I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for moving this amendment. I had not realised, until he mentioned it, his own critical role in the constitution of the UK as it is now through the evidence that he gave to the Kilbrandon royal commission, rightly described as important. Now we know where to look when we see problems in relation to the constitution.
I wholeheartedly agree with the underlying point that drives the way the noble Lord put his case. The criminal justice system is in a terrible mess. He described the position of the prison system, which is also a terrible mess and is not delivering on its aims, particularly to protect the public from crime and reoffending. However, it does not just go to imprisonment; the whole range of sentencing is now in a terrible mess. It goes even beyond that, to the way that the criminal justice system operates in terms of both its procedures and its effectiveness. Surely the time has come for a long hard look to be taken at the criminal justice system.
This is not remotely a criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, because a royal commission is a worthwhile thing, but I can imagine no more profound exercise in futility than a royal commission promoted by your Lordships’ House, moved by the marvellous noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the wonderful noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames. Can your Lordships imagine this Government —the Government who approximately an hour and a half ago wagged their finger at us and told us we had to finish the consideration of this Bill by the end of tonight, no matter what time it ended—listening to a royal commission’s proposal for an objective look at sentencing? My own judgment is that, sadly, although the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, makes a very powerful point, the same finger of this Government would be waved at the royal commission and no attention would be paid to it. I share the noble Lord’s feeling and analysis but I fear that, because of the nature of this Government, it would be a waste of time.