realised that we needed a change in the law. The Home Secretary at the time provided me with a paper entitled, "Action taken with regard to the cases while Mr. Merlyn Rees was Home Secretary." I have three or four pages on that, so I must have spent a long time on the case. But I was wrong. My predecessor used the royal prerogative not because of new evidence but because those men had been locked up for so long.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

The case was referred to the Court of Appeal four times. My right hon. Friend was not wrong. Nor were the other people who referred the matter to the Court of Appeal, each of whom was convinced that those men were wrongly convicted. The system was wrong and was incapable of releasing them. In the end, the only way to do justice to them was for the Home Secretary to pardon them. My right hon. Friend was not wrong. Our legal system was incapable of providing justice. That is why we are trying to change it tonight.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's help, but I believe that I was wrong and that I should have found a way of dealing with the case earlier. That is why I support the new clause. The Government could take it away and refine it, but its main aim is to provide more evidence.

The third reason, and my final point, is that I am concerned about the Guildford bombers. I am the last person to want to let people out of gaol who have been involved in bombing and killing. We all know what happened yesterday. It is certainly not in that context that I want to deal with this point, but the more I look at it —I am involved with eminent people—the more I see that something is wrong. The Home Secretary has commissioned an inquiry by the Somerset and Avon police. I trust that I am in order in mentioning this as it is part of the procedures that we are trying to improve. I presume that the deputy chief constable will soon be reporting to the Home Secretary. What does that mean? What will happen then? I shall not say tonight what I think should happen, because the Home Secretary will soon have the report.

There should be a change. Our procedures do not work properly. There should be an interdepartmental committee to consider the 1907 and 1968 legislation about the workings of the Court of Appeal. In the meantime, I want to aid the Home Secretary, in the way that has been suggested, to consider the material and to aid the work of C4 in the Home Office. This issue concerns only a small number of cases. The steps that I took in the case of the murder of the sub-postmaster in Luton were taken in good faith, but I was proved to be wrong because the men were released. They should have been released earlier. The time factor should not be allowed to be an important element in the decision.

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's question about the Guildford and Woolwich bombings, I can tell him that we have the report from the Avon and Somerset police. It is before the Home Secretary at present, and my right hon. Friend hopes to take a decision whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley

I am grateful for the Minister's intervention.

The suggestion in the new clause should be considered to improve the procedures. I have discussed this matter with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer). I believe that the functioning of the Court of Appeal since its introduction in 1907 needs to be reconsidered.

In response to the hon. Member for Orpington, I should say that that would in no way weaken the rule of law. If the rule of law has been weakened, it was weakened in 1907 when the Court of Appeal was set up. Appeal is necessary within our system because serious mistakes are made, and it is the duty of this House to correct them.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire

I oppose the new clause, but I do not disagree with the basic idea behind it. We are considering a situation in which the Court of Appeal reviews the proceedings at the trial court and looks for material irregularities. It does not look to decide whether a man is guilty or innocent. It looks to see whether the proceedings were carried out properly, and if there was a material irregularity that could have affected the jury's mind it will act to deal with the matter, either by quashing the conviction or by ordering a retrial. That is what lies at the root of the new clause, not the problem of dealing with the small number of cases currently being considered by C4.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

How does my hon. Friend explain away the concept of the lurking doubt, which has little to do with material irregularity, and everything to do with whether justice is being done?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire

My hon. and learned Friend's question supports what I am saying, which is that the court looks purely and simply for material irregularities. One of my colleagues who, like me, has appeared in the Court of Appeal said that it was like being mugged. He said, "Two of the judges hold you down and the other one goes through your pockets." That just about sums it up in many respects.

11 pm

I oppose the new clause because I do not think that it is sufficiently fundamental. It raises a number of major constitutional considerations. There is a definite split between the Executive and the judicial functions. The judiciary is there to give the man in the street protection against the Executive. It is the one place where the Executive is held to account. That is important in our deliberations. We must be very careful about crossing Executive functions with judicial functions. That is where the proposal goes wrong.

The investigation that is proposed should be carried out at an earlier stage than is suggested in the new clause. It should be carried out immediately after the trial, when many of the trails are hot, to try to find new evidence and matters that are likely to persuade a court that the conviction was wrong and should be revoked. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) will agree with me on this, as I have dealt with similar matters before. The problem is that the case is often considered years later, when the evidence has disappeared, and it is difficult to follow things through. C4 considers the cases on instinct, feel and experience, not on the evidence. That is very important.

The independent review body proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr), for the highest of motives, must consider the problems from the court's point of view.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

What about the wrongly convicted?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire

I accept the hon. Lady's point. The problems must be considered from the point of view of the defendant and the victim. However, we must still consider admissible evidence. Are we to reach the position where we begin to consider anecdotal evidence, inadmissible evidence and matters that would not have been considered by the court?

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to finish, I shall give way to him.

We must consider those factors. An independent body should not recommend to the Home Secretary that a man should go free, or receive a free pardon, or be given a remission, on evidence that would not have stood up in court to begin with and would not have been admissible, and which, if the case were referred back to the Court of Appeal, would still not be admissible. It is important to consider those facts,

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

Will the hon. Gentleman give way now?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire

Many hon. Members want to speak, and I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will catch the eye of the Chair later. I shall give way once I have finished this point.

Having looked at the question of admissible evidence, we must also consider who will decide whether the defendant or appellant is to be set free. I do not believe that the Home Secretary should be placed in that position. The matter should be decided in an appellate court. I listened to the interpretation of the new clause by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough will confirm that under his proposal, following the review by the independent body, the case will have to be referred to a court for consideration. There will still be a judicial function to be carried out. The proper place for deciding whether a case should be dealt with by way of a free pardon, or whatever, is in a court, before proper judges, with all the evidence being considered.

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

I return to the hon. Gentleman's previous point. He seems to be obsessed with the admissibility of evidence. The strict rules of admissibility in both criminal and civil law have been devised so that juries are kept within very tight rules and do not hear evidence that might mislead them. Why should we be so hidebound by strict rules of admissibility in courts in which there are no juries? Why should the Court of Appeal not consider hearsay evidence, and even secondhand hearsay evidence? That court surely has the ability to sift what is relevant from what is irrelevant, rather than sift what falls within the rules from what falls outwith the rules.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire

I disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, because, following his view, every summary trial held in a magistrates court would cause the rules to be changed. Magistrates would then be permitted to listen to hearsay, and secondhand hearsay evidence, because they would have the same function and be in a position to perform the mental gymnastics of ignoring secondhand hearsay evidence and drawing out what is relevant. My strong feeling is that evidence before an appellate court should be that which is admissible before a jury and a trial judge.

The third point of importance is the review body's status. One of my hon. Friends made a point about the views of the independent body. Assuming that the whole matter must be referred to an appellate court, as it is now on many occasions, where will the independent body fit in? What will be its status, and how is the court to view its recommendations? Will the court see them? All those factors must be considered, as must the question of how the independent body reaches its conclusions in advising the Home Secretary.

According to the new clause, the people involved will not be qualified lawyers, and they will not consider matters from the point of view of a trial in a lower court in the way that Court of Appeal judges do. Most important of all, who will undertake the investigation? C4 has the police —professional investigators—to assist in its examinations. There is no comparable provision in the new clause.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

Subsection (6) of the proposed new clause provides for the review body to hold its own trial, and it will be entitled to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State after either

  1. (a) an informal inquiry or
  2. (b) a full hearing with legal representation on both sides."
The review body may hold its own trial before making any recommendation. How can that trial be in private

Photo of Mr Kenneth Hind Mr Kenneth Hind , West Lancashire

My hon. Friend rightly makes the point that there may be an informal inquiry without the discipline of the court, and without considering the rules of evidence. Therefore, a view may be formed that might not be acceptable to the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords, or a judicial body.

I concede—as do many of my hon. Friends with whom this proposed clause does not find favour—that this problem needs to be examined more closely. The new clause is only a sticking-plaster mechanism, covering only part of the problem, and does not tackle the fundamentals, as was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South.

The real problem occurs earlier on, and that is when the investigation should he carried out. It should not be undertaken by an independent body that is not a legal tribunal—a body that will establish a third tier. The Home Secretary's function is to consider whether there is evidence for a court to reconsider a finding, and it is only in exceptional cases that he intervenes and recommends a free pardon, for example. We must not overstep the powers of the appellate judicial system that we have established. It must be allowed to function. If there is a need for review, let us examine that system and improve it. We should not introduce a sticking-plaster method to deal with the problem.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

I congratulate the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) on moving the new clause. It is a pleasure to be associated with him, he being a consistent champion of justice.

The clause should be of interest to all those who are concerned with the reputation of the British judicial system, whether they are Left-wing, Right-wing, Unionist or Nationalist, for it is about justice. I take heart from the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the House and of all shades of opinion have felt able to support the clause. They have done so because they are aware of the grave shadow that is falling over the reputation of the British judicial system as a result of a number of celebrated alleged miscarriages of justice.

One of the beauties of the new clause is that it is modelled almost precisely on the recommendation of a Select Committee that examined the problem in a good deal of detail. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said, its proposals have been endorsed by a number of individuals who could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as wild-eyed revolutionaries.

The Select Committee's recommendation arose over a number of years from the difficulty of persuading the Home Office and senior judges to own up to mistakes in a certain number of extremely serious cases, some of which are well known. It is not a problem that originated recently. It has long historical origins, the best known one being the case of Timothy Evans, who was convicted and hanged in 1950. The person who had committed the offence was caught in 1953. It was realised at once that the real offender had been caught, but it took 13 years and a public campaign and two judicial reviews of the sort that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) says cannot be set up, before Timothy Evans was posthumously pardoned. We do not want to have to go through that time and time again.

The case of Cooper and McMahon has been referred to the Court of Appeal on five occasions, which is a record. On four occasions the references were initiated by Home Secretaries, and on one occasion the normal right of appeal was exercised. It took a decade before a Home Secretary decided that the prison gates should be opened and that the men should each be issued with a railway ticket and sent home. He could not think of any way of persuading the Court of Appeal to admit a mistake. I might add that the men received no apology for the decade that they had spent in gaol.

The problem has been exacerbated in recent years by what are destined to become causes celebres, cases which are already bringing the British judical system into disrepute throughout the world. There are the six innocent people who were convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings and the 11 innocent people who were convicted of the Guildford and Woolwich bombings.

Everyone who has studied the problem has concluded that some form of independent review tribunal is needed to act as a longstop and to cut the knot. In 1968, the well-respected organisation Justice prepared a report on difficulties in persuading the courts to own up to mistakes. It was prompted perhaps by the difficulties in obtaining a pardon for Timothy Evans. It recommended 20 years ago that an independent review body be set up. In 1976, the distinguished judge Lord Devlin, in a report on evidence of indentification in criminal cases, concluded: An independent review tribunal with rules of evidence and procedure different from those of ordinary courts is what is necessary.

11.15 pm

In 1982, the Home Affairs Select Committee concluded in paragraph 11 of its report: All our witnesses, apart from the Home Office, felt that some opportunity for independent review would both add to the quality of the advice given to the Home Office and at the same time help to persuade petitioners and the public that each case had been given full and fair consideration. Those are the words of a Select Committee on which there was a Conservative majority. That view was put to it by the Criminal Bar Association and, as has already been mentioned, by the distinguished solicitor Sir David Napley. Sir David went further. He said that he was unable from his experience to recall a single case where the Home Office has, as a result of its own investigation, felt able to recommend a pardon. I can speak from my own experience, in the case of the Birmingham pub bombings, of the Home Office department responsible for dealing with alleged miscarriages of justice. The officials there are assiduous, courteous and well-meaning, but see their role as exclusively that of poking holes in evidence presented by persistent journalists, Members of Parliament or other public figures. There are few signs that they lift the telephone very often to do any independent investigation, and still fewer signs that they get out and do some digging.

The Select Committee report referred to a number of other problems, one being the lengthy, unexplained delays that took place while the Home Secretary was considering at the outset whether to refer to the Court of Appeal. It also made the point—extremely relevant in the light of recent experience—that the burden of truth, once a case had been referred to the Court of Appeal, was not the burden of truth that we are used to: the defendants had to prove their innocence, which is far more difficult than the reverse procedure.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

He is not the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark , Birmingham, Selly Oak

It is interesting that we are not supposed to call someone on the Opposition Benches an hon. Friend. We have reviewed the case of the Birmingham pub bombings together more than once, and I, as deputy leader of the West Midlands county council, was in the Birmingham pubs where the carnage had taken place within the hour. Despite that, I too signed the petition that the sentences should be reviewed.

The Court of Appeal sat for longer than at any time in its history, and still said that the verdict was sound. How long is justice or injustice to be? How long do people have to sit to say that a verdict is sound? Having supported the review of that case, I believe that the Court of Appeal was right in saying that the verdict was sound.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to agree with him, because I am concerned primarily with whether the convicted people did it or not. I shall come in a moment to what I regard as deficiencies in the way in which the Court of Appeal dealt with the case. Unlike the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark)—who, having made his point, is no longer even listening to my response—I sat through the appeal hearing in the Old Bailey.

We have not yet heard any reference to the Home Office's 1983 reply to the Select Committee report. In paragraph 3, the Home Office says that it will review both the terms and the frequency of interim replies to petitions in order to prevent long and completely unexplained delays. That is what it said in seeking to brush aside the Select Committee's report in April 1983.

I refer to the Birmingham case. Doubts about it were first raised in public in October 1985. It took 18 months before we were able to persuade the Home Secretary to refer it to the Court of Appeal. During that time we were given the run-around. It was difficult to obtain information about the delay. The Home Office has not cleaned up its act, as it said it would in April 1983. It was 10 months after that before the case reached the Court of Appeal. More than two years elapsed between the first serious doubts being raised and the case being given another hearing.

The Guildford case has already been referred to this evening. I believe that the Home Secretary reopened that case in August 1987. We are still awaiting the result. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) asked earlier how the review is going. I can offer my right hon. Friend slightly more information than the Minister was able to offer him. It is not going very well. The Avon and Somerset police have made a rather negative report, the details of which we shall never know. I understand that at the moment the Home Secretary is wrestling with what to do about such distinguished figures as my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South who have expressed strong views about the case. The problem is that there never was much evidence against those people, so it is extremely difficult to find new evidence as the basis for reopening the case.

Paragraph 10 of the Home Office reply. in April 1983 said: The Home Secretary will in future be willing to use his power of reference more readily". That is a laugh, for a start. the Lord Chief Justice, who has been consulted, sees room for the court to be more ready to exercise its own powers to receive evidence or … to order a retrial. Let me consider that in the light of what happened subsequently. The Home Secretary is, understandably, extremely reluctant to refer the Guildford and Woolwich case to the Court of Appeal because of the kicking that the Birmingham case got before that one. Five years ago the Lord Chief Justice is said to have expressed his readiness to take a more generous view of cases referred to him. If he ever gave such a commitment, all I can say is that he has reneged on it.

The first thing that the Lord Chief Justice and his colleagues did when the Birmingham case arrived before them was to refuse to order a retrial, and the appeal was dismissed with contempt. Lord Lane went further than that. This will be of interest to the Home Secretary if he is thinking of referring any further cases to the Court of Appeal. Lord Lane said: As has happened before in references by the Home Secretary to this court … the longer this hearing has, gone on, the more convinced this court has become that the verdict of the jury was correct. In other words, "Don't bother sending us any more cases. You're wasting your time." That is the dilemma with which the Home Secretary has to wrestle when considering whether to refer back the Guildford and Woolwich case. or perhaps the Carl Bridgewater case—another one that is in his in-tray at the moment—to the Court of Appeal.

As for an independent review tribunal, in April 1983 the Home Office said, "Leave it to the court. It is a matter of constitutional principle." We shall no doubt hear more about that when the Minister replies to the debate.

That was the position six years ago. The position today is a great deal worse. It does not allow for the complacency of the Home Office's response in April 1983 to the Select Committee's report. The need for some way to break the knot and get round these great injustices has never been greater. The Birmingham and the Guildford and Woolwich cases have already been referred to, and I serve notice that there is another case in the pipeline.

Judith Ward was convicted in February 1974 of the M62 coach bombing. I do not, as I do in the other two cases, put my hand on my heart and say that she did not do it, because I have not studied that case in the detail that I have studied other cases, but a number of people whose judgment I respect have looked in detail into that case. They say that the persons who carried out the M62 coach bombing are alive and well and walking the streets of the Republic and that Judith Ward had nothing whatever to do with it.

By way of a clue as to the possible future of that case, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the principal Crown witness in the case against Judith Ward was our old friend the forensic scientist Dr. Frank Skuse, who has since had to retire at the grand old age of 51 for what the Home Office coyly describes as "limited effectiveness"——

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

It varies according to which brief one reads.

The Carl Bridgewater case is still awaiting tie Home Secretary's decision. It is not political, in the sense that it involves the wicked murder of a newspaper boy. There are considerable grounds for disquiet, but nobody seriously believes that if that case were referred to the Court of Appeal they would get anything but a kick in the teeth.

The hon. Member for Selly Oak, who did not stay long enough to hear my reply to his question, asked about the Court of Appeal hearing of the Birmingham case. It was one of the great cases. It lasted more than 25 days; it was certainly the longest Court of Appeal hearing. It has been conceded that it had before it the greatest amount of evidence that has ever been put before an appeal hearing. A large number of issues of fact had to be determined. Issues of fact are supposed to be dealt with by juries.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

I shall give way, but I want to get on.

Photo of Mr Timothy Devlin Mr Timothy Devlin , Stockton South

I am most anxious for the hon. Gentleman to get on. Conservative Members are most interested to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say about the various cases. I am following him very closely to hear what he is saying about the cases outstanding. Will he direct my attention specifically to how the new clause will help the situation? That is what I am most interested to hear.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

The independent review tribunal would have not merely to consider the evidence put to the court and form a judgment about the new facts that had been put to the court, but to consider evidence that is inadmissible before the Court of Appeal. That point has been made before; the hon. Gentleman was here and he heard it. I shall come in a moment to that point in relation to the Birmingham case.

The Birmingham people were convicted on the basis of confessions which were signed by four of them in police custody and which they allege were beaten out of them with considerable violence. Three former policemen said before the Court of Appeal that that was so. One of the policemen involved in obtaining those confessions—not one of the three who were before the court—has since been to gaol for beating up suspects with a view to extracting confessions. Incidentally, another has just received the Queen's medal. He will have to send it back, as has happened with Lester Piggott's MBE.

A cleaner from the cells at Morecambe, where the men were held during the first day of their interrogation, said that he found blood in the cells shortly after they were vacated. Two prison officers said that, when they saw the men undressed, they had sustained injuries on their bodies consistent with a systematic beating below the neck while in police custody". Two solicitors, who were the first civilians to see the men after they emerged from police custody when the confessions had been obtained, said that four of their clients attempted to draw attention to their injuries.

All that was before the Court of Appeal which found different reasons for denouncing every single witness—one was a liar, one was mistaken—and dismissed them contemptuously.

The forensic evidence which was before the court was the other major plank in the case against those six unfortunate men. At the original trial, the forensic evidence was the key. It was also the key to the confessions because it convinced the police that they had the right men and caused them to set about obtaining the confessions in the way that they did. At the original trial Dr. Skuse was elevated to sainthood by the presiding judge, Lord Bridge. That could not happen at the appeal because it had emerged—and it took something to find out exactly the circumstances—that Dr. Skuse had been dismissed by the Home Office for "limited effectiveness". He was a disastrous witness. He had made no notes, he had the wrong formulas, he repeatedly contradicted himself and was contradicted by his superiors. Yet the judge, who did not adopt a generous attitude to other witnesses, set his evidence aside.

11.30 pm

They brought out a woman forensic scientist whose evidence at the original trial was thought so insignificant as not to be worthy of her being allowed to give evidence at all. They elevated her, too, to the status of sainthood that had been accorded to Dr. Skuse previously.

There was also circumstantial evidence that the men had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had known a number of wrong people. At the original trial Lord Bridge said that the circumstantial evidence did not matter, to the extent that if that was all the evidence there was against the men, they could not be convicted. It was secondary to the two main planks of the confessions and the forensic evidence.

At the Appeal Court hearing, with the spectacular gymnastics for which Appeal Court judges are famed, the circumstantial evidence suddenly became the dominant issue, and the judges spent some two and a half hours of the judgment on it.

For me, sitting as I did for the best part of 25 days watching clever lawyers arguing about sophisticated chemical formulae, the whole thing was irrelevant because I had traced the people who had committed the crime. All four are alive and well and walking the streets of the Republic.

Some time I should be happy to debate the problem of the men's identity. The identity of three of the four men is known to the authorities. I do not suggest that the Minister knows it but I have good reason for saying that the west midlands police have known it since 1975. Once four of the wrong men have confessed, it is very embarrassing to come up with any more.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the disturbing aspects of the subject is that, for every innocent person who is in prison, there is a guilty person walking the streets?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

Those who are interested in deterrence will be interested to know that one of the four men who carried out the Birmingham pub bombings went on to commit another murder. There is much to be said for catching the right people when dealing with terrorism.

The evidence that I, as an impoverished freelance journalist, tracked down at that time was inadmissible, and the Court of Appeal could not refer to it. The lawyers all had on their tables copies of the book in which I set out the details, and I commend it to anyone who is interested. The book was the big unspoken issue. Instead of taking it into account, however, we sat arguing about the minutiae of forensic evidence—and all the time I was walking round, happy to be put to the test.

As yet, I have not been pressed too hard about this. I said that the people who did the crime got away, that I had met all four of them, and that two of them had given me a detailed account of what happened. If it is possible for an impoverished freelance journalist to do that, it must have been within the wit of the west midlands police to do likewise.

Many people know that the wrong people are being held. In the gaols where these men are being held, it is taken as read by governors and other prisoners that they are the wrong ones. I visited two of them two years ago when I embarked on the case. I ran into an assistant governor coming out of the prison. He said, "Between you and me, we have got the wrong people. It is awful; everyone here believes that."

John Walker, in Long Lartin prison, who was described at the trial as a brigadier in the IRA and the brains behind the wicked murders of 21 people, receives open visits, the same as all the other prisoners. A genuine IRA man serving a 14-year term for a terrorist offence in which no one was killed or injured— the man I visited in this category was within two months of release—gets the full IRA treatment: a separate cubicle with two prison officers seated outside. Yet in the same gaol, on the same day, a man who is supposed to have committed 21 murders is allowed open visits—as are all of the Birmingham six.

Open visits are authorised not by the governor of the prison but by the Home Office. It knows that those people are not members of the IRA, but no one can think of a way of persuading the judges to own up. Those unfortunate men have languished in prison for 14 years.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

The hon. Gentleman has said, and, I believe, published a claim, that he has information that could lead to the identification of, the hon. Gentleman says, the right people. Why has he withheld that information? Does he not know that under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 the withholding of such information is an offence? Should he not divulge to the police everything that he knows?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

I not only claimed and published it but said it five minutes ago; I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was listening. The hon. Gentleman's friends in the police force have not been all that keen to know.

When I first established contact with the people who did it, I was asked, "What will you do if the west midlands police ask you who they are?" I attempted to put the matter before the Home Office. I sent the last two chapters of my book to the Home Secretary two months before they were published. The hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr)—I am sure that he will recall this and back me up arranged a meeting for me—at that time I was not a Member of Parliament—with a Home Office Minister. A couple of days before we were due to go along, the hon. Member for Harborough received a telephone call and was told. "Do not bring Mr. Mullin with you; come alone." The Home Office was not keen to discover the truth.

My hon. Friends arranged an Adjournment debate in the darkest hours on the subject—by which time my allegations had been published and I had appeared on television—and I sat in the box in the corner of the Chamber. After the debate, the Minister said to me, I think that you had better come and see me." I went to see the Minister and I was interviewed by two civil servants. They asked whether I would be prepared to be interviewed by an assistant chief constable of the west midlands police. That assistant chief constable was ordered to see me; he did not rush down and say, "Goodness, somebody knows about the Birmingham pub bombings." I was deeply impressed by the state of his knowledge, which clearly came from the archives of the west midlands police headquarters at Lloyd house.

There are police officers who know what happened in this case. Things are starting to turn up in plain brown envelopes. Sooner or later they may become embarrassing, because documents from the headquarters of the west midlands police have already turned up. I promise that when the time comes that will prove a mite embarrassing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I have answered the question. I am happy to have a debate about it.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he has information that would lead to the apprehension of the people whom he believes to be the perpetrators of the Birmingham bombing? Is he withholding that information? Does he know that it is a criminal offence to do so? Will he answer the question whether he is withholding information from the police?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

I am not withholding it; I have been announcing it to the world for the past 18 months. I have made myself available to Home Office civil servants and Mr. Meffen, who is assistant chief constable of the west midlands police. Anybody would want to test, first, whether I have made it all up and, secondly, whether I have been had.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

I shall give the hon. Gentleman the reference number of a document in the special branch archives that contains the name of the person who put the bomb in the pub. In due course, his curiosity will be satisfied.

Perhaps I should explain that I am motivated by the fact that six innocent people have spent 13 years in prison for something they did not do. I did not set out—it was not my job—to find the people who put the bombs in the pubs in Birmingham, wicked though that action was. That is a job for the west midlands police, who have never shown the slightest interest, even though all four of the people who did it passed through the custody of the west midlands police after the bombings.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) asks whether I have information that might lead to their apprehension. Of course not—because they all got away—but they all passed through through the hands of the west midlands police after the pub bombings. They were not apprehended because nobody was looking for them, since four people had already confessed.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

Is it not significant that, when we are discussing the enormously important issue of people being wrongfully locked up for many years and about our criminal justice system malfunctioning, all we get from those who oppose us on these matters is a sort of game? Instead of listening to my hon. Friend's explanation. they try to divert the argument. We are talking about the credibility of our criminal justice system, and they are playing games. That brings this House and our criminal justice system into even further disrepute compared with the failure adequately to deal with these matters

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

Yes, but I take comfort from the fact that many hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches—some of whom have put their names to the new clause —do care. I appreciate also that there are some who under no circumstances are upset even by the possibility of innocent people going to the gallows. I am heartened, however, in that many hon. Members who do not share my views on many issues do care, and I am addressing my remarks to them tonight. I cannot help the others. They face a dilemma with which they will have to wrestle.

I come to the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings, which in a way is a more scandalous case because, in my view, the authorities have known from the beginning—probably from three days afterwards, but certainly from six months after the arrest of four innocent people—that they had the wrong people. There has never been any serious evidence against those people. There are the confessions of one man, Paul Hill. Those confessions had to be rewritten six or seven times in police custody to accord with each set of facts as they became available. Those half dozen or seven confessions formed the basis of the conviction, not merely of the four people who were done for the Guildford and Woolwich murders, but also of the conviction of the seven other people—Mrs. Maguire and her family, a totally innocent family—who were convicted in connection with making those bombs.

They also, incidentally, formed the basis of the arrest of 31 people, many of whom had to be released because no serious evidence could be found against them and because they were able to produce cast-iron alibis. It was pot luck. They just hung on to the seven who could not come up with cast-iron alibis. As I say, this is more outrageous because the authorities knew from the beginning of this case, whereas in the Birmingham case it only gradually dawned on them that something was seriously wrong.

I will mention a conversation I had with Gerard Conlan. He did not offer this to me as something I should bring to the House and shout about. It was an anecdote he told about something that happened to him after he had been in custody for three days and after he had signed his confession and was signing everything they put in front of him. He said, "The police said to me, 'Now Gerry, we are going to take you for a drive round Guildford so you can show us where you went to plant the bombs.' He told me he was desperate to co-operate with them, that he would do anything after spending three days and nights with the officers. As I say, he was signing anything they put in front of him.

The problem was that he had never before set foot in Guildford in his life. They put him in the back of a police car and started driving through Guildford. He was taking them down one-way streets and cul-de-sacs and they were getting more and more mad, until in the end they said, "We have had enough of this," and they took him back to the police station, slung him in the cells and closed the door.

After perhaps 20 minutes a face—presumably that of a police officer—appeared at the little flap in the cell door and a voice said, "That confession you've given us: a load of fairy tales, isn't it?" "Yes," he replied. "You didn't do it, did you?" asked the voice. "No," he replied. "We know that," said the voice, "but we need bodies. We're going to do you."

That was day three. I do not make much of that because it is an anecdote and Gerard Conlan has never sought to make much of it. But six months later they certainly found out who had done it because by accident they caught the people who had—the Balcombe street IRA unit, three of four members of which were responsible, along with two other members who got away but who, I believe, were subsequently apprehended in connection with other matters. It is evident from their actions that the authorities knew from the moment they caught those people that they had got the wrong people. The problem was that they had just put away the wrong people. The members of the Balcombe street IRA unit were able to describe in such detail how they had done it that it was not possible to go on pretending any longer that they had not.

11.45 pm

What did the authorities do? They paced up and down and round in circles; they decided to charge the Balcombe street people with everything but the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings. When the Balcombe street people came up in court they all got up and said that as members of the Provisional IRA they would not normally recognise a British court, but because innocent people had been convicted of offences for which they were guilty they proposed to plead not guilty to all the offences.

An enormous amount of fraud and perjury had to be committed. At one stage a forensic scientist in the witness box had a chart. The chart showed how all the different bombs were connected with each other; they all had the same Ever-Ready batteries and used the same Smith's alarm system, the same timing devices and all the rest of it. It was put to the Crown forensic scientist, "You appear to have missed out the Guildford bomb. Would you not say that it was made the same way?" He said, "Yes." "You appear to have missed out the Woolwich bomb. Would you not say that that was made the same way?" He said, "Yes." He was asked why he had missed those out of his chart. He said, "Because I was told to by that police officer over there." The police officer was called, and he said, "I was told to tell the forensic scientist to miss them out by that inspector over there." The inspector was called, and he said, "I was told to miss them out by the Director of Public Prosecutions." It goes all the way to the top. They knew they had got the wrong people. That is only one example.

Apart from the fact that there was never any serious evidence against them so that it is difficult to come up with new evidence, a big problem in the case of the Guildford and Woolwich people was that the judge was Lord Donaldson, now Master of the Rolls, one of the most senior judges; the prosecutor was Sir Michael Havers, subsequently Lord Chancellor; and one of the chief policemen involved was Commander Imbert, recently knighted, and now Metropolitan Commissioner. That is the set of reputations involved. Conservative Members have told me this. I am not making it up out of Left-wing paranoia. I hear all the time that it is very difficult, given the reputations involved, to persuade those in authority to face up to a problem of this magnitude.

One big problem with the Appeal Court is that many judges, though not all of them of course, are preoccupied with the credibility of the judicial system rather than with justice. I should like to give one small illustration. Lord Denning, a very distinguished judge, can always be counted upon to say out loud what others say only in their drawing rooms and in the comfort of their clubs.

When the Birmingham case came before Lord Denning in 1980, as it did briefly when the men were suing the west midlands police in an attempt to get an admission of how the injuries—which no one denies—had been inflicted upon them, Lord Denning said: If the six men win, it will mean that the police were guilty of perjury, that they were guilty of violence and threats,"— he understood what it was all about— that the confessions were involuntary and were improperly admitted in evidence and that the convictions were erroneous. That would mean that the Home Secretary would either have to recommend they be pardoned or he would have to remit the case to the Court of Appeal. This is such an appalling vista that every sensible person in the land would say: It cannot be right that these actions should go any further. He said that the appeal must be dismissed, and dismiss it he did.

However. Lord Denning has been of value to us in this case. It is relevant to the new clause we are discussing because it is a summary of the problem. On the programme "Did you see?" on BBC2 in February of this year he was asked point blank, was it better that one or two innocent people should remain in gaol rather than undermine the credibility of the legal system'? He said, "Certainly." He went on to elaborate that point of view, that the credibility of the system was the priority, that of course it was regrettable but occasionally innocent people would have to suffer.

On the night of the Birmingham judgment, 28 January this year, I had the privilege of sharing a car with Lord Denning between two television studios. It was a journey of about 20 minutes. At each end Lord Denning expressed his absolute confidence in the outcome of the appeal. In the car it was a teeny bit different. He said, "I don't know why they have invited me tonight. I don't know anything about this case." After he had said it two or three times, I gingerly said, "Well, I know the people who did it. They are all alive and well in Ireland." Lord Denning went quiet for a moment and then said, "Oh, that is very anxious." I said, "I thought that that was fairly anxious, too." He said, "I suppose that you know more about this case than anybody else." I said that that was possible. He said, "More than the Appeal Court judges?" I said, "That is possible." He said. "If I were you, I would write a book about it." The book was in its fourth editon at that time and had been one reason why the case had been referred to the Court of Appeal. When the arrived at the BBC studios, Lord Denning's confidence had returned, the red light came on and he even managed a little indignation the second time round.

It is a tragedy that the scale of the mistake is so great that we lack the courage to own up. It is not my intention to rub anyone's face in the case; I just want these six innocent people released. Many people understand that something had gone seriously wrong. Conservative Members understand that—I know, because sometimes they come up privately to shake my hand. A few days after the judgment a Conservative Member said to me, "Chris, you have had an excellent run. Now drop it. You are starting to question the system." He quoted in Latin the phrase—I do not have the appropriate education, but it was obviously something that a judge said in an aberrant moment in years gone by: "Let justice be done even though the heavens shall fall." The hon. Gentleman said, "I do not believe in that. I believe in keeping the heavens in their place. Lay off, Chris. You have had a good run."

Other Conservative Members have said, "Look, Chris, you do not wish to be known as the MP for the Birmingham bombers." I want to be known as someone who cares about justice and allows that care about justice to override practical considerations. I know that that view is shared by many hon. Members on both sides of the House—[Interruption.] For every one who shouts, "Rubbish," there are others who care. Some have come to me. The hon. Member for Harborough has never hesitated, and not because of anything that I have done. He came to his conclusion independently of me and has pursued it remorselessly ever since. I congratulate him and am pleased to stand with him.

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take what I am about to ask him in a constructive spirit. I have been rather shocked to hear him telling us in the past few minutes of a private and confidential conversation in a taxi with an extremely elderly gentleman, a former Master of the Rolls. We have heard only one side of the conversation. I should like to hear the other side. Having broken that confidence—I have a great deal of sympathy for the new clause—will the hon. Gentleman break another confidence and help people like me, who have doubts about this issue, by telling us who are the Birmingham bombers?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

I am happy to address that question in the appropriate forum——

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

I have been cross-examined on that issue by an assistant chief constable and a senior civil servant. The hon. and learned Gentleman may feel disturbed at the breaking of a confidence, but Lord Denning did not say, "You cannot talk about it."

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman is not giving names because he wants to make money out of it.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

The Minister has the nerve to say that I am making money out of it. it has caused me a great deal of inconvenience. That remark disappoints me, coming as it does from the Minister, who is one of the people who will have to deal with the case. Hon. Members should look at the Minister's demeanour and ask themselves whether he is an appropriate person to deal with the matter with the impartiality that his office requires. One expects such abuse from wild men from the backwoods; one does not expect it from a Minister.

Hon. Members:

Tell us who they are.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

I do not share the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) in these matters. Does he agree that had the Minister shown half as much energy and, indeed, venom, in pursuing the truth of the matter, as he showed to my hon. Friend just now, we might have got to the bottom of it some considerable time ago?

I shall not prejudge my hon. Friend's reasons for not naming names; it may be for the sake of his own safety or for other reasons. But suppose that the information that he has given us tonight is correct. Suppose that the west midlands police have knowledge of three of the four people, that four of them passed through their hands at the time of the original investigation and that at least one of them is named in a confidential special branch file in their possession. The only way for those hon. Members who are shouting for names to test the matter is to demand that the Home Secretary investigate the allegations. If the Government do not investigate the allegations and we ultimately find that my hon. Friend has spoken the truth, this will have been one of the greatest derelictions of duty on the part of any Home Secretary or Minister.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Before the hon. Gentleman responds to that, I remind him that the debate is going wide of the new clause, which relates to an independent review body. I invite the hon. Gentleman to relate his remarks to the new clause.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that advice. I was intending to finish by addressing myself specifically to the new clause. I am sure that you, Sir, and the whole House will appreciate the relevance of the two cases into which I have gone in some detail. They are the greatest contemporary alleged miscarriages of justice and therefore are the obvious first candidates for review by an independent review tribunal. They provided much of the impetus for new clause 2.

The Minister will reply shortly. I am not trying to be contentious, but I appeal to him not to give us a rehash of the Home Office reply to the Select Committee in 1983. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then; much has gone wrong and in the light of what has happened, many of the points made then do not stand up to analysis, as I have tried to show. I hope that the Minister will at least attempt to learn some of the lessons. This great tragedy affects not merely the six men and their families, and the 11 innocent people and their families; it casts a shadow over the entire judicial system.

One of the great strengths of the new clause is that it creates a forum for dealing with inadmissible evidence. If the Minister concludes that the new clause is not the appropriate way to do that, I hope that some other way can be found. [Interruption.] The Minister's ventriloquist does not find that a problem, but serious people do. The other problem is that the burden of proof—this was the tenor of the Court of Appeal hearing—is on the defendants to prove that they did not do it, which is far more difficult than proving that they did.

12 midnight

It has come to something when Amnesty International starts to take an interest in cases in EC4 rather than in some of the world's better-known tyrannies. Referring to the Birmingham six appeal, it said: In Amnesty International's opinion the Court of Appeal consistently refused to give the prisoners the benefit of the doubt on any important point in its judgment. It is striking overall that the court did not specifically deal with the cumulative effect of the testimony supporting the prisoners' allegations. It is also striking that, even though, according to the Court, the prisoners' convictions rested on their statements of admission, the testimony of every fresh witness was dismissed as either being dishonest or mistaken or irrelevant. Amnesty International also believes that the extent to which the new evidence about the forensic tests casts doubt on their findings is significant in that, if it had been available at the time of the trial, this evidence would have influenced the manner in which allegations of ill-treatment were assessed by judge and jury. In this regard, the evidence at the appeal hearing concerning the scientific tests, while not proving conclusively that the evidence in the original trial must be rejected totally, adds significantly to the doubt as to its fallibility. This element was not present in the original trial.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal seems to rest on an assessment that the six failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt, or to a standard close to that, that they were ill-treated. Under English law it is for the prosecution to prove that confessions allegedly obtained by physical ill-treatment were not so obtained. Amnesty International believes that this has not been proved."

That is the opinion of a very distinguished body to which hon. Members on both sides of the House have paid tribute when it is dealing with cases of human rights in faraway countries. It is a bit more embarrassing when it comes so close to home. I regret to say that Amnesty International sent that conclusion to the Home Secretary and received in return a letter similar to one that it sometimes receives from East German leaders when they criticise court cases there. He said, "The case has been tried according to our procedure. There is nothing that we can do, so get lost."

Photo of John Butterfill John Butterfill , Bournemouth West

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the prosecution cannot always prove that there was no ill treatment? If it is alleged, it is difficult to prove that it did not occur. If the new clause was accepted, would it not be open to anyone to claim that he had been ill treated and to ask for the entire prosecution case to be set aside?

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

The hon. Gentleman is obviously not familiar with the case. No one disputes that those men were injured. They were covered in injuries, as photographs taken at the time prove. The dispute is about whether those injuries were inflicted when they were in police custody—when the confessions were obtained—or when they were in the care of prison warders. The men say that they were beaten up by both sets of people. The police say that they must have been beaten up by the prison warders. The prison warders concede that they beat them up, too, but say that the men were injured when they arrived. That is the nub of the problem.

There are precedents for setting up a review tribunal along the lines suggested in new clause 2. The two judicial inquiries set up into the Timothy Evans case and the Confait case support that argument. If the Minister rejects what is proposed in new clause 2, I hope that he will at least give some alternatives. He is an intelligent and humane man, and I hope that he will not say that everything in the garden is perfect. That is the view of some of his hon. Friends. He must know that not everything in the garden is perfect and that there are some terrible problems.

Everyone who has studied those cases knows that something is wrong and that British justice is being discredited all round the world. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland can no longer set foot in the United States without a Congressman mentioning the cases of the Birmingham six or the Guildford four. In the Soviet Union, prompted no doubt by our keen interest in human rights there, the appeal cases have received a great deal of publicity. The Soviet Foreign Minister is now mentioning those and related cases when British Ministers start lecturing him on human rights in the Soviet Union. European Members of Parliament challenged the Prime Minister on the cases when she was addressing them. It is getting out of hand now, and it is spreading.

In Ireland, it is believed, rightly or wrongly, that an Irishman charged with a terrorist offence cannot hope for a fair trial in the United Kingdom. If one asks for the evidence for that, people point to the Birmingham, Guilford and Woolwich cases. Those cases may have been a factor and will certainly affect public opinion on the issue of extradition and the failure of an Irish court the other day to extradite Mr. McVeigh. We would be in a better position to occupy the moral high ground if we could point to the fact that we have a legal system through which we can confidently extradite people in the knowledge that they will have a fair trial.

Photo of Mr Roy Beggs Mr Roy Beggs , East Antrim

Does the hon. Gentleman consider that it would be an appropriate time to test the commitment of the Government of the Irish Republic to human rights by encouraging our own Government to seek to extradite those whom he declares there is evidence to believe were guilty of the Birmingham bombing?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will resist the temptation to go out of order. He must keep to the new clause.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

You are quite right, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I shall resist the temptation.

Doubts have been raised in this country by such distinguished persons, not all dangerous extremists, as Cardinal Hume, Lord Devlin, Lord Scarman, Lord Jenkins, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South—a former Home Secretary—the hon. Members for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) and for Harborough and many other distinguished hon. Members who do not share my views on other matters. Those people have studied these cases and know that something is wrong and that something serious needs to be done about them.

The Home Secretary takes a personal interest in those cases. As an intelligent and humane man, he knows that something is wrong. No one can blame him for his reluctance to refer the case to the Court of Appeal in the light of what happened in the Birmingham case. That is why an alternative method of breaking the knot must be found. I hope that, when the Home Secretary comes to pronounce on the Guildford case shortly, he will not take refuge behind the judges, as I regret he has done in the Birmingham case, and say, "The judges have considered the case and, regrettably, there is nothing that can be done. The correct procedures have been followed." That is the response of the bureaucrat and of the "more than my job's worth" man. I believe that the Home Secretary is a bigger man than that. This new clause gives the opportunity to rise above such a bureaucratic approach, to cut the knot, and to do what he knows to be right in these cases.

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

It might be for the convenience of the House if I give the Government's view at this stage, having listened with considerable interest to the explanation of the new clause by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) in his powerful speech, the support given by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr.Mullin) and the powerful speech made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) in his earlier intervention.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough said, the new clause seeks to give statutory force to the recommendation of the Select Committee on Home Affairs in its sixth report in 1982. We have heard a good deal about that report tonight. My hon. Friend is also aware that the Government at the time did not accept the Committee's recommendation. The reasons for our disagreement, which were set out fully in our reply to the Committee, to which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South referred, still hold good. The new clause continues to exemplify the difficulties that the Government saw in 1982, and those reasons are on the record.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I should say at the outset that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is prepared to listen to detailed suggestions about evidence concerning individual miscarriages of justice from my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South or the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. They strongly believe in different ways that those cases are the result of miscarriages of justice. I respect their strength of feeling on this matter.

However, I do not think that this is the right forum, whatever else we debate here tonight, for us to go into the rights and wrongs of individual cases. I do not believe that that was the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough in moving the new clause. This is not: he right arena in which to attempt to do that, and I do not believe that at 12.9 am we are in the right frame of mind. Nor do we sit in the right Chamber in which to debate extremely important issues that affect the welfare of people some of whom have been in prison for a considerable time.

I would prefer, with the agreement of the House, to address my remarks to the amendments to legislation which would change the whole system for dealing with alleged miscarriages of justice. That is an extremely important general issue and I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough indicating assent to that. The matter raises important issues of principle which I believe are best addressed as issues of principle, which is the spirit in which my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough said moved him to present the new clause.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

I understand that the Minister does not want to go into details of cases raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). However, is the Minister aware that Paddy Armstrong, one of the Guildford four, has suffered a nervous breakdown and that a prison move request has been made by his family? Is he also aware that Paul Hill, another of the four, has had 44 prison moves; that Gerard Conlan is, I understand, still in solitary confinement in a very remote prison which his family cannot visit; and that Carol Richardson is under heavy sedation and not allowed visitors?

Will the Minister undertake to look into the welfare of the four prisoners concerned while he examines the report from the Somerset and Avon constabulary? Will he also undertake to look into the reasons why a nun from my constituency, Sister Sarah from St. Joseph's convent in Highgate, has been refused permission to visit any of the four when she simply wants to make entirely humanitarian and beneficial visits? The attitude of the prison authorities and of the Home Office is causing enormous distress to the families concerned. This has nothing to do with the review of the judicial process which the Home Secretary is presumably undertaking now and about which we expect to hear a statement from him in the near future.

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for prison matters is here today. He has heard all that the hon. Gentleman has said. My hon. Friend and the prison directorate are always concerned about the welfare, both mental and physical, of prisoners in the care of the state. My hon. Friend will consider, without commitment, the points made by the hon. Gentleman.

I will return to the theme that I had begun earlier about the need to look very closely at the questions of principle. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) made that point earlier, and I will deal with one or two of the detailed points that he raised shortly.

My starting point is that we are dealing with an extremely sensitive matter of constitutional principle as well as sensitive personal matters for those in gaol, who others allege may have been wrongfully imprisoned. We must consider both in our discussions tonight.

Miscarriages of justice should, as far as possible, be corrected by the courts. That is common ground across the Chamber. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South indicates from a sedentary position that he agrees with me. I am glad about that, because we have courts of law, juries and magistrates courts to settle as fully as possible questions of guilt or innocence of criminal charges, although there are residual cases that interest the hon. Member for Sunderland, South and myself.

I want to develop that point. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has been consistent in his view that, wherever possible, miscarriages of justice should be corrected by the courts and that he would always, with the support of the Lord Chief Justice, be willing to use his power to refer cases to the Court of Appeal more readily. He did so in the case of the Birmingham pub bombers. At present, he has before him papers that should allow him to reach a similar decision in respect of the Guildford and Woolwich cases.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South 12:15 am, 16th June 1988

Having done that in respect of the Birmingham case—and it took two years—the Home Secretary got a kick in the teeth. The Lord Chief Justice had a little message for the Home Secretary, which I quoted earlier. He commented that, as with so many cases referred by the Home Secretary, the more the appeal continued, the more it was found not worth the listening.

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

I do not intend any discourtesy, but I rather wish that I had not given way to the hon. Gentleman. I said that I did not intend to discuss, and I will not discuss, the details of individual cases, because to do so would be wrong in this context.

My hon. Friend's new clause deliberately sweeps aside the principle to which I have referred. It is clear from its text that the proposed review body would not simply be a source of advice to my right hon. Friend on exceptional cases, where reference to the Court of Appeal was not an option, but would in many cases supplant the Court of Appeal entirely. That is a tricky line of thought. It is one thing to retain genuine residual Executive discretion where judicial intervention is not an option, but it is quite another to establish what would turn out to be a competing source of judicial authority, which is what the new clause would achieve.

The proposed review body would supplant the Court of Appeal when the normal judicial process is exhausted, and its decisions would have quasi-judicial authority. Yet, according to subsection (5), the new body, appointed by the Secretary of State of the day, would have the widest discretion as to the procedures to be adopted in any individual case. Presumably, that would include rules of evidence. Would it be right, and acceptable to Parliament, to leave such matters to the discretion of the review body alone?

What also worries me about that suggestion is that the person with the power of appointment will be the then Secretary of State for the Home Department, who will have unfettered freedom to appoint whomsoever he wishes. They could be biased in all sorts of ways against, or in favour of, more or less reference, or of a greater or smaller number of those gaoled allegedly unfairly or unwisely being released. Nothing said by hon. Members so far has dealt with that point.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

When the Home Secretary is considering exercising his prerogative at present, does he keep strictly to the rules of evidence, or does he go wider? Does he not already choose those from the Department who advise him? Is there anything in the new clause that is different from what happens already—excepting that it would admit the public?

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

Of course my right hon. Friend has his advisers. That touches on the point about C4, raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) and other hon. Members, relating to the nature of the advice given to the Home Secretary. Incidentally, as my contribution to open government, I can reveal to the House tonight that C4 has recently been renumbered C3.

Every body, whether the Home Office in the person of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State exercising his discretion or the new body that would be set up by the new clause, will have its advisers. Every body is dependent, to a degree, on the legal advice that comes to it on matters of fact.

The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South, in an important speech—unlike anyone else who has spoken in the debate, he has been Home Secretary—was extremely honest with the House about his views and feelings on the cases with which he was involved. He did not, however, address himself to the possibility that the proposed review body could also be wrong, which causes me to ask where the process stops. It is clear that the process must stop somewhere and that someone must take the decision. What will happen if the Home Secretary of the day disagrees with the advisory body? That is exactly the same as the Court of Appeal disagreeing with the fresh evidence that is put before it. At some stage, someone must take the decision. Despite all the passionately held beliefs of those, such as the hon. Member for Sunderland, South that there are innocent men and women languishing in prison, those people will continue to do so unless and until someone takes the decision to release them. Nothing can persuade the hon. Gentleman that injustice has not been done, but perhaps it will never be possible for him to persuade others that injustice has been done.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

I have tried to follow carefully the Minister's criticisms of the specific proposals in the new clause. I understand them without necessarily agreeing with them. Does he agree that many Ministers have advisory bodies that advise them in the exercise of their functions? If the proposals were merely for a body to advise the Home Secretary in the exercise of his prerogative powers, would that meet with some sympathy on his part?

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has his advisers in C3. He can refer matters to police forces. That course was taken in the case of the alleged miscarriage of justice involving the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombers. My right hon. Friend has powers to consult lawyers if he so wishes.

There is another practical consideration that I wish to put before the House. We have no reason to think that an independent body of any sort will be able in the end to reach better decisions than those that are arrived at by the courts, which are truly independent bodies. Ultimately, it is a matter of judgment on extremely complex issues. These are judgments that in the end we rightly entrust to the courts.

I can reassure the House that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary takes seriously any question of alleged miscarriage of justice. It is important that such cases should be gone into thoroughly—just as thoroughly as they were gone into by the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South when he was Home Secretary. That is because of the effect that they have on the view that there is injustice, which damages the entire system—we do not wish to see the legal system damaged by allegations of injustice—and, above all else, because of the effect on those who are gaoled and who it is alleged are in prison because of miscarriages of justice.

We do not believe that the proposal that is set out in the new clause is right in principle or in practice. Accordingly, I cannot advise the House to support it.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

It is unfortunate—I do not lay the blame entirely at the door of the Government's business managers—that we find ourselves discussing a most important subject so late in the evening.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). It is interesting that Members who have little in common politically, and who would not agree on a wide range of issues, can come together in a common quest for truth and justice, and occasionally will surprise those outside our number who think that everything that we do is devoted to party politics. That is something of which the House should be proud.

It is an essential part of any system of criminal law to arrive at conclusions on facts. There is no infallible method of doing that. There is no institutional or procedural device for ensuring that courts never make mistakes of fact. Sometimes we are confronted with cases in which it is either clearly admitted or pretty well certain that mistakes of fact have been made, and that is some comfort, although of course it does not restore the years of freedom that have been taken away from the individuals concerned. What it does is to raise anxiety about the number of cases in which such mistakes never come to light, and people are in prison protesting their innocence and simply being dismissed.

I do not think that we need be defensive about that. Of the thousands of cases that come before the courts each year, it would be surprising if there were not a small proportion in which the courts got their facts wrong. When we learn of a collection of alleged or real miscarriages of justice—as in Mr. Bob Woffinden's book on the subject—I do not think that we should regard that as a disgrace to our system. I am inclined to think—although none of us knows—that our system probably makes fewer mistakes than many others in the world. It is no disgrace: it simply means that we are not omniscient. It would be a disgrace if, when there was cause for concern, there was no attempt to rectify the matter. It is not admitting a mistake which brings the system into disrepute; it is denying it when there seems to be real reason for anxiety.

In my view, there are three things that we should be doing, and we have been doing them both in Committee and on Report. First, we should be reviewing our procedures to see how we can minimise the mistakes. In Committee we debated whether and when people should be convicted on the basis of uncorroborated confessions. I cannot take that any further tonight, and I do not wish to do so. I had hoped that we would find an opportunity to discuss the desperate underfunding of the forensic service. Forensic scientists can now achieve near-miracles if they are properly funded, both in bringing home guilt and in ensuring that the innocent are not found guilty. One day, when it is within the rules of order, I hope that we can have a discussion on that.

The second thing that I think we should be doing—this is rather different—is considering whether we have the right balance between convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent. There is no way of ensuring that the innocent are never convicted, unless no one is ever convicted. It is sometimes said that it is better for a thousand guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be convicted, but that does not dispose of the problem. What about 5,000 or 10,000? A balance must be struck. Any system of criminal justice is a package, and what we must establish is whether we have got the package about right. Merely increasing the conviction rate does not mean increasing the proper conviction rate.

Thirdly—this is what we are discussing tonight—we require a machinery for examining cases afterwards if there is anxiety about whether a conviction ought to stand. Let me say at once that we must ensure that cases are not reopened lightly. I wholly agree with the Minister that generally it is in everyone's interests that a decision, once reached, should stand—that there should be an element of finality and everyone should know where he is. But that principle cannot be rigidly applied so as to override justice when there is good reason to believe that someone who did not commit an offence is incarcerated in prison, and conversely that someone who did is walking the streets free.

12.30 am

I readily concede that we also need to ensure that these matters should not depend purely on the head of political steam that can be raised for them. We sometimes have to raise a head of political steam because there is no other way of doing anything about it, but the steam that can be raised is not necessarily proportionate to the merits of the case.

It was said earlier in the debate that what has gone wrong in this country can be attributed to two factors, neither of which in itself is discreditable. The first is that the criminal process is adversarial. The court's function is not to ferret out the truth, but to adjudicate between two contestants. One consequence of that is that appeals have been regarded not as taking another look at where the truth lies but as examining the procedure to see whether the game has been played in accordance with the rules and whether everybody has been given a fair chance. That is necessarily based on the assumption that on the day of the trial the accused was at his best, that full justice was done to the presentation of his case and that his legal advisers were operating at 100 per cent. efficiency. If the procedure has been observed, the tendency is to say to somebody who has lost, "You lost a fair game. Hard luck. Now just take it sportingly." That is a little rough on somebody who is serving a life sentence.

Secondly, a jury is regarded as a venerable and valuable institution, and most Opposition Members would agree with that view. In certain other contexts, we would be arguing exactly that case. There has therefore been a reluctance to reverse a jury's verdict. I should be reluctant to say or to do anything that would cast doubt on the value of a jury, but it has led to the approach that if a jury, properly directed as to the law, and where each side has had an opportunity to put its case, has reached a verdict, that verdict is virtually sacrosanct.

The fact is that from time to time there have been cases where the system has come under pressure because everybody has recognised that there has been a miscarriage of justice. Reference has been made in this debate to the case of Adolph Beck in the early years of this century, who was twice the victim of misidentification. That led to the creation in 1907 of the Court of Criminal Appeal. There was also the Timothy Evans case. From time to time, very distinguished people have sought to do something about it. In 1961, Justice set up a committee to look into the matter. One of the members of that committee was Lord Gardiner. A few years later Lord Gardiner was in a position to do something about it. He was responsible for the Criminal Appeal Act 1968. The purpose of that Act was to try to ensure that the Court of Appeal was not circumscribed in the way that has been described.

Clause 1(2) of the 1968 Act says that an appeal may be pursued

  1. "(a) on any ground which involves a question of law alone; and
  2. (b) with the leave of the Court of Appeal, on any ground which involves a question of fact alone, or a question of mixed law and fact, or on any other ground which appears to the Court of Appeal to be a sufficient ground of appeal;".
The Act also says that the Court of Appeal can set aside a conviction on the ground that under all the circumstances of the case it is unsafe or unsatisfactory". Unfortunately, that did not turn out as Lord Gardiner had hoped that it would. He had hoped that the Act would lead the courts to ask, not whether they had followed the correct procedure, but whether they had arrived at a proper and safe result.

The reason was simple. There are advantages in having a legal system that has grown pragmatically over the centuries and a process that has developed its own standards and traditions, but it means that judicial and legal thinking carries the weight of six centuries of legal culture. When Parliament makes a specific provision on a matter of detail, the courts faithfully observe it. When Parliament seeks to change an approach, that is much more difficult to achieve, not because the judges consciously decline to respect the sovereignty of Parliament, but because, just as one cannot make people good or honest by Act of Parliament, so one cannot change people's mental habits by passing a statute.

The courts have not operated in the way that was envisaged when the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 was passed. We are left with some very worrying cases. Whatever our views on the procedures, we cannot fail to be worried by some of the cases that have been mentioned tonight by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South and others. We are left with the nasty feeling that the community, in quite properly protecting itself, has committed a serious injustice against those individuals.

When we mention the word "community", we are on dangerous ground. We use the word "community", to describe togetherness and mutual support, but to the individual the community can be a vast, impersonal and uncomprehending entity. If it makes a mistake, the consequences for the individual can be quite crushing.

I believe that we should be grateful to the hon. Member for Harborough, who raised the issue, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South, whose contributions over the years have made it possible. I hope that the House will support this initiative. If, subsequently, the Minister says, "We should like to redraft this," most Opposition Members will not complain. But accepting the principle would bring real hope to the families who feel utterly frustrated because they think that the truth about their cases will never emerge.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Lest any of my hon. Friends have a heart attack, I shall be very brief.

May I say a good word for the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer)—because he had a good word and the frustration must have been considerable—and for the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin)? It is very difficult for Conservative Members to share that good feeling, because the hon. Member for Sunderland, South is thoroughly obsessed by what he sincerely believes to be a miscarriage of justice for nearly every terrorist who has ever been convicted in this country. Although that is very interesting, I do not think that it has advanced his case.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

I shall not give way, because the hon. Gentleman spoke for a long time.

It has not advanced the case for the new clause, because it asks for an independent review body. The speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South has been thoroughly counter-productive. What we all fear most is that the hon. Member for Sunderland, South would keep the independent review body going.

A case will start with a jury trial, it will then go to the Court of Appeal, and then to the Home Secretary, who will have to refer matters to the independent review body. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South with his voluminous documents, will prove that the matter will require the deepest, the most concerned, the longest and the most thorough consideration. We will never get an end to our criminal trials and no one will ever be convicted. All those who are convicted want to appeal. They will appeal to the Court of Appeal, to the Home Secretary, to the independent review body, to the European Court of Human Rights, and no justice will be done in the land.

There are people in our country who believe that the best way to cure terrorism and the extremes of crime from which our society is suffering is for those who are guilty to be convicted. I do not think that the independent review body is the answer to possible miscarriage of justice. We need an investigative body within the Court of Appeal. We need to strengthen the Court of Appeal, but this proposal would weaken it and that is why I am opposed to it. This new clause amounts to an attack on the basis of the Court of Appeal. People who are tried and cry "miscarriage of justice" are not always the victims of a miscarriage of justice. This proposal will put a new tier into the appeals procedure in the criminal system and lead to a massive amount of delay, bureaucracy, expense and, in the end, injustice.

It is not the proposal that I find strange: it is the fact that some of my hon. Friends—the Members for Harborough (Sir J. Farr), for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) and for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison)—think that to undermine the status of the Court of Appeal, to have more bureacracy and a new tier of appeal that will be fuelled by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, would be good for justice.

It is said that there is public disquiet over the system, but that disquiet is largely the result of media activity. As someone who occasionally sees these problems from the inside, I may say that sometimes the media are justified, but more often than not they are wrong. One outcome of this proposal would be that the media would exercise an ever-increasing influence on referrals and, perhaps, on decisions. Of course the media have an important part to play in our democratic system, but we are slipping into the danger that they are laying claim to take over the decisions in our legal system. The process of justice would not be served by that. It is because I am fearful about the way in which that activity could develop that I am against the proposal.

Our system is not perfect, and we need to improve it, but we will not improve it in this way. We will improve it by equipping the Court of Appeal with an independent power of investigation and a staff of investigators. That would strengthen respect for the court and reduce the chances of a miscarriage of justice. The proposal upon which we are asked to vote now will only weaken the system. Because I am against such a weakening I shall not support it, and I hope that all hon. Members will do likewise.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 124, Noes 43.

Division No. 362][12.42 am
AYES
Alexander, RichardBoscawen, Hon Robert
Amess, DavidBoswell, Tim
Amos, AlanBottomley, Peter
Arbuthnot, JamesBowis, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Bright, Graham
Ashby, DavidBuck, Sir Antony
Atkins, RobertBurt, Alistair
Atkinson, DavidButterfill, John
Batiste, SpencerCarlisle, John, (Luton N)
Beggs, RoyCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCarrington, Matthew
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterChalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Chapman, SydneyMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Chope, ChristopherMeyer, Sir Anthony
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Miller, Sir Hal
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Mills, Iain
Cran, JamesMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Needham, Richard
Davis, David (Boothferry)Neubert, Michael
Devlin, TimNicholson, David (Taunton)
Dunn, BobOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Durant, TonyPaice, James
Evennett, DavidPaisley, Rev Ian
Farr, Sir JohnPatten, Chris (Bath)
Favell, TonyPatten, John (Oxford W)
Fenner, Dame PeggyPorter, David (Waveney)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Portillo, Michael
Forman, NigelPowell, William (Corby)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Forth, EricRhodes James, Robert
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanRyder, Richard
Freeman, RogerShaw, David (Dover)
Gale, RogerShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Garel-Jones, TristanSims, Roger
Gill, ChristopherSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hampson, Dr KeithSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Hanley, JeremySquire, Robin
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Stanbrook, Ivor
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Steen, Anthony
Hind, KennethStern, Michael
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Summerson, Hugo
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Jackson, RobertThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Janman, TimTracey, Richard
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Kirkhope, TimothyWaddington, Rt Hon David
Knapman, RogerWalden, George
Lawrence, IvanWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Lightbown, DavidWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Lilley, PeterWatts, John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Wheeler, John
Lord, MichaelWiddecombe, Ann
Lyell, Sir NicholasWinterton, Nicholas
Maclean, DavidWood, Timothy
Major, Rt Hon John
Malins, HumfreyTellers for the Ayes:
Mans, KeithMr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
NOES
Archer, Rt Hon PeterMcNamara, Kevin
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Mowlam, Marjorie
Beckett, MargaretMullin, Chris
Bermingham, GeraldNellist, Dave
Boateng, PaulPike, Peter L.
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Quin, Ms Joyce
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Randall, Stuart
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Corbyn, JeremyReid, Dr John
Dixon, DonRichardson, Jo
Evans, John (St Helens N)Short, Clare
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelSkinner, Dennis
Fraser, JohnSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Godman, Dr Norman A.Spearing, Nigel
Gordon, MildredTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Vaz, Keith
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyWall, Pat
Haynes, FrankWise, Mrs Audrey
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Worthington, Tony
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Tellers for the Noes:
Macdonald, Calum A.Mr. Alun Michael and Mrs. Llin Golding.
McGrady, Eddie
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

Question accordingly agreed to.

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

The House divided:Ayes 45, Noes 121.

Division No. 363][12.54 am
AYES
Archer, Rt Hon PeterMcKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Ashby, DavidMcNamara, Kevin
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Michael, Alun
Beckett, MargaretMowlam, Marjorie
Boateng, PaulNellist, Dave
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Pike, Peter L.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Quin, Ms Joyce
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Randall, Stuart
Corbyn, JeremyRees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Dixon, DonReid, Dr John
Evans, John (St Helens N)Richardson, Jo
Farr, Sir JohnShort, Clare
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelSkinner, Dennis
Fraser, JohnSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Godman, Dr Norman A.Spearing, Nigel
Golding, Mrs LlinTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Gordon, MildredVaz, Keith
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Wall, Pat
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyWise, Mrs Audrey
Haynes, FrankWorthington, Tony
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Tellers for the Ayes:
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Mr. Chris Mullin and Mr. Gerald Bermingham.
Macdonald, Calum A.
McGrady, Eddie
NOES
Alexander, RichardGale, Roger
Amess, DavidGarel-Jones, Tristan
Amos, AlanGill, Christopher
Arbuthnot, JamesGriffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Hampson, Dr Keith
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Hanley, Jeremy
Atkinson, DavidHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Batiste, SpencerHicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Beggs, RoyHind, Kenneth
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterHowarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Boscawen, Hon RobertHowarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Boswell, TimHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Bottomley, PeterHunt, David (Wirral W)
Bowis, JohnJackson, Robert
Brandon-Bravo, MartinJanman, Tim
Bright, GrahamKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterKirkhope, Timothy
Buck, Sir AntonyKnapman, Roger
Burt, AlistairLawrence, Ivan
Butterfill, JohnLightbown, David
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Lilley, Peter
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Carrington, MatthewLord, Michael
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaLyell, Sir Nicholas
Chapman, SydneyMaclean, David
Chope, ChristopherMajor, Rt Hon John
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Malins, Humfrey
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Mans, Keith
Cran, JamesMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Miller, Sir Hal
Davis, David (Boothferry)Mills, Iain
Devlin, TimMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Dunn, BobMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Durant, TonyNeedham, Richard
Evennett, DavidNeubert, Michael
Favell, TonyNicholson, David (Taunton)
Fenner, Dame PeggyOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Paice, James
Forman, NigelPaisley, Rev Ian
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Patten, Chris (Bath)
Forth, EricPatten, John (Oxford W)
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanPorter, David (Waveney)
Freeman, RogerPortillo, Michael
Powell, William (Corby)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rhodes James, RobertTracey, Richard
Ryder, RichardVaughan, Sir Gerard
Shaw, David (Dover)Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Walden, George
Sims, RogerWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Soames, Hon NicholasWatts, John
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Wheeler, John
Squire, RobinWiddecombe, Ann
Stanbrook, IvorWinterton, Nicholas
Steen, AnthonyWood, Timothy
Stern, Michael
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Tellers for the Noes:
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnMr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Summerson, Hugo
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Question accordingly negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned.—[Mr. Garel-Jones.]

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Dewsbury

I wish to object strongly to the motion. Opposition Members see no reason whatever why we should adjourn consideration of the Bill at this hour —which is comparatively early for the House of Commons. We are gratified by the interest shown by Conservative Members, although it is strange that they are here on a whipped basis whereas Opposition Members are here out of interest. It is significant that throughout our debates today the Opposition Benches have been far fuller than the Conservative Benches.

It seems that the Government are suffering from a strange panic at this state of affairs. They moved a closure on the last group of amendments when hon. Members on both sides of the House still wished to speak. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that only 121 Conservative Members voted in the last Division; I suppose that the Government fear that the figure will fall below the magical 100 needed for a Division if we continue the business.

The issues that we have been discussing today are extremely important, and we have heard important contributions from both sides of the House. To enlighten those Conservative Members who have not been here during all our proceedings, perhaps we should remind them of exactly what we have been discussing.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for gross intimidation of Government Back-Bench Members to take place to prevent them from exercising their freedom to return home at this time of night because of the Government's determination to keep more than 100 Members here? It is a gross infringement of the rights of Members of this House—

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I know nothing about any intimidation. The only thing that is delaying us is these speeches.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Dewsbury

Perhaps we should return to the difficult task of enlightening Conservative Members about what we have been discussing today. It seems that they are afraid to leave and that some arm-twisting is going on. The problems in the Government Whips Office seem to be increasing all the time.

The House has discussed reporting restrictions on Crown court proceedings and torture—the latter is pertinent to Conservative Members at this late hour. In Committee the Minister gave assurances on both issues, and we pay tribute to him for returning to the House this evening and fulfilling those assurances. We also discussed extradition, so that the Government could make yet another correction to a Bill that has been through the House of Commons once already—before the general election—through every stage in the House of Lords and through a Committee of the House. Yet at this late stage the Government are having to correct some of its basic provisions.

The House also had to discuss two completely new issues. Government new clause 79 dealt with the enforcement of Northern Ireland orders in Scotland. The Government were not ready to introduce it even at the Committee stage of the Bill. My hon. Friends and the Minister spent a grand total of 20 minutes on that new clause, which is hardly a filibuster by anyone's standards.

Government new clause 80 dealt with body samples in Northern Ireland. Again, the Government did not tell us before Report that they intended to introduce that issue into the Bill. Depite the fact that it was a controversial and completely new measure, the House spent only one hour and two minutes discussing it. I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the House has not been tardy, but has made progress.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South

Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem with adjourning the debate now is that it may give the Minister another weekend in which to think up more amendments? When the Bill was in Committee, after every weekend adjournment new ideas were brought before us.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Dewsbury

My hon. Friend is right. Every time we had an adjournment, even during the week, we always had new amendments from the Government. The problem was that most of them——

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Were bright new ideas.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Dewsbury 1:15 am, 16th June 1988

They were not bright new ideas. Most of the amendments were to correct Government mistakes in legislation that has been before both Houses of Parliament twice during the past couple of years. We still have to discuss 191 separate Government amendments to correct provisions in the Bill.

The debate that we should have been having this evening includes some important issues that Opposition Members believe deserve proper discussion. That is why we are willing to stay in the House tonight and discuss those matters at greater length. They include not only new clauses tabled by Opposition Members, but new clauses and amendments tabled by Conservative Members. They include, for example, the question of children giving evidence through video recordings, a subject that I should have thought would be of concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House. That is covered by the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) as well as by Opposition Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] I do not know where Conservative Members are, but I know where Opposition Members are. They are in the Chamber and ready to discuss the issue as soon as the Government give way and allow us to make progress tonight.

The measures also include a new clause on corporal punishment tabled by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos). He may believe that it is too late, but we are certainly willing to discuss the matter. The measures also include new clause 16, tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), in which there is a great deal of public interest of which we are all aware. Perhaps the explanation for our early adjournment is that the Government are afraid of being seen to state their case so clearly on new clause 16.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Chipping Barnet

Many hon. Members are particularly interested in new clause 16. The hon. Lady appears to be complaining that the new clause should have been reached, yet was not reached. Surely one reason why it was not reached was that the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) went on far too long.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Dewsbury

The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I am not complaining that new clause 16 has not been discussed. It could still be discussed this evening, and I do not understand why the Government have moved tins motion to prevent discussion on new clause 16. We would rather stay here and discuss many of the other important measures tabled for debate this evening. We should like to discuss the sale of knives to juveniles, an important issue in society at present, with the increase in violence. We would have been happy to discuss the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks), although we disagree with it.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

When may we discuss new clause 16? What is the hon. Lady's estimate of the time?

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Dewsbury

I hope that the Government will reconsider their position. If the hon. Gentleman is telling me that Ministers are now willing to withdraw the motion, we will be able to talk about that matter tonight. Why do we not make progress? I shall not say how long Conservative Members will talk on these issues. Many Conservative Members who have spoken tonight have taken just as much time as Opposition Members, with one exception, which was due to a very good case and some provocation from Conservative Members.

There are other important issues that we could continue to debate this evening and that the Government are trying to squeeze into a very crowded parliamentary timetable next week, including income-related fines, anonymity in rape cases and breath tests and the amount of alcohol that people are allowed in their blood when they are driving. We should have debated the important issue of the suspension of passports—the subject of a proposal tabled by a Conservative Member.

All those issues are important and they could still be debated this morning. I do not understand why the Government are panicking now. There is no suggestion at this stage that the Government business for tomorrow will be lost. There are many hours to go before we reach tomorrow's business. If the Minister proposes to press the motion, I hope that he will tell us when we will have adequate time to discuss all those issues.

The Government have already told us that they expect the remaining stages of the Bill to be completed on Monday. Is the Minister saying that all the new clauses that I have mentioned, the Opposition amendments and the 191 Government amendments will all be debated and voted upon on Monday? That will not allow the House sufficient time to deal seriously with these issues. We strongly object to the motion, and we demand extra time for the Bill if the Government insist on taking it off the agenda this morning.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Vice-Chair, Labour Party

I think that the Minister is offended. I do not know what you do with Ministers when they get offended, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that you will have to make some reparation because once they have the sulks, you have to look after them. The Minister is one of the up-and-coming, rising stars of the Tory party. At least, they said so several years ago. I am not sure, after tonight's performance, that The Daily Telegraph and the other so-called quality press will be saying that.

I have listened to this legal filibuster tonight. At least I thought it was going to be a legal filibuster before you took over the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I have been around this place for a while—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Too long."] Conservative Members should sing it. They are all in chorus.

I wondered what would happen when the legal wallahs got together tonight. I came into the Chamber at about 8 pm. I noticed that the debate did not start until 5.39 pm. I said to one of my mates then, "When these lawyers get started, this will last a long time." One hon. Member, who is not a lawyer, has dropped off. I can understand the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) being tired, because he was up all night on the Housing Bill and he wanted to go to Ascot. I think that he went to Ascot today and he probably backed the Gold Cup winner, which then got disqualified. I have probably hit the nail on the head there. I think that there should be a stewards' inquiry into why the hon. Member for Crawley is dropping off while I am speaking.

When I came into the Chamber, I thought, "All these lawyers are talking like a snobs' filibuster." There were Privy Councillors and hon. Members could not get in to speak, not even if they cried out. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) was called. I thought, "Well, that makes a break because he is not a lawyer."

Immediately my hon. Friend began to speak, the Conservatives heckled him. Those people have been in the law courts all day. They pick up £30,000 a year on top of their parliamentary salaries. A layman then comes along and talks like a lawyer. Anybody dropping into the Chamber might have thought, "Hello, there's another one." My hon. Friend might have been trying hard—I do not know—but immediately he began, the so-called genteel hon. and learned Members started to heckle him.

On top of that, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlisle)—the so-called salad lawyer, who belongs to the party that dare not speak its name —did not get called, and, to make reparation, he intervened. He reckons that he is one of the so-called liberals and is humanitarian down to his toenails. Nevertheless, he attacked my hon. Friend's speech on some great libertarian issue, only because the hon. and learned Gentleman was mad at not getting the first chance to talk about it.

I was looking forward to a long night. I noticed the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) enter the Chamber with a stack of law books. When Members arrive with law books, one knows that they will put an hour or two under their belts.

I examined the amendments to learn which subjects were to be debated. I saw that they included video recordings, water fluoridation, exemption from jury service and the sale of knives. On and on they went. I thought that I would be able to sit back, for they were nothing to do with me. I thought also that the debate would be above board, and that there would be no arguments about filibustering when the lawyers got started.

The time is nearly half past one in the morning. It is still early. Debate on this Bill did not begin until 5.39 pm, but the Tories have already thrown in the towel.

Photo of Mr Donald Dixon Mr Donald Dixon , Jarrow

They have the weekend off.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Vice-Chair, Labour Party

It is a cushy number, when one thinks about it. We have been on night shift once this week, and I tried to organise three more. I thought we would have another one tonight, but the Government have thrown in the towel. The Labour Front Bench was threatened by the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House yesterday with having the Short money taken away for allegedly losing control. Now that the Government have lost control of their business, I believe that all their Whips should lose their money. [Interruption.] I heard one or two remarks then from the Conservative Benches suggesting that I have some support for that idea.

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know Standing Orders inside out. Let us have a snap vote under Standing Order No. 30—count hon. Members in the Chamber before they change their minds and before the Whips have twisted their arms. The Government have lost control.

Neither is the situation fair to the Chair. Word went around earlier that it was going to be a lawyers' night, and that the debate would last into the early hours of the morning. Accordingly, Mr. Speaker and the Deputy Speakers have made various arrangements, but now they will all fall by default. I am not a lawyer, but I think that the Bill will be guillotined.

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The Government would not dare do that.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Vice-Chair, Labour Party

There is now a guillotine on the Housing Bill. The Government have so much business that they do not know which way to turn. Notwithstanding all the important hon. and learned Members who want to contribute, I believe that a guillotine motion will be introduced for this Bill next week. I may tell my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) that the House will not be allowed to discuss the topics that she mentioned earlier. They will all have to go by the board when the Government introduce another guillotine to cut this Bill's throat.

We ought to carry on. Those hon. Members who prepared for another all-night sitting should join my hon. Friends in the Division Lobbies to ensure that we may have another vote.

There is another reason why we should not stop this debate. The Strangers' Gallery is full. All those people are interested in the Bill and in the amendments. The Government should reverse their decision and allow the House to carry on through the night. We can go straight through the weekend if we like. What is wrong with that?

Royal Ascot finishes tomorrow, so we do not have that to worry about. We do not have to bother about watching England on the box. As near as damn it, the English football team has been knocked out of the European championship. We might as well continue discussing the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury wants to continue, and we have a reserve team outside that will arrive later in the morning. What are we to do? Are we to send a signal to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer)—he has missed three or four Divisions this evening—who is hot-footing it back to the House to take part in the proceedings tomorrow?

For all the reasons that I have advanced, I think that we should continue.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South 1:30 am, 16th June 1988

There are two short, sharp reasons, which perhaps the Minister will take on board over the weekend, for not adjourning the debate tonight. A number of new clauses are in jeopardy. Those new clauses contain ideas that cross party boundaries. I draw the Minister's attention to new clause 16, which stands in the names of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), myself and others.

If the Minister can be bothered to listen, I suggest that he should take two lessons away with him to consider over the weekend. First, it is clear that new clause 16 has all-party support. If he looks around, he will see that it has the support of many ordinary, decent people. There are many who are strongly in favour of it. Secondly, those who practise in the courts know of the problems and the embarrassments that are sometimes associated with jury service. Rumour has it that the Minister is not in favour of new clause 16, but he might like to spend the weekend asking those who practise in the courts what they feel about the reluctant juror.

At the beginning of the century, anyone who was reluctant to fight in the armed services was castigated and attacked. Time has taught us that some of the bravest men in the world were those who conscientiously objected to fighting, but were prepared to give their lives willingly on the battlefield as stretcher bearers. That sort of attitude and change of attitude—[Interruption.] I regret, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we have reached the stage in the evening when we witness what might almost be described as loutish behaviour on the Government Benches. If Conservative Members have comments to make, perhaps they will rise from their semi-sedentary or lying positions —I mean lying in the sense of being flat out—and be kind enough to intervene.

I am prepared always to give way and to listen to any intelligent remarks that Conservative Members may care to make. I regret that on occasions snide, snarled and rude remarks are made by Conservative Members. Such comments do them no credit. We have watched and identified, and those who watch us generally have done so as well. If the hon. Gentleman in the middle of the back row of Benches above the Gangway, who is lying on his side, wants to call me rude names. have the courage to stand up and do it, boyo.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That was a complete and absolute gratuitous insult, and it was entirely untrue. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) has not yet made any real comment on the motion. He is indulging in time wasting, bad behaviour and unparliamentary behaviour.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I shall stop the hon. Gentleman before he goes too far. I do not know whether the House understood to whom the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) was referring, but I did not. It might help if the House were to allow the hon. Gentleman to proceed with his speech.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I heard what was said and I ignored it. As always, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rely upon your protection in this place. I know of the fairness that is shown by the Chair.

I return to the question of the adjournment of the debate. Perhaps the Minister will take time to consider new clause 83, which seeks to reduce the permitted level of alchohol in the bloodstream in drink-driving cases. It is clear from what is now being said by the experts—and the same feeling can be found in many parts of the land—that the time has come for the question of drinking and driving to be considered seriously again.

I deprecate the motion to adjourn the debate. I have —perhaps naughtily—used the opportunity to mention to the Minister two matters that are of considerable concern to me, and indeed to hon. Members of all parties. I hope that over the weekend the Minister will take on board those few simple thoughts and spare a little time to reflect that outside this place a considerable number of people are desperately concerned about those two issues. Perhaps on Monday wisdom will reign and the two new clauses will pass into law.

Photo of Mr Allen McKay Mr Allen McKay , Barnsley West and Penistone

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want to raise a question through you, as I am a little disturbed about new clause 16. I received a letter this morning—which means that it must have been posted yesterday—which clearly indicates that new clause 16 will be guillotined out. We are so near to that new clause that it seems significant that we should be closing the debate at this stage. Can we hear from the Minister that new clause 16 will be debated?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Obviously I cannot be responsible for, or answer to, anything that may be contained in a letter to any hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman has asked the Minister. Perhaps it would have been sensible to allow the Minister to comment.

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

I find myself in some difficulty. I do not have the letter to which the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) has referred, so I cannot comment on it.

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

That is very kind of the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Members for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) and for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and the Opposition Whip, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding), will I think agree that the Committee stage was very instructive throughout, and was conducted in a very good-humoured way. The Government responded to Opposition Members as constructively as they could on a number of occasions, and at no time was there any rancour in the many hours of debate.

I believe—or, rather, suspect—that when the hon. Member for Dewsbury addressed her cornflakes and coffee, or whatever she had for breakfast, she did not believe that by 1.37 am the next day we would have made so little progress on the Bill. I think that she suspected that by 1.37 am she would be safely tucked up in bed signing constituency correspondence or reading an agreeable book, but certainly not still here, our having made relatively little progress on the Bill.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Dewsbury

I do not wish to go further into my habits at breakfast or anything else of that kind, but if we were all so sure that we would make such quick progress, why did the Minister report to the Opposition Whip that he had brought his flannelette pyjamas this morning?

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

I do not want to fall into the same trap as the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) in reporting private conversations, but I am bound to say that I think that I had better. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme quipped to me behind the Chair, "Have you brought your nightie?" I simply answered that I had not, but that I was otherwise fully prepared to discuss these matters. I see that the hon. Lady does not dissent from the joke that she directed at me: she has not denied that those were her words.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Why did she think that my hon. Friend wanted a nightie?

Photo of Mr John Patten Mr John Patten , Oxford West and Abingdon

My hon. Friend raises a question that he had better ask the hon. Lady, perhaps behind the Chair. He may get a better answer than I did.

I do not believe that the hon. Member for Dewsbury thought this morning that we should not make the kind of progress that was characteristic of the whole of the Committee stage. We have had some important debates, some of which have been rather long. I believe that important issues are best discussed when hon. Members have had a chance to reflect on the considerable contrast between the proceedings today and those in Committee, when there was all-party agreement. It would be much better to address next Monday to such important issues as video-recorded evidence, exemption from jury service and the carrying of knives.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

Before the Minister sits downs——

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. Has the Minister concluded his speech?

Photo of Mr Tony Worthington Mr Tony Worthington , Clydebank and Milngavie

The Minister was quite right to refer to a constructive Committee stage. All those who served on the Committee came to the Chamber hoping that that constructive attitude would continue, and my impression is that that is what has occurred. However, one of the problems is that the Minister thinks that he can get a seat on the Cabinet by introducing a new clause every day. He works according to some obscure productivity bonus. There are 27 new clauses. They were not examined by the Committee.

This Bill started its progress through Parliament shortly after the second world war. When I saw my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) the other day, he told me that he remembered serving in a Committee on the Bill when he had hair. If we are to do justice to the Government's legislation, what are we to do when 27 new clauses and 200 new amendments are thrown at us? The Minister admitted tonight that he had made a mistake; he had remembered the colonies, and they were suddenly brought into the Bill. After considering these matters for nearly 40 years, the colonies were remembered, but no hon. Member could spontaneously remember where or what the colonies were.

Immensely important issues have still to be considered. We have been making steady progress. I deny that there has been any filibustering. The Opposition are enthusiastic about continuing the consideration of important issues. Given the interest that has been expressed in the subject, one feels a particular sense of guilt about being unable to consider tonight the matter of conscientious objection to jury service. It would be disgraceful if the House did not consider that issue, having given the impression that it would be considered today after interest had been expressed in the subject. Public interest has also been expressed in another important issue—video evidence. It would be a great pity if consideration of that issue had to wait until next week.

I agree with my hon. Friends that we ought to continue the proceedings and deal with those issues. We are at our best now. The Minister said that he was at his best in the morning, but the Opposition are fighting fit and ready to continue. This hand-picked team has been asked rigorously to consider the Bill. When we run out of steam round about next Thursday, our second team will come in.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:

The House proceeded to a Division

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I recognise that if the Government Whips choose to close the debate by a procedural motion on a matter of such importance, that is a matter of courtesy, rather than a matter for the Chair, and we have to bear it with fortitude. I raise a point of order for the good name of the House.

People in the Strangers Gallery may think that the attitude of the House during the past few minutes has been somewhat frivolous. Those who are Members of the House know that this happens from time to time and that it does not diminish the attention that we give to the importance of the business.

People in the Gallery are technically strangers, but they have been sitting there all day because they have a very real interest in new clause 16.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that in our proceedings we take no account of those who are outside the Chamber. It is contrary to our usual practice to make any reference to them. Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right to draw attention to the character of our proceedings during the past few minutes, nothing has occurred that is out of order, and there is certainly nothing for me to deal with.

The House having divided: Ayes 114, Noes 24.

Division No. 364][1.44 am
AYES
Alexander, RichardKnapman, Roger
Amess, DavidLawrence, Ivan
Amos, AlanLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Arbuthnot, JamesLilley, Peter
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Lord, Michael
Ashby, DavidLyell, Sir Nicholas
Atkinson, DavidMaclean, David
Batiste, SpencerMajor, Rt Hon John
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnMalins, Humfrey
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterMans, Keith
Boscawen, Hon RobertMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Boswell, TimMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bottomley, PeterMeyer, Sir Anthony
Bowis, JohnMiller, Sir Hal
Brandon-Bravo, MartinMills, Iain
Bright, GrahamMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterMoynihan, Hon Colin
Buck, Sir AntonyNeedham, Richard
Burt, AlistairNeubert, Michael
Butterfill, JohnNicholson, David (Taunton)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Carrington, MatthewPaice, James
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaPatten, Chris (Bath)
Chapman, SydneyPatten, John (Oxford W)
Chope, ChristopherPorter, David (Waveney)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Portillo, Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Powell, William (Corby)
Cran, JamesRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Currie, Mrs EdwinaRyder, Richard
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Shaw, David (Dover)
Davis, David (Boothferry)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Devlin, TimSims, Roger
Dunn, BobSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Farr, Sir JohnSoames, Hon Nicholas
Favell, TonySpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Fenner, Dame PeggyStanbrook, Ivor
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Steen, Anthony
Forman, NigelStern, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Forth, EricStradling Thomas, Sir John
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanSummerson, Hugo
Freeman, RogerTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Gale, RogerThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Garel-Jones, TristanThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Gill, ChristopherTracey, Richard
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Hampson, Dr KeithWaddington, Rt Hon David
Hanley, JeremyWalden, George
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Hind, KennethWatts, John
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Wheeler, John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Widdecombe, Ann
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Winterton, Nicholas
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Wood, Timothy
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Jackson, RobertTellers for the Ayes:
Janman, TimMr. David Lightbown and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Kirkhope, Timothy
NOES
Archer, Rt Hon PeterMichael, Alun
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Mowlam, Marjorie
Beggs, RoyMullin, Chris
Bermingham, GeraldNellist, Dave
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Paisley, Rev Ian
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Short, Clare
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Skinner, Dennis
Dixon, DonTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Gordon, MildredVaz, Keith
Haynes, FrankWorthington, Tony
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Tellers for the Noes:
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Mrs. Llin Golding and Mr. Allen McKay.
McNamara, Kevin

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned:—

The House divided: Ayes 114, Noes 21.

Division No. 365][2.00 am
AYES
Alexander, RichardKirkhope, Timothy
Amess, DavidKnapman, Roger
Amos, AlanLawrence, Ivan
Arbuthnot, JamesLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Lilley, Peter
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Ashby, DavidLord, Michael
Atkinson, DavidLyell, Sir Nicholas
Batiste, SpencerMaclean, David
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnMajor, Rt Hon John
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterMalins, Humfrey
Boscawen, Hon RobertMans, Keith
Boswell, TimMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Bottomley, PeterMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bowis, JohnMeyer, Sir Anthony
Brandon-Bravo, MartinMiller, Sir Hal
Bright, GrahamMills, Iain
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Buck, Sir AntonyMoynihan, Hon Colin
Burt, AlistairNeedham, Richard
Butterfill, JohnNeubert, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Carrington, MatthewOnslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaPaice, James
Chapman, SydneyPatten, Chris (Bath)
Chope, ChristopherPatten, John (Oxford W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Porter, David (Waveney)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Portillo, Michael
Cran, JamesPowell, William (Corby)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Ryder, Richard
Davis, David (Boothferry)Shaw, David (Dover)
Devlin, TimShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Dunn, BobSims, Roger
Durant, TonySmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Farr, Sir JohnSoames, Hon Nicholas
Favell, TonySpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Fenner, Dame PeggyStanbrook, Ivor
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Steen, Anthony
Forman, NigelStern, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Forth, EricSummerson, Hugo
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Freeman, RogerThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Gale, RogerThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Garel-Jones, TristanTracey, Richard
Gill, ChristopherVaughan, Sir Gerard
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Waddington, Rt Hon David
Hampson, Dr KeithWalden, George
Hanley, JeremyWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Watts, John
Hind, KennethWheeler, John
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Widdecombe, Ann
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Winterton, Nicholas
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Wood, Timothy
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Tellers for the Ayes:
Jackson, RobertMr. David Lightbown and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Janman, Tim
NOES
Archer, Rt Hon PeterHaynes, Frank
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Beggs, RoyJones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Bermingham, GeraldLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)McNamara, Kevin
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Mullin, Chris
Dixon, DonNellist, Dave
Golding, Mrs LlinPaisley, Rev Ian
Gordon, MildredSkinner, Dennis
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Tellers for the Noes:
Vaz, KeithMr. Allen McKay and Mr. Alun Michael.
Worthington, Tony

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered this day.