Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, yes, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. As his Question implied, we shall pursue this matter with great seriousness through the IAEA. We look forward to Dr El-Baradei's report to the Board of Governors of the IAEA in June. We will encourage Iran to sign up to and implement the additional protocol to the IAEA safeguards agreement and urge it to be open and fully transparent with the inspectors, and to allow access to the sites.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, what action are the Government taking with the Russian Government and the former Soviet successor states to ensure that they do not supply Iran with enriched uranium?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we do not consider it appropriate for Russia to supply nuclear fuel until Iran has signed and implemented the additional protocol that I spoke of in my second answer to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. We would encourage Iran to

2 Jun 2003 : Column 1043

sign up to it and to bring the safeguards agreement into force as soon as possible. We also welcome recent Russian assurances that it shares this view.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the core of this problem is the steady proliferation of countries which are now perfectly capable of producing enriched uranium? Can she give an indication of how many there are? We cannot simply work on the assumption that after Iraq, Iran is next and then another country after that.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I cannot give a precise answer. I shall write to the noble Lord with as precise an answer as I hope will satisfy him.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, another alarming matter about Iraq is the human rights situation. What pressure can the Government bring to stop the public executions and the stonings for adultery which are a feature of its justice?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that question, I am reminded by the Leader that it is slightly wide of the initial Question about uranium enrichment facilities. However, that has not stopped us in the past. I am pleased to say that we have seen some improvement in the Iranian human rights situation. Since President Khatami was first elected in March 1997, there have been a number of significant improvements in Iran's human rights record. However, we still have concerns. We have concerns as regards halting torture, amputations and stoning. We have concerns, too, about accusations of subjugation of some religious minorities, about freedom of expression and, to some extent, about conditions for women.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, as regards all states that decline to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect their plants, is it not possible for those states which have satellites to make available the imaging technology so that pictures of alleged clandestine sites can be examined and submitted to expert analysis in order to determine whether they contain centrifuge enrichment plants?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I always listen very carefully to what the noble Lord has to say on these matters as it is always worth doing so. I am sure that the IAEA in following up some of the accusations may well consider that course of action.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, are we not placed in rather a difficult position when the Russians are accused of being involved in the Iranian nuclear programme and when the Americans were involved in the North Korean programme? People throughout the peace movement in this country have now latched on to that issue.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, every country has to be looked at differently as regards problems with

2 Jun 2003 : Column 1044

proliferation. We try to persuade countries through peaceful means as far as possible and through dialogue. That is why we have a critical engagement with Iran on this matter. Russia supplies the civil nuclear programme in Iran.

Prison Sentences

2.51 p.m.

Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have that longer sentences are an effective deterrent to crime.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, deterrence is not the only purpose of sentencing. Reconviction rates are lower for those who serve longer terms of imprisonment than for those who serve shorter terms. That, however, reflects a number of factors and deterrence cannot readily be isolated. It is difficult to obtain reliable empirical evidence on the deterrent effect of sentencing severity but it is clear that the choice of some potential offenders as to whether to offend is influenced by their perception of the risks and consequences of being apprehended and punished. This suggests that increased sentence severity can have some specific effect on sentenced offenders and a general deterrent effect on the general population.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, although I concede that there is no very direct and clear evidence of any relationship in this regard, if one compares the penal regimes of the rest of the European Union, where sentences are in general much shorter than they are here, with those in the United States, where sentences are much longer, does that not undermine the whole basis of the Home Secretary's addiction to ever longer sentences? Is it really his view that sentencing policy should be determined by popular acclaim or by the Daily Mail? Does he really want to move closer to the penal regime of the United States?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the Home Secretary's view is that sentencing should be effective. It should be effective in terms of stopping reoffending and it should have the confidence of the public. That is not a populist approach. It is always dangerous to mention statistics in this area. For example, in America sentence lengths have gone up and crime has gone down, but I am the first to say that a simplistic conclusion should not be drawn from that. As I say, the right approach is that sentencing should be effective in reducing reoffending. We are introducing a range of measures in the Criminal Justice Bill to make sentencing more effective.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, following the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, do the Government agree that more important than length of sentence is rehabilitation policy within the Prison Service?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there is no one simple answer to that. In some cases long

2 Jun 2003 : Column 1045

sentences are plainly required, for example, for public protection. But as important as length of sentence is what happens when an offender comes out of prison. If there is no support in relation to housing, family relationships and drug and alcohol abuse, there is likely to be more offending. We must be practical in ensuring that correctional options are effective in reducing reoffending. That is where the focus should be, not favouring one particular sentence over another.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I believe that the Minister referred to the confidence of the public. Would I be right in thinking that the confidence of the public is sadly led astray when one sentence is given in one part of the country and a totally different sentence is given for the same offence in another part of the country? I think particularly of people being injured or killed through dangerous, ghastly driving. Does the Minister agree?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree with the premise underlying the noble Baroness's question; namely, that if sentences are completely different in one place as opposed to another people will not have confidence in the system as they will believe that where one is sentenced will affect the length of sentence that one receives. We believe that consistency is very important. It is important that communities believe that the sentences imposed will protect them and are sensible in terms of reducing reoffending. I come back to that point time and time again.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, is not a system which delivers two-thirds of prisoners back into prison within two years a system that is failing? What extra efforts is my noble and learned friend making to encourage courts to give more serious attention to non-custodial sentences? All the evidence shows that, where targeted and properly resourced, non-custodial sentences are much more successful in avoiding reoffending on the part of people who have completed their sentences.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as regards both community sentences and custodial sentences the aim must be to reduce reoffending. That is why much time, effort and resources are devoted to training people whether they are serving a community or a custodial sentence and in introducing offender behaviour programmes to make people face up to their offending behaviour. That applies just as much to those on community sentences as to those on custodial sentences. In both frameworks more work needs to be done to try to reduce reoffending.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord consider that tagging is an effective deterrent compared with prison?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, tagging is an effective and sensible way of dealing with people who

2 Jun 2003 : Column 1046

are granted bail without imposing a custodial sentence to try to ensure that they do not commit further offences while on bail. Tagging allows such people to go back into the community with proper surveillance and supervision. It plainly has a part to play in our correctional policy.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page