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Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, I am sorry that I did not hear the maiden speeches due to a long-standing engagement that I had outside the Palace of Westminster. My regret is made even deeper as a result of the great compliments that I have heard about them.
I wonder how long, and what more must it take, before the issue of harmonisation with Central European Time can be included in a Queen's Speech. How many layers of incomprehension and indecision have to be penetrated before common sense can prevail in the Home Office summer time department? Does the Minister agree that it took at least 15 previous Queen's Speeches, and I believe more than 15 Conservative Ministers of Transport, before there was an acknowledgement of the need for a high-speed rail link to connect our capital city with the rest of Europe? If this is, indeed, an indicator of the speed of a government department's recognition of the blindingly obvious, how long will it take the Home Office to acknowledge the need for this country to harmonise with Central European Time?
The Home Office has apparently been "considering Summer Time" for more than five years. During this period, we have not been allowed to have a proper debate on the matter in your Lordships' House. Nor is there any mention in the Queen's Speech of a government Bill being put before us, and I do not count the lottery of Private Members' Bills which is to take place this Thursday as either a positive or a serious effort by the Government to bring this country any closer to harmonisation of its timescale with Europe. However, if the Private Member's Bill to harmonise our timescale with Europe is fortunate enough to be selected for debate in the other place, will the Minister say whether the Government will bring it to the statute book or whether it is their intention further to delay making a decision on the matter in order to allow the Home Office yet more time for consideration of the evidence put before it since the consultative document of June 1989?
If nothing happens on Thursday, what will the Government's position on time harmonisation be? Will we in your Lordships' House be allowed time to debate the consultation document, even though it is now five years out of date? Will Her Majesty's Official Opposition, which so far as I am aware has revealed nothing of its intentions on the subject of Central European Time, make its position clear? Will the Liberal Democrats, who are also known Europhiles, make their position somewhat clearer?
Many organisations--for instance, British Rail, British Airways, the CBI, the tourist boards, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Police Federation--have put before the Government strong and convincing evidence for extended daylight in the afternoons. As yet there has been a nil response from the Government, so what are the advantages of retaining the status quo? Who are the politicians, and what interests do they represent, who are putting forward arguments to retain the status quo? On what hard evidence are those arguments based?
The only evidence that we have on which to base these facts is the consultative document and recent submissions from interests such as those that I have mentioned. The majority of those organisations or companies supported and continue to support the concept of single/double summer time--that is,
Will the Minister in reply agree that the Government have managed to give an impression that Scottish farming interests north of the Tweed are somehow against changing over to harmonisation with the European timescale? What farming operations can the Minister name that will be affected by such a change? What crops are grown between the months of November and the following spring? Is the Minister aware that the habits of domestic animals and their wildlife counterparts are light-related not time-related? At these latitudes, farmers throughout Europe are inclined to farm indoors. Therefore these are controlled conditions which the farmer can operate at his own convenience and will not be related to Central European Time. Farmers from northern Norway to southern Spain are not objecting to CET, so why should Scottish farmers be any different?
If the farmers are not affected, what about commercial organisations such as those covered by the somewhat random list appearing in the back of the consultative document? British Petroleum, which I think is the most northern oil rig operator, was excluded, whereas the Zip Fastener Corporation was included for some reason. Perhaps civil servants from the Home Office may not be fully aware that best dressed Scots residing north of the Tweed have little use of the products of that worthy company.
I suppose that it is not fair to blame the Home Office for lack of experience in matters which go on north of Hadrian's Wall or, indeed, on business matters because they are not part of its brief. Therefore, will the Secretary of State for the Home Office consider relinquishing his responsibilities for summer time to the President of the Board of Trade? At least he may be able to appreciate the seriousness of the present uncertain situation as set out in the Confederation of British Industry's plea to the Government, which I believe was submitted last month.
Is the noble Lord aware that only four hours of every working day in the United Kingdom are in harmony with those in Europe? Will the Minister set out what advantages flow from that either to the City or any other organisation which is trying to do business in the £300 million market of Europe?
The Queen's Speech was meant to be geared and focused on Europe. In fact, it was focused to the extent that a vote of confidence may even have to be taken on the Government's stand. I have no confidence in any government who fail to recognise the timescale as it relates to Europe. The measure to which I refer is popular. Everyone to whom I have spoken, including organisations, wish it to be adopted and yet it has been excluded. I should have thought that the Government would be in need of such a popular measure these days. Will they please consider bringing it forward?
There is another point on which I can speak as an individual from these Benches. People and ordinary voters outside ask, "What about a change of government? Will it make any difference?" If the opposition parties are to take the place of government
I believe that our debates on the Queen's Speech allow one a sentence or two of philosophy. Is it not the case that many people outside the Palace of Westminster believe that politicians are out of touch and are playing a game which is not related to reality? I have tried to put forward one proposal; namely, in relation to Central European Time. Tens of thousands of passengers are using the new train service. The inconvenience, the tiresomeness, the lack of competition which that minor irritation causes seem to be of no concern whatever to the Government.
Why is that so? Why is nothing said about it in the Houses of Parliament? A great deal is said about it outside. In the taxi coming here, the taxi driver was complaining to me about the dark evenings and I said that I was going to try to put that right tonight. But it is not my business to do that. I merely seek to draw to the attention of Her Majesty's Government that many people are irritated and confused by their lack of action. If it takes as much time to get through to the civil servants and to the Minister concerned as it took in relation to the necessity of a high speed rail link to link our capital with the rail system of Europe, then there will be another 10 years of consideration by the summer time department of the Home Office.
Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, I rise to make a personal contribution from the Back Benches at this stage because when we consider two aspects of Scottish legislation--namely, the criminal justice Bill and the children Bill for Scotland--I hope to be sitting on the Front Bench, unless something disastrous happens between now and then.
It is something of a landmark to be standing here praising the gracious Speech and, indeed, praising the present Administration because, lo and behold, we do not have only one Bill for Scotland this year. We have two. That represents a 100 per cent. increase in productivity on the part of the Scottish Office in bringing matters which concern people in Scotland before your Lordships' House.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, mentioned the number of Bills we have had since 1979 relating to criminal justice in Scotland. I have a list of them. In 1980 there was the Bail etc. (Scotland) Act, the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, and the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act; in 1982 the Criminal Justice Act and some mental health Acts; and in 1985 the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act. In 1987 we had the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act and in 1988 the Road Traffic Offenders Act. In 1990 there was the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act. In 1991 we had the War Crimes Act and in 1993 a variety of criminal legislation, if one can call it that. Then there was 1994. There has been a whole plethora of legislation.
Having made that observation, I am pleased to know that the Government have in mind the bringing into force of a consolidating measure to bring all that legislation together because, from a practitioner's point of view, it is an absolute nightmare. It may be very good for academics who write books and supplements to them, but for a legal practitioner it is quite a horrendous way to practise the law.
Criticism has been levelled at the Government about the lack of consultation leading to the introduction of the criminal justice Bill. I believe that there is a great deal to be said for that. But I hope that it will be remedied in your Lordships' House during the Committee and Report stages when, no doubt, we shall be snowed under with amendments from various people who are interested in the criminal justice system in Scotland.
I noted that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, said that there was all-party support for the Bill, thus giving the impression to the public that it would go through on the nod, so to speak. I should point out that we shall nod it back to the Government from this side of the House. It will not have an easy passage through this Chamber because it is one of the last chances that we shall have to get a Bill of some kind sorted out before the present Administration go out of office. We shall treat the Bill with respect. We shall treat it in the way that Bills are treated in your Lordships' House; namely, with a view to amending conservatively, if I may put that in the legal sense. However, we shall not let silly proposals go through without fighting them.
Perhaps I may give your Lordships just one example, so as to give notice to Her Majesty's Government. Intrusions into the right of silence of the accused in Scotland will not--I say "Not" with a capital n--be tolerated north of the Border. We will not have Her Majesty's Government for Scotland aping what has happened in England. We do not want that. We have separate legal systems. For example, what is happening in Clause 26 of the Bill? I give that as a trailer, so to speak, to the debates we may have. It provides that the prosecutor can comment on the failure of the accused to give evidence.
We live in a country--England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland--where the right to silence is one of the great features of our legal system. Are we to allow prosecutors, some of whom, if I may so express it, are not too clever and who do not have a level of competence, to be let loose on juries and to comment on the failure of an accused to give evidence, bearing in mind the right to silence? If, for example, an over-the-top prosecutor says, and I take my own name by way of example, "By the way, members of the jury, you will have noticed that, despite all the evidence, Mr. Macaulay--ho, ho!--didn't go into the witness box to give evidence", the judge will then instruct the jury that they may draw such inferences as they may see fit from my failure to give evidence. What sort of legal system is that?
Further, what if the prosecutor goes right over the top? I am only giving your Lordships a minimal example because I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, has heard more prosecutors in action than I have. We have both been prosecutors in our own time. However, when irresponsible prosecutors are given such leeway to attack the failure of the accused to give evidence, we have real trouble. What does the judge do about it? At present, judges in Scotland are allowed to comment on the failure of the accused to give evidence. However, they have been told that they must exercise a great deal of restraint when making any comment. How does the judge control the wild prosecutor? The more the judge says to the jury, "You will ignore what Mr. X, the prosecutor, said to you", the more he draws attention to the fact that the accused has not given evidence. So we have a complete mixter-maxter of evidential rubbish. So long as the presumption of innocence prevails in this country--and that is a very important presumption--we must not make unnecessary inroads into it.
Some of your Lordships last Friday may have seen a television programme called "The Trial". There are to be four more programmes. The case shown was a classic example of where failure to give evidence may very well have been the deciding factor in convicting the defendant. I do not know anything about the facts of the case, but having watched the programme it seems to me that it may very well have been that the failure of the accused to give evidence to challenge the case against him sent a message to the jury that they should find him guilty.
We are in danger of making the failure to give evidence amount to corroboration of guilt in the mind of the jury. It is all very well for people to say that that is not how the law works. We are not dealing with the law; we are dealing with juries. If silent messages are sent to the jury--although not deliberately--by prosecutors and judges, then the whole administration of justice is turned on its head.
When it comes to the Committee and Report stages of the Bill, the profession in Scotland will not take this change lying down. The profession will protect the interests of the accused so long as it can until the Government override it. Therefore, the Government should be very careful when exercising any intrusion into our system.
The Government should be very careful because they are already being criticised north of the Border for introducing mirror image legislation. We all know what happened in your Lordships' House during the passage of the English Bill. Your Lordships do not indulge in riots, but there was as near a riot as I have seen in your Lordships' House on occasion. We cannot accept mirror image legislation for Scotland. We must have legislation which deals with the position in Scotland.
If there is to be the effective abolition of the right to silence, there is one matter we must consider. Do we examine the whole court system? Do we abolish completely the adversarial system of justice? There would only be protection for the accused if we had an investigative form of justice such as exists in France. At present we are in severe danger of falling into a halfway
There are two other matters I wish to deal with. The first concerns sentencing guidelines. If I have read my newspapers correctly, in England in the past year there have been several cases in which judges at the local level have said publicly that they wish they could sentence someone to five years imprisonment, or whatever it might be, but because of sentencing guidelines they can give only two years. The judge, who is sitting at the centre of the community, has heard the evidence, seen the accused and seen the victim. And what happens? He sentences the defendant to five years' imprisonment instead of the two years set out in the guidelines; the case goes to the appeal court, which is handed a file of papers. A pile of papers cannot compare with individuals. The appeal court does not see individuals; it does not see the agony and distress of the victim. The appeal court says that the appropriate sentence is two years and that the judge acted clearly outside the guidelines. I, for one, am not prepared to accept that.
I accept that inferior courts, as they are called in the Bill, should pay heed to what the appeal court may have said in appropriate cases. Any restriction on the freedom of a judge in the local community to impose what he considers an appropriate sentence has to be considered carefully.
As regards fiscal fines, we enter into desperately dangerous territory. Fiscal fines are now being considered for possession of cannabis. We have our own views as to whether it is right or wrong to smoke cannabis, or whatever one does with cannabis, just as people have views on whether or not it is right to drink. But what is happening in this regard has another dangerous aspect. We are going into a halfway house. If a youngster is found in possession of 0.25 milligrammes, or whatever it may be, of cannabis, obviously identifiable as being for personal use, the fiscal says, "All right, the fine is £15," and away the youngster goes. If he is again found in possession does he receive another fiscal fine? The fiscal fine--I speak personally--may encourage people to take cannabis because they will not go to prison. Suppliers will be encouraged to say to users, "Just take it. It's all right. If you're caught, you will just get a fiscal fine". Therefore we have to be careful to ensure that we are not too lax in the administration of justice in that respect.
As with road traffic offences, fiscal fines are an administrative convenience. It can be said, "We shall not bother the police or the courts. Just pay a £20 fine". We must be careful that we do not create a system of hidden justice. No one would know who had been found in possession of cannabis. The main point is that fiscal fines do not get to the root of the problem--the suppliers. You can fine kids until the cows come home. You can take 100 children in Campbeltown, Glasgow
The noble Baroness, Lady Saltoun, has already dealt with the children Bill for Scotland. Perhaps I may pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser. He has kept in touch with those of us in the parliamentary group on children with regard to a children Bill. We understand that a Bill will be printed in the not too distant future. I believe it only fair to say that as with the criminal justice Bill there are many good things in it and many bad. We pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, for the interest he has shown and the communication he has had with those of us who have sought to have such a Bill introduced.
As I understand it, the children Bill quite properly concentrates on the reports of child abuse cases in the Orkneys, and so on. Another area of child abuse relates to parents who abuse their children publicly for their own interests. I refer to children who are caught up in a so-called tug of love. A family not too far from your Lordships' House is involved in that. Such children are exposed to publicity. They have to go to school the next day in a blaze of newspaper publicity. Nothing is done to protect them. No one represents those children. No one represents the two children down the road to whom I refer. No one says, "I don't care what you and you do with him and her but I don't want any publicity about it". There is no effective protection from publicity for children in this country.
We are all on the one side in this respect. I wish to see protection for children against exploitation by the newspapers once the Bill has gone through Parliament. I am sure that the Government will support this side of the House if that view were to be taken.
Another dangerous aspect relates to the exclusion of abusers. There is a proposal in the Bill that if a father or a mother is suspected of abusing a child, he or she will be excluded from the house. Going back to the presumption of innocence, that is a matter which must be dealt with extremely carefully. If a father is excluded from the house and people in the locality know and ask, "Why is Jimmy not at home tonight?", they may be told that the court has put him out. They ask why and are told, "Because he has been abusing the children". One can think of the local consequences: the fellow may well be found not guilty, but his reputation and standing in the community are wrecked and he may be subjected to physical abuse, as we know has happened.
There are many areas to be covered in the two important Scottish Bills. I have taken up some of your Lordships' time, but the rest of the time has been spent on England and Wales and I make no apology.
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