I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Twice in the past few months we have seen appalling and senseless attacks on members of the public by terrorist offenders. At Fishmongers’ Hall on 30 November last year, two bright and promising young lives were cut heartbreakingly short. The perpetrator, Usman Khan, had been released automatically halfway through a 16-year sentence for preparing terrorist acts. That tragedy was made so much more poignant by the fact that the victims were dedicated to the rehabilitation of offenders, and were helping people to get their lives back on track.
The attack in Streatham on 2 February this year came as a stark reminder of the risks when these sorts of offenders are let out automatically before they have served their full sentence in prison.
A number of people may question why we are rushing through this business in one day today, so may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend, if the business were not completed today and the Bill therefore not enabled as an Act, would it result in terrorists being released early in the immediate future?
The simple answer is yes; I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention.
I was telling the House about the events in Streatham. Sudesh Amman had been released just one week before the attack, halfway through a sentence of three years and four months for offences related to distributing or promoting material intended to stir up religious hatred. The automatic nature of his release meant that there was no parole oversight and no decision as to whether he posed a risk to the public. No one could prevent his release. It is purely thanks to the swift intervention of our incredible police officers that he did not go on to commit even more harm before he was stopped with necessary force. The reality is that we face an unprecedented threat from terrorist offenders who are willing to commit random violence without any fear of the consequences.
I welcome the work that my right hon. and learned Friend has done in this area over the last few weeks, and that he is bringing the Bill before the House today. Will he concede that this form of jihadi extremism and the threat that it has posed has now been around us for almost 20 years, since the horrible attacks of 9/11 and, of course, Bali in 2002? I absolutely welcome the extra funding for our counter-terrorism police and rehabilitation and probation services—this is all very good news—but ultimately we have to ask ourselves why these people were indoctrinated in the first place. Does he agree that we need to do more to remove the harmful online content that is used so much to attract people to the dark place they go to?
My right hon. Friend speaks with particular personal experience of the Bali atrocity, and he is right to talk about the long-term nature of the threat, but it is a threat that changes and evolves, and this Government will be as fleet of foot as possible in responding to it. He will be glad to note that we are working at pace to deal with and remove inappropriate and hateful online content. The Home Secretary is by my side today to emphasise, in the most eloquent possible way, the joint approach that she and I, and our respective Departments—together with the security services and the police—are taking with regard to the first duty of Government: protecting the public. It is a grave responsibility from which we will not shirk, and we say that enough is enough.
I am very glad about the tone my right hon. and learned Friend is taking. Were this measure to be challenged in our courts and the Government were to lose, that would be merely declaratory. But if it made its way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the Government were to lose there, the ministerial code would require him to abide by treaty law. Would he then entertain the prospect of a derogation from the convention on human rights?
Well, I have not finished developing the point yet, but I will of course give way to my eager hon. Friend, the Chair of the Justice Committee, in time.
This is a Bill on which I have made the following statement:
“In my view the provisions of the…Bill are compatible with the Convention rights.”
I take the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne). I am not going to anticipate litigation in domestic courts or in Strasbourg, but I will repeat for the benefit of the record that it is my firm view that this Bill does not engage the provisions of article 7 of the European convention on human rights, because it relates to the way in which the sentence is administered, not a change in the nature of the penalty itself. I am grateful to him for allowing me to say that at this point.
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for giving way, because this is an important point. Will he confirm that, in coming to that conclusion and making that certification, he has taken the advice of senior Treasury counsel, and also that the case law has made it quite clear that the administration of a sentence is not part of the penalty? Finally, will he confirm that even were there to be successful litigation—which I do not believe will be the case—it would result only in a declaration of incompatibility, and could not strike down primary legislation?
My hon. Friend is right to remind the House that there is no power to strike down the primary legislation. I am afraid that I will not indulge him in a direct answer as to the nature of advice that may or may not have been tendered, and he knows the reasons why. However, I reassure him that all the proper mechanisms have been employed and engaged in the preparation of the Bill, and that on the basis of all the information received, I was able—with high certainty—to make the declaration on the frontispiece.
My right hon. and learned Friend will remember that we worked together on these matters when I was in the Government. He is right to speak about the metamorphosis of terrorism. Will he confirm—indeed, these provisions underpin this—that we must never let the persistent and perverse advocacy of the rights of murderous individuals compromise either the work of our security services or public faith in the rule of law?
My right hon. Friend speaks with considerable experience, as we worked together on the Bill that became the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which rightly struck the balance between the need to protect the public and the need to make sure that the rule of law was respected.
That gives me a chance to warm to a theme that I make no apology—
I will give way in a moment. I am warming to a theme—let me warm!
The theme is this: in our fight against terrorism—in our determination to protect the public against those who spread hate, division, death and injury, irrespective of what might motivate them, because we know that we have a cohort of different types of terrorist—we are defending something of value. We are defending a democratic, free society. We are defending the rule of law. We are defending the values of this place and, indeed, the values of all the people we have the honour and privilege of representing. That is something worth defending. By using due process, we mark ourselves out as distinct from, better than and different from those who seek to divide us.
Is my right hon. Friend in receipt of advice from the Law Officers on this question? I say that because whatever arguments he may address with regard to compatibility and his statement on the front of the Bill, the reality is that this could easily end up in the courts if they can possibly manufacture an argument. I want to be quite clear that his advice relates to action in the courts and not just to incompatibility.
I can assure my hon. Friend that all the usual processes were followed. I am not going to go into the weeds of what the Law Officers might have said. We know that they have a particular function when it comes to the necessary clearances for the introduction of a Bill. I can assure him that those processes have been followed and that the issues that he rightly outlines—and, indeed, presages through his amendments—are very much uppermost in our considerations.
Recent events have indeed shown the need for a review through this legislation, which I certainly support, and which has the appropriate safeguards and implementation measures that will be debated today.
The Lord Chancellor made a point about the victims. Somebody who had done work experience in my office was a witness on that day as they were working at Fishmongers’ Hall. The impact not just on those who were injured or killed, but on those who were there and their families, has been tremendous, and continues.
The provisions in the Bill change the release point for offenders who have committed a relevant terrorism offence and refer those offenders to the Parole Board at the two-thirds point of the sentence. I think we can understand and acknowledge that the resources available to the police and probation are also a critical part of this. A change in legislation will not be enough. Is the Lord Chancellor also committed to making sure that the resources required through the justice system will be in place to make any change effective on the ground?
Indeed, I pay tribute to everybody who was not only involved with but witnessed those awful events at Fishmongers’ Hall.
The hon. Lady and I served together on the Justice Committee for some time, and I know that she has a long-term interest in these issues. She is right to ask about resources. Some weeks ago, when it was announced that we would be introducing a counter-terrorism Bill, extra resources of £90 million for counter-terrorism activity were announced, additional to the overall package of £900 million of support for counter-terrorism. With regard to what we are doing with probation and the interventions that she referred to, again we announced extra resources, with a doubling in the number of specialist probation officers and the introduction of more expert psychiatric and imam involvement. She can rest assured that whatever resources are needed in order to deal with this issue, we will devote them to this particular line of important, intensive work.
The Staffordshire-born convicted terrorist Usman Khan was let out of prison early on licence. Last November, less than a year after his release, he killed two young people near London Bridge. Does the Secretary of State agree that this illustrates why this Bill is so important to protect the public in my constituency and across the UK, and to ensure that the most dangerous criminals serve the prison time that they deserve?
My hon. Friend rightly points out the sad local connection to that appalling case last year. I know that she shares my—and indeed, I think, the whole House’s—commitment to maximum effort when it comes to protecting the public. It is clear that we must put a stop to the current arrangements whereby a dangerous terrorist can be released from prison by automatic process of law before the end of their sentence, so we must do so as quickly as possible.
I warmly welcome the legislation that has been put before the House today. The Secretary of State is talking about resources. Will he outline any estimates he has made of the number of individuals who might be covered by this legislation so that we can perhaps understand the impact that it could have had on our police forces if those individuals had been released from prison early?
The number of offenders, either terrorist offenders or offenders who have committed offences with a terrorist link, is about 50. That does not sound like a large cohort, but in this particular situation of extreme gravity, we cannot afford to allow any further incidents to happen. I have spoken about the need to minimise risk; that does not mean that we can eliminate risk. That is why this emergency measure is, in my judgment and the judgment of the Government, absolutely necessary if we are to meet the concerns of my right hon. Friend and other hon. and right hon. Members.
My right hon. and learned Friend raises the issue of risk. He and the Government are absolutely right to be addressing the question of the automatic early release of terrorist offenders, but terrorist offenders will still be released at some point. That is why rehabilitation—the work that is done both in prison and when they are out of prison—is so important. There have been many efforts at this over the years, but, as recent incidents have shown, not always with success. Does he agree that we will never deal with the issue of terrorism until we deal with the ideology that drives it? Will he reassure me that the Government are making extra efforts to find new paths to ensure that we can turn people away from the extremism and terrorism that takes other people’s lives?
My right hon. Friend speaks with unparalleled experience of these issues, both as Home Secretary and as Prime Minister. I can assure her—I will develop these issues later in my speech—that there is a constant self-questioning among those responsible for these programmes to make sure that they are properly calibrated, that they understand the particular drivers that compel people to commit these acts, and that the distinctions between the different types of offender are fully understood; from her own case experience she will know of myriad motivations. Rather than taking a blanket approach, a case-by-case analysis is very much at the heart of how we approach these matters.
My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right that this legislation ending the automatic halfway point of release is the correct thing to do. The Parole Board obviously still has a very important role in this process. What reform of the Parole Board does he envisage to make it more accountable, because that is a key aspect of ensuring that citizens are kept safe from those who would cause them harm?
My hon. Friend will be reassured that a lot of ongoing work continues with regard to the role of the Parole Board. Very recently, reforms were introduced that allow me to ask the Parole Board to reconsider important decisions that it makes with regard to the release, or early release, of offenders. A tailored review is currently being undertaken to make sure that its work is as practically effective as possible.
In our manifesto, we committed to a root-and-branch review, to ensure that victims are aware and as involved as possible from the outset and that the sharing of intelligence and information between the security services, the police and the Parole Board is as thorough and comprehensive as possible, so that the fullest and most appropriate assessment of risk can be made. In the area of counter-terrorism, nothing can be more important than ensuring that that intelligence is shared and that those who handle it have the appropriate clearances and expertise to make the necessary assessment.
The Lord Chancellor rightly mentions the need for resources to support this new legislation, because most of these offenders will eventually be released, albeit later, into the community. The issue is not just one of resources; it is also one of process and expertise, because the recall provisions that are in place now could have been of use in the cases that we have seen in recent months. Can he assure me that the Government are also looking at training and process and that any reforms needed—for example, to recall processes—will be properly put in place to support this legislation?
The hon. Lady, with whom I served on the Justice Committee, is right to talk about risk assessment and the recall process. She knows that the recall process can be triggered on arrest, and certainly on charge, and that is regularly done in the normal course of events. When it comes to multi-agency public protection arrangements, I think she will note with pleasure that, only three weeks ago, the Home Secretary and I ordered a review to be conducted by Jonathan Hall QC, the Government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. He will look at MAPPA with regard to this high-risk, high-level sector of the cohort, to ensure that we are getting it right and that the appropriate expertise is deployed at the right time in order to make the finest judgment with regard to risk.
If I understand it correctly, there are about 220 people serving time for terrorist offences, 50 of whom will be affected by this legislation. Is that because those 50 are up for imminent release within the next few months? Does this legislation in principle apply to all 220 people in prison for terrorist-related offences?
The cohort of around 50 are due for automatic early release; the rest will be subject to Parole Board assessment. Different types of sentence are available. We are talking about people on standard determinate sentences. Other types of sentence include extended determinate sentences. Some may still be on the historical IPP—imprisonment for public protection—regime, and there are also sentences for offenders of particular concern, or SOPC. Forgive me for the alphabet soup, but I am afraid that criminal justice sentencing legislation has not been the easiest matter for us to deal with, either as legislators or when I was a practitioner in this area.
I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for giving way; he is being hugely generous. Does he accept that, while a lot of these people are terrorists and criminals, a significant number of them are clearly insane? The people who were in jail with the latest perpetrator said that that individual was plainly off his head. He had a history of drug abuse, and mind-altering substances clearly played a role. Why is it that if people are secular and insane, they will be locked up indefinitely, but if they can ascribe this to some sort of religious motive, we feel we have to give them a finite sentence and release them, when they might run amok at any stage?
As ever, my right hon. Friend makes an interesting and thought-provoking point. While I will not go into the individual facts of this case, because it is subject to a police investigation and there is an ongoing inquiry, I will say this. The judgment as to a mental health disorder within the meaning set out in the Mental Health Act 1983 is a matter for two section 12 qualified clinicians—consultant psychiatrists—who will produce clinical evidence that will satisfy a court of the provisions of section 37 of the Act or, indeed, a restriction under section 41, which puts the power of release into my hands. That has to be satisfied on the basis of evidence.
It is important to make a distinction between that clinical approach and the risk assessment that we have to undertake when it comes to those who profess political motivation. It is thought-provoking in the sense that we need to think about a mechanism that would be robust and legally sound but would allow an objective assessment to be made about the risk posed by individuals, even after their sentence has been completed. Public protection has to come to the forefront of our thinking.
I will now describe what we have done operationally since the attack at Streatham. The Prison and Probation Service has taken immediate action to strengthen our operational grip of terrorist offenders and protect the public from any further attacks. The National Probation Service is working closely with counter-terrorism partners. Several offenders on licence have been recalled to prison since the attack, where officers identified concerning behaviour, which relates to the point made by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green). We have also instructed prison governors to report any concerns and take any action required. Several terrorist prisoners have subsequently been placed in segregation units as a result of concerns raised by prison staff. The Prison Service is managing the risk of incidents in prisons that may be inspired by, or in response to, the attack at Streatham.
I would like to put on record my thanks to Ian Acheson for his 2016 report on our response to extremism in prisons. In the intervening years, the operating context has changed, and our response has strengthened considerably, but we must go further. We will take all additional steps necessary, including keeping the full list of recommendations in Mr Acheson’s internal report under careful review.
However, we need to take further action urgently to ensure that the public are protected. As we saw in the Streatham attack, we cannot have a situation where an offender—a known risk to the public—is released without any oversight by the Parole Board. The Bill therefore sets out new release arrangements for prisoners serving a sentence for a terrorist offence or an offence with a terrorist connection. There are two main elements to that: first, to standardise the earliest point at which they may be considered for release at two thirds of the sentence imposed; and secondly, to require that the Parole Board assesses whether they are safe to release between that point and the end of their sentence. That will apply to all terrorist and terrorist-related offences where the maximum penalty is above two years, including those offences for which Sudesh Umman was sentenced. Only a very small number of low-level offences, such as failure to comply with a police cordon, are excluded by this threshold, and prosecution and conviction for those offences are rare.
The changes affect those who are serving sentences for a specified offence, whether the sentence was imposed before or after the new section comes into force. Applying this to serving prisoners reflects the unprecedented gravity of the situation we face and the danger posed to the public. The Bill will not achieve its intended effect unless it operates with retrospective effect, and therefore it will necessarily operate on both serving and future prisoners. That does not mean that the Bill will change retrospectively the sentence imposed by the court; release arrangements are part of the administration of a sentence, and the overall penalty remains unchanged. As I outlined earlier, domestic and ECHR case law supports our stance that article 7 is not engaged where the penalty imposed by the court is not altered. The measures in the Bill will also amend the release arrangements for terrorist offenders sentenced in Scotland, which will ensure a consistent approach where possible to the release of terrorist prisoners.
I commend my right hon. and learned Friend for the introduction of this legislation and dealing with the issue of early release. May I come back to him on a point I have raised previously about how we manage the risk of people who have offended once they have left prison, and about using the availability and enforceability of post-release conditions, and indeed the terrorism prevention and investigation measures regime and its potential application, to give a sense of assurance? Can he comment any further on the next steps and how this can be progressed, because this is clearly an issue that will need to be addressed?
I am hugely grateful to my right hon. Friend, who, as the House will know, was a distinguished Security Minister and Northern Ireland Secretary, and had to deal with these issues daily. I will say this to him: he will know that the counter-terrorism Bill, which was announced some weeks ago, will be coming before the House soon. There will be measures in it not only on the minimum term to be served for serious terror offences, but on the way in which licence periods will be applied as part of such a sentence. That is clearly one of the most effective ways to deal with this problem—through the criminal prosecution and conviction process.
My right hon. Friend makes a wider point. He will know from having navigated through the House the TPIMs legislation, which has been subsequently strengthened and amended, that there are other circumstances in which public protection will have to play a function in the absence of a conviction. It is on that particular cohort that the Government are placing a lot of attention and concentration. It would perhaps be idle of me to speculate by outlining what precise forms those will take, but it is a dialogue that I encourage him actively to take part in over the next few months and it is something I would want to develop with support from all parts of this House.
At this stage in the debate, and trying to avoid our having what might otherwise turn into an argument about the law in court, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether the case of del Río Prada has actually been taken into account? Does he know if that has been taken into account, because it was about policy and administration?
My hon. Friend will be glad to know that not only has it been taken into account, but I have read it. It is a 2013 authority from the Strasbourg Court that relates to a particular set of circumstances involving the Kingdom of Spain. There have been subsequent cases both before that court and, indeed, domestically. In summary, we are satisfied, on the basis of all the information we have, that the provisions of article 7 are not engaged in this respect.
My right hon. and learned Friend is making a most compelling case for this legislation. For the sake of completeness, I am sure he will also have read and taken into account the subsequent cases in the Strasbourg Court of Abedin in the United Kingdom in 2016 and of the Supreme Court in Docherty in 2017—both subsequent to del Río Prada—which it seems to me support the Government’s contention.
It is very clear that the Lord Chancellor is carrying the House with him this afternoon, and all of us are seized of the necessity of bringing forward this Bill at this time and as quickly as possible. However, it is acknowledged that there are serious concerns and issues about the engagement of article 7—I think he has an entirely justifiable position—and that we are bereft of the detailed pre-legislative scrutiny that we might otherwise have had; that is a consequence of the situation we find ourselves in. Given that, has the Lord Chancellor given any consideration to injecting a review mechanism into the Bill?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. In fact, I think it is right to say, in the context of Northern Ireland, that we have given such careful consideration to the engagement of article 7 that we have chosen not to extend the legislation to Northern Ireland. The way in which the sentence is calculated and put together by the Northern Ireland courts does cause potential issues with regard to engagement and therefore potential interference with the nature of the penalty itself. I think that is actually very important in this context: it is real evidence of the fact that the British Government have thought very carefully about the engagement of article 7, and have not sought to take a blanket approach to all the various jurisdictions within the United Kingdom.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about a review mechanism. He will be reassured to know that a counter-terrorism Bill is coming forward that will cover all parts of the United Kingdom. There will be an opportunity on that Bill to debate and analyse further long-term proposals. Inevitably, the status and provisions of this Bill—I hope, by then, an Act of Parliament—will be part of that ongoing debate. I am confident that, through the mechanisms of this House, we will be able to subject these provisions to post-legislative scrutiny in the way that he would expect.
My right hon. and learned Friend has mentioned the effect of this legislation that will keep terrorist prisoners in custody for longer, and he has rightly paid tribute to prison imams, who maintain religious interventions for those whose motivation for their terrorist offending is at least claimed to be religious. Can he reassure us that, given the extra time in custody that many of these prisoners will now serve, such effective and in many cases very brave interventions by prison imams will be given the extra time available to take further effect?
My right hon. and learned Friend the former Attorney General speaks with great experience and knowledge of these matters. He is absolutely right to focus on the specialist intervention of our imams. I think I referred to the fact that we are going to increase resources and increase the number available within our prisons. Both the Home Secretary and I have seen at first hand the partnership working that goes on within the high-security estate when it comes to dealing with these particular challenges. It is precisely that type of specialist intervention that he and others can be confident we will be supporting in the years ahead.
I was going on to explain the extension of parole release to those who serve standard determinate sentences and other transitional cases currently subject to automatic release. In line with the normal arrangements for prisoners released by the Parole Board, the board will set the conditions of an offender’s licence for this cohort when they are released before the end of their sentence. The Parole Board, as I outlined earlier, has the necessary powers and indeed the expertise to make risk-based release decisions for terrorist offenders. The board currently deals with terrorists who serve indeterminate sentences, extended sentences and sentences for offenders of particular concern—the “SPOCs”, as they are colloquially referred to.
There is a cohort of specialist Parole Board members who are trained specifically to deal with terrorist and extremist offenders. They are, in effect, the specialised branch of the board that will be used to handle these additional cases. They include retired High Court judges, retired police officers and other experts in the field, all of whom have extensive experience of dealing with the most sensitive and difficult terrorist cases. Due to the nature of the emergency legislation, I have proposed that the provisions cover England, Wales and Scotland.
The justification for this emergency, retrospective legislation—out of the ordinary though I accept it is—is to prevent the automatic release of terrorist offenders in the coming weeks and months. Given the risk that this cohort has already shown they pose to the public, it is vital that we pass this legislation rapidly before any more terrorists are automatically released from custody at the halfway point. Therefore, we are aiming for this legislation to receive Royal Assent before the end of the month. With the support of this House, I am confident that we can do that. I commend the Bill to the House.
I am grateful to the Justice Secretary for his briefing last week and for his opening remarks, and to the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), who has been keeping me updated in recent days.
This Bill follows the awful terrorist atrocities first at Fishmongers’ Hall on 30 November and more recently in Streatham. My thoughts, and I am sure those of all Members across the House, go out to the victims of these terrible attacks and to their families and friends, and we thank the emergency services who responded so quickly.
Labour Members support the Parole Board’s involvement in release decisions. If this Bill is not passed and rushed through its stages over the next couple of weeks, terrorist prisoners will be on our streets, without any assessment of risk or dangerousness by the Parole Board. That does not leave the House in the easiest of positions, but it is the reality of the situation before us. For the Bill to be durable and workable, it must not simply amount to a delay in confronting the problem; it will also require a relentless focus on, and investment in, the most effective de-radicalisation programmes in our prisons.
I took part in a long debate on sentencing in the last Parliament with the then Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime, now the Secretary of State for Defence, and a number of sentences were increased. In her intervention on the Justice Secretary, the former Prime Minister pointed out —very fairly, I thought—that there has been an issue with the success of de-radicalisation programmes in recent years. Length of a sentence is one matter, but, whatever the length, the programme must be targeted and effective—I will come on to that point in a moment.
We are here to discuss emergency legislation, but there is also an emergency in resources. The Leader of the House indicated yesterday that the Treasury has approved additional resources for the extra time that prisoners will spend in custody as a consequence of the Bill, as well as for the Parole Board. Clearly, however, there must also be a specific and dramatic increase in resources to tackle extremism in our prisons.
But this is not just about resources—my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) made a point about process and expertise, and she is absolutely right—and a strategic approach from the top will be required.
The Justice Secretary made it clear that there is no need for derogation from the European convention on human rights, and he set out the Government’s legal position on article 7. Labour Members firmly believe that we can tackle terrorism and proudly remain signatories to the European convention on human rights. In our view, to leave that convention and join Belarus as the only European non-signatory would send a terrible signal to the rest of the world. We should never sacrifice the values that we are defending in the fight against terrorism and hatred.
Those who perpetrate hatred and violence are responsible for their actions, but it is for the Government to do everything they can to keep our streets safe and minimise the risk of something like this ever happening again. The House is therefore entitled to ask why we have ended up requiring this Bill to be passed via emergency legislation. Automatic early release is hardly new. It has been part of our system for many years, and could already have been dealt with by a Government who took a more strategic approach.
There have been a number of warning signals over the past decade. In his opening remarks, the Justice Secretary mentioned Ian Acheson, a former prison governor who led a review of Islamist extremism in our prisons, probation and youth justice system, which was published in August 2016. Mr Acheson said:
“What we found was so shockingly bad that I had to agree to the language in the original report being toned down…There were serious deficiencies in almost every aspect of the management of terrorist offenders through the system…It was a shambles.”
Mr Acheson proposed 69 recommendations that, according to the Justice Secretary when speaking to the media over the weekend, have been consolidated into a total of 11, eight of which are being implemented. However, in a newspaper article last Thursday Mr Acheson said:
“As part of my review of prison extremism, I made a great number of recommendations that specifically related to a tactical response to a terrorist incident in prison where staff were targeted. I have no way of knowing if or how many were implemented as none made it into the response published by the Ministry of Justice.”
That was only days ago. I do not know whether the Justice Secretary has met Mr Acheson since last Thursday—[Interruption.] I am happy for him to intervene.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I have not met Mr Acheson since last Thursday, but I have met him. Indeed, I took part in a documentary that he produced for Radio 4 a few weeks ago, before the latest attack. His engagement has been valued. I will not go into the precise circumstances in which the report was consolidated, because in essence it contained some sensitive matters that we all understood could not be published.
The hon. Gentleman is right to talk about 2016. We accepted what Mr Acheson said, but things have moved on a long way since then, and the problems that were identified are being tackled directly. We accept that there is still more to be done, but the hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that we have moved on in the four years since that report.
I will come on to whether things have moved on in a moment when I explore what the Chief Inspector of Prisons says about that issue. Last Thursday, however—only days ago—Mr Acheson was clearly unsure of the Government’s position. I hear what the Justice Secretary says about what is in the public domain, which is entirely appropriate. One would hope, however, that someone who led a review for the Government would know four years later whether specific recommendations had been acted on. I also accept what the Justice Secretary says about appearing in a documentary, but I strongly suggest that he meet Mr Acheson fairly urgently, to discuss those matters about which Mr Acheson is not sure, so that they can be cleared up.
I am pleased to hear that, and I hope we will never again be in a situation where someone who led a review is not aware of what is going on years later. That simply cannot and should not happen, as I am sure the Justice Secretary would agree.
There are concerns about the Ministry of Justice listening, and the extent to which justice has been a priority for the Government over the past decade. The coalition Government chose not to make the Ministry of Justice a protected Department when they implemented spending cuts That led to 40% cuts over the past decade, including to the prisons that today we expect to play a vital role in offender management. We know that 21,000 police officers disappeared from our streets, and prison officer numbers have been slashed. There are currently 18,912 front-line prison officers, which is not yet back to 2010 levels. That loss of prison officers has not just reduced the capacity of prisons to deal with rehabilitation; it also means that years of experience of working in challenging environments in our prisons have been lost.
In 2019, 35% of prison officers had been in post for less than two years, compared with just 7% in 2010. I do not mean that those officers are not doing their best in difficult circumstances, but the Government needlessly threw away valuable experience in our prisons.
Does my hon. Friend agree that that lack of prison officers, the privatisation of some of our prisons, and having those young officers, has led to problems in Her Majesty’s Prison Birmingham, which has seen a number of riots over the past couple of years? It adds more to the Treasury’s costs if we have to take away people with experience and later bring them back.
My hon. Friend speaks with great authority about HMP Birmingham, and he is right to identify that if prisons are run in such a way there will be consequences because the time available for meaningful activity is reduced.
The Justice Secretary talked in the media at the weekend about improvements in our justice system since Mr Acheson’s report. He repeated that in his speech and he has repeated it in an intervention a moment or two ago. I therefore thought I would compare what the Justice Secretary is saying with the views of the independent chief inspector of prisons. The latest annual report from Peter Clarke states that
“far too many of our jails have been plagued by drugs, violence, appalling living conditions and a lack of access to meaningful rehabilitative activity.”
That should be a wake-up call to the Government. Mr Clarke went on to say that
“levels of self-harm were disturbingly high and self-inflicted deaths tragically increased by nearly one-fifth on the previous year.”
That is no way for the Prison Service to be run and things must change.
There is also, if I may say so, an issue at the Ministry of Justice with the Government failing to provide it with stable leadership. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is the seventh Justice Secretary since 2010. Of those seven, five have served for 18 months or less. The role of Lord Chancellor should have been respected and not been subject to a revolving door. No wonder there is such a lack of direction and no wonder there is no long-term planning. Justice Secretaries are simply not in post long enough. There are even indications from 10 Downing Street that half the Cabinet could be out by Friday.
I say in all sincerity to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I very much hope he survives in this role—I hope I have not jinxed him by saying that; I could have just ruined his Friday—because there is an enormous job to do. There are 224 terrorist prisoners in England and Wales, of whom 173 have been assessed as having extreme Islamist views. We also know that there is a growing threat from far-right terrorism. If we want properly to manage the risk of terrorist offenders, we need the most effective targeted de-radicalisation programmes to be delivered by staff working in the best conditions we can provide for them.
One area has not been mentioned. When I took part in the police service parliamentary scheme and spent some time with the counter-terrorism units, the one area they highlighted was working on the ground with mental health resources in our communities. That risk decision, the decision at community level about someone’s mental capacity and radicalisation, is really important when we look at resources. The cuts to our mental health services are having an impact on this area.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I think we sometimes see things in isolation, but cuts to many other services have also had an impact, which the Government need to take into account. Indeed, when we talk about conditions for our prison officers to work in, a third of our prisons were built in the Victoria era. There is a £900 million maintenance backlog and a desperate need for new investment.
On mental disturbance, does the hon. Gentleman accept that there are circumstances in which the principle of mens rea may not apply simply because the person in question, for a variety of reasons, some of which may be drug-affected or intrinsic, is incapable of making an act within the framework of mens rea? In those circumstances, should we perhaps be thinking further down the line about what kind of containment people need to restrain them from performing such murderous acts?
A number of issues about mens rea, which is an essential element of committing a criminal offence, have been decided before the courts. However, elements of our law can already deal with those who suffer from severe mental health problems, and they can be used and operated appropriately on a multi-agency basis.
I take this opportunity to reiterate my previous intervention. The suspicion is that there are gravely mentally ill people who are in prison when they ought to be treated as if they are criminally insane and held in a secure psychiatric unit. The concern is that people are being treated as terrorists when they are clearly mad, simply because they have picked up some smattering of something that passes for a religious motivation.
Where I can agree to a degree is that I certainly accept that there are people with mental health problems in prison who, frankly, should not be. The right hon. Gentleman refers, I think, to secure psychiatric units, where there is also a shortage of places. That is another issue that the Government need to accept on the basis of the past 10 years.
I heard what the Justice Secretary said about specialist officers, particularly those in de-radicalisation programmes, but we are tolerating a rise in physical attacks on our prison staff. That cannot be fair to them and it will not produce a constructive environment in our prisons. From September 2018-19, there were 33,222 assaults, including 23,592 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and 10,059 assaults on staff. Levels of self-harm were also the highest ever recorded.
The Bill, I am sure the Justice Secretary will argue, will deal with the immediate crisis of the next few weeks, but he must plan ahead. The crisis in our criminal justice system does not end with our prisons. We also need the best possible probation services and the best possible supervision. In 2014, the Government part-privatised the probation service. I do not think it is unfair to say that it was an absolute disaster. The Government had more than 150,000 people supervised by private community rehabilitation companies and just left the high-risk offenders to be managed by the National Probation Service. The chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, said last year:
“The system which sees private firms monitor criminals serving community sentences is ‘irredeemably flawed’”.
She is right. No wonder the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s predecessor had to announce last year that the supervision of all offenders on probation in England and Wales was being put back into the public sector.
The hon. Gentleman is making a point about capacity, and that seems to be reasonable. Early release—scores of convicted terrorists have been released early since 2013—adds to demand on capacity and he is making a case that we should address that. On that basis, I am sure he would want to support the Secretary of State in taking that pressure away, building morale and, as he described, allowing the police to exercise capacity more effectively.
Well, yes. I have made absolutely clear my support for the measures before us today. My point is simply this: today we will deal with an immediate crisis. What the Bill will not do is deal with the broader and deeper problems we have that will need to be dealt with in the months and years ahead. The National Audit Office announced that the botched part-privatisation of probation cost the taxpayer nearly £500 million. Frankly, it is time for good sense and consistency in policy making at the Ministry of Justice.
The independent review of the Prevent programme, which I secured in the previous Parliament—I think I debated it with the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes)—has been announced, but there is no reviewer. We are now a year from the point at which the Bill that he and I debated received Royal Assent. Lord Carlile was appointed but resigned before Christmas, because he had already expressed views on the programme, and the Government have hardly shown urgency in appointing a replacement. It is high time that they did. I appreciate that that is not the responsibility of the Justice Secretary, but I am sure he will pass on the message to his Cabinet colleagues that the reviewer must be appointed and the review must begin, take place and make recommendations. Today really must be a day when that focus on rehabilitation comes and we turn the page away from a decade of problems in our criminal justice system.
One of the recommendations made by Mr Acheson was for an independent adviser on counter-terrorism in prisons. I would go further and press the Justice Secretary to provide external scrutiny and assessment of the deradicalisation programmes across our prison estate. In that way, this House can regularly assess the position, and we will not again be in a situation where we are taken by surprise or are responding on the hoof. We cannot tolerate our prisons becoming breeding grounds for extremism, and we need to ask searching questions.
I hope that this emergency legislation will pass without a Division. Alongside it, I hope that the Government will now invest in the very best expertise available in counter-extremism and tackle the crisis in our prisons. It is only by doing that that the Government can truly say they are doing all they can to keep our streets safe, and in that we will be holding them to account.
The speeches from both Front Benchers have been very thoughtful and that matches the significance of this debate. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor made a very compelling case for this legislation. It is not the type of legislation that the House should undertake lightly, but protecting the public must ultimately trump all other considerations. It is always right that we should protect the public in a way that is commensurate with the rule of law. I believe that the Government and the Lord Chancellor have managed to achieve that balance and I am glad that the official Opposition recognise that, too. That is a fundamental duty for all of us, and reconciling the two is a considerable achievement, given the pressures we are under at this time.
The reason that I think it is necessary to move in this way has been well set out. I speak as somebody who represents a London constituency: many of my constituents work in and around the places where we have seen so many atrocities. That brings home to us profoundly the catastrophic risk that can come when an individual is released. Even though the index offence that caused them to go to prison may not have led to a very long sentence, the nature—I am sorry to say—of the type of terrorism that we see now, often based on perverted ideologies and the deep-seated hatred that that breeds, gives us the need to be particularly careful and cautious about all forms of release going forward. The automatic point of release will be moved to two thirds—in fact, that will no longer be automatic but will, in all cases, be considered by the Parole Board, and that is a worthwhile and important aspect of the Bill.
I am listening with great interest to everything that my hon. Friend says, as ever. Does he think that the question over the Bill is that it will have a limited effect, whereas the problems that we face have a much longer-term consequence? Does he believe, therefore, that we ought to have a more rigorous analysis in future—this is only emergency legislation—to make sure that human life in this country takes priority over the interpretation of law?
I certainly agree that we need a more detailed analysis of the best approach to a threat that continues to change and develop. My hon. Friend is right about that, and it is right that this is a discrete, emergency measure to deal with a specific and urgent problem. We certainly need to look at the way in which we deal with sentencing, the treatment of such individuals and the protection of the public in that context—that is absolutely right. I happen to believe, lest it be hinted otherwise, that that is perfectly capable of being achieved within our continuing adherence to the European convention on human rights and that a series of British court decisions would tend to support that, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right on the broader thrust that there is more work to do in this field. I got the sense that the Government and the Lord Chancellor recognise that, too.
It is right that we should consider the necessity of the Bill. I would have thought that that had been well laid out now. That is one of the principles of the rule of law. Lord Bingham famously set out a number of principles. One should not act in haste unless there is a compelling reason, but the reality of blood being shed on the streets of this country seems a compelling reason to me. The fact that people have been released and then have swiftly, and frequently, seized articles and used them to catastrophic effect seems to make this legislation both necessary and proportionate, so I hope that the House will have no hesitation in supporting it.
One issue that seems to have raised some concern, particularly in legal circles, is whether there is any risk of retrospectivity. I do not seek to see retrospective legislation, and for the reasons that the Lord Chancellor set out I do not believe that that is the case. When I was in practice at the Bar, it was very clear that the prospect of whether early release might occur was not a consideration that any judge should take into account in passing sentence. The principle was, and always has been, that the sentence passed should be commensurate with the gravity and seriousness of the offence and any other legitimate mitigating or aggravating circumstances that the Crown or the defence can put forward. Whether there may or may not be early release thereafter was never regarded as a consideration affecting the penalty.
That is important for the argument that the Bill retrospectively increases the penalty, which I think is a misguided argument in these circumstances. It was often said that the prospect of early release in effect ameliorates the penalty that was passed, rather than anything else. There is a string of authority in both the UK and Strasbourg courts to the effect that the total duration of the penalty is that which is laid down by the court at the time. That is the bit that cannot be changed retrospectively and the legislation does not seek to do that.
From his long experience of these things, my hon. Friend is making a cogent argument about the character of penalties. He might want to go further. The problem with the assumption about automatic early release is that it is injurious to the very principle that he set out. Early release has always been part of judicial considerations but on the basis of an assessment of risk, merit and worthiness. Automatic early release runs against those principles.
I understand that point and we can debate it in broader terms when the larger piece of sentencing legislation is introduced, as I understand it will be later in the Session. The purpose of this legislation is effectively to deal with that—as well as moving the release point from half-way to two thirds, the Bill automatically states that there must be consideration by the Parole Board. It is very important that the Parole Board has the resource and expertise to carry out the additional and heavy burden that it must take on. There have been good reforms of the Parole Board since the Worboys case, for example, and in the last Parliament the Justice Committee looked at this and urged changes to the way in which parole operated, which have been acted on. There is movement in the right direction but we must be ever vigilant in making sure that the Parole Board has the resource, which may include more specialist resource.
I am very interested in my hon. Friend’s lucid speech and particularly in the fact that he says the sentence imposed by judges is meant to reflect the gravity of the crime. It does explain why so many victims feel short-changed when people are let out early. When we come to consider the larger question of sentencing, would it not make more sense to have judges impose sentences that people will actually serve and to extend them if people misbehave in jail, rather than reducing them if they behave?
My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. We will want to look at a number of issues when we debate the sentencing Bill. However, I say by way of caution that when we start extending the sentence—the penalty—we run the risk of falling foul of the principle against retrospectivity. With respect, I say to him that that is not something I would wish to see. That is different from remission of the sentence for earned good behaviour, which is the traditional system that we grew up with. There is an important distinction to be drawn.
That is an interesting point, but, with respect to my right hon. Friend, it is a wholly different consideration. There has been much debate on this point. The Select Committee has looked at it and urged that for certain offences, such as assaults on prison officers, there is often a compelling case, as a matter of public policy, for that to be charged as an additional offence, rather than be dealt with under the prison disciplinary rules, as is frequently the case. I am with him on that, but perhaps that is as far as we should take it today.
I have one final point about retrospectivity. Some learned commentators have raised concerns on the basis of the European Court decision in the case of Del Río Prada, but that case at most raises a tangential or speculative concern that there might be retrospectivity. The briefing from the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law—I have a lot of respect for that centre, so it is right that I address it—says that arguably this could be regarded as falling foul of the principles; it does not come down hard and fast in that regard. The decision came after a particularly convoluted history of changes within the Spanish judicial system, which is utterly different from what we are doing. Subsequently, there have been decisions by the Strasbourg Court, in the case of the application of Abedin against the United Kingdom, and by the Supreme Court in the UK, in the case of Doherty, where the line of reasoning was much more consistent with the traditional stance we have taken ever since the House of Lords decision in the case of Uttley, which was that the changes to remission and early release provisions were part of the administration or execution of a sentence, not part of the penalty. That seems such a well-established principle that we ought to have confidence that we can act upon it in this case.
I wholeheartedly concur with my hon. Friend’s analysis, but I just wanted to add one point. The Del Río Prada case touched on how concurrent sentences were calculated, which is wholly different from the matter before the House today.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. In legal parlance, I would say that is the most material consideration in distinguishing between those cases and the ones we are dealing with here. I hope that, having considered all those points, the House will be reassured on retrospectivity.
As other hon. Members have observed, it is important to recognise that this is a specific piece of legislation dealing with a specific and discrete problem; it does not mean we should not act urgently to deal with the broader issue of how we deal with this type of terrorism, which has developed in recent years; how we contain those who are deeply radicalised in prison; and how we prevent further radicalisation in prison—there is some concern that the Streatham attacker might still have been receiving radicalisation material while in prison. We need to look urgently at that and at the threat, which many of us have come across, of hard-line terrorist prisoners seeking to further radicalise more vulnerable inmates within the prison estate. That is an issue that Mr Acheson, who has been referred to favourably by many in this debate, addressed. I am glad to hear the Lord Chancellor has been in touch with Mr Acheson.
I share the view of the shadow Minister that Mr Acheson has a good deal more to give to this discussion. Things have moved on since his 2016 report, and he was a most compelling witness when he appeared before the Justice Committee in a previous Parliament, so it might be that we would like the benefit of his views again. I hope the Government will engage directly with him to see how, within the new context, we can continue to take on that and other expertise.
It is also right that we build upon the good work being done by the chaplaincy service in the form of the specialist imams. We have not perhaps given enough credit to the work of prison chaplaincy generally and of the specialist imams, who have a very difficult task to fulfil but do it most admirably. That is the impression I have got from those I have met. What more can we do to give them greater professional—pastoral, if you like—practical and professional support? This is an important area. I hope the Minister will confirm that we intend to continue that work and say what we can do to make sure that the many terrorist prisoners being held in high-security prisons like Belmarsh, near me in south-east London, are being held in a way that does not pose any further threat to staff, in terms of attacks—an issue that Mr Acheson dealt with—or any threat, either physically or in terms of further corruption, to other more vulnerable inmates with whom they might be serving.
In conclusion, this is an important Bill, and I hope the House will speed it through, but there is much more work to do. I will finish, though the Lord Chancellor is not now in the Chamber, by concurring with the shadow Minister on one final point: I, too, have been frustrated, as Chairman of the Select Committee, at the revolving door of Secretaries of State and Ministers who have appeared before us over the years, and I very much hope that the Lord Chancellor will stay in office very successfully and for many years. His handling of this delicate matter, including yesterday, has given him as good a claim as anyone to his office—and I, too, hope that that has not done too much damage to his career.
I concur with the Lord Chancellor’s comments that one of the primary duties of any Government, in any country, is to keep their population safe. I would go as far as to say that that applies to everybody elected to this institution and indeed to any democratic Chamber. Nobody seeks to make their constituency, let alone their country, unsafe. It is in that spirit that we come to this debate.
We understand the spirit of the Bill and the need for urgency—our party has had to deal, in another Chamber, with urgent and special procedures on severe matters that present a danger to the public—but we obviously have other duties, too, and there must be an element of proportionality. I think the Lord Chancellor used the word “cohorts”. It is important that we put it on the record that, despite what might be put across by some tabloid newspapers or by others, we are not dealing with thousands or hundreds; he said that we were dealing with 50 individuals, although some have suggested that it might be an even lower number. Equally, we recognise that, although they may be few in number, the danger and damage they can cause in our communities is significant, as we have sadly seen.
Although I concur with what the hon. Gentleman has said, he will recognise that keeping even one of these people under close surveillance can involve up to 50 members of special branch or MI5. Therefore, even a handful of them will severely test the resources of the security services.
Absolutely. I was going to come to that point, given my involvement as a former Justice Secretary in Scotland. We on the Opposition Benches have a duty not only to ensure public safety, but to challenge and hold the Government to account on proportionality, practicality and operability. We will test and probe issues to ensure that public safety criteria, which are shared on both sides of the House, are met, but I assure the Minister that we do not oppose the general principles of the Bill.
That brings me to the question of retrospectivity, which has been commented on by many Members. It is unusual, it is rare, it is infrequently done, but we are open to it, although we have some caveats, the major one being that we have to get it right. We appreciate and welcome the extensive consideration given to this matter and the sharing with all Members of the logic and thinking, but this is an important point. I am conscious of the analogy of wasps in a jar: if you shake them all about and then let them out, you will get stung. We are, as I say, sympathetic to the point about retrospectivity, but we take on board the points made by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, which Members will have seen today. We seek as much assurance as the Minister can give—we recognise that no absolute assurance can be given—that he is as certain as he can be that we will not face protracted litigation, a rewrite or further emergency legislation, and that we will avoid the potentially calamitous problems that may follow. I think again of the analogy of wasps in a jar.
That takes us on to the substantive issues that have been dealt with by many Members on both sides of the House, but in particular by the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds). The real issue here is radicalisation. Our primary concern on the Opposition Benches is not so much the nature of the legislation, but the action with prisoners, current or future, that has been taken and must be taken in the future. It is one thing to detain them for longer; it is quite another to do something constructive with them when you have them. That is the nub of the problem, and that is the underlying issue that we are seeking to test with the Government.
I think it was the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who mentioned that all will ultimately be released. I had significant discussions with her when she was the Home Secretary and I was the Justice Secretary in the Scottish Parliament. The likelihood is that most will be released bar a very few, perhaps only a handful, and we must ensure that when that date comes, we are as safe as we can be. Although no Government can give every assurance that no one will reoffend, we must be as sure as we can be that the risk is limited, or, indeed, that the actions to protect the public have been taken.
That brings me back to why we are generally supportive of the thrust of the Opposition amendments, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Torfaen. The real issue is not the legislation, but the action to deradicalise when people are within our prisons and monitor when they are without them. We also recognise that this is a relatively new phenomenon. Many Members have said that it has been with us for more years than they care to remember, but it is a challenge for those involved in criminal justice, because this is a new aspect. We have to think outside the box, which is why the input of imams, which was mentioned earlier, is so important. They are to be welcomed—and they sometimes face significant challenges, if not threats, themselves.
The point that the hon. Gentleman is making is absolutely correct, but there will be some who will not be deradicalised. In that circumstance, and when the time comes for their release, they are not mentally ill but they have a different view of the world. Might we not need to review the treason law, as was suggested at the weekend by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat)?
I do not think that that would be required. I think that there are other ways in which we can deal with these people. The Chair of the Select Committee will know better than I, and the law in Scotland is somewhat different in relation to how we address psychopathy, but dealing with mental health issues always involves difficulties. It challenges the courts as it challenges those in the national health service who quite correctly deal with those issues. I think that this comes down to the fact that we are dealing with a new phenomenon. There are those who are mentally ill and who are set loose to cause havoc—either individually or encouraged by others—and the health service has to try to deal with them as best it can, but there are others who are simply malevolent. There are powers under current terrorism legislation, so I do not think there is any need for additional measures in that regard.
That returns me to the question of how we deal with them within and how we deal with them without. Let me start with the latter. Obviously monitoring is extremely resource-significant, as was mentioned by the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). It is not a matter of someone in a rain jacket tailing an individual, even if that someone is accompanied by another. It takes dozens, and often significantly more, because there is back-office work and there are different shifts, and there are different ways of monitoring in the world in which we live. The resources needed just to deal with one individual, never mind the accompanying supply chain, are significant, and we need assurances that that will be provided. More police are required, particularly south of the border. The impact of terrorism on policing is significant, and that must be taken on board, given the other demands that the police rightly face in our communities.
I now come to the former issue. This is relevant to what has been said about the Acheson review, which was published back in 2016. It appears that little has been done since then. I gather from discussions I have had that one of Mr Acheson’s recommendations—which was, quite correctly, welcomed by the Government—was that prisons should have specialist separation units. I understand that some four were subsequently established, but only one—at, I think, HMP Frankland—is in operation. I am open to correction or challenge, but if that is indeed the position, it is simply not good enough. If an independent reviewer of the stature of Mr Acheson—on which we all agree—makes a recommendation, you are duty bound to implement it. If he makes a specific recommendation for units that you go to the trouble of establishing, it is mind-blowing that only one should be operating.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the separation units. We need to think about how we can increase the numbers. People who are already radicalised arrive in prison and then prey on vulnerable inmates to increase the level of radicalisation. It has been suggested that those who have already been convicted of terrorist crimes should be placed in separate units to prevent the spread of radicalisation. The hon. Gentleman has made a very good point.
I thank the hon. Lady. The same has been done in previous years in the case of other prisoners. Even during my tenure, we had special units for those involved in paramilitary activities in Northern Ireland. This is something deeply specialised, but it will require action both by those involved in the establishment of the units and by the Prison Service.
That brings me to the question of deradicalisation programmes. I recognise the difficulty of checking against delivery and ensuring that the programmes are working, but I think that we need to take steps. I have a special request for the Minister: I think that prison officers should have an input in these courses. Their input is currently very limited—indeed, almost nil—and they are outsourced, which is understandable. There are also the specialist resources such as imams, who were mentioned earlier. However, we should recognise that prison officers have remarkable skills. They are able to tell who is pulling the wool over their eyes. They may not be trained in this or qualified in that, but they know psychology and individuals within the prison institution. They can tell you why someone is applying for a course—in the main, because no one can always get it right. They are hugely skilful in distinguishing those who are signing up because they want to be able to tick the box and satisfy the Parole Board from those who are signing up for a course because they believe in it. They do not engage with the prisoners just on the course; they live with them 24/7, and they can see who prisoners are interacting with and what their behaviour is like. I think that we have been remiss in this regard, and I ask the Minister to take my suggestion on board.
Let me end by simply saying that we are satisfied about the need for the Bill. We are satisfied with the general principles. We wish to be assured that retrospectivity will be addressed, and that resources both within and without will be provided. If that is done—although we accept that no Government can give us an absolute, categorical assurance that these people will not reoffend —we can at least go back to our constituencies and say to our constituents that we are doing as much as we can to keep our communities safe.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to make my maiden speech. I am conscious of the seriousness of the topic with which we are dealing today as I embark on the traditional features of a maiden speech, but we know that the positive community stories that I will be sharing are exactly what the terrorists seek to destroy, and what the Bill seeks to prevent them from destroying.
Let me begin by paying tribute to my predecessor, Laura Smith. Laura was vociferous in her advocacy, and, like me, has frontline experience of public services. Before becoming a politician, she was a primary school teacher and a private tutor. It is a good thing to have diverse backgrounds and experiences in this place.
Crewe and Nantwich is a true melting pot of northern Britain, and I could not possibly do all its diversity justice in this short speech. I represent a large number of villages and parishes including Haslington, Willaston, Wistaston, Rope, Hough, Basford, Shavington, Barthomley, Weston, Leighton and Wybunbury. Across the constituency can be seen a host of community activities that embed each of those places in my mind. Hough Village will always be best known to me as the home of a monthly charity bingo club set up by village resident Celia Brown, which has raised thousands of pounds over the years. I pay tribute to the amazing contribution that Celia and her family have made to charity fundraising. Willaston hosts the annual world worm-charming championship, which sees competitors travel from as far afield as New Zealand and Australia. I will ensure that the upcoming reform of the immigration system makes the necessary visas available to those who wish to compete in this important global competition.
We have a host of fantastic local sports teams, including Crewe and Nantwich rugby club, which I play for. There is no better way of keeping your feet firmly on the ground than running around on the rugby pitch on a Saturday with team-mates and an opposition who could not care less about my being an MP: the bruise on my cheek testifies to that. The second team that I play for has a two-part team motto, the first part of which is “Win or Lose”; the second part contains unparliamentary language which I cannot repeat in this place.
Inevitably, however, the constituency is best known for its two towns of Crewe and Nantwich. Nantwich is a true gem in the Cheshire tourism crown, attracting streams of visitors every year, whether it be to the regular farmers markets or the famous food festival, or just to enjoy a stroll around the cobbled pavements with a view of St Mary’s church and the beautiful floral displays of Nantwich In Bloom. It is home to Barony Park, which is championed by the Friends of Barony Park and their irrepressible cheerleader, Rachel Wright.
Crewe is a town with a proud history, and there can be no better example of the kind of town this Government have pledged to support. Everywhere you look, there are people fighting to make a difference: people such as David McDonald and Margaret Smith, who are working hard to improve Crewe as part of the Crewe Clean Team. When the Beechmere residential home burned down last year, the whole community rallied round.
However, Crewe faces a declining high street and an ongoing struggle to return once again to the high point of its enormous contribution to our national economy as home to Crewe Works, which at one point employed 20,000 people designing and building world-famous trains. The site’s famous 11-metre tall wall that had stood for more than a century was finally knocked down last year to make way for development. I grudgingly understand why that might have been the right decision, but it serves as a symbol of what we must get right for all of Crewe. Yes, let’s see progress—as we soon will with the arrival of HS2 and with the Towns Fund investment—but we must ensure that the reward is worth the cost, and losing the wall and the legacy it represented has been a blow for many local residents. Bombardier has allowed me to have a brick from that wall, and it has pride of place in my office to serve as a constant reminder to me of what has passed and what must come next. Why do things such as that wall matter to people? They matter because they help us to tell a story of our lives and our history.
Seven years ago, as a junior doctor, I had the privilege to look after Jan Krasnodebski, a Polish man of quiet dignity, who was admitted to hospital towards the end of his life. His family were deported from Poland to Russia during the war, then allowed by Stalin to join the British Army training camps in Persia. Jan eventually joined the Polish army cadet school in Palestine, and when the British mandate ended, he came to Britain. He went on to live a rich life, but he had no wife or children. We would sometimes talk in the evenings, and he told me of his worry that without children of his own, his life would not be as vividly remembered as it deserved to be. I know, as a gay man, that the question of whether I would have children and how I would be remembered sometimes crossed my mind at the time, so I felt an affinity with him.
We agreed that I would write the story of Jan’s life, so that he could share it with others and ensure that he would be remembered. For a week after I finished work, I sat with him as he quietly and studiously sketched it out for me. It was the story of two generations, his and his parents’, who lived in a world more precarious than most of us can imagine, and full of hardship but also of dignity. What we wrote together was read at his funeral following his death a couple of months after he left hospital. In preparing this speech, I revisited the story. In it, I think we can find some clues as to why, despite the hardship and upheaval that they faced, families such as Jan’s and their communities still lived contented lives. As I share Jan’s words now, they enter Hansard, so he can be sure that his story is preserved forever. Jan told me:
“You can have a happy fulfilled life as long as you do something that you think is important.”
When we get home from this place in the evenings, we climb into bed and all the pomp and ceremony and the expectations on us fall away, and we are no different to Jan in his hospital bed wanting to reflect on his life and feel that it had meaning. Our constituents are no different either. Listening to the maiden speeches of many new Members, I have been struck by how many have spoken about what is increasingly missing from people’s lives: that sense of how they fit in with this ever-changing complicated world we live in. People want meaning and a sense of where they belong. Too often, we forget that that comes in the form of expectations and obligations on us. Delivering on what we must give to others and what is expected of us helps to create our own sense of worth.
There are no simple solutions to this challenge of people struggling with their identity and place in the world. If you have a low-paid skilled job but every week you help to run a women’s refuge, you can feel important. On the other hand, you can have a high-paid, high-skilled job but get lost in the world of addiction, because what you earn has, on its own, given you no sense of meaning. You can live on a deprived housing estate surrounded by drug-dealing gangs but feel no temptation to join them, because your loving family is all the community you need. And you can hold enormous talent in your hands but not feel valued, because society has decided that grafting all day for a great wage is not as important or worthy as going to university.
Today we are talking about the evils of terrorism, but at the heart of any successful terrorist recruitment campaign are people who have lost that sense of meaning in their own lives, leaving them vulnerable to the simple narratives of victimhood and betrayal. We can build infrastructure and create jobs, but all of this sits in a vacuum if it is not part of a broader story of a nation and a community that people feel part of. Of course, I will always believe that it is our families—the very first community we are part of—that ensure we grow to become part of the wider world with confidence, ambition and a sense of right and wrong. People lacking that foundation need our help most of all.
Modern culture holds up as important the people whose stories are being told loudest, on radio and television, in newspapers and on Facebook and Instagram, and whether a story is being told by admirers or detractors, we are made to feel that it is volume that counts. That is something that modern terrorist groups understand very well. Let us make sure that our constituents feel their story is important, however quietly told it is. I finish by returning to Jan’s words. He reflected:
“Though I have written about some of the more memorable events in my life, I would say most of my enjoyment of life has been from the day to day involvement in smaller ways with the Polish community”.
Whether we are addressing terrorism, loneliness, addiction or family breakdown, it is with community, belonging and importance that we need to start if we really want to level up this country. Many people have forgotten that the community right outside their door—in community bingo clubs, world worm-charming championships, parks groups, litter-pick groups and rugby teams—is where they will find that fulfilment, belonging and a sense of importance. Let us work hard in this place to remind them of that, to ensure that our society is one in which no terrorist ideology will ever find a home.
I should like to start by congratulating the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) on his thoughtful and beautiful speech. To give his maiden speech in that spirit shows the way in which he will work hard for his constituents to tell the stories not just of the two towns he represents but of the people within the towns, and also of the search for meaning and the search for purpose in politics. I really must congratulate him on making such a poignant and powerful maiden speech.
I rise to support this legislation. The purpose behind the Bill is the right one. It is to ensure that those convicted of terrorist offences are not released early without a Parole Board assessment of whether they still pose a danger to the public. In the past few months, we have seen two awful terror attacks—one on London Bridge and one in Streatham—and our hearts go out to those who were killed or hurt, and also to their families and to those who were there and witnessed the awful events. We owe our thanks and tributes to brave members of the public as well as to the police, the security services and the emergency services, and to those such as Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who worked so hard on the rehabilitation of offenders in the community, and who worked every day to help keep others safe. They tragically lost their lives in the London Bridge attack.
I agree with the Lord Chancellor and with my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) that we should come together on this, because terrorists seek to undermine our way of life and to divide us, and we cannot let them so do. We have faced terrorist and extremist attacks for many years in this country. We have seen an increase in Islamist extremism and, more recently, an increase in far right extremism. The changing patterns of those threats include an increase in lone attacks by those who have been radicalised, either online or in prison. In those attacks, by extremists on all sides in pursuit of poisonous ideologies, people are hoping not just to hurt and harm us but to provoke fear and reactions that they can further feed upon. So it is a sign of our strength and resilience as a country that most people have always been determined to come together in the face of such extremism and attacks and not to let them divide us.
The Streatham attack highlights a problem. The police, the courts, the security services, the prisons, the rehabilitation and prevention services and the affected communities all need our support and also Government support to keep communities safe. That is why this Bill is justified and needed. When someone has been convicted of terrorism and they are still dangerous to the public, they should not be released early from prison. That means that, before they are released, they must be subjected to a proper Parole Board assessment of whether they still pose a threat. The seriousness of terror events and the dangers of radicalisation mean that the police often rightly intervene before an appalling attack takes place and charge people with preparatory offences, but in some of those cases the police, the security services, the courts, and the prison and probation service are all aware that they are dealing with people who are capable of something even more serious.
People have raised concerns about applying these new rules to those currently serving their sentences, and I accept the Government’s legal advice on the fact that the proposal does not change the length of sentences. We have always had administrative rules about the way in which sentences are served. For example, people are out on licence for the bit of the sentence that is served in the community. However, if licence terms are breached, people can be returned to prison to continue their sentence in custody, so that concept of risk is built into the criminal justice system, the system of custody and the system of sentencing. That is why it is right that the Parole Board should be able to assess the risk in such cases, just as they do in many other cases. It is sensible and proportionate.
I have already said to Ministers that it is important that this legislation is drawn up in a way that is robust against legal challenge, particularly to ensure that Parole Board assessments can take place. I agree with both the Lord Chancellor and my hon. Friend the shadow Minister that we must ensure that we keep our communities safe and do what is right while defending the British values of the rule of law and supporting the European convention on human rights—all the very things that terrorists try to undermine and threaten.
I also accept the need for emergency legislation and accept the Government’s warnings that they, the police and security services are concerned about other individuals who might otherwise be released without parole assessment and who they believe are a danger to the public and should not be released early without any kind of assessment. However, it is right to raise a concern that it is not ideal to be making this kind of legislation in a day. It is right that we do so in these circumstances, but the Government must recognise that it is not ideal to rush through legislation breathlessly.
To be honest, there have been many warnings that such an issue was coming down the track, because the Government have known about the problem for some time. The Home Affairs Committee took evidence from Neil Basu in October 2018 during the course of its consideration of what became the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, and he told us:
“The point that some of our radicalisers are getting short sentences, coming out early, and being able to continue is a problem, as is not having sufficient resources in place to use desistence or disengagement programmes.”
I support the legislation, but I agree with my right hon. Friend that it feels a bit like a sticking plaster. The unanswered questions are the danger here. What happens to the people who we keep in prison longer unless there is effective intervention? What confidence can we have that MAPPA levels 2 and 3 are stringently managed and enforced? That is always the issue that must be addressed when such people come out of prison.
My hon. Friend is exactly right. There is a danger that we are simply reacting to this situation in a hand-to-mouth way, rather than in a more strategic way that recognises some of the underlying issues that need to be dealt with over a long time. We may need further legislation, but that should be done in a thoughtful way, with proper scrutiny, not left until the last minute and, as a result, done in a breathless rush.
The MAPPA review provides exactly that opportunity. We need this emergency legislation to go through, but it is by reviewing the MAPPA process that we will see results. One of the most crucial changes that I would like to the MAPPA process is to include Prevent co-ordinators in MAPPA meetings, because Prevent co-ordinators can understand that someone newly released has come to their community and say, “That individual is still a threat for the following reasons. I can map this individual against the communities and groups that they might be a risk to.” This emergency legislation is important because, for example, if we had had it in place, Anjem Choudary would still be in prison, but the crucial change will be to MAPPA so that Prevent co-ordinators can know where Anjem Choudary has gone and can therefore provide a relevant analysis of what he will do.
I completely agree. Having a link between Prevent programmes and the MAPPA process is extremely important. There is a question here for the Government about how the MAPPA review and the Prevent review are going to link together. The problem is that we do not have a chair in place for the Prevent review, and I am unsure of the Government’s plans for the timetable for the two different reviews. It might be helpful, in fact, if the Minister were able to say something in his winding-up speech about how the two reviews will interact and how the Prevent review will be put back on track with somebody in place.
What happens before a terrorist incident happens and what happens afterwards—whether that be in prison or probation or in assessment—need to be properly integrated, and the expertise in different parts of the system needs to be pulled together and effectively co-ordinated. We have known for some time that Sudesh Amman was due to be released this January, for example, so we need a more effective system to anticipate the challenges, because there have been previous opportunities to change the legislation.
We also need to address what happens at the end of the sentence, because my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) is right to describe this legislation as a sticking plaster if we do not look more widely. When the Parole Board decides that somebody still poses a serious risk, that person will still, however, have served their time after, say, another couple of years. If they still pose a threat to the public at that point, we still will not have addressed the heart of the problem. The former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Lord Anderson, pointed out that if they are sufficiently dangerous to end up serving their whole sentence in custody, they will not have any further licensing conditions attached at the end of their sentence, nor will they be subject to further supervision.
In the past, we had control orders and imprisonment for public protection sentences to address such circumstances. The Minister will know that I opposed the removal of control orders, and we have had debates about the decision to end rather than just to reform IPPs. However, in their absence, the question for the Government is whether the existing arrangements with TPIMs, for example, are sufficient to address the circumstances for individuals coming out at the end of their sentence, having served the full sentence in custody, with no licence conditions attached. Do the Government have plans to address those individuals should they still prove to be a danger?
There is also a massive problem with what is happening in our prisons. The Chair of the Justice Committee has already raised this, but we do not yet have effective enough de-radicalisation programmes in prison. Former public prosecutors have warned that they have been underfunded. Academics point out that some prisoners who are willing to go on de-radicalisation programmes wait so long to get on them that they are released before they are able to do so. There are, of course, concerns about the effectiveness of the assessment of de-radicalisation programmes, the interaction between programmes that may work in the community but not in prison, and the best way to do this.
Nobody should ever pretend that this is easy or that there is a magical response to solve the problems. However, there are real worries that we are not doing everything we could in prisons. The concerns raised by Ian Acheson, who conducted an independent review of Islamist extremism in the prison and probation service, are really serious. He said that frontline prison staff were ill-equipped to handle the situation, prison imams did not possess the tools or the will to tackle extreme ideology, the intelligence gathering system was not working, and there were serious problems of lack of leadership and management and a lack of end-to-end systems. He concluded by saying that, frankly, the prisons are struggling to cope.
I heard what the Lord Chancellor said about things having moved on, but there is a problem in that we cannot judge whether that is right because the Government have refused to publish the entire Acheson report. I understand that there are sensitivities around radicalisation, but even Ian Acheson is not able to say, “Yes, all the problems are being addressed.”
There are continual reports of people being further radicalised in prison. These are cases not where de-radicalisation fails but where, in fact, there is greater radicalisation. Non-radicalised people who go into prison end up being converted not just to Islam but to extreme perversions of the religion that are, in fact, an ideology, not a religion.
A Wigan man was convicted of far-right extremism, but the judge concluded that this person would be vulnerable to further radicalisation and chose not to give him a prison sentence on that basis. We are in a very uneasy situation if our courts are reluctant to give prison sentences because they fear greater radicalisation. The prison system, which is supposed to be keeping us and our communities safe from extremism and terrorist threats, may instead be contributing to the problem and, in some cases, making matters worse.
I do not doubt the huge commitment and hard work of many people across our prison system to try to tackle radicalisation and extremism. However, the evidence we have seen from the outside is that the system simply is not working. It is not enough for the Lord Chancellor simply to give us his word that things have improved if there is no proper system of oversight or checks and balances to ensure that progress is being made. I urge the Lord Chancellor and the Minister to talk to the Justice Committee about what more can be done to ensure proper oversight so that we can be sure we are making progress on what is happening both inside and outside prisons.
We all have a shared interest in ensuring that extremists and terrorists are not able to threaten our way of life, to put people’s lives at risk or to threaten our communities and our democracy. There has often been cross-party consensus on the need to take a sensible approach to ensuring we protect both people’s safety and the values that terrorists challenge—the values of the rule of law and our democratic institutions. We need to challenge their ideology and work ever harder to make sure the systems that are supposed to address this can properly do so.
It is therefore not a surprise that we have cross-party consensus in support of the Bill today. This is a sensible and proportionate response to keep people safe and to address a genuine problem to which the criminal system has to adjust and adapt. It is also imperative on all of us to work further across parties to address some of the deeper, longer-term problems, on which the Government need to do more. I hope we will be able to work across parties on addressing those longer-term challenges so that we can do a better job of keeping us safe.
I follow the line taken by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) on the cross-party consensus that is needed in passing this Bill.
However, as I have already indicated in a number of interventions, I am concerned about the restrictive and restricted nature of this Bill. We should get the Justice Committee to look at the longer-term issues raised by these incidents, murders and terrorist offences. I entirely understand why this Bill has been introduced, and I support it. I am glad the House, as a whole, has clearly indicated the same.
We have to take these problems seriously, as they are deeply entrenched in parts of our society, and they will continue. They will not change just because this emergency legislation has been passed. The Bill will have a limited effect, so we need a longer-term assessment of the real problems that underpin it.
In response to the intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), I mentioned the state of mind of some of the people concerned and the question of whether, in certain cases, it is evidence of some degree of insanity, of a drug-affected mind or of mental disturbance on such a scale as to impinge on the question of mens rea. We do not have time to go into all of it this afternoon, but I want such longer-term assessments because some of these people, from whatever part of society, have had to be confined to Broadmoor and other similar secure places because of their mental state. I put that on the record as a suggestion that needs to be taken up by the Justice Committee and, indeed, other Committees.
I also raised in an intervention that, for me, this Bill does not answer the question of why automatic early release, with the agreement of the Parole Board, should be moved from halfway to two thirds of a sentence. In circumstances where we are dealing with public safety and human life, I do not see why two thirds should be chosen as a boundary line. There are circumstances in very severe cases where I do not believe there should be any release at all, for the reasons I have already touched on in relation to certain people’s instability of mind.
Does my hon. Friend agree that terrorists are traitors? They have declared this country their enemy, and they have declared he and I, and civilians, as legitimate targets to be murdered and assaulted on our streets. I therefore agree entirely that they should serve at least their full sentence. We should be looking at far longer sentences than just 14 years.
My hon. Friend touches on a point that I raised several years ago, shortly after the infamous, terrible murder of Lee Rigby. On the question of persons returning to this country from ISIS, I told the House that, as far as I was concerned, the issue of their return should be evaluated in accordance with article 8 of the convention on the reduction of statelessness, which makes it clear that a person can be made stateless if they give allegiance to another country—the caliphate could be regarded as such in this context. I accept this is controversial, but the United States, for example, already applies article 8 in that way. If the person in question gives allegiance to another country, by definition they have moved into the zone of treason and have deliberately and voluntarily abdicated their allegiance to this country. I put that on the record because we have to take these matters extremely seriously, and I attempted to make such an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. This is about not just external activities, but internal ones, within our domestic law, so we need to take this incredibly seriously. That is why I am appealing for this longer term assessment of all these questions, including the one my hon. Friend has raised, because it is so important and cannot just be put into a category of “rather extravagant thinking”. This is really serious.
As I said earlier, human life and public safety are much more important than the question of whether the courts may or may not interpret a particular provision in a more “fashionable” judicial interpretation than we ought to expect of our courts. I go further and say that human life is more important than any legal interpretation of human rights, which is why I have tabled my amendments. I imagine that the Committee stage will be pretty truncated, so I am not going to go into this in Committee in the detail that I will now. As this is a Second Reading issue and a matter of principle, let me say that we should include in the Bill, in clause 1, the exclusion of the Human Rights Act 1998. I have something of a history in that respect, but so do the Foreign Secretary and many others, such as the distinguished Martin Howe, QC. We were regarded as highly unfashionable some years ago, but issues of the kind that gravitate around the Bill have drawn attention to the fact that we have to take these matters really seriously. I understand that the Bingham Centre has made a number of representations on the matter, and there are clear indications that there are lawyers of some notoriety, if not distinction, who will seek to overturn the provisions of this Bill by going to the courts. I deplore the fact that they would seek to do so.
I am looking forward to the discussion in the House of Lords on this matter, because there are distinguished lawyers on all sides of the debate in that House, who, with the greatest respect to all of us here in the House of Commons, have been practising at the Bar, have been in the Supreme Court and so on. They will be able to bring to bear the right degree of analysis of the case law, which needs to be looked at carefully in this context.
As ever, my hon. Friend is making a compelling case. I suggest to him that this requires a more fundamental review of the characteristic and extent of rights, and how they relate to citizenship, duty, responsibility and the public good. I wonder what he thinks of that.
That is an extremely important point. As my right hon. Friend knows, I have the greatest respect for his analysis when it moves from not just the law into the broader societal and philosophical questions, which ought to inform opinions made in this House; we should not just treat issues of this kind as if they are somehow matters of semantics. We are dealing with the kind of society that we want, and the impact of the terrorism, and murderous and dangerous behaviour, of the perpetrators of these crimes our own constituents. A most recent case involved somebody who travelled from Stafford down to London, and therefore was a matter of immediate concern to my constituents, because he had been living there for some time. The manner in which he was allowed to leave to come down to London and commit murder in Fishmongers’ Hall and in the vicinity is a lesson for us all.
I now want to deal with the retrospectivity elements of this Bill, which relate to my general concern to tie down this issue in the longer term. The Chair of the Justice Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), and I had an exchange about a number of cases. I am well aware that this is not the place for us to attempt to make an assumption that we are able to treat this Chamber as though it is a court of law, although we are, of course, the High Court of Parliament, but that is to miss the point; the fact is that proper analysis of the case law has to be conducted. Some of that has already been done in blogging and in some pamphlets, and I am expecting the House of Lords to home in on it effectively when the Bill gets to that House, although it will not have much time.
We know that Ministers have been warned about the likelihood of a legal battle; despite the assertions of the Government that the Bill is compatible with article 7 of the European convention on human rights—for reasons that I will explain, I am sympathetic to their view—there are those who will argue that it is not. I can see this coming, so my amendment would remove any chance that there could be that kind of legal battle on the applicability of the Human Rights Act to this Bill. My amendment would insert the words
“notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998”.
That is a belt-and-braces approach, and it is what I am seeking. I am not going to move this amendment in Committee with any intention of dividing the Committee of the whole House on it; I think the matter needs further consideration outside this House, and I look to the House of Lords for some indication of views.
My argument goes like this: this Bill is compatible with article 7. No one has read it out so far, so I will do so. It states:
“No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence”—
for conduct —
“which did not constitute a criminal offence…at the time when it was committed.”
This Bill does not purport to create a new criminal offence. Rather, it seeks to prevent terrorists convicted by UK courts on the basis of offences that existed prior to the Bill from having automatic early release. I have already made my point about the length of time indicated. Furthermore, the explanatory notes state:
“The Bill does not retrospectively alter a serving offender’s sentence as imposed by the court, or alter the maximum penalties for offences.”
They state that the Bill is concerned with the “administration of a sentence”. I still believe, despite the exchanges I had with the Chairman of the Justice Committee, that the del Río Prada case could well still come into play there. I fear that it might be used effectively against the Bill. So my conclusion on the question of a textual interpretation of article 7 of the ECHR indicates that is not incompatible with this Bill. However, Parliament does have the power to legislate retrospectively—
Order. I just want to let the hon. Gentleman know that I am sure he will have the opportunity in Committee to address his amendment. I am sure he will be aware that there are quite a few people who wish to speak on Second Reading; I just want to assure him that he will be able to address his amendment during the Committee stage.
I do understand that, but I also anticipate that there may be a need for brevity at that point. That is how these things go, from my experience, which goes back some time. I am talking about matters of principle. I repeat: I am talking about matters of principle.
As established by Willes J in Phillips v. Eyre, courts ascribe retrospective force to new laws that affect rights only if
“by express words or necessary implication that such was the intention of the legislature”.
Clause 1 will amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and expressly restrict eligibility for the release of prisoners who have been sentenced for a terrorist offence
“whether before or after this section comes into force”.
My conclusion on this point is simple: the courts would be expected to give retrospective effect to the Bill.
The principle I wish to address is that I am concerned that the courts have a disinclination and reluctance to give effect to retrospective legislation, particularly when it deals with criminal acts. That is well established, and I could quote Bradley and Ewing, page 56, which explains that. Although I do not think that article 7 applies to the Bill, to ensure that the courts do not find a way around the Bill or a misguided interpretation that would frustrate its real purpose, I shall move my amendment in Committee, for the purposes of legislative clarity and for the avoidance of doubt in relation to the power of Parliament to legislate retrospectively. That is the principle that I am addressing at this moment.
I have no further comment to make for the purposes of this debate, but this matter has to be taken seriously. The wording that I intend to introduce in Committee will be taken as a serious attempt to make sure that no way around the provisions is found by the courts or by some ingenious lawyers, who would avoid and frustrate the purposes and principle of the Bill, as expressed on Second Reading, which we are debating.
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash). He referred to lawyers of some “notoriety” rather than, perhaps, remarkable lawyers; he is not the former. He has raised in the House the considerations relating to his amendment, so should this matter ever reach the courts for adjudication, the courts may, having been served with notice that the wording he proposes in his amendment should have been in the Bill, be even more inclined to accept the argument, knowing that Parliament was fully apprised of the considerations and had the opportunity so to heed the advice. That said, it was pragmatic of the hon. Member to indicate that although he may move his amendment, he may not force it to a vote, hoping instead that it is considered in the other place. I understand why he did that.
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate, which has been incredibly positive so far. We have been considering a serious issue, but every Member who has spoken so far has done so with a determination— in recognition of the difficulties that we have faced as a society from terrorism in responding appropriately, pragmatically, sensibly and swiftly—that this debate should add to the response that we as a Parliament should bring.
It was of benefit to hear from the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill), if I may mention him specifically. He is new to the House, but he has incredible knowledge of a parliamentary approach to early release. He did not refer to any individual cases in his remarks, but Members should know that the hon. Member has been through the political, practical, public and moral rigours of early release for those engaged in terrorist offences. We have benefited from his insight.
Reference has been made already to the contributions from the former reviewers of terrorism and terrorist legislation, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlile, the latter of whom has indicated that he believes that the Bill will be subject to legal challenge. Of course, that may be right, but I do not think that ultimately the House should fear that. It is appropriate that if people feel this legislation is incompatible with the European convention on human rights they get the opportunity to challenge it in the courts, but the Lord Chancellor expertly took the House through all the implications as to whether article 7 is engaged. It is surely engaged, but not in a fundamentally flawed way. It is fair for us to say that, yes, there are the considerations that we have discussed this afternoon and that will be discussed in another place and in the courts, but I believe that ultimately this Bill is the right approach for Parliament to take.
The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) rightly referred to the comments of Lord Anderson QC. It was entirely appropriate for Lord Anderson to say that should this process, through this Bill, exhaust the opportunity for licence, compliance and control within the public sector and society at large, that would be a missed opportunity. We need to be alive to that in this debate. I think the Lord Chancellor nodded when he was considering TPIMs and the protective measures that have been in place and that could be put to good use. Licensing and rehabilitation are important parts of the criminal justice process, so the retention of someone in custody, without giving them the opportunity under control orders, is something that we should think about. We should recognise that if somebody spends the entirety of their sentence in custody without any control on release, that places an even bigger burden on our security services, when other aspects of the criminal justice system should be more appropriately engaged in monitoring, surveying and ensuring compliance and the rehabilitation of offenders who have been brought before the courts previously.
As a representative from Northern Ireland, I must focus on the fact that the Bill does not apply to our jurisdiction. The Lord Chancellor did proffer a view—I think this fairly reflects his comments—that the way we calculate sentences in Northern Ireland means that although the Bill does not fundamentally or injuriously engage article 7 considerations in England and Wales or Scotland, it would in Northern Ireland. I would be keen to explore that in greater detail with the Minister somewhere else. I do not think it would be appropriate to do that on the Floor of the House this afternoon, but it is worthy of further interrogation. I do not challenge what the Lord Chancellor said on the Floor of the House, believing what he said to be true, but I am not sure that what was indicated is right, nor indeed do I believe that it was the totality of the issues that may have been under consideration in connection with the Bill and its application to Northern Ireland. I say that as somebody who has contributed to many debates on terrorism and who lamented the fact that the counter-extremism strategy was introduced in this place and similarly did not apply to Northern Ireland.
The House knows the history that we in Northern Ireland have had in respect of both terrorism and extremism. I have made the point in the Chamber before that as a Member of Parliament for four and a half years I have seen a member of my own constituency murdered by the Provisional IRA, an organisation that most in the Chamber would believe does not exist any more; I have had a prison officer in my constituency murdered by dissident republicans through an under-car booby-trap bomb; and in January last year I had a father murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in my constituency. In four and a half years, we have had three individual murders by three different paramilitary terrorist organisations, at a time of peace. So it does jar, whenever we lend our weight—give our support—to counter-terrorism measures in this place, that we are not incorporated.
Members who have an interest in Northern Ireland affairs will be aware that the political process and the Good Friday agreement led to the early release of terrorist prisoners in Northern Ireland, and that there were two protections. Everyone was released on licence, and legislative provision was made for those licences to be revoked if it was the view of the Secretary of State that the person had engaged in activity that was leaning towards paramilitary or terrorist activity yet again: the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 and the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001.
In preparation for the introduction of this Bill, I tabled questions to the Northern Ireland Office to ask how many people who had been jailed in Northern Ireland as a result of terrorist activity had been released and had their licence subsequently revoked because of their activity. One answer, on the 1998 Act, was that two licences had been revoked since 1998, but I got the most obtuse answer on those who had licences revoked under the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order.
When you are trying to paint a picture, Madam Deputy Speaker, and you are trying to do research to understand where we have had parallel experiences in the past, and where people have been released for altogether different political reasons and under a different political settlement but have had licences revoked because they re-engaged in terrorist activity, it is important that this House has those figures. The answer, from 2001 to 2020, was that policing and justice was devolved in 2010.
That answer tells us nothing. I think it entirely discourteous to me, as a Member of Parliament seeking information, and to the House. It does not answer the question about 2001 to 2010 and it does not answer the question about licences revoked under national security considerations—information that would have been appropriate and important to inform us during the passage of the Bill.
That is a very fair question. When national security considerations are engaged—so that relates to terrorism—the devolved institutions at Stormont do not have a role; that remains the competence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. But there are issues that I want to pursue, and I hope the Minister will give a commitment that we can have a discussion about article 7 and how it is engaged differently, in a way that makes the Bill incompatible with the European convention on human rights but not in England, Scotland or Wales.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I think you know our position when it comes to legislation to protect society and curtail the excesses of those who want to frustrate everything we value in the United Kingdom—the positive values and principles that we hold dear in this Parliament and in this place. We will support this Bill and I am grateful for the opportunity to make those ancillary comments about Northern Ireland, which I hope help to set this debate in context.
Except for love infused by hope, fear is the most vivid of emotions. Love is perhaps more readily remembered, but fear is more easily envisaged, because fear in itself is the imagining of horror that might happen. That is why provoking fear has been the instrument of bullies, thugs, despots and torturers through the ages—to terrorise, hurt, harm, maim and murder is designed to intimidate each and all of us, and to undermine the certainty of order that underpins social solidarity.
Today the provisions we debate are designed to revisit the means of re-establishing order, and to reassure the virtuous that the wicked will not succeed. The Secretary of State described in his opening remarks the metamorphosis of terrorism—the fact that it is constantly changing, and so becoming harder to counter. There are obvious changes: the adaptability—the flexibility—of terrorists, and the instruments used to terrorise are altering. The spontaneity of terrorism is altering, too. The business of the security services and the police, and the legislation that underpins their business, must be just as flexible—must adapt to meet the changing character of terrorism.
The security services and the police, as I learned when I was the Security Minister, constantly refine what they do to anticipate and counter fanaticism, but early release is bound to undermine their morale, as well as to stretch their capacity. The number of subjects of interest, leaving aside those that have been released from prison early, already presents an extraordinary challenge to our security services and police, as we know from various debates that we have had and various reports on this matter, about which time prevents me from going into detail. Simultaneously, public faith in the rule of law is critical, and I suspect that most of our constituents would be amazed that we have released so many terrorist convicts early. I think they would regard that with disbelief. That we have allowed formulaic leniency to characterise the treatment of convicted terrorists is extraordinary, and in my judgment unacceptable.
It is not as if there had not been warnings, as the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) said. In 2018, signals were sent that this would have the kind of consequences that we have now met with horror. The Government are acting decisively in response, to reinforce the legislative powers necessary to allow the police and the security services to protect the public. Public safety, as has been said repeatedly, is the heart of this business.
I suspect that, as the Chair of the Justice Committee said, the enhanced role for parole boards will require greater expertise. The measurement of risk will also change, as the character of terrorism and our response to it changes. We need to be able to assess risk, as we always have, in respect of early release, for parole is about measurement of risk—it always has been—but it is also rooted in the idea that someone who is going to be released early deserves to be released, and will not create further harm and danger. I believe that the rehabilitative aspect of criminal justice is accepted across the Chamber, but the retributive aspect of justice should be accepted too. This is also about punishment—about punishing guilty people who have, through due process, been found to have done the most awful, horrendous, things, and we should not be ashamed to say that.
As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, I was pleased and proud, as Security Minister, to guide the Investigatory Powers Bill—the 2016 Act—through the House. That Bill struck a balance between the protection of the public and the necessary safeguards that should always be applied when we are limiting people’s freedoms—maintaining the tenets of a free society and defending those freedoms from the anarchy of fear and disorder.
Since that time, many people have been released early. I shall be brief because I am anxious to allow others to contribute, but before I conclude I shall look at the numbers. I consulted the Library, as good Members of this House do, and was surprised and disappointed to find that since 2013 something like 163 convicted terrorists had been released early. By the way, I excluded from my considerations anyone who had been serving a sentence of less than a year, so those are just the people serving a sentence of somewhere between 12 months and more than four years. Therefore, leaving aside short sentences, the more serious terrorist prisoners had been released in significant numbers. Just imagine the effect on our Security Service and police of having to deal with the consequences of those releases.
Some of those released will have been rehabilitated and deradicalised, but we know that that does not always happen. I strongly support the legislation, which strikes the right balance. Ordered societies are built on the protection and promotion of shared public interest and the defence of the common good. To face down terrorism and the fear that it spawns, and to face up to our responsibility to protect the people we serve, we should support this legislation as it progresses through the House. I anticipate that it will be necessary to challenge those who seek to undermine it on the grounds of advocating the rights of certain people. We in the House of Commons must stand together to defend the common good and promote the national interest.
It is always a privilege to follow the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes). I was privileged to work with him when he was Minister for Security—a time he mentioned in his speech.
My thoughts are with the victims of all terrorist attacks and their families, and I recognise the hardship that they have all gone through. It is important, in this debate and in any debate on the subject, that we remember those who have suffered incredibly because of our failures as parliamentarians, failures of our legislation, and failures in the support with which we provide people.
There are two issues to consider: resources for our Prison Service, and the things behind that—the soft power, which we need to get right. It is not enough to extend sentences; we have to put right the things behind that. That is what I want to concentrate on. Of course we should look at the number of prison officers and the support they get—a point my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) rightly made. It is important to ensure the right corrective controls in the prison framework. At the moment, we are failing on that. We need to get that right, get proper resourcing, and move forward.
A lot of Members spoke about imams coming into prisons. The issue is twofold; there is the question of psychotherapy and counselling for the people they are visiting, and the need to tackle those people’s misguided version of Islam. They do not practise Islam; they practise what they believe is Islam. Islam in itself is a peaceful religion.
As a religious education teacher, I concur with the hon. Member’s viewpoint. In no way do the radical views of this small minority reflect the views of Islam. I am glad he raised this point; it is important that we ensure that it comes across in our national media, and in national debates.
I thank the hon. Member for his contribution.
How do we assess and work with these radicalised people? A lot has been made of deradicalisation, but we need the right people, theologically speaking, to do it. We do not have a principal education facility to train imams who go into prisons. I had a friend who was deputy governor at HMP Birmingham. The prison brought in an imam to try to speak to somebody who was radicalising the rest of the inmates. After a two-hour one-to-one, the imam came out saying, “I think I agree with the inmate.” That was due to the so-called imam’s lack of knowledge. Just because someone calls themselves an imam, it does not mean that they are able to deal with this important issue.
The right hon. Member speaks from experience of these issues. He is quite right to say that. It is very difficult for those who do not understand religion to put people into places of religious control and support. That is my clear point. We should have proper registration of people who go into these institutions. Anybody who goes into them should be required to have the proper qualifications and certifications, yet we let most people walk in, and we say that they can do this job. We have heard stories of radicalisation being perpetuated in certain prisons by some of the people who have gone into them. It is important that we look at how we move forward.
I intervene partly to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the good work that he has done in this field over a considerable time. He points out the difference between Islamism and Islam—a difference too rarely identified by our media, as he says. Perhaps a review of all the Prison Service’s work on the appointment of imams and their work in prisons should be part of the Government’s ongoing plans to address the issue.
Again, I concur with the right hon. Member. As for the Government moving forward on this, for the past 10 years we have not paid enough attention to what has gone on. We need to look at this seriously. The two incidents we are considering, as well as others, and the potential release of other prisoners have brought the issue to our attention.
A big functional issue in prison is how we position inmates. The Acheson report looks at segregating these prisoners. How to deradicalise is a really big issue. If we put these prisoners all together, they become a group. If we put them with other prisoners, they radicalise them. We cannot keep prisoners on their own, because human rights law does not allow that. There is no magic wand of deradicalisation. We have to take the issue very seriously. We have to get the right people, with the right understanding. Good work has been done in Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on ways of deradicalising. We have to learn lessons from how those countries are proceeding, in order to address these issues. We have to go further in looking at those methods, whether they are relevant, and how they relate to what the community wants to do.
We have to look not just at prisons, but at external departments that deal with the issue. We have to consider education, under what licences we allow madrassahs to operate—if they have a licence at all. The only consideration for a local authority in granting permission for a madrassah is whether it would cause traffic congestion. If an applicant clears that hurdle, they can have one. No heed is given to the qualifications of the imam, there is no proper scrutiny of their past, and there are no security checks. Those are very important issues for us to look at in deciding how we move forward.
As for the people we know of, they are the tip of the iceberg. There is still significant radicalisation taking place, and we need to address that in the community. Radicalisation is progressing in prisons because there is a captive audience there. We need to move forward. We need to look at the availability of resources in prisons, because the resources that are required to deal with this problem are quite significant
While we are looking at Islamic extremism, we also need to look at far-right extremism. If this Bill is to apply to terrorists, it must also apply to far-right extremists —it is important that that is said. The contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) made a lot of sense. I pay tribute to her for the great work that she has done on these issues, including as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. She deserves commendation for the great balance with which she has worked on these matters. It is important for that work to move forward.
It is also important to look at how we police these issues. As my right hon. Friend said, we need to look again at control orders for when people come out of prison. In the past 10 years, we have forgotten about control orders. We need to get back to that issue, look at what is valid and appropriate, and see how we can move forward. That is hugely important.
I support the Bill because it is necessary for us to move forward with the resources currently available to us, but we need to have a much deeper look at how to resolve this issue for all our communities in the long term.
I will speak briefly about why I welcome the Bill and why I believe it is necessary to tackle the issues on which many hon. Members have made very good speeches this afternoon. May I first congratulate the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and Ministers from the Department on the constructive and decisive action that they have taken? I pay particular tribute to the Labour party and the shadow Solicitor General for supporting this measure, which I think shows the importance of the subject.
As the Lord Chancellor said, the first duty of any Government is to keep their people safe, and this Bill goes some way to increasing the likelihood that that will happen. It increases the likelihood of ending the uncertainty for victims, their families and those who have been affected by these atrocities, and it will go some way to restoring the confidence of my constituents and people across the country in the sentencing guidelines for people who commit these most hideous crimes.
I want briefly to talk about how terrorism affects everybody, directly or indirectly. There are two occasions in particular that stick in my mind. The first was 7/7. I was 15 years old at the time and—I hope hon. Members do not tell me off—I chose that day not to go into school. I remember the breaking news coming through on the television. My father was working in London at that time. In fact, my family were all working in London; I am a Londoner. I remember trying to make some phone calls to see whether they were okay. For some reason, I got a crossed line and got through to a lady when I called my father’s phone. This woman was trying to find out where her daughter was because she was using the tube that morning. She was terrified, fearful and concerned about where her daughter was. We spoke for just two minutes, but I tried to reassure her and she reassured me.
The other occasion was the Westminster Bridge attack, which happened while I was a special adviser to Sir Patrick McLoughlin. I was walking up Whitehall when the shots were fired, and was locked down in the Cabinet Office. Sir Patrick was locked down in here. Members of my family were desperately trying to find out whether I was okay, and I was trying to find out whether friends in this House and around the Chamber were okay. I mention both those occasions to show that we are all affected by terrorism.
Terrorism spreads fear, harms lives and, most importantly, costs lives. But this Bill goes some way to giving some reassurance to the victims, families and people who are affected by terrorism that those who commit these crimes will go to prison and stay there. Sadly, we cannot say with certainty that attacks such as the ones I have mentioned will not happen again. We all know that; I am afraid that it is the nature of the beast.
My hon. Friend spoke extremely eloquently about his own experiences in London. Greater Manchester has certainly experienced its fair share of terrorism, including the 1996 bombing and the atrocity at Manchester Arena just three years ago. Does he agree that the terror does not just stop with the initial act, and that by restricting early release we are at least giving the family some comfort, some measure of protection from the damaging effects of the attacks and a chance to heal?
I absolutely agree. As he represents a constituency from that region, he will have seen the concern and fear that went across the region at the time of those attacks. That is absolutely why the Bill is necessary. May I pay tribute—as I should have done at the beginning of my speech—to the security services, the police and all those in the emergency services across the country who have to deal with these incidents? I also pay tribute and my respects to the victims and their families.
As I said, we cannot say with certainty that something like this will not happen again, but we can give certainty to people across the country that the perpetrators of these crimes are put away and kept away, with the reassurance that if they are, in consultation with the Parole Board, released two thirds of the way through their sentence, they will be monitored properly and in conjunction with the Parole Board.
Colleagues in all parts of the House will have their own memories of attacks like these, as do so many of us who live or work in London. We must never forget those who have lost their lives due to the barbaric actions of terrorists. We must also never let the spectre of terrorism stop us from living well. The aim of terrorism, as I have outlined, is to spread fear. I am enormously proud that the people of London—I am originally a Londoner—are not allowing these attacks to succeed by making us too afraid to go about our daily lives. This Bill goes some way towards removing the fear of victims, because the killers in these cases will serve their sentences and be monitored properly. The involvement of the Parole Board is absolutely essential, and I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for outlining that.
We must question why these attacks happen. The perpetrators of the attack at London Bridge in November and of this month’s attack in Streatham were both released from prison automatically at the halfway point of their sentence, with no involvement from the Parole Board, to serve the rest of their sentence on licence. The fact that they were able to commit these atrocities shows that this approach must be changed, and that is why I am glad that the Government are doing so with this Bill. It is vital that automatic release is not applied to those convicted of terrorism offences and that the Parole Board is involved in each of these cases to assess whether or not these people should be released.
However, I do ask for some reassurance from the Minister on the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). If the perpetrators of these attacks serve a full sentence or go through release in consultation with the Parole Board, we must not see that as the end of the journey. Rehabilitation, and a reassurance to people across this country that these people are being watched and monitored, is absolutely vital. We do not want another Streatham to happen. We know that this guy was on the records of the security services. Despite these actions being taken, it is absolutely vital that we have some reassurance that we will go further to make sure that these people are being monitored adequately.
These changes will not only make us safer but give the public more confidence in the ability of our criminal justice system to deal with terrorists. This is a valuable and much-needed piece of legislation. Moreover, it is the right thing to do. The Lord Chancellor is right to take action and should be congratulated on doing so swiftly. That is why I will support the Bill this evening.
I, too, put on record my thanks to the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), who has kept me updated in recent days.
In the wake of the two recent terrorist attacks, it is absolutely right that the Government look at the legal framework to decide whether it is adequate. Like the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Paul Holmes), I was caught up in the 7/7 bombing. I was on one of the tube trains behind the one that was blown up at Russell Square, and I remember the unbearable heat that came from the blast. I was also in this place during the Westminster lockdown. The hon. Gentleman is right that many of us have been affected by acts of terrorism, but with respect, many of us nevertheless come to this debate with slightly different views.
This Bill does three things. First, it brings about an end to automatic release and applies that retrospectively. That is overdue, but very welcome. Liberal Democrats have said before, and we say again, that this part of the law is currently wrong, and it is right that this House seeks to change it. The Government are rushing this Bill through to get to Royal Assent before the end of the month and before the scheduled release of other terrorists. However, this part of the Bill alone, on ending automatic release and applying that retrospectively, would achieve the Government’s goal—and, indeed, the priority of all of us to keep the public safe. This part of the Bill alone would stop the release of terrorists without Parole Board agreement. It would be possible to adopt just that part of the Bill for it to be a change in the administration of a sentence in a way that is compatible with the rule of law.
However, the Bill tries to do two other things that, I think it is fair to say, are problematic. The second thing it tries to do is move the point of release from the halfway point to the two-thirds point for future offences. Of course, it is the natural instinct of all of us to have bad people locked up for longer, but who would want somebody locked up for longer if there was evidence that that could in fact make them more radicalised and more dangerous at the point that they are released?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that point. Much of the evidence suggests that what helps the deradicalisation process is not only how people are treated when they are incarcerated, but the amount of time they have on licence in order to find a home, rebuild family connections and do all the activity outside prison. There is evidence to suggest that the time on licence can make more of a difference to reducing reoffending rates and deradicalising people.
Can we think about specifics? The last two attacks were very different. As I said in an earlier intervention, the second of the two attacks was by someone who was clearly mentally deranged. The earlier attack was by someone who appeared to have taken all the deradicalisation on board and to be a model prisoner. We have to recognise that we are dealing with a kaleidoscope of personalities, not necessarily people who have been fooled by something and who can reasonably be brought out of that situation.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for making that point, which relates to both capacity and what can be done in prisons and while prisoners are on licence to ensure that they are deradicalised and to assess their behaviours.
As I was saying, there is currently no evidence that longer periods in prison have any rehabilitative effect, and there is some evidence to suggest that they might be counterproductive. For all of us who put national and public safety first, that should be very worrying.
The third element of the Bill is retrospectivity. Retrospectively applying the first part of the Bill, to end automatic release, is fine, but retrospectively moving the release point is problematic. The Government and some Members today have pointed to individual parts of case law, but there is a long-established principle against the retrospectivity of criminal laws. The Government have suggested that this is only about changing the administration of a sentence, whereas legal commentators have pointed out that the Bill arguably also changes the scope of the penalty. The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law said in its briefing circulated to Members this morning:
“By effectively overturning judicial decisions about sentencing the Bill also comes uncomfortably close to legislative interference with the judicial function.”
The last point that I wish to address is the speed with which the Bill moves forward and the reasons for it. As I said, nobody wants these prisoners to be automatically released, and the first part of the Bill would tackle that and keep the public safe, but there is a reason why we debate and scrutinise laws in both Houses and have specialist Committees to look at our laws. We know that fast law can make bad law, and there is an even greater risk of that happening when four of the parliamentary Committees that would have scrutinised the Bill—the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Home Affairs Committee, the Justice Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee—have not yet been appointed.
Does the hon. Lady recognise that, although policy should be based on evidence and research, that is not necessarily a good thing in the context of terrorism, where we have an evolving set of threats? With evidence-based research, it can be four years before we formulate and implement policy, by which time the threat has invariably moved on. We therefore need to employ a broader range of measures, including the use of specialists in interrogation of those who deceive, to bolster the ability of the Parole Board, and training material for prison officers and those involved in deradicalisation. Speed is required in order to adapt, so I support the Government’s position, because an evidence-based approach is not appropriate in this context.
The hon. Gentleman will recall that, in my opening remarks, I made the point that this was a very overdue change. In fact, we have had many years where we have seen the effects of increased radicalisation in prison simply because of a lack of resources both for our prisons and for our parole service, so he is right to point to that element.
That leads me very nicely to my next point: because of the speed of the passage of the Bill, there is not sufficient opportunity for pre-legislative scrutiny. I would argue that, in the absence of adequate pre-legislative scrutiny, hon. Members should all sign up to a system of post-legislative scrutiny. Others in this debate have called for a review mechanism. The Government say there is other legislation coming down the line, but we know that legislation can slip, so I will finish by asking the Government to think again about this particular point to make sure that we have sufficient post-legislative scrutiny and that this law—
I waited to intervene until a point at which I agreed with the hon. Lady, because I thought that was in the spirit of this debate. She is right about the need to review these provisions, but as she said a moment ago, any number of Committees will be able to do that in the course of time. We can move ahead with rapidity to defend the public, and then look at these matters in the round through the processes she has set out.
The right hon. Gentleman is right that this legislation will of course be scrutinised in due course, but it is vital and right, because we are moving on with it so quickly, that we write into law a statutory review in one year’s time.
I conclude by saying that there is a danger that Bill will become a law of unintended consequences. In summary, we welcome the end to automatic release and doing so retrospectively—that is a good move—but we have concerns about changing the release point, particularly if that ends up allowing people to be released who are more dangerous than before. There are also questions to answer about the impact on the rule of law in applying retrospectivity to the release point.
This Government are putting their money where their mouth is and doing exactly what they said they would do to deal with this urgent and specific problem, and I want to thank everybody who has helped put this Bill together.
Following the attack in Streatham, the Government committed to introducing emergency legislation to ensure that terrorist offenders, including those currently serving, will no longer be released early and automatically. The House would not think that, back in my home of North Norfolk, terrorism is much of a problem. I still remember, many years ago, when we were the first business in the community to take out terrorism insurance, and we wondered at the time why we were doing it. Look how times have changed. It is exactly why we need this Bill today.
Sadly, terrorism continues to be a sickening and cowardly set of acts that ruins lives, killing innocent people and devastating communities in our incredible country. We will not let the terrorists win; nor will we allow extremist behaviour to divide our nation. Many Conservatives are here, and we all stood on a manifesto in which we pledged a raft of measures to crack down on crime and to introduce tougher sentences. I guess I speak for everybody here when I say that we are pleased that these are well on their way.
This Bill is needed to do just that—to ensure our country feels safe. It is a fundamental job of Government to help to protect their citizens. Those who wish to hurt us must not be released early, so I welcome the end of halfway release for terrorist offenders and that offenders cannot be released without serving a minimum of two thirds of their sentence. Indeed, no terrorist offender will be released before the end of the full custodial term unless the Parole Board agrees, and that is absolutely right. I also welcome measures to rehabilitate and deradicalise. Society must always have measures in place to help eradicate ideologies. Education will play a vital role in that, and we need the resources to enable that properly, as well as work on the root causes of terrorism.
For some people, however, there is no way back, and it is right that those terrorists who are considered to be a continuing threat to public safety spend the rest of their time in prison. As we invest in prison capacity, I welcome tougher sentences, and a new minimum sentence of 14 years for the worst terrorist offenders. Sadly, terrorism is still prevalent in the world today, but it must not prevail. The Government must show, not just to the public, but to the terrorists, that we will not tolerate such despicable acts, and that radicals who are prepared to commit such acts will pay for them with longer, tougher sentences, and with the loss of that basic right to freedom that they took away from the people they harmed.
I welcome the fact that the Government will increase counter-terrorism funding to £906 million, which represents a £90 million year-on-year increase. Victims must also be supported, and the immediate investment of £500,000 to increase the support provided by the victims of terrorism unit shows the Government’s determination to ensure that more victims receive the support and advice they deserve. I am always proud of the way that the British people bravely come together in the face of such attacks, and show beyond doubt that terrorism will never defeat the British spirit. I also pay an enormous tribute to the policing forces who look after us day after day, and who risk their lives to protect us—not least those who serve in this building—and I commend the Bill to the House.
For several years now, people in the security world have been privately warning that we face the release of a bulge of extremist prisoners, after the first wave, 10 or 15 years ago, of significant and serious terror attacks in our country. Of those who committed the two recent attacks, one terrorist had a short-term sentence and may not have been part of that group, but one certainly was, and had been through a rehabilitation process.
I wish to raise some issues, and I hope that the Minister will either write to me or respond to them at the end of the debate. I will also refer to recent articles by Ian Acheson, who has pertinent things to say—he has been referred to by a number of Members across the House.
Ian Acheson recently argued that the system for managing extremist prisoners—there are about 220 in our system overall—is still flawed. Indeed, he described it as “broken”, and argued that evidence for that came out at the trial of Mohiussannath Chowdhury, who was recently convicted of preparing acts of terrorism.
Acheson described Chowdhury’s time at Belmarsh as a form of finishing school where he freely associated with other jihadis, including people who were serving a minimum of 30 or 34 years in prison. He said that Chowdhury regarded what he considered to be a crude, de-radicalisation programme as “laughable”, and that within days of his release he was planning new attacks and waiting for others to be released from prison. What reassurance can the Lord Chancellor provide to show that we are moving on from that position?
This issue has been of significant concern to people in the police and other security agencies for some time. Indeed, we know about the remarkable amount of police time that goes into monitoring highly dangerous people when they leave prison, because in the most recent attack that individual was being monitored. Such monitoring is not done just by a single individual; it is done by groups and teams of police officers, and others.
In the past two weeks, I asked the Lord Chancellor—I very much hope he will remain in his job; he is doing a cracking job and he is a superb Lord Chancellor—about separation units. He said that he hoped that although the Government were reviewing the situation, we had got the balance about right. I respectfully ask whether that is still the case, because the separation units we have are not the units that Ian Acheson recommended. He recommended separation units that would take prisoners out of the general prison population to ensure they were completely incapacitated from radicalising others over a significant and sustained period of time, around which individual responses to those individuals would be built. As other Conservative Members have said, the range of psychological conditions of extremists ranges from people who are probably just very mentally ill, to people who are very bad but in absolute, coherent control of their actions and are very good at radicalising and proselytising others. What Acheson describes as a sheep dip approach and generic psycho-social interventions from secular people—people trained in a secular approach to psychology—will not work for people whose universe is extremely different and built on a warped but theological basis.
Acheson said specifically that the Prison Service had unwillingly adopted some of his recommendations. The Lord Chancellor was good enough to say that we were adopting them, but apparently at a lower level there has been some resistance. Out of our three separation units, one was mothballed before it began, one lies or was lying empty, and the third has barely a handful of residents. I would be very grateful if the Lord Chancellor or other Ministers talked to us about the day-to-day life of separation units. Perhaps MPs should visit them. I am visiting one of my prisons next week and I will be talking about the culture in prisons, both in my constituency and more broadly, because this is probably an issue on which we do not spend enough time. Clearly, there are significant problems. If people are coming out of prison and killing our fellow countrymen, we must prioritise this situation and we probably have not been doing so.
Acheson warned of a fear of litigation driving some decision-making. We all have to be mindful of the law, but a fear of the human rights lobby should not be a reason for forcing or allowing people out who then go on to kill and maim their fellow countrymen.
The final point, which I think is valid, relates to the safeguarding of vulnerable prisoners—the vulnerable prisoners being the terrorist prisoners. I sort of get that at a certain level. In the hostage and crisis negotiators course, the police teach that the person trying to kill other people or take hostages is in a state of crisis and in a vulnerable state. Morality aside, that is clearly true. However, in practical and moral terms, treating the person who is sticking a knife to somebody’s throat or walking on to the tube with a bomb as someone in need of safeguarding is, frankly, not as important as treating the people that that person is going to kill. They are the ones in need of safeguarding from that person. When we talk about safeguarding extremist prisoners, I am wary of using that language—I understand why it is being done—because I think it goes down a morally and ethically dangerous route. We are not making a moral distinction between innocence, which is what the term safeguarding should be used for, and people who want to do considerable harm to other people. Indeed, they see it as a perverted and twisted religious duty, as part of a holy jihad, to slaughter other people. As my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) said, that can be a part of the mindset. It is on the spectrum of that mindset.
I know that other Members wish to speak, so I will wrap up on this point. I would very much like to be reassured on some of the questions and issues I have raised, because they are concerns felt by the people who are directly responsible for trying to protect the British public, as well as by Members of this House.
Order. We have had plenty of time for this debate but there have been some very long speeches. We need to leave time for proper wind-up speeches from Front Benchers—many people have asked questions of the Minister that ought to be answered in here, so there should be time for him—so I will have to ask Members to make very short speeches of three minutes.
We in this place exercise our duty to protect the people we represent, amend the law where appropriate and ensure the highest standard of living and safety for everyone in this country. I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill, which will implement more stringent, preventive measures, ending the automatic half-way release. Increasing the threshold so that two thirds of a sentence is served, as a minimum, provides more justice for victims and helps to protect wider society. I also hugely welcome the fact that the Lord Chancellor outlined the role that the Parole Board will further play in such decisions.
A big part of tackling radicalisation and decreasing the frequency and severity of crimes of this nature must be community-led. We need to empower people to report suspicious activity, however great or small the suspicions may seem, and for those reports to be received with the utmost seriousness and investigated thoroughly. The attack on Westminster bridge, in particular, hit close to home.
The terrorist who stole two bright lives on London bridge in November was raised in my constituency. I will not name him and hope that his name is forgotten alongside his hatred. This individual deserves no recognition. I have spoken to faith leaders in my community and they have unequivocally condemned this individual’s actions. As a former religious education teacher, I know that such viciousness and violence is born through extremism, not through religion. Islam is a peaceful religion and the actions of this man in no way reflect on the many millions of loving, law-abiding citizens who also worship Islam.
We cannot and must not be lenient with those who attack the core values of this nation and all that it stands for. One of the victims of the attack in November last year was Saskia Jones. She was from Stratford-upon-Avon, my childhood home. I did not have the pleasure of knowing her but we were raised in the same community. The impact of her death and the grief felt by such a small, close-knit community is virtually unimaginable. My deepest condolences go to Jack and Saskia’s loved ones, and those who were harmed in Streatham.
The best way to honour the memories of all those who have lost their lives as a result of extremist violence is two-pronged: first, we must implement protections on the ground through measures such as this Bill; and, secondly, we must focus on institutional protections to ensure that the time that offenders of this nature spend in prison is used to rehabilitate and reform in a meaningful way, so that prison sentences stop serving solely as a delay of the inevitable.
I support the Bill because from my perspective it is a matter of complete common sense. When I was a criminal lawyer and I stood up and mitigated on behalf of defendants, they would get credit for the guilty plea, for showing remorse and for various other factors. It is complete anathema that if somebody gets a 16-year sentence, they serve eight. I have been able to see no evidence to show that having a prolonged period under the supervision of the probation service makes any substantive difference to rehabilitation. My constituents would expect somebody who receives a lengthy custodial sentence to serve that time, or as close as possible to that time. If any Member can give me an argument against that, I would be very interested to hear it.
The Bill is sensible, practical, reasonable and proportionate and it must come into law now. We here, if we have no other duty, must protect members of the public. This must come into law so that no further terrorists are released. How can we as a House possibly continue with the position whereby terrorists are released automatically 50% of the way through their sentences? It is preposterous. Anybody watching this debate would see how preposterous it is, so I warmly welcome the Bill.
I will make two other, brief points. A lot of Members say, with the best of intentions, let us support de-radicalisation work. I have not heard one practical suggestion as to how that is going to work. We use words all the time to describe what we want to happen, but putting it into practice on the ground is totally different.
Does my hon. Friend believe that terrorists can never truly be de-radicalised? Having worked in counter-terrorism, I believe that the attributes that make someone vulnerable to extremism and radicalisation never go away; those attributes always remain and that person is always vulnerable, in some way, to some form of extremism or radicalisation, or to membership of groups that would seek to benefit from those attributes.
I do not know if I would go that far, but I would say that the present programmes being used by the criminal justice system to tackle radicalisation simply do not work. I ask the Minister to look at other options if we are to pursue this.
I have one final point that I feel I have a duty to make, as a constituent and dear friend of mine, Rachel Wheeler, is a probation officer. I have known her and many of her colleagues for many years. The probation service provides a tireless service to the public, but it is not working as it should do, as I think everyone in the House understands. There are issues with staffing shortages and various other matters. We need a probation service that is fit for purpose. I could just say: let’s put more money into it. Money is one thing; let’s get services that work and deliver on the ground, and then we may have rehabilitation successes. As I said yesterday, the success of rehabilitative programmes and sentences in our criminal justice system is negligible. Whatever we have been doing does not work.
Streatham is a place that is very close to my heart. I lived there for many years and had the privilege of being the chairman of Streatham Conservatives and working closely with community groups and the police. I pay tribute to the professionalism of the police and the community groups. We know that the people of Streatham will be coming together at this dark hour to support each other. The incident on Streatham high road was especially tragic because it came so soon after a similar incident at London bridge.
That brings us to why we are here. We have been put here by our electors with an understanding, which is both explicit and implicit, that we will keep them safe. We have a duty to keep our constituents safe—I have a duty to keep the people of Milton Keynes North safe—and we have the power to act on this matter. It is our duty as public servants and human beings to act. Let us be quite clear: those who have been proven to have committed or to have conspired to commit acts of terrorism are enemies of the Crown. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns) put it, they are traitors, and people expect the full application of the law, of justice and of sentences.
We have heard some incredible speeches from right across the House today, and I am pleased by the cross-party consensus that this is the right thing to do for the security of our country.
Her Majesty, back in 2001, spoke words that still resonate today:
“nothing that can be said can begin to take away the anguish and the pain of these moments. Grief is the price we pay for love”.
Our nation has grieved on multiple occasions, not least following the horrific attack in Manchester, which was referenced by my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), in which innocent children lost their lives through terrorism, and more recently—and more relevant to today’s debate—we grieve as a nation following the London Bridge and Streatham terror attacks. Both the offenders had been convicted of terror offences and both had been released early.
In this place, we have a duty to the innocent victims of terrorism. We have a duty to ensure that justice is done through the courts. That is why I welcome the upcoming counter-terrorism Bill, which will help to ensure that sentences really do reflect the severity of crimes, with a minimum sentence of 14 years—although I hope that we will go further still in the case of those who have, to all in intents and purposes, declared themselves enemies of our very way of life. These are not petty criminals; these are people committing some of the most evil, atrocious offences, and it is right that they should receive the very harshest of sentences.
We also have a duty to ensure that the public are protected, and that means ensuring that those sentenced for terror offences are not automatically released early from prison. It is not right that convicted terrorists should be allowed to roam our streets freely before the end of their sentences. This emergency legislation seeks to address that by ending automatic early release, and I support it wholeheartedly.
Some Members have expressed concerns about the swift timetable, but, as the Lord Chancellor rightly pointed out, there are about 50 terror convicts who, under the current rules, would be due for automatic release before the end of this month. That is unacceptable, which is why it is right for us to support the Government’s changes and use our power to keep our streets and people safe, and why we must act now.
Under the Bill, terrorist offenders will only be eligible for early release if they pass a thorough risk assessment by the Parole Board. If they are considered still to pose any threat to public safety, they will rightfully be forced to serve the remainder of their time in prison. The Parole Board makes its decisions on the basis of a variety of factors, including behaviour displayed in prison. I am pleased to see the Government increasing counter-terrorism resources in prisons, ensuring that frontline staff are trained in identifying the behaviour of those who still pose a threat to society, and ensuring that those who do still pose dangers to the public are not able to leave prison early.
However, our duty does not end at the point of release: we must ensure that sufficient monitoring takes place after release. I am pleased that we are introducing measures to strengthen supervision on licence for terrorist offenders, which will be bolstered by a doubling of the number of specialist counter-terrorism probation officers. That means that, on release, terrorists could be subjected to measures such as notification requirements, restrictions on travel and communications, and imposed curfews. All that will help to prevent further offences.
In this place, public safety is our number one duty, but we also have a duty to do all we can to defend the memories of the victims, and ensure that terror never wins. That is why we must pass the Bill today.
With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall wind up the debate, having also opened it.
This has been a wide-ranging debate on the most serious of issues. We have a duty, across the House, to reduce the risk of incidents such as the one in Streatham happening again in the future. We can never eliminate that risk, but we must certainly put in place all reasonable and proportionate measures to reduce it. We must never sacrifice our values—the very values that this Parliament seeks to protect—in tackling these issues. The European convention on human rights and our own country’s common law, which has evolved over centuries, form the framework in which we must act.
I am grateful to Members in all parts of the House for their contributions to the debate, including the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), who chairs the Justice Committee, and the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill), who, as a former Minister north of the border, brought his own expertise to the debate. I also commend the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) for his maiden speech. He paid tribute, appropriately, to his predecessor, Laura Smith—who was certainly a great champion for the constituency during her time here—and mentioned the experience on which she drew as a primary school teacher. I think that, as a true Welsh valleys man, given the choice between the worm-charming championship and watching Crew and Nantwich rugby club, I would go for the rugby club every time, but I do wish the worm-charmers well in their competition. I also thought that the hon. Gentleman spoke very movingly about the struggle that many people have with identity, and I look forward to hearing more contributions from him during the time that he will have in the House in the current Parliament.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), who spoke with her usual authority, including on the oversight of deradicalisation programmes, which will be vital in the years ahead. I also thank the hon. Members for Stone (Sir William Cash) and for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) and the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) for their contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) spoke powerfully about the need for training and expertise for those who are going into prisons and providing the deradicalisation programmes. I also pay tribute to his extraordinary work in this area. I was grateful, too, for the contributions from the hon. Members for Eastleigh (Paul Holmes), for St Albans (Daisy Cooper), for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker), for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely), for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), for Bury North (James Daly), for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt) and for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison). We have had a good-natured and constructive debate in the Chamber this afternoon.
As I said in my opening remarks, we really need a relentless focus on the treatment of extremism in our jails. I am sure that, in a few minutes’ time, this particular piece of legislation will have its Second Reading in this House, but we also need to get the wider issues around this right. We need sufficient numbers of prison officers who are properly paid and supported to work in a constructive environment. We need a prison estate that is fit for purpose. We also have to tackle the problem of increased violence against our prison staff. We cannot continue to tolerate the current level of attacks on them. Many Members have spoken about the awful atrocities at Fishmongers’ Hall and in Streatham, but if there is any doubt about the issue of prison staff, let us not forget that on 9 January this year there was an attack on prison staff at HMP Whitemoor by two inmates with bladed articles. That is a reminder of the extent to which we ask our prison staff to take risks on a daily basis.
We need the very best regime to tackle extremism in our prisons. The best expertise, appropriate resources and trained staff are all required. We need a programme to prevent people from falling into a life of terror and hatred in the first place. It must be as effective as it can be, and the Government need, in speedy fashion, to get the independent review of the Prevent programme under way with a reviewer in place. We need stable leadership and a Justice Secretary who remains in place long enough to make a lasting mark on the Department. I hope this Prime Minister will not be chopping and changing his Justice Secretary at every opportunity, so that we can put in place the strategy and long-term planning that are absolutely required in the Department at the moment.
Keeping the public safe is the central duty of Government. We need consistent evidence-based policy making, and even in a fast changing situation we should never lose sight of the evidence before us. What counts in this sphere has to be what works. I hope that this emergency legislation will now reach the statute book in a timely fashion to avert the immediate crisis, but it should mark a beginning, not an end. This should be the beginning of a wider debate on how we tackle extremism in our prisons, and of a real commitment of resources from the Government to secure the very best expertise available in counter-extremism. That is what we must see in the months ahead. The public deserve no less.
It has been a great privilege to listen to so many extremely fine speeches this afternoon, but I would particularly like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the newly elected Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) for his excellent maiden speech. There was a great deal in it to think about. He touched on issues of identity, as the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) has just said, but I was especially interested to hear about the worm-charming competition. I am looking forward to my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich demonstrating his worm-charming skills, whatever form they may take, in the Tea Room later.
However, we are clearly here to consider an extremely serious matter touching on national security and public safety, prompted by two terrible recent cases: the murders committed at Fishmongers’ Hall by Usman Khan on 30 November last year, and the attack by Sudesh Amman in Streatham on 2 February—a little over a week ago. It has become clear to the Government that the automatic release of some terrorist offenders after serving only half their sentence poses an unacceptable risk to the public, and that is why we are acting with urgency with this emergency legislation to end that happening.
The circumstances are, of course, exceptional. Many Members, including the Chairman of the Justice Committee and the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill), a former Justice Secretary in Scotland, have said that this is not something that any Government would undertake lightly, but where we believe we have to act quickly and decisively to protect the public, we will do so.
The Minister is making an excellent speech on this important issue. I refer the House to the fact that I am a risk assessor with the Risk Management Authority in Scotland. Has he considered, or might he consider, the order for lifelong restriction? It is in place in Scotland for offenders who continue to exhibit a significant risk throughout their lifetime, and offenders can be recalled at any point.
I thank the hon. Lady for raising such a thoughtful point. That certainly is something we would be prepared to study and consider, because we are always keen to learn from other jurisdictions. We will be bringing forward wider measures as part of a counter-terrorism Bill in the next few months. One provision we have in mind is greatly extending licence periods following release, which is in the spirit of what she suggested, so I thank her for her constructive proposal.
I have heard Members throughout the debate talking about ending automatic release as if it was a new thing, but the Minister will be aware that the measure already exists in section 9 of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019. Is he confused, like me, as to why the change was not made retrospective then, because that legislation came in direct response to the terror attacks that happened throughout 2017? The Government could have made the change then, which Labour Members would have supported, as we did when they set up the Prevent review.
Of course, the Government and Parliament think carefully about retrospection and rightly take a circumspect view. Several changes to sentencing have been made over the past five or 10 years, including the introduction of extended determinate sentences, whereby release at two thirds of the way through a sentence is a matter for the Parole Board following an assessment of dangerousness by the sentencing judge. Sentences for offenders of particular concern were extended a short time ago to include terrorist offenders who do not have an EDS or life sentence, and SOPCs include a Parole Board assessment at the halfway point. A great deal has been done in the past few years in this area, but the two recent cases, including, of course, the one in Streatham just a week and a half ago, underline the need to go even further than before, which is why this Bill is before the House today.
The number of offenders affected is small. As the Lord Chancellor said in his excellent introduction, only 50 offenders are involved, because all the rest are covered by other sentencing types. Even a small number of offenders, however, can cause a high level of harm, as we have seen, which is why it is important that we go further with today’s Bill. The next such offender is due for release by the end of the month, and that is why we are acting so quickly to ensure that legislation is in place prior to that release.
I thank Members from across the House, including the Labour spokesman, the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), and the SNP spokesman, for the constructive and supportive tone of their speeches. This is a good example of Parliament working in a cross-party way in the national interest, and I am grateful for the approach they have taken today.
Some of the questions raised today touch on wider issues in this area, one of which is the question of resources, raised by the hon. Member for Torfaen in his opening speech. I confirm to the House once again that another £90 million will be spent on counter-terrorism policing next year, bringing the budget to £900 million. That very significant increase in resources was announced just a short time ago.
We clearly need to do more on the prison estate. Between 2017-18 and 2019-20, the prisons budget has increased from £2.55 billion to £2.9 billion, a 15% increase, and over the last three years there has been a welcome increase in the number of prison officers serving in our prison estate from 18,003 to 22,536.
Of course, we are also investing in the quality of the prison estate. The next financial year, which starts shortly, will see an extra £156 million invested in the prison estate’s physical condition, in addition to a £2.5 billion programme to build 10,000 additional prison places over and above the 3,500 currently under construction at Glen Parva, Wellingborough and Stocken.
The Minister is making a good speech, and I recognise the various measures the Government are taking to invest in the prison estate and in staffing. On the point made by the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill), does the Minister also recognise the importance of a comprehensive policy to ensure the retention of experienced prison staff, as well as the recruitment of others, because they have particular skills and knowledge that are valuable in this field?
The Chair of the Justice Committee makes a good point. It is important to retain experience in the prison officer establishment. Prison staff have long expertise and long experience, and the Prisons Minister, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), is acutely aware of the importance of retention.
Many hon. and right hon. Members, including the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill) and the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), have drawn attention to the importance of a comprehensive deradicalisation programme in prisons—the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) also made that point in his excellent speech. We are acutely conscious of the importance of that and of the need to do more. We have the theological and ideological intervention programme, the healthy identities programme and the deradicalisation programme in place, and I am sure there is more that needs to be done in those areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) touched on that in his speech, and I know the Prisons Minister would like shortly to take up his offer of a meeting to discuss exactly these issues.
Of course, it is equally important to make sure these offenders are properly monitored after release, whether on licence or otherwise. The TPIM regime was strengthened in 2015, and we always have multi-agency public protection arrangements where necessary. As we saw, those arrangements were effective in the case of Sudesh Amman. After he began his behaviour, it was a matter of seconds before the police were able to intervene, which is an example of MAPPA working well in practice.
In the few minutes remaining to me, I will address the question of retrospection, touched on by a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper). It is our very firm belief, based on legal advice, that these measures do not contravene article 7. They do not constitute a retrospective change of the penalty, because the penalty is the total sentence. The penalty is the sentence handed down by the judge at the point of sentencing and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) elaborated, a wide body of case law says that changing the early release point does not change the penalty. In fact, early release ameliorates the penalty—it reduces the penalty—so changing the early release point does not add to it. The Uttley case makes that clear, as do other cases that have come before the UK Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
I do not think the Del Río Prada case, in which the Kingdom of Spain was a respondent, is directly germane because it concerns the calculation of concurrent sentences and a change in how concurrent sentences are handled, which is obviously not the matter before the House today. The Government are clear that the Bill does not contravene article 7 and does not constitute a retrospective change to the penalty; it simply constitutes a change to how the sentence is administered.
Let me touch briefly on the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), which I suspect we may debate more fully in Committee shortly. We do not believe that a “notwithstanding” clause is necessary, because we do not believe article 7 is contravened by this legislation—we can debate this more. We are also not wholly convinced that a “notwithstanding” clause would derogate our treaty obligations under the ECHR.
I am conscious of time. I would be happy to give way in Committee to debate this at greater length. I very much look forward to hearing my hon. Friend’s further views on this and I would be happy to take an intervention in Committee, but I must wrap up in a minute or so.
The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) asked about the MAPPA review and the Prevent review. The MAPPA review is under way and is being led by Jonathan Hall, QC. The Prevent review has a statutory deadline of August 2020, which we intend to abide by. We will make further announcements about its progress—this will include appointing a new reviewer—as soon as possible.
Madam Deputy Speaker, you are extremely kind. I thought I had about 10 seconds left.
I would like to use up my remaining one minute and 10 seconds, as it is now, by saying that although these are emergency measures designed to address a specific problem, we will of course be coming back with a much wider and more considered set of proposals in our counter-terrorism Bill in the next few months and in the sentencing White Paper. Many Members have spoken of the need to think widely and thoughtfully about these issues, and we will of course be doing so. Members will be pleased to hear that in the counter-terrorism Bill we will be seeking to impose a 14-year minimum sentence, with no prospect of early release, for the most serious terrorist offenders. We will also be thoughtful and considered about issues of deradicalisation. Of course, more resources are going into the system: 20,000 extra police officers; £85 million extra for the Crown Prosecution Service; and more Crown court sitting days in the coming year. This is an important emergency measure designed for public protection, and I am pleased to see that it commands support across the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Committee of the whole House (Order, this day).