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Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Mr. Noye, who, it is now established, was a police informer used by the police force, was involved in the most brutal murder of Constable Fordham some years ago, for which quite surprisingly he was acquitted? If Mr. Noye was at that time on the payroll of the police as an informer and bearing in mind that other officers are now being investigated officially about whether they were releasing information to people such as Mr. Noye, is it not possible that one of Constable Fordham's so-called colleagues tipped off Mr. Noye that he was under surveillance by Mr. Sanderson with regard to the Brink's-Mat robbery which presented him with the facilities and information to dispose of the policeman and murder him?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I hope the House will understand that it would be quite improper for me to comment on any individual who might or might not be subject to a possible complaint against the police. Clearly laid down procedures for investigating complaints that the police have acted improperly are contained in Part IX of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The responsibility for ensuring that complaints are thoroughly investigated rests with the chief officers and the independent Police Complaints Authority. If an investigation of a complaint suggested criminal action by an officer, the matter would be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether criminal proceedings

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should be brought. I repeat that it would be improper for me to comment in this House on an individual case.

Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the case to which the noble Lord refers was an extremely serious matter and the police officer concerned was rightly convicted and sentenced to a substantial term of imprisonment? Does she agree that the use of informants is a matter of critical importance in dealing with serious crime? Is she further aware that this matter is carefully monitored by both the inspectorate constabulary and chief officers to ensure that no impropriety takes place?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I agree with the first comment made by the noble Lord and with the second part of the statement in that informants properly employed--I emphasise properly employed--consistent with all the regulations laid down, are essential to criminal investigation and combating crime. It is essential and the police are highly accountable for the way in which they exercise it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister was literally right when she replied to my noble friend that the employment of police informers is an operational matter for the police. But that is not the whole story, is it? Is it not the case that the principles which underlie the employment of police informers and the safeguards which are necessary--for example, to ensure that police informers do not also act as agents provocateurs--are matters for the Secretary of State and for the Government?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point. First, the Home Office issued guidelines in 1969 on the use of informants. They have been expanded and were supplemented in 1995 by ACPO. Both the Home Office and ACPO guidelines make it clear that on no account should an informant be permitted to act as agent provocateur, or incite or counsel another to commit an offence. Anyone doing so would himself be liable to prosecution.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I should know the answer to this, but are those guidelines publicly available?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am fairly certain that they are and, if they are, I shall let the noble Lord know. They must be available to the police so I am sure that they must be a public document.

Lord Renton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the practice in the criminal courts in this country has for years been of such a kind as to prevent people from being wrongly convicted when there have been police informants, and that the courts frown upon agents provocateurs and require corroboration of a police informant's evidence before the jury is told that it is acceptable?

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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, my noble friend is right. The courts of course have a wide measure of discretion in exercising their powers to order the exclusion of evidence or to direct an acquittal where they believe that evidence has been collected in an improper way. That is always in the interests of justice for the person before the court.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords--

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I did not want my noble friend to close the debate. I hope that he will have the opportunity to come back in a second. I wanted to ask the Minister whether the guidelines on agents provocateurs apply not just to police informants but to local authorities which are employing children to go into supermarkets and tobacconists to induce retailers to sell cigarettes and drink?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that matter is being reviewed. The use of under-age persons in test purchases is a matter for the police or, of course, for trading standards officers. They have to consider that those taking part would also be liable to prosecution. It is clearly important that the law is enforced effectively, but the prime consideration must at all times be the welfare of the juveniles themselves. Again, ACPO guidelines provide guidance on the use of juveniles as informants. That guidance is currently under review, as I said earlier. It is anticipated that more detailed advice on that issue will be produced, I believe by the end of the year.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, in her detailed reply to me, the Minister missed the main thrust of my question. I said that in a recent trial when an officer was convicted, it was stated that Mr. Noye was on the police payroll as an informant. Was Mr. Noye a paid police informant when he killed Constable Fordham in a most brutal fashion? With him being a paid police informant, is it not possible that someone told him that he was under surveillance, thus resulting in the death of an officer on duty? I am by no means satisfied that the answers I have received cover the point. I think that an innocent officer was butchered by someone who may well have been tipped off at the time.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I have to repeat that it would be difficult for me in this House to go into the details of any particular personal case in the course of answering a Question. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has already said that that murder was tried in court, the person was found guilty, went to prison and served a sentence. Without referring to the particular details, if the noble Lord is suggesting that the police acted improperly or that the system--

Lord Dean of Beswick: A policeman.

Noble Lords: Order!

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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, whether it is a policeman acting improperly or the police acting improperly, if that forms the basis of a complaint my advice is that a complaint should be made and investigated.

Dual Carriageways: Traffic Signals

2.54 p.m.

Lord Renton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that whenever possible traffic lights on dual carriageways are placed between the carriageways instead of at each side of them.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, traffic signals should be installed so that they are visible to both approaching and waiting traffic. To achieve that, and to be clear to which lane the signals apply, it is necessary and usual to place them both at the side and between the carriageways, unless the requirements of a particular site dictate otherwise.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that somewhat cautious reply. Is he aware that overhead lights should also be placed in the centre rather than at the sides of dual carriageways?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I can confirm that in looking at the lighting of dual carriageways and motorways we aim for the most effective, economic, and environmentally sensitive approach. Indeed, putting lighting on the central reservation often achieves that. I can confirm that that is often also the most environmentally acceptable method.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, can the Minister indicate whether junctions on dual carriageways constitute a particular hazard? Does he have any evidence to suggest that more or fewer accidents occurred at junctions on dual carriageways in 1995 than in 1994, when I think they amounted to 6 per cent. of the total of 4,034 fatal or serious injuries occurring on the roads? If junctions do constitute a serious hazard, can he say whether the accidents are speed related?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord any more up-to-date statistics. Clearly many road safety issues centre on junctions. Of course when traffic is travelling fast that can be exacerbated. When people are speeding, obviously the risk increases in proportion. There is an issue relating to traffic lights on higher speed-limited roads. That is why the systems that we have introduced take account of traffic in a so-called dilemma zone when it is approaching lights.

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