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Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman has just said that he believes that burglars should have no rights at all. Does that mean that they should not have the right to life?

Derek Conway: I have always voted in the House for the restoration of capital punishment. For those who commit premeditated murder, I have always advocated and still advocate capital punishment—

Chris Bryant rose—

Derek Conway: If the hon. Gentleman would calm down for a moment, he could listen to my response. Of course I am not advocating, nor is anyone on the Conservative Benches, the reintroduction of capital punishment for burglars—although many of the hon. Gentleman's constituents might be tempted. If he still wants to have a go, I am happy to let him.

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I am not on the have-a-go side—I think he is. He seems to be advocating not only capital punishment and that burglars should have no rights, including the right to life, but furthermore that the person who decides whether they lose that right is the householder, not a court.

Derek Conway: The hon. Gentleman is clearly trying to put words into my mouth. Earlier on, one of his hon. Friends made the point that someone who kills a burglar may not be charged under existing legislation. Burglars risk their lives if they burgle someone's home, and they should understand that. What we are talking about, in the Bill, is the level of probability of their facing trial, and going through all the horror of that, when they take the action they take.

The time has come for the House to recognise that people outside this Chamber are quite fed up. They are fed up with the sort of semantics that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has been dancing around this morning. They are fed up with politicians in our fairly safe environment thinking that what happens to us does not need to happen to people outside, when we know that it is going on all the time.

This matter is utterly confused in the mind of the Government. It is certainly confused in my mind, in the mind of the courts and even in the mind of our new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who will be targeting smart dinner parties rather than the more serious crime that concerns my constituents. There is a degree of confusion on the issue. My hon. Friend the Member for Newark has rightly and honourably set out a way forward to take care of it. If the Government had thought of it first, they would have tried to do so too but they were slow off the mark. Because of the impending election, they will kill my hon. Friend's Bill. That is shameful, because the public are fed up with the victim having fewer rights and fewer opportunities than the
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perpetrators of crime. My hon. Friend seeks to send a clear message to the perpetrators of crime that their time is well and truly up.

11.42 am

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab) rose—

Mr. Dismore: Given my hon. Friend's frequent appearances on the "Today" programme at unearthly hours of the morning, does he think that the listeners subjected him to either grossly disproportionate or reasonable force to prevent him from intruding in their homes early in the morning in the way that they voted for the listeners' Bill that he promised to promote?

Mr. Pound: Vinnie Jones once received a red card within three seconds of coming on to the pitch. Once, in the Hammersmith Catholic primary schools league, I was sent off before I had even come on to the pitch, but I do not think that anyone has ever had an intervention, not just halfway through their first sentence but halfway through their first word. Let us record this moment of parliamentary history.

In response to the slightly premature ejaculation of my hon. Friend, those who subjected me to what was, I think, a rather gross form of violence were in fact not the honest listeners of Radio 4—as far as I can gather, they were all on the slopes at Chamonix at the time—but a group of website gun fanatics, headed by an organisation called Cybershooters, who orchestrated a campaign against me.

Having responded to that intervention, I shall try to remember precisely what I was going to say when I stood up. First, like other Members, I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) not on the turn of the dice, the piece of good fortune that gave him No. 1 in the ballot, which anyone of us could have achieved—although few of us did and few of us will—but on raising an issue that clearly resonates with the public far beyond this place. He has his finger on the pulse and he is right to raise the issue. Where I diverge from him is to say that his response, I fear, is wrong. Macaulay famously said that evil was the root but bitter was the fruit, and in this case I think that the evil root has, unfortunately, corrupted the hon. Gentleman's argument.

Nobody on either side of the House would attempt to make the case that everything is sweetness and light in the streets of suburbia or in the farmlands of Norfolk. People are afraid. There is no question about that. There are two responses that we can make to address that fear and concern. The first, which would be intellectual treason, would be to try to ramp up that fear, to engender a climate of even greater fear, knowing full well in our hearts and minds that the responses proposed—the baseball bat solution, the pit, the petrol-covering, the ignition solutions—will not solve the problem, but will make it worse. The second response would be to ask what is the nature of the fear and what can we best do to address it, calmly and less dramatically. That genuinely is the issue we face.

We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mrs. Clark) of a case where a postmaster killed someone breaking into his post office and was not
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charged. Members may be familiar with the case of Nick Baungartner who was a householder in a fight with a 6 ft 2 in intruder, Robert Ingham, who was 22-years-old. That happened in Ockbrook in Derbyshire in December 1995. Mr. Baungartner claimed that Mr. Ingham, armed with a shovel, had ambushed him like a madman. A fight ensued and the heroic—I use the word judiciously—Mr. Baungartner defended himself, breaking the bones in both his hands as he did so. Ultimately, Mr. Ingham, a redundant apprentice joiner from Derby, died from a neck injury. Mr. Baungartner suffered considerable psychological damage, but he was not prosecuted. Quite rightly. He was a householder in his own home, a 60-year-old man who was attacked by a 22-year-old thug with a shovel. He was not prosecuted. However, the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Newark would go further than that. He says that Mr. Baungartner should not even have had his case investigated. The presumption should have been so overwhelmingly on the side of the householder that there should not even have been an investigation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) rightly pointed out that that would mean the abolition of the Coroners Act 1988, because at present there is a statutory duty. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) raised the case of a former high sheriff of Kent and two incidents with a shotgun. In neither case was the gentleman charged, but the cases were investigated. Before we turn to other aspects of the Bill and the apparent simplicity—

Mr. Gale rose—

Mr. Pound: May I finish my sentence first? I have already suffered enough from interventions.

The apparent simplicity of the Bill's proposals, which, sadly and tragically, appear to imply some protection, in fact unravel quickly as soon as we cast any light on them. The reality is that those proposals would not make a difference.

Mr. Gale: To clarify the position, Robin Baker-White may not have been prosecuted, but the police did take away his firearms, and every burglar in Kent now knows that that house is wide open.

Mr. Pound: I have been in correspondence with Robin Baker-White. He is a very moderate, intelligent gentleman who has felt considerable pain during these events, and I entirely understand how he feels. The point that I made in my last letter to him was that if a person discharges a shotgun in this realm, surely there has to be an investigation, even a basic one. Are we really talking about a situation in which a citizen can fire a shotgun at another citizen, and the police simply stand back, without analysing or investigating, making notes or undertaking any forensic examination?

Tom Levitt: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Pound: In a moment.

I cannot believe that that situation is what we want. That is a Kenneth Noye law, not a Robin Baker-White law. I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for somewhere in Derbyshire.
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