Required Custodial Sentences

Part of Schedule 3 – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 2 April 2001.

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Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans) 7:45, 2 April 2001

No, the Minister has not, although I have been able to review the written proceedings of several. It would be quite a pleasant way of spending an afternoon—it would certainly be informative—but so far I have not had the time.

As for the Human Rights Act 1998, we have made many changes. We have brought procedures into line with the European convention on human rights. We have removed any apparent influence of the chain of command over the administration and conduct of courts martial. The European Court of Human Rights has recognised our actions, and, in the judgment on the Findlay case, noted the changes that we have made with satisfaction, saying that the United Kingdom authorities had made changes to the court martial system with a view to ensuring the observance of their convention commitments.

The Bill itself has been certified by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, on the basis of legal advice, as being compatible with convention rights. That means not just that specific proposals in the Bill are compatible, but that the three service discipline Acts that will remain in force under it are as well. Ensuring that that happens has meant checking that all our procedures are compatible with the convention. Most of them already were: after all, we signed the convention nearly 50 years ago.

We are not complacent; we are always prepared to review legislation. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead would be very surprised if I said that I agreed with the principle that he is trying to apply, but I certainly agree with his aim, which is to make the system as compatible as possible with the civil disciplinary system, and as fair, open and transparent as possible.