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4 Dec 2002 : Column 1006—continued

Simon Hughes: Does the Minister accept that there are reasonable arguments, although he might not yet have been persuaded by them, for finding ways in which we enable people to cope with complex fraud cases more easily? Juries could be found and we would not have to cause inconvenience to people who would find a long trial difficult. There are alternative ways to deal with the problem, which do not involve removing jury trial. Will the Government reconsider that?

Hilary Benn: I am much persuaded by the comments and experiences of judges who have tried to use the system in some of the longest running fraud trials. The Maxwell case has been mentioned. Blue Arrow is another example. Those judges have expressed great frustration about the difficulties of trying to accommodate the wish to include all the evidence and the pressure to separate bits of it so that juries can cope. The Government's fundamental concern relates to the burden on individual jury members and the damage that that does to the principle of representative juries.

The second issue relates to double jeopardy. The hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) asked who came up with the idea of making changes to double jeopardy. The change was recommended by the Law Commission, Lord Justice Auld, the Home Affairs Committee and, dare I say it, the 2001 Conservative party manifesto, not a source of advice that I would usually pray in aid as a guide to policy, but I am happy to make an exception in this case.

We are worried about miscarriages of justice. That is why the safeguards are in the Bill. However, it is because we are concerned about miscarriages of justice that we

4 Dec 2002 : Column 1007

want to change the law on double jeopardy. If the purpose of justice is to acquit the innocent and bring the guilty to account—and it is—then why not put compelling new evidence before a jury for the reasons set out passionately by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West? Of course the ultimate safeguard—the real answer to the question of whether such a trial can be fair—is the jury: we must trust the jury.

Thirdly, I turn to previous convictions and bad conduct. I recognise the fears and genuine concerns expressed about the impact of the proposal. However, anybody who reads what Sir Robin Auld had to say about the issue, particularly about his own reluctance in this matter, which he acknowledged in his report, will see that the current system is not clear and does not make sense. The Law Commission said:

In his opening remarks, the right hon. Member for West Dorset expressed surprise that we are proposing to allow the admittance not only of previous convictions but of previous acquittals, and I simply point out that that is already the case. Paragraph 287 of the explanatory memorandum, which refers to the case of Z, says that

On previous convictions and previous conduct—I think that this is the answer to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe)—the key safeguard is that on application by the defendant under clause 84(3) the judge will have to be satisfied that the probative value of that evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect. In other words, the judge must ask whether admitting the evidence would adversely affect the fairness of the proceedings. If so, it would not be admitted. Again, the ultimate safeguard remains—the jury. We should trust the jury to weigh the evidence in those cases.

Mr. Grieve: I am mindful of the comments made by the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) who said that he did not think that the rules would change very much. Yet the way in which the Government have gone on about them, particularly to the media, suggests that they make a fundamental change in procedure by allowing juries to know about previous convictions. It has to be one or the other. I think that the Bill will allow serious changes to take place unless, of course, judges, in their discretion, simply make sure that those changes are mitigated, and that is not what I understood the Minister to be trying to achieve.

Hilary Benn: The Bill aims to achieve much greater clarity and consistency in the way in which that evidence is admitted, but that process is subject to what must, in light of the concerns that have been expressed, be the ultimate safeguard—the judge making a judgment.

4 Dec 2002 : Column 1008

Another reason why the debate has been so good is that we have clarified the fundamental arguments and I look forward to those being taken forward in Committee. However, I hope that the House will recognise that this is not an argument with the legal profession; it is not about undermining fundamental principles and it is not about tilting the scales of justice against the accused. I do not believe that treating victims better means treating defendants any less fairly.

This is about the 30,000 trials a year that never take place because witnesses are intimidated or are too frightened to turn up. It is about processes leading to better-prepared cases and swifter hearings. It is about putting relevant evidence before the court so that it can judge the facts and discover the truth. It is about better protection for our constituents from dangerous offenders. It is about new community sentences that will help to rehabilitate. It is about looking, for the first time, at the effectiveness of sentences in preventing reoffending. It is ultimately about trying to rebuild confidence in the criminal justice system. Those sound to me like pretty good principles. In the end, this is about changes that I hope will make a difference to the lives of the people that we represent because we are seeking to reform the system, and for that reason I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 303, Noes 67.

Division No. 19
[9:59 pm


Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, rh David
Boateng, rh Paul
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Byers, rh Stephen
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, hon. Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, hon. Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hodge, Margaret
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, rh Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCartney, rh Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, rh John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Spellar, rh John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James (Glasgow Baillieston)
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Joan Ryan and
Mr. Phil Woolas


Allan, Richard
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Barrett, John
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Beith, rh A. J.
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Bruce, Malcolm
Burnett, John
Burnside, David
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Carmichael, Alistair
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Dodds, Nigel
Doughty, Sue
Ewing, Annabelle
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Heath, David
Hermon, Lady
Hogg, rh Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Kirkwood, Archy
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Lilley, rh Peter
Llwyd, Elfyn
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Moore, Michael
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
Öpik, Lembit
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Smyth, Rev. Martin (Belfast S)
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wishart, Pete
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Andrew Stunell and
Sir Robert Smith

Question accordingly agreed to.

4 Dec 2002 : Column 1011

Bill read a Second time.

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