Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: My Lords, can the Minister please give us some information about the kind of monitoring that will be available with regard to people who will be released upon licence? Is he aware that public concern on the matter will have been intensified as a result of the report last week that a person serving a five-year sentence for kidnapping, drugging and indecently assaulting a 14 year-old boy was released after serving just two-and-a-half years on the basis that he would be living in a bail hostel on licence, yet he failed to register there? Will the Government be using the probation services alone or will they be innovative and make use of the private and voluntary sectors?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, as the noble Baroness rightly pointed out, this is a matter of great public concern. It does not relate to an offender who would be subject to the new regime. It seems to us that every possible effort must be made to ensure public safety, in particular the safety of those sections of the public who are most vulnerable. In respect of the mandatory sentence to which the Question refers, the Parole Board will have the ultimate say on release and it would, of course, make the usual full and appropriate inquiries.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lord's question relates to the decision of the judicial committee of your Lordships' House in the case of Venables and Thompson, in which Venables and Thompson had murdered the small, innocent child, James Bulger. The Home Secretary has powers to review sentence tariffs. In the case of Venables and Thompson, the trial judge gave one indication, the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor of Gosforth, gave another and the Home Secretary had the statutory power to review, which was subsequently found to have been inappropriately exercised. But the House of Lords' judicial committee did not begin to suggest that that power could not have been properly exercised within the statutory regime.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, why do not the Government consider implementing the recommendation of the Butler Committee with regard to reviewable sentences? Does the Minister agree that the reviewable sentence suggestion made by Lord Butler has the following advantages over what is proposed: it is not limited to repeat offenders; it is not restricted to the narrow range of offences as is Section 2; it requires medical evidence before it can be imposed; it does not run the risk of the criminal deciding to do in his victim to avoid a life sentence; and, finally, it does not carry the false label of imprisonment for life, which is never intended to be effective.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord sets out the claimed advantages of the Butler Report regime. There is certainly virtue in some of them. The Government are determined to ensure a coherent and strategically focused approach to sentencing. We need to consider the whole of the wider context, which is what my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is presently about.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, in view of the fact that the Minister recently denounced "Howardism" in scathing terms, will he return to the philosophy of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, who recently joined this House?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I have never used the term, "Howardism", although I know that my noble friend frequently has done so. I understand what he means by it as a compendious term of contempt. What the present Government wish to do, if possible on the basis of cross-party agreement, is to attend to the serious problem of prisoners being released and being a perceived and actual menace to members of the public.
Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, in view of the importance of the Parole Board report, can my noble friend say who is entitled to see the report apart from the prisoner and how the prisoner can challenge it?
Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Can she comment on the claim by the inventors that self-chilling cans will help to fight global warming by reducing the need for refrigerators?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, that is a claim on which I am glad to be able to comment because it is highly disingenuous. It is not the case. Even on the most generous assumptions, the contribution to global warming from emissions from the cans would far exceed any savings in carbon dioxide emissions from reduced refrigeration. Even moderate sales of the cans would seriously undermine international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of the high global-warming potential of HFC 134A--the gas used to chill the drink. To give a sense of the scale of the problem, the gas is 1,300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, can my noble friend inform the House why, in these circumstances and after due and proper investigation by the Government, it is necessary to go to the European Commission on this matter? If it is deemed by the Minister, after all proper inquiries--I assume they were
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, we certainly could act on our own under the Environmental Protection Act. And we certainly would, if that was the most effective way of protecting the interests of this country. If, however, because of the single market implications, it would be more effective to act through the European Union and other international efforts, then that is the correct course to pursue.
Lord Burnham: My Lords, is the Minister aware that all this is quite unnecessary? Long before the right honourable gentleman jumped on this bandwagon the soft drinks manufacturers and the brewers had decided that chilled cans were quite wrong and were not effective on either environmental or economic grounds. Further, the British Oxygen Company, within the next two months or so, is expected to announce another widget--whatever that may be--which does not contribute to global warming or ozone depletion.
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