Robert Buckland contributions to the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21


Tue 21st July 2020 Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
12 interactions (1,710 words)
Tue 9th June 2020 Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
41 interactions (5,591 words)

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Robert Buckland Excerpts
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Home Office

Third Reading.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jul 2020, 6:15 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

May I take this opportunity to thank hon. and right hon. Members from across the House for their careful scrutiny of the Bill thus far? I am very grateful to everyone who contributed to the debate on Second Reading, in Committee and today on Report. I would especially like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson), whose impassioned speech regarding her friend Louise, who was caught up in the horrors of the 7/7 bombings 15 years ago this month, reminded us of the importance of the work we are doing here. I am particularly grateful for the co-operative and constructive spirit in which these debates have taken place, and for the broad support received for the Bill so far. That, I think, is testament to the fact that Members recognise overall the intent and purpose of the legislation, which are to protect the public and to keep our country safe. Those are the first and foremost duties of any Government.

There have been some differing opinions on certain measures in the Bill. They have enriched the debate and deepened our understanding of not just the intention behind the measures, but current practice. We have heard questions about the changes we are making to terrorism prevention and investigation measure notices—or TPIMs, as we know them. Let me say to the House that prosecution, or deportation in the case of foreign nationals, will always be our preference for dealing with terrorists, but there will continue to be a small number of cases where, despite the best efforts of the police and security services, that will not be possible. In those circumstances, TPIMs remain a vital risk management tool. A lower standard of proof will allow for TPIMs to be considered for use in a wider variety of cases and will better protect the covert sources and methods that are vital to the investigation of terrorist threat.

The Home Secretary considers very carefully the intelligence held by our security services, as well as consulting the police on the case for prosecution, before deciding whether a TPIM is necessary and proportionate. The Government have no desire to keep individuals on a TPIM any longer than is necessary and proportionate to protect the public. Removing the two-year time limit for a TPIM ensures that where subjects pose an enduring risk, we will be better placed to restrict and prevent their involvement in terrorism-related activity for as long as is necessary.

Further safeguards will remain in place. The courts will be able to consider permission hearings on whether the decision to impose a TPIM was obviously flawed and prevent the Home Secretary from doing so where that is the case. Subjects will continue to have a right to appeal any decision to extend the TPIM or vary any of its measures. The quarterly TPIM review group meetings will continue to provide regular oversight of every TPIM, including reviewing its ongoing necessity, whether prosecution is a possibility, and, indeed, the exit strategy for the subject of the measure.

Some concerns have been expressed about the removal of the statutory deadline for completing the independent review of Prevent. I must emphasise that the commitment to completing that important review continues and will remain in statute. We want the review into our strategy for safeguarding those vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism to be completed as soon as possible, but we also wanted to run a full and open competition to appoint a new reviewer and to attract as broad a range of applicants as possible. Designing and running that process takes time, and I want to ensure that the new reviewer has an opportunity to decide how best to run the next phase of the review and has enough time to analyse the evidence, develop robust recommendations and, critically, can engage as openly, fully and widely as possible with communities, civil society and others. That will all take time if it is to be done properly, and we cannot fully predict whether events might have a further impact on the timings of that review, particularly in the context of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, which, frankly, could present further practical challenges to how it could be conducted over the coming months. We should therefore avoid the risk of removing the reviewer’s ability to respond to and mitigate those events both foreseeable and unforeseeable.

For those reasons, while I fully understand the desire to put a new deadline in the Bill, there would, in my judgment, be a significant risk in doing so. It could have the unintended consequence of reducing the impact of this vital review, which I know Members across the House do not wish to do. We should not confuse our desire to give the reviewer the flexibility and time they will need with any question about a lack of commitment to it. I say again to the House that we want it to be completed along with a Government response as quickly as possible, and certainly no later than August of next year.

There has been much debate and discussion about the Bill’s provisions relating to polygraph testing, and I recall a lot of interest in the media when we announced the Bill and its details. I would like to be clear about what these measures seek to achieve and what they do not do. First, on their efficacy, the Committee heard compelling and detailed evidence from Professor Grubin, a leading expert in this field, who has attested to their reliability and their value. They are well established in this country already, having been used thousands of times on sex offenders, and they have been independently evaluated. Secondly, on their purpose, they are an additional risk management tool that can allow probation officers to test compliance with other licence conditions. They are not there to catch offenders out, and the results will most certainly not be used in criminal proceedings against the offender. We have already shown our intention to introduce polygraph testing elsewhere for use with domestic abusers, so we are not taking a novel approach for terrorist offenders. It is another way in which we can help to protect the public.

Finally on this issue, we recognise that they are currently used only in England and Wales, which is why the polygraph provisions relating to terrorist offenders on licence will not come into effect automatically. We will continue to work with Ministers in the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to provide advice and support to put the necessary infrastructure in place before polygraph testing can be conducted there. I am grateful for the continued co-operation of those devolved Administrations. I recognise the complexity and sensitivities of legislating across three jurisdictions’ sentencing frameworks. Right hon. and hon. Members have indeed reminded us of the need to tread carefully, and we do so. I would like to give reassurance that the Government are committed to ensuring that the measures in the Bill can work effectively throughout our United Kingdom, but I do not apologise for the determination, because we have to ensure our citizens are safe from terrorist offending whether committed in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland

I will pause at this moment to thank all those members of the Bill team who have worked so hard to bring the Bill to this stage. Most notably, I am profoundly grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) for his stewardship both on Report and in Committee. Indeed I thank all the team both in the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office—some of whom are in the Box today—for working collaboratively together. They have served Ministers and indeed the House diligently when it comes to the need to marshal all the clauses in a way that could withstand the most appropriate and thorough scrutiny. I am grateful to them, and I am happy to put it put that on the record here rather than via a point of order, which I think I did on a previous occasion when you were in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful for that, too.

The United Kingdom has one of the strongest counter-terrorism systems in the world, but we continue to face a terrorist threat in this country that is complex, and that is diverse and rapidly changing. The House has rightly noted the growing threat that we face from right- wing extremists. Since 2017 we have foiled 25 terrorist plots, including eight plots planned by right-wing extremists, but we are not complacent. We have already established a joint extremism unit to strengthen the partnership of work across the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. Of course, there is much more to do, and there will regrettably always be unfinished business.

We are on track to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers to boost frontline capability. That is why we have increased the budget for counter-terrorism policing by £90 million this year, compared with last, taking the overall CT police funding to over £900 million, and we are developing an ambitious programme to strengthen joint working between our police and our security services, which will leave terrorists with no place to hide.

As I have said on many occasions and will continue to say, public protection is our first duty. The comprehensive package of measures introduced in the Bill, on top of the investment that we are making and the programme we are putting in place, demonstrates, I firmly believe, our deep and enduring commitment to that duty.

Mr David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jul 2020, 12:05 a.m.

This is an important Bill, which will have a significant impact on many aspects of the criminal justice system for many years to come. I wish to thank colleagues who contributed to the robust debates that we have had in Committee and on Report. In particular, I thank my colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), who has made characteristically thoughtful contributions throughout the Bill’s passage. I thank also my colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), for his characteristic robust approach, and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), who has been a pleasure to work with for the first time on the Front Bench. I also thank the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) for the joint working that we were able to do in opposition.

As I said on Second Reading, the Opposition fully accept that those who have committed serious terrorist offences should serve a sentence that fully represents the gravity of their actions. First and foremost, our approach has been an overarching commitment to keep the British public safe and to ensure that horrific terrorist attacks such as the ones at Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham cannot be repeated. The Opposition also accept that when those who have committed the most serious terrorist offences are released, it is only right that, even if they are really sorry, they are subject to stringent licensing conditions that would allow their close supervision in the community.

We accept that the broad thrust of the Bill is necessary and proportionate. It would be a mistake to say, though, that the Bill is flawless, or that its provisions on their own can protect the public from the ever-present threat of radicalisation and serious terrorist atrocities. One of the greatest concerns that we have had, as an Opposition, since the emergence of the Bill is that the balance between the importance of punishment and the necessity to rehabilitate offenders has not been quite struck. At this stage, it is important to make one point perfectly clear: even offenders convicted of the most serious terrorist offences, those who are subject to extended sentences under the Bill, will at some point be released back into society. That is the reality that, wherever we sit in this House, we must accept. Although, as I have already pointed out, it is only right that the most serious terrorists serve extended sentences of up to 14 years, the Opposition also believe that we have a moral duty to ensure that offenders leave prison less dangerous and less willing to harm the fabric of our society than when they went in.

Failing to believe and invest in deradicalisation strategies not only fails society but actively puts members of society at increased risk. Although it is sadly true that most serious terrorist offenders will prove to be either unwilling or unable to reform, it is our duty to believe in hope over despair. It is simply not good enough to lock terrorists away for longer, put them out of our minds and hope for the best. As we have seen from the devastating attacks at Streatham and Fishmongers’ Hall, this approach does not work.

The Government cannot simply give up on rehabilitation, nor the ability of former offenders to reform, which is why it is so disappointing that so little in the Bill will do anything to strip terrorists of their hateful ideologies or to encourage them to rejoin society as reformed individuals. It is abundantly clear that we need a serious and comprehensive strategy on deradicalisation in prison, and the Opposition will hold the Government to account on that in the months and years to come.

That brings me to another issue that the Opposition have sought to recognise during the passage of the Bill: the importance of probation. We cannot begin to tackle terrorism without first recognising the important role played by the probation services. It is worth remembering that the role of probation is not just to monitor risk but to provide support to those who have been released from prison so that they are less likely to reoffend and can play an active role in society.

The provisions of this important Bill will mean that more people will serve longer behind bars, followed by hugely increased licence periods in the community. With that in mind, it is more important than ever for our probation services to be fully functioning and effective, yet we know that our probation services are already hopelessly overstretched and overworked.

In particular, Labour is concerned that the provisions of the Bill will place a huge burden on specialised probation officers, who are already very thin on the ground and hold very high terror-related caseloads. Research shows us that more time spent with offenders is essential to the carrying out of proper risk assessments, but that simply will not be possible with vastly increased workloads. The Government cannot simply increase the responsibilities placed on probation officers, increase their workload and consider the matter closed. It is vital that probation officers are given the resources that they need to do their job; the safety of the public depends on it. The Opposition will hold the Government to account if they fail to meet their obligations to the probation services.

Another concern that was stressed throughout Committee and on Report is the importance of recognising the difference between young offenders and adult offenders. Young offenders and adult offenders are inherently different: they think differently and make decisions in different ways but, most importantly, young offenders are much more capable of reform than older adults. As Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, rightly pointed out during his analysis of the Bill:

“The requirement of a minimum mandatory sentence for all adult offenders, however young,”

raises the question of

“an adult of 18 years and one month”

being

“any more mature than a child of 17 years and 11 months”.

The Opposition recognise that there are significant differences between adults over 21, those who are between 19 and 21, and those who are under 18. Members of each of those groups are at very different stages of their lives, and reviews, including my own, have recognised the need for different criminal justice approaches to different age groups. In order properly to reflect the difference between young offenders and adult offenders, the Opposition tabled an amendment that would require a pre-sentence report to be carried out that would take into consideration the age of the offender and whether options other than a serious terrorist offence might be more effective. It is a shame that the Government did not accept that amendment, but I hope that the Secretary of State will consider the Opposition’s concerns in the months and years ahead.

Let me finish where I started on Second Reading, first in paying tribute to a dear friend, James Adams, who was killed in the 7/7 bombings, but also in paying tribute to Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who lost their lives in the attack on Fishmongers’ Hall. Both Jack and Saskia believed passionately that there can be a glimmer of light in even the darkest and most hardened of hearts. We on the Labour Benches share that optimism. Although it is only right that those who have committed the most heinous of crimes are subjected to extended sentences, we cannot give up hope of rehabilitation. If even the smallest chance of redemption exists, we owe it to the victims of Fishmongers’ Hall to try.

Throughout the passage of this Bill, the Opposition have sought to work constructively with the Government to ensure that the courts have the powers they need to meet the continual threat of terrorism and keep terrorists off the streets, and I assure the Secretary of State that I will continue to work constructively with him over the months and years ahead. This Bill goes some way to doing that, and therefore we will support it on Third Reading.

Break in Debate

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I rise only briefly to state my strong support for the Bill. I should declare that prior to my election, I was the magistrate member of the Sentencing Council and a non-executive director of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. Accordingly, I was honoured to be a member of the Public Bill Committee for this legislation.

As we have heard several times during the debates on the Bill, the overarching responsibility of any Government is to keep their citizens safe, and one of the five set out purposes of sentencing is to protect the public, and that is rightly the priority of the Bill. Terrorist attacks cause carnage, murdering indiscriminately and injuring wantonly. The Bill sends a very powerful message to those who seek to bring terror to the lives of innocent people. It demonstrates the contempt in which we hold those who seek to kill and maim to further their warped ideologies. A minimum sentence of 14 years to be spent entirely in custody is a clear signal that if someone commits a serious offence linked to terrorism, they can expect to spend a hefty proportion of their life locked up, and rightly so.

I, too, am a firm believer in rehabilitation, and the Prison Service has worked incredibly hard to devise and implement deradicalisation programmes, but I think most people would acknowledge that there is considerable scope for further improvement. Several times during the Committee’s evidence sessions, we were told that the reoffending rate of terrorists is low—perhaps just 3% —somehow implying that we therefore do not need such lengthy sentences as proposed in the Bill, but that surely misses the point. Even one terrorist reoffending is one too many, because even one terrorist attack can kill hundreds of people. In cases of terrorism, we cannot take risks.

The Bill also sends a strong message to the public that this Government are absolutely committed to protecting lives and minimising the chance of terrorist attacks taking place. The changes to TPIMs reflect the needs of the Security Service to have every tool to keep us safe. When Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques, the deputy senior national co-ordinator in the UK’s counter-terrorism policing, gave evidence to the Public Bill Committee, he stated:

“Protecting the public is our No. 1 priority and sometimes that means we have to intervene regardless of evidence, because the risks to the public are so great.”––[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 26, Q69.]

Our priority must be to support our Security Service and police in the heroic work they do day in, day out, often at considerable danger to themselves in their constant quest to thwart would-be terrorists from wreaking their havoc. We owe it to them to give them what they need to keep us safe.

Finally, it is vitally important that the courts take immediate note if and when the Bill is passed. I hope that sentencing guidelines can be introduced quickly to reflect the clear will of all sides of Parliament to ensure that dangerous terrorist offenders spend more time in prison.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

On that point, my hon. Friend will be assured to know that the Sentencing Council is putting work in train in any event to revise the terrorism guidelines and this Bill, should it become law, will no doubt form part of its work.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler - Hansard

I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for reassuring me of that. I know from having served on the Sentencing Council that its members will diligently proceed with their efforts. That work will surely reflect, as I was saying, the clear will of Parliament to ensure that dangerous terrorist offenders spend more time in prison, to give greater opportunity for rehabilitation, to reflect the seriousness of their crime and, most importantly, to protect the British people.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

May I say briefly that there are many MPs in this House who have been affected by terrorism? When I was talking to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) earlier, we were relating the stories of her friend and others. This Bill before us tonight cements and strengthens our position and offers us protection. We as MPs in Northern Ireland have felt the brunt of terrorism more than most. We know about it personally—I know about it. I often think of those whom I know who have given their lives. I think of my cousin Kenneth Smyth and his friend Daniel McCormick who were both murdered on 10 December 1971. I think of the four UDR men murdered at Ballydugan: young John Birch, Steven Smart—[Interruption.]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Parliament Live - Hansard

indicated assent.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I think it would be the right thing to do to allow our hon. Friend to compose himself for a moment as he remembers and shares with the House the horror of the effects of terrorism. We remain indebted to him and are always grateful to him for sharing his observations and we entirely understand how he must feel when he is reliving those moments.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Hansard
21 Jul 2020, 12:09 a.m.

I thank the Secretary of State very much for intervening. I do recall John Birch, Steven Smart, Michael Adams and Lance Corporal Bradley. I often think of the families of those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and of those who were injured. We owe so much to those families. Every MP in this House has a responsibility to keep their constituents safe, as others have said, which we all adhere to and I thank them for that. Today, our Minister, the hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), who, I have to say, I am very impressed by—I mean that honestly—and also the Secretary of State have come in here and ensured that the protection of all the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been cemented in legislation, and I thank them for that. We welcome the Government’s commitment and we thank all in the Committee for their work and the Clerks for their administration to deliver the Bill. Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Robert Buckland Excerpts
Tuesday 9th June 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Ministry of Justice

Second Reading

Robert Buckland Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, midnight

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

The first duty of any Government is to protect the public from harm. Combating the unprecedented threat of coronavirus has, of course, been the focus of our energies over the last few months, but as our country begins to open up once again, it is crucial that we maintain our vigilance towards the all too familiar threat of terrorism. As the House will recall, there have been a number of devastating incidents in recent years. The appalling atrocities at Fishmongers’ Hall on 29 November last year and in Streatham on 2 February this year, barely two months apart, were brutal attacks on innocent members of the public just going about their day-to-day lives. Those incidents drove home some hard truths about our approach to managing terrorists in the justice system, with each committed by an offender who had been released automatically halfway through their sentence, with no involvement from the Parole Board. We cannot allow that to happen again.

Following the Streatham attack, we acted swiftly to introduce the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, which ended the automatic early release of terrorist offenders and ensured that any release before the end of a sentence is dependent on a thorough risk assessment by the Parole Board. I was extremely grateful for the co-operation we received from Members on both sides of the House on that vital piece of legislation, and I was proud of how quickly this place acted to get it on to the statute book. That piece of legislation built on the Government’s plans to bolster the United Kingdom’s response to terrorism and to ensure that we have some of the strongest measures in the world to tackle that threat.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, midnight

The Lord Chancellor mentions the importance of speed in dealing with these situations. Does he agree that we have perhaps not moved fast enough in, for example, proscribing some organisations? I am thinking particularly of extreme right-wing organisations that target the black community, other people of colour, the Jewish community and the gay community. It took years to get System Resistance Network and Sonnenkrieg Division banned by the Government, and there are other organisations out there, such as the Order of Nine Angles, that need to be banned. Does he agree that we need to move further and faster on proscription so that people involved in those organisations can receive the sentences that he is talking about in this legislation?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman knows that the function of proscription is for the Home Secretary. From my knowledge of it, which is not as close as that of my colleague, proscription is a device that should be applied equally, without discrimination. He is absolutely right to talk about the rise of far-right extremism. At this Dispatch Box and elsewhere, I have readily acknowledged the fact that out in our community, sadly, and in our prison system, we have a proportion of far-right wing terrorists who have been convicted and brought to justice. What I would say about those individual examples is that wherever there is evidence of activities that amounts to grounds for proscription, I know that this Home Secretary—indeed, like her predecessors—will act with alacrity. Of course, her predecessor did in the instances that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, so I assure him that the Government will work within the law and apply it equally to all groups and organisations that pose a direct threat to our way of life. That is what we are talking about here.

I was dealing with the measures that we announced in the aftermath of the atrocity at Fishmongers’ Hall. In the current financial year, 2020-21, we have increased funding for counter-terrorism policing by £90 million. We announced a review for the support for victims of terrorism, with a further £500,000 being provided to the Victims of Terrorism Unit. We then announced our plans to double the number of counter-terrorism specialist probation staff. We are also working to increase the places that are available in probation hostels, so that authorities can keep closer tabs on terrorists in the weeks after their release from prison. Of course there is also the independent review—led by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall, QC—of the way in which different agencies investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders. This was just the first stage of our response, because these attacks clearly demonstrated the need for terrorist offenders to spend longer in prison and to be subject to more stringent monitoring in the community.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) - Hansard

I am very conscious that although we are looking at the recent period, at those who were involved in ISIS and Daesh attacks in London and elsewhere, IRA terrorism is clearly a strong issue, as was illustrated last week when there was a bomb and arms find in Londonderry. When it comes to sentencing, I ask that those who are involved in IRA terrorism, who are convicted in this jurisdiction—on the mainland—will not receive any reduction in the sentences that they receive if they are transferred back to Northern Ireland, for instance. I seek that assurance from the Secretary of State—that IRA terrorists will get the full brunt of the law and not get away with a reduced sentence if they are sent back home.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:04 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman can be reassured that the whole purpose of this UK-wide legislation is not to discriminate between different types of terrorists. It would be wholly wrong for this legislation, for example, to focus on so-called Islamic terrorism, as opposed to far-right terrorism, the Provisional IRA and irregular republican, or indeed, irregular terrorism of a general nature within Northern Ireland or any other part of the United Kingdom. This is not discriminatory legislation. It is designed to deal with terrorism in all its forms, and I believe that this legislation is also agile when it comes to dealing with and anticipating the enduring challenge of how to manage terrorists in whatever form they might come. As we know, terrorism is evolving and taking different forms all the time.

Dr Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con) - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 3:10 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend mentions a couple of cases, including Fishmongers’ Hall. Does that not illustrate the great range of problems that have to be addressed? In recent times, was there not a case where someone had to be released even though people were sure he would reoffend at the first opportunity—he did so, and had to be trailed and stopped by an MI5 team—whereas at Fishmongers’ Hall, was the problem not that the person had claimed to be reformed and that there was no reason, apparently, not to release him? It will have to be a very comprehensive piece of legislation to cope with such a wide range of problems.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 3:14 p.m.

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, who speaks with experience of these matters. He helps me to outline the point I was about to make about the complex and evolving nature of the threat. He is right to talk about different types of threat: superficial compliance, which we saw, sadly, with regard to Fishmongers’ Hall; and known threat, but with an inability of the authorities, due to the current regime, to manage that within custodial settings, and the paraphernalia, cost and sheer planning that has then to be undertaken to try to deal with and manage the threat in the community.

I must pay tribute to the teams who worked so hard at Streatham to minimise what could have been an even more horrific incident on that Sunday afternoon on Streatham High Road. I well remember looking at the detail of what the teams did that day and being lost in sheer admiration for their bravery and professionalism in dealing with a terrible incident that could have involved very serious loss of life. The work of looking at the detailed facts will go on by way of an independent inquest. We will, of course, look precisely at the outcome of that, and at the serious further offence reviews, which are ongoing but will conclude very shortly. They will help to supplement the excellent work done by Jonathan Hall in his review of MAPPA—multi-agency public protection arrangements.

I was explaining that the announcements we made some months ago were but the first stage of our response. The step-up response to counter-terrorism is very much at the heart of what I and the Government are about. The legislation we are now introducing will ensure that the process for how we at each stage deal with both convicted terrorist offenders and those who pose a concern of becoming terrorist offenders will be strengthened. We are determined to ensure that those who commit serious acts of terror and put members of the public at risk serve sentences that properly reflect the harm they cause.

The Bill will reform the sentences which can be handed down to terror offenders by introducing a new category of sentence. The serious terrorism sentence, for the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders, will carry a minimum period of 14 years of custody, with an extended licence period of up to 25 years. That sentence will apply to only the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders who would otherwise receive a life sentence: those who have been found guilty of an offence where there was a high likelihood of causing multiple deaths.

The Bill also introduces further provisions for terrorist offenders who have been assessed to be dangerous, and who have committed a sufficiently serious offence, to spend the entirety of their sentence in custody without the prospect of early release. In addition to spending that full term in prison, the courts will be able to apply longer extended licence periods of up to 10 years for those offenders, so we can continue to supervise them once they are allowed back into the community. Any breach would put them straight back into prison.

In February, I announced that the Government would review sentencing for terrorist offenders, including whether current maximum penalties for terrorist offences were sufficient. Following that review, the Bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty for three specific terrorism offences: first, membership of a proscribed organisation; secondly, supporting a proscribed organisation; and thirdly, attending a place used for terrorist training. The maximum term is currently 10 years, but will be increased to 14, which sends a clear message about how serious the Government consider that type of offending and is consistent with existing penalties for similarly serious terrorist offences.

Another outcome of the review included in the Bill is an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which will enable the courts to find any offence with a maximum penalty of more than two years to have a terrorist connection. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation noted that that would be a useful change. It will give the courts more flexibility to reflect the facts of each case fully in the sentence that they may wish to pass.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Hansard

Minister, those who are involved in terrorism may have—

Break in Debate

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:02 a.m.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I endeavour to follow your instructions and I will do my best.

I seek assurance that those who are involved in terrorist activity, be it providing safe houses, physical assistance, cars or weapons, and who play a smaller role will also feel the brunt of the sentencing for their minor role in a bigger terrorist atrocity.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, there have been developments in terrorism law since the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, which he will remember, then the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Acts that followed the atrocity of 9/11, which saw a development and evolution in the law that allowed a wider penumbra of people who supported, encouraged or facilitated that type of serious offending to be brought before the courts.

I was explaining that the particular measure to which I was drawing the House’s attention allows the courts to find a terrorist connection in offences that are not specifically terrorism or terrorism-related; they might be offences under a different type of Act, such as an offence of violence or an acquisitive crime. If there is enough evidence to satisfy the criminal standard of proof that there is a terrorism connection, the court can use that as an aggravating factor in increasing the level of sentence given to that particular offender.

That will result in more offenders being managed through the registered terrorist offender notification requirements and will ensure that operational partners can effectively manage that risk on release so that no terrorism-connected offender should fall through the cracks. Taken together, the sentencing provisions will reduce the threat posed to the public by incapacitating dangerous terrorists and will maximise the time that the authorities have to work with offenders, giving offenders more time in which to disengage from their dangerous and deeply entrenched ideologies.

The recent terror attacks demonstrated the importance of improving and maximising our capability to monitor offenders in the community. The Bill introduces a range of measures to allow the Government to intervene more effectively where required. Time spent on licence is crucial in monitoring and managing offenders in the community, and also in giving them the opportunity and support to change their behaviour to desist and disengage from terrorism.

Right hon. and hon. Members were rightly concerned during the passage of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 that terrorist offenders released at the end of their sentence would not be subject to licence supervision when released. This legislation takes vital steps to extend the scope of the special sentence for offenders of particular concern to cover all terrorist offences with a maximum penalty of more than two years. That will mean that any terrorist offenders convicted of an offence covered by the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act will no longer be able to receive a standard determinate sentence, but will instead face a minimum period of supervision on licence of 12 months, even if they are released at the end of their custodial term.

The Bill will also strengthen the licence conditions to which terrorist offenders are subject by making available polygraph testing as a condition of their licence. We believe that that will help probation staff to monitor compliance with the other licence conditions—such as contact with named individuals, entering exclusion zones or accessing material that promotes or relates to acts of terrorism—imposed on offenders. Research has shown that mandatory polygraph testing for adult sexual offenders can be an effective risk-management tool; extending that to certain terrorist offenders will therefore enhance our ability to monitor them in the community.

In addition, the measures in the Bill will maximise the effectiveness of the existing disruptions and risk-management toolkit available to counter-terrorism policing and our security services. That toolkit can be used alongside licence conditions for those serving a licence period after sentence, or with individuals of terrorism concern who have not otherwise been convicted.

Prosecution and conviction are always our preference for dealing with terrorists, but in the limited instances in which we cannot prosecute, deport or otherwise manage an individual of terrorism concern, terrorism prevention and investigation measures—known as TPIMs—are a crucial tool for protecting the public. The Bill makes a number of changes to TPIMs to increase their value as a risk-management tool and support their use by operational partners in cases when it is considered necessary. The changes include lowering the standard of proof for imposing a TPIM notice, specifying new measures that can be applied to TPIM subjects, and removing the current two-year limit from which a TPIM notice can last, to ensure that we are better equipped to manage individuals of significant concern who pose a continued threat.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab) - Hansard

Is the Secretary of State aware of cases in respect of which he, the Home Secretary or others think that a TPIM should have been granted but could not be because the burden of proof was set at the wrong level?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I am sure the right hon. Lady will understand that it would be a little invidious of me to go into individual cases, but she will know from her long experience of this issue, and control orders previously, that TPIMs and control orders are complex and resource-intensive mechanisms that require a high degree of planning and continued monitoring, so decisions made to apply for them are never entered into lightly. By returning the position on the standard of proof to the one that existed some years ago, the Bill creates a more flexible means of monitoring, rather than a system that does, and did, require a higher standard of proof. It is not my wish or the wish of the Government to see an overdependence on TPIMs to the exclusion of other types of disposal.

It is still very much the Government’s view that prosecution and conviction is absolutely our priority, but experience has shown that the judicious use of this type of measure is not only lawful and proportionate but necessary when we cannot meet the high standard of proof that the right hon. Lady knows exists in criminal prosecution. It is my view that although TPIMs have never been the complete solution to the problem, they are an invaluable additional tool that the security services and all of us need when it comes to managing this complex problem. The right hon. Lady will be reassured that according to the latest published figures the number of TPIMs in force is currently five. I do not believe that the changes we bring in will act as any incentive or artificial stimulus to a sudden change in the way that the measures are used.

Forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I dwell at length on the point made the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. I have noticed, certainly from my time as a Law Officer, that from the middle part of this decade we saw a welcome increase in the number of prosecutions, particularly of returning foreign fighters. That showed that where we put the resources and the will into investigation we can make the prosecutorial system work well. Maintaining that focus, but then adapting, refining and modernising the system as we are doing in this Bill, strikes the right balance in terms of the need to protect the public and to adhere to those principles of liberty, the individual and the rule of law that all of us in this House share.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Hansard

rose—

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I will give way to the Chairman of the Justice Committee.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill - Hansard

I have a lot of sympathy with the point that my right hon. and learned Friend makes about the value that TPIMs can have as part of the armoury, so to speak, in dealing with these matters. May I draw him back to the point about the change in the burden of proof? The increase in the burden of proof to the current standard was specifically in response to a recommendation from the then independent reviewer, Lord Anderson. The current independent reviewer, Mr Hall QC, has made no such recommendation to reduce the burden proof, as is proposed here. That is a striking difference. What we are trying to get to is this: what is it that triggers this change in the burden of proof without some evidence, either by way of recommendation or some hard fact to demonstrate it?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I absolutely accept and understand the motivation behind my hon. Friend’s intervention, and he makes such a recommendation not just as Chair of the Select Committee, but as a guardian of the principles of the rule of law, which, after all, is what we, as a nation, are trying to defend against those who would kill, shoot and bomb their way into power and influence. He can be reassured that this—if you like—reversion to the previous standard of proof is all about making sure that we have as agile a tool as possible, bearing in mind the rapidly changing nature of the terrorist threat that we face. It is vital that we make sure that, when applications for TPIMs are made, they can be done not only in such a way that there is clearly an evidential basis and those grounds exist, but in a way that means they can be effective and as rapidly implemented as possible. The focus of the TPIM and the number of people on it will change, adapt and evolve according to the constant and the changing nature of the threats.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Hansard

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. The point made by the Chair of the Justice Committee is very well made. Not only has the current independent reviewer of terrorism, Jonathan Hall QC, not recommended the change, but he has specifically questioned the basis for the change. So again, is the Lord Chancellor able to clearly articulate for us why this change in the burden of proof is necessary?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:07 a.m.

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for her question. Indeed, in the lengthy answers that I am giving, I am trying to do just that. What I am trying to explain is—I know that she knows this—that the TPIM mechanism is not something that is entered upon lightly. It involves a high degree of resource and a high intensity of resource management. It is a self-evident truth that the resources of the state, however large they may be, are not infinite and therefore choices and priorities have to be allocated. What I can assure the House of is that of course every time we assess that the grounds are met and that there is a risk, we will act. That is what our security services do, day in, day out, for us. What I am saying is that the change in the threshold creates that greater agility. I accept that it will be a lower standard, yes, but the reason for that is to allow for greater flexibility when our operational partners come to apply them.    

I was talking about the importance of TPIMs’ use being proportionate. I believe that the annual review of TPIMs, which is going to be part of this process to qualify the question about their indefinite duration, strikes the right balance between the need for vigilance and control against the need for those basic civil liberties that we all guard jealously to be maintained. Let us not forget that where it is no longer necessary or proportionate to extend a particular TPIM for the purposes of public protection, that TPIM will be revoked. That check and balance is very much at the heart of the regimen that we are proposing in the Bill.

The Bill also amends legislation governing serious crime prevention orders. Those are civil orders imposed by the courts that protect the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting an individual’s involvement in serious crime, which of course includes terrorism. The Bill supports the use of these orders in terrorist-related cases by allowing counter-terrorism policing to make a direct application to the High Court for a serious crime prevention order. We are therefore streamlining that process. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has noted that these mechanisms are at the moment an under-utilised tool in terrorism cases, and I believe that by streamlining the process we will see a greater reliance upon them.

We are also adding the offences of breaching a TPIM notice and breaching a temporary exclusion order to the list of relevant terrorism offences that can trigger the registered terrorist offender notification requirements. Again, the independent reviewer has publicly confirmed his support for that change. The regime requires individuals aged 16 or over who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in custody for a relevant terrorism offence to provide certain information about changes in their circumstances, such as their address, to the police and to notify them of any foreign travel plans. Together, these changes strengthen our ability to manage the risk posed by those of terrorism concern in our community, including those who have been released from prison without a period on licence.

The Bill also reforms how we deal with terrorist offenders under the age of 18. We recognise, of course, that there is a separate sentencing framework for that category of offenders, and that it has distinct purposes and aims that differ from those relating to adult offenders. We have carefully considered which measures it would be appropriate to apply to under 18-year-olds in developing this proposed legislation. Although we remain firm in our aim to ensure that custody should be used only where absolutely necessary, it is a sad and inescapable fact that some young people are susceptible to radicalisation or to the adoption of extremist views, and that among those, there are a few who pose a very serious threat to the public.

The Bill will therefore ensure that the courts have the right range of tools at their disposal to deal with those under the age of 18 who commit serious terrorist or terrorist-related offences. We will do that by introducing a youth equivalent to the special sentence for offenders of particular concern. This will mean that, if convicted of terrorist offences serious enough to warrant custody, these offenders will serve a fixed period on licence once they have been released into the community. This will ensure that they receive an appropriate level of supervision. We are also replicating the changes to the extended determinate sentence to ensure better public protection from young terrorist offenders who have been assessed as dangerous. This removes Parole Board consideration of the two-thirds point for the most serious terrorism offences, and in the interests of public protection, it gives the courts the option to apply an extension period of up to 10 years on licence. I accept that this is an exceptional series of measures, but we are dealing with an exceptional type of offending.

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab) - Hansard

Can the Secretary of State explain, first, what additional resources will be made available within the prison system to ensure that those who commit terror offences are not then left there to radicalise other young offenders? That has been a huge concern, and the Government have been pretty lacklustre in dealing with it. Secondly, when they are released, what resources and support will be made available to local authorities and other partnerships to ensure that other young people are not susceptible to their influence? It is one thing to sentence, but quite another to deal with the underlying challenges in communities.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 3:33 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that issue. I can give her the strongest reassurance that, though at times it might appear, from some of the coverage of how terrorism is monitored in prison, that our system is failing, it is not. There are many aspects of the counter-terrorism regimen in our prisons that are world leading and which other countries are learning from and coming to us for help and advice on. I can say this about our recent announcement: the doubling of the number of specialist probation officers, and imams with specialist training, will further improve the way we deal with terrorism both inside prisons and in the community.

I can reassure the hon. Lady that, after 2017, when the Home Office and my Department came together with the joint extremism unit that deals with terrorism, a visitor to a prison with a particular specialism—Belmarsh, for example—would have seen embedded in the command and control structure police officers, probation officers, all parts of the system working jointly around a particular offender: not just monitoring but anticipating and understanding the trends, themes and information emerging. A lot of this is of a sensitive nature and it would be wrong of me to dwell too heavily upon the detail, but I can say that we have created separation centres. Those are challenging, as one should not use them on a whim and there needs to be a clear basis on which to separate individuals of known extremism from the rest of the prison population. Otherwise, there is a danger of creating an even more worrying unit or cadre of individuals who feed off each other and whose agenda of hate and terror is only entrenched by their being separated from the rest of the prison community.

The hon. Lady is right to say there is a challenging balance to be reached between separation and the danger of the proselytization of these views among other more susceptible members of the prison community, but we have the resources and are ploughing them in. The Bill is only part of the step-up approach I announced earlier this year. She can be reassured that not only is the work being done in prisons but—to deal with her point about the community—the specialist probation officers will have a community role as well. Furthermore, as I will refer to shortly, the statutory review of Prevent will give us all an opportunity to hone, improve and refine our approach to terrorism within the community.

Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con) - Hansard

When I was Prisons Minister between 2010 and 2012, we abolished control orders, to which we are returning, because of the inflexibilities they created. I will speak on that in my main remarks. Will not the inflexibilities and the mandatory elements in the Bill make significantly more difficult the job of those most brilliant people in the Prison Service engaged in the rehabilitation of this most difficult class of offenders?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I pay tribute to the work my hon. Friend did in my Department at the beginning of the coalition Government. He is right that in many instances the removal of flexibility in sentencing can pose huge challenges, but we are dealing with an exceptional cohort—a small group of people whose type of offending is very different in my view from the mainstream of other types of offender. As he knows, I have worked in the system for many years, and I have seen individuals capable of the most astonishing rehabilitation, who have turned away from crime and gone on to lead blameless lives, but I am afraid that within this cadre of people there is a stubborn minority who are not capable of rehabilitation, who might show superficial signs of co-operation but whose agenda remains unchanged and undeterred and whose chosen path remains the same, even many years later. That is the sad reality of terrorism and I make no apology for taking an exceptional course to deal with an exceptionally difficult, troublesome, and dangerous group of people.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty - Hansard

The Lord Chancellor is being incredibly generous in giving way. He will be aware of the tragic circumstances in which young people in my constituency were recruited to Daesh/ISIS, and that the perpetrator of neo-Nazi actions a couple of years ago in Grangetown was only 19. It is right to focus on issues that relate to young people, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say a little more about the specialist probation officers, and about what training skills they will be given to look at the increasingly sophisticated way that some of these individuals engage online? As he said, they might be superficially engaging in face-to-face conversations, but then having a completely different set of conversations online, including through gaming platforms.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I know the hon. Gentleman’s community very well through my work in the criminal justice system. It sounds as if his community has particular criminal justice problems—that would be an insult, as it is a diverse and lively community that I know very well indeed. From that knowledge, I know that he represents a wide and wonderfully diverse range of cultures and views in the great city of Cardiff. He can be reassured that online work is as important as any offline interaction. I am impressed by the constant attention to renewal when it comes to the training of probation officers, and there is an acknowledgement that the threat is constantly evolving. The sad reality of the tender ages of some of these perpetrators is something we had to acknowledge in the Bill, hence the measures we are taking.

I was talking about the statutory review of Prevent. As we know, there was a deadline in statute for the completion of that review. We are having to change that, which is unfortunate and not something we wanted. We know there was a difficulty with the process, and Lord Carlile had to step down. We are engaging in a full and open competition to appoint the next independent reviewer, which is what the House would want; it has to be open and independent. We want to give the new reviewer the time necessary to carry out the review, so the statutory deadline will be removed. That does not in any way diminish my commitment, or that of the Home Secretary, to the success of the review, or our determination for it to be done properly and at speed. Our aim is for the review to conclude, with the Government response, by August next year.

In response to an intervention from the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) I made the point that, perhaps unusually for a criminal justice Bill, this Bill has UK-wide application, because of the devolution settlement and the question of reserved matters when it comes to counter-terrorism. We have committed to ensuring that the seriousness of terrorist offending is treated equally across the three jurisdictions of the UK, and that we are able to protect all our citizens. We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland, of Scotland, and of England and Wales, not to discriminate in any way or to create false and unhelpful distinctions between all corners of our kingdom. To that end, the provisions will apply equally to the three jurisdictions. That includes applying the measures that we took in the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, in full, to Northern Ireland.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance) - Hansard

Does the Lord Chancellor recognise that, despite supporting the Bill overall, the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland has expressed some concerns about the extension of those provisions to Northern Ireland, and raised some potential inadvertent and unintended consequences that would be undesirable?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:03 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman was good enough to write to me and I can reassure him that I have spoken directly in an official capacity on several occasions to the Justice Minister, who was of course a distinguished Member of this House in the 2010 Parliament. I know she is a dedicated public servant who is reviving the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland in an important way. I have of course discussed these matters carefully with her and considered them. She makes some important points about the sensitivity of polygraph testing, which I well understand, and the regime for youth offenders, which is a particular passion of hers.

The hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) will know that when I considered retrospective application to Northern Ireland in February, I was careful not to rush into doing that in an emergency Bill. That was because I respected the devolution settlement and some of the differences in our approaches in various parts of the kingdom. I assure him that, having reflected, taken the appropriate steps and considered the matter in the round, I now believe that the provisions of article 7 of the European convention on human rights will not be affected by the measures I wish to take. It is important that we ensure that there is equal treatment of all types of terrorist offender throughout the kingdom.

Earlier, I made the point that I do not want the legislation to be discriminatory. That underlies my approach and I therefore intend to move ahead. Of course, it is a matter for the Administration in Stormont, but I very much hope that they will grant legislative consent. That is what I am seeking and that applies to the Scottish Government as well. My discussions with the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland and the Justice Secretary in Scotland, with whom I have a good professional relationship, will continue so that, with the consent of both legislatures, we can press forward with what I hope will be UK-wide legislation. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention.

We know all too well the consequences that face us when terrorists are given sentences that are just not long enough, when they are released too early or when the arrangements to supervise them in the community are not robust enough. It is abundantly clear that the law failed the victims of Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham. I believe that the comprehensive set of measures in the Bill helps to put that right. By strengthening our hand at each stage of the process of dealing with terrorist offenders, it represents our determination to do everything in our power to ensure that the public are protected.

Mr Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con) - Hansard

I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the Chamber for arriving late. I was at a Defence Committee meeting. My right hon. and learned Friend will know that the post-covid world we enter will be very different security-wise from the one we left. That distraction is being used by our adversaries, including terrorists, to regroup, rearm and retrain. Does he agree that this is not the time to reduce our security or defence budgets and that we must remain on our guard?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:06 a.m.

My right hon. Friend is right to remind us all of the need for constant vigilance. He described the current covid crisis as a distraction; it is a serious and grave crisis and all Governments must give their energy, heart and soul to dealing with it. However, he is right that there is a risk that we take our eye off the ball when it comes to security and defence. We are not doing that. At no stage are the Government doing that. That is why we are putting more resources into counter-terrorism and the Bill is just part of that.

The rapid passage of the emergency Bill a few months ago represented Parliament at its best: acting swiftly to take the urgent steps necessary to keep all our constituents safe from harm. That legislation was a necessary step then, but now we must finish the job. I hope that the Government will have the full support of hon. Members across the House in doing just that.

Mr David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab) - Hansard

The point of terror attacks is to make us despair, but the public’s response to them shows us why we are still right to believe in hope. We saw that clearly in the attack on Fishmongers’ Hall on 29 November last year. I will not name the attacker, but I will praise the bravery of the Polish porter, Łukasz Koczocik, who risked his own life to help overpower the terrorist with a narwhal tusk. Two former offenders, James Ford and Marc Conway, also became heroes when they helped tackle the attacker to the ground. I also pay special tribute to Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who dedicated their young lives to seeing the best in people, working in offender rehabilitation only to be killed in the most bitter twist of fate.

That terrorist attack, like another on Streatham High Road on 2 February this year, was committed by an individual who was already convicted as a terrorist offender, but who had been released automatically at just past the halfway point of their sentence. They were neither de-radicalised nor deterred by their time in prison. In fact, their time at Her Majesty’s pleasure may have made them worse.

There are two possible conclusions we can draw from those harrowing stories. First, prison sentences for terrorists are not long enough and, secondly, deradicalisation programmes in prison are not working. The Government, with the support of the Opposition, went some way to addressing the first of those concerns with emergency legislation passed earlier this year. The Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 ensured that terrorist offenders sentenced to a determinate sentence could not be released before the end of their custodial sentence without the agreement of the Parole Board.

The measures in today’s legislation build on the emergency legislation. They, too, are based on the conclusion that there remain some terrorism offences where the maximum penalty is not sufficient for the gravity of the offence. The Opposition will not be seeking a Division on Second Reading, but we will scrutinise the Bill as it moves through the House into Committee and on Third Reading.

We understand that the terrorism threat level in the UK remains substantial. We also note that the threat does not come from Islamic extremists only. As Britain’s top counter-terrorism police officer, Neil Basu, has warned, the fastest-growing terrorist threat comes from the far right. Of the 224 people in prison for terror-related offences, 173 are Islamic extremists and 38 are far-right ideologues. Of the 16 plots foiled by the end of 2018, four were from the far-right community. In a world that is increasingly tribal, the Opposition believe that the broad thrust of these changes is needed. Labour’s priority is to keep the British public safe.

Break in Debate

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill - Hansard

That is very generous—characteristically so—of the right hon. Gentleman. This is something that, as he rightly observes, has nothing to do with party. Any of us who has lived in any of our great cities has lived with the reality of that risk from time to time. That is why, to return to my point, we must try to get the detail right as well as the broad thrust.

There is much in the Bill that I support, and I shall certainly support it on Second Reading. I think we all accept that, precisely because of the particular nature of Islamist terrorism, the threat of which we now have to confront—the way it seems to warp an ideology even more particularly and more deep-rootedly than many other political motivations—it requires particular care in its handling.

There is no doubt—we have seen it in some of the cases that have been referred to, and it is well established by those who have researched these matters—that those who have been attracted to that ideology frequently present as particularly manipulative and are sometimes adept, as the Lord Chancellor has observed in previous debates, at hiding their motivations for a considerable time. It is therefore is all the harder for the authorities to make an assessment about when it is safe for them to be released, so it is not at all unreasonable that we should have particular types of regimes for sentencing, rehabilitation and release to deal with the particular types of threat that can arise from this particular class of offending.

That said, there are legitimate concerns, which must be raised, about whether we are still getting this right. I do not think any Government have ever got it wholly right. We always have to learn as we go along, as greater awareness and understanding become apparent. That is no criticism of anyone in this context.

I agree with the point that the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) made about the work of Ian Acheson. Mr Acheson’s report was most important and significant and, I think, extremely valuable. He gave compelling evidence to the Justice Committee at the time he brought it out. I have always regarded it as a matter of regret that that report was not more fully implemented. Much of it was, but I still think that there may be bits that we ought to look at.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I am extremely grateful to the Chair of the Justice Committee for giving way. He is helping to develop the debate in an extremely productive way. I can assure him that I have engaged regularly with Ian Acheson, whose work I respect hugely. Eight of those 11 recommendations were carried out. There was one in particular, with regard to Friday prayers, that we did not think was necessary. However, things have moved on considerably in the four years since that important report. I speak with the benefit of having been into some of these institutions, of engaging weekly with members of JEXU and of getting frontline information that gives me a higher degree of confidence that there is indeed a plan, a strategy and an approach that is yielding benefits. There is more to do, but there is far more out there than perhaps is fully appreciated.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:07 a.m.

I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for that intervention. I know that he takes this immensely seriously on a personal level as well as an official level. We ought to be prepared to engage with all expertise in this field. He is right to keep things under review, and I hope that he will continue to use the expertise of Mr Acheson and others who worked with him on that report to inform our best practice.

I visited a young offenders institution where a young girl who had been suborned into this dreadful ideology was being held on remand. She was no doubt going to receive a very substantial sentence, such was the gravity of the matters in which she had become involved, but because of her age, it was inevitable that at some point she would have to be released. Having a means of doing that safely is profoundly important, but I accept also that it is profoundly difficult because it is well established that the pre-indicators that we find in relation to general criminality are often not available to be picked up in this type of case. So I totally understand where the Government are coming from in that regard. That is why, as I said, I do not have a problem with the basic thrust of the changes to the regime that the Bill proposes.

The other point, which has been picked up in the debate by Members on both sides of the House and in interventions, is that the whole purpose of our standing up against terrorism, from whatever source it comes, is to protect our basic values as a society, which are underpinned, perhaps more fundamentally than almost anything else, by a commitment to the rule of law. Anything that seeks to drive us away from that, or inadvertently causes us to move away from that, ironically serves in its own insidious way to assist the terrorist cause rather than our own. I do not think for one second that any Government—none of the Governments who have had to confront this going back to the time I was talking about when I was a young man—have ever sought to do that deliberately.

We have to be particularly alert to that risk, and that is why I hope that when we look at the detail of the Bill we will take on board the need to ensure that we continue safeguards in this regard. That is one reason why it was a good thing that we appointed an independent reviewer of terrorism in the first place. I am a great believer in independent inspectorates, be they of the Prison Service, probation, the Crown Prosecution Service or education services. The same applies to the desirability of having a robust independent reviewer, and we have always had those in the shape of distinguished lawyers. That is why I have a concern about the burden of proof in relation to terrorism prevention and investigation measures. The initial changes were driven, as has been pointed out and I said in my intervention, in response to specific recommendations from the independent reviewer.

The current independent reviewer, Mr Jonathan Hall, QC, supports and endorses a number of changes that the Bill makes, and I think that is powerful evidence in the Lord Chancellor’s favour in relation to many elements of the Bill. But that actually makes it all the more striking that the change to the burden of proof in relation to TPIMs does not arise from anything that the independent reviewer has sought, or anything that the independent reviewer has advocated. His silence on that point, as opposed to other areas where I would suggest that he has given valuable external support to the Government’s position, is therefore striking, and that is why we must be particularly careful about how we deal with this matter. It is a little bit like putting the other side to proof, if I can put it that way.

There may well be a good reason for that, and I am sure that the Lord Chancellor would not reinforce the proposal unless he genuinely believed there was, but I think we have to be able to set a reason before the public as well. I accept that there are pressures in terms of resource and the amount of time it takes to bring forward one of these measures. I accept, too, that the Lord Chancellor observes that it is therefore not done lightly. That is all perfectly fair, but if we are going to make that change—after all, I was a junior member of the coalition Government who made the change in the opposite direction, away from control orders, as has already been observed—we ought always to be able to do it on the basis of the clearest evidence. With every respect, I am not quite sure that we have yet got the clarity of evidence that I would like to see to satisfy me on that point.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee for his indulgence. I was talking about the need for flexibility. That is why we are making the change. I served on the Committee that considered the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill in 2011, and I followed the developments in the law very carefully, but it is right that we act on the advice and support of the security services and all those involved in the monitoring of offenders, and it is because of that need for flexibility that we judge it right to make the change now. I hope that that is clear.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 4:29 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor makes the point very clearly, and I fully understand that, but I do just juxtapose it with the observation by Mr Hall, QC, in his note dated 2 June, in which he says:

“In these circumstances it is not clear why there is any need to change the law in the manner proposed. Steps to reduce the resource burden of obtaining TPIMs are already in hand. The courts have not found that the current approach is wrong.”

There may be an argument for flexibility, but we cannot say that it comes from the independent reviewer, so I wonder where it does come from.

Break in Debate

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:07 a.m.

There is when the TPIMs are first set out—the hon. Gentleman is right about that. My argument about the control orders at the beginning, where I thought they should have been amended back in 2011, was for introducing stronger safeguards. I have always believed that we need stronger safeguards in place, but the Bill does not include any safeguards for judicial scrutiny after two years if these measures are going to be extended—if they are going to be for longer. The independent reviewer, Jonathan Hall, has suggested a solution would be to require the Secretary of State to seek the court’s permission for any extension beyond two years, in the same way that she currently does when a TPIM is first made. That would seem to be a sensible additional safeguard to put in if those TPIMs are to be extended.

In addition, no explanation has been given about the burden of proof. I asked the Minister to tell me, hand on heart, whether he knew of cases—I do not ask for the detail—where he believes the wrong decision has been made not to put somebody on a TPIM because of the burden of proof, and he was not able to do so. I am therefore really concerned that there is not the evidence to justify lowering the burden of proof in this way. He referred to the idea that we somehow need greater “flexibility”. I hope he will reconsider his use of that word, because the powers are flexible; they can be used to apply to all sorts of different circumstances and different kinds of threats that an individual might pose. He should not use the word “flexibility” to apply to the burden of proof. We do not apply flexibility to proof, just as we do not apply it to truth.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I did not mean it in those terms. Clearly where we have a regime specified by statute, it needs to be applied rigorously. I was talking about operational flexibility, bearing in mind the complexities of these orders, and the fact that they are not obtained lightly and there has to be a very good operational case for them. That is what I meant, and I am sorry if there was any ambiguity in my remarks.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper - Hansard
9 Jun 2020, 12:07 a.m.

I appreciate that, but I think that also makes clear the gap in the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s case, because operational flexibility still should not apply to the burden of proof—the evidence required in order to justify applying measures that are for particularly extreme circumstances. The independent reviewer, Jonathan Hall, has said that

“administrative convenience does not appear to provide a basis for reversing the safeguard of a higher standard of proof.”

We cannot justify saying that in order to somehow reduce the paperwork, we want to reduce the burden of proof to use such measures. His predecessor, Lord David Anderson, who argued for bringing back relocation and who has been a supporter of strong powers, has agreed with him on this matter. Initially he argued for increasing the burden of proof, and he has said that the Home Secretary should at least have to “believe” someone is a terrorist, not just “suspect” it. That is the important criterion if these powers are to be used. I urge the Government to rethink these safeguards. If we are to have these strong powers to keep us all safe, prevent terrorist attacks, and protect us from people who may be immensely dangerous, we should also ensure the right kinds of safeguards to make sure that those powers are not misused, abused, or used in the wrong cases.

On the Government’s Prevent programme and the review of it, I am disappointed that there is now no date in the Bill—it has been removed altogether. It is clear that we still have no reviewer in place for the Prevent programme, so they will obviously not complete the review by August, but that in itself is a huge disappointment. The timetable has been extended again, as has the application process. There is no deadline at all, and it is immensely important that the review is not just chucked into the long grass. Will the Minister include an alternative date? A date was included for a good reason, after debates about previous legislation, to ensure that the review happened. A programme that is so important and has had different questions about it raised, should be effectively reviewed to see how it should work.

Finally, we should also be looking at deradicalisation more widely, both as part of the Prevent programme and in our prisons, as well as at how we can do more to prevent extremism and radicalisation, and at how to turn people back towards a better course once things have gone wrong.