Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: Perhaps the reason that prisoners who have reoffended have not been caught is because extradition is not working. On Second Reading the Minister said that those of us who considered that to be a possibility were cynical. I have looked at the figures. In the past 20 years, 67 prisoners have been sought for terrorist offences; 20 have been arrested in the south but only six extradited. It may well be that the Minister's figures are confused by these facts.

Lord Dubs: I do not have any figures on extradition. I take the noble Baroness's figures as being accurate. I am not sure what that has to do with prisoners being released under licence--unless the noble Baroness is assuming that every prisoner released under this Bill will then move into the republic. I do not follow her argument.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: I am sorry, I am confusing the Minister. My point is that these prisoners have not been caught and we do not know whether they are reoffending.

Lord Dubs: That is right. We cannot know in all instances. We can know only of those who have been convicted since release, not those who have not. It may be that some have left Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, that many prisoners have been released over recent years, both under his government and in the past year. I was not aware that the particular concerns he has expressed today were ones that he has applied to the programme of releases over the years. If that is so, his comments escaped me. The Bill lays down provisions for an accelerated release programme, but it is essentially a continuation of the policies that have been followed by both Governments for some years.

Lord Desai: I am not a lawyer but the amendment argues, not whether people who are released will reoffend--none of us can predict anything about that--but that we should not make a distinction between those with a life sentence and those with a fixed-term sentence. I have heard no argument that we should not make a distinction. Normally when judges impose a life sentence they take very seriously the distinction between a life sentence and a fixed-term sentence. On what ground is the noble Lord arguing that we should eliminate the distinction? Is it that everybody is very dangerous, whether a life-termer or a fixed-termer? The argument has always been that a life-termer is a different case. I would have expected the noble Lord to

6 Jul 1998 : Column 975

have made a big thing about having life imprisonment as a separate and a hard category. Now we are told that we have to obliterate that distinction. Either way, the possibility of reoffending is not at issue--that is not predictable by us or anybody else--but the distinction between life and fixed term is still worth making.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: The noble Lord, Lord Desai, says that the prediction as to whether or not people reoffend cannot be made, but that is what risk assessment is. The commissioners are obliged to make that judgment--difficult though it is--in respect of both types of prisoner with regard to terrorist crime. They are also obliged to make that judgment with regard to lifers and to all crime.

As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said, now that, under the Bill, we are proposing to release people earlier than the judge thought was necessary for their crimes, regard should also be had as to whether they will be a danger to the public, as stated in the agreement.

The Minister relied on the licence conditions. That is what Amendment No. 27 goes to. It makes the same point in respect of the licence conditions as Amendment No. 3 makes in respect of the main release condition. It also makes the distinction between fixed-sentence prisoners and the life prisoner. The case is slightly different in relation to licence conditions, but it does not make it any better that a determinate sentence prisoner should be released when he is regarded as a danger to the public for ordinary crime. He is being released on licence only provided that he does not commit terrorist crime. It seems to me that that fourth condition should apply to both types of prisoner. But the Minister seems determined to try to stick to the opinion expressed by his right honourable friend in another place and, indeed, by himself. In that case, I must press the amendment.

Lord Tebbit: Before we reach that stage, I believe that the Minister could clear up this matter quite quickly if he really wanted to. Is he saying that regardless of what it says in the Bill, the board's review members will never release anyone who is a danger to the public, or is he saying just that they will not consider, before releasing a fixed-term prisoner, whether he will be a danger to the public? That is an interesting distinction.

Lord Dubs: I do not see that the members of the board can do more than act on what they consider to be the case.

Lord Tebbit: With respect to the Minister, that is not quite the question. As my noble friend Lord Cope said, the fourth condition that the prisoner would not be a danger to the public is attached only to lifers. Does that give an instruction to those who are considering the release of fixed-term prisoners that they should not take into account whether or not the individual who is the subject of their consideration would be a danger to the public? Indeed, is he saying that even if they were of the view that he would be a danger to the public they

6 Jul 1998 : Column 976

should still release him because they have no powers on that ground to keep him in gaol if he is a fixed termer? If he were a lifer, of course, they could.

Lord Dubs: I am not sure that I can add very much to what I said earlier. After all--and I am repeating myself--the commissioners will note what sentence was imposed by the court and will reflect upon the fact that the court had a good reason for drawing a distinction between a determinate and indeterminate sentence. It is on that basis that the Bill has been constructed.

Lord Tebbit: The judge would have had a good reason for sentencing a man to 25 years imprisonment. This Bill provides that he must be released after as little as two years.

Lord Dubs: I am not sure that we shall achieve anything more from this dialogue. The Bill refers to people being released at the end of a two-year period and although there are certain safeguards and conditions, that would apply to both life sentence prisoners and determinate sentence prisoners.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I wish to press this matter to a Division.

4.12 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 79; Not-Contents, 171.

Division No. 1


Ailsa, M.
Alexander of Tunis, E.
Arran, E.
Ashbourne, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L.
Beloff, L.
Biffen, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Brightman, L.
Brookeborough, V.
Bruntisfield, L.
Buckinghamshire, E.
Byford, B. [Teller.]
Carew, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Courtown, E.
Craig of Radley, L.
Davidson, V.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dunleath, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Erne, E.
Foley, L.
Fookes, B.
Gainsborough, E.
Gray of Contin, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Higgins, L.
Holderness, L.
Ilchester, E.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Leigh, L.
Lowry, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
McConnell, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Mackintosh of Halifax, V.
Marlesford, L.
Marsh, L.
Mersey, V.
Milverton, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L.
Moran, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L.
Naseby, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
Oliver of Aylmerton, L.
Orr-Ewing, L.
Palmer, L.
Pender, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Rathcavan, L.
Renwick, L.
Rowallan, L.
Seccombe, B. [Teller.]
Sharples, B.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strafford, E.
Strathcarron, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedgwood, L.
Wilcox, B.
Wise, L.
Wynford, L.


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Attenborough, L.
Avebury, L.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Burlison, L.
Calverley, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chandos, V.
Chorley, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Diamond, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Ezra, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Geraint, L.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Glasgow, E.
Glenamara, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Grey, E.
Hamwee, B.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Haskel, L.
Hattersley, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooson, L.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kilbracken, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Kirkwood, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Levy, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
McCarthy, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Meston, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Molloy, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Newby, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Ogmore, L.
Orme, L.
Parry, L.
Paul, L.
Peston, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
St. Davids, V.
Sandberg, L.
Scanlon, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stallard, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Whaddon, L.
Whitty, L.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Winston, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6 Jul 1998 : Column 978

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page