Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Ministry of Justice will today publish a post-consultation report in relation to the consultation and its outcome. Copies of the report Local Authority Property Search Services - Charges for Property Search Services - The Fee for a Personal Search of the Local Land Charges Register have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Michael Shields


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As the House will be aware, Her Majesty graciously accepted my recommendation that Michael Shields should be granted a free pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. He was released from custody on 9 September. I have placed in the Library the statement I made to the press on that day.

In July 2005 Mr Shields was convicted in Bulgaria of the attempted murder of a Bulgarian national called Martin Georgiev. Mr Georgiev suffered a brutal and unprovoked attack in the Bulgarian resort of Varna where violence flared in the early hours of 30 May 2005. Mr Shields was sentenced to 15 years, reduced to 10 on appeal. In 2006 he was returned to England to complete his sentence here. He applied for a free pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. However, it had been the long-standing practice, on an equally long-standing legal interpretation of the 1983 Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, that the "receiving state" had to respect the decision of the sentencing state, so I did not initially entertain the application.

5 Oct 2009 : Column WS216

This approach was challenged in a judicial review and on 17 December last year the Administrative Court declared that I should consider the application and said, "the grant of a free pardon would appear to require a conclusion that, taking the Bulgarian courts' judgment for what it is and without calling in question its correctness on the material which those courts considered, fresh evidence which the Bulgarian court did not consider, taken with the material which they did consider and their judgment upon it, justifies a conclusion that Michael Shields is morally and technically innocent".

I accepted the judgment of the court and sought straight away to ensure from Mr Shields' legal team that I had available all the evidence in this case. I appointed senior counsel to assist me and, with the agreement of the Chief Constable, Merseyside Police conducted further inquiries on my behalf.

On 2 July after the most careful consideration of the evidence I made a provisional decision to refuse Michael Shields' application for a free pardon. I did so because I was not satisfied that Mr Shields passed the test of "moral and technical innocence" that the administrative court expected me to apply.

I made clear at the time that I would consider any further representations before I made a final decision. I also offered Mr Shields' parents the opportunity of a meeting so they could make representations to me in person.

Written representations I received over the course of the summer did not persuade me that my provisional decision of 2 July had been wrong. However, on 28 August I had a meeting with Mr Shields' parents. The meeting was also attended by their daughter, by Louise Ellman MP and by Councillor Joe Anderson of Liverpool City Council.

At that meeting I was presented with significant new information which had not been presented to me before. Following further inquiries after the meeting I determined the new information to be both truthful and credible. Once again Merseyside police assisted me. The new evidence profoundly changed my consideration of this matter and showed other, existing, evidence in a new light. What had not previously appeared credible now appeared to be so.

Taking all the evidence together I concluded that Michael Shields was in fact telling the truth when he said he was innocent of the attempted murder of Martin Georgiev. The test of moral and technical innocence had therefore been met so Mr Shields was granted the free pardon he sought and released from custody.

One issue that has emerged from this case is the appropriateness or otherwise of the Justice Secretary exercising a power that involves him in making findings of fact in cases where miscarriage of justice is alleged in cases from abroad. I am clear that it is not a suitable function for the Executive. Indeed, any role for a Secretary of State in referring alleged miscarriages of justice occurring within the jurisdiction to the appeal courts was removed by the 1995 Criminal Appeal Act, which established the Criminal Cases Review Commission. I intend looking at options, though I have yet to form any view as to how future such applications should be

5 Oct 2009 : Column WS217

handled. I shall, of course, consult and in doing so I will want to hear the views of the Criminal Cases Review Commission and others with an interest.

Motor Insurance


The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Paul Clark) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have issued today a report in response to public consultation for a scheme of continuous enforcement of motor insurance. The scheme proposes the enforcement of statutory motor insurance by comparing information already held on the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's (DVLA) vehicle register and the motor insurance database maintained by the Motor Insurers' Bureau. The scheme enables identification of a greater number of potentially uninsured motorists than does relying on the police spotting them on the road. In the future registered keepers who do not have appropriate insurance will be committing an offence and may, if they fail to take action following the receipt of a reminder letter, be subject to enforcement action by the DVLA.

I have placed copies of the report in the Libraries of the House.

Sustainable Construction


The Minister for Trade and Investment (Lord Davies of Abersoch): My honourable friend the Minister for Business, Regulatory Reform and Employment (Ian Lucas) has made the following Statement.

This Government remain committed to the principles of sustainable development. The Strategy for Sustainable Construction is a joint industry and government initiative designed to promote real action on sustainable construction, and focuses upon the principles of Sustainable Development to which the Government as a whole are signed up.

In response to a BERR Select Committee commitment made by Stephen Timms to publish reports on progress and hold conferences in 2009 and 2011, yesterday the Government, jointly with industry, published the progress report on the Strategy for Sustainable Construction.

This progress report is a result of the actions of those organisations responsible as delivery bodies for the targets in the strategy a year on from its launch in June 2008.

Overall, progress has been good and encouraging at this early stage of the process. However, with some deliverables progress has been slower than envisaged in the original strategy and work is ongoing to address these. As delivery of the strategy continues, further work to build on the successes already achieved will be necessary to reach the overarching goals of the strategy.

Copies of the progress report will be placed in the Library of the House.

5 Oct 2009 : Column WS218

Transport: Heavy Goods Vehicles


The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Paul Clark) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

In answer to Parliamentary Question 136910 [Official Report 15 May 2007, col. 465] asking when retro-reflective markings would become mandatory for newly registered heavy goods vehicles, the then Minister of State, Dr Stephen Ladyman, stated this would be 10 October 2009.

In view of the current economic situation I am announcing that, to reduce regulatory costs on vehicle manufacturers and the haulage industry, this measure will not now become mandatory for new vehicle registrations until 10 July 2011.

Other regulatory simplification measures on vehicle lighting due to be implemented at the same time will continue to be implemented at the earliest opportunity.

World War I Generation


The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary and Minister for Veterans (Mr Kevan Jones) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

With the death of Harry Patch on 25 July 2009, the nation lost the last known British veteran of World War I (WW1) living in the UK. This was a hugely significant milestone and one which the Government have planned for some time to mark. This service will take place at 10.45 on Wednesday 11 November 2009 in Westminster Abbey in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

The service is to commemorate the passing of all who served. It will recognise not only the military contribution in the Great War but also that of the civilian population who supported them at home. Attendance at the service will be by invitation only but we hope that a broad cross-section of the population of the United Kingdom, with links to the War, will attend. This is being organised through the Lord Lieutenants in each county. In addition, attendees will include members of the Armed Forces, Government, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and other VIPs.

WW1 had an impact upon this country which endures today, over 90 years after it ended, and I hope that this service will be a fitting occasion when the nation can stand as one as it recognises the debt that we owe and reconfirms that 'We will remember' the generation that we have now lost.

Youth Justice Board


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Minister of State (Maria Eagle) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

5 Oct 2009 : Column WS219

In the Modernising Government White Paper, the Government made a commitment to bring all public services up to the standard of the best and to make the best even better. In line with this commitment, my honourable friend, the Minister of State for Schools and Learners (Vernon Coaker), and I today announce a review of the Youth Justice Board's governance and operating arrangements.

The Youth Justice Board is an executive non-departmental public body established under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to take oversight of the youth justice system in England and Wales, including the secure estate for under 18 year olds.

Since the Youth Justice Board's inception, the ways in which a wide range of services for young people are planned and delivered at a local level have changed significantly. In that context, the Government want to ensure that the Youth Justice Board can continue to support the delivery of the best outcomes for young people and their families and communities, as well as

5 Oct 2009 : Column WS220

the wider public. The Government also want to ensure that these outcomes are delivered in ways that give the public value for money.

We have asked Dame Susan Street, former Permanent Secretary of the Department for Culture Media and Sport, to fulfil the role of independent chair of the review. She will chair the review jointly with Frances Done, chair of the Youth Justice Board. The review's full terms of reference are available at We have asked the chairs to produce a report and recommendations by the end of February 2010. We expect to publish the report and the Government's response shortly thereafter.

The chairs will be supported by a steering group comprising senior officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Home Office, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Youth Justice Board. The chairs have today issued an invitation to interested parties to submit evidence that they consider relevant within the review's terms of reference.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page