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Earl Howe: My Lords, we hope to make a definitive announcement in the summer. We aim to give a detailed account of our proposals and decisions on all Sir Michael's recommendations at that stage. We are consulting widely as we consider these matters. It is important to look at Sir Michael Bett's

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proposals in the round rather than to single out one or other aspect for special treatment. At the end of the day it is the package which will matter to servicemen.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, Armed Forces pensions are of course a matter of infinite complexity, but can the noble Earl give the House some assurance that if a new, modern, contributory pension scheme is introduced--I agree that there would be advantages and although I do not agree with my noble friend that the present scheme is as bad as all that, there are certain anomalies in its application--it will be properly funded and independently administered in accordance with the best civilian practice, as well as using this opportunity, as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, suggested, to correct some of the anomalies of uneven application which have for so long brought the present scheme into disrepute?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I fully understand the points raised by the noble and gallant Lord and shall ensure that his remarks are brought to the attention of my right honourable friend. As I have said, we have reached no conclusions as yet, but it is important that we look at Sir Michael's proposals in the round. It is also important that at the end of the day we have a pension scheme which bears comparison with similar schemes in the public and private sectors.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, may I ask my noble friend with respect whether Parliament will be in a position to consider the announcement to which he referred before any definitive decision is taken?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am sure that if your Lordships would like a debate on the issue that is a matter for the usual channels. At present the Government are considering the proposals. We have no specific plans for a parliamentary debate.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, although I agree that the Bett proposals should be taken as a totality and should not be considered as a series of single items, does the noble Earl agree that in the light of the timetable that has been announced for implementing the proposals, this matter will stretch into next year and possibly beyond? Therefore, in order to keep the Armed Forces out of any party political debate, would it not be sensible to consult the Opposition parties before the Government arrive at any final decision on the proposals?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am always ready to listen to the opinions of noble Lords opposite. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his suggestion.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, does the noble Earl recall--he may be too young to do so--that in May 1980 the right honourable Member for Huntingdonshire said in another place on the subject of pensions:


    "Service men, by virtue of their profession, are in a special position and should be treated accordingly".--[Official Report, Commons, 2/5/80; col. 1846.]?

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Will the Government take that into account when they implement the Bett Report?

Earl Howe: My Lords, yes.

Prison Service: Director General

3.2 p.m.

The Earl of Longford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to replace the Director General of the Prison Service.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, this is an important and sensitive appointment which needs the most careful consideration. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will make an announcement as soon as possible. In the meantime, Mr. Richard Tilt is doing an excellent job as acting director general.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Baroness on evading the issue with her usual charm and skill? Is she aware that The Times tells us today that the job has been touted around all over the place without success? In view of the disgraceful treatment of Mr. Derek Lewis and the low esteem in which government policies are held throughout the Prison Service, is the noble Baroness surprised that no one will touch that post with a barge pole?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, this is not the first Question from the noble Earl which I have answered when he has accused me of avoiding the Question and not responding to his points. I have given the noble Earl an honest Answer, which is the only Answer that I can give. I must advise the noble Earl that I do not take my guide from The Times or from any newspaper. The post has not been touted around. We have not yet advertised the post.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does my noble friend see this moment as an opportunity to give the administration of prisons a United Kingdom dimension? May I thank my noble friend for the most interesting information (which she gave me in Written Answers on 29th January) about the computerisation of the records of those in prison in the United Kingdom? I was astonished to find that the police forces in England have no direct access to prison computer records; that the same situation prevails in Scotland; and that there is no link between Scotland and England and Wales on this? The Minister wrote that a centralised computer register of all persons detained in Her Majesty's penal establishments in Northern Ireland does not exist. Has not the time come to give a UK dimension to the administration of prisons?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very important point. It is certainly true that a great deal of work needs to be done to make sure that one part of the criminal justice system communicates with

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another, using state of the art technology. I can give my noble friend the assurance that there is at present a great deal of activity on that front.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, without dissenting from what the Minister says about Mr. Richard Tilt, are not her earlier replies rather strange? The post became vacant last year, but the Minister now says that the post has not touted around--I assume that that means that nobody has been asked either directly or indirectly whether they are interested in applying for or taking the post--and that it has not yet been advertised. Why the delay?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there are people who are interested in the post. I know personally that people are interested in the post. That is a fact. As the noble Lord knows, there is currently a review within the department about the relationship between the agency, the Government and the Home Office. As I have already mentioned, it is a sensitive post which needs thinking about carefully. In the meantime, Mr. Richard Tilt is doing an excellent job, which means that the urgency is not quite as strong as the noble Lord suggests.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, does that mean that the Government are relaxed about allowing this "sensitive" position, as the noble Baroness described it, to remain open for several more months? When are we going to get a replacement for Mr. Lewis? Is the Minister aware that the reason that it is such a sensitive position is the deplorable way in which Mr. Lewis was sacked by the Home Secretary? Can the Minister say what stage has been reached in the action that is being taken by Mr. Lewis against the Home Secretary over the circumstances in which he was dismissed from his post?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I said that the Home Secretary will announce further progress as soon as possible. I also said that Mr. Richard Tilt, who is the acting director general at the moment, is doing an excellent job, so there is not the vacuum which the noble Lord suggests. It would be inappropriate for me to say anything at all about the progress that is being made with Mr. Derek Lewis. It is probably not correct to say that the matter is sub judice, but negotiations are continuing and it would be quite wrong of me to use this moment to say anything other than that the matter is in hand.

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, will the Minister kindly indicate to the House what applicants will be told about the ministerial responsibility of the Home Office in regard to the post holder's activities?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it is absolutely essential that any appointment is made on the basis of understanding the proper role of the director general and the post's relationship to the Home Office, recognising the responsibility and accountability to Parliament of the Home Secretary of the day.

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Criminal Procedure and Investigations Bill [H.L.]

3.8 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 2 [General interpretation]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 1:


Page 2, line 21, at end insert--
("( ) References to material which might undermine the case for the prosecution are to material which may cast doubt upon the prosecution case.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House will be aware that throughout our consideration of this Bill one of our most important concerns has been the adequacy of the definition of the primary disclosure by the prosecutor to the defence which will in turn trigger disclosure by the defence, both of which were recommendations of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice.

We have been very dissatisfied with the definition used in Clause 3(1)(a), which states:


    "The prosecutor must--


    (a) disclose to the accused any prosecution material which has not previously been disclosed to the accused and which in the prosecutor's opinion might undermine the case for the prosecution against the accused".
We have attempted by arguments in Committee and on Report to suggest an alternative wording to that subsection. We have not succeeded in getting the support of the Government (and therefore of the Government's troops) for any changes of that kind. So we are adopting a different tack today. In Amendment No. 1 we propose to add a definition of "undermine" to the subsection in Clause 2 which deals with definitions. The definition we propose is that "undermine" should be a reference to:


    "material which may cast doubt upon the prosecution case".
I believe that it will be agreed that in the English language "to cast doubt" on something is rather less demanding than "to undermine the case".

"Undermine" is a curious metaphor in any case to find in legislation. It is a metaphor from mining engineering, which one might say has no particular place in legislation in the first place. We are encouraged to include it because the Home Office itself, in discussions with the Law Society, has said that by "undermine" it means cast doubt upon. It is important that we should have a rather less rigid and prescriptive definition of the basis upon which the prosecution should disclose information to the defence, because we are worried, and have been worried throughout consideration of the Bill, that too much of a burden is being placed on the prosecutor in selecting what material should go to the defence.

The Government, throughout the Bill, from Second Reading onwards, have argued that one of the principle justifications for the Bill, and for the departure from the recommendations of the Royal Commission and from

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judge-made law--practical judgments made in courts since the Royal Commission's report--is that at present there is too much of a burden on the prosecution.

Those who have been seeking to persuade me of their case in this matter have been the Criminal Bar Association and the Law Society. They are both convinced--and their views should be listened to--that it is the selection rather than the supply of a bundle of unused material which is in fact the real burden on the prosecution, and that if the prosecution were not to assume the role of deciding on behalf of the defence what may be relevant, we might achieve a better balance between defence and prosecution, and we might in fact reduce the burden on the prosecution.

As I have said, we have taken the wording of the amendment from the indications which have already been given by the Home Office in discussion with the Law Society. The slight difference in emphasis provided by the phrase "cast doubt upon" rather than "to undermine" will go a small but significant and useful way towards reducing the burden on the prosecution and improving the balance between the powers of the prosecution and those of the defence. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend the Minister says in answer to the amendment. It deserves careful consideration because, speaking from my own recollection which noble Lords may think is now becoming rather rusty, I do not recollect the word "undermine" being used in the law of evidence or in relation to the burden of proof in criminal cases. It may be that that does not matter greatly; it may be that when the matters dealt with in the early clauses of the Bill come before the courts, the courts will have no difficulty in understanding what is meant by the word "undermine". Having said that, it is necessary that we should get as near as possible to the terms of art already in use rather than introduce a new one.


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