Video Nasties: Howard adds to long list of law-and-order concessions

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THE COMPROMISE agreed by Michael Howard on violent videos yesterday follows a series of concessions the Home Secretary has had to make during the passage of his two flagship law-and-order Bills, writes Donald Macintyre.

Mr Howard was forced by opposition in the Lords to drop plans for streamlining police ranks. He also agreed to drop plans for government-appointed police committee chairmen, and agreed that newly co-opted independent members of the authorities would be chosen locally.

The Government also deleted clauses in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill that would have required fixed-term contracts for court clerks and made them answerable to a government-appointed chief clerk, though this section fell under the control of Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor.

Mr Howard was also forced to drop proposals to make life sentences for murderers of police officers last automatically for life, after it was turned down by a Cabinet committee chaired by John Major. And he agreed this week to drop a 'right-to-silence' clause from the Criminal Justice Bill which would have obliged judges to 'call upon' defendants to enter the witness box even if they had decided not to testify.