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House of Commons Hansard
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Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill
24 February 2017
Volume 621

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 1

Offence of wearing awards with intent to deceive triable summarily

“The offence of wearing awards with intent to deceive is triable only summarily.”—(Philip Davies.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—Wearing an award in a public house

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they are wearing the ‘award’ in a public house.”

New clause 3—Wearing an award in a place that is not public

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they are not wearing the ‘award’ in a public place.”

New clause 4—Wearing an award listed in the Schedule

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they are entitled to wear any of the other awards listed in the Schedule.”

New clause 5—Person serving in the Armed forces for more than 2 years—

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they have served in the Armed Forces for more than 2 years.”

New clause 6—Person serving in the Armed forces diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they have served in the Armed Forces and as a result of front line service have been medically diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

New clause 7—Family member of the person awarded the medal

“(1) A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they are a family member of the person given the award.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), someone is a family member of the person if—

(a) he is the spouse or civil partner of that person, or he and that person live together as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners, or

(b) he is that person’s parent, grandparent, child, grand-child, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.

(3) For the purpose of subsection (2)(b)—

(a) a relationship by marriage or civil partnership shall be treated as a relationship by blood,

(b) a relationship of the half-blood shall be treated as a relationship of the whole blood,

(c) the stepchild or adopted child of a person shall be treated as his child, and

(d) an illegitimate child shall be treated as the legitimate child of his mother and reputed father.”

New clause 8—Report on number of convictions—

“The Government is required to place before each House of Parliament figures showing—

(a) the number of convictions and

(b) the sentences imposed

for the offence of wearing medals with intent to deceive each year following this Act coming into force on, or as near as possible, to the 12 month anniversary of that date.”

New clause 9—Expiry of the Act—

“(1) This Act shall expire at the end of 2022 unless an order is made under this section.

(2) An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument; but no order shall be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

Amendment 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out paragraph (b).

Amendment 2, page 1, line 6, leave out “anything representing an award,”.

Amendment 3, page 1, line 6, leave out from second “award,” to end of the subsection.

Amendment 4, page 1, line 15, leave out

“imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or”.

Amendment 6, page 1, line 15, leave out “3 months” and insert “1 day”.

Amendment 8, page 1, line 15, leave out “3 months” and insert “7 days”.

Amendment 10, page 1, line 15, leave out “3 months” and insert “14 days”.

Amendment 12, page 1, line 15, leave out “3 months” and insert “21 days”.

Amendment 14, page 1, line 15, leave out “3 months” and insert “28 days”.

Amendment 16, page 1, line 16, after “fine” insert

“not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale”.

Amendment 18, page 1, line 16, after “fine” insert

“not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale”.

Amendment 20, page 1, line 16, after “fine” insert

“not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale”.

Amendment 22, page 1, line 16, after “fine” insert

“not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale”.

Amendment 5, page 1, line 17, leave out

“imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or”.

Amendment 7, page 1, line 18, leave out “3 months” and insert “1 day”.

Amendment 9, page 1, line 18, leave out “3 months” and insert “7 days”.

Amendment 11, page 1, line 18, leave out “3 months” and insert “14 days”.

Amendment 13, page 1, line 18, leave out “3 months” and insert “21 days”.

Amendment 15, page 1, line 18, leave out “3 months” and insert “28 days”.

Amendment 17, page 1, line 18, leave out “5” and insert “1”.

Amendment 19, page 1, line 18, leave out “5” and insert “2”.

Amendment 21, page 1, line 18, leave out “5” and insert “3”.

Amendment 23, page 1, line 18, leave out “5” and insert “4”.

Amendment 24, page 1, line 20, after “may” insert ” not”.

Amendment 25, page 1, line 21, leave out paragraph (a).

Amendment 26, page 2, line 1, leave out paragraph (c).

Amendment 27, page 2, line 2, leave out subsection 5.

Amendment 28, page 2, line 6, leave out subparagraph (i).

Amendment 29, page 2, line 10, leave out subsection (7).

Amendment 31, page 2, line 17, in clause 2, leave out “two” and insert “four”.

Amendment 32, page 2, line 17, leave out “two” and insert “six”.

Amendment 33, page 2, line 17, leave out “two months” and insert “one year”.

Amendment 34, page 2, line 17, leave out “two months” and insert “two years”.

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As I said on Second Reading, I do not support the Bill. In fact, as I went through it with a view to amending it, what struck me was that, in many respects, I was trying to amend the unamendable. I cannot emphasise enough, however, how much I understand the sincere intentions of my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) in introducing the Bill, the effort he has put into it and his efforts to find a compromise that suits everyone. I commend him for his sincerity and for his attempt to find a way forward with which everyone agrees. I just cannot agree with him on this occasion. Should the Bill proceed, I hope that my amendments will be accepted, as I believe they will save it from having some unintended consequences and reduce the chances of criminalising people who may be unintentionally caught by it as it stands.

The Bill is considerably different from the one that appeared on Second Reading. That is very much to my hon. Friend’s credit and shows how much effort he has made to find a workable solution. I am grateful to him for taking on board many of the points that I made in the Second Reading debate. However, I still feel that the Bill is deficient, so I will go through the amendments I have tabled. I hope that they may find favour.

New clause 1 would ensure that

“The offence of wearing awards with intent to deceive is triable only summarily.”

It implies that the offence must be dealt with in a magistrates court only. Some may think that the new clause is unnecessary, but it would mean that people had to think twice before amending the legislation to increase the sentence. That is the purpose of new clause 1: it is a safeguard in that respect. That was specifically mentioned by the Select Committee on Defence in its report on the Bill.

New clause 2 would ensure that

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they are wearing the ‘award’ in a public house.”

The “intention to deceive” element of the offence could be committed in a variety of circumstances. Seeking to deceive for financial gain would already be covered by fraud legislation. This Bill is clearly supposed to include other types of deception. That could be the intention to deceive to gain respect or to impress a potential future partner. The new clause deals with people in a pub.

We all know that pubs are places where all kinds of rubbish are talked at times by people—not just in pubs, I hasten to add, but particularly in pubs. To think that someone could have a few too many, boast about something to which they have no right with a cheap replica medal bought off eBay or wherever and end up with a criminal conviction is rather over the top. The new clause would remove that possibility. When my hon. Friend conceived the Bill—again, I applaud his sincerity—it was about people who turn up at Remembrance Day parades and events such as that purporting to be someone they are not. Therefore, ensuring that the provision does not apply to people in a public house would help to get us back to the Bill’s original intention.

New clause 3 would ensure that

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they are not wearing the ‘award’ in a public place.”

Therefore, it would provide the defence of the offence taking place in private. It is important, given the Bill’s intention, to limit the offence to a public place. If someone gets a medal out and uses it to impress someone in their own home or in private property—a private club or somewhere like that—I do not see why that should be an offence. I cannot believe that that is what people think of when they think of people with criminal convictions. If someone wants to argue that some private places should be covered, I would ask, what about the unintended consequences? Is it not time that we stopped ignoring the foreseeable consequences of legislation? Someone who boasts to a woman he has met in a pub that he has a medal, which turns out not to be his, is a copy or is something that looks like an award, could find himself in court with a criminal record for the first time. Some people might not care about that—they might think, “Well, they had that coming”—but I do care. I think we have enough people committing serious offences that we do not deal with properly, and to create offences for those who are likely to have issues anyway, probably including mental health ones, to be committed in the privacy of their home strikes me as being rather over the top.

New clause 4 would insert:

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they are entitled to wear any of the other awards listed in the Schedule.”

The defence would be that they are entitled to wear a medal named in the long list at the end of the schedule, but they just happen to be wearing the wrong one. If someone is allowed to wear one medal but wears a different one—not an additional one, but just a different one—even if it is a case of enhanced valour, why should they be criminalised if they were entitled to wear a medal on the list? I do not think that that should be a criminal offence. It might not happen often, but it is certainly not impossible, and, assuming it did happen, would we really want to criminalise that person? Would it not be better to make it clear in the Bill that that person would not be criminalised?

New clause 5 would insert:

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they have served in the Armed Forces for more than 2 years.”

As with the amendment on existing entitlement, I do not think people really had it in mind to criminalise former or current members of our armed forces for this offence. I return to the point about an intent to deceive to gain respect—added respect, I guess. Do we really want to go down that route? We should not want to risk criminalising someone who has risked their life serving our country just because they might have tried to embellish their record in some way. This amendment would remove that possibility for those who have served for two years or more in the armed forces.

New clause 6 would insert:

“A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they have served in the Armed Forces and as a result of front line service have been medically diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

In a similar vein to the amendments about serving or former members of the armed forces, this amendment would protect, in many respects, many of the most vulnerable people—those with diagnosed PTSD. Those who have been seriously affected by frontline service and who have this condition as a result could be more susceptible than those without to fall foul of this proposed legislation, and I would not want to see that person either intentionally or unintentionally caught out. I would rather make it abundantly clear in the Bill that they could not be caught by the legislation.

New clause 7 would insert:

“(1) A person is not guilty of an offence under section 1(1) if they are a family member of the person given the award.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), someone is a family member of the person if—

(a) he is the spouse or civil partner of that person, or he and that person live together as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners, or

(b) he is that person’s parent, grandparent, child, grand-child, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.

(3) For the purpose of subsection (2)(b)—

(a) a relationship by marriage or civil partnership shall be treated as a relationship by blood,

(b) a relationship of the half-blood shall be treated as a relationship of the whole blood,

(c) the stepchild or adopted child of a person shall be treated as his child, and

(d) an illegitimate child shall be treated as the legitimate child of his mother and reputed father.”

Again, this amendment deals with family members of those given an award. My concern is that they might well have a medal, especially if the person in question has sadly died. Their chances of becoming susceptible to the provisions of the Bill must therefore be greater than for the average person, by definition.

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Does my hon. Friend think that this new clause would deal adequately with the points raised by the Royal Air Force Families Federation in its written evidence to the Defence Committee?

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My hon. Friend makes a pertinent point. I will come to that in a moment.

I know that it is not the intention of the Bill to create the outcome I have just described, but it remains a possibility. As my hon. Friend says, the Royal Air Force Families Federation said in its written evidence to the Defence Committee:

“Yes, there should most certainly be safeguards for family members. The key question is who ‘qualifies’! The definition we use is ‘anyone who is a blood relation’ but this may not be ?appropriate in these circumstances and can be difficult to prove on occasions. Interestingly, the MoD is struggling with its own definition of a family member but it may be sensible to align any definition for these circumstances with the MoD definition if and when they decide what it should be. Otherwise, it’s probably a matter for common sense.”

I know that the issue is dealt with differently now, but I believe that it is worth having a definition of “family” in the Bill, in its new sense.

As I mentioned on Second Reading, the Defence Committee’s report states:

“A number of our witnesses emphasised the importance of ensuring that relatives of deceased or incapacitated medal recipients can continue to wear their relations’ medals at commemoration events without risk of prosecution.”

The report also states:

“Mr Johnson indicated that family members would be doubly protected as they would lack the necessary intention to deceive, as well as being able to avail themselves of a specific defence that will be placed in the Bill.”

I agree that a specific defence should be included in the Bill, and that is the reason for this new clause. How we define “family” is an issue. Crucially, the report goes on:

“The term ‘family member’ must however be defined in terms of the proximity of the relations that it is seeking to include in the defence. It is not a legal term of art with a single definition. Acts of Parliament which use the term commonly carry a definition of ‘family’ within them to be used for the purposes of that Act. Mr Johnson suggested in oral evidence that he was minded that this defence should be quite narrow, so that for example a nephew deceitfully wearing medals could not rely on the defence by claiming that they were his uncle’s awards.”

It also states:

“The inclusion of a defence to ensure that family members representing deceased or incapacitated relations who are recipients of medals is vital, but ‘family member’ must be properly defined to ensure that there is no room for uncertainty or abuse. We suggest that the Bill include a definition of ‘family member’ in order to provide certainty over who will be covered by this category.”

That is what I am trying to do in the new clause. I have taken it as read that spouses should be included, as should blood relatives and step relatives. I have also included provision for those who are adopted into families, which slightly extends the basic definition of “family” according to section 113 of the Housing Act 1985. In reality, there will be only one actual award, so we can assume that the closest family member might have it, or that it would be shared by close family members, in which case it is unlikely that a distant relative would use the award.

The new clause would also prevent the situation from arising in which, for example, a son pinches his father’s medal for a bit of fun and goes around bragging that it is his. However unlikely or unbelievable that claim might be, the act of intending to deceive does not take account of the perception of others. They might well laugh out loud at the absurdity of a 17-year-old wearing a medal when everyone knows he has never been in the armed forces, but as the Bill stands that does not prevent the offence from being committed. I hope that the new clause will help with that.

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My hon. Friend has obviously done a lot of work on defining what he means by a family member for these purposes. Did I hear him correctly when he said that this was based on housing legislation?

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I took the basic definition of a family member from section 113 of the Housing Act 1985, although I am conscious that my definition is wider. The 1985 Act’s definition was a starting point, but I would like to think that I have brought it a bit more up to date.

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In that case, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his innovative drafting.

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From someone as esteemed as my hon. Friend, that is high praise indeed.

New clause 8 would require the Government on, or as near as possible to, the 12-month anniversary of the Bill’s enactment to place before each House of Parliament figures showing the number of convictions, and the sentences handed down, for the offence of wearing medals with the intent to deceive. That would ensure that we monitor the effect of the legislation, both in terms of the number of convictions and the sentences handed down for those convictions. As we have no figures now, we do not know the extent of the problem. When I asked my local police force and the Metropolitan police, they could not tell me of any incidents relating to the existing offences in relation to military uniforms, and so on.

The Defence Committee heard evidence from various sources, and no one could quantify the problem, although people gave anecdotal examples. The problem seems to be very small, from what I can glean from the evidence that the Committee heard, so the idea that we need a law seems like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. If the Bill came into effect, new clause 8 would give us a clearer idea of the extent of the problem and the sentences being handed down.

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Under the Fraud Act 2006 it is still an offence to make, or to attempt to make, a financial gain by fraudulently wearing uniforms or medals. Does my hon. Friend have any information on how many times that provision has been applied in law?

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I apologise to my hon. Friend for not being well enough prepared to answer his question, but I do not have that information. I do not even know whether anyone has that information. Someone might have it, but I do not.

New clause 9 states:

“(1) This Act shall expire at the end of 2022 unless an order is made under this section.

(2) An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument; but no order shall be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

Basically, this is a sunset clause. If it became apparent that the Bill was not doing as intended, new clause 9 would be a nice way for the Bill to fall without any fanfare. Of course if the Bill were enacted and doing particularly well, someone would be able to rehash it.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that new clause 9 strengthens the case for accepting new clause 8? New clause 8 would make things far easier for those wanting to assess the success, or otherwise, of the Bill.

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. New clauses 8 and 9, in many respects, go together. If we had a sunset clause, we would need to be able to measure the success, or otherwise, of the legislation, and the reporting set out in new clause 8 would help with that task. He is right to draw attention to the fact that, in many respects, new clauses 8 and 9, though not reliant on each other, flow nicely from each other.

I appreciate that that was a quick canter around the course of new clauses.

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I listened closely to the hon. Gentleman as he set out his new clauses, but I wonder whether he actually read the Official Report of the Public Bill Committee, where the Bill enjoyed strong support from Members on both sides of the Committee, including from former members of the armed forces. Many of the issues he raises have already been addressed, particularly those on mental health and family members wearing medals. Why is he continuing to frustrate this process?

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If the points had already been covered, my amendments and new clauses would not have been selected. They were selected because those points are not covered by the Bill. That is the whole point. I cannot table an amendment to do something that is already in the Bill, because it would not be an amendment. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not grasped that basic point during his time in the House.

Let me now deal with my amendments. Amendment 1 seeks to remove clause 1(b). The Bill refers to

“something which has the appearance of being an award”.

It is one thing to have an offence relating to people wearing actual medals, but it is quite another to extend this to something with the “appearance” of a medal. The whole Bill is rather over the top, but this takes it one stage further. If someone can be guilty of a criminal offence by wearing, in an attempt to deceive, something that looks like something else but is not that thing, I worry where we are going with our legislation.

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Is my hon. Friend suggesting that if someone goes around wearing a fake Victoria Cross, they should not be covered by this legislation, and that they should be covered by it only if they have a genuine one that they have stolen?

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The Bill does not say, “If someone goes around with a fake Victoria Cross”; it refers to

“something which has the appearance of being an award”.

That is all-encompassing, and somebody would be committing a criminal offence by wearing something that somebody else perhaps thinks has the appearance of something. Who decides whether it had the appearance of something else? Presumably a court would have to decide whether it had such an appearance. Does the distance from which it was seen make a difference? If someone sees something from a long distance it may well have the appearance of a certain thing, but up close it may be obvious that it is not that thing. From what distance are we judging that something “has the appearance of”? We are introducing the law of the land here, and this is airy-fairy at best. It is certainly not precise enough to be tested in a court of law. Who is to decide this? Does someone go along and say, “It gave me the appearance of being an award”? Is that good enough? I really do not know where we are with that.

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The policy background to the Bill was set out in the explanatory notes, which state:

“Since 2009 it has not been an offence for an individual to wear medals or decorations that they were never awarded.”

It does not seem as though the law before 2009 covered the wearing of false medals. I cannot understand—I wonder whether my hon. Friend can—why we are seeking to extend the law beyond even what applied prior to 2009.

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I very much agree with my hon. Friend. The Bill goes over the top in making these things a criminal offence, potentially with a custodial sentence attached. That is bad enough in terms of going over the top, but when we are dealing with things that have “the appearance of being an award”, we are going way beyond what anybody has ever envisaged before, and we are going too far.

My amendment 3 proposes to delete the words “including in particular” from clause 2. That seems a strange phrase to have in legislation, as it is general and does not strike me as being a particularly helpful legal phrase. How do we define “including in particular”? Does that mean something else is included that we do not know about? I do not really know what definition we have in mind for “including in particular”. How on earth is anyone to know whether they are committing an offence if they are wearing something which is not mentioned “in particular”? It could be interpreted that they did break the law without having any idea that they were doing so because the provision just includes things “in particular”, but not exclusively those things. That is a strange phrase.

We can take amendments 4 and 6 to 15 together, as they all deal with the fact of this being an imprisonable offence. They would remove the custodial sentence for the offence in England and Wales.

As I have said, I do not think we should have this legislation. As I pointed out on Second Reading, the Defence Committee called its report on the Bill “Exposing Walter Mitty: The Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill”, but it would not expose Walter Mitty; it would criminalise him and potentially send him to prison for three months. If it was just about exposing Walter Mitty, probably none of us would have a problem with the Bill, but that is not what it would do.

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I have deliberately not intervened on my hon. Friend until now because it is quite clear that he is trying to talk the Bill out, and it is absolutely clear that his amendments are wrecking amendments that are not based on logic. Does he accept that it is a great shame that there is support on both sides of the House—from Her Majesty’s Opposition, the Government, the Scottish National party—yet he seems hellbent on preventing it from becoming law?

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I am sorry that my hon. Friend takes that attitude. I have tabled some amendments that have been found to be in order by the Speaker. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is questioning the Speaker’s selection of amendments, but they are all in order, which is why they have been selected for debate. If they were not, they would not have been selected. I am going rather rapidly through each of them, which is what we are supposed to do on Report—we table amendments and go through them to explain the purpose behind them, and then people can explain why they disagree. That takes as long as it takes. I do not think I have been dwelling unnecessarily on any particular amendment, so I am sorry that my hon. Friend takes that view. I do not set the timings for debates; if the debate could last longer, I would be happy for it to do so, but I do not set the rules. I am going to go through the amendments and explain why I have tabled them. I am sorry that he does not like people doing that with legislation in the House of Commons, but that is what the House is for.

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On a point of principle, does my hon. Friend think that people who deface war cemeteries should be subject to criminal sanction?

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As it happens, yes I do, but I think we are straying from the point. I do not want to test your patience by going off on a tangent, Madam Deputy Speaker; I am trying to stick to my amendments. As it happens, I agree with my hon. Friend, but unfortunately that is not what the Bill is about, and it certainly is not what my amendments are about.

The amendments would remove the custodial sentence for the offence in England and Wales. It is bizarre: as a member of the Justice Committee, I regularly listen to Justice questions, and I hear everyone—apart from me and a few other notable exceptions—seemingly agreeing that fewer people should be sent to prison. In fact, the Labour party recently proposed that we should let half the people out of prison—not too long ago, the shadow Attorney General in the Lords recommended that the prison population should be halved, although the Commons Front-Bench team distanced themselves from that suggestion. How on earth can we be desperately trying to get people out of prison who have been convicted of burglary, robbery, arson and all these things—

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And domestic violence.

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Indeed. People are desperate to get those people out of prison as quickly as possible, but at the same time they are supporting a Bill that would send somebody to prison for this offence. You literally could not make it up! How could anybody put those two things together? They think there are too many people in prison and that we should be letting them out, but that the people covered by the Bill should be sent to prison. How on earth can anyone make that argument?

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I am pleased to hear that the hon. Gentleman takes prison and custodial sentences seriously. Will he therefore try to make a bit more progress so that we can discuss some of the other Bills—for example, mine, which would increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty from the current paltry six months to five years?

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As it happens, I very much agree with the hon. Lady’s Bill, but it is seventh on the list, so she was a bit optimistic ever to have thought we would reach it. I cannot remember the last time we got to debate the seventh Bill on a Friday. She well knows that her Bill was never going to be reached for debate. I absolutely agree with her Bill, though, and she will get my wholehearted support if she persuades the Government to take up her proposal. Nevertheless, unfortunately the luck of the draw meant that we were never going to reach it today.

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Order. We are starting to stray quite a lot now. We are now not only not talking about the amendment, but not talking about the Bill. I would be very grateful if the hon. Gentleman could restrict his comments to the amendments that he has tabled.

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I am trying to do that, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I keep getting distracted by Members wanting to raise all sorts of other matters. I will stick to my amendments, as I was trying to do in the first place.

Amendment 4 would remove the chance of anyone being sent to prison for such an act. Other countries have different positions, as was confirmed by the House of Commons Library before Second Reading. A range of offences is covered, and there is a distinction between wearing medals, wearing medals with an intent to deceive and wearing medals with a view to a financial gain. As my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) said, fraud legislation already provides protection in this country when it comes to wearing an Army uniform, so we do have other legislation that covers this area, when other countries have no such legislation.

My amendments give a range of options: I have gone from no custodial sentence to custodial sentences of one day, seven days, 14 days, 21 days and 28 days, all of which are naturally better than three months. I prefer no custodial sentence at all, but I have tabled all those different amendments to give the House some kind of choice if it felt a different option was more appropriate.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that it is very sad that, come this Remembrance Sunday, any individual can parade in front of widows, veterans, families and loved ones wearing medals that they have not won themselves—they may not have even served—with the intent to deceive and to curry favour? The reason why they will be able to do so is that he has filibustered this Bill.

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I thought that my hon. Friend was going to make a sensible point, rather than bandying about more accusations. I am trying to improve his Bill. The fact is that, by his own admission, he brought forward a Bill that was a bit of a dog’s breakfast, because he changed it radically in Committee. If he had had his way, his Bill would have gone through on the nod; no one would have said anything and it would have gone through in its original form, which he accepts was a dog’s dinner of a Bill; it is now half a dog’s dinner. I accept that he made some improvements in Committee, but just because he is on a tight timescale is no basis on which to pass legislation in this House. It cannot be appropriate to say, “Well, I know that it is not a very good Bill, that there are deficiencies in it and that there are lots of concerns with it, but, I tell you what, we are on a bit of a tight timescale so we will forget about all that, just nod it through and to hell with the consequences.” Are we saying that, if someone gets sent to prison and gets a criminal record when no one in this House ever intended that they should get a criminal record, then so be it—hard cheese? That might be the attitude that my hon. Friend takes, but it is not one that I take. We must take these provisions seriously.

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rose

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No, I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman has not yet made any sensible contributions. He seems to talk a load of old nonsense, so I will press on with the whole point of my amendments, which is to try to turn this Bill into something worth while. We still have other days on which to consider other private Members’ Bills in this Session. I hope that we can conclude this if time allows.

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rose

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No, I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

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rose

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I will give way to my hon. Friend.

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It is disappointing that anyone should wish to try to use emotional blackmail against my hon. Friend and what he is proposing. In his last intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) referred to people who were wearing medals that they had not been awarded. He did not deal with the issue of them wearing things that had the appearance of being an award. I cannot understand why some of the amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) are not acceptable to the Bill’s promoter.

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I agree with my hon. Friend. Perhaps if the Bill had been drawn as narrowly as my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford is now trying to draw it, it may well have been acceptable to all concerned. Unfortunately, he did not do so, and decided to go way over the top to include all sorts of people who were never envisaged to be included originally. That is why we must try to sort out some of these issues.

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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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No, I will not. I am going to crack on.

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You’re scared.

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The idea that I am scared of the hon. Gentleman is bizarre, particularly given that he did not even understand what an amendment was in his first intervention. He has a lot of learning to do.

I have dealt with the custodial sentence part of the Bill. Now, I come to the part on fines. I am trying to reduce the level of fines because they are disproportionate. With the way the Bill is drafted, it seems that somebody could be given an unlimited fine by the courts for this offence. Again, I cannot honestly see how an unlimited fine is appropriate for committing this offence, but that is what it would be in England and Wales following the changes to fines a few years ago. It would be rather different in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with a maximum of £5,000, which is still too high. Amendments 16 to 23 are about reducing the level of fine from unlimited to something more manageable. I have suggested a range of options. The lowest I have gone down to is £200, which is a level one fine in the courts, and I have gone up to a level four fine, which is £2,500. At least that sets a limit because an unlimited fine seems rather over the top.

Clause 1(4) provides that the Secretary of State may change the schedule of medals at any point. Amendment 24 would mean that the Secretary of State may not change the schedule of medals. When my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford introduced the Bill, he said that the challenge in drafting it was knowing where to stop. As I have said before, he may know where he wants to stop but, as with many things, where the legislation stops and where other people might want to stop are the most important. We should not encourage legislation giving the Secretary of State unlimited power to change the schedule willy-nilly. It obviously has the potential to apply to many more medals and other awards for non-armed forces personnel—and, in many cases, why not? But we should not be giving the Secretary of State that power. Amendments 25 to 27 are consequential amendments to that.

Clause 1(5)(b)(ii) states:

“The regulations may add an award to the Schedule only if it is awarded in respect of…a level of rigour significantly greater than might normally be expected in a non-operational environment.”

If the right to include medals in the future remains, it should only apply to those involving danger to life from enemy action, not

“a level of rigour significantly greater than might normally be expected in a non-operational environment.”

I am not sure who would be the ultimate judge of or who would determine the phrase

“greater than might normally be expected”.

Amendment 28 would deal with that issue.

Amendment 29 would delete the wide-ranging provisions regulations. Why do we need to hand over all these powers to make regulations that are in the Bill? Surely these things should be on the face of the Bill. Amendments 31 to 34 would delay the Act coming into force by two months, four months, 10 months or a year and 10 months respectively.

I have been through my amendments as quickly as I could. They would all make the Bill stronger and deal with some of the potential unintended consequences that were not envisaged when the Bill was conceived. I hoped that my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford would have taken them in the spirit in which they were intended. I could have gone on at greater length on every single one of those amendments, but I went through them all as quickly as I could. I hope they are helpful because I worry that if we are not careful, we will end up criminalising not the people who my hon. Friend wants to criminalise, but people who we never had any intention at all of criminalising. That is all I seek to avoid in this legislation, and that is a duty that we should take very seriously.

Giving someone a criminal offence is a serious matter; it is not something that should be taken lightly—it can have devastating consequences for people—and the same is true of sending people to prison. Yes, of course we want to expose Walter Mitty, but do we really want to criminalise and imprison Walter Mitty? That is where I draw the line with this legislation. If we think we are sending too many burglars and robbers to prison, surely the solution cannot be to send these people to prison, too.

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The main purpose behind the Bill is to protect veterans. It is intended to ensure that when anybody sees someone wearing medals proudly at a remembrance service or in any other sphere, they can have confidence that that individual is the legitimate article. That has always been my intention.

I find it grotesque in the extreme that certain individuals—we have had numerous examples of them—can parade in front of others and cause deep upset, hurt and ridicule to those who have actually served and those who have lost loved ones. It is grotesque to see that bravery undermined by those who do not have the courage to put their own neck on the block for our country.

It is because of that that I put forward the Bill. Legislation has worked very successfully in many countries around the world, and it worked successfully in the United Kingdom; in fact, legislation was originally introduced by Winston Churchill after the first world war. He said that when anybody sees a person wearing medals, that should radiate an opportunity to say, “There is a man in whom we can all have confidence and pride.” That is exactly the motivation behind my Bill.

I leave it at that. There is very much more that I could say, but I hope that we can make it at least to Third Reading.

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I just want to add my voice in support of the Bill. The hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) has gone about it on a very cross-party basis. It is something we all support. It was gone through at great length in Committee, when many of the aspects that have been raised today were dealt with. Fundamentally, what I cannot understand is why, if the Bill is supported by decorated veterans who have put their lives on the line for this country, and indeed by Members of this House who have put their lives on the line for this country, it should not go forward.

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I want to speak briefly to some of the amendments. It is sad that there is a falling-out among people on the detail of the Bill. I do not think anybody is against making it an offence for an individual to wear medals or decorations that were never awarded to them. The problem is that the way in which the Bill has been drafted goes much wider, and is in danger of having a whole lot of unintended consequences.

If the law prior to 2009 was as simple and straightforward as I have said, why do we have to make it so much more complicated in reintroducing one of its provisions? I am sure everybody thinks it is despicable for anybody to wear medals or decorations to which they are not entitled, and we condemn that behaviour without equivocation, but that is a very different proposition from bringing in a Bill with a whole lot of other technical measures designed to widen the offence far beyond what it was originally.

I cannot understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson), who is promoting the Bill, has not been able to reach an accommodation with my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) in the spirit of consensus. If we do not finish the debate on this group of amendments today, it may still be possible for an accommodation to be reached before the Bill comes back to be considered further. I still hope that that will be so, because we all feel very strongly—certainly I do—that, as the promoter of the Bill says, we must protect our veterans and ensure that there is confidence that people wearing medals on parade on Remembrance Day have in fact been duly awarded those medals. In my constituency, where we have some of the finest remembrance parades anywhere in the country, I do not think there has ever been an incident where somebody who was not entitled to a medal was wearing one.

We have to think about the proportionality of the issue when working out how we are going to address it, particularly if we are to do so through the criminal law going beyond what is already contained in the Fraud Act 2006. I suspect that the provisions that were previously in place on the wearing of medals or decorations that were not awarded were repealed in 2009 because it was thought that the offence was covered by the Fraud Act. Under that Act, it is an offence to make, or attempt to make, a financial gain by fraudulently wearing uniforms or medals or by pretending to be, or to have been, in the armed forces, with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. It is a very serious offence, and so it should be. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford is trying, in a sense, to replicate part of that, and using emotional arguments in support of it, while not drawing the public’s attention to the fact that these are already serious offences subject to a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. So why do we need this Bill? In particular, why do we need a Bill that goes unnecessarily wide in its sanctions and its interpretation of what would be the criminal behaviour?

That is why the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley are well worth considering. Of all his amendments, I cannot understand why anybody would be against amendment 1, because it would mean that clause 1 would read,

“A person commits an offence if, with intent to deceive, the person wears…an award specified in the Schedule”,

and would no longer include a reference to

“something which has the appearance of being an award specified in the Schedule.”

I cannot see why my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford is not prepared to accept that amendment. I hope that given a bit more time for reflection, he may be willing so to do.

Some of the other amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley have a lot to commend them. It is sensible that the offence of wearing awards with intent to deceive should be triable summarily, bearing in mind that under the Fraud Act, as I said, there is a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, and no summary trial, for much more serious offences. We do not want people to be criminalised for what is, in effect, frivolous conduct on their part. That is why the suggestion in new clause 3 that this should apply only to wearing awards in a public place is very sensible. My hon. Friend referred to what goes on in public houses, but I am not so sure that I am necessarily persuaded on that point. Nor am I sure that he is necessarily very knowledgeable about what goes on in public houses, because he is teetotal. I might therefore be able to give him the excuse of not having fully comprehended that matter.

New clause 5 is well worth considering, as is the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder. One issue the whole debate raises is how we deal with private Members’ Bills in Committee, because if they are completely changed in Committee—

The Deputy Speaker interrupted the business (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Bill to be further considered on Friday 24 March.