"A Criminal Code for England and Wales"

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1989.

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Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland 12:00 am, 13th July 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the report of the Law Commission No. 177: "A Criminal Code for England and Wales".

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

The Law Commission's report has only recently been presented to Parliament. The Government are at present studying its proposals.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

The Minister will be aware that his father was not satisfied with that answer in another place. Does he acknowledge that these proposals, conceived when my right hon. Friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead was Home Secretary 21 years ago, have truly come of age? Does he accept, in the words of the Law Commission, that it is crucial to the liberty of the individual and the protection of society that people should easily have access to the criminal law? Does he also accept that their implementation would save time and money and would modernise the criminal law by making it more accessible, comprehensible, consistent and certain?

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

I certainly agree that the report was produced by a team of extremely distinguished contributors, both lawyers and academics. The report deserves the closest possible consideration by the Government, which it will be given. There are undoubtedly a substantial number of advantages in codification, but there are also some objections to be considered. We have to come to a balanced view, after full consideration.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

Will my hon. Friend remember that whereas the existing corpus of criminal law is, for the most part, pretty clear and understandable, the introduction of a totally new code, using new language and new concepts and even introducing changes of substance, as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), would lead to fiendish complexity and give employment only to the lawyers?

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

My hon. Friend has identified some of the problems that are foreseen. One could never codify the criminal law in its entirety. It is at least possible that one might inhibit the courts in their development of the criminal law. However, it is a distinguished report which deserves careful consideration.