Robert Buckland debates with Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

There have been 14 exchanges between Robert Buckland and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Mon 27th April 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 38 interactions (2,026 words)
Thu 11th April 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 26 interactions (925 words)
Thu 7th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 30 interactions (1,015 words)
Thu 31st January 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 35 interactions (1,102 words)
Thu 13th December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 18 interactions (564 words)
Thu 1st November 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 27 interactions (765 words)
Thu 6th September 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 45 interactions (1,260 words)
Thu 21st June 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 31 interactions (961 words)
Thu 10th May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 27 interactions (733 words)
Thu 22nd March 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 36 interactions (908 words)
Thu 8th February 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 25 interactions (722 words)
Thu 21st December 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 28 interactions (862 words)
Thu 16th November 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 22 interactions (529 words)
Thu 14th September 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 27 interactions (765 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Robert Buckland Excerpts
Monday 27th April 2020

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the preparedness of prisons to respond to the covid-19 outbreak. [901952]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland) - Hansard

We have taken significant and unprecedented action during this very difficult period to save lives and to protect the NHS. We know that further progress is needed if we are to continue to strike a balance between limiting the spread of covid-19 and protecting the public. We have restricted regimes in prisons and minimised inter-prison transfers to reduce the spread of the virus, and we are implementing units to protect the sick, to shield the vulnerable and to cohort new arrivals to reduce risk. There are positive signs that our carefully implemented approach is limiting the impact of this initial phase of the pandemic. The number of cases and deaths is much lower than originally predicted, but we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that that remains the case.

Alan Mak Portrait Alan Mak [V] - Hansard

Prison officers, including those from Havant, are working on the frontline to tackle covid-19 on the prison estate. Can my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that they have the right protective clothing and equipment to keep them safe?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Indeed, we continue to focus effort on ensuring that we have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment in all its forms and reliable supply chains too. Our reporting shows that we have a sufficient level of supply to meet our current forecast demand position on most items, including aprons, eye protection, gloves, masks and hand sanitiser. We have stock of most of those items in the tens of thousands, with further deliveries scheduled to allow us to meet forecast demand. We are currently running low, however, on coveralls, where there is a shortfall in the low thousands. We have a large delivery on order, and it is expected this week or next.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous [V] - Hansard

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. The feedback that I am receiving from officers working in prisons in Suffolk and Norfolk is that social distancing guidelines are not being adhered to and that there is a limited amount of PPE, with a notable absence of face masks. Can he assure the House that he will work with prison officers and their representatives to address those understandable worries?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

My hon. Friend can be assured that my officials work closely with the Prison Officers Association. The restricted regimes we have put in place mean that prisoners are spending more of their time in their cells, to support social distancing. When they are allowed out of their cells—for example, for exercise, association or showering—it is on a rota basis, in small, manageable groups supervised by officers, allowing for social distancing to be maintained. The message to stick to the guidance is being reinforced through gold command as part of the command and control structures that now operate right across our prison estate, and we are reinforcing that message through a range of activity—for example, via posters and prison radio.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson Portrait Mrs Hodgson [V] - Hansard

While most prisons are taking every precaution to prevent the spread of covid-19, union sources report that some rogue governors are attempting to return to business-as-usual practices, such as unlocking large numbers of prisoners and restarting training courses. Does the Secretary of State condemn that reckless behaviour and agree that all governors should be following official guidance, without exception?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

The hon. Lady is right to point out the danger of over-enthusiasm going ahead of the guidance. It is clear that the work that has been done by governors, staff and, indeed, the prisoners themselves in our institutions has helped to minimise the sort of explosive outbreak that we were quite rightly worried about. My advice—my instruction—to everybody involved in this is to stick to the guidelines. We are not in a position yet to change that regime. Please follow the guidelines that have been set out clearly by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis [V] - Hansard

Tomorrow the nation will mark International Workers’ Memorial Day with a minute’s silence, to pay tribute to workers—including prison officers —who have lost their lives while protecting us. Will the Secretary of State join me in recognising the dedication and sacrifice of our prison staff and thank them for performing a vital public service while putting their own health and safety at risk?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding the House and the country of the sacrifice made by many dedicated public workers, including our incredible prison staff. I will be speaking again to the Prison Officers Association later this afternoon to extend my continued thanks to them and their members for their dedication. I pay tribute to those who are unwell and I remember those members of our prison and probation service who have sadly died because of covid-19.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

I call the Chair of the Select Committee on Justice.

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

I know that all members of the Select Committee will wish to associate themselves with the Secretary of State’s tribute to prison staff and their work.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that although the rates of infection are mercifully much lower than expected and anticipated—we are glad of that—very great strain is none the less being placed particularly upon overcrowded, older and Victorian and local prisons, which are frequently carrying far more prisoners than they were intended for? Will he confirm that the Government will use all measures, including, where appropriate, targeted early release, to meet our legal responsibilities in domestic and European law to protect the welfare of prisoners in the state’s custody and that of staff employed to carry out their duties in safeguarding those prisoners?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, the Chair of the Select Committee, for pointing out the vital importance of maintaining HMPPS’s current approach of making sure we do not end up with explosive outbreaks of covid-19 on the estate. He is right to point out the early release scheme. It is but a part of a co-ordinated strategy that has included the compartmentalisation of prisoners to prevent the seeding and feeding of the infection, and that, together with the increased capacity we are developing at pace, plus a reduction in the overall number of prisoners in the estate, has helped us reach a position where, while we are not out of the woods, we are coping and dealing well with the threat of covid-19.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

I welcome the shadow Secretary of State, David Lammy, to his new place.

Mr David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab) - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I am very grateful, Mr Speaker. It is nice to be back.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving me two detailed briefings since I took office. He announced on 4 April—coincidentally, the day the Labour party elected a new leader—that he wanted to introduce a release scheme for up to 4,000 prisoners. Can he update the House on how many prisoners have been released and how many prison officers and staff and prisoners have sadly lost their lives?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 12:04 a.m.

First, I welcome the right hon. Gentleman back to the Front Bench and congratulate him on his new position. I am grateful to him for his engagement with me, and I will indeed, on his invitation, update the House first on the confirmed cases. These figures are accurate as of 5 pm on Saturday. On the number of confirmed deaths, sadly five members of prison staff have died as a result of the virus, and we have 15 confirmed prisoner deaths. On the number of confirmed cases, there are 321 among prisoners and 293 among prison staff.

On early release, progress has, I admit, been careful and slow, but we have reached a position now where, also taking into account the release of pregnant women, a total of 33 prisoners have been released. The right hon. Gentleman will know that I did not embark upon this scheme lightly. It is the result of a very careful risk assessment to minimise the risk to the public, and of course it is coupled with the increase in prison capacity of about 3,000, which to my judgment and that of those who advise me is already making a big difference in creating the space we need to increase compartmentalisation and reduce the spread of the virus.

Mr David Lammy Portrait Mr Lammy - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:44 p.m.

With just 33 released out of up to 4,000, the Secretary of State will recognise that, under the restrictive regime he talked about, prisoners cannot be kept in their cells for 23 hours a day, which puts prison staff at risk, never mind potentially seriously breaching important human rights. What is his exit strategy in terms of tracing, upping testing and moving back to a degree of order in our prisons, without which we could see rising tensions across the country?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:46 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman will know that that is very much on my mind every day. I view the strategy as a long-term one. As conditions change in the community, the pressure will be on within the prison estate to do similar. I think that prisoners have so far understood and been brought with us in terms of the need to isolate. Our policy of compartmentalisation—which, do not forget, is not yet fully complete across the estate—will allow us the space and the room to accommodate the needs of prisoners even more widely. That policy, together with the progressive reduction in the overall number of people in the male estate in particular, will have the cumulative effect that the right hon. Gentleman wants to see, and that we all want to see, over the next several months.

Mr William Wragg Portrait Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con) - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:46 p.m.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor assure me and the House that all prison officers and staff who have required a covid-19 test have been able to access one in a timely fashion? Are those prison officers and staff being prioritised for the home testing kits?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:47 p.m.

My hon. Friend knows that prison staff were made a priority by my colleague the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and I am grateful to him for that. That of course includes probation staff. In addition, HMPPS was invited to use some of the available NHS testing capacity for our prison and approved premises staff, and that is prior to the full roll-out plan. Over the past two weeks, we have referred more than 2,000 staff for testing, to which hundreds have already had direct access. We will continue to work with DHSC to ensure that all our key workers have access to testing of all appropriate types as the weeks go ahead. Recalling the question by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), that will, I hope, extend to prisoners, too, when we have that capacity.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) [V] - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:48 p.m.

May I join others in welcoming the shadow Justice Secretary to his place?

The suspension of prison visits during the current crisis affects not just the welfare of prisoners but also their families and loved ones, who have of course been guilty of no criminality. The Scottish Government have committed to providing every prisoner in Scotland with a mobile phone that will be locked so as to enable outgoing calls to approved numbers only. Will the Ministry of Justice be able to match that commitment for every prisoner in England and Wales?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:48 p.m.

The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely correct to talk about the need for contact with families. I am pleased to say that as a result of investment that we have made, we have rolled out even more direct access to telephones across the prison estate in England and Wales. Wherever possible, we have—with controls, of course—issued telephones in-cell or very close to the cell that can be used safely by the prisoner. We have also provided £5 free PIN credit per week for every prisoner that allows for approximately 60 minutes of free calls.

Angela Richardson Portrait Angela Richardson (Guildford) (Con) [V] - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, 2:49 p.m.

The Government announced recently that key workers would be tested for covid-19, and I am delighted to hear that the Secretary of State is making it a priority that prison officers will be tested. Can he confirm that this will be extended to members of the family who might also be symptomatic for covid-19, and will he make that a key priority for his Department?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, midnight

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and she is right to remind us that many prison officers are unable to go to work because they are in households where people might be symptomatic. Having said that, the current attendance figures for prison officers at work are outstanding, and fortunately we have only about 12% or 13% who are unable to come into work for covid-related reasons. That is once again a reason to thank them for their service. I note my hon. Friend’s point, and I would hope and expect to see more help given to households where we desperately need the public service worker to come in and help.

Scott Benton Portrait Scott Benton (Blackpool South) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to protect the public from (a) serious offenders and (b) terrorists. [901946]

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

Protecting the public is the primary duty of any Government and we have acted swiftly to stop the most serious offenders being released halfway through their sentence. Our recent changes mean that anyone given a standard determinate sentence of seven years or more for the most serious sexual or violent offences must spend two thirds of that term in prison. We have passed legislation which means that terrorist offenders will no longer be released early without Parole Board approval and not before the two-thirds point of their sentence.

Scott Benton Portrait Scott Benton [V] - Hansard

All too often, we hear that the time offenders spend in prison simply does not reflect the severity of the crimes they commit. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to restore confidence in the criminal justice system among victims and the wider general public?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, midnight

I have outlined one measure that we have taken. It came into force on 1 April, but that is just the first step, because we will also be bringing forward a sentencing White Paper, which will include further proposals to deal with serious violent and sexual offenders, and we will be introducing further terrorist legislation to ensure that the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders spend longer in prison and face tougher licence conditions.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

I welcome Peter Kyle to the Front Bench.

Peter Kyle Portrait Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab) - Hansard
27 Apr 2020, midnight

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Many of the serious offences are occurring within people’s families. We know that this is a Government who care about domestic violence because tomorrow the Domestic Abuse Bill comes in for its Second Reading, but since the lockdown, arrests for domestic violence have increased by 25%. We know that in the first two weeks of the lockdown, 14 women and two children have been murdered in their families. I know that when the coronavirus made its way towards our shores, the Secretary of State and his team and Department started making preparations for a strategy to keep people safe in their homes. Can he tell the House how successful he believes that strategy has been, and what he will be doing in the next few weeks to keep people safe that was not happening in the last few weeks?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and welcome him to his new position. I am sure he will be taking a keen interest in tomorrow’s debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill, which I shall be leading for the Government. He will be glad to know that, as a result of the recent announcements on the £5 billion covid-19 fund and the £750 million support for charities, we have already made available about £600,000 of funding to be used for the expansion and national roll-out of digital and helpline services. I take his point about the number of cases being pursued. I am glad to note that the police are pursuing these cases, and we are already talking directly with them to ensure that our courts system can deal with those cases expeditiously and that victims can be supported. This is a tough time for victims of domestic abuse, and we are there for them. “You are not alone” is the message that we have to send, time and again, to give them the support that they deserve.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he is taking with the Attorney General to ensure the continued operation of the Crown Prosecution Service during the covid-19 outbreak. [901939]

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

Covid-19 poses an unprecedented challenge to our criminal justice system, but I am pleased to say that we have successfully implemented contingency plans, including in the CPS and our criminal courts, to ensure that justice continues to be administered. Important hearings such as custody cases continue to happen. We have consolidated physical hearings into a smaller number of open courts and introduced additional measures to make them clean and safe. I am in regular contact with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General and the national Criminal Justice Board, which has set up a strategic command to oversee our response to covid-19.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie [V] - Hansard

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his answer. Across both England and Wales and in Scotland, private companies such as GEOAmey work in close proximity to and with the CPS and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to provide vital court services. What discussions have gone on and, indeed, what work has been done to ensure that employees working for those companies have the correct PPE, so that they can continue to do their work as safely as possible, which is vital to ensure that our justice system can continue to function?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend. He of course knows that the GEOAmey contract in Scotland is managed entirely by the Scottish Government, but we recognise how vital it is for all frontline staff to be supplied with PPE. Arrangements are in place, for the management and movement of any prisoner who is suspected or confirmed as having covid-19, to make sure that PPE is available for those responsible. In England and Wales, HMPPS is supporting GEOAmey in its procurement of PPE, and PECS—prisoner escort and custody services—contractors are able to access the various HMPPS hubs around the country to collect additional equipment, as required.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab) [V] - Hansard

Gwent police are hard at work, I know, in tackling criminality, including domestic violence, but with the lockdown added to the existing backlog in our court system, the people they arrest now might not be brought to court for many months and may go on to commit other crimes, so will the Secretary of State be specific about how we are going to speed up the justice system?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. She will be glad to know that daily work is going on between my officials and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, the senior judiciary and the senior magistracy to make sure that we can progress more cases through both the magistrates and the Crown courts. Of immediate importance are magistrates court hearings: I want to see more of them come forward. We can do a lot of them virtually, and I know that the work being done by my hon. Friend the Minister for Crime and Policing, together with my Department, will help improve the speed of the delivery of these important cases.

Siobhain McDonagh Portrait Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab) - Hansard

What steps he is taking to ensure the safety of (a) prison staff and (b) prisoners during the covid-19 outbreak. [901940]

Oral Answers to Questions

Robert Buckland Excerpts
Thursday 11th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con) - Hansard

1. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to support defendants with mental health issues. [910345]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:24 a.m.

The Crown Prosecution Service has a duty of fairness to all defendants, including people with mental health issues. In March it launched a public consultation on revised guidance for prosecutors dealing with defendants with mental health issues. It welcomes responses to the consultation to ensure that its published legal guidance gives the best possible help to prosecutors dealing with such cases.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:25 a.m.

A fair trial is one in which the defendant can follow the proceedings and advance his defence, and the CPS, as an administerer of justice, will want to ensure that that remains the case. What steps is it taking to engage with experts to ensure that defendants are best placed to have a fair trial?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:25 a.m.

My hon. Friend, who has a considerable and distinguished history with regard to the prosecution of serious offences at the Bar, will know that it is vital for experts in the field to be consulted. As part of the consultation, different criminal justice diversions are being considered for some defendants with a range of mental illnesses. I should point out that although autism and other disabilities are included in that consideration, they are not mental illnesses but lifelong conditions. I think that that distinction needs to be drawn very carefully indeed.

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:26 a.m.

I had to intervene with the CPS in the case of a young man in Wakefield who suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I am happy to say that he has now received the treatment that he needed, and that the CPS was very compassionate. However, research shows that people with ADHD are disproportionately present in the criminal justice system. Will the Solicitor General work with the CPS and experts on the public health White Paper to ensure that young offenders who are disproportionately represented, and who are also likely to have higher reoffending rates, are systematically screened?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:26 a.m.

I welcome the hon. Lady’s reference to ADHD. In my professional experience, that condition, connected with communication disorder, is often very prevalent among young offenders in the criminal justice system. As part of the consultation, work will be ongoing to ensure that prosecutors have a greater awareness of the condition when they consider the merits of prosecution.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions on ensuring more effective prosecutions of cases involving rape and other sexual offences. [910346]

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab) - Hansard

10. What recent discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions on ensuring more effective prosecutions of cases involving rape and other sexual offences. [910354]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:27 a.m.

The CPS has undertaken extensive work to ensure that specialist prosecutors are fully equipped to deal with the particular complexities of such cases, and I engage with it regularly about this topic. In March the Government announced a review of how the criminal justice system responds to rape and serious sexual offences. The CPS supports the review, and is committed to working closely with the police and others to address any issues highlighted by it.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:27 a.m.

Is there any guidance for the police or the CPS on access to victims’ data? It concerns me that victims of sexual abuse and rape are being subjected to trawls of their personal data—counselling, school and work data—before the CPS considers taking up their cases.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:28 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. A natural and anxious debate is taking place about disclosure, but I can reassure the hon. Gentleman—and, indeed, all complainants and victims of crime—that “reasonable lines of inquiry” does not mean a reckless trawl through the private lives of entirely innocent individuals. That is not a good use of resources, and it is not what we are encouraging. We need a far more targeted line of inquiry, in accordance with both the law and the code of practice.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:28 a.m.

Intimate partners and ex-partners are the largest single category of perpetrators of rape and sexual assault, which, in my experience of working with abusive men, are linked to outdated and, frankly, illegal attitudes to sex in relationships. What discussions is the Solicitor General having with his colleagues in the Department for Education about the content of the curriculum for relationships and sex education in schools?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for the work that she has done on this issue in the past. She is absolutely right to talk about the input of the Department for Education. I was delighted that the House overwhelmingly passed the new regulations on personal, social, health and economic education, because they deal with relationships properly, and will help young people to understand at an early age what that means and what their responsibilities are. I will continue to have conversations with colleagues in the DFE, and also, importantly, to ensure that the myth-busting that is already being delivered by judges and prosecutors in Crown court trials continues, so that jurors—along with everyone else who is involved in the system—do not have outdated misconceptions about these appalling crimes.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

12. Millions of people in this country carry smartphones, which collect a huge amount of information on their activities. Will the Government take urgent action to ensure that the criminal justice system gets better at analysing that information? Otherwise, we will see many more collapses of trials. [910356]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:29 a.m.

My right hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. She will be glad to know that, as part of the work that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General and I have done to publish a new report on disclosure, I will be chairing a tech summit in June to deal precisely with how we can make artificial intelligence work to help with the huge challenge of trawling through that sort of data.

Eddie Hughes Portrait Eddie Hughes (Walsall North) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:29 a.m.

In cases where rape leads to pregnancy, does my hon. and learned Friend agree with the intention behind the 10-minute rule Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) to remove parental rights from fathers of children conceived through rape?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:29 a.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue with me. I regrettably have not had time to consider that Bill, but everyone in the House can agree that those who act criminally and break the law in a serious way should not expect to enjoy the same rights and privileges that the rest of us enjoy.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:29 a.m.

I am one of those who represents a constituency that has had this curse of the wicked grooming, mainly of young girls, by gangs—it has happened in more than a dozen cities and towns in this country. We still have not had an inquiry into the underlying causes and why this happened. The Crown Prosecution Service is under pressure to meet its responsibilities due to the lack of resources.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:29 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this deeply concerning issue. I am happy to report that there have been a number of successful prosecutions of gangs who engage in this despicable and criminal behaviour. That is as a result of a change of culture that means the victims of these crimes are taken far more seriously than they were even a few years ago. So there is progress.

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con) - Hansard

3. If he will make an assessment of the effect of social media on the administration of justice. [910347]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:32 a.m.

The response to the call for evidence on the impact of social media on the administration of justice was published on 5 March this year. We concluded that, whereas at present social media are not having a widespread impact on the trial process, this may not remain the case if the issues identified are not addressed. The Government are responding in a number of ways, including a new gov.uk webpage to support the public in understanding how they can responsibly comment on criminal trials in social media.

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:32 a.m.

Do users, who appear to have an opinion on everything, have any idea what the law actually is?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:32 a.m.

I do sometimes wonder. It should be as plain as a pikestaff to anyone that the criminal trial process has to have integrity and be based on the evidence heard in court. That is why the new contempt online webpage sets out clear and accessible information for the public on what might be considered contempt. I reassure my right hon. Friend that the law officers take robust action where there is evidence of contempt.

Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Apr 2019, 10:33 a.m.

Will the Solicitor General set out what work he is doing with Twitter, Facebook, Google and other online platforms, which is mainly where people take the law into their own hands and assume that they know what they are talking about when they refer to cases and other issues?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He will be happy to know that I have set up a special point of contact with each of those social media companies so that if an issue is raised with my office an official can immediately contact a named person to ensure as rapid as possible a takedown of the offending material.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Hansard

4. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the UK leaving the EU on the protection of human rights in the UK. [910348]

Oral Answers to Questions

Robert Buckland Excerpts
Thursday 7th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien (Harborough) (Con) - Hansard

4. What steps the CPS is taking to improve its response to serious and organised crime. [909667]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, 10:18 a.m.

The Crown Prosecution Service has a crucial role in tackling serious and organised crimes such as human trafficking, money laundering and child sexual exploitation. It works with other criminal justice agencies to support the Government’s serious and organised crime strategy.

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, 10:18 a.m.

How effectively does the CPS work with other law enforcement agencies to fight serious and organised crime?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right to talk about international co-operation. I am happy to remind him of the important network of up to 27 specialist prosecutors who are based abroad and who work closely with other jurisdictions across international boundaries. Recent examples are the successful conviction of Matthew Falder for child sexual exploitation offences and the conviction of Keith Morris for multiple counts of rape and sexual assault against victims in Kenya. I am happy to say that the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate has reported that the international justice and organised crime division has a conviction rate of over 90% and undertakes high-quality work.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his answers thus far. One of the most insidious aspects of serious and organised crime is the modern slave trade. What action is he taking to bring those criminals to justice, so that we can smash these rings once and for all?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

My hon. Friend is right to draw the House’s attention once again to the grim reality of modern-day slavery. The importance of the CPS in providing early investigative advice in all cases has been underlined, because solely relying on the testimony of victims, who are often vulnerable, can lead to challenges. I am happy to say that in the last year, there was a 119% increase in cases where that vital early advice was provided to the police.

Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O'Brien - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

What steps is the CPS taking to better prosecute county lines offending?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

Rightly, we are hearing a lot of concern about the existence of organised county lines, which are affecting our towns and cities across the country. The CPS has developed a particular approach and typology to help the police and other agencies deal with county lines, concerning in particular the balance between the need to safeguard the vulnerable persons—often young—who are being used and the proper investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

Does the Solicitor General remember replying to me when I said that it was a great concern for those of us who represent towns where there have been dreadful grooming gangs that a senior police officer—not in my patch, but another part of the country—said that the under-resourcing of the CPS meant that it was unable to proceed when it found new evidence about perpetrators?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

I assure the hon. Gentleman, who has long been properly concerned about this serious offending, that resource will not be a barrier to the prosecution of offences. We have seen an important sea change in attitudes to the complainants and victims of child sexual exploitation. Gone, I hope, are the days when young victims are disregarded or ignored by the authorities. The message has to go out that we will listen and act to protect victims.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab) - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

Does the Solicitor General agree with the Chancellor that, rather than new money being spent, knife crime and serious and organised crime should simply be prioritised? If he does, which area does he think should be de-prioritised?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

I assure the hon. Lady that it is not a question of choice when it comes to the prosecution of offences. I am happy to say that in the last year, more than 27,500 cases involving possession of a knife or bladed article were commenced in our courts. That is an important testimony to the seriousness with which the prosecuting authorities take the possession and use of knives and offensive weapons.

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

Can the Solicitor General outline how long it takes for proceeds of serious crime to be administered to communities through the safer communities fund and other grants?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. I do not have the detail of that administration, but I know that in the last seven years, £1.5 billion has been collected in proceeds of crime. That is shared out between the police and other enforcement authorities, and I can write to him with more information about how it is then administered.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

2. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of the level of CPS resources to comply with its disclosure obligations. [909665]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, midnight

I have frequent conversations with ministerial colleagues about this issue and all issues relating to the criminal justice system. In November last year, the Attorney General published his review of disclosure, which examined the efficiency and effectiveness of the current system.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous - Hansard

The disclosure process is a fundamental cornerstone of the criminal justice system. Can the Solicitor General outline his priorities to combat its shortcomings?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman knows that the Attorney General and I, as criminal litigators, have a long and deep interest in this issue. One of the newer challenges has been the rise of technology and the proliferation of telephones and other instruments that have to be examined in many cases. I will chair a digital summit in the months ahead, to try to develop innovative new ways in which we can assist the process. The disclosure issue, I am afraid, is a cultural issue of long standing. Not only the CPS but the police and other agencies have to change their ways and improve the position.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, 10:24 a.m.

What steps is my hon. and learned Friend taking to ensure that victims do not feel afraid or concerned about reporting crimes?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. She knows, in the context of disclosure, that we must be very careful to strike a balance so that it does not become a box-ticking exercise. In particular, in every case the necessity to seize telephones and other items from victims should be assessed very much on the evidence, rather than as a matter of course. I think we must do everything to make it clear to victims that they will get support and encouragement, rather than feel that the process is working against them in a way that can be just as traumatic as the crime itself.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

5. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the legal implications of the Northern Ireland backstop. [909668]

Break in Debate

Eddie Hughes Portrait Eddie Hughes (Walsall North) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

8. What steps the Law Officers have taken to promote public legal education. [909671]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, 10:41 a.m.

The Attorney General and I are the pro bono champions of Government. As part of that, I work closely with those involved in public legal education, supporting initiatives to increase its profile and to reach more members of the public.

Eddie Hughes Portrait Eddie Hughes - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, 10:41 a.m.

It is important that all citizens have the opportunity to learn about the law and their basic criminal legal rights, so will the Solicitor General explain his vision for the public legal education committee?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, 10:41 a.m.

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the work of my public legal education committee, which released its vision statement in October 2018. Among the goals that we have set, we are looking at scaling up the delivery of PLE via the legal profession, using on and offline methods, and we are looking to embed it in public services as an aspect of early intervention in health advice and community settings.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Hansard

9. What information his Department holds on the most recent prosecution for treason. [909673]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The most recent prosecution for what is sometimes known as high treason was that of William Joyce, also known as Lord Haw-Haw, in 1946. Treason remains an offence that can be prosecuted. However, its provisions are somewhat archaic. Modern criminal and terrorism offences are more likely to be applicable and provide sufficient sentencing power, and usually offer a better chance of a successful conviction.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Hollobone - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, 10:41 a.m.

Will the Solicitor General strongly encourage the Law Commission to revise its 2008 guidance that the Treason Act 1351 has ceased to be of contemporary relevance, so that the law may be applied to British nationals who betray our country by going abroad to join a jihad against Her Majesty’s armed forces?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Mar 2019, 10:42 a.m.

My hon. Friend is right to remind us that the 1351 Act is very much on the statute book. The question of who the sovereign’s enemies are is perhaps easily answered when we have clearly defined state actors who are clearly acting against the interests of our country. It is somewhat more difficult when it comes to returning foreign fighters, but I assure him that when people come back to this country who have committed atrocities abroad and where there is evidence, we will prosecute them.

Oral Answers to Questions

Robert Buckland Excerpts
Thursday 31st January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con) - Hansard

3. What recent discussions he has had with the CPS on improving prosecution rates for domestic abuse. [908916]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:24 a.m.

Dealing with domestic abuse is a top priority for the Government, and I regularly engage with the CPS on this subject. The CPS wants to ensure that every victim of domestic abuse has full confidence in the justice system. Only last month it unveiled a best practice model developed in partnership with the police and the Courts Service to help victims through the criminal justice process.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:24 a.m.

I thank the Minister for that answer. What success has the Crown Prosecution Service had in prosecuting controlling and coercive behaviour as a feature of domestic abuse?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:25 a.m.

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Since we introduced the law on coercive control several years ago the number of charges continues to increase. In 2016-17, 309 charges were brought, but last year that trebled to 960.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:25 a.m.

One of the main barriers to victims of domestic abuse and rape coming forward is the fear of having to hand their entire lives and personal information over to the defence. What steps is the CPS taking to ensure that victims are reassured that disclosure is appropriate and proportionate, and that victims are not asked to sign away their privacy?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:26 a.m.

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. Several months ago, the Attorney General and I issued a new paper on disclosure, and that will be followed by revised guidelines this year. We are acutely conscious of the need to balance the interests of justice not just in favour of defendants but in favour of victims. A blanket approach to disclosure is not something we encourage; it will depend on the facts of the case. I am glad that the number of cases that are being dropped because of issues with victims continues to fall, and I think that is a sign of progress.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:29 a.m.

The latest figures published by the Home Office show that only 1.9% of recorded rapes are prosecuted. Baroness Newlove, the Victims’ Commissioner, said:

“I am often hearing from victims of sexual crime that their criminal justice journey is as harrowing as the crime itself. This is just not acceptable. I fear we are letting these victims down badly.”

She is right, isn’t she?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:27 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that only last week I met Baroness Newlove and discussed these very issues. It is vitally important that colleagues in the Ministry of Justice and across Government understand that the journey for victims in cases like this can be an extremely tough one. That is well understood. That is why the agencies are now working together to ease that journey. I do not pretend that the task is easy or that the job is anywhere near finished, but the commitment is there, and we will continue to work to support victims of rape.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Parliament Live - Hansard

I do not dispute the Solicitor General’s worthy intentions in this, but we have a situation where two in 100 reported rapes are reaching prosecution. It is a quite appalling statistic. First, he must acknowledge the impact that spending cuts have had on the ability to investigate these offences. Secondly, he should acknowledge that piecemeal change is no longer enough—the time has come for drastic action.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:27 a.m.

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he must not forget that independent prosecutors have to apply evidential tests and it will not always be the case that complaints will merit a prosecution. I wholly reject his suggestion that expenditure cuts have resulted in a decrease in prosecutions. Expenditure is not an issue when it comes to the prosecution of offences, and never will be.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

4. What recent discussions he has had with the CPS on improving prosecution rates for knife crime. [908917]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:28 a.m.

I engage regularly with the CPS, and we recognise that this issue is a growing national priority. Prosecution rates have been rising year on year for knife crime. Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, there has been a 33% increase. The Offensive Weapons Bill now making its way through this House will tighten the law around the sale, delivery and possession of knives.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:28 a.m.

I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on not only talking to the CPS about changing the sentences on knife crime but actually taking action and going to the Court of Appeal to make sure that an unduly lenient sentence has been lengthened to three and a half years’ imprisonment, quite rightly. What action can he take to make sure that the courts understand their duty to imprison people who are guilty of knife crime?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, midnight

My hon. Friend raises a serious London case, and as a London MP, he is a passionate campaigner against knife crime. I warmly welcome the decision of the Court of Appeal yesterday to increase the sentence in that case. Lord Justice Leveson, the president of the Queen’s bench division, was clear in his approach, stating:

“There can never be any excuse for carrying a weapon of the type this offender carried”

and that the courts must impose “substantial and effective” sentences on those convicted.

Danielle Rowley (Midlothian) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

5. What steps the CPS is taking to improve prosecution rates for offences related to internet trolling. [908918]

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

12. What steps the CPS is taking to improve prosecution rates for offences related to internet trolling. [908925]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:30 a.m.

I recognise that internet trolling can have devastating effects on victims, and where an offence has been committed, the CPS response will be robust. The number of prosecutions commenced for offences under the Communications Act 2003 and the Malicious Communications Act 1988 has increased by over 20% in the last three years, and last year the CPS published revised guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media.

Danielle Rowley Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:30 a.m.

We all know in this job how harrowing and tough trolling and online abuse can be. When I visit schools in my constituency, young people tell me that they not only experience a lot of online abuse but see it happening to people in jobs that they might aspire to and worry about the level of abuse they might face if they went into such jobs. What is being done to ensure that online abuse is given the serious treatment that other types of abuse is given, so that people can see that it will not be taken lightly?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:30 a.m.

The hon. Lady is right to point to the concern about the younger generation being disincentivised from coming forward, particularly into public service. That should worry us all as parliamentarians and legislators. I can reassure her that the CPS has worked hard to develop new guidance for prosecutors, which makes it clear that online abuse is just as bad as offline abuse; there is no distinction in law. Where communications amount to credible threats of violence, prosecutions will commence. I know that Members are concerned about the balance between freedom of expression and prosecutions, and I assure the hon. Lady that that matter is very much in my mind as we develop further guidelines to assist not only parliamentarians but everybody in public life.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:30 a.m.

On 8 January, the Petitions Committee produced its report, “Online abuse and the experience of disabled people”. Will the Solicitor General look at that report and ensure that every step is taken to prosecute cases of online abuse against disabled people?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:30 a.m.

The hon. Lady may know that I have a particular passion about combating disability hate crime. I have met disability organisations in her region—the wonderful north-east—and learned a lot from them about the importance of ensuring that they have the confidence to report crime. I have read the Petitions Committee report. It is excellent, and I am noting in particular the actions that the CPS needs to take.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove (Corby) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:30 a.m.

Does the Solicitor General agree that, while robust action is needed through the courts and the CPS, there is also an enormous responsibility for those who hold public office and offices that command responsibility to call this sort of behaviour out?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right. There can be no moral relativism when it comes to abuse, whatever type it may be and from whatever quarter it comes.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab) - Hansard

6. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the CPS in prosecuting offences under the Hunting Act 2004. [908919]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:29 a.m.

Each CPS area has a Crown prosecutor dedicated to act as a wildlife, rural and heritage crime co-ordinator, to ensure that the specialist knowledge needed to prosecute such offending is readily available. Co-ordinators work closely with specialist officers from local police forces and from the National Wildlife Crime Unit, to ensure a robust CPS response.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am disappointed that I did not hear from the Attorney General, because I wanted to hear about his recent field visit to a hunt, where I am sure the law was perfectly observed. The Solicitor General will be aware that there have been many reports up and down the country over the Christmas period of transgressions of the law. The public expect the law to be enforced in full. Is it not time we strengthened the Hunting Act?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Law Officers do not condone or in any way consent to lawbreaking—that is clear. Where there is evidence of a breach of the Hunting Act and unlawfulness, that evidence will be used to prosecute.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP) - Hansard

7. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the priorities for his Office. [908920]

Break in Debate

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

10. Whether he has had discussions with the Secretary of State for Justice on reforms to the oversight of solicitors. [908923]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:41 a.m.

I have had regular meetings with the Secretary of State for Justice, in which we have discussed a range of policy matters including regulation of the legal professions. Legal services in England and Wales are independently regulated in accordance with the framework set out in the Legal Services Act 2007. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which prosecutes solicitors and firms where necessary.

Sir Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:41 a.m.

If the SRA cannot and will not compensate the EcoHouse investors, it is ripe for reform, is it not?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:41 a.m.

My right hon. Friend tempts me down a path leading to the SRA’s discretion with regard to compensation. I am grateful to him for raising an important issue that concerns many colleagues in the House. I think it best that we take these matters up not just with the Ministry of Justice, but with the SRA itself.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:42 a.m.

May I urge the Solicitor General to do more about solicitors up and down the country who are carrying on their business in a very strange and devious way? I have been talking to representatives of the insurance industry, and I understand that clusters of solicitors are making false claims relating to holiday insurance and whiplash. We know where those dodgy solicitors are, but the current regulation does not seem to be working. What is the Solicitor General going to do about it?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
31 Jan 2019, 10:39 a.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue. The Legal Services Board has currently drafted proposed new rules relating to the governance for regulators; the consultation closed last week, and new statutory guidance will be issued. However, I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. Corrupt solicitors not only damage the reputation of the profession but raise insurance premiums, driving smaller firms out of business. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and his point is fully understood here.

Oral Answers to Questions

Robert Buckland Excerpts
Thursday 13th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con) - Hansard

6. What support he is providing to the (a) Crown Prosecution Service and (b) Serious Fraud Office to tackle economic crime. [908204]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
13 Dec 2018, 10:32 a.m.

The Government are committed to tackling economic crime, and we know that that requires a multi-agency response. That is why both the SFO and the CPS play their parts alongside others, including through their support for the new multi-agency National Economic Crime Centre.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Dec 2018, 10:32 a.m.

What assessment has been made of the UK’s ability to tackle money laundering?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Dec 2018, 10:33 a.m.

My hon. Friend is right to raise that issue, and I was glad to see the recent financial action taskforce report, which reflected substantial progress and referred to the world-leading role that the UK plays in the fight against illicit finance, particularly the risk of money laundering.

Rebecca Pow Portrait Rebecca Pow - Hansard

Nothing annoys the constituents of Taunton Deane more than people getting away with things they should not, so will my hon. and learned Friend outline some further detail on how we are cracking down on money laundering? It is a priority, and the Government have promised to tackle it.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend will be glad to note the introduction of unexplained wealth orders following the Criminal Finances Act 2017. That is already sending a clear message to those who seek to use the UK to wash their illegal proceeds that we will track them down, ask the right questions and conduct confiscations. Using Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 powers, the Government have recovered more criminal assets than ever before, with £1.6 billion taken from wrongdoers between April 2010 and March 2018.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) -