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Bail Act 1976

Volume 114: debated on Monday 6 April 1987

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43.

asked the Attorney-General if the Lord Chancellor has received any representations from the judiciary about the working of the Bail Act 1976: and if he will make a statement.

The Lord Chancellor does not reveal confidential communications between judges and himself. The Lord Chancellor has, however, authorised me to say that he has not received any representations from the judiciary on this subject. The working of the Bail Act is a matter for the Home Secretary.

Bearing in mind last Wednesday's vote on capital punishment, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is more important than ever that the circumstances under which Winston Silcott was released from gaol and subsequently murdered PC Blakelock must never be repeated? What assurance can he give the House that the matter is being looked into and that suitable action will be taken?

Everything practicable must be done to ensure that those circumstances — I am referring, of course, to the murder of the police constable by somebody who was on bail—are not repeated. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is looking at the events that led to the grant of bail to Winston Silcott. The Government will consider whether there are any lessons to be learnt and will take into account the points made in the House since the case.

The Attorney-General is fond of telling the House about the importance of collective responsibility. Which side are the Law Officers on? Are they on the side of the Lord Chancellor, or of the Home Secretary? In an outburst the other day the Lord Chancellor said that the Bail Act was not working and that he had prophesied that it would not do so. However, the Home Secretary had been saying how important it was to ensure that not too many people were kept in prison, that the courts are more reluctant now to let people out on bail and that one fifth of the people in prison have not yet been convicted. Will the Solicitor-General bring the importance of collective responsibility to the attention of the Lord Chancellor?

The opening part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's question owed more to careful preparation than good judgment. The Lord Chancellor has said—I have taken the trouble to see a transcript of the broadcast—that there might be a case for reviewing the operation of the Bail Act and, equally, it may be necessary to allow the Act to remain in force for rather longer before a clear picture will emerge. I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was saying anything different. As I have just told the House, he is looking at the events leading up to the granting of bail to Winston Silcott, he will consider whether there are any lessons to be learnt and he will take into account all the points that have been made.