New Clause 1 - Review of legislation: National Probation Service

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:52 pm on 21st July 2020.

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“(1) Within 18 months of enactment, the Secretary of State must commission a review and publish a report on the impact of the provisions in the Act on the National Probation Service.

(2) A review under subsection (1) must consider—

(a) the probation support provided to offenders convicted for terrorist offences;

(b) the—

(i) type; and

(ii) number of specialist staff employed by the National Probation Service to work with terrorist offenders.

(c) the—

(i) training;

(ii) assessed skill level; and

(iii) assessed experience of specialist staff employed by the National Probation Service to work with terrorist offenders;

(d) the turnover of probation staff;

(e) the average length of service of probation staff;

(f) the non-staff resources provided to manage offenders convicted for terrorist offences; and

(g) the adequacy of the operating budget of the National Probation Service.

(3) A report under subsection (1) may make recommendations to improve the probation support to terrorist offenders.

(4) Where a report has made recommendations under subsection (3), the Secretary of State shall respond within 2 months.

(5) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of the report under subsection (1) before Parliament.

(6) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than 3 months after the report has been laid before Parliament, make a motion in the House of Commons in relation to the report.”—(Alex Cunningham.)

This new clause requires a review of the impact of the Act on the National Probation Service.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—Review of deradicalisation programmes in prisons—

“(1) Within three years of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must publish and lay before Parliament a comprehensive review of the impact of the provisions of this Act on the effectiveness and availability of deradicalisation programmes in prisons.

(2) The review must include an assessment of—

(a) the effectiveness of existing programmes at reducing radicalisation and terrorist offending;

(b) how individuals are assessed for their suitability for a programme;

(c) the number of individuals assessed as requiring a place on a programme;

(d) the number of individuals assessed as not requiring a place on a programme;

(e) the average length of time individuals assessed as requiring a place on a programme have to wait to start a programme; and

(f) whether there is sufficient capacity and resource to meet demand for places on deradicalisation programmes in prisons.”

This new clause requires a review of the impact of the Act on deradicalisation programmes in prisons.

New clause 3—Financial Impact Assessment Report—

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within three years of this Act being passed, lay before Parliament a report on the financial impact of the provisions of this Act.

(2) That report must separately consider the financial impact of—

(a) extended sentences on the prison estate;

(b) extended licence periods;

(c) any increased staffing resources required for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service;

(d) the extended offenders of particular concern regime; and

(e) adding polygraph testing to certain offenders’ licence conditions.

(3) The report may consider other financial matters.

(4) The report must compare the financial impact of the Act with the Impact Assessment for the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill published by the Ministry of Justice on 18 May 2020.

(5) A Minister of the Crown must, not later than 3 months after the report has been laid before Parliament, make an oral statement in the House of Commons on his plan to address the financial and non-financial issues identified in the report.”

This new clause requires a review of the financial impact of the Act.

New clause 4—Report on extended sentences for terrorist offenders: Scotland—

“(1) The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 210A(4) insert—

‘(4A) The report under section 210A(4), where it applies to a person convicted on indictment of a terrorism offence, must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than an extended sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(4B) The court must take account of any points made by the report in relation to the matters in subsection (4A).’

(3) The Secretary of State must at least once a year conduct and lay before Parliament a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of this section and their impact upon offenders.

(4) The report of the first review must be laid before Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.”

New clause 5—Report on extended custodial sentences for terrorist offenders: Northern Ireland—

“(1) The Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 (S.I. 2008/1216 (N.I. 1)) (extended custodial sentences) is amended as follows.

(2) In Article 9, after paragraph (2), insert—

‘(2A) The pre-sentence report under paragraph (2), where it applies to a person convicted on indictment of a terrorism offence, must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than an extended custodial sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(2B) The court must take account of any points made by the report in relation to the matters in paragraph (2A).’

(3) The Secretary of State must at least once a year conduct and lay before Parliament a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of this section and their impact upon offenders.

(4) The report of the first review must be laid before Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.”

New clause 6—Review of effects on children and young offenders—

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within one year of this Act being passed, lay before Parliament a review of the effects of the provisions of this Act on children and young offenders.

(2) That review must detail any differential effects on children and young offenders in—

(a) sentencing;

(b) release of terrorist offenders; and

(c) the prevention and investigation of terrorism.

(3) The review must consider the impact of imprisonment under this Act on the physical and mental health of children and young offenders.

(4) The review must consider the influences on children and young offenders who commit offences under this Act, including but not limited to—

(a) the internet;

(b) peer-pressure; and

(c) vulnerability.

(5) When conducting a review under this section, the Secretary of State must consult with Scottish Ministers.

(6) The review may make recommendations for further changes to legislation, policy and guidance.

(7) For the purposes of this section, young offenders include adults aged under 25.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to review the effects of these measures on children and young offenders. It would also require the Secretary of State to consult with Scottish ministers when conducting the review.

New clause 7—Review of legislation: Northern Ireland—

“(1) On an annual basis from the day of this Act being passed, a report that reviews the application of the provisions of this Act in Northern Ireland must be published and laid before both Houses of Parliament by the Secretary of State.

(2) Annual reports under subsection (1) must be produced in consultation with the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice and the Northern Ireland Executive.”

This new clause ensures that all measures in the Bill as they pertain to Northern Ireland shall be reviewed annually with the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice and the Northern Ireland Executive, and a report shall be published and laid before both Houses of Parliament.

New clause 9—Review of polygraph testing on terrorist offenders—

“(1) Before sections 32 to 35 come into force, the Secretary of State must, within 6 months of this Act being passed, conduct a pilot of the use of polygraph testing on terrorist offenders.

(2) The outcome of the pilot must be reported to Parliament within 12 months of this Act being passed.

(3) This report must include—

(a) data on the number of terrorist offenders who have been subject to polygraph testing during the pilot;

(b) an explanation of how the results of polygraph tests have been used during the pilot;

(c) an analysis of the effect polygraph testing has had on the licence conditions of terrorist offenders;

(d) data on the number of terrorist offenders who were recalled to prison on the basis of polygraph test results;

(e) a recommendation from the Secretary of State as to whether sections 32 to 35 should enter into force following the pilot; and

(f) evidence of independent research on the reliability and value of polygraph testing of terrorist offenders.”

This new clause requires the Secretary of State to conduct a pilot test of the use of polygraph testing on terrorist offenders and report the outcome to Parliament, in addition to setting out evidence for the reliability of polygraph tests based on independent research.

New clause 10—Review of sections 1 to 31—

“(1) The Secretary of State must arrange for an independent review of the impact of sections 1 to 31 of this Act to be carried out in relation to the initial one-year period.

(2) The Secretary of State must, after consultation with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, appoint a person with professional experience relating to the imprisonment for offences of terrorism to conduct the review.

(3) The review must be completed as soon as practicable after the end of the initial one-year period.

(4) As soon as practicable after a person has carried out the review in relation to a particular period, the person must—

(a) produce a report of the outcome of the review, and

(b) send a copy of the report to the Secretary of State.

(5) The Secretary of State must lay before each House of Parliament a copy of the report under subsection (4)(b) within one month of receiving the report.

(6) In this section, “initial one-year period” means the period of one year beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”

This new clause would require an independent review of the impact of sections 1 to 31 of the Act to be conducted after one year.

Amendment 30, in clause 4, page 5, line 35, at end insert—

“(7) The pre-sentence report must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(8) The court must take account of any points made by the pre-sentence report in relation to the matters in subsection (7) and consider whether they constitute exceptional circumstances under subsection (2).”

Government amendment 6.

Amendment 31, in clause 6, page 9, leave out lines 21 to 25, and insert—

“(11) In forming an opinion for the purposes of subsections (1)(d) and (6), the court must consider a report by a relevant officer of a local authority about the offender and the offender’s circumstances.

(11A) Where the offender is under 21 years of age, the report must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age; and

(b) consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender and the court must take these factors into account when forming its opinion under subsection (6).

(11B) In considering the report, the court must, if it thinks it necessary, hear the relevant officer.”

Amendment 32, in clause 7, page 10, line 15, at end insert—

“(2A) Where the offender is under the age of 21, in forming an opinion for the purposes of paragraph (2), the court must consider and take into account a pre-sentence report within the meaning of Article 4 which must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age; and

(b) consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.”

Government amendments 7 and 8.

Amendment 33, in clause 16, page 16, line 29, at end insert—

“(4) Section 255 of the Sentencing Code is amended as follows.

(5) After subsection (2) insert—

‘(3) The pre-sentence report must in the case of a serious terrorism offence under section 256(4)(b)(iii)—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than an extension period of eight to ten years might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(4) The court must take account of any points made by the pre-sentence report in relation to the matters in subsection (3).’

(6) The Secretary of State must at least once a year conduct and lay before Parliament a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of this section and their impact upon offenders.

(7) The report of the first review must be laid before Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.”

Amendment 34, in clause 17, page 17, line 4, at end insert—

“(4) Section 267 of the Sentencing Code is amended as follows.

(5) After subsection (2) insert—

‘(2A) The pre-sentence report must in the case of a serious terrorism offence under section 268(4)(b)(iii)—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than an extension period of eight to ten years might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(2B) The court must take account of any points made by the pre-sentence report in relation to the matters in subsection (2A).’

(6) The Secretary of State must at least once a year conduct and lay before Parliament a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of this section and their impact upon offenders.

(7) The report of the first review must be laid before Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.”

Government amendments 9 to 16.

Amendment 5, page 21, line 30, leave out clause 24.

Amendment 52, in clause 27, page 23, line 24, after “unless”, insert

“the terrorist prisoner was at least aged 18 at the time of the commission of the offence for which the prisoner is serving the sentence, and”.

This amendment provides that only certain adult terrorist prisoners are excluded from eligibility for early release in England and Wales.

Amendment 53, in clause 28, page 24, line 12, after “unless”, insert

“the terrorist prisoner was at least aged 18 at the time of the commission of the offence for which the prisoner is serving the sentence, and”.

This amendment provides that only certain adult terrorist prisoners are excluded from eligibility for early release in Scotland.

Amendment 1, in clause 30, page 26, line 16, leave out “whether before or”.

This amendment would remove the retrospective application of this provision.

Amendment 2, in clause 30, page 26, line 17, leave out from “(2)” to end of line 20.

This amendment would remove the retrospective application of this provision.

Amendment 54, in clause 30, page 27, line 14, after “terrorism sentence” insert

“and the terrorist prisoner was at least aged 18 at the time of the commission of the offence for which the prisoner is serving such a sentence”.

This amendment provides that only certain adult terrorist prisoners are excluded from eligibility for early release in Northern Ireland.

Amendment 55, page 28, line 17, leave out clause 32.

This amendment will remove from the Bill clause 32, which extends the current polygraph testing requirements to adult terrorist offenders released on licence in England and Wales.

Amendment 56, page 29, line 8, leave out clause 33.

This amendment will remove from the Bill clause 33, which extends the current polygraph testing requirements to adult terrorist offenders released on licence in Scotland.

Amendment 57, page 30, line 25, leave out clause 34.

This amendment will remove from the Bill clause 34, which extends the current polygraph testing requirements to adult terrorist offenders released on licence in Northern Ireland.

Amendment 58, page 33, line 7, leave out clause 35.

This amendment will remove from the Bill clause 35, which extends the current polygraph testing requirements to adult terrorist offenders released on licence.

Amendment 35, in clause 52, page 43, line 40, leave out “to” and insert “, 34 and”.

This amendment would remove section 33 from the list of provisions that are brought into force through regulations by the Secretary of State.

Amendment 3, in clause 52, page 43, line 40, leave out “to 35” and insert “, 33 and 35”.

This amendment would remove section 34 from the list of provisions that are brought into force through regulations by the Secretary of State.

Amendment 4, in clause 52, page 43, line 42, at end insert—

“(3A) Section 34 comes into force on such day as the Department for Justice of Northern Ireland may by regulations appoint.”

This amendment would mean section 34 could only be brought into force through regulations by the Northern Ireland Executive.

Amendment 36, in clause 52, page 43, line 42, at end insert—

“(3A) Section 33 comes into force on such day as Scottish Ministers may by regulations appoint.”

This would have the effect that provision in the Bill that relate to polygraph testing would only become operational if the Scottish Government asked for those provisions to be implemented.

Government amendments 20 to 29.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

In Committee, Members had a robust debate about many aspects of this Bill, which we support but believe can still be improved. I start with new clause 1 and the probation service.

We cannot begin to tackle terrorism without recognising the important role that the probation service plays in keeping people safe. New clause 1 requires the Secretary of State to commission a review and publish a report on the impact of the provisions in the Bill on the National Probation Service. It would have to consider the probation support provided to offenders convicted of terrorist offences, how probation support provided to offenders convicted for terrorist offences has varied since implementation of this Bill, the type and number of specialist staff employed by the National Probation Service to work with terrorist offenders, the turnover of probation staff, the average length of service of probation staff, and the non-staff resources provided to manage offenders convicted of terrorist offences.

For the probation service to be fully functioning and effective, it must have the resources it needs. The Minister said that the spending review last September laid out a significantly increased funding package for the Prison Service and probation service, which is supposedly flowing to the frontline, but the National Probation Service is in a far from satisfactory state, and we know about the disaster that ensued when large parts of it were privatised. Thankfully privatisation is no more, but we still have to get the service right.

The NPS has a workforce including 6,500 probation officers and a budget of more than £500 million. Earlier this year, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation painted a picture of a service in crisis, with hundreds of vacancies, overstretched officers and managers, and crumbling, overcrowded buildings, including hostels for recently released offenders. Inspectors rated all of its divisions as requiring improvement on staffing. None of the areas are fully staffed. There were high rates of staff sickness—an average of 11 days per person, 50% of which related to mental health difficulties. There are 650 job vacancies nationwide in the probation service—a full 10% of the establishment.

Although the probation service is not in the Minister’s portfolio, I am sure he will agree that that is not satisfactory. We can only hope that things are improving. In Committee, the Minister talked about the welcome resources being invested in the service and about the spending review coming this autumn. Can he confirm that he is satisfied that there are sufficient resources to achieve what he wants, or are Ministers bidding for more from the spending review? Perhaps more importantly, will he confirm that the necessary support will be put in place to bring the National Probation Service up to full strength, to tackle the issues raised in inspection reports, and to provide staff with the support they need for their mental and physical ill health, to help them back to work and while they are there, and put an end to the high sickness rate? All those things put pressure on the service and the ability of staff to cope with offenders day to day—in this context, with some of the most dangerous ones.

In Committee, I also asked about whether all probation officers will have counter-terrorism training, and the Minister addressed that in a letter to me. He said:

“Governors and front-line staff are being given the training, skills, and authority needed to challenge inappropriate views and take action against them…Staff are also trained how to recognise aspects of an offender’s behaviour which might indicate terrorist sympathies. Over 29,000 prison staff have been trained.”

We all welcome that.

The increased workloads for highly specialised and rare probation staff are a cause for concern. Research shows that more time spent with offenders is essential for proper assessment and rehabilitation, but that is not possible with such high case loads. The very long license cases, such as lifers and those with indeterminate sentences, are a special challenge for probation staff because they never really come off their case loads, and more new cases are constantly added. Specialist probation officers are thinly spread and consequently hold very high case loads of terror-related cases—over 120% of normal. That level is appallingly high, and the Government recognise that it needs to come down. Their recruitment of more specialists to manage counter-terrorism offenders is also to be welcomed. That said, the general issue with increasing the number of specialists in probation is that they can only be recruited from experienced staff, and with high sickness levels and a 10% vacancy rate, how can Ministers be confident that they can provide a quality service, not just for those convicted of terrorism or related offences but offenders in general?

There is a danger that huge amounts of experience are being lost and that lots of generalist roles will need to be backfilled with newly qualified staff before the more experienced staff can move on to specialist roles—and that in a service where a full third of all employees have less than three years’ experience in probation. I asked this in Committee, but I do not believe an answer was forthcoming, so can the Minister now tell me what modelling the Department has done on the expected net effect on the total probation caseload over the years and decades to come as a result of the changes in this Bill? Ad hoc measures are not good enough; there need to be properly considered measures and funding given to the probation service to make it an effective mechanism to tackle terrorism and do one of our country’s most difficult jobs.

I turn to the related issue of de-radicalisation programmes in prison, and new clause 2. When someone has committed a terror offence and has gone to prison, there is an expectation that this person will be kept away from mainstream society for the purposes of keeping the public safe, and an expectation that their time in prison will be used effectively. This means that all efforts will be made to ensure that the individual does not return to the same destructive path that they were on prior to being arrested. In order to achieve this, there needs to be a properly structured and expert-driven de-radicalisation programme available for all those who are identified as being in need of enrolling on such a programme.

For the purpose of informing Members who were not members of the Committee, I will reiterate a number of points I made during that time. Although the minimum sentencing for terror offences has been increased, there is a suggestion that we could simply be delaying inevitable further offences unless we take action to use the offender’s time in prison to de-radicalise them, and we can only do that if there is an effective de-radicalisation programme in place. While we heard in evidence that many good things are happening in our prisons around de-radicalisation, there were also concerns expressed about the adequacy of the programmes and their availability.

That does not just concern Committee members and witnesses. At last Tuesday’s Justice questions, Laura Farris pressed the Minister, Lucy Frazer, on how programmes could be improved. Helpfully, the Minister replied:

“Twenty-two trained imams are doing de-radicalisation programmes in our prisons, but those are not the only measures that we are introducing. We have increased our training for prison and probation officers to deal with terrorism and we are bringing in new national standards for managing terrorists on licence. We want more counter-terrorism specialist staff and we want more places in approved premises as a transition from prison to the community.”

When I challenged her on the inadequacy and quality of the provision, she said:

“we continually evaluate the programmes that we operate within our prisons.”—[Official Report, 14 July 2020; Vol. 678, c. 1361.]

If that is really the case, and if the Government are so confident that the programmes have been successful, what do they fear from commissioning a formal review of them and reporting to the House?

We really do need to know what is happening in prisons in relation to this. What programmes are being delivered? Who are they being delivered to? Who are they being delivered by? When are offenders undertaking the programme? How many de-radicalisation programmes is one offender in for a minimum sentence expected to cover? How is the success of these programmes measured? We need to understand the effectiveness of the programmes, where they work, where they do not, what can be improved, and what the Government are going to do to drive those improvements.

Neither the healthy identity intervention nor the desistance and disengagement programme courses, which form the main part of the programmes, have undergone any form of evaluation process to date. In Committee, the Minister said that most of the de-radicalisation work and programmes are done operationally inside the prison and probation service, and are not specified in legislation. He said that Ministers need the flexibility of being able to change guidance through statutory instruments, and I accept this. But we were never asking for the programme details to be placed in the Bill through this new clause—a new clause that would, I think, help to secure the public’s trust in our approach to tackling terrorism. This new clause is not about clearly outlining deradicalisation programmes in legislation; it is about reviewing how effective our deradicalisation programmes are, so it is only right that they are reviewed, with the results laid before Parliament.

That brings me on to the general financial impact of the Bill, new clause 3 and the resources it will need behind it for it to be successful and properly implemented. In Committee, the Minister told me that the impact assessment estimated an additional 50 people in prisons. Although I still believe that is an underestimation, bearing in mind the rise of far-right terrorism and other groups whose members will end up in the system, I will not rehearse those arguments yet again. I believe the cost of implementing this Bill is estimated to be about £16 million a year, but I do not think that honestly reflects the impact it will have on all service areas. Who knows, but providing the mental health support our prison and probation staff desperately need will be costly, and if we do not have that investment from elsewhere in the Department’s budget, we are not going to see the all-round service we all want delivered. So will the Minister confirm that he has covered the additional cost of creating space for new prisoners, the additional cost of having more than one specialist centre, the additional cost of having further specially trained prison officers and the cost for probation services of expanding the sentence for offenders of particular concern regime?

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses)

My hon. Friend is making a detailed and comprehensive speech, examining many of these difficult issues, which we all face. I have reflected on what he has been saying, and I believe that the way to approach these difficult issues is by having an open mind and asking a series of questions, rather than coming at any of these things with pre-conceived ideas. I am grateful for his thought and his incisive questioning of the Government, in a spirit of cross-party co-operation.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. He rightly says that this is about having an open mind. I was trying to persuade the Minister and the Conservative Members in Committee that they should have an open mind on a number of issues, because we are facing real challenges on deradicalisation programmes, the resources within the probation service and the fact that young people are going to be treated exactly the same as adult prisoners in the system—I will be coming on to that later.

We also want to understand whether the resources are available for the use of polygraphs and to deal with the impact on youth offender teams. I have already talked about the impact of longer licensing on the National Probation Service. Such measures as are in this Bill always have ripple effects, so we ask the Secretary of State to lay before the House, within three years, a report on the real financial impact of all these things. There should never be an issue of resources when it comes to justice matters, and a review would not only identify where there are issues, but arm the Secretary of State with the evidence he needs to resist further cuts to his Department’s budget and instead win some additional resources.

We should ensure that prisons are properly staffed and that those staff are properly supported, be it for their personal security or to provide them with adequate services when they suffer mental illness as a result of their job—services that we know are currently totally inadequate. I asked about these measures in Committee, but we still need reassurances. This is about not just funding for prison places, but the wider financial impact on society, especially when offenders get released from prison and need help rebuilding their lives. That is a particular concern for those who are young and may leave prison with no support system. These provisions do not come cheap, and I hope we are going to get some clearer answers on meeting the costs of the different services that I have laid out.

Throughout Committee, I stressed the importance of recognising that young offenders are different from older, adult offenders and that their age ought to be taken into consideration when they are being sentenced, even for the most terrible of crimes. That is why we tabled amendment 30, parallel amendments for Scotland and Northern Ireland and the remaining new clauses in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, myself and others.

Amendment 30 would require a pre-sentence report to be carried out that would take into account the offender’s age and consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective. We know there is a greater chance of young offenders rehabilitating and turning their lives around. I will spare the House the detail around age of maturity, which was discussed both in the evidence sessions and in debate, but I will say that young people are different, and that must be considered. We must be cautious when dealing with them to ensure that we do not inadvertently isolate them and increase their hostility to the Government, as well as to the police and probation services.

In Committee, the Minister talked about the number of 18 to 21-year-olds being involved in serious terror offences as being very low, suggesting that fewer than five were in prison at any one time. I hope very much that that is the case, though, as the Minister admitted, it is just an estimate. As I have said several times, I question the accuracy of that estimate. In a letter he sent me on 6 July, he said that only two under 18-year-olds and 10 18 to 20-year-olds were convicted of terrorism or a terrorism-related offence in 2019. I accept his point that not all those offenders would have been sentenced under the new legislation, had it been available—perhaps only a couple each year, but a couple each year would mean that over a number of years, far more than five would actually end up serving these longer determinate sentences. I will leave that argument there, since I am tying my tongue in knots, but I do not doubt that we will return to the subject again.

Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield 3:15 pm, 21st July 2020

May I ask why an actual age is not included in amendment 30? There is an allusion to an age, but not a specific age. Will he outline why that was not included in the amendment when it was drafted?

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

Personally, I thought the amendment was clear. It lays down very specific issues in relation to young people. That is why we tried to detail in Committee that young people are different and need to be treated differently.

Photo of Joy Morrissey Joy Morrissey Conservative, Beaconsfield

If we are talking about the age at which a person is convicted of a crime and serves this type of sentence, it would have been clearer if an age was included in the amendment, whether that was 13, 15 or 18, just to further the case for why young offenders should be given a less severe sentence.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The hon. Lady tempts me to start to rehearse all the arguments around the age of maturity. We know that children up to the age of 18 are treated differently under the law, much as the group between 18 and 20 are supposed to be treated differently. There is more and more evidence all the time. In particular, there have been some studies in Scotland—I am looking at Joanna Cherry for the SNP—that are starting to talk in terms of, “Maybe we should be looking at 25 as the age of maturity.” That is all the more reason why we have to think carefully about how we treat young people in the justice system, because young people ought to be treated differently. They have a better chance of being rehabilitated, and it is important we give them that chance.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Conservative, Rutland and Melton

I am slightly confused by the suggestion we should be extending to 25 years old when there are Members of Parliament who are under 25. Is he suggesting that somehow different rules should apply to them or that they are not yet at the age where they can appropriately represent their constituents?

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

We are talking about issues of maturity here, not when somebody can be an elected a Member of Parliament. I think that Members can be elected at the age of 18 now. I do not see the point that the hon. Lady is making.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Looking at the evidence that we heard during the Bill Committee, am I right in understanding that the greater possibility of rehabilitating young people is what is being looked at here? It is about where we define youth. Does it stop at 18, or 21, or—as we are now looking at in Scotland in our consultation—25, in terms of not maturity generally but the ability to rehabilitate?

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady, who has explained that far better than I could ever hope to; I very much appreciate that. Perhaps there are some MPs who need rehabilitating as well, Madam Deputy Speaker, but that is another matter.

Is it right for a person, even if they are young, who has committed a serious offence to be put in prison for a particular period of time to protect the public, without their age being considered? We have to balance this properly. How long is long enough for punishment for a young person, and how long is too long to prevent the individual being effectively rehabilitated? Those who commit serious offences will be released from prison at some point. Surely the Minister agrees that we can lessen the time that an individual spends in prison with the aim of it being core to their rehabilitation; it is indeed preferable to a longer sentence, where hostility and deep-seated mistrust of the state simply develops and grows.

We know that this legislation cuts out the role of the Parole Board from any involvement with offenders sentenced under it. I think that it is lamentable that this also applies to young offenders, who, if involved with a specialist group of experts, could benefit tremendously from that. It is not straightforward when dealing with young people, and we should not pretend it is. We need to be smart, cautious and measured. Sadly, there are always some people, young or otherwise, who will never respond to a second chance, and the judges in their cases will act accordingly, but I want the judges to be better equipped than they are at present so that when they see there is a chance that a long fixed sentence for a young person is not appropriate and does not offer the best chance of rehabilitation, they have the flexibility to do something else.

As I said in my opening remarks, there is a need for specific requirements for Northern Ireland, but I will content myself with a few short remarks on new clause 7. My hon. Friend Conor McGinn has been speaking in detail with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Naomi Long, and all the Northern Ireland parties about how we ensure that the measures in the Bill are compatible with the unique and well-established practices in terrorism-related sentencing and policing in Northern Ireland and, as we all know, are particularly sensitive to the political dynamics in Northern Ireland while ensuring that people in that part of the UK are kept safe and secure.

The mechanism proposed in new clause 7 would give some measure of assurance to the devolved institutions that their views are being heard by the Government. The Minister was reluctant to accept this amendment in Committee, but I hope that he will look at it much more closely.

Throughout the proceedings on this Bill, I have been very grateful to have formal and informal discussions with the Minister and to receive letters clarifying some of the issues raised in Committee. Last week, in response to my query about a technical amendment relating to section 61 of Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 and sentences served in young offender institutions, the Minister confirmed to me and the Bill Committee that there were no plans to change the way young adults were accommodated in the prison estate. That I very much welcome, and I would be bold enough to ask him to reiterate his guarantee that section 61 will not be enacted.

As I said at the outset, I have, throughout the Bill’s progress, talked about young people being different and the need for them to be dealt with appropriately, so I was very surprised to have it confirmed to me by the Minister that some 18, 19 and 20-year-olds were not only in the same prison as older offenders but on the same wing and sharing the same social spaces. I am assuming that this mixing does not apply to terrorist offenders, but even if it does not, that practice is totally unacceptable. I would welcome news of a plan to deal with that very real issue, which today is putting younger prisoners at considerable risk.

In conclusion, I reiterate our support for the Bill and hope that the Government will act to address the very real issues that colleagues and I have raised.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Colleagues will be aware that there are a number of speakers who want to get in this afternoon. Sir Robert Neill has withdrawn, so I will go straight to Joanna Cherry, but after that, if colleagues speak for about five minutes, that will enable us to make some progress.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I will start by apologising to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for being slightly tardy in taking up my seat for this debate. No offence was meant. It is a pleasure to follow Alex Cunningham. As well as sharing our country of birth, we share many of the same views about the Bill.

I wish to speak to new clause 6 and amendments 35 and 36, which are tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend Kenny MacAskill. I will also speak to amendments 52 to 60, which have been tabled by Ms Harman. She chairs the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the amendments reflect some concerns held by that Committee, on which I also sit, about our duty to consider the human rights aspects of any legislation that passes through the House.

The SNP has made it clear from the outset that we recognise it is the duty of any Government to keep our citizens safe and secure, and all who serve in Parliament have an obligation to assist in that endeavour. I and my colleagues in Edinburgh have assured the UK Government that we will attempt to be as constructive as possible, to ensure that the challenge of terrorism is met and that people across these islands are kept as safe is as reasonably possible. SNP Members are also mindful of our duty as parliamentarians to uphold the highest standards of human rights protections, and we have accordingly tabled a number of amendments to address the devolved aspects of the Bill, and raise some concerns about civil liberties.

Counter-terrorism is a reserved matter, but sentencing is not. The Scottish legal system, including policing, sentencing and parole, and the management of the Scottish prison service are devolved matters, and elements of the Bill that touch on those things will require a legislative consent motion. The Minister accepts that, and there are ongoing discussions with my colleague, Humza Yousaf, who is the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Until those discussions have been resolved to the satisfaction of the Scottish Government, SNP MPs cannot give the Bill their unqualified support, but we will continue to work constructively with the Government.

We are particularly pleased that the UK Government have addressed an issue that I and my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian raised in Committee—namely, the interplay between the new sentencing regime proposed in the Bill and the existing sentence of an order for lifelong restriction in Scotland. That unique sentence is imposed not so much for the crime committed but because the offender poses an ongoing risk. It was designed to deal with high-risk violent and sexual offenders rather than terrorists, and its purpose is to ensure that those people are not released until they are rehabilitated, and that even then they are subject to a risk management plan for the rest of their natural life.

I welcome Government amendments 9 to 16, which have been tabled to address the interplay between the new sentence and the order for lifelong restriction. As I understand it, they will ensure that an order for lifelong restriction will remain available to the Scottish courts when they are considering sentencing someone for a serious terrorist offence, provided that if an OLR is imposed instead of a serious terrorism sentence, the person sentenced must serve at least 14 years. I am pleased that the Government have taken our concerns on board, and we hope that the outstanding discussions on the legislative consent motion will have the same fruitful outcome.

The most important aspect of those outstanding discussions relates to the use of polygraphs, which is what SNP amendments 35 and 36 address. The Bill proposes to introduce the use of polygraphs for the first time within the devolved Scottish criminal justice system.

Current Scottish legislation operates in such a way that there is a broad ability for the Parole Board and Scottish Ministers to set conditions of licence, which could include polygraph testing. There is no statutory barrier in Scotland to the introduction of polygraphs, such as exists, as I understand it, in other parts of the UK, so it is not necessary for the Bill to introduce measures to allow their use in Scotland. That could be achieved by the Parole Board and Scottish Ministers under existing statutory powers. The reason the Scottish Government have not introduced polygraphs is that they are unconvinced by the evidence regarding their efficacy. They are not used in Scotland at present for that reason, and operationally there is no infrastructure to support their use.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has also recognised that the use of polygraphs is controversial, and we have tabled amendments 55 to 60 in that respect. Polygraph testing could engage article 5, the prohibition against arbitrary detention. Recalls to prison while on licence are unlikely to fall foul of article 5 provided that they are not arbitrary, but we on the Joint Committee believe that using polygraph test results as evidence for recall ought to be given a high level of scrutiny, given the controversial nature of polygraph testing.

It is fair to say that although the Bill Committee heard some very interesting evidence about polygraphs, the evidence conflicted as to their efficacy and reliability. The Joint Committee’s concern is that the Government have not put forward a convincing case for the use of polygraph evidence in the way that is proposed in the Bill. We in the SNP would prefer the polygraph provisions to be removed from the Bill in so far as Scotland is concerned, and that is what amendment 56 would do.

Alternatively, we would like control of the implementation of the provisions to sit with the Scottish Ministers, which is what we seek to achieve by amendments 35 and 36. That would ensure that such a significant introduction to the devolved Scottish criminal justice system as the use of polygraphs is undertaken only if and when the Scottish Government, who have overall responsibility for the running of the devolved criminal justice system, have indicated that it is a development that they consider is appropriate in Scotland.

I will not press these amendments to a vote, because I know correspondence between the two Governments is ongoing in this respect and the Minister may have further proposals as to how détente, or a compromise, could be achieved.

I turn next to the SNP’s new clause 6, which comes back to the issue addressed by the hon. Member for Stockton North: the Bill’s impact on children and young persons. I will preface this by saying that I absolutely accept that the Bill deals with sentencing for only the most serious terrorist offences, and I accept that the numbers of children and young persons who are sentenced may be very small. Nevertheless, the evidence that the Bill Committee heard from Jonathan Hall, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Peter Dawson, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, who has an extensive career as a prison governor, and the Law Society of Scotland suggested that it would be prudent to carry out a review of the effect of the provisions in the Bill on children and young offenders. That is what new clause 6 seeks.

I touched on the reasons for that in my earlier intervention. It is a concerning fact that increasing numbers of young people are caught up in terrorism, and we heard evidence to the Bill Committee that young offenders have often been manipulated by terrorist groups or other unscrupulous individuals, operating either in the real world or online. However, there is a much better opportunity for reform, rehabilitation and deradicalisation with a young person than with a middle-aged or older person.

When it comes to sentencing, traditionally it is recognised that people are not necessarily that different when they are one month over 18 from when they were one month under 18, so there is a strong argument that the age for a mandatory minimum sentence, meaning no prospect of early release and effectively putting to one side the possibility of reform and rehabilitation, should be raised to 21, rather than such a sentence being available for those in the 18 to 21 bracket.

As has been alluded to, the Scottish Sentencing Council is consulting on its third draft guideline, “Sentencing young people”, and looking at proposals for special sentencing sentences to apply to offenders up to the age of 25. My understanding is that that is because up to the age of 25 there is a better chance of getting to someone, changing their world view and rehabilitating and deradicalising them. There is a serious question over whether children who receive extended sentences for serious terrorist offences are so very different from children who receive extended sentences for other serious offences, and whether, therefore, the removal of the Parole Board’s role is justified.

We heard an important piece of evidence from the director of the Prison Reform Trust, who said that if we do not seek to rehabilitate young people, who are more prone to rehabilitation, public protection is undermined rather than enhanced. Every time we manage to rehabilitate or deradicalise someone, it makes the public a little bit safer.

In summary, there are two good, overarching reasons to have the review that is proposed in new clause 6: our responsibilities to children and young people in general, and, perhaps more importantly, our responsibility to the public and British citizens at large to do what we can to deradicalise convicted terrorists. We know that we are much more likely to be able to do that with children and young people. All that the new clause asks for is a review. If the numbers turn out to be small, as they are expected to be, the review will not be complex or time consuming.

Finally, I turn to amendments 52 and 53, which are in my name and that of the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham. They mirror the concerns that I have just spoken about, and they are designed to disapply provisions of this Bill to terrorist prisoners who were under 18 at the time of the commission of the offence.

I will briefly address the underlying concerns. I remind Members that it is the responsibility of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to look at the human rights aspects of all legislation that comes before this House. Although we think that the removal of children’s eligibility for parole is not incompatible with the European convention on human rights per se, it does raise a serious question of policy. If a child terrorist offender serving an extended determinate sentence may be considered to have a high prospect of rehabilitation and reform as they mature, the denial of any prospect of release before the end of their custodial term may, as I have said, be counter- productive.

It is worth bearing in mind that the sentencing principles in England require that sentences for children should focus on rehabilitation where possible. The removal of eligibility for parole appears to undermine that important principle. It also appears to undermine article 37(b) of the UN convention on the rights of the child, which provides that the imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. That sits uneasily with an irreducible, lengthy period of imprisonment for a child.

If anyone—perhaps understandably—rolls their eyes to heaven at the thought of caring about the human rights of someone who has committed a serious terrorist offence, I simply refer them to what I said earlier. It is in all our interests to try to get children and young people who commit serious terrorist offences rehabilitated and deradicalised. Even those who do not care about such people’s human rights should remember that deradicalizing young people will protect our constituents.

Photo of Julie Marson Julie Marson Conservative, Hertford and Stortford 3:30 pm, 21st July 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Joanna Cherry, and it was a pleasure to serve alongside her on the Bill Committee for this important piece of legislation. I guess it is something of a truism that the first duty of a Government is to protect their citizens, but that is precisely what this Bill seeks to do. As luck would have it, the seventh sitting of the Bill Committee took place on 7/7. I felt that morning, on that inauspicious, infamous date, that it was critical to put the debate we were having on the Bill in some kind of context, so I told the story of my friend Louise. I would like to tell her story again in this debate and in this Chamber.

On that day 15 years ago, Louise was on a train from Liverpool Street to Aldgate. The night before she had been in Trafalgar Square, celebrating the fact that London had just won its bid to host the 2012 Olympics. It was a very busy commuter train, so she was standing when the train was rocked by an explosion in the next carriage. Louise’s carriage filled with smoke and the lights went out. The train screeched to an appalling halt. She says she could feel her heart beating so hard that she could virtually hear it and thought it was going to jump out of her body, but she fought to keep calm amid the screams, panic and chaos around her.

Some people managed to control their panic and began trying to help each other. They called up and down the train for doctors, nurses and anyone who could help. Some people had fallen and some had hit their heads—it was just chaos. Some people were trying to get out of the windows between the carriages or trying to prise the doors apart, but none of that would work. Someone cried out that there was a body on the track. They waited in the dark. Some emergency lights were flickering on and off, but it was mainly dark for over an hour until Louise remembers seeing the very top of a policeman’s helmet outside the train in the tunnel. That was a very reassuring sight. She felt from that moment that everything was going to be all right and that she, at least, was going to get out.

Eventually, those who were able to move out of the way made way for the injured to be carried out or to walk past them. They were bloodied, black and bewildered. Many of them were bandaged with commuters’ possessions, such as belts, scarves and ties. After what seemed like forever, Louise was able to get off the train, but she had to walk past the bombed carriage. She said it looked like it had been ripped apart like a can of Coke. She passed two bodies on the track, covered up roughly by a fluorescent transport worker’s jacket. She saw a man who was badly injured being tended to by paramedics. He was barely clothed; the bomb had ripped the clothes from him. He was propped up against the tunnel wall and his entire body was blackened by the bomb blast.

Louise said it was very surreal to come from that black hellish atmosphere into the light and quite overwhelming. There were helicopters above. There were blue lights and sirens. There was a triage unit on the pavement where people were being treated. It is quite surreal, in a way, that she was just told to give her details to the police and then she just walked off on her own into London to try to find her husband and a cup of tea. She had no idea that she was covered, and her faced was absolutely covered, in soot. The fear, the panic and the shock came later. The overriding feeling she was left with was, why did she get into that particular carriage? Why did she not get into the next one? Why did she survive when so many did not? She was determined not to change her way of life, so she was soon back on the Tube and back at work. I think that that personifies an attitude that says, “This is not going to change our life. We will carry on the way we were before. Terrorism will not stop us.”

As we deliberated the Bill on that day 15 years afterwards, Louise was at Aldgate station placing flowers as she does every year. Many of her fellow passengers have never been back on a Tube. Some are still suffering from anxiety and depression. Some suffered life-changing injuries and some will never see the light of day again. This House and many Members have their own personal experiences of the savagery of terrorism, and I know we all want to do all we can to prevent future attacks. How can we do that? Today, in a very direct way, we can do a lot. We can do just what the Bill seeks to do: strengthen sentencing, limit early release, give the security services the best tools available to manage, and disrupt suspected and convicted perpetrators.

We are hearing, and I am sure we will hear a lot more, about the rights, youth, vulnerability and potential for rehabilitation of terrorist suspects and offenders. Those valid issues, and the issues addressed in many of the new clauses and amendments, are amply dealt with in the Bill. There is no doubt in my mind that the best way that we can honour the victims, like Louise and many others, is to pass the Bill, intact, today.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence) 3:45 pm, 21st July 2020

It is often customary to say that it is a pleasure to follow the previous speaker, but that would not seem appropriate given the contribution by Julie Marson. It was incredibly poignant and powerful, though, and most appropriate given the Bill before us.

I was pleased to hear the contribution from Joanna Cherry—I do not say that to cause her any discomfort—because we find common cause on the issue of polygraph testing. If I cast my mind back to my contribution on Second Reading, I recall that I spoke about the fact that there are distinct differences not only between our criminal justice systems throughout this United Kingdom but in the choices that we, as representatives, need to make about the appropriateness of embarking on an untested and unverifiable system that would ultimately be used to impose further restrictions on somebody’s liberty in a way that we cannot satisfy ourselves is at all appropriate.

I am pleased to find common cause among Members from different parties who have concerns about the creeping integration of the use of an unverified method of assessing offenders. We understand that it is restricted to licences and, now, to three or four discrete areas of offence, but just as the Scottish are being cautious, I believe that we in Northern Ireland will be cautious, too, about the introduction of such measures. To that end, I was pleased to hear chief commissioner Les Allamby from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission give evidence to the Bill Committee and highlight his concerns from a Northern Ireland perspective.

I recognise the thrust behind amendments 3 and 4, tabled in the name of Stephen Farry; however, I wonder whether they are necessary. If I reflect on clause 34, I see that it is for the Department of Justice Northern Ireland to decide whether the use of polygraphs is necessary. That provision should give us enough comfort about the operational introduction of polygraph testing in Northern Ireland. We should be slow to water down or remove the fact that counter-terrorism and national security measures are reserved to this Parliament. I say that believing not that the devolved institution in Northern Ireland should not have a role, but that we should be cautious in seeking to attain power on national security and counter-terrorism grounds, recognising the divergent views in our Northern Ireland Executive, some of the competing arguments that would be made and that ultimately we may get less protection should cross-community consensus be required for the introduction of those powers. I am therefore not minded to support amendments 3 and 4.

A recurring theme throughout the passage of the Bill has been its retrospective application. The Minister will recall that I was concerned that Northern Ireland was not included in the retrospective application of the extension of serious terrorist offences, and that I was pleased whenever Northern Ireland was included and that the implications, perceived or otherwise, of article 7 applications on the retrospective nature of the offences were overcome. I say that because when we take such decisions—when we decide as a Parliament that we are going to extend the custodial period of someone’s sentence—we need to do it with our eyes wide open. That is not to ignore the fact that an argument could be made that article 7 is engaged, but we have to reflect thoughtfully on what the policy imperative is for doing so and whether it can be robustly defended if there is a challenge.

Through the consideration on the Floor of the House, in Committee and elsewhere, strong and compelling legal arguments have been made that differentiate between a penalty and the enforcement of the penalty. It is appropriate that we, as parliamentarians, say clearly on the record that we are not changing the penalty for anyone who is currently in prison and subject to a terrorist offence sentence. Their sentence remains the same. How that sentence is operated and enforced is different. Uttley v. United Kingdom, Hogben v. United Kingdom, Kafkaris v. Cyprus and Grava v. Italy all indicate the distinction between the extension of a penalty and the enforcement of it.

While there are particular issues in Northern Ireland that we should be alive to, and we must approach these issues with our eyes wide open and recognise that some will seek to manipulate them for propaganda purposes, we must not fail to be prepared to stand up robustly for the rule of law within our country and say, “No. You may not like it—you may not like the rational choice that we as democrats make within our legal system, but we will not cow to the threat of violence, agitation or propaganda that seek to subvert the norms and principles of democracy that we all enjoy.” On that basis, I cannot support amendments that seek to remove the retrospective application of the Bill.

I will conclude, Mr Deputy Speaker, because there was a suggestion of a notional time limit, and you have been gracious enough to sit calmly as I move towards a conclusion. I think there is some sensible merit in new clause 7, which has been approached and drafted by Her Majesty’s Opposition rationally. It recognises that there are issues in Northern Ireland and that it is important over a period—be it one, two or three years—to carry out an impact assessment of how the Bill has operated in Northern Ireland and whether it has made a significant positive or detrimental impact, and then to lay a report before the House in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Executive. It is a sensible, well-drafted and appropriate new clause. Even if it is not pressed to a vote, I hope that, in taking decisions such as this with eyes wide open, recognising that there could be concerns about the operational impact and the opportunity for people to manipulate the democratic and legitimate choices we make, the Government will review this legislation and consider whether the consequences were warranted and these choices were appropriate.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Conservative, Rutland and Melton

It is a pleasure to follow such considered comments from Gavin Robinson. I want to start, unsurprisingly, by commending the Government for bringing forward this vital legislation. I also want to pay my respects to all those who have lost loved ones and the survivors of terrorism, for whom this legislation is a form of justice—particularly those who lost loved ones in the attacks at Fishmongers’ Hall and in Streatham.

While the United Kingdom should be rightly proud of our record in combating radicalisation and terrorism, it is clear that more needs to be done, and that is what the Bill seeks to do. Many of us have rightly said that the first job of any Government is to keep their people safe. It is clear that that was at the top of Ministers’ minds when they drafted this. While I disagree with the Opposition on many points made today, I welcome the overall collaborative spirit that has emerged across the House. I note, for example, that many of the Opposition amendments—particularly the first five in the group—deal with questions about the effectiveness of the legislation. I am glad that the Opposition care so much that the Government’s priorities are implemented effectively.

I also welcome the Government’s considerations relating to lifelong restrictions for terrorist offences. Their work with Scottish MPs on that is a clear example of the Government working with Opposition parties to achieve the best results for all. For that reason, I welcome Government amendment 8. It is also right that the Government have tabled amendment 9, to ensure that a serious terrorism offence is convictable on an indictable offence. That is in line with ensuring that serious offences of any kind are included in the thrust of the Bill’s provisions. I also want to express relief that the Opposition have not sought to water down in any significant way the thrust of this legislation, because it is what the country wishes to see.

Prior to becoming an MP, my career was dedicated to our national security, specifically counter-terrorism, so I want to address some of the comments of witnesses. Jonathan Hall QC described the reforms as “pessimistic”. These reforms are not pessimistic; they are realistic. When people are radicalised, they are not half radicalised, or radicalised on a Monday, a Wednesday or a Friday; it is an enduring process that sticks in hearts and minds for a long time. Deradicalisation and rehabilitation are not quick, easy or straightforward. Indeed, I would challenge whether anyone can ever truly be deradicalised.

To be clear, that is the comment not of a politician who wishes solely to sound tough on crime, but of a politician who has sat in the same room as former terrorists who had been willing to blow up people in this room, and when I say that people cannot be rehabilitated, I am talking about the ones who claim to be. The psychological drivers that drew them to terrorism remain for life, so it is right that when we do this, we be very careful about the legislation we put in place.

Even with all the resources of government, which I have personally seen brought to bear, this process takes significant contact and monitoring—I would argue lifelong monitoring. The Government must have the time and the framework necessary to minimise the risk to our nation. This is not some scientific experiment conducted in an empty, tightly controlled space, but a highly individualised series of one-to-one interactions. When you engage with someone, you have to work with them on what makes them specifically vulnerable; there is no solution, there is no silver bullet, this is not straightforward. I do not accept the idea that any individual is ever truly deradicalised.

On that point, I take issue with the Opposition’s criticisms of the UK’s counter-radicalisation and rehabilitation work. I do not think they have the same understanding of exactly what the Government do to keep us safe. Whether in the middle east, in Europe, at home, or anywhere in the world—I have worked in many of those places—the UK is recognised as a global authority on anti-radicalisation work. We are a world leader on counter-terrorism, and the Bill will help to cement that further.

I want to talk specifically about young people and culpability, and the idea that under-18s or under-25s should be more stripped of their agency or personal responsibility for their actions. I would cite an example that has been in the media recently: that of Shamima Begum. I was working at the Foreign Office on counter-Daesh operations when she went to fight. She travelled after the beheadings of aid workers. She travelled knowing full well that a Jordanian pilot had been burnt to death. Many Members may not know that Daesh practised the burning of Jordanian soldiers seven times before they eventually put him in a box and burnt him to death.

This moves me because I had to watch that video. I spent years of my career watching brutalities carried out by people aged 16, 17, 18 and, undoubtedly, 20 to 25. I have held the hands of people who had been whipped by Daesh members who were 17 years old, and I have held the hands of British citizens whose loved ones were lost in Iraq and Syria and against whom known crimes had been committed by people aged 18 to 25, so I refuse to accept that those people cannot be held culpable. According to our law, criminal responsibility can be put back to 12. I made the rather blasé comment earlier about there being Members of Parliament who are under 25. Are people that age less culpable for the decisions they make?

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I hear what the hon. Member is saying, and clearly I respect her experience, but does she accept that we are not seeking to raise the age of criminal responsibility? We are simply suggesting that the age at which an extended determinate sentence can be imposed should be raised. There is no question of raising the age of criminal responsibility.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Conservative, Rutland and Melton

I accept that point, but I fundamentally believe that public protection trumps rehabilitation, not least when evidence of rehabilitation is wishy-washy at best. Those individuals are just as culpable. I would never turn to a constituent whose son or daughter had been murdered by a 17-year-old somewhere in Rutland or Leicestershire and say that person was less guilty because they were 17. It is the same as with terrorism. It is the most heinous crime, and criminal responsibility changes for the most heinous of crimes.

I also cannot agree that 25-year extended licences are excessive or too costly. The Government must have the tools to be vigilant and aware of the threats from those who have been convicted of the worst offences. That is why I strongly recommend and welcome the provisions to allow extended sentences for offences with a terrorism connection, and it is entirely fitting that this be recognised in clauses 2 and 15, among others, which will enable a variety of offences, from kidnapping to weapons training, to be recognised as potentially having terrorist intent and offenders to receive either serious terrorism sentences or extended determinate sentences. Too often, in my experience, for those who go on a weapons training event—something delightful to talk about when they are playing some game like “Fortnite”—it is the start of a journey that leads to far worse.

I also want to touch on the role of the Parole Board, which I know was a matter of significant debate for the Committee. Terrorism radicalisation necessarily involves national security and long-term strategic debate. The Committee heard from witnesses that the Parole Board was not philosophically or organisationally best suited to dealing with terrorist offenders and that the Government should use a multi-agency approach when considering these risks. I fully agree, and I am glad that the Bill recognises that, too. We can do it and, as we are global leaders in this regard, our security staff are second to none.

This Bill is a huge step forward for the United Kingdom and will give the Government extra tools to tackle radicalisation, but most of all, it will bring terrorists to justice. There are few crimes as heinous as terrorism. It is when an individual declares that all of us, and any civilians in our country, are a valid target for their hatred. Terrorists are traitors, and it is right that this legislation ensures that we better protect our people and our country from them.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I do want to give time for the second group of amendments that we are discussing on Report, so I am imposing a five-minute limit in order to get everyone in.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance, North Down

It is a privilege to follow Alicia Kearns. I recognise her deep experience around these issues.

I primarily want to talk to amendments 1 to 5 in my name and in the names of others. At the outset, let me stress my support for the Bill overall, and for the aims of tackling terrorism and of keeping our people and our communities safe from that threat. All of us from Northern Ireland have been deeply touched by terrorism in a very particular way over the past 50 years, but given the references that have been made to 7/7 and its anniversary that has just passed, I would like to read into the record thoughts about my cousin, Ciaran Cassidy, who was brutally murdered at Russell Square. His remains laid unidentified for six days, which brings home the enormity of the issues with which we are dealing. I accept the need for tougher sentencing and recognise that that brings very significant benefits, but it is important that we acknowledge that there is a much wider picture here, which involves trying to address terrorism at source and to prevent people falling into terrorism and being influenced by others. It is important that we bear that wider context in mind.

My main concerns lie in the application of the Bill to Northern Ireland. I certainly see attractions in the overall uniform approach across the UK in avoiding a two-tier system, and, indeed, Northern Ireland does want equal protection in that respect from the broad principles and framework of this Bill. None the less, we do need to recognise that, when it comes to implementation of those principles, a one-size-fits-all approach does not always work, and that flexibility needs to be considered in certain circumstances.

My main focus is around clause 30 and the retrospective application of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 to certain terrorist offenders in Northern Ireland, primarily a small number of dissident republicans. I am happy to see a tougher sentencing regime going forward, but I am concerned that the retrospective application will, in practice, bring relatively little benefit and could be counterproductive in a number of ways.

To date, the Government have only really addressed this issue in terms of the argument around interfering with judicial discretion and the potential implications for article 7 of the European convention on human rights. We can beg to differ on that particular issue, and we will see what happens down the line. In particular, I want to stress the concern around the potential propaganda opportunities that could be given to dissident republican terrorists and their fellow travellers.

Some people may seek to twist what the Government are doing into an argument that this somehow shifts the goalposts and creates a context for political imprisonment. We have had a sad history in Northern Ireland, from internment to the hunger strikes and beyond, of terrorists and their allies using the situation in prisons and framed grievances for wider agitation in the community and recruitment purposes.

The terrorist threat in Northern Ireland remains severe. The Police Service of Northern Ireland and the security service are doing an excellent job in tackling that terrorism, but it is, ever, a difficult challenge that they face. There are, sadly, still ongoing incidents and bomb incidents, and people losing their lives. We need to be mindful of that.

The Minister will be aware that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has raised concerns about clause 30. He will also know that my party colleague, the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland, has raised those concerns and had a number of conversations with him. Indeed, there is a considerable question mark over whether the necessary legislative consent motion will get through the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

It is important that there is ongoing discussion and dialogue beyond the passing of the Bill through the Commons later today, whenever it hits the other place for consideration. Let us not finish that dialogue today. I will press not press my amendments to a vote, but I urge the Government to listen to the very genuine concerns I raise from the Northern Ireland perspective.

Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

It is a pleasure to follow Stephen Farry, who spoke with great insight. I want to touch on the purpose of sentencing, which is primarily: to punish the offender; to reduce crime by preventing an offender from committing more crime; to act as a deterrent to others from committing similar offences; to reform and rehabilitate by changing an offender’s behaviour to prevent future crime and reoffending; and to protect the public from an offender and from the risk of more crimes being committed. When it comes to terrorism and terrorist offences, we must shout from the rooftops that, as a united country and as a people, we will not tolerate terrorist criminality even if it is from young adults. This behaviour is morally wrong, and there is no place for it in our society.

We are all incredibly lucky to live in such a free and tolerant country. We have freedoms not always found in other countries, which we too often take for granted. We must get tough, with zero tolerance as a country on people who wish to do us harm and try to disrupt our way of life. Some of these terrorists can have a long-term goal, and we need to be sure that, when they are released, they no longer seek to do us harm. We must face reality that, for some terrorist offenders, the risk to do harm endures, and we cannot be certain whether rehabilitation is simulated or real.

Terrorism comes in many forms to create fear and anxiety, and to stifle debate. Some people forget that terrorism has an impact on our human rights by affecting our enjoyment of the right to life, liberty and physical safety. It impacts on individuals, our communities and our society by undermining our peace and security. It threatens our social and economic development. An individual’s security is a basic human right, and protection of individuals is a fundamental duty of Government. I therefore welcome the Bill and its creation of a new serious terrorism sentence for dangerous offenders whose acts are very likely to have caused or contributed to multiple deaths. The 14-year minimum jail term, with up to 25 years spent on licence, will act as a real deterrent and send a strong message that this country will not tolerate and will not be cowed by the ill will of terrorists.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I have read and listened to past debates on this issue with great interest, and particularly those on parts of the Bill that bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom. I very much commend my hon. Friend Gavin Robinson on his contribution and Stephen Farry on his constructive comments.

I understand the concerns of the Department of Justice on possible legal action that could be taken with regard to early release. Such concerns are well founded: we need only look at the publicly funded judicial reviews in Northern Ireland through the legal aid system that will not help a father get access to his child but will allow a terrorist to sue the state—a debate for another day. There is no doubt that certain firms in Northern Ireland will be watching the votes and events of today with great anticipation, rubbing their hands together at securing another free ride from the taxpayer. Yes, there will be a case, but do we shy away from that? We are the lawmakers in this House—the legislators—and it is incumbent on us all to ensure that the laws we pass will withstand scrutiny. We do not and must not shy away from doing the right thing because lawyers may become involved. Well done to the Government for underlining to the Department of Justice and our Justice Minister that there will be governmental support in relation to any legal challenge. I very much look forward to reminding them of that at the appropriate time.

May I commend Julie Marson for her personal account of her friend in relation to that? I do not think there is anybody in this House who does not understand what such an account means. Of course, as representatives from Northern Ireland, we have all lived through the troubles over a period of time. I was just thinking of some of them—La Mon, Abercorn, the Darkley gospel hall murders, Bloody Friday. Those are examples of how people have lived through the most violent times.

I support the Government in their call for minimum sentences. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast East, I do not believe that this takes away the judge’s power and discretion. I believe that it shapes the policy to say that, no matter the extenuating circumstances, there are occasions that deserve minimum sentences, and terrorism is one of them.

It was one of the greatest surprises to me in Northern Ireland that the Good Friday agreement allowed mass early release, with no thought to rehabilitation. That was never right, and we are facing the consequences of that now, as we see the work of too many former offenders who are not reformed offenders. Indeed, some of them are still involved in such activities. I can never understand how our wee nation was tricked into accepting this as a payment for peace. The fact is that, even today, the threat of what these violent offenders will do is still having repercussions. That is the problem when we negotiate with unrepentant terrorists: we will continue to negotiate with them and the threat of violence for ever and ever.

I understand this well, yet I do not believe that this can prevent right being done in this place. It is right and proper that any terrorist with any cause in any part of this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland understands that terrorism is something that this House will stand against with its every ability. Whatever the mantra of the attacker and whatever rationale that person may have, we will not allow justice to be pared back just because of the threat of upset. The message is clear in this Bill and I support it.

I absolutely take on board the comments from the Prison Service. I believe it is essential that we have additional funding in place to give extra support to prison officers and to ensure that our prisons have appropriate staffing levels. I understand the need for new clause 2—I also refer to new clauses 5 and 7—on the deradicalisation programmes, because in my constituency paramilitary activity is probably at a height. Indeed, it is at a height, and that is probably the case in other constituencies as well. I think the hon. Member for North Down and I have very similar constituencies in relation to paramilitary activity.

In my office, we have seen at first hand the effects of paramilitaries at home getting young men hooked on drugs and with a massive debt that can be magically repaid if they carry out an action, They are told: “Sure, son, if you’re caught, you will hardly do any time for your first offence”. I know cases where that has happened, and I really do ache for those young people who are trapped, yet we cannot allow this exploitation to continue. I have great difficulty with this issue, and again I would highlight it to the Minister. I absolutely understand that zero tolerance means what it says—we will not tolerate this. There are hard decisions to make, and make them this House will.

Having lived with this heartache over the years and with the threat of terrorism for my entire life—some of my family members and friends have as well—I know that we must have firm but fair laws that send a message, and sentencing, with all its harshness and all its importance, is a very real and important way to reinforce that. That is why I wanted to talk about this today. I do hope, when the Minister replies, that he will reply with positivity. I know he will.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

I am sure that all Members of this House agree that there are few Bills as important to the safety and security of the British people as this one, and I commend the Government for bringing forward this Bill. We have seen from recent tragic terror events in Streatham, London Bridge, Manchester and even here in Westminster and, over the last few decades, from the IRA terrorists, how vital this Bill really is. I commend the Government for taking strong and decisive action, as promised. Let me be clear: terrorism and supporters of terrorism in all its forms are wrong and morally reprehensible, and we must do everything in our power to stamp out terrorism, stamp out its supporters and make the country safer for all.

I shall focus on amendments that pertain to sentencing and the release of terrorist offenders. As my hon. Friends are aware, the probation reforms that come into force in 2021 will bring all offender management under the National Probation Service. That marks a shift from the present situation in which only higher-risk offenders are dealt with by the NPS.

New clause 1 would require a review of

“the impact of the provisions in the Act on the National Probation Service.”

However, the Bill already strengthens the ability of the Government and the police, prison and probation services of the UK to monitor and manage the risk posed by terrorist offenders, and individuals of terrorist concern outside custody. The Bill will allow more effective intervention when that is required, and will enhance the effectiveness of the measures available to authorities as a result of a combination of probation reforms. The Bill renders new clause 1—

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 4:15 pm, 21st July 2020

I am interested that the hon. Gentleman has addressed the issue of the probation service, because I talked about the crisis that exists in that service. Is he satisfied that it is operating in the way it needs to be to cope with the current business it has to deal with, let alone the increased activity arising from this Bill?

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I am reassured that the Prison Service and the probation service are doing all they can to address this. Of course we want to put more into the probation service and to make sure that prisoners of all sorts are properly looked after, and I believe that this Government and this Bill have that at their very heart.

Furthermore, we must guard against a flurry of statutory reviews, which are costly, time-consuming and unnecessarily bureaucratic. As previously outlined by Ministers, there are already various routes of scrutiny of how the probation service and the Bill are functioning. Parliament has great power to question and to debate, and there is no lack of scrutiny in this regard. The Government have accepted that it is important to keep a close eye on these matters and to ensure a close, continued dialogue with all the Bill’s stakeholders.

New clause 2 would require a

“review of the impact of the…Act on…deradicalisation programmes in prisons.”

It is said that there is limited evidence of the impact of longer prison terms on reoffending, but in fact the evidence available to us indicates that prisoners in custody for longer periods do come to terms with their offending and are able later in their sentences to undertake constructive remedial activities. I believe that long sentences do work.

We also want to protect our young people and keep them safe from the evils of radicalisation. There is no dispute over that, but new clause 6 would mandate the Secretary of State to review

“the effects of the provisions of this Act on children and young offenders.”

It is worth remembering that the young people in question are very few in number. In 2019, only four of the 22 people convicted of terrorist offences were aged between 18 and 20, and not all of those four would even meet the criteria for the serious terrorist sentence. Therefore, we are talking about astonishingly small numbers for those aged between 18 and 20. Given those statistics, the Government position is that it may be the case that nobody of that age will be affected by the Act, and as such requiring a review by statute does not seem sensible or a good use of time.

These amendments address important concerns and certainly come from a good place. I thank those who have tabled the new clauses for throwing a spotlight on the National Probation Service, deradicalisation programmes and the radicalised children and young offenders. However, I believe the best mechanism to deal with these issues is the scrutiny provided by parliamentary debate. I agree that we must follow the aforementioned matters closely, and I firmly believe that we have all the tools needed to do that. In the context of this Bill, statutory reviews are not necessary or particularly effective. I greatly welcome this Bill, as laid down by the Government on behalf of the people of Rother Valley, and I greatly commend and approve of the Government’s dealing with terrorism and the robust way we are dealing with terrorists, both in this country and abroad. We must not let them come to our shores and if they are on our shores, we must stamp them out and stamp them out effectively. So I look forward to this Bill being passed.

Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Conservative, Ipswich

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Alexander Stafford, and I pay tribute to some of the heartfelt contributions, such as the ones from Stephen Farry and my hon. Friend Julie Marson. This is an incredibly emotive topic. Since I was elected, I have made the case on a number of occasions that sentences must do what they say on the tin and be transparent to the public. The untenable status quo, where criminals are consistently let out part-way through their sentences cannot hold, and it damages public faith in our criminal justice system that sentences are not honest. When it comes to terrorist offences, the stakes could not be higher. Both the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist attack in November last year and the Streatham attacks in February were carried out by known terrorist offenders who had been released automatically at the halfway point of their sentences. This Bill will see dangerous terrorist offenders spend longer in prison, and that is an important step in the right direction.

We must avoid any attempts by Her Majesty’s Opposition this afternoon to make the Bill any less robust when it comes to offenders between the ages of 18 and 21. The Opposition have made the case that young adults are inherently different in terms of their maturity and that they should be treated differently, but it cannot be forgotten that we are still referring to adults who have committed the most serious terrorist offences. These adults, to all intents and purposes, have the same rights and responsibilities as every other adult in the country. Labour Members are attempting to diminish the actions of young adult terrorist offenders, but I have frequently heard them extol the maturity of people even younger than 18 when it suits them, particularly with regard to extending the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds. Rather than gerrymander the different stages of adulthood when it suits us, we must be prepared to be clear that at 18, adults should be able to fundamentally tell the difference between right and wrong, and should know that any action they take that is likely to result in the deaths of multiple people is completely inexcusable.

We must be similarly robust in the case of Shamima Begum, the young terrorist who left our country to join the murderous ISIS terror organisation, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands, including British citizens. Her actions were a betrayal of this country and everything it stands for. When she was standing in a Syrian refugee camp afterwards, she said that she did not regret joining ISIS. I share the anger of many of my constituents at the Court of Appeal’s recent decision to allow her to return to the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, this represents another decision from our courts that is completely detached from the public interest and what the majority of the law-abiding public consider to be appropriate for someone many believe has committed treason.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

Does my hon. Friend agree with me and the Government that this decision by the courts is reprehensible and we should do everything we can to fight it?

Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Conservative, Ipswich

I could not agree more. We need to be robust in fighting it. It is not just on this issue but on many others that there is this disconnect.

The Bill is an important step in our fight against the scourge of terrorism, which seeks to attack the foundations of our society and cause divisions between us. The mandatory 14-year prison sentences for the most serious terrorist offenders that the Bill includes will provide a strong deterrent against terrorism and send a clear message to those who want to spill blood on our streets out of hatred for our country that they will not be tolerated. I call on the Government to go even further over the coming months in looking at the out-of-touch decisions that are coming from our courts, as my hon. Friend Alexander Stafford rightly said, and to deal with the Shamima Begum case.

This is a very sensitive issue. I appreciate that terrorist offences have touched the lives of many right hon. and hon. Members. We need to be robust in confronting it. We cannot make excuses and apologies for the people who take these actions. Yes, it is important—I agree with Joanna Cherry—that, for the public interest, people are able, under certain circumstances, to rehabilitate, but it is also important for the public interest for there to be a strong deterrent, and a message to deter future evil acts like some of those that we have discussed today.

Photo of Duncan Baker Duncan Baker Conservative, North Norfolk

It is an honour to follow the passionate speech by my hon. Friend Tom Hunt.

I spoke in the debate back in February when the Government passed emergency legislation to ensure that terrorist offenders would no longer be released early and automatically. I am glad that we are now doing all that we can on this. We must continue to root out terrorism from our streets. I am pleased that the earliest point at which terrorist offenders will even be considered for release is after they have served two thirds of their sentence. Indeed, no terrorist offender will be released before the end of their full custodial term unless the Parole Board agrees.

This Bill will ensure that serious and dangerous terrorist offenders spend longer in custody, and it improves the ability to monitor and manage those of concern when they are released. It is only right that offenders still viewed as a threat to the public will be forced to spend the rest of their term in prison. Members of my party stood on a manifesto that promised to keep us safer, with investment in our police force and our Prison Service, and that included stronger measures to deal with terrorism.

It was thanks to the exemplary work of the Prison Service during the pandemic that I recently wrote to the governor at HMP Bure in my constituency, to voice my gratitude and appreciation for the fantastic work that the prison staff, healthcare staff and civilian staff there are doing, given the unprecedented challenges we face, during covid. We must do all we can to strengthen confidence in our criminal justice system and make society as safe as we can from cowardly acts of terrorism, which devastate lives and communities. That could be no better emphasised than by the heartfelt and moving speech by my hon. Friend Julie Marson. The Bill, along with the doubling of the number of counter-terrorism specialists and probation staff, will absolutely do that.

We already have a MAPPA—multi-agency public protection arrangements—review, a Prevent review an HM inspector’s report and three-year post legislation. It is unnecessary to have yet another layer of review. A serious terrorism sentence for the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders is a welcome move. We are going to get tough on terrorism and ensure that those that set out to hurt innocent people will spend at least 14 years in prison and up to 25 years on licence. As my hon. Friend Alexander Stafford said, recent attacks show that the Bill is necessary; that sentencing needs toughening, but so does the investigation, the monitoring and the management of offenders.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Does the hon. Gentleman feel that those who have carried out acts of terrorism in the past, and perhaps have not been held accountable for them until this time, should be subject to these new laws that are coming in, because there would be no early release for them, as has been the past history? Those who murdered the four Ulster Defence Regiment men at Ballydugan some 25 or 26 years ago, those who murdered my cousin, Kenneth Smyth—does he agree that it is time that anyone who has never been made accountable, is made accountable as well?

Photo of Duncan Baker Duncan Baker Conservative, North Norfolk

I absolutely agree that we should make sure that those people who have committed absolutely heinous acts face the full prosecution of the criminal justice service.

I will finish by saying that giving the Secretary of State expanded powers to impose additional restrictions, such as imposing overnight curfews, and to gather more information on devices, such as electronic devices, would give us even more control measures and services to eliminate risk even further. This is about restricting, interrupting and stopping dreadful attacks, such as those that happened at Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham. As the Justice Secretary has said, the Government are pursuing every option to tackle terrorism. It is with that in mind that I welcome the Bill. The largest overhaul of terrorist sentencing and monitoring in decades, it delivers what we need to keep our communities safer and come down hard on those that set out to ruin lives.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines Conservative, Derbyshire Dales

It is a pleasure to follow the thoughtful intervention speech by my hon. Friend Duncan Baker.

It was a privilege to serve on the Public Bill Committee. As someone who lived in London in the 1980s and ’90s, I remember all too well the impact of terrorism on this nation’s capital. A massive lorry bomb was left outside the London overground station at the bottom of my then street in Bethnal Green and the local policeman, whom I knew, discovered it. We must not forget the emotional toll on frontline officers of dealing with such terrorist incidents; he has to live with that for the rest of his life. There are other parts of the Union that have to live with it more frequently. We all need to work together as one nation to deal with these issues. There are many human stories, with which we sympathise.

Serving on a Committee examining the proposed legislation seeking to counter terrorism was an interesting challenge, but a privilege. I thank the Minister for how he steered the Committee through the issues covered in the legislation. In Committee, I found the interventions of my hon. Friends the Members for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson), for Aylesbury (Rob Butler) and for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott) very useful in dealing with the issues. It was also very interesting to hear what my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry, Alex Cunningham and my hon. Friend Laura Trott had to say in Committee meetings, and the contributions of all those other Members who sit in this Chamber today.

Having considered all the evidence, done my research and read back over the years, it is my clear view that the overwhelming weight of the evidence heard by the Bill Committee sessions was that the provisions of this Bill will make the public safer and will greater enable us to defeat terrorism and contain former terrorists.

This law is proportionate in what it seeks to do in relation to the rights of prisoners. Of course, we need to keep our people safe. The Opposition’s request for further reviews and delays is not proportionate with what we need to do today.

Our democratic society has had to live in the shadow of terrorism for a long time. We saw that with the Manchester Arena attack, Fishmongers’ Hall, Streatham and Reading, and of course Members sitting here today will recall the attack on this Parliament in 2017. We must always remember the death of PC Keith Palmer.

Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, stated in March that the 2017 terrorist attacks were a sustained shift in the nature of the risk of Islamist terrorism. We need to respond to that shift to protect our people. We need to respond to everyday events to ensure that our people are safe.

During the Bill Committee evidence session, we heard from assistant chief constable Tim Jacques, the deputy senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism policing. He confirmed that he welcomed the provisions in the Bill, and said that, overall, it would make policing terrorism easier for the police. That is what we are here for—to make jobs easier but safe, to look at human rights proportionately and to preserve life. This legislation will undoubtedly also protect us from terrorism threats from fascist and national socialist extremists. There are times when we look at the rights of prisoners, and public protection must trump rehabilitation. Assistant chief constable Tim Jacques also said that.

We must also take a moment from time to time to bear in mind the cynical terrorist warning. In the acts of murder and mayhem that terrorists plan, they have to be lucky only once, whereas we, the democrats, have to be lucky all the time.

This legislation will assist the police and security services, and give them the tools they need. It will tighten up the law and go a long way towards addressing the threat. It seeks to protect the public from those convicted of terrorist offences, who will inevitably spend longer in custody. That time can be used, if possible, to rehabilitate, but we must not look with rose-tinted glasses at how we can change the world and terrorists. Sometimes they cannot be changed and have to be managed. The Bill will keep the most dangerous terrorists off the streets for longer.

I welcome the fact that the most serious terrorism offences will be subject to 14 years’ in prison and the extended licence of 25 years. That is an essential provision in the legislation. The Bill will deter involvement with terrorist movements at source by increasing the maximum sentences available. That, too, is an essential provision. I also welcome—

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Many hon. Members today have reminded the House that our first duty as Members of Parliament is public protection. The very moving contribution of my hon. Friend Julie Marson, and the story of her friend, Louise, who was caught up in the terrible terrorist atrocity of 7 July 2005, very powerfully reminds us of that. On that awful day, 52 members of the public were murdered and 784 were injured.

We have heard powerful testimony from other Members who have had personal, first-hand experience of terrorism, including the hon. Members for North Down (Stephen Farry) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon), whose family members suffered at the hands of terrorist murders. My hon. Friend Alicia Kearns said that in her professional career prior to coming to this place, she had first-hand experience of the victims of terrorism. That testimony should remind us how important our duty is. By taking this Bill through Report stage, we are discharging that duty to our constituents.

It is worth pausing to say how constructive the discussion on this issue has been, on a cross-party basis, on the Floor of the House here today and previously at Second Reading and in Committee. It is an example of this House and our political system working at its best. Members from all sides of the House can be very proud of the way we have conducted the debate on this extremely important Bill.

Let me turn now to some of the comments raised by colleagues this afternoon, starting of course with my opposite number, Alex Cunningham, who gave a characteristically detailed speech opening the proceedings. He started by commenting on new clause 1 on the probation service, which stands in his name and those of his hon. Friends.

Let me just take the opportunity to reassure him and other Members, once again, that probation service resources were significantly increased in the spending review last September. Moreover, earlier this year, counter-terrorism police resources were increased by £90 million and we are in the process of doubling counter-terrorist specialist probation officers, in addition to those very large numbers who have been given special training.

In addition, we are deepening multi-agency public protection arrangements. We are also establishing a counter-terrorism step-up programme, so I believe our work in the probation sphere is something all of us can take great confidence in.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The Minister is right to mention the additional funds and so on that have been forthcoming, and we very much welcome them, but we have a probation service in crisis. Would he like to comment specifically on the fact that there is a high sickness rate and a 10% vacancy rate? How on earth can they do their job properly if we do not have sufficient of them?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Numbers in the prison and probation service have been increasing over the past few years. As I said, a great deal of extra money was provided in September last year, and that will most certainly have a further positive impact.

I move on to new clause 2, which the hon. Gentleman also commented on, and the question of deradicalisation. We heard evidence in the Public Bill Committee on 30 June, which some Members will recall, from Professor Andrew Silke, Professor of Terrorism, Risk and Resilience at Cranfield University. He told us that, overall, he thinks that the UK’s approach to deradicalisation,

“is seen as one of the better available approaches…internationally”. ––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 30 June 2020; c. 84, Q175.]

That is, again, something we can take great confidence and pride in. Initiatives such as the healthy identity intervention programme, which Professor Silke expanded on at some length, are very effective. That is one of the reasons why reoffending rates for these terrible terrorist offences are only between 5% and 10%.

The shadow Minister asked about financial impact. I confirm, once again, that the cumulative impact on the total prison population will be less than 50 prison places, and the cumulative impact on the probation service will never be more than 50 places. To put that in context, there are about 80,000 people in prison and about a quarter of a million people on probation. On the financial impact, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the figure he had in mind may not have been quite accurate. The financial impact, according to the impact assessment, is a one-off cost of £4.2 million at the outset, followed by £900,000 a year thereafter, because these numbers, thankfully, are so small.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

The Minister and everyone in the House will be aware that there have been three attacks in the last eight months carried out by those who were in prison and came out. Does the Minister feel that the investment that the Government are giving here will help to address that issue and will reduce those things happening, which is what we all want to see?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I believe that the measures that we are taking in the Bill, the additional resources given to counter-terrorism policing and the changes we made back in February in the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 will provide exactly the protection he is asking for against ruthless terrorists of the kind he is describing.

On the question of reviews, which new clauses 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 speak to, as my hon. Friend Duncan Baker pointed out, we already have quite a large number of reviews under way. There is the MAPPA review, being conducted by Jonathan Hall QC. There is, of course, Her Majesty’s inspectorates of prisons and probation, which produce frequent reports themselves. There is the Prevent review, which we will debate in the second group of amendments and, of course, there is the standard three-year review after legislation. With great respect, I think we have a lot of reviews going on. The numbers involved with this legislation are small, and I feel that it will be more than adequately reviewed by the mechanisms I just laid out.

Young people have been mentioned by many Members, in connection with new clause 6 and other clauses. The Bill recognises that those under the age of 18 are different, and no new minimum sentence is applied to them. It is up to the judge to decide in each case, and according to individual circumstances, what is the appropriate sentence for someone under the age of 18. There is a great deal of judicial discretion, for all the reasons laid out by Joanna Cherry, and others.

I understand the arguments that have been advanced about the ability to reform and rehabilitate those over the age of 18, and possibly extending that into the early 20s, but the cohort of offenders that we are addressing this afternoon is, thankfully, very small—a handful of offenders between the ages of 18 and 21 who have committed offences of extraordinary seriousness. These are terrorist offences where a life sentence can be imposed, where a judge has made a finding of dangerousness based on the facts and a pre-sentence report, and where a risk of causing multiple deaths was present. Given that small but serious number of offenders, I think a 14-year mandatory minimum sentence is appropriate. Rarely, there is the ability for judges to find exceptional circumstances, but when offences are that serious, it is right to take that action and protect the public. There may be other debates to have another time about how quickly people mature and how we should account for that, but for that small and dangerous cohort it is neither the time nor the place to advance that argument.

On legislative consent motions, I thank the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West for her comments about Government amendments 9 to 16, and the changes made to orders for lifelong restriction. She properly raised that matter in Committee, and we fully acknowledged the points that she and her colleagues made, and are delighted to fix the issue this afternoon. On the application of polygraphs in Scotland, as she said, we are in discussion with the Scottish Government. We are edging ever closer to a point of blissful—I almost said “blissful union”—perhaps I should say “blissful unity” to avoid aggravating the question. We are edging towards a position of blissful agreement, and I hope we reach that in the near future.

Some Members questioned the use of polygraphs more generally. We took extremely compelling, and at times entertaining evidence from Professor Grubin, who is a worldwide expert in this area. Contrary to what one Member said, polygraphs are not untested, and 5,000 such tests have been used in connection with sex offenders in England and Wales. In between 60% and 70% of cases, the use of a polygraph elicits information that would not otherwise have come out. That is either because the offender volunteers it—they know a polygraph is going to be used and they volunteer information that they would not otherwise have provided—or because it prompts a negative reading and a follow-up investigation can occur.

I emphasise that nobody is recalled to prison as a result of a negative polygraph test, and nor are they deemed to have breached their licence conditions. It simply prompts further investigation, and while not always accurate, such tests have been found to be useful in prompting that disclosure or further investigation. In that context, I draw the House’s attention to one of the independent reviewer Jonathan Hall’s notes on this topic. On 4 June, paragraph 23, he stated:

“I therefore concluded that polygraph testing is likely to be a valuable additional means of gathering information relevant to terrorist risk for terrorist offenders on licence.”

Jonathan Hall thinks that polygraph tests are an effective and good idea.

On Northern Ireland, the hon. Members for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson), for Strangford and for North Down raised the question of applying the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 provisions retrospectively to Northern Ireland. The UK Government believe that that is a lawful thing to do—that it does not infringe article 7 or any common law principles. We believe that terrorism measures are reserved and that we should treat the United Kingdom in those matters as one, but they do engage parts of the LCM mechanism, and we are therefore in detailed discussions with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Naomi Long. I had an hour-long conversation with her earlier this week and, again, we hope to make progress on that point in the coming week or so; I think she will come back to me in the very near future. I stress that these provisions affect terrorist prisoners on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland equally. They do not seek to penalise or victimise any one side or the other; they apply equally, and I ask Members to keep that important point in mind.

Finally, Mr Deputy Speaker—always welcome words in a speech I give—my hon. Friend Tom Hunt mentioned the case of Shamima Begum. As he said in his powerful speech, ISIS, or Daesh, is a murderous organisation. It was well known that it committed mass murder and mass rape, victimised and tortured people, and persecuted people simply because, for example, they happened to be gay. It was a dangerous and ruthless organisation, and the Government will most certainly be energetically appealing the recent court decision. We believe that is the right thing to do and that it will keep our fellow citizens safe.

On that note, I will conclude. Public protection is our first duty. I believe that the Bill advances that case, and I am delighted that we have done so in such a spirit of cross-party unity. In the words of Jo Cox, whose shield stands on the wall of the Chamber, this House has shown today once again that there is more that unites us than divides us. When it comes to fighting terrorism, let that be more true than ever before.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 4:45 pm, 21st July 2020

I am grateful to the Minister for his introductory remarks, particularly about how we can best work together as a Parliament, and I join him in paying tribute to the hon. Members across the House who shared personal experiences and testimonies—particularly the hon. Members for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) and for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns). If we had had to be convinced to support the Bill, perhaps those experiences—in particular the experience of the friend of the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford—would have been sufficient to convince us.

The Minister’s ambition to have a sentencing regime in place for serious terrorism and terrorism-related offences has our support—no delay and no watering down—but he needs to ensure that the service is properly equipped and provides the services needed. I was therefore rather surprised—“stunned” is the word I wrote on my bit of paper—that the impact of introducing this new legislation will be less than £5 million for new prison places, an extended probation service and additional workers in the system. I cannot quite understand where that number comes from.

However, I am sure the Minister will be relieved to know that all I ask now is that he and his Home Office colleagues reflect on the challenges that we have made. I will withdraw new clause 1, but we will return to amendment 30 later. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.