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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The first duty of any Government is to protect the public from harm. Combating the unprecedented threat of coronavirus has, of course, been the focus of our energies over the last few months, but as our country begins to open up once again, it is crucial that we maintain our vigilance towards the all too familiar threat of terrorism. As the House will recall, there have been a number of devastating incidents in recent years. The appalling atrocities at Fishmongers’ Hall on
Following the Streatham attack, we acted swiftly to introduce the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, which ended the automatic early release of terrorist offenders and ensured that any release before the end of a sentence is dependent on a thorough risk assessment by the Parole Board. I was extremely grateful for the co-operation we received from Members on both sides of the House on that vital piece of legislation, and I was proud of how quickly this place acted to get it on to the statute book. That piece of legislation built on the Government’s plans to bolster the United Kingdom’s response to terrorism and to ensure that we have some of the strongest measures in the world to tackle that threat.
The Lord Chancellor mentions the importance of speed in dealing with these situations. Does he agree that we have perhaps not moved fast enough in, for example, proscribing some organisations? I am thinking particularly of extreme right-wing organisations that target the black community, other people of colour, the Jewish community and the gay community. It took years to get System Resistance Network and Sonnenkrieg Division banned by the Government, and there are other organisations out there, such as the Order of Nine Angles, that need to be banned. Does he agree that we need to move further and faster on proscription so that people involved in those organisations can receive the sentences that he is talking about in this legislation?
The hon. Gentleman knows that the function of proscription is for the Home Secretary. From my knowledge of it, which is not as close as that of my colleague, proscription is a device that should be applied equally, without discrimination. He is absolutely right to talk about the rise of far-right extremism. At this Dispatch Box and elsewhere, I have readily acknowledged the fact that out in our community, sadly, and in our prison system, we have a proportion of far-right wing terrorists who have been convicted and brought to justice. What I would say about those individual examples is that wherever there is evidence of activities that amounts to grounds for proscription, I know that this Home Secretary—indeed, like her predecessors—will act with alacrity. Of course, her predecessor did in the instances that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, so I assure him that the Government will work within the law and apply it equally to all groups and organisations that pose a direct threat to our way of life. That is what we are talking about here.
I was dealing with the measures that we announced in the aftermath of the atrocity at Fishmongers’ Hall. In the current financial year, 2020-21, we have increased funding for counter-terrorism policing by £90 million. We announced a review for the support for victims of terrorism, with a further £500,000 being provided to the Victims of Terrorism Unit. We then announced our plans to double the number of counter-terrorism specialist probation staff. We are also working to increase the places that are available in probation hostels, so that authorities can keep closer tabs on terrorists in the weeks after their release from prison. Of course there is also the independent review—led by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall, QC—of the way in which different agencies investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders. This was just the first stage of our response, because these attacks clearly demonstrated the need for terrorist offenders to spend longer in prison and to be subject to more stringent monitoring in the community.
I am very conscious that although we are looking at the recent period, at those who were involved in ISIS and Daesh attacks in London and elsewhere, IRA terrorism is clearly a strong issue, as was illustrated last week when there was a bomb and arms find in Londonderry. When it comes to sentencing, I ask that those who are involved in IRA terrorism, who are convicted in this jurisdiction—on the mainland—will not receive any reduction in the sentences that they receive if they are transferred back to Northern Ireland, for instance. I seek that assurance from the Secretary of State—that IRA terrorists will get the full brunt of the law and not get away with a reduced sentence if they are sent back home.
The hon. Gentleman can be reassured that the whole purpose of this UK-wide legislation is not to discriminate between different types of terrorists. It would be wholly wrong for this legislation, for example, to focus on so-called Islamic terrorism, as opposed to far-right terrorism, the Provisional IRA and irregular republican, or indeed, irregular terrorism of a general nature within Northern Ireland or any other part of the United Kingdom. This is not discriminatory legislation. It is designed to deal with terrorism in all its forms, and I believe that this legislation is also agile when it comes to dealing with and anticipating the enduring challenge of how to manage terrorists in whatever form they might come. As we know, terrorism is evolving and taking different forms all the time.
My right hon. and learned Friend mentions a couple of cases, including Fishmongers’ Hall. Does that not illustrate the great range of problems that have to be addressed? In recent times, was there not a case where someone had to be released even though people were sure he would reoffend at the first opportunity—he did so, and had to be trailed and stopped by an MI5 team—whereas at Fishmongers’ Hall, was the problem not that the person had claimed to be reformed and that there was no reason, apparently, not to release him? It will have to be a very comprehensive piece of legislation to cope with such a wide range of problems.
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, who speaks with experience of these matters. He helps me to outline the point I was about to make about the complex and evolving nature of the threat. He is right to talk about different types of threat: superficial compliance, which we saw, sadly, with regard to Fishmongers’ Hall; and known threat, but with an inability of the authorities, due to the current regime, to manage that within custodial settings, and the paraphernalia, cost and sheer planning that has then to be undertaken to try to deal with and manage the threat in the community.
I must pay tribute to the teams who worked so hard at Streatham to minimise what could have been an even more horrific incident on that Sunday afternoon on Streatham High Road. I well remember looking at the detail of what the teams did that day and being lost in sheer admiration for their bravery and professionalism in dealing with a terrible incident that could have involved very serious loss of life. The work of looking at the detailed facts will go on by way of an independent inquest. We will, of course, look precisely at the outcome of that, and at the serious further offence reviews, which are ongoing but will conclude very shortly. They will help to supplement the excellent work done by Jonathan Hall in his review of MAPPA—multi-agency public protection arrangements.
I was explaining that the announcements we made some months ago were but the first stage of our response. The step-up response to counter-terrorism is very much at the heart of what I and the Government are about. The legislation we are now introducing will ensure that the process for how we at each stage deal with both convicted terrorist offenders and those who pose a concern of becoming terrorist offenders will be strengthened. We are determined to ensure that those who commit serious acts of terror and put members of the public at risk serve sentences that properly reflect the harm they cause.
The Bill will reform the sentences which can be handed down to terror offenders by introducing a new category of sentence. The serious terrorism sentence, for the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders, will carry a minimum period of 14 years of custody, with an extended licence period of up to 25 years. That sentence will apply to only the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders who would otherwise receive a life sentence: those who have been found guilty of an offence where there was a high likelihood of causing multiple deaths.
The Bill also introduces further provisions for terrorist offenders who have been assessed to be dangerous, and who have committed a sufficiently serious offence, to spend the entirety of their sentence in custody without the prospect of early release. In addition to spending that full term in prison, the courts will be able to apply longer extended licence periods of up to 10 years for those offenders, so we can continue to supervise them once they are allowed back into the community. Any breach would put them straight back into prison.
In February, I announced that the Government would review sentencing for terrorist offenders, including whether current maximum penalties for terrorist offences were sufficient. Following that review, the Bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty for three specific terrorism offences: first, membership of a proscribed organisation; secondly, supporting a proscribed organisation; and thirdly, attending a place used for terrorist training. The maximum term is currently 10 years, but will be increased to 14, which sends a clear message about how serious the Government consider that type of offending and is consistent with existing penalties for similarly serious terrorist offences.
Another outcome of the review included in the Bill is an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which will enable the courts to find any offence with a maximum penalty of more than two years to have a terrorist connection. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation noted that that would be a useful change. It will give the courts more flexibility to reflect the facts of each case fully in the sentence that they may wish to pass.
Order. The hon. Gentleman disappoints me. We had all this yesterday. The hon. Gentleman cannot address the Minister as “Minister”; he has to address him in the third person. It is my ambition that the hon. Member for Strangford will get that right.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I endeavour to follow your instructions and I will do my best.
I seek assurance that those who are involved in terrorist activity, be it providing safe houses, physical assistance, cars or weapons, and who play a smaller role will also feel the brunt of the sentencing for their minor role in a bigger terrorist atrocity.
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, there have been developments in terrorism law since the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, which he will remember, then the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Acts that followed the atrocity of 9/11, which saw a development and evolution in the law that allowed a wider penumbra of people who supported, encouraged or facilitated that type of serious offending to be brought before the courts.
I was explaining that the particular measure to which I was drawing the House’s attention allows the courts to find a terrorist connection in offences that are not specifically terrorism or terrorism-related; they might be offences under a different type of Act, such as an offence of violence or an acquisitive crime. If there is enough evidence to satisfy the criminal standard of proof that there is a terrorism connection, the court can use that as an aggravating factor in increasing the level of sentence given to that particular offender.
That will result in more offenders being managed through the registered terrorist offender notification requirements and will ensure that operational partners can effectively manage that risk on release so that no terrorism-connected offender should fall through the cracks. Taken together, the sentencing provisions will reduce the threat posed to the public by incapacitating dangerous terrorists and will maximise the time that the authorities have to work with offenders, giving offenders more time in which to disengage from their dangerous and deeply entrenched ideologies.
The recent terror attacks demonstrated the importance of improving and maximising our capability to monitor offenders in the community. The Bill introduces a range of measures to allow the Government to intervene more effectively where required. Time spent on licence is crucial in monitoring and managing offenders in the community, and also in giving them the opportunity and support to change their behaviour to desist and disengage from terrorism.
Right hon. and hon. Members were rightly concerned during the passage of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 that terrorist offenders released at the end of their sentence would not be subject to licence supervision when released. This legislation takes vital steps to extend the scope of the special sentence for offenders of particular concern to cover all terrorist offences with a maximum penalty of more than two years. That will mean that any terrorist offenders convicted of an offence covered by the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act will no longer be able to receive a standard determinate sentence, but will instead face a minimum period of supervision on licence of 12 months, even if they are released at the end of their custodial term.
The Bill will also strengthen the licence conditions to which terrorist offenders are subject by making available polygraph testing as a condition of their licence. We believe that that will help probation staff to monitor compliance with the other licence conditions—such as contact with named individuals, entering exclusion zones or accessing material that promotes or relates to acts of terrorism—imposed on offenders. Research has shown that mandatory polygraph testing for adult sexual offenders can be an effective risk-management tool; extending that to certain terrorist offenders will therefore enhance our ability to monitor them in the community.
In addition, the measures in the Bill will maximise the effectiveness of the existing disruptions and risk-management toolkit available to counter-terrorism policing and our security services. That toolkit can be used alongside licence conditions for those serving a licence period after sentence, or with individuals of terrorism concern who have not otherwise been convicted.
Prosecution and conviction are always our preference for dealing with terrorists, but in the limited instances in which we cannot prosecute, deport or otherwise manage an individual of terrorism concern, terrorism prevention and investigation measures—known as TPIMs—are a crucial tool for protecting the public. The Bill makes a number of changes to TPIMs to increase their value as a risk-management tool and support their use by operational partners in cases when it is considered necessary. The changes include lowering the standard of proof for imposing a TPIM notice, specifying new measures that can be applied to TPIM subjects, and removing the current two-year limit from which a TPIM notice can last, to ensure that we are better equipped to manage individuals of significant concern who pose a continued threat.
I am sure the right hon. Lady will understand that it would be a little invidious of me to go into individual cases, but she will know from her long experience of this issue, and control orders previously, that TPIMs and control orders are complex and resource-intensive mechanisms that require a high degree of planning and continued monitoring, so decisions made to apply for them are never entered into lightly. By returning the position on the standard of proof to the one that existed some years ago, the Bill creates a more flexible means of monitoring, rather than a system that does, and did, require a higher standard of proof. It is not my wish or the wish of the Government to see an overdependence on TPIMs to the exclusion of other types of disposal.
It is still very much the Government’s view that prosecution and conviction is absolutely our priority, but experience has shown that the judicious use of this type of measure is not only lawful and proportionate but necessary when we cannot meet the high standard of proof that the right hon. Lady knows exists in criminal prosecution. It is my view that although TPIMs have never been the complete solution to the problem, they are an invaluable additional tool that the security services and all of us need when it comes to managing this complex problem. The right hon. Lady will be reassured that according to the latest published figures the number of TPIMs in force is currently five. I do not believe that the changes we bring in will act as any incentive or artificial stimulus to a sudden change in the way that the measures are used.
Forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I dwell at length on the point made the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. I have noticed, certainly from my time as a Law Officer, that from the middle part of this decade we saw a welcome increase in the number of prosecutions, particularly of returning foreign fighters. That showed that where we put the resources and the will into investigation we can make the prosecutorial system work well. Maintaining that focus, but then adapting, refining and modernising the system as we are doing in this Bill, strikes the right balance in terms of the need to protect the public and to adhere to those principles of liberty, the individual and the rule of law that all of us in this House share.
I have a lot of sympathy with the point that my right hon. and learned Friend makes about the value that TPIMs can have as part of the armoury, so to speak, in dealing with these matters. May I draw him back to the point about the change in the burden of proof? The increase in the burden of proof to the current standard was specifically in response to a recommendation from the then independent reviewer, Lord Anderson. The current independent reviewer, Mr Hall QC, has made no such recommendation to reduce the burden proof, as is proposed here. That is a striking difference. What we are trying to get to is this: what is it that triggers this change in the burden of proof without some evidence, either by way of recommendation or some hard fact to demonstrate it?
I absolutely accept and understand the motivation behind my hon. Friend’s intervention, and he makes such a recommendation not just as Chair of the Select Committee, but as a guardian of the principles of the rule of law, which, after all, is what we, as a nation, are trying to defend against those who would kill, shoot and bomb their way into power and influence. He can be reassured that this—if you like—reversion to the previous standard of proof is all about making sure that we have as agile a tool as possible, bearing in mind the rapidly changing nature of the terrorist threat that we face. It is vital that we make sure that, when applications for TPIMs are made, they can be done not only in such a way that there is clearly an evidential basis and those grounds exist, but in a way that means they can be effective and as rapidly implemented as possible. The focus of the TPIM and the number of people on it will change, adapt and evolve according to the constant and the changing nature of the threats.
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. The point made by the Chair of the Justice Committee is very well made. Not only has the current independent reviewer of terrorism, Jonathan Hall QC, not recommended the change, but he has specifically questioned the basis for the change. So again, is the Lord Chancellor able to clearly articulate for us why this change in the burden of proof is necessary?
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for her question. Indeed, in the lengthy answers that I am giving, I am trying to do just that. What I am trying to explain is—I know that she knows this—that the TPIM mechanism is not something that is entered upon lightly. It involves a high degree of resource and a high intensity of resource management. It is a self-evident truth that the resources of the state, however large they may be, are not infinite and therefore choices and priorities have to be allocated. What I can assure the House of is that of course every time we assess that the grounds are met and that there is a risk, we will act. That is what our security services do, day in, day out, for us. What I am saying is that the change in the threshold creates that greater agility. I accept that it will be a lower standard, yes, but the reason for that is to allow for greater flexibility when our operational partners come to apply them.
I was talking about the importance of TPIMs’ use being proportionate. I believe that the annual review of TPIMs, which is going to be part of this process to qualify the question about their indefinite duration, strikes the right balance between the need for vigilance and control against the need for those basic civil liberties that we all guard jealously to be maintained. Let us not forget that where it is no longer necessary or proportionate to extend a particular TPIM for the purposes of public protection, that TPIM will be revoked. That check and balance is very much at the heart of the regimen that we are proposing in the Bill.
The Bill also amends legislation governing serious crime prevention orders. Those are civil orders imposed by the courts that protect the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting an individual’s involvement in serious crime, which of course includes terrorism. The Bill supports the use of these orders in terrorist-related cases by allowing counter-terrorism policing to make a direct application to the High Court for a serious crime prevention order. We are therefore streamlining that process. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has noted that these mechanisms are at the moment an under-utilised tool in terrorism cases, and I believe that by streamlining the process we will see a greater reliance upon them.
We are also adding the offences of breaching a TPIM notice and breaching a temporary exclusion order to the list of relevant terrorism offences that can trigger the registered terrorist offender notification requirements. Again, the independent reviewer has publicly confirmed his support for that change. The regime requires individuals aged 16 or over who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in custody for a relevant terrorism offence to provide certain information about changes in their circumstances, such as their address, to the police and to notify them of any foreign travel plans. Together, these changes strengthen our ability to manage the risk posed by those of terrorism concern in our community, including those who have been released from prison without a period on licence.
The Bill also reforms how we deal with terrorist offenders under the age of 18. We recognise, of course, that there is a separate sentencing framework for that category of offenders, and that it has distinct purposes and aims that differ from those relating to adult offenders. We have carefully considered which measures it would be appropriate to apply to under 18-year-olds in developing this proposed legislation. Although we remain firm in our aim to ensure that custody should be used only where absolutely necessary, it is a sad and inescapable fact that some young people are susceptible to radicalisation or to the adoption of extremist views, and that among those, there are a few who pose a very serious threat to the public.
The Bill will therefore ensure that the courts have the right range of tools at their disposal to deal with those under the age of 18 who commit serious terrorist or terrorist-related offences. We will do that by introducing a youth equivalent to the special sentence for offenders of particular concern. This will mean that, if convicted of terrorist offences serious enough to warrant custody, these offenders will serve a fixed period on licence once they have been released into the community. This will ensure that they receive an appropriate level of supervision. We are also replicating the changes to the extended determinate sentence to ensure better public protection from young terrorist offenders who have been assessed as dangerous. This removes Parole Board consideration of the two-thirds point for the most serious terrorism offences, and in the interests of public protection, it gives the courts the option to apply an extension period of up to 10 years on licence. I accept that this is an exceptional series of measures, but we are dealing with an exceptional type of offending.
Can the Secretary of State explain, first, what additional resources will be made available within the prison system to ensure that those who commit terror offences are not then left there to radicalise other young offenders? That has been a huge concern, and the Government have been pretty lacklustre in dealing with it. Secondly, when they are released, what resources and support will be made available to local authorities and other partnerships to ensure that other young people are not susceptible to their influence? It is one thing to sentence, but quite another to deal with the underlying challenges in communities.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that issue. I can give her the strongest reassurance that, though at times it might appear, from some of the coverage of how terrorism is monitored in prison, that our system is failing, it is not. There are many aspects of the counter-terrorism regimen in our prisons that are world leading and which other countries are learning from and coming to us for help and advice on. I can say this about our recent announcement: the doubling of the number of specialist probation officers, and imams with specialist training, will further improve the way we deal with terrorism both inside prisons and in the community.
I can reassure the hon. Lady that, after 2017, when the Home Office and my Department came together with the joint extremism unit that deals with terrorism, a visitor to a prison with a particular specialism—Belmarsh, for example—would have seen embedded in the command and control structure police officers, probation officers, all parts of the system working jointly around a particular offender: not just monitoring but anticipating and understanding the trends, themes and information emerging. A lot of this is of a sensitive nature and it would be wrong of me to dwell too heavily upon the detail, but I can say that we have created separation centres. Those are challenging, as one should not use them on a whim and there needs to be a clear basis on which to separate individuals of known extremism from the rest of the prison population. Otherwise, there is a danger of creating an even more worrying unit or cadre of individuals who feed off each other and whose agenda of hate and terror is only entrenched by their being separated from the rest of the prison community.
The hon. Lady is right to say there is a challenging balance to be reached between separation and the danger of the proselytization of these views among other more susceptible members of the prison community, but we have the resources and are ploughing them in. The Bill is only part of the step-up approach I announced earlier this year. She can be reassured that not only is the work being done in prisons but—to deal with her point about the community—the specialist probation officers will have a community role as well. Furthermore, as I will refer to shortly, the statutory review of Prevent will give us all an opportunity to hone, improve and refine our approach to terrorism within the community.
When I was Prisons Minister between 2010 and 2012, we abolished control orders, to which we are returning, because of the inflexibilities they created. I will speak on that in my main remarks. Will not the inflexibilities and the mandatory elements in the Bill make significantly more difficult the job of those most brilliant people in the Prison Service engaged in the rehabilitation of this most difficult class of offenders?
I pay tribute to the work my hon. Friend did in my Department at the beginning of the coalition Government. He is right that in many instances the removal of flexibility in sentencing can pose huge challenges, but we are dealing with an exceptional cohort—a small group of people whose type of offending is very different in my view from the mainstream of other types of offender. As he knows, I have worked in the system for many years, and I have seen individuals capable of the most astonishing rehabilitation, who have turned away from crime and gone on to lead blameless lives, but I am afraid that within this cadre of people there is a stubborn minority who are not capable of rehabilitation, who might show superficial signs of co-operation but whose agenda remains unchanged and undeterred and whose chosen path remains the same, even many years later. That is the sad reality of terrorism and I make no apology for taking an exceptional course to deal with an exceptionally difficult, troublesome, and dangerous group of people.
The Lord Chancellor is being incredibly generous in giving way. He will be aware of the tragic circumstances in which young people in my constituency were recruited to Daesh/ISIS, and that the perpetrator of neo-Nazi actions a couple of years ago in Grangetown was only 19. It is right to focus on issues that relate to young people, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say a little more about the specialist probation officers, and about what training skills they will be given to look at the increasingly sophisticated way that some of these individuals engage online? As he said, they might be superficially engaging in face-to-face conversations, but then having a completely different set of conversations online, including through gaming platforms.
I know the hon. Gentleman’s community very well through my work in the criminal justice system. It sounds as if his community has particular criminal justice problems—that would be an insult, as it is a diverse and lively community that I know very well indeed. From that knowledge, I know that he represents a wide and wonderfully diverse range of cultures and views in the great city of Cardiff. He can be reassured that online work is as important as any offline interaction. I am impressed by the constant attention to renewal when it comes to the training of probation officers, and there is an acknowledgement that the threat is constantly evolving. The sad reality of the tender ages of some of these perpetrators is something we had to acknowledge in the Bill, hence the measures we are taking.
I was talking about the statutory review of Prevent. As we know, there was a deadline in statute for the completion of that review. We are having to change that, which is unfortunate and not something we wanted. We know there was a difficulty with the process, and Lord Carlile had to step down. We are engaging in a full and open competition to appoint the next independent reviewer, which is what the House would want; it has to be open and independent. We want to give the new reviewer the time necessary to carry out the review, so the statutory deadline will be removed. That does not in any way diminish my commitment, or that of the Home Secretary, to the success of the review, or our determination for it to be done properly and at speed. Our aim is for the review to conclude, with the Government response, by August next year.
In response to an intervention from Jim Shannon I made the point that, perhaps unusually for a criminal justice Bill, this Bill has UK-wide application, because of the devolution settlement and the question of reserved matters when it comes to counter-terrorism. We have committed to ensuring that the seriousness of terrorist offending is treated equally across the three jurisdictions of the UK, and that we are able to protect all our citizens. We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland, of Scotland, and of England and Wales, not to discriminate in any way or to create false and unhelpful distinctions between all corners of our kingdom. To that end, the provisions will apply equally to the three jurisdictions. That includes applying the measures that we took in the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, in full, to Northern Ireland.
Does the Lord Chancellor recognise that, despite supporting the Bill overall, the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland has expressed some concerns about the extension of those provisions to Northern Ireland, and raised some potential inadvertent and unintended consequences that would be undesirable?
The hon. Gentleman was good enough to write to me and I can reassure him that I have spoken directly in an official capacity on several occasions to the Justice Minister, who was of course a distinguished Member of this House in the 2010 Parliament. I know she is a dedicated public servant who is reviving the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland in an important way. I have of course discussed these matters carefully with her and considered them. She makes some important points about the sensitivity of polygraph testing, which I well understand, and the regime for youth offenders, which is a particular passion of hers.
Stephen Farry will know that when I considered retrospective application to Northern Ireland in February, I was careful not to rush into doing that in an emergency Bill. That was because I respected the devolution settlement and some of the differences in our approaches in various parts of the kingdom. I assure him that, having reflected, taken the appropriate steps and considered the matter in the round, I now believe that the provisions of article 7 of the European convention on human rights will not be affected by the measures I wish to take. It is important that we ensure that there is equal treatment of all types of terrorist offender throughout the kingdom.
Earlier, I made the point that I do not want the legislation to be discriminatory. That underlies my approach and I therefore intend to move ahead. Of course, it is a matter for the Administration in Stormont, but I very much hope that they will grant legislative consent. That is what I am seeking and that applies to the Scottish Government as well. My discussions with the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland and the Justice Secretary in Scotland, with whom I have a good professional relationship, will continue so that, with the consent of both legislatures, we can press forward with what I hope will be UK-wide legislation. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention.
We know all too well the consequences that face us when terrorists are given sentences that are just not long enough, when they are released too early or when the arrangements to supervise them in the community are not robust enough. It is abundantly clear that the law failed the victims of Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham. I believe that the comprehensive set of measures in the Bill helps to put that right. By strengthening our hand at each stage of the process of dealing with terrorist offenders, it represents our determination to do everything in our power to ensure that the public are protected.
I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the Chamber for arriving late. I was at a Defence Committee meeting. My right hon. and learned Friend will know that the post-covid world we enter will be very different security-wise from the one we left. That distraction is being used by our adversaries, including terrorists, to regroup, rearm and retrain. Does he agree that this is not the time to reduce our security or defence budgets and that we must remain on our guard?
My right hon. Friend is right to remind us all of the need for constant vigilance. He described the current covid crisis as a distraction; it is a serious and grave crisis and all Governments must give their energy, heart and soul to dealing with it. However, he is right that there is a risk that we take our eye off the ball when it comes to security and defence. We are not doing that. At no stage are the Government doing that. That is why we are putting more resources into counter-terrorism and the Bill is just part of that.
The rapid passage of the emergency Bill a few months ago represented Parliament at its best: acting swiftly to take the urgent steps necessary to keep all our constituents safe from harm. That legislation was a necessary step then, but now we must finish the job. I hope that the Government will have the full support of hon. Members across the House in doing just that.
The point of terror attacks is to make us despair, but the public’s response to them shows us why we are still right to believe in hope. We saw that clearly in the attack on Fishmongers’ Hall on
That terrorist attack, like another on Streatham High Road on
There are two possible conclusions we can draw from those harrowing stories. First, prison sentences for terrorists are not long enough and, secondly, deradicalisation programmes in prison are not working. The Government, with the support of the Opposition, went some way to addressing the first of those concerns with emergency legislation passed earlier this year. The Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 ensured that terrorist offenders sentenced to a determinate sentence could not be released before the end of their custodial sentence without the agreement of the Parole Board.
The measures in today’s legislation build on the emergency legislation. They, too, are based on the conclusion that there remain some terrorism offences where the maximum penalty is not sufficient for the gravity of the offence. The Opposition will not be seeking a Division on Second Reading, but we will scrutinise the Bill as it moves through the House into Committee and on Third Reading.
We understand that the terrorism threat level in the UK remains substantial. We also note that the threat does not come from Islamic extremists only. As Britain’s top counter-terrorism police officer, Neil Basu, has warned, the fastest-growing terrorist threat comes from the far right. Of the 224 people in prison for terror-related offences, 173 are Islamic extremists and 38 are far-right ideologues. Of the 16 plots foiled by the end of 2018, four were from the far-right community. In a world that is increasingly tribal, the Opposition believe that the broad thrust of these changes is needed. Labour’s priority is to keep the British public safe.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I completely agree with his comments. Does he agree that the particular threat we face from far-right organisations is put in stark relief for us by the fact that we have just passed the 21st anniversary of the London nail bombings, which were done by an individual who targeted the black community in Brixton, the Bengali community in the east end and then the LGBT community at the Admiral Duncan pub. The trial judge at the time said it was unlikely that he would ever be able to be released safely, given the awfulness of the crimes he committed. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is why we need to go after these organisations, such as the Order of Nine Angles and others who have the same ideology?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for the interest that he takes in these issues and the seriousness and expertise with which he brings them to the House. He is absolutely right. This is incredibly serious and, unfortunately for us, here in the UK we have a number of groups that are globally connected to very dangerous far-right movements. He will know also that sadly, as has already been indicated by the Chair of the Defence Committee, when we come out of the coronavirus period, partly because of the recession and the tough economic times that are likely to follow, there will be individuals who seek to exploit increased hardship and poverty with very extreme rhetoric. Indeed, sadly, in our own country we can see one particular individual taking to social media to whip up a storm in relation to the Black Lives Matter campaigns that we are seeing at the moment.
It is our job in the Labour party to fulfil our role of scrutinising every line of this legislation. First, we want to ensure that the changes balance the threat of terrorist offenders with the rights and freedoms on which our society is built. Secondly, we seek to square the importance of punishment with the necessity to rehabilitate. Some Members may be sceptical about whether it is possible to deradicalise terrorist offenders, but we in the Opposition believe that we have a duty to try—if not for the sake of the offenders, for the sake of the public we must protect.
Even with the extensions to sentences that the Bill proposes, terrorist offenders will be released at some point from our prisons. There is little use increasing sentences for terrorists if we are to release them just a few years later, still committed to their hateful ideology, still determined to wreak havoc. If we are to honour the lives of the young people killed at Fishmongers’ Hall, we cannot give up on rehabilitation. We must not lose faith in the power of redemption—the ability of people to renounce the darkest chapters of their lives and move towards the light.
Let me start by outlining the most significant measures proposed in the Bill that the Opposition support. Next I will explain those areas that we have concerns with. Finally, I will explain the Opposition’s greatest problem with the Bill: not what is in it, but what is not.
The elephant in the room this afternoon is the Government’s failure to announce a coherent deradicalisation strategy to go alongside the Bill. We accept the creation of a new serious terrorism sentence which ends loopholes in the current laws. We support increasing the maximum penalty from 10 to 14 years for certain terror offences, to better reflect their gravity, although we think that further pause must be taken to consider the warning in the impact assessment that
“Longer periods in custody could disrupt family relationships which are often critical to reducing the risk of reoffending.”
We also believe that it is wholly right to make it possible for any offence with a maximum penalty of two years or more to have terrorism as an aggravating factor. Although not all the details of those specific reforms are perfectly drafted, in spirit they are proportionate and fair.
Amid changes that are fair and reasonable, there are others that will need serious scrutiny. As the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, has pointed out, the removal of the Parole Board for serious terrorism offenders is a “profound” and, we would argue, problematic change. No one on either side of the House wants to see terrorists getting out before they have served their time, but we must not allow our anger to distort the lessons from Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham.
This House expressed dismay that both those terrorists were released without ever coming into contact with the Parole Board. The laws in place failed to use the expertise of the Parole Board to understand the risks of their early release and to make the necessary assessments. The Parole Board is, of course, sceptical when these individuals come before it, and its record of release is very low indeed in these sorts of cases. So why are the Government planning to remove the Parole Board for serious terrorism offenders now? Surely we want terrorists to be assessed by the Parole Board more often, not less.
Removing the Parole Board for serious terrorism offenders is not only a problem in terms of monitoring the threat level of convicted offenders and the ability to use the intelligence gleaned; it could also actively undermine these offenders’ incentives to abandon their ideologies. When prisoners know that they have to behave well in order to get out earlier, this engagement can have a transformative effect. Without the extra incentive, we reduce the chances of engagement in rehabilitation. That is particularly concerning when we consider young people under the age of 21 who have been convicted of terrorist offences. Whatever they have done wrong, those seduced by dangerous ideologies in their teenage years must be given every opportunity to change.
I strongly endorse what the right hon. Gentleman has just said about the distinction between young people and people of mature years who embrace extremist totalitarian ideologies. Looking back to the time of Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism, we see that very few people who embraced it as adults ever gave it up or could have been de-radicalised, but that there are countless examples of young people who went through a phase of addiction to it and then rejected it completely. So he is absolutely right to focus on this age distinction.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his careful and considered observations. Of course he is right in what he says, because when we are talking about this category of offender we are often talking about gross immaturity, and with appropriate intervention and the appropriate assessment it is possible to effect de-radicalisation. The removal of the Parole Board in this means that that assessment is not made at all. I think that behind the Secretary of State’s words and this Bill is the understanding that we will put this cohort automatically on licence, but of course that comes at a cost. Notwithstanding that, we want the intensive scrutiny of the Parole Board, with it looking once, twice, three times at this cohort of this offender. Removing that is a profound decision, as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation suggested. For those reasons, I hope that the scrutiny that is required of that decision is undertaken carefully in Committee.
The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism legislation also rightly raises concerns about extending the maximum licence period for serious terrorism offenders to 25 years. We have concerns about both the proportionality and the cost of this reform. Even indeterminate sentences for public protection prisoners have the prospect of their licence period being terminated when they are no longer considered a risk. Importantly, the Government have not gone into sufficient detail about how they will pay for the heavy administrative burden this will place on probation services, coming after a decade of austerity and cuts, where we have seen changes that the Government are now determined to change once again. As we plunge into the deepest recession of our lifetimes, how does the Secretary of State propose to pay for this massive growth in the number of those under licence?
In addition, there are specific circumstances in relation to Northern Ireland that of course require scrutiny and discussion as we move forward. In terms of sentencing, these are the Opposition’s major concerns that we plan to address in Committee, but we also share the concerns raised by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation when it comes to the changes of monitoring tools available to the security services and counter-terrorism police.
As the Secretary of State will know, he puts me in a strange position with his proposals relating to TPIMs. He will remember that it was a Labour Government, in 2005, which I served in, that first introduced control orders. Back then, in order to impose a control order, a Secretary of State needed only “reasonable grounds for suspecting” that the individual was or had been involved in terrorism-related activity. In 2011, the coalition Government raised the standard of proof, by replacing Labour’s control orders with TPIMs. The Secretaries of State could impose these controls only if they “reasonably believed” that the individual was or had been involved in terrorism-related activity. In 2015, the Conservatives raised the standard of proof even higher to require the Secretary of State to have evidence that on the balance of probabilities an individual was or had been involved in terrorist offences, but in the proposed changes we are debating today, the Government propose lowering the standard of proof from the balance of probabilities back to reasonable grounds for suspecting. The Conservative Government seem to have taken nine years to move away from Labour policy and then to return full circle back to it.
Whether or not it can be justified, lowering the standard of proof inevitably increases the chances of innocent individuals being subjected to serious constraints on their freedom. Given that the courts found no problems with the current threshold, as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation notes, what are the reasons for this U-turn? As has been suggested by the Chair of the Select Committee and the spokesman for the SNP, Joanna Cherry, I do not think the House has yet heard the reason for this U-turn, given that it was not indicated in February, and given that the independent reviewer does not support it and the last one certainly did not support it. Were the Conservative Government wrong when they raised the standard of proof in 2011 and then again in 2015, or are they wrong today when they propose lowering it?
An additional and significant issue about which the reviewer has raised concerns is the removal of the two-year limit on TPIMs, allowing them to be renewed indefinitely. Let me remind the House what a TPIM can involve: overnight residence requirements; relocation to another part of the country; police reporting; an electronic monitoring tag; exclusion from specific places; limits on association; limits on the use of financial services; limits on the use of telephones and computers; and a ban on holding travel documents. This would mark an unprecedented restriction of rights for individuals who, we must remember, have not been convicted of any crime. It raises significant issues, and for that reason I suspect that it will occupy the Bill Committee. It is entirely right when the Secretary of State says that we must be strong on dealing with terrorism—of course, that unites the House—but because we believe in the rule of law and the democratic traditions that we inherit in this House, it is also right that we have the right safeguards, and it is those safeguards that we will very definitely want to scrutinise.
My right hon. Friend makes a very important point about the balance between security and liberty. It is not easy for any Government to strike the right balance, but it is very important that this Government recognise that we cannot afford to lose the wider community—we must ensure that people are not wrongly convicted and there must be assurance that there are safeguards in place to protect innocent people while we go after those who are dangerous and who are committing crimes and acts of terror.
My hon. Friend is right to raise the question in the manner that she does, because fundamental to our policing model in this country, even where it relates to terrorism, is the consent model. We must take the consent of communities with us, and when we lose consent, we get disorder. One might say that, in parts of the United States at the moment, one can see the loss of consent from particular ethnic communities. The point she raises is fundamental, and it is why we would not be doing our job properly if we did not scrutinise these changes carefully.
In 2015, the then Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, commissioned a report by former prison governor Ian Acheson into Islamist extremism in prisons, probation and youth justice. The report found evidence of growing Islamist extremism in prisons and called for
“a central, comprehensive and coordinated strategy” to fix it. Acheson proposed 69 recommendations, which were consolidated into a total of 11, eight of which we were told would be followed.
It is unclear, however, how many of his recommendations have been implemented and what effect any changes have had on de-radicalisation. Indeed, last year, when Acheson published a report for the Centre for Social Justice, he did not seem confident that much had changed. He wrote:
“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.”
How can the Government justify their failure to include any new policies on rehabilitation or de-radicalisation? Where is the new funding for de-radicalisation in our prisons? Where is the extra support for our probation services? We know that the Government believe in stricter sentences, but what do they have to say about defeating the ideology of hate? Only one part of this package touches on this question, and even it does not attempt to solve it. It instead pushes back the legally binding deadline for the completion of an independent review of Prevent. That review was supposed to be completed by August 2020, and yet this summer it will be further delayed until next year.
We will not seek a Division today because we recognise that there must be progress on this issue, but we are very disappointed by the lack of focus on de-radicalisation. Indeed, some of the Government’s plans, including removing the Parole Board, may actively reduce the chances of rehabilitation in prison. Defeating the ideology, not merely imprisoning those hypnotised by it, is what is necessary if we are serious about preventing reoffending.
After Jack Merritt was killed in Fishmongers’ Hall, his father Dave wrote poignantly about how his son would have perceived the political reaction to his own death. Dave wrote:
“What Jack would want from this is for all of us to walk through the door he has booted down, in his black Doc Martens.
That door opens up a world where we do not lock up and throw away the key. Where we do not give indeterminate sentences, or convict people on joint enterprise. Where we do not slash prison budgets, and where we focus on rehabilitation not revenge. Where we do not consistently undermine our public services, the lifeline of our nation. Jack believed in the inherent goodness of humanity, and felt a deep social responsibility to protect that.”
Jack Merritt’s death was cruelly ironic, but it is a further bitter blow that in its wake, punishment for the offenders he sought to help will become more strict. It is undeniably true that Jack’s murderer never rehabilitated. He maintained his twisted ideology to the very end. However, we must not let this nightmare blind us into believing that second chances exist only in dreams. The murderous terrorist who took Jack’s life would no doubt like us to lose our faith in humanity. But Jack would like us to keep it. The very least we owe him is not to forget this.
It is a pleasure to follow the speeches by both Front Benchers, who were serious and thoughtful, and rightly so. Any criminal justice Bill is important, and any Bill touching on sentencing powers is particularly important. The really difficult balance between public protection and rehabilitation—not just for the sake of the individual but for the sake of the broader societal good—is perhaps one of the most difficult with which sentencers, judges, lawyers, Ministers, prison governors and parliamentarians, who make the rules, have to grapple. If ever there was an area where we ought to seek to achieve maximum consensus, it is one as important as this, particularly given that it deals with sentencing and rehabilitation in relation to such grave and serious threats.
I remember as a young barrister talking to the late James Crespi, who survived the bombing of the Old Bailey. I remember, when I lived in Canary Wharf, my newsagent and his assistant being killed by the Canary Wharf bomb. This is something that has affected many of our lives, but the insidious nature of the radicalisation of politicised Islam has brought a new dimension to it.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He allows me to say that I, too, lost a very dear friend—James Adams—in the bombings in July 2005. I will never forget James. He was a great Conservative and debating partner at school. That is why I, like the hon. Gentleman, take these issues so seriously.
That is very generous—characteristically so—of the right hon. Gentleman. This is something that, as he rightly observes, has nothing to do with party. Any of us who has lived in any of our great cities has lived with the reality of that risk from time to time. That is why, to return to my point, we must try to get the detail right as well as the broad thrust.
There is much in the Bill that I support, and I shall certainly support it on Second Reading. I think we all accept that, precisely because of the particular nature of Islamist terrorism, the threat of which we now have to confront—the way it seems to warp an ideology even more particularly and more deep-rootedly than many other political motivations—it requires particular care in its handling.
There is no doubt—we have seen it in some of the cases that have been referred to, and it is well established by those who have researched these matters—that those who have been attracted to that ideology frequently present as particularly manipulative and are sometimes adept, as the Lord Chancellor has observed in previous debates, at hiding their motivations for a considerable time. It is therefore is all the harder for the authorities to make an assessment about when it is safe for them to be released, so it is not at all unreasonable that we should have particular types of regimes for sentencing, rehabilitation and release to deal with the particular types of threat that can arise from this particular class of offending.
That said, there are legitimate concerns, which must be raised, about whether we are still getting this right. I do not think any Government have ever got it wholly right. We always have to learn as we go along, as greater awareness and understanding become apparent. That is no criticism of anyone in this context.
I agree with the point that Mr Lammy made about the work of Ian Acheson. Mr Acheson’s report was most important and significant and, I think, extremely valuable. He gave compelling evidence to the Justice Committee at the time he brought it out. I have always regarded it as a matter of regret that that report was not more fully implemented. Much of it was, but I still think that there may be bits that we ought to look at.
I am extremely grateful to the Chair of the Justice Committee for giving way. He is helping to develop the debate in an extremely productive way. I can assure him that I have engaged regularly with Ian Acheson, whose work I respect hugely. Eight of those 11 recommendations were carried out. There was one in particular, with regard to Friday prayers, that we did not think was necessary. However, things have moved on considerably in the four years since that important report. I speak with the benefit of having been into some of these institutions, of engaging weekly with members of JEXU and of getting frontline information that gives me a higher degree of confidence that there is indeed a plan, a strategy and an approach that is yielding benefits. There is more to do, but there is far more out there than perhaps is fully appreciated.
I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for that intervention. I know that he takes this immensely seriously on a personal level as well as an official level. We ought to be prepared to engage with all expertise in this field. He is right to keep things under review, and I hope that he will continue to use the expertise of Mr Acheson and others who worked with him on that report to inform our best practice.
I visited a young offenders institution where a young girl who had been suborned into this dreadful ideology was being held on remand. She was no doubt going to receive a very substantial sentence, such was the gravity of the matters in which she had become involved, but because of her age, it was inevitable that at some point she would have to be released. Having a means of doing that safely is profoundly important, but I accept also that it is profoundly difficult because it is well established that the pre-indicators that we find in relation to general criminality are often not available to be picked up in this type of case. So I totally understand where the Government are coming from in that regard. That is why, as I said, I do not have a problem with the basic thrust of the changes to the regime that the Bill proposes.
The other point, which has been picked up in the debate by Members on both sides of the House and in interventions, is that the whole purpose of our standing up against terrorism, from whatever source it comes, is to protect our basic values as a society, which are underpinned, perhaps more fundamentally than almost anything else, by a commitment to the rule of law. Anything that seeks to drive us away from that, or inadvertently causes us to move away from that, ironically serves in its own insidious way to assist the terrorist cause rather than our own. I do not think for one second that any Government—none of the Governments who have had to confront this going back to the time I was talking about when I was a young man—have ever sought to do that deliberately.
We have to be particularly alert to that risk, and that is why I hope that when we look at the detail of the Bill we will take on board the need to ensure that we continue safeguards in this regard. That is one reason why it was a good thing that we appointed an independent reviewer of terrorism in the first place. I am a great believer in independent inspectorates, be they of the Prison Service, probation, the Crown Prosecution Service or education services. The same applies to the desirability of having a robust independent reviewer, and we have always had those in the shape of distinguished lawyers. That is why I have a concern about the burden of proof in relation to terrorism prevention and investigation measures. The initial changes were driven, as has been pointed out and I said in my intervention, in response to specific recommendations from the independent reviewer.
The current independent reviewer, Mr Jonathan Hall, QC, supports and endorses a number of changes that the Bill makes, and I think that is powerful evidence in the Lord Chancellor’s favour in relation to many elements of the Bill. But that actually makes it all the more striking that the change to the burden of proof in relation to TPIMs does not arise from anything that the independent reviewer has sought, or anything that the independent reviewer has advocated. His silence on that point, as opposed to other areas where I would suggest that he has given valuable external support to the Government’s position, is therefore striking, and that is why we must be particularly careful about how we deal with this matter. It is a little bit like putting the other side to proof, if I can put it that way.
There may well be a good reason for that, and I am sure that the Lord Chancellor would not reinforce the proposal unless he genuinely believed there was, but I think we have to be able to set a reason before the public as well. I accept that there are pressures in terms of resource and the amount of time it takes to bring forward one of these measures. I accept, too, that the Lord Chancellor observes that it is therefore not done lightly. That is all perfectly fair, but if we are going to make that change—after all, I was a junior member of the coalition Government who made the change in the opposite direction, away from control orders, as has already been observed—we ought always to be able to do it on the basis of the clearest evidence. With every respect, I am not quite sure that we have yet got the clarity of evidence that I would like to see to satisfy me on that point.
I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee for his indulgence. I was talking about the need for flexibility. That is why we are making the change. I served on the Committee that considered the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill in 2011, and I followed the developments in the law very carefully, but it is right that we act on the advice and support of the security services and all those involved in the monitoring of offenders, and it is because of that need for flexibility that we judge it right to make the change now. I hope that that is clear.
“In these circumstances it is not clear why there is any need to change the law in the manner proposed. Steps to reduce the resource burden of obtaining TPIMs are already in hand. The courts have not found that the current approach is wrong.”
There may be an argument for flexibility, but we cannot say that it comes from the independent reviewer, so I wonder where it does come from.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when the Secretary of State talks about flexibility, it would be helpful if there were some evidence, given that the cases that have been discussed—Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham—certainly do not relate to the TPIM regime? Perhaps the Secretary of State might want to consider whether he ought to ask those who engage with these things to provide some of that evidence, at the very least on Privy Council terms.
I take on board what the right hon. Gentleman says, and I know that the Secretary of State will as well. We all want to get this right for the sake of the national good. Flexibility and agility are perfectly legitimate considerations, but it is not unreasonable for us to have some sense of whence they come if we are going to make the case for doing something that would go against the run of our normal approach to the rule of law and safeguards. That is sometimes necessary for the greater national good, but we ought to have a pretty clear basis for doing it.
Does my hon. Friend share my anxiety that the resource issue—the difficulty of setting TPIMs up in the first place—combined with the roll-over factor in the Bill means that the default position on a reduced balance of proof will simply be that the two-year TPIM will be replaced constantly? That will become the default position based on the difficulty of producing resources to effect a proper prosecution, which is the standard we want to achieve.
My hon. Friend, who has much experience in these matters, makes a very good point.
Ultimately, most of us who believe in the rule of law will always prefer to see prosecution and conviction as the best possible means of dealing with this issue. It is not always possible, but we still need to have important safeguards in whatever regime there is. I am sure the Government recognise that, but we really do need to get it right, for everybody’s sake. I hope that the Lord Chancellor will reflect on how best to make the case for this and to justify what is, on the face of it, a change that may well have much merit—one wants to give the benefit of the doubt—but that could perhaps do with a little more amplification as the Bill progresses.
The other matter that I hope that the Lord Chancellor might bear in mind as the Bill goes forward is the need for some form or other of proper judicial scrutiny of these matters. I recognise that there are plenty of safeguards in the regime that is proposed in the Bill. However, Mr Hall makes another interesting point in one of his notes: that there has been a rather troubling development of the opting out of judicial review by some suspects subject to TPIM orders. That provision was intended to ensure that there was some oversight. It is up to them whether they do that. They may not do it necessarily for the very best of motives, given the rather warped ideological nature of what drives them, but it does ironically remove a means by which best practice can be brought in hand.
That is why Mr Hall suggests that a solution would be for the Secretary of State to seek the High Court’s permission for any extension beyond a two-year length of the TPIM, in the same way that he currently does when the TPIM is first made. It would be perfectly proper to make that longer TPIM, and I can quite conceive of many circumstances when it is, but perhaps the modest requirement of an application to the Court would not be onerous in the circumstances but would put in a sensible safeguard for all such cases.
If we go beyond the two-year length of a TPIM, perhaps we should also be looking at thinking again, at some point, about what is the burden of proof. The greater the level of restriction, as the Law Society has observed in one of its briefings, perhaps the greater the burden of proof that should be required. For example, if there is a set of conditions that includes relocation, is it perhaps reasonable to expect a greater degree of care to be taken on the burden of proof in a matter of that kind, as with other matters?
Those are matters of important detail. I am sure that they need not detain the progress of this Bill on Second Reading, but they are not, I submit, something that we should lose sight of.
Finally, on polygraphs, I accept that they have been used in relation to the release of sexual offenders, but the science on them is still very uncertain. There remain concerns among lawyers and other practitioners as to their dependability in all circumstances, which is why, after all, they are not used as evidence in criminal cases for understandable reasons. I would be worried if we became over-reliant on polygraphs without some sort of proper check and balance. When they were brought in, certainly in England and Wales, in relation to sexual offenders, they had been piloted first. It will not be possible to pilot them in this case, so is there not a strong case for post-legislative scrutiny? That is the view of the independent reviewer in his note, and it seems to fit with good practice in terms of legislation as well.
Those are my points, which I hope will be taken in a constructive spirit by the Government. As someone who supports the Bill, I want to get it right. We probably do not want to have to revisit burdens of proof and mechanisms any more than we need to in future. It must be in everybody’s interests to get it right this time and make it stick for as long as this awful threat persists. I will certainly support the Bill on Second Reading, but I hope that we can have constructive engagement on the detail as we go forward.
We in the Scottish National party take our duty to protect the public from all serious crime, including terrorism, very seriously, as our record in government in Scotland shows. We have a number of reservations about the Bill, which I shall outline, but like the official Opposition we do not intend to divide the House. We intend to take a constructive but critical approach. To that end, we will play a full part in the Bill Committee.
I thank the Lord Chancellor and his colleagues for the engagement that we have had to date on the Bill. I look forward to further discussions about the Scottish National party’s and the Scottish Government’s concerns. I also thank Mr Lammy and Nick Thomas-Symonds for the constructive discussions that we have had prior to Second Reading. It is fair to say that the Scottish National party shares many of the official Opposition’s concerns about the Bill. We note that those concerns relate to matters about which the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has also expressed reservations. That is to say, they are responsible concerns.
No discussion about terrorist legislation in this House should take place without parliamentarians taking the opportunity to extend their deepest sympathies to all those who have suffered bereavement or injury as a result of terrorist acts. I look back to the past, particularly in Northern Ireland and indeed the whole island of Ireland in that respect. On behalf of the SNP, I also pay tribute to the brave members of our police and security services, first responders, those in the Prison Service, probation officers and those who work in rehabilitation. All those people have to deal with the consequences of terrorism. We have heard some moving tributes to them. I also pay tribute to the brave bystanders who have intervened to help others in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks.
Many of the provisions in the Bill relate to sentencing, which is of course a devolved matter. Discussions are ongoing between my colleague Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Justice Secretary, and the Lord Chancellor. Of course, there will need to be a legislative consent motion. I will outline the concerns that I share with the Scottish Government and my colleagues in the Scottish Government about the sentencing aspects of the Bill, as well as the use of polygraphs, the changes to TPIMs and the provisions regarding the review of the Prevent strategy. I want to make it clear that I do so from this viewpoint: it is the Scottish National party’s aim that our communities in Scotland are inclusive, empowered and resilient, so they can resist those sowing the seeds of division that can lead to radicalisation and terrorism.
The Bill has some far-reaching changes in it, with implications for human rights as well as policy, and the Scottish Government have already expressed their concerns directly with the Lord Chancellor, as I have done with his junior colleagues. I know that the UK Government, in relation to this Bill at least, realise that they need to work closely with Members of all parties and with the devolved Administrations, because that is what is necessary to ensure effective counter-terrorism measures across the United Kingdom and in Northern Ireland. I hope that this consideration will be at the forefront of the Minister’s mind as the Bill pilots its way through the House.
On the issue of sentencing, I am pleased that the UK Government are following the Scottish Government’s lead in ending automatic early release for the most serious offenders. Some time has now passed since the Scottish Government introduced a change to the effect that no long-term prisoner—four years or over—would be eligible for automatic early release after two thirds of their sentence. However, I am far from convinced—as I know others are far from convinced—that simply locking up terrorists for longer and then providing longer supervision on release is going to do much to deradicalise terrorist offenders.
The Bill will require the courts to ensure that certain terrorist offenders receive a custodial sentence of a certain minimum length and that a minimum length of supervision applies on release. In that respect it is a form of minimum mandatory sentencing, which is against the general approach in Scotland. However, it is not completely new to the justice system in Scotland, and that is why discussions are ongoing with my colleague, the Scottish Justice Secretary.
Sentencing is only a small part of the answer to terrorism, however. What happens during the sentence also matters, and, to date, deradicalisation and disengagement programmes have been largely underfunded and poorly executed. That is not my view; that is the view of Nazir Afzal, the former chief Crown prosecutor for the north-west of England. He is an experienced lawyer and a prosecutor worth listening to. He says that this has happened as a direct consequence of the decision by successive Conservative Governments to cut funding to probation and other rehabilitation programmes. The costs of extensive post-release surveillance far outweigh the costs of adequate funding for preventive measures and deradicalisation. I wonder whether the Lord Chancellor agrees with me and Mr Afzal on that point, and whether he is in a position to assure the House that sufficient funds and resources will be made available to deal with preventive and deradicalisation programmes in prison.
Can the Lord Chancellor also assure me that the Bill will not turn out to be counterproductive by leading to less parole, less offender management and less incentive to behave well during a sentence and to attempt deradicalisation? In this respect it will be interesting to hear what the professionals who work in the area of offender management and parole have to say about the Bill, and I look forward to the Bill Committee’s evidence sessions. I am pleased that will there be more than one of those—
Sir Robert Neill raised the issue of polygraphs. He will be aware that in Scotland’s justice system, polygraph testing is not used as a mechanism to monitor compliance with licence conditions or any kind of orders. Indeed, it is not used at all. The reason we have chosen not to use it is the lack of evidence of its effectiveness. If the provisions of the Bill were to apply in Scotland, that would require a significant shift in policy and practice and could also have significant implications for investment in infrastructure. In Scotland, we already have mechanisms in place to monitor compliance with licence conditions and conditions associated with statutory justice orders. These include supervision by justice social workers and the use of electronic monitoring for high-risk offenders. There is a multi-agency public protection arrangement—MAPPA. Under that procedure, those assessed as high or very high risk and who require multi-agency management are subject to a regular review. In Scotland, individuals convicted of terrorism-related offences can be managed under that MAPPA approach, and there are indeed a small number of cases that have been managed in this
More generally on the issue of polygraph testing, I note, as has already been said, that the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation expressed some concerns about the lack of pilots and emphasised that there would therefore be a very strong case for very thorough post-legislative scrutiny of the measures. I look forward to hearing what the Minister summing up has to say in response to that point.
On TPIMs, much of what I have to say has already been canvassed. Clearly, the amendments would: reverse the changes to the burden of proof, lowering the burden of proof; reverse changes to the curfew provisions to allow for what is effectively home detention; and allow us to make the orders potentially indefinite. I am not convinced that the changes are necessary and nor are my colleagues in the Scottish Government. We are fortified in that view by the views of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who is also unconvinced of the necessity of the changes. To be frank, I have heard nothing so far this afternoon to convince me that our reservations are wrong. Those reservations are really important because of the human rights implications, the lack of safeguards built into the Bill, and the lack of any review mechanism.
I am not going to go through what Jonathan Hall, QC said in his two very detailed notes, but he has tackled, in some detail, both the reduction of the standard of proof and making the orders potentially indefinite. He has been very clear that he is not convinced of the case for change, so my questions for the Minister are these. Can we hear more clearly why? Can we see an example of what justifies both the reduction in the burden of proof and the need for the orders to be without time limit? Can we hear why, in the face of such potentially draconian powers, there are no safeguards in the Bill? Would the Government be prepared to consider an oversight mechanism or a review mechanism?
Finally, on Prevent, it is important to remember that the delivery of the Prevent strategy in Scotland is devolved and that while national security is referred to the UK Government, the way the Scottish Government deliver the Prevent strategy in Scotland reflects Scottish differences and is unique to the challenge faced by Scottish communities. I think it is fair to say that the delivery of the Prevent strategy in Scotland has not encountered the same community resistance and community impacts as it has south of the border. Because of the problems encountered in England, the Scottish National party supported the call for a review of the Prevent strategy, but we also shared the very widespread concerns about the Government’s initial choice of reviewer. We believe now that it is very important that a new reviewer is found quickly, and that lessons about impartiality and the important appearance of impartiality are learned from the debacle over the previous putative appointments, so that the review can be seen as genuine and robust. We are a little concerned that the time limit for the review has been removed. I heard what the Lord Chancellor had to say about that, but it is very important that the removal of the time limit does not simply become an excuse to kick this into the long grass. That is the final point on which I seek reassurance from the Minister in his summing up.
We conduct this debate at a time when we are fighting a virus—an invisible enemy—and we are told perpetually that the virus might mutate, as viruses are inclined to do. Of course, terrorism mutates, too: terrorism is not a static thing; it metamorphosises, both in character and in method. That is precisely what has occurred as we have gone about fighting the prevailing terrorist threat in this country. It makes the challenge of counter-terrorism acute, because countering something is usually about anticipating and predicting what might happen next.
As terrorism metamorphosises and becomes less predictable, it becomes increasingly hard to counter. That is precisely what has occurred in this country and in other countries that have suffered the effects of terrorism in recent years. Terrorists have become more adaptable and more flexible. Their methodology has changed, and a key part of that has been the use of modern communications in the recruitment, indoctrination and radicalisation of terrorists, particularly using the internet.
I wish to talk about the character of that radicalisation. It is much like the kind of grooming with which we are tragically familiar in respect of children who are drawn towards paedophiles. People are groomed on the internet, and the method is disarmingly and shockingly similar. A lonely individual will be identified and told that at last they have a friend. That person will not reveal—indeed, will conceal—any connection to an extremist cause. Gradually, over time, that individual will be turned into the kind of person who will do almost anything for a cause and for their friends. That is made much easier in the modern age: the character of the way we communicate has altered, so this will happen in people’s homes, in their bedrooms, perhaps unknown to their family, certainly unknown to others and, of course, by definition therefore unknown to the security services and those who might do something about it.
Because of all that, our response has constantly to be reviewed, which is precisely what the Government are in the business of doing, and that is why over the years, including the time that I was the Minister responsible, the Government have looked again at whether they have the mechanisms in place and the resources and powers necessary to deal with the changed threat. The Bill goes about that in a number of ways, and I wish to draw out some particular aspects of it for closer consideration, if I may.
On the issue of TPIMs, they are always a contentious matter, and indeed it was a contentious matter in the days of control orders, which some of us will remember, under a previous Government of a different colour. It is vital that we use the powers that we have to restrict the activities of those who might do harm. The question becomes where we fix the bar. The Bill lowers the bar and, in my judgment, rightly so.
Perhaps I ought to admit that I was not a particularly vehement critic—in fact, I was not a critic at all, so I am understating it a bit—of control orders and the methods used by a previous Government. I do not know if it is quite polite to say that, but I am sure it will please one or two Members on the other side of the Chamber—although I am not sure it will please too many on the Front Bench. I saw Yvette Cooper in her place and my remarks were half directed towards her. The right hon. Lady made the point that in changing the bar—in altering the criteria—it is right that we do so with care and that there is appropriate scrutiny.
I heard and read the remarks of the independent reviewer, but I simply add another point, which in a way mitigates the counterargument—if I can put it in those terms—and that is on the use of polygraphs, which have been used in other countries, particularly the United States. I am not making any great claim for them, and certainly no greater claim than the Government are, but it seems to me that testing the process of deradicalisation, assessing how far it has gone, and gauging whether someone has changed or simply seems to have changed, is vital as we gauge what should happen if they are not incarcerated—what should happen once they are out of prison and they are not in a secure location. The Government are right to explore that in the Bill. I suppose that one would say in truth that it is a work in progress. We, as a Parliament, as well as the Government, will have to consider how that goes. I know the Select Committee will do that in due course, as my hon. Friend Sir Robert Neill mentioned. But mindful of that determination, illustrated by the provision in this legislation to look carefully at the character of the effectiveness of de-radicalisation, it is perfectly reasonable to introduce the changed measures on TPIMs.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. On the issue of polygraphs, does he note that the independent reviewer also says that there is an absence in the Bill as to how they will be used? Are they to be used against high-risk offenders, or very high-risk offenders, or are they to be used against low-risk offenders to assess their tendency to re-offend or offend?
I should reveal to the House, for those who were not here yesterday, that I had a charming exchange with the right hon. Gentleman, where I described him as a “dear friend” and he described me as a “kind of friend”. I was rather slighted actually, but he made up for it later by saying that it was offered in good humour, and I took it in the same spirit, I have to say.
The right hon. Gentleman is right. One of the things that is important about debates on terrorism in this House is that they do not follow narrow party lines. We try to build consensus, as we face common threats and shared challenges. He is right. Rather like Prevent, we do need to be scrupulous about analysing effectiveness. It is right that the Government should do that and, again, without putting words into the mouth of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, still less provoking action on his behalf, the Select Committee will look at that, together, I imagine, with the Home Affairs Committee and others. There are all kinds of bodies in this august establishment that will play a role in ensuring that the application of what is a new development is effective. So I do not think that that is an unreasonable point, and I am more than happy, in the spirit that I have just described, to amplify it. However, I think that the Government are on the right track and I praise the Lord Chancellor for this in recognising that the bar did need to be lowered for TPIMs.
The other point that I want to make is in relation to Prevent and Channel. This is a complex area because, as I described, the character of terrorism is complex, as is our response to it. I am a pretty robust supporter of Prevent. It has critics; it has always had critics. It is certainly right that we have good oversight of Prevent—I tried to bring that about while I was the Minister and I do not think that that was always the case in the past—and that we measure its effect, too. I am not sure that that was always done as well as it could have been, and I am speaking about Governments of all colours here.
Having met Prevent co-ordinators and seen their work at first hand in various parts of the country, I know how much difference they make. It is not just about Islamist terrorism, although I suppose that is what most people will think that we are focused on today. It is much more broad than that. It is identifying problems of all kinds. I was proud, as the Minister, to introduce the Prevent duty, as some here will know, which engaged the various public bodies that are at the frontline of radicalisation—I am thinking of health professionals, schools and others—and also engaged communities and provided them not only with a responsibility, but, I hope, extra support in identifying those people, particularly young people, as it is often young people who are corrupted in this way, and in trying to act before they did something horrible, dreadful or shocking. I do support Prevent and, while I think that it should be reviewed, I also support the provision in the Bill to extend the review process. I make no comment on who should do it—that is for others to comment on—but I note that the Bill extends it and I think that is the right thing to do.
I come to the part of my speech that will perhaps be more challenging for some here—I hope not too challenging. None the less, I would rather be straight- forward, as I always try to be. It is about the issue of sentencing. Public order and faith in the rule of law depend on popular confidence in the justice system. The justice system is in part retributive. We have fallen into the trap of believing that the only purpose of criminal justice is to rehabilitate. Of course, that is a purpose—in the case of terrorism, as I have made clear, de-radicalisation is crucial—but public sympathy for all we do, and all our security and intelligence services and the police do, depends on people believing that justice is being done, and is being seen to be done. That is hard to reconcile with early release at all.
If we spoke to our constituents about early release, I suspect a very substantial number would find it pretty hard to cope with in the case of serious crime at all—or what they perceive as serious crime—and all the more so with terrorism. I think our constituents, whether they are in South Holland and The Deepings or Tottenham, or any other part of this kingdom, and regardless from which community they come, would be surprised if they knew we were releasing so many people who have committed those kinds of offences.
I am going to draw my remarks to a conclusion shortly—I can see you, with typical charm, combined with authority, moving to the edge of your chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. I particularly welcome the Government’s approach to early release. It seems to me that the various provisions in the Bill that increase minimum sentences and provide the courts with the ability to look again at the tariff, and in some cases, increase maximum sentences, are entirely in tune with popular sentiment and the threat we face.
Let me end by saying this: the Bill, in my judgment, is apposite and appropriate. We are speaking of those whose purpose is to murder and maim—let us be under no illusion and have no doubt about that—and in the struggle for civilised life, in the cause of virtue, on our side there can be no fear, no guilt and no doubt.
Before we move on, we will now have to have a time limit. It will initially be 10 minutes, but I warn hon. Members that that is likely to reduce significantly in the near future.
It is a pleasure to follow Sir John Hayes , and he is right: this has been a thoughtful debate, often in a cross-party spirit.
Terrorists want to destroy our way of life, divide our communities and undermine our democracy and our values, and we can never let them succeed. We rightly pay tribute across the House to those on the frontline, fighting terrorism, preventing and tackling attacks, in our police forces and security services, those in local government and communities who work so hard on prevention, and those in faith groups and our prisons. We remember, too, those who have lost their lives or who have lost loved ones to appalling terror attacks.
We face threats not just from Islamist extremism and terrorism, but from far-right extremism and terrorism, where the threats have grown in recent years. We have to always be vigilant, to ensure that those extremists and terrorists can never succeed in dividing our communities and undermining the democratic values for which we have fought for so long.
Many of the challenges relating to this legislation are the same ones that we have addressed and dealt with for many years—how to deal with people who have such warped ideology that they are determined to wreak huge destruction, including killing children; how to deal with people who have become so dangerously radicalised that they may be hard to address through traditional criminal justice system measures; and how to ensure that while we protect our national security, we also protect our democratic values and our freedoms and sustain justice, the rule of law and community cohesion. To do so, we need strong powers to tackle terrorism but also strong safeguards and strong checks and balances.
I want to talk specifically about some of the Home Office measures in the Bill, particularly around TPIMs and the Prevent programme. TPIMs came in after control orders, which were introduced to deal with difficult situations where perhaps the evidence relating to dangerous terrorist suspects depended on intelligence that could not be dealt with in the same way through the courts. There were similar approaches in cases where someone had become so dangerous and still proved dangerous even after their sentence had been served. Those were very difficult circumstances that only applied to a minority of cases.
Control orders were not perfect, and they were applied in those limited circumstances. Long-standing Members will know that I have spent almost a decade arguing with Mrs May about the decision made in 2011 to end control orders and replace them with TPIMs, rather than simply amending control orders to deal with some of the areas that needed improving. I thought it was wrong to make the decision to downgrade some of the powers in the TPIMs that were introduced. It is worth briefly addressing why, because it has an impact on the decisions that Ministers are making today.
First, I thought it was wrong to remove the ability to relocate dangerous terror suspects and to remove any possibility of doing so, to remove them from dangerous networks. The consequence was that two people who were on TPIMs managed to abscond—something that had not happened in relocated cases. The Government’s independent reviewer, Lord Anderson, recommended that relocation be reintroduced, which eventually happened in 2015.
My second concern was about preventing the ability to constrain some communications for dangerous terror suspects. Again, many of those measures have been changed since, because the Government have recognised that some restrictions need to be in place for online or phone communications where there is significant evidence that someone poses a danger to the public.
My third concern was about the two-year limit set for TPIMs. Control orders were set for a year but could be renewed. TPIMs were fixed at two years. I raised questions in 2011 about what that would mean for the small number of people who might still be extremely dangerous after two years and what provisions would be in place to ensure that the public were protected. Again, Ministers have now recognised that issue and are changing it back.
In many ways, we have had an unnecessary 10 years of administrative going round in circles and changing the burdens on the Security Service and police forces, when we could have made more sensible amendments at the beginning to address those issues. It would be interesting to know whether Ministers now recognise that those changes were wrong and that we should not have made them in the first place.
May I say from the Government Back Benches that some of us are convinced that the right hon. Lady has been proven right, but will she acknowledge the motives of former Governments being cautious in these very delicate areas?
I do recognise that these are always difficult judgments, and I say this in a cross-party spirit. These are always difficult judgments and difficult cases to deal with. It is because I have spoken consistently about the importance of having strong powers that I say to Ministers now that it is hugely important to have strong safeguards and strong checks and balances. That is where I think Ministers are getting some of the provisions wrong in the Bill. They will know, with my record of arguing for those powers, that I say with the greatest sincerity to the Secretary of State that he is getting the judgments wrong on the kinds of safeguards that might be needed, because the flipside of those strong powers is having the checks and balances to make sure that they cannot be abused or misused. That is why I asked him specifically what the evidence was for changing the burden of proof and for not having safeguards in place at the two-year point as well. The Bill does not include any safeguards requiring judicial scrutiny after two years. That was a weakness in the original control orders as well: those sorts of independent safeguards were not in place, where they could be continued.
The right hon. Lady raised the issue of safeguards, which I had intended to address in my wind-up. Section 6 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 contains a provision whereby when the Home Secretary makes a TPIM order she has to go to the High Court to seek permission and the High Court must find that it is not “obviously flawed”. In addition, the subject has the ability to judicially review the decision, so there is that automatic safeguard in the form of High Court permission under section 6 of the 2011 Act.
There is when the TPIMs are first set out—the hon. Gentleman is right about that. My argument about the control orders at the beginning, where I thought they should have been amended back in 2011, was for introducing stronger safeguards. I have always believed that we need stronger safeguards in place, but the Bill does not include any safeguards for judicial scrutiny after two years if these measures are going to be extended—if they are going to be for longer. The independent reviewer, Jonathan Hall, has suggested a solution would be to require the Secretary of State to seek the court’s permission for any extension beyond two years, in the same way that she currently does when a TPIM is first made. That would seem to be a sensible additional safeguard to put in if those TPIMs are to be extended.
In addition, no explanation has been given about the burden of proof. I asked the Minister to tell me, hand on heart, whether he knew of cases—I do not ask for the detail—where he believes the wrong decision has been made not to put somebody on a TPIM because of the burden of proof, and he was not able to do so. I am therefore really concerned that there is not the evidence to justify lowering the burden of proof in this way. He referred to the idea that we somehow need greater “flexibility”. I hope he will reconsider his use of that word, because the powers are flexible; they can be used to apply to all sorts of different circumstances and different kinds of threats that an individual might pose. He should not use the word “flexibility” to apply to the burden of proof. We do not apply flexibility to proof, just as we do not apply it to truth.
I did not mean it in those terms. Clearly where we have a regime specified by statute, it needs to be applied rigorously. I was talking about operational flexibility, bearing in mind the complexities of these orders, and the fact that they are not obtained lightly and there has to be a very good operational case for them. That is what I meant, and I am sorry if there was any ambiguity in my remarks.
I appreciate that, but I think that also makes clear the gap in the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s case, because operational flexibility still should not apply to the burden of proof—the evidence required in order to justify applying measures that are for particularly extreme circumstances. The independent reviewer, Jonathan Hall, has said that
“administrative convenience does not appear to provide a basis for reversing the safeguard of a higher standard of proof.”
We cannot justify saying that in order to somehow reduce the paperwork, we want to reduce the burden of proof to use such measures. His predecessor, Lord David Anderson, who argued for bringing back relocation and who has been a supporter of strong powers, has agreed with him on this matter. Initially he argued for increasing the burden of proof, and he has said that the Home Secretary should at least have to “believe” someone is a terrorist, not just “suspect” it. That is the important criterion if these powers are to be used. I urge the Government to rethink these safeguards. If we are to have these strong powers to keep us all safe, prevent terrorist attacks, and protect us from people who may be immensely dangerous, we should also ensure the right kinds of safeguards to make sure that those powers are not misused, abused, or used in the wrong cases.
On the Government’s Prevent programme and the review of it, I am disappointed that there is now no date in the Bill—it has been removed altogether. It is clear that we still have no reviewer in place for the Prevent programme, so they will obviously not complete the review by August, but that in itself is a huge disappointment. The timetable has been extended again, as has the application process. There is no deadline at all, and it is immensely important that the review is not just chucked into the long grass. Will the Minister include an alternative date? A date was included for a good reason, after debates about previous legislation, to ensure that the review happened. A programme that is so important and has had different questions about it raised, should be effectively reviewed to see how it should work.
Finally, we should also be looking at deradicalisation more widely, both as part of the Prevent programme and in our prisons, as well as at how we can do more to prevent extremism and radicalisation, and at how to turn people back towards a better course once things have gone wrong.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and to follow the constructive and knowledgeable contributions that have been made so far. I will start by extending my condolences, and those of the people I represent, to all those who have lost loved ones to terrorism. May they rest in peace.
There should be no tolerance towards anyone who is a threat to our national security, and I know that many people in my constituency, and across the country, will be relieved to see the Government take serious action against those who seek to spread fear. Despite the current pandemic, the memories of the appalling attacks on London Bridge last November, and just a few months ago in Streatham, are still vivid. Terrorism is yet another disease that has claimed so many lives, and we should do everything within our power to eradicate it.
The past three years alone are testimony to the unprecedented level of threat that this country faces from a deadly ideology. Even here, in one of the UK’s more secure buildings, we saw terror enter through our gates and take the life of PC Keith Palmer, who died protecting our democracy. That democracy was embodied by the late Jo Cox, whose tragic murder illustrates how forces seek to strike at the heart of our system and threaten our values.
Nothing can ever justify terrorism. No one should have to go through such horrors, and the Government have a duty to protect the public from the terrible harm and fear that terrorism causes. It would be easy to assume that terror comes to us from beyond our shores, but the uncomfortable truth is that the most recent attacks were all perpetrated by home-grown terrorists who were radicalised online or in our prisons. That raises serious questions about the ability of our system to deter those individuals from turning extremist ideas into action. It is not just those who strap bombs to themselves or attack the innocent with guns and knives; those who use online platforms to advocate violence and incite others are just as guilty. They use, misinform and manipulate often vulnerable youngsters so as to create chaos on our streets, and we must do all we can to root them out.
We need only to remember the horrific murder of Lee Rigby to understand that these groups intend to shock and terrify the greatest numbers. Only last year, two more victims lost their lives in a knife attack on London Bridge, and it later emerged that the perpetrator was known to authorities and wore an electronic tag. In February this year, a further two people were stabbed by an individual who had also been released early. The public understandably feel that the system has failed to protect them, which is why the Bill is so important. Not only will it prevent another terror offender from being automatically released at the halfway point of their sentence, but it will also prevent the release of those who show no sign of deradicalisation.
Most perpetrators of terror acts are killed as part of the attack, or shot at the scene, which unfortunately means that they can never be brought to justice. That is why it is crucial to ensure our security services have all the necessary tools and funding properly to monitor and investigate potential terror plots. For that reason, I am pleased that the Bill looks to strengthen the terrorism prevention and investigation measures available to the security services and the counter-terrorism police.
With this Bill, the Government are taking all of the necessary measures to ensure that the terrorist threat is treated as seriously as it should be and that offenders are punished accordingly. This Bill will help to keep the public safe, and it has my full support. As we celebrated the D-day anniversary over the weekend, let this be a reminder that this country will always stand up against those who seek to rule by fear.
Our overriding aim must always be to keep the British public safe and to ensure that horrific terrorist attacks, such as the ones at the Fishmongers’ Hall and in Streatham, cannot be repeated. We were all shocked and horrified by the attacks, and we mourn the death of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who were killed on that day.
Of course, as has already been mentioned, over the years we have witnessed so many terrorist attacks, with so many lives lost and so much suffering, and it is vital that we have a set of policies to ensure that those who commit such atrocities are prosecuted. However, we must also make sure that we take action to do the prevention work to deal with the underlying causes. There must be proper investment in our schools, our local authorities and our communities, so that we can ensure that young people in particular are protected from the dangers of radicalisation, of being groomed online and of being prey to extremists, whether religious extremists or far-right extremists.
As we have heard, there is a growing threat of both kinds, and the mutually reinforcing threat of violent extremism from the far right and from the religious right—religious extremists—is going to pose an even greater danger to our society. It is therefore right that Opposition Members support the actions to ensure that sentencing is improved, but that has to come with proper safeguards, as my hon. Friends have already highlighted in this debate. That means that we have to question why it is that the Government have lowered the standard of proof for suspected terrorist activity, replacing it with “reasonable grounds”, which is a relative term, as we have heard.
We have already heard about some of the risks and dangers of doing that. We have heard about what that could mean in operational terms, and we have seen that many mistakes can happen despite the valiant efforts of our security, police and other services. Mistakes can happen at the operational level, which is why checks and balances have to be put in place to ensure that we strike the right balance between the liberty of people who have not done anything wrong but who may be suspected, and our security services and police having the right legal framework to work within in relation to those who are committing crime. This particular change is actually not going to make matters better, and it is likely to create greater resentment if mistakes are made, which is why I appeal to Ministers to reconsider it.
On my other major concerns, we need to make sure that, alongside the sentencing changes and ensuring proper checks and balances, the Government set as a matter of urgency a deadline for the review of the Prevent strategy. Without action on prevention, we will deal with only one side of the coin. I know all too well the dangers of Prevent not working. Although I recognise that many interventions over the years have had some significant success, the review is critical for us to learn the lessons of what does not work and what needs to be reformed and improved. We need radical action on supporting the young and those at risk, and on looking at online threats and the new threats that are emerging, particularly from the far right. I therefore hope that the Minister can say today when the review will be completed. I recognise that there is a delay, but we need an urgent response and we must ensure that the delay does not continue.
Another issue is how we resource our public services. Sections 36 to 41 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 place a duty on local authorities and partners to provide support for people who are vulnerable to being drawn into any form of terrorism. Yet local authorities were already facing cuts. My local authority, despite some support from the Government, will face a deficit of about £50 million. At a time of great pressure, local authorities should be properly supported when they have a duty around this agenda. I hope that the Minister will say what additional resources will be given to them, and also to schools to provide proper training and support for our teachers who are being expected to take action without proper support. I raised that issue previously after the three girls from Bethnal Green in my constituency went to Syria. That was years ago and I am not yet convinced that the Government have seriously taken on board the need for investment and support in our schools, local communities and youth services. Indeed, youth services have experienced dramatic cuts over the years. I therefore hope that the Minister will look at the wider agenda as the review takes place.
Does the hon. Lady concur with me, as a former citizenship teacher—a great subject that her party introduced—that although citizenship is statutory, it does not have to be taught in lesson format and that it should be given greater emphasis in the curriculum to tackle the difficult stuff that she mentions?
I agree and it is disappointing that the coalition Government made those changes. The important thing now is to look forward to see how we can make improvements. That requires the Government to focus not only on being tough on terrorism once an act of terror has happened, but on the causes. That means proper partnership and proper investment, which we have not seen in recent years.
It is not difficult for Governments of any party to introduce tough legislation. The heavy lifting is done in communities, schools, youth centres and places of worship. That is where we need to redouble our efforts alongside what is happening today so that we can genuinely work together as a society to prevent terrorism and extremism of all forms, far right as well as religious extremism. That is missing and I hope that Ministers will heed our advice, focus on the Prevent agenda and get it right so that others, particularly young people, are not at risk as my constituents were. They left the country and, as we all know, it ended terribly.
I will be brief. The Bill is in many ways a seminal step in strengthening public confidence in our criminal justice system, tackling radicalisation and ensuring that justice is done with regard to those who commit these most heinous crimes. A single terrorist attack undertaken by a known terrorist automatically released early from prison is way too many. Many of us will remember the undeniable feeling of injustice and frustration when we think back to
I therefore welcome this Bill, the largest overhaul of terrorist sentencing and monitoring in decades. It includes tougher sentences, an end to automatic early release and an improved ability to manage and monitor terrorists, and it should be welcomed by all. It tackles terrorism and does justice for heroes who have lost their lives at its ruthless hands. Every day, people entering this place walk past a memorial to a hero, Keith Palmer, who gave his life fighting against terrorism. Nothing equates to the loss of the lives of such heroes, but it is right that we will see prison sentences more befitting the evil acts undertaken by terrorists. Justice must be done.
When the evils of terrorism appear, this Government must be able to look into the eyes of the public and tell them that we gave those charged with keeping us safe the resources and powers they needed to get the job done. Rightly, the Bill builds on increased investment in counter-terrorism policing, doubling the number of counter-terrorism specialists in the probation service and creating a network of counter-terrorism specialists throughout our Prison Service, as well as offering greater support for victims of terrorism. Terrorism is an abhorrent evil and this robust approach gives our courts, the Prison Service and the police the powers they need to protect lives, protect our way of life and improve confidence in our criminal justice system.
It is a pleasure to follow Matt Vickers and to hear his remarks, and it is a pleasure to participate in this debate.
At the outset, I place on record my appreciation for the considerable and considered engagement from the Minister. I have appreciated the discussions that we have had and that he has taken on board the concerns that we have expressed. I appreciate that engagement. I have also appreciated the engagement I have had with the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland, Naomi Long. In listing and highlighting the successes and good engagement, it would be wrong of me not to place on record my congratulations to Conor McGinn on assuming a shadow Justice role. He and I come from opposite ends of Ulster and from different perspectives within Ulster, but it is great to see him assume the role and we look forward to his contribution later on.
There has been a lot of focus in this debate on terrorism in England and terrorism coming from Islamic and far-right extremism. There have been a number of references to Northern Ireland, but it is always good to commence a contribution such as this by reminding Members that I have been in this place for a short five years, and within that five-year period I have seen three constituents of mine murdered by terrorists. Often in this Chamber, it is easy to believe that the issues that plagued our society in Northern Ireland have gone away, but they have not. The threat to our society in Northern Ireland remains substantial. It is severe.
In those three years, Kevin McGuigan was shot dead in 2015 by mainstream republicans. Adrian Ismay, a serving prison officer, was killed by an under-car booby trap bomb in 2016 by a dissident republican, Christopher Robinson. Last year, Ian Ogle was stabbed to death by loyalist terrorists at the end of his street in my constituency.
During the course of those five years, many more have been targeted. I have had serving police officers who have survived. Many others within our communities feel under the cosh of paramilitaries who have not moved on and who continue to seek control. It is on that basis and that basis alone that our party would always support the Bill. Our party will support its Second Reading, but I will raise some issues.
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He will know, as he said, that the Bill grows the capacity of the system to deliver extended sentences and cuts early release, but will he invite the Minister to consider the greater use of whole-life sentences, where a judge makes it clear at the time of sentencing that the person should never be released, because I certainly would?
I am grateful for the contribution. I will touch on sentencing in a moment. I am not sure if the clock gets adjusted for that intervention; I was happy to receive it, but I would be even happier to receive the additional time.
I say to the Minister for reference—he will know why I raise this—that I was pleased to see, in paragraph 9 of the explanatory notes, the reference to counter-terrorism legislation being a reserved matter. He will understand the importance of why I raise that and go no further.
On TPIMs, it is important to say that the Law Society has raised concerns about control orders, how they were brought to an end, how there was a difficulty in engagement with human rights legislation and how the imposition of a control order may not have been proportionate, given the risk of the individual, which is why they were changed. It has raised concerns that the changes to TPIMs will take us back to that control order phase. It is for the Minister, in summing up, to assuage those concerns and to outline how the changes can proceed properly.
On sentencing, I am delighted that Northern Ireland is now included in the provisions. When we considered the Sentencing Act 2020 in February, I was not only concerned that Northern Ireland was left out, but somewhat perplexed by the reason given that article 7 and compliance issues with human rights legislation did not apply in England and Wales, but somehow did in Northern Ireland. We do not need to pursue that, because the Government have changed their position. I still have not got a satisfactory explanation, but we do not need one; I am grateful for the conclusion. It will engage some operative issues in Northern Ireland, some of which I know Stephen Farry wants to focus on as well. I think it can be appropriately defended and it is appropriate in the circumstances that we are included.
On a wider point that the Minister will not like, I am pleased that the Government are now engaging with the notion of mandatory minimums. I know that the Minister will indicate that that is not a change in policy generally and that mandatory minimums will not become the norm, but it is an important step forward. I have always railed against the view that there cannot be a mandatory minimum for any crime because it interferes with judicial independence. It is not our role to determine what a judge will ultimately decide, but it is our role as legislators to outline what we think any given offence should attract by way of a sentence, so I am pleased to see that.
On age, concerns have been raised about the application of the legislation, particularly to minors. I will not engage in the debate about the age of criminal responsibility, which is not for today and is not going to change. There are concerns, however, that young children—I say children and teenagers; minors—who are encouraged, abused or coerced into carrying out activity on behalf of older individuals who know better and who will not get caught themselves, will be considered under terrorism legislation. I ask the Minister whether in proposed new article 13A(6) of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008, inserted by clause 7, the requirement for the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland to designate for anyone under the age of 21 at least injects a bit of flexibility where our local devolved Department will have the opportunity to decide whether it will apply.
I am grateful for the way in which the polygraph section is constructed in the legislation, in that it is permissible but not forced on us in Northern Ireland. I see no practical benefit in it and I would not encourage our justice system in Northern Ireland to engage in polygraph testing. I am concerned about how it is creeping in continually, first for sex offenders on licence, then in the Domestic Abuse Bill for those on licence at the start of this year, and now in counter-terrorism legislation. It is easy to pick those three, because very few people will say, “I want to stand up for or defend sex offenders, domestic abusers or terrorists on licence”, but I still believe in the rule of law and I still have fundamental objections about the rigidity and the validity of polygraph tests. I do not think they are safe or secure.
When I consider offenders of those three offences, they tend to be the least likely to live in the real world and understand the difference between right and wrong or truth and untruth. They are probably the least likely to be susceptible to polygraph testing. We do not need Jeremy Kyle-style show trials in this country. If there are to be real-world consequences for breach of licence, we need to at least assess them robustly and in a way in which we can defend.
My time has elapsed. I look forward to engaging further with the Minister on these considered issues. In giving support on Second Reading, I look for further progress.
This is a very good and important Bill. I would like to single out one aspect in particular.
I have long-standing concerns, which I have spoken about before in the House, about the use of standard determinate sentences for serious crimes. The idea that terrorists would be let out of prison automatically, with no Parole Board involvement, is unacceptable. I am pleased that that has been rectified by this Bill and that terrorist offenders will no longer be eligible for SDS. I urge the Government to take a similar approach to other serious crimes, such as rape, and I hope it will be included in the forthcoming sentencing review.
I want to raise two other points. First, there is a risk to keeping terrorists in prison for longer—namely, that they radicalise other prisoners. This is clearly a lesser risk than having them out on the street, but none the less it is one that we must be cognisant of and manage. The Bill’s impact assessment recognises the risk of offenders radicalising others during their stays in custody but suggests that the containment practices currently in place will minimise that risk. Those containment practices stem in part from an excellent review carried out by Ian Acheson in 2016, which recommended containment of known extremists in dedicated specialist units. Those specialist units have now been created, and I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed that they have the capacity for the increased number of terrorist offenders who may be incarcerated for longer as a result of this Bill. It is critical that we do not allow the increased time that terrorists spend in prison to be used by them as a means of turning it into a training ground for new recruits. It would be helpful to fully understand the measures that Ministers will put in place to ensure that that does not happen.
My second point, which has been raised frequently today, is about rehabilitation in general. Mr Lammy spoke movingly at the beginning of the debate about the dedication of Saskia and Jack to rehabilitation. To support this Bill is not to throw away the belief in rehabilitation but to emphasise the need for it while the terrorists are in prison. I was pleased to hear my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice refer in his opening remarks to the increased sentence maximising the time that authorities have to work with offenders. It will be critical—and this is very important to all supporters of this Bill—to use that time productively, to make sure that the people in prison are being worked on, talked to and spoken through this process so that we rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated, and do not let back on to the streets those who cannot. I think that is at the heart of what this Bill is trying to achieve, and it is what every Conservative Member who supports it wants.
It is a pleasure to follow Laura Trott. I will not take up much of the House’s time.
I am sure that all of us in this place wish that this Bill was not necessary and that we could be sure that our towns and cities will never again have to fear attacks like the horrors of Fishmongers’ Hall last year, Streatham earlier this year, the Manchester Arena bombing, and the attack on Parliament, which was referred to earlier. All of us want to better protect the public and to somehow find the time and the means to rehabilitate those who want to visit that violence on our society, and to persuade them of a better way. Although I wholeheartedly agree with and support that motive and aim, I cannot agree that parts of this Bill will be effective in doing that.
As the hon. Lady said, keeping people in prison for longer will not de-radicalise them. It may, in fact, radicalise them further or give them the opportunity to radicalise others in prison. Keeping them off the streets for longer will certainly succeed in keeping them off the streets, but will that actually be effective if, in fact, they become more radicalised or radicalise others so that they are even more dangerous when they come out?
There are other flaws in that approach. If we are to prevent people from reoffending after they leave prison and encourage them back on to a lawful path away from terrorism, they need to feel the security of a home and a job. However, the release on licence, which is vital to that, will be shortened by this Bill. Similarly, probation is currently under-resourced, and it would be undermined by the Bill in its ability to de-radicalise.
I do not know the answer to this, but I am extremely doubtful whether there is any reliable correlation in respect of the known terrorists that have committed such awful crimes in this country over recent years and unemployment or their family situation in terms of homes; in fact, I rather suspect the opposite. We need to be careful about making such correlations unless there is really strong evidence to suggest that they are meaningful.
I take the right hon. Gentleman’s point, but I was going to come on to a different correlation. Surely, we want to stop terrorism happening in the first place. Longer sentences only happen after the fact. Surely, what we want to do in this country is root out of the causes of terrorism—to make people feel secure, to give young people an alternative, to keep them away from radicalisation and, if they are in prison for another reason, to ensure that they are not radicalised by someone who is in there on a long sentence and has the ability to radicalise them.
I believe that the key is reaching young people to prevent them from going down the wrong route in the first place. That is why I believe that we have to strengthen the licensing system, strengthen probation and look at ways of ensuring that our young people, whether they get into trouble or not, have the security of a job and a way of seeing their future positively. That way, we can identify those who might go on to threaten our way of life. We should work with the education system and agencies. We should tackle inequalities. Longer sentencing will do none of that.
There is also a dangerous assumption that one size fits all. As in other areas, that cannot be the case. It is vital that we recognise in the way we proceed that there is a different dynamic in Northern Ireland. In clause 30, there may be an implication that people already serving sentences will have their terms changed retrospectively and will have grounds for challenge at the European Court of Human Rights. We have to be very careful how we proceed.
Although we all desire a way of limiting the threat of terrorism and de-radicalising our young people, simply acting with more force—longer sentences—after the fact will not be enough. We have to get to the root cause first.
We have seen some dark, dark days. On
I do not mention those terrorists by name as, in my view, they do not deserve the efforts of my breath, let alone to be mentioned in this place. However, I wish to recognise, as my constituents would, all the members of the emergency services and passers-by who courageously helped people in those terrorist attacks. Each and every one of those attacks causes profound, unimaginable heartache to many friends, families, colleagues and neighbours, and to the communities of those who were killed, injured or impacted by those acts of evil.
MI5 and counter-terrorism police have said in evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee that 2017 represented a step change, with a significant shift in the threat from terrorism, largely due to developments in Syria and Iraq, combined with the speed of the radicalisation process. Of course there are also other sources of threat.
According to the latest Government statistics, 280 arrests were made in 2019 for terrorism-related activity, and I am informed that 25 terrorist attacks have been foiled since March 2017. Those who seek to destroy and damage lives need to know that the Government will do whatever it takes to stop them. The shocking attacks at the Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham revealed serious flaws in the way terrorist offenders are dealt with, and for that reason I very much welcome this Bill, as it bolsters the country’s response to terrorism, building on the emergency legislation that we passed in February, which retrospectively ended automatic release for terrorist offenders serving standard sentences.
Let us not forget that we are talking about terrorists—individuals who go out of their way to cause harm and destruction and to massacre, and who wish to spread evil. That is why I very much welcome the measures that the Bill promotes—a new type of sentence, a minimum of 14 years in custody and a seven to 25-year period for extended licence. While I agree entirely with the increase of the minimum sentence to 14 years personally, I would have no issue with agreeing to longer.
I also welcome the removal of the possibility of release at the two-thirds point of the custodial part of the extended sentence. I want to see a tougher stance when it comes to law and order and a clear intention from Government that when it comes to dealing with the most serious terrorist offenders, a no-nonsense approach will be taken and that they will stay in prison for longer. The Bill achieves this. After all, the primary role of any Government is to keep us safe. To that end, I very much welcome the fact that the Bill revises the scheme for imposing TPIMs on those suspected of involvement in terrorism by lowering the standard of proof required, extending the range of measures available to police and removing the two-year time limit within which investigations can take place. This to me all makes perfect sense, as we must have the ability to quash any threat, and I believe that this Bill aids that process, bolstering the counter-terrorism police’s ability to monitor those in the community who pose a threat.
This country is full of good, decent, honest, hard-working people who need to be assured that when it comes to acts of evil, the justice system is on their side and the police have the tools available to do their job. I believe that it is our duty to legislate to enable threats to be investigated and tackled appropriately and in a timely manner, while aiming to keep our communities safe. Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe that this Bill delivers that, protecting the public from terrorism by strengthening the law, which governs the sentencing, release and monitoring of terrorism offenders.
It is a pleasure to follow Robbie Moore. I am generally supportive of this Bill and I recognise that we need to strengthen the UK’s approach to combating terrorism and keeping communities safe. It is also important to recognise that increased sentencing powers are only one part of a wider strategy to tackle terrorism. We also need to address terrorism at source and prevent people from entering that path.
There are many attractions to taking a uniform approach across the UK and avoiding any two-tier system. However, it is important none the less to recognise that there are different dynamics in the nature of the terrorist threat in different parts of the UK, and that a one-size-fits-all approach may not always be appropriate.
In that regard, I want to focus on clause 30 and explore some of the potential unintended consequences of the extension of the provisions of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 relating to the removal of the automatic right to early release for terrorist-related offenders who are currently serving either determinate or extended custodial sentences in prison in Northern Ireland. As Members have said, there may well be a legal challenge—or, indeed, multiple legal challenges—to that provision on the ground of compatibility with the European convention on human rights, and particularly with article 7. Some Members—and, indeed, the Government—say that that risk has now been reduced or eliminated, but there are others who dispute that analysis. Time will tell. Any successful legal challenge in Northern Ireland could have wider repercussions for the rest of the UK, and it is important to bear that in mind. This approach also erodes the principle of judicial discretion to set appropriate custodial and licence periods.
Secondly, and perhaps even more significantly, there is a danger that these measures could inadvertently lead to unintended consequences and be counterproductive. The provision of longer, tougher sentences at the time of conviction is one thing, and I would certainly support it. However, the application of retrospective measures to what is currently a very small cohort of prisoners in Northern Ireland runs the risk of providing a propaganda opportunity for dissident republican terrorists to argue that the goalposts have moved and that terrorist prisoners have somehow, in their minds, become political prisoners and a propaganda tool.
Over the past 50 years in Northern Ireland, prisoners have, sadly, been used by terrorist organisations and their supporters for propaganda, radicalisation and recruitment in parts of the community, and this has led to greater violence being practised on wider society. For example, Members will be familiar with how the introduction of internment without trial in early 1970s and the hunger strikes in the early 1980s were manipulated to great ends, bringing even greater disruption to our society. At present, both the Police Service of Northern Ireland—my emphasis on “Northern Ireland” is deliberate, and will be understood by many people back home at present—
The Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Security Service are doing an excellent job in combating the terrorist threat, and I want to pay tribute to them in that regard. Nevertheless, the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland remains severe and there is a need for constant vigilance. The threat of violence should never be used to determine policy, but it is nevertheless sensible to reflect on the potential consequences relative to the benefits. In addition, retrospectively implementing the proposed changes for individuals who are currently serving determinate custodial sentences has the potential to undermine the current public protection measures in Northern Ireland, rather than enhance them. That applies in particular to post-release monitoring. This could have the unintended consequence in Northern Ireland of terrorist offenders being released without any requirement to be on licence, which would be dangerous to the wider community.
Points have been made by others about the implications for young people and about the question marks around mandatory polygraphs. I am not going to repeat those points; suffice it to say that I concur with them.
My final point would be to encourage both the Secretary of State and the Minister to continue to engage in dialogue with my party colleague, the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland. I know that they have had correspondence and discussions to date, as the Secretary of State has acknowledged. There are genuine concerns about how this could play out in practice in Northern Ireland, and while we all fully respect the need to be tougher in how we deal with terrorists, it is important that the approach we take is ultimately effective and that the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland are taken into account as the Bill proceeds through this House and the other place.
It has been a real pleasure to sit through the debate and listen to the quality of the speeches. I cannot help but reflect that both the Lord Chancellor and his shadow, Mr Lammy—both good men and good lawyers, and a fine reflection on our profession—probably, if left to their own devices, would not have wanted to deliver quite the speeches they gave. The shadow Lord Chancellor’s speech flew when he talked about the duty to try to rehabilitate and to deradicalise, and quoted Jack Merritt and considered what he would have wanted. Then, when he got into the detail, he was pulling his punches on some of the issues in the Bill that are singularly problematic. My hon. Friend Sir Robert Neill, the Chairman of the Justice Committee, gave a very good and wise summary of the challenges in the Bill.
My hon. Friend Robbie Moore gave, in a sense, the speech designed to give the public reassurance that we are going to be tough on terrorists and unyielding in our approach. I say to him that it is so much more complex than that. There are so many balances that have to be struck. We need to understand what we as a society now are competing with as far as the apparent terrorist threat is concerned. Stephen Farry pointed out that our overreaction in Northern Ireland—internment, Bloody Sunday and the injustice seen in what carried huge popular support to tackle the murderous wickedness of the then Provisional IRA—meant that the terrorists were able to enjoy significant support from their own community. There is a real battle to be won against those who want to engage in murder and mayhem, perhaps for reasons that are wholly unrelated their ideology. As a society, we have to detach them from their support base, so that the community is on our side. In the end, we are engaged in a battle to protect our society’s liberal values, so we must not take measures that are plainly unjust.
On imposing mandatory 14-year sentences, Gavin Robinson made the point that it is our job to impose a sentence. No, it is not. It is our job to decide what the maximum sentences ought to be, and the Sentencing Council then gives recommendations to the judiciary about the appropriate tariff. There should always be room for judges to be able to come to their own judgment about the appropriate sentence in the circumstances of the individual case that is presented to them. I have the gravest reservations about apparently securing public support by having ever longer mandatory sentences. We will do an injustice and find that we have given the opportunity for that injustice to be exploited by these people. They will then get a level of support from the communities they come from. We are working so hard with such communities, with the Prevent programme and all the other aspects of policy, to convince them that they will not be the continuing victims of injustice, and that, as a society, we are trying to address the issues that lead them in a direction where they might be minded to give some support to people who are turning on our society.
Of course, it is even more complicated than that: there is religious faith. The perversion of Islamic faith sits behind some of the violence and the motivation of some of these people, so that they think they are acting with some perverted form of God’s truth on their side. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley and others to turn the board around—understand why people are coming from the place they are and why they have these attitudes. Then we will get to a better place where we are able to understand the injustice that they perceive, and we will have a chance of beginning to address it. We must address it by not betraying our own values. If we betray our values by the justice measures that we take, we might find ourselves on the wrong end of the European Court of Human Rights because we have taken measures that are manifestly unjust and unable to be reversed by our own court system, and those measures will then be reversed by the convention to which we must remain attached—we will create a further set of problems for ourselves.
I urge Ministers to consider some of the wise words of the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, the shadow Lord Chancellor and Joanna Cherry. There is a degree of unanimity about the very careful set of balances we have to find here, and we need to make some changes to the Bill in Committee to get those balances right. We have to carry public confidence; I understand that. If we cannot carry public confidence, we will set up problems for ourselves. But we continue to swing back and forth on this—we abolished control orders in 2011, and here we are putting them back again nine years later—and this pendulum is not doing any of us any favours.
The first duty of any Government is to keep our country safe. In 2020, the world in which we live has become ever more congested, confused and competitive. The threats to our democracy are many, and we must do whatever is necessary to preserve the sanctity of life, protect the freedoms that we have and deter those who seek to do us harm. If our enemies do slip through the net, we must act swiftly to bring them to justice and impose sentences that fully befit the crime.
As the party of law and order, it is right that the Conservative Government should do everything possible to fulfil this most fundamental of all duties, and I welcome this Bill. Back in December 2019, the Conservative party was elected on a manifesto that promised to get tough on crime. There were no frills in the manifesto, no hidden meanings and no ambiguity—simply an undertaking to deliver what the British people had asked for. This Bill is another example of the Conservative Government delivering on their promises, as part of an ambitious policy agenda, to put the pride back into Britain and to do what is right.
In the Queen’s Speech in December 2019, the Government said that they would legislate to ensure that the most serious terrorist offenders stay in prison for longer. Following the attacks at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019 and at Streatham, the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 was passed as emergency legislation, to change release arrangements for certain terrorism offenders in England, Wales and Scotland. At that time, the Justice Secretary said that wider measures would follow, and here they are. This is another key moment in British politics, as we seek to reinforce our covenant with decent, hard-working and law-abiding people, as they themselves seek to go about their daily lives freely, safely and without fear of indiscriminate violence.
As for the brave men and women of our police and security services, the Government will always back them and empower them to do their job. They will be given the powers they need to combat new threats and the political support to know that they are valued and trusted. But none of this will be viable without a more robust justice system—one that stands for the law-abiding majority, not the criminal minority. It is therefore incumbent upon this democratically elected Administration to pass sentences that serve to recompense, deter, rehabilitate and deliver what it says on the tin.
This Bill proposes an overhaul of the sentencing and monitoring of terrorist offenders and suspects and will lead to increased jail terms for the most dangerous offenders. Not only will the sentences be proportionate, but the Bill will enhance our ability to monitor those in the community who might still pose a threat. When used alongside our whole-society approach and Prevent strategy, it will also be more decisive in diverting people from violent extremism and in rehabilitating and de-radicalising. I am reassured that the Bill will allow the time needed for the independent review of the Prevent strategy to consider its impact and deliver an outcome that will strengthen our first line of defence against terrorism.
We have heard the detail of what the Bill provide. To those who might suggest that it is just another example of a large Conservative majority pushing aside human rights, the answer is, of course, no. This is actually about the rights of ordinary people who just want to go about their lives. It is about the rights of the families who have suffered the indiscriminate and appalling effects of terrorism, and those who might otherwise be affected. Critically, the Bill is compatible with both the European convention on human rights and the Good Friday agreement. Above all, it reflects a wider determination right across the UK to tackle terrorism, and gives the public confidence that the Government can and will intervene more robustly when required.
I say to those politicians who listened to the electorate: this is what we promised and this is what we will deliver. History is littered with examples of what Governments have failed to honour, but here we are on the road to law. I again commend the Home Office and Ministry of Justice for what has been achieved in a short space of time. Not only does the Bill fulfil the pledges that were made, but it allows our independent nation to evolve, as we must, to protect our freedoms. As contentious as the Bill might be to some, it is what many in Britain have asked for, and it is what they voted for in 2019.
I rise to speak in strong support of the Bill. First, I should first declare my interests: until my election I was a magistrate member of the Sentencing Council, which was considering the sentencing guidelines for terrorism, and I was also a non-executive director of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.
As we have heard from the Lord Chancellor and other Members, the first duty of any Government is to protect their people. One of the most marked threats against the British people is terrorism. It is a particularly heinous offence, its perpetrators motivated by perverted ideologies, driven to cause indiscriminate carnage, demonstrating a callous distain for the loss of human life and revelling in the fear that they provoke among decent citizens. Those who contemplate committing such atrocities must be in no doubt of the revulsion that right-minded people feel towards them. They must know that the law will categorically and clearly condemn their acts.
I welcome the end-to-end provisions in the Bill that will keep us all safer: strengthened TPIMs to scrutinise potential terrorist offenders; longer prison sentences, physically served in custody in their entirety, to keep convicted terrorists off our streets and provide time for deradicalisation and rehabilitation; and stricter licence conditions for terrorists when they are released from prison, including the use of polygraphs.
First, let me focus specifically on the serious terrorism sentence. A minimum period of 14 years’ imprisonment strikes me as wholly justified, and I consider it right that the entire period should be spent in custody. I have said before in this place that I am a firm believer in rehabilitation, and I pay tribute to all those working in HMPPS who strive to engage with terrorist offenders and provide tailored interventions and programmes with the aim of promoting a fundamental change, but we must recognise that deradicalisation programmes have not enjoyed as much success as we would have hoped. I am pleased that there is to be further investment in this area of work, with the recruitment of additional staff, but where terrorist offenders are concerned there can be no room for error.
Because there can be no room for error, I wonder—and I put it no more strongly than that—whether consideration should be given to the introduction of a new sentence of indefinite detention for public protection from terrorism. I recognise that the idea will raise many legitimate concerns given the previous experience of imprisonment for public protection sentences, which resulted in a high number of people spending many years in excess of their tariff in custody through no fault of their own. Indeed, I have met a number of them, and the injustice done to them is palpable and wrong. But that does not have to mean that it would be impossible to design a different system with all the necessary safeguards in place that would ensure that terrorist prisoners, solely and specifically, would be detained without a determinate date on which their sentence would end. I would be interested to know whether Ministers believe that this could be feasible.
It will be evident from what I have said so far that I very much welcome the broad contents of this Bill. However, there are one or two areas where I would ask the Government to consider the scope for possible refinement, particularly in the area of younger offenders. I know from my time at the Youth Justice Board that, tragically, a very small number of children are ensnared into terrorism. It is therefore right for this Bill to address those offenders, but it is also right to ensure that the sentence remains very much tailored to the individual, as is the case throughout the youth justice system, and that there is appropriate provision and resource to maximise the opportunity for rehabilitation. There must remain, surely, some hope that these young people under 18 can be reformed and then lead law-abiding lives.
For young adults—those aged between 18 and 20—there is essentially no distinction between older adults in terms of the sentencing provisions in this Bill. However, it is now well established that neurological development is not complete until the early to mid-20s. Indeed, maturity based not purely on chronological age is now a factor in sentencing decisions, to reflect the science. In addition, young adults are generally seen as more likely to reform. Consequently, I would respectfully suggest that it might be expedient to give additional consideration to the sentencing regime for those aged 18 to 20, specifically, to ensure that the minimum period spent in custody is indeed commensurate with their culpability.
As the Bill progresses, it is imperative that we always ensure that the will of Parliament is unambiguously clear to those who later have to interpret this legislation, particularly the Sentencing Council in the formulation of its guidelines and any interim guidance that may be required, and judges who will ultimately pass sentence. This is in no way to say that I believe that politicians should interfere with the independence of the judiciary, but a minimum sentence of 14 years is exactly that—a minimum, from which it will often be appropriate to move up. To my mind, it is also plain that the intention of this Bill is to broaden the scope to ensure that where there is clear evidence of a terrorism connection, that can be reflected in the sentence, irrespective of the index offence, with very few exceptions. The consequence of that is that the sentence passed must reflect the link to terrorism as a prime factor.
On a similar theme, for those offences where a new maximum penalty is introduced in this Bill—namely, membership of a proscribed organisation, supporting a proscribed organisation, or attending a place used for terrorist training—it is important that the guidelines are updated promptly to ensure that the will of Parliament is quickly reflected in sentences of the court. The message must surely be that the will of Parliament is that terrorist offenders should face the harshest of sentences, that punishment for them is served only by an extremely long period in custody, and that this country, led by this Government and backed across this Parliament, will relentlessly and remorselessly take every possible action to protect the public from the horror of terrorist atrocities.
I grew up in east London, and I felt the windows shake when the Canary Wharf bomb went off in 1996. That was not the first terrorist attack that had happened in my lifetime, but it is the one I remember feeling most vividly a proximity to. Unfortunately, there have been quite a number since that time that I have, like all of us, watched on the TV screens in horror, recognising places that I have been to many times before—Fishmongers’ Hall was about three minutes from where my office was at the time—and feeling that I could have been there. I think we have all experienced the feeling of being somewhere in the days afterwards and wondering if there might be another attack—being on a tube or a bus after those attacks, or being at a crowded event after the Manchester Arena attack. When the stories fade from the headlines in the media, they also fade for us and are no longer uppermost in our minds, but people who lose someone in one of those attacks have their lives changed forever. It is they who are in my thoughts as I speak in support of this Bill today.
I welcome the minimum sentence of 14 years for the most serious terrorism offences, which, in the end, is what we are talking about, and ending the prospect of early release. It is right that TPIMs should be able to go on for longer than two years if we believe that, at the end of those two years, that person is still dangerous. Of course that should be subject to the right safeguards and should have to be renewed. I have heard an important debate in this House today about whether and how we should lower the standard of proof and I think that those are the answers that my colleagues still need to provide.
When it comes to these offences, I also welcome the ability to apply for serious crime prevention orders. It is hugely important that we monitor and disrupt the actions of those who we feel may be doing us harm. We should, of course, continue our efforts at deradicalisation; it is absolutely right to do so and to put more money into that. We should keep refining our approach to that process, but it is fair to say that this is not something that we have mastered. I think we all have the view that there may be some people who are beyond deradicalisation.
Does the hon. Gentleman feel that those who radicalise young people and specifically try to put them on a path of destruction and terrorism should also bear the brunt of the law? Perhaps they should be getting a sentence of 14 years or more.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Having spent my life before entering politics working with children and young people, I can say that this is child exploitation, the like of which we see in a whole range of other fields. There cannot be many worse crimes than exploiting children in that way, radicalising them, taking advantage of their vulnerabilities, and setting them on this path—a path that those people might not often go on themselves, but that they encourage others to go on—so I completely share his sentiment.
The final thing I want to mention is in relation to the police, intelligence and security services. When there is an attack by someone who has been on our lists, who has perhaps been in custody and then released, there are veiled, and not so veiled, suggestions that those services have failed. I am sure that in one or two cases they think they could have done better, but they do an outstanding job all year round to thwart plots that we will never hear of, and they do it at great risk to themselves. What we should do in this House is what we are doing today, which is to support legislation that helps them to keep us all safe.
I broadly welcome the Bill that the Government have brought forward today, but that welcome does not come without reservation. When the state acts, it is really important that when dealing with matters of criminal justice, it does so carefully and it treads carefully because its power is enormous.
I was a child when my mum heard about the Warrington bombing. I remember it well. You had been elected for six months or so—perhaps slightly longer—Mr Deputy Speaker, and we were living in your constituency. The anger and the fear that she felt, with three young lads of her own of around the same age, will never leave me.
Growing up in the north, I also remember the Manchester bombing of the mid-1990s and the Canary Wharf bombing by the IRA in 1996, to which my hon. Friend David Johnston also referred. There has always been a suggestion that the Red Action far left extremists were connected with the Warrington bombing.
As a teenager, I also remember seeing the far right attacks on the Admiral Duncan pub in London and the bombing in Brick Lane. I lived in both of those areas as a student and have visited them frequently since. I also remember the recent terror attacks—as I think we all do—by so-called Islamic extremists on London Bridge, which is near where I live, and at Manchester Arena, which I visited two years before the attack to see Peter Kay, a great man who I hope will return to our stages again soon. More recently, there was the Fishmongers’ Hall attack as well.
I mention those different terrorist attacks from different factions to reinforce what the Secretary of State said during his opening speech: we do not know where future terrorist attacks will come from. I am glad that the Bill does not discriminate on the basis of where terrorists come from, and that it covers all equally. All terrorist acts are equally despicable, and it is right that they are all treated equally before the law.
I am glad that the Bill has been brought forward because it contains some important provisions. I am glad about the increase in minimum and maximum sentences, which is sensible. I am glad that the Government have already moved to end the early release of terrorist offenders, and the Bill goes further with that today. I do, however, have some concerns. The UNESCO constitution states that
“since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defences of peace must be constructed.”
That is one of the things that we must ensure we get right with licensing. I am glad that we now have licensing conditions for everybody who is to be released, but that must be used constructively to build peace for the future.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Rob Butler, who made an important point about the development and condition of young people, and the issues around early sentencing. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Sir Robert Neill. He made excellent points about the use of TPIM and polygraphs, and that is something the Government should also consider as the Bill goes through Committee. Broadly, the Bill has my support. I am glad that the Government are bringing it forward. When we act in this area we must tread incredibly carefully, which I think the Secretary of State is doing.
It is a pleasure to contribute to such a thoughtful debate, which was epitomised by that speech by my hon. Friend Mr Holden. Terrorism poses a unique challenge to any political and justice system. Its purpose is found not simply in the violence of the act itself, but in the fear that it seeks to spread among the population, and in the subversion of the normal political processes—in places such as this, but also the normal political process of protest. Attaching violence to your cause with terrorism undermines everything that we do in this place, and everything that people do in the political process.
In addition to the death and destruction of individual incidents, and the pain that causes for victims and their families, there is a much wider price that society pays for terrorism. It is paid by all our constituents in terms of their mental health, the economic cost, and all the little inconveniences that soon mount up. Terrorism also poses a specific challenge with respect to motive, and the practical difficulties of rehabilitation—my hon. Friend Laura Trott spoke well about that earlier. We have also seen evidence of offenders who are clearly not de-radicalised being released and committing fresh atrocities. That is what prompted some of the earlier legislation, and as I said when contributing to that debate in February, we may need to look again at our treason law in such circumstances, or at the suggestion of my hon. Friend Rob Butler about indeterminate sentences, although measures in this Bill give our justice system much stronger tools in that area.
I thank the Lord Chancellor for his opening remarks setting out all the elements of the Bill. As he said, the first duty is to protect the public from harm. So I was pleased that the House reacted so quickly in February, and that we are now bringing forward this Bill. As Members have said, the Bill strengthens our response to terrorism in three main areas: sentencing, release and monitoring. All those measures in conjunction will improve public confidence in our response to terrorism and that will bring greater confidence to my constituents in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
I do not intend to go through every aspect of the new laws, but I welcome the new serious terrorism sentence. In answer to some of the points made by my hon. Friend Crispin Blunt, I reiterate what the Lord Chancellor said: this applies to a very small cohort of offenders. The two tests that the judge must apply before imposing the 14-year sentence is, first, whether there is a risk of further offences of that nature, and secondly, whether the offence committed involved a risk of multiple deaths. I think that is a reasonable test to apply before imposing a minimum sentence of 14 years. As has been said, that is just a minimum sentence. It does not mean that the justice in the relevant case does not have the capacity to impose a different sentence if he considers that more appropriate. It is a minimum.
I welcome what we did in February on early release and what the Bill does, with no automatic release at the two-thirds point and no automatic release in the custodial part of a serious terrorism sentence. Again, this speaks to public confidence and what people expect, and it gives more capacity for rehabilitation in the justice and prison systems. I also welcome the fact that the Bill allows the justice system to recognise terrorist motivations elsewhere in that system, where someone may have been charged with a different offence. It allows judges to find that other offences may have a connection to terrorism, and that may be useful in dealing with offenders and monitoring them in future.
I turn to monitoring. Clearly, not everybody of concern to the security services will have been convicted. There may be reasons why we have not been able to bring a trial. There may be other reasons why things cannot be done at a particular time, and those who have served their sentences and have been released may also remain of concern. However, as Christine Jardine said, prevention is a key duty of the state, too, so I know that my constituents will welcome the fact that the Bill strengthens our ability to manage the risks and improve our ability to prevent terrorism.
I hear the concerns of many hon. Members and hon. and learned Members about TPIMs. I recognise that there is a balance to strike and that balance has changed over time. There was a balance to strike with control orders, but in striking this balance, any Government need to take account of the threat level at the time. I believe that that is the sincere motivation behind the Bill and that is what the measures will deliver. This may be considered further in Committee, because we have had reservations from Members on both sides of the House, but I believe that the motivations of the Government are very sincere and a reflection of the threat that we face in this country from terrorism.
In conclusion, I go back to what I said at the start: terrorism poses unique challenges to our political and justice system and it therefore needs bespoke solutions, bespoke laws and bespoke sentencing. That is the way to establish public confidence in our judicial, security and political systems. I commend the Bill to the House.
One of the greatest fears that I have in life is following my good friend and neighbour, my hon. Friend Aaron Bell, who is far too good at public speaking and will therefore put me to shame. However, I will attempt to round off in the constructive way that the House has conducted itself today. It is a shame that we live in a world that is about the 30-second social media clip, because this is exactly what the House of Commons does at its best: we stand here, discuss, agree and work on consensus. Like many Members, I can see that there are tweaks and twinges that will be made in Committee, but I will be giving my full support to the Lord Chancellor’s proposal on Second Reading.
We have heard people mention across the House the idea that we have seen a radical, politicised Islam, but we have also heard mention of the far right. The epitome of that is that during our debate, four members of the National Action group have been convicted at Birmingham Crown court, and I absolutely welcome that. Having worked in the London borough of Bexley, not far down the road from the scene where Stephen Lawrence tragically lost his life, having seen the area that the British National party and the English Defence League saw as a hotbed, and having taught students who walked into school with an EDL badge, not being aware of what its dangerous ideology was pushing, I think that that was a signal to those who wish to live on the far right that they have no place in the streets of Stoke-on-Trent and across this country. We will never allow those people to get into the minds of young people.
Turning to the comments that have been made, I thought that the Lord Chancellor made some excellent points. As for the shadow Lord Chancellor, Mr Lammy, I have seen a very different side to him—there is the one I see on Twitter and the one I see at the Dispatch Box. I wish to see the Dispatch Box person much more, because I would certainly like to have cup of tea with him, rather than angrily tweeting him back. I have the great honour of speaking before Conor McGinn, whom I hold in great regard—I have enjoyed working with him on the all-party group for the coalfield communities. Finally, I commend the comments by my hon. Friend Sir Robert Neill, who speaks with absolute authority. Members on both sides of the House thoroughly enjoy listening to and learning from him, and I certainly feel slightly more intelligent, having sat next to him every time we are in the Chamber.
Back to the point, which is that what we saw happen at Fishmongers’ Hall last November and in Streatham this February shows that, tragically, the United Kingdom continues to be threatened by those with extremist ideology who wish to harm the lives of innocent men, women and children. Those who commit such heinous acts do not speak on behalf of their religion, community or family. Those individuals act on their own, speaking for no one but themselves, and it is our job to not give them the attention they crave, but instead to look at community leaders who work to unite, rather than to divide.
The Government’s plan to increase the minimum sentence for terror offences to 14 years, to double the number of specialist counter-terror probation officers and to remove the opportunity for early release for anyone given an extended determinate sentence should be praised across the House and across the country. This is what the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke expect. Strengthening our approach to the sentencing and release of terrorist offenders, alongside the management of the risks posed while they are incarcerated and in the community, is absolutely the right thing to do.
The most dangerous offenders and plotters will spend longer behind bars, reflecting on the severity of their actions, but I absolutely concur with Members across this House that, while they are reflecting on their actions, rehabilitation must be invested in. We must tackle the reasons why people are led to this dangerous ideology. We can no longer just simply put them behind bars and hope for the best, because they are infiltrating the prison population and radicalising within prisons, which means we then have new challenges and new people to de-radicalise once they leave those prisons.
Although the rest of the sentence will be carried out under probation supervision, as we have seen for the most serious offenders, that is not always enough, and there is no room for error in matters as grave as this. The Bill will remove the possibility of releasing offenders whose sentences carry the maximum penalty of life, a move for which I wholeheartedly praise the Lord Chancellor. The passage of this Bill will send a message loud and clear to members of the public and to those who wish to harm them that we will not tolerate terrorism and those who engage with its ideology, and that for these acts they will be punished severely.
It is a pleasure to follow Jonathan Gullis in particular, and to close this debate on behalf of the Opposition. I think this has been a serious, reflective and responsible debate about the matter of primary importance for us all, which is the security of the public and the country. My overriding message and that of the shadow Home Secretary and colleagues on these Benches is clear: this Labour Opposition believe it is our first responsibility to keep our citizens, their families and our communities safe. We will be forceful and robust in supporting the fight against terrorism, and we will do everything required to keep our country safe from those who seek to attack our way of life and our values, or to do us harm. That is why we do not propose to divide the House on this matter tonight.
The tone of this debate was set by the Lord Chancellor and the shadow Justice Secretary, my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy. The contributions were characterised by the wisdom and expertise of the Chairs of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, and of the Justice Committee, Sir Robert Neill, and the intervention of the former Chair of the Defence Committee, Dr Lewis, but also by the experience of former Ministers who brought their recent expertise to bear. I also think, and I say this as a relatively newly elected Member, that it is hugely impressive that so many new Members who came into this House after the last election chose today to make what I think were very considered, serious, thoughtful and non-partisan speeches. I congratulate them on that and I very much welcome it.
Events at Fishmongers’ Hall last November and on the streets of Streatham in February showed the very worst of humanity, but in the face of great darkness, we also saw the best of us shine through. I know we all commend the bravery of those who risked their lives to apprehend the attacker that day. Like others, I want to pay particular tribute to Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who dedicated themselves to help, support and rehabilitate others, and who are remembered by all of us in this House today for their inspirational work and their selfless service to others.
We think also of the victims of the Streatham attack, and indeed of all victims of terrorism. We thank our remarkable police officers, security services and other emergency services for their swift action at these and so many other incidents of terror, when they put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, and for the incredible and dedicated work they do every day, right now, to foil other nefarious plots that never come to fruition.
These events show the need for legislation. That the perpetrators in each case had been automatically released halfway through their sentences, with no mechanism in place to protect the public, showed that there were major holes in the legislative framework in this area that needed to be filled. Of course, this was to be done by emergency legislation earlier this year to prevent the imminent release of dozens of offenders without appropriate assessment of the risk they posed and now this wider piece of legislation before us today.
There remain a number of issues of concern that we wish to draw out during the passage of this Bill to ensure it does not fall short of what is require, because, as I believe Crispin Blunt said, this is more complicated than just rhetoric. First, I entirely accept that there is a cohort of offenders who should serve their full custodial sentences. What I do not accept is that at that point of release, even if moving on to an extended licence period, they should not have the fullest possible expert assessment of the risk they pose by the Parole Board or a similar review mechanism. In February, when we, as the Opposition, supported the then Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill, the Lord Chancellor said this about the Streatham attacker:
“The automatic nature of his release meant that there was no parole oversight and no decision as to whether he posed a risk to the public. No one could prevent his release. It is purely thanks to the swift intervention of our incredible police officers that he did not go on to commit even more harm before he was stopped with necessary force.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 671, c. 863.]
My contention is: why can the Parole Board or a similar mechanism not do this, instead of being locked out of decision making for this category of offender? At the very least we will require an explanation of what is, in effect, a proposal from government to void an important part of the current process.
Secondly, on TPIMs, the Government are changing the qualifying threshold by lowering the standard of proof from “on balance of probabilities” back to “reasonable grounds for suspecting”. This is the third change by the Government since 2010. They also propose removing the two-year limit on TPIMs. As has been said, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall, has said:
“TPIMs are an exceptional and valuable means of mitigating the terrorist risk posed by a small number of individuals in the United Kingdom. But there is reason to doubt whether there exists an operational case for changing the TPIM regime at this point in time.”
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford and the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said, this seems rather anomalous. We will, of course, listen carefully to the operational case the Government set out in Committee, but we will be pressing them on the appropriate safeguards, limits and oversight. We will also want to see evidence that they have taken into account the points raised by the hon. Members for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) and for North Down (Stephen Farry) on how this applies in Northern Ireland, and by Joanna Cherry in respect of Scotland.
There is woefully little in this Bill on the Prevent strategy or how we counter extremism, radicalisation and hatred more widely, including how we work with and in communities. Those points were eloquently made by my hon. Friends the Members for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) and for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), and Sir John Hayes. There is a lack of direction, purpose and, above all, clarity on the independent review of Prevent, which the Government are legally bound to present to this House in August. It should already have reported to government this month and the Minister should now be composing his response to that to present to the House in August. The review was introduced in the last counter-terror Bill, so we have now arrived at another one that is not only seeking to remove a statutory deadline, but that gives very little indication of when we are now to expect the review’s completion, which leaves the door open to yet more delay. We need some clarity on that, because otherwise the effectiveness of the entire programme, and the community’s confidence in it, is at risk.
Finally, as many hon. Members have alluded to, the Government need to focus on the dire situation in our prisons. Sadly, the perception, and in some cases the reality, is that they are taxpayer funded breeding grounds for terror. That cannot continue. It requires serious, effective investment in de-radicalisation strategies, including more prison and probation staff and wider and more comprehensive reform, a point made by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West. Again, we will seek clarity about that in Committee.
In conclusion, we do not propose to divide the House. We accept the need for clear and comprehensive legislation, so we will work with the Government to try to improve the Bill as it proceeds. We on this side of the House, as Opposition Members, are firmly committed to our first duty to protect the public and to show those who seek to attack our way of life, threaten our safety, and drive us apart with their intolerance and hatred that they will not succeed.
It is a pleasure to speak on Second Reading of this Bill. As Members have said, at the heart of the Bill is a desire to protect the public, which is our first duty as Members of Parliament and as a Government. There is no duty more important than protecting our fellow citizens.
It is right that, as we debate the Bill, we remember and pay tribute to the members of the emergency services who have put themselves in harm’s way defending the public, in particular, of course, PC Keith Palmer, who gave his life just a few yards from where we now stand. We remember and pay tribute to those people who have sadly and tragically lost their lives to terrorism of many different kinds over the past few years. As I look across the Chamber, I see the shield of Jo Cox, one of our own Members who was brutally, savagely and disgustingly murdered a few years ago.
In the spirit of the duty of public protection that binds us all together, the spirit in which the debate has been conducted is heartening. Of course, as Conor McGinn said, I am sure that there will be points that we will debate forensically in Committee in the coming weeks, but the broad principles that we are debating command cross-party support and are an example of the House at its best. For people who think that British politics is broken, the debate this afternoon proves them categorically wrong.
The speech given by the shadow Secretary of State, Mr Lammy, was statesmanlike in its quality and I greatly enjoyed listening to and learning from it. The speeches from the Chairs of the Home Affairs Committee and the Justice Committee, and from long-standing and experienced Members such as my right hon. Friend Sir John Hayes, gave us all great pause for thought, as did the speech from the SNP Front-Bench spokesperson, Joanna Cherry.
Like the hon. Member for St Helens North, I was struck by the enthusiasm, force and thoughtfulness of Members of the 2019 intake, all of whom made tremendous contributions and, more importantly, will continue to do so in the years ahead. The House is richer for their presence.
Of course, I welcome the hon. Member for St Helens North to his place. I am delighted to see him on the Front Bench. We worked together on Helen’s law which, without his work, would not be on the statute book. I know that Marie McCourt and many victims are grateful to him for that work, which will now continue from his deserved and rightful place at the Dispatch Box.
I will turn to some of the specific points that have arisen in this afternoon’s debate, starting with TPIMs, which were the most extensively debated of the measures. I thank Yvette Cooper for the consistency with which she has advocated on that point. I note that the consistency from 2005 does not quite extend to the burden of proof, but it seems to extend to most other elements.
Let me start with the burden of proof. Many hon. Members have asked why we are returning to the burden of proof of “reasonable grounds for suspecting” that was contained in the Labour Government’s original 2005 legislation. It is a delicate question, as Members have said. As we consider the burden of proof that is appropriate, we have to balance and weigh the rights of the subject, whose liberty is being curtailed to some extent, with our duties to protect the public. We have spoken this afternoon about the victims of these terrible terrorist offences. We in public office—Members of Parliament and those in government—have a duty to think very carefully about our duties to protect people who might become victims of these terrible offences.
In answer to the question about why we are proposing this burden of proof, it is because it gives the Government the maximum reasonable ability to introduce TPIMs where they are necessary to protect the public. Setting the burden where we have suggested—a reasonable suspicion, rather than a reasonable belief or on the balance of probabilities—gives the Home Secretary the ability to act more widely than would otherwise be the case when public safety is at stake.
Can the Minister tell us how many cases in the last two years have not met the current threshold but would meet his lower threshold?
As the Lord Chancellor said, we will not comment on individual cases. As the right hon. Lady knows, the number of TPIMs in force is very low—it is only five currently. We are not just talking about what may have happened historically; we are looking prospectively at what measures we may need to take to protect our fellow citizens.
Members have asked what the safeguards are. The first safeguard is that the Home Secretary—who I see is now in the Chamber, and who is a doughty defender of public safety and public protection—does not act without fetter, because when a TPIM order is made by the Home Secretary, it is reviewed by the High Court under section 6 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011. The High Court has to give permission before that TPIM can come into force, and if the High Court finds that it is “obviously flawed”, permission is not granted, so there is a judicial safeguard inherent in the structure of TPIMs. If the subject of the TPIM feels that they have been unfairly treated, they may go to the Court for a judicial review. There are significant safeguards inherent in the structure of TPIMs.
As I said a moment ago, the Government use these measures extremely sparingly. Our preference, of course, is prosecution, as it should be. We only use TPIMs where absolutely necessary to protect the public, and we make no apology for doing so. Only five are in force at the moment, which is evidence of how carefully the Government apply these measures. Since 2011, despite the judicial mechanisms I have described, not a single TPIM has been overturned. I hope that that gives Members confidence that there are safeguards and that these measures are being used in a thoughtful way.
Reference has been made to the opinion of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Of course, we listen carefully to what Jonathan Hall QC has to say. We study his advice carefully, and we often follow his advice. It is for this House and for us as Members of Parliament to reach our own decision, which may in many cases accord with the independent reviewer, but in some cases it may not. Where our judgment differs, we should exercise our independent judgment, as we are doing in this case.
In the Minister’s references to TPIMs, he may have answered a question that I was hoping to ask him a little later: what do we do about that category of people who have gone abroad to fight for terrorist-backing organisations and return to this country, where there is not enough evidence to prosecute? I think that the Bill does not say a lot about that. If I am wrong, will he correct me? If I am right, surely that is an area where TPIMs might be relevant.
Indeed. In relation to people who go overseas to assist terrorist organisations, we deprive them of their citizenship where we can, if it is lawful— if they are, for example, dual nationals—to prevent their return here in the first place. It is right that we do that. Secondly, on their return, it is our strong preference, if there is sufficient evidence, to prosecute them under the criminal law, as we very often do. However, if there are evidential difficulties and we cannot meet the burden of proof required by a criminal court—beyond reasonable doubt—but we do have a reasonable suspicion, we can use TPIMs to protect the public, should the Bill be passed in this form. The excellent example from my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis illustrates exactly why TPIMs could help us in those cases where we cannot achieve prosecution. Evidence from Syria, for example, is very hard to gather, but in cases where we have a reasonable suspicion, we must act to protect the public.
Let me stress this point again: the Minister has still not given us any reason why the current system is no good and why it does not work. He has mentioned independent judgment, but he is giving us no evidence on which to make our independent judgment that is different from the reviewer.
We are returning to a situation that was enshrined originally in 2005, which Members opposite strongly supported at the time. I have made the case already that the Bill gives the Home Secretary an ability to take a rounder judgment with the proof threshold set at reasonable suspicion, rather than reasonable belief or the balance of probabilities. I have made the case that we need to be mindful of protecting potential victims. We need to think about this not just retrospectively, as a historical review of case studies, but prospectively and how we may need the power in the future. I have explained the safeguards in place and I have proved that the Government use the powers sparingly. I think I have made the case for the legislation as currently drafted.
Let me turn now to the question of de-radicalisation and reducing reoffending, which the shadow Lord Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Tottenham, referred to very powerfully in his speech. Let me be clear that we are not giving up hope on any people who are convicted as terrorist offenders—especially young people, but frankly, we are not giving up hope on anyone. Although these cases are hard and rehabilitation is very difficult, we will never give up hope. There are cases such as that of Maajid Nawaz, the founder of the Quilliam Foundation, who harboured extremist ideologies, but is now fully reformed and is a powerful and moving advocate for tolerance and moderation. I look to examples like that for hope—and they give me hope.
It is in that spirit that the Government have been investing in this area. It is fair to say that there is more we need to do to meet our aspirations, but in January we announced an additional £90 million for counter-terrorism policing. We have doubled the number of counter-terrorism probation staff serving and we have introduced new national standards for monitoring terrorist offenders on licence, which includes work with psychologists to try to address any mental health issues that may relate to this sort of offending. We are also involving imams to try to explain in the case of Islamist offending that Islam is a peaceful religion and that the interpretation that some offenders have is a perversion of the true meaning of that great and peaceful religion. We are involving them in our work.
Things such as the theological and ideological interventions programme, the healthy identities programme and the desistance and disengagement programme are all designed to do the same thing. I do not pretend that those systems are working as fully effectively as we would like. I acknowledge there is more work to do, but that work is happening and being invested in. As I said a moment ago, I have hope that people can be turned on to a different path, and that ultimately must be our objective.
I turn now to the question of the removal of the Parole Board’s function in relation to people who will now serve their full custodial term in prison—those most serious offenders. It is right that we do that for the reasons that have been laid out. The most dangerous offenders should serve their full prison sentence, and the public expects that. We have acknowledged that rehabilitation needs to be taking place subsequently in the extended licence period provided after their release.
Although there will be no Parole Board intervention, as the shadow Secretary of State pointed out in his speech at the beginning, plenty of other intervention will take place. For example, very extensive mapper work will take place throughout the custodial sentence. The Prison Service and prison governors, including excellent governors, such as the governor at Belmarsh, will do enormous amounts of work with prisoners during their custodial sentence. The probation service, in the way that I described a moment ago, will work with the offender in their extended licence period afterwards.
Although the Parole Board will not make the release decision—that is effectively made by the judge at the point of sentence in handing down a sentence of this nature —a huge amount of work will none the less be done to manage, help, monitor and, where appropriate, intervene during the prison sentence and during the licence period subsequently. I am therefore satisfied, as is the Lord Chancellor, that these arrangements are comprehensive and will be effective.
Let me say a word about polygraphs, which Gavin Robinson referred to. It is important to stress that the use of polygraphs that we are proposing here is the same as the use currently deployed in relation to sex offenders on licence. These polygraph results, because they are not entirely accurate—they are quite accurate, but not entirely accurate—do not create any binding consequence. If somebody fails one of these polygraph tests on licence, further investigatory work is done by the police or the probation service. It triggers further work, which will then produce a conclusion one way or the other. It does not produce a binding result, but it serves as a trigger.
If we look at the way polygraphs have been used in relation to sex offences, we find that the level of disclosure of relevant information by those sex offenders to whom polygraph tests are applied has increased, since the introduction of the tests, from a 51% disclosure rate to 76%, so they have been helpful. They are not a panacea—they do not tell us everything and we cannot wholly rely on them—but they do yield some information, as a result of which further investigation can be conducted.
Some questions were asked about the Prevent review. We are very close to appointing a new chairman of that review, which is overdue, as Members rightly said. Members asked, again quite rightly and fairly, what our revised target date is for that review to report. Our target date is August 2021. That is a year later than originally anticipated, but Members will understand that the resignation of the initially appointed chairman and then the coronavirus outbreak have, unfortunately, caused that one-year delay. That is the timetable we are now working to.
Finally, the hon. Member for Belfast East and his colleague Stephen Farry made reference to the application to Northern Ireland of the ending of the automatic early release of terrorist offenders. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Belfast East welcomes that application. We thought very carefully about the legal implications, because the structure of sentences in Northern Ireland differs from that in the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why we did not act in February. We have now thought about it very carefully, we have taken extensive legal advice, and we are now wholly satisfied that it can properly be applied to Northern Ireland without any article 7 or, indeed, common law retrospectivity infringement. That is why we now include Northern Ireland in these provisions—and of course, because we want the United Kingdom to act as one in these terrorist-related matters, it is proper that we do so.
Terrorists seek to divide our country, they seek to divide our community and they seek to create hatred among us, but I think that in the conduct of our debate this afternoon we have demonstrated that, no matter what our differences may be in day-to-day political matters, we will stand together in solidarity and in unity, as a House of Commons and as leaders of our various communities, against all those from all different wings of the terrorist fraternity. We will unite against hate, and we will keep in mind Jo Cox’s words in her maiden speech, which I remember listening to five years ago from the Back Benches. She said that there is more that unites us than divides us. Let us keep those words in mind and let us fight terrorism of all kinds wherever we find it.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.