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Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

Volume 580: debated on Monday 12 May 2014

[1st Allocated Day]

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 14

Offences committed by disqualified drivers

‘(1) After section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988 insert—

“3ZC Causing death by driving: disqualified drivers

A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he or she—

(a) causes the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road, and

(b) at that time, is committing an offence under section 103(1)(b) of this Act (driving while disqualified).

3ZD Causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers

‘(1) A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he or she—

(a) causes serious injury to another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road, and

(b) at that time, is committing an offence under section 103(1)(b) of this Act (driving while disqualified).

(2) In this section “serious injury” means—

(a) in England and Wales, physical harm which amounts to grievous bodily harm for the purposes of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, and

(b) in Scotland, severe physical injury.”

(2) In Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (prosecution and punishment of offences under the Traffic Acts) at the appropriate place insert—

“RTA section 3ZC

Causing death by driving: disqualified drivers

On indictment

10 years or a fine or both




RTA section 3ZD

Causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers

(a) Summarily

(a) On conviction in England and Wales: 12 months or a fine or both. On conviction in Scotland: 12 months or the statutory maximum or both.




(b) On indictment

(b) 4 years or a fine or both

(3) In the entries in Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 relating to an offence under section 3ZD of the Road Traffic Act 1988—

(a) in relation to an offence committed before section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 comes into force, the reference in column 4 to 12 months on summary conviction in England and Wales is to be read as a reference to 6 months, and

(b) in relation to an offence committed before section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 comes into force, the reference in column 4 to a fine on summary conviction in England and Wales is to be read as a reference to the statutory maximum.

(4) Schedule(Offences committed by disqualified drivers: further amendments)contains further amendments relating to the offences under sections 3ZC and 3ZD of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

(5) The amendments made by this section and Schedule(Offences committed by disqualified drivers: further amendments)have effect only in relation to driving which occurs after they come into force.’..(Jeremy Wright.)

This amendment makes the offence of causing death by driving while disqualified an indictable only offence and increases the maximum penalty for such conduct to 10 years’ imprisonment. It also creates an offence of causing serious injury by driving while disqualified - an either way offence with a maximum penalty of 4 years’ imprisonment

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 22—Penalty for driving while disqualified—

‘(1) In Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (prosecution and punishment of offences under the Traffic Acts) in the entry relating to the offence of obtaining licence, or driving, while disqualified, section 103(1)(b) of the Road Traffic Act 1988—

(a) in column 3 leave out “6 months” and insert “12 months”;

(b) in column 2 below “(c) On indictment, in Scotland”, insert “(d) On indictment, in England and Wales”; and

(c) in column 3 below “(c) 12 months or a fine or both” insert “(d) 2 years or a fine or both”.

(2) In relation to an offence committed before section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 comes into force, the reference to 12 months is to be read as reference to six months.

(3) The amendment made by this section applies only in relation to an offence committed on or after the day on which it comes into force.’.

Makes the offence of driving while disqualified triable either way, with a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment for conviction on indictment.

Government new schedule 2—‘Offences committed by disqualified drivers: further amendments.

Amendment 9, in clause 28, page 26, line 31, at end insert—

‘(c) a submission from the DVLA to inform the court of any penalty points endorsed on the driver’s record.’.

Amendment 8, page 26, line 35, at end insert—

‘(3A) For cases involving driving offences, where the accused has 12 or more penalty points currently on their drivers’ record, any exceptional hardship plea previously made by the accused must be disclosed to the court.’.

Government amendment 7.

Government new clause 10—Term of imprisonment for murder of a police or prison officer.

Government new clause 11—Committal for sentence of young offenders convicted of certain serious offences.

Over a period of months, we have listened to concerns raised by the families of victims and hon. Members acting on their behalf about disqualified drivers. They have said that the current maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment for causing death by driving when disqualified does not adequately reflect the tragic consequences of the offending. I am particularly grateful to, among others, my hon. Friends the Members for Gloucester (Richard Graham), for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti), and for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) for keeping the issue firmly on the agenda. In our view, disqualified drivers who flout court bans, continue to drive badly and cause death should be treated far more seriously by the courts than they are at present, and I am pleased to say that new clause 14 and new schedule 2 will effect that change.

We should also concern ourselves with disqualified drivers who cause serious injury. It is, after all, often a matter of chance whether the victim lives or dies. If there is no evidence that the offender was driving dangerously, the most with which he or she can be charged under the current law is driving while disqualified, which incurs a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment. That is plainly inadequate. It does not reflect some of the horrific and life-changing injuries that can be suffered by road traffic victims, or the terrible toll that this can take on their families. That is why we are also introducing a new offence of causing serious injury by disqualified driving, which will incur a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment.

We thought carefully about whether these changes should apply to unlicensed and uninsured drivers as well. We decided to limit the changes to disqualified drivers, because we think that they have a higher level of culpability than other illegal drivers. A driving ban would only be imposed on an offender following the commission of a series of motoring offences or a single serious offence. If such an offender flouts a ban imposed by the court, continues to drive badly and causes a death or serious injury, it is right that he should feel the full force of our proposed new provisions.

One of the areas that cause me concern is to do with drivers from other EU countries who may have been banned or disqualified in those countries but who come here and are allowed to drive in the United Kingdom. Is there anything in the Government proposals to stop them doing that?

I entirely understand the right hon. Gentleman’s concern and I will come on to talk about the proposal we have for a wider review of sentencing in driving cases. He may well wish to make further submissions on the points he has made for inclusion in that review. A number of issues have already been raised which we think can sensibly be discussed in the course of that review, and I am sure there are some yet to be raised.

Can the Minister explain why being unlicensed was not included in this proposal? If one is unlicensed, one undoubtedly knows one is unlicensed, so why were such people taken out of this?

I appreciate that this is a matter of judgment in all cases, but the distinction we have made is between those who have been disqualified by a court—in other words, they are subject to a court order—and have none the less gone on to drive, and those who are driving unlicensed, and, as the hon. Lady says, doing so knowingly, but not as a consequence of a court’s decision. That is the distinction we make, but I know she takes a considerable interest in driving offences and their consequences, and I am sure she will wish to engage with the review we will begin.

The Minister will be aware of the Road Justice campaign by the CTC and others. I and they very much welcome this review. Will he give us an idea of the time scale of the review and when we can expect the conclusions, because many of us would like to feed into them?

We hope to conduct the review over the next few months and I hope that will give my hon. Friend and others the opportunity to contribute to it, but let me just finish what I am saying in relation to the specific proposals in new clause 14. I hope the House will agree that there is a need for these proposals. First and foremost the measures should give families of victims a greater sense that justice has been done. More generally, tougher sentences for convicted offenders should improve public confidence in the justice system. Amendment 7 changes the long title of the Bill to include driving. I commend these provisions to the House.

I know that Members might like to see reform of other aspects of the road offence framework. Some have already been mentioned in the course of this debate. Indeed, new clause 22 seeks to make the offence of driving while disqualified an either-way offence and increase its maximum penalty; and we have, as I have indicated, been giving serious consideration to all representations made on this subject, not least from my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham, who has a ten-minute rule Bill on repeat offences of driving while disqualified. He and others rightly hold strong views and we are committed to ensuring that maximum penalties reflect the seriousness and culpability of offending behaviour. That is why, as we have already mentioned today and as the Justice Secretary made clear in his announcement on 6 May, the Government are committed to carrying out a wider review of the road traffic sentencing framework over the next few months. We are in discussion with the Department for Transport and other interested Departments about the details. We will make a further announcement about the scope of the review in due course.

Could the Minister give us a sense of how this would fit with the legislative timetable? If primary changes are needed as a result of the review, will there definitely be a Bill to do that?

Unless the hon. Gentleman is going to contradict me and vote accordingly, there is broad support for what we have set out in new clause 14, which is a self-contained measure that we do not think will have ramifications across the rest of the sentencing system. That is not true of some of the other changes that Members on both sides of the House may wish to make. As I have said, we have reached no pre-conclusions as to what should or should not be included in a review. However, we think it sensible to make sure that if we are to have a wholesale look at driving offences—which, unless the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter) is going to contradict me, there is considerable support for across the House—we should do it in a considered way. We are not talking about years for that to happen, but months.

I thank my hon. Friend and his Department for listening to the victims of crime on the question of increasing sentences for those who commit the offence of killing people on our roads by driving while disqualified. On repeat offenders and the Bill that I introduced, I thank my hon. Friend for including such a provision in the review. However, does he agree that there is no one way of dealing with repeat offenders? Whether they are dealt with through a magistrates court, through an increased sentence in a criminal court, as I have suggested, or by making the offence an either-way offence, as the Opposition have suggested, the right approach is to carry out a comprehensive review, because there is no one way of dealing with the issue.

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important to review all the options. He has already made a powerful case for his preferred option in dealing with repeat offences of driving while disqualified, and I know he will continue to do so. I hope the review will give him and others the opportunity to make the case they wish to make. In view of that, I hope the hon. Member for Hammersmith will consider whether it is necessary to press his new clause to a vote.

Amendment 8 relates to cases where a defendant being tried under the single justice procedure has 12 or more penalty points on their record. Subsection (3) of proposed new section 16A of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980, introduced by clause 28 of the Bill, specifies that a decision under the new single justice procedure must be made “in reliance only” on the documents sent to the accused, along with “any written submission” provided that aims to mitigate the sentence imposed. Under amendment 8, a defendant would additionally have to include in any written submission details of previous exceptional hardship pleas they had made to the court. I know the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) will make her case for the amendment in due course, but I presume that the intention is that the single justice procedure should be able to take that into account when considering any further submissions from the defendant requesting mitigation of their sentence.

The Government share Members’ concerns about drivers who continue to drive when accumulating penalty points that would normally result in disqualification. As I have said, we will conduct a review of the wider sentencing framework for driving offences, and as I said to the hon. Lady during Justice questions last week, it may well be that there is a strong case for the inclusion of such a measure.

My hon. Friend knows that I am very much in favour of making newly qualified drivers carry a probationary plate on their cars for two years to indicate that they might be a greater risk. Will he consider requiring disqualified drivers who re-qualify to have that probationary plate, partly as a punishment but partly to highlight the potential risk to others?

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. He has a good record of campaigning on these issues, in which he takes considerable interest and has significant expertise, and we will certainly consider what he said. The review will allow new ideas such as his to be considered in the context of the sentencing framework.

I agree with my hon. Friend that the development of the arguments we have heard in respect of other clauses reinforces the need for a more comprehensive look at the issue. In the light of the reassurance he has given to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), will he also ensure that the review looks not only at the basic sentencing powers but at the operation of the penalty points system, which we know is complex and sometimes itself creates incongruities?

I think I am in danger of conducting the review this afternoon, but I agree with my hon. Friend, and all these things are worth considering for inclusion in the review. I simply sound this note of caution: if we review everything, we will exceed the proposed time scale and perhaps not deal with the concerns raised earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert). None the less, I am sure that there is a great deal that can sensibly be considered.

I return to amendment 8 and point out that proposed new section 16C of our provisions already provides for cases in which the single justice proposes to disqualify a driver. The single justice must give the accused an opportunity to make representations about the proposed disqualification. If the offender fails to take up the opportunity to make representations, they may be disqualified in their absence. That is, of course, no different from what may occur under the magistrates court process. At present, offenders are disqualified in their absence when, having been warned about the purpose of the hearing, they do not attend court. When the defendant wishes to make representations, however, and that would include representations about exceptional hardship, the single justice must issue a summons to the defendant requiring them to appear at a traditional magistrates court. Any exceptional hardship plea may therefore be dealt with in open court, and the court would have the opportunity to investigate the defendant’s driving history. The Bill therefore already makes appropriate provision for the situation that the hon. Member for Bolton West is concerned about.

Does the Minister not accept that magistrates are not told why people have already cited exceptional circumstances? The magistrate has no idea what previous plea of exceptional circumstance was given. My amendment is about that issue, so that magistrates are made aware.

The hon. Lady has just made a wider point than would apply simply to the single justice procedure. The point we are addressing in relation to her amendment is that there should be no significant disadvantage for those who are dealt with under the single justice procedure; nor should there be any disadvantage to the court under that procedure in ascertaining the facts of the case. If someone were wanting to assert particular hardship, which might exclude the possibility of disqualification, they would need to come to court and do it themselves. The court should then do the necessary investigations. However, I take her point and will consider carefully whether there are improvements that we can make to more general procedures.

Amendment 9 is also related to the single justice procedure. It would introduce a new requirement that the documents sent to the defendant with the single justice procedure notice should include a submission from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to the court informing the court of any penalty points on the defendant’s driver record. I agree that up-to-date DVLA information is important when deciding the sentence for such offences. The House is aware that that very issue was raised in Committee, and as the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Mr Vara), made clear, our intention then was to consider the point further.

Under the existing procedure, when dealing with an offender in their absence, courts are able to check the DVLA position when sentencing for certain road traffic offences—we have discussed that point and, as I said, I accept that it is important that they are able to do the same under the new procedure. We need to ensure that the legislation allows for that in cases dealt with under the new single justice procedure as well. As I said, we have undertaken to look at the matter, and it is still under consideration. We will ensure the necessary consideration. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member for Bolton West and her colleague the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane), whom I do not see here, will be satisfied.

New clause 10 makes an amendment to schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which provides guidance to the courts in assessing the seriousness of all cases of murder in order to determine the appropriate minimum term to be imposed under the mandatory life sentence. The amendment would raise the starting point for offenders aged 21 and over from 30 years to a whole life order for the murder of a police or prison officer in the course of his or her duty.

I do not need to remind the House of the vital role that those officers play every day in keeping our communities safe and in managing difficult and dangerous offenders. Tragically, some officers have paid the ultimate price while carrying out these duties on our behalf. The Government consider it essential that those officers feel the full weight of the state behind them in the execution of their duties. Changing the starting point to a whole life order for those who murder police and prison officers will send a powerful message of support for the work that those vital public servants do. It will show that we place the highest value on their safety and that we recognise the dangerous job they perform on a daily basis.

Those officers can be distinguished from other public servants by the role they perform in terms of routine contact with dangerous offenders. Their daily duties and risks mean that they stand apart from others. That unique and important status should be recognised, and those who murder police or prison officers on duty should know that they face the most severe sentence possible under the law. I should make it clear that the change in the law does not necessarily mean that a whole life order will be imposed in every case involving the murder of a police or prison officer in the course of duty. The court must always have the discretion to impose the appropriate sentence based on all the facts of each case, but offenders should be in no doubt that they face the severest consequences for such murders. I therefore hope that the House will support the new clause.

Finally, new clause 11 is designed to close a gap in the sentencing power of criminal courts that could prevent an adequate sentence being imposed where it turns out that the offending is more serious than it appeared when the case was initially accepted by the youth court. We believe the gap might tend to undermine efforts to encourage youth courts to try grave crimes in suitable cases and might restrict sentencing powers unduly. The category of offences that includes cases such as those that involve allegations of serious sexual offending against under-18s, for example—also known as grave crimes—are serious enough to be capable of being sent to the Crown court for trial, but not all of them necessarily require the highest sentencing powers of the Crown court. It might be possible to deal with some of them satisfactorily using sentencing options available in the youth court, and if so there is an advantage in retaining them in the youth court. The youth court is particularly attuned to inquiries into the alleged activities of children, and serious sexual offences can be tried there by authorised district judges who have been specially trained to deal with them.

A defendant under 18 charged with such an offence is invited to indicate a plea, and when a guilty plea is indicated the youth court may commit him or her to the Crown court for sentence where appropriate. On the other hand, if the indication is not guilty and the youth court decides to retain the case and tries and convicts the defendant, there is no general power to commit the offender to the Crown court for sentence. That means that if information emerges during the trial that suggests that a more severe sentence is appropriate, the youth court will simply have to make do with its own sentencing powers. The only exception is when the conditions for imposing an extended determinate sentence are met, but they are stringent. That is at odds with the position for adults, where there is a general power to commit cases to the Crown court for sentence, not merely after a guilty plea.

It is possible that the absence of a safety net allowing for committal for sentence leads youth courts to be unnecessarily cautious in deciding whether to retain grave sexual crimes. A provision permitting committal to the Crown court for sentence whenever a defendant is convicted of a grave crime in the youth court, as is already possible after a guilty plea indication, might encourage the youth court to retain more cases and ensure adequate sentencing powers are available in every case. I hope that the House will therefore support new clause 11.

We are grateful to the Government for accommodating the topics we want to discuss today and for the overall allocation of time on Report. We do not hear that very often, but it is in part a result of Report running over two days—or at least a day and a half—as a consequence of this being a carry-over Bill.

We anticipate that there will be about 10 hours of debate, including Third Reading, and curiously only half the time will be spent on the Bill as it left Committee. Today, we have three hours on parts 1 to 3 and on day two we will have two hours on the important and controversial part 4, which attacks the legal and financial basis of judicial review claims. The rest of the time is for new projects proposed by the Lord Chancellor or by his Back Benchers with his support. He has a common but unwelcome habit of shoehorning new laws into Bills at every stage of their progress through both Houses. A cynic would say that he does so simply to provide another hit with the tabloids or to introduce a stick to beat his coalition partners with. It is certainly a poor way to legislate, and he has surpassed himself by tabling new clauses on driving offences that require him to amend the long title of the Bill through Government amendment 7—I do not think the Minister mentioned that amendment, but I apologise if he did.

Neither the new clauses on driving in the first group for discussion today nor those on offences of possessing offensive weapons have taken the Government by surprise. There was a full debate in the Chamber on the subject of dangerous driving in Back-Bench time on 27 January and, famously, the issue of carrying knives featured in the Tory manifesto.

The hon. Gentleman knows that I hold him in high regard and affection, but he has accused me of rushing into new clause 14. Now he is telling me that it did not catch me by surprise and I should have done it earlier.

If the Minister waits, all will become clear.

We do not quarrel with the seriousness of any of the matters under discussion on Report. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) will raise our concerns about offences against armed forces personnel—matters that we, unlike the Government, flagged up in Committee. This is a sloppy way of making law and nowhere was that more clear than with last week’s announcement that new offences and new sentences for existing offences on some driving matters would be tabled today. At the same time, as the Minister has conceded, the Secretary of State announced that a full review of all driving offences and penalties would be carried out over the next few months.

Let us pause there for a moment. If the Government are reviewing all offences over the next few months, why do they need to change the law for one offence and introduce a brand-new offence in the Bill? I suspect that my curiosity is shared by the Minister, who replied to the debate on 27 January. We heard nine compelling and moving speeches on that day from Members on both sides of the House explaining how their constituents had been victims of dangerous, careless, drunken or disqualified drivers but how the culprits had escaped with what appeared to be lenient penalties. He carefully and courteously, as is his wont, lowered expectations, saying:

“Having emerged blinking into the daylight from the usual channels into my current job, I know better than to commit parliamentary time for any purpose”.

He added sagely:

“It is important for us to consider these matters in the round, and to do so in a way that does not create discrepancies in the sentencing system.”—[Official Report, 27 January 2014; Vol. 574, c. 731.]

Four months later, time has been found to do exactly what the Minister warned against.

The Minister might ask whether that matters if we are moving in the right direction. The groundswell of opinion expressed in that debate and outside the House is that the two-year maximum sentence for causing death by disqualified driving is inadequate, as it leads to an average sentence of about nine months in custody. We agree and we will not oppose the new clause, but is 10 years the correct figure? It is double the maximum for causing death by careless driving, arguably a more serious offence as the quality of driving is an issue. Equally, it seems anomalous to create an offence of causing serious injury by disqualified driving when no equivalent is proposed of causing serious injury by careless driving or even causing serious injury by careless driving while under the influence of drink and drugs—an offence with a maximum sentence of 14 years when it causes death.

Why has causing death by disqualified driving been singled out? As the Minister said, the current offence brackets causing disqualified driving with driving without insurance and driving without a licence. Will causing death by driving in those two circumstances remain punishable with a two-year maximum sentence? I am afraid that this bears all the hallmarks of the Secretary of State’s penchant for plucking new offences out of the air and pushing them forward to show what a tough guy he is. There were only 13 convictions in the last year for which figures are available for all offences of causing death while disqualified, uninsured or without a licence. How many cases will the change in the law affect?

Perhaps the Secretary of State will say that the change is intended as a deterrent to others, but how many disqualified drivers will be put off by the thought that they might kill or cause serious injury? There is no evidence of careless or dangerous driving in their cases, because they would then be charged with those offences. That brings me to new clause 22, tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central, which we believe is a more effective way of tackling the problem that the Secretary of State and the Minister have rightly identified.

More than 7,000 people were convicted of driving while disqualified in 2012, a substantial reduction since 10 years previously but still a great number of people who wilfully defied an order of the court and carried on driving while banned. Our answer is to make the offence of driving while disqualified triable either way, with a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment for conviction on indictment, which the Magistrates Association has been calling for for some time. Currently, the maximum penalty for driving while disqualified is six months and it is a summary only offence. Although that might be sufficient for a first or even second-time offender, it does not address the minority of recidivist offenders who have multiple disqualifications on their record and carry on driving oblivious to the courts.

I understand the point the hon. Gentleman is making, although I do not totally agree with it. Limiting the penalty to two years might reflect some aggravation that arises in instances of disqualified driving which give rise to injury. Does he not concede, however, that even if we allow for aggravation in respect of sentencing, a two-year sentence probably would not be enough to reflect justice for an injury that might be life-changing but which stops short of involving the offence of causing death by dangerous driving? The person’s life would be ruined for keeps, which would not be captured adequately by a two-year sentence, as under his proposal—four years might be nearer the mark.

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s comments, but he is misunderstanding me slightly. We do not oppose new clause 14. I would wish to have seen it remain part of the review, because of the arguments I have put forward about the substantial overlap with a number of other offences, most of which were introduced by the previous Labour Government in a previous review—I think we are all agreed that that was necessary. We do not disagree that a review is needed now, but our new offence is of a different type and serves a different and, we say, a more effective purpose in discouraging drivers who are tempted to drive while disqualified. What the Government are doing—it may be right, but let us see it “in the round”, as the Minister would say—is looking at the more serious offences, where there has to be a balance between the nature of the offence and the maximum penalty.

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman that the six-month sentence for repeat offenders who drive while disqualified is completely wrong, and I put that view forward in a private Member’s Bill in December. There was a reason why driving while disqualified was moved away from being an “either way” offence to being a summary offence: these cases may have taken up a lot of court time. Does he agree that a way to overcome that is to have the matter tried and dealt with at the magistrates court, and for the magistrate to have the discretion to refer repeat offences to the Crown court for a sentence of up to two years? That would deal with the problem. If those repeat offenders are not dealt with at an early stage, we should not then say, “Tough sentence at the end”; they can be dealt with at the lower end.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman needs to make a speech now. I do not disagree with him—there is a strong measure of agreement here—but he is proposing a complicated resolution whereas we are proposing something more straightforward. It will certainly be a help if the Government get their act together and implement the part of the 2003 Act which will allow magistrates to sentence for 12 months for a single offence, although we still think that that is insufficient for this offence. If repeat offenders plead guilty and are released at the halfway point of sentence, they are likely to serve no more than eight weeks, however many times they have previously been disqualified. Tougher sentences for this offence will act as a deterrent, warning others that driving while disqualified is unacceptable; stamping out driving while disqualified before death or serious injury is caused is Labour’s priority.

A two-year maximum sentence for those serial offenders means that they can expect to spend up to four times longer in prison than is the case now—and of course they would be off the road for all that time. There should not be much difference between the parties on these issues. As I say, we do not oppose the Secretary of State’s new clause 14, despite our reservations, but we would like the Government to support our new clause 22. If they do not, we will put it to a vote of the House; unless the Secretary of State can give me some assurance that they will either support that or at least push those views forward in the review he is doing, we would wish to vote on that matter.

I am listening to what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He said that what I put forward in a private Member’s Bill is complicated. How is it complicated, given that we both agree about repeat offenders? In 2012, 42% of the 7,000 who were sentenced were repeat offenders, with 23% having offended more than three times. It is repeat offenders who pose the risk and who are likely to get two years. Why can we not trust the magistrates to deal with this and then send it to the Crown court? That would stop the Crown court being clogged up. Let us trust the magistrates.

With respect, I do not think the Crown court is going to be clogged up. We are talking about different ways of skinning the same cat, so if we do go to a vote, I look forward to the hon. Gentleman joining us in the Lobby.

Let me briefly deal with the other matters in this group. I commend the amendments standing in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) and for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane). They were discussed in Committee—the Opposition are very disciplined about these matters—and I remain hopeful that the Government will see fit to accept them at some stage. They deal with the egregious issue of multiple offenders escaping “totting up” bans because the courts either do not have the requisite information from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in front of them or are, unknown to them, being told the same sob story for the fourth or fifth time. As a result, there are still people driving with two or three times the 12 points that should have seen them banned. There is no connection between those matters and new clauses 10 and 11. Both deal with serious matters, but it is puzzling that, once again, they have been shoehorned into the Bill at this stage. However, let me deal with them briefly.

The murder of a police officer is a heinous crime, and 13 police officers have been killed in the line of duty since 2000. The courts already take their sentencing powers very seriously, and the starting point for this is 30 years. The killers of Sharon Beshenivsky received 35 years each, the murderer of PC Ian Broadhurst received 37 years and the murderer of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes received a whole life sentence. The courts are already effectively exerting these powers, but we have no objection to the clarification, if I may put it that way, that the Government wish to introduce, particularly, as the Minister has said, as judicial discretion will remain in these cases. Thankfully, this proposal is not going to affect many cases, but it deals with the most serious crimes that are committed.

Finally, new clause 11 is a sensible tidying measure. As the Minister says, it already applies to adult offences, so, although I am always puzzled to read the headlines in The Daily Telegraph, I was particularly puzzled to see a headline where the Secretary of State was saying, “We will toughen sentences for youth crime”. The new clause is sensible and we support it, but it is about giving more discretion to magistrates. It is about empowering magistrates courts to try cases where they might previously have felt that they had to second-guess the decision and commit the case to the Crown court; it is not about inflicting additional burdens on the Crown court, and I just wish the Government would not spin at every opportunity.

We have a good degree of consensus on this part of the debate and it would perhaps be complete consensus if the Government see reason and adopt our new clause 22. I know that the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) will agree with us, because his private Member’s Bill proposes much the same thing, but so would the Secretary of State, were he to grace us with his presence, because he has said:

“I want to make our roads safer and ensure people who cause harm face tough penalties. Disqualified drivers should not be on our roads for good reason. Those who chose to defy a ban imposed by a court and go on to destroy innocent lives must face serious consequences for the terrible impact of their actions.”

Let us take action against disqualified drivers at an early stage. I urge the Government to support new clause 22.

You would not be the first person to make that genuine mistake, Madam Deputy Speaker. I entirely forgive you for it, and thank you ever so much for calling me.

I rise to speak in support of new clause 14, and I thank the Minister and the Department for including it in the Bill. It seems like only yesterday when, on 27 January 2013, I received a telephone call and discovered that two of my constituents, Ross and Clare Simons, had been killed that evening while riding a tandem bike down Lower Hanham road in Kingswood. They had been struck by a driver who had been driving, in a police chase, at 70 mph in a 30 mph zone. Obviously, this was devastating for all the families, and when I went to the vigil a week later, I said to Ross’s father, Edwin Simons, that I would do everything in my power as the local Member of Parliament to stand up for the families and for victims. That is what this clause is about: making sure we send out a message that it is unacceptable to cause death by driving while disqualified. For people watching this debate it is simply common sense to say that people who kill through driving while disqualified should never have been in the car in the first place. People wondering why the law has never been toughened up will see that it makes perfect sense to introduce this new clause.

After that fateful day on 27 January 2013, I set up, with the families, the petition “Justice for Ross and Clare”, which called for far tougher penalties for disqualified drivers, especially those who kill by dangerous driving. The perpetrator, Nicholas Lovell, who went to jail, had 69 previous convictions, 11 of which were for driving offences, and he had been disqualified four times. We can only imagine the families’ grief when they found out in court that this person had not only taken away these innocent young lives but done so while he was disqualified. For more than a decade and a half, he had shown a complete disregard for the law.

Our petition gathered 15,000 signatures, and we took it to No.10 Downing street. As part of the campaign, I led the Backbench Business debate on 27 January 2014, which the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter) mentioned, and 30 Members took part. It was clear then, and a testament to the power of Backbench Business debates, that we had cross-party consensus for changing the law. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) for introducing a ten-minute rule Bill on the matter. I am glad that this discussion is taking place today.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the work that he has done in relation to this matter. Does he agree that what we should be doing is punishing people who drive while disqualified per se? The higher-end penalty should be for driving while disqualified. The maximum two years, as I think it is now, should be increased, so that we might avoid at a later stage the terrible incident of death while driving disqualified.

The important thing to recognise in new clause 14 is that it sends out a message and hope for future legislation. When I first began the campaign, many families were fairly sceptical that there would be any change, particularly this side of the general election. There was a concern that politicians would sit on their hands and not do anything. By passing this new clause we would be opening up future debate. I have great sympathy with new clause 22, but I have not had the time to study the implications of it in detail. If that could be part of the overall review that is taking place, I would absolutely welcome that.

When considering this review, I want to make a pitch for the families of Ross and Clare Simons that we look again at causing death by dangerous driving while disqualified. At the moment, the crime is just death by driving. Nicholas Lovell, who killed Ross and Clare Simons, was given the maximum sentence of 14 years—it is one of the only times that such a sentence has been delivered by the judge. As Lovell pleaded guilty, he was given 10 years and six months. The judge at the time said that had he the legal power, he would have given out a far tougher sentence. He gave the maximum, but he recognised that, because Lovell had been disqualified, there should have been an additional aggravating factor, or that an additional maximum tariff should have been added to the sentence. I would therefore welcome the review looking at death by dangerous driving while disqualified and upping that sentence.

What the hon. Gentleman is saying, in my respectful submission, is that the judiciary and the courts should have more discretion over sentencing. New clause 22 does just that, does it not?

We need to look again at the maximum tariff for causing death by dangerous driving while disqualified. The judge at the time wished for that power. I do not know the precise implications, which is why we need a review in the round. We need uniformity across the piece. One thing I realised from the Backbench Business debate was that I was not alone; the families were not alone. We heard about some of the awfully brief sentences that had been handed out, and the unequal nature of those sentences. It is very hard for a grieving family to find out that, in what seems to be an almost identical case, the sentence handed out in one area is entirely different from that handed out in another area. I would like to ensure that we put in place a rigid framework. Obviously, judges should have discretion as well, but victims need to understand—I am not a lawyer and I struggle at times to follow the complicated processes of the law—that if someone is disqualified, they should not be in a car in the first place; that is common sense. Nicholas Lovell should never have been in that car when he ploughed into Ross and Clare Simons’s tandem. It is for those families that new clause 14 has been introduced. For me and for the local families, it is Ross and Clare’s law.

I would love it if we could get things on the statute book before the general election. I understand that the processes of law are very slow, but I hope that we can have cross-party consensus for this part of the review. Knowing that all three parties are signed up to change will be a great comfort for the families.

I wish to talk specifically to amendments 8 and 9 that are in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane). There is something very strange happening with driving penalties. The law says that a driver should be banned if they receive 12 points on their licence, unless they would face exceptional hardship. It also says that the same plea for exceptional hardship should be used only once. I would not be surprised if there were a few people driving legally with 15 points, but I would not expect there to be 8,000 people frequently driving with many more points. I would not expect a person in Liverpool to be driving with 47 points on their licence, or a woman in Bolton to be driving with 27 points on her licence. I wonder how many pleas of exceptional hardship they have made. I am not sure I could even think up that many pleas to put before the courts.

Exceptional hardship is not about losing one’s job, but it could be about losing one’s home or about other people losing their job. The terms of exceptional hardship are very narrow, so why did the Squeeze singer Chris Difford escape a driving ban after pleading that it would cause exceptional hardship as he would no longer be able to travel the country playing gigs? The 47-year-old earns up to £100,000 a year performing around the country and was caught doing 88 mph on a 70 mph road.

The son of Tony Christie, famous for his song “Is this the way to Amarillo” claimed exceptional hardship because he would not be able to drive his dad to gigs after he totted up 25 points. The jockey Kieren Fallon escaped a driving ban after he claimed that it would cause exceptional hardship because the state of the racing industry was such that he could not afford a full-time driver. Premiership footballer Zak Whitbread, who admitted speeding at 97 mph with 17 points already on his licence, escaped a ban after saying that he would not be able to find another football job if he could not drive.

There are many other cases of people who have escaped bans. Not all of those 8,000 people are famous, but often they are rich enough to pay a good barrister to get them off. Alex Williams, the Tory candidate for Stretford and Urmston at the last general election, got off because he said that he would not be able to afford to pay his £2,000 a month mortgage if he could not drive. I do not understand why those people could not pay somebody to drive them around. They could have taken a taxi, train or bus like the rest of us.

As I have already said, drivers cannot use the same exceptional hardship plea each time they are taken to court, but there is no central record of which plea has been used. There is also no record of whether these drivers are involved in later accidents. If a driver can clock up 47, 27 or even just 15 points, they must have a disregard for the law and therefore pose a risk to other road users.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her campaign in her constituency. When the points system was established, it was never intended that so many people would get away with so many sob stories, and that we would have so many thousands of people driving on our roads. Magistrates do not know, because the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has not informed them, that sob stories are repeated and used time and again.

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I remember the days of endorsements. We introduced the points system to give us more flexibility, but 12 points was regarded as the threshold for losing one’s licence. If more people are driving around with more than 12 points on their licence, it lessens the effect of the deterrent. It may lead people to think, “Perhaps I can get away with driving around with more than 12 points on my licence.” The whole threat of people losing their licence after 12 points, so therefore driving within the law, has been weakened.

Of course we need to tackle the sentencing of people convicted of causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving or driving while banned, but the whole issue of driving offences—and the way that cars can be used as weapons—needs to be addressed. We need drivers to realise, at every level of offence, that bad behaviour will be punished in order to make our roads safer. The Bolton News, my local daily paper, has been campaigning on this issue for some time. It ran a survey a while ago in which 83% of people agreed that 12 points should mean that drivers are banned. There is real support for that proposition.

We know that young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to die in road accidents than as a result of any other single cause and, sadly, the number of deaths is increasing. Of course we need justice for those who have lost loved ones, but we also need deterrence. We have to take road safety and driver behaviour seriously, and do everything we can across the spectrum, from the point at which people start offending behaviour in a car to the final catastrophic effect of a terrible accident.

I have been trying to raise the issue of 12 points in various ways for several years, often with the support of Brake. Transport Ministers told me to speak to Justice Ministers, who told me to talk to the Sentencing Council, which told me to go back and speak to Transport Ministers. I am therefore relieved to have a place in which to raise this issue, although I accept—given what the Minister said—that the issue will not be solved in its entirety. I have spoken to magistrates and the Institute of Advanced Motorists about this very issue, and they are very concerned about it. The magistrates raised the issue of the difficulty of getting accurate information from the DVLA about the number of points that a driver has. Secondly, magistrates are concerned that there is no record of the pleas used. Although a driver cannot officially use the same plea of exceptional hardship, the magistrates have no way of knowing whether it has been used before. Thirdly, the magistrates worry about a lack of consistency. Different magistrates accept different pleas of exceptional hardship, so some drivers are allowed to keep their licence in some courts whereas others in other courts are not.

I am listening with great interest to the hon. Lady’s excellent speech, and I am very sympathetic to the important points that she makes. One other area she might want to consider is whether the police national computer, which records the previous convictions of everybody in England and Wales, should be enhanced so that exceptional circumstance pleas could be set out briefly in a document which would then be put before any court considering a fresh application.

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting and important point. However we capture such information, it needs to be made available to magistrates, and that is an excellent suggestion.

I accept that the amendments would not solve all of the problems that I want to address of people driving with more than 12 points on their licences, of consistency of sentencing and of magistrates having the correct information. If the Minister will specifically commit to looking at the issue of 12 points and sentencing, I will not press my amendment to a vote.

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) who spoke so clearly on this issue. I agreed with much of what she said about this huge problem. It is astonishing how many people get off time after time. Some law firms even advertise their incredible success rates in achieving that, which we do not want to see.

There may be extenuating circumstances or special cases occasionally, but once someone has said they know they should be banned, and then makes a desperate plea, they should be more careful afterwards. It is not impossible to drive for quite a long time without breaking any rules or getting any points on your licence—some people have clean driving licences. Certainly if I had nine points, or even 12 points, I would try very hard indeed not to speed or drive dangerously. I hope that the Minister will listen carefully to the review.

I have a couple of pedantic points about the hon. Lady’s amendment, as I do not think it covers everything that it needs to. However, that is not the point for today. I hope that we can get the right changes that most of the House would want to see. I welcome the Government’s announcement of a review, and I hope that it will be a substantial review. I also hope that the Minister is successful in obtaining parliamentary time to ensure that the results of the review become law. A review will not solve the problem on its own.

I pay tribute to the work done by the CTC’s road justice campaign, which produced an excellent report called “Road Justice: the role of the police”—I know that the Minister has had some discussions with that organisation—which looked not only at the legal aspects, but at the role of the police and the prosecution. The law is not the only issue. Too often, especially when pedestrians or cyclists are the victims of collisions, the police do not investigate sufficiently to allow charges to be brought. In several cases, people have come to my surgery having been involved in a collision in which someone else behaved very dangerously and the police simply were not interested in doing the basic groundwork, such as taking photographs of the scene at the time. There is very little point us getting the law right if the police do not investigate and prosecutors do not take action. I know that the Minister is not responsible for the police, but I hope the review will look more broadly at the issue to ensure that its proposals will make a difference.

The campaign has had some 12,000 signatures, so we need some action in response. Some of the cases are astonishing. In one case, a gentleman had been drinking and smoking cannabis and then was speeding, with his girlfriend riding pillion, and crashed and killed a pedestrian. He had 45 previous traffic offences but apparently there was not enough evidence to charge him with causing death by dangerous driving, even though there was a clear cause of death—dangerous driving—and he had a long track record. He did get 18 months in jail, but the fact that prosecutors did not even feel able to bring a charge of death by dangerous driving is a problem.

Prosecutions are made on whether there is enough evidence to bring the charge and, secondly, whether it is in the public interest. I do not mean to criticise the hon. Gentleman, but it may be a little unfair to say that a prosecution for dangerous driving should have been brought in that particular case. Perhaps there was good reason why it was not.

The hon. Gentleman is right: I have not been through all the court transcripts in that case. But it is not an isolated case. It is a similar story in literally hundreds of cases—we have heard some today and many others have been collected in various places. I am sure he is not trying to suggest that he would agree with the action taken in every one of those cases.

One problem—and having spoken with many people about this, I cannot see an easy resolution to it—is that juries are often not prepared to convict on offences that perhaps they should be. Prosecutors can have a tendency to low-ball the charge to ensure a conviction. I hope that the review will address that issue, because none of us want to see charges being brought that juries feel are simply too serious to convict.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we are also looking for a cultural change here? In the same way that the present generation does not talk about “having a drink for the road” as might have happened 30 or 40 years ago, we seek a cultural change in attitudes to the offences for which people should serve prison terms.

I think we have seen a cultural change. The sentencing aspect is a very small part of that, as I am sure the hon. Lady would agree. The success of the drink-driving law is not the number of people prosecuted: it is the number of people who do not drink and drive. We need a cultural change that suggests that dangerous behaviour, whether it is driving too fast or cutting people up, is simply not acceptable.

We are seeing other changes that are making driving safer, such as the introduction of 20 mph speed limits. That is happening very successfully in my constituency in Cambridge, where we are seeing some driver behaviour changes, but it is still early days. The changes will start to get across the idea that driving or travelling in any form of transport carries a risk of doing incredibly serious harm to other people.

I am sure that for many Members, the most dangerous activity that we do—the thing that has the most chance of killing another person—is driving. The vast majority of us will never kill anyone, but it is still a risk. So sensible speed limits and the enforcement of them, as well as the sanctions available in the extreme cases, are helpful. What we want to avoid is sanctioning people when there is a death or serious injury; we want to change behaviour. Drink-driving is not acceptable, regardless of whether or not it ends up killing somebody. The risk is simply too large. There is largely agreement about that and considerable expectation from the House that the Ministers’ review will make a large difference. That will help drivers to be safer on the roads. It will reduce collisions and make pedestrians and cyclists a lot safer, which I welcome.

I turn briefly to new clause 10 about the term of imprisonment for the murder of a police or prison officer. When the Minister winds up, I would be grateful if he could clarify the role of judicial discretion in this area. It is always helpful for us to set out what the base should be, but I would like to hear confirmation from him that he believes in the principle of judicial discretion and that judges will be able to look at the details of almost any offence.

With the leave of the House, I shall try to respond to some of the points made in the debate which, as we came to expect in the course of Committee, was instructive and well balanced. I start with the remarks of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter), who made his case for new clause 22. He kindly indicated that he has no objection to new clause 14, which I welcome, and he made it clear that he has little objection to some of the other measures in this group, and I am grateful for that.

As I said in my earlier remarks, we intend to consider a number of aspects of the criminal law in connection with driving offences in the course of the review that I described. I can certainly undertake to the hon. Gentleman that the issue of driving while disqualified, particularly where it involves repeat offending, which is the type of offending highly likely to lead to sentencing at the top end of the scale, whatever that scale may look like in the future, is something that we are highly likely to want to consider as part of the review. I am sure he will maintain his case for the inclusion of that.

The difference between the circumstances we are considering in relation to new clause 14 and the circumstances we are considering in relation to new clause 22 was conveyed very movingly, as we have heard before, by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore). New clause 14 is designed to address what we perceive to be some egregious cases in which sentencing powers were not adequate. It was clear to us from those cases that we should plug that gap in the sentencing regime. There are other questions that we have to ask about driving offences and how those offences are punished, which are about whether we have pitched properly the sentencing powers of the judiciary. But we have not yet had the opportunity to consider in detail the implications of the change set out in new clause 22, and I doubt very much that the hon. Gentleman has, either.

With all due respect to the Minister and to the hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), the tragic case of Clare and Ross Simons that he described was a very serious case of causing death by dangerous driving. Even though the driver was disqualified, it was not a case of disqualified driving. It would not in any way be affected by new clause 14. The Minister has made the case against himself. It is clear why new clause 22 has been canvassed over a long period by practitioners, the Magistrates Association and others. There is an overwhelming case for increasing that nugatory summary only sentence. The position is far more complicated, as shown by some of the tensions that have come out in the debate, which is why new clause 14 is a little precipitate, even if it is going in the right direction. Will the Minister give a clear undertaking that there will be an increase in the sentence for driving while disqualified? If not, we will press the new clause to the vote this evening.

I will come back to the point about how much we know about the implications of new clause 22. To deal with the case of specific examples, the point that I am making in relation to what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood said is that where it is brought to our attention that there are particular gaps in the sentencing regime, it is appropriate that we look very carefully at those. The case that precipitated the decision to table new clause 14 was the case of Mr Stock, who was killed in precisely the circumstances that new clause 14 would address.

It is important that when such cases are brought to our attention, we look carefully at whether there is a gap in the law, and we then look at how that gap might best be remedied and what the consequences of doing so might be. The reason that we did not respond immediately to such cases, and the reason that I did not respond to the Back-Bench debate to which the hon. Gentleman referred by saying straight away, “Yes, of course, we will change the law immediately and we will do so in the following way,” is that it is important to consider all the ramifications of making changes.

We have had the opportunity to do that in relation to what we now propose as new clause 14. We have a good idea, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned, of how many cases might be affected, and what effect that would have on the work load of the Crown court and of the Prison Service. I wonder whether he has any idea what the ramifications for the Court Service or for the Prison Service would be of the change that would be made by new clause 22. That does not mean to say that after we have considered those ramifications properly and carefully, we would not come to the conclusion that it is the right thing to do, but we are not going to do so today, for the reasons that I have set out.

If the hon. Gentleman reflects, and given that he hopes to be in government himself in less than a year—[Interruption.] I am not saying that he will, just that he hopes to. If that eventuality ever came to pass, I do not think he would wish to make policy any differently from the way I am suggesting we should do so. If that is right, I cannot, as he would understand, accept new clause 22 today. I have gone as far as I think I sensibly can, which is to say that it will certainly form part of the review that we intend to undertake, and if we conclude as a result of the review that it is the right thing to do, we shall do it.

I think the Minister is playing with me a little. I have used the best evidence I can and as I said, I have spoken to practitioners and to the Magistrates Association about the matter. I am advised that the clause is likely to affect only a small minority of cases, which are the recidivist cases. The Minister has access to that degree of detail and that information. Perhaps he could tell us how many cases he thinks would be affected.

As I have tried to indicate to the hon. Gentleman, I would want to look at all those things. He is right—I do not know. We have to look at the matter carefully and I am sure he would want us to do that. Between the point at which he decided to table new clause 22 and this debate taking place, there has not been an opportunity to do that work, which we would want to do. He is welcome to continue looking a gift horse in the mouth if he so wishes, but what I am saying to him, I hope very clearly, is that we are certainly not shutting the door on what he is proposing, but neither are we going to accept it today without doing the proper work. No responsible Government could do otherwise. He may or may not want to be part of a responsible Government, and if it is not a responsible Government, he may want to do things differently, but that is the way we do things for as long as we are in government.

Let me move on to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood. Again, he spoke movingly, as he has before, of justice for Ross and Clare Simons. He also made the case for including in the review the issues of death by dangerous driving by those who are disqualified, and we will certainly consider that matter also.

The hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) made, as she has done before, a good case in relation to those who have multiple points on their licence and are somehow not yet disqualified. She is right to be concerned about that, as are we. We would want to consider that matter, too, at greater length. There is, as she knows and as I have said to her before, an issue in relation to how much we can sensibly trespass on judicial discretion. In each and every case a bench of magistrates would have to have concluded that the exceptional hardship case was made out, such that they thought it appropriate not to disqualify in those cases. There will always be exceptional cases, but her argument is that those cases should, indeed, be exceptional; they should not be regular, and I have a good deal of sympathy for that view. The specific point around exceptional hardship claims—

Does the Minister therefore think that perhaps a stronger direction should be given to magistrates on what should be exceptional hardship?

I would be wary of doing that, but we can look at how we ensure that magistrates are doing all necessary due diligence on the nature of past exceptional hardship claims, perhaps before other benches. That was the hon. Lady’s second point that I was just coming on to. There is something in that. We need to consider how to ensure that benches take the opportunity to look carefully at what has been said to their brethren in other cases involving the same defendant, who may be running the same argument on exceptional hardship multiple times and continually avoiding disqualification. We will need to look carefully at that.

That does not mean that running the same argument cannot necessarily amount to exceptional hardship more than once—again, that is a matter for each bench to determine—but they should do so, as she says, with their eyes open and in possession of all the relevant facts. We will look at whether there are ways in which we can ensure that they do more to get those facts. However, it is not the case that they do not have access to those facts now. The DVLA already retains the information on whether an exceptional hardship claim has been made by the same defendant in a previous case. It is there to be looked at, but further inquiries may then be necessary to find out exactly what was said in the making of that exceptional hardship claim. We will take that away and look at it. As I have already said, there is a good case for including in the review the hon. Lady’s point about multiple points on a licence and the totting-up offences.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) made a number of points around the vulnerability of cyclists, with which, of course, I agree. We must always be conscious of that, not just in the Ministry of Justice but in other Departments too, as I know colleagues in the Department for Transport in particular are. He is right to say that this is not simply about sanctions, but also about changing behaviour. He will recognise that in the Ministry of Justice we are pretty much all about sanctions, so there is a limited amount that can be done by this Department, but certainly in conjunction with other Departments there may be a great deal more that can be done. He will understand, too, that the review will be into the penalties available to the judiciary under the criminal law. It will not, of course, sensibly be able to reach wider than that, although he will wish to take advantage of his opportunities to make submissions to it none the less.

My hon. Friend will recognise that new clause 10 deals with the starting point for decisions on the appropriate tariff for a life sentence. We think it appropriate for the reasons that I set out earlier that the starting point for murders of police officers and prison officers should be a whole life tariff, but sentencing judges can move up or down from that starting point as they think fit, and that applies in both directions. If one starts with the murder of a police officer and believes for particular reasons that it is appropriate to go below a whole life tariff, the sentencing judge can do that, and will want to set out why they choose to do that. I anticipate, following this change, that that will be very much the exception, and that as a matter of course, those who are sentenced for murder of a police or prison officer in the performance of their duties should expect to receive a whole life tariff. That is the purpose of this change. But the reason I say that it operates in both directions is that if somebody were to be convicted of murder, not necessarily of a police or prison officer attracting a whole life tariff starting point but a lower starting point, that may still result in a whole life tariff if the judge thought it appropriate to revise that sentence upwards from the starting point. I hope that is helpful to my hon. Friend. With those remarks, again I invite the House to support the Government new clauses, and not the Opposition’s new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 14 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 22

Penalty for driving while disqualified

‘(1) In Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (prosecution and punishment of offences under the Traffic Acts) in the entry relating to the offence of obtaining licence, or driving, while disqualified, section 103(1)(b) of the Road Traffic Act 1988—

(a) in column 3 leave out “6 months” and insert “12 months”;

(b) in column 2 below “(c) On indictment, in Scotland”, insert “(d) On indictment, in England and Wales”; and

(c) in column 3 below “(c) 12 months or a fine or both” insert “(d) 2 years or a fine or both”.

(2) In relation to an offence committed before section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 comes into force, the reference to 12 months is to be read as reference to six months.

(3) The amendment made by this section applies only in relation to an offence committed on or after the day on which it comes into force.’.

Makes the offence of driving while disqualified triable either way, with a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment for conviction on indictment.(Mr Slaughter.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

New Schedule 2

‘Offences committed by disqualified drivers: further amendments

Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52)

1 (1) Section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers) is amended as follows.

(2) Omit paragraph (b) (but not the “or” at the end).

(3) In the heading, omit “, disqualified”.

Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53)

2 The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 is amended as follows.

3 (1) Section 24 (alternative verdicts: general) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (A2)—

(a) after paragraph (b) insert—

“(ba) an offence under section 3ZC of that Act (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers),

(bb) an offence under section 3ZD of that Act (causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers),”.

(3) In the table in subsection (1), at the appropriate place insert—

“Section 3ZC (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers)

Section 103(1)(b) (driving while disqualified)

Section 3ZD (causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers)

Section 103(1)(b) (driving while disqualified)”.

4 In section 34(4)(a) (disqualification for certain offences), after sub-paragraph (iia) insert—

(iib) an offence under section 3ZC of that Act (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers), or

(iic) an offence under section 3ZD of that Act (causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers), or”.

5 (1) Section 36(2) (disqualification until test is passed) is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of paragraph (a) omit “or”.

(3) For paragraph (b) substitute—

“(b) an offence under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (causing death by dangerous driving),

(c) an offence under section 1A of that Act (causing serious injury by dangerous driving),

(d) an offence under section 2 of that Act (dangerous driving),

(e) an offence under section 3ZC of that Act (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers), or

(f) an offence under section 3ZD of that Act (causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers).”

6 In section 45 (effect of endorsement of counterparts), for subsection (6) substitute—

“(6) Where the offence was under one of the following sections of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the endorsement remains effective until four years have elapsed since the conviction—

(a) section 1 (causing death by dangerous driving),

(b) section 1A (causing serious injury by dangerous driving),

(c) section 2 (dangerous driving),

(d) section 3ZC (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers), or

(e) section 3ZD (causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers).”

7 In section 45A (effect of endorsement of driving records), for subsection (4) as substituted by paragraph 42 of Schedule 3 to the Road Safety Act 2006 (endorsement: all drivers), substitute—

“(4) Where the offence was under one of the following sections of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the endorsement remains effective until four years have elapsed since the conviction—

(a) section 1 (causing death by dangerous driving),

(b) section 1A (causing serious injury by dangerous driving),

(c) section 2 (dangerous driving),

(d) section 3ZC (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers), or

(e) section 3ZD (causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers).”

8 (1) The table in Schedule 1 (offences to which sections 1, 6, 11 and 12(1) apply) is amended as follows.

(2) In the entry relating to section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988, in the second column omit “, disqualified”.

(3) After that entry insert—

“RTA section 3ZC

Causing death by driving: disqualified drivers

Section 11 of this Act.

RTA section 3ZD

Causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers

Sections 11 and 12(1) of this Act.”

9 In the table in Part 1 of Schedule 2 (prosecution and punishment of offences under the Traffic Acts), in the entry relating to section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988, in column 2 omit “, disqualified”.

Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 (c. 32)

10 (1) Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 to the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003 (application of duty to give notice to foreign authorities of driving disqualification of a non-UK resident) is amended as follows.

(2) In sub-paragraph (ca) omit “, disqualified”.

(3) After that sub-paragraph insert—

“(cb) section 3ZC (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers),

(cc) section 3ZD (causing serious injury by driving: disqualified drivers),”.

Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44)

11 In Part 1 of Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (specified violent offences for the purposes of sentencing dangerous offenders), after paragraph 48 (offence under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988) insert—

48A An offence under section 3ZC of that Act (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers).”

Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (c. 25)

12 (1) In paragraph 1(6) of Schedule 1 to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (suspension of investigations where certain criminal charges may be brought), in the definition of “homicide offence”, paragraph (b) is amended as follows.

(2) In sub-paragraph (iii) omit “, disqualified”.

(3) After that sub-paragraph insert—

(iiia) section 3ZC (causing death by driving: disqualified drivers);”.’.—(Jeremy Wright.)

This Schedule contains amendments relating to the offences under sections 3ZC and 3ZD of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (inserted by amendment NC14). It includes provisions about alternative verdicts, retests and the period of endorsement.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Term of imprisonment for murder of a police or prison officer

‘(1) Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence) is amended as follows.

(2) In paragraph 4(2) (cases for which a whole life order is the appropriate starting point), after paragraph (b) insert—

(ba) the murder of a police officer or prison officer in the course of his or her duty,”.

(3) In paragraph 5(2) (cases for which 30 years is the appropriate starting point), omit paragraph (a).

(4) The amendments made by this section apply only in relation to an offence committed on or after the day on which they come into force.’.(Jeremy Wright.)

This amendment provides that the court should normally start by considering a whole life term when sentencing an offender for the murder of a police or prison officer in the course of his or her duty. Currently, the starting point in these cases is a minimum term of 30 years.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 11

Committal for sentence of young offenders convicted of certain serious offences

‘(1) The Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 3B (committal for sentence on indication of guilty plea by child or young person), for subsection (1) substitute—

“(1) This section applies where on the summary trial of an offence mentioned in section 91(1) of this Act a person aged under 18 is convicted of the offence.”

(3) For the heading of that section substitute “Committal for sentence of young offenders on summary trial of certain serious offences”.

(4) The amendment made by subsection (2) applies only if the person convicted of the offence first appeared in respect of the offence after the day on which the amendment comes into force.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (4), a person first appears in respect of an offence when the person first appears or is brought before a magistrates’ court in the proceedings in which the person is charged with the offence.’.(Jeremy Wright.)

This amendment allows a magistrates’ court to commit a person under 18 for sentence to the Crown Court where the court has found the person guilty of an offence mentioned in section 91(1) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. Currently the court can only do so following an early guilty plea.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 29

Fixed term recalls

‘(1) Section 255A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection 4, insert—

“(4A) A person is not suitable for automatic release if—

(a) he is an extended sentence prisoner or a specified offence prisoner;

(b) in a case where paragraph (a) does not apply, he was recalled under section 254 before the normal entitlement date (having been released before that date under section 246 or 248); or

(c) in a case where neither of the proceeding paragraphs applies, he has, during the same term of imprisonment, already been released under section 255B(1)(b) or (2) or section 255C(2).’.—(Philip Davies.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 31—Tagged curfew on remand not to count towards time served—

‘(1) The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1B)(c) of section 237, leave out “or section 240A”.

(3) In the italic heading before section 240, after “custody”, leave out “or on bail subject to certain types of condition”.

(4) Leave out section 240A.’.

New clause 37—Open prisons: deportees—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for which he is liable for deportation can be moved to a Category D prison.’.

New clause 38—Resettlement licence: deportees—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for which he is liable for deportation can be eligible for resettlement licence.’.

New clause 39—Open prisons: murderers—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for murder can be moved to a Category D prison.’.

New clause 40—Resettlement licence: murderers—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for murder can be eligible for resettlement licence.’.

New clause 41—Open prisons: serious offenders—

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for an indictable only offence can be moved to a Category D prison.’.

New clause 42—Open prisons: victims—

‘No prisoner serving a life sentence can be moved to a Category D prison before the views of the victim or the victim’s family have been sought and considered by the Secretary of State for Justice.’.

New clause 2—Meeting a child following sexual grooming etc.—

‘(1) The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 15(1)(a) (meeting a child following sexual grooming etc.) for “two”, substitute “one”.’.

At present, someone is only considered to be committing an offence if they contact the child twice and arrange to meet them or travel to meet them with the intention of committing a sexual offence. This new Clause would mean that the perpetrator would only have to make contact once.

New clause 3—Offence of abduction of child by other persons—

‘(1) The Child Abduction Act 1984 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 2(1) (offence of abduction of child by other person) for “sixteen”, substitute “eighteen”.’.

At present, there is a disparity between the ages that children must be to be considered to be abducted depending on whether they are in the care system or not. This new Clause would rectify this disparity and set a consistent age of under 18.

New clause 15—Aggravated offences against members of the armed forces—

‘(1) Part 12 (Sentencing) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of section 146, insert—

“147 Increase in sentences for aggravation related to membership of the Armed Forces

(1) This section applies where the court is considering the seriousness of an offence committed in any of the circumstances mentioned in subsection (2).

(2) Those circumstances are—

(a) that, at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrated towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the victim being a former or serving member (or presumed former or serving member) of the armed forces or army reserve; and

(b) that the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards persons who are former or serving members of the armed forces.

(3) The court—

(a) must treat the fact that the offence was committed in any of those circumstances as an aggravating factor; and

(b) must state in open court that the offence was committed in such circumstances.

(4) It is immaterial for the purposes of paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (2) whether or not the offender’s hostility is also based, to any extent, on any other factor not mentioned in that paragraph.

(5) In this section “armed forces” means Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, both regular and reserve.’.

Amendment 20, in clause 18, page 17, line 29, leave out from ‘portrays’ to end of line 42 and insert

‘sexual activity which involves real or apparent lack of consent or any form of physical restraint which prevents participants from indicating a withdrawal of consent’.

New clause 29 stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall). I appreciate that with this group of amendments time is of the essence, so I will try to be as snappy as possible. I usually try to accommodate interventions, but I hope that Members will be mindful of the fact that there are amendments in the group that have been tabled by others. In the interests of time, and in order to allow everyone a fair lick of the sauce bottle, I will try to refrain from speaking to the amendments that do not stand in my name, even though there are things that I would like to say about them if time allowed.

New clause 29 would reverse the changes made in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 in relation to those who are eligible to be recalled to prison for just 28 days for breaching their licence. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 amended the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to enable fixed-term recalls in the first place—one of the many shameful things done in the law and order field by the previous Labour Government. However, the 2012 Act further amended the 2003 Act to extend the use of fixed-term recalls to previously denied prisoners. That is another example of the previous Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), being even more lax on law and order issues than the previous Labour Government. Many of us might have thought that that would be rather hard to achieve, but he managed it in that particular field.

Most people believe that when someone is let out of prison early, whether it be halfway through their sentence, a quarter of the way through on home detention curfew, or at some other point before they should be let out, if they reoffend during that time or breach their licence conditions, they should go back to prison to serve the rest of their original sentence—at the very least; one might even argue for sending them to prison for longer. Unfortunately, this is not only not always the case; it is often not the case, or may even never be the case at all.

The overwhelming majority of the public believe that offenders should serve the whole of the sentence they were given in the first place. Eighty-two per cent. of those asked about this in a survey carried out by Lord Ashcroft thought that prisoners should serve the full prison sentence handed down by the courts.

I have a nasty feeling that my hon. Friend is not going to welcome much in the Bill, but may I ask him at least to welcome one thing? He will have noticed, I am sure, that we propose to increase the penalties for those who fail to comply with their licence. Does he at least accept that that is a good idea?

I absolutely accept that the current Lord Chancellor, with the help of my hon. Friend the Minister, is doing his very best to try to undo lots of the mistakes made by his predecessors; I am the first to acknowledge that. My contention is that the Government are not going anywhere near far enough in meeting the needs and expectations of the general public. Yes, of course they are making small steps in the right direction, but they are far too small and I would like them to go further.

May I reassure my hon. Friend about the views of the public? I spend my weekends out on the doorsteps talking to people in Brigg and Goole, and the one thing they tell me about law and order is that they expect that people who go to prison should serve their full term. The idea that somebody can breach their licence and then in effect have a 28-day all-inclusive holiday is completely and utterly outrageous. I entirely concur with what he is saying, and so do the people of Brigg and Goole.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and, of course, to the people of Brigg and Goole who are so ably represented by him in Parliament. He is absolutely right. Most people think that when somebody is sent to prison for whatever length of time the court hands down, they should be there for that period of time. It beggars belief that even when they are released from prison and commit another offence, they do not go back for the original sentence that was handed down.

There is no licence period for offenders serving less than one year in prison, and that covers about 60% of the prison population at any one time. Many of the remaining prisoners will be released on licence halfway through their sentence. Fixed-term recalls were introduced in 2008 to reduce the pressure on prison places. It was not done because it was the right thing to do, but because the previous Government got completely overwhelmed on the matter of prison places. Unfortunately, not much appears to be known by the public, nor—dare I say it?—by many colleagues in this House about how the system of fixed-term recalls works. A fixed-term recall occurs where the offender breaches their licence and is returned to prison for a mere 28 days, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) said—not for the rest of the prison term they were originally given, not even for most of it, but for just 28 days.

When fixed-term recalls were introduced, they excluded certain offenders. However, in his bid to reduce the prison population still further, the former Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe, relaxed the eligibility criteria by way of a change in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. I always had my doubts about the fact that the punishment of offenders was mentioned in the title of that Act, because it seemed to do anything but punish offenders, and I was right to be concerned. As of 3 December 2012, fixed-term recalls were made available to previously denied prisoners. These were offenders serving a sentence for certain violent or sexual offences, those subject to a home detention curfew—that is, serving some of their prison sentence at home—and, most shockingly, those who had previously been given a fixed-term recall for breaching their licence within the same original prison sentence. I suspect that not many people realise that, and they certainly will not like it when they do.

One unbelievable thing that I recently found out is that in the nine months from January to September last year, 785 of the prisoners serving sentences of one year or more who had been released on licence before the end of their sentence were not only recalled to serve just 28 days for breaching their licence once, and then released, but subsequently recalled to serve another 28-day spell and then released again before the end of their original prison sentence. In nine months, 785 of the most serious offenders in our prisons were released from prison having breached their licence, returned to prison for 28 days, released again, and then, for a further breach of their licence, returned to prison for just 28 days and then released again. You couldn’t make it up, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is a complete failure of policy that is completely indefensible and unjustifiable. I am not easily shocked when it comes to any matters relating to justice, but this has to be one of the most unbelievable policy decisions of all time, and I doubt there is much support for it among the general public. I would love to hear the Howard League for Penal Reform, otherwise known as the prisoner’s friend, and other do-gooding organisations justify this kind of approach.

In answer to one of my recent parliamentary questions about the Bill, my hon. Friend the Minister said:

“Fixed term recalls will continue to be used in low-risk cases where a short period back in custody is sufficient to deal with the breach and the offender can then safely be re-released to continue with their rehabilitation under licensed supervision in the community.”—[Official Report, 3 March 2014; Vol. 576, c. 641W.]

My new clause would remove those who have committed serious offences from eligibility for the 28-day recall, as well as those who have already been given a chance on a 28-day recall and gone on to breach their licence conditions again. If what the Minister says is really the case, surely he and the Lord Chancellor, who is, I believe, much more in tune with public opinion and more on the side of the victim than the criminal—certainly compared with his predecessor—will do something to rectify this appalling state of affairs and support my new clause. Unless he can offer some sensible measures to address these points, I intend to press it to a vote.

New clause 31 proposes that time spent on tagged curfew would not count as time on remand. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 amended the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to allow periods of time spent on tagged curfew, on bail, to count as credit towards any eventual custodial sentence. As I said on Second Reading of this Bill, I want an end to the ridiculous position whereby time spent on tagged curfew is credited as though it were time spent on remand in prison. The new clause would remove that entitlement. Currently, when someone is on bail on an electronically tagged curfew from, say, 11 pm until 8 am, and they then receive a custodial sentence, the amount of time they have to serve in custody is reduced by half a day for each nine hours or more spent on the curfew beforehand. I have never understood the maths of it. If nine hours is spent on a curfew, how does that equate to half a day in prison, even if the two things were comparable, which, in my view, they are not? I appreciate that some people will have had curfews longer than nine hours, but some of those who had nine-hour curfews will still be getting the benefit of this credit. The credit also inevitably means that some people avoid prison altogether. If they have been on a curfew for a certain period of time and then receive a custodial sentence of a certain length, they will never see the inside of a prison cell despite the court having deemed that only a custodial sentence was appropriate for the crime they committed.

I can do no better than repeat what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) said as shadow Minister in 2008 when this proposal was first being made by the previous Labour Government:

“One of the greatest concerns of the public is that the current system leads to dishonesty in sentencing. People do not seem to understand that when a person is sentenced to two years in prison, that actually means that he will be in custody only for one year. It provides yet another example of how the Government, in order to overcome the difficulties of prison overcrowding, are guilty of promoting an untruth.”

He went on to say that a curfew

“cannot be considered the equivalent of having spent time in prison awaiting sentence, but the new clause directs the court to take all that time—described as ‘the credit period’—into account in reducing the custodial sentence. I am afraid that the public will find that rather difficult to understand.”

He went on to say, as I quoted on Second Reading:

“If someone has committed an offence that crosses the custody threshold—an offence that is serious enough to warrant a custodial sentence—it will cause a great deal of scepticism, undermine public confidence in the justice system and make the Government look increasingly ridiculous if the court is then required to say, ‘By the way, all the time that you have spent at home in bed is time that can be taken away from your custodial sentence.’”—[Official Report, 9 January 2008; Vol. 470, c. 369.]

As it happens, back in 2008 the Conservative party voted against the then Government introducing this particular measure. Indeed, the Minister voted against it when in opposition. Has he changed his mind about this ridiculous system—if that is the case, he can tell us why—or does he still think it is ridiculous even though he does not accept my new clause? I would be extremely grateful if he could tell us why he intends to defend in this Parliament something that he thought was wrong and voted against in the last Parliament. We can only conclude that he has somehow changed his mind, but I am not entirely sure what caused that to happen.

My other new clauses, 37 to 42, all relate to open prisons and can be taken together. I am sure it will not have escaped anybody’s notice that open prisons have been a hot topic in the past week or two, with the absconding of the “skull cracker” from an open prison. The prison authorities might have thought there was a clue in his name before they decided to release him, but it appears that that was beyond them. This is a multiple armed robber who was serving 13 life sentences and had absconded from prison before—twice, I believe—but who somehow, unbelievably, found himself in an open prison and being released on temporary licence.

I had been looking at this issue for some time before the “skull cracker” case, and the more I learn about it, the more I despair. The actual facts regarding open prisons and the sorts of people being let out on day or night release are shocking. People say that open prisons are an essential part of people’s rehabilitation and that, just before they are released and have gone through all their rehabilitation, it means they can gradually work their way back into the local community. We know that that is clearly not true, because of the police’s reaction when the “skull cracker” escaped from prison. If all of this guff about rehabilitation of people in open prisons were true, when the “skull cracker” escaped from prison the police would have told the public, “Don’t worry about it, because this man was rehabilitated. He was going to be released from prison very soon anyway, so he is of no danger to the public.” Of course, the police did not say that; they said, “This man is immensely dangerous and must not be approached at any price.”

Therefore, we know for a fact that the argument that people in open prisons who are coming to the end of their sentence are being rehabilitated is a load of old nonsense dreamt up by the do-gooders. I can see from the facial expressions of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) that the do-gooders are ably represented, as usual. He, along with the Howard League for Penal Reform, is the criminal and prisoner’s friend.

I hope the hon. Gentleman puts his new clauses to the vote so we can see how much of the House rejects what he is saying. Does he really not care about the research done by a huge number of organisations which shows that reoffending rates among those released from open prisons are far lower than the rates for those who are released from closed prisons? Rather than give his own personal opinions, surely the hon. Gentleman would like to see less reoffending and, hence, fewer victims of future crimes.

I suggest the hon. Gentleman goes to speak to the people at the building society who were the victims of the armed robbery by the “skull cracker.” The hon. Gentleman seems to take comfort from people in a Westminster bubble—people who need to get out more—agreeing with him. I am concerned not about whether he agrees with me, but about what the general public think and whether they have confidence in the criminal justice system. He is, of course, a typical arrogant type who thinks that he knows better than the general public about everything. All I can suggest is that he knocks on a few doors in his constituency and asks people what they actually think about the criminal justice system. He may be shocked. It would be better for him not to stick to the people in the ivory towers in his constituency; he should try to speak to people on estates and those who buy their own homes. He might be surprised by what he finds out.

My new clauses 37 states:

“No prisoner serving a sentence for which he is liable for deportation can be moved to a Category D prison.”

New clause 38 states:

“No prisoner serving a sentence for which he is liable for deportation can be eligible for resettlement licence.”

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way again. On deportation, surely the debate about whether an open prison is key to rehabilitation is completely irrelevant, because these people will not be released back into society in the United Kingdom. He should, therefore, enjoy the support even of those who argue that open prisons are part of rehabilitation, because the people affected will leave the United Kingdom. The argument is completely baseless.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am sure we are all excited at the prospect of hearing what the hon. Member for Cambridge will have to say about these particular two new clauses and whether he thinks it is suitable for people who are about to be deported to be moved into open prisons and released on temporary licence so that they can walk out willy-nilly. Knowing him as I do, I am sure he thinks it is quite right for them to be moved to open prisons and released on temporary licence. We await his comments with baited breath. If he were to agree with me, there is no doubt whatsoever that it would be a red letter day. At that point, I think I would be able to claim that my new clause had the support of the House.

The clue to my new clauses is in the title: if someone is liable for deportation following an offence, I do not understand what grounds there can possibly be for releasing them on resettlement licence. The whole justification for resettlement day and night release is that it is supposed to help prisoners reintegrate into the area by re-establishing links with family and the local community. To be honest, I am not a fan of that at the best of times—given that many offenders spend so little of their sentence in prison anyway, I cannot believe that so many of them are not in prison when we think they are—but giving a resettlement licence to someone liable to be deported is utter madness. I cannot for one second understand the logic of it and I would be amazed if anybody could find any support for the idea from any quarter.

New clause 38 would make those liable for deportation ineligible for resettlement licence, and new clause 37 would ensure they were not allowed to be moved to open prisons. I cannot believe that I even needed to table these new clauses—I would have thought they were basic common sense—but I believe this change is essential to remove the much greater risk of these offenders absconding, knowing that they are likely to be deported at the end of their sentence in any event.

New clause 39 states:

“No prisoner serving a sentence for murder can be moved to a Category D prison.”

New clause 40 states:

“No prisoner serving a sentence for murder can be eligible for resettlement licence.”

There is nothing much more serious than dealing with the case of someone who has been murdered. The individuals who have committed such crimes have shown that they are capable of ending someone’s life, and there has to be a risk that they will do it again. It is all well and good saying that these people should be rehabilitated, but the risk is obviously at the highest possible end of the scale.

According to replies to further parliamentary questions, I was told that two murderers are still on the run, having absconded from open prison a few years ago, and that 106 offenders serving sentences for murder have absconded in less than 10 years. Those are not small numbers. As far as I am concerned, any murderer who absconds from our prison estate is one too many. It is absolutely disgraceful that 106 murderers have absconded from our prisons in 10 years. New clauses 39 and 40 would help to protect the public, who should not be put at risk in this way.

There are real-life, tragic examples of the risk these murderers pose. One of those terrible cases happened when Ian McLoughlin was on day release following a murder conviction, which in turn followed a conviction for manslaughter. He murdered Graham Buck, who had gone to help his neighbour. The offence was apparently committed on his first day on day release from prison after 21 years in custody. One day is all it takes. I believe that putting murderers in open prisons and giving them day release is playing with fire unnecessarily and creating unnecessary additional victims of crime. Such tragic cases should never have happened, and we need to make sure that they never happen again. I therefore hope that colleagues will support the new clauses.

New clause 41 would deny a prisoner serving a sentence for an indictable only offence from being moved to a category D open prison. According to an answer on 1 May to one of my parliamentary questions, there were more than 4,000 offenders in open prisons at the end of last year, including 1,227 who were in for violence against the person offences, 215 for sexual offences, 505 for robbery, 202 for burglary and 1,115 for drug offences. According to other answers, there are 643 life-sentence prisoners in open prisons, as well as 599 other prisoners serving indeterminate sentences for public protection. These are not the type of offenders I was expecting to find in open prisons. I believe that most of the public think that open prisons are for people like Lester Piggott, not people serving 13 life sentences.

Not only are such people in open prisons, but they are allowed to go out by being released on temporary licence. Some 611 prisoners serving life sentences were granted release on temporary licence in the last year for which figures are available, and 1,043 serving indeterminate sentences for public protection were granted release on temporary licence. If people serving indeterminate sentences for public protection were fit to be released from prison, they would have been released. That is the whole point of indeterminate sentences. The fact that they are still in prison means that, by definition, they are not fit to be released. I am at a loss to understand how those who have committed the most serious offences—those which justify a so-called life sentence—are allowed to move to open prisons in such numbers.

I also struggle with the basic concept that someone deemed too dangerous for release, in serving a sentence for public protection, is actually released on temporary licence. New clause 41 would ensure that no one serving the most serious sentences—for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, section 18 wounding, conspiracy, robbery, rape, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, riot, blackmail and arson—could be moved to an open prison or released on temporary licence.

Finally, new clause 42 would mean that no prisoner

“serving a life sentence can be moved to a Category D prison before the views of the victim or the victim’s family have been sought and considered by the Secretary of State for Justice.”

Victims’ rights should be at the heart of our criminal justice system. A victim can be the person directly involved or the affected family. It is one thing to be a victim of a serious crime and it is another to hear the often far too low sentence handed down to the perpetrator, but it is an absolute outrage for the victim and their family to learn that the person has been released early, or is seen to have an easy life in an open prison or by being released on temporary licence.

One of the most stark examples is that of offenders who are transferred to open prisons, which must be very upsetting and concerning for victims in many cases. It is absolutely right that before considering any application for people to be moved to an open prison, particularly for those who have committed the most serious offence, victims and their families should have a formal input into, and their objections or comments should be heard as part of, the process of deciding whether or not that person should be moved.

I hear Members talking time and again about how they think that victims should be at the heart of the criminal justice system, that their rights should be paramount and that their views should be more carefully considered by the criminal justice system and the courts. This is an opportunity for them not just to come here and spout about the rights of victims and their families, but to do something about it by allowing victims and their families to play a formal part in the decision-making process. New clause 42 would ensure that victims’ voices are heard, with decisions taking into account what the victim has to say as well as the offender’s impact on them and their family.

I genuinely do not understand—I really do not—why anybody would object to this particular new clause. I hope that the Minister will say that he will support it and that the shadow Minister will also do so, so that we can send out a message from this House, on a cross-party basis, that we do not just say that we want victims to be at the heart of the criminal justice system, but have actually delivered something meaningful that will make an awful lot of difference to how victims feel about the criminal justice system.

I look forward to hearing other hon. Members’ views. I have no doubt that my new clauses command the widespread support of members of the public, and I would like to think that they also command an awful lot of support in this House.

I will speak principally to new clause 15, which is in my name and those of the shadow Defence Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker), and my hon. Friends the Members for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter) and for North Durham (Mr Jones). Before I do so, let me comment briefly on the other new clauses in this group.

The Minister will of course address the impact on the Bill of new clauses 29, 31 and 37 to 42, which were tabled by the hon. Members for Shipley (Philip Davies) and for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), but I think that there is agreement across this House that no one who poses a serious threat to the public should be in an open prison. The hon. Member for Shipley has just reminded us of the serious and much-publicised case of a prisoner absconding in recent days. Thankfully, he is now back in custody, but Ministers must explain why he was ever allowed to be in an open prison or granted release on temporary licence in the first place.

I want to make three points on new clauses 29, 31 and 37 to 42. First, we should remain mindful of the role that open prisons have played in our criminal justice system going back nearly 80 years. Except for a small proportion of offenders on whole-life tariffs, all prisoners will return to civilian life at some point, and category D prisons can help that process if they are used in the right way. The Prison Governors Association pointed out last week:

“The use of open conditions is an important factor for effective resettlement. Research suggests that reoffending rates among those released from open conditions are far lower compared to those released from closed prisons.”

Secondly, the point is to ensure that risks are properly managed so that public safety is not compromised, because this is even more of an issue today than it was four years ago. As shown by a written answer last month to the shadow Justice Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), the use of release on temporary licence has jumped by 23% since 2010. Over the same period, the Government have presided over a 57% rise in breaches in relation to those released on temporary licence. Those breaches may well be serious breaches or involve prisoners, such as Mr Wheatley, who have committed serious and violent crimes. It is therefore important that the public should receive assurances.

Thirdly, we should remember that no prisoner can be moved to open conditions without a recommendation from the Parole Board or the National Offender Management Service. Ministers must therefore answer this question: what support are they giving the Parole Board to ensure that it has proper resources to give all cases the careful consideration they need and deserve? The Government have accepted that the Bill will result in an extra 1,100 Parole Board hearings, but the Parole Board is already under severe strain. Nearly one in five staff have been cut since the last election, but although staff numbers are falling, its work load is rising. There is already a significant backlog of outstanding cases, and a recent Supreme Court ruling means that the number of oral hearings the Parole Board will have to hold is set to increase from about 4,500 per year to as many as 14,000 per year.

With that in mind, I am cautious about the blanket approach proposed by the hon. Member for Shipley, but Ministers need to assure the public that resources are in place to ensure that all decisions on moving prisoners to open conditions are properly scrutinised.

The hon. Gentleman is about to move on, but I have not heard him mention new clause 42, which would give victims the right to have their say before a serious offender was moved to an open prison. Given that his party is talking about a victims’ law, can I take it as read that his party supports my new clause? If not, why not?

I am grateful for that intervention. The hon. Gentleman can take it as read that we will look carefully at the detail of his proposal, as we always seek to do. We are consulting on these matters. The Labour party has appointed Sir Keir Starmer, QC to look carefully at these matters and he will report in due course.

I will move on to new clauses 2 and 3.

I will not give way again, because I want to move on to new clauses 2 and 3.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) on tabling the new clauses and on the campaign that she has led on tackling child exploitation. Sexual grooming and child abduction are difficult subjects to talk about in our society, but we must remain vigilant and do all that we can to protect children and correct anomalies in our laws. As a father of three, I applaud the parliamentary inquiry that she led with Barnardo’s. There has been much support for her new clauses from police forces and leading children’s charities. That is reflected in the fact that the proposals have the backing of Members from all parts of the House. I therefore hope that the Government will give the new clauses proper consideration. The Minister said that he was sympathetic to them in Committee, so I look forward to hearing what he has to say tonight.

Amendment 20 was tabled by my hon. Friends the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) and for Hammersmith and myself. There is agreement on both sides of the House about the need to tackle extreme forms of pornography. In recent months, we have heard warnings from the Children’s Commissioner about how violent pornography is distorting our children’s understanding of sexual relationships, including the normalisation of sexual violence in gangs. Research by Rape Crisis South London has shown that extreme material that depicts and glorifies rape is readily available online. We therefore welcome the steps that are being taken by the Government in the Bill.

Our amendment is designed to clarify the proposals to reflect a promise that the Prime Minister made last summer. He pledged, with regard to extreme pornography,

“to make sure that the same rules apply online as they do offline.”

Our concern is that the Bill will fall short of that. We agree that a careful balance needs to be struck so that the standard for criminalising possession is very high and people’s private sexual behaviour is respected. We think, however, that the legislation would be improved by replacing the Government’s description of rape in proposed new subsection (7A) with the text used by the British Board of Film Classification—a well-established test that is already used to judge offline content.

Amendment 20 would improve the law in two ways. First, it would make it clear that the ban on possessing rape pornography extends to all depictions of rape, even if they are staged. Portrayals of actual rapes are very rare. The content that has been identified by Rape Crisis South London and the Children’s Commissioner is primarily commercial pornography with high production values, poor acting and staged violence. It is not clear whether, under the Bill, that would be deemed realistic enough to secure a prosecution. It would certainly be banned offline, which is what the Prime Minister’s promise was based on. Secondly, the amendment would ensure that content was banned if it showed rape, but not the act of penetration. I hope that the Minister will reflect on both those points and consider accepting our amendment. It would not only implement the Prime Minister’s promise, but make it clear that extreme pornography that depicts rape and glorifies sexual violence should not be permitted in our society.

Before I go into the merits of new clause 15, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty), who has campaigned so hard on this policy. It is important to recognise that the overwhelming majority of the British public are very proud of our armed forces and hold them in very high regard. We see that right across our country. Just a glance at the latest Ministry of Defence reputation survey shows that the armed forces have a favourability rating of about 85%. That is testimony not just to the way in which those in uniform serve us in theatres abroad, but to the contribution they make to our local communities.

The sad truth, however, is that not all men and women who serve our country receive such a warm welcome when they return from operational duty. I will give three brief examples. The first case was reported by BBC Radio 5 Live and involved a soldier called Lee. He was returning to his home in Bolton from a three-month tour in Afghanistan, when he was set upon by a group of drunken thugs. When the police caught up with them, the attackers said they wanted to prove “how hard they were” by attacking a soldier.

The second example relates to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games—an event that would not have been possible without the help of our armed forces to make it safe and secure. There were reports of troops being advised to travel together in groups after a number of soldiers were

“attacked, verbally abused and harassed”.

In one particularly nasty case, an off-duty soldier was badly beaten by four men not far from Tower Hill tube station, after the attackers noticed that he was carrying a military bag.

Thirdly, let me briefly tell the story of an 18-year-old called Alexander, who was training to be a soldier in the Coldstream Guards. He was assaulted in August last year, when he was jumped by a gang of eight attackers as he walked through an underpass near his home in Exeter. When they saw that he was wearing his military backpack, they stopped him and asked whether he was in the forces. The gang surrounded him, kicked him to the ground and tried to attack him with a screwdriver. Alex later told his local newspaper:

“They kept shouting Lee Rigby—like they wanted to re-create what happened.”

I am sure that the whole House will agree that those cases are appalling, abhorrent and completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, they are far from unusual. I draw the House’s attention to the armed forces and society survey that was carried out by Lord Ashcroft, with the assistance of the Ministry of Defence. The study contacted 9,000 serving personnel across all three branches of the armed forces, and is acknowledged to be the most detailed and in-depth study in the area. The survey contains a number of startling statistics. It found that more than 20% of service personnel had suffered verbal abuse in the previous five years and that about one in 20 had been the victim of violence or attempted violence.

Any attack that is motivated by hate for our armed services is one too many. Our service personnel do not ask for special treatment, but they rightly expect not to be discriminated against because of what they do for our country. That is why we are proposing action through new clause 15. It would make physical or verbal attacks against members of our armed forces an aggravated offence, when the prosecution can establish that a person’s service in the armed forces was a motive for the assault. It is a small change, but one that would send a strong signal that we will not tolerate such attacks as a society. It builds on existing laws that cover assault that is motivated by other characteristics. I hope that the Minister will give it proper consideration and support it today.

I am aware that the Government have expressed two clear reservations with the proposal. Let me deal with them both. The first argument is that the existing laws are adequate. Indeed, the veterans Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), told the House earlier this year that

“the sentencing guidelines make it clear that if somebody is assaulted by virtue of their being in the armed forces, that is clearly an aggravating feature”—[Official Report, 17 March 2014; Vol. 577, c. 545.]

That sounds clear, but we do not believe that it is that straightforward in practice. The current sentencing guidelines for assault do not include any specific references to members of the armed forces. They say that it will be an aggravating factor if an offence is committed

“against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public”.

It is not clear whether that definition would always include members of the Royal Navy, the Army or the Royal Air Force, nor whether it extends to when they are off duty, which is when many such assaults take place. Amending the law so that the armed forces are specifically mentioned would bring much greater clarity.

The second argument was made by the Minister in Committee who noted:

“The current provisions deal with hostility on the grounds of race, religion, disability and sexual orientation, all personal characteristics that are beyond a person’s immediate control. Hostility on those grounds makes the offence particularly harmful, both to vulnerable individuals and to communities… However, hostility based on occupation is of a different kind.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 27 March 2014; c. 518.]

I have three points for the Minister to consider. First, I understand the distinction that has been made, but what a person chooses to do with their life can become every bit as much a part of their identity as who they are or where they come from. That is especially the case for people who dedicate their lives to serving our country across the world. Secondly, I do not think that an attack on a young soldier such as Alexander, because of the uniform he was wearing, is any less harmful to our society than when people are assaulted because of who they worship or the colour of their skin. All our communities hold close connections to the men and women who put their lives on the line for us, and any hateful attack on that can be just as damaging to the bonds of our society as an attack motivated by characteristics already protected in law.

Thirdly, the Minister will know that offences are already in place that specifically cover assaults against people in certain occupations: police constables, prison workers, immigration officers and emergency workers in Scotland. Surely our armed forces deserve the same recognition. That is why my right hon. Friends the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Defence Secretary have committed the next Labour Government to taking action on this matter. We will introduce an armed forces Bill in our first Queen’s Speech, tackling the issue of the assaults that we are debating today and outlawing other forms of discrimination against our service personnel. The Opposition have pledged to do that next year, but Ministers have an opportunity to make a head start and take action now.

I urge Members across the House to support new clause 15 today. Our men and women in the Navy, Army and Royal Air Force serve us with dignity and bravery, and in this important year of remembrance, as we reflect on those who have made sacrifices for us in conflicts past and those who continue to serve us today, it is our duty to ensure that they are treated with dignity in return.

I do not want to do permanent damage to the reputation of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), but he will be surprised to know that I agreed with a large amount of what he said—that will come as a bit of a shock to him.

I rise mainly to speak to new clauses 2 and 3, although I am in an invidious position, because the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), in whose name they stand, has not yet spoken to them, and I do not wish to detract from her remarks or steal her thunder. I entirely support the comments by the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) about the work that she has done. I served on the panel that looked into child sexual exploitation, and I found it an illuminating and at times emotional experience, but it was very rewarding. We listened to young people who had been exploited, and to those who work in the legal system or courts, such as judges, as well as to the police who have to deal with these issues day in, day out.

I particularly support new clause 2. I do not wish to go into it in detail, because the hon. Member for Rotherham should have the privilege of doing that herself, but the fundamental point of reducing the number of grooming offences from two to one is something with which most people would agree. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to the new clause, and even if they cannot accept it tonight I like to think that this will be a significant step towards introducing it.

Sadly, we are now all too familiar—partly from the various cases following Operation Yewtree, but from many other cases too—with the fact that child exploitation by adults appears to be far too common an activity. It is something that we in this House should all condemn, as I know we do, and we need to be able to stop it wherever possible. It seemed clear from the work of the panel and the evidence that we were given, that reducing from two to one the number of occasions that someone can contact children with a view to exploitation is perfectly sensible and reasonable, and—most importantly—could lead to a reduction in the number of victims. I strongly support new clause 2.

I understand that the Government will have a little more difficulty accepting new clause 3, because it has probably been drafted a little more widely than had been intended, and would create offences that perhaps were not intended. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government will take on board the key point behind the new clause, which is to create equality between the treatment of children in care and of those not in care. It seemed to the panel that although there is undoubtedly evidence that children in care are particularly prone to exploitation—they are more vulnerable; that is a self-evident consequence of being in care—there are countless examples of children who are not in care, and we heard from a number of them. Those children may not be very well parented—if I dare use that awful word—but they are not in care. They are also vulnerable and open to exploitation, and it seems odd that the age limit for those children should be lower than for those in care.

I know that my hon. Friend the Minister will explain to the House why there are other issues with the new clause, but perhaps when he responds to the debate he will go as far as to say that he fully understands my point, which is about the discrepancy between children in care and those not in care. If it is possible to draft the new clause a little more narrowly to address that point, I hope he will indicate sympathy with that, so that it might find acceptance from the Government in another place. I do not wish to detain the House any longer. Obviously, like other Members I have views on some of the other amendments, but I wanted to speak particularly to new clauses 2 and 3 and to add my congratulations to those paid to the hon. Member for Rotherham.

Order. This debate must end by 8.30 pm, and the Minister needs to respond to all the questions and proposals put to him. It should be possible to get every Member in, and of course the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) will get a few minutes at the end of the debate if he wishes to respond. May I ask each Member to aim to speak for about eight minutes, which will leave time for the Minister? Obviously, it is not compulsory to speak for eight minutes—it is possible to speak for less time, but I would prefer no longer so as to ensure that everybody gets in.

I thank the right hon. Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Sir James Paice) for his support today and on the panel, and my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) for the support and guidance that he has given me throughout this process. This is very much an issue on which the House can come together, and it has been heartening to see that when it comes to the protection of children, people think on more a logical and protection-based basis than a political one.

New clauses 2 and 3 are the result of a cross-party inquiry into child sexual exploitation that I led with Barnardo’s. We discussed the new clauses in Committee, and I appreciate the careful consideration that the Minister gave them then as well as subsequently, and I hope that that translates into a commitment.

New clause 2 would amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 as recommended by the inquiry so that the police are better able to prevent young people from being groomed. At present, someone is considered to have committed a grooming offence under section 15 of the Act if they contact the child twice and arrange to meet them, or travel to meet them with the intention of committing a sexual offence. My new clause would mean that the perpetrator would have to make contact only once, although the other requirements of the offence would obviously still remain. During the legal and the police oral evidence sessions, advocates and the police reported that the current legislation is too weak, and that making the grooming offence easier to use would make it a good prevention tool. As one legal professional stated,

“there is a lot to prove”

when trying to get successful prosecutions using current legislation.

In many cases, there have been multiple instances of contact between the perpetrator and the victim, but proving that can be difficult for the police. There was unanimous support for this change in the inquiry’s oral evidence sessions, specifically from senior police officers. Indeed, it seems clear that if a child is travelling across the country to meet an adult, or vice versa, and that adult has demonstrated the intent to commit a sexual offence, it is completely unnecessary to require them to make contact with the child at least twice.

Two years after the UK Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Scottish Parliament considered recommendations and adopted legislation on sexual grooming. Prior to making a decision, the Scottish Parliament heard from a number of witnesses. Several respondents questioned the need for adults to have met, or communicated with, a child on at least two earlier occasions. The Association of Directors of Social Work considered that to be prohibitive, as a meeting can be set up with just one communication. The Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration recommended revising the requirement to one prior communication to more accurately reflect the reality of some children’s vulnerability and perpetrators’ skills in exploiting it. The Law Society’s written submission questioned why there was a necessity for the accused to have met or communicated with a child on at least two earlier occasions. It recommended that the reference to two earlier occasions should be deleted from the offence provision. In oral evidence, the Law Society witnesses confirmed their belief that there needed to be only one communication.

In oral evidence, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland suggested that more than one contact may often be made in the grooming of children for sexual abuse, but that

“If contact had been made on a single occasion and the circumstances and other information that was available to us suggested that the contact was illegitimate it would not be helpful if we were required to wait until another contact had been made or the person had travelled with the intention of meeting the child and for more evidence that the meeting was likely to lead to sexual abuse, before we could intervene.”

In his evidence, James Chalmers also questioned the requirement for two previous communications:

“One lengthy internet conversation could last hours or the best part of a day and could be much more significant than two short conversations. That is why I have my doubts about the limitation of requiring two previous meetings or communications. I am not sure that that provision serves any useful purpose.”

Dr Rachel O’Connell, director of research at the cyberspace research unit at the University of Central Lancashire, gave evidence to the Committee that, in her experience, grooming can take place over a period of many months, but that in at least one case in Wigan, a girl went to a meeting with a paedophile after only a few online conversations during one day. In its submission to the Committee, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit of Scotland stated:

“There is no evidence to suggest that a paedophile will not carry out the grooming process during the first communication and arrange to meet up with a child. This is no doubt the case in many instances. The aim of the new legislation is the protection of children and this loophole may well be one that the paedophile would utilise to avoid prosecution.”

I understand that the requirement for prior communication on two occasions was probably initially put in place to demonstrate clearly the intent to commit a crime. From a police point of view, however, and especially that of the child, this is at best an unnecessary burden and at worse will lead to a child being abused before the police can act. The Scottish committee recognised this concern, but considered that it is the content and the context of communications that are key to proving the offence, rather than the number of communications. There is a clear possibility that a particularly skilled paedophile could, in one communication, arrange a meeting with a vulnerable child. Because of all this evidence, the offence of grooming a child in Scotland is just one communication. I urge the Minister to follow that lead and adopt the same policy.

On new clause 3, there is at present considerable disparity between the maximum ages at which children can be considered to have been abducted, depending on whether they are in the care system or not. This was outlined well by the right hon. Member for South East Cambridgeshire. New clause 3 would amend the Child Abduction Act 1984 to make it consistent for all children. Currently, the Children Act 1989 makes it an offence to remove a looked-after child from care without authority if they are under the age of 18. The Child Abduction Act 1984, however, which applies to children not in the care system, applies only to children under the age of 16. I went over the details of this issue in the Bill Committee and I am mindful of Madam Deputy Speaker’s warning.

In Committee, the Minister raised the case of a parent who objected to their 16-year-old running off to Gretna Green to be married and used the abduction notice to stop them. I understand his argument, but I believe that police would approach this pragmatically and make the right decision. New clause 3 would be extremely helpful in a case brought to me by a constituent. Her 16-year-old daughter keeps going out to meet her much older boyfriend. The mother is extremely concerned that the daughter is being groomed, but the police do not have enough evidence to act. As the daughter lives at home, the police cannot use an abduction warning notice on the boyfriend, which could be an effective deterrent. As she said:

“What am I meant to do? I tried locking her in her bedroom but she just climbed out of the window. Am I meant to chain her to her bed?”

If the Minister accepts new clause 3, all children under 18 will receive the same protection. My constituent’s daughter would not have to be demonstrably groomed or abused before the police could act. I urge the Minister to consider my new clauses.

It is a huge pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion). It has been a pleasure to work with her on amendments in Committee and on Report. I pay tribute to her work and to the style with which she has tried to ensure that change happens. Her approach has been to try to solve the problem, rather than to have a political debate that would create heat but not fix anything. I hope she gets the result she deserves from the Government.

I will not say a huge amount on the detail, as the hon. Lady has covered the issues very adequately. When we discussed new clause 2 in Committee, the Minister said:

“it is sensible for me to go away and reflect on what she has said, and to work out what we can sensibly do next.”––[Official Report, Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee, 27 March 2014; c. 498.]

I hope he will be able to enlighten us on what he has sensibly done next. I notice it is not yet in the form of an amendment that we brought to this House. I hope an amendment is about to be brought, even if it has to, disappointingly, go to another place. I think the change can be made. I accept totally that the exact wording might not be precisely right—it is always hard to write these things perfectly—but the intent of new clause 2 is clear. The Minister was supportive earlier. I hope he will be again.

On new clause 3, I think the wording is slightly further away from what can be achieved. There are genuine issues—if a 17-year-old can get married, it does seem a little strange. I understand why the hon. Lady was not able to capture every single aspect of this. Having tried bits of legislation, I know how hard it can be. I hope the Minister is able to be supportive, so that we can close some of the gaps without going too far and creating problems that we do not intend to cause. I hope we can have helpful comments. I also pay tribute to Barnardo’s, which has done a huge amount of work on this issue.

I am aware of the constraints on time, Madam Deputy Speaker, so I will not go through every single clause, even though I have strong opinions on some of them. The shadow Minister talked about assaults on members of the armed forces. He is absolutely right to say that we should take great care. People who serve in the armed forces do a huge number of things for our country and they deserve protection. They should not be treated in the ways he outlined. Some of the cases are absolutely abhorrent, but I am not persuaded that his exact proposal is the best way to tackle them. I hope he will seek to find a sensible way forward and not play party politics. He has avoided doing so in other areas. We want people to be treated properly and with respect, but I do not think it is right to single out the armed forces from other organisations. There are powers already—I hope the Minister can clarify this—for this to be taken as an aggravating offence. It is already possible to do what he seeks to do, so I do not think his amendment will move us forward.

Turning to the huge bundle of amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), I am happy to take credit from him for campaigning for what actually works. I know he is less bothered about that than some of us are, but I want an approach on prisons that helps people and reduces the number of offences committed. That has to be the aim. This is not just about punishment, but about not creating future problems. There is a huge amount of research on what reduces reoffending. Open prisons result in lower reoffending rates, and that is important. He would like to talk about the victims of the original offences, and I have sympathy with that approach, but I would also like to look at the victims of offences that we want to try to prevent from ever happening. That is incredibly important, and it is why I and others are so keen on evidence-informed policy making—that we should find out what happens and listen to experts rather than deal with a gut reaction.

The hon. Member for Shipley and I have a very different approach and, as I said in my intervention, I hope he will press his proposals to a vote, so that he can see what the House thinks of them. I do not think he will get very substantial support from those of us who care about the crimes we want to try to avoid. The best way of dealing with the problem is to make sure that we do not have crimes—whether it be by preventing them from happening in the first place, which could be done through design, by the way society behaves and by reducing the opportunities for crime; or by ensuring that once people have offended, there is less chance of them reoffending later. Those must be the focus of our efforts.

The hon. Member for Shipley made a number of comments, some of which are worth picking up. One group of people who work with prisoners and who are probably the experts on how to interact with them are the prison governors and, in particular, the Prison Governors Association. I presume that the hon. Gentleman has seen some of its comments about him. The PGA does not usually wade into these party political debates, but it is said to be “appalled” by the comments made by the hon. Gentleman, following a recent abscond. It goes on to talk about the details of the use of open conditions as an important factor for effective resettlement. It is particularly worth the House taking note that the PGA says:

“It is therefore unhelpful for Members of Parliament to make comment on areas in which they are not fully conversant.”

That is a rather polite description from the Prison Governors Association. We want to see things that work.

To my mind, it is a great shame that we have so many people in prison in this country. There are now about 85,000 prisoners, which costs around £40,000 per prisoner a year. Whenever we talk about putting somebody in prison, one thing that needs to be thought about is whether something better could be done with the £40,000 that it costs for each year they are in prison. There is a place for prison—absolutely. Yes, some people should be in prison and some for a very long time. Earlier, I argued for longer sentences in some cases. Do we think, however, that that is a good use of money? Do we think it right that this country has roughly twice as many people in prison per 100,000 of the population as in Germany? When people travel to Germany, I do not think they see that a huge amount of crime has resulted from that policy. People generally report Germany as being a safe place to be in, so why do we spend about twice as much locking up twice as many people?

The Government are making progress in specific areas, substantially reducing the number of young people and of women in prison. I welcome that, although I think more could be done to reduce the total number of people in prison by reducing the number of crimes further and by ensuring that those who have committed crimes do not reoffend and do not go back into the cycle of crime. Work is being done on that, but I hope that we can make further progress and I hope that we will firmly reject the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Shipley. I hope that he will have the courage to put his proposals to a vote.

I add my tribute to that of others for the work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion). She has been a Member only a short time, but she has made a huge impact. I very much hope that the Minister will have listened carefully to her contribution today.

I shall speak to my amendment 20, and I believe that there is genuine cross-party support for the House to take action against extreme forms of pornography. It is worth remembering the work done by Liz Longhurst after the death of her daughter Jane, who was murdered by a man obsessed with pornography involving asphyxiation. Out of that context came the Labour Government’s legislation of 2008, which made it a criminal offence to possess certain forms of pornography—depicting necrophilia and bestiality, for example. We know, however, that there is more to do, especially with online developments.

The Government’s proposal is to ban the possession of pornography deemed to be

“grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character”

or containing realistic depiction of

“rape and assault by penetration”.

Both elements of the test are complex and open to wide interpretation. I tabled amendment 20 because I thought we could do better than that, and I hope that the Minister will agree with what I am about to say.

The amendment leaves in place the first part of the provision because we accept and acknowledge that the standard for criminalising possession has to be very high. However, it would simplify the second part of the test by replacing the Government’s description of rape with the definition used by the British Board of Film Classification—namely, content depicting

“sexual activity which involves real or apparent lack of consent or any form of…restraint which prevents participants from indicating a withdrawal of consent.”

As my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) said, this simplifies the law in two respects. First, in respect of “realistic rape”, we know that the depiction of actual rapes is very rare, particularly on the internet, although we know that some “honour rapes” in the middle east can be found on the net. The portrayals currently on the internet tend to be very unrealistic and have high production values, so it is quite obvious that they are staged, but they are none the less very disturbing and concerning.

I would like to thank David Austin who works at the BBFC for showing me and other MPs an example of something that they are currently able to stop being distributed under their own classification guidelines, but that would fall foul of how this clause is drafted. What he showed us was an armed man who breaks into a residential home with two women in the house, who are then subjected to serious violence and sexual assault. It is quite clear that this is being staged, but it is incredibly violent and upsetting—and it would fall foul of the Minister’s definition.

The second reason for amending the clause is to ensure that content is banned if it shows sexual assault, including rape, but not limited to rape, including where the acts of penetration are not actually seen. As drafted, the clause will ban content only if it showed the act of penetration. This could mean videos of sexual assault or real rape avoiding censure if the camera positioning does not show the penetration. The BBFC showed me an example in a film that went on for several minutes of women who were gagged, tied up and were whimpering. These women were clearly in distress. It was upsetting to watch as the women being gagged, tied up and whimpering were in a dreadful state. As I say, the BBFC told me that they would currently be able to stop that being distributed, but not under this clause. It would fall foul of the provision because there were no acts of penetration.

I hope that the Minister will think again about this issue. Many Members would view it as a reasonable step to allow what now happens with the BBFC’s offline classification to be transferred to how we treat the same things online. That would also sit well with what the Prime Minister said he was going to do when he wanted to have the same criteria for online and offline images. Let us see that happen by the Government’s acceptance of amendment 20.

This has been a full debate, and I would like to respond to as much of it as I can, while still leaving my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) with a couple of minutes at the end if I possibly can—I know how he loves to have the last word.

Let me start with my hon. Friend’s new clause 29, which seeks to place statutory restrictions on certain categories of offender to prevent them being suitable for fixed- term recalls. I can assure him that it is already the case that no offender who is assessed as a risk to the public—assessed as being able to cause serious harm—can be given a fixed-term recall. Those serving a public protection sentence—the “extended sentence prisoners” referred to in the clause—are already excluded, so it is not necessary to amend the legislation in that respect.

In addition, as my hon. Friend knows, we are taking measures in clause 7 to introduce a new test for release following recall, which will mean that prolific offenders or those who are persistently non-compliant with their licence could also be deemed unsuitable for a fixed-term recall. I share my hon. Friend’s concern and, indeed, that expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), about those who cock a snook at the legal system by persistently failing to comply with their licence. In clause 7, we seek to do something about that.

We already have measures, either in place or pending, to prevent high-risk and prolific offenders from being subject to fixed-term recalls in cases in which it would not be appropriate for them to be automatically released after 28 days. The proposals in the new clause are either unnecessary—because they are already provided for elsewhere—or would go too far in placing a blanket statutory ban on certain categories of offender. We believe that decisions about the type of recall that is appropriate should be decided on a case-by-case basis, and I therefore invite my hon. Friend to withdraw his new clause.

New clause 31 would abolish section 240A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which, as my hon. Friend explained, provides that when a defendant on bail is subject to an electronically monitored curfew, half the period spent on “tagged bail” may be credited as time served towards his sentence. Incidentally, my hon. Friend said that the same applied to time spent on remand, but in that instance the entire period may be credited, rather than half of it.

We want to ensure that only defendants who need to be detained are remanded in custody while awaiting trial. Tagging on bail helps to ensure that bail periods are completed successfully, and that remand prison places are taken up only by those who really need to be there. Tagging defendants and requiring them to comply with a curfew of at least nine hours each day is a useful tool that we want to continue to use. We consider that when people have had to comply with a daily curfew which restricts their liberty, that time should be taken into account.

Can the Minister explain why he voted against that proposal when the last Labour Government introduced it?

That was six years ago. Since then, the criminal justice system has become used to using the provision. Also since then, we have had the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. I do not know how my hon. Friend voted on that, but I voted in favour of it.

My hon. Friend surprises me. As he knows, the courts had been using the provision for some time, and we thought it important to regularise it by means of the Act.

My hon. Friend also referred to what he described as dishonesty in sentencing. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary and I have considerable sympathy with the move towards ensuring that automatic release is minimised. He knows that our ambitions extend well beyond what we have managed to achieve so far, but I trust he will be encouraged by the fact that we have already reduced the application of automatic early release. We have removed it from those serving extended determinate sentences, and the Bill will remove it from child rapists and terrorists.

New clauses 37 to 42 deal with the use of open prisons and release on temporary licence. My hon. Friend mentioned the case of Michael Wheatley. It is an extremely concerning case, and, as my hon. Friend and other Members would expect, we are looking very carefully at what occurred. When we have completed our investigations, we will consider what further action needs to be taken.

New clauses 39 and 41 seek to prevent offenders serving sentences for murder or for an indictable-only offence from being moved to a category D or open prison. Open prisons provide an opportunity to assess prisoners in conditions more similar to those that they will face in the community, which is vital in protecting the public. To release life-sentence prisoners directly from closed prisons without the resettlement benefits of the open estate might, in certain cases, lead to higher levels of post-release reoffending, and thereby create more victims. That is something that both my hon. Friend and I would wish to avoid.

A period in open conditions for the purposes of ongoing risk assessment and support for resettlement can be particularly important for lifers—a category that includes all murderers—many of whom will have spent many years in prison, and will therefore often not be prepared for release. While those serving sentences for indictable-only offences include some of the most serious offenders, some of those who have been convicted of common-law indictable-only offences will not be dangerous. An example is those who have been convicted of cheating the Revenue—the sort of people, one might think, whom my hon. Friend might expect to find in open prisons. I suggest to him that what he proposes in new clause 41 is not a useful means of determining in which category of prison an offender should be held. That must be determined on the basis of the risk posed by the individual.

One of the challenges faced by many ex-offenders is finding employment. We know that employment substantially reduces their risk of reoffending. What evidence has the Minister of the way in which open prisons help people to become used to proper employment when they leave?

My hon. Friend is right, but it is important to note that in every case a proper risk assessment must be made to ensure that only the right people find themselves in open prisons.

Currently, in most cases, the decision whether to move a prisoner to open conditions is made after advice has been sought from the Parole Board. The hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) referred to the burden on the board that the Bill will create. We must indeed ensure that the board has the necessary resources, and we will do that. Public protection is the priority, as all Members would expect it to be, and the Parole Board takes account of a range of factors when assessing whether the risk posed by an offender has been reduced enough for that offender to be managed in open conditions, or on licence in the community. Those factors might include the completion of offence-related courses, a sustained period of good custodial behaviour, access to appropriate and stable accommodation, access to education, training and employment—as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) —and support from professionals, as well as from family and friends. Offenders are returned to closed conditions if their behaviour in open conditions, or updated risk assessments completed in open conditions, indicates an unacceptable risk to the public.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley was also rightly concerned about absconding. Prisons can and do take a variety of actions to try to reduce its incidence. Open prisons operate intelligence systems with the aim of spotting those who might be planning to abscond. Prisoners are screened, and those who are at significant risk of absconding are sent back to closed conditions. Absconders can be criminally charged, and prisons, police and the Crown Prosecution Service are increasingly working together to secure their successful prosecution, which can act as a deterrent to others—as can the increased penalties for which the Bill provides.

New clause 42 seeks to ensure that no prisoner serving a life sentence can be moved to a category D prison before the views of the victim or the victim’s family have been sought and considered. Here I hope that I can offer my hon. Friend some reassurance. We have recently taken steps to enhance the rights to which victims are entitled under the statutory probation victim contact scheme, which covers all victims of serious sexual and violent offences when the offender has received a prison sentence of 12 months or more. Under the scheme, victims already have the right to submit a victim personal statement to the Parole Board when the board is considering whether to direct the release or a move to open conditions of a life sentence prisoner. That allows victims to explain the impact that the offence has had on them, and what the impact of a move to open conditions, or release, would be. Victims have a right to make representations about release conditions attached to an offender's licence, and that includes temporary release from open prison. When there are any concerns about the vulnerability of the victim, the victim can feed into the licence conditions by, for instance, requesting an exclusion zone in the area where they live or work.

New clauses 37 and 38 seek to prevent prisoners liable for deportation from being moved to an open prison or released on temporary licence. When a prisoner is being removed from the United Kingdom directly from prison, a move to open conditions or a temporary release will not serve its key resettlement purposes. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole. However, in cases in which the prisoner, although liable to deportation, is not actually deported but is resettled here on release from the sentence, the positive benefits of open conditions and temporary release would, if the new clauses were passed, be lost.

Our current policy seeks as far as possible to ensure that those who will be removed from the UK stay in closed conditions, and that those who will not can be considered for transfer to open conditions and temporary release. In such cases, as my hon. Friend would expect, particular care is taken to ensure that the risk assessment takes into account the potential of removal.

When decisions are made about transfer to open conditions or temporary release, Home Office staff will be consulted so that any information relevant to the risk assessment process can be obtained. That includes the likelihood of removal action, history of failure to comply with immigration conditions, previous absconds, any history of deception with the aim of entering or remaining in the UK or evading removal, and any failure to comply with the directions of the Home Office. We are actively reviewing our policy to ensure that it can meet those aims, but we are satisfied that a statutory ban on the transfer to open conditions or temporary release for every prisoner liable to deportation would not be in the interests of reducing reoffending.

My hon. Friend expressed concern about the use of temporary release. New clause 40 would prevent any prisoner serving a sentence for murder from being released on temporary licence. Temporary release contributes to public protection and reducing reoffending by helping those who are due to be released to prepare for life outside prison. For prisoners serving an indeterminate sentence, it also provides evidence for the Parole Board of how an offender complies when in the community. Making this change would lead to offenders who had rightly been away from ordinary society for years being suddenly removed from a strictly regulated regime where most decisions are made for them into the community where they will make most decisions for themselves. Temporary release allows this transition to take place gradually, using short releases, over many months, for the impact of each temporary release to be assessed over this time, and for the risk management plan to be tailored accordingly, while the offender is still in custody.

We have already acted to ensure that public protection is placed at the heart of the temporary release scheme. Changes were made to risk assessment requirements last year following three serious incidents involving temporary release, and on 10 March we announced a package of measures to further improve decision making, monitoring and enforcement of the thankfully rare temporary release failures. To reassure my hon. Friend, I should put this into context for him. There are about half a million releases on temporary licence every year: roughly 0.1% of them result in a failure of any kind and a much smaller proportion of that small proportion involve the suspicion of further offences. None the less, we take all those failures very seriously and we intend to do something about them.

Specifically, from the autumn we will have a new scheme of restricted release on temporary licence for serious offenders. In those cases, there will be more stringent risk assessment procedures, with greater involvement of psychology and probation professionals and more restrictive licence conditions involving probation professionals. As soon as suitable equipment is available, we will be able to tag offenders on temporary release, and we intend to do so. Improving risk assessment and management in individual cases is the right response to concerns about temporary release; a blanket ban on all offenders serving a sentence for murder would be counter-productive. As other Members have said in this debate, this is about a balance of risks. For all those who are released from custody—the vast majority of those serving sentences—it is important to reduce the risk of reoffending as much as we can, and many of the things we have talked about in this debate help to do that.

I am grateful to the Minister for the work he has done in trying to toughen up on some of these issues and on the rights of the victim. On that basis, I am inclined not to press new clauses 29 and 42 to a Division as I understand that some progress is being made. However, on new clause 38 about people liable for deportation being eligible for a resettlement licence, this should not even be negotiable or needed, and on the basis of the Minister’s answer on that, which I have to say was wholly inadequate, I intend to press new clause 38 to a Division, as there is no excuse for allowing those people out of prison at all.

I am naturally disappointed to hear that, but let me have one more go. The point I am making in relation to new clause 38 is that there is a distinction between those who are liable for deportation and those who are actually going to be deported. For those who are going to be deported, my hon. Friend is absolutely right that there is no justification whatever for release on temporary licence or transfer to open conditions. For those who are not going to be deported or where there is a reasonable chance they will not be, however, we have to think about the same balance of risks I described to him earlier. That is the logic for making the distinction I sought to make, and explains why I cannot accept the blanket way in which his new clause is phrased.

Let me now deal with new clause 2. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) has again tabled her amendment to reform the “grooming” offence at section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. As she said, the amendment would reduce the number of times the defendant needed to meet or communicate with the child in order to satisfy that element of the section 15 offence from two to just one. As she knows, I have much sympathy with this proposal, as I know many other Members do. I am grateful for the work she has carried out with Barnardo’s, and I join in the tributes that have already been paid to her not just for highlighting this particular issue, but for the part she has played in the wider fight to tackle the sexual abuse and trafficking of children.

Our laws in this area are robust and strong. We can be proud that we are among the world leaders in the fight to protect children from sexual abuse. However, as the hon. Lady knows, I remain open to suggestions for improvement in this aspect of the criminal law, and in Committee I promised to look carefully at the issues this amendment raises. I do, however, believe it is vital that before we proceed with such a reform, we ensure that we have first considered all the issues and evidence fully. With that in mind, my officials recently met Barnardo’s to ascertain the full extent of the problem. Barnardo’s has now reported to my officials with some supportive evidence and we are expecting further material from them shortly.

As well as examining this evidence, we are considering how such an amended offence would interact with the existing offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. We will then be in a better position to consider how this reform can be taken forward. I can assure the House that this Government remain committed to the protection of our children from sexual abuse, and we are looking seriously at the proposed amendment and will report our position as soon as possible.

On new clause 3, as the hon. Lady knows, section 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984 makes it an offence for someone other than a certain person such as parents or guardians to take or detain a child under the age of 16 so as to remove or keep him or her from a person’s lawful control. The point here is that the offence can be committed irrespective of the consent of the child concerned. I understand the hon. Lady’s intention is to bring the section 2 offence in the Child Abduction Act into line with the abduction offence in section 49 of the Children Act 1989. My right hon. Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Sir James Paice) made the same point and I understand it entirely, but, as I explained in Committee, such a change would lead to difficulties. Young people of 16 or 17 are lawfully able to be married, are generally deemed capable of living independently of their parents, and are otherwise able to make decisions affecting their way of life, not least in sexual matters. The amendment would make it a general offence with a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment to take a person of that age who is capable of exercising his or her own free will in that regard away from his or her parents. I therefore hope the hon. Lady will understand that the position on new clause 3 is different from the position on new clause 2.

I will now turn to new clause 15. As the hon. Member for Barnsley Central knows, we debated this amendment in Committee so I hope he will not be too surprised to find that not much has changed since then. He did make some additional points that I want to pick up on, however.

I repeat that the Government are firmly committed to the protection of members of the armed forces, veterans and their families who, as the hon. Gentleman and others have said, make a valuable contribution to our society. They deserve the full protection of the law, but I am not convinced that his proposal is necessary to achieve that. His amendment would attach a statutory aggravating factor to assaults and other offences committed against members of the armed forces. I will not repeat everything I said in Committee about personal characteristics, and he has highlighted that that is a different matter. He added two further points to what he said in Committee, however. He mentioned the fact that special provision is made for police constables and prison officers. The reason for that is the nature of their work—we talked about that a littler earlier—and the likelihood that they will be assaulted in the course of their work. That does not apply to many other professions, including, I would suggest, the armed forces. He is right of course that someone’s profession, particularly if they are in the armed forces, can be a large part of their identity, and he has already highlighted the fact that there are sentencing guidelines in place, which the courts are required by law to follow, which make it clear that it should be considered an aggravating factor if the victim is serving the public.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of what happens when someone is off duty. It is probably worth looking back to the case of Lee Rigby. This was a soldier who was not on duty at the time. The hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, have seen the sentencing remarks of the sentencing judge for the killers of Lee Rigby; it is clear from them that the fact that this was an off duty soldier was taken into account by the court. In the light of that, I hope the hon. Gentleman will see fit not to pursue his amendment.

Amendment 20 would replace the Government’s proposed targeted extension to the extreme pornography offence with a much broader provision. It would capture any sexual activity that involved real or apparent lack of consent, or some form of restraint which prevented a person from indicating withdrawal of his or her consent—for example, a gag. I absolutely understand the good intent here of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). I know what she is trying to achieve, but I have to say to her that this would be far too broad an extension to a tightly drawn and deliberately targeted offence. It will always be a matter of judgment as to whether we have gone far enough, and I quite understand that she will want to return to these arguments. However, I hope she will accept our argument—she may want to look again at the Hansard record of our proceedings in Committee, because I am about to run out of time—as to why the provision should be drafted this tightly. I therefore hope that, on that basis, she will not press the amendment to a vote, but I quite understand that she will want to return to the subject another day.

This has been a rather disappointing debate, as we might have predicted. Although I would have liked to have a vote on all my amendments, which are all worthy of a vote, in order to test the will of the House, on the basis of the Minister’s response I will withdraw new clause 29 and instead press new clause 38 to a vote.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Proceedings interrupted (Programme order, this day).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

New Clause 38

Resettlement licence: deportees

‘No prisoner serving a sentence for which he is liable for deportation can be eligible for resettlement licence.’.—(Philip Davies.)

Brought up.

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill:—

New Clause 15

Aggravated offences against members of the armed forces

‘(1) Part 12 (Sentencing) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of section 146, insert—

“147 Increase in sentences for aggravation related to membership of the Armed Forces

(1) This section applies where the court is considering the seriousness of an offence committed in any of the circumstances mentioned in subsection (2).

(2) Those circumstances are—

(a) that, at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrated towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the victim being a former or serving member (or presumed former or serving member) of the armed forces or army reserve; and

(b) that the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards persons who are former or serving members of the armed forces.

(3) The court—

(a) must treat the fact that the offence was committed in any of those circumstances as an aggravating factor; and

(b) must state in open court that the offence was committed in such circumstances.

(4) It is immaterial for the purposes of paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (2) whether or not the offender’s hostility is also based, to any extent, on any other factor not mentioned in that paragraph.

(5) In this section “armed forces” means Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, both regular and reserve.’.—(Dan Jarvis.)

Brought up.

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you could give me some guidance. For the third time in recent weeks a member of the Opposition Front-Bench team has been to my constituency without informing me—today it was the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband); I have told his office that I was going to raise this. Is there anything you can do, notwithstanding his intellectual self-confidence, to help him observe the niceties of behaviour in this House?

What I can say is that this is obviously not a matter for the Chair as such, but it is on the record. It is the convention for all Members to inform another Member of a visit, and I hope that that takes place in the future.

Clause 19

Secure colleges and other places for detention of young offenders etc

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 14, page 19, line 16, at end insert—

‘(2A) A young woman may not be placed in a secure college established under subsection (1)(c).’.

Amendment 15, page 19, line 16, at end insert—

‘(2A) No person who is aged under 15 shall be detained in a secure college established under subsection (1)(c).’.

Amendment 12, page 20, line 30, at end insert—

‘(14) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure there is adequate specialist provision to cater for the health and wellbeing needs of all young persons detained in a secure college.’.

Amendment 13, page 20, line 30, at end insert—

‘(14) The Secretary of State shall make arrangements to ensure that sufficient places are available in secure children’s homes to enable young persons, for whom detention in a secure children’s home is deemed more appropriate by the relevant authority than detention in a secure college or young offender institution, to be so detained.’.

Amendment 16, page 20, line 37 leave out clause 20.

Amendment 21, page 71, line 1 leave out schedule 3.

Government amendments 5 and 6.

Amendment 17, page 76, line 10, leave out schedule 4.

Amendment 10, in schedule 4, page 74, line 17, at end insert—


4A (1) All staff employed as teachers, counsellors or nurses at a secure unit must hold qualifications as one of the following—

(a) qualified teachers;

(b) accredited member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists; and

(c) registered nurse (children).’.

Amendment 19, page 76, line 16, at end insert—

‘(3) The Principal shall—

(a) keep special educational provision in the secure college under review;

(b) keep SEN and disability training of secure college workforce under review;

(c) ensure persons detained who may have a special educational need are brought to the attention of their home local authority; and

(d) carry out (a), (b) and (c) with advice from the secure college SEN co-ordinator.’.

Amendment 11, page 77, line 20, leave out from ‘where’ until the end of line 21 and insert

‘a young person poses an imminent threat of injury to himself or others, and only when all other means of control have been exhausted.’.

Government amendments 3 and 4.

Amendments 10 to 19, which stand in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter), relate to the Government’s proposed introduction of secure colleges. Let me set out some context. It is welcome that youth crime has come down substantially since the late 1990s, but it has led to new challenges in our youth justice system that need to be addressed. Reoffending rates are too high, and the cohort of young people in custody is a lot smaller now compared with a decade ago. These young people have complex needs and present very different challenges. We need a youth custody regime that can effectively meet those challenges, and effectively punish, rehabilitate and bring down reoffending. The question is whether creating secure colleges is the most effective solution.

More than a year has now passed since the Government consulted on these proposals, but in all that time, the key facts have remained the same. The Government have come to the House today with a set of proposals that they claim “will transform youth custody”, but there are no expert organisations expressing any enthusiasm for secure colleges. The Government claim that the colleges will put education at the heart of rehabilitation, but they cannot say how it will be delivered in practice. They claim the proposals will reduce the cost of youth custody, but it is not clear where the £85 million is coming from, and they have not produced any hard evidence to support this policy.

When we debated these changes in Committee, we said that we would listen to what the Government had to say and work with them constructively to improve the legislation. We also said that if Ministers wanted our support, they would need to present proper supporting evidence to justify going ahead with this experiment and address the serious concerns being raised by experts in the justice sector. Alas, no such evidence or improvements to the Bill have been forthcoming, which is why we cannot support these proposals, and why we have tabled amendments 16 to 18 to delete the secure college proposal from the Bill.

We all know the value of education, and how it can and should play an important role in rehabilitating young offenders. I am sure that everyone across the House agrees with that. The issue is that there are four areas where Ministers have plainly failed to make the case for secure colleges. Let me take each in turn. First, there has been a chronic lack of evidence to justify the creation of secure colleges. It is true that levels of educational attainment and purposeful activity are not good enough in many young offender institutions, and that education provision in the youth estate can and should be improved. We are agreed on that, but it seems the Justice Secretary is the only person who believes that the only way these problems can be solved is to plough tens of millions of pounds of public money into creating an entirely new type of institution.

Members of the Bill Committee took evidence for two full days, yet not one witness had a single word of support to offer for the Government’s plans for secure colleges. The deputy children’s commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, said that

“a 300-bed secure college will result in a large impersonal environment that does not adequately meet the emotional and mental health needs of children in custody.”

Similar concerns have been echoed by experts across the sector, including the Prison Reform Trust, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, and the Howard League for Penal Reform. Even the Government’s own impact assessment states:

“The Secure College model has never previously been tested.”

It confirms that these plans are untried, untested and that the results would be unpredictable. There is no quantifiable evidence that the secure colleges would reduce reoffending rates. Such little detail has been provided that it is hard to see how the reduction will be achieved in practice. So what alternatives to secure colleges has the Minister’s Department considered? He will recall that I asked him in Committee what assessment his Department had made of how the £85 million budget for the secure college could be alternatively spent. For example, instead of building the secure college, that money could be invested in improving educational provision in the existing youth estate. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm whether that option has been considered, and if not, why not.

The second failure relates to education and welfare provision and goes to the heart of this debate. The Government’s objective is for secure colleges to transform the rehabilitation of young offenders through better education and training. That is a laudable ambition, but it needs to be placed in the context of the existing cohort of young people in custody. We know that the lives of the majority of those young people are characterised by multiple layers of complex disadvantages that include mental health issues, learning disabilities, self-harm issues, and problems with drugs, alcohol and family breakdown. That raises two fundamental points. First, those are not challenges that can be overcome through education alone—significant specialist health and welfare provision would also be required. Secondly, if secure colleges are to deliver educational outcomes over and above what has been achieved in the youth estate before, one of several things would need to happen: secure colleges would need to offer more hours of education and purposeful activity than existing institutions; they would need to have a higher calibre of teaching staff and a higher student-staff ratio; or they would need to offer some new model of transformative teaching that we have not seen before.

Secure colleges would also need to overcome a particular challenge identified by the Justice Committee in its youth justice report last year. It pointed out that the average time spent in custody is only 79 days.

The Justice Committee did look at those issues, and one of the problems is that a plethora of agencies, organisations and contractors deals with individual young people in custody. Often, too many people are involved, and a closer focus from one or two clear directions is needed on how individuals will make progress in custody, especially in education.

I will come to that point shortly. The average time a young person spends in custody is only 79 days, meaning that most young offenders are not in custody long enough to improve their basic skills, but beyond a few vague commitments, no meaningful detail has been provided on how education or welfare will be delivered.

The House does not need to take my word for that. The Secretary of State wrote to the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights a few weeks ago. Describing the secure college proposals, he said:

“The Bill establishes the secure college in law. Beyond the legal framework, the legislation does not specify details of the regime to be delivered within the secure college.”

So there we have it—there is no comprehensive plan in this Bill for how education or welfare will be provided. But we need to know how this will work. For instance, I have met one prospective bidder who has admitted that it would not be possible for it to deliver education and welfare itself and that it would need to bring in a range of other specialist providers. As my hon. Friend suggests, we could have a situation in which one provider operates the secure college, another delivers the teaching, and two or three others—or even more—deliver welfare services, all in the same institution. Will the Minister tell us what measures will be put in place to ensure that that does not lead to confusion and chaos on the ground? Where are the minimum standards in the Bill to ensure that corners are not cut when secure college contracts are put out for competition?

We have therefore tabled amendment 12, which would place a specific obligation on the Secretary of State on health and well-being provision, and amendment 10, which would require secure college staff in teaching, nursing or counselling roles to hold relevant qualifications. On education in particular, the Opposition believe that teachers should be properly qualified. That should be the case for any classroom, and it should certainly be the case when staff are working with challenging children who have complex needs, such as those who are found in a secure environment, but Ministers have given no guarantees yet that this will be the case in secure colleges.

That brings me to the third failure, which relates to the safeguarding of vulnerable young people who will be detained in the secure colleges. A number of concerns have been raised by groups across the sector, but Ministers have not been able to offer sufficient assurances on any of them. Let me run through three of them. First, there is the question of whether secure colleges should accommodate very young children or girls, which is highlighted by our amendments 14 and 15. These would prevent all girls and all 12 to 14-year-olds from being accommodated in secure colleges.

Both groups are in the extreme minority within the youth estate. In 2012-13, 96% of children in custody were boys, meaning that girls were outnumbered by more than 19 to one. According to the latest figures, there are only about 50 teenagers under the age of 14 in youth custody, and the majority are in secure children’s homes. The Government have signalled, however, that they intend secure colleges to accommodate both boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 17. That would come with huge safety risks. Even the noble Lord McNally, until recently a Minister and now chair of the Youth Justice Board, has warned against this approach. He recently told the Justice Committee:

“I would want to advise the Secretary of State to think very hard about whether young females should be there”—

that is, in secure colleges. He went on to say:

“Of course, co-education has its attractions, but I would not want the scheme to fail because of difficulties in trying to accommodate mixed groups”.

There is a further point here. The Minister told us in Committee that this issue would be addressed by the very architecture of the secure college, with different groups accommodated in separate units. He could not provide any further detail, however, because he said that not all the design decisions had been taken. This is just months before shovels are scheduled to be in the ground and construction of the secure college is due to begin early in 2015.

Secondly, the Government have thrown the future of secure children’s homes into doubt. Twenty-eight beds have already been cut and Ministers have signalled that many of the vulnerable young people currently accommodated in such homes will be moved into secure colleges. The kind of children for whom secure children’s homes cater would be all at sea in a 300-bed teenage Titan prison, and it goes against all the evidence showing that smaller establishments are by far the most effective for young people. It is easier to maintain control in such establishments, they are less violent, and staff are able to offer much greater hands-on support. They are also closer to home, enabling children to maintain links with their parents, which aids rehabilitation. That is why we have proposed amendment 13, which would require an adequate number of places in secure children’s homes to be maintained.

Thirdly, there are the conditions regarding the use of restraint. Opposition Members fully accept that there will be the occasional need to use reasonable force in youth custody environments. The Minister will be well aware, however, of the chorus of concerns raised that the Bill could be interpreted as allowing the use of reasonable force for the maintenance of good order and discipline. If so, this may be unlawful in the light of a ruling by the Court of Appeal in 2008, which we debated at length in Committee.

The Secretary of State’s letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights said that there should be

“limited and clearly defined circumstances”

where reasonable force could be used to enforce good order and discipline, so I invite the Minister to lay out what these circumstances might be. I suspect he will say that this will all be worked out in the secure college rules, which have yet to be finalised. We keep coming back to this problem. A problem or area of concern is raised, and the Minister assures the House that it will be dealt with in the secure college rules. We then ask to see the secure college rules, but the Government have said they will not be available for scrutiny until after the Bill has become law.

I am sure the Minister will understand that this is a far from acceptable state of affairs. That is why the Opposition have retabled amendment 11, which would revise the wording in schedule 4. This would make it much clearer, resolve the legality issue and put a lot of minds at rest, while still allowing reasonable force to be used.

The fourth failure relates to costs. The initiative is clearly a cost-driven exercise. The Government’s impact assessment states:

“We need to reduce the cost of youth custody”—

one of the key reasons behind it—but only this Government and this Justice Secretary would propose to save public money by spending £85 million of it when there is currently no space for this in the Ministry of Justice’s budget. No new money has been made available for the pathfinder, so further cuts will have to be made to existing services to pay for it.

Ministers also claim that the cost of a place in a secure college will be “significantly lower” than the current average cost of a place in youth custody of £100,000. At the same time, they also say that secure colleges will offer transformative education and training over and above what is being provided in existing institutions at a much higher cost. That sounds simply too good to be true, and it brings us to the final issue.

The Government are essentially asking for a blank cheque to go ahead with secure colleges. It is a pattern we have seen throughout the Bill’s scrutiny. Where experts in the sector raise problems, the Minister says, “We’ll work those out in the pathfinder.” Where Members of the House expose a lack of detail and ask questions, the Government say, “We’ll come back to you on that after the pathfinder.” I must remind the Minister—as he well knows—that this is not a Bill for a pilot. The Bill will set out the secure college model in law, and allow it to become the preferred model for future youth custody, which is the Government’s stated ambition, but as they stand these proposals are half-baked, lacking in credibility, and severely lacking in supporting evidence. We need answers to these questions if Parliament is to have confidence that this is a good use of public money, especially at a time when the MOJ budget has been cut and youth offending teams and other services are being squeezed.

I genuinely look forward to the Minister’s response, and I hope he can address the concerns raised, but unless he is able to announce a radical change of direction, the Opposition will not be able to support these proposals and we will seek to divide the House on amendment 18 to strike secure colleges from the Bill.

I rise to speak to amendment 19, which is tabled in my name, relating to the issue of accountability for special educational needs in the proposed secure colleges. The amendment would make the principal of the college responsible, first for reviewing the SEN provision available in the college; secondly for identifying whether the work force are appropriately skilled to support young people with SEN; thirdly for working with that young person’s home local authority when they might benefit from a new education, health and care assessment, which was established by the welcome Children and Families Act 2014; and finally for undertaking those duties with advice from the secure college’s special educational needs co-ordinator.

It is worth reminding the House once again why special educational needs in secure colleges is such a fundamental issue. Research suggests that 60% of children in custody have communication difficulties; a quarter of children in the youth justice system have a learning disability; three quarters have serious difficulties with literacy; and 17% of young offenders have a statement of SEN, compared with 3% of the general population. Those difficulties are often not identified until the young person enters custody. Ensuring that a young person’s SEN needs are recognised and supported is essential to the success of the Government’s stated aim in introducing secure colleges: to put education at the heart of youth custody. I fully support that aim.

We had a short debate on these issues in Committee, and I listened carefully to the Minister’s response to the concerns raised about SEN provision. He said that he would expect potential education providers to demonstrate that they could provide the necessary support for detained young people with SEN, and I am sure that he would agree that training for staff in that discipline is crucial. However, I understand that the Government do not want to constrain innovation by putting into statute too many specifications on what providers must deliver and that the more detailed requirements on provision will be included in the contract.

That is why my amendment does not specify the detailed SEN provision or training that must be provided; rather, it seeks to place duties on the principal to keep that provision and training under review. That has several advantages. It is a means of ensuring that contractual commitments relating to SEN are delivered on the ground. It creates a strong statutory framework around which the provision of SEN support and training can be provided, but it does so without being restrictive or prescriptive in the way the Minister was concerned about.

One of the major challenges we face is linking up provision in custody and provision in the community. We do not want to see progress made by a young person while in a secure college to be lost after he or she is released, because for many detained young people—this is a sad reality, but it is true—custody might be the first time in many years that they have engaged in education. For far too many it is the first time their special educational needs are identified. It is therefore crucial that any information identified in a secure college is passed on to the home local authority so that there is continuity in ensuring that their needs are met. Upon release, those young people might be eligible for an education, health and care assessment from their home local authorities. That might need to begin before they are released so that a proper package can be put in place to prepare the ground for that transition. That is why my amendment would require the principal of a secure college to pass any information on a child’s special educational needs to their home local authority, building on the great strides that have been made in the 2014 Act.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his eminently good speech, which, as always, draws upon his expert knowledge of SEN. Is he not describing an integrated form of education whereby what takes place inside one particular institution is transferred seamlessly to other institutions involved? Is that not what we should be aiming for in all education across the prison system?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. Already in the debate we have heard, in speeches and interventions, about the relatively short period of time that young people spend in custody. That continuity is absolutely essential if we are to take meaningful strides not only in dealing with rehabilitation, but in reducing reoffending rates, which concern all of us and are a priority for the Government.

My amendment is a probing amendment, but I am keen for my hon. Friend the Minister to consider further these proposals in relation to SEN provision in secure colleges: that education providers in those colleges be required by contract to put SEN at the heart of their education provision; that those providers also be required by contract to ensure adequate and proper training for staff so that they can properly identify special education needs and meet that need when it is identified; and finally, that we give further thought to exactly who in a secure college should be responsible for working with home local education authorities when young people either have education, health and care plans, or might be eligible for them. I commend those points to the House.

I will be very brief, because other Members wish to speak. I find this whole secure college proposal abhorrent. It flies in the face of all the evidence that has been put before the Justice Committee and debated in the wider media. What do we know about trying to address the issues that confront young people once they get involved in this system? We know that the most successful units are the smaller ones. So what is the response? It is to create a mass-scale prison.

The other thing that we know works—this is absolutely critical—is for young people to be located close to their homes so that they can maintain family and community contact. The scale of this proposal in catering for about 25% of young people in the prison system means that these colleges will be located in the centre of the country, nowhere near the vast proportion of homes where these young people live, so we will be breaking down family connections. We have warnings before us, right across the piece, that in a mixed-gender establishment those most at risk will be young women. Some of the statements and evidence provided about those risks were frightening.

All the evidence tells us that a system such as that proposed will not work, and I think the Government know that. This is Oakwood for children, and we know what happened in that privatised prison—riots, assaults, and a lack of control. I think the Government know that there is a danger that that will be replicated in this large institution. That is why the Bill is allowing for the use of physical force against young people, contrary to everything the courts have told us.

Given that the hon. Gentleman, who is a member of the Justice Committee, was unable in the circumstances to visit Oakwood when we did so recently, I hope he would not want to give the impression that the Committee had formed the view that his description fits Oakwood as it is now rather than as it was at the beginning.

I was unable to go on that visit because I was in hospital at the time. However, I have had the reports from Oakwood and I have met the Prison Officers Association. We have seen time and again the level of assaults there and the riots that have taken place. Only recently, a whole wing was taken over by prisoners. That is a result of privatisation. That is the agenda; that is what this is about. It is not about the rehabilitation, education and care of young people; the main thrust is reducing the overall cost of the system. That is why privatisation has come on to the agenda. As a result of this Government’s drive to reduce costs within the system, we are putting the lives of young people at risk.

I grew up on an estate where young people were sent into the prison system—that is, borstals. This proposal is bringing borstals back into the system. We thought we had got rid of them. They were like large-scale prisons where a regime of brutality could emerge because of packing so many young people in, and where costs were limited so there was not the intensive investment looking at children’s individual needs.

This is a dreadful proposal. If it is enacted, with £85 million spent on this large-scale Titan prison for young people, we will live to regret it, because it will damage young people’s lives and, rather than rehabilitate them, force them into a more brutal form of criminal practice in future.

There is much to commend part 1 of the Bill, but, like other hon. Members, I cannot say the same for part 2.

The plans for secure colleges are a leap into the unknown that have the potential to deliver worse outcomes for the very vulnerable young people who are placed into custody across the secure youth estate. It is not just me or other hon. Members who are saying that; it is the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Prison Reform Trust, the deputy Children’s Commissioner, and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice. Like them, I worry that the introduction of secure colleges could drive up the number of young people being sent into custody—something that we are seeking to avoid. I fear that they will not meet the emotional and mental health needs of children who are placed into them, that they will not meet the excellent standards of educational attainment in some of our secure children’s homes, and that they will provide for worse outcomes for some of the youngest, and therefore most vulnerable, people we need to detain.

As the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) said, we are seeing a steady period of decline in youth imprisonment and youth crime, though one will not necessarily read about it in the newspapers. Overall, youth crime is down by 63% since 2002. Since 2009, there have been 55% fewer young people coming into the youth justice system and 36% fewer young people—that is, people under 18—in custody.

The introduction of detention and training orders under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 resulted in a large spike in the number of under-18s being sent into custody, because courts saw that as a new solution. I fear that secure colleges could create a similar spike, with children being sent into custody rather than accessing the restorative and rehabilitative options that are available to meet their complex needs.

It is clear, not least from what my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) has said, that the secure youth estate already faces considerable challenges taking account of the mental health needs, learning disabilities and difficulties, addictions, childhood abuse and neglect of the children in its care. We should not underestimate the background problems faced by those children who end up in custody.

The Prison Reform Trust study of 6,000 children in custody revealed that at least three quarters of the sample had absent fathers; a third had absent mothers; half lived in a deprived household; more than a quarter had witnessed domestic violence; another quarter had experience of local authority care; and one in five was known to have harmed themselves, and a shocking one in 10 to have attempted to take their own life. It is clear that if we are to address reoffending among that cohort, we have to first address those underlying issues.

My fear is that the proposed size of 300-plus for the colleges is simply too large to meet the complex needs and challenges presented by these children and to deliver the individual care and attention they need to resolve effectively their underlying issues and therefore reduce reoffending, which is what we all want.

Evidence from the adult estate indicates that smaller prisons are more effective than larger ones. When the former chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, gave evidence to the Justice Committee’s inquiry into effective sentencing, she said that it is “very evident” that, on measures of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement, smaller prisons are more effective.

Smaller prisons are also safer. All 16 deaths of children in custody since 2000 have occurred in young offender institutions and secure training centres—the largest types of institutions in the secure estate for children. There have been no deaths in custody in secure children’s homes since 2000. Although overall the use of restraint techniques against children on the secure estate continues to increase, good practice in secure children’s homes has seen a significant decrease in the use of restraint, including a reduction of more than 90% in one example, thanks to the introduction of new management processes by a determined leadership. This Bill, however, makes explicit provision to move away from those approaches that reduce restraint and towards an approach that legitimises it. As we have heard, secure colleges are likely to be an expensive experiment at a time when youth justice budgets are already under pressure and being stretched across the board.

Finally, I am particularly concerned about children under 15. Children aged between 12 and 14 are, as other Members have said, a small minority among the population of under-18s in custody. Indeed, as of 3 January, there were just 53 children aged under 14 in custody. I think we all recognise that there is a world of difference between most 13-year-olds and most 17-year-olds. It would, in my view, be wrong to place the two groups together in a large institution where safety, bullying and other issues cannot be effectively dealt with.

I do not think we need to reinvent the wheel. There are already very good examples of good practice in secure children’s homes. We need to learn from those and roll them out across the secure estate for children. We all make mistakes—heaven knows that I know that as well as anybody—and when we do, we need to strike the right balance between rehabilitation and punishment. Surely that is especially the case for those very young people who end up on the wrong side of the law.

I share all the concerns about secure training centres that have been expressed this evening by Members of all parties. I want briefly to ask the Minister about the position of young women and girls in particular. Frankly, it is baffling that young women could be in the same secure training centre as young men when we have taken such steps to differentiate the needs of adult women in the custody system. It is also baffling that, when we have ruled out Titan prisons for adults, we think they are appropriate for young people. We seem to be going in an utterly perverse direction.

We know that girls’ needs in the penal system are different from those of boys and young men. We know that girls are more likely to self-harm and to be placed in restraint and in segregation. We also know that their emotional and well-being needs are different. They have often been victims of terrible trauma and abuse prior to their entry into the penal system. Therefore, if girls and young women are to be placed in these centres, I want the Minister to address some specific issues with clear and direct responses.

First, will the Minister tell us whether any young woman who might be pregnant or who might be a young mother will be placed in one of the secure training centres? In my view, it would be utterly unacceptable for such young women to be confined in the centres. Secondly, will any young women or girls who have themselves been a victim of sexual or domestic abuse or violence be placed in such institutions? Again, it would be utterly inappropriate to put such young women where they would see themselves close to the risk of bullying, aggression and potentially harm from young men. Thirdly, will dedicated staff working only with girls and young women be employed in the secure training centres, or will the whole staff team be shared across the centres, with no specialist and dedicated provision for girls and young women? Finally, what assessment, if any, has his Department made of the impact on reoffending rates among girls and young women of being placed in such institutions? I am not aware of any evidence that such a goal would in any way be effectively achieved, but perhaps he will share such evidence as he has.

Ministers in the Government who abandoned the Building Schools for the Future programme are now effectively asking Parliament to write a blank cheque for the introduction of the secure college. During my first Public Bill Committee, I was mightily impressed by the contributions of Members and Front Benchers on both sides and by how they comported themselves. There was unanimity on many items in the Bill, but this was a particular area of division. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), I do not think that even Ministers believe in this proposal. Yet the Government’s objective is laudable. The Minister has said that 69% of young offenders go on to reoffend. We should all share the ambition to do better, because that figure is too high.

I have many objections to the secure college. My first objection is to its size and cost, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) pointed out. With 320 beds and at a cost of £85 million, it can only be described—as it has been—as a Titan. The up-front cost for each place is more than £250,000, which is more than places in secure homes, secure training centres or young offenders institutions. What position will they find themselves in once this college has been built? How will it distort the market for our other provision up and down the nation?

Liberty has stated that the proposal will work against the Government’s objective of reducing young offending. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) said so eloquently, the position of young female offenders within the provision is completely unclear at the moment. The Youth Justice Board has advised against any accommodation for girls in such a secure college.

My second objection to the secure college is that the Government are not clear about its objectives. Is it supposed to be educational, or to have a custodial function? They have not worked that out. If the purpose is educational, my worry is how any educator in such an establishment can create the necessary relationships between themselves and those they educate. As a school teacher, I had 190 days—based on the old agrarian timetable—to teach a child, to build a relationship with them and their parents, and to pass that on through a sophisticated mechanism for the handover that involved reports and strategy. When he spoke so eloquently about SEN measures, the hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) was exactly right to ask how such a process will happen. The average custodial sentence for a young person is less than 80 days, so how can an educator begin to establish such relationships in an educational environment that will bring the young person on? I do not think that there is any chance whatsoever of building such a relationship between educators and the young person. Young people with special educational needs also have complex social and emotional needs.

In conclusion, I could not agree more that large institutions are wrong for children, and they are particularly damaging for the most vulnerable children. Without clear objectives, the leaders we hope to employ in any such institution will find it an almost impossible task to navigate the mission that the Government have failed to clarify in Committee and in the House tonight. The Government should think again.

I will be brief so that other colleagues can speak in this important debate. I was pleased that the Front-Bench spokesman gave way to me earlier because, having visited a number of young offenders institutions through my membership of the Justice Committee, I am alarmed by the background of many of the young people in those institutions. They are often the victims of abuse, neglect or simply an uncaring society and a lack of care throughout their lives. They often end up brutalised by the system, then come out and commit further offences. Life gets worse and worse for them.

The endless answer appears to be a bigger and bigger plethora of agencies, contractors and others who are supposed to assist these young people who are going through serious traumas in their lives. One problem is that too many agencies, too many people and too many organisations are intervening, often on a profit-centred basis rather than a care-centred basis. The people who lose out are the young people. The rest of society also loses out because the skills and abilities of those young people are lost to us as they set off on a life of crime and further imprisonment.

The Government now propose these very large secure training colleges. I am appalled by the whole idea. I agree with what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench and by the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) and others. We do not need big institutions, where people get lost, where self-harm takes place and suicides occur, and where bullying and harassment become a daily fact of life. That culture can become a form of control over those within the centres. We need something that is far more caring and far more focused on educational achievement and building social skills for the future.

I will make one last point so that others can contribute to the debate. During the investigation into youth justice, a number of us on the Justice Committee had the good fortune to visit young offenders institutions in Denmark and Norway. That was very instructive. They spend a great deal more money than us on dealing with young offenders. They have much smaller units in which to deal with them. They focus heavily on education and social skill development, and heavily encourage family visits and, where possible, education in a normal college outside the institution. The person who goes through the process of rehabilitation while in custody maintains a high degree of contact with the rest of society, rather than being totally locked away and coming out after some years having lost lots of social skills, if not lots of contacts. The results in Denmark and Norway are very low levels of reoffending compared with what we have, much lower levels of self-harm and attempted suicide, and, in the long run, a much lower level of crime in society.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) pointed to the obsession with the contract culture. That seems to be driving the Ministry of Justice at every turn. There are teams of people in the Ministry of Justice working out how to hive off, sell off, privatise and get rid of services, rather than focusing on the core function, which is the administration of a service and reducing the rate of reoffending—not creating profit centres for companies such as G4S and many others. Please can we not go down that road? I hope that the Minister understands that many of us feel passionately about this. We want to see young people being valued, not having their lives destroyed in these kinds of institutions.

Nobody except the Minister thinks that secure colleges are a good idea—no educationist, no one who works in young offenders institutions, no one who works in the criminal justice system and no one who campaigns for improvements in the way that we treat children and young people in the justice system.

We do know that the vast majority of young people who end up in the criminal justice system have very poor literacy, numeracy and linguistic skills. The statistics show that 86% of offenders in young offenders institutions have been excluded from school. I maintain that the majority of those young people will have special educational needs because of physical or mental disabilities or emotional difficulties, whether or not those needs have been previously identified. Such children need to be educated in small groups and to do a wide range of activities. Simply sitting them at a desk and expecting them to learn does not work, and it has never worked for them.

I used to be the governor of a secondary school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, a number of whom were already in and out of the criminal justice system or at risk of being in it. There was a maximum of eight children per class, with a teacher and at least one or more teaching assistant. They tried never to have more than 40 children in the school at any one time, with the others undertaking practical work, outdoor education or other specialist activities. It was recognised that simply trying to push knowledge into them did not work, and that many of them learned better by doing.

Why does the Minister think that trying to educate 320 young people together, often hundreds of miles away from home, will work? As others have said, the average length of time in custody is 79 days. Therefore, after 79 days those young people will be returned to their homes, and either return to their schools or have to find a new placement, facing the terrible difficulty of transition to a new school, and with the difficulty of having come from custody compounding their problems. The Minister expects them to be miles away from their families and other support services. How on earth will they have successful integration back to their home environment? How will they receive the support they need to ensure they stay out of custody?

In many other places we have seen that success happens in small units where young people can be treated as individuals and educated on how they should be able to take their rightful place in the world. Please will the Minister look at other systems where young people are treated in custody, and please will he not go ahead with this bizarre notion of a secure college? It is not going to work; please do not carry out this experiment at the cost of our young people in the criminal justice system.

I think that we had a constructive debate in Committee, and it is disappointing that the Opposition have set their face against secure colleges. I will not be able to pick up on all the points made during the debate, but let me do my best.

Amendments 16, 17, 18 and 21 would effectively remove from the Bill all reference to a secure college, and it is worth starting with the context of our proposed reform of the youth secure estate. At present we pay around £100,000 a year on average for a place in youth custody, and yet almost 70% of young people go on to reoffend within 12 months of release. For secure children’s homes the cost rises beyond £200,000 a place, yet reoffending outcomes are little different.

To give the House the facts, the proportion of offenders who reoffended in the 12 months to March 2012 is as follows: 69.9% in young offenders institutions; 70.1% in secure training centres; and 67.6% in secure children’s homes. That is why we need to do something different, and why we are pursuing the idea of secure colleges. I have heard the arguments tonight and, indeed previously, that there are better ways to improve the youth custodial estate, and in particular that smaller establishments such as secure children’s homes are more effective. The figures for reoffending that I have given do not demonstrate that, but I understand that plenty of good work is done across the estate.

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) asked whether we considered spending the money on the existing estate, and the answer is yes. However, if we continue to do the same things in the same ways, we can expect the same results. He seems to have said this evening that he accepts that the status quo is not acceptable but he does not think that secure colleges are the right way to go. He clearly favours a much more small-unit approach, such as secure children’s homes, but I wonder whether he has considered the cost of that. Our rough guess is that putting all young people currently detained in custody into a secure children’s home would cost in excess of £100 million more a year than we currently spend. I would be interested to hear—as, I am sure, would the House—how exactly that would be paid for by the Labour party if that is its intent. I suspect it does not know.

The truth is that no current model of youth custody is delivering the types of outcomes that we all want to see, or providing sufficient value for money for the taxpayer. That is why we want to consider secure colleges. I am conscious that there is an appetite to hear more detail on how secure colleges will operate than primary legislation can provide. It is therefore worth pointing out to the House that during the Bill’s passage we intend to publish and consult on our plans for secure college rules, including, where appropriate, setting out some indicative draft provisions. This will provide both Houses with more information on how we expect secure colleges to operate.

During the passage of the Bill? We are on Report! This is the end of the Bill’s consideration in this House. We have one more day. We will not return to this issue unless the other place amends the proposed legislation.

If the hon. Gentleman takes the time to look at the programme motion he will see that there are two days allowed on Report. This is the first day, not the second. [Interruption.] I have made the position clear.

No, I am afraid I will not. I have 10 minutes left and a good deal of ground to cover. There will be a second day on Report and the other House will get to consider this matter. The hon. Gentleman was not present in Committee. Had he—

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure the Minister does not wish to mislead the House about the processes of this House. I would like absolute clarity. I am a Back-Bench Member dealing with this part of the Bill on day one, which is considering this part the Bill. On the basis of the programme motion, this part of the Bill will not come back for consideration on day two, so this is my last opportunity to consider the matter unless the other place amends the Bill on this point. I will not have the opportunity to take part in a debate informed by the publication of these rules. Is that accurate, Mr Speaker?

The hon. Gentleman has described the procedure accurately. What he has said is not something from which I wish to dissent. I cannot rule on it, but what he has said is procedurally correct.

I make two points to the hon. Gentleman. First, if he looks carefully at the programme motion—I am sure he understands this very well—he will see that there will be a Third Reading debate at the end of the second day on Report. He will have the opportunity to raise something then. Secondly, it really would not matter what the secure college rules say, would it? The hon. Gentleman has made his position crystal clear. He thinks this is a capitalist conspiracy to privatise youth justice. He is not interested in the details of secure colleges at all; he is interested only in what he perceives to be the political animus here. If he will allow me to do so, I will come on to the detail that he says he wants to discuss. Let us discuss it.

Amendments 13, 14 and 15 relate to secure children’s homes and the placement of under-15s and girls in secure colleges, an issue of perfectly legitimate concern that was raised in Committee. Let me set out the Government’s position. There was much debate in Committee, and again here on amendment 13, on secure children’s homes. We accept that secure colleges will not be appropriate for 10 and 11-year-olds remanded or sentenced to custody. We have also made it clear, in our response to the “Transforming Youth Justice” consultation, that there are likely to be some detained young people who will continue to require specialist separate accommodation on the grounds of their acute needs or vulnerability.

The Bill provides for secure colleges. It does not seek to make any changes to the existing legislative provision relating to secure children’s homes. Local authorities, rather than the Secretary of State, provide secure children’s homes. We think it is right that they retain that responsibility. The nine new Youth Justice Board contracts and the increased use of welfare places demonstrate that there is currently high demand for secure children’s home provision. Quite properly, the Secretary of State and the YJB exercise their various powers to provide and commission secure accommodation for young people remanded or sentenced to custody in such a way that suitable accommodation is available for those young people. That includes commissioning places in secure children’s homes as appropriate. I have made it clear before that that will continue.

There was also detailed discussion in Committee of whether girls and under-15s will be accommodated in secure colleges. Amendments 14 and 15 would prevent the placement of any young person under 15, and any girl, in secure colleges. Let me point out again that I recognise concerns that accommodating a large number of boys and only a small number of girls could, if the risks are not properly managed, place those girls at risk. That was very much the point made by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green). I also recognise that girls in custody often have a range of complex needs and that it will be important that the secure colleges meet those needs. I am afraid that I do not have time to go into the detail she raised, but I will write to her if I can. The one question I can answer immediately relates to care for young mothers. There is currently a mother and baby unit at the Rainsbrook secure training centre. If that is not to continue, we must make provision elsewhere.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) and others suggested that it might be daunting for children as young as 12 to be in the same secure establishments as 17-year-olds, although such age groups rub shoulders in mainstream secondary education and, indeed, in some of the other establishments that we have discussed. I am confident that those risks can be managed in secure colleges, and I want young girls and younger children to have access to the facilities and opportunities that will be provided in them. Having said that, I should make it clear that no final decisions have been made on who will be accommodated in the pathfinder secure college. Such decisions will be taken later in the development of the pathfinder, and in the light of careful analysis of the needs of the youth custodial population and the implications for the different groups who may be accommodated.

Amendment 11 makes an important point about the use of force. I recognise that the issues of good order and discipline and how they are maintained are at the heart of the amendment. There was considerable debate about those issues in Committee. I sought to reassure Members then, and I am happy to try to do so again now.

The duties of custody officers include maintaining good order and discipline, but the provisions in the Bill will not by themselves allow them to use force for that purpose. That will not be possible unless specific provision is made in the secure college rules, in which the boundaries on the use of force should be set out. I repeat that we intend to consult on our approach to secure college rules.

I entirely understand that the term “good order and discipline” could be considered too broad in this context. Let me try to explain exactly what we have in mind. This is not about using force for the purpose of discipline as a form of punishment, or simply to make a young person follow an instruction. We have always made it clear that force must not be used merely to secure compliance with an order. We believe that, as a last resort, in the limited circumstances in which all attempts to resolve the situation without resorting to force have failed, and in which a young person’s behaviour is having an impact on his or her own safety and welfare or that of others, some force—subject to strict conditions and safeguards—may be necessary. Force may be used as part of securing good order and discipline only when there are clear risks to the maintaining of a safe and stable environment for young people, and when its use is a necessary and proportionate response in order to protect the welfare of the individual or that of others. I hope that that explanation is helpful. As I have said, further debate will doubtless take place when Members have seen the secure college rules.

I am grateful to those who tabled amendments relating to health and education. I shall not have time to discuss them in detail, but Members may wish to read the Hansard report of the Committee stage, when we debated precisely these matters. NHS England will have a duty to assess the needs of young people in a secure college to determine which services should be provided. NHS England applies the Intercollegiate Healthcare Standards for Children and Young People in Secure Settings, which were developed by the royal medical colleges and published last year.

The qualifications of teachers have been mentioned. It is, of course, important for properly qualified individuals to provide many services in secure colleges, but in some cases engaging and effective education may be delivered by individuals without a teaching qualification. I believe that the experience and aptitude of staff who work with this challenging cohort are more important than the qualifications that they may have. I should also remind Members that secure colleges will be inspected by Ofsted.

A key point has been made about special educational needs. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) for the fact that I shall not have a chance to discuss it with him in detail, but it was raised in Committee, and I assure him that a great deal of further thought will be given to how those needs can be met.

Amendments 5 and 6 are required as a consequence of the agreement in Committee to extend the secure college provisions of the Bill to Wales. We have liaised closely with the Welsh Government on our plans for secure colleges, and they have confirmed to us that they are content for the amendments to be made.

Amendments 3 and 4 to clause 63 are technical amendments to correct the territorial extent of the provisions on contracting out. I hope they will cause the House no difficulty.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

Mr Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Schedule 3

Secure colleges etc: further amendments

Amendments made: 5,  page 73, line 15, at end insert—

16A In section 25(4A) (co-operation to improve well-being: Wales)—

(a) for “Crown or” substitute “Crown,” and

(b) after “director)” insert “or the principal of a secure college”.’.

Amendment 6, page 74, line 33, at end insert—

‘Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (anaw 4)

31 (1) The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 134(8) (Safeguarding Children Boards and Safeguarding Adults Boards)—

(a) for “Crown or” substitute “Crown,” and

(b) after “director)” insert “or the principal of a secure college”.

(3) In section 188(1) (interpretation of sections 185 to 187), in the definition of “youth detention accommodation”, after paragraph (b) insert—

“(ba) a secure college;”.’.—(Jeremy Wright.)

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Claire Perry.)

Bill to be further considered tomorrow.