“intensive diplomatic activity… to ensure a more peaceful and stable world”

and he specifically mentioned the middle east. Why, then, does Britain have double standards when it comes to the Palestinians?

Mr Hague: That is not the focus of today’s statement. However, respecting the hon. Gentleman’s question, he will know that we give strong support to the middle east peace process and to the negotiations now taking place between Israelis and Palestinians. We want to see a viable and sovereign Palestinian state as part of a two- state solution. That is not double standards; it is trying to bring about peace and stability for everyone in the middle east.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): I have raised with my right hon. Friend before the matter of the compensation due to the British Government for the Iranian Government-sponsored mob smashing into the British embassy compound some time ago, doing millions of pounds worth of damage and frightening diplomatic personnel to death. While we are talking about advancing relations with Iran, is not the reality that the British taxpayer is due some compensation under the Geneva protocols for the damage done?

Mr Hague: Yes, absolutely, the British taxpayer is due compensation by Iran for the very serious damage that was caused to our embassy compound. As I indicated earlier, there are a number of issues to be resolved now in taking forward our intensified bilateral contact, and that is one of those issues.

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Dr Phillip Lee (Bracknell) (Con): As others have noted, each of the countries mentioned in the statement suffers from the malign influence of the Russian state. Although I fully recognise that the Foreign Secretary must maintain relations, does he agree that our long-term approach towards Russia, and that of other European democracies, needs further thought, and that that would be greatly aided by making Europe less dependent on Russia’s mineral resources, access to which it continues to use as a geopolitical weapon?

Mr Hague: In our dealings with Russia, and with any other country, we should always be clear, as we are, that we support freedom, democracy and universal human rights around the world. We are committing to working with Russia in many ways, as I have described, but on energy we are also committed to a diversification of energy supplies into the country. In December I was in Baku at the inauguration of what will become a new pipeline route for gas into Europe. That diversification is strategically important.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Ukraine is a historical name but some parts of its territory are less historical than others—for example, the Crimea was incorporated into Ukraine by Khrushchev as recently as 1954. While I welcome my right hon. Friend’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), will he reiterate that if the difference of opinion between east and west Ukraine translates into a different trajectory, we will be mindful of those aspirations?

Mr Hague: Yes, we should be mindful of the history. Like any country, Ukraine is a product of many different histories, as we are in the UK. That requires a political system that accommodates that, and achieving it is a major political and constitutional challenge for Ukrainian leaders. As I mentioned earlier, Ukraine is a sovereign nation and we cannot lay down to them what the solution is, but we can encourage them to have political leadership and a political system that is responsive to the concerns of different parts of their country.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): On Syria, does the Secretary of State agree with certain comments and reports that the situation on the ground does not allow for transition or dialogue because the

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Assad regime is so strong, which is why it refused to accept discussions on a Government in Syria? What steps are being taken to overcome that? Linked to that, the Secretary of State has said that the United Kingdom will be providing technical assistance. Does that include providing intelligence sharing so that the Free Syrian Army would have certain targets to look at?

Mr Hague: My hon. Friend is right that the fact that the regime feels itself to be in a strong military position, relatively, is probably behind its intransigence at the Geneva negotiations. In the long term, of course, that will be an illusion, because it is in that position in a collapsing country. This conflict has gone backwards and forwards over three years now, and its tide can easily turn against the regime in future. I think it is making a great mistake. I would never comment in the House on intelligence matters, as my hon. Friend knows, but I stress that this is one of the reasons we must help a moderate opposition to stay in being. There will not be a political solution in Syria without the activity of a moderate opposition, and that is what we must support.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Last but certainly not least, I call Neil Carmichael.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is a great pleasure to be here for the final question.

It is absolutely right that the issue of political and constitutional reform is a priority, and that the integrity of Ukraine remains an objective. However, does the Foreign Secretary agree that any economic support through the IMF should also be supported, in effect, by development of international trade through and with Ukraine in order to embed political reform and to avoid any binary choice, which he correctly notes is a threat?

Mr Hague: We must strongly encourage international trade for Ukraine, which currently has a current account deficit of more than 9% of GDP. The absence of sufficient exports is part of its very serious economic problem. We will tell it very clearly that one of the things that can be achieved if the right economic programme is implemented and political stability and unity is achieved is, of course, a serious improvement in that position.

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Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

Second Reading

4.50 pm

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill represents the vital next stage in this Government’s mission to deliver a more credible justice system that keeps the public safe and secure, reduces reoffending and puts victims first. Under the previous Government, we had a plethora of criminal justice Bills as they jumped from one bandwagon to the next, but that was all to distract us from the real truth that Labour is the party of soft justice and unsafe streets. Too often, those who broke the law got away with a slap on the wrist, did not receive the punishment the public would expect, were released from prison even though they were still dangerous and were allowed to continue the cycle of more reoffending and more victims. This Government, on the other hand, have a consistent and clear approach: the justice system must be on the side of those who work hard and play by the rules, keeping our communities safe and secure.

We are already delivering on that promise. We have ensured that those convicted of a second serious sexual or violent offence face an automatic life sentence, and we are committed to having more prison places for adult males by the end of this Parliament than we inherited in 2010. We have toughened up community sentences, so they are no longer a soft option. I am pleased to say that proposals brought before this House through the Crime and Courts Act 2013 are now law. All community sentences now contain an element of punishment. It is extraordinary that that was not the case already, but it is now.

We have changed the law to give greater protection to householders in defending themselves against burglars—we have dealt with that issue once and for all. We have transformed the regime in our prisons so that they are now places of hard work and discipline, where prisoners are expected to engage with their own rehabilitation and work hard to earn their privileges. We are implementing fundamental reforms to transform rehabilitation by bringing together the best of the public, private and voluntary sectors and paying providers in full only if they reduce reoffending. The Offender Rehabilitation Bill, in its final stages before this House, will finally address the unacceptable situation whereby 50,000 short-sentence prisoners are released each year with no support, free to return to their criminal ways.

We have already achieved a lot, but there is more we can and must do. Too often, the system is inconsistent in the way it deals with offenders, especially those offenders who repeatedly flout the law. It cannot be right that muggers and rapists get off with a caution, or that those who abscond on licence can do so safe in the knowledge that, if caught, they will serve no more than the remainder of their sentence. There are too many offenders who commit serious crimes but are released automatically midway through their prison sentence. We will take action in this Bill to address those issues.

Perhaps most striking of all is the situation with youth offenders. Nearly three quarters of young people who leave custody reoffend within a year. The system

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simply is not working. We need to equip young people with the skills and self-discipline they need to turn their backs on crime, and that change needs to happen now, starting with this Bill.

My reforms do not stop there. I do not believe it is right that at a time when public finances are tight, the taxpayer continues to shoulder such a heavy burden for the cost of the criminal courts. In my view, the burden should be shared with those who are responsible for giving rise to the costs in the first place—the criminals themselves. Provisions in this Bill will make that a reality.

This Bill also contains some important measures as part of our long-term economic plan. Reforms to judicial review in this Bill, alongside those implemented in the first stage of the reforms last year, will tackle lengthy delays in the system, which put an undue burden on the taxpayer, act as a brake on dynamism and hold back economic growth. The reforms, which have been extensively consulted on, will rebalance the financial elements in judicial review cases so that anyone making a claim shares a fair level of financial risk. That will encourage those who bring claims to consider the merits of their case before doing so, and ensure that public resources are focused only on well-founded claims. I shall return to those provisions after I have dealt with the criminal justice provisions in more detail.

Part 1 of the Bill introduces a firm but fair package of sentencing and criminal law reform. I am determined that those who commit crime will be properly punished so that the public can both have more confidence in the justice system and feel safer in their homes and communities. I strongly believe that serious and repeat offenders should face the full force of the law for their crimes. It is not right that such offenders can be let off with a simple caution time and again.

I want to ensure that victims receive the justice they deserve, and that criminals know that they cannot lightly get away with what they do. That is why this Government are clamping down on the use of simple cautions. Offenders will no longer receive a caution for the most serious offences, such as rape and robbery. For other offences, the Bill will prevent the repeated use of cautions for the same or similar offences committed within a two-year period.

One of the aspects of our justice system that causes me most concern is the concept of automatic early release. As I have said before, I cannot abide a situation in which serious sex offenders and terrorists may serve only half their sentence in prison and—regardless of whether they have been rehabilitated and regardless of the risk they may continue to present to the public—are then simply released automatically midway through their sentence.

I do not think that early automatic release should be a right. That is why I am making a start on tackling it in the Bill, which introduces measures to end automatic early release for anyone given an extended determinate sentence, or sentenced to custody for the rape of a child or for serious terrorism offences. No such offenders will be released before the end of their custodial term, unless the Parole Board judges that they no longer pose a risk of serious harm to the public. I would like to do away with automatic early release in one step. In times of tight resource, I cannot do it in one go, but I can make a start, and that is what the Bill does.

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Terrorism poses a serious threat to our society. Terrorists who commit or try to commit horrific crimes in this country must face the very toughest punishments. The Bill will close a loophole that desperately needs to be closed. It will increase to life the maximum penalties for a further range of terrorism offences, and it will extend the enhanced dangerous offender regime so that courts can impose the most serious sentences necessary for such crimes. I want to create a situation in which when courts view somebody as a junior member of a terrorist plot—until now, that might not necessarily carry a life sentence—they can decide to impose a life sentence because they view them as a serious threat to the public, and the Bill will enable the courts to do that.

Once prisoners are released, it is vital that they comply with the conditions imposed on them. If an offender is repeatedly or wilfully non-compliant with the terms of their licence, they should not be continually recalled to custody for short periods and re-released. The measures in the Bill will introduce a statutory test for the release of offenders who have been recalled to prison for breaching their licence conditions that takes into account not just public protection, but the likelihood of the offender committing further breaches, including reoffending.

I want to ensure that we increasingly use cutting-edge technology to monitor better the whereabouts of offenders while they are under supervision. Innovative GPS tagging technology will allow location monitoring of offenders, as well as the monitoring of compliance with other conditions, such as curfew and exclusion. I want us to be ready to harness the potential of this new technology, as it becomes available, to assist with public protection, reducing reoffending and crime detection.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Will the Secretary of State say what the cost of that programme will be and how successful prosecutions have been in the courts against people who have broken tags? I understand that there have been a lot of problems with tags not being reliable.

Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the existing radio-based tagging technology has been pretty unreliable. I have seen the new generation of emerging technology in action and it provides some good options. It provides the ability to monitor a curfew or to prevent somebody who has been convicted of child sex offences from going near a school. Some offenders can actually benefit from the use of this technology. On one visit, the police showed me that they had excluded somebody from suspicion in the case of a household burglary because it was possible to demonstrate that they had not been in the area at the time.

As I have said clearly, I want to start using this technology for release on temporary licence. We have seen some very difficult cases over the past few months. The vast majority of people who are released on temporary licence commit no crimes and simply want to be reintegrated into society. However, when dangerous offenders come to the end of their sentences and have to be released on temporary licence, this technology has the potential to ensure that we know where they have been and to provide a degree of restraint as we integrate them back into the community.

The cost of the programme will depend on its scale. The technology that we are introducing to take over from the existing systems will save money. It will cost

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tens of millions of pounds a year less than what we have spent until now. It will be possible to extend the use of the technology to other groups, such as offenders on temporary licence, at a relatively low cost.

I want us to be ready to harness the potential of the new technology. That is why I am seeking to take powers in the Bill to enable mandatory location monitoring of offenders who are released on licence. As the technology becomes available, we will then have the discretion to be able to use it to the best possible effect to protect the public when people are released on temporary licence and, potentially, when people have committed very serious offences.

I am creating a new offence for offenders who go on the run after being recalled to custody, so that those who try to avoid serving the remainder of their sentence do not go unpunished. There will be a new maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

The final provisions in part 1 deliver on a commitment that is important to me and the Prime Minister. The Bill will make it a criminal offence to possess pornography that depicts real or simulated rape. I am sure that both Houses will share my view that such images are wholly unacceptable and that it is right to close this gap in the law.

That brings me to part 2 of the Bill and how we deal with young offenders.

Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): Before my right hon. Friend moves on to part 2, will he provide an estimate of the additional costs to the prison aspect of his departmental budget that will be caused by the welcome changes to the criminal law that he is introducing?

Chris Grayling: The cost will build up over the next five or 10 years because, as my hon. and learned Friend knows, one cannot apply sentencing rules retrospectively. The proposals on automatic release for the most serious offences are containable comfortably within the existing prison budget and within the expected resources of the Department. Only a relatively small number of people commit the most serious and brutal offences, and those are precisely the people whom we do not want to release automatically halfway through their sentences because of the risk that they pose to the public. I am therefore confident not only that this is containable comfortably within the departmental budget, but that it is the right thing to do.

On part 2, I believe that it is right that young people who commit crimes should face appropriate punishments. That is and always should be a matter for the courts. When young people commit serious or persistent offences and there is a need to protect the public, custody is a necessary option. However, we have taken positive steps over the past three years to ensure that we deal better with young offenders who do not pose an immediate risk to society.

On becoming Justice Secretary, I was appalled to discover that so many young offenders who are released from custody go on to reoffend within a year. Currently, the rate stands at 69%. That is an astounding percentage that far exceeds the reoffending rate for adults on leaving custody. It is simply too high. We spend as much as £200,000 a year per place in some institutions, but

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the reoffending rate is consistently around 70%. That cannot be right, it cannot be sensible and we have to do something about it.

We must do more to help young offenders back on to the straight and narrow and ready for adult life, and high-quality education is a key part of that. Most young people who end up in our youth offender institutions or secure training centres have dropped out of school, have few or no qualifications, and do not have the skill foundations they need to leave and get into work. We must address that and do more to help them back into having real prospects of an apprenticeship or work. Otherwise, the danger of reoffending will be ever great.

At present, young people in young offenders institutions spend on average just 12 hours a week in the classroom, and latest figures suggest that more than half of 15 to 17-year-olds in YOIs have literacy and numeracy levels expected of seven to 11-year-olds. The Bill contains provisions to create what we are dubbing “secure colleges” so that we can trial a new approach to youth custody, with a stronger focus on the education and rehabilitation of young offenders, equipping them with the skills they need to stop reoffending and become law-abiding members of our society.

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for giving way and I am interested in where the £85 million for his secure college is coming from, and from which year’s budget?

Chris Grayling: It comes from my Department’s capital budget and it will lead to a reduction in the annual running costs of institutions. We are creating an institution that provides both high-quality education and better value than we get from the current system, which underperforms and is excessively expensive because of the nature of the provision out there. I believe this institution will be a major step forward and deliver high-quality education in a modern environment and campus setting, with the focus on education rather than simply detention. That is a key difference.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): If this model is considered to be as successful as the Lord Chancellor obviously believes it will be, can he say whether it will be extended to young women as well as young men, and whether they will be co-located in the college?

Chris Grayling: On co-location, there are a number of places in our current system where men and women, or indeed different age groups, are located near each other without being mixed together. I expect the secure college to have a range of age groups, but for them to be separated so that 12-year-olds are not mixed with 17-year-olds. Living on the same site, using the same facilities at different times, and maximising the effectiveness of the resource we put into creating those facilities must be a sensible way forward. If the secure college model works, I do not rule out having women’s units on site as well, but that does not mean we mix them. At Peterborough prison, a women’s prison and a male prison adjoin and share many of the same facilities, although the two sides do not mix. It is about making the best use of our resources to deliver the highest quality educational skills

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outcomes to a group of young people who will not get on in life unless we help them develop those skills. That is the whole purpose of what we are trying to do.

This is a different kind of institution. A few people are saying, “This is just the biggest children’s prison in Europe”, but that is complete nonsense. This is much more akin to a school or college with a fence around it on a site that can deliver quality education and a mix of skills development, in a way that will genuinely help take young people—while we have them under our control—through a period of skill building of the kind they desperately need. That will be a whole lot better than having young offenders institutions with big iron bars and 12 hours in the classroom. This is a new approach that I think can make a real difference.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I apologise to the Lord Chancellor for missing the first part of his speech. I welcome his approach and it is important to provide more education within a secure setting. I have raised with him in the past the concerns that I and the Home Affairs Committee have had about the number of young people who acquire the drug habit while in prison or at a young offenders institution. Does he intend to ensure that there will be lessons to get people off drugs when they attend the institutions he has described? That would be a positive step to stop reoffending.

Chris Grayling: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we already make intense efforts across our detention estate—for young people and others alike—to try to get people off drugs and prevent them from coming into those facilities. He will also know that it is a constant battle because there are people out there making a determined effort to get those drugs in. This is not a problem that simply affects this country; it exists in most other major industrialised nations and elsewhere. We will continue to do everything we can to combat it, and in this institution I want to see treatment available for those who have a problem, but also a real effort to ensure a drug-free environment.

Part 3 introduces a suite of provisions to reduce the burden of court costs on taxpayers by making criminals pay towards the cost of their court cases, streamlining the way magistrates deal with low-level offences and modernising the law on the work of juries. As we work to bring down the costs of the justice system and deliver better value for money, I am clear that it is not fair to continue to ask UK taxpayers to fund a criminal court system, or to ask law-abiding members of the public to pay increased fees in the civil courts, without offenders being expected to make a greater contribution. The provisions will allow us to recover from offenders the cost of criminal courts and make a contribution to the day-to-day running of court services. This is not a novel concept: courts can already order offenders to make payments to victims and victim services, and to pay fines and prosecution costs. There is currently no power, however, to make offenders pay directly towards the cost of the court proceedings that convict them.

Dr Huppert: The Justice Secretary is absolutely right that there are other powers. The latest figure I could find is that £1.3 billion of debt is owed as a result of these orders. What fraction of the charges does he think will actually be paid?

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Chris Grayling: The collection rate of fines and other charges levelled in the courts is in excess of 80%. There is a large block of historical debt, much of which is owed by people who, for reasons that include that they have simply died, for accounting reasons have to stay on the books. I accept that that is daft and it is a matter of debate among accounting figures in government. The figure my hon. Friend cites is not a sum of money that could ever realistically be recouped by the taxpayer, but, of the money that is levied in courts every year, we currently collect about 80%. I have no reason to believe that we will not continue to do that, and I have no reason to believe that these reforms will not lead to the collection of the many tens of millions of pounds we seek to collect to make a contribution to the running of the court system.

Kate Green: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way; he is being very generous with his time. When funds are being recovered, will he say in what order they will be disbursed? In particular, will priority be given to payments to the victims compensation fund, ahead of reimbursing court costs?

Chris Grayling: We will not change the order of the collection of fines and victims’ charges. The collection of court costs will come after that. It is worth saying that the repayment of the charge will, as is normally the case in the courts in relation to fines and victim surcharges, be set at a rate that offenders can afford, so there will always be an incentive for them to find a job and to work hard. Offenders will be able to earn their way out of the charge if they do not reoffend. We will make provision for the charge, or any outstanding sums of money, to be written off if the offender does not reoffend. There will, therefore, be an incentive to go back into work, get on with it and make regular payments. Then, when they do not reoffend, an amount of money will be written off. That is a fair and balanced way to ensure that we secure a contribution from those who can afford it—there are people in our courts who will be able to afford this money on the spot—and create a system whereby if people do the right thing, we will do the right thing by them and write off any outstanding money.

I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) that we take the enforcement of such payments extremely seriously. We continue to work hard to improve enforcement levels and we will address some of the historical debt by outsourcing the collection of criminal financial impositions in a more effective way. I hope that that will enable us to recover some of that debt. I want to ensure that those who have the means to pay but refuse to do so, do not escape without consequences. The reality is that many people work very hard to avoid paying money to the courts and we need to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that they pay.

We must continue to look at ways to make the court system more efficient and proportionate to crimes committed. Too much of magistrates’ time and court time is currently spent simply going through the motions of hearing a case where the defendant has pleaded guilty by post or has not responded. We currently have the absurd situation of valuable court time being spent on hearings where paperwork is simply read aloud by lawyers. The Bill allows a single magistrate to deal with

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such cases away from the traditional magistrates courtroom. It will free up valuable court time to focus on cases where they make a real difference to victims and their communities, while preserving a defendant’s right to request a hearing in open court.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State not think it a bit dangerous for such cases to be dealt with by a single magistrate? Would it not make our justice system more secure for three magistrates to sit on the bench, so that they could at least discuss the case and reach a collective decision?

Chris Grayling: We have a high-quality magistracy in this country, and I am confident that, in simple cases—when someone has pleaded guilty to, for example, a motoring offence by post, and the facts are very clear—our magistrates are capable of reaching a decision themselves. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are great strengths in a system that provides for a bench of more than one person to deal with a criminal prosecution when someone’s liberty may be at stake, but I am confident that, when it comes to dealing with simple offences and guilty pleas that are submitted by post, our approach is realistic.

Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): Is it not the case that, if one magistrate is allocated but the defendant wants there to be three, the defendant can request that?

Chris Grayling: Indeed, but in my experience, most magistrates would regard themselves as perfectly capable of dealing with relatively simple processes of this kind. I think that the provision will free up court time and create a smoother process.

Jeremy Corbyn: At what level would it be decided whether there should be one magistrate or three, and what would be the appeal process in the event of a magistrate’s refusing to call in colleagues if the defendant wanted that to be done?

Chris Grayling: Typically, these will be uncontested cases. A contested case in which the defendant wished to plead not guilty would not be dealt with outside the courtroom. These are simple cases in which there is no doubt about the defendant’s guilt because the defendant has pleaded guilty, and which can be dealt with out of court by magistrates, without the formality of a court hearing.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend not agree that in most instances not only is the case uncontested, but the defendant does not even turn up, and there is then the rigmarole of a prosecutor reading out the facts to an empty courtroom? In those circumstances, it is obviously sensible to adopt the proposed reform.

Chris Grayling: I would say to my hon. Friend, and indeed to the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), that if someone wishes to contest a charge, it is probably a good idea for him to turn up in court to do so.

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Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend ensure that when this streamlined procedure is adopted, pre-hearing consultations take place with defendants about their ability to pay a fine? A proper written means test would enable realistic fines to be imposed, and to be much easier to collect than fines imposed by means of an exercise that would be theoretical without such information.

Chris Grayling: That is a very good point, which we should certainly take on board.

Kate Green: In the context of this part of the Bill, I should place on record my interest as a life member of the Magistrates Association.

When decisions are made outside open court and entirely on paper, with no public pronouncement being made, how can the public be made aware of sentencing practices in relation to the offences that we are discussing?

Chris Grayling: I have made it very clear that we must not lose transparency as a result of our reforms. In today’s world, the local paper reporter obviously will not sit through cases of this kind, because there are not the necessary resources. However, it is vital for the local media, for example, to have access to information about what happens in the courts, and we cannot allow the new process to take place behind closed doors. I am a strong believer in transparency in the courts, and we will provide mechanisms to ensure that the public have access to court decisions. That is only right and proper: we cannot have secret judgments.

Part 3 also deals with the important issue of jury misconduct. Trial by jury is a fundamental feature of our justice system, and juror misconduct can have a devastating effect, causing delays, cost, and damage to public confidence. I am clear about the fact that people should be tried by the courts, not by the internet. When an individual is before the court, the jury must decide on the basis of the evidence presented and principles of justice, not the results of a Google search. The Bill introduces a number of criminal offences in order to tackle such behaviour, based on recommendations by the Law Commission. It also deals with the publication of potentially prejudicial materials during court proceedings, on which the current law is outdated and in need of reform. I think that these provisions represent a careful balance between the right to report and publish freely, and the right to be judged only on the facts before the court, and I thank the Law Commission for its work in this regard.

Sir Edward Garnier: I commend my right hon. Friend on the provisions relating to juries, and on clause 39 in particular, which will raise the upper age limit for jurors to 75. That was a lacuna that needed to be dealt with. May I ask him to go a little further on age limits? Would he consider putting the age limit for judicial retirement back up to 75, because we are losing a great resource at the moment? That would not mean that everyone had to stay on until they were 75, but there are plenty of judges who could do so—[Interruption.] I will speed up my intervention, Mr Deputy Speaker. At this rate, I will be 75 before I get to the end of it. There are plenty of good judges who would like to, and who could, stay on beyond the age of 70, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that point.

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Chris Grayling: I hear what my hon. and learned Friend says, but I am not sure that we could afford to raise the retirement age for judges. I do not mean that in a financial sense. Since I took over this position, I have spent quite a lot of time approving the appointment of retired judges to a number of important roles in society, such as chairing commissions and leading reviews. We would lose that expertise if we allowed them to continue as judges until they were 75, and I am not sure that we could afford to do so.

I shall turn now to the final part of my reforms. Judicial review represents a crucial check on public bodies. It rightly allows individuals, businesses and others to ask the courts to consider whether, for example, a Government Department has gone beyond its powers, whether a local authority has followed a lawful process or whether an arm’s-length body has come to a rational decision. However, I am concerned about time and money being wasted in dealing with unmeritorious cases which are often brought simply to generate publicity or to delay implementation of a decision that has been made properly. Moreover, a significant proportion of these weak applications are funded by the taxpayer, through the expense incurred by the defendant public authority, by the court resource entailed, and in some cases by legal aid or by the public authority bearing the claimant’s legal costs.

The first stage of my judicial review reforms sought to tackle unnecessary delays in the system. Provisions in the Bill will build on those—for example, by making it possible for more cases to leapfrog from the court of first instance to the Supreme Court, speeding up a final decision. We will also seek to change the rules on who has to pay the legal bills for cases, so that all parties have an interest in ensuring that unnecessary costs are not racked up.

Provisions in the Bill will result in stopping taxpayers having to subsidise cases unnecessarily by limiting the use of protective costs orders to exceptional cases with a clear public interest, and only when the court grants them permission to proceed. The provisions will also ensure that details of anyone financially backing a judicial review are disclosed to the court, even if they are not a named party, so that costs can be allocated fairly. They will also make third parties who voluntarily join in a JR case as interveners responsible for paying their own way.

Dr Huppert: Perhaps I have misunderstood clause 53, but it seems to suggest that interveners will have to pay not only their own way but the costs of everyone else involved. That seems rather harsh. The courts have said that they welcome interventions that help to clarify the law. Does not the Secretary of State feel that this measure might go a little too far, and make it hard for people to intervene even though it would be constructive for them to do so?

Chris Grayling: My real concern is when pressure groups use individuals as financial human shields in cases that the groups wish to bring. They find someone who has no financial means, and use them to challenge the Government, and whether or not they win, the Government—that is, taxpayers—are guaranteed to have to pay the bill. The taxpayer will have to foot the bill because there is no prospect of recovering the costs from the individual who is fronting the case. That is what I am seeking to change.

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Kate Green: I suppose I should declare an interest in this context as well, given that I used to run a pressure group that brought judicial reviews—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Against the previous Government, I must say. Those judicial reviews always addressed matters of significant public interest. How does the Justice Secretary intend to deal with complex cases whose costs are likely to be high, but in which it would be helpful to the court to have the matters properly argued, analysed and brought to the court’s attention, as the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) described? Does the Secretary of State have a means of ensuring that his proposal will not shut people out from bringing such complex cases?

Chris Grayling: The hon. Lady certainly did bring cases against the previous Government, but the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and I discovered to our surprise when we went into that Department in 2010 that the practice of the previous Government was to guarantee to pay the costs of the pressure group from day one. We got a call from one pressure group saying, “We are going to bring a judicial review. Can we assume that the usual arrangements will apply and you will pay the costs?”, to which the answer was, “Well, actually, no.” It was a strange way for the previous Government to do business.

As I said, protective costs orders will still be available for cases of genuine public interest, but my fear is, and my experience has been all too often, that cases are brought for public relations and campaigning reasons in a way that leaves the taxpayer guaranteed to pick up the bill. I do not think that is fair on the taxpayer.

Keith Vaz: The Government have taken away the right of appeal in a number of immigration cases, and the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes), who is sitting by the Justice Secretary’s side, was very vocal in the campaign against the abolition of the right of appeal in immigration cases. There has been a huge increase in the number of judicial reviews in immigration cases. Is it fair that we should cut off every single judicial route, enabling people to have nowhere to go if they want to challenge decisions?

Chris Grayling: We assess carefully each immigration case that comes before the Border Agency and there is then the opportunity to challenge in the courts, but just how many times are we going to give people the right to appeal? There have been many cases, and indeed occasions when our judges have said, “This is not good enough”, where the case has simply been brought as a delaying tactic to stop people being asked to leave the UK—that is in nobody’s interest.

Robert Neill: Will my right hon. Friend take on board the fact that, unfortunately, previous interventions have highlighted the error that has crept into many people’s thinking? They believe that rather than being a process of procedural review—an administration of the propriety of decision making—judicial review should be used as a re-run of the merits. That is not what it was ever intended to be.

Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that, which is one reason why we have sought to ensure that cases where there is no material likelihood

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of a different decision having been taken cannot simply be brought on a technicality relating to the process. If a minor error of procedure has been made, the decision should not be able to be delayed for months and months when there is no realistic prospect of a different decision being reached.

The Government have consulted extensively on this package of reform, and we did so with an open mind. Concerns were raised, both practical and principled, about proposals to reform “standing”, which determines who can bring a judicial review, and I have decided not to pursue those. Judicial review must continue in its role as a check on the powers that be. It is an important tool for our society which allows people to challenge genuinely wrong decisions by public authorities. These reforms do not change that, and I would not want them to do so. They make it more difficult for pressure groups simply to use judicial review as a campaigning tool and for those with a financial vested interest—for example, one developer judicially reviewing another—to delay a process of investment, to derail a competitor or to derail a major project that is strategically and economically in the interests of this country.

The Bill contains a vital set of proposals as we work to deliver a justice system in which people can have confidence—a justice system that deals robustly with those who repeatedly commit crimes. The Bill toughens sentencing for some of the most serious crimes and ensures that serious offenders will be released only if they can show that they are no longer a threat to society. The Bill requires offenders to contribute to the cost of the criminal courts, and allows us to test a new approach to youth custody and to reduce the delays and expense involved in unmeritorious judicial reviews. The Bill draws a line under Labour’s soft justice culture, provides hard-working families with greater safety and security in their communities, and removes barriers to economic growth. I commend it to the House.

5.28 pm

Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): Let us be frank: this Bill has come from nowhere. If the Government really wanted a new justice Bill, the obvious place to trail it would be in the imminent Queen’s Speech, not today with a Second Reading towards the dreg ends of this parliamentary Session. So what is going on? With 15 months to go until the general election, experienced heads around Parliament say that it has never been so quiet.

We know the old saying that the devil makes work for idle hands. Recent weeks have certainly shown that to be the case, with the Government suffering a number of troubling episodes with their own Back Benchers, perhaps in no small part because the thin legislative programme leaves their own sides twiddling their thumbs. Nature abhors a vacuum; so too does Parliament. Disquiet, plotting and rebellions tie the Government in knots, leading to the absurd situation in which the Opposition had to step in and vote down a Tory Back-Bench amendment on the Government’s own Immigration Bill—an amendment that broke the rule of law—while the Conservative majority in the coalition sat on their hands. Has anyone heard of anything so pathetic? We have a governing party that could not even vote in favour of its own Bill, and a Lord Chancellor who swears an oath to uphold the law but who could not even bring himself to vote for that rule of law.

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We can guess what happened. The Prime Minister had probably sent out a desperate memo, pleading with Cabinet colleagues to bring forward legislation—any legislation—to fill the pitiful gap in parliamentary schedules and to keep Tory Back Benchers happy and busy. Who was the only willing and eager star pupil to respond? Who was as keen as mustard to be top of the class? Yes, it was the Justice Secretary. I can see his response to the Prime Minister. It would start, “Dear Dave”. I appreciate that that is not parliamentary etiquette, but he is known as the “Call me Dave” Prime Minister.

The letter would go on, “I read your memo, begging for legislation to make it look like this Government are doing something, and also to keep those pesky, ungrateful Back Benchers happy. I know they hold you responsible for not winning the last general election. I am only too willing, Dave, to rush forward some legislation. It is a bit of a Christmas tree Bill, but it does mean that we can shove on as many baubles as we want. After all, the more tabloid friendly stuff might keep UKIP off our backs, along with those ungrateful Back Benchers of yours. Yours sincerely, Chris.”

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD) rose—

Sadiq Khan: I give way to the Chair of the Justice Committee.

Sir Alan Beith: Does the right hon. Gentleman see real benefit in returning to the days of a Labour Government when there was a criminal justice Bill every year—sometimes there were two—that often repealed a previous Bill and was often not brought into force?

Sadiq Khan: I am really pleased that the right hon. Gentleman asked that question. This is the third justice Bill of this Session. Two of the Bills have not yet received Royal Assent, and the Government are having a third bite of the cherry. Furthermore, the Justice Secretary tried to rewrite history. During our 13 years in government, crime did not go down by 5%, 10% or even by 20%; it went down by 43%, and that was according to independent statistics and not to dodgy figures that the Justice Secretary likes to rely on.

This latest criminal justice Bill is having its Second Reading before either of the other criminal justice Bills —the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill and the Offender Rehabilitation Bill—that the Chair of the Select Committee was so keen to support have even received Royal Assent. Talk about desperation! The Select Committee Chairman should listen. We know the Government are in a mess when they bring in new laws to amend laws that they passed only a year ago, as some parts of this Bill seek to do. That is the mess this Government are in, and that is the shambolic way they are running our justice system.

I will not go through every one of the Bill’s 63 clauses, but I want to make myself clear. There are some elements of this Bill we support, some need further work and there are some we downright oppose. In part 1 of the Bill, the Government attempt to make up for the error they made when they abolished indeterminate sentences for public protection. I know that the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) feels strongly about that. They

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cannot admit they got it wrong and do a 180° U-turn, so they are doing a partial U-turn by bringing in a raft of new sentence proposals

Of course we support keeping the public safe from the most serious and violent criminals. That is why we opposed the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), the previous Justice Secretary, when he removed from judges the power to make IPPs to protect the public. To be fair to the current Justice Secretary, he would never have countenanced abolishing that power, but he cannot admit that because he voted for its abolition. We therefore have clause 3 and schedule 15 eligibility for life sentences and extended determinant sentences to try to address the mistakes of the Legal Aid, Sentences and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

Giving the Parole Board a say in whether some of the most serious criminals should be released at half time or when they reach two thirds of their sentence is no substitute for judges having the power when sentencing to impose an indeterminate sentence to protect the public. That will give the Parole Board an extra work load, yet I bet that the Justice Secretary cannot tell the House what extra resources he will give it to do its job properly. Silence. The Ministry of Justice’s impact assessment estimates that there will be at least an extra 1,100 parole hearings owing to the Bill. If all the supplementary work involved is added, there will be a huge addition to the Parole Board’s work load. How will that be resourced? Silence.

Surely even this Justice Secretary understands that a poorly resourced Parole Board making the wrong decisions about whether to release someone is as bad as automatic release. Wrong decisions made by the Parole Board because of an overburdened and stretched staff help no one; nor do delays in getting a hearing because of a backlog. There are problems and delays in prisoners getting the courses and treatments that they need as part of their sentencing plans and delays in getting a parole hearing, but let us imagine what the future holds.

Increasing the maximum for a handful of offences still leaves many offences uncovered that would have previously allowed a judge to give a more appropriate sentence to protect the public. By the way, although we do not oppose them, let us be clear that the provisions to increase the maximum life sentences for certain terrorism-related offences look tough, but the Ministry of Justice impact assessment confirms that this is a classic con trick. Do hon. Members know how many offenders were convicted in 2013 for the offences of either weapons training for terrorist purposes or training for terrorism? None. What about 2012? None. This new toughness will affect no one. None of those offences is being brought before the courts, so there is no one to punish and no one to deter. I wonder how the Justice Secretary intends to measure the impact of the change. He does not know. This is all about appearing to look tough.

Chris Grayling: If the right hon. Gentleman looks back, he will see that in the latter part of the past decade in the wake of the London bombings, our security services did a fine job of intercepting a number of terror plots. In that time, a number of people received 10-year jail sentences, which is the maximum available to the courts. On at least one occasion, the judge bemoaned his inability to provide a longer jail sentence

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because of the risk he believed the individual posed to the public. Happily, there are not large numbers of such cases. I think we would all agree that we do not want to see more of them. I hope that the provision will not be used very often, but it needs to be there in case it is necessary.

Sadiq Khan: The right hon. Gentleman confirms that he made a huge error in abolishing the indeterminate sentence to protect the public. He is trying to give the impression of being tough and providing the facilities that our security services need, but in fact the evidence suggests that there have been zero prosecutions for such offences.

Labour has led calls for something to be done about the inappropriate use of cautions for serious and violent offences, such as rape, and to stop those who repeatedly receive cautions. Those are not my words but something that the Library paper that accompanies the Bill says. The shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), has raised this, as indeed have I, at Justice questions. It has taken the Government some time even to admit that there is a problem with the growth of inappropriately used cautions for serious and violent offences.

I can remember the Justice Secretary getting into a tangle at Justice questions when trying to explain cautions for rape and saying that victims are to blame and that cautions are given because victims withdraw their statements. We must study in detail the proposals to see whether they will indeed address the public’s growing concern that the overuse of cautions is another example of this Government’s doing justice on the cheap.

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Library briefing paper. He will have noticed that the highest number of both cautions and fixed penalty notices were issued in 2007, under the last Government. They are down by 45% today, which shows the contrast between the last Government and this Government.

Sadiq Khan: If the hon. Gentleman had done some more research and read the Bill as well, he would have seen not only that the number of cautions had started going down considerably but that this Bill does nothing to address the increased use of fixed penalty notices, penalty notices, warnings and conditional cautions. I expect that he will support our amendments in Committee when we try to improve this hopeless Bill.

Taken as a whole, the changes in part 1 of the Bill will see more people in our prisons. Indeed, the Government’s own impact assessment estimates that an additional 1,050 prison places will be needed. However, as of last Friday there were just 510 places left in the whole prison system, with the secure estate operating at in excess of 99% capacity, which usually sees Operation Safeguard kicking in. The Justice Secretary needs to be straight about where he plans to keep these additional prisoners: with his flagship Titan prison not due on stream until 2017, the public have a right to know that.

Chris Grayling: If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the numbers, he will see that we are planning in the next 15 months to open up around 2,000 new adult male prison places.

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Sadiq Khan: The problem is that the Justice Secretary is closing down prisons and does not explain where the money for these additional prison places will come from. His own impact assessment is silent on that.

Chris Grayling: There is a simple answer—those figures are in the budget.

Sadiq Khan: They are not in the budget, because the average cost of a prisoner is £42,000 a year. If we multiply that figure by the increased number of prisoners that the Justice Secretary’s impact assessment says there will be—1,050—it comes to a total of £44 million a year. That is not in the budget.

Chris Grayling: The right hon. Gentleman needs to spend a bit of time doing maths. I simply point, for example, to the new house block that will open at Parc prison in south Wales in the next few months, where the average cost per prison place is about £15,000.

Sadiq Khan: I am happy to have a ding-dong with the Justice Secretary. That figure applies in prisons such as Oakwood, which are failing—new purpose-built prisons. In a prison such as the one I visited last week in Winchester the average cost is £42,000; in a prison such as Wandsworth, it is £44,000; in Brixton, £46,000; and in Pentonville, £48,000. He is just plucking figures out of thin air and assuming that all 87,000 prisoners have the same £15,000-a-year cost. That is not the case and he has to be honest enough to recognise that there are far too many expensive prison places because of the legacy of his cancelling the new prisons and closing down too many over the last four years.

The concern is that the Justice Secretary talks a good talk, especially when briefing the right-wing media, but he simply does not care about or pay attention to detail, as he is working on the basis that he will be long gone before any of his mess needs to be cleared up. After all, he left a huge mess in the Department for Work and Pensions with his Work programme. He is assuming that somebody else will be left to pick up the pieces of privatising probation, of legal aid and of this prison population crisis.

Dr Huppert: While the right hon. Gentleman is in the mood to do mathematics, will he advise us of the extra cost to the public purse of the extra 30,000 people in prison between the beginning of the last Labour Government and the end of the last Labour Government? Will he give us an estimate of how much that cost?

Sadiq Khan: If we did a cost-benefit analysis of the number of people who were saved the misery of being the victims of crime as crime went down by 43%, and of the additional cost of having extra police officers, which led to a record decrease in crime, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would accept that there was value for money.

Keith Vaz: As my right hon. Friend knows, there is a large number of foreign national prisoners in the prison estate, costing the taxpayer, as he says, an enormous amount of money. What we need is not legislation but a focus on trying to get them removed to their country of origin. Making sure that that is done would be a better use of the Government’s time than building more prisons.

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Sadiq Khan: My right hon. Friend will know that the number of foreign prisoners in our prisons is just a bit above 10,000. That has been the figure for the past four years, and the Government have done nothing to get it down. They would do better to pay attention to getting it down, rather than to getting headlines in the Daily Mail or The Daily Telegraph. That would free up places and lead to a huge improvement.

We broadly welcome the direction of travel on electronic monitoring, subject to clarification on costs and technical developments; the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) raised some of the concerns that we have that need to be addressed. We will closely scrutinise the ability of the Ministry of Justice properly to monitor the private companies awarded the contracts, to ensure that the public get value for money and the Ministry is no longer taken for a ride.

We do not oppose the plans relating to automatic release and recall, and we welcome clause 16, which bans the possession of extreme pornographic images depicting rape. A number of victim groups and experts have called for that change, and the Government and the Justice Secretary should be commended for listening to the evidence.

I turn to the second part of the Bill, on youth justice. It is worth pausing to reflect on the dramatic fall over the past 10 years or so in the number of young people held in custody. The most recent figures show a drop of more than 60%. I pay tribute to the hard work of the Youth Justice Board and youth offending teams up and down the country. I am proud of Labour’s record in setting up the YJB, which led to these falls. I wish the outgoing chair well and the new chair the best of luck in his endeavours. The YJB’s innovative ways of working have delivered enormous economic and social benefits to society, and I for one am delighted that we were successful in keeping it doing its important job, rather than it being abolished two weeks ago, as the Government had wanted.

We have reached a hard core of young offenders in our youth justice system, and that brings a different set of challenges. As has been said, reoffending rates for this hard core remain stubbornly high. The Government’s preferred solution is secure colleges, and the Bill paves the way for their introduction. Ministers have announced only one so far, in Leicestershire. Construction will not start until 2015. There is no clear idea of where the £85 million that it will cost will come from, or what will be cut to find the money. It smacks of another commitment made by this Justice Secretary for which the next Government will be left to pick up the tab. In Committee, we will need to get down to the details, but already a number of groups have expressed concerns about the plans. There will be just one secure college; either it will be a huge college for the whole country—a teenage Titan prison, with all the problems that will entail—or only those in the east midlands will benefit.

There are also concerns about how restraint is planned to be used in the new secure college, and how the college will address the problems underlying offending, such as mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction—mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs—and histories of abuse, trauma and violence. It is also unclear, despite the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford

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and Urmston (Kate Green), what provision is planned for young females. There is a concern, to be frank, that this is a return to the discredited borstal system.

Nor have the Government made clear their intentions for the network of secure children’s homes. Granted, those are expensive, but I have visited them and seen at first hand the range of severe problems that young people there have to deal with. Extreme caution is needed before this group of highly vulnerable people is lumped in with the wider youth justice system.

We will want convincing that forking out £85 million on bricks and mortar is better than spending the money on improving the amount of education and rehabilitative work in the existing secure training centre network. I see that the Chair of the Select Committee on Justice is here; the Justice Committee recently argued for a “fundamental shift” of resources from custody to early intervention with young people at risk of reoffending. It also made the point that most young offenders would not be in custody long enough—the average is 79 days—for the secure college to do any good in improving basic skills and addressing offending behaviour. A number of experts have also raised concerns, which we shall explore in Committee.

The third part of the Bill proposes changes in our courts. On the face of it, efforts to speed up court proceedings and make them more efficient—for example, by ensuring easier and quicker appeals to the Supreme Court, and by having magistrates courts deal with lower-level offenders faster—are to be welcomed, but this should not be to the detriment of proper open justice or due process. The Civil Justice Council, the Magistrates Association and others have expressed concerns that we should explore in Committee. Similarly, no one opposes convicted criminals being made to make amends for their crimes. The Government now wish to tack a charge on to those found guilty towards the cost of their trial. There have been difficulties collecting fines and the victim surcharge from guilty criminals, sometimes as a result of organisational problems, but sometimes because criminals simply do not have enough money. There are between £1.4 billion and £2 billion in uncollected fines, and only this weekend it was reported that £13 million in victim surcharge had failed to be collected by the Government. I am sure that the Justice Secretary did not mean it when he said that that was because they are all dead, or that outsourcing all of this will solve all the problems. We will seek guarantees that this will not be yet another trumpeted announcement that ends in failure down the years as non-payments rack up and are written off.

It is right that the law on jurors and the use of the internet keeps up to date with the march of technology. I, too, am pleased that the Government have listened to the recommendations of the Law Commission in that respect. However, as Members will recall from the high-profile trial of Vicky Pryce, there are problems with juries not understanding their role sufficiently, and we shall explore what steps can be taken to educate and inform the public and jurors about the important civic function of jury service so that it is less of an alien process to them. I welcome proposals to raise the juror age limit to 75.

The fourth part of the Bill deals with changes to judicial review. In a country without a written constitution, we tinker at our peril with important checks and balances such as judicial review without proper thought. We know the Lord Chancellor’s view on judicial review

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from a piece for the newspaper that he and his SpAds prefer to brief—the

Daily Mail

. He said that

“judicial review…is not a promotional tool for countless Left-wing campaigners. So that is why we are publishing our proposals for change…Britain cannot afford to allow a culture of Left-wing-dominated, single-issue activism to hold back our country from investing in infrastructure and new sources of energy”—

news, I am sure, to Conservative Back Benchers and local authorities that have been involved in JRs against Heathrow expansion, High Speed 2 and, no doubt in future, wind farms and fracking.

Let me explain the position to the Justice Secretary in plain English without any long legal words or gobbledegook. MPs, individual citizens, community groups, organisations and local authorities are not

“part of a culture of Left-wing dominated”

campaigners when they legitimately ask the judiciary to review decisions made by public authorities, including Ministers.

To be frank, delays in HS2 or Crossrail 2, the lack of houses being built or of big infrastructure are more to do with the incompetence and policies of this Government than with judicial review. It is hardly surprising that people believe that the Justice Secretary’s true intentions are to insulate his Government’s bad decision making from any kind of challenge. The Government have also sought to rein in legal aid and no win, no fee cases; to gag campaign groups with their shoddy Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014; and constantly to attack human rights laws—there is a pattern. These are the tools by which our citizens hold Governments to account, and the Government are weakening them.

Kate Green: I am glad that my right hon. Friend makes that point, because the Justice Secretary is quite wrong to suggest that the majority of judicial review cases are about campaigners making campaign points. They are about individuals who have suffered personal injustice at the hands of an over-powerful state, and we ought to maintain that ultimate protection for those individuals, many of whom are disabled, many of whom are vulnerable, and many of whom are poorly educated. Does my right hon. Friend not agree that, whatever the Justice Secretary presents as the effect of these changes, the reality is that it is vulnerable individuals who lose out the most?

Sadiq Khan: Absolutely. The concerns are that as a consequence of the changes decisions made by Ministers and other public authorities will be put above the rule of law. Those authorities will almost be free to do as they please, to the ludicrous extent that breaking the law appears to be of no concern to the Justice Secretary.

It is clear the Justice Secretary’s measures are underpinned by a majoritarian view of the world in which democracy is only about elections, and those who win can do as they please in between. I would be more sympathetic if the Conservatives had actually won the last general election. The Justice Secretary’s policies are dangerous. Democracy is more than elections: I am not alone in that view, and neither is my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston. Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls, said that

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“there is no principle more basic to our system of law than the maintenance of the rule of law itself and the constitutional protection afforded by judicial review.”

The former Lord Chief Justice, the esteemed Lord Woolf, said:

“In our system, without its written constitution embedded in our law so it can't be changed, judicial review is critical.”

He also said that the Ministry of Justice has shown a

“remarkable lack of concern for the precision of the facts”.

Joe Rukin, co-ordinator of the Stop HS2 campaign—that infamous left-wing dominated campaign group—said:

“The government seem to be making out that they believe any of their infrastructure plans should be above the law and do not realise that it is essential in a democratic society to be able to hold the government to account”.

Chris Grayling: It is the case, if I am not mistaken, that HS2 can happen only if the relevant measure is passed in legislative form by both Houses of Parliament. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that the courts and people outside Parliament should be able to override democratic decision making by the elected House and the House of Lords?

Sadiq Khan: That question raises so many concerns about the Justice Secretary’s lack of knowledge that it is really worrying. Citizens should be able to challenge the decisions that are made by Ministers, including him and Labour Ministers. That might mean that the courts find that some Government decisions are wrong. For example, they might find against plans to expand Heathrow with a third runway. We have to accept that decisions made by the Executive should be able to be challenged by the judiciary. He should accept the important concept of the separation of powers. We provide checks and balances for the judiciary, the Executive and the legislature. We are not a country in which the Cabinet can do whatever it likes.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I am slightly perturbed by what the right hon. Gentleman has said. These are not decisions that my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary has said the Government would take—he was talking about decisions that Parliament would take. What is essential in a democratic system is that the will of the people exercised through Parliament is sovereign, not judges who have been elected by nobody.

Sadiq Khan: I do not subscribe to the view that citizens have a role to play only once every five years. They have a role to play in an active democracy between elections as well. That is the difference between the hon. Gentleman’s majoritarian view and mine. The irony is that the Foreign Secretary gets it. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to the Foreign Secretary in the statement on Ukraine and Syria, he would have heard what he had to say. It is a shame that the Justice Secretary and the hon. Gentleman did not listen to what the Foreign Secretary said about the importance of the rule of law.

Robert Neill rose—

Sadiq Khan: I shall make some progress, but I shall come back to the hon. Gentleman.

I hold up my hands up as a former Minister and admit that for someone who is part of the Executive the threat of being judicially reviewed can sometimes feel

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like a nuisance. Judicial review can be a pain for decision makers, but that is the point. It is about making sure that decisions are taken properly, follow due process and are within the laws of the land. If we expect our citizens to abide by the rule of law, the Government should be no different, which means acting lawfully, not scaring off opponents before the game has begun, or imposing huge consequences on the team that loses. To stretch the sporting analogy further, under their proposals, the Government would be playing down a steep slope for the full 90 minutes, defending a much smaller goal than the one into which they would be trying to score. Their opponents would be running uphill for the whole game, and have a much smaller set of goalposts to aim at. That is not fair, and it is not justice.

It is worth noting what is not in the Bill. Despite all the Government’s recent talk about victims, there is nothing about a victims law—what a missed opportunity—which will disappoint not just victims and potential victims but no doubt the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel), who has been vocal in her support for the victims law proposed by Labour. Instead, victims and witnesses will have to wait for a Labour Government to serve that law to stop them being ignored and trampled by the justice system. There is also little in the Bill to address the specific problems faced by women, those with mental health problems and ethnic minority communities in our justice system.

I have to congratulate the Lord Chancellor. He has achieved something in his short time in the job that few of his predecessors could ever have dreamed of: he has managed to alienate every part of the justice system. Prison staff are more under pressure and threatened in their day-to-day work environment than ever. Probation staff feel betrayed. They have done all that has been asked of them, then been sold off to the likes of those serial under-performers, G4S, Serco and A4E. Legal professionals are horrified at the erosion of access to justice and the insulation of the powerful from challenge that has happened under the Lord Chancellor’s watch. Charities and community groups are demoralised at the ignorance shown towards the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act. Things are so bad that there is even the threat that the legal profession might boycott the Justice Secretary’s planned celebrations for the 800th birthday of Magna Carta next year. What is more, he has managed to deliver the first ever industrial action by barristers.

The Bill is all about trying to create some work for rebellious, bored and troublesome Back Benchers, some of whom we will hear from later. The Bill may well succeed in doing that, but the idea that it will do anything substantive to reduce crime, help victims to be at the centre of the justice system, improve our courts system or keep our communities significantly safer is a joke, a bit like the office of Lord Chancellor has become with this incumbent.

6.1 pm

Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): I am not sure whether I have been described before as a bored, troublesome Back Bencher, but I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill. Its proposals are sensible and move forward the Government’s position on criminal law reform. I congratulate the Lord Chancellor on his earlier presentation,

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which I note to the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) was very well received on the Government Benches.

Part 3 allows summary trials for non-imprisonable offences “on the papers” only and without the defendant being present. This is an entirely sensible proposal, but it forms just a small part of a wider debate about which case should be going to which court. Of course, all criminal cases start in magistrates courts, and the vast majority of them are disposed of there without ever going to the Crown court. This is important, first because most of us wholly support the ancient British tradition of low-level crimes being judged by magistrates, but secondly because the cases where an election can be made cost about £3,400 in a Crown court compared with the £900 they would cost in a magistrates court. There is the further question of what should be a criminal offence at all. I would be happy to debate, for instance, whether TV licence evasion is suitable for criminal rather than civil trial.

One of the main stumbling blocks to those part 3 proposals in the past has been disagreement between Government Departments, and I congratulate the Lord Chancellor on knocking the right heads together. The other problem has been the magistrates, who have been unwilling to lessen their work load, give that that has already reduced by more than one third during the last five years or so. Furthermore, the moving of traffic cases to a single traffic court in each police force area, which I think is being proposed, will leave some magistrates courts light-handed and more open to a merger proposal with another local court. There is significant volume here. For instance, speeding alone accounts for some 10% of all convictions. So the issues here are slightly more complicated and need to be placed into context.

Magistrates have also felt a bit under attack in recent years owing to the efficiency changes that really had to be made, and my concern here is that we could be reducing their work load further, without giving them the extra quality work that they deserve. Not only do justices of the peace cost less, but cases go through much faster. Sentencing is not for longer periods if a case goes to the Crown court, juries are more likely to acquit than magistrates, and the Crown procedural delays often mean that witnesses are not available. There are three interconnected issues. The first concerns bulk non-serious cases, which is handled in the Bill. Secondly, there are the magistrates courts that these cases are being dealt in, and, thirdly, as we reduce magistrates input into these bulk areas, there is the question of how to increase their involvement in other areas.

On the first bulk issue, I agree that it is ridiculous that three JPs need to hear a small traffic case in open court with prosecutors involved in reading out case details. I appreciate and agree that defendants should retain the right to a full hearing in open court should they so require, but let us also appreciate that around half of traffic proceedings have no plea entered at all, a point that came up earlier.

On the second issue of magistrates courts being used, will the Minister please confirm that traffic work will be moved to a single court per police area? This is sensible, and I hope that a thorough review of procedure will be undertaken at the same time. I am sure that significant savings and a better service could be provided through better IT and procedures, but this could go yet further and be put into the context of a wider review. Of course,

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I would maintain that the closure of around 140 courts by the Government was correct, not least because as a result cases are proceeding quicker and at a lower cost. One of the keys to effective court procedure is to have larger court centres where listing and delays can be better managed. If we add to this continued use of technology and more virtual courtrooms in police stations, there is much more we could do. The bulk processing of non-imprisonable cases is part of this, but it would be better placed in the context of the wider whole.

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is right to make the point that he does about minor traffic offences, but along with many others no doubt, I have been contacted by constituents who are concerned about the boundary between a traffic offence that could be dealt with in the way he describes, and where it spills over into what is, in effect, a criminal offence. Does he agree that if the approach he advocates is adopted, great care needs to be taken to set the boundary?

Mr Djanogly: I certainly agree with that. The Minister may wish to come back to this, but I think that that would be done in discussion with prosecutors, and there would be the ability for someone to request three magistrates if they so wished.

The main possible gap that I see here is on the third issue of wider JP powers, and we should be reviewing part 3 in the context of new summary only offences and an increase of maximum JP sentences to 12 months, not least to give a clear indication to the magistracy of our support. I had heard of some limited Government proposals to make shoplifting a summary only offence where the stolen goods are valued at £200 or less. Perhaps the Minister will advise the House on his proposals in this regard. The Magistrates Association has been advocating new summary only offences for some drugs possession, making off without payment, going equipped for theft, small benefit fraud, some affray and driving offences, some assault charges and failure to surrender to bail. I appreciate that this could result in a rise in the prison population, which the Magistrates Association considers to be about 1,000 people, but on the other side there would be court savings of £30 million to £40 million. Again, I would appreciate the Minister commenting on these proposals.

My second point relates to raising the upper age limit for jury service from 70 to 75. That sounds sensible given the upward age of people in the UK, but will the Minister say a little more about the research that has been done to confirm this? Will the change have any negative implications for younger people not being called? The problem that I found here was the reluctance by the judiciary to allow research to be carried out on jurors. My instinct is that fewer people are now willing to be called than was the case in the past. I would be concerned if the Bill exacerbated that, on the basis that it could allow working people to be let off more easily. My suspicions here are not reduced by a Government note that I saw, mentioning that they expect some savings to result from a reduction in the number of jurors in employment. I do not see that as a good objective for our democratic system.

When I did jury service, on the first day a man rushed in shouting at the court staff that he had 2,500 chickens being delivered that day and who would look after

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them. He was let off service on the spot, despite presumably having had long notice of his jury date, although perhaps not of his chicken delivery. The point I am making is that jury service is an important part of citizenship; so much so that I think we should be putting as much effort into educating the young in school about its benefits to society, and ensuring that people serve when called, as we are into pushing up the service age. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.

My third issue relates to the new contempt of court provisions on jury misconduct. That is important not only for ensuring a fair trial and saving costs, but for retaining confidence in the jury system. If a whole trail needs to be started again because of, say, internet research carried out by one juror, that is hugely frustrating for the other jurors on the case, who could be put off doing service again. My wider point is that access to technology is having such a huge effect on so many areas of our lives, and across all Departments, that perhaps we need a cross-departmental review of its impact on existing legislation.

Clauses 29 to 31 relate to criminals paying their own court costs, as was mentioned earlier. That sounds sensible, and it is something I support, but I note that the payment is made by the criminal after money penalties, after compensation to victims, after the victim surcharge and after prosecution costs. I would not confuse that with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) on prior debts, but will the Minister please provide more information on what proportion of those costs are likely to be recovered and whether administration recovery charges make the proposal cost-effective?

Finally, on judicial review, I recall that as a young law student in the 1980s we had to learn about administrative law, but the striking thing then was how rarely it was used, and then only for very serious abuses of power. We have since seen a huge growth industry in which a willing judiciary has now opened up three or four courts across the country to hear those applications, which increasingly resemble appeals, rather than judicial review, or cheaper alternatives to proper cases, often funded by third-party organisations, some of which stay anonymous. That must change, and I am pleased, without addressing the detail, to see those provisions in part 4 of the Bill.

6.12 pm

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): I am pleased to have an opportunity to take part in this debate, although several provisions in the Bill worry me intensely. The Bill has more to do with posturing on the part of the Government than with any real policy initiative. The Justice Secretary has presented it at a time when two other crime-related Bills are still awaiting Royal Assent. Indeed, some of its provisions seem to undermine those set out in the Offender Rehabilitation Bill, which is yet to reach the statute book.

Similarly, the Bill’s proposed reforms to judicial review, as set out in part 4, cut across provisions contained in the Immigration Bill—a point ably made by the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. Most people would agree that there is a need to introduce a more robust process to weed out the unmeritorious cases, but we must be very careful not in effect to deny individuals

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who really rely on it. Furthermore, everybody accepts that the review process is a vital component of a healthy democracy: the individual’s right to challenge the over-mighty and to secure justice in properly decided administrative law cases. We limit those rights at our peril.

I will quote from a very interesting article that appeared in last Thursday’s edition of The Times, penned by a Member of the other place, a very experienced Queen’s counsel who has taken judicial review cases on many occasions and defended Governments in such cases as well. He wrote:

“Clause 50 provides that courts and tribunals must refuse to allow a judicial review application to proceed to a full hearing if the defendant shows that it is ‘highly likely’ that the outcome for the applicant ‘would not have been substantially different if the conduct complained of had not occurred’. If the case does not proceed to a full hearing, the court must refuse any remedy to the applicant if that same test is satisfied.

The proposal is objectionable for constitutional reasons. The clause will instruct judges to ignore unlawful conduct and to do so in a context where the government itself is the main defendant.

All governments come to resent the power of the judiciary to identify and remedy unlawful conduct. But until now they have, with greater or lesser enthusiasm, recognised the value of what is central to the rule of law. After all, they will not be in power indefinitely…It tells the Government, and the world, that what has been done is unlawful. Ministers and civil servants know that they must change their conduct for the future, and they do so.”

He concludes the article by stating:

“Over the past 40 years, judicial review has helped to prevent abuse of power by governments of all complexions. It is ironic that judicial review now needs protection from a politician whose reforms would neuter its force by the use of political slogans that have no factual basis and are ignorant of legal and constitutional principle.”

Those are strong words from an expert in the field. I think that we would do well to take them on board and consider their purport.

The timetabling of the Bill is also a little confusing. Although it is having its Second Reading today, we must assume that its introduction has been orchestrated so that it will be carried over at the end of the Session, no doubt to make the Government appear proactive and to mask the fact that so few significant pieces of Government legislation remain.

Dr Huppert: The right hon. Gentleman, as ever, is making some interesting points, but is he really saying that the test of a Government is the number of pieces of legislation they pass? I would have thought that he, like me, thinks that Parliament has much more to do than simply pass legislation.

Mr Llwyd: No, I am not saying that. In fact, I was a long-time critic of the Blair Administration, who introduced criminal Bills almost every teatime. That is not a test at all. Also, several measures that the Justice Secretary referred to in his opening speech today are rehashes of various things we have seen in the press over the past few months. All I am saying is that when a Government run out of steam, the benchmark is not how many pieces of legislation they pass—otherwise, heaven knows where we would end up.

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I am mindful that other Members wish to speak and so will try not to detain the House for long. Part 1 of the Bill creates a number of offences, many of which are considered unnecessary at best and, at worst, vindictive provisions that are likely to increase the prison population considerably. Clause 4 introduces a drastic change to release arrangements for offenders serving extended determinate sentences, who are currently entitled to automatic release after they have served two thirds of their sentence. Instead, they will now be required to appear before the Parole Board so that it can assess whether they are fit to be released on licence.

It is important to note that extended determinate sentences were enacted by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, a very recent piece of legislation. That is not the only example in the Bill of the Government seeking to amend provisions introduced by their own justice Bills. Extended determinate sentences from the outset increased the minimum tariff a person was required to spend in custody from half of their sentence to two thirds. By stipulating that offenders will also have to satisfy the Parole Board before being considered for release, the amount of time that is available for supervision and rehabilitation back into the community is further decreased.

Furthermore, the Government appear to have drastically underestimated the impact those changes will have on the Parole Board’s resources and the size of the prison population. In their impact assessment, the Government predict that the changes introduced in clauses 1 to 5 will result in an increase of 1,000 prison places and an increase of 1,100 Parole Board hearings per year between implementation and 2030. The Prison Reform Trust has written to Members of Parliament urging us to seek clarification from the Government on how they calculate these figures. After all, the Government of the time underestimated the impact that IPP sentences—indeterminate sentences for public protection—would have on the prison population. When those sentences were first debated in Parliament—I recall the debates—the Government were insistent that the new sentence would increase the prison population by 900 places. By June 2013, 5,620 offenders were still in custody serving the now-abolished IPP sentences, 3,549 of whom were being held beyond their tariff date. The impact on the operation of the Parole Board has been nothing short of overwhelming. In August 2013, the backlog of cases still awaiting hearings by the Parole Board was 1,352, with IPP offenders accounting for 61% of indeterminate review cases. Yet the Government think it apposite to increase the workload of the Parole Board yet again by introducing changes to the automatic release of offenders—and this at a time when Parole Board staff numbers have been reduced by nearly one in five.

The release test for recalled prisoners provided for in clauses 7 and 8 will similarly place an extra burden on the beleaguered Parole Board. At present, recalled offenders serving determinate sentences undergo a fixed-term recall whereby they serve 28 days in custody and are then automatically released. Under clauses 7 and 8, however, these offenders will serve the remainder of their sentence in custody if the Secretary of State determines that an offender is likely to breach a condition of their licence. The Parole Board would need to conduct a release test before certifying that the offender can in fact be released. The Prison Reform Trust has drawn attention to the fact that this pays scant regard to the peculiar circumstances

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of offenders with learning disabilities and mental health problems, many of whom find it difficult to understand the terms of their licence.

Once again, the Government’s estimate of how many offenders will be affected by this change seems worryingly off the mark. The impact assessment calculates that the change will result in 75 offenders per year being affected and an extra 50 prison places being required. However, this blatantly fails to take into account the likely impact of the changes being introduced concurrently by the Government’s Offender Rehabilitation Bill, still being considered by the other place, which will result in mandatory supervision being given to all offenders serving sentences of 12 months or less. The impact assessment for that Bill estimates that 13,000 extra offenders will be recalled or committed to custody each year, with an increase of 1,600 places in the prison population. I would be grateful if the Minister clarified how the Ministry of Justice has calculated that so few offenders will be affected by the combined impact of this Bill and the Offender Rehabilitation Bill.

Clause 8 gives the Secretary of State the power to use the affirmative resolution procedure in order to change the release test for recalled prisoners serving determinate sentences. I am worried that the Government are proposing to use secondary legislation to implement such a significant change, and I hope that they will reconsider this provision ahead of the Bill’s Committee stage.

Clauses 10 and 11 introduce a new statutory offence of being unlawfully at large following a recall to custody. This would be triable either way and could result in a convicted offender being imprisoned for up to two years. Once again, the Government seem to have omitted any safeguard for vulnerable offenders with learning disabilities or mental health problems that would impair their ability to understand the full terms of their release. It would be beneficial if the Government inserted such a safeguard ahead of the Bill’s later stages. For example, it would be useful if the Bill made a distinction between offenders who abscond wilfully and those who do not report as a result of a misunderstanding or a miscommunication. According to research conducted by the Prison Reform Trust in 2007, between 20% and 30% of offenders were estimated to have a learning disability that affected their ability to cope with the complexities of the criminal justice system and the co-operation expected of them. During debates on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill in the other place, the Government pledged to produce special versions of licence conditions for individuals with learning difficulties. I would welcome the Minister’s assurance that they intend to keep true to that pledge, and indeed any other provisions that they will be making for vulnerable offenders so that they can understand what actions are strictly required of them.

My final point on part 1 concerns the new offence introduced in clause 16 that criminalises the possession of pornographic materials depicting rape and non-consensual sexual penetration. I truly applaud the Government’s efforts in this regard to minimise the use and dissemination of extreme pornographic materials, and particularly the work they are doing to minimise the opportunities for children to come into contact with this filth. In my view, however, there can be no benefit to society or to the individuals involved if persons convicted of sex offences are left languishing in prison without treatment or, worse, released into the community

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without treatment. I welcome what the Government are doing, but ask them to go one step further in ensuring that these perpetrators are dealt with positively, if that is the right word.

Although the internet sex offender treatment programme is available for offenders on supervision in the community, it is, rather perplexingly, not available in prisons. In relation to the availability of the sex offender treatment programmes which, conversely, are available in custody, I understand that as of July 2012, 21 prisons offered these programmes, despite the fact that offenders are serving time in relation to sex offences in over 100 prisons. This means that a person convicted of a sex offence has roughly only a one-in-six chance of being able to access treatment that would address his or her offending behaviour. I urge the Government to improve their provision of treatment programmes for these offenders before incarcerating yet more for similar offences.

In summary, the changes in part 1 will result in greater overcrowding of the prison estate and a greater burden being placed on the Parole Board, despite no mention being made, at least as yet, of any extra resources being allocated to deal with this increase. The proposals appear to be rushed and ill thought out, and I hope they do not end up being shambolic, but I would not be surprised. I urge the Government to reconsider the motivation behind these new offences before the Bill reaches its later stages.

I wish to make a few remarks about the changes to youth custody introduced in part 2. The proposal to introduce new secure colleges for children aged 12 to 17, which would be implemented by the passing of clauses 17 to 19, was first published in a recent consultation entitled “Transforming Youth Custody”. I agree with the views posited by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust that the introduction of secure colleges may result in an increase in custodial sentencing for young offenders and longer sentences being handed out. I am particularly concerned that clause 18 would allow for these secure colleges to be contracted out to private companies, and that under the terms of schedule 4 those companies will be granted the opportunity to use reasonable force and restraint to enforce “good order and discipline”.

Chris Grayling: The right hon. Gentleman refers to contracting out to private companies. It is worth putting on record that the expertise we want to see in those running secure colleges is educational expertise. That skill does not exist within the public sector, and we need to bring it in from those who have real expertise in education and training. I would not want the door to be closed on that for ideological reasons.

Mr Llwyd: I hear what the Secretary of State says. He also said earlier that this will basically be a college, but with a fence around it. I accept that and hope that that is what will happen. That is fine, but I will mention in passing that the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform has said that she is concerned that

“restraining children for not doing what they are told is dangerous and gives the erroneous lesson that might is right.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child posited in 2007:

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“Restraint or force can be used only when the child poses an imminent threat of injury to him or herself or others, and only when all other means of control have been exhausted.”

I will accept at face value what the Secretary of State has said and I hope this will result in a benign regime that will be useful to the individuals concerned in turning them away from further misbehaviour and criminal behaviour.

Will the Government make clear what inspection arrangements will be made for the proposed secure colleges? The Magistrates Association has argued that if the running of secure colleges is to be contracted out to private companies, they must be given specific targets and must be rigorously inspected. I would also point out that, at present, neither the Bill nor the explanatory notes make any mention of what provision will be made for girls in the secure colleges—a point that has already been raised by other Members. I am sure that the Minister, in closing, will be able to tell the House what the inspection regime will be. Will it partly involve the Education Department, and what provision will be made for young women and girls under the new set-up?

Finally, I wish to make a few remarks about the proposals in part 3, which would impose court charges on defendants in criminal cases. Clauses 29 and 30 stipulate that, in setting charges, the Lord Chancellor should have regard to a number of factors, including whether a defendant pleaded guilty and thus whether they proceeded to trial. As Justice has pointed out, the imposition of such a charge may perversely incentivise defendants to plead guilty so as to avoid paying higher charges, and so undermine the presumption of innocence. That is certainly not fanciful, because defendants I have come across in my professional career were more keen on finding out what the cost would be at the end of the day than anything else. That may seem strange, but it is true.

It is also possible that further charges will be brought against an individual if he or she pursues an appeal, which would place another barrier to fair and equal access to justice. As Justice points out, restricting an individual’s access to a court or tribunal could well be incompatible with article 6(1) of the European convention on human rights. A thorough impact assessment should also be made of the impact of bringing the proposed charges against any defendant, to ensure that it is reasonable and just to do so in all the circumstances.

The Magistrates Association has argued that courts should be given discretion in deciding whether to impose the fees, so as to ensure that it is both appropriate and reasonable in all the circumstances. After all, the Government should not ignore the fact that prisoners—and defendants, in fact—are far more likely to be in financial difficulty than members of the general public. According to figures recorded in the “Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile” of August 2013, 68% of prisoners were unemployed in the four weeks prior to custody and 13% have never had a job, compared with 3.9% of the general population.

In summary, the Bill introduces changes that will increase the already stretched prison population and place undoubted further burdens on the Parole Board. It is highly disappointing that instead of working to encourage rehabilitation, the Government have chosen to introduce new criminal offences and to curtail the

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release of prisoners. They have also chosen to use this justice Bill as a vehicle for implementing ill-considered changes to youth custody, but I accept what the Secretary of State has said and await further detail. The priority surely must be that people are dealt with and rehabilitated properly and that the public are protected.

It is my belief that nothing is being done in this Bill to tackle the root causes of crime or to help victims, which should be the driving force of any criminal Bill. The problem, of course, is that the larger parties, as always, are dancing to the tabloid drumbeat. It is virtually impossible to have a sensible discussion in this place about penal policy, because of our friends at the tabloids. That is regrettable, but I am afraid it is a fact. All in all, there are many things in this Bill that need to be put right in Committee and I hope that hon. Members from all parties will consider it their duty to do so over the coming weeks.

6.35 pm

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): Unlike the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd), I welcome many of the sensible provisions in the Bill. These amendments to the operation of the law seem to me to make common sense.

I am not sure whether I understood the Opposition’s point about judicial review. If we accept that there has been a threefold increase in the number of applications for judicial review since 2000, are the Opposition making the case that there is nothing wrong with judicial review procedures or the way in which they are being used, or are they saying that there has been an increase in the number of poor-quality decisions by the Government and other public bodies? If the latter, the Opposition would be conceding that that happened largely on their watch. If we accept that there has been a very large rise, surely it makes sense to make a number of careful changes that will ensure that the system operates as intended, which is not to provide a vehicle for those who simply object to a decision and wish to test it in an alternative body—in this case, a court—but to ensure that decisions are made properly and subjected to the right and appropriate judicial scrutiny.

Sadiq Khan: I am surprised by the right hon. Gentleman’s comments, because he is usually thorough in his research. He should be aware that if we exclude immigration from judicial review, we will see that the situation has been static since the 1990s. A Bill passed 18 months ago by this Government moved immigration from judicial review to the tribunal system, so the problem they are seeking to address was dealt with nearly two years ago.

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Gentleman seems to be confirming that he does not believe that there is a problem, but that view is not shared on the Government Benches. In our view, the increase in the extent of judicial review does not just impose a cost—which is a serious matter in itself—but also means, dangerously, that decisions by the courts are increasingly substituting for decisions that should be made by Ministers, which was not the original purpose or intention of judicial review.

In his closing remarks, the right hon. Gentleman railed similarly against previous measures introduced by this Government to deal with legal aid and said there

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had been restrictions on access to justice. The Opposition’s problem is that they are very quick to criticise every proposal in the area of justice and criminal justice that is designed to ensure a sensible use of public funds and necessary savings. They are not able to explain how they would deal with the very real budgetary challenges that confront every Government Department, not least the Ministry of Justice, which has been required to make substantial savings. If, along the way, the Opposition oppose every measure and criticise sensible provisions such as that under discussion without saying how they would make the savings required, they simply have a credibility problem.

I welcome the Government’s proposals to deal with the problem of automatic early release and, in particular, the scale of the Justice Secretary’s ambition to go further in doing so. There is no doubt that automatic early release undermines public confidence in sentencing. When victims in particular, but also members of the public more widely, hear a sentence handed down in a court but later learn that offenders are, without question, automatically released much earlier—halfway, or earlier in the case of home detention curfew, which is described as early release—it undermines confidence in the system.

It would be much better to move to a system of honesty in sentencing, in which the sentence handed down bears a proper relation to the one actually served, whether that is a system of minimum and maximum sentences, as proposed by the Conservative party in its last manifesto, or sensible measures to curtail automatic early release of the kind that my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary has just introduced for more serious offences. We should not accept the principle of automatic early release; it would be much better if release were earned and bore some relation to the prisoner’s conduct, progress in rehabilitation and suitability for release.

Even Members of the House of Commons find it difficult to understand or accept the early release of offenders. Many of us noted with surprise that when the courts handed down to a former Member a determinate sentence of eight months, we had no sooner said the words “Liberal Democrat” than that offender was released early, in that case to serve a period on home detention curfew and, subsequently, to enjoy a new career writing articles for The Guardian. All that undermines confidence in the criminal justice system.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): My right hon. Friend is making a very good speech. To take him back to his more serious point, does he agree that linking the sentence and early release to passing drugs tests for a drug addict or to passing a literary examination or literacy tests is very much the way we should go?

Nick Herbert: My hon. Friend is right to bring me back to my serious point, and I wholly agree with him. That is exactly the way we should go, and that is what I meant by the concept of earned release.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for making a very good point. I have listened to him carefully. Is it not fairer that a person who has committed a crime should serve two years, say, but that if they do not satisfy proper criteria, the sentence would be three years? The public would then totally understand the sentence.

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Nick Herbert: That is what I meant by the concept of having minimum and maximum sentences. There would still be a determinate sentence with a maximum term—it would not be an indeterminate sentence, which is reserved for much more serious crimes—but release after the minimum point would nevertheless depend on fulfilling certain conditions, including those referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman).

I particularly welcome the measures relating to the electronic monitoring of offenders and provisions for the greater use of tagging for the supervision of offenders released from custody. There is no doubt that the advance of technology and the use of satellite tracking mean that a huge and so far largely untapped potential exists to ensure greater confidence in the criminal justice system and enable the safe and secure monitoring of offenders. Whether that is for offenders who receive some kind of curfew as part of their sentence, or whether the purpose is to ensure their safe and effective supervision on release, much more could be done, and has already been done in other countries.

There are two particular lessons. The first is that we should question how quickly the criminal justice system can embrace new technology. The criminal justice system is very centralised, which does not always make it easy to have local innovation in its operation, whether in relation to how certain courts operate—I will come on to that—or to this use of technology. As the Secretary of State knows, some very impressive pilot schemes have been conducted by Hertfordshire police in relation to satellite tagging.

There is, however, a feeling that we have been slow, perhaps unnecessarily slow, to ensure that such technology is made available to other police forces or is used more widely. That is partly because of the understandable caution that results from a determination to ensure that technology is used properly and that public safety remains paramount, but it is also partly because of the centralised nature of the system and the bias against innovation.

If we want a greater use of such technology, we must move towards a system that is more distributed, and in which local criminal justice innovation is encouraged. Through a more decentralised system, we have such opportunities. For instance, police and crime commissioners, who are keen to take on such a role, could supervise its use to ensure that there was some kind of local democratic accountability.

Guy Opperman: I entirely endorse my right hon. Friend’s point that localisation is surely the key to driving up the performance of the system and to improving it. Does he agree that the Ministry of Justice—we all acknowledge that this monolithic beast is exceptionally hard to tame and alter—could follow examples in other places, such as Norway, where there are community prisons and a much more localised approach to criminal justice reform?

Nick Herbert: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. Having been a Minister in both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, I recognise that Ministers face the challenge of having an imperative to ensure public safety, and an imperative to drive value for money and ensure that contracts are written in such a way as to provide best value for the taxpayer. Nevertheless, there

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is an opportunity to decentralise and to be more open about the potential use of technology to innovate in the justice system.

The second lesson about the use of electronic tagging in criminal justice and the provision very sensibly set out in the Bill is that technology is not necessarily our enemy or the enemy of justice. In debates in this place and outside, technological advance is too often seen as some kind of enemy of justice and of the public. In fact, the advent of technology has been responsible for incredibly important strides in the delivery of a justice system that works for the public.

The same debates apply to electronic monitoring as apply to the use of CCTV, the development of the DNA database or other things raising civil liberties questions that must be addressed. For instance, how far is it appropriate to go in restricting the civil liberties of those to whom such sentences are handed down, even though they are convicted criminals? We must remember that they have been convicted, and that the alternative is a custodial sentence or, if they are not to be released, a continuing term in custody. Far from posing any kind of threat to civil liberties, such technology presents a real opportunity to protect the public. We should sometimes accept that the use of technology in the criminal justice system can be the public’s friend and can help to ensure that the interests of justice are served.

Keith Vaz: I agree about the use of technology, but, as the saga of G4S and Serco has demonstrated, in handing over contracts to private sector companies, sometimes we trust them too much. Those companies were overbilling the Government. We have to monitor such contracts, ensure that there are benchmarks and be very careful when we hand over public money.

Nick Herbert: As ever, I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. That is an issue of accountability. We must ensure that contracts are written properly. The behaviour of some companies has been appalling and they should be held to account. There were also problems with the earlier trials of satellite tracking technology and there have been problems with use of simpler electronic monitoring. However, the technology can be made to work effectively and those who deliver the contracts can be held properly to account.

The potential benefits to public safety and, as we have heard, to criminals, who may find that they are no longer constantly approached by the police as a suspect in other investigations because it can quickly be established that they were nowhere near the scene of the crime, are too great to dismiss. We have an opportunity to introduce curfewing and semi-custodial sentences into our criminal justice system in a way that was not possible before. We can make the effective supervision of offenders outside a custodial environment a reality and we should embrace that.

I welcome the changes that the Justice Secretary is proposing to out-of-court disposals in the Bill. Many Government Members and observers of the criminal justice system have long been concerned that the growth of out-of-court disposals has led to problems. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary produced an important report on this matter a number of years ago,

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in which it identified the repeated use of certain out-of-court disposals and their inappropriate use for serious offences as a cause for concern. I commend the Justice Secretary for acting on that and making sensible changes to simple cautions in the Bill to ensure that they are not used inappropriately. Again, we can debate the nature of the proposals, but the direction of travel is exactly right.

The growth of administrative justice—for that is what it is—has a place. The previous Government described it as a programme of summary justice, but it is a programme of administrative justice whereby, without recourse to any kind of court, disposals are handed out on the spot. Although it has a place, we must ensure that it does not get out of hand.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) mentioned, the use of administrative disposals peaked in 2007, driven by the unwise target to bring offences to justice. There was a famous case close to my constituency in which a police officer found a corpse hanging from a tree. In the pocket of the corpse was a penknife. The police officer attempted to record the offence of possession of an offensive weapon. It was very unlikely that the corpse would have used the knife in a dangerous manner. That was due to the target culture that drove the growth of administrative disposals. That culture has fallen away, but the proportion of disposals that are out-of-court disposals is still twice as high as it was a decade ago. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is important that such disposals are used appropriately.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a problem of unforeseen consequences? One reason such disposals are used widely by the police is that it is so difficult and time consuming to put together the MG forms to bring a case to court. The temptation is always to dispose of a case out of court if it is at all possible.

Nick Herbert: My hon. Friend speaks from his experience as a special constable. What he says is certainly the case. One of the dangers of using the growth in administrative justice as a solution was that the previous Government took their eye off the important task of dealing with the bureaucracy in the criminal justice system as a whole and making it more efficient, so that cases that had to be brought before the courts could be brought before them swiftly and effectively. I therefore welcome the proposals to deal with the problem of simple cautions being used wrongly.

The growth in administrative justice should give us pause to reflect on the proper role today of the important institution that is the lay magistracy. I was struck by the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly), who, when he was courts Minister, had the difficult responsibility of closing a number of under-utilised magistrates courts. There is no doubt that magistrates have faced challenges owing to a reduction in business, which was caused originally by the growth in administrative disposals and has been partly caused by the reduction in the level of crime and by cases being taken by professional district judges, rather than by traditional magistrates courts. All those factors have led to the magistracy feeling undervalued.

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Although I welcome the proposals in clause 24 for single justice procedures, which are entirely commonsensical in respect of high-volume, uncontroversial cases in which there are guilty pleas, I believe we should think further about the right role for the magistracy in the operation of the summary justice system. That will be particularly important if the budgetary position with which the Ministry of Justice is confronted means that there have to be continuing court rationalisations. The development of new justice hubs and centres is not necessarily a bad thing. They can be fit for purpose and very useful, but they also mean that magistrates sit further from the communities from which they are drawn.

Guy Opperman: I speak as someone who battled my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly) over the closure of Hexham magistrates court, even though I understood why it was being done and the difficult circumstances that existed. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as we get centralised hubs of magistracy, we must ensure that there is a resident rural magistrate who understands that matters 50 miles away from the city are often greatly different from crimes that take place in the city itself?

Nick Herbert: My hon. Friend, who represents a very rural constituency, makes an interesting point that leads on to the suggestion that I want to make. I wonder whether there is a role for the magistracy outside the formal setting of the courts in respect of less controversial offences, so that we can retain the presence of magistrates in communities. As we move towards the use of justice hubs and as traditional courts are closed, we should consider that.

A similar proposal was made last week in an interesting paper, “Future Courts”, by the Policy Exchange think-tank. The paper picked up on proposals that were made in a Government paper that was published in 2012, “Swift and Sure Justice”, for which I had responsibility. We were very drawn to the way in which the criminal justice system had operated rapidly to deal with the offences that were committed during the riots of the previous year, and we started to question whether a leaner and more efficient justice system could be developed. I urge the Government to consider the potential of involving magistrates in a programme of neighbourhood justice. That would ensure that they are retained in their local communities.

Neighbourhood justice panels are an interesting development in the area of restorative justice. Many Members from all parts of the House believe that they have great potential in dealing with low-level offending. Only last month, the Lord Chief Justice expressed the view that magistrates should play a formal role in neighbourhood justice panels and that they should not be a separate tier of justice.

The magistracy is an institution that has been with us for six and a half centuries, and as the late Lord Bingham said, it is a “democratic jewel beyond price”. If we are moving towards greater use of technology, the potential for justice to be delivered remotely, and individuals not having to be in a formal court setting, we have the opportunity to ensure that justice can be delivered locally, without having to be delivered administratively. We can still have confidence that somebody appointed from the community who exercises a judicial—not

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administrative—function, is dealing with offenders. That is a potential way to rebuild the magistracy and tackle the growth of administrative justice and the excessive use of out-of-court disposals, and a powerful way to rekindle the notion of neighbourhood justice. I hope that the Government, who welcomed the Policy Exchange report as an interesting contribution, will take that on board.

In conclusion, as with so many other areas of public policy, the urge to centralise and rationalise into ever bigger units is great when it comes to delivering greater value for money. We see that in policing with those who urge us to create regional police forces, in health care with those who urge us to create ever greater units with larger hospitals and so on, and we face such pressures across our public services. Such rationalisations need not be a bad thing if innovative ways are found to deliver services at local level, and technology is an enabler of that. What undermines confidence in the process, however, is when a salami-slicing approach results merely in services being centralised for cost reasons, without any rethinking or redesigning of how they can be delivered at local level. Let us enable that innovation, localise, have confidence in the new democratic institutions we have created at local level that can hold the criminal justice system to account, and—above all—let us value the lay magistracy as an institution that has served this country so well over a long time.

7.2 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) who served as a distinguished Minister in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. It is still a puzzle to me why he is not in the Government, because I know they could use his considerable skills. He obviously enjoys being on the Back Benches more, even though we miss his appearances before the Home Affairs Committee.

I was fascinated by the exchange between the hon. Members for Hexham (Guy Opperman) and for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly), but the House did not get to know what happened at the end of those discussions, and whether Hexham magistrates court is still open. Did the hon. Member for Hexham win his battle? He is my next-door neighbour in Norman Shaw North, and I need to know whether he wins such battles with the Government.

Guy Opperman: Despite 20 years of advocacy and despite what I felt was a very strong case, my youthful appearance in this House, and a vigorous campaign, the fact that the magistracy was not able to survive in the rural town of Hexham for the first time in 500 years was sadly a fact in the end. To be fair, the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the system is working relatively well with an urban core, but the Ministry of Justice—which is, of course, not at all a bureaucratic or difficult organisation to get control of—should be aware that although it is working, we do need a rural element in the magistracy going forward.

Keith Vaz: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that long explanation. I am surprised that he lost the battle, but I know he will continue with it.

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When I was the sole Justice Minister in the Ministry of Justice—then the Lord Chancellor’s Department—I felt that the work load was quite high. We now have four Commons Ministers representing the Ministry of Justice, and of course it has taken on new responsibilities. I congratulate the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) on his appointment. I think this is his first Second Reading debate; I do not know whether he will be winding up—

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Simon Hughes) indicated dissent.

Keith Vaz: Then I admire his patience in sitting through the entire debate and I wish him well in his ministerial career. I am not sure whether, had he got to the Ministry of Justice before the Bill was signed off, he might have opposed some of these points.

I will start by raising a few concerns. I agree with the shadow Lord Chancellor that there are some good parts of the Bill, and I hope that we can make it better between now and it becoming law, should the House decide to support it. I have about five points to make, the first of which concerns judicial review. The previous Labour Government were embarrassed on a number of occasions when they lost judicial review challenges, and I believe it is extremely important that that remains an avenue of choice for those who feel that the justice system does not provide them with the kinds of solutions they need to their problems.

In particular, I am thinking about those who face difficult immigration cases, who have seen the right of appeal taken from them—not by the Ministry of Justice but by the Home Office—and who now face only the prospect of applications for judicial review to bring their cases to the attention of those who make such decisions. I agree that there are many frivolous cases, and many people go forward and make judicial review applications, sometimes for the sheer hell of it. It is right that citizens should use this power carefully, but once we take away the right of appeal in immigration cases, we leave people with no choice other than to apply for judicial review. That is why we have seen an increase in judicial review over the past few years.

David T. C. Davies: Have the Government had to consider this matter because with the encouragement of various—dare I say it?—left-wing non-governmental organisations, people who clearly had no right whatsoever to be in this country were able to put in one appeal after another and be legally funded all the way through? Is it not about time the taxpayer had a bit of representation as well?

Keith Vaz: The hon. Gentleman served on the Home Affairs Committee and therefore knows how the Home Office deals with such cases. If we were satisfied that decision making was robust and that entry clearance officers and those who reviewed their decisions always made the right decision, we would not need a right of appeal. As he knows, however, having sat through the Committee’s deliberations, 50% of appeals on immigration cases are won by the applicant. That does not mean that

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judges are cleverer than entry clearance officers, but it does mean that decisions have not been looked at carefully enough. If we take away that right of appeal, all people will have is the ability to challenge in the courts. Of course I do not believe it right for people to play the system and have multiple appeals, but if we take away the last vestige by which they can challenge decisions, we will leave them with absolutely no choice.

As I said, the previous Government suffered because they tried to stop citizens marrying foreign citizens in our courts. They were taken to court and judicially reviewed, and the court said, “You cannot do this”. Spouses had to go back and make applications, but the previous Government—as successive Governments have done—lost a number of such applications. I think we should look carefully at this issue. On its own it may not seem like a bad idea, but if we take away the right of appeal in immigration cases, as section 11 of the Immigration Bill does, that will create a number of problems. After all, 32% of deportation decisions and 49% of entry clearance applications were successfully appealed last year. We must look carefully at the issue.

Guy Opperman: I served on the Immigration Public Bill Committee and the overwhelming view was that, yes, the Home Office needs to get better—with respect, as the right hon. Gentleman will know, it is getting better at reviewing under the appellant procedures—but the fundamental point is that it cannot be right for there to be in excess of a dozen, and potentially up to 15 or 16, separate rights of appeal. The state, in the form of the Home Office and the Government, is right to review the number of times an appellant can go through the appellant process.

Keith Vaz: I have no objection to that. I agree with the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) that we do not want multiple applications, but we should at least give people the chance of one application. It is not the case that they get legal aid right the way through. Many of my constituents come to me wanting to go to judicial review. I tell them that their best course of action is to leave the country and make an application from abroad. They will go through a better system and obtain a quicker result than they would by constantly staying here and going through the courts again and again.

Guy Opperman: With great respect, the implication of the last comment is that there is no right of appeal whatever in an immigration case. I am sure that that is not what the right hon. Gentleman meant to say.

Keith Vaz: The right of appeal will be taken away by clause 11 of the Immigration Bill. An application can, of course, be made in certain circumstances, but my understanding is that that Bill will reduce dramatically the occasions on which the Government can be judicially reviewed. We heard that from the Lord Chancellor earlier. He was quite delighted and thought it was a very good idea. I prefer that these decisions are taken by judges rather than by civil servants.

The hon. Gentleman has been a Parliamentary Private Secretary for the past four years, so of course he welcomes the improvements made by the Government. That period is too long and he too should be serving in the Government

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and I hope I have not damned his career by saying that. He has spent enough time dealing with civil servants. If he thought they were the most perfect creatures on this earth, we might as well hand over everything to them, let the officials decide and not give people the right to go to court. All I say is this: let us be cautious. The Government should look at this in the round and be sure that people have some avenues left to challenge decisions.

On new technology, I agree with the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs, the former Home Office Minister. When he was in the Home Office, he led the campaign for new technology. He is a Twitter person. On one occasion, he tweeted to ask me to go to the airport to meet him, as I had done with other members of the Select Committee—I agreed to do so, but he would not tell me his flight number—so I know that he likes new technology. The fact is that we need to be careful about allowing Ministers and officials to make decisions on new technology that they do not understand. He will remember the e-Borders project, which has so far cost the taxpayer £750 million. It was agreed without benchmarks and the litigation is still going on—it is still costing the taxpayer huge amounts of money. We should have new technology and we should pursue this programme, but we need to be very careful and very cautious not to hand everything over to those who come to us and say that they know everything. That is what happened under the previous Government in relation to G4S and Serco, and that has continued under this Government. As we now know, G4S overcharged the Government by £24.1 million. We will need a more extensive use of tagging, but if the tagging companies are not monitored, the contracts will not be properly dealt with and properly monitored. I hope that, in making better use of technology, we ensure that we have the accountability that the right hon. Gentleman and I have been talking about.

On the creation of a secure college, my worry is that we need to be very clear on what powers those who run the college will have. It sounds like a very good idea and we want to make sure that people spend more time in training. However, of the 16 deaths of children in custody since 2000, all occurred in youth offenders institutions and secure training centres. We need to learn the lessons of the deaths of those young people before we set up new institutions that are not capable of proper scrutiny. The Bill will allow a secure college custody officer to use reasonable force to ensure good order and discipline. It is important that we look at training and do not have any unfortunate incidents that result in the death or injury to young people in custody.

Drugs are a big problem, as we have discovered in Home Affairs Committee inquiries. Many young offenders acquire a drug habit when they are in institutions. I will give another plug to the book, which I have on my desk, by the hon. Member for Hexham. I am sure that all Ministers in the Ministry of Justice have read it. I am sure that the new Minister will have had in his briefing a copy of the book on rehabilitation written by the hon. Member for Hexham. If he has not read it, I will make sure that he gets a copy, because the hon. Gentleman is my next-door neighbour. There is very sensible stuff in the book, including the fact that people pick up the habit of taking drugs when they are in prison. That is why we believe there should be mandatory testing.

Guy Opperman rose