Robert Buckland debates with Ministry of Justice

There have been 32 exchanges between Robert Buckland and Ministry of Justice

Tue 22nd September 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 65 interactions (3,173 words)
Wed 16th September 2020 Sentencing White Paper 83 interactions (5,893 words)
Wed 2nd September 2020 Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill [Lords] 20 interactions (3,283 words)
Tue 14th July 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 60 interactions (2,461 words)
Wed 17th June 2020 Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill [Lords] 4 interactions (1,178 words)
Thu 11th June 2020 Probation Services 59 interactions (4,269 words)
Tue 9th June 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 65 interactions (2,992 words)
Tue 9th June 2020 Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 40 interactions (5,591 words)
Mon 8th June 2020 Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill [Lords] 39 interactions (4,254 words)
Tue 28th April 2020 Domestic Abuse Bill 3 interactions (2,708 words)
Tue 25th February 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 80 interactions (2,873 words)
Wed 12th February 2020 Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill (Business of the House) 2 interactions (199 words)
Wed 12th February 2020 Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill 50 interactions (3,691 words)
Wed 12th February 2020 Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill 3 interactions (377 words)
Tue 11th February 2020 Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill 8 interactions (1,820 words)
Mon 3rd February 2020 Streatham Incident 51 interactions (4,462 words)
Tue 14th January 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 57 interactions (1,990 words)
Tue 8th October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 94 interactions (2,325 words)
Wed 2nd October 2019 Domestic Abuse Bill 91 interactions (5,830 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 Justice (Ministerial Corrections) 3 interactions (255 words)
Wed 24th July 2019 Female Offender Strategy: One Year On (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,581 words)
Tue 23rd July 2019 Vanessa George: Early Release from Prison (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,648 words)
Tue 9th July 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 53 interactions (1,422 words)
Mon 8th July 2019 Dangerous Driving (Westminster Hall) 15 interactions (4,177 words)
Tue 11th June 2019 Imprisonment for Public Protection (Westminster Hall) 9 interactions (3,088 words)
Wed 5th June 2019 Rehabilitation of Offenders 21 interactions (3,797 words)
Tue 4th June 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 52 interactions (1,394 words)
Tue 14th May 2019 Prisons and Probation 12 interactions (2,053 words)
Thu 11th October 2018 Victims Strategy 6 interactions (4,531 words)
Wed 13th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 3 interactions (2 words)
Tue 21st November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 59 interactions (3,969 words)
Tue 14th November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 18 interactions (336 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Robert Buckland Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(5 days, 14 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Justice
Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

I call the birthday boy.

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

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Last week, I published a White Paper entitled “A Smarter Approach to Sentencing”, which sets out my plans to crack down on crime and keep dangerous criminals in prison for longer. It signifies a fundamental shift in our approach to sentencing towards one that is fairer, smarter and, ultimately, better protects the public. The measures I have announced include the abolition of automatic halfway release for certain serious sexual and violent offenders, and we will also introduce a new power to prevent automatic release if a prisoner poses a danger such as a terrorist threat.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford - Hansard

May I start by wishing the Secretary of State a happy birthday?

The use of technology to prevent crime is developing rapidly. From drones and predictive analytics to biometrics, technology is helping to keep our cities, towns and rural communities safer. How will the Government work with expert organisations to ensure that we use the best technology to tackle crime and protect local communities from burglars and robbers?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right to talk about changes in technology that can be harnessed to improve the way in which we monitor offenders and drive out crime. The White Paper contains important measures to utilise GPS technology. For example, we will use electronic location monitoring to track burglars following their release from custody. That will allow probation to monitor the whereabouts of an offender and, where appropriate, share that data with the police, which will help in the investigation and prosecution of further offences.

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell - Hansard

Protecting the public cuts both ways. I welcome the plans in the sentencing White Paper to ensure that those convicted of the most serious crimes spend longer in prison, but given the impact of covid on the court system, those on remand face long delays to have their cases heard. What plans does my right hon. and learned Friend have to ensure that those in that position will see justice sooner rather than later, the public will be protected and community tensions will be tamped down as much as possible?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

My hon. Friend will be glad to know that, as a result of the hard work of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and the judiciary, we are already reaching a turning point in our magistrates courts, with disposals exceeding receipts. In the Crown court, we continue to scale up jury trials, with more than 100 jury trials being heard every week in our Crown courts. We will have 250 courtrooms ready for jury trials by the end of October, which includes using existing capacity, with safety measures such as Perspex screens, up to 30 Nightingale courtrooms, experiments with different court hours and a range of measures that are designed to reduce the wait for the victims of crime.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis - Hansard

I thank the Lord Chancellor for his answer. Tragically, in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, we are plagued with county lines gangs, who take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in my community. What steps are the Government taking in the White Paper to tackle county lines offences and ensure that these vile offenders are punished with the full force of the law?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right to talk about the scourge of county lines. Like me, he will welcome the investment of £25 million by the Home Office to boost law enforcement efforts by not only local police forces but the British Transport police, who are doing incredible work across our railway network, which I have seen at first hand. The Sentencing Council for England and Wales is currently revising its guidelines for drug offences. It is important to note that, among the plethora of county lines is the exploitation of vulnerable children and young people, and that needs to be fully reflected by the investigating and prosecuting authorities.

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

May I, too, wish the Secretary of State a happy 52nd birthday?

Sentencing reform is needed, but on its own it is not enough. The truth is that most criminals will be released from prison at some point, and if they are not rehabilitated when they are released, they will commit further crimes and create new victims. This Government’s prisons simply are not working. Six out of every 10 offenders who serve less than 12 months in prison reoffend. A recent Public Accounts Committee report accused the Government of a “staggering” failure on the prison estate. Does the Secretary of State plan to publish a cross-departmental plan to reduce reoffending within the next three months, as the PAC recommended last week?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind comments.

The right hon. Gentleman can be reassured that in response to the Committee’s findings, the Government are working across Departments. I think that is vital, because he will share my belief and understanding that the Ministry of Justice alone cannot solve these issues; it takes the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care working together. That is why the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Committee, the crime taskforce, meets regularly. Indeed, on its agenda are our ambitious targets to improve offender employment and resettle offenders in a more co-ordinated way to reduce reoffending. He will see the results of that work very shortly.

Mick Whitley Portrait Mick Whitley (Birkenhead) (Lab) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on service users and victims in the criminal justice system. [906341]

Break in Debate

Marion Fellows Portrait Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the implications of the UK Internal Market Bill for his responsibilities in upholding the rule of law. [906365]

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

I am absolutely committed, under the oath I took as Lord Chancellor, to upholding the rule of law; the freedoms and protections we all enjoy rely on it, and as a responsible Government, we remain wholly committed to it. At all stages, as a responsible Government, we must ensure that we have the ability to uphold our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland. We will do what it takes to protect the integrity of our United Kingdom.

David Linden Portrait David Linden - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I believe the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but millions wouldn’t. The Bar Council and the Law Society of England and Wales say that clauses 41 to 45 of the Bill

“enable Ministers to derogate from the obligations of the United Kingdom under international law in broad and comprehensive terms and prohibit public bodies from compliance with such obligations. They represent a direct challenge to the rule of law, which include the country’s obligations under public international law.”

They are not wrong, are they?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

With respect to those organisations, with which I engage almost daily, it is important that as a result of any potential conflict that might occur between domestic and international law, we make provisions as a responsible Government to prepare for the worst. That is the honest and upfront approach, as opposed to confession and avoidance in the event of any international dispute. Members must remember the context: these powers will be triggered only if there is a material breach by the EU, and we have set out examples on the Government website.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin - Hansard

May I wish the Secretary of State a happy birthday? He will be delighted to know that he shares his birthday with my little dog, who is two today.

Mr Speaker,

“the Government are acting recklessly and irresponsibly… It will lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation and puts its future at risk.”—[Official Report, 21 September 2020; Vol. 680, c. 668.]

Not my words, but those of the former Conservative Prime Minister just yesterday in this House. With the Government ready to break international law, can the Secretary of State please explain to my constituents in Cardiff North why there is one rule for them and another for this Government?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks.

Attractive and charismatic though the hon. Lady’s remarks might sound, they do not bear any scrutiny at all. The reality is that we are preparing for a situation that we do not wish to come about. It would have been far easier for us to ignore the matter and kick the can down the road, but it is far better to be upfront about the potential dispute. I hope and expect that it will never come, because we will get the deal and the Joint Committee will resolve its deliberations accordingly.

Marion Fellows Portrait Marion Fellows [V] - Hansard

May I also wish the Lord Chancellor a happy birthday? With age may come wisdom.

The Lord Chancellor has said that he will resign only if the Government break the law in a way that is unacceptable. Thousands of ordinary members of the public were fined for breaking lockdown regulations, while Dominic Cummings did so with impunity. Can the Lord Chancellor explain to those people what criteria he uses to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable breaches of the law?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks. The issue is very straightforward. If we are in a position where the EU has acted in material breach of its own treaty obligations, meaning that acts to the active prejudice of the United Kingdom are being occasioned, then we will act.

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

I also wish the Lord Chancellor a happy birthday. I calculate that I have known him for about half his life. Throughout that time, I have never had the slightest doubt as to his integrity and his commitment to the rule of law. Does he accept that the important changes that the Government accepted in the course of the Committee stage yesterday would not have happened without some pressure from the Back Benches, and without his very close personal and direct involvement in making changes to the Bill and to the test that the Government will apply. That was precisely because he, I and many others are committed to the rule of law. Ad hominem attacks to the contrary are unworthy and unjustified.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right to remind us that personal attacks are no substitute for real debate. What he has done, and what I have sought to do, is, at all times, to make sure that we find a way through these problems. Brexit has thrown up unprecedented challenges to a Government in peacetime. I never pretended that it was going to be anything other than a difficult road. He shares that view and, through his constructive work and the work that I and others have done, this House has a lock on these matters, and, indeed, I think the way is much clearer and much more satisfactory.

Mr David Lammy Portrait Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab) - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:06 a.m.

On 30 July 2019, in the Royal Courts of Justice, the Lord Chancellor made an oath that no other member of the Cabinet is required to make. He said:

“I do swear that in the office of Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain I will respect the rule of law”.

Lord Keen, the Advocate General for Scotland, and Jonathan Jones, head of the Government’s Legal Department, resigned because the Government’s internal markets Bill does not respect the rule of law. May I ask the Lord Chancellor whether he thinks that Lord Keen and Jonathan Jones got it wrong and, if so, how? If not, may I ask him how he can turn up in this House with a straight face after voting to betray his oath and break the law?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

That is a very serious allegation to make. I took that oath in English and Welsh—I took it twice—and I believe in it in both languages, indeed in any language. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman takes that view. As he has just heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), I have done everything that I possibly can consistent with that oath to make sure that this Government act in a way that is consistent with the rule of law. That is what is happening. This House is directly involved, quite properly, in these serious deliberations. Amendments are being made to this Bill as we speak, and the contingency in which these exceptional provisions are to be used has been clearly set out. These are unprecedented times. We do not want to see a breach in any obligations either by us or by the EU, but it would be irresponsible if we did not make those necessary preparations. That is why I am here, and that is why I will continue to be here as long as I feel able to discharge my oath, and I can tell him that, thus far, I feel very able to discharge my oath.

Mr David Lammy Portrait Mr Lammy - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

It is not me who takes that view. Every living Prime Minister takes that view. The Bar Council and the Law Society take that view. The Lord Chancellor previously said that the Government can indeed break the law if it can be fudged, but there is no fudging this—not only does the Bill breach the international law, it is also a flagrant attack on the rule of law at domestic level, and he knows it. As the Bingham Centre states, clauses 42, 43 and 45 authorise a breach of any relevant international or domestic law, including any order, judgment or decision of any international or domestic court. I say to the Lord Chancellor that he is an esteemed barrister and he swears to a code of conduct. Does he not now risk bringing the profession into disrepute by breaching that code of conduct, which states:

“You must not behave in a way which is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in you or in the profession”?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I really find it extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman brings the code of conduct into these matters. Like him, I am acting as a Member of Parliament. I am acting as a Minister in the Government—[Interruption.] I am not a Law Officer; I am the Lord Chancellor. The Law Officers of this country are the Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the Advocate General for Scotland. I do not give legal advice to the Government. I am not a Law Officer.

However, every member of the Government is obliged to follow the rule of law. It is very clear. I take a particular oath to uphold that and to defend the judiciary. As I have explained, I have absolutely no qualms about what has been happening. I have worked extremely hard to make sure that this House is fully involved. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that the idea that the passage of this Bill is a breach of UK domestic law is just plain wrong, and to misquote me is unhelpful, misleading and damaging, frankly.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP) - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

The Bill affords the United Kingdom Government the power to breach obligations that they freely entered into less than a year ago, rather than employ the dispute mechanism that they agreed to. When Lord Keen resigned as Advocate General, he wrote to the Prime Minister that he found it increasingly difficult to reconcile what he considered to be his obligations as a Law Officer with the Government’s policy intentions. The highly respected former Attorney General the right hon. Dominic Grieve has said that the Lord Chancellor’s position is even more clear cut than that of the Law Officers, and that the Lord Chancellor has taken

“an oath of office to uphold or protect the rule of law. The rule of law includes international law…his position is untenable.”

Are both these senior distinguished QCs, Lord Keen and Dominic Grieve, wrong? If not, why is the Lord Chancellor still in office?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

The hon. and learned Lady is right to draw attention to Lord Keen. I pay tribute to his long service in the Government as Advocate General for Scotland, and I was sorry to hear of his resignation. I do not believe that it was necessary, bearing in mind the important changes that have been made to the Bill.

I think that the position is now very clear. The hon. and learned Lady talks of breach, but as I will remind the House again, the eventuality or potential use of these clauses would be only if the EU was in material breach of its obligations, and therefore we would be facing a breakdown. I remind her again that of course we will use the withdrawal agreement mechanism and the arbitral mechanisms within the provisions of the withdrawal agreement, and indeed the Northern Ireland protocol, too. It is not a question of us abandoning our obligations; we will use them, but this is the “break glass in case of emergency” provision that underlies and will protect the United Kingdom’s position if we face such a breakdown.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

Lord Keen’s resignation was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Scottish Bar. The Lord Chancellor has said that he wants us to consider his own actions as an MP and a Minister rather than as a lawyer, so I put this to him. In 2018, in the Gulf case, England’s Court of Appeal ruled that a Government Minister’s overarching duty to comply with the law includes international law and treaty obligations, even though these are no longer explicitly stated in the ministerial code. This Bill gives the Lord Chancellor and other Ministers the power to run a coach and horses through their obligations under the withdrawal agreement. I know that Conservative Members do not like hearing that, but that is the reality. In the light of what the English Court of Appeal has said, just how is this Bill compatible with his oath as the Lord Chancellor to uphold the rule of law?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 11:54 a.m.

As I have said to the hon. and learned Lady, the contingency that underlines the coming into force and use of these powers is a very narrowly and clearly delineated one. I do not believe, as I have said in public, that we are at that stage, and I do not believe we will get to that stage, if both parties renew their efforts, act in good faith and double down on making sure that we get a resolution. It would have been far easier for us to avoid the issue, to pretend that there was not going to be a problem, and then to hit the new year with an avalanche of difficulties when it came to Northern Ireland and its relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom. Members of this House would have rightly criticised us, and, frankly, we would have been in an indefensible position. This is a tortuous process. I reject her allegations—her assertions. We will continue to govern responsibly and consistent with our obligations under the rule of law.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab) - Hansard

What assessment he has made of the effect of the backlog of cases in HM Courts and Tribunals Service on access to justice. [906344]

Break in Debate

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake (Sheffield, Hallam) (Lab) - Hansard

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [906399]

Robert Buckland Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland) - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:14 p.m.

The first duty of any Government is to protect their people. Too often, our system of sentencing in England and Wales does not command the public’s confidence, so last week I laid a White Paper entitled, “A Smarter Approach to Sentencing”. The measures in the White Paper will keep serious violent and sexual offenders in prison for longer and prevent the automatic release of prisoners before the end of their sentence if they present a danger to the public.

Protecting the public from the effects of lower level offending also means finding new ways to break cycles of crime. Our proposals for robust community sentences, backed by an empowered probation service and utilising the most up-to-date technology, will make the smart interventions to address the things that can drive low-level offending, such as poor mental health, and drug and alcohol addiction. This smarter approach will grow confidence in our system of justice.

A cross-Government approach will characterise the reforms, but as we bring them before the House I also look forward to support from across the political divide, so that we can work together to keep the public safe from harm and to bring down stubbornly high rates of reoffending for good.

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:14 p.m.

The prison operator G4S is withholding full sick pay from workers who operate in close contact with prisoners. Does the Secretary of State agree with me and the GMB union that that is scandalous? Will he support calls for G4S to provide the sick pay its workers deserve?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

While it would be wrong of me to make direct comment on what is, sadly, a dispute, I will certainly look into the matter and report back to the hon. Lady on the latest progress or otherwise. I hugely value prison staff and the incredible work they have done, not just throughout the covid pandemic but beforehand.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con) - Hansard

Magistrates have been dispensing justice in our communities for centuries, but in the past decade their numbers have more than halved. That is not helped by the fact that they have to retire at the age of 70, and we are losing about 20 a week at a time when we have a record number of cases to get through the courts. Will my right hon. and learned Friend look carefully at the private Member’s Bill I have put forward to raise the retirement age to 75, as well as act quickly off the back of the Government’s consultation on this issue? [906400]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he is doing on this important issue and for the introduction of his Bill. I fully recognise his concern, which is why we are working with the judiciary on a programme to increase the overall number of recruited magistrates. We are consulting on proposals to increase the mandatory retirement age of judicial office holders, including magistrates. That consultation closes on 16 October. I will consider the matter very carefully before reaching a final decision.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab) - Hansard

The Secretary of State will be aware that in recent years, there has been increased understanding of neurodivergent people and the issues that this presents in the criminal justice system, yet there are still neurodivergent individuals who face disproportionate prison sentences and who, in the case of foreign national offenders, could risk deportation to a country where they have no support. Will he commit to immediately reviewing all cases of neurodivergent individuals, and particularly those who face imminent deportation? [906404]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

The hon. Lady raises an issue that, as she probably knows, is very close to my heart. In the White Paper, we have announced a call for evidence about neurodivergence within the criminal justice system, because I think that we can do much, much better, not just in understanding and making adjustments for people with autism and other conditions when they get into the system, but in preventing them from getting into the system in the first place. One of the issues that she raises is, of course, the question of diagnosis, and many people are not diagnosed even though they present with such problems. I will look at that matter more closely and I am grateful to her for raising it.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann  Hart (Hastings and Rye)  (Con) - Hansard

  Community sentencing must contain a punitive element, most likely unpaid hours. Rather than an offender working in a charity shop or suchlike, what are my right hon. and learned Friend’s plans for ensuring that offenders really do pay their debt to society by, for example, saving money for local communities and taxpayers through litter picking, and so on? [906401]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, midnight

My hon. Friend is right to raise the important issue of unpaid work, because it is a way for offenders to make reparation to wider society for the damage that is caused by crime. As part of our White Paper plans, we will introduce a new statutory duty for important stakeholders, such as police and crime commissioners, to be consulted on the type of unpaid work projects in their area. I believe that that means we will see projects being delivered that are far more at the heart of the communities in which they live.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP) - Hansard

This Government intend to break an international treaty that they negotiated while blaming the other party when it is going to act in good faith. Tomorrow, the Government will bring forward a Bill that seeks to decriminalise torture. Instead of global Britain, is this not a further indication that this Government intend to act as a rogue state? [906406]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

No.

Andrew Percy Portrait Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con) - Hansard

Once people are behind bars, the public should be protected from further criminal activity by those in prisons, but too often, criminality continues. What use are we making of measures such as body scanners to ensure that criminals are not able to continue their behaviour behind bars? [906402]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Last year, the Government announced a £100 million boost to investment in the installation of body scanners in many of our prisons, and particularly category B local prisons with a high number of receptions and visitors. It protects not only prisoners from abuse, but staff, and it makes prisons, I believe, safer places in which to work and gives greater confidence to the wider public that we are doing everything we can to make our prisons as safe as possible.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab) - Hansard

I have been contacted by a local resident who works in a shop and who told me about the increase in abuse that she has faced during covid-19. She said that she has managed to get a full-time guard and body cameras but still the abuse continues. Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas), will the Government support the trade unions and the British Retail Consortium in their call for tougher action on those who assault retail staff? [906410]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

The hon. Lady raises a very disturbing case, and sadly, it is not alone. Many shop workers have been at the frontline of providing vital services through the intensity of the lockdown and continue to do so. It is incumbent on all of us to make sure that sentencing guidelines properly reflect the role that they play. There is helpful reference in the sentencing guidelines, of course, to people in that line of service, but if there is more that we can do to draw the courts’ attention to the particular importance of shopworkers, we should do so.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob  Butler  (Aylesbury) (Con) - Hansard

  The White Paper published last week by my right hon. and learned Friend’s Department proposes extending whole-life orders to 18 to 20-year-olds in wholly exceptional cases. I think that most people understand and agree with that, but there are many others in that age group who will be released, including those serving at Aylesbury young offenders institution in my constituency. Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that young adults in custody can access programmes tailored to their specific age group and their particular needs, in an effort to ensure that they do not commit crime again once freed? [R] [906403]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I pay tribute to those who provide the therapeutic services at Aylesbury YOI, whom I have met in the past. We have clearly stated that we see young adults right up to the age of 25 as a group that need treatment that is different from other cohorts, and we have specialist models for operational delivery to support prisons holding young adults to get the best results for that group. The curriculum at Aylesbury includes personal and social development skills, business, horticulture, barbering and decorating, and we will reinforce that with our new national prisoner education service, which is focused on work-based training and skills.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) [V] - Hansard

It is crucial that victims’ rights are recognised and protected in their dealings with police, prosecutors and courts. Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner, has called on Ministers to make good on promises to give crime victims enforceable rights in law. She is right. The code consultation was a good first step, but where is the victims law up to? [906412]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important point, and I pay tribute to the work of the Victims’ Commissioner and, indeed, her predecessor. The hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that a wider consultation on the new, revised victims code has been finished. We will be publishing the revised victims code in the next several weeks. It is a much smaller, user-friendly document. But further than that, we will legislate as soon as possible, within the next year, for a victims law to enshrine the rights contained in the code and elsewhere, to give victims the higher protection that both he and I want to see.

Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con) [V] - Hansard

I strongly welcome my right hon. and learned Friend’s White Paper, “A Smarter Approach to Sentencing”. However, what steps is he taking to improve the process of disclosure of criminal records? [906405]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

My right hon. Friend is right to raise the important point of disclosure of criminal records. In too many cases, it has been a bar to employment, which is a sure-fire way out of reoffending. For the first time, in our White Paper, we set out revised rules. Some custodial sentences of over four years will be able to become spent as part of criminal record checks for non-sensitive roles, in addition to significant reductions to the rehabilitation periods for sentences of under four years. These proposals, alongside recently approved legislation to change the rules governing disclosure for sensitive roles by removing the multiple convictions rule and the disclosure of youth cautions, will indeed help those who have offended in the past to access employment.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab) [V] - Hansard

At a time when the public are confined more than usual to their homes, potential victims of domestic abuse are more vulnerable than ever. It is vital that the wheels of justice keep turning even in a pandemic. What steps are being taken to ensure that trials of people accused of domestic abuse are prioritised? [906414]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

I can reassure the hon. Lady that domestic abuse trials have continued to be prioritised throughout the pandemic, with early listings. I am very impressed by the work that is being done in Wales in particular, which I visited recently, to list cases in the magistrates court to remove the backlog. Indeed, in the Crown court as well trials are being listed at the earliest opportunity. She can be assured that priority is given to domestic abuse cases when these matters are listed.

Marco Longhi Portrait Marco  Longhi (Dudley North) (Con) - Hansard

  Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that delays in the court system can be damaging, if not traumatic, to all parties attending court? Can he assure me and the House that capacity across the Ministry and courts across the land is being increased to ensure that we catch up with the delays incurred by the covid pandemic? [906407]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:29 p.m.

I would like to thank all our staff in Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service who have carried on working throughout the pandemic. Currently, over 70% of staff work from a court or tribunal building, and the rest are working at home via the cloud video platform. We are investing £142 million in our court system to speed up the technological and modernisation improvements, and we are investing an additional £80 million to support the recovery of our criminal courts, including the recruitment of 1,600 members of staff and further adaptations to our courtrooms to allow more and more of them to be used.

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

  Could the Secretary of State outline the legislation or case rulings that preclude Northern Ireland Bar-registered barristers located in mainland GB, such as silk Hugh Mercer of Essex Court Chambers in London, from claiming expenses for travel and hotel accommodation for Northern Ireland court cases? Does the Secretary of State believe that constitutional integrity should allow any silk to practise and be reimbursed? [906421]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:30 p.m.

I must declare an interest, because I am a member of the Northern Ireland Bar. The particular issue that the hon. Gentleman raises seems to be a matter for the Northern Ireland Justice authorities. However, I will discuss the matter with him further so that we can obtain maximum clarity.

Tom Randall Portrait Tom  Randall  (Gedling) (Con) - Hansard

  In Gedling, Nottinghamshire police’s Operation Reacher teams are knocking down many drug dealers’ doors. Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell me what steps the Ministry of Justice is taking to ensure that we punish those guilty dealers, to keep our society safe? [906409]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard
22 Sep 2020, 12:30 p.m.

I pay tribute to that operation in Nottinghamshire and to the many others that are safeguarding our communities. Parliament has provided the courts with the full range of sentencing powers in order to deal effectively with these offenders, but tough enforcement is also a fundamental part of our approach. We are taking a smarter approach to the restriction of drugs supply using technology and data and taking partnership action with other agencies to tackle drugs alongside other criminal activity.

Simon Jupp Portrait Simon Jupp (East Devon) (Con) - Hansard

  Devon and Cornwall police were an early adopter of the virtual court processes, but sustaining these new arrangements is taking up valuable police officer time. Can the Secretary of State confirm what steps his Department is taking to ensure that these courts can continue to operate effectively during the outbreak, so that police forces can keep their officers on the streets? [906411]

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Hansard

The work of Devon and Cornwall police in ensuring that virtual court processes carry on at this challenging time is very much appreciated. I am going to include in primary legislation, to be introduced as early as possible in 2021, a provision to allow court-appointed contractors to staff those virtual courts within police custody suites, in order to relieve the burden on serving police officers.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for a few minutes.

Sentencing White Paper

Robert Buckland Excerpts
Wednesday 16th September 2020

(1 week, 4 days ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Justice
Robert Buckland Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland) - Parliament Live - Hansard

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the Government’s plans to reform the system of sentencing in England and Wales. This morning, I laid before Parliament a White Paper entitled “A Smarter Approach to Sentencing” and I wanted to come to the House to outline the measures contained within it.

The first duty of any Government is to protect their people, but the complex system of sentencing in England and Wales does not always command the confidence of the public. At one end of the spectrum of offending, there are serious sexual and violent criminals who, by automatic operation of the law, leave prison halfway through their sentence. We are going to ensure that more of these serious offenders stay in custody for longer.

There are also criminals who, while serving time for their offence, may become a danger to the public but who currently would be eligible for automatic release. We are acting to prevent fewer of these offenders from leaving prison without being assessed as safe by Parole Board experts. These measures will keep offenders who pose a risk to the public off the streets for longer and help to restore public confidence that robust sentences are executed in a way that better reflects the gravity of the crimes committed.

At the other end of the spectrum, protecting the public from the effects of lower-level offending means finding new ways to break cycles of crime—to prevent a revolving door of short custodial sentences that we know offer little rehabilitative value. Criminals in that category often have chaotic lifestyles and their offending can be driven by substance misuse, poor mental health or learning difficulties. They often have limited education, few job prospects and experience generational patterns of offending.

Rather than continuing to send them back and forth to prison—doing the same thing but expecting a different result—we instead want to empower the sentencing system to use more effective community sentencing to get them off drugs and into the jobs that we know can lead them to a better life. We will do that by better identifying individual needs, providing treatment options where appropriate and utilising technology, such as sobriety tags, to drive compliance. These measures will support offenders to change their lifestyles for good and, in the process, protect the public from the ongoing effects of their crimes.

The reforms will not work unless they are underpinned by a world-class probation system that can understand and implement sentencing properly, backed up by a high-quality probation workforce. I pay tribute to the probation service and everyone who works within it to supervise offenders. We have set ourselves an ambitious target to recruit 1,000 new trainee probation officers in 2020-21, and over the next few years we are determined to invest in the skills, capability and ways of working that probation officers need to do their job to the best standard.

Within the new probation arrangements, we will unify sentence management under the National Probation Service to further grow confidence between probation and the courts, with which there is a much closer relationship than under the old model. The 12 new probation regions will have a new dynamic framework, making it easier to deliver rehabilitation services through voluntary and specialist organisations. We will legislate to give probation practitioners greater flexibility to take action where offenders’ rehabilitative needs are not being met or where they pose a risk to the public. These measures will empower probation services to be more effective at every juncture of the criminal justice system.

The White Paper also contains measures to reduce stubbornly high reoffending rates by utilising GPS technology to drive further compliance, and to make it easier for offenders to get jobs by reducing the period after which some sentences can be considered spent for the purposes of criminal records checks for non-sensitive roles. In the youth system, it puts flexibility into the hands of judges to keep violent young offenders in custody for longer, while at the same time allowing courts to pass sentences that are tailored to the rehabilitative needs of each young person.

The White Paper builds on the current sentencing framework to create a system that will be much better equipped to do its job effectively, and throughout this document there are contributions from other ministerial colleagues right across Whitehall. That is an acknowledgement of the cross-Government approach that will be required if we are going to make a success of these reforms. We have got to come together to fulfil our manifesto commitments, to bring in tougher sentences, to tackle drug-related crime, to treat addictions, to improve employment opportunities for offenders, to review the parole system and much more.

A smarter approach to sentencing will grow confidence in the criminal justice system’s ability to deal robustly with the worst offenders and reduce the risk of harm to the public. It will also be smart enough to do the things that will really bring down crime in the longer term. I look forward to bringing its various measures through Parliament. I commend the White Paper and this statement to the House.

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

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. We need to scrutinise the changes the Secretary of State has announced today in detail, but I will start by saying that Labour’s priority is always to keep the British public safe. The Secretary of State will remember that it was a Labour Government in 2003 which introduced compulsory life sentences and minimum sentences for over 150 offences. It was a Labour Government in 2010 which raised the minimum prison sentence for knife killers from 15 to 25 years in the wake of the death of Ben Kinsella, and it was a Labour Government which obliged judges to hand down 30-year minimum sentences for murders involving firearms and explosives. There is no doubt that Ellie Gould’s killer got too short a sentence for the horrific crime that he committed. I praise Carole Gould’s fortitude and dignity amid such a horrendous loss. Her campaigners commanded cross-party support and the Labour party stands with her today.

We are a party that welcomes strengthening sentencing when it is necessary to protect the British public. It is in that spirit that Labour accepts that there are some exceptional cases in which a whole-life sentence might be deemed appropriate for a young person over the age of 18. The murderer who helped to plan the senseless terrorist attack on Manchester Arena is one such case. We will need to carefully scrutinise exactly how the Government’s proposed changes are written into law, of course, and it is important to remember that, even without the changes the Secretary of State is announcing today, no one leaves prison for crimes as serious as these if the Parole Board is not satisfied that they are no longer a danger to society. It is also the case that the general presumption in criminal law is that when someone is younger there is more opportunity for them to reform, and removing the opportunity for parole can also remove incentives for offenders to rehabilitate and behave well in prison. We will come back to that, I am sure, when he comes forward with the legislation. I hope the Secretary of State will confirm that these changes, while appropriate for the most extreme cases, will not be applied gratuitously, and that it would be wrong to abandon the general presumption in criminal law that when people are younger there is more opportunity for redemption and to turn their life around.

There are other announcements today that we welcome. We welcome the reforming of criminal records disclosure to reduce the time in which offenders must declare offences to employers, and that is sorely needed. It is something that I called for in my review, and may I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), who is in his place and who has campaigned on these issues for many years?

I also welcome the Secretary of State’s new pilots for problem-solving courts. He will recall that problem-solving courts were introduced by a Labour Government and cut back by a Conservative Government. I am glad to see them back, but why are they just pilots? Can we not go further? We know they work for people with serious addictions and problems who come back into the system again and again. It is also very good to see the Ministry of Justice hearing our calls—again, I raised this in the Lammy review—for offenders who need greater support because they have neurodivergent conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. I am sure the whole House welcomes that we have finally arrived at that place.

We welcome the Government’s announcement that they will recruit more probation officers after their U-turn on the failed experiment with privatisation by the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling). It missed targets and cost taxpayers an extra £460 million. We will continue to hold the Government to account as we get back to having a fully national probation service.

Labour also welcomes the Government using this White Paper as an opportunity to increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving, as well as the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink and drugs.

Sentencing reform is needed, but on its own it is not enough. Ministry of Justice data show that between 9 June and 31 July this year, nearly a third of prisoners—2,400 people—were released homeless or to an unknown circumstance. How will longer sentences protect the public, if people continue to be released homeless and without the chance to turn their lives around?

The announcement around GPS tagging in the community is welcome, but what steps are the Government taking to ensure that services exist to support former offenders into work? Why is there still no cross-departmental plan to reduce reoffending and enable the reintegration of prison leavers? Does the Secretary of State plan to publish one within the next three months, as recommended by the Public Accounts Committee last week? Does he share the concerns of the Victims’ Commissioner that recent changes to the Crown Prosecution Service guidance could lead to the CPS having the freedom to drop difficult cases, leaving victims feeling cheated if the current system is overstretched?

This statement has come in a week where a Secretary of State who took an oath to uphold the rule of law has let his office and the system down. The whole country has watched him squirm in his seat as he has stood with the Prime Minister. I hope he recognises the importance of the days ahead, as he brings this White Paper back to the Chamber.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

It was all going so well, and then the right hon. Gentleman had to spoil it with an ill-judged, ill-timed and wholly inappropriate intervention. May I remind him that as a practitioner, for years I had to endure a Labour Government that passed with incontinence criminal justice Act after criminal justice Act, creating the chaos with sentencing reform that I am now having to deal with? With the greatest respect to him, I will take no lectures about a Labour Government who made automatic early release at the halfway term the norm for so many sentences. That is the wrong that we are righting now as a result of the reforms that we will introduce.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for how he has sensibly engaged with the important issues about the rehabilitation of offenders. I am particularly pleased by the warm welcome for the work we will do on neurodivergent conditions and disorders. That has been a long-standing passion and commitment of mine. Autism and ADHD are real conditions that affect thousands of people in our country. I have had personal experience in the criminal justice system of representing people with those conditions, and I think we can do better. That is why we will take action on that.

I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman about the cross-Government work on offender employment. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who is deeply committed to increasing the number of offenders in work. We are working on plans and a cross-Government strategy. The committee is chaired by the Prime Minister, which exemplifies the Government’s deep and fundamental dedication to this bold agenda.

I welcome the other comments that the right hon. Gentleman has made, and it is in that spirit of constructive engagement that I am sure we will work together to make sense of criminal justice after years of failure, mainly by the Government of which he was a member.

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

I warmly congratulate the Lord Chancellor on an excellent and very well-balanced statement, which shows his own experience as a practitioner in these matters. A number of the themes that the White Paper addresses are ones that the Justice Select Committee has picked up on a number of occasions. I look forward to progress being made on those. I particularly welcome the recognition that protection of the public and rehabilitation of those who can be rehabilitated are not mutually exclusive. However, will he also use the opportunity of the White Paper to engender a wider debate across society as a whole about the purpose of sentencing, and the purposes of imprisonment and community sentences, to give both the public and sentencers greater confidence in the suite of measures available and create a broader-based, better-informed understanding of the complexities of the tasks that people in the justice system grapple with day to day?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the Chairman of the Justice Committee. We all know his long and deep knowledge of the system as a practitioner. He is right to remind us of the purposes of sentencing. He will see in the White Paper a lot of reference to public protection issues—protecting the public from harm, but also protecting the public from crime. The two go together, and one is served, I would submit, by effective prison sentences, while the second is served by rehabilitation through the community options that can make such a difference with the right support.

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

I thank the Lord Chancellor for his customary courtesy in affording me advance sight of his statement. However, it is a little difficult to stomach rhetoric about how tough this Government are on law breakers when only a week ago a Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and told us that they intended to break international law, albeit in a limited and specific way. Even the Lord Chancellor seems to think that, when it comes to his Government colleagues, the rule of law can be watered down to allow law breaking that he finds acceptable.

I want to make it clear that in Scotland the law applies equally to everyone, whether they are a Government Minister or an ordinary member of the public. I wonder whether the Lord Chancellor agrees that it should be the same in England and Wales. That is where this sentencing White Paper applies; sentencing is devolved to Scotland. However, the position of the SNP is clear. We want to work hard with the UK Government and European friends to make sure that all communities in these islands are protected from terrorism and serious crime.

There are elements of the White Paper to be welcomed, including the offer of treatment for vulnerable prisoners with mental health and addiction problems, and the proposals to encourage courts to pass community sentences for less serious offences, following the Scottish model. However, I would express caution about giving whole-of-life sentences to teenagers. Expert evidence shows that young people are more likely to be open to rehabilitation. That is important for the public, because every time we manage to rehabilitate or deradicalise someone, it makes the public a little bit safer. Prisoners who know they will never be released have little incentive not to kill or maim not only other prisoners, but prison officers. I would like to know that the Lord Chancellor has taken cognisance of those factors. The Scottish Sentencing Council is consulting on its third draft guideline on sentencing young people. Are there any proposals to consult on this issue in England and Wales as well?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
1 Jan 2000, midnight

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady. With regard to the latter matters, the Sentencing Council here in England and Wales has done a lot of work on sentencing of young offenders. Any further guidelines are matters for that council, but perhaps she and I together can explore that with its chair.

I note the hon. and learned Lady’s point about young offenders, which echoes what the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), the shadow Justice Secretary, said. We absolutely will preserve the principle that the sentencing of young offenders is a separate legal regime from the sentencing of adults. Quite clearly there are differences, and the welfare issue must be paramount. Having said that, there will be, sadly, some egregious and particularly extreme examples of serious criminality that may merit the imposition of the most serious sentence available to the court. What I am proposing is that the courts would have a discretion in relation to those under 21, as opposed to their being mandated to impose such a severe sentence. That element of discretion is at the heart of what I am trying to achieve here: a flexible, balanced system.

In terms of balance, I assure the hon. and learned Lady that when it comes to the rule of law, both within Her Majesty’s Government and our country as a whole, I, like her, yield to no one in my belief in equality before the law. I also believe in maintaining a balance and that is what I am doing every day.

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

The residents of Blackpool South are fed up with the soft liberal approach to criminal justice that has failed victims, weakened communities and seen public confidence in the system eroded decade after decade. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that we need a new approach to sentencing that puts the public and victims first and ensures that serious offenders are locked up for longer?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, midnight

My hon. Friend is right. He represents the proud community of Blackpool, where I know that many law-abiding citizens are frankly fed up with the position they find themselves in. They want reassurance and to have confidence in the system. The proposals we are setting out today follow on from our manifesto commitments that allowed us to have my hon. Friend in this House—thanks to the good people of Blackpool South—and those commitments will be honoured.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Local voluntary sector organisations, including many in Newport West, play a vital role in providing the type of support mentioned by the Lord Chancellor around rehab, drugs and mental health. Despite that, Ministers have admitted that the involvement of the voluntary sector in probation was lost in the mix when it came to previous provision. A number of small charities have made it clear that the new system will be just as bureaucratic and costly as the old one, so they are opting out. What action will the Minister take to ensure a strong role for the voluntary sector in Newport West and across the country in delivering his plans?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, midnight

I thank the hon. Lady, whose constituency, of course, I know well—I appeared as a practitioner many, many times at the Crown court at Newport, both prosecuting and defending, and I know the community that she serves. I say to her and all those smaller organisations that it is my fervent hope and intention to make sure that they are involved in what we call the dynamic framework. I have made it very clear to my officials that I expect to see the small specialist organisations at the table. She is right to say that previously, the tendering process tended to squeeze out the smaller players. That is wrong. I have seen well over 150 small organisations already apply to get involved, and both I and the Minister of State, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer), will be taking a very close interest in this matter. If there are any further concerns, the hon. Lady should not hesitate to write to me.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

We head up to Harrow, to Flight Officer Blackman.

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

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I warmly welcome my right hon. and learned Friend’s statement. He will be well aware that my constituency suffered a spike in extremely violent aggravated burglaries prior to covid-19. My constituents want to know what steps he will take to ensure that the new sentences he is announcing are actually awarded by judges, and that criminals who perpetrate crimes against the person are not only brought to justice but punished and kept in prison, so that the sentences meet the crime.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, midnight

My hon. Friend is right to raise an issue that I know many of his constituents in Harrow East have faced. I assure him that when it comes to dwelling house burglary, which is not just a crime against property but a crime against the person, because it robs somebody of their wellbeing, we are going to change the criteria so that only in exceptional circumstances would a court disapply the minimum three-year term that “three strikes” domestic burglars will receive. That will see a greater number of those people serving longer behind bars.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

There has been a terrible rise over the last 10 years in assaults on emergency workers, with ambulance workers being sexually assaulted, punched, spat at, stabbed—everything. That is why I introduced private Member’s legislation a couple of years ago: the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018. Unfortunately, magistrates are still saying to police officers, “I’m sorry, but I just think that a bit of violence is in the way of your work.” I hope the Lord Chancellor will say that that is nonsense. All prosecuting authorities have to take this far more seriously, because the sentencing guidelines still have not been changed, and the number of cases is still rising. I wholly support the sudden conversion of Ministers who violently opposed my Bill when I introduced it and said that they did not want it to be a two-year maximum sentence. I welcome their conversion on the road to Damascus, but I want to ensure that this law is actually used; otherwise, this will continue.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Member is to be applauded for his work on that important legislation. Our commitment to double the maximum term is set out in the White Paper, and that is what we will do. He is right to talk about prosecution and practice within the courts and our magistrates system. I do not know about the road to Damascus, but I have been on the road to Tonypandy in his constituency quite a few times, and I know what his constituents would say to me. They would expect prison officers, police officers and blue light workers to have that protection. Let us not forget that it is not just about the provisions in that Act; it is about the law on assault generally and the aggravated circumstances that a court can take into account in increasing sentences, but he makes a powerful point.

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

I hope my right hon. and learned Friend keeps his balance, but will he address eye-watering costs such as the £456,000 clocked up by Andrew Harper’s killers? That cannot be right, can it?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

My right hon. Friend knows that everybody in this country is equal before the law, and fair trials have to happen. Legal costs are, of course, paid to the people who represent criminals or accused people. I take his point about ensuring that our legal aid system is efficient and that money is not wasted, but the fundamental principle of the right to a fair trial is something that I will defend and that I think he would agree with as well.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab) [V] - Parliament Live - Hansard

There is much in the Lord Chancellor’s statement that I strongly welcome, as a former police and crime commissioner. I want to raise an issue that I know he is well aware of. In my constituency, there are many people who were victims of evil men who sexually abused them. Those women will carry that burden for the rest of their lives. It is incomprehensible that, once the perpetrators have finished their term before probation and been released, there is nothing to stop them confronting their victims. The victims could walk round the corner and find their attacker in front of them. Can the Lord Chancellor assure me that, as part of the White Paper, we can look at how that can be prevented in future, even if it cannot be done retrospectively?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that. We have met to discuss this matter. It seems to me that existing types of order—for example, crime prevention orders and serious crime prevention orders—could potentially be used, particularly where somebody has completed their term of imprisonment and licence and therefore the probation service’s involvement has come to an end. I will welcome further engagement with him, because he not only speaks for past victims; he speaks for people whose voice has yet to be heard and whose voice must be heard if we are to effectively protect the victims of sexual abuse.

Dr Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

They say that an Englishman’s home is his castle, and it is certainly a place where all people should feel safe and secure. As a result, when someone burgles a home, they do not just take possessions; they violate a person’s safety in their own home. Can my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that his new sentencing guidelines will ensure that the people who commit these crimes are appropriately punished and appropriately rehabilitated and that the public will be protected from further occurrences?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right to echo the comments I made about burglary being a crime against the person. She will have heard my observations about strengthening the safeguards of the “three strikes and you’re out” burglary minimum term of three years, which will mean that a greater proportion of that type of offender will now serve longer in custody. We are also doing two strikes for knife possession because we want to send a clear message that this type of criminality will not be tolerated.

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

I thank the Lord Chancellor for his diligence and wisdom in this statement. I welcome the news that child killers are to be held longer and that the automatic release of violent and dangerous criminals is to end, but will he further confirm that intervention measures will be in place for young men who are drawn into drug deliveries and so on and who need to be kept away from hardened criminals in prison, as a method of giving them space, a fresh start and a true rehabilitation purpose?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments, and I am grateful to him. He makes a very interesting point about young offenders. I am keen to make sure that people who are sucked in—they might be quite young and themselves victims—do not end up becoming criminals themselves. That is why reforms to the remand system for young offenders and alternatives to immediate prosecution, in particular for victims of modern day slavery or abuse, are so important. We are seeing with the county lines operations some really good work by the police in making that distinction between the child as abused victim and the child as criminal. We will keep drawing that distinction in a sensible and sensitive way.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) and I are extremely grateful to our right hon. and learned Friend for picking up our Desecration of War Memorials Bill in his White Paper. Can he confirm to the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke that the law will be changed as soon as practically possible to make sure that those who insult the memory of our glorious dead can be given sentences that fit their abhorrent crimes?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I pay tribute to my hon. Friends for their campaign to make sure that the law properly reflects the damage that can be caused to the national consciousness and the wellbeing of communities when war graves, religious graves and important memorials are desecrated. In the White Paper, we have committed to taking up his challenge, and we will reform the law in the year ahead.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab) [V] - Parliament Live - Hansard

Thirteen-year-old Jack Worwood was walking along the pavement on his way to play football with his friends when he was struck by a vehicle driven by an uninsured driver at nearly three times the speed limit. The driver, Liam Wilson, fled the scene and Jack died the next day. Liam Wilson was sentenced two weeks ago and is likely to serve in prison only two years of a six-year sentence. Jack’s family members in my constituency are devastated by the lack of justice. I am glad the Government are finally acting to ensure longer sentences in these cases, but can the Lord Chancellor tell me when he expects these changes to come into force, and what reassurance can he give Jack’s family that the Government will look again at the leniency of the sentence in this case?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Lady raises a tragic and appalling case. I would need to know a little more about the index offence. It may well be a matter that the family can refer to the Attorney General under the unduly lenient sentence scheme, if the offence is within the purview of that scheme. I know that she will not hesitate to advise the family of that. On the general point she makes, it is important for us all to remember all the victims of those who cause death by dangerous driving. I think today of Violet-Grace Youens, whose parents have assiduously campaigned for a change in the law. Even if they cannot bring back their beloved daughter or turn back the clock, their campaign has achieved a change in the law that I believe will give greater justice to future families. This law will be changed with legislation that will come during this Session. I can make the commitment now that we will make the necessary change in tribute not just to Violet-Grace, but to all the families and those who have suffered so much.

Mr Gagan Mohindra Portrait Mr Gagan Mohindra (South West Hertfordshire) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank the Lord Chancellor for the White Paper. It reaffirms my belief that the Conservative party is the party of law and order. As he will be aware, the Ministry of Justice published a report last year that showed that the cost of reoffending was £18.1 billion per year, not to mention the emotional and psychological harm to victims of crime. Can he give us further details on how we are focusing on breaking the cycle of reoffending?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right to mention the importance of that depressing cycle of reoffending, and he will see in the White Paper ready acknowledgement of some of the drivers of that: drug addiction, alcohol addiction, the lack of stable accommodation, no work. The three things that I believe offer the way to avoid a life of crime are a home, a job and a friend, and that might be treatment or probation support. That is what we are committed to in the White Paper; that is what this Government are going to achieve.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The Lord Chancellor has already partly answered this question, but can he expand on it, as currently one of the biggest problems is overcrowding in prisons and failing to rehabilitate enough people? Can he also address how we are dealing with adverse childhood experiences and trauma that people have suffered, which lead exactly to that spiral of crime? How will his Department respond to that?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Lady makes a really interesting point about childhood trauma. In the call for evidence on neurodivergence I want to open up some of these issues in a much more novel way, because I am sure that, with proper support and proper intervention, we can divert a lot of people away from a life of crime. When they get into the system it is vital that we expand community sentence treatment requirements. I am a strong believer in the mental health treatment programme, and the NHS, which is scaling up its support for that, is to be thanked. We will expand the availability of that type of treatment order throughout the jurisdiction, so that judges have a real choice when it comes to passing sentences: it does not always have to be custody; there can be a constructive way forward, properly tailored around the offender.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I warmly welcome the White Paper and in particular its proposal for longer curfew periods alongside GPS tags. That strikes me as something approaching a smart house arrest system. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that could fill a significant gap in current sentencing options, because it would be an excellent way of punishing criminals by restricting their liberty while at the same time enabling them to be successfully rehabilitated and therefore less likely to reoffend?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I pay tribute to him for his long work in the criminal justice system, as a member of the Sentencing Council, for example. I warmly welcome his comments, and I am a strong believer that an element of house arrest, let us call it—the use of curfew together with electronic monitoring —alongside various other treatment orders that could be imposed could be a really intelligent, smart way of providing a tougher, more robust approach to sentencing. It will deprive the offender of liberty—causing, of course, huge changes to their life—but, frankly, that is part of the punishment and part of the solution if we are really going to move people on from a cycle of crime.

Kim Johnson Portrait Kim Johnson (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Access to justice has declined for our citizens over the decade in which the Tories have been in power, and that is particularly the case in my constituency. What are the Government doing to ensure that the comprehensive spending review places our justice sector on a secure and equal footing for all for the future and pays particular attention to community law centres?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

We are of course talking about criminal justice, and I can assure the hon. Lady that she will be impressed by the progress we will make as a result of the work I have been doing on criminal legal aid—the £51 million increase that I have ordered for the remuneration of advocates—and further to review the whole system of criminal legal aid. On the general point about access to justice, the people of Liverpool will, I know, warmly welcome the measures we take to remove serious offenders from the streets of that city and other great cities of the north-west; those measures will really protect the public in a way her constituents will applaud.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:19 p.m.

The Government already accept the principle of sentence escalation. For example, under the coronavirus legislation, those in receipt of covid-related penalty notices face a doubling of the fine on each repeat offence. Will the Secretary of State extend sentence escalation to other crimes, especially serious and violent crimes, so that repeat offenders face a stiffer sentence each time they commit the same offence?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:20 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to make the point that as a point of principle those people who have been grimly accustomed to and far too familiar with the criminal justice system in the accumulation of sentences merit stiffer terms of imprisonment or stiffer forms of sentence. The courts should and must take that into account when assessing the overall sentence to be passed. With regard to prolific offenders, the tightening up of the minimum term provisions that we are announcing today goes quite a significant way towards the desired outcomes that he and millions of other people seek.

Liz Saville Roberts Portrait Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:21 p.m.

A stalker caught with a murder kit in his car could be charged only with a minor offence because the victim, Dr Ian Hutchinson, was unaware that he had been stalked for over four years. The offender, Thomas Baddeley, was sentenced in August but has already been released. Dr Hutchinson was not informed. Will the Secretary of State commit to a review of sentencing in stalking cases and to strengthening the rights of victims?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:21 p.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for taking up the baton on that issue from her predecessor in Dwyfor Meirionnydd. She is absolutely right to draw me back to a campaign that I helped to champion in order to criminalise stalking and to enhance and improve the law further. I will look at that case more carefully, if I may. I am sure that more work can be done, particularly with regard to awareness and training of police and prosecutors with regard to the true seriousness and invidious nature of stalking and what it can lead to.

Jeremy Wright Portrait Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:22 p.m.

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on this White Paper, which reflects what he has long argued: an intelligent criminal justice policy requires provision to promote both punishment and rehabilitation. I particularly welcome what he said about sentencing code consolidation, which will not just reduce the number of mistakes made in sentencing but help victims to understand the system better. May I urge him to turn his mind urgently to the practicalities of the interesting proposal to keep offenders in custody for longer if they are radicalised in prison, particularly with a view to giving the Parole Board the tools it needs to make judgments on intelligence material that they will not be familiar with dealing with?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:22 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend and I toiled in the vineyard with regard to criminal sentencing procedure. He did not quite write the book, but he certainly read it. I am grateful to him for his warm support and for the excellent work of the Law Commission now being enshrined in law by this Government. That is the bedrock of what we are doing, and we are going to build on it in an intelligent way. He is absolutely right to talk about the role of the Parole Board. I have taken a particular interest in making sure that sensitive intelligence material is indeed released to it in the most proper way. I pay tribute to the former vice-chairman of the Parole Board, Sir John Saunders, who my right hon. and learned Friend will know from his days as a Birmingham practitioner, and who made those points very cogently. We have acted on them, but we are going to go further with a root-and-branch review of the Parole Board to make sure that it and other mechanisms are truly working in such a way that it makes fully informed risk assessment decisions.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:23 p.m.

There is much to commend in this announcement. Earlier the Lord Chancellor referred to the unduly lenient sentences scheme. How many criminals have had their sentences increased since he announced the expansion of that scheme last year?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:24 p.m.

The figures are released annually by the Attorney General’s office. I do not have the most up-to-date figures. I do know, from my own long experience as Solicitor General, that the rate of inquiries had increased dramatically to well over 1,000 a year. Last year, to the best of my recollection, the rate of successful appeals was somewhere in the region of 80 cases. That shows that the Law Officers are properly applying the law, and properly taking cases to the Court of Appeal and achieving a higher level of justice where it is absolutely merited. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can follow up these questions with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General.

Mr Mark Harper Portrait Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

May I commend the balanced judgment that the Lord Chancellor has brought to this? My constituents will welcome the tougher sentences for the most serious and violent offenders, but I think they will also welcome the more innovative sentences that judges will be able to mete out to those with more complex cases. On that point, how is he going to assess the pilots, which were also referred to by the shadow Lord Chancellor, and judge whether they are successful? The public might need persuading that some of these innovative ways of dealing with crime will reduce offending and thereby keep all of our constituents safer.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s support, and I am grateful to him, as ever. He is right to highlight the assessment procedure. He will be glad, and he will remember from his time in office, that my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), pursued problem-solving courts when he was Lord Chancellor. We already have a considerable amount of learning from that process, and I want to build on that. Although I cannot prejudge every jot and tittle of the effect of problem-solving courts—[Interruption.] The House liked “jot and tittle”. As I was saying, I am pretty clear in my mind about the direction of travel on the effectiveness of their more widespread use in our criminal justice system.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Just 206 prison places built out of 10,000 promised by 2020; massive overcrowding in our prisons; little time for rehabilitation, prisoners dumped out of prison with no housing to go to; and a probation service where, due to a failed privatisation, people are being left with a phone call every fortnight, if they are lucky, which has led to a massive rate of reoffending. That is the legacy of this Government. There are many fine words in this statement by the Lord Chancellor, but where are the resources that are going to turn around that record of failure?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that within a month of my taking office we secured £2.5 billion for the biggest prison building project in years. I am keeping a close eye and tight rein on the project delivery unit that will be doing that. We have the model in place; the Wellingborough prison model is one we can replicate, so we do not need to keep changing the specification and make the same old mistakes on Government procurement. The commitment is absolutely clear, and the money is in place. Last year, the Department obtained a near 5% increase in its revenue budget, which was the biggest single increase in years. We have just secured one of the biggest single injections into prison maintenance budgets in years. Although I do not pretend that I can claim to be as rich as Croesus when it comes to Justice budgets, we are definitely in a better place than we were, and I look forward to the spending round negotiations ahead with relish.

Laura Farris Portrait Laura Farris (Newbury) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on this White Paper, and the root and branch approach it takes to sentencing, probation and rehabilitation. There is a focus on neurodivergence and mental health. Is his primary objective to prevent these people from falling into the criminal justice system in the first place or to help them cope once they do so? If it is the former, how will he work with other agencies to achieve early intervention?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend speaks with her own knowledge and experience as a practitioner. She is right to ask me that question, because this is not just about how to make the necessary adjustments in the system once the person with that neurodiverse condition is in it. It is equally, if not more so, about prevention in the first place. We will achieve that only with the help of the Department for Education, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Work and Pensions. There is already a cross-governmental disability strategy, which I want to build on with the call for evidence that we are going to undertake. I look forward to engaging with all the agencies, and indeed all the voluntary organisations out there, which bring so much expertise to the table in dealing with these issues. I am also going to put speech, language and communication disorder into the mix, because I know it has been a long-standing issue that we need to address as well.

Mick Whitley Portrait Mick Whitley (Birkenhead) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Our prison system is in crisis. After 10 years of funding cuts and privatisation, many of our prisons are simply not fit for purpose, while overcrowding is leading to dangerously high levels of violence and self-harm. In January, the Howard League for Penal Reform pointed to drastic improvements in the conditions at Liverpool jail as an example of what can be achieved when action is taken to reduce overcrowding, but it also highlighted the fact that overcrowding is a systemic issue across England and Wales. Does the Lord Chancellor recognise that any discussion about increasing custodial sentences has to be accompanied by a dramatic increase in funding for prisoners so that we can tackle overcrowding?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to talk about Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool; I pay tribute to the governor and, indeed, all the prison staff there for the incredible work they have done to help to change a challenging position to one of real progress. That has been happening in prisons up and down our country. I make no bones about it: the prison environment is a difficult one and the hon. Gentleman is right to highlight overcrowding. But I repeat that the Government have already committed £2.5 billion to a new prison-building programme and secured more funding for prison maintenance. We have also secured £100 million for new prison security, including X-rays, to protect not only prisoners but the staff who run the line and do so much incredible work in the art of jailcraft, which is truly understood by only a few of us in the House but which we should remember when we pay tribute to the tireless work of our dedicated prison officers.

Lucy Allan Portrait Lucy Allan (Telford) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The Lord Chancellor is to be congratulated on bringing forward this excellent White Paper. The measures it contains will be widely welcomed in my constituency and are long overdue. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the additional measures to end automatic early release for serious offenders will protect communities such as Telford, where we have experienced fear and a sense of injustice because of the early release of perpetrators of child sexual exploitation?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her tireless campaigning on the issue that has affected her community and the lives of people she represents. She is right to remind us of the purpose of this White Paper: we are seeking to protect the public and to achieve a higher level of confidence. When a prison sentence is passed, yes, there is a period on licence during which the individual needs to readjust with the appropriate controls, but there has to be a clear signal that the bulk of their term will be served behind bars. That is what the public expect; that is what will increase confidence in the system; and that is what we are doing.

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

There are many sensible reforms in the White Paper, but all changes have to be consistent with the European convention on human rights, which is also a critical pillar of the Good Friday agreement. In the light of media reports over this past weekend, will the Lord Chancellor give a categorical and comprehensive reassurance that the Government have no plans to change either their commitment to the European convention on human rights or the Human Rights Act 1998?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He knows that in our manifesto the Government committed to updating the Human Rights Act, which is entirely—[Interruption.] The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) laughs; it is entirely right that an Act that is now 20 years old is looked at carefully, and we will do that. May I absolutely, categorically—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but no Act of Parliament is immune from review or updating, and frankly it is right of us—[Interruption.] It is entirely consistent and correct—[Interruption.] I find the faux outrage of Opposition Members extremely discordant with what the public of this country think. What we are doing, after having secured a large majority, is following through on our manifesto commitment. I make no apology for that, but I will say to the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) that the commitment of this Government to membership of the European convention on—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) listens, he might learn something. The commitment of this Government to the European convention on human rights is absolute. It was British Conservatives who wrote it—my predecessor Lord Kilmuir, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, and his team wrote the convention—because we were and are believers in fundamental human rights and freedoms. We wrote it; we are the party that created the convention; and we will stick by that.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

In fairness, we just need to turn it down a little. The Lord Chancellor is one of the most respected and well-mannered Members of this House, and I do not want him to spoil that in my company.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I congratulate the Lord Chancellor on this White Paper. The tougher measures within are certainly welcomed by me and will be welcomed by my constituents in Newcastle-under-Lyme, but I also welcome the smarter approach to sentencing. The British people expect the most serious offenders still to face the full force of the law, even if they are under 18, so will he confirm that the White Paper recognises that and will not only change the release point for young offenders committing the most serious offences, but close the gap between sentences for murder for older teenagers—15, 16 and 17-year-olds—and young adults? The gap is significant at the moment, and that needs to change.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:34 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the difficulty caused by having a generic starting point for all young offenders, irrespective of age and maturity. It is far better to have a sliding scale that allows the courts, using their discretion, to reflect the differing maturities and age ranges of the serious offenders before them. Although the welfare of young people has to be our primary concern, he is right that when it comes to the most serious offences, we cannot, I am afraid, stint from our duty to protect the public and to ensure that the punishment fits the crime.

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

I welcome aspects of this White Paper, especially paragraphs 239 to 242, which acknowledge the role that homelessness plays in reoffending. Being released on a Friday makes it difficult for offenders to access public services, which leads to increased reoffending. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to reconsider people being released on a Friday?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:36 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman, who speaks with experience as a practitioner, is right to highlight that issue. I have considered whether we should just ban release on a Friday, but that is probably the wrong answer because, frankly, services need to be there every day of the week. There should be no distinction between what happens on a Friday and what happens on a Wednesday. That is why proper cross-government work has been done to ensure that accommodation and potential jobs are identified when an offender is released and to ensure the benefits system is working if no job is available. That is at the heart of what I am trying to do.

Craig Tracey Portrait Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Sep 2020, 1:37 p.m.

I welcome this statement and thank the Lord Chancellor for meeting me to discuss the tragic case of my constituent, Sean Morley, who was killed in a horrific hit-and-run accident. Does the Lord Chancellor agree that the punishment really must fit the crime for those who cause death or injury by dangerous driving? As Sean’s mum said, in the wrong hands, a car is as deadly a weapon as a gun or a knife.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland - Parliament