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Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman, who knows a lot about these matters, talks about being civilised. I have said that I am prepared to talk to trade union leaders about the Cullen report and other matters relating to the North sea. Union recognition is a matter for the parties involved to decide between themselves. The question that is relevant to today's discussion is safety and Lord Cullen was clear--union recognition and safety matters are separate issues ; one is not connected with the other. Indeed, Lord Cullen endorses the Government's approach, which is to allow all people who work in the North sea to have a say in safety matters. Our safety committee regulations give all workers a voice and provide new rights to raise safety issues and to call inspectors if workers are in any way disatisfied. We are content with those arrangements, and they have been endorsed by Lord Cullen.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Speaker : Order. I am afraid that I shall not be able to call all the hon. Members who have been standing. I shall call two more Back Benchers and then the Opposition Front-Bench speaker. We must then move on to the debate on the Queen's Speech.
Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar) : Will the Minister clarify two points that he made this afternoon? The first concerns safety in the work force. He told us at the beginning that everyone should participate in safety matters, and in answer to another question told us that he was against strikes. Many of the people who went on strike were my constituents. After Piper Alpha, they wanted their union to represent them on health and safety issues. That is all they wanted, and that right has been denied to them.
Will the Minister also clarify--
Ms. Mowlam : Oh, go on. My question will be very short. The Minister referred several times to the safety audit. Will he tell the House how that safety audit will operate, so that we will know that the operators are obeying its recommendations? Chapter 12 of the report refers to an audit recommendation that the diesel fire pumps should not be on manual mode during diving. There was already an audit recommendation to that effect, so how do we know that the safety audit will work?
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Lady may be right in saying that some of her constituents went on strike because of their view about safety arrangements. All I can say to them is that their view was not endorsed by Lord Cullen, and I have accepted his report. The hon. Lady wants certain safeguards. The safety case which will have to be presented by any operator in the North sea will have to include an arrangement for the operators to audit their management of safety. The task of the regulator under these new arrangements is to see that that happens. If the Health and Safety Executive needs new powers, it is entitled to talk to me about that. I have accepted what Lord Cullen said about these matters in their entirety.
Column 343subsequently reads the report will conclude that the comments about the operators and owners of the rigs are most damning.
One aspect of safety has not been mentioned this afternoon. It concerns hours of work. Some of the men who work the rigs are working 12 hours on, 12 hours off, plus overtime. Some of our rig workers work no fewer than 2,300 hours a year plus overtime, whereas workers in the Norwegian fields work 1,600 hours. The Minister must apply his mind to the question and recognise that, with men working such long hours, the rigs must be in great danger.
Mr. Wakeham : I am not sure whether there is evidence to support what the hon. Gentleman says, although I recognise his concern about something that is a right and proper matter for inclusion in any arrangements. In the arrangements for the proper management of safety on rigs, it will have to be made clear that people should not work such long hours that they cannot concentrate on the job in hand : I entirely agree with that.
Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, South) : May I join hon. Members in expressing my appreciation to Lord Cullen for the magnificent job that he has done in cutting through the evidence and presenting a report which I think will mark a watershed in safety in the North sea? As a Scottish lawyer myself, I think that one of the advantages of having a Scottish lawyer do the job is that it helps to cut through some of the prejudices.
For the benefit of the Secretary of State, who appears to be somewhat dyslexic in his reading of certain aspects of the report, let me quote paragraph 21.84, which contains Lord Cullen's views on the trade union position :
"I am prepared to accept that the appointment of offshore safety representatives by trade unions could be of some benefit in making the work of safety representatives and safety committees effective, mainly through the credibility and resistance to pressures which trade union backing would provide."
That seems to me unequivocal.
It is inappropriate that the Secretary of State should pursue his prejudice, and his party's prejudice, against trade unions and about the benefits that they have clearly brought to the safety regime onshore. I still do not understand why that prejudice remains, especially as it prevents the Secretary of State from recognising the clearly expressed view of Lord Cullen that the safety systems and the involvement of the trade unions should be pursued offshore. I have two questions for the Secretary of State. The first concerns legislation. It is clear--as the Secretary of State has admitted--that primary legislation will be required. The right hon. Gentleman had the report some three weeks before the Queen's Speech, although that speech contained no reference to possible legislation. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, if primary legislation is necessary, it will be introduced expeditiously--if possible during this Parliament and before the election?
Another question that needs to be asked, although not ncecessarily by me--I know that it is being asked by my constituents, by the survivors of the Piper Alpha tragedy and by the relatives of the victims--concerns responsibility. It is clear that the Secretary of State is being evasive in his interpretation of what Lord Cullen said. It was not only the oil company--Occidental--that was
Column 344responsible. The company obviously had some responsibility but it operated according to the latitude allowed by the Department. The question of the right hon. Gentleman's officials is dealt with emphatically by Lord Cullen in his report, but Lord Cullen is the first to point out that those officials were under-resourced and that they were operating in difficult circumstances and without strong political direction or support. It is clear that it was the Government who ignored the recommendations of the Burgoyne committee and who consistently under- resourced the inspectorate and tried to apply the principles of the free market to safety. They failed to recognise that, while the oil industry risks only its capital, oil workers risk their lives and therefore need the protection of a strong safety system.
The Government have consistently abdicated their responsibility. Will the Secretary of State today tell the survivors and relatives where the guilty party is and who will carry the can for the tragedy?
Mr. Wakeham : First, I share the hon. Gentleman's praise for Lord Cullen's skill. I am happy to associate the hon. Gentleman, who is a Scottish lawyer, with Lord Cullen. If Lord Cullen is a good example of a Scottish lawyer, then Scottish lawyers are good lawyers. The hon. Gentleman was right to praise Lord Cullen.
With regard to trade union recognition, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I suggest that he and any other hon. Member who feels strongly about it should read the whole of the report before they reach a firm conclusion. In particular, they should read chapter 21.85 in which Lord Cullen states :
"I consider that it would be inappropriate for me to recommend any change in the method by which safety representatives are chosen." Just as the hon. Gentleman can pick examples to make his point, so I can pick examples to make mine. We owe it to Lord Cullen and to those who work in the North sea to study this comprehensive report before we reach premature conclusions which may be of a partisan nature.
I have said that I have sent the report to the Lord Advocate, who must consider it in the light of his responsibilities. However, I have made it abundantly clear that I accept that the work of the officials in my Department was carried out with the best intentions and with the best skill and expedition.
Chapter 15.50 is one of the most significant parts of the report. Lord Cullen states there :
"Even if the shortcomings"--
that is, some of the shortcomings that were recognised in some of the officials--
"which I have mentioned above were made good would inspections be able by their nature to achieve the objective of assessing the adequacy of the installation as a whole?"
The answer to that forms the basis of the report--to recommend a completely new system for regulation.
Mr. Wakeham : I have answered the question about 1980 and 1990 on several occasions. There were many fundamental differences between 1980 and 1990. In 1980, the Government accepted the majority report of the Burgoyne committee. In 1990, we have accepted Lord Cullen's report. That is right and proper in both cases.
Mr. Secretary Patten, supported by Mr. Secretary Rifkind, Mr. Secretary Hunt, Mr. Norman Lamont, Mr. Michael Portillo and Mr. Robert Key, presented a Bill to make provision with respect to the liability to standard community charges and non-domestic rates in respect of certain caravans and their pitches : And the same was read the First time : and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 10.]
Debate on the Address
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question[7 November].
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows : Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.-- [Mr. Younger.] Question again proposed.
Mr. Speaker : Before I propose the Question again, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that a large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate in today's debate. Therefore, I propose to place a 10-minute limit on speches between 6 pm and 8 pm. I ask those hon. Members who are called before or after then to bear that general limit in mind, please.
Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Waddington) : The title of today's debate--"Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities"- -is identical to that chosen by the Opposition last year. I was surprised then, and I am even more surprised today, that the Opposition should have thought it right to choose such a title. Words such as "rights, freedoms and responsibilities" form part of the language of liberty and have no place at all in the vocabulary of socialism. The Conservative party believes in and understands the meaning of freedom. Our vision is of a free society in which intrusions on individual liberty are minimised and take place only under the rule of law.
If the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and the Labour party have finally abandoned socialism and embraced freedom, I am perfectly prepared to accept their conversion. But I am blessed if I can see why I or anybody else should vote for a lot of Johnny-come-latelies with the inspiring slogan : "We do earnestly repent of our sins and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings. The remembrance of them is grievous unto us. The burden of them is intolerable." The idea of Neil kneeling is somewhat unconvincing.
The Labour party may not be proud now of its commitment to socialism, but I understand that the commitment still exists, and it is hardly qualified therefore to talk about freedom. It is entirely disqualified from claiming an interest in responsibility. All hon. Members have a responsibility to uphold the rule of law--I should have thought that all hon. Members would agree with that. If any hon. Member does not believe that, and does not believe in a parliamentary democracy the only way to change a law is through Parliament, he or she should not be here today. Responsible citizens pay their taxes and responsible Members of Parliament should pay their dues to their local authorities. They certainly should not add to the burdens of their fellow men and women by refusing to pay. Yet
Column 347Opposition Members--more than 20 of them now, I am told--have at one time or another publicly stated that they would not pay their community charge. I do not know whether they have now done so, or whether they are still imposing on their neighbours the cost of the services which they receive, but, even if those hon. Members have seen sense, the damage has been done.
The message has gone out that Labour Members of Parliament are prepared deliberately to ignore the laws of this land. What does that sort of behaviour contribute towards the "rights, freedoms and responsibilities" that we are debating today? What does the Labour party's failure to take action against the law-breakers on its own Benches say about the true extent of its commitment to "rights, freedoms, and responsibilities"?
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : In the past 10 years, how many times have the courts found the Government guilty of breaking their own laws? How many times have they been taken to the European Court and found guilty?
Mr. Waddington : Decisions taken by Ministers in good faith and on legal advice as to the effect of legislation passed by this Parliament are one thing. Deliberate defiance of the law--that is what we are talking about now--is an entirely different matter.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Are not matters somewhat different if the franchise has been fiddled and if a measure such as the poll tax is introduced and knocks people off the electoral register? In those circumstances, logic no longer applies. When I make my speech I shall explain the situation, why I have not yet paid, and why it is in defence of parliamentary democracy that I have not paid. We require to get rid of that pernicious piece of legislation which picks at parliamentary democracy.
Mr. Waddington : I will be very interested to hear the hon. Gentleman's speech in due course. I shall be very interested to hear whether the hon. Gentleman's attitude is condoned by the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on his Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman is saying that, despite a law that has been passed by a democratically elected Parliament, he is entitled to elect not to obey that law. What is worse, more mischievous and more disgraceful is that he then heaps the burden of the cost of the local services that he receives on to his neighbours.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : I am most grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way, particularly as he is upbraiding the official Opposition. On public figures breaking the law, would he care to comment on allegations that were widely made this weekend that the Prime Minister knew of British Satellite Broadcasting's breaking of the Broadcasting Act 1990 and did not even report it to the responsible Minister, never mind to the law-enforcement authorities?
Mr. Waddington : That is a most extraordinary question which has been framed by the hon. Gentleman [Interruption.] Just a minute. I shall refer to broadcasting in a short time, and I am confident that we shall have a bit of knockabout fun then, judging by the way in which that question was framed, but it is very much better that I should keep to the theme of my speech and refer to broadcasting when it is appropriate to do so.
Mr. Evans : The Home Secretary has been busily condemning Labour Members of Parliament for not paying the poll tax. I assure him that I have paid my poll tax and have urged everyone to pay their poll tax. Does the Home Secretary agree that any system that provides the London borough of Westminster with twice the resources to look after children who are deemed to be at risk than it gives the metropolitan borough of St. Helens can only be described as absolute corruption?
Mr. Waddington : The hon. Gentleman has apparently well rehearsed that question, which he put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment last week. The hon. Gentleman knows the answer perfectly well. I certainly do not propose to waste the time of the House giving it again today.
We should not be surprised by Labour's attitude. We all remember the Labour Members who supported the pickets against the police at Orgreave and at Wapping. We all remember that every single Labour Member voted against our proposals to give trade unions back to their members, that every single Labour Member voted against our proposals to outlaw secondary picketing, and that every single Labour Member voted against the proposal to give people the right not to join a trade union. Labour might talk about rights and freedoms but it never, never, never votes for them.
Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton) : On the subject of rights and responsibilities, is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many of the law-abiding majority who have paid thier community charge greatly resent the threat that they might have to pay more next year because local authorities have failed to collect the charge from a law-breaking minority? Will my right hon. and learned Friend pass on to his colleagues in the Cabinet the need for the capping mechanism to take account of the fact that, perhaps spending should be cut to meet the failure to raise revenue?
Mr. Waddington : I shall certainly pass on to my right hon. and hon. Friends what my hon. Friend says, but his point is well taken. The real gravamen of the charge is that, while pretending that they are making a grand political gesture, people are just heaping burdens on their neighbours. I do not see anything commendable in that. If Labour pays only scant regard to rights, freedoms and responsibilities, for those who sit on these Benches it is the very essence of our belief, and our belief is evidenced by our acts.
Column 349Mr. Graham : On poll tax capping, rate- capping, and so on, the way the Home Secretary is carrying on today, next he will be suggesting a bit of knee-capping.
responsibilities is evidenced by our acts. We have given the right to be balloted before industrial action and to be balloted for the election of trade union leaders.
We have stopped people being compelled to join trade unions against their will. We have given council tenants the right to own their own homes. We have given parents more choice about the school that their children attend and more say about the way in which that school is run.
Last year, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) accused me of not having "the faintest idea" of what freedom means. I know what it does not mean. It does not mean the creation of a socialist economy, with less and less choice and a downward spiral of living standards. It does not mean the sort of penal tax rates which Labour previously imposed and now promises to impose again. It does not mean the virtual confiscation of property such as the shares held by the millions of individual shareholders in British Telecom and in the water industry. In short, freedom does not mean socialism.
Last year, the Home Office brought forward several Bills, perhaps the most important of which was the Broadcasting Bill. The Broadcasting Act 1990, now on the statute book, offers a dramatic extension of choice for the viewer and listener. It provides for a tremendous expansion in radio, with three new national radio stations and many new local and community stations. It also makes provision for a new terrestrial television channel, with a far more open and publicly understandable process for the granting of franchises for Channel 3. It provides for a new framework for satellite and cable television services. It will, I am sure, come to be seen as one of the most important reforms of broadcasting in the past 40 years. On satellite television, the Independent Broadcasting Authority will, of course, have to make a judgment about the future of the DBS franchise, but non-domestic satellite broadcasting is clearly going to offer more choice to the viewer. If the Labour party's view is that restrictions should be placed on the company prepared to take the risk of developing this sort of competition, and if it wishes to see this increased choice for the viewer snuffed out, it will only be running true to form. Labour has always opposed greater choice in television. It voted against the creation of ITV. It has always been against freedom of choice.
Mr. Grocott : When the Prime Minister was told about the proposed restriction of choice in relation to satellite channels and Mr. Murdoch's proposed monopoly, did she inform the Home Secretary, the Minister responsible, that that was about to take place?
Mr. Waddington : The hon. Gentleman seems unaware that the possibility of such a merger has been knocked around in the trade press for months and months. I have an edition of "Broadcast" with me. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the edition for 9 November, he will see that its very first page reproduces what was on the front page of a previous edition a year ago--
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) rose --
During the meeting with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, Mr. Murdoch mentioned the possibility of a merger, but only in the most general terms. Such a possibility had already been floated in the trade press in the way in which I have already mentioned. What has happened is now a matter for the IBA and the Office of Fair Trading. It was not a matter for the Government a fortnight ago ; it is not a matter for the Government now. It certainly was no business of the Prime Minister to go telephoning around the place to all and sundry, me included, saying that she had been told by Mr. Murdoch what everybody already knew.
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook) : Since, in the Home Secretary's words, the idea of a merger has been "knocked around" for some time, he will have had an opportunity to consider its implications. He will know that the chief executive-designate of the Independent Television Commission believes that the BSB franchise was not its to dispose of and that it was not legally entitled to pass it to Mr. Murdoch. Therefore, although Mr. Murdoch is operating that franchise, he is operating unlawfully. Bearing in mind the Home Secretary's strictures on obedience to the law, what advice can he give Mr. Murdoch about his unlawful conduct?
Mr. Waddington : It is not a question of advice to Mr. Murdoch ; it is a question of what power the IBA has in this situation. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right. It may be that the contract between BSB and the IBA has been infringed, in which case it is possible for the IBA to terminate the contract. However, the right hon. Gentleman also knows what could be the consequence of that for those who are able to watch on squarials at present. If it is the new company's intention eventually to broadcast on Astra alone, there would not be much advantage in the termination of the contract tomorrow rather than in a few months' time.
Mr. Hattersley : I assure the Home Secretary that I am perfectly prepared to tell my friends that they should obey the law and pay the poll tax, so why does not he have the same respect for the law and tell the Prime Minister's friend, Mr. Murdoch, that he should obey the law, too?
Mr. Waddington : I am not sure that that question is even worthy of an answer. What took place between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Mr. Murdoch is certainly none of my business, but my understanding is exactly as I expressed it to the House a short time ago--that the possibility of a merger was mentioned only in the most general terms. Such a possibility had already been floated in all the papers--certainly in the trade press--for months and months.
Mr. Tony Banks : Although I do not believe everything that I read in the newspapers, I should be interested to know whether the Home Secretary saw the front page of The Independent on Sunday, according to which a representative of Mr. Murdoch has said : " The Prime Minister took notes and treated the matter confidentially.' "
Did the Prime Minister treat the matter so confidentially that she did not think that it was worth speaking about it to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who has direct responsibility for such matters? Was the Prime Minister keeping the right hon. and learned Gentleman in ignorance because, since he is so unimportant in her eyes, there did not seem to be much point in her telling him anything?
Mr. Waddington : This is absolute rubbish. My officials were told about the merger on the Friday afternoon--in advance of the public announcement. What transpired between Mr. Murdoch and the Prime Minister is exactly as I have stated it.
But this debate is about the Queen's Speech and the Home Office programme for the coming Session, and before I move to the bigger Bill, the Criminal Justice Bill, I should say a word or two about the War Crimes Bill.
As you heard in the Gracious Speech, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we intend to bring the Bill back to the House in due course. I think that it would be odd if we were not to do so in view of the very clear support that the Bill received here not so very long ago. However, what is far more important is that those of us who voted for the Bill the last time round are convinced that it is right.
I do not accept the argument that a decision was taken after the war not to pursue war criminals. It is true that a decision was taken to stop trials in the British zone of Germany, but at that time nobody addressed his mind to the possibility of people having arrived and settled here in Britain immediately after the war who were guilty of the horrific crimes set out in the Hetherington--Chalmers report. Because no one knew that any of them were here, no one could have made a judgment to allow them to evade the consequences of their crimes. I am convinced that there is a world of difference between making a criminal offence of an act which was not unlawful at the time of its commission, and giving the courts power to try people who, if the allegations against them are correct, perpetrated acts which they must have known at the time were crimes according to the law of every civilised nation.
But the House will wish to consider whether adjustments can be made to meet some of the concerns expressed in another place while preserving the fundamentals of the Bill, and I am sure that that is something which will be well debated when the Bill is brought back to the House.
I now come to the Criminal Justice Bill. With extraordinary cheek, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook has from time to time suggested that the Government's proposals foreshadowed in the White Paper represent a belated conversion to ideas which he has nursed close to his heart for years and years. My wife tells me that he became so carried away the other day that he referred to 25 years. I do not know about his heart, but he certainly kept the ideas close to his chest. Of course, the previous Labour Government did absolutely nothing to forward the policies to which he now seems to give a warm welcome.
Column 352This is not the Second Reading debate, but there are several aspects of the Bill which I should like to highlight.
First, the Bill sets out a coherent statutory framework for sentencing based on the seriousness of the offence. This is a just approach and, together with the work on the Judicial Studies Board, the power in the hands of the Court of Appeal to set sentencing guidelines and the power in the hands of the Attorney-General to refer over-lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal, it should make for much greater consistency in sentencing.
Secondly, the Bill extends the range of community penalties available to the courts and enjoins the court not to pass a custodial sentence unless, having considered all the opportunities for punishment in the community, it concludes that only a custodial sentence is justified. In effect it extends over the whole age range the requirements placed on the courts in respect of young offenders in the Criminal Justice Acts 1982 and 1988 which, incidentally, have contributed to a large decline in the number of young people sent to prison. Sending people to prison is an expensive pastime and all too often it is likely to result in people coming out of prison worse than they were when they went in. Community penalties, however, can make tough demands on the offender--we intend that they should--yet allow him to continue to maintain his family and make reparation to those who have suffered at his hands.
Thirdly, the Bill sets out to reform the parole system so that those sent to prison will be subject to a more rational and predictable system, and the sentences that they serve will be more closely related to the sentences passed on them.
Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak) : Most of us agree that it is much better that those who commit crimes of violence and might commit them again should be kept in prison. However, the perpetrators of some of the worst crimes in the City have not been kept in prison. I do not believe that crimes of fraud in the City are victimless. A crime is a crime. Is not it true that wealthy people who have lived a life of great luxury fear going to prison much more than they do a great fine? If we say that we shall fine people £1 million, £2 million, £3 million or £4 million, we might even encourage crime. The one thing that people who live good lives do not like is the idea of being in the slammer. In the end, the possibility of being put in the slammer helps to stop those who could commit those crimes from doing so.
Mr. Waddington : There is nothing in the framework set out in the Bill to lead anyone to suppose that serious cases of fraud will not result in imprisonment. I do not suggest that for one moment. But my hon. Friend is right to touch on the changes in the fining system which will give the courts greater flexibility. There may be cases where people who are not fined today will be fined in future. However, that was not the point that my hon. Friend was making.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : I am enormously encouraged by the spelling out of the intention to extend the use of community penalties. My right hon. and learned Friend will know that study after study has shown that the best chance of reclaiming particularly young criminals is to give them the opportunity to do voluntary or semi-voluntary service of one sort or another for the less fortunate. On many occasions in the past, good programmes were run for three years as an experiment but
Column 353then came to an end. That seems an awfully expensive and extravagent way of doing things. May we hope for greater continuity of those excellent projects in the future?
Mr. Waddington : I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend said. There will be many opportunities for developing all sorts of new programmes for punishment in the community. I certainly want the voluntary sector to play a much greater role than now. Perhaps my hon. Friend will come to see me with his ideas. He will have a receptive ear.
Fourthly, a system of unit fines will be introduced. That was touched on in the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) a moment ago. Less well-off offenders will pay less than the better-off, so the fines will make similar demands on each. The system will help courts to set fines at realistic levels and that together with the power to attach income support, should ensure that more fines are paid and fewer people finish up in prison for fine default. People should not be sent to gaol if they can't pay only if they won't.
Together with the Maintenance Enforcement Bill, which will enable the courts to make an attachment of earnings order when a maintenance order is first imposed, the Criminal Justice Bill forms part of the Government's strategy to strengthen the family and reinforce parental responsibility. The Bill will ensure that parents have to be present when their children are before a court. The courts will also be given power to bind over parents to exercise proper control over their children. In addition, where parents are ordered to pay their children's fines, the amount of the fines will be related to the means of the parents.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House will have been delighted to see the proposals contained in the Bill which relate to the Pigot committee's proposals. The Bill will make it easier for children in abuse cases to give evidence, for example by allowing a video-recorded statement to be admissible, while ensuring that the rights of defendants are properly safeguarded.
Finally, the Bill allows for the private sector to tender for police and prison escort duties and the operation of remand centres.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : What does the Home Office intend to do about the difficult case of life sentence prisoners who are out on licence and have their licences revoked? I ask that question in the light of the recent case which went to the European Court of Human Rights. Will there be judicial review of that process?