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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it was a television.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I understand that, first, he must be treated consistently with the rules of the prison. He is also party to the privileges system. In the case of Myra Hindley, who has a word processor, that is earnt but bought at her expense. That is one of the conditions of having other equipment in the prison.

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Kingston Prison is a Category B establishment wholly for life sentence prisoners and it is where the planned older prisoner unit, which I have already mentioned, is being developed. Kingston Prison is currently being refurbished and the prison service intends to reconsider Mr. Hall's case when that work is completed. Its decision will have to take account, among other matters, of security considerations, of the prisoner's individual needs and, as regards the older prison unit, of the particular purpose and regime there.

I wish to make one comment because there is no one else speaking in the debate to make it. As I have outlined during the course of my response to the Question, as regards the pleading for more comfortable arrangements for older prisoners, in particular for those serving long sentences, someone somewhere must say on behalf of the victim--in the case of Mr. Hall we are talking about four deaths and possibly a fifth which was not put before the court--that they did not see middle age and they will not see old age. There is no question of considering conditions for them in their old age. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, said that it was obscene that a man or a woman should never come out of prison. What is obscene is the way in which so many lives were brought to a cruel end by those very people. The victims had no chances for any kind of reconsideration of their conditions--

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, the noble Baroness is aware that any pretence of speaking in favour of victims comes badly from that Bench. The Home Secretary was roundly condemned by the law courts for the way in which he was attempting to treat victims.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I work closely with the Home Secretary and I know no Home Secretary who has devoted so much time and energy to concern himself with the plight of the victims. This Government have put in place Victim Support, active programmes to support and counsel victims and positive consideration of victims when tariffs are being considered. That is absolutely right.

In the course of the debate much has been said about making life more comfortable for prisoners. I believe that we are honouring our obligation to those prisoners. We have made a considerable effort to concern ourselves with people who grow old in prison. I am simply countering that point by saying that there are many people who will never grow old--indeed, many of them did not see young adulthood--because of the crimes of the very people about whom we are talking.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons on Durham, which was published last week. Myra Hindley is subject to the earned privileges and incentives scheme applying to all prisoners and introduced since the inspection took place. She is on the enhanced level of privileges. As such, while on normal location she and other prisoners who have earned the same level of privileges have access to cooking facilities during association time for food which they have purchased. She is currently in the healthcare centre but while on normal location she had

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the privacy of an individual cell and was able to have additional visits, although those were in the normal visiting area. As I said a moment ago, she has access to a word processor.

The Home Secretary will consider the advice that was given as a result of Myra Hindley's representations about her tariff. They were recently received in the department. The Parole Board has provided the Home Secretary with advice about her case. All that will be considered and when the Home Secretary has reached a decision the prisoner will be told. It is not the practice of the Home Secretary to disclose or to comment upon any advice given to him by the Parole Board before he has reached his decision. The prisoner is aware of the final outcome of the review. The prisoner is also aware of the history of the case, what the judges have said, what the Lord Chief Justice recommends and what previous Home Secretaries have recommended. However, the Home Secretary is not prepared to say when his decision will be made.

I repeat that it is the aim of the prison service to deal with the very small number of whole life tariff prisoners on the basis of an assessment of individual needs, both present and future, but grounded in the individual regimes of the prisons in which they are held. There would not be merit in any attempt to introduce a single regime for those individuals as they grow older. The prison service will meet their particular needs in the same way.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may say that she has obviously tried to give a helpful reply and has given a great deal of detail. Nevertheless, I urge her to ask her colleagues to reflect on the kind of despair which is likely to be induced in people when they are told that they will never be released from prison and how that despair is likely to be even greater when they appeal and are unsuccessful.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I acknowledge readily that there must be a feeling of despair. But I invite the noble Lord to consider along with me the despair of the husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers of the people whose lives have been snuffed out by those people.

Family Law Bill [H.L.]

8.11 p.m.

Proceedings after Third Reading resumed on Clause 10.

[Amendments Nos. 13 to 15 not moved.]

Clause 11 [Lord Chancellor's rules]:

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 16:


Page 7, line 8, at end insert ("and what information must accompany it").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 17. Amendments were tabled on Report by my noble friend Lady Elles and by the noble

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and learned Lords, Lord Simon of Glaisdale and Lord Archer of Sandwell, which sought to place a requirement on the face of the Bill for the statement of marital breakdown to state the attempts made to promote reconciliation between the two parties.

I have been giving this matter some consideration since Report. I believe that a requirement of this kind would be a valuable addition to the Bill as it will draw the attention of parties making a statement to the issue of reconciliation and perhaps make them question their own efforts in this regard. However, I believe very strongly that the provision should be one which requires the parties simply to state whether or not they have attempted reconciliation. It should not be assumed that attempts at reconciliation will have been appropriate in every case and there should be no punitive result in cases where parties have not attempted reconciliation. Its appropriateness depends on the circumstances of the individual case.

For the reasons which I gave at Report stage--namely, that I do not wish to tempt people into giving a history of their marital difficulties which the other party may wish to refute and which may then have the effect of increasing the hostility between the parties--I have drafted the amendment to enable rules made by the Lord Chancellor to require parties to state whether or not they have attempted reconciliation since they attended an information meeting. The information meeting is intended to give parties information on the divorce process itself and on the facilities available to them if they wish to seek help in saving their marriage, and it is therefore of relevance to ask parties whether or not they have attempted reconciliation since receiving this information and before taking the serious step of making a statement of marital breakdown.

I have taken advice on how best to incorporate a provision of this kind into the Bill, as a result of which I have tabled Amendment No. 17 to Clause 11 to empower the Lord Chancellor to make rules to this effect. I have also tabled Amendment No. 16 to ensure that the Lord Chancellor is able to make rules specifying the information which should accompany a statement of marital breakdown, as well as the form in which that statement is to be made.

As appeared from the discussion on Report, there is also merit in the information about reconciliation referring to the period after the information meeting because that may give a good impression of the extent to which the information meeting is successful in transmitting information to the parties. I beg to move.

Baroness Elles: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for incorporating the amendment which we tabled on Report in this new form into the Bill. It makes a good addition to the role of the information meeting. As my noble and learned friend said, it will help also to assess the value of the information meeting and as to whether the parties concerned are encouraged

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to embark on reconciliation before taking what I consider to be the final step of making a statement. I am extremely grateful to my noble and learned friend.

Lord Irvine of Lairg: My Lords, I welcome the amendment. Primarily it provides that the parties should be required to say whether they have attempted reconciliation but they are not placed under any obligation to do so and there are not adverse consequences if they do not do so. That must be right. Attempting reconciliation can only be voluntary. Therefore, I support the amendments.


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