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13 Jan 2003 : Column 464—continued

7.2 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Hilary Benn): I think we were subjected to the nice cop, nasty cop routine at the beginning and the end of the debate. I definitely prefer the nice cop even if there were elements of Gilbert and Sullivan to the speech by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin). I am grateful to him for being honest enough to admit that he had changed his mind on sentencing. I agreed with him wholeheartedly on one thing. He said that we were debating a long-running problem. He is right about that. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) made the same point. In anticipation of tomorrow's debate, let me make it clear that the hon. Gentleman's criticism of

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changes to jury trial does not bear examination if one considers the measured comments of the Home Affairs Committee, which did not manage to get as excited about our proposed changes as he did.

The debate focused on several issues. Statistics received a great deal of attention. I agree with the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) that we must have faith in them, but my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston) gave the most balanced account of the Government's record on crime.

On gun crime and firearms, I listened with great interest to the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), who dissected the circumstances that might arise when dealing with possession of a firearm. I think he acknowledged, however, that the existing law is not being properly applied. That begs the question of how it can be better applied. There is no doubt of the need for the changes proposed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary so that the exceptional circumstances are clear. Of course the judiciary have to judge what the sentence should be for carrying a firearm in public. What possible purpose could someone have for doing that? There is also a strong case to ban the carrying of replica weapons in a public place.

The hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) spoke with passion about the position in which householders find themselves when faced with burglars. He knows that the law allows someone to use reasonable force. For the reasons that the hon. and learned Member for Harborough gave, that has to be judged on a case-by-case basis. I do not understand how a subjective test, which is what the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk argued for in relation to the use of force against burglars, could replace it. From a different perspective, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird) spoke with equal passion about the need to take the crimes of rape and domestic violence seriously. She welcomed the Government's steps to do precisely that.

We also heard a range of views on sentencing. I am sure that we will have a lively debate when we discuss the clauses in the Criminal Justice Bill in Committee and on Report which deal with the Sentencing Guidelines Council. I hope that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) will support the proposed changes. The position on third-time convicted burglars is not as he set out. To get to a third conviction under the Crime (Sentencing) Act 1997, a burglar would need to have two previous convictions and sentences since the Act came into force in December 1999, so the clock needs to tick a little longer. However, I am happy to write to him with more information on that. He is right about the impact of the Xchurn" on the prison population.

The hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) raised the problem of burglary. He may be interested to know that Peter Hampson, the chief constable for West Mercia, is leading ACPO's work on that.

Notwithstanding the ritual denunciation of the Government by the Opposition, the truth came out in patches. We are trying to deal with a problem—the causes of crime and its terrible consequences—that will not be solved by soundbites issued by any party or by a

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fruitless argument about who is harder than whom when it comes to punishing criminals. Of course people must be called to account for what they have done, but surely years of experience under Conservative and Labour Governments have taught us that the real question is what will work best, as the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey said. We need to consider what we need to do to prevent people from offending and reoffending.

Those of us who represent inner-city constituencies understand perhaps better than anyone the effect that crime and the fear of crime have on the people we represent. I am sure that we have all had constituents in our surgeries who have been in tears and in despair, and wondering why they are forced to live in a certain way. No doubt every MP has shared my feeling of anger and helplessness at that time. Even though crime overall has fallen under the Government, that does not matter to that person at that moment because he or she has experienced a crime. The challenge is to put the emotion felt by our constituents, by us as Members and by society as a whole to effective use. That is what the Government and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary are trying to do.

We have heard contradictory criticisms of the Home Secretary. On the one hand, he is accused of trying to do too much; on the other hand, he is not doing enough. One of his defining characteristics is that he will try to make a difference.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield asked what are our priorities. Very simply, they include a determination to increase the number of police officers, which is why we now have a record number, after the disastrous decline that occurred under the last Conservative Government. We are determined to give community support officers better equipment, so that they can support police authorities by talking to communities about what kind of policing they want. We need to audit what the police do, and we need to try to cut bureaucracy.

It is determination that lies behind changes to the criminal justice system. The proposal for street bail in the Criminal Justice Bill has been welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. That is a practical measure to cut bureaucracy and to help police officers to do their job. We are determined to provide new sentences for the courts—indeterminate sentences, which will mean at last that people are not released when everybody knows that they are still a risk to the public. We are determined to invest more money in offending behaviour programmes, drug treatment and sex offender treatment. We are determined to support people who are imprisoned by their drug habit, which is the subject of the next debate.

In the best example of the Government's priorities, we are determined to tackle offenders when they are young. Members on both sides of the House have paid tribute to youth justice reforms because, despite the cynics, they recognised that something could be done. We have halved the time that it takes to get people from crime to sentence, and we have reduced reoffending.

Finally, I concur with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) because we cannot solve this problem if we leave it only to the police, the courts, the probation service and the prisons.

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This is a problem for the community and for society. We have to make clear our values: we want to treat people with dignity and respect; we call on people to account for what they have done; we want to protect ourselves from those against whom we need protection; we want to give help to those who have offended, if they are prepared to change the way they live. If we do not have those values in our society, we will never solve this problem and find effective ways of tackling crime and building a safer society.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 152, Noes 365.

Division No. 46
[7:11 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, rah Michael
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John (Billericay)
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Bellingham, Henry
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, rh Virginia (SW Surrey)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burt, Alistair
Cameron, David
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James (Beverley)
Curry, rh David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham & Stamford)
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice & Howden)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hague, rh William
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Horam, John (Orpington)
Howard, rh Michael
Hunter, Andrew
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Boris (Henley)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, rh Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mackay, rh Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, rh Francis
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, rh Michael
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Redwood, rh John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (M-Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trimble, rh David
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Hugh Robertson and
Angela Watkinson


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh A. J.
Bell, Stuart
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, rh David
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Mrs Annette L.
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Carmichael, Alistair
Casale, Roger
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom (Tooting)
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, rh Alistair
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, rh Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Heath, David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Keetch, Paul
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, rh Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morris, rh Estelle
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, rh John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Raynsford, rh Nick
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (City of Chester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, rh Clare
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
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)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
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
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Thurso, John
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watts, David
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ivor Caplin and
Derek Twigg

Question accordingly negatived.

13 Jan 2003 : Column 470

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

13 Jan 2003 : Column 471

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


13 Jan 2003 : Column 472

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