House of Lords
Monday 21 September 2020
The House met in a hybrid proceeding.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber respecting social distancing, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House.
Oral Questions will now commence. Can those asking supplementary questions please keep them short and confined to two points? I ask that Ministers’ answers are also brief.
Nigeria: Religious Violence
My Lords, the Government welcome the report and the detailed analysis of complex issues of intercommunal violence and terrorism in Nigeria. We condemn all incidents of violence and call on the Nigerian Government to do more to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account. The UK Government’s formal response to the report will emphasise our approach of supporting solutions that tackle the causes of conflict to reduce violence affecting Christian and, indeed, Muslim communities.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but we cannot ignore the chilling signs of the potential genocide in Nigeria. According to the International Committee on Nigeria, Islamist Fulani herders have killed 19,000 people across the country’s Middle Belt. I have visited four of the devastated villages in Plateau state and stood in the house where they had murdered the pastor.
Therefore, given the escalation, frequency, brutality and asymmetry of such attacks on Christian communities—and, indeed, Muslims—is it not time to give greater effect to our obligations as a signatory to the 1948 genocide convention and our duty to protect?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that this is important. I pay tribute to her work in Nigeria, and to that of others in your Lordships’ House. We condemn incidents of violence where religion is erroneously used to justify the worst of crimes and acts of terrorism and extremism. On genocide, as the noble Baroness will know, it is the UK Government’s policy not to unilaterally determine whether genocide has occurred, in line with the genocide convention. As she will know and as I have often said, this is a matter for competent courts and tribunals.
My Lords, like the Minister, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this issue; she is tireless and fearless in standing up for the weakest and most vulnerable. While the issues of genocide are often ones of legal terminology, the situation in Nigeria is one of large-scale killing in many areas across all communities and for a wide variety of reasons, not all of which are religious. Would the Minister say how the very large numbers of UK passport holders in Nigeria—most with dual citizenship and families here—are protected and informed of the situation? Would he also say what priority the establishment of reconciliation will get in the allocation of overseas aid in the new department?
My Lords, first, I fully align myself with the remarks of the most reverend Primate and pay tribute to him for his tireless efforts on conflict resolution, not just in Nigeria but around the world. As he knows from our discussions, I share many of the views that he has articulated. On his specific questions, we are developing a new conflict, security and justice programme, which aims to reduce levels of violence through the development of more effective conflict-management systems, working in conjunction with key partners on the ground. On the issue of British nationals, apart from the focus on conflict management, we continue to update travel advice to inform British nationals intending to travel to Nigeria, providing, in particular, specific travel advice for different states within Nigeria.
My Lords, the Government continue to downplay the scale of the suffering endured by Christians in central belt states. Ministers refer to attacks by Fulani herders as
“a consequence of population growth”.—[Official Report, 11/7/19; col. 1958.]
They have also referred to them as a consequence of “land and water disputes”. This does not reflect the reality on the ground, identified by local observers as a campaign of ethno-religious cleansing. Will the Minister ensure that the Government revisit the characterisation of this violence to acknowledge the significance of the perpetrators’ ferocious ideology?
First, I assure my noble friend that, as he will know, the Government fully endorsed an inquiry into Christian persecution, and we are carrying out every single recommendation that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister agreed. We will continue to work with the Bishop of Truro, who oversaw that particular inquiry. I share his concern that, yes, any conflict in Nigeria is exploited. Unfortunately, as I said in my original Answer, it is exploited by those divisive voices who erroneously use religion to divide people, and we will continue to condemn all acts of violence, particularly those against Christians and other communities in Nigeria and, indeed, elsewhere.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for her commitment to this cause. The all-party group report is a stark warning. What are we are doing in the UN Security Council to prioritise these serious concerns—which now appear endemic in Nigeria—and to seek a resolution that significantly enhances the security given to communities at risk of attack? Can the Minister reassure the House that we are actively pursuing this in the United Nations?
My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we continue to look at the issue of the freedom of religion or belief with partners in the UN. Indeed, I am currently working towards a possible resolution, or certainly a debate, during our presidency, on freedom of religion or belief—in which I am sure Nigeria will feature.
My Lords, it is clearly beyond the capacity, or perhaps the will, of the Government of Nigeria to end the conflict and ethnic cleansing. Have they sought any external advice or assistance from the Commonwealth or the British Government, and are we prepared to act if our advice is sought?
My Lords, we are working with the Government of Nigeria, and with NGOs and faith NGOs on the ground, such as Christian Aid and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, to support communities--particularly those that have been displaced--and we will continue to do so.
My Lords, Amal Clooney has just resigned as envoy on media freedom because of the Government’s statement that they may not respect an international treaty that they have just agreed and signed. What challenge does this situation pose for the Minister as he makes the UK’s case for media freedom and freedom of religion and belief, including in relation to Nigeria, at UN bodies and elsewhere?
The singer Yahaya Sharif-Aminu has been sentenced to death by hanging in the northern state of Kano. Will the Minister contact the Nigerian Government to ensure that due process is followed? Although there is a ban on FGM in Nigeria, with girls out of school due to Covid the risks to 10 to 15 million girls are extremely high. The failure to help end FGM will deepen poverty and create more insecurity. Will the Minister agree to meet the Five Foundation and Nimco Ali to discuss this and ensure that funding from the FCDO for ending FGM reaches programmes that will have a real impact on achieving this important aim?
My Lords, will the Minister also comment on another individual case, that of Mubarak Bala, president of the Nigerian humanist association, who has been held on blasphemy charges since April? He has not had access to a lawyer or been allowed family visits since being arrested. I know that the noble Lord is aware of this case, because it was raised at ministerial level back in May or June. What steps is the noble Lord taking to ensure that Mubarak Bala is given access to his legal team? If there is to be any justice at all, this arbitrary detention for 87 days without charge must end.
My Lords, will the Minister comment on two urgent matters about which I have given him prior notice? The first is the targeted slaughter of Igbos and occupation of their villages in south-east and southern Nigeria by jihadist Fulanis and mercenaries. The second is the repeated interrogation of and death threats directed at Dr Obadiah Mailafia, an economist and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, after he publicly exposed state collusion with Fulanis in ethnic and religious cleansing in southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt?
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s first point, we will continue to call for a full investigation to hold the perpetrators to account, and to implement long-term solutions, particularly, as the noble Lord mentioned, in relation to people in the south-east of the country. On Dr Obadiah Mailafia, the former deputy governor of the central bank, we have already touched on media freedom, and it is vital that we stand up for the importance of individual media freedom. When freedom of expression is restricted or under threat, human rights are generally challenged. I assure the noble Lord that we will continue to engage on this case and others like it.
Retail Businesses: Financial Support
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to provide financial support to retail businesses which have been categorised as ‘undertakings in difficulty’ under European Union state aid rules, and are unable to access support under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme; and what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of any financial support that they have provided to such businesses.
The Government amended the CBIL scheme on 30 July to exempt smaller businesses from elements of the undertaking in difficulty test. The British Business Bank has also clarified that if an applicant was not classified as such from the application date, but was so on 31 December 2019, they would, in principle, be eligible. By 16 August more than £53 billion had been approved through the loan schemes, including 60,409 loans worth £13.68 billion through CBILS.
My Lords, the changes for small businesses that the Minister mentions are very welcome. Does he agree with me, however, that it is the larger stores that face the greatest difficulties? Over 13,000 stores have closed in the year to date and 125,000 retail staff have lost their jobs. One in three of retail staff are aged under 25, and 146,000 of them have lost their jobs in the last quarter. In the light of potential further restrictions, will the Government look urgently at providing more access to finance and at extending business rates relief and the furlough scheme, in a targeted way, to stem the further collapse of retail and, indeed, the high street itself?
We continue to keep all these things under review. I hope that the noble Baroness will appreciate that our response so far has been tremendous. The Bounce Back Loan Scheme has supported nearly 1.2 million loans; the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has supported more than 60,000 loans, worth £13.7 billion. There are, of course, always additional things we could be doing but I hope she will acknowledge that we have done a lot for this sector.
My Lords, many of the businesses that have not been able to claim have also been impacted by the lack of insurance cover, even though they thought they were covered. Can my noble friend use his good offices to intervene to make sure that, at the very least, they can claim on the insurance for which they have paid premiums? Also, has he looked at the impact on the night-time economy—pubs, clubs, casinos and such—if the curfew imposed in certain areas is extended for any length of time?
Insurance cover is a matter of commercial contracts between providers and the insured; it would not be right for us to interfere in a contract that was lawfully made. My noble friend will understand that I am unable to comment on the possibility of any curfews at the moment.
My Lords, as the pandemic continues to progress and more restrictive measures to counteract it are being considered, what assessment have the Government made of the long-term viability of financial support to help businesses survive for longer periods?
My Lords, a number of measures aimed at preventing company insolvencies, included in the recent Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act, expire at the end of this month. What plans do the Government have to extend those provisions? Can the Minister set out the new timetable?
My Lords, that is very good news from the Minister. While we welcome the changes to the temporary framework and the definition of “undertakings in difficulty” earlier this year, the fact is that some small businesses are still falling through the cracks. What further work are the Government doing to ensure that businesses acutely impacted by Covid—especially retail—can access the finance they need to make it through?
I would hope that, through the changes we have announced, the vast majority of small businesses are able to access the finance they need, but of course, we keep these matters under constant review. We are aware that the schemes were put together very quickly, and there will always be some businesses that fall through the cracks, but the Chancellor is looking at these matters urgently.
My Lords, the Question in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Allen, illustrates the inequity in some areas of financial support following the spread of the virus. The Government have pre-empted my original question, of which I gave the Minister notice, requesting improved support for those self-isolating in the north-east. I would like to think that the £500 grant is a response to that. I welcome this additional support and ask if the grant also applies to those wanting to self-isolate on return from a listed foreign country.
My Lords, I welcome the changes in July which now enable more struggling businesses to access the Government-backed CBILS loans. Have the Government, in the run-up to Brexit, engaged with UK businesses for whom EU public or private sector contracts are their only, or main, form of business? I have raised this question with my noble friend before, but I am increasingly concerned as we approach deadlines.
My Lords, we are a nation of shopkeepers, and small outlets are the heart of our local community in Weston-super-Mare. Should the Government not have a special plan to help them? When can we expect one? Business rates are the predominant issue of concern.
My Lords, the noble Lord is right to be concerned about the high street, and I am sure that Weston-super-Mare is no exception. As he will no doubt be aware, we abolished business rates for 12 months for all eligible businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. That support was worth almost £10 billion. We also gave local authorities grants worth £11 billion to distribute to help local businesses.
My Lords, retail is a dynamic sector that was undergoing radical change even before Covid hit. The rise of internet shopping has changed the shape of retail. Does the Minister accept that there is no point in propping up retail businesses which would not have survived the course anyhow? Perhaps the Government ought to be looking at helping more community shops get under way so that, particularly in rural areas, people can get what they want on their doorsteps.
The noble Baroness is right to draw attention to the massive changes taking place in the retail sector, some of which were exacerbated by the Covid dynamic. There has been a lot of switching to online shopping, but many high street premises are engaged in online business as well. So, there is a vast range of innovative things happening throughout the sector.
My Lords, a number of small retail businesses are owned by people from ethnic minority communities. What consultation has taken place with their professional bodies? Can the Minister produce a list so they can see how to survive the present crisis?
Health Care: Guidance
My Lords, I make this point very clearly. The NHS provides a comprehensive service available to all, irrespective of gender, race, disability or age. No guidance has been issued on the provision of appropriate treatment based solely on age. The NHS has issued guidance for the restoration of non-Covid-19 health services, working on the principle that the most clinically urgent patients should be seen first, followed by those who have been waiting the longest.
I thank the Minister for his reply. He will be aware that there have been letters in the Telegraph and elsewhere, saying an advisory age of 75 is being brought in. First, is any age guidance given in any of the information sent out by his department? Secondly, will he agree to place a copy of all the circulars from the DHSC in the Library so that we can see what is going out?
My Lords, I can confirm clearly that reports of any sort of age limit of the kind referred to by my noble friend are completely wrong. On the matter of sharing circulars, there will be certain practical challenges to that, but I will inquire as to what we can possibly share, so that these decisions are as transparent as my noble friend wishes.
My Lords, the distinction between different patient groups has particularly affected care home residents through the blanket use of “do not resuscitate” orders without explanation to patients and families. Will the Minister make clear his abhorrence of this practice, and can he say how he will ensure that the recent winter guidance in relation to this for adult social care will be followed in full?
My Lords, there are no blanket DNR notices. These are completely abhorrent and against the NHS constitution. We are not supporting them at all. The noble Lord is entirely right that families should be consulted before any such measures are put in place. The social care plan published earlier this month makes that absolutely clear.
My Lords, young people have been hit hard by Covid-19, if not physically, then mentally and emotionally. They may be caring for someone who is either sick or vulnerable and therefore isolating. What is being done to ensure that young carers continue to get support during the pandemic—especially in the light of further restrictions—both for their caring duties and for their own mental health and well-being?
The noble Baroness is entirely right to focus on the plight of young carers, who play an incredibly important role in society at any time, and who are under profound pressure, particularly when isolating during this epidemic. Substantial financial support has been given to local authorities to provide their social care services with the additional funds necessary to support such cases, and we continue to work through our charity partners to ensure that young carers are supported.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on avoiding the temptation to discriminate on the grounds of age in connection with this coronavirus illness. The original guidance suggested that a person was vulnerable just because they were over 70, and I welcome the clarification. Could my noble friend assure the House that the Government do not intend to introduce blanket age restrictions and that the individual medical conditions of each person will be taken into account, rather than just age?
My Lords, I declare that I chair the National Mental Capacity Forum and am an elected member of the BMA ethics committee. All treatment decisions must be individualised based on the likelihood of benefit to the person, considering their wishes and feelings, without prejudice of age, disability or other pre-existing conditions. Will the Government continue to work with the forum to ensure this is known and understood properly across health and social care in all sectors?
The noble Baroness puts it extremely well: all treatments should be individualised and tailored to the patient’s needs and requirements. I applaud the work of the forum. We are committed to continuing that work, and it is an important part of our correspondence with trusts that these standards are upheld and advertised.
My Lords, the Minister will be aware of widespread concern that NHS measures introduced in response to Covid-19 are having serious consequences, with patients denied basic healthcare. Almost half of the 102 million GP consultations between March and July were delivered by phone or video, in line with government guidance to deliver a predominantly remote service. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that vulnerable people, especially the elderly, are not shut out from surgeries under measures introduced to stop the spread of the virus this winter? The reality is many are not online, they struggle with complex information systems and will face further difficulties if they are once again advised to isolate.
The noble Baroness is right that half of consultations have been done by telephone or on the internet. Some of those have been successful, but I agree with her that we have to keep GP surgeries open for those who either choose or need face-to-face consultations. That is why the NHS chief executive has written to CCGs and trusts urging them to be open and to have fair access to face-to-face consultations where necessary.
My Lords, I refer to my entry in the register of interests. Older people are more vulnerable to complications from the virus. Many more of them will have diabetes, and many more will feel that they need cancer treatment urgently. So why are so many older people still worried that they might be treated less favourably by the NHS due to their age? In particular, will the Minister explain how the backlog in treating cancer patients will be dealt with?
The noble Lord is entirely right that there is a large amount of concern among patients—existing patients who are on existing programmes and patients who think to go to the NHS. We are launching a “Help Us Help You” campaign at the beginning of October, which will be a substantial marketing campaign to reassure patients who might be concerned that the NHS is open and there to help them.
My Lords, during this Covid crisis, many others are suffering greatly yet feeling neglected, such as cancer patients awaiting urgent treatment. There has also been a rise in suicide across every age group. What advice is the Minister’s department giving to hospitals, GPs and other health providers in tackling these things?
My Lords, mental health concerns are a major priority at all times but particularly during Covid-19. That is why are giving substantial funds to mental health charities and supporting the work of the mental health trusts that oversee this area, and I commend their work during Covid-19.
My Lords, having been a NHS dentist for many years, I was disappointed that dentists were not allowed to keep their practices open during the lockdown period. A number of people sought my advice, which may have helped them but may not have. In past cases where there has been cause for alarm, in dentistry, like in every other part of the medical profession, they arranged a rota system. The dental profession still has these wonderful boards for local dentists to decide how and when each one would take a turn in providing the necessary services. It has gone very badly this time; I have met so many people who are desperate for a dentist and cannot get one anywhere. What can the Minister do about it?
My Lords, the challenge faced by dentists has been profound. The challenge of contagion in a dental practice is big and challenging. But I commend dentists who have gone to huge lengths to put in PPE and hygiene arrangements so that they are able to reopen. The scale of reopenings is enormous, but there is an enormous backlog, and we will be providing support for dentists to help them meet the scale of that backlog.
Probation Workforce Strategy
My Lords, the Probation Workforce Strategy outlines our investment in the probation workforce, which supports its vital role in reducing reoffending. We are committed to recruiting 1,000 new trainee probation officers in 2021, with an additional 530 already in training. We will invest in the skills and professional development of our workforce as part of the Government’s efforts to make this country safer, alongside the recruitment of 20,000 more police officers and 10,000 new prison places.
My Lords, I sympathise with the Minister and welcome her to the Dispatch Box; she has not had much time to master the subject. I must admit that I find it simply amazing that the Government should publish what they call a “workforce strategy” document without stating the size of that workforce. Without knowing its size, how can anyone involved in recruitment or training know the size of the shortfall and therefore whether the strategy is working?
My Lords, as of 30 June 2020, the National Probation Service employed 9,383 staff in post, full-time equivalents. That included 3,613 probation officers and 2,546 probation service officers. So we do know how many people we employ; the 1,000 are over and above those so that we can deliver a safer country.
My Lords, it is a question not just of numbers, although they are vital, but of the qualifications of those who are coming in. At its best—it has a very distinguished past—the probation service was about helping people form friendships and feel that they are part of society. It takes a great deal of patience, understanding and skill to do this and build a real relationship with the people concerned. Can we be assured that the work being done to recruit these people is about not just numbers—although, as I say, that is vital—but the quality and type of person being brought into the service?
The noble Lord is absolutely right that it is not just about numbers. However, it takes two years to recruit and train a probation officer; they undergo job training and earn qualifications during their first 15 to 21 months of employment. It is also important that we recruit the right people. It is interesting that in the recent campaign to recruit probation officers, we have had 6,000 applications over the last four months. That has exceeded our target by 250%. More importantly, applications from BAME candidates totalled 27.4%, which exceeded the target, and in London we are attracting the highest numbers of BAME candidates, at 59%.
My Lords, in the case of the probation service, the outsourcing of the coercive power of the state, removing the Government’s direct responsibility for decisions about people’s liberty and physical control over their bodies, went predictably and disastrously wrong. Will the Government commit to not making that choice again in probation, prisons and immigration detention, and move to take full and proper responsibility for and control over their actions?
My Lords, I am sure it is only right and proper that we should all be grateful to those working in the probation service. But does my noble friend agree that staff working for voluntary and community organisations across the country also play a crucial role in supporting offenders and turning their lives around? Will she explain how the Government plan to support this voluntary sector as part of their reforms?
I thank the noble Lord for his question. The expertise and commitment of the voluntary sector organisations are absolutely vital in helping offenders turn their lives around. Over 10,000 people are employed in the specialist criminal justice voluntary organisations. Our plan for the National Probation Service is to have a dynamic framework which will allow it to directly commission rehabilitative services in a way that encourages the participation of a range of suppliers, including smaller suppliers, which are often in the voluntary sector. These services must be responsive to the needs of the local areas in which they work. We anticipate eventually spending over £100 million a year on these services. I am delighted that at this time over 180 organisations have already registered to bid for contracts on the dynamic framework, and that 60% of them are voluntary organisations.
My Lords, while this strategy has all the hallmarks of a very modern, forward-looking strategy for the workforce, any workforce of this sort needs to have the resource to be able to do the job properly. Key to that is the financial lever. Could the Minister tell us whether there are plans, in the work that is being done locally, particularly with local authorities, housing associations, the health service and other voluntary bodies, to give a financial lever to probation officers so that they have some role to play in engaging with services and with their funding?
My Lords, the noble Lord is right that the probation service never does anything on its own. It is important that it looks to work with local authorities, the private sector and the voluntary sector to deliver those areas, and that it uses its money across those other areas to deliver the right services.
We know that the workforce issues are about not just the recruitment but the retention, as the noble Lord says, of some really excellent staff. It is important, and we must admit that high workloads are an issue for probation officers at the moment. We have a workforce programme and we will develop a three to five-year retention strategy to find practical solutions to ensure that we keep the talent we already have—or have had and who want to come back. That is looking at things that are much more about the well-being of our staff.
Many years ago when I was a young barrister, I was advised that when defending a client who was about to be sentenced and wanting to persuade the judge to take a lenient course, I should first speak to the probation officer. If I could persuade him or her of my arguments, that would be the best way to influence the judge. Through no fault of the probation service, unfortunately that trust was undermined. I hope that the probation officers who are now being recruited will restore that trust and will have their attention drawn to the fact that it is very important that they manage to persuade the judiciary of their competence in their work.
My Lords, I do not know about the history that the noble and learned Lord mentions, but I know that we have committed and professional staff in the probation service who will work tirelessly to ensure that they put their points forward and do their work to make sure that our country is safe.
Sentencing White Paper
The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Wednesday 16 September.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a Statement on the Government’s plans to reform the system of sentencing in England and Wales. This morning, I laid before Parliament a White Paper entitled ‘A Smarter Approach to Sentencing’ and I wanted to come to the House to outline the measures contained within it.
The first duty of any Government is to protect their people, but the complex system of sentencing in England and Wales does not always command the confidence of the public. At one end of the spectrum of offending, there are serious sexual and violent criminals who, by automatic operation of the law, leave prison halfway through their sentence. We are going to ensure that more of these serious offenders stay in custody for longer.
There are also criminals who, while serving time for their offence, may become a danger to the public but who currently would be eligible for automatic release. We are acting to prevent fewer of these offenders from leaving prison without being assessed as safe by Parole Board experts. These measures will keep offenders who pose a risk to the public off the streets for longer and help to restore public confidence that robust sentences are executed in a way that better reflects the gravity of the crimes committed.
At the other end of the spectrum, protecting the public from the effects of lower-level offending means finding new ways to break cycles of crime—to prevent a revolving door of short custodial sentences that we know offer little rehabilitative value. Criminals in that category often have chaotic lifestyles and their offending can be driven by substance misuse, poor mental health or learning difficulties. They often have limited education, few job prospects and experience generational patterns of offending.
Rather than continuing to send them back and forth to prison—doing the same thing but expecting a different result—we instead want to empower the sentencing system to use more effective community sentencing to get them off drugs and into the jobs that we know can lead them to a better life. We will do that by better identifying individual needs, providing treatment options where appropriate and utilising technology, such as sobriety tags, to drive compliance. These measures will support offenders to change their lifestyles for good and, in the process, protect the public from the ongoing effects of their crimes.
The reforms will not work unless they are underpinned by a world-class probation system that can understand and implement sentencing properly, backed up by a high-quality probation workforce. I pay tribute to the probation service and everyone who works within it to supervise offenders. We have set ourselves an ambitious target to recruit 1,000 new trainee probation officers in 2020-21, and over the next few years we are determined to invest in the skills, capability and ways of working that probation officers need to do their job to the best standard.
Within the new probation arrangements, we will unify sentence management under the National Probation Service to further grow confidence between probation and the courts, with which there is a much closer relationship than under the old model. The 12 new probation regions will have a new dynamic framework, making it easier to deliver rehabilitation services through voluntary and specialist organisations. We will legislate to give probation practitioners greater flexibility to take action where offenders’ rehabilitative needs are not being met or where they pose a risk to the public. These measures will empower probation services to be more effective at every juncture of the criminal justice system.
The White Paper also contains measures to reduce stubbornly high reoffending rates by utilising GPS technology to drive further compliance, and to make it easier for offenders to get jobs by reducing the period after which some sentences can be considered spent for the purposes of criminal records checks for non-sensitive roles. In the youth system, it puts flexibility into the hands of judges to keep violent young offenders in custody for longer, while at the same time allowing courts to pass sentences that are tailored to the rehabilitative needs of each young person.
The White Paper builds on the current sentencing framework to create a system that will be much better equipped to do its job effectively, and throughout this document there are contributions from other ministerial colleagues right across Whitehall. That is an acknowledgement of the cross-government approach that will be required if we are going to make a success of these reforms. We have got to come together to fulfil our manifesto commitments, to bring in tougher sentences, to tackle drug-related crime, to treat addictions, to improve employment opportunities for offenders, to review the parole system and much more.
A smarter approach to sentencing will grow confidence in the criminal justice system’s ability to deal robustly with the worst offenders and reduce the risk of harm to the public. It will also be smart enough to do the things that will really bring down crime in the longer term. I look forward to bringing its various measures through Parliament. I commend the White Paper and this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, I start with two preliminary points. The enforcement of the law, particularly the criminal law, is key to the success of the United Kingdom. The White Paper describes the criminal law as
“the basis of a fair, free and safe society.”
It is hard to take lessons on enforcing the law from a Government who will not respect the law themselves. The promotion of law and order from a Government who behave as if the law does not apply to them reeks of the self-serving hypocrisy which makes people hate politicians so much. But it goes much deeper than that. The Lord Chancellor and the Law Officers are the people within government who defend the law. The Lord Chancellor, who is responsible for this White Paper, has said he will resign only where the law has been breached
“in a way which cannot be fudged”.
“Fudged” is defined in dictionaries as “presenting something in a way which conceals the truth”. Can the Minister update the House on whether the Lord Chancellor still considers that the admitted breach of the law in the internal markets Bill can be presented in a way which conceals the truth?
Secondly, the criminal justice system is currently in utter turmoil, with an enormous backlog because of the virus. There are over 40,000 jury trials awaiting disposal, and the Government have been forced to extend custody time limits from six to nine months. The CPS Inspectorate estimated in June that it could take 10 years to clear the backlog. It has got worse since then. This White Paper will be a dead letter if the Government cannot deal with the current crisis. I note that the head of the Courts Service has just left to become the Permanent Secretary, or acting Permanent Secretary, at the Education Department. Can the Minister tell us who is now in charge of the Courts Service at official level? Can she give us details of the current level of the backlog and the steps being taken by the Ministry of Justice to deal with it, and her estimate of when it will be dealt with?
To produce a White Paper like this at this time feels like a gimmick. The White Paper is a hotchpotch, with no unifying themes. Some of the strengthening of sentencing for some violent and sexual offenders is sensible. We welcome the pilots of problem-solving courts; their success already in Liverpool and other places makes me think that the MoJ could go quicker and further on them. Tougher community sentences and greater use of tagging is welcomed as well, and we also welcome the reduction in criminal conviction disclosure periods for those seeking employment.
What this White Paper does not do is signal a fundamental shift in sentencing. It looks like the worst sort of politicking. The fundamental shift should be being consistently tough on sexual and violent crimes and remorselessly focused on reducing reoffending. It should recognise that one-third of those being considered for community sentencing have mental health problems, and the White Paper should begin to address that. To have a proper plan that represents a fundamental shift, there needs to be a properly resourced plan for a properly staffed Prison Service that is able to deal with demand; a properly resourced probation service; and effective and, where appropriate, intense community penalties.
When does the Minister expect the legislation referred to in the White Paper to be produced? What additional resources does the Minister expect to be put into the system to fund this “fundamental shift”? When will the problem-solving courts be rolled out? How many offenders are affected by reducing the two-thirds release date for those sentenced from seven years down to four years? How many more prison places will be required to accommodate the increase in the life tariffs from one-half to two-thirds of the equivalent determinate sentence, and when will those prison places be available?
The Statement rightly claims that the first duty of any Government is to protect their people. There are two competing views as to how people should be protected. There are those who believe that warehousing offenders for as long as possible is a sure way of protecting the public, at the price of destroying the span of their lives on this planet. The alternative view is that the time and space given by incarceration in prison should be constructively used to reform and rehabilitate the prisoner, not just for his own sake but for the protection of the public in the long term.
The alternative approach is recognised in the White Paper in its call to empower the sentencing system with more effective community sentencing. It recognises the evil of drugs and unemployment regarding the individual and undertakes that individual needs will be identified and met. These reforms, it says, will not work unless they are underpinned by a “world-class” probation system. I entirely agree.
Much depends on the quality of probation officers. I recall from my early days in the law—as did the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, in the debate on the Question a moment ago—that many experienced and mature probation officers did much to improve the life chances of young people. I welcome the reference in the White Paper to a closer relationship between probation and the courts. That is how it used to be. In more recent years, the probation service has not seemed to be in the offender’s corner, to the point where it was risky for defence counsel to ask for a report because it would very likely be negative. The need for diversity in recruitment was not raised today in the earlier Question, but it is important to recall that an investigation in January of this year found that 70% of probation officers were female and white and did not meet the need for people of maturity, of different colour and of greater experience who can deal with the problems placed before them.
This paper, however, emphasises longer sentencing. Like Bad Boris in the “Dead Ringers” radio comedy, the desire to warehouse people creeps through. Here is where the strategy breaks down. I have spoken on other occasions of Berwyn Prison in Wrexham, near my home, which is the newest and largest prison in the United Kingdom and the second largest in Europe. Coming into its fourth year, it is still 400 short of its full complement because it still cannot recruit the staff. It does not begin to fulfil the rehabilitative ambitions with which it was built, and it is a byword for drugs and assaults on staff and fellow prisoners, as a study by Dr Robert Jones of Cardiff University found in June of this year. If such a new prison struggles to succeed, longer sentencing is decidedly not the way forward. This mars the otherwise constructive approach of much of the White Paper.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has asked many questions, so I will not add to the Minister’s further burden with mine.
I thank both noble Lords for their comments and questions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, is absolutely right that the first duty of any Government is to protect their people, but too often, at the moment, our system of sentencing in England and Wales does not command the confidence of the public. That is why we have put forward this White Paper on sentencing.
I am not going to comment on the Lord Chancellor’s views—I think that is above my pay grade—but I can tell the noble Lord that the person who is in charge of the courts system at the moment is a Mr Kevin Sadler. I hope that helps.
The noble and learned Lord brought up the problem-solving courts. I wondered whether this would come up, because it is true that we have trialled these aspects and other approaches similar to that in England and Wales in the past. However, the full gambit of the traditional problem-solving courts’ components successfully used in other jurisdictions to improve offender behaviour and reduce the use of custody and reoffending has never been fully established in this country. There are some elements that have been integrated into previous initiatives, and evaluations were either limited in their scope or did not take place. We therefore want to pilot a full model of PSCs across various cohorts, to properly test whether they work or not in our jurisdiction. That is what the White Paper explains. It is important to know that these courts are not soft options, and they fit very well into the White Paper, which says that serious crime needs to be dealt with and that we need to know what sentences are going to be given and how long people are going to stay in prison, because that gives confidence in the system.
We also understand that we have a reoffending rate that needs to be dealt with and that, in order to do that, we need to get to people early on in their offending career—if you would like to put it like that—and to work out individually what are their issues. Is it drugs? Is it alcohol? Is it mental health? We need to know, and we need the courts to be able to provide a programme, maybe through the probation service, that will help these people early on and stop them reoffending. That is an important part of this White Paper.
To finish on the PSCs, we are not rolling them out until the courts have dealt with the backlog. It is absolutely right that there is a bit of a backlog: that was bound to happen because of Covid-19 and the ways in which we have had to change the way the courts system works.
On the resourcing issues that have been brought up, the Government has given a £155 million increase in funding this year for probation. Through the White Paper they are looking at £2.5 billion to spend on prison reforms that will also help. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, asked about prison places. It is thought, in the White Paper, we will need another 600 prison places, but there are also designs for another 10,000 places because of the extra police numbers, et cetera, and court activity. That is already in train and the money is there. I think that that was all there was from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer.
Responding to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford: once again, yes, it is about protecting people, but it also about people understanding the system and having confidence in the system. I have talked a bit about drugs, alcohol and mental health issues. In order to stop reoffending, or to stop young people in particular getting into crime in the first place, we need really good and strong systems for dealing with these issues.
I thought I had mentioned BAME and diversity of recruitment in the probation service. We want, and will have, a probation service that is world class. We will have 1,000 more probation officers who are of good quality, as we deliver the programme between now and July next year. As I think I said in an answer earlier this afternoon, we are looking at diversity when recruiting those 1,000 officers. It is going well and we are over target, particularly on recruits from the BAME community, and particularly in London.
We are looking at longer sentences, but also at something that the public have been asking for for a long time, which is to understand sentencing and, particularly, to understand why people come out earlier than they should. It is crucial, when you have sentences for serious offenders, that they spend more of their sentence behind bars. That should truly reflect the severity of their crimes, so that the public, and victims particularly, have confidence in the justice that has been served. That is why we have announced abolishing automatic halfway release for certain serious sexual and violent offenders, requiring them instead to serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison. We will also make whole-life orders the starting point for the murder of a child, which we think is important, as well as allowing judges to hand out the maximum punishment to 18 to 20 year-olds in very exceptional cases.
I will look at Hansard and make sure that, if I have not answered questions from either the noble Lord or the noble and learned Lord, I will do so in writing and put a copy in the Library.
My Lords, we now come to the 20 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief, so that I can call the maximum number of speakers. I first call the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. Do we have the noble Lord? I do not think we do. I next call the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Gower, who is not in the Chamber. Do we have him on Zoom? No, we do not seem to have the noble Lord. So I now call the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, who is with us—good.
My Lords, I welcome the White Paper’s proposal to stop sending lower-level offenders back and forth to prison, and to develop more effective, non-custodial sentences. This is something that has been called for over for many years, but the call has gone unheeded. I ask the Minister why, in contrast, so little is being done to improve the regime inside prisons where, for example, a lack of good-quality education and training, and effective work programmes, means that rehabilitation is compromised, and over- crowding, self-harm and violence are increasing. Would she agree that ever-longer sentences and ever-worse conditions can lead only to very poor outcomes?
Yes, prisons need investment. That is why we are putting in £2.5 billion to be spent on prisons, not just for additional places but for upgrading prisons that need upgrading. It is important that young people in particular get individual services to ensure that they do not keep reoffending and get the services they need in the community to help them come out of crime.
My Lords, I welcome the Government’s expressed intent in this White Paper of reducing and tackling reoffending, but it is against the delivery of that intention that they will be judged. I note the issue of handovers, which suggests to me that an offender will be passed from one person to the next rather than having a seamless route through training and support. Nowhere in the chapter on reducing reoffending, other than in the title of the government department, is there a mention of engagement with local government. It has a key role here: housing, community and social care responsibilities. The words “local government” do not appear in this chapter. Is that a deliberate omission, an oversight or a mistake?
My Lords, as someone who has spent 25 years in local government, I am sure it is understood that local government is important in delivering. As the noble Lord said, it is about housing and drug and alcohol support. It can even be about education, particularly basic skills that some of these young offenders—or older offenders—often do not have. I quite agree with him and will take that back.
My Lords, I welcome the albeit very tentative steps to improve the youth justice system, but will the Minister let us into a secret that remains unopened by the White Paper? What is the empirical criminological evidence base for the Government’s apparent belief that lengthening sentences in ever more dangerous and unruly prisons will either reduce crime or increase prisoners’ prospects of an orderly life on release?
My Lords, that is exactly why the Government are looking to invest in our prisons, but we have to ensure that the public understand and have confidence in the system. They are asking that we have dangerous prisoners in custody for longer, but the noble Lord is absolutely right that we then have to invest in our prisons.
My Lords, I think we all accept that effective community sentencing and a proper probation service are urgent and necessary. However, I am concerned that these can be an excuse for not investing in the prisons we need—both new prisons and the repair of some deplorable examples, which my noble friend the Minister touched on. There has not been adequate emphasis on such investment since I had the pleasure of working with the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, in the 1990s. I welcome today’s sentencing reform, but investment in prisons is very slow. Will the Government accelerate and enhance their plans for investment announced now over a year ago?
I thank my noble friend for her question. As I said, we are creating 10,000 additional prison places, on top of those being delivered by Wellingborough and Glen Parva. These new prisons have been designed to be safe, decent and secure and to support effective rehabilitation. We have committed an additional £156 million this year to address some of the most immediate maintenance and renewal issues across the prison estate. We are also grateful to our FM providers and all those other contractors that have helped us operate prisons safely in the very challenging environment of Covid-19. Most recently, we announced that £140 million will be spent installing temporary prison cells, repairing and refurbishing prisons, approved premises and young offender institutions and improving IT in the Prison Service.
My Lords, while agreeing with my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, I would have welcomed many of the proposals in the White Paper when I was a magistrate—but I was depressed to see that in paragraph 394 in the annexe on race disparity, a most important element of justice, the term “White” is contrasted with “BAME”. Does the Minister agree with me that there are white minority-ethnic groups, notably Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, as well as people from the Balkan countries? Secondly, why has the Youth Justice Board not fulfilled the undertaking made to me several years ago by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, to separately categorise Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, so that we can finally make a start to better understand the context of their situation in the criminal justice system?
My Lords, while many aspects of the White Paper may be welcome, the fact is that the criminal justice system is creaking at the seams. What the Minister described as a bit of a backlog as of 31 March was in fact 326,000 outstanding cases at magistrates’ courts, an 11% increase over the previous year, and more than 40,000 cases at the Crown Court, a 21% increase. Unlike what the Minister said, most of this backlog occurred before the Covid lockdown, which was not until 23 March. As a recent study by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate said, the criminal justice system is “close to breaking point”. What are the Government going to do to avert a crisis in the criminal justice system?
I am afraid I do not agree with the noble Lord totally. A lot of people do not accept how much Covid-19 has affected services such as the courts service. That does not mean the Government need to be complacent. They are working as to how they move through the backlog, and I know the work we are doing with the National Probation Service and this sentencing White Paper will help us do that.
My Lords, I could not understand more the outrage of a family who have lost a loved one through crime and see the culprit serve only six years of a sentence, for example. However, as someone who has worked in rehabilitation through the arts in prison, I am nervous of not finding that the balance between retribution, rehabilitation and redemption is kept. Does the Minister agree that lack of hope can lead to despair, unrest in prison and even suicide?
First, the noble Lord is absolutely right that for a family who have lost a loved one to violent crime, it is a terrible thing—but, yes, we need to make sure offenders are looked after properly, and that is why we are investing in the Prison Service. We need to ensure that what we do there, or within the community for more minor offences, is rehabilitation.
My Lords, as a former sentencer, I welcome the Lord Chancellor’s attempts to break the revolving door between offending and resentencing. Do the Government propose to amend his statutory duty to safeguard the rule of law? Will the Government seek the advice of our esteemed remaining law officers about how to make other exceptions to lawbreaking in a very “limited and special” way—to quote the Northern Ireland Secretary?
My Lords, there are many good initiatives in this White Paper—problem-solving courts, identifying mental illness and brain damage as a factor in crime, and developing robust alternatives to breaches of community sentences, which normally end in custody at the moment. But they all depend on resources that have not hitherto been made available. Given that increasing the length of sentences not only has a direct effect but leads indirectly to the inflation of other sentences in comparison, the Prison Service will be at the front of the queue, desperately needing resources, and all these initiatives will be at the back, will they not?
I do not think they will, my Lords. Neurodivergent individuals—who I think the noble Lord was talking about—are very overrepresented in the criminal justice system and need more support. The White Paper understands that, will work effectively and, I hope, put more resources into it. The MoJ, working with the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education, is leading a refresh across the whole of government, particularly on the autism strategy, which is relevant to a large part of this cohort. It is important that that improves data capture on autism and ensures enough training and awareness about these people among the justice family, particularly when looking at prisons and the probation service, so that, rather than not understand them, we can support these individuals better.
My Lords, this White Paper will force sexual and violent criminals to spend longer in prison, allow whole-life orders for under-21s and child killers, and stop the automatic release of inmates who may be dangerous. The White Paper and the Bill that follows should first determine why prisons are running out of space. There is a need to review the probation services, as they can help with the problem. It also must be recognised that there is a need to help the prisoners reform. Many have committed crimes because of mental health problems, or drugs and alcoholism. The problems of BAME communities have also been mentioned, and proper consultation with the communities and churches concerned is needed. Does the Minister agree that more thinking should be done before enacting the law?
I agree with the noble Lord that rehabilitation, both in prisons and in the community, is of utmost importance. That is why a great deal of the White Paper talks about how we will make those services far better. The BAME community is important and, as far as BAME offenders are concerned, it is important that we know everybody as an individual, and we know their issues and problems, whatever they are, with rehabilitation programmes designed particularly for that individual. We talked about probation officers from the BAME community and I am pleased by the number coming forward for the recruitment drive.
My Lords, in the last 10 years, we have had seven Justice Secretaries making similar pledges to protect the public and to cut reoffending. Instead, despite more laws increasing jail terms, we have seen crimes rise and prosecutions fall to a record low. As exposed in the recent report from the Public Accounts Committee, published only on 11 September, the scale of mismanagement of the prison estate, disregard for women in prisons and the failure of the disastrous probation reforms are staggering. Inevitably, five days later, we get ever longer sentences, what I fear will prove to be more delusional promises of future delivery, and some piecemeal positive proposals. When will we see what is needed and what the PAC has now recommended twice, which is a coherent cross-government strategy to reduce reoffending?
The issues that the noble Lord talks about are why we have this White Paper. We know there are things that need to be looked at. The White Paper is there for people to look at and debate, and legislation to address the issues it has brought up will come forward next year.
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford, I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time. No Government could be glad at putting a further counterterrorism Bill before your Lordships’ House, but sadly it is born of necessity.
The Bill was originally conceived in response to the appalling attack that took place in Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019. Sadly, during its development, in February 2020 a further terrorist attack was carried out in Streatham. Both attacks were perpetrated by offenders who had been automatically released half way through their sentence. There was no possibility of keeping them in prison beyond that point under the law at the time.
The Government took immediate action to redress that error by introducing emergency legislation, the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020. We were grateful to noble Lords for the detailed and constructive debates on that Bill, which enabled us to halt the imminent automatic release of further terrorist offenders and ensure that they will be referred to the Parole Board before they can be considered for early release from their custodial sentence. Those debates and the swift passage of that Bill were a demonstration of the strength of our Parliament, in times of great need, to ensure that the right laws are in place to protect the public. Those shocking attacks underlined the need for the Government to do all that we can to offer greater protection to the public and justice for the victims of terrorism. Despite the ongoing and determined efforts of our security services, the threat of terrorism sadly remains; indeed, it is ever evolving.
This Bill will therefore strengthen not only the sentencing framework for terrorist offenders, but also the tools that enable our public services better to monitor and disrupt convicted terrorists and those who are of terrorism concern. Those who commit serious acts of terror must face sentences which match the severity of their crimes. Part 1 of the Bill sets out reforms which will introduce a new range of sentences—and improvements to existing sentences—which properly reflect the harm such crimes cause.
The first of these changes is the introduction of the serious terrorism sentence. This mandates a minimum custodial period of 14 years and a licence period of seven to 25 years for those who commit serious terrorist acts which put the lives of members of the public at risk. Where such offenders do not receive a life sentence, the serious terrorism sentence will provide for a minimum of 14 years in custody. The Bill will also make changes to the sentences of offenders assessed as dangerous by the court, and who could have received a life sentence for their offending, but instead received an extended determinate sentence. The Bill recognises these offences as sufficiently serious that there should be no prospect of early release from their custodial sentence. Further to this, for this cohort the courts will be empowered to apply licence periods of up to 10 years. I will say more on those licence conditions shortly.
We also propose to increase the maximum sentence given to those found to be members of, or providing support to, proscribed organisations, or those who attend a place used for terrorism training, from 10 to 14 years. These changes are made following the sentencing review announced by my right honourable and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in February.
This review also informed amendments to the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which are also supported by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC. These amendments will enable the courts to find any offence with a maximum penalty of more than two years to have a terrorist connection, which will lead to an aggravation of that sentence. It will also ensure that these offenders are subject to the registered terrorist offender notification requirements following their release from prison.
These measures clearly demonstrate the seriousness with which the Government view this type of offending. They also ensure that there is additional time for the authorities to support reform of such dangerous behaviour, improving our ability to rehabilitate offenders motivated by warped and abhorrent ideologies.
Noble Lords will appreciate how the recent terrorist attacks demonstrated the vital role played by those who monitor and manage the risk presented by terrorism in our communities, be they the police, the probation service or the security services. The Government know that time spent on licence is a crucial opportunity both to monitor and manage offenders in the community and to support their rehabilitation so that there can be long-lasting changes to their behaviour.
In recognition of the significance of this opportunity, we are adding all terrorism offences with a maximum penalty of over two years to the sentence for offenders of particular concern regime, with equivalent provision in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This will guarantee that any offender convicted of a terrorism offence covered by the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act will no longer be eligible for a standard determinate sentence and, instead, will receive a sentence for offenders of particular concern, ensuring a mandatory period of at least one year on licence.
The Bill also introduces a range of measures that will support the effective and efficient risk management of terrorist offenders. It will make available the use of polygraph testing when terrorist offenders are released on licence—as a condition of their licence— where necessary and proportionate to managing their risk. This is an approach similar to the already successfully adopted practice used for the monitoring of sex offenders in the community in England and Wales.
Debate in another place aired concern over this provision, so I assure noble Lords that this measure has all the relevant safeguards within its design. A failed test—that is, physiological reactions which indicate dishonesty—will never be sufficient to recall an offender to custody, nor will information gained during a test be used in a criminal proceeding against the examined offender. The measure will, however, provide critical “information gain”, which will support offender managers in their essential role, allowing them to tailor and refine risk-management plans to the benefit of wider society.
The Bill also makes a number of changes to the disruption and risk-management tools available to our operational partners. We are lowering the standard of proof for imposing a terrorism prevention and investigation measure, or TPIM, notice from the “balance of probabilities” to “reasonable grounds for suspecting” that an individual is, or has been, involved in terrorism-related activity. Lowering the standard of proof increases the flexibility of TPIMs as a tool for public protection, supporting their use in a wider variety of circumstances.
The Bill also specifies new measures which can be applied to TPIM subjects and removes the current two-year limit for which a TPIM notice can last. Instead, a TPIM will last for one year at a time but will be capable of repeated renewal. A TPIM will be renewed only when it is necessary and proportionate to do so. Should that justification cease, the TPIM will not be renewed.
Although it is important that we make these changes to support our operational partners, it is also important to be clear that TPIMs will remain a tool of last resort to protect the public from dangerous individuals whom it is not possible to prosecute or deport, or individuals who remain a real threat after being released from prison.
A further preventive measure that we are taking is to amend legislation governing serious crime prevention orders by allowing the police to apply for one directly to the High Court in terrorism cases. This will streamline the application process and is intended to support an increased use of these orders in such instances.
We are also adding the offences of breaching a TPIM notice and breaching a temporary exclusion order to the list of relevant terrorism offences which can trigger the registered terrorist offender notification requirements. This will help to close current gaps in our ability to manage terrorist offenders following their release from prison and any risk they pose.
The combined impact of these changes will strengthen our ability to manage the risk posed by people of terrorism concern in the community, including those released from prison without a period on licence.
The Bill also makes some changes to the way we deal with young terrorist offenders under the age of 18. We recognise that there is a separate sentencing framework for that category of offender, with distinct purposes and aims, which, quite rightly, differ from those for adults. Although we accept that there are important considerations of age and maturity to take into account—and we remain firm in our ambition to ensure that custody is used only where necessary—some young people are susceptible to radicalisation or to adopting extremist views and, among them, a few will unfortunately pose a very serious threat to the public. After due care and consideration, we have decided to apply some of the measures in the Bill to those aged under 18 in cases where it is imperative that we address the risk to the public posed by serious terrorist offenders. In that regard, we believe that the extended determinate sentence provisions strike a balance between mitigating the threat posed by terrorist offenders assessed as dangerous by the courts and the need to consider the welfare of younger offenders.
The Bill will also ensure that the courts have the right range of options at their disposal to deal with those under the age of 18 who commit serious terrorist or terrorism-related offences by introducing a new sentence of detention for terrorist offenders of particular concern. This new sentence will ensure that those offenders are subject to a fixed, one-year period on licence once released, the aim of which is to support their reintegration into the community and to safeguard the public.
A major component of our strategy for dealing with terrorism is Prevent, which aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism through terrorist-related activities. The independent review of Prevent will deliver on the Government’s commitment set out in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 and will critically examine and report on the Government’s strategy for safeguarding those susceptible to extreme ideology.
Following the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, stepping down, the process of appointing the next independent reviewer is under way by means of a full and open competition. To give the new reviewer the time necessary to carry out this important review, the Bill will remove the statutory deadline for the completion of the review. The aim is that it will have concluded, with a government response, by August 2021. However, given the ongoing uncertainty in light of the effect that Covid-19 is having on society, I hope that noble Lords will appreciate why a statutory deadline is no longer appropriate.
The threat posed by terrorism is one faced by every jurisdiction of this nation, and Her Majesty’s Government have a responsibility to protect all the people of the United Kingdom, wherever they may reside. To this end, we have set out to ensure that the provisions in the Bill will equally take effect in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. This includes the full application of the measures set out in the terrorist offenders Act to Northern Ireland.
We know that terrorism constantly morphs and adapts to circumvent measures put in place to counter it, so we must be equally flexible and refresh these critical laws to stay ahead of the threat it poses. The package of measures in the Bill aims to do just that by strengthening our hand at each stage of the process of dealing with terrorist offenders. From sentencing through to release and monitoring of these offenders, this legislation reaffirms our determination to ensure that the public are protected and, importantly, to give them confidence in that protection.
I am pleased that there can be rather more time to debate and scrutinise the Bill than was possible with the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act, and we look forward to the maiden speeches of my noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester as part of that, but I hope that that can be accompanied by the same sense of resolve and common purpose as your Lordships’ House demonstrated during the passage of that earlier legislation. I beg to move.
My Lords, thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, for introducing with such care and clarity this important Bill. We understand he has been thrown in at the deep end after the sudden departure from the Government of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen. He has acquitted himself impressively so far.
This is a significant Bill. The criminal justice response is key in the fight against terrorism but can never be the only response. While many of the recent terrorist atrocities have been associated with Islamist extremism, it is important to identify that there remain threats from others: as the UK’s top counterterrorism police officer, Neil Basu, recently confirmed, the fastest growing terrorist threat comes from far-right organisations. Of the 224 people in prison for terror-related offences, 173 are Islamist extremists and 38 are far-right ideologues; and of the 16 plots foiled by the end of 2018, four involved the far-right.
This Bill deals with four issues. The first is increasing sentences for terrorist-related offences. The second is changing the basis on which those convicted of terrorist offences can be released, and the terms thereafter on which they are on licence. The third is changing the TPIMs regime in three significant respects: reducing the burden of proof, making TPIMs last potentially indefinitely, and increasing the range of powers a TPIM can include. The fourth is removing the time limit for completion of the Prevent review, mandated by previous primary legislation.
On this side of the House, we will look carefully at the details of the increase in sentences and the proposed change to the way the system deals with early release of those convicted of terrorist offences. We will also look at when and how the Parole Board should be involved and how it should approach these issues.
While the detail matters a lot, we do not in principle oppose the first two parts of the Bill. There needs to be really tough sentencing for terrorists. Confidence in the system and justice for victims depends on it. The Deputy Mayor of Manchester, my noble friend Lady Hughes, described the gasp from the families of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombings when Mr Justice Jeremy Baker imposed a minimum term of 55 years on Hashem Abedi, who was convicted of plotting the Arena bombing with his brother. My noble friend described the gasp as a small amount of relief among their terrible anguish. It brings little comfort, but the pain of inadequate sentencing for the victims of terrorist bombings is real. The families of those who died in the bombing have themselves been sentenced to a lifetime of pain and loss. The very least they can expect is that the justice system pass sentences that reflect the gravity of what happened.
Coupled with that is the disregard with which the system is viewed when terrorists are released before their nominal sentence is concluded and commit offences again. The tragedies of Fishmongers’ Hall on 29 November 2019, and Streatham High Street on 2 February 2020, are terrible examples. At Fishmongers’ Hall, the bravery of the Polish porter, Lukasz Koczocik, helped to overpower the terrorists. Two former offenders, James Ford and Marc Conway, also became heroes when they helped tackle the attacker to the ground. Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who dedicated their lives to seeing the best in people, were working in offender rehabilitation, only to be killed at the rehabilitation conference at Fishmongers’ Hall. I pay a heartfelt tribute to them and extend my deepest sympathy to their families for their unimaginable loss. This terrorist attack, like the one on Streatham High Street on 2 February, was committed by an individual who was already convicted as a terrorist offender but had been released automatically halfway through their sentence. They were neither deradicalised nor deterred by their time in prison. In fact, their time at Her Majesty’s pleasure had made the position worse.
The most serious terror offences already attract what is known as extended determinate sentences, which require an offender to be referred to the Parole Board at the two-thirds stage of their custodial term, when they can be considered for release. At the end of the custodial term, the offender will be released on an extended licence. For terrorist offenders for whom the maximum penalty for their offence is life, this Bill removes the opportunity of Parole Board-directed release before the end of the custodial term, ensuring they serve a whole term in custody. This applies UK-wide and to both young and adult offenders. For this cohort of offenders, there will be no chance of parole before the end of the custodial term. This will give rise to prisoner management problems where there is no prospect of early release. However, that may well have to be faced. As the Bill goes through the House, we will need to consider whether that is appropriate for someone convicted under the age of 21. People seduced by appalling ideologies when teenagers should have some hope. There is agreement that, the younger the subject, the greater the hope for successful de-radicalising measures.
The Bill proposes that the maximum licence period for terrorists after release should be 25 years. We have concerns about the proportionality and cost of that reform, which have also been expressed by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. There is no explanation as to how this burden will be paid for in the context of a decimated probation service. Much of what happens on licence will depend on the effectiveness of the probation service. It is truly hopeless of the Government to blithely increase these licence periods, thereby appearing tough to the public, knowing full well that without proper additional expenditure on the probation service, these commitments and legislation will have little effect in the real world. Could the Minister provide the House with estimates of how much extra expenditure will be incurred by giving effect to these additional licence periods? How will probation afford them?
These are some of the issues in the first part of the Bill that we will wish to explore. I make it clear that, in principle, we support increasing the length of terrorist sentences and the significant tightening of the circumstances, outlined in the second part of the Bill, in which a person convicted of a terrorist offence may be released before the end of his custodial term. We consider it crucial that the criminal justice system be effective in catching and convicting terrorists, passing appropriate sentences and ensuring—consistent with the terms of their sentence—that they are not released before it is safe to do so. That does not mean that every terrorist is sentenced to an indeterminate sentence, but that the true length of the sentence passed and how it is implemented must have public confidence.
In connection with sentencing and early release, I have focused on what is in the Bill, but it is important also to focus on what is not in it. Inside and outside the criminal justice system, there must be a much more driven and focused effort on de-radicalisation measures. For many prisoners, such measures will have no impact whatsoever; moreover, many will manipulate the system to obtain early release by pretending they have had an effect. But that is not a reason to give up on those measures, both inside and outside prison. The Acheson review of 2016 dealt with de-radicalisation measures in prison. He made 69 recommendations, consolidated down to 11, eight of which were accepted. What happened to those recommendations remains a total mystery.
Mr Acheson himself said in a report published in 2019:
“Our unsafe prisons provide a fertile breeding ground in which predators, peddling extremist and violent ideologies, can prey upon the vulnerable, creating significant risks to national security and the public at large.”
“On the present trajectory, it is all too conceivable that a future terrorist will have been groomed and radicalised within our prison estate.”
Can the Minister provide details of which Acheson recommendations have been implemented, and give details of how they have been implemented?
The failure properly to address de-radicalisation measures in prison will haunt this country for generations, as we establish “academies of terrorism”. We must continue with these measures, as much for the prisoners—often young and vulnerable—imprisoned for non-terrorist offences, who end up radicalised and dangerous because of a total lack of push-back from the authorities against the vile, dominating hold of much stronger characters who are imprisoned for terrorist offences, certain of the rightness of their warped beliefs and able to seduce others into them.
In the world outside prison, it is equally important that the state ensures proper pushback against these warped ideologies. The Prevent strategy is designed to do that, but there are legitimate concerns about it and the extent to which its unintended consequences damage the fight against radicalisation. We are disappointed at the slow progress of the review; we are disappointed that there is no reviewer in place and that the Government are still in the process of selecting one. Can the Minister give the House details as to when they hope the review might report, and indicate what steps they are taking to ensure that it does so within a reasonable time? The removal of the time limit, which expired in August 2020, is plainly contrary to the wishes of Parliament when it introduced that amendment. Too often, this Government appear to make a concession in relation to legislation and then do all they can to undermine the effect of that concession. The Dubs amendment is a painful example.
The sentencing, early release and licence provisions in the first two parts of the Bill include a provision for polygraph tests, as mentioned by the Minister, which are to be used to inform licence conditions and their compliance and whether prisoners have broken those provisions. The unreliability of polygraph tests is well known. Can the Minister tell the House what view the Government take on their reliability, how—in light of that—they consider their use to be appropriate, and what studies they are relying on? Once they accept that it is not appropriate to rely on polygraph tests alone to determine whether conditions are satisfied, why rely on them at all?
Finally, the Bill makes it easier to get a TPIM, gives greater powers if a TPIM is granted, and allows it to last indefinitely without any change in circumstances. There will be cases where trial, conviction and sentence are not possible. It is right that the Government have the sort of power that a TPIM involves as part of their armoury against terrorism, but the changes are significant. Much anxiety has been expressed by non-aligned bodies about whether these powers are necessary. We will look very carefully at these powers. What is absolutely key is that the Government make a proper case for the need for these additional or changed aspects of TPIM. Can the Minister identify, in general terms, the difficulties experienced by those with the power to seek these orders, which currently arise from the balance of probabilities test? Can the Minister explain why it is thought necessary to extend them without a change in circumstances for longer than two years?
This is an important Bill. We will work constructively with the Government to deliver it, and will focus the whole time on equipping the authorities to be as effective as possible in combating terrorism. That means tougher sentencing and parole arrangements, but it also means effective measures to keep people from being radicalised or remaining radical.
My Lords, I start on a personal note to say how pleased I am to be in the Chamber for the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey of Didcot; I am sure that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester will be equally magnificent.
The most important thing we should be seeking to achieve is ensuring that terrorists do not cause harm to others—on that, we are united. How best to achieve this outcome is what is likely to divide us. We on these Benches will decide on the evidence, not the rhetoric. We acknowledge that the terrorist threat level remains “substantial” and that the tragic and horrifying terrorist attacks at Fishmongers’ Hall and in Streatham, less than a year ago, were committed by those who were known to the security services, and who had been released automatically at the half-way point of their sentence with no consideration by the Parole Board. As the Minister has said, we passed emergency legislation, the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, to address that situation.
I believe there are six remaining questions of public safety arising out of these tragic incidents, which the Government should be addressing. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has said, some of these are addressed in the Bill but some are not. First, is the Prevent strategy effective in identifying those at risk of being radicalised, and in diverting them away from potential terrorist activity? The most important thing is preventing terrorism—to stop people being radicalised to the extent that they are a threat to the public. Yet, this Bill pushes the independent review of Prevent, which this House insisted on in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, into the long grass, with no timetable for completion. Can the Minister tell the House what progress, if any, has been made?
Secondly, does the Prison Service have the information, training, expertise and resources to be able to deradicalise those in its custody and to prevent inmates from being radicalised or further radicalised? If they are convicted and imprisoned, offenders need to be in an environment where they can turn their lives around. Longer and longer sentences, extending early release from half way to two-thirds to never being released at all, overcrowding and understaffing—all provide a fertile breeding-ground for radicalisation. What evidence do the Government have that longer sentences deter idealistic, radicalised individuals who are determined to do us harm?
Thirdly, is it more effective to deradicalise those in prison or those on licence—and what is the impact of longer sentences on the susceptibility to deradicalisation? The Government claim that longer sentences provide more time to deradicalise, but what evidence is there that this would be more effective? How do we know that longer sentences, which may be perceived to be unfairly harsh, do not create greater resentment and make someone less amenable to deradicalisation?
Fourthly, does the Parole Board have the information, training, expertise and resources to be able to assess the risk posed by such offenders? What are the Government doing to improve the Parole Board’s decision- making capability? There is nothing in the Bill on this issue.
Fifthly, does the probation service have the information, training, expertise and resources to be able to manage the risk posed by such offenders? The Government’s record in relation to the probation service generally is disastrous—and the experience and expertise required to manage the potential risk posed by such offenders is considerable. Perhaps lie-detector tests can help. As the Minister said, what evidence is there that they work? Does the probation service have the equipment, technicians and scientists to carry out and interpret the results of the proposed polygraph tests? If they are effective, why is there no plan to make these tests available to the Parole Board, for example, to help in its decision-making?
Sixthly, is the way that different agencies, including the police, probation service and security services, work together to investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders under the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements operating effectively? Where are we with the implementation of the recommendations of the independent review of MAPPA, particularly those considered urgent by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, who carried out the review?
In 2011, control orders were replaced by terrorism prevention and investigation measures—TPIMs—moving from significant and indefinite restrictions on suspected terrorists’ liberties without trial to a limited power to manage the risk posed while evidence was gathered to secure a conviction. TPIMs can be imposed without the standard of proof usually required before the state can restrict an individual’s—that is, proof beyond reasonable doubt. The civil case standard of
“the balance of probabilities that the individual is, or has been, involved in terrorism-related activity”
is considered enough.
The Bill wants to take us back to the control order standard of “reasonable grounds for suspecting”—the same standard of proof that a police officer requires before making an arrest. Believe me, I know that that standard is very low. Jonathan Hall QC, the current independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, says:
“I am not aware of cases where the authorities would like to have imposed a TPIM if the standard of proof had been lower”.—[Official Report, Commons, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill Committee, 25/6/20; col. 6.]
In that case, why do the Government need to change the standard of proof? Jonathan Hall QC also argues against doing away with the two-year limit on TPIMs as the Bill proposes. At the least, he suggests, safeguards are needed, such as the Secretary of State seeking the court’s permission for any extension beyond two years in the same way that she does when a TPIM is first made. Although we are blessed with a number of former independent reviewers of terrorism legislation in this House, what is the point of having a current reviewer of terrorism legislation if he is not listened to?
We should not return to the days when the state could deprive someone of their liberties indefinitely without trial. We on these Benches have had enough of the Government’s “talk tough” rhetoric and their low-cost or no-cost options that have no evidence to support their effectiveness. We will support every measure in the Bill where the evidence shows they are necessary and effective in keeping us safe from terrorism but we will call out every measure where the evidence suggests they are unnecessary and ineffective.
My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests.
As noble Lords will know, the most important duty of legislators when considering measures such as the ones in the Bill is to protect the public from those who might harm them and to keep our hard-fought freedoms safe. I suggest that the Bill responds to that obligation in a suitable and proportionate way. I believe that, unlike some legislation, this has been thoroughly prepared and that the Government have responded to advice, as well as learning from the experience of law enforcers, law professionals and those who have been appointed to review terrorism legislation, including Jonathan Hall QC, the current holder of the role, and the previous reviewer, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, who I am sure will give us the benefit of his wisdom and experience in the debate today. It has also benefited from careful and responsible scrutiny in the other place. Nevertheless, there are a few items in the proposals that I want to touch on today.
Terrorism is not some distant threat that can be ignored as a non-urgent matter in the consideration of security. In the last three years alone we have succeeded in preventing more than 25 potential attacks by extremists taking place in the UK, many with the direct assistance of our EU neighbours’ police and intelligence agencies. As noble Lords know, there are a large number of data-sharing arrangements in place with other EU countries that allow us to benefit in real time to stop attacks. These have included ECRIS, SIS II, Prüm and others. As rapporteur, I had the privilege shortly before I left the European Parliament to take the EU passenger name records measure through its various stages, with the strong support of the UK Government and the other European Governments. I sincerely hope that we will never allow such helpful provisions, which have proved so valuable, to be lost to the people of this country, since if we do it will inevitably put us in greater danger. I would be most grateful if my noble friend the Minister could give us some reassurances on that today.
On other points, I want to mention the changes to the terrorism prevention and investigation measure—TPIM. Of course we know that it is always better to be able to prosecute and, if necessary, deport terrorists than to resort to TPIMs. I know they are not used much and they are not preferred, but the lower standard of proof required for their deployment may well result in them becoming more common in wider circumstances and producing more questions. The removal of the present time limit, while sensible in some cases, raises further questions because, as I am sure we all agree, their use must always be proportionate.
The standard to be followed—that the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an individual of being involved in terrorist-related activity—has been available since the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, introduced then for making control orders, but it is a considerable watering-down of the current test. Can my noble friend tell us more about why this standard of proof is enough?
I want to refer briefly to the proposals for polygraph testing, both for adult terrorist offenders subject to the release provisions of Section 247A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and as a TPIM requirement. I realise that their use is believed to be of help as a risk-management tool but I understand that they have only just entered pilot testing for domestic abuse offenders from March this year. My noble friend seems confident of their efficacy but I wonder whether he has plans to introduce a pilot programme similar to the one for domestic abuse and, if so, when that might start. Would that not be a good idea, especially before a comprehensive rollout?
My final remarks are to inquire about resources. I know we all greatly admire the work of our police and security services, especially the probation services, but does my noble friend believe that these new responsibilities can be adequately performed by the probation services and do not require more investment?
Any provision that helps us match the current and perceived future threat from terrorism is to be welcomed, and I am pleased to welcome that. Once the legislation is through, I just hope that the sentencing guidelines that must accompany it are not unduly delayed.
In thanking the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, for his very clear and careful introduction of the Bill, I thank him, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice for making the changes that need to be made to sentencing legislation in the form of amendments to the code. This was a vital first act in that respect. Of course, it may not appear easy to follow as incorporated in the Bill before us, but it is plain from the way in which the code will be developed that judges will have before them all the provisions in the right place in one document. This is a huge step forward. The ministry and the Home Office deserve thanks for adhering to this Bill, unlike what happened in 2003.
I want to make three points of substance, two relating to the provisions in Part 1 of the Bill and one relating to Part 3. The first, in relation to Part 1, relates to the sentencing of youths and, in particular, Clause 4. It is clear that sentencing those under 21 is the most difficult task for a court. In relation to terrorist offences it is particularly difficult, partly because they are the people who are most suggestible or susceptible to persuasion to embark on terrorism and, in my experience, at least some of those who have committed offences have had learning or other difficulties. I think there can be little doubt that evidence exists to say that such persons are deterred by the prospect of long sentences. It seems to me that the clause ought to be examined in terms of whether the emphasis is in the right place on dealing with someone for the future and ensuring that that person does not in the longer term pursue a career of terrorism. It is an area where it is essential that the judge has full information and should be left to form a judgment.
The second point that I want to make on Part 1 is on the provisions for minimum terms, whether for life sentences, extended sentences or custodial sentences. The general principle should be that there should not be minimum terms unless there is a compelling justification. This is particularly so in relation to offences where there is a huge range of conduct that can be brought within the section, some less serious and some of the utmost severity. Section 5 of the 2006 Act is a very clear illustration of the range that can be encompassed and the difficulties to which it gives rise.
There are guidelines now and I have no doubt that the Sentencing Council will produce new guidelines to reflect the changes. The judges who try these cases are few and, by and large, the courts have been very tough. We need to be very careful in our scrutiny of the provisions for minimum sentences as applied by the Bill.
On TPIMs, perhaps I may make one or two brief observations. First, the use of control orders and TPIMs has a long history and it is clear that they have played an important role in dealing with terrorism. However, that long history makes two things clear. There needs first to be proper judicial scrutiny of all aspects of them. In looking at the amendment made by Clause 37 to the standard of proof, we need to be particularly careful about whether the test set out there is capable of good judicial scrutiny. The second concerns the need for a maximum period. There is quite strong evidence that one of the worst effects of imprisonment for public protection where there are no defined limits to the end point is that the lack of a defined limit can lead to people losing hope and becoming more dangerous. We ought to examine carefully whether we do not wish to impose a maximum, or at least subject that maximum to judicial approval.
My Lords, it is easy to talk about countering terrorism, so I want to start by expressing my thanks to all those in the different services who do the work. However, that does not lead me to the view that tougher legislative measures are the best form of prevention. The current Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation—we have a bounty of reviewers with us today—wrote that the services’ propensity to argue for more tools in the toolkit was
“a homely phrase, which risks obscuring the question of justifying them.”
The most effective of tools used wisely are resources—resources addressed to the fear of being caught and of course prevention, so it is depressing that the focus of the Bill is punishment. What about radicalisation and rehabilitation, as other noble Lords have said and I am sure more will say? What will be the role of the reorganised, the re-reorganised, probation service? In the recently published review of MAPPA, to which my noble friend referred, Jonathan Hall recommends
“wider sharing with probation officers not only of specific intelligence but also of threat assessments and profiles”
and that they be given
“training in the principles of intelligence assessment.”
In parenthesis, but not I think irrelevant, I note that the Commons were told that the MAPPA review would be published by the time the Bill started in this House. It has been, and I might be flattered by an implicit recognition of our effectiveness, but as so often happens, something relevant not just to the debate but to everyone’s thinking is made available when the opportunities to amend the legislation are very limited.
That could lead me on to the delay in the review of Prevent, but I will save that for Committee as I want to concentrate on TPIMs. We are heading back towards control orders by another name, which I know will be approved of by some, but not by these Benches. I want to say a word about the impact of TPIMs on people—people for whom they are not intended as a punishment. The Bill deals with a limited number of measures, but they are part of the whole of what I have heard referred to as “social death”, such that the subject regards prison as preferable because it enables more social interaction and social freedom. TPIMs are outside the criminal justice system but mean being lifted from one’s community and placed somewhere utterly unfamiliar without the support of one’s normal contacts. To pre-empt the point that the contacts are the problem, I say that we should not ignore positive engagement with and monitoring by family, colleagues and co-religionists. Jonathan Hall writes of the emerging profile of a terrorist risk offender as
“lonely, vulnerable, self-radicalised individuals who are drawn to extreme views, usually encountered and reinforced online, many with poor mental health.”
TPIMs reinforce the sense of isolation of those who already have only a tenuous grip on reality. Whether loners or settled in a family, reporting, extensive curfews and controls on computers all make it difficult or impossible to find work. Visitors find security clearance and distance too great a hurdle while the children of the family grow up with depression, an enduring sense of injustice, and are bulled at school as “jihadi kids”. Familial cohesion breaks down. There are six current TPIMs, but that does not mean that only six people are affected, and now there will be no certain end in sight. Mr Hall also writes about the importance of stable accommodation in the right area in mitigating risks and says that the ability to find it and obtain support for mental health may depend on how effectively the police, prisons and probation are able to demonstrate its importance.
The Government take the view that lowering the standard of proof increases the flexibility of TPIMs, making it more practical
“to satisfy the requirement to demonstrate an individual is, or has been, involved in terrorism related activity.”
“Flexible” is a weasel word, as is the term “easier to demonstrate”. Of course, it will be easier to demonstrate: the Secretary of State will no longer have to be satisfied that an individual is or has been involved in the activity but just to have reasonable grounds for suspicion. The independent reviewer reports that
“even administrative convenience does not appear to provide a basis for reversing the safeguard of a higher standard of proof.”
which he says “has not proved impractical”.
In addition to his analysis of the lack of safeguards, including judicial safeguards to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, just referred, he observes that, “The criminal justice route of fair trial and sentence commands the widest public support.” I will add from these Benches that by lowering the standard of proof, we will be lowering our standards too.
My Lords, I am grateful to follow the noble Baroness and for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this important debate. Perhaps I may begin in the traditional way by thanking the Doorkeepers and staff for making me feel so welcome. I offer them heartfelt thanks because nothing has been too much trouble for them. I also thank my noble friends Lady Bloomfield and Lady Fall for supporting my introduction. Both are extremely busy people. My noble friend Lady Bloomfield has been taking the Agriculture Bill through the Lords and my noble friend Lady Fall has, like me, been preparing for the arrival of Lady Swire’s memoirs, which will be published this Thursday.
I do not want to make this too much like an Oscar acceptance speech, but I hope your Lordships will indulge me if I pay tribute to my late father, who came into this place 44 years ago. It was a place he loved and he served it assiduously. He made his maiden speech on the race relations Bill, expressing the hope that the Bill would one day be redundant. Obviously, given the events particularly of this year, that hope has sadly not been realised. He had a mischievous sense of humour. His final Written Question, published on the day of his death, was to take the Government to task for the misspelling of a sign by the Ministry of Works outside Richmond House. My father came into this place on the lavender list. I know that it would have appealed to his mischievous sense of humour to read the article I read just last week, which began with the immortal phrase, “This list of Peers is the worst list since the lavender list.” That provided me with a valuable connection to my father.
I was lucky enough to serve in the other place for 14 years as the Member of Parliament for the wonderful constituency of Wantage and Didcot. It is a remarkable place, as every MP says about their constituency, being a place of ancient history and modern science, ranging from the ancient white horse to the Diamond synchrotron, and now the manufacturing centre for vaccines. That is attracting politicians by the bucketload to visit it, including the Prime Minister, as it rises from the ground. It is a great privilege to be able to take the title of Lord Vaizey of Didcot, of Wantage in the county of Oxfordshire, to represent my constituency, although I slightly resent my brother-in-law christening me Lord Vaizey of Parkway.
In any event, I was lucky enough to serve for six years as the Minister for culture and technology in the other place, and those are the subjects on which I hope to bore your Lordships on regular occasions. I do not know how attentively you will listen to me, because I am not sure how good I was at my job. I was, for example, the Minister responsible for rural mobile broadband coverage. I remember—and maybe the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, will recall—the day I was sacked by the new Prime Minister Theresa May. I do not know if there are any sackees in the Chamber at the moment, but you get a call from Downing Street; I was in my car, and Downing Street said, “The Prime Minister will call you in 15 minutes”. As I drove off through the rural hinterland of Oxfordshire, I realised that I had lost my mobile phone signal. It took the Prime Minister half an hour to get through to me, and I was a Minister for 15 minutes longer thanks to the lamentable job I had done in the previous six years.
I turn briefly to the provisions in the Bill, and I say again what a privilege it has been to listen to the remarks made so far—this House is justly well known for the extraordinary expertise it contains within its ranks. It goes without saying that the Bill is essential, following the horrific attacks that have been referred to, and I pay tribute to the victims who sadly lost their lives in those attacks. It is also right to pay great tribute to our security services and our police force, who do such a remarkable job in preventing so many attacks, as has already been referred to.
I want to pick up on the theme, remarked on in some of the earlier speeches, of rehabilitation. It may seem odd to have a former culture Minister seek to speak at Second Reading of a Bill on counterterrorism, but my last meeting as culture Minister was in the Ministry of Justice, where I had assembled a series of charities—the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance—all of which work in prisons and with offenders in an attempt to engage them, give them opportunities and hope, and turn them away from a life of crime. It sometimes sounds frivolous or even facetious, but I am a passionate and powerful believer in the power of culture, the arts and sport in engaging young people. Noble Lords have already referred to young, vulnerable and disengaged young men. We cannot necessarily forgive their crimes, but we can, if we engage them as early as possible, perhaps turn these young people away from them.
I know that the Prevent strategy has become somewhat controversial, but I think its aims are absolutely laudable. All I would do, given that the Bill covers the Prevent strategy, is urge the Government to continue to look at, and redouble their efforts in, engaging cultural charities and institutions to provide young people with hope and opportunity. I know from my own work with the National Youth Theatre how important that is, and what amazing opportunities are often given to young people.
The other issue I want to talk about briefly is the role of technology; and here is an area, I think, where we should hold people accountable. Those people are the ones who run huge global platforms such as Facebook and Google. As I am sure noble Lords know, these platforms are used by terrorist organisations. They use them to organise themselves online, to proselytise online, to convert the young and vulnerable people whom we have been talking about—and to monetise their activity. Extraordinarily, they are able to attract, through ad technology, legitimate adverts from legitimate businesses for their websites. Even more extraordinarily, some are even able to sell merchandise—T-shirts and memorabilia—on their websites, which funds their terrorist activities.
It is not within the scope of the Bill to address that issue. However, I know that the Online Harms White Paper—which will lead, I hope, to the online harms Bill—will provide an opportunity for this Government to put in place some really ground-breaking legislation, which I hope will change the debate and tip the balance. So I am grateful indeed for your Lordships’ indulgence, and the opportunity to make those remarks on the Bill.
My Lords, we greatly look forward to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, but I think it is fair to say that in terms of a maiden speech, we have had a massive treat today. It was an absolutely superb speech. I have known my noble friend for many years. After graduation, he actually became a barrister specialising in family law in practice, but he also at an early stage started writing speeches for some of our most distinguished parliamentarians and, indeed, subsequently followed in that vein by becoming the Member of Parliament for Wantage in 2005.
I would particularly like to highlight one aspect of the whole diversity of his actions as a Minister, and in his life in general. In 2010 he was appointed as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. I make no party-political point when I say that, pre Covid, there was a most extraordinary flowering of artistic and cultural endeavour in this country. Those involved in these industries knew one thing: they had a champion in the form of this Minister. He was absolutely committed to his role and to making structural reforms. For example, just one initiative was a new tax regime for the film industry, and we have seen this brilliant flowering of the British film industry in consequence.
When he left office, 150 of the most distinguished people in the arts and the creative industries wrote a letter to him just to say, “Thank you”. On reflection, this must be the very first time that this group has ever written such a letter to a Conservative arts Minister. I congratulate him warmly on an outstanding speech, and I look forward to many contributions with his brilliant sense of humour in the future.
Before entering your Lordships’ House, I represented a constituency in which there was a prison, and I would just like to mention this little story. The Roman Catholic chaplain asked to see me urgently, because of an atmosphere that was becoming very negative in this prison, and because a group of inmates was showing total hostility in an aggressive way towards him. I spoke to the prison governor, who knew about this but, quite frankly, did not know how to handle it. I discovered that a group of individuals was allegedly being sent, with official permission, to provide family and community contact with these particular individuals. In reality, they were radicalising them and spreading the poison of political extremism. I inquired further and found out that this particular group—who were going to other prisons as well—was actually being paid by the Government to fulfil this role. I simply say: thank goodness that all of this is now understood much better, and we move on to a more comprehensive understanding of the dangers that beset our society with the whole process of radicalisation in our prisons.
Of course, we must handle these matters with proportionality, not least to secure community support and to avoid community disconnection. However, it is plain today that, following some more recent atrocities, legislative action is required. Radicalisation and gang culture are now features of prison life, and let us never forget the immense strains this imposes on prison officers and their families.
I believe the Bill, being the largest overhaul of terrorist sentencing and monitoring for some time, is ready for moving on and being accepted into law. Of course, there are issues about young offenders, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 21, but let us remember that they are entitled to vote at the age of 18, and of course there are some who believe they should be entitled to vote at the age of 16. The atrocities in Manchester have given us a very clear signal about this. So I believe that this legislation balances the need to ensure that justice is served on those who commit the most serious crimes, but, as far as those who participate in lower-level activity, my noble friend the Minister may wish to comment further on this and on the issue of deradicalisation and reintegration into normal society, because it is all of real significance.
I happen to be the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Algeria, and it may come as a great surprise to know that as, perhaps, an enduring result of the terrible war of independence, the Algerian Government, in addition to observing the rise of religious extremism, initiated at an early stage a really comprehensive and much-admired deradicalisation and reintegration policy. This has been most successful inasmuch as very few young Algerians went to support ISIS and, indeed, the mass demonstrations that have been taking place there have never been captured by religious extremists.
I conclude by saying that this legislation will see our most dangerous terrorists spending longer in custody while more effectively managing those who have been released. Therefore, I support the Bill.
My Lords, I begin by expressing my thanks to the parliamentary staff and fellow Members of this House, who have both welcomed me and helped me understand something of the workings of this place. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, on his excellent and entertaining maiden speech reminding us of the importance of rehabilitation—not only for sacked government Ministers. I declare my interest as chair of the Greater Manchester police’s Ethics Committee, which is recorded in the register.
I believe I may be unique among the Lords Spiritual in serving as Bishop of the diocese in which I was born, brought up and educated: I am a Bishop from Manchester as well as Bishop of Manchester. My education at the Manchester Grammar School taught me the proud history that Manchester and its surrounding towns have in women’s suffrage, the trade union movement and the extension of parliamentary democracy as well as this region’s place at the innovative heart of the industrial revolution.
In Manchester, I learned my love of numbers, going on to read and research mathematics at King’s College, Cambridge, before the blossoming of my Christian faith took me to Birmingham to study theology and, hence, into church ministry. I may be the only Member of your Lordships’ House able to tackle that medieval conundrum—“How many angels can dance on a pinhead?” —from two distinct academic disciplines.
The culture of Manchester is best represented by the city’s iconic image of the worker bee. However, bees are not only hard-working—they work together. Self-interest is subservient to the well-being of the hive. Manchester drew hard on that culture following the Manchester Arena terrorist attack of May 2017, to which noble Lords have already referred in this debate. It was my privilege to help lead my city in its response, and it is why I feel particularly called to speak in today’s debate. When the authors of terrorism sought to divide us, we came closer together, linking arms across the diversity of our city and region, which is among our principal strengths. I am fiercely proud of how Manchester held its head up high in the aftermath of an attack not only on innocent concert-goers but aimed at our very way of life.
I support the aspirations of this Bill and many of the measures included in it. Our first response to the threat of terrorism must be to improve the ways we prevent terrorist atrocities being planned and executed. Reducing the risk to the public from particular known individuals, especially those who already have convictions for offences linked to terrorism, has a vital role in preventing would-be terrorists from forming and carrying out their plans.
However, we will not defy terrorism through legislation that provides a recruiting sergeant for those who wish us harm. Long prison sentences, such as that properly handed out in the recent trial for the Manchester Arena attack, send a strong signal about our commitment to public protection. However, we must remember that they extend the isolation of prisoners from their families and the moderating influence of the wider community while keeping them for longer in close proximity with those who might seek to increase or reinforce radicalisation. This is particularly a concern for the youngest offenders.
Secondly, reducing the level of proof required for some sanctions, such as TPIMs, to well below the balance of probability may give rise to a sense of injustice, one that stretches far beyond the individual to whom the sanction applies, undermining the support from across the community, which is our strongest weapon in the fight against radicalisation. I urge Ministers to provide this House, during the various stages through which this Bill will pass, with clear evidence that the positive impacts of the proposals will outweigh the unintended negative ones.
In this House, we have a responsibility to ensure that the Bills we pass into law unite our society rather than divide it. If we apply a legal sanction that protects us from one individual—but at the price of radicalising three others—we will not control the threat. Terrorist ideology has its own replication number, every bit as deadly as coronavirus. Our challenge is to pass legislation that brings together the diverse voices of our land and carries confidence across the broad range of political, religious and other communities with whom we share a common life.
I hope that we will listen to those voices, both from within and beyond this Chamber as we debate this Bill, and will make improvements to it that will win the trust of those who we will need as allies in what is our common cause to protect the people of our nation and the values upon which Britain is built. I look forward to continuing to be a voice in this House for the diverse communities that make up Manchester and, especially, for those who are not so often heard.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure and privilege to follow the excellent maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate—the Bishop of, and from, Manchester—so soon after his introduction. Before being consecrated as Bishop of Manchester, he was suffragan Bishop of Dudley, being responsible for the interregnum between two Bishops of Worcester: Bishop Peter Selby—our most distinguished Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons—and the present incumbent, Bishop John Inge, who takes such a keen interest in justice issues. As the right reverend Prelate has given early evidence of his intention to play an active part in the proceedings of the House, I look forward to many more contributions from him, particularly on justice issues.
Any legislation forged in the white heat following a dramatic offence risks the likelihood of being flawed because there has not been enough time to think through all the implications. The Prison Reform Trust, in its written evidence to the other place on the Bill, pointed out:
“The government has not published the serious case reviews into the Fishmongers Hall and Streatham attacks despite these forming a substantive part of the policy and political justification for the measures in the bill”.
The Minister confirmed this in his introduction.
I will focus on three issues: the current availability of deradicalisation programmes in prisons, the assertion that longer prison sentences protect the public and the removal of Parole Board hearings prior to release. Earlier this year, the Government made a commitment to double the number of counterterrorism specialist probation staff and increase the numbers of specialist psychologists, specially trained imams and the resources dedicated to training front-line prison and probation staff.
Currently, there are only two deradicalisation programmes used in prisons, neither of which has been evaluated. One is called the Healthy Identity Intervention, and this is supplemented by the Desistance and Disengagement Programme, which is designed to be on offer to both prisoners and those released on licence. As programmes have very long waiting lists and delivery is limited by the significant cuts to both staff and resources over the last 10 years, their effectiveness is questionable, at best. In view of this, I ask the Minister whether the other government commitments that I mentioned have been implemented?
On longer sentences, my experience as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons leads me to believe that the Minister in the other place, Chris Philp MP, was wrong when he said that keeping the most serious offenders off the streets for the duration of their sentences is the only way to be certain that the public are protected. It is true that people cannot commit crimes against the public while they are in prison, but all will be released and what matters is their state of mind when that happens. Treat them like animals and you will get animals. So little is done with, and for, long-term prisoners that it is small wonder that so many reoffend.
Finally, I am horrified that, because of the removal of early release, the Parole Board should not be required to carry out reviews of serious terrorist sentences and extended determinate sentences before release. Over the years, the Parole Board has made remarkably few mistakes and reviews are very much built into the system for releasing long-term prisoners. Parole Board panels are used to addressing up-to-date risk to the public as they interrogate staff who are in daily contact with a prisoner. My noble friend Lady Prashar, a former chairman of the Parole Board, who will speak later, knows far more about this subject than me. I assure her that I will strongly support any amendment that she may table to reverse this decision.
My Lords, I was fortunate in my time as a law officer that I did not have to advise on new terrorism legislation, so my advice on the detail of the Bill will be limited. Northern Ireland, for which I had a separate responsibility, enjoyed considerable calm in my time, although I had to adjudicate, in a diminishing number of terrorist-related offences, on whether to allow a Diplock court. In passing, I would favourably consider any temporary Diplock courts in England and Wales to help to reduce the backlog in crown court cases which have risen by 6,000 to 43,000. The option, at least, of a Diplock court should be closely considered. As a firm defender of jury trials over the whole of my professional career, I look forward to the Lord Chancellor’s proposals.
My first point on the Bill is to question the efficacy of the Prevent strategy. How confident are the Government that it is producing results? It is sad that the independent review of the strategy cannot take place in the time limit imposed by statute. I commend the work of the previous independent reviewers and have a high regard for the work of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. Given the new leeway which the Government require, I trust that Parliament will be given the opportunity of considering the revised terms of reference.
My second point is that reservations have been raised in the Commons about the use of polygraph tests to monitor compliance with licence conditions. We should not shy away from new mechanisms. Many, many years ago, under my Minister, I helped to pilot breathalyser legislation through Parliament. It was not without controversy, but now it is accepted as effective and permanent. I note that the Scottish justice system chose not to use polygraph tests due to lack of evidence of their effectiveness. I hope the Minister can put forward the Government’s view of the differing approach of the law in Scotland and the law, as it will be, in England and Wales. Specifically, why are the proposals for England and Wales are preferred to those in Scotland? I am, of course, aware of their views in other fields.
Lastly, I am concerned, as a criminal lawyer, about the lowering of standards of proof for imposing TPIMs from balance of probabilities to reasonable grounds for suspecting, which is a very low standard. The Joint Committee on Human Rights and the independent reviewer, Jonathan Hall QC, are concerned about the proposed lowering of standards. As a life-long criminal practitioner, I share that concern. I note the views of the national convenor on counterterrorism. I would not wish to contradict the operational evidence given by the assistant chief constable, but I would bear at the back of my mind the maxim: “Hard cases do not make good law.” I look forward to the Minister’s detailed justification on this aspect.
I support the Bill, having observed with horror the tragedy at Fishmongers’ Hall, involving caring members of one of my old universities, and other tragedies beyond belief, such as that in Manchester. The protection of the public must be a paramount consideration. Nevertheless, detailed questioning of the present proposals is more than fully justified.
My Lords, I will focus on two aspects of the Bill. The first is the serious terrorism sentence introduced by Clauses 4 to 7 and the second is the removal of restriction of early release for terrorist prisoners introduced by Clauses 27 to 31. The Bill’s objective is to ensure that victims and the wider public are protected for longer and to enable victims to feel safe for longer. I fully support that objective, but the principal consequence of these provisions is to remove the role of the Parole Board, a body I chaired between 1997 and 2000, in assessing risk to determine the safe release of the most serious terrorist offenders. Instead, offenders sentenced under these provisions will be released automatically at the end of their custodial term.
The Independent Reviewer of Terrorist Legislation, Mr Hall, has described this as “a profound change”. He notes three immediate consequences. First,
“the possibility of early release, which acted as a spur to good behaviour and reform for offenders with long sentences”,
will be removed. Secondly, he says that it removes
“the opportunity to understand current and future risk at Parole Board hearings”.
“child terrorist offenders, whose risk may be considered most susceptible to change as they mature into adults, have lost the opportunity for early release.”
As a former chair of the board, I entirely agree with Mr Hall’s concerns.
Parole is a vital stage in the risk management of those whose offending is serious enough to merit the imposition of an indeterminate or extended determinate sentence, including those convicted of the most serious offences. Parole is also a stage included in the special custodial sentence for offenders of concern and the Bill seeks to expand the remit of the sentence to include all terrorist offenders given a custodial sentence of over two years. Indeed, a paradox of the Bill is that on one hand it seeks to expand the role of the Parole Board in determining the risk of those convicted of less serious terrorist offences but, on the other, it seeks to remove the board from its role for offenders convicted of the most serious ones. How can this be logical?
No system for identifying future risk can ever be perfect and Mr Hall’s review included a number of recommendations on how to improve the court process involving terrorist offenders. It also highlighted the important role that the board plays as part of the process of assessing risk. Justifications provided by the Government for removal of parole are not convincing and I am not sure they are totally evidence-based. Denying parole hearings removes a key incentive for prisoners to engage with efforts by authorities to address their extremist beliefs. It also reduces incentives for prisoners to comply with the prison regime more generally, which could put staff at risk of violence. This has been highlighted by the Prison Officers’ Association as its biggest fear.
Then there are concerns about the fairness and proportionality of removing parole—authorised release for young adults convicted of terrorism offences where the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. The proposed changes would go against the recognition of age and maturity in other areas of sentencing by imposing the same conditions on children and young adults as on adults convicted of terrorist offences. It also runs counter to existing sentencing practice and evidence that this group is the most capable of change.
The need to reduce the risk posed by people convicted of terrorist offences is something we all agree on, but we must ensure that in the understandable desire to punish we do not undermine incentives to rehabilitate, or the arrangements in place to manage risk and protect the public. I am very grateful to other noble Lords: in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for highlighting the role of the Parole Board, and to the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, in his maiden speech, for highlighting the role of art and culture in rehabilitation. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I welcome the two maiden speeches we have heard today, particularly that of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey of Didcot, and his focus on the sufferings of victims of the crimes that led to this Bill, and their families. I also commend the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, who reflected on the suffering of Manchester after the arena bombing. I was at a service the following day in Sheffield, which also lost citizens in the attack. There was great sympathy across the north, and far beyond, for Manchester.
I thank too the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, for his introduction to the Bill. I know that he is particularly keen to hear from the Green Party, so I look forward to his response to my comments.
It is fortuitous that this debate follows on from the Oral Question on the probation service from the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, on which I would have liked to address several supplementary questions to the Minister, one of which is particularly relevant to the issue I wish to raise in connection with this Bill. It is now 14 years since a Member of your Lordships’ House, the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, delivered an excellent report on the way in which women offenders were being failed by the criminal justice system, and provided a map on the way forward. Very little action has been taken.
Women prisoners, as we know, are very badly catered for, being a very small percentage of the prisoner population and objectively different from male prisoners on multiple criteria. In the context of this debate, this is surely also true of women prisoners who need deradicalisation programmes. Do we have—are we planning to set up—programmes that are properly gender-informed? If the Minister cannot provide an answer now, could one be provided in future?
I make some general reflections on the Bill. Knee-jerk reactions in politics seldom age well: the scrutiny of history usually demonstrates them for what they are. “Lock them up and throw away the key” is a common reaction to awful events. What we need to do—what I urge the Government to do—is take a step back and look at what will make our society more stable and secure.
There is no doubt that we face threats from multiple ideologies: the racist neo-Nazi far right, QAnon, radical Islamism, Northern Ireland-related terrorism, the anti-female ideology known as incel—the list could go on. Anyone who commits a crime under any of those ideologies is of course entirely and solely responsible for their own actions and crimes and should be punished according to the law. We also need to think, however, about how we create a healthy society that does not feed and support the spread of these ideologies. That should be a primary focus of government attention: a public health approach similar to the one proposed—and delivered, in parts of these islands—on knife crime.
Last week, in talking about Covid-19 strategy, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said that a new and more thoughtful strategy from the Government was needed—and we also need that in relation to counter- terrorism.
The huge issues with Prevent will be addressed later by my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, but I ask for a broader view, not necessarily from the Minister today—I understand the time pressure—but from the Government more generally.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, noted earlier the vulnerability of lonely, isolated, poverty-stricken individuals to people who will exploit them. The more we address these issues—the more we close off opportunities for dangerous individuals to use others—the safer we will be. That is also relevant to anyone in public life: we should ask them to think about how their words and their approach can feed hatred, misunderstanding and racism, and fuel crime and abusive behaviour.
We have also seen how other criminal behaviour and terrorism can be interrelated or closely related—the abuse of illegal drugs, mental ill-health and social exclusion. All these issues need to be addressed.
Finally, I cannot finish this speech without expressing my concern about the planned use of polygraphs in this Bill. I will always stand up for evidence-based policy-making, and the evidence is that polygraph results are not a solid basis on which to make any decision. That the Government plan to do so is seriously disturbing. I note the Law Society of Scotland’s reflection that
“there is a need for the responsibility, organisation, funding, monitoring and training involved to be addressed as part of the Bill if polygraphs are to be introduced.”
Those things need to be covered in the Bill. I also understand the Law Society of Scotland’s concerns about polygraphs being imposed on that nation and its observation that
“Retrospective legislation is not usually introduced because it does not comply with Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
However, applying polygraph tests to previous offenders appears to do just that.
My Lords, to effectively tackle terrorism we must use a combination of radicalisation prevention, rehabilitation and punishment. This Bill is not balanced: it places too much reliance on punishment. We must effectively address the root causes and implement real solutions to deal with the problems of radicalisation, extremism and terrorism.
To stop radicalisation and terrorism we must not merely apply stronger punishments. I am actively involved in the issues of radicalisation and terrorism, having prepared two reports on the subject and spoken about it in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere. I have also been very effective in dealing with the issues in the community. To deal with these problems we need input and participation in the form of new partnerships involving the Government, the police, local authorities, prisons and members of the community at all levels. We need a holistic approach—that is what may work. Unfortunately, a tiny minority of Muslims have been radicalised and committed terrorist acts. These Muslims go against the peaceful principles of Islam.
I recently asked a Question in the House about the lack of diversity in the justice system, and I have written to my noble friends Lady Williams and Lord Greenhalgh asking for their support for an in-depth study of Muslims in prison. I have not yet received a reply, so I ask my noble friend Lady Williams to comment on my request, and on the points I made about radicalisation, in her response.
I refer now to the important matter of the Prevent strategy. I repeat what I said in this House in November 2018:
“The Prevent strategy has caused concerns and raised objections. Some critics of the strategy have said that there is racial profiling, excessive spying and the removal of basic civil liberties from innocent individuals.”—[Official Report, 12/11/18; col. 1737.]
It is imperative that a suitable person is appointed to review the strategy and, importantly, that that person’s terms of reference must be reconsidered and be appropriate. The terms should, for example, include full consultations with communities.
Furthermore, it is important that a new date for the review, which must be adhered to, is fixed; otherwise, the matter may be kicked into the long grass. I ask the Minister to comment on this point and what I have said about the Prevent strategy.
I will now refer briefly to some of the Bill’s provisions. Due to constraints of time, I do not have a great deal to say. I am concerned about the Bill’s blanket approach to stopping release at the two-thirds point of the custodial sentence for certain offences and removing any early releases for the offences. Preventing the possibility of early release in this way will have unintended consequences, especially for those who were radicalised when vulnerable and have genuinely reformed in prison. Assuming that this is never the case is unfair and may undermine the chance for effective reform. Instead, I suggest we continue to implement the TORER Act 2020, as this considers individual circumstances. We cannot generalise when it comes to rights.
I am also concerned about how the Bill approaches the increasing severity of non-terrorist sentences considered to have a terrorist connection. In a climate of intolerance, it is possible that members of BAME communities would receive harsher sentences. Unfortunately, this is already happening, and I have said so previously in your Lordships’ House.
I want to express my worry about expanding the list of offences that can result in a sentence for offenders of particular concern. It begs the question of how an offender of particular concern will be determined. The sentence may be open to misinterpretation and bias, particularly if sentencing occurs in the wake of an unpleasant incident.
Finally, I express my disquiet about lowering the standard of proof for TPIMs and removing the two-year limits, which can cause problems. This, again, is open to greater interpretation, and the power to indefinitely impose conditions could undermine civil liberties by increasing surveillance. In conclusion, this is an important Bill, and we need to look carefully at its provisions.
My Lords, this is an important and well-prepared Bill, but not a perfect one. On Part 1, I respectfully adopt the points of sentencing so authoritatively made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. On Part 2, I associate myself with the remarks of my noble friends Lord Ramsbotham and Lady Prashar, and the concerns expressed by my successor-but-one as Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, regarding the removal of Parole Board discretion. If the possibility of early release can encourage good behaviour and reform, we should think carefully indeed before discarding it.
I will focus on the changes to TPIMs, the successors to Labour’s control order regime of 2005 to 2011, proposed in Part 3 of the Bill. For six years, I closely monitored the operation of TPIMs. Like the Government, I believe they are unfortunate necessities for a small number of dangerous terrorists who cannot be detained for long periods under criminal investigation, as in some continental legal systems, and who cannot be placed on trial or convicted, because the intelligence that identified their plotting is insufficient to meet the criminal standard or cannot be publicly disclosed without endangering a human source or vital investigation technique.
TPIMs are severe measures and are designed to be so. They are imposed by the Home Secretary, who, in contrast to a criminal court, is not constrained as to the nature of the intelligence material she may take into account. Measures may include, among many, compulsory relocation to towns or cities far distant from the subject’s home. Relocation is harsh but effective. Removed by the coalition in 2011, it was reintroduced, on my recommendation, in 2015.
Any breach of any restriction, which would include, under Clauses 41 and 43, polygraph measures and drug-testing measures, can result in imprisonment for up to five years. Judicial review of TPIMs takes many months to come on, and since the intelligence relied on can often not be disclosed, it requires the subject to defend himself, without knowledge of the detailed case against him, through a special advocate who cannot take instructions from him.
That severity has, until now, been mitigated by two factors introduced by the coalition Government in 2011. First, TPIMs have a maximum duration of two years, save in exceptional cases—a limitation originally recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in a report of February 2008. Secondly, the Home Secretary is required to have not just a “reasonable suspicion” of involvement in terrorism but “reasonable belief”, on the balance of probability, as it is now expressed.
The two-year limit is a reminder that executive constraints of this kind can be no substitute for the criminal process and no long-term solution, even if, as I said in 2013, echoing the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, five years earlier, it is tempting to wish for longer in the most serious cases. Each of those mitigating factors, as has been said, would be reversed by this Bill.
Let me offer a comparator, which, while not exact, may be illuminating: the reasonable suspicion required of the Home Secretary by Clause 37, is the same standard that must be reached by a police officer to justify an arrest. Yet arrest without charge, even in a terrorist case, is tolerated in this country for only four days, extendable to a maximum of 14 days by repeated permission of the court. Noble Lords will remember unsuccessful attempts to increase that maximum to 90 and then 42 days. Yet under this Bill, the reasonable suspicions of the Home Secretary would be sufficient if she judged it necessary for the protection of the public—a judgment unlikely to be effectively reviewable in any court— to justify a form of house arrest that can persist for many years.
The Government now have huge experience with these orders, including their possible imposition on more than 400 people having returned from Syria to this country. So, it is significant that the Minister Chris Philp candidly accepted on Report in the other place, consistent with evidence given by Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques in Committee, that
“there has not been an occasion on which the security services wanted to give a TPIM but could not do so because of the burden of proof.”—[Official Report, Commons, 21/7/20; col. 2093.]
We should investigate whether there is a better balance to be struck consistent with the enhanced public protection that the Bill aims to provide. Options, as the independent reviewer has suggested, include an upper limit in excess of two years and the retention of the current standard of proof, if not in all cases then at least beyond the initial period, which would take care of any valid concerns there may be about urgent cases.
I hope that the collective wisdom of the House will be brought to bear on the Bill in this respect.
My Lords, first, I remind the House that my wife is an adviser on the Prevent programme in the further education sector.
The horrific attacks we have seen at Manchester, Streatham and Fishmongers’ Hall have demonstrated the risk the UK faces from terrorism. I am broadly supportive of the longer sentences contained in the Bill for dangerous terrorism offenders. But we should be mindful of the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson.
But one concern I have, mentioned by other noble Lords, is the extent to which rehabilitation and deradicalisation programmes will be put in place to accompany the longer sentences. We know in the case of Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham that the attacks were committed by individuals who had been convicted, had been in prison and, as my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer repeated, seemed to have been neither deradicalised nor deterred by their time in prison. Indeed, prison may have made them worse.
The impact assessment refers to research that shows a risk of offenders radicalising others during their stay in custody. This is well known, and I hope that when winding up, the Minister spells out the details of what is proposed for supporting and expanding the rehabilitation programme. Can she say how much progress has been made in implementing the report by Ian Acheson into Islamist extremism in prisons? My noble friend drew attention to the fact that the Government accepted only a small number of its recommendations. I remind the Minister of a paper published last year for the Centre for Social Justice, in which Ian Acheson had some trenchant criticisms of the prison regime:
“Unfortunately, our current prison system seems to catalyse rather than remedy the very conditions which create offending. Squalor, indolence and brutality have become normalised within the walls of many of our jails… Ruinous cuts, inflicted on front line staff as the prison population increased, have made a mockery of a rehabilitation culture when staff routinely suffer serious assaults and cannot themselves feel safe at work, let alone be able to deal with record levels of prisoner self-harm.”
These are simply not the circumstances in which you can expect to conduct successful deradicalisation programmes. These must go alongside the longer sentences proposed in the Bill.
As someone who was on the Front Bench opposing the introduction of TPIMs and the removal of control orders in 2011, I find it tempting to go back to those debates, but the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has pointed to a number of issues that have arisen since the abolition of control orders. I am afraid that as this is the Home Office’s second go at strengthening TPIMs, it only goes to show that what we warned about in 2011 needed to happen.
One issue in relation to TPIMs was raised with me by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson. Obviously, TPIMs involve extreme resource-intensive measures which must be used proportionately and only when necessary. David Jamieson argues that some local oversight would enhance the ability of the Home Secretary to make an informed decision when considering a TPIM application, variation or extension. PCCs could submit additional information or make recommendations to the Home Secretary in respect of the community impact and the impact on local policing resources which, as I said, can be intensive as far as a TPIM is concerned.
In today’s debate on sentencing, one speaker raised the point that local authorities were not mentioned in the White Paper. I hope that the Minister gives some thought to this suggestion. Perhaps I will return with a probing amendment in Committee.
My Lords, this Bill contains some necessary and useful provisions, but it may take some time to be sure. We are still assessing the good effects of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 and the several terrorism statutes passed since 2000.
Of course, this Government are reacting understandably to the attacks in London and Manchester, and perhaps even to those in Salisbury, and I fully accept the context laid out by my noble friend Lord Parkinson in his very clear opening to this debate. The security services are aware of hundreds of potential or actual plots, many of which, thankfully, they disrupt before any harm is done. They and the police are stretched but perform with great bravery and resilience to protect us from homegrown and foreign attacks, and nothing that I say detracts from my admiration and gratitude for what they do.
I refer to my registered interests as a practising member of the Bar and as a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust. I also welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, and congratulate him on his maiden speech, a thoughtful and considered contribution to our proceedings, which I hope will be the first of many. His home city recently suffered a terrorist attack, by no means the first in his diocese in his or my adult life, so he speaks with knowledge and insight. Our constitution is eccentric in permitting not only unelected Lords temporal, but also unelected Lords spiritual to legislate, but as he has just demonstrated, it is an eccentricity that we should celebrate.
My noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot has also given us a taste of things to come. He and I were not only Members of Parliament at the same time, but also Ministers at the same time. However, whereas I was in office for just over two years—metaphorically, 15 minutes—he served as Culture Minister for over six years, longer than any previous holder of that post. The son of Marina Vaizey, the writer and art critic, and the late Professor John Vaizey—Lord Vaizey, the academic and economist—my noble friend is not a man given to political hyperbole. He is a wise and thoughtful man. We will hear from him, often I hope, on subjects he has a deep knowledge of and great affection for. We are fortunate that he has joined us.
Regarding the Bill, I agree with lengthy sentences for those guilty of serious terrorist crimes, and whole-life terms if appropriate, but in the time available, I highlight just one subject, covered in Clauses 27 to 31: the release of terrorist offenders. This part of the Bill, which covers all three United Kingdom jurisdictions, will in essence remove from the Parole Board—I use that term generically—the power to direct the early release of certain dangerous terrorist offenders—that is, those terrorist offenders found to be dangerous by the sentencing court at the time they were sentenced, and where the offence carries a maximum of life imprisonment. These provisions apply to the most serious terrorist offences such as attack planning, directing a terrorist organisation, or giving and receiving terrorist training. They will also apply to manslaughter, kidnap and possession of explosives, when the court finds these were connected to terrorism.
I can understand that at first blush, and without giving the matter a great deal of thought, this might seem entirely reasonable. Why should offenders in that category be released at all, let alone early? There will, I accept, be some such offenders whose early release would not be recommended by the Parole Board because they remain as dangerous to the public after years in prison as they were when they were first sentenced. As always, I will defer, and have deferred, to the knowledge and expertise of the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Anderson.
However, before we remove the Parole Board from the picture, should we not pay attention to those noble Lords’ successor as Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC? In his note on this Bill, dated 1 June 2020, he described the removal of the Parole Board’s role of considering the early release of the most dangerous individuals convicted of terrorist offences as a “profound change”; clearly it is. He points to three immediate consequences: first, to the extent that the possibility of early release acts as a spur to good behaviour and reform for offenders who are going to spend the longest time in custody— that will now go; secondly, the opportunity to understand current and future risk at Parole Board hearings will be removed; thirdly, child terrorist offenders, whose risk may be considered most susceptible to change as they mature into adults, will have lost the opportunity for early release.
The Government may very well have cogent reasons that justify Clauses 27 to 31, and if they do, I will pay close attention to them, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, will too. However, given that the independent reviewer is there to provide his considered opinion on the matter, we should perhaps pay careful attention to what he has had to say as well.
My Lords, I am speaking on my telephone because of various IT failures; I apologise for that and hope it is clear. I welcome our two new Peers: the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. They both used humour in their speeches. I think they will find in future that other Peers listen harder if there is the potential for a laugh.
Many noble Lords with much more experience of counterterrorism have spoken today and I applaud those who were critical of the Government. However, for the average member of the public who might be listening, I will explain a little of what is happening in very simple language. The Prevent issue is a government omnishambles. For example, the legal deadline for the review, which was meant to be an independent review and for which many of us were waiting with bated breath, was missed. The deadline passed and no new deadline was set. This Bill now removes any deadline at all; it does not replace a deadline to produce the review. Given that the Government did not want an independent review in the first place, one can imagine that there is no sense of urgency.
Moreover, the independent reviewer they appointed was challenged. He stood down and a new reviewer has not been announced. In fact, the Home Office website has not been updated since April, so I am not sure what is going on there. It is all shambolic. These are self-inflicted delays, and a new statutory deadline should be in this Bill so that we all know when we can expect the independent review of Prevent.
The issue around TPIMs is rather nastier. Making it an indefinite procedure, with no change if there is a change in circumstances, is inhuman. Worse, the Bill changes the legal test for imposing a TPIM from “the balance of probabilities”, which is about 51%, to “reasonable grounds for suspecting”. This is an incredibly low threshold. Anyone would have great difficulty convincing a judge to stop issuing a TPIM if it is only at this level of value. It is very difficult for a judge to prove or see that something is obviously wrong; the balance of probabilities was a much fairer way of measuring the impact of somebody’s activities.
This Bill is a real shame, and I am delighted that there are so many noble Lords able to tear it into little pieces. I hope that the Government will listen to common sense.
My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for the clarity of his opening to this debate. I too pay tribute to the two memorable and entertaining maiden speeches which we heard. I look forward to hearing from both noble Lords frequently in future.
I think people have been trying to tempt me into saying something about Prevent. I will not, save this: I hope my successor as independent reviewer of Prevent will be given access to the very large body of evidence which I was able to collect, and will make his or her mind up quite independently, without any attempt at influence from me.
This Bill’s focus is the protection of the public, and we should not for one moment lose sight of that primacy. I support aspects of the Bill strongly, but at the outset I will refer to one briefly which I do not support: the relegation of the Parole Board. I agree completely with my noble friend Lord Anderson, the noble and learned Lords, Lord Garnier and Lord Falconer, the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, and others who have spoken about that.
However, I agree with the strengthening of sentences for terrorism-related offences, which are a very specific and unusual group of crimes. What is more important than the protection of the public from those who are released from prison at the end of terrorism offences, or from those who are radicalised in prison and released? In considering that, we should reflect on this: surely, if the release of a terrorist puts the public at risk, the crucial balance between rights and duties must justify properly regulated and proportionately extended detention.
I support the strengthening of TPIMs covered in Part 3. As a former independent reviewer, I had the scrutiny of the full period of control orders. They worked well; they were supported by the courts; the standard of proof was adequate; they were justiciable. For all the years since control orders were replaced with TPIMs by the coalition Government, I have called for their return. In effect, that has now been done, and I think it is correct. As I said, I believe the standard of proof is fair, tested and justiciable.
It is right that the evidential basis for release of terrorist prisoners should be as complete as possible, including psychiatric and neurological assessment. Polygraphs are not magic; they determine little on their own, but in various other areas they have been demonstrably useful as part of the toolkit used in the determination of truth. I see no strong argument against their use in that way in this context.
In the time left to me—in this speech—I want to be clear about the nature of the challenge we are dealing with, by reference to the Fishmongers’ Hall incident, which is very instructive. The perpetrator terrorist, Usman Khan, had been assessed as reformed and deradicalised by external experts, some of whom were present at Fishmongers’ Hall. However, evidence from the prison from which he was released—in my possession and provided to the Home Office some months ago—shows the following. First, almost none of the day-to-day custodial staff who knew him and dealt with him on a daily basis believed he was anything other than extremely dangerous at the time of his release—they were proved right. Also, unknown to the outside experts, in that prison radicalisation was not just in existence but rampant. For example, it included Friday prayers where there was a division into two groups, radical and non-radical, which a perfectly decent imam could not control; and within the prison, sharia courts meted out punishments that included floggings—inside the prison and known to the prison staff. Those are facts.
Before we can be comfortable with advice about release and release decisions, there must be far better management and verification of desistance and disengagement programmes, and of the prisoners who are part of those programmes. This is too important an issue for anything less.
My Lords, I join in the welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, who I am certain will continue to make such excellent contributions to this House on a regular basis and will be a big asset. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, on his very convincing introduction; I had read what the Government were proposing in advance, but he eloquently outlined why and I see no objections to the way in which they are approaching this legislation. It seems that it should meet with widespread approval.
I declare an interest as a volunteer on the Government’s advisory board, along with a number of other noble Lords. I wish to raise the issue of voluntary organisations and how they may contribute to counterterror work, specifically the example we have in this country, which is without question the best such example anywhere in the world—the Community Security Trust, which provides security and co-ordinates with the security services—using the term in its widest sense—in this country, and has done so for some considerable years to great effect.
There was a time when a number in the Jewish community were rather blasé and complacent about the need for the organisation. Some would raise it discretely with me, 10 years ago perhaps. They have been shaken from that complacency by seeing what has happened in this country in terrorism generally and, more specifically, what has happened to the Jewish community in other parts of the world. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that there would be people who would be alive if some other countries had been able to have an organisation that mirrored the Community Security Trust in operation. I am talking about wealthy and advanced countries, in Europe and North America, where there have been terrorist outrages against the Jewish community. Often, when you have something working so successfully and brilliantly, one ignores it, because the sensational headline is not there, precisely because of the mundanity of everyday successful work.
The reason for raising this in this debate, other than to bring further attention to the success of Gerald Ronson and the Community Security Trust, is that the Home Office has, within its powers as a department, very responsibly part-funded the Community Security Trust over the years and backed up the money that Mr Ronson and others have raised—and they have been substantial amounts. The CST is potentially transferrable to other communities in this country. I know that in recent times there have been significant discussions between the CST and Government about the initial work that the CST has done to train and equip other communities in this country to similarly organise and defend themselves against the threat of terrorist attack, from wherever it may come. There are many different directions and ideologies that could lead to attacks on any one community.
It would be wise for the Government to invest in facilitating the speeding-up of the work being done by the Community Security Trust with other communities. That would be to the advantage of the nation. I strongly implore the Government to see whether that support to speed up and deepen the work already going on can go further and faster. To those listening from other countries, I think that more countries should be coming, looking, observing and learning the lessons of this great British success. The Home Office has played its part; I simply urge it to choose an even bigger and wiser part to play in the near future.
My Lords, we are all agreed that terrorism has the most dreadful consequences and we all feel a deep sense of compassion for the victims of terrorism and their families. It has a societal impact too, beyond the suffering of individuals and their families. One of the societal consequences is highlighted in the Bill, in the proposal that we should have legislation leading to a reduction of the freedom of individuals on the basis of suspicion alone. That is a grim consequence. It may have to be faced, but we should recognise it. And when we face up to it, we also have to address another simple fact. I suspect that all noble Lords know of cases—I certainly do—where individuals have been arrested with reasonable grounds for suspicion, who have turned out to be completely and utterly innocent. It is something worth bearing in mind.
Your Lordships have addressed all the issues, so I am not going to repeat them. I will merely say thank you very much and think of something new to say. It concerns the sentencing decision. Anybody who has had to pass a sentence will know that a sentencing decision is not as easy as it may look on paper. You are dealing with a human being who has upset, offended, injured, damaged or murdered another human being. Everybody is involved. A judge facing a sentencing decision—and this is no time for a lecture on it—has to balance a series of factors, some of which are totally contradictory.
Related to that, fixing different aspects of the sentencing formula is dangerous, but we have decided to do it by having a provision that enables the defendant who indicates an immediate intention to plead guilty to the crime with which he is charged to have a discount against his sentence of one-third. I can argue with you about the wisdom or unwisdom of that, but it is what we have. The Bill proposes, in exactly that situation, to reduce the discount to 20%—from one-third to one-fifth.
This matters. It is easy to say that it is just paper, but let us think of the value of an early guilty plea. The victim of the crime knows that that part of this awful process is over. He or she will not be challenged about his or her evidence. It will not be suggested to a woman who says she has been raped that she consented. It will save the victim a huge ordeal to know for certain that that is now over. It also saves the time and trouble of police officers who have to give evidence, forensic scientists and the whole process of the court. It also saves the court’s time, so that it can move on to deal with the huge backlog of cases that there currently is. It knows that that time will be available.
So when we talk about the sentence being reduced or a discount for a guilty plea, we should remember the value to the victim of closure: the fact that the problem can now be addressed and that the long uncertainty will not be hanging over him or her for 12 or 18 months; and the value to the public interest, which means that that is the end of it, apart from the sentence. In terrorist cases, that value is just as great as it is in any other. I know I will be told by the Minister that there is a precedent for this. It is a bad precedent. It is illogical and it should not be followed in this case. You cannot increase sentences for those convicted of terrorism offences, which I support, by devaluing the guilty plea of those who are willing to admit from the outset that they are guilty.
I have one other tiny observation. Can we be careful not to assume that the Newton hearing, which gets a mention in the Explanatory Note, is an answer to the potential danger of finding that somebody is being treated as though he has committed a criminal offence for which he has not been tried, let alone convicted?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, crystallised the focus of the Bill as the protection of the public, and I think that is generally understood. Terrorism is a cancer in our society. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, is to be congratulated on the clear way in which he opened the debate; he said that it was ever-evolving. The question is whether it can be cured by more of the same. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, pointed out, all will be released in the end. Treat prisoners like animals and you will get animals. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, referred to the research that demonstrates that time in prison has exacerbated the situation of radicalisation.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, raised the question of minimum sentences. He pointed out that they are dubious where there is a large range of behaviour covered by a particular offence. He said that guidelines are available, judges are few and courts have been very tough. That view is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and very much by me.
I also support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who pointed out that a sentencer deals with people and called for the value of an early guilty plea to be maintained.
I very much regret that the independent review of the Prevent strategy has been delayed. Times have changed and there are as many referrals for right-wing extremism as for ISIS-inspired extremism, and this needs urgently to be addressed. In its inception, Prevent focused only on Islamist terrorism, but a feeling grew that Prevent encouraged Muslim communities to spy on each other. That led to some Muslim communities refusing Prevent funding and rejecting engagement from the start. The coalition Government reduced the budget for Prevent in the name of austerity and chose largely to end community-based Prevent work, with only a limited programme of local activities in Prevent priority areas controlled from London by the Home Office.
The revamped Prevent programme in 2011 was primarily about identifying and diverting individuals vulnerable to radicalisation—whether Islamic, right- wing or other forms of extremism, but excluding Northern Ireland. It operated through the Channel anti-radicalisation mentoring and counselling system. The problem is, as exhaustive academic analysis has demonstrated, that there is no definable set of indicators or social and economic circumstances, no identifiable conveyor-belt process, that can predict who will move towards terrorism, when and why.
The Prevent legal duty, introduced in 2015, was to place a duty on all state education, social welfare and health professionals and their institutions to implement the Prevent strategy. But questions remain. Should safeguarding be about protecting the needs and interests of vulnerable individuals or safeguarding wider society from those same risky individuals? What are professionals—doctors, teachers and social workers—being asked to spot and report? What warning signs of radicalisation should they be aware of and look for? Who trains the professionals and what is the quality, clarity and helpfulness of such training? Are teachers required, when they inculcate fundamental British values, to consider that they may be treated with suspicion?
As for TPIMs, I think the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, was the only person apart from the Minister to speak in favour of a return to control orders. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, pointed to the severe measures that are involved. The Home Secretary is not bound by the constraints of admissible evidence. The noble Lord pointed out that, when challenged by judicial review, the applicant does not know the case against him and is represented by a special advocate who cannot take his instructions. The removal of the two-year time limit originally recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, with no limit on renewal, equals a loss of liberties and a loss of freedom without trial.
The standard of proof being reduced to reasonable grounds for suspicion was referred to by my noble friend Lord Paddick as the standard used by police officers, where the bar is very low, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, compared it to an arrest without charge, where detention can last only four days without anything further. The “reasonable suspicion” of the Home Secretary results in an indefinite form of house arrest. That reduction of the standard of proof, it was suggested, should last only for the first two years, if the Bill goes through.
However, the right reverent Prelate the Bishop of Manchester raised the essential question of whether the lowering of the standard of proof will undermine support in the community, which is our strongest defence against extremism. The Minister’s explanation that lowering the standard improves “flexibility” is completely incapable of being understood, and I agree with my noble friend Lady Hamwee, who said that “flexible” is indeed a weasel word.
The noble Lord and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, asked whether the test of the Minister’s subjective suspicion was capable of legal scrutiny. There is strong evidence that TPIMs cause individuals to lose hope and become more dangerous. He is quite right that the exercise of this power should be subject to judicial approval and not left to challenge by judicial review in circumstances such as I have outlined. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, described the provisions as a watering down, a tool of last resort, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, with great experience behind him, said that hard cases do not make good law.
I come to release by the Parole Board. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, pointed out that the Parole Board makes remarkably few mistakes. It addresses up-to-date risk to the public by interrogating the offender and has a vital role to monitor police, probation and security services. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, pointed out, prison management problems arise where there is no prospect of relief, and the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, who has great experience, said, “Do not undermine incentives to rehabilitate”. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, pointed out, the current independent reviewer takes that view as well.
I have spoken many times of the problems of Berwyn prison, near where I live, where there are unsafe prison conditions. In the year ending March 2020, the finds of weapons amounted to 18 finds per 100 prisoners. There were 29 incidents of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults per 100 prisoners in the same period. Such prisons are not safe and provide a breeding ground for radicalisation through the befriending of a vulnerable person. On the present trajectory, there will be young men who are groomed and radicalised within the prison estate by people who appear to be showing care for their welfare. The failure to address problems in prisons has been referred to by many academics as producing radicalised and dangerous youths.
There are many issues in this Bill which we need to address and consider in Committee, and I look forward to Committee stage.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the two maiden speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, spoke about the importance of arts and sport in prisons, and I know from my experience that that is indeed an important aspect of the rehabilitation process. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester spoke about the experience of Manchester through the bombing and his expectations of the Bill with a particularly perceptive analysis, and I look forward to his contributions through its later stages.
The measures in the Bill build on recent emergency legislation. They are based on the Government’s conclusion that there are some terrorism offences where the maximum sentence available is too low for the gravity of the offence committed. Since 2000, the Government have enacted 11 different pieces of legislation, with a ratcheting up of the sentences and controls available to the courts. The Bill provides changes in the sentencing, release and monitoring of terrorism offenders.
We on the Opposition Benches will not be opposing this legislation, but the elephant in the room, which has been discussed although it is not part of the Bill, is the effectiveness of the de-radicalisation programmes and the Prevent programme: they are not working sufficiently.
The point was made by a number of speakers on this Bill that just adding extra time for the offenders to spend in custody will not solve any problems unless there are better-tailored programmes. It was made by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, and my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who went on to make the important point that there needs to be full resourcing of deradicalisation programmes, as they are very resource heavy.
I have been contacted by two trade unions, the Prison Officers’ Association and the National Association of Probation Officers. Their members are on the front line and have to deal with the consequences of legislation. The POA makes a number of points—first, that this legislation will inevitably lead to an increase in the cohort of prisoners detained under the Terrorism Act; it is currently about 230 prisoners. Consideration will therefore need to be given to the headroom available in the long-term high-security estate, with the ability to separate Islamist and far-right terrorist offenders. What plans do the Government have to meet this expanded population?
The second question the POA has raised is the same point made by Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust and a former prison governor, that denying prisoners hope will cause their good behaviour to deteriorate. This will potentially lead to an entrenchment of a sense of grievance, which can be dangerous for both prisoners and staff. This point has been made by many speakers in today’s debate. It also re-emphasises the point that it is mistaken to remove the Parole Board from considering certain types of terrorist offences. This too may enhance a sense of grievance with certain prisoners.
NAPO has raised points on how the proposed changes will affect its members, the probation officers. In particular it mentions MAPPA, the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, which are briefly mentioned in the Bill. The Bill does not mention the agencies to be included within MAPPA, but clearly it would include enforcement agencies such as the police and the Prison and Probation Service. I and NAPO believe it very important that other agencies—such as mental health agencies, social services and NHS England—are included in this as well. The point is that all these agencies should be named and have a statutory obligation to work collectively. This is a point the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made and one we have seen in many other aspects of work in the Courts Service, not only in the context of this Bill.
The probation officers further referenced Clause 5 of the Bill, under which non-terrorist offences with a maximum sentence of more than two years can be found to have a terrorist connection and their perpetrators therefore sentenced under the Counter-Terrorism Act. The Bill does not define what a terrorist connection is—presumably this is for the court to decide—but I argue that, without some guidance or statutory definition, this could lead to a widening of the net and inconsistency in sentencing between cases.
On TPIMs, my right honourable friend David Lammy at Second Reading in the other place gave a succinct history lesson on the changes from control orders in 2005. We have had a similar history lesson today from a number of distinguished noble Lords. The central point made by my right honourable friend is that in a sense we are going full circle. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, supports the lowering of the standard of proof, and Jon Hall, the reviewer, has raised concerns about the removal of the two-year limit on TPIMs so that they could effectively be indefinite. This is something we wish to examine closely as the Bill progresses in this House.
A further point is that a balance needs to be struck. We are dealing with people who are not guilty of any offence but suspected of terrorist activity. The balance is between liberty and security, and the wider community—particularly the community from which the suspect comes—needs to see that what the Government are doing is proportionate and that people are not wrongly convicted.
I am not a lawyer, and maybe I do not give proper weight to the importance of particular definitions of proof, but for me the central point is that the safeguards need to be in place to protect innocent people while protecting the public from potential acts of terrorism. The public need to understand that this is the primary purpose of this legislation.
I am very aware that many speakers in today’s debate have been active in and following this type of terrorism legislation for many years, but in recent days I have spoken to many young people who are also following these debates. We need to remake the arguments for all the elements in this Bill. We need to convince young people that the legislation is proportionate and necessary and strikes the right balance between liberty and security.
In opening, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer said that the detail of this Bill matters a lot. I agree. It is the role of this House to look at the detail and steer this Bill to a suitable conclusion.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this Second Reading debate on what has been widely acknowledged as an incredibly important Bill. I join other noble Lords in welcoming, on “the worst list since the lavender list”, my noble friend Lord Vaizey and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. It struck me that one person’s success is another’s disappointment, because I wanted the Diamond synchrotron to go in the north-west. It obviously ended up near Oxford, but it was very good listening to my noble friend.
The right reverend Prelate recounted the dreadful night of the arena bomb in Manchester. I reflected on his feelings about how Manchester came together after that; it really did. He talked about the bee; I carry the bee around on my lanyard at all times. It certainly defined a moment in Manchester’s history that will never be forgotten.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, talked about the rise of the far right, and of course we cannot forget about that; it really is on the rise in this country. Just as we talk about Islamist terrorism, we cannot forget about that. I also say to my noble friend Lord Sheikh that I will respond to his letter as soon as I possibly can; I apologise to him. I also apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, because at times, unless I am going deaf, I could not hear her very well. I shall look at Hansard and respond to her in due course if necessary.
Noble Lords including the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Thomas of Gresford, the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, talked about the new serious terrorism sentence with a 14-year minimum. Of course, the sentence will be for the courts to impose on the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders who would otherwise receive a life sentence—those who have committed an offence involving a high likelihood of causing multiple deaths. It is right that we set a minimum that reflects the seriousness with which we take these offences. By having both a minimum custodial sentence of 14 years and a minimum licence period of seven years, and up to 25 years, we will keep the public safer by ensuring that dangerous terrorists serve longer in prison and are subject to longer periods of supervision and monitoring in the community.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, talked about the discount sentence. While the maximum reduction for a plea at the first reasonable opportunity is 33%, the position in sentencing law is different for offences that carry a mandatory minimum sentence. By applying a maximum reduction of 20% for an early guilty plea in the case of serious terrorism sentences, we are taking an approach consistent with the provision for other minimum sentences, such as those for firearms offences and third-strike burglary.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, questioned the evidence used to determine that longer sentences deter radicalisation. The rationale for this Bill is primarily about public protection, as noble Lords have said. Longer sentences and more onerous licenses are part of a package intended to ensure that offenders who commit serious terrorist acts are incapacitated for longer and better supervised on release. Longer sentences will provide both better protection for the public, by incapacitating terrorist offenders, and more time to support their disengagement and rehabilitation through the range of tailored interventions available while they are in prison.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, asked me for an update on the announcement of additional funding for CT probation prison programmes, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, alluded to this too. We are doubling CT specialist staff and dedicating resources to provide enhanced training to identify and challenge extremist behaviour. The National Probation Service has already developed specialist teams for the management of terrorist offenders, but the additional investment we are making will take this further and recruitment is already under way. These specialist, trained probation officers will be able to deliver enhanced levels of offender management for those high-risk, complex cases.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked for the estimate of additional probation expenditure. There are three effects on probation case loads that contribute to the additional costs expected. The first is the serious terrorists, and terrorism-related offenders, likely to receive an extended sentence. They would either face a 14-year minimum term, or be required to serve all of their sentence in custody, in steady state, and this may result in fewer than 50 additional probation case loads, at a cost of less than £100,000 annually. The second is expanding the sentence for offenders of particular concern regime to cover more offences. This would increase probation case loads by fewer than 50 offences at a cost of about £100,000 annually. The third, adding polygraph testing to certain offenders’ license conditions, would affect fewer than 150 offenders at a cost of about £400,000 annually in steady state. This totals an estimate of additional £600,000 annual cost for probation in steady state.
The noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Ponsonby, have asked what HMG are doing to ensure that the Parole Board has the resources, training and so on to improve decision-making capability. The board has a cohort of specialist members, trained specifically to deal with terrorist and extremist cases, including retired high court judges, retired police officers and other experts in their field. We continue to work with the board, the police and security services to ensure that the parole system as a whole is fully equipped to deal effectively with these cases.
The noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlisle, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, and the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, lamented the removal of the Parole Board referral for serious terrorists. Dangerous terrorist offenders should serve a sentence that truly reflects the seriousness of their crimes. Removing the prospect of early release for these offenders sends a clear message that this Government will treat this kind of offence seriously. By ensuring that they will spend longer in custody, our Prison Service will have more time to manage and reduce the risk that these offenders present to the public when they are released from prison. Prison governors and HMPPS public protection casework officials have extensive experience in setting licence conditions for terrorist offenders on behalf of the Secretary of State, and will continue to be informed by the recommendations of probation officers and the multi-agency public protection panels in place to ensure their safe and effective risk management on release into the community.
My noble friend Lord Vaizey, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester all talked about the vulnerability of children. Noble Lords will know that we have a separate youth justice system for children and the courts will always consider their specific needs when sentencing. However, we know that age is not a barrier to becoming involved in terrorist acts. That is why we have taken steps to ensure a degree of consistency between our approach to adult and youth offenders. The changes we are introducing to the EDS will remove the possibility of early release for the most dangerous offenders, allowing for the effective monitoring of risk factors over a longer period to limit the threat posed on release. The special sentence for offenders of particular concern will ensure that children who commit a relevant terrorist or terrorism-related offence cannot be released without a period of supervision in the community, maximising the time available to support their desistance from further offending.
My noble friend Lord Vaizey, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and, to a certain extent, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester talked about the malign influence on children vulnerable to exploitation by adults—particularly, as my noble friend Lord Vaizey said, online. That is why 47% of the projects that the Government funded in 2018-19 worked in partnership with communities to reduce the risk of radicalisation. They were delivered in schools to increase young people’s resilience to terrorists and extremist ideology in all its forms.
My noble friend Lord Vaizey talked about the online harms White Paper. Like him, I am looking forward to it becoming a Bill, and some of the problems that it will tackle, particularly online, for children and young people.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, talked about Northern Ireland and a possible separate sentencing approach. We think there should be a unified approach to the sentencing and release of terrorist offenders across the UK. We do not discriminate between types of terrorism. Any terrorist offender, regardless of their ideology or proclaimed motivation, and whether their offence was committed in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, should be subject to the same sentencing and release regime.
There has been much discussion of the standard of proof. We are reducing the standard of proof from “on the balance of probabilities” to “reasonable grounds for suspecting” to support the use of TPIMs as necessary and proportionate to protect the public from terrorism-related activity. Only last year, Parliament took the step of updating the counterterrorism legislative frame- work through the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, because pathways into terrorism have changed and, in some cases, accelerated. Much radicalisation now takes place online, as my noble friend Lord Vaizey said, and the operational pace for the Security Service and police is faster than ever seen before. Lowering the standard of proof will help to ensure that a TPIM can be considered as an option to manage the threat in a wider range of cases, where it is necessary to do so. For example, this change will assist in circumstances where an individual has been to Syria to fight for or assist a terrorist organisation but evidence of their activities there is hard to gather. Should they return, prosecution is the Government’s strongest preference. However, if there are evidential difficulties and the burden of proof required by a criminal court—beyond reasonable doubt—cannot be satisfied but there is a reasonable suspicion that they have been involved in terrorism-related activity, lowering the standard of proof will ensure that a TPIM can be considered as a risk-management tool to protect the public.
Noble Lords will, rightly, want to debate where the balance between civil liberties and public protection best lies. However, the Government are clear: we must ensure that the Security Service and Counter Terrorism Policing can make full use of the tools available to them to manage the risk posed by those involved in terrorism.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, asked about the removal of the two-year time limit. The Government have no desire to keep individuals on a TPIM any longer than is necessary and proportionate to protect the public. This change will ensure that, when subjects pose an enduring risk, we will be better placed to restrict and prevent their involvement in terrorism-related activity for as long as necessary. This provision mitigates against the possibility of TPIM subjects “riding out” the current maximum of two years with no change to their extremist mindset, and it removes the prospect of a cliff edge being created whereby a TPIM is removed but the subject of the TPIM represents an enduring risk.
In cases of well-connected extremists, it will also multiply the benefits of the TPIM by reducing individuals’ capability of conducting terrorism-related activity, dismantling their networks so that they are ineffective at inspiring and influencing others to commit acts of terrorism, and reducing the wider long-term threat from others who might have been influenced by the subject were it not for the TPIM measures. This change will also assist with longer-term risk management, providing more time to meaningfully pursue deradicalisation and space for subjects to adopt different lifestyles and move away from their previous extremist contacts.
As is the case now, recommendations as to who should be subject to a TPIM will be provided by operational partners in the first instance and will therefore be underpinned by suitable operational experience and expertise. Where we cannot prosecute, deport or otherwise manage an individual of terrorism concern, a TPIM will be considered, if necessary, as a means to protect the public. I am confident that the changes that the Bill will make will strengthen the toolkit available to our operational partners, while continuing to ensure that robust safeguards remain in place to protect the civil liberties of those subject to the measure.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, asked me to cite examples, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asserted that there has not been an occasion where security services which wanted to use TPIMs could not do so. That was cited in the House of Commons and it is true, but the Bill provides, as it should do, for future situations that could well arise, as my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier said. As I am sure noble Lords will know, the tests include not just the “reasonable suspicion” test but the following: that some or all activity is new terrorism-related activity; that the Home Secretary reasonably considers that a TPIM is necessary; and that the Home Secretary reasonably considers each TPIM measure to be necessary. In addition, the court must give the Home Secretary permission to impose a TPIM. Therefore, the decision is not based solely on that one test.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, asked for the Government’s view on the amendment proposed by PCC David Jamieson that would give PCCs and local mayors an oversight role in the operation of TPIMs. The Home Office already works very closely with the police before a TPIM is imposed and during its lifetime. The process ensures that TPIMs are imposed only following engagement with the relevant local police force and that community impact assessments are kept up to date. The Bill already contains a clause that will allow a TPIM subject’s relocation measure to be varied where necessary on operational resource grounds. Therefore, David Jamieson’s proposed amendment for an additional role for PCCs and local mayors in TPIM processes is, respectfully, not necessary.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who of course has great experience in this area, cited radicalisation in prisons and gave the example of Usman Khan, but he will know that I will not go into that individual’s case. My noble friends Lord Vaizey and Lord Risby, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—and, by turn, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile—questioned the success of rehabilitation programmes in prisons. HMPPS delivers a formal programme—the Healthy Identity Intervention —in custody and in the community. In addition, the prison strand of the Desistance and Disengagement Programme was rolled out to prisons in 2018. The DDP provides a range of intensive, tailored interventions and practical support designed to help in rehabilitation.
Measuring changes in behaviour is obviously and notoriously hard, especially in such a small cohort relative to the size of the prison and probation population in England and Wales. Our intervention programmes have a robust research and evaluation mechanism built into them. Evaluation and research will be at the heart of the new CT assessment and rehabilitation centre announced by the Government earlier this year.
In terms of scrutinising the effectiveness of disengagement, we have consistently evaluated the effectiveness of our work and have taken action where appropriate. The department regularly reviews its approach to make sure that it is appropriate and proportionate to the risk presented by terrorist prisoners and people on licence. This will be a core mission for the new CT assessment and rehabilitation centre, which will lead the evaluation, development and delivery of our intervention approaches. In addition, the independent reviewer of Prevent—on which more later—will consider the work of the desistance and disengagement programme.
The noble Lord, Lord Mann, talked about the CST and other voluntary organisations that have been very successful in identifying people who wish to do harm to our communities. I absolutely pay tribute to the CST. I have seen its work in action and have seen how it has worked with other organisations, such as Tell MAMA. It is also involved in countering hate crime towards the LGBT community. I hope that its work goes on for many more years to come.
On terrorist offenders leaving prison, as noble Lords have alluded to, throughout a sentence we oversee multiagency end-to-end supervision, which includes regular risk assessments. All terrorist offenders released on probation are closely managed by the National Probation Service, and the highest-risk offenders, including terrorist offenders, are managed through the multiagency public protection arrangements—MAPPA.
I am aware of time; I hope that noble Lords will bear with me for a couple more minutes. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, asked about women’s de-radicalisation programmes. She will know that all convicted terrorist prisoners, including at the small number of women’s prisons, can access the rehabilitative interventions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, asked me about the Acheson recommendations. In our 2016 response to the Acheson report, the Government accepted eight out of the 11 principal recommendations. Following the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist attack, the MoJ Permanent Secretary commissioned an urgent review of progress against these recommendations. The review found that the department has delivered against all the recommendations that the Government accepted. This progress includes the establishment of separation centres to hold the most subversive extremist prisoners and to safeguard the vulnerable against their malicious ideology.
Over 29,000 prison staff, including all new recruits since January 2017, have received enhanced extremist awareness training. Arrangements are also in place to systematically remove extremist literature from prisons, and enhanced vetting arrangements for prison chaplains of all faiths are also now in place. Through the CT “step up” programme, the department will continue to build on this track record with increased resource and reform across these important areas.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked where we are up to with the MAPPA review. He will know that the terms of reference were published in January 2020 and that Jonathan Hall’s report was published on 2 September. He found that it
“is a well-established process and did not conclude that wholesale change is necessary.”
He made a number of recommendations; we will set out more about our response in due course.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, challenged me about who Prevent is protecting. It is protecting the individual who needs to be safeguarded against being radicalised into terrorism. It is also protecting the people that might be harmed, both the individual and those around him or her. On the review, given both the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, having to stand down and how Covid has come to try us this year in respect of the work we can do, an incomplete or rushed review might well have been produced had we not removed the deadline through this Bill. The interviews are taking place later this month and will be followed by an announcement as soon as possible. The Government want the review to conclude by August 2021, but we do not want to constrain the reviewer’s ability to complete a comprehensive assessment, given the uncertainties associated with the current circumstances. Confirmation of the timescales will be agreed with the new reviewer and set out in the terms of reference.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, asked whether Parliament will consider revised Prevent terms of reference. The answer is no. There were also a couple of questions on polygraph testing; if noble Lords are amenable, I will respond to those in a letter as I have gone well over my allocated time. With that, I beg to move.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now resume with questions on a Statement made in the House of Commons on Thursday 17 September.
The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 17 September.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on coronavirus and about our plans to put us in the strongest possible position for this winter. Like many other countries around the world, we are continuing to see a concerning rise in cases, with 3,991 new cases recorded yesterday, and this week the number of patients in mechanical ventilator beds has risen above 100 for the first time since July. The battle against coronavirus is not over, and while we strain every sinew to spring free of its clutches, with winter on the horizon we must prepare, bolster our defences and come together once again against this common foe.
One of our vital lines of defence has been taking targeted action at a local level. We have seen local action work well in some parts of the country, and now we must take further action. We have seen concerning rates of infection in parts of the north-east. Sunderland, for example, now has an incidence rate of 103 positive cases per 100,000 of population, and in South Tyneside, Gateshead and Newcastle the figures are all above 70 per 100,000. As a result, local authorities wrote to me earlier this week asking for tighter restrictions, and we have taken swift action to put them in place. From tomorrow, in Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham, residents should not socialise with other people outside their own households or support bubble; hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only; and late-night restrictions of operating hours will be introduced, so leisure and entertainment venues must close between 10 pm and 5 am.
I know, as the whole House does, that these decisions have a real impact on families, on businesses and on local communities. I can tell everyone affected that we do not take these decisions lightly. We agree with local councils that we must follow the data and act, and the data says that we must act now so that we can control this deadly virus and keep people safe. I know that the people of the north-east will come together to defeat this virus, as defeat it we must.
We are working to bolster our health and care system too. Winter is always a stretching time for health and for care, but this winter presents particular challenges. People will be spending more time indoors than they did in summer, where we know the virus is more likely to spread, and we know that we will need to deal with coronavirus along with the usual pressures that the season will bring. So today I want to set out our plans to support the NHS and social care this winter.
Turning first to the NHS, I can tell the House that we have allocated a further £2.7 billion to the NHS to support it during the winter months. This funding, in addition to the extra funding for personal protective equipment and testing, will help the NHS with the vital task of operating safely in a world in which Covid is still at large and the critical task of working through the backlog of elective work that was inevitably caused by the first peak.
Our emergency departments are on the front line of the fight for life in the NHS. Today, I am delighted to announce a series of measures to support our urgent and emergency care system this winter and beyond. I want to thank and pay tribute to Katherine Henderson, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, with whom I have worked closely to develop these proposals. I want to thank her, and, through her, all those who work in emergency care for their service in the face of adversity. I saw this again this morning at the St Thomas’ Hospital accident and emergency department, and I know that all of us support the work of those who work in our emergency facilities, right across the country. I very much hope that yours, Mr Speaker, will be opening soon in Chorley.
We will make our emergency departments bigger. Many are simply too small—that was true even before the pandemic, but it is even more acute now. So we are investing to expand capacity in urgent and emergency care, so that hospitals have the space to continue treating patients safely in the coming months. In August, we confirmed £300 million for emergency upgrades across 117 trusts, and I can today announce a further £150 million to expand 25 more emergency departments, including some of the most constrained in the country, such as those in Worcester and at the Royal Shrewsbury. This extra funding will put us in the strongest possible position for this winter, and boost the crucial work to accelerate non-Covid care.
It is not just about the space, but about the service, so we are working to get patients the right care in the right place, by expanding the role of NHS 111. During the peak of this pandemic, we saw millions of people using NHS 111, on the phone or online, to get the best possible advice on coronavirus, helping them to stay safe and, where possible, to stay out of hospital, where they could have unknowingly spread the virus. It is crucial that, ahead of winter, we use this window of opportunity to seek out what worked and build on it, so we provide a better service for patients and protect the NHS. Of course, no one will ever be turned away from our emergency departments in the most serious of cases; however, we have worked with the royal colleges, the NHS and others to develop a better, quicker and more clinically appropriate service for patients by using NHS 111 first.
This is how it works. We will invest £24 million to increase call-handling capacity and to make sure there are more clinicians on hand to provide expert advice and guidance, and we will build on our trials to make NHS 111 a gateway to the emergency care system, providing a first port of call for patients. In future, rather than having to queue in an emergency ward, we are testing that people should call NHS 111 first to book an appointment with whoever can give them the most appropriate care, whether it is a GP, a specialist consultant, a pharmacist, a nurse or community services. Of course, if they need to go to the emergency department, NHS 111 will be able to book them into an appropriate time slot. We want to see this approach lead to shorter waiting times and better availability of appointments for patients. We will consult on how its performance is best measured, and, with successful pilots, we will roll out NHS 111 First to all trusts from December.
Finally, I want briefly to update the House on our work to protect care homes. One of the worst things that we know about this virus is that it reserves its greatest impact for those who are physically weakest, especially the elderly, so we must do everything in our power to protect residents in social care. In May, we introduced the adult social care infection control fund, which has helped adult social care providers reduce the rate of transmission. This was used to fund important measures such as improving infection prevention and paying staff to self-isolate. I can now inform the House that we will extend this fund for six months and provide over £540 million of extra funding for providers. That brings our total funding for infection control measures in social care to over £1 billion. We will also shortly be bringing forward our adult social care winter plan, because we will do whatever is humanly possible to protect our care homes from this virus so that they are a place of sanctuary this winter.
We will soon be facing winter in this fight and, whether on our NHS emergency care wards or in our care homes, we will strain every sinew to give them what they need, so they are well equipped for this pandemic and, indeed, for the years ahead. I commend this Statement to the House.”
Like everyone here, I watched the briefing by the Chief Scientific Officer and the Chief Medical Officer today, and very sobering it was too. It was followed by a very informed discussion on the BBC. It feels that we are playing catch-up again, although I realise that that is almost inevitable. Today we have had another Statement since this one and I gather that the Prime Minister will make a further Statement tomorrow.
Last week, when we discussed the then Statement which was already three days old, I said that I thought that we had come to a critical moment when some very serious decisions would need to be taken, and clearly that was correct. The words “tipping point” and “perilous moment” were used in the Commons today during the debate on the Statement. As we have said all along, clarity of messaging is totally vital. The country has become increasingly confused about what people should do to protect themselves and those around them, so perhaps this break point is really important.
A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister was setting out his stall to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality, possibly in time for Christmas. Now the Prime Minister has admitted that we face a further six months of very difficult lockdown restrictions while the CSO, Sir Patrick Vallance, said that the UK faces 50,000 Covid cases a day by mid-October if the current infection rate is not halted. My first question for the Minister is: are we now at level 4? I ask because the Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended that the Covid-19 alert level for the UK should be increased to level 4, meaning that transmission of the virus is high or rising exponentially. It has been at level 3, meaning that the Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation, for several months, but the Chief Medical Officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said in a joint statement this evening:
“After a period of lower Covid cases and deaths, the numbers of cases are now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations.”
Given that, are we going to move to level 4?
Can the Minister confirm that the Government intend to bring forward further restrictions in London? What are the next steps nationally? This morning, Chris Whitty, the CMO, said that people should
“break unnecessary links between households to stop coronavirus spreading out of control.”
Has the advice about return to work changed? Can the Minister confirm whether the reported two-week circuit-breaker lockdown is indeed going to happen?
It is deeply concerning that the Statement last Thursday contained scant reference to testing. As my right honourable friend the shadow health Secretary said, under this Government test and trace is actually trace a test. When will that be resolved? Giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee on Thursday, the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, told MPs:
“I do not think anybody expected to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we have seen over the course of the last few weeks.”
This is simply not true. Can the Minister confirm that SAGE warned the Government that the UK faced an inevitable increase in community transmission and cases after the summer and needed a fully functional and trusted test and trace system put in place?
I feel that I need to talk about the “moonshot”, because it is an emerging story on the i that the moonshot test for Covid-19 that will allow people to resume normal life will not be available on the NHS—as the Government’s testing tsar, the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, suggested. She said that individuals and companies would have to pay to access the proposed test and that it would not be part of the normal NHS test and tracing scheme that she heads, which will continue to concentrate on swab tests. So the question I need to ask the Minister is: are we now looking at an A and a B test and trace system or an A and B test system where people who can afford to pay for a test can get one immediately and those who cannot—the majority of us—will not?
Given these issues, tests now seem to be rationed, with health and social care prioritised. Could the Minister reflect on reports that care homes worst hit in the first wave could be tested for coronavirus less often, as the Government believe there will be higher levels of immunity and that they are less likely to pass on the virus? This is deeply worrying, given the high percentage of staff turnover and the vulnerability of residents.
Can the Minister confirm reports that evidence shows that 20% of people who have been told to self-isolate are still leaving their homes, and will that information be published? That is presumably what is leading to the much more aggressive fines. The Government say that the £10,000 maximum fine will act as a deterrent to testing positive and not self-isolating. Does the Minister share my concern that this actually may deter people with symptoms from getting a test at all? For many people, ignorance may also be the only legitimate option, as they are unable to get a test and self-isolation is financially non-viable.
The Minister will be aware that the Joint Committee on Human Rights said it was unacceptable that many thousands of people were receiving fixed-penalty notices despite evidence that the police do not fully understand their powers. They highlight enforcement as having a disproportionate impact on young men from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Currently there is no way for people to challenge the fixed-penalty notices easily, so does the Minister share my concern that this will invariably lead to injustice, as members of the public who have been unfairly treated with a fixed-penalty notice have no means of redress?
It ought to be straightforward for a member of the public to find out what the current law is, nationally and in their local area, without having to trawl—as the rest of us are doing—through countless confusingly named regulations. Will the Government publish a website where people can enter their postcode and be told in plain English what restrictions currently apply where they live?
My Lords, I thank the Minister for dealing with this Statement, which comes hot on the news that we are at level 4 as regards the pandemic. Therefore, I want to touch on two or three points in this Statement. The first is the Government’s intention to invest £24 million in increasing call-handling capacity through NHS 111, to make it into a gateway to emergency care, providing the first port of call for patients. I must say to the Minister that it is a bit late to be doing that, and most of us should be somewhat alarmed at the news in the Statement that the Government intend to conduct pilots and will roll out NHS 111 First to all trusts from December. I understand the need to run pilots, but does he not think that time is against us?
On 17 September, six council leaders, cross-party, from across Yorkshire and Humber, wrote to the Minister. It is worth paying attention to what they said in their letter. They said: “It would be worth exploring the protocols and policies that might increase demand for what might be considered lower-value testing in a time of capacity constraint. This would include working with NHS 111 and reviewing their protocols. It seems that any childhood illness may result in a Covid test—that is what GPs are constantly telling us—while the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have produced helpful guidance around that.” I ask the Minister if his department has seen that guidance and whether it will pay any attention to it.
Secondly, back to care homes and the ring of steel that never was. It is very welcome that there is going to be further investment in PPE and coverage for staff who have to take time off. However, there is a real danger in this, and there always has been, because social care is much more than care homes. Only 15% of people aged 85 or over are in a care home—most people who receive care are not. It is not uncommon for domiciliary care workers to visit 10 to 15 different homes in a shift. This Statement is silent on this matter which, given that the advisers are telling us they now know more about the transmission rate, is somewhat surprising. I wonder whether the Minister could talk about that.
The big issue in the last few days is the increasing confusion among members of the public as to who should be tested. Even in areas that are on the watchlist, people do not know whether they should be tested only if they are symptomatic or if they are asymptomatic. Some authorities have been given the power to do asymptomatic testing. Going back to that letter of 17 September, I note that the local authority says that it would be happy to have discussions locally but accepts the need for a co-ordinated approach with the Government. There needs to be a public discussion that provides urgently needed clarification from the department on how long these capacity issues are going to be around and what contingencies are going to be in place to manage them, particularly in high-risk areas.
This is not endless carping but a genuine concern for public health, and I therefore look forward to some detailed answers from the Minister.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, hit exactly the right note: we are at a sober moment and it is clear from the medical authorities that we are at some sort of tipping point. It is not too grand to say that the British nation faces something of a choice about how we approach the months ahead.
I confirm, as the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, has already done, that we are at level 4. The CMO has confirmed that he has taken the advice of the Joint Biosecurity Centre, and this is an indication of the seriousness of the situation. I acknowledge that there is widespread discussion of further restrictions and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, alluded to, that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has grave concerns for London. The CMO and the Chief Scientific Adviser have made their grave concerns crystal clear in their briefing this morning, and the graph showing the potential exponential growth in the case rate is extremely daunting.
I acknowledge that there are people who are concerned that we should put further restrictions in place, but I cannot confirm any of those arrangements. There will be a COBRA meeting tomorrow morning, which will be followed by a Cabinet meeting. The Prime Minister will make a Statement in the House of Commons tomorrow afternoon; how it will be repeated here is being discussed in the usual channels.
The expectations are very gruelling. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, queried why we did not see this coming, saying that, surely, SAGE and others had predicted this. The situation a month ago was quite different: when you looked at the dashboard, it was not clear that this sudden spike would turn up. However, the example of France—in cities like Marseilles—the hospitals in Spain and countries such as Israel has been extremely challenging and we are therefore moving quickly.
We completely acknowledge the concerns of parents and teachers in schools and the demands that they have put on the testing regime; we are absolutely determined to do whatever we can to keep schools open. We acknowledge the concerns of those with loved ones in social care, and we continue to pledge a very large amount—half of our testing capacity—to put protection in place for those in social care homes, who work with those in social care and who are in domestic care.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, asked about Moonshot, and she is entirely right. The Moonshot project is adjacent to and parallel to our existing testing capacity, which uses the Rolls-Royce PCR test, which is extremely accurate in terms both of sensitivity and prevalence. Those tests take time to turn around, are costly and are best placed one after another in machines in an industrial process.
We are therefore looking at a much more flexible type of testing capacity, which may not need to be quite as scientific in its approach and may have different use cases. Principally, it would enable people to do the things they seek to do: to be in places where social distancing is more challenging, whether that is a place or work or leisure, or a family context. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, we absolutely apply the inclusionary principle, but there may well be a role for owners of venues such as football clubs and theatres to take advantage of these interesting, dynamic and innovative technologies in order to bring back some of the economic, social and cultural parts of the country that we all love, and that many depend on.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, asked about self-isolation and quarantine. She is entirely right: these are critical components of our first-line defence against Covid. The only reason for having a test and trace programme is that people then isolate. If they do not isolate, there is no point in having that programme. We are absolutely focused on doing whatever we can to ensure that those who have been asked to isolate, because they have been in a risky situation or because they have had a positive test, do indeed do that. The fines we brought in at the weekend, or are set to bring in, are evidence of our determination to double up on the isolation principle. We have also brought in economic support for those who are isolating in certain target areas. As I have said at the Dispatch Box previously, those systems remain under review. If there is more that we can do to support those who are isolating, we will consider doing it.
The same is true of quarantine. The concerns of those in this House who would like to see our airports reopened and airlines and international travel restarted have been heard loud and clear. However, quarantining is essential to breaking the chain of transmission and to protecting this country. Until we have quarantine protocols that we can rely on, we have to live with what we have got.
The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, also asked whether there was a better way for those in a particular place to understand what restrictions they are living under. I entirely agree. The pace at which some local lockdowns have been enforced or changed is extremely difficult to keep up with, even if you live in one area. That is why the app, which will be released on Thursday, will have a postcode checker. You can put in any post- code in the country and it will give you an indication of the lockdown principles and alert level in that area. That is a helpful device which will put many people’s minds at rest.
The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, asked about call handling and 111. I remember that, not long ago, the very existence of 111 was questioned by many. There were those who thought that closing it down might have been a good idea. During the Covid epidemic, 111 has been a phenomenal success. We have put in more resources, more call handlers, more training and more technology in order to make it more successful. It has proven its value in a massive way.
What we are doing with the trials alluded to by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, is introducing a pilot so that those going to the emergency services in a hospital can phone 111 to check which services they should attend and, on occasion, book their slot in the emergency services. This is a system that patients have been asking for for a long time. It will help us massively with our load management as well as our Covid hygiene principles in emergency services. The pilots are starting in half a dozen locations, including Cornwall and Warrington, and we have put £24 million and a marketing campaign behind them. My expectation is that this service will prove extremely popular and will change the way in which people engage with hospitals. It will mean that the concerns and treatment of patients will be handled much more efficiently, and patients will go to the place that can best look after their treatment.
The noble Baroness asked about the protection that we are providing for care homes. The winter plan for social care, published last month, is an extremely detailed document that addresses many of the concerns that I have heard here in the Chamber. It is a thoughtful, well-financed and highly detailed plan for how we are going to protect those who are most vulnerable during the winter months. It is backed by an enormous financial commitment, a large number of tests and new guidelines to handle, for instance—as the noble Baroness rightly pointed out—the very difficult challenge of itinerant workers who may work for several different patients all at once; we are providing the financial resources and the new protocols in order to ensure that they do not become vectors of infection.
The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, asked about testing and who should be tested, and addressed in particular the question of asymptomatic testing and public discussion. We are massively engaged in a huge national conversation at the moment with local authorities, civic groups, employers, scientists and every single stakeholder that you could possibly imagine in the testing arena. Every day at the Department of Health we have round tables, webinars and all manner of engagement to understand how best we can serve schools, families, the economy and all the aspects of British life that depend on getting testing right.
One aspect of testing that is being generated by the exciting innovations that I mentioned in my answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, is the testing of asymptomatic people. That is not possible at the current levels of testing, even at 250,000 per day. We have to be extremely careful, as everyone here knows, to use every test that we have to its most effective use. When there are very large numbers of tests that can be cheaply and quickly delivered, and which are user-friendly by using things such as saliva or even breath tests, that could inaugurate a revolution in the way that we use testing and it may provide a system where those who are seeking to go outside, to go into areas where social distancing is challenging, can check whether they have the virus that morning and, at least for a day or two, have evidence that they will not be vectors of infection. That is potentially a transformative technology and it is the focus of our Moonshot ambitions. The progress that we are making is extremely encouraging and I look forward to updating the House on future days.
My Lords, we now come to the 30 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief so that I can call the maximum number of speakers.
My Lords, I want to pick up on what the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said about the clarity of messages. Enough has been said about test, track and isolate, and I will not go there, but I want to pick up on the comment made by the Chief Medical Officer in the presentation this morning about how people’s changing behaviour may help reduce or suppress the transmission of the virus significantly. The Government’s slogan “Hands, Face, Space” is apt. The Government were quite clear at the beginning of the pandemic about handwashing but less clear about face masks or face coverings and space. In future, as we are facing a serious problem, what message does the Minister wish to give to citizens when it comes to the use of face masks and space?
Our message remains clear and the same as when we started this epidemic. There is no other better alternative than the three principles articulated by the noble Lord, Lord Patel: clean hands, clean face, and social distancing. That mixture of hygiene and social distancing is the only thing that can beat this virus; that is our first line of defence. Test, trace, and isolate is our second line of defence. Face masks—in situations where social distancing is a challenge—can provide some secondary back-up, but they are not our primary form of defence.
My Lords, the statement by the CMO and CSO today fired a shot across the bows of Government and demands action now to prevent the second wave getting out of hand. The message is sobering. As noted by my noble friend, we could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October if no action is taken, leading to 200 deaths per day by mid-November. They refer to transmissions at home and in social settings. This should direct our attention to pubs and restaurants and whether they should remain open as potential vectors of infection.
We have learned many lessons from the first wave, particularly that there may have been a reluctance on the part of hospitals to refer patients to the Nightingale hospitals, lest this be seen as a sign of failure. This is a war on a pernicious virus, and we need leadership and central direction to ensure that we use these facilities more effectively. I welcome the £450 million earmarked to upgrade and expand A&E units, but we need a plan for the following points. One, triage patients to Nightingale hospitals once capacity in NHS hospitals exceeds 60%. Two, A&E holding bays for suspected Covid patients, who are transferred to Nightingale hospitals if they test positive. Three, a point of care test, be it the new flexible test the Minister mentioned earlier, to ensure we get quick results. The purpose of the Nightingale hospitals must be to enable the wider NHS to fulfil its obligations to maintain elective and emergency services. Can my noble friend the Minister confirm whether this is the Government’s strategy?
It is a war, that is why we are focused on how we manage extra resources such as the Nightingales. We have put in new systems and artificial intelligence for algorithms to help us with our triage. We have invested £450 million in A&Es, which will include building new holding bays. As my noble friend rightly points out, these need development. We have invested in 5,000 DnaNudges and other point-of-care devices to give front-line care workers the diagnostic help they need.
My Lords, I welcome the statement from the Minister, but to be candid, when I hear talk about Moonshot, I will believe it when I see it. What members of the public want is the ability to access Covid tests in places such as Bagshot, or Aldershot, or any other testing centre. The reports we get are that they cannot get appointments. Schools are closing because they cannot get test results, classes are being sent back; therefore, it is not just the number of tests, it is how long they are taking to turn around. To say we are surprised by the surge, when we were opening schools, does surprise me.
I have two other points on which I would welcome a response from the Minister. One, raised by noble Baroness, Lady Barker, is about domiciliary care. It is essential that PPE is available. It must be the right quality; we have had examples where large batches have been ordered from Turkey and China and they have been no good. We want quality PPE that is available.
My Lords, I welcome the further £2.7 billion for the NHS to prepare for winter and the further £150 million to expand emergency departments in England. However, as a resident of Wales, where health is devolved, I ask the Minister whether the Government have provided a proportionate sum to the devolved Administrations, to ensure that their residents can benefit from these improvements too? Furthermore, will the changes to NHS 111 be available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
My Lords, I draw the House’s attention to my registered interests. The Minister has alluded to the strategy, announced by Her Majesty’s Government earlier this month, of moving to mass population testing for citizens, regardless of symptoms. This is clearly predicated on having capacity for high-frequency testing, rapid reporting of results and a minimum threshold of accuracy for the test used. What assessment have the Government made of the threshold of accuracy in relation to sensitivity and specificity required to ensure that the mass testing strategy is successful—which is essential if we are to not only implement public health measures but save our economy?
My Lords, the user cases for different tests are being drafted and interrogated as we speak. The user case, for example, of an anaesthetist going into a delicate operation would be very different from the asymptomatic testing of a large school, or of people thinking about going to the pub in the evening. Matching the tests with the user cases is an important and necessary step. Once that is agreed with all relevant scientific committees, we will publish those user cases so that manufacturers can make the tests according to the required dimensions and specifications.
My Lords, I am sure my noble friend will agree that at this serious and critical moment it is imperative that all the rules are observed. It is, however, important that the rules are seen to be practical and workable. I urge my noble friend, therefore, to reconsider in the near future the current decision to include children under 12 in the rule of six. Will the Minister also confirm that no woman will have to give birth alone?
My Lords, the rule of six treatment of children under 12 is extremely heartbreaking. I have three children under 12 and I find it very awkward. The CMO’s view, however, is crystal clear: children, whether under 12 or not, can be vectors of infection, and if a whole generation of children is infected with the disease it will roll through the generations to those who are older or vulnerable, as sure as night follows day. For that reason, we are holding the rule as it is.
I thank the Minister for his Statement and for confirming that the alert level is now at 4. If I heard him correctly, he mentioned that COBRA would meet tomorrow. On Friday I asked why COBRA had not met for four months, and he indicated that it had given way to COVID-O and Covid Gold. I looked these up on the government website; deep into page 15 it announced the names of the operational and strategic committees and their membership. I am anxious that there should be clarity and co-ordination of decision-making, proper consideration of spending public money and accountability in contracting. Can the noble Lord give me an assurance that there will now be better co-ordination at national level and better reporting of decision-making?
I pay tribute to colleagues and officials at Downing Street and the Cabinet Office who have organised an extremely detailed, flexible and fast-moving decision-making arrangement through the COVID-O and Covid Gold process. That has proven, as has often been discussed in this Chamber, incredibly quick at responding to events. In terms of spending, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Agnew in the Cabinet Office, who is leading the fraud and financial scrutiny efforts to ensure that the money spent on taxpayers’ behalf goes to the right places.
Does the Minister agree that we cannot afford to destroy the economy again and that it would be immoral to destroy the educational future of our children? That implies that people must curtail their social opportunities. It is also incumbent on Government to recognise that education and the economy working will lead to increased cases. Do the Government not therefore need to step up and reintroduce the targeted work on those most vulnerable to this disease, as we know who they are?
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord’s sentiments. The economy and education are critical. I reiterate the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the economy survives in the best possible way and that our children get the education they need. However, it is not quite as binary as he describes. If the public abide by the behaviours recommended in the guidelines, we can enjoy a far greater range of activities than would be the case under a major lockdown. Either way, we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable. I point to the substantial financial investment in protecting those who are shielded and in social care.
My Lords, I declare my role in the Distance Aware programme in Wales, intended to help people coming out of shielding. We must focus on breaking the chain of transmission. Oxford University reports that the Isle of Wight Test and Trace pilot with the NHSX app broke transmission rates from among the worst in the UK to zero in three weeks. That app was withdrawn. Now the Google/Apple app trial on the island and in Newham is failing to stop R rising after five weeks. As the NHSX app is the only intervention shown to break the chain of transmission, will the Government now urgently roll it out nationwide?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct inasmuch as the statistics published for the original app would suggest. However, new statistics about the new app will be published after its launch on Thursday. I reassure her that the circumstances between then and now have changed considerably. The impact of an app that is widely downloaded and implemented across the country can be profound. We are extremely optimistic about its impact.
My Lords, it was announced in Stormont this afternoon that Covid-19 restrictions are to be extended across all Northern Ireland from 6 pm tomorrow. However, given that the Prime Minister is to make his own set of announcements tomorrow, can the Minister offer some clarity on whether the changes in Northern Ireland could be overwritten by Mr Johnson? Can he also offer some insight into what work is going on to try to achieve more consistency of messaging across all four nations of the United Kingdom? It is obvious that the differences are causing profound confusion among the public and putting more lives at risk.
My Lords, I note the move by Northern Ireland, which has taken a sincere and thoughtful approach. It is true that there have been some small differences between the different countries, but the vast majority of guidelines, restrictions and lockdown arrangements are shared by all the countries of the United Kingdom. I commend the huge amount of collaboration between all the DAs in working together to fight this horrible disease.
Has the Minister ever read his own department’s weekly statistics paper for test and trace? On page 8 of that for the latest week, from 3 to 9 September, there is a chart and figures for people tested from May. There is not a single day when the number of people tested exceeded 100,000, even when tests under pillar 1 are added to tests under pillar 2. The average for the latest week is 82,000 people tested. Could he ask the Secretary of State to stop playing fast and loose with the figures, especially in interviews where the interviewer is not briefed properly, as on “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday? He himself used the figure a few minutes ago of over 200,000, implying that was the number of people—it is not. There have never been 100,000 people tested on any single day.
My Lords, I would be glad to talk about the weekly statistics with the noble Lord in detail, if he would like. The number of tests per day is frequently over 200,000. The number of people includes a huge amount of duplication, because some people have had more than one test. Those people are often in social care or hospitals. If a person is tested in March and goes on to be tested 20 more times, they are counted once in March and not again. That is why the number he is looking at is quite different from the daily “tested” figure.
My Lords, another statistic we seem to forget is that some 20,000 Covid-related deaths have occurred in care homes to date. Yet, as we face another massive surge, there is no guarantee that we have learned any lessons from them. I welcome the resources spent on PPE, and I hope the Minister will guarantee that no patients will be dumped into care homes as they were earlier in the year. Unless we can protect the 1.2 million social care workers, 465,000 of whom work in care homes, the same will happen again. Last Friday, as reported by the York Evening Press, a care home in York waited over seven days for 100 test results to be returned—seven days when people got more ill and faced the prospect of an early death. Unless the Minister can guarantee at the meeting tomorrow that all tests in care homes will be offered on a weekly basis and returned within 24 hours, we will be putting our whole care home sector in peril.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Willis, does the care home sector, the NHS and those who work in them a massive disservice. There are hundreds of ways in which we have learned to deal with this disease better, such as how we use therapeutic drugs; how we store and use PPE; how we manage and protect our workforce; how we handle mental health and the entertainment of those who live in care; how we use modern technology, including television and diagnostic devices; how we transfer patients in and out of hospitals; and how we use testing. I could continue, but I think I have made my point.
My Lords, Lord Sumption and others say older people should be allowed to take their chances with the virus if they prefer that to cutting off contact with family and friends. Does the Minister agree that senior citizens—I am 91—should be allowed to take responsibility for their own safeguarding, rather than face their remaining years in perpetual lockdowns and feeling guilty that their protection is at the expense of younger, working people and the economy?
My Lords, I do not like telling anyone what to do. I do not like telling anyone that they should lock themselves up or stay away from the people they love—of course I do not—but in this epidemic we have learned that my health affects your health and your health affects my health. If you wander around catching the disease and giving it to other people, the impact on the whole of society is enormous. We all have to get used to this fundamental public health truism.