Amendment to the Motion

Part of Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill - Second Reading (and remaining stages) – in the House of Lords at 5:49 pm on 24 February 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 5:49, 24 February 2020

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack; as usual, I agreed with one or two of the things he said. I oppose this Bill. For me, it is a panicky little piece of legislation that has come out of two terrible events. It fits the definition of the politician’s syllogism: something must be done—this is something, so it must be done. It is illogical to think that keeping somebody a little longer in prison will solve any of our problems. I suppose that the Government will feel that they can then at least say that they are being tough on terrorism, but that is plainly not true. If they were being tough on terrorism, they would think about what happens to people in prisons, as well as before they go into prison and, very definitely, after they come out. Simply keeping people in prison a little longer is no use if they come out just as dangerous, just as hate-filled and just as angry, or even angrier, as when they went in.

This Bill will not solve the problems of terror unless the Government sort out proper deradicalisation in prisons. Of course, the severe cuts to prison budgets over the last decade of Conservative austerity cannot have helped improve the quality of supervision in our prisons. Some are now squalid dumps, in which radicalisation can fester rather than be solved. If the easy access to drugs in prison is any parallel, extremism could spread quickly and we will have a serious epidemic. The Government need to take back control of our prisons and put in the resources to solve these complex problems, which cannot be fixed by this Bill. Just talking tough is really not enough.

The scope and application of the Bill are very important. I have listened to the learned arguments made this afternoon; I hope that the Government have listened to them too and will perhaps take some lessons from them. But I have also been contacted by an animal rights activist who is currently serving a prison sentence and is due for automatic release in the summer. This person was visited by a Prevent officer, who told them that their release date has now been scrapped due to the new legislation going through. I do not believe that this Bill would have that effect; the Prevent officer is either behaving in an oppressive manner or is severely misinformed. Will the Minister please reassure me, and correct this Prevent officer, by making very clear that the legislation will not affect the sentences or early release of non-violent environmental, animal rights and social justice political prisoners?

It has been an interesting debate but, unfortunately, the present Government are far too arrogant to listen to the wise words that have been said in this Chamber. I deeply regret that and hope that, in the future, perhaps they will think twice about bringing something so panicky to this House.