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)|
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?
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?
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?
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?
What assessment he has made of the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on service users and victims in the criminal justice system. 
Break in Debate
What assessment he has made of the implications of the UK Internal Market Bill for his responsibilities in upholding the rule of law. 
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?
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.
“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?
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?
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.
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?
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”?
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?
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?
What assessment he has made of the effect of the backlog of cases in HM Courts and Tribunals Service on access to justice. 
Break in Debate
If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. 
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?
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? 
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? 
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? 
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? 
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? 
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? 
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] 
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? 
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? 
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? 
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? 
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? 
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? 
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? 
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.