Criminal Justice System

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:08 pm on 13th January 2003.

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Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:08 pm, 13th January 2003

I beg to move, To leave out from XHouse" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

Xwelcomes the steps the Government has taken and continues to take to reform all aspects of law enforcement including increasing police numbers to record levels and the 6.1 per cent. increase in police funding for 2003–04;
further welcomes the steps the Government is taking to modernise the criminal justice system through the coherent long-term strategies and the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill;
notes that for the last five years crime rates have fallen by 27 per cent. according to the British Crime Survey, that burglary has reduced by 39 per cent. since 1997 and that the chances of becoming a victim of crime are as low as at any time in the last 20 years;
and particularly supports the decisive action being taken by the Government to tackle street crime and the rise in gun-related crime."

I ask the House to reject a motion, which, if it were not so serious, would be laughable. Mr. Letwin has made a supreme bid to outdo the leader of the Liberal Democrats in joining XHave I Got News For You". I was going to say XDrop the Dead Donkey", but after last week I had probably better not.

Let's face it: every time a set of statistics is published, every time a high-profile crime is committed, people believe the evidence of the front page but not the evidence placed before them. It behoves us, in a debate of this sort, to get to grips with the real issues. The right hon. Gentleman said, after an amusing interlude, that this was not a laughing matter, and indeed it is not. He said that confusion did Xbad things" to the message to potential burglars, and of course he is right. He rightly said that we need to take much more control of the guidance that goes out, and we do. That is why we put such measures in the Criminal Justice Bill and published them in the White Paper last July. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman was thinking about that at the time. I do not remember him saying anything when we published the White Paper or the Bill, but I am happy to be corrected on that.

Confusion damages the signal that is sent out, and, therefore, the culture on the streets. The Lord Chief Justice is, rightly, independent—the judiciary must remain independent and I challenge any Opposition Member to suggest otherwise—and he will be as concerned as I am, and as I am sure the Lord Chancellor is, that we get the message right and that it is clear. I am sure that he will contribute, as I intend to do this afternoon, to ensuring that the guidance that has gone out is clarified, and that judges who misunderstand or misinterpret it are left in no doubt that there is a very clear policy coming out as part of that guidance.