Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Cormack during the 2019 Parliament

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Cormack
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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Well, my Lords, I had never really thought of the noble Baroness as a bleeding-heart liberal, but we all come in different guises, depending upon the subject. I find myself very taken by many of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, and by many others who have long been learned in the law.

I spoke to my noble friend the Minister after what the noble Baroness referred to as the slightly fractious debate on Monday. Funnily enough, I said to him that I thought that a royal commission would be a good way—better than an amendment to a Bill—to look at the issue that we were discussing: women in prison. Of course, this provision in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, could be incorporated.

On balance, I would favour a royal commission on the criminal justice system. I do not suppose that the noble Lord would be particularly opposed to that, rather than the specific amendment that he is moving today. But we need to look at these things because—coming back to a point made on Monday and today—we are failing in our criminal justice system because there is far too much recidivism and far too many lives are not amended and rehabilitated but further broken and eroded by spending time in prison. We have not got the balance right.

I have always been opposed to the simplistic view sometimes expressed, not by bleeding-heart liberals like the noble Baroness but by some on my own side: “Lock them up and keep them in.” That is no way to tackle things. So, although I would understand if, in responding to this debate, my noble friend the Minister said that he could not accept this amendment, I nevertheless strongly appeal to him on the Floor of the House, as I have privately, to consider very carefully the merits of a royal commission on the criminal justice system.

It can do no harm. We all remember Harold Wilson on royal commissions—they sit for years and take minutes—but that is not necessarily what royal commissions do. They can be given a timeframe or asked to report back within a certain period. If, by chance, my noble friend is not able to give the positive response I hope he might, we have many in your Lordships’ House who are indeed learned in the law, and this might be an ideal subject for one of the special committees that we set up each year in your Lordships’ House. It would have perhaps the most distinguished membership of any such committee ever established and I am sure it could make a powerful report, but I would still favour the royal commission approach. I hope that when my noble friend comes to respond, he will be able to give us some encouragement.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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Before we hear from the Minister and the noble Lord for the Opposition, I shall simply add that of course the aims identified in this amendment are probably shared by everybody in your Lordships’ House but, ultimately, is it not for the Government of the day to decide on these things? I think we can probably predict what most royal commissions would recommend following the terms of reference reflecting this amendment. Ultimately, a Government have to decide whether in certain circumstances, as was the case in the Bill, there need to be mandatory sentences or the prison estate needs more money spent on it. These are matters for government. I will be interested to hear what the noble Lord for the Opposition says about this; during the course of the Bill, I do not think the Labour Party has opposed the increased mandatory sentences in various areas. That is a position it is entitled to take. A royal commission can recommend; a Government have to decide.