Financial impact assessment report

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 7th July 2020.

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“(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.”

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 3 would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report on the financial impact of the provisions of the Bill. In that report, the financial impact must be considered, as set out in new clause 3, as consisting 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.”

As the Minister knows, Labour backs the Bill, but we are a little disappointed at the Minister’s considerable reluctance to examine the consequences of the Bill with the reviews and reports that we have called for—not to take up his time, but to inform him and his successors. Above all, however, we know that for the provisions in the Bill to be implemented and effective, there needs to be the resource behind it and the financial support to address the issues that we have raised in Committee, even if they are not addressed in the final Bill, such as deradicalisation programmes.

The Ministry of Justice has estimated that the Bill will only result in an extra 50 prisoners and reckons that the cost will be contained to around £16 million a year. During an earlier discussion last week, we talked about numbers—about which numbers were right and which might be difficult or misunderstood. The Minister replied:

“We can extrapolate how many of those 50 are aged between 18 and 21, as we discussed in the previous sitting. I do not think that number is the annual flow or the number of convictions per year. As I understand it, it is the impact on the total prison population. Given that these sentences are quite long, one would expect that the annual flow into the system affected by these serious terrorism sentence provisions would be somewhat lower than that.”––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 2 July 2020; c. 133.]

When I challenged him on that number, asking whether it was an annual number or in fact the total number over a long period of time, he said:

“I will double check that number, but my understanding, which I will check, is that as a consequence of the measures the total prison population will increase by 50, which is different from an extra 50 people extra flowing in each year.” ––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 2 July 2020; c. 134.]

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I will give way when I am ready, but I am going to refer to the Minister’s letter, because he has written to me; I appreciate that he took the time to do so. He said in that letter:

“Our impact analysis has identified that, in steady state, the provisions may result in fewer than 50 additional prisoners per year, and fewer than 50 additional probation caseload. These are based on historical volumes of convictions and assumes that trends in sentencing remain stable. These impacts relate solely to the effect of longer periods in custody on the number of prison places required, and longer periods on licence with their associated effects on probation caseloads, not to an increased number of sentences.”

I believe that there is a recognition there from the Minister that there is a cumulative effect and that the number is not less than 50; in fact, there could be considerably more people in the system, particularly after a given number of years, and perhaps especially so after 10 years.

I now give way to the Minister.

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

I think what I said in my original speech and intervention was correct. As a result of the changes in the Bill, we think that at any one time there will be 50 more people in prison than would otherwise be the case. I think I said that in my original speech, and it was correct.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

That leaves me rather confused. The Minister says that his original speech was correct, and I assume that he is also saying that his letter to me was also correct, but as far as I can see those two things conflict. In his letter, he said that

“Our impact analysis has identified that, in steady state, the provisions may result in fewer than 50 additional prisoners per year”.

I emphasise that: “per year”. He goes on in his letter to give a bit more detail; perhaps quoting this will be helpful. He says, in a paragraph towards the end of his letter that I will read in full:

“For further insight, the most recent Home Office statistical publication on the ‘Operation of police powers under terrorism legislation’ shows in the year to December 2019”

—that is, in one year—

“there were 65 individuals charged with a terrorism or related offence, of which 2 (3%) were under age 18 and 10 (15%) were aged 18-20. Twenty-two of those charged were convicted in 2019, of which 1 (5%) was under 18 and 4 (18%) were aged 18-20. We do not expect the Bill to have a notable impact on such small volumes.”

That was the number of charges per year, and 22 people were convicted in 2019. If 22 people are convicted in each of the next four or five years, that is 100 additional people alone. I cannot quite understand what the figures really are. Are they correct in the letter or in the Minister’s original statement to the House?

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

I think they are correct in both. There is the stock, and there is the flow. The stock is the number of extra people in prison as a consequence of the measures, which could be 50. The flow is the number of people going into prison each year who might be affected by these provisions, which will be less than 50.

On the numbers that the hon. Member just quoted—the various convictions that occur—not all of those will necessarily be affected by the provisions in the Bill. I realise there are a lot of numbers floating around, but those figures are internally consistent. I would be very happy to sit down in a cold, dark room and go through them again. There is consistency.

What was interesting in those figures in the letter were the numbers on young people, which the shadow Minister has mentioned quite frequently. I included those in the letter to illustrate the point that I had estimated in Committee a few days ago. I said I thought the numbers were very small. The numbers that the shadow Minister just read out verified the fact that the number of people between 18 and 20 who are caught up in this is, thankfully, very small.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 3:00 pm, 7th July 2020

I am grateful to the Minister for that intervention. I think it is I who needs a dark room somewhere to try to settle my head on this issue, but it would be a good idea if we could have specific clarification from the Minister at some time in the future.

I acknowledge the relatively small numbers—very small numbers—in this illustration of young people, but it does not matter whether it is one young person or a hundred. We need to treat them in a very different way from the way we treat people in the adult population, either by allowing them to have a counsellor present when they undergo a polygraph test or through the way that pre-sentencing reports are prepared for them prior to sentencing.

Bearing in mind that we do not know what numbers we are playing with now, can the Minister tell us whether the financial cost that has been identified for the new provisions will cover the additional cost of housing prisoners; the additional cost of creating spaces for new prisoners; the additional cost of having more than one specialist centre; the additional cost of having further specially trained prison officers; the cost for probation services of expanding the sentence for offenders of a particular concern regime; the impact of longer licensing on the National Probation Service; the new use of polygraphs; and the impact on youth offender teams? Such measures 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. 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 heard are currently inadequate.

We should recognise the challenges that the justice system is facing. The Minister has tried to reassure us that the Government have a handle on the crisis in the courts, with hundreds of thousands of cases yet to reach them. Justice is being chronically underfunded. The Lord Chancellor simply does not have the resources he needs to do his job properly, so I struggle to have much faith that the measures in the Bill would be properly backed up financially.

I am sure the Minister will try to reassure me that all will be well and that there is plenty of cash to meet all the costs that the Bill will result in. Good! He could demonstrate his confidence in his statement by commissioning the report covered by this new clause.

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

It is a pleasure to respond to the points that the shadow Minister has just made. I think I answered the points about numbers in my intervention on his speech, so let me speak to the financial cost. The financial cost of the measures proposed in the Bill has been comprehensively assessed in the impact assessment. Because the numbers are so small—an increase in the prison population of 50, or far fewer than 50, per year—the actual financial impact will be extremely small in the context of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service’s budget. Let us remind ourselves that around 80,000 people are in prison, so an additional 50 will not represent a substantial impact in that context

When discussing the previous new clause, I spoke a little about the wider deradicalisation work, the new team and the increased investment in specialist officers who work with radicalised prisoners. An extra £90 million for this year was announced for counter-terrorism policing—catching people in the first place and preventing terrorist atrocities from taking place—which is a substantial increase in spending on exactly the police who are active in this area, so the resourcing is being increased. The total budget for the prison and probation service is substantially higher this year than last year, which I think will be welcome.

On a review, the Bill will clearly have a very small financial impact on the prison and probation service’s total budget. Were we to review this along with the other 11 proposed reviews before us, we would do nothing but reviews all day. The financial review will probably be well caught up in the general financial reviews we conduct anyway and the debates we have on prison and probation funding. I do not think a further review would shed any additional light on that.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I just wonder what probation officers and prison officers will have to say in a few years’ time when they are still telling us that there are insufficient prison and probation officers in the system. That is bound to have an impact in this area as well.

The Minister listed all these wonderful initiatives—the new centres, new initiatives, the different things that are going to happen. These things cost money; I think £16 million was the figure in the in the paperwork. I just wonder how far that will actually go.

I am also interested in whether the £90 million the Minister referred to is not in fact related directly to what will happen as a result of this Bill. However, there is no doubt that that additional money is needed. We need to be able to empower our authorities to secure more convictions. The Minister’s letter, in 2019, stated that one in three people charged with a terror offence were actually convicted according to the Government’s own statistics.

However, I accept that there are other reviews and things as far as financial things are concerned, so we will leave the matter there. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.