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Column 33more accidents--I use the word "crashes"--on minor roads, in the dark, away from junctions, on bends and when no other vehicle is involved.
In any of those circumstances--in the dark when one would not be able to see the plate ; on minor roads when one would not see much traffic ; and away from junctions and bends, or when no other vehicle is involved--I do not see any scientific basis on which one could set up a disprovable hypothesis that would tell us what the effect of the plate would be.
On the question of high-risk offenders, the subsequent article, by Dr. Jeremy Broughton, considers people who have to requalify because they have been caught once driving at two and a half times the legal alcohol limit or twice, during a 10-year period, driving above the legal limit. The peak age for these people is 27. Unless, for some reason, it is a habit desperately concentrated among those who passed the driving test at the age of 26, the logic behind my hon. Friend's proposition could be that anyone aged 26 should display a plate--26 or 27 being the peak age in severe cases involving drinking and driving.
One could argue about displaying plates at different times of the day. Females tend to have accidents in the morning or evening rush hour, whereas the time in the case of males tends to be around 10 o'clock at night. People driving vehicles that are owned by companies tend to have twice or three times as many crashes as individuals, of almost any age, driving their own vehicles.
The proposition ought to be that we should go on doing what has been shown to work. I refer to some of the ideas of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety, to one of whose presidents--the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), who is in the House--as to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day), I pay tribute. The things that have been shown to work are those that influence people's behaviour. The behavioural research led by the university of Reading, and funded originally by General Accident in one of its really great commercial investments in the protection of young people's lives, indicates that young drivers do not understand what a hazard is. Putting a plate on either end of a car would not change that.
However, it might change if the media could be persuaded to use interesting means--perhaps a five-minute spot each week--of showing what people get wrong.
Column 34Colour magazines, which contain articles with such titles as "A Day in the Life of . . . " or "A Meal in the Life of . . . ", might carry something entitled "A Crash in the Life of . . . ". That might explain what had led to a body-breaking, or at least a metal-bending, crash.
The Transport Research Laboratory has contributed immensely to cutting the number of casualties from 5,400 to 3,800. Here, I question whether it is sensible to go through with the idea of privatising the laboratory. I believe that, if it is privatised, fewer Transport Ministers will rely on the scientific evidence. The combined work of vehicle engineers and road engineers, as well as of the police in filling in the "Statistics 19" form which provides the basic information in the "Casualty Report" to which I have referred, can lead to a continued reduction in the numbers of people killed and seriously injured.
We can achieve something similar to what was achieved in the case of drunken driving. Young people used to be twice as bad as their fathers but became half as bad. Indeed, we might be able to get below 3,000 deaths a year. That would be almost a third of the peak level, even though the volume of traffic has increased dramatically. I realise that the intentions behind my hon. Friend's proposed Bill are good. However, I advise the House, and I certainly advise the Department of Transport, to pay no attention to the measure. It is not the way forward. There are many other effective means of cutting the number of casualties.
Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No.19 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business), and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. David Amess, Mr. David Alton, Sir Rhodes Boyson, Mrs. Angela Browning, Mr. Simon Burns, Mr. Iain Duncan Smith, Mr. Robert Dunn, Mr. Harry Greenway, Mr. Toby Jessel, Mrs. Angela Knight, Dame Jill Knight and Lady Olga Maitland.
Mr. David Amess accordingly presented a Bill to require newly qualified drivers to display on the vehicles they are driving an indication that they are newly qualified ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 22 April, and to be printed. [Bill 87.]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [28 March] proposed on consideration of the Bill, as amended (in Committee and in the Standing Committee), That the clause ( Racial harassment ) be read a Second time
1.(1) In relation to any prosecution for any offence of violence it shall be the duty of the prosecuting authority to place before the court any evidence tending to show that such offence has been committed on the ground of colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origin ("racial grounds").
(2) On conviction of any offence of violence the court shall have regard to such evidence in determining the penalty, and, if satisfied that the offence was committed on racial grounds ("racial violence"), shall impose an additional penalty which may exceed the maximum penalty otherwise prescribed for such offence.
2.(1) A person is guilty of the offence of racial harassment if on racial grounds he :
(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby ; or
(b) commits any trespass or nuisance whereby any occupant of any dwelling is likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress. (2) A constable may arrest a person without warrant whom he reasonably suspects of conduct constituting an offence under this section.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable : (a) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both ;
(b) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both.'.-- [Mr. Michael.]
Question again proposed.
Madam Speaker : I remind the House that with this we are also debating the following : Government new clause 125-- Offence of racially inflammatory publication etc. to be arrestable . New clause 50-- Aggravation of racial hatred
(1) If any person commits any offence provided for by
(i) sections 18, 20 or 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, or
(ii) sections 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and does so with a motive of racial hatred, then he shall be guilty of the said offence with aggravation of racial hatred.
(2) In this section, "racial hatred" means racial hatred against a group of persons in Great Britain by reference to colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.'. New clause 88-- Racial hatred
.-Part III of the Public Order Act 1986 shall be amended as follows
In section 27(1) there shall be substituted for the words "of the Attorney General" the words "of the Director of Public
New clause 89-- Offences committed on racial grounds
.--(1) In relation to any prosecution for any offence of violence it shall be the duty of the prosecuting authority to place before the court any evidence tending to show that such offence has been committed on racial grounds.
(2) On conviction of any offence of violence the court shall have regard to such evidence in determining the penalty and if satisfied that the offence was committed on racial grounds shall impose a penalty, which shall not be more than twice the maximum prescribed penalty. The court shall be required to give reasons for the penalty imposed, indicating in what way it has taken account of its finding that the offence was committed on racial grounds.'.
New clause 90-- Racial harassment (No. 2)
Column 36.--(1) A person is guilty of the offence of racial harassment if on racial grounds he
(a) commits any trespass or nuisance whereby any occupant of any dwelling is likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress ; or (b) uses words or behaviour or displays any writing, sign or other visual representation which is offensive on racial grounds within the hearing or sight of any person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
(2) a constable may arrest a person without warrant whom he reasonably suspects of conduct constituting an offence under this section.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable (a) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine or both ;
(b) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both.'. New clause 97-- Incitement to racial hatred (arrestable offence) .--(1) After subsection 19(1) of the Public Order Act 1986 there shall be inserted the following subsection
"(1A) A constable may arrest without warrant anyone he reasonably suspects in committing an offence under this section.".
(2) In Schedule 5 Part II of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Serious Arrestable Offences) there shall be added at the end "Public Order Act 1986 (c. 64)
9. Section 19 (publishing or distributing written material likely to stir up racial hatred).".'.
New clause 98-- Racial hatred (conditions on public processions) .--(1) In subsection 12(1)(a) of the Public Order Act 1986 there shall be added after the word "community," the words "on racial, religious, ethnic or other grounds,".
(2) In subsection 12(1)(b) of the Public Order Act 1986 there shall be added at the end after the word "do," the words "or to stir up racial hatred,".'.
New clause 100-- Harassment
.--(1) The Public Order Act 1986 shall be amended as follows. (2) For section 5(1) there shall be substituted the following subsection
"(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he
(a) commits any trespass or nuisance whereby any occupant of any dwelling is likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress ; or (b) uses words or behaviour or displays any writing, sign or other visual representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting within the hearing or sight of any person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.".
(3) For section 5(4) there shall be substituted the following subsection
"(4) A constable may arrest a person without warrant whom he reasonably suspects of conduct constituting an offence under this section.".
(4) Section 5(5) is hereby repealed.
(5) For section 5(6) there shall be substituted the following subsection
"(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable (a) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine or both ;
(b) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding the statutory minimum or both.". (6) For section 6(4) there shall be substituted the following subsection
"(4) A person is guilty of an offence under section 5 if a reasonable person would have expected any such trespass or nuisance to cause harassment, alarm or distress, or any such words or behaviour, or any such writing, sign or other visual representation to be threatening, abusive or insulting within the hearing or sight of any person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.".'.
Column 37New clause 127-- Racially-motivated violence (No. 2)
.--(1) A person shall be guilty of an offence of
(a) racially motivated manslaughter,
(b) racially motivated grievous bodily harm,
(c) racially motivated wounding with intent,
(d) racially motivated assault occasioning actual bodily harm or (e) racially motivated common assault.
if, with racial motivation he commits manslaughter, grievous bodily harm, wounding with intent, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, or common assault respectively.
(2) In this section "racial motivation" shall mean motivation on the grounds of colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years in addition to, and consecutive to, the sentence applicable for conviction of the offences of common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, or assault occasioning grievous bodily harm respectively.'.
Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South) : I suppose that I have a unique qualification to speak to the clauses--not simply because I am Jewish, but because I represent in my constituency many members of the Jewish community. Like my constituents, I have, sadly, been on the receiving end of racism from time to time. To attend, as I did recently, a showing of "Schindler's List"--a memorable and awe-inspiring film--and then to open one's parliamentary post the next morning to find a document which purports to deny the holocaust is perhaps the ultimate obscenity.
The clauses seem to be divided between those which want to import a racial motive into certain crimes and those which want to increase the enforcement powers which are available to us. I admit that I approach them with mixed emotions and mixed feelings. Those who have proposed new clause 13 and some of the new clauses which have been tabled for the first time today are motivated by honourable feelings, and by the belief that something must be done to combat and reduce the rising tide of racism in our society, which principally affects the black and Asian communities, but which affects the Jewish community as well. They want to make it clear that that rising tide must be curbed.
It is simply unacceptable that the levels of enforcement, prosecution and action under our existing laws are so deplorably low. Such a situation motivates the belief--particularly in the minds of those who are on the receiving end of racist conduct--that the authorities are reluctant to act.
Some of those new clauses--particularly those which relate to motivation-- have, in my view, a fundamental weakness, and for the supporters of the clauses to overlook that weakness does not assist their case.
New clause 13, with some of the other new clauses, establishes the need for a higher burden of proof for offences which are already against the law. Murder, violence, conduct against public order and harassment are already punishable severely under the present system, and that is right.
However, the clauses require an additional burden on the prosecution--to prove a racial motive. Every lawyer and anybody with any connection with the courts will
Column 38know that the hardest thing to prove is motive. One can easily prove that somebody did something, but to prove why they did it is far harder.
Ms Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) : The hon. Gentleman's view is incorrect. New clause 13 is drafted in such a way that, where there is a violent offence, prosecution would be on two counts--the violent offence itself and the racial motivation. It is possible in an aggravated offence that, where racial motivation is not proven, the charge of murder, manslaughter or whatever will still stand and will be prosecuted. We do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's interpretation is in any way correct, and it is not supported by our legal advice.
As for racial motivation, the hon. Gentleman must acknowledge that, if verbal abuse accompanies what are otherwise totally unpredictable attacks, the racial motivation may not be so difficult to prove, after all.
Mr. Sumberg : I have my doubts about that. It will be difficult to prove. I fear that, if prosecutions are brought under new clause 13 and the allied clauses, they will in all probability fail, which will send everyone the message, no matter what side they take in the argument, that the legislation is weak and not enforceable. Prosecuting, enforcing existing law and bringing offenders to book are the basic problems we face when dealing with racist crimes. Before the recess, the only good reason that might have led me to support new clause 13 and similar clauses was that it would have been unacceptable if a major criminal justice Bill made no mention of the increase in racism that we see. This Bill is the centrepiece of the Government's law and order programme and covers every aspect of criminality--I do not need to go into them all--and it would have been wrong if it gave people no comfort and entirely ignored the fact that racism is increasing in Britain. Such a Bill would have sent a message to the people who suffer from such activity that society does not care, and is not prepared to act.
I am glad that there has been a change of mind during the recess. First, the Government have tabled new clause 125, which I warmly welcome. It will make the publication of racist literature an arrestable offence. Secondly, other hon. Members have tabled clauses that will enforce existing laws and deal with the loopholes. Unless my right hon. Friend the Minister can convince me otherwise, I shall certainly support the loophole-plugging clauses, because they are essential. We must tackle the evil in society. For one reason or another, the right action is not being taken. We must consider the matter in that way. It is unacceptable for there to be a rise in membership of the hard right in Britain, which has always been a tolerant, just and humane society--a society that has welcomed immigrants to its shores for many years.
Equally, we must be careful about the legislation we pass. The present weaknesses in the law are that people are not willing to come forward and give evidence to the prosecution ; that it is not being enforced properly ; and that there are enforcement loopholes. Those are the evils and the mistakes that we must now tackle.
I welcome the fact that the Government have moved in some way. I hope that the Minister can move a little further, especially on enforcement. He and the House will
Column 39know that old axiom that, for evil to succeed, it is enough that good men and women do nothing. I hope that the House will not make that mistake.
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) : With you in the Chair, Madam Speaker, I moved a new clause to the Public Order Bill in Standing Committee G on April 10 1986, which would have created an offence of racial harassment. We debated the new clause on that day and received a sympathetic response from the then Minister, the hon. Member for Pudsey (Sir G Shaw). He offered us talks on the subject to find out whether we could agree an approach.
However, the talks did not result in our finding a satisfactory way to deal with the matter, which has remained a festering sore during the eight years since, as it was before that date, which was why I moved the new clause, as the official representative of Her Majesty's Opposition in the Standing Committee.
The hon. Member for Bury, South (Mr. Sumberg) spoke about sending a message. Although this is a specific new clause with specific provisions, nevertheless, apart from the specific provisions, which I support entirely, another reason why I wish the new clause to be added to the Bill is that the House of Commons should send a message to the members of ethnic minority communities, of whom I regard myself as one, that Parliament considers crimes with a racial element as even more intolerable than other crimes.
All crimes, by definition, are to be objected to. Those who commit them are to be pursued and, where appropriate, punished, severely if necessary. But crimes related to the race, ethnic origin or religion of a victim are very different from crimes which relate to the vulnerability of a person or to the property of a person that a criminal wishes to take away from the victim.
The victims of crimes of racial harassment are not attacked because they are rich--or poor but nevertheless have property that can be taken. They are attacked, they become the victims of crime, simply because they are black, come from an Asian community or are Jewish, or for some other reason relating to the uncontrollable factor of their birth, rather than, if I may put it this way, because of their eligibility as victims in possessing property that somebody else wishes to take away from them.
It is a peculiarly odious kind of crime. It is the reason why, if one may extrapolate, the apartheid regime in South Africa was so odious : it was based on racial discrimination. It is the reason why ethnic cleansing in Bosnia is so odious : the victims there are victims simply because of their religion. It is an issue to which it is time the House addressed itself in the most specific form. The House scarcely needs telling that there are far too many examples of racial harassment and victimisation, and far too many crimes committed against individuals and families simply because of their ethnic origin.
A little while ago, I took a group of Pakistani constituents from the Gorton division to see the chief constable of Manchester because they were so concerned that their wives could not go out shopping safely and their children could not go out to play safely. Problems of that kind occur regularly for my constituents--people who,
Column 40because they come from the Indian sub- continent and for no other reason, are penalised, harassed and attacked. I know of cases where petrol bombs have been put through letter boxes solely because of the victims' ethnic origin.
Mr. Sumberg : We would all deplore that sort of behaviour as quite dreadful, but the point at issue is that such things are already illegal-- already criminal offences. I must ask the right hon. Gentleman whether prosecutions were brought, people were taken to court and sentences were imposed in relation to those matters. If not, that is a matter of legitimate complaint, but it is a matter of enforcement, and not something relating to the present state of the law.
When I was a child, when anti-semitism was a great deal more overt than it often is now, in Leeds there were people who discriminated against me and other Jews with slogans, calling out, "Dirty Jew!" and insults of that type. In my constituency, my Pakistani constituents have to put up not only with being victims of the type of offence that I have described, but with being verbally insulted because of their ethnic origin, with having graffiti written on walls, and with the accompaniment of the criminal offence by a racial element which aggravates the nature of the offence.
In response to the intervention by the hon. Member for Bury, South, some of the offences were pursued ; some have resulted in prosecutions, some have not. That is not because the police are in any way remiss. The police do their best, and when they can pursue such offences, they do.
However, the question is not whether the offenders have been pursued with the full rigour of the law--when they can be, they are. The question is whether the law should have greater rigour. That is what the new clause is about. It is about whether the law should say, "If you attack someone, that is odious, but if you attack someone because they are black or an Asian or Chinese or a Jew, that is even more odious than your attack on them per se." That is my argument, and that is what the new clause says.
Mrs. Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green) : I have been following my right hon. Friend's remarks extremely closely, and agree with them whole -heartedly. Does he agree that one of the problems is that the aspect in which the law is deficient, and which this new clause would cover, is in relation to those crimes that are petty in nature by themselves--petty criminal damage or petty vandalism--but over a period build up into a picture of intolerable harassment, and that many senior police officers say that one needs to tackle that picture with new legislation so that society can express its repugnance for offences of that type ?
Mr. Kaufman : I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. When we debated inner cities, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), said, as the hon. Member for Bury, South is saying, that to do what we are seeking to do in this new clause would make it more difficult rather than easier to convict ; but he completely misunderstands the nature of the new clause. The Under-Secretary of State seemed to imagine that the racial element had to be proved in order to convict. That is not so.
Column 41Our new clause says--this is why it is such a good new clause--that the racial element carries with it an additional punishment, to say to people, "You have committed a crime, and the law of the land as it existed before this Act said that that crime was punishable by such-and-such a sentence, but because you committed that crime, which had a racial concomitant, you shall be punished even more, to teach you and to send a message to the ethnic minority communities that, as they are specially vulnerable, they shall have special protection." I am not saying for a moment that there are a huge number of crimes of racial harassment.
Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) rose
However many it is, it is too many. Over the years, there have been a considerable number of cases of the kind that I have described involving my Asian constituents. A number of Chinese people in my constituency face a particular problem--perhaps it is a problem in other parts of the country also--because young people congregate around fish and chip shops owned by the Chinese. One Chinese shop owner was murdered in his fish and chip shop, and another constituent has now been driven out of business. Patently racially motivated attacks upon his business are making his life an utter misery. It is utterly intolerable that somebody should be exposed to attacks such as that.
It is interesting that others are using racial harassment as a basis for policy. Manchester city council makes special provision for rehousing people who are victims of racial harassment. If somebody submits a rehousing application on the basis of racial harassment, that application receives special consideration, and rightly so. Through my experience as a constituency Member of Parliament, I know of too many instances of crimes committed against people because of their racial and ethnic origin. If we were to incorporate the amendment in the Act, it would be a signal from the House of Commons to all members of ethnic minority communities that Parliament is particularly and separately concerned about crime based on race or religion.
The Minister who replied to me in the debate eight years ago was sympathetic, but I am afraid that nothing whatever was done about the problem. I very much hope that today hon. Members--regardless of party ; it is not a party issue--will agree that it is proper for the House of Commons to send the message, to use the words of the hon. Member for Bury, South, that racial harassment is intolerable. We must do whatever we can to expunge it from our society, and incorporating the new clause in the Bill is a very good way of going down that road.
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton) : I begin by thanking my right hon. Friend the Minister and the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who is speaking for the Opposition in this debate, for adjourning the debate on racial matters the other evening when it might have been concluded. It has enabled a majority of members of the Home Affairs Select Committee to agree to some recommendations which we have tabled as amendments to the legislation.
The Home Affairs Select Committee believes that racism, in all its forms, is an evil and destructive force in our multiracial society. There is no doubt that it is