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Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Paul Holmes Paul Holmes Conservative, Eastleigh 3:30 pm, 12th February 2020

I will speak briefly about why I welcome the Bill and why I believe it is necessary to tackle the issues on which many hon. Members have made very good speeches this afternoon. May I first congratulate the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and Ministers from the Department on the constructive and decisive action that they have taken? I pay particular tribute to the Labour party and the shadow Solicitor General for supporting this measure, which I think shows the importance of the subject.

As the Lord Chancellor said, the first duty of any Government is to keep their people safe, and this Bill goes some way to increasing the likelihood that that will happen. It increases the likelihood of ending the uncertainty for victims, their families and those who have been affected by these atrocities, and it will go some way to restoring the confidence of my constituents and people across the country in the sentencing guidelines for people who commit these most hideous crimes.

I want briefly to talk about how terrorism affects everybody, directly or indirectly. There are two occasions in particular that stick in my mind. The first was 7/7. I was 15 years old at the time and—I hope hon. Members do not tell me off—I chose that day not to go into school. I remember the breaking news coming through on the television. My father was working in London at that time. In fact, my family were all working in London; I am a Londoner. I remember trying to make some phone calls to see whether they were okay. For some reason, I got a crossed line and got through to a lady when I called my father’s phone. This woman was trying to find out where her daughter was because she was using the tube that morning. She was terrified, fearful and concerned about where her daughter was. We spoke for just two minutes, but I tried to reassure her and she reassured me.

The other occasion was the Westminster Bridge attack, which happened while I was a special adviser to Sir Patrick McLoughlin. I was walking up Whitehall when the shots were fired, and was locked down in the Cabinet Office. Sir Patrick was locked down in here. Members of my family were desperately trying to find out whether I was okay, and I was trying to find out whether friends in this House and around the Chamber were okay. I mention both those occasions to show that we are all affected by terrorism.

Terrorism spreads fear, harms lives and, most importantly, costs lives. But this Bill goes some way to giving some reassurance to the victims, families and people who are affected by terrorism that those who commit these crimes will go to prison and stay there. Sadly, we cannot say with certainty that attacks such as the ones I have mentioned will not happen again. We all know that; I am afraid that it is the nature of the beast.