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Queen’s Speech - Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:22 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Lord Blencathra Lord Blencathra Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee 9:22 pm, 8th January 2020

My Lords, it is an honour to participate in this gracious Speech debate, because one has been able to hear outstanding contributions from my noble friends Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay and Lord Davies of Gower. I hope that in due course they will like my amendments to scrutinise appointees to the Supreme Court and toughen up prison sentences.

I am able to give a warm welcome to this Queen’s Speech, not just because it will finally get Brexit done, and not just because of the other Bills that I support. No, I am pleased, because it comes from a Government who now command a decent majority, because the people have purged the most rotten and disreputable Parliament—or Commons, to be exact—I have ever seen in my 35 years in this place. Over 300 years, the people of this country have consistently proved that they are supreme, not Parliament, nor the Supreme Court.

Turning now to the gracious Speech, indeterminate sentences for terrorists work and we should never have dropped them. But if we cannot have them back, we must have long sentences where the person is not released automatically halfway through. Indeed, there should be no automatic early release for any convict, but only when earned.

I admire those who try to rehabilitate convicts, but we have to recognise that Islamic fundamentalists are like paedophiles and sex offenders—they cannot be converted or rehabilitated. They are not like lads who get into a bit of petty crime and then move up the scale of criminality and who often by the age of 25 have stopped offending. These people can be rehabilitated by training, getting a job and housing, but Islamic terrorists, like sex offenders, believe in the fundamental rightness of what they are doing and think that it is society that is wrong, not them.

Also with sex offenders, can we please stop the obscenity of the Prison Service sending male convicts to women’s prison wings because they have decided to call themselves women? It is an appalling indictment of the Prison Service that it permits male convicts, in full possession of all male physical attributes, to call themselves women, get moved to female wings and then carry on raping and assaulting. They should all be moved back to male wings until such time as they are fully converted medically to women.

We need honesty in sentencing. It is not right that a judge tells a criminal that he will serve 10 years but everyone in the court, except the victim, knows that it is just five years. That is a cruel con on victims, and it should stop. Thousands more habitual offenders need to be locked up. We have just seen appalling official data, which shows that some offenders had up to 60 convictions for theft before they got a prison sentence. One person had 53 previous convictions for fraud before going to prison. Another had been convicted for 12 previous attacks on police officers before eventually being jailed. There is something fundamentally wrong with our judicial system when judges are not sending criminals like these to prison. What planet are they on? Does no one care about the tens of thousands of victims, because these people are out on the streets committing serious crimes instead of in prison?

That is why we need to look at our constitution and the role of the courts, especially the Supreme Court. Many of us, but probably not on the Benches behind me, or possibly immediately under me, were struck by the perverse judgment of the Supreme Court in the prorogation case that overturned Article 9 of the Bill of Rights that proceedings in Parliament cannot be challenged in any court. The court usurped the role of the Prime Minister when it said, in paragraph 58 of the judgment, that he had to have a good reason for Prorogation.

While I welcome the proposed commission, I can offer my noble friend a much speedier solution. The Government can take up my Private Member’s Bill, which I shall introduce shortly, which proposes a joint Select Committee to interview three candidates proposed by the Judicial Appointments Committee so that Parliament can vote on them and one of them will be on the Supreme Court. I am sure that will get unanimous support from all sides of the House, because it replicates the system in the European Court of Human Rights, which everyone says is a wonderful system.

While it is bad enough to have the Supreme Court rewriting our laws, we now have some idiotic employment tribunal doing the same by adding “ethical veganism” to the protected characteristics in the Equality Act. Will my noble friend assure me that the Government will reverse this crazy judgment at the earliest opportunity? This Parliament set out the protected characteristics in Section 4 of the Equality Act. Any changes must be made by this Parliament, not by a low-level employment tribunal in Norwich. If we do not get rid of this nonsense, we had better recruit an extra 5,000 police officers, since they will be running around investigating vegan hate crimes from those who claim they could not get a Greggs vegan sausage roll in their canteen.

That is not as far-fetched as it sounds, because we have just published statistics showing that the police have investigated 87,000 non-crime hate incidents. They have been wasting their time on that. I want the police running around catching criminals, not soothing hurt feelings. I am looking forward to seeing all these Bills when they come forward and moving a few little amendments to toughen them up a little bit.