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Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I did not hear the broadcast to which my noble friend refers. Again, everyone will agree with his words of sympathy for the relatives of those who were killed. With regard to the sentence, the position was very clear: it was stated to be mandatory life imprisonment for murder. Twenty years was specified as the minimum sentence that would be served. However, that is a matter for the judiciary.
Perhaps I should make clear a point which I dealt with earlier in relation to St James's Square. Perhaps inadvertently I gave the impression that at present we do not have diplomatic relations with Libya. We do. However, the question related to whether the Libyans intend to move into St James's Square. That is the matter with which I dealt. If I gave the wrong impression in relation to that matter, I apologise.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, we reached an agreement with Libya on that question and compensation was paid. That case, for better or worse, has been closed. That was why diplomatic relations were resumed with Libya. Although diplomatic relations were broken with Libya, they were not broken over Lockerbie. The breaking pre-dated that. We broke diplomatic relations with Libya because of the death of WPC Fletcher, and we resumed them only when the Libyans agreed to pay compensation and to take responsibility for her death.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, a moment ago, the Minister referred to closure--I believe that that was the word she used--in relation to the Yvonne Fletcher case on the payment of compensation. Although I am sure that all noble Lords understand her point, I hope that in relation to Yvonne Fletcher, whose family I knew, and the Lockerbie case, she accepts that although compensation may be paid, we must stress--I am sure that all noble Lords agree--that there is no way in which any compensation can represent any kind of justice for the horrors that were perpetrated.
Lord Wilberforce: My Lords, I have a question about the possibility of appeal. First, the Minister said that that appeal would be heard by five judges, including the existing three judges. Does that imply that the procedure will be in accordance with Scottish law as that is normally applicable in criminal cases, or is there an international agreement relating to the case, such as that which was necessary to set up the court in the first instance? Secondly, will the noble Baroness give an indication of the length of time that is likely to elapse before an appeal is decided?
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the appeal will be heard in front of five Scottish judges of appeal, and the procedure will be conducted entirely under Scottish law. There have been discussions about how long it will be before an appeal is heard and decided. I understand that the best estimate is between nine and 12 months.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, against the background of the serious crime situation on this side of the Irish Sea, it was a useful and salutary reminder of the realities of the world in which we live that the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux of Killead, spoke of the nightmare--my fear is that it is a growing nightmare--in Northern Ireland.
Like other noble Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Tebbit for enabling us to debate this important matter today. It is appropriate for us to do so in light of a report by its political editor on the front page of The Times today stating that following yesterday's discussions on the Labour Party's election manifesto,
I want to make a few general observations about the society in which we live. It is a matter of great sadness that when I look back on my childhood, it was an entirely different world. My family lived on Chiswick Mall. In order to get there from central London, one travelled on the Underground to Stamford Brook and one walked for about 20 minutes from the station to
My second observation arises from the fact that I celebrated the arrival of the millennium not in London--thank goodness I was not part of the queue for the Jubilee Line on the way to the Dome--but in the Mexican city of Guadalajara. In the preceding days, the churches had been packed. On the night of the millennium celebrations, vast crowds swarmed around the city, but I did not see a single policemen. Family members of all ages, from babies in prams to the very old, were present. So far as I could see, no one was drunk and I did not see anyone with a glass of beer. I cannot help reflecting on the fact that a very high proportion of the crime that occurs in this country appears to be alcohol related. I like a drink as much as anyone, but social considerations need to be taken into account with regard to the background to crime and the reasons for it. We should seriously consider education and family responsibility in that context. I look forward to hearing the contribution of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth.
I never thought that I should advance the case for drinking Coca Cola but last month, when I travelled extensively on a private visit to Argentina and Chile, I was again struck by the extraordinary quantity of soft drinks consumed there and by the relatively small quantity of alcohol that is consumed in public. The relationship of crime to the consumption of alcohol deserves consideration.
I also want to make an observation on my personal attitude to the police. I have the highest admiration for the police force. There is a particular reason for that. During my time as a Minister, a bomb was placed in my Welsh home in the bedroom of my son. As a result, I was subject for some considerable time to security arrangements and the protection of the police. I made close friendships with many of them and grew to have the greatest admiration for all of those splendid public servants.
Even today, when my alarm goes off by mistake--I fear that that happens all too often--the police arrive with extraordinary speed and efficiency at my front door. However, many people in London find that if they report what appears to them to be a serious crime or burglary, they get very little attention. That is not because the police do not want to give them that attention but because of the pressure under which they work.
Although I intend to concentrate my remarks on what is happening in London, there are serious patterns of crime in the country. These days, it is unwise for one to have an antique sundial or piece of valuable stonework or sculpture in one's garden, because it will soon disappear and a transaction will take place shortly afterwards on the edge of a
I want to discuss the pressures in towns and our responsibilities as citizens. It has already been pointed out in this debate by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, that the level of crime in some fields has gone down. Motor manufacturers have made considerable progress in making it more difficult for vehicles to be stolen. But, again, individuals can help. We can make sure that we have effective immobilisers or tracker systems and encourage recovery.
The Government have measures before Parliament at the moment which may make that situation even better. However, I was disturbed by the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, seemed to do what Ministers have done; that is, treat rather lightly the sharp rise in the theft of mobile phones. The implication is that it is nothing more than children bullying other children. I happen to think that the actions of children bullying other children should be treated seriously. In any case, it is not only children who steal mobile phones.
My wife and I were driving back from the Tate Modern one evening. As I pulled up at the traffic lights by the Old Vic, two young men attempted to mug a man on the pavement opposite and remove his mobile phone which he had been using as he walked along the pavement. I opened the window, shouted and jumped out of the car, as did the person in the car behind me. The two young men shot in opposite directions. When the police arrived 10 or 15 minutes later I could only give them a shadowy description of what the two offenders looked like.
As we looked after the victim, who had been hit and was badly shaken but had retained his mobile phone, I could not help but observe a young woman casually walking along the pavement opposite using her mobile phone. People should understand that if we walk around the darkened streets of London using a mobile phone, it is a good idea to stand where we can see what is happening so we do not become an obvious invitation to any young thief.
My point is that, as individuals, we too can help to reduce crime. I entirely share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie--a view expressed also by the Commissioner for London--that manufacturers should do more to reduce the attractiveness to thieves of the mobile phone. Measures could be taken which make them less attractive than they are at the present time and we are entitled to demand that they take them.
I turn to the question of police numbers. We heard from both sides of the House that all sorts of things can be done to adjust the statistics of crime; there is no disagreement on that. I regularly travel either by bus or car along the South Bank from Battersea to this
I can give a local indication of the reduction in police numbers. In Battersea we have an admirable Neighbourhood Watch scheme. For many years I received regular reports through my door from the police and from time to time attended local meetings. The police station from which the scheme is run is now a lot further away and the constables who run the scheme have to cover a vastly increased area. That means that not only are there fewer policemen on the street, but also that they find it more difficult to have the house-to-house and person-to-person contact which is so vital if a Neighbourhood Watch scheme is to work.
I am sure there is no argument but that the numbers of police in London have come down. The Prime Minister himself is concerned that they have fallen every year for seven years. They have certainly come down in Wandsworth and in Battersea. I note what the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, said about how the numbers are set for the requirements of police in a specific area. I was informed this morning that, until last year, Battersea was considered to need 399 police. Even including a number of probationary trainees, the current number is 384. However, there has been a convenient 4 per cent drop in the requirement so everyone can say that the target is being met. Whether or not that is so, we clearly have fewer police and more crime.
There is undoubtedly a need for the Government to try to do something about that. I know they will say that they allocated substantial additional resources to the problem and that within the past six months there has been an improvement in recruiting numbers. But there is a long way to go. Careful consideration must be given to how we can help those who are recruited to find adequate housing and solve the other problems which inhibit recruitment.
I agree with those who believe that the Macpherson report did a great deal of damage. I am as strong as anyone in condemning racism in the police force and indeed anywhere else. But the report gave the impression that the entire police force was infected. That had an impact on morale and made it more difficult for the police to act effectively on the ground.
I conclude by saying that a serious problem exists. It is partly a question of the law and the police; but it is also a problem of social attitudes, education, family responsibility and the way we behave. We must address all parts of the problem. My noble friend Lord Tebbit was absolutely right. There are two primary responsibilities of the Government. One is to defend the citizen of the realm from outside attack and the other to defend the citizen from inside attack--robbery and violence; in other words, to defend the Queen's peace. The Queen's peace is not being effectively defended and that should be a matter that concerns everyone, whatever their political views.
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity afforded by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, to take part in this debate and I speak--in reference to something he said in his speech--as a daily Fareham dog-walker.
By way of preliminary, I should like to place on record the high esteem in which I hold the work of the Hampshire Constabulary in its partnership work in the community, of which I shall speak later. I very much hope that the context of this debate from all sides of the House will be one of support and affirmation, even if it is not without criticism, for the work of our police officers whose service to society often goes unmarked. I add from these Benches to the tributes paid earlier to the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.
Perhaps I may add at this point that it is a pleasure to have my friend and near neighbour, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, next to me. He is about to retire after serving in this House for 21 years. I am not alone in having benefited greatly from his wisdom in that office as a diocesan bishop.
I want to begin with a book that may be topical to at least some of our considerations this afternoon. I possess in my study a signed first edition of Robert Campell Moberly's book, Atonement and Personality. It is a classic work by an Oxford professor, published on 14th February 1901--it has almost reached its centenary. Partly Scottish by blood and read in both Scottish and English theology, Moberly entered and engaged in the debate at the end of the 19th century about "punishment as vindictiveness" over and against "punishment as rehabilitation". That debate will find a satirical echo in W.S. Gilbert's song in "The Mikado",
Responding to the debate, and in no way taking the view that punishment should not involve suffering, Moberly pictured Christ as the perfect penitent and drew on the twin aspects of justice and mercy as the foundations not only of a proper theology but also of a healthy society. The matter before us now, therefore, is not new or innovative; it simply points to a current phase in what is a long-running question about how we believe crime should be responded to and what support is given to those who carry out that task on society's behalf.
I want to make two points: first, on the prevention of crime as the responsibility of the whole community, and, secondly, on the vocational nature of being a police officer. I refer first to society's responsibility. It is clear that the fight against crime is a proper focus for any government. The introduction of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill in another place on 18th January this year is a welcome signal of the intention to reduce crime and the fear of crime and to enhance public safety and good order.
However, I should like to draw attention to the broader backdrop of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which gave a priority to local partnerships and audits carried out by the public sector as well as business and
The point I make is that some seem to have confused the issue of the operational effectiveness of the police--over which there will be many armchair commentators far removed from the realities of policing a beat--with the fact that the responsibility for crime lies both with the individual who commits it as well as with the social causes which often underlie criminal behaviour. For that to be tackled properly, we need a frank and wide-ranging public debate which does not fall victim to the rhetoric of demonising either the perpetrators of crime or those charged with maintaining public order. Partnerships of the kind I have described offer effective and long-term solutions to the questions we now face.
Secondly, the question of the recruitment and retention of police officers is one which deserves careful attention rather than a knee-jerk reaction to headline figures. There are any number of factors behind that, but in particular I want to draw a comparison with the difficulty faced by the world of education in recruiting sufficient teachers. That difficulty is becoming acute in the area in which I live. Like the police, that is a profession I meet regularly as I go round my beat.
In both spheres a number of common elements come into play: first, a rapidly changing culture where the expectations and status afforded a generation ago do not hold; secondly, a move away from what might be broadly called a vocation to public service; and thirdly, a society which shuns personal responsibility and looks for others to carry it.
The police have to operate in a reactive public context which can at times focus on the vindictive nature of punishment rather than seeing the judicial process as part of a broad movement that includes the upholding of the law, appropriate forms of punishment and the rehabilitation of the offender. The riots in Paulsgrove last summer bear witness to that. We have to accept that we as a society have made these public vocations less attractive. Pay is an important feature, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for drawing attention to that in his speech. However, esteem also features large.
I do not and will not subscribe to the view that we can return to some kind of golden age of simple roles and simple solutions. Contemporary Britain is a complex culture, as it has always been. Some things
Finally, I want to end with a gentle caution to those in our society and in public comment who bemoan the loss of moral, social and judicial authority. There is something superficially attractive about that assessment because it is clear cut and unambiguous. It can sometimes involve raising the issue of immigration in the context of law and order and can have recourse to the North American fashion for zero tolerance.
There is something deeply troubling for me as a bishop about the clarity and monochrome nature of such a vision. I am concerned, not because I do not want to support the maintenance of law and order; I clearly do--for nine years as a parish priest I was chaplain to Guildford Crown Court; and although that post was honorary, it involved work and commitment by me--but rather because I cannot subscribe to the two-dimensional society which in my view it can produce. From the carpenter's son, conceived outside marriage, born under an occupying regime, forced to seek exile and asylum in a foreign land; from the one branded a criminal in his time, and suffering a criminal's death, I find no support for such a golden age. But from the God who formed me and knew me in the womb, I hope to learn justice and mercy, and judgment with loving kindness for, if I may borrow the phrase from another faith, He is the compassionate, the merciful.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, before I turn to the subject of the debate--we owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend for giving us the opportunity to discuss it--I cannot resist referring to the disturbing point made by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux of Killead, about the towers in South Armagh. I do not think we can expect the Minister to answer; he has no government responsibility for it. However, a story which is going round--as I am sure the noble Lord knows better than I--is that the military advice was against removing those towers; that the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland accepted that advice and was overruled by the Prime Minister whose only concern was to keep the Good Friday agreement together. Perhaps the only hope that the noble Lord can have is that the military will submit fresh advice to the new Secretary of State. One must hope that the Prime Minister will then take the advice of that second Secretary of State.
The Minister looks surprised. My noble friend gave an example of a parliamentary Question which he asked and his treatment in respect of the Answer that he received. I hope that the Minister will reply to that specific point. I make no apology for repeating a point which I made last night when only four of us were in the Chamber--and those four are still here! On 28th October 1999, I tabled a Question for Written Answer. It asked Her Majesty's Government:
There are many problems relating to the police but I want to deal with three. The first is public criticism. Sometimes the police take short cuts and I understand why they feel that they have to do so. Sometimes these short cuts result in a reversal of a trial verdict which then receives a great deal of publicity. That is bad publicity for the police, which is regrettable. Whenever the police are tempted to take short cuts they may be undermining their future position.
The second problem relates to pay, which is better than it was. Your Lordships have probably seen the advertisements stating that someone joining the Metropolitan Police Force can, after 18 weeks of training, receive a salary of just over £25,000. The right reverend Prelate mentioned teachers who, in most circumstances, would receive a lower starting salary. I believe that the police deserve to earn that amount. In preparation for the debate, I visited Scotland Yard's police recruiting office in Victoria Street today where a constable gave me most encouraging news about the response to those advertisements. That is jolly good.
The third problem is a lack of discipline in the police. I agree with those people who said that the reports on Stephen Lawrence and so forth over-egged the situation and created the wrong atmosphere, but undoubtedly there was wrong doing. There is no question about that. I believe that discipline in the police has been inadequate and to some extent, although not currently, that goes to the top. I go back
In that context, I wonder whether the time has come to reassess the need for a management intake; what was called an "officer intake". That intake was abolished almost 50 years ago with the demise of the Hendon police college system. I know all the arguments against it and I know that there is opposition to it. However, curiously, the police are beginning to accept it because there are now fast tracks for graduates and the best people are now reaching the top quicker. One of its great advantages is that it separates management responsibility and thus provides a bulwark against corruption. Any organisation, particularly the police, is subject to corruption. Furthermore, in the light of devolution, perhaps we should consider the possibility of some element of a national police force at least for England. Perhaps we could have a national detective force.
Referring to problems is not on its own useful. So I should like also to suggest some solutions. First, a greater use could be made of special constables in many different roles. At one time, they were unpopular with the police but I believe that the Government are now keen on them. If I were a Minister, I would set up a specific action programme to increase and widen the use of special constables. If they were properly recruited, they could make a useful contribution in terms of police numbers.
Secondly, too many people who would make excellent jurors are excused jury service. Too many juries consist of riff-raff who are anti-police. The Minister looks horrified--
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