(5 months ago)Read Full debate
What needs to be heard is not my cerebral power, but the issue of Ebola in the Congo. The House needs to be serious about that. There is an Ebola outbreak now in the Congo, which has already crossed the border into Uganda. On Sunday, we had an outbreak in Goma, a city of 2 million people. If we do not get this under control, this Ebola outbreak, which is already the second biggest in history, will cause devastating problems for the region. We must invest much more in the World Health Organisation, in developing the public health services in the neighbouring countries. Above all, we must step up to the challenge and be serious as a nation about this deadly disease.
The provision of water and sanitation is central. It is vital for health. It is also vital in schools, for ensuring that girls remain in school, and it is vital for tackling any kind of water-borne disease. So good investment in water, which DFID prioritises, needs to be one of the three fundamental pillars of development, along with education and health.
(7 months, 3 weeks ago)Read Full debate
We now have 4,300 additional prison officers, which is the highest level since 2012.
We have fewer officers than in 2010. There was a reduction from 2010 to 2012, but we have now turned that around, with the 4,300 extra officers, meaning we can now roll out the key worker programme, which is central, as it means we have the ratios we need to have one prison officer allied with four prisoners to make sure we deliver the work on rehabilitation.
(7 months, 3 weeks ago)Read Full debate
The big change that has been introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to ensure that education in prison is linked to employment. This involves talking to the local job market, ensuring that we provide the skills that match that market and, above all, ensuring that we have safe, decent prisons so that we can remove the prisoners from their cells and into work and education so that we can get them into jobs. That reduces reoffending by an average of 7%.
I am delighted that Labour Members are working with us to try to get a good Brexit deal in place, and if we can get such a deal, we will be able to continue through the transition period. In a no-deal situation, however, it will become significantly more difficult because we will have to fall back on older and more cumbersome ways of moving prisoners. That would not be good for us or for Europe.
(9 months, 1 week ago)Read Full debate
First, I make it absolutely clear that no decision on sentencing policy will be driven by anything other than public protection. That is the key in any sentencing decision. Secondly, I make it absolutely clear that we are fully behind the Home Secretary and the work that is being done on knife crime and we want to make sure that judges have the full powers at their disposal to deal with people who are wielding knives.
As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, this is something that we are continuing to look at very carefully and we are continuing to learn both from what has happened in Scotland and the evidence that suggests, on the basis of a study of 130 different characteristics in 300,000 separate offenders, that people are more likely to reoffend with a short custodial sentence and therefore that tens of thousands more crimes are committed every year by the wrong use of a custodial sentence.
(9 months, 1 week ago)Read Full debate
That is a very good challenge. My hon. Friend specifically raised Albania, with which we have a prison transfer agreement in place. I met the Albanian Minister of Justice two weeks ago. We need to ensure that more returns take place, but we are well ahead of Italy and Greece on returns to Albania.
(9 months, 2 weeks ago)Read Full debate
That is a good reminder. The former Home Secretary Charles Clarke and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) are articulating the same point, which is that there is an enormous amount that non-Government actors—not just the private sector, but the voluntary sector—can bring in terms of innovation, efficiency and delivering very good services.
These questions of accountability are quite difficult for me to answer. Normally, I answer by offering to resign; I am not about to do that again, but I would say that these things are related. On the question the right hon. Gentleman raised about the caseload shift, as the NAO pointed out, a 2% caseload shift was predicted, but a 48% caseload shift happened, directly impacting the second issue of the income coming to the companies. That prediction is a question we are really trying to look into and understand. This is to do with the fact that more violent and sexual offences were committed than previously, and the Crown courts managed to make different decisions in terms of sentence length and not giving accredited programmes. The question is, how do we predict that type of social change? Could we have predicted it; was it predicted; and how do we act on it?
(10 months, 1 week ago)Read Full debate
It is largely to do with degradation across the estate, but we have had significant improvements in the performance of Amey recently, and we have of course taken Carillion back in-house so a Government company is now operating there. We therefore expect improvements to go with millions of pounds of extra investment into the estate.
(12 months ago)Read Full debate
I know that my hon. Friend does wonderful work with the prison in her constituency. As she says, we need to take action, and we are taking action. There have been 40 convictions of people using drones, and we have imposed 140 years’-worth of prison sentences. No one should be in any doubt that importing drugs into prisons with a drone is a very serious crime, and I am pleased to say that, thanks to the Department’s work since 2015, we are getting on top of the problem.
First, that is classified information, but, secondly, the answer is not that many prisons. It is very expensive equipment to use, but we are looking at an electronic fencing technique which has been deployed in Guernsey. We can learn a lot from Guernsey prison: if that electronic fence in Guernsey works, it is a good cheap solution. We would need to check its technical specifications and then we could look at rolling it out.
(1 year, 1 month ago)Read Full debate
I will resist the temptation to offer to resign on every single issue within my Department, but I repeat that I will resign if I do not turn around those 10 prisons by August. Why were those 10 prisons chosen? They largely focus on Yorkshire and London. There are many other challenged prisons in the system. Which is challenged day by day alternates a great deal—it depends on the particular population—but I do not think that anybody would suggest that prisons such as Wormwood Scrubs, Nottingham and Leeds, which are among the 10 prisons, are not very seriously challenged prisons.
I am pleased to say that, at the most recent Budget—I do not wish to get involved in the next Budget and the spending review, on which I am confident—we got a great deal of investment into the prison estate, which makes a huge difference. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the issue of the future budget, but watch this space and see how our negotiation goes.
(1 year, 3 months ago)Read Full debate
I thank the hon. Members for Ashfield and for High Peak for their powerful speeches. Before I move on to amendments 12 to 15 and Government new clause 4, I will clarify some points raised by the hon. Member for High Peak.
Many things are covered by insurance besides the ability to get compensation for whiplash. It would be absurd if the entire purpose of an insurance scheme was simply to give someone an annual pay-out for whiplash, and they paid £450 for that insurance when such claims were capped at £450. The hon. Member for High Peak is right that that would be an absurd system, but insurance covers many things besides whiplash claims. In fact, we are trying to move to a world in which the majority of someone’s insurance would cover things other than their whiplash claim.
This goes to the heart of the discussion so far, and to a point made by the hon. Member for Lewisham West and Penge. Fundamentally, the number of road traffic accidents has decreased by 30% since 2005. At the same time, cars have become considerably safer: headrests and other forms of restraints have made it much safer to be in a motor car than it was in 2005. During that same period, whiplash claims have increased by 40%. Whether we define these as fraudulent or simply exaggerated, there is no doubt of the trend. There are fewer road traffic accidents and cars are safer, yet whiplash claims are going up.
The answer is that judging fraud in whiplash is almost impossible except statistically through the measures that I have used, because for minor whiplash claims of the sort that are covered in the tariff—not the type of whiplash injury that the hon. Member for High Peak experienced—there is no way of proving whether an injury has occurred. That is why The New England Journal of Medicine has done research on this.
There has been interesting research on what happens if someone sits in a motor vehicle with a simulated accident and a curtain behind them, so that they are unable to tell whether the accident has occurred or not. It shows that 20% of people experienced whiplash without the collision actually occurring. This is clearly a complex medico-social phenomenon. The polite way of putting it is that there is an asymmetry of information. It is close to impossible for an insurance company to prove that an individual did not experience whiplash, particularly at the three-month rate.
I am very happy for the record to say exactly that, provided we explain why that is the case. The nature of this injury is such that it is impossible to know, in most cases, whether the individual is making a fraudulent claim. In the case of the kind of injury experienced by the hon. Member for High Peak—a much more serious injury—it is possible to detect things through MRI scans, but for the majority of injuries that we will be talking about in the three-month to six-month period, no physical evidence can be adduced one way or the other.
In the end, the qualified GP has to sit down and reach some kind of judgment, through discussion with the individual and gathering the evidence of injury, that the balance of probabilities holds that the individual is experiencing subjective pain, but it is impossible to prove that through the kinds of medical evidence that one would adduce in a normal medical case.
Break in Debate
With permission, I will proceed. There is still no answer to why the number of claims has risen, particularly when the number of road traffic accidents has dropped. The hon. Lady suggested that she would answer the question but did not. I look forward to someone answering that question, but I would like to make progress.
The statistics suggest very strongly that what happened to an individual in a motor car in 2005 would, on average, have been much more severe than what happens to an individual in a motor car in 2018. A 30% reduction in the number of road traffic accidents, combined with the improvement in safety procedures, would suggest that an individual having a motor vehicle accident today would be considerably less likely to suffer whiplash than would have been the case in 2005. Therefore, the fact that the number of claims has increased by 40% is a very peculiar anomaly that requires explanation, which nobody has produced so far. Will somebody please explain why the number of claims has increased by 40% when there has been no physiological change in the human body since 2005 and motor cars have, if anything, got safer?
In 2016, there were 7,572 confirmed fraudulent motor claims and 58,576 suspected claims, resulting in 66,147 detected motor fraud claims. However, my point goes much wider. Because of the asymmetry of information and because it is impossible to prove whether the injury has occurred—particularly at the three to six-month period—it is impossible to put a precise number on it. We can be confident, through the soaring inflation in the number of these claims, that many are exaggerated, to put it mildly, even though we cannot prove the exact number beyond the 66,147 that are actually fraudulent.
Break in Debate
We certainly will move to introduce an amendment exactly in relation the hon. Gentleman’s question—he has campaigned well on this, as have other hon. Members—setting out that we should consult the Lord Chief Justice on the level of tariffs as well as on the percentage uplift for judicial discretion. Those are two important concessions that I hope will reassure the Opposition.
As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, clause 5(5) merely states:
“The Lord Chancellor must consult the Lord Chief Justice before making regulations under this section.”
We intend that to be done in an accountable, responsible, transparent and predictable fashion that would give the Lord Chief Justice a serious amount of time to consider and respond, but, ultimately, it is a consultation and the power of decision rests with the Lord Chancellor, as is implied in the legislation.
(1 year, 3 months ago)Read Full debate
It is a great honour to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Henry. I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members for bringing proposing the amendments and new clauses.
Effectively, as the right hon. Member for Delyn has pointed out, new clause 2 was introduced with a lot of influence from the House of Lords—it was driven by Opposition Members of the House of Lords to meet exactly the concerns raised by right hon. and hon. Members. Therefore, I am tempted to argue in my brief argument that amendment 17 and new clause 6 are, in fact, unnecessary. The noble Lords did a good job in new clause 2 of addressing many of the concerns raised in the debate, which is why the Government are keen to ask for the Committee’s support.
At the heart of this, the Committee will discover, is a fundamental disagreement about the nature of markets, which will be difficult to resolve simply through legislation. There are profoundly different views on both sides of the House about what exactly is going on in a market. Again and again, all the arguments—from the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr Hepburn) right the way through to the eloquent speech by the right hon. Member for Delyn—rest on the fundamental assumption that every company, insurance or otherwise, in the country is simply involved in trying to charge their consumers as much as possible and provide as few services as possible, and that there is nothing to prevent their doing that.
Of course, what prevents companies from doing that ought to be competition. It does not matter whether that is the insurance industry or, to take a more straightforward question, why Tesco’s does not charge £50 for a loaf of bread and try to produce one slice. In the end, the decision on what premiums are charged will be driven by competition between different insurance companies. All the arguments, whether in relation to these or other amendments, are based on that fundamental misunderstanding. The Labour party is again effectively pushing for a prices and incomes policy. They are trying to get the Government to fix the prices of premiums and control the prices that insurance companies charge because they simply do not trust the Competition and Markets Authority, the FCA, the insurance industry or any other business to pass on savings to consumers.
Unfortunately, something is being missed in the way the right hon. Gentleman is framing his arguments. He is suggesting that there is a fixed, stable situation—the Chancellor of the Exchequer offered £50, nothing changed, and now it is £35. If that were true, it would indeed be a disgrace, but the reality is that, following the negotiations that took place in the consultation and in the House of Lords, the savings that the insurance companies will realise and will be in a position to pass on to the man or woman paying the premium have been considerably reduced.
When the Chancellor of the Exchequer—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman might be interested in listening to the answer rather than talking to somebody else. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke, he of course suggested that all general damages would be entirely removed. His proposal was that there would be no general damages at all. It is therefore perfectly reasonable. If no general damages at all were paid, the insurance company’s savings would be considerably larger, and the savings passed on to the consumer might indeed have been £50.
Due to the very good work that the Opposition and the noble Lords put in, there have been a number of compromises to the Bill, which mean that the savings passed on to the insurers, and from the insurers in the form of premiums, will be considerably reduced. One of those compromises is that, whereas in the past there were going to be no general damages paid to anybody getting a whiplash injury of under two years, there is now a tariff for money to be paid out. As it gets closer to two years, the tariffs paid out will be much closer to the existing Judicial College guidelines, so the savings will be considerably less.
Break in Debate
I will return to the fundamental disagreement between right hon. and hon. Members. We can all agree that there were significant savings to the insurance industry. We can all agree that some of those savings were passed on to customers and that premiums ceased to rise at the rate at which they had been. There is some disagreement between the two sides of the House about whether enough of those savings were passed on—we argue that the industry passed on sufficient savings—and whether premiums went up more than they should. However, without Government new clause 2, the evidence or information will not be available to people in order to make such arguments.
It is not enough to produce a general figure, saying, “Here is £11 billion, and this is how much was passed on in premiums.” That is why the new clause has no less than 11 subsections that detail the kind of data that would need to be extracted from the insurance industry by the date recommended in order to prove that case. I was asked why reporting would not be done annually. The answer, of course, is that a claim can be brought any time within three years of an accident. The date takes into account that the law is due to come into effect in 2020. We add three years to that for the claim, and then time for the data and evidence gathering in order to report in 2024.
The reason why I respectfully request that the Government amendments are supported and the Opposition amendments are withdrawn is that pushing for one-year rather than three-year reviews and attempting to price fix the result would leave the opposition amendments open to judicial review and create an enormous, unnecessary burden on the market. Our contention is that the market already operates—we have the Competition and Markets Authority to argue that that is the case—and, by introducing our new clause, we will be able to demonstrate that over time. It is a very serious thing.
I remain confident that, if insurance companies are compelled to produce such a degree of detail and information to the Financial Conduct Authority and the Treasury, they will pass on those savings to consumers because, were they not to, they would be taking a considerable legal risk. The industry initially resisted this move, and understands that it is a serious obligation.
(1 year, 5 months ago)Read Full debate
I think that is something we share across the Benches. Both sides of the House share a common desire: to reduce crime and reoffending, and turn around people’s lives. It is a terrible waste that nearly 40% of our prison population have been in care, that nearly 50% have been excluded from school, and that the literacy level of nearly 50% is lower than that of an 11-year-old. The rates of reoffending have been stubbornly high for 40 or 50 years.
We need to work together to crack these problems. Decent, clean, well run and well managed prisons are part of the key. Another part is getting cross-party consensus on the difficult and brave political choices required to begin to reduce the prison population and protect the public through a reduction in reoffending.
The right hon. Gentleman has enormous experience of the issue, having been the prisons Minister responsible for managing private prisons. He is therefore aware that one reason we can stand up in front of the House and say we are confident we can do this is that we have been doing it for 25 years.
Some 14 private sector prisons are operating, with good reports from the inspectors. We have a lot of experience of how this is done. This is not a new area of Government activity; the right hon. Gentleman himself managed exactly these prisons. The key is balancing proper competition, which brings in diversity and innovation, with the right key performance indicators to make sure that we stay on top of that performance.
(1 year, 6 months ago)Read Full debate
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for visiting Pentonville prison. I was lucky enough to be there two weeks ago, and I pay tribute to its excellent governor for the very good work he is doing. It is one of the most testing, busy London local prisons, and it faces a huge number of issues, but protecting prison officers is fundamentally about having a predictable, stable regime, enough prison officers on the landing, the right kind of training and relationships to calm things down, and, ultimately, protection.
The right hon. Gentleman is a very experienced predecessor in my job. Clearly there is a strong correlation with these new psychoactive substances; it is difficult otherwise to account for the huge rise in violence. The substances seem to drive both self-harming behaviour and extreme violent behaviour. I will give a written answer on exactly when we will fulfil the body-worn camera programme.
(1 year, 7 months ago)Read Full debate
This is about bringing in new technology. What this is really about is powers that will enable the Secretary of State to spend money, once the new technology is developed, to insert the new material. The approximate cost would be in the low millions per site, but we do not have the exact costs at the moment.
Break in Debate
I rise to respond to the excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) and the question asked by the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson).
This is a sensitive issue. We are clearly trying to prevent organised criminal gangs from using mobile telephones in prisons, for all the reasons mentioned by the hon. Member for Bradford East. We therefore cannot be too specific about exactly where we are going to put these devices or exactly how we are going to interfere with mobile telephones. The answer that I have given is a broad figure in the ballpark of a few million pounds per site. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would wish me to share with the House the exact number of sites at which we are going to do this and which sites we will target first.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield) for all her extraordinary work as a Conservative Back Bencher to introduce the Bill. As the hon. Member for Bradford East pointed out, this is vital. There is a plague of mobile telephones that are being used to deal illicit drugs and to fuel violence. We need to cut down on them with better searching both at the prison gates and in cells, and we can also do much more to block the technology. With many thanks to Members, I commend the money resolution to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
(1 year, 9 months ago)Read Full debate
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and others for the very active campaign that they are leading. I would of course be delighted to meet them to discuss that law.
(2 years ago)Read Full debate
We will be announcing the refresh of our education policy early next year. The key thing, on which we agree absolutely with the Select Committee, is to drive up the quality of education. Attendance is right up, but far too many children are coming out entirely illiterate.
Ninety five per cent. of all our education spending goes to public education. However, there is a place, particularly in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world, for recognising that the private sector is filling with low-cost education a hole that the public sector sometimes cannot fill.
(2 years, 5 months ago)Read Full debate
(2 years, 5 months ago)Read Full debate