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Eligibility for release on licence of terrorist prisoners: England and Wales

Part of Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 5:45 pm, 12th February 2020

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

May I thank all Members for taking part in this important debate, on a Bill that, as Members on both sides of the House have demonstrated comprehensively, was timely and necessary? We have a proud history of coming together in times of adversity against people who seek to divide us. Together, we can make sure that the terrorists who seek to threaten our way of life will never win.

I readily acknowledge that we are passing this Bill to a very tight timescale, but the appalling attacks we witnessed at Streatham and at Fishmongers’ Hall made it plain that the time for action was now, which is why I welcome the sense of urgency that has been shared in all parts of the House. That has necessarily shortened the time available to debate these issues, but I will of course continue to engage with Members across the House on these matters. There will be further opportunities to legislate on these issues, both in our forthcoming counter-terrorism, sentencing and release Bill and, more broadly, in the sentencing Bill that we will introduce following our sentencing White Paper later this year.

We will also review the current maximum penalties and sentencing framework for terrorist offences to ensure that they are sufficient and comprehensive. Our underlying principle is this: terrorist offenders should no longer be released before the end of their custodial sentence unless the Parole Board is satisfied that they are no longer a risk to the public.

I take this opportunity to thank all the officials, not only those who have assisted us in the Box today, but all the team at the Ministry of Justice, who have worked at pace and in great detail on complex issues of national importance, to a timescale that is perhaps unusual and almost unprecedented. We do owe them a deep debt of gratitude, and I am honoured to place that formally on the record.

For now, passing this Bill will take a significant step to ensuring that the British public, whom we serve, are being given the protection they need, by ensuring that terrorist offenders spend longer in prison in all cases and are not automatically released without being fully and properly assessed.