Child Cruelty (Law of Evidence)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11 March 1993.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon 12:00, 11 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the NSPCC research on the law of evidence in child cruelty cases.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have asked the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to let me have the results of its research in this area. I will assess its contents once I have received the reports.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the concern of the police, the general public and others about the right to silence? Does he agree that it was the Conservative Government who increased the maximum sentence against cruelty to children from two to 10 years and that it was the socialists in the Opposition who opposed the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which allowed for that provision and allowed tougher sentences generally? How does that square with the conversion of the socialists in the Opposition to law and order, as was demonstrated by the disgraceful scenes in the Chamber last night?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I agree with my hon. Friend, first, that the time has come to look again at the so-called right to silence in all criminal cases. However, it must be looked at with care. I have given evidence on the subject to Lord Runciman's royal commission. We should all wait for the report of the royal commission before we come to conclusions on that subject.

On the second question, it is the case that we increased the maximum penalty for child cruelty to 10 years in the 1988 Act. The Labour party voted against that Bill, as it has voted against every Bill that we introduced in the 1980s to strengthen the powers of the court. Judging from yesterday, its track record will continue in the same negative vein.

Photo of Bill Olner Bill Olner , Nuneaton

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the ultimate cruelties that can be done to a child is for one of its parents to abduct it from its other parent and take it abroad? Will he keep up the funding for the organisation called Re-unite, which is the National Council for Abducted Children? Does he agree that that organisation does a tremendous job not only for parents who have their children abducted but for his Department? The timing is crucial for keeping up that funding.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the cases to which he refers and the devastating effect that abduction can have on families. We have received an application for funding from the organisation to which the hon. Gentleman refers and we are considering it carefully.