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Dr. Ladyman: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I never thought that I would be able to say that I agree 100 per cent. with his speech, but will he go a little further? Much of what he said has been about the threat to animal experimenters. Will he go on to say that we need to make sure that the changes to the legislation cover attacks on all scientists? Much of what the right hon. Gentleman says applies to people in GM research, the nuclear industry and many other fields of scientific endeavour.

Mr. Major: The hon. Gentleman is entirely right, and I am happy to endorse that. He must forgive me if, having

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seen what has happened in my constituency over the past three years, I focused on the problems there, so that my constituents are aware that the Government take the problems seriously--as, indeed, the Government do--and intend to take action. However, the hon. Gentleman is right and I endorse everything that he said.

The companies carrying out scientific research on animals are not operating casually outside the law. They operate within a tightly regulated and strictly controlled environment. They are doing work that they have been required to do by successive Governments. Their work is necessary to protect public health, to advance medical research, and to safeguard and improve the well-being of every citizen. They are carrying out work on behalf of the public and in the interests of the public, and they deserve the legislative protection of this House.

5.58 pm

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth): I am sure the whole House will join me in congratulating the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) on an outstanding and thoughtful speech. It is a privilege to follow both him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), whose contributions have shown the importance of the debate. It may not catch the headlines that other debates in the House sometimes catch, but if the media regard this as a less than all-important debate, I am certain that our constituents will not agree.

I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton from the time when I was a young magistrate. As the then shadow Home Secretary, he listened to us and understood the obstacles that were placed in the way of our doing what the public and the criminal justice system needed. I dare say that if my right hon. Friend had been Home Secretary 15 years ago, instead of shadow Home Secretary, we might not have had to endure some of the pain that we have gone through in the criminal justice system in recent years.

I am rather sad that the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) was not more constructive. She said that she did not oppose the Bill, but all her language--including body language--spoke of arrogance and opposition. As shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary demonstrated that one can look serious on crime and disorder only by being serious on them. I am afraid that the Opposition have not yet learned that lesson.

Mrs. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): Did my right hon. Friend share my concern about the lukewarm reception given by the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) to the extension of curfew schemes? He will have received the same Local Government Association briefing as has been submitted to me. Is he pleased that the LGA has welcomed the introduction of curfews for the under-16s? The measure begins to address an age group that is more likely to be involved in public disturbances than the under-10s. I know that he has experience of the joint problem-solving groups so will he acknowledge their important role in implementing the provisions?

Mr. Michael: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. I shall deal with curfews in a moment, as they are an

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important aspect of the Bill. However, I should like first to set out the context of a Bill that is about crime reduction and a wide range of criminal justice issues. At first glance, one might think it is a minor Bill but it is not, as it complements and advances the programme of reform that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has consistently pursued for a number of years.

The Bill takes us forward to the next stage in four different ways: it helps to continue the creation of a comprehensive approach to cutting crime; it helps to fill the gaps in the mechanisms, including sentences, that are used to deal with crime and the causes of crime; it makes progress on nipping problems in the bud, especially in respect of young offenders; and it focuses on cutting crime. The latter does not necessarily follow from crime measures, as it must be ensured that legislation, intentions and policy perspectives are carried through in practice. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will agree that it is vital to keep our eyes on those outcomes at every stage of the process.

The Bill contains a programme of sustainable crime reduction which falls well within the pattern of crime and disorder audits and strategies that are currently maturing. I mentioned in an intervention my delight the other week when I heard some 120 people from the police, local authorities and so on having a debate about continuing to push down crime. Three or four years ago, none of them would even have dreamed of having such a debate. That is a tribute not only to the decisions taken at that time, but to the way in which the ministerial team and the various professions that are involved are pushing the process forward, week after week and year after year.

The Bill deals with many important issues. The need to provide full reasons in respect of bail is far more important than the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald seemed to think. Currently, those responsible for decisions on bail must give reasons for refusing it, with the awareness that their decision might be tested. Surely it is an effective counter-balance for them to have to give reasons why bail should be granted. Such a measure will bring back into balance an arrangement that has been unbalanced for many years. It has previously been far too easy to test the intention of the court to refuse bail and to push for larger numbers to be given bail because that is the safe decision. A balance will now be in place.

Witness protection is crucial and the Bill is an important step forward in that respect. I am concerned that the antisocial behaviour orders involve something of a drift with regard to the bringing of matters to court by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, and with regard to the court itself, which can demand the test of the criminal law. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary knows and as the Bill intends, it is the civil test that must be applied. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will take this opportunity to remind the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts that it is the civil test that must apply. That practice is necessary specifically to ensure that people do not face the onerous burden of having to risk danger by coming to give evidence, as it will enable the court quickly to place the order, the breach of which becomes the criminal punishment.

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The Bill also deals with drugs and violent crime, on which it is excellent to see progress. Having heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton mention the Greater Manchester police, I should like to speak about my constituency. I am certain that the police there will welcome the detail of the Bill with enthusiasm. I am especially pleased about the commitment shown by the police service, which is currently led by Tony Burden, who is president of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Cardiff county local authority has also shown great commitment. In particular, I pay tribute to Gordon Houlston, who has taken a lead role. Safer Cardiff is bringing together a partnership approach, and I mention Barbara Natesagara in that regard. Unusually--although it should not be unusual--a great contribution has been made by Professor John Shepherd, nurses, other care staff and voluntary organisations in identifying people who experience violent crime and in trying thereby to avoid repeat offending. The health service's involvement in that partnership is a crucial step forward and should be encouraged.

As the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald suggested, the issues with which the Bill tries to deal seem intractable. However, examples of progress, such as the reduction in violent crime in Cardiff and the other steps forward to which my hon. Friends have referred, show that circumstances are improving and that effective action can be taken.

The Bill contains some important steps to speed up youth justice. I pay tribute to the continued pressure exerted by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the ministerial team for delivery on reduction of the time that it takes to get youngsters to court. That commitment is being carried through into practice. Goodness knows it is a difficult one to fulfil, as anyone who has tried to do so will confirm. I pay particular tribute to Gillian Beranksi and her team in south Wales. When I met them the other week, I was delighted to see not only that they are getting on with the job, but that they are so enthusiastic. It has been good to see CPS lawyers working with the courts and the police to deliver and improve quality of justice, as well as deliver faster justice.

The enthusiasm of magistrates was also encouraging. I suppose that I was a bit ground down by the time that I entered the House. Indeed, it sometimes seemed that we could never speed things up. I can tell my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that magistrates feel liberated at being part of a system that is working and delivering. We should applaud that progress. Such development will occur in all parts of the country. All the partners need the tools, but the message is that they are up for it.

We were wary of curfews from the beginning. I remember the advice that I offered the Opposition in the Standing Committee that debated the Bill that became the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. My advice then was that the curfew should be first established for under-11s, after which we could go on to consider the question of ages. Concerns were expressed about massive numbers. It was suggested that we would be overwhelmed and that youngsters would be so constrained by curfews that the measure would be an onerous burden. Of course, none of that happened. The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald recognised that, but she was not as generous as she might have been.

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I am very pleased that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is making two changes on curfew orders. First, the Bill gives the police the same powers as local authorities. Secondly, it increases to 16 the age at which they can apply. Those changes are crucial for a reason that has not been mentioned: they will end the culture of prevarication and excuses. Too often we hear that people are frustrated and angry about the continued harassment that they experience in their streets and the bad behaviour of groups of young people late at night. Such groups are often small, but they grow quickly if they are not nipped in the bud. Too often people come to me or to their respective Members of Parliament and say that nothing is being done. They say that they have talked to the police but are told that no action can be taken. Now, the instrument is in place and it can be used for young people of up to the age of 16.

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