Criminal Justice

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 27th February 1997.

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Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard The Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:32 pm, 27th February 1997

I begin by acknowledging the good sense of the first few words of the hon. Gentleman's response to my statement, when he said that the report that I am publishing today deserves detailed consideration; that is indeed what it deserves. Unfortunately, having begun his response in that way, the hon. Gentleman proceeded to dismiss out of hand one of the report's central recommendations.

The hon. Gentleman seems to have entirely overlooked the way in which I dealt with that recommendation in my statement. I said that we would want to consider both that recommendation and the recommendation relating to indictable only offences starting in the Crown court particularly carefully in the light of views expressed, and expressly said that if other avenues of approach were suggested, we would of course consider them. Taken as a whole, however, the report represents a coherent package of measures, which together could have a dramatic impact on delays in our courts. Those of our fellow citizens who come into contact with such delays day after day, in all sorts of capacities—as witnesses, as victims and as jurors—want action to be taken to deal with those delays, and, taken as a whole, the package represents a significant way forward.

The hon. Gentleman referred to his party's proposals to reform the Crown Prosecution Service, and to my initial response to those proposals. It is perfectly true that I opposed Labour's proposals for reform when the hon. Gentleman announced them—because they were the wrong proposals for reform. They would have led to widespread dislocation, and would have been entirely counter-productive.