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Keith Vaz: The hon. Gentleman is going to tell us which bookshops his book is available in.

Guy Opperman: The book, “Doing Time” is actually still available. Amazingly, there are a few copies left. I hasten to add, Madam Deputy Speaker, that all proceeds go to charity.

The serious point is this: the right hon. Gentleman, who served in the previous Government with the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), will recall that in 2008, when he was the police and justice Minister, he was asked a specific question. I cannot, off the top of my head, quote Hansard, but he indicated that evidence from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice showed that 20% of all people who took drugs in prison acquired the habit for the first time in prison.

Keith Vaz: That is a stunning figure, one that has probably remained the same, or even increased, in the past few years. That is why we suggest there should be mandatory testing in prison and after people leave prison. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright) does not like that idea. Whenever I raise it at Justice questions, he is never enthusiastic about it and thinks his system is better, but such testing would be a good thing.

I hope the new secure college will run sufficient courses. We will not write the curriculum right now, but let us ensure that as well as providing the basic education for young people that they so desperately need—another theme in the book by the hon. Member for Hexham—we teach them the dangers of drugs and try to get them off drugs.

I am a little concerned about the punitive elements in paragraph 2 of schedule 15, amending the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The figures show that 72% of male and 70% female sentenced prisoners suffer from two or more related mental health disorders. It may not be appropriate for them to be punished in a similar way to others. We must try to identify those who have a mental illness and end up in the criminal justice system and remain in it for years. In September, the Select Committee will undertake an inquiry into how the police deal—I say to the Chair of the Justice Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), that we are not treading on his toes—with offenders with mental health disorders and see how that feeds into the rest of the criminal justice system. The figures are very worrying. We want to be tough and to punish people, but we need to remember that there are reasons why we perhaps should not send people to prison.

The Director of Public Prosecutions announced this morning that she would deploy six specialist lawyers abroad—in Dubai and in one or two other places—in an attempt to seize more assets from criminals linked to British cases. I welcome that announcement, because I think that we need to strengthen the way in which we investigate and then charge those who move their assets abroad. According to the National Audit Office, 80% of the £920 million owed by convicted millionaire criminals is yet to be repaid. My mathematics is not perfect, but I think that 80% of £920 million is nearly £850 million. Is that right, Madam Deputy Speaker? You seem to think that it is about right; you have probably been helping your son with his maths. Anyway, it is a huge amount of money.

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We try to challenge the Mr Bigs, and the Mrs Bigs. They go through the criminal justice system, we fine them huge amounts of money, and then we find that about £150 million less than £1 billion has still not been collected. The Bill does not deal with that situation. I hope that, if it believes in joined-up government, the Ministry of Justice will look carefully at the DPP’s statement, and that amendments will be tabled in Committee to ensure that when judges fine billionaires and multi-millionaires, those people pay up. At present they simply go through the system, come out of prison and then disappear, and we suffer because our justice system has allowed them to get away with it.

7.21 pm

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I am very pleased to follow my fellow Select Committee Chairman, whose wise and thoughtful comments have, I think, raised the level of the debate to where the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd) wanted it to be. I am not sure that the mental arithmetic of the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) is quite up to scratch, but I am sure that he can improve on it with a little practice.

The Bill contains many provisions, covering matters ranging from misconduct by jurors to automatic release, and I have no intention of commenting on all of them. However, I will make one passing comment on the issue of trial “on the papers”, which strikes me as a perfectly sensible way of dealing with summary offences of a minor character involving guilty pleas when the defendant was not going to be present anyway. It is important for the public record to be clear and immediately accessible, and I hope that we can find a way of ensuring that that happens. There should be no secret justice; it should be readily apparent what sentences have been handed out by the courts, and to whom.

I want to concentrate on three issues. The first is the issue of the simple police caution, along with the wider issue of out-of-court disposals of which it is part. The Government’s consultation on out-of-court disposals ended in January, and I should be interested to know when they will respond to it. I think that the magistrates were right to be concerned about the dangers of inconsistency around the country, and about the fact that people did not really know what was happening. However, I also think that there is real value in police officers’ ability to exercise discretion in many circumstances, and that out-of-court disposals, as a broad group, open up numerous possibilities, including possibilities for simple restorative justice.

Restorative justice exists in many forms. Obviously it exists in post-sentence form, but there are simple kinds of restorative justice which I have experienced in my constituency. In the past, a police sergeant would say to an offender “The best thing that you can do is go to the person whose property you have damaged, give that person money to pay for the damage that you have caused, apologise, and ask whether there is any way in which you can help to make good what you have done.” Such measures are worth developing as part of neighbourhood justice.

I do not want the necessary codifying of the system of cautions to be seen as in any way discouraging the use of alternatives to traditional court procedures. As

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was suggested earlier, magistrates can be involved in the process. The Justice Committee visited Stockport recently, and observed that magistrates had been involved in a number of developments in the Greater Manchester probation area. When I asked why they were not hostile to those developments, the answer was that they had been involved from the start. I do not want us in any way to undermine the scope for out-of-traditional-court disposals in matters of this kind, because they may offer the best opportunity to enable young people, in particular, to move away from crime rather than becoming institutionalised into it.

The Union flag that flies outside my constituency office on the Queen’s birthday and other state occasions was once torn down by some people who then rather unwisely boasted about having done so, and were therefore quickly picked up by the police. The friendly sergeant instructed them to put together the money necessary to replace the flag and to write a letter of apology, which they all did. At least one of them was planning to go into the Army, and the sergeant pointed out that that person would not want to start off with a criminal record. It was a very sensible way of dealing with the matter.

The second issue that I want to raise is that of secure colleges. I do not think that there is any disagreement with the Government’s objective in that regard. A clear indicator of the likelihood of reoffending is a lack of basic education and skills. The evidence for that is overwhelming, and I think that the Government are right to focus attention—and, indeed, resources—on the provision of basic education for young people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system.

Guy Opperman: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Alan Beith: I will, although I want to raise a number of points that the hon. Gentleman may wish to follow.

Guy Opperman: May I compliment the right hon. Gentleman on what he has said so far? Does he agree that there is potential for secure colleges to be run not just by the state, but by individual institutions, churches or charities? Academies have transformed education, and there is surely no reason why academy-style secure colleges could not be established in the longer term.

Sir Alan Beith: That sounds like an attractive idea. However, there are some problems to which I do not yet see a solution, although I agree with my neighbour from Hexham that plenty of people in both the charity sector and the private sector have something to contribute to the process.

The first problem, which was identified by my Committee, is that the average length of custody is 79 days. That is not a period in which a programme of education can be developed, and greatly extending periods of custody is not part of the Government’s policy. Secondly, people going into custody do not do so neatly at the beginning of a term or an academic year; they go when the courts have sentenced them. It is difficult to provide a range of basic educational courses for people who go into custody for relatively short periods and at different times, and it involves paying a price. Some of those people will be much further away from their local communities than

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they would have been if they had been dealt with under the previous system, especially if the college has been created at the expense of, for example, secure children’s homes. I should be very concerned if those ceased to be available because a college was being opened in a much more distant place.

I think that the Government have quite a bit more thinking to do about how they can realise their very desirable objective of providing basic education by means of some kind of secure college framework. It would be wrong to assume that it is possible simply to set up a large institution in one part of the country, and that people who are in custody for relatively short periods in a constant turnover will fit neatly into a programme of education. The objective is right, but the means have yet to be fully explained.

The “reasonable force” argument was mentioned earlier. I had a word with the Minister about that. I think that there may be some confusion about it. It needs to be made clear that there will be no breach of article 3 of the European convention on human rights in secure colleges, and that reasonable force is used for the purpose for which it is provided—that is, for the safety of those in custody or of those around them, including those who are superintending the education for the purpose of which they have been placed in a secure college. There needs to be a safe environment.

By way of offering the Government a warning of the difficulties involved, I shall quote what the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, said in his oral evidence to the Select Committee. He pointed out that the youth custody population is not what it was two or three years ago, for the obvious reason that it is much smaller. That means that we now have the more intractable and difficult cases in youth custody, to which we are trying to apply this new system. He said that

“the nature of the juvenile population you now have in custody is different from what it was a year or two ago. The Government need to take that into account…What you now have is a higher concentration of the most troubled, most at-risk and most risky young people, concentrated in a very small number of establishments…You have to make sure that your future accommodation arrangements can guarantee the safety”

of those young people. He went on:

“It is not simply about the number of teachers you have; it is about whether you have the staff to get young people safely from their unit to the classroom, without trouble occurring en route, and to make sure that the teaching environment is safe and secure.”

Those are big challenges for the programme that the Government have set out.

My third topic is judicial review. The Public Bill Committee will need to look closely at the proposed change in the threshold for exclusion of judicial review from it being “inevitable” to being “highly likely” that the successful challenge would not change the outcome. There could be a risk of the argument becoming about the substance of the case, rather than about process. Judicial review is supposed to be about process. It is not an appeal mechanism in which the decision is considered by an alternative decision maker; it is a review of the process that has been carried out. However, if an argument had to take place about just how likely it was that the success of the review would make no difference, that would involve going quite deeply into the substance of the matter. The wording of that proposal will therefore have to be looked at carefully.

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More generally, judicial review is inconvenient for the Executive. It is a nuisance, and the initials “JR” strike fear into the hearts of Ministers and, even more, of the civil servants who are always reminding Ministers about judicial review. However, it is a discipline by which we ensure that proper process is followed. It would be unsatisfactory to strip away that discipline completely and to say, “It doesn’t matter if you get the process wrong, as long as you make sure it’s not likely to affect the outcome.” The wording of this proposal also needs to be looked at, as do some of the cost attribution issues that have been raised today.

There is a problem when judicial review is used to try to delay a case sufficiently for the window of opportunity for something to happen to be closed, but such cases are few and far between. If we leave aside immigration cases, the increased use of judicial review is nothing like as big a problem as it was thought to be. The increase was identified as being primarily a result of immigration cases. I hope that the Bill Committee will look carefully at the wording of those measures. We must recognise that we need to maintain the discipline and that, if the law requires us to go through certain processes, we must go through them. If we do not, we run the risk of bringing trouble into court. I am referring not only to the Government in this context; this applies also to a wide range of local authorities and major infrastructure industries.

It would be wrong for me to conclude without referring to a point that has been underlying much of the debate—namely, that these are aspects of the criminal justice system whose primary purposes will be addressed only if we achieve further long-term reform. I see that reform as involving primarily what my Committee has called justice reinvestment—that is, taking resources away from the damaged end of the system and putting them into the beginning, so that victims do not become victims in the first place because crimes do not happen. We must ensure that we direct the resources to the appropriate areas, just as the Government have sought to do in the transforming families programme, so that they prevent crimes from happening in the first place. We need to create a virtuous circle in which we do not need so many prison places because fewer crimes are happening. We had an opportunity to do that, and crime levels have been falling, but that opportunity has unfortunately been compromised by the difficult financial situation in which the Government have found themselves. That means that it has been much harder to prime the pump, or to put in extra resources.

That brings us right back to the ultimate purpose of justice reinvestment, which is to move resources. In order to do that properly, we need to address a matter that the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) mentioned earlier—that is, something that the Select Committee calls local commissioning. In such a system, the decisions about the resources needed to deal with crime are made by all the agencies that have to handle crime at local level. Many of those decisions are now made locally, which is a good thing, but one crucial one is not: the decision on how much money is spent on prisons and where that money is put. That is still very much a national decision and it will remain so under the Government’s present policy.

I believe that we will achieve more in crime prevention when we have a rational allocation of resources at local level by all the organisations involved. They include the

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police, the courts, the magistracy and the judiciary, as well as the youth offending teams and all those in the voluntary sector who are becoming involved in these processes. Quite a lot of good practice has developed—in youth offending teams, for example—and the lessons from that need to be learned throughout the criminal justice system as a whole.

7.36 pm

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): It is a privilege to follow the Chairman of the Justice Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith). As a former member of his Committee, I know that he always speaks with great knowledge and is very considered in his views. I agree with much of what he has said today.

The Bill is a wasted opportunity. It makes no mention of victims, of probation, of legal aid, of women in the justice system or of ethnic minorities. The Government have missed an opportunity, especially in relation to important issues like the huge changes to criminal legal aid that the Lord Chancellor is about to announce. We await that announcement with bated breath; he has been promising the legal profession that he would make it, but we are still waiting. The Bill could have considered those huge changes to legal aid. The entire legal profession is completely against the Lord Chancellor’s views and the Government’s proposals. On 7 March, criminal solicitors and barristers will be taking a day of industrial action. I think that the solicitors are describing it as a training day, in order to get round certain issues. The Government could have used the Bill to debate those important changes properly.

I do not disagree with everything in the Bill. In fact, I agree with a lot of it—including, for example, the restrictions on the use of cautions. I have expressed my concerns and complained about the use of cautions, along with other Members on both sides of the House.

Keith Vaz: I should like to praise my hon. Friend. He served briefly on the Home Affairs Committee after he served on the Justice Committee—has he served on every Committee in the House?—and he asked for an inquiry into this matter and we were going to have one. I congratulate him on his long campaign to make this a subject worthy of discussion.

Karl Turner: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for making those remarks. He rightly said that I raised the issue when I was briefly a member of his Committee, and I wrote to him formally after I had left the Committee to ask for an inquiry, which he kindly agreed to have. This issue has been a problem for a relatively long time. Government Members said that it has become a particular problem since 2007, and that is probably right, but in my experience, from my constituency, it has increased dramatically since 2010. That is a point of debate and hon. Members may wish to disagree with me on it, but I am glad that the Government have finally accepted that this is a definite issue and that they are going to deal with cautions for indictable-only offences and for repeat offenders.

I have some concerns about single magistrates sitting for summary only, non-imprisonable offences. If someone

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pleads guilty by post for a road traffic offence, I have no problem with their being dealt with by a single magistrate. However, the Bill does not state that this approach will be confined just to road traffic offences, and I have concerns about that. Justice must be done and be seen to be done, and this approach also completely undermines the notion of collective decision making.

Let me now deal with the sentencing provisions. I was a criminal law practitioner before I was elected to this House, and I am on record as saying that I was never a fan of indeterminate sentences for public protection. However, the provisions in the Bill are undoubtedly a knee-jerk reaction by this Lord Chancellor to the fact that his extended sentences in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 simply have not worked—the Government are reacting to that.

I do not wish to speak for too long on my next issue, as other Members have made the point well, but part 4 of the Bill is of particular concern to me because it seems to undermine the possibility of challenging Executive decisions in a judicial review. The Lord Chancellor is on the record, commenting to his favourite newspaper, the Daily Mail, describing judicial review as

“a promotional tool for countless Left-wing campaigners”.

With respect, that type of comment could be made only by this Lord Chancellor, who simply does not appreciate the importance of the rule of law.

Kate Green: Does my hon. Friend agree that the Lord Chancellor is completely missing the point, as the majority of judicial review cases involve individuals—disabled people, people with learning difficulties, children and other vulnerable people—who are having to challenge inappropriate state decisions, in a situation where there is huge inequality of bargaining power? Portraying judicial review as being about campaign groups prosecuting an agenda is simply a misrepresentation of what it is predominantly about.

Karl Turner: My hon. Friend made the point better than I was about to and has hit the nail entirely on the head. This measure is populist stuff; it is the Lord Chancellor trying to be popular. Judicial review is not the only thing he attacks—he attacks human rights. As a lawyer, I find it frustrating to listen to him when he debates in this House because he seems not to understand the relationship between the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act 1998: he confuses the two. He is attacking the system. He has attacked human rights, judicial review, legal aid and no win, no fee arrangements. He has attacked any opportunity for people to challenge the Government or organisations the Lord Chancellor seems not to be terribly impressed by.

My main concern is clause 50, which seeks to change the threshold for bringing judicial review. People who bring reviews often have legitimate claims; these reviews are not some spurious attempt to challenge the Government, and these people often have lawyers advising them. Solicitors and members of the Bar will discuss the possibility of success in these cases and will give advice. I respectfully submit that judges do not just let spurious cases go through, so I think the Lord Chancellor could do with a lesson in the entire system.

I know that other Members wish to speak, Madam Deputy Speaker, so I will leave it there.

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7.46 pm

Simon Reevell (Dewsbury) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner). I declare an interest, in that I still practise at the Bar, so to a certain extent I comment on this Bill as someone who may have to make its provisions actually work. In that context, I think the Bill contains some very positive measures, especially on sentencing and cautions.

I had not appreciated that the entire Labour party was against the policy of cautioning that it introduced or that one consequence of the general election of 2010 was that the use of cautioning suddenly escalated. I had understood that this policy was introduced and promoted by the previous Government, and that it has been absolutely corrosive to the criminal justice system. It has undermined the public’s confidence in the police, who are perceived to use cautioning as an easy solution; and it has caused problems in the criminal justice system, where co-accused are separated, with one being cautioned and the other being prosecuted. I am glad that this Government are doing what they can to start to turn around that ship, but let us not forget who launched it and pushed it on its course.

Karl Turner: The hon. Gentleman speaks on these issues with real knowledge as a member of the Bar—he is a member of my old circuit, so I know him well. Does he not accept that when budgets are constrained and the police have had something like a 30% cut to their budget, there is a temptation for them just to go for a caution without a referral to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice on charging? Is that not possible?

Simon Reevell: My recollection is that the hon. Gentleman was a member of my circuit, but I will have a think about that. Cautioning has been utterly corrosive, and even when people have been prosecuted the sentencing procedures that have been put in place have been difficult for lawyers, and impossible for non-lawyers, to understand. The point has been well made that the idea of someone serving no more than half a sentence is difficult for people to take on board, but when somebody reappears after a few days or a few weeks the public simply cannot comprehend it. A good start is linking the release of serious offenders to the scrutiny of the Parole Board. It is an important link and I am glad that it is being reintroduced. I say “reintroduced” because it worked very well in the 1990s, but since then we have had indeterminate sentences for public protection, and judging by some of the comments today it is clear that the party that introduced them still does not understand the problems they caused.

The Bill has the advantage of introducing a system that imposes a period of imprisonment that will be served unless, after a substantial time, the Parole Board approves early release. The Bill retains the incentive for the prisoner and provides a valuable safeguard for the rest of us—that is a good piece of legislation. What a pity that we had to have those years of messing around with alternatives before going back to something that worked well in the 1990s.

When someone is released, is it wrong to use technology to monitor them? I understand that some people will be uncomfortable with the idea of tracking humans with a global positioning system, but is it any different from

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putting a tag on someone and using different technology to monitor whether or not they enter or leave a building? Surely when people are precluded by court order from going to certain locations, there is nothing wrong in monitoring that with technology. There is always a line with technology that we should not cross, but this Bill falls far short of it.

If someone on licence breaches the terms of that licence and will do so again, why should they not have to serve the remainder of their sentence? Most people probably assume that that is what happens anyway, and would be surprised to learn that the system provided for anything else. People have the licence terms explained to them: if they breach the licence and it looks as though they will do it again, they should serve their sentence, and there cannot be anything wrong with that.

One aspect of the Bill that has received media attention relates to proceedings for judicial review. Is it really controversial that those who wish to be involved in someone else’s case may have to pay towards the cost of those proceedings? Those who appear as interveners are free to provide their assistance, knowledge and experience to any party in any case, but if they want to appear themselves, why should it be assumed that one of the parties will automatically pick up their costs or that they will have no responsibility for the costs that they incur on behalf of others? They are free to pass on their expertise and knowledge, but if they want to take part in the litigation, some responsibility may come with that.

Kate Green: The hon. Gentleman’s point sounds reasonable, but the reality is that one of the parties is the state, with all the resources and the power that the state can bring to bear, and the other parties are simply not in the same position. They are trying to challenge an exercise of state power in a situation where there is a gross inequality of bargaining power. At times, that means that positions and points that are important for public policy will not otherwise be considered. That would be a price worth paying if it actually meant that public policy was improved.

Simon Reevell: I do not disagree, and that is why the Bill provides for circumstances in which that can happen. However, in a large number of cases, expertise can be provided without intervention and representation being needed. As an aside, organisations that oppose this measure and that frequently appear as interveners should make it clear in their lobbying that they stand to be affected by the changes that they oppose.

The leapfrogging provisions of judicial review are not controversial and are a good idea. Only last week, the Supreme Court exerted its authority. As confidence grows that it will be, as it should be, the final court in this jurisdiction and that that is where issues will ultimately be determined, why incur cost and delay calling in at the Court of Appeal if a matter will automatically be referred to the Supreme Court?

Is it really controversial to suggest that a case that offers the prospect of nothing more than a pyrrhic victory should not take up days of court time? I find the opposition to clause 50 surprising. It seems to come from the left, yet the argument that has been advanced recently in the High Court, especially in relation to

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ballots by trade unions on industrial activity, is that if we have thousands of members and we only have the addresses wrong for half a dozen or so, why should we rerun the ballot when it will not affect the outcome? Is that not precisely the sort of point that should be dealt with at a preliminary hearing? If it is quite clear that there was no mischief in the error and that changing the error would not affect the outcome, is there any need for full judicial review proceedings? Something that is argued on behalf of the trade unions as perfectly sensible in the High Court seems, when it appears in a Government Bill, to be worthy only of criticism from the Opposition Benches.

For all the focus on judicial review, I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) and others that the clause on which people should reflect concerns the magistrates court, which deals with 95% of all criminal cases. Clause 50 creates a system for trial, not for guilty plea, so the idea of guilty plea by post is not what the clause is about. It creates a system for trial, the determination of proceedings that are not admitted. These proceedings could involve criminal damage, assault and public order. They are not matters that will attract sentences of custody, but they could have implications that affect people’s livelihoods. They could be determined behind closed doors, and in a process that involves nobody who has any legal qualification whatever. It could be a single lay magistrate in a private room with papers provided by a police officer. I hope the Government will reflect on that.

One solution is to have at least two if not three magistrates. Another is to say that if it is a single justice, they should be a district judge. The idea that a file can be submitted, that there is no intervention from a prosecutor and that a lay justice in private can decide whether someone has committed a criminal offence is quite a significant step. It may well be that some of these people have not bothered to reply or that some know they are guilty, but there is some significance to that step and it is something on which we should reflect.

The Bill also makes provision in relation to wasted cost. I will tease the Minister a little by reminding him that there is one party to criminal proceedings that often causes trials to be adjourned owing to lack of court time or lack of jurors, and there are no cost implications for them, and that is of course the Court Service.

It is impossible to speak in a debate on criminal justice and courts without making mention of the current problems over proposals regarding remuneration. My recollection is that it was the previous Labour Government who first saw industrial action by the Bar. It was in relation to remuneration for very high cost cases and proceeds of crime cases some six or seven years ago. My view now is the same as it was then. I know as well as anyone the talents and strengths of those who practise at the independent Bar, but there must be a balance between those who practise in the courts and those whom the courts are there to serve. Pursuit of remuneration should never tip the balance away from timely remedy for those seeking justice, whether it is because they are complainants or victims or because they are awaiting trial.

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Finally, those who would never reverse these proposals if ever the opportunity arose should be slow in hinting that they might.

7.57 pm

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Simon Reevell), who brings a great deal of expertise in this area. He and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) made a number of pertinent points about the administrative proposals for judicial process that are introduced by this Bill. They raised their concerns over the idea of single justices dealing with some of these administrative processes. As someone who was once a magistrates legal adviser and read out some of the mitigation statements and dealt with some of the TV licence courts for hours on end, I can say that having a single justice can be very effective. A single justice is capable right now of making a bail decision on someone charged with a very serious offence such as murder. A single justice of the peace can decide on that. They can adjourn matters and send them to the Crown court. I am not aware of that causing any particular difficulties. The proposal that we have a single justice looking at these measures is far less of a power than some of the powers that they currently have. I hope that some of the fears that have been raised today can be allayed with that information.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. The Bill covers a wide range of areas—I will concentrate on just a few of them—because it has always been necessary for the criminal law to keep up with society and evolve to meet the modern challenges and changes in behaviour that we all see. The Bill will help to ensure that that continues. For example, it will use developments in modern technology to track offenders more accurately and therefore far more reliably.

It must be a welcome development to ensure that offenders contribute more to the cost of their cases when they are convicted of a criminal offence. That just makes plain sense. We have always had a system of cost payments on conviction, with the legal test that those cost awards should be just and reasonable. These measures, however, take that situation further by matching the total cost incurred by the taxpayer. A crucial aspect of the Bill is the awarding of costs to be picked up by the wrongdoer. In other words, the Bill will ensure that the polluter pays and that the polluter pays for all his pollution. I have long felt that we have had something of an anomaly in the system, where the costs created by an offender and incurred by the victim can be reimbursed, quite rightly, and the costs incurred by the prosecution can also be reimbursed, quite rightly, but the costs incurred by the court cannot. That places expense on the taxpayer that has been incurred owing to the offender’s actions or inactions, yet nothing has ever been done to tackle this anomaly. Therefore, I am pleased that this situation will be rectified.

I am also pleased that the Bill seeks to formalise the cautions system. Cautions can be effective when used in appropriate cases, but they must command public support. That support can be lacking if people feel that offenders are receiving cautions for offences that are too serious or for repeat offending. Clearly, if a first caution has not prevented reoffending, there is little hope that a second caution will achieve that objective. There will

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always be exceptional circumstances where they should apply, but the Bill correctly recognises that situation. Generally, we should not allow cautions to be given where the public would see that as a betrayal of justice and basic fair play.

Successive Governments have sought to try to tackle reoffending rates. This Government have sought to do so by assisting short-term prisoners. Previous Governments have tried to work out other ways to reduce reoffending rates. To the credit of cautions, when they are given at their best, they have the most successful rates of tacking reoffending. Reoffending rates are lowest when cautions are given in appropriate cases. The criminal justice system should ensure that they are given only for minor, isolated offending.

The same concerns that people have about cautions are also held about penalty notices for disorder—or the so-called fixed penalty notices—that are issued at the police station. If they are given in inappropriate cases, people also rightly feel let down. It is therefore essential that the issuing of PNDs is not used to get around the intentions of the Bill. If it is inappropriate to give a caution—for example, owing to the serious nature of the offence that the police are dealing with—it should also be inappropriate to give a fixed penalty notice, and that person should be put before a court instead of being given a PND.

I have alluded to 2007 because that was the year when we saw the highest number of not just PNDs but cautions given at a police station. I saw back in that year that, in my constituency, repeat shoplifters were given PNDs again and again, when that was clearly as inappropriate as giving cautions again and again. If an out-of-court disposal has shown itself to be ineffective, we need to have court actions.

The Bill effectively places into legislation the guidance that is already given to the police on the issuing of cautions. It does not, however, include the necessity to consult the victim wherever, as the current guideline stipulates, it is appropriate and possible. I hope therefore that the Minister will agree that the victim’s views will continue to be an important factor when the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions decides to offer a caution, so that the victim’s views are canvassed before that caution is administered at the police station.

I also welcome the moves to place education at the heart of the youth offending process. Youth offender institutions have the ability to show children and young adults in their establishments what can be achieved through education. Giving young people the confidence that can come with education is vital if we are to maximise the potential to reduce reoffending. It gives young offenders the confidence that they very often lack. These measures have been criticised, but secure colleges simply make common sense. It must be right to educate young people when they are in prison, to help to tackle the very high reoffending rates that we are seeing among those inmates when they leave young offenders institutions. The programme of secure colleges will take time to roll out, but they can complement, not simply replace, the efforts that are in place to challenge offending behaviour.

In conclusion, I would simply say that there are clearly measures in the Bill that we can all welcome. Despite what we have heard, it is some time since we have seen a criminal justice Bill taken through the

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House. The Bill will help to bring up to date some of the laws that were falling behind and close the gaps that offenders have taken advantage of, so I hope that it will be unopposed today and that it will go through to the next stage of proceedings.

8.7 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I doubt whether the Bill will be opposed today, but I hope that there will be time to consider amendments that might improve it at a later stage. I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, for coming so late to the debate. I heard the opening speeches and then had to chair a meeting elsewhere, but I will be brief.

I want to make three simple points. With regard to secure colleges, sometimes if we stand still long enough, things come round again. They will smack very much of the old approved schools if we are not careful. The proposed £85 million project seems to involve a 320-bed institution. All the evidence in recent years has demonstrated that tackling young offenders and rehabilitating youngsters to ensure that they do not offend in the future is better done in smaller units, rather than large ones. That is why we moved away from the old approved schools, so that more intensive work could be done with young offenders and young potential offenders in smaller units. The proposal flies in the face of all that evidence and seems to take us back, rather than forward. However, if the Government are to experiment in this way, it is important that at least some provision remains in smaller units, particularly for those young people who are vulnerable. We have had briefings from the Children’s Rights Alliance and others, and they have interpreted the Government’s commitment to maintain small secure children’s homes as somewhat ambiguous. It would be useful to hear from the Minister tonight about what the future is for small secure children’s homes under the proposed new structure. The vulnerable youngsters who are cared for in those units would be lost within the bigger establishments proposed by the Government today. There would be anxiety if we were to lose that element of specialism in the system in the future.

The second issue relates to the proposal for magistrates to sit alone when taking decisions. I read the Magistrates Association briefing, and I share some of its concerns that there is a need to ensure that justice is seen to be done. Removing cases from the courts into a side room in a police station or elsewhere with a magistrate sitting solely with a clerk may not be as open and transparent as in the past. I would welcome hearing the Government’s view on the magistrates’ recommendation about at least ensuring that lists of cases are published. Perhaps that should be incorporated into the Bill, so that we can give the assurance that openness and transparency will continue for two reasons: first, it is important that people know that justice is being done and that it is visible; and secondly, some people want to know that the perpetrators have been prosecuted appropriately and have received the appropriate sentences. Therefore, listing cases would at least maintain an element of openness and transparency in the system. I hope that the Government can take on board the Magistrates Association recommendation and build it into the Bill.

The third issue, which I am anxious about, is judicial review. In my own experience, judicial review has largely been used by an individual or small organisation to

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challenge decisions by state bodies; in my own area, those have largely been decisions made by local councils. At the moment, judicial review is incredibly hard to undertake, largely because of the costs involved. It takes about £10,000 to £15,000 just to get into court in any form to have a judicial review heard, which is beyond the means of most individual and many organisations, but at least there is the opportunity to challenge a decision.

In my area, a judicial review took place recently when the local authority closed down special needs centres, or undertook the exercise of closing them down. That decision was challenged by the parents of the centres’ clients. They won at judicial review, forcing the local authority to reconsider its decision and to consult properly. That is the appropriate mechanism for judicial review. The Government’s current proposals will bear heavily on those individuals or organisations that are challenging decisions by bodies such as local councils.

I refer back to the debates that we had during the passage of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, when evidence was brought forward by Transparency International about the problems with local government decision making: its closed nature and the use of commercial interests to drive decisions into part 2 of the cabinet decision-making processes. In other words, it revealed the secretive nature of decision making by some local authorities. Again, judicial review becomes the last resort for many organisations and individuals—certainly in my community—to try to get some form of appropriate and reasonable decision making, or at least some form of supervision of that decision making by the courts themselves.

I fear that these proposals will restrict the opportunity of the most vulnerable in our society to hold the powerful to account. I welcome the Government’s reassurances that there will perhaps be an opportunity to consider some amendments to the current proposals, which would allow the current process to be maintained and improved.

The Government have included a commitment to cost orders within the process itself. I agree that we should try to ensure a limit on costs overall. The problem is that the cost orders come too late in the process, The decision-making process will be more at the permissive stage, so a lot more work will be required of representatives before a cost order can even be applied for, which would provide protection from the heavy burden of costs during the process.

I would like the Government to look again at where the cost orders can be implemented. Under the Government’s proposals, just to get to the permissive stage an individual will either have to fund a considerable amount of work or it will have to be done at risk by an individual lawyer, before there is even a discussion about the cost order and cost-sharing.

This is largely about individuals fighting institutions that are well-resourced. Again, I will give an example from my own area. Many times, individual councillors have been protected by the council’s insurance against any legal action that is taken about their own decision making. So the individual is at risk, but the individual councillor or the council body is protected, bizarrely using—most probably—part of that individual’s council tax payment to enable that protection to be given. The problem in these proposals is that the cost burden, or the cost deterrent, will fall more greatly on the individuals

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concerned. I would welcome the Government considering, perhaps during the progress of this Bill, a more effective way of ensuring that the cost burden is limited—overall, of course, but also as it falls on the individual concerned.

The issue of interveners was referred to earlier. Every time I have been involved in a judicial review process in my area, interveners have played an invaluable role in bringing their expertise to the table and to the discussions within court itself. I would be wary of restricting the ability of specialist organisations to intervene in a particular case. I could give example after example of what is happening with my own local authority not only of individual housing cases but of individual health cases, where interveners have helped by bringing their health expertise to a case, because it then merits a wider debate about a particular aspect of that case that has a wider public interest.

I am glad that the environmental issues have been separated from this process—largely as a result of European conventions, I see—because in my own area judicial review has been one of the mechanisms by which we have at least been able to seek to protect ourselves against adverse planning decisions that have had an environmental impact on my community. That may well be an issue that we will want to come back to when we debate the proposals for a third runway at Heathrow, because we will be looking for a judicial review of the Government’s decisions at every possible opportunity if they wish to proceed with those proposals. Therefore, it is good that environmental matters are excluded from the heavy burden of costs, as far as I can see.

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab) indicated dissent.

John McDonnell: I see that my hon. Friend on the Front Bench is shaking his head. I am happy for him to correct me on that matter.

Mr Slaughter: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent speech. However, I think that some matters under the Aarhus convention are protected but other environmental matters may well not be.

John McDonnell: I see. Again, we may well table amendments to broaden that protection, because we will rely on judicial review powers to challenge Government decisions—we will certainly do so in the case of the third runway at Heathrow and we might do so in the case of High Speed 2 as well—if we feel that the Government have not acted appropriately or reasonably in their decision-making process.

Having made those three points, I will finish. They are about critical issues that the Government need to address. There is no opposition to the overall legislation tonight, but I hope that there will be opportunities in this process for the Government to consider amendments to improve the legislation, so that certain rights can be protected, particularly those of the individual taking on the powerful within our society.

8.17 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I am in a slightly unusual position this evening, in that I rise to support the Government on this Bill. It is a particular pleasure to be able to support them on matters relating to

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criminal justice and courts, because that was not always the case when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice’s predecessor, the Minister without Portfolio, was in place.

I start by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on reversing the trend that we saw under his predecessor, which seemed to go against every Conservative principle on law and order. He was trying to send as few criminals to prison as possible, culminating —as the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) made clear in his remarks, with which I agreed—in his treatment of indeterminate sentences for public protection. That was the particular low point of this Government in criminal justice matters. I suspect that, as the right hon. Gentleman hinted at in his speech, if the current Secretary of State had been in place all the way through this Government, indeterminate sentences would still be in place. I do not think that he would ever have got rid of them, and some of the measures in this Bill are trying to undo the damage that was done by getting rid of those sentences in the first place. I am delighted that he has had the courage to revisit some of the issues that his predecessor failed on.

I say that I support the Government, and I do; I support this Bill wholeheartedly. However, as we have heard from other speakers, when we have legislation as extensive as this Bill—it is quite a wide-ranging piece of legislation—there will always be areas where one thinks the Government could have gone further, areas where there are missed opportunities and areas where one might have a few reservations. I am no different from other hon. Members in all those respects. I hope not to take too long, but I will go through a few of the areas where I particularly support the Government, where there have been missed opportunities, and where I have reservations, many of which I hope can be dealt with in Committee or on Report, so that in the end we have a much better Bill.

On clauses 1 to 3, anything that toughens up sentencing for criminals, particularly dangerous criminals, will always have my full support, so I am very pleased that the maximum sentence for certain dangerous offences is being increased to life imprisonment. Terrorists are a great threat to our national security, and measures to prevent them from carrying out their terrible crimes certainly have my full support.

With regard to clauses 24 to 28, I see no real problems with single magistrates dealing with very simple matters that do not require a bench of three to deliberate over. Should anyone object to the measure, I note the safeguards that are in place. I am pleased that single magistrates will deal only with straightforward and minor offences, such as television licence evasion. That should not be a criminal offence anyway, because a licence should not be forced on people; paying for a subscription should be a matter of personal choice, but that is a debate for a different day. Single magistrates will also deal with things like road tax evasion cases.

Dr Huppert: The hon. Gentleman talks about road tax evasion; he is presumably aware that road tax was scrapped in the 1930s.

Philip Davies: I am not entirely sure what the hon. Gentleman is on about, but people do evade their road tax.

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Dr Huppert: No, they do not.

Robert Neill: Their vehicle excise duty.

Philip Davies: Their vehicle excise duty. I am afraid that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) has reinforced his reputation for concentrating on the things that are not important, and not concentrating on the things that are.

Dr Huppert rose

Philip Davies: I certainly will not give way to the hon. Gentleman again. We have wasted enough time on his nonsense; we will not waste any more on it. I have learned a lesson tonight: not to give way to him. Many people learned that lesson a long time ago, but in my naivety I had yet to learn it. I have learned it now.

I was making a point about single magistrates. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) expressed a reservation about the provision being extended to cover more than just the most basic and simple crimes. I share that concern. A system of single magistrates will never be appropriate for cases such as shoplifting, because magistrates have very different ideas about what should happen to offenders, particularly persistent offenders, in those types of cases. I hope that the power will not be extended. I sometimes worry that when a power is granted, it will be the thin end of the wedge and the power will be rapidly extended to other areas. I hope that will not be the case for this power. It will be introduced for very basic offences, and I hope it will stop there, and not be extended.

On clauses 37 to 39 and 40 to 48, I understand the concerns that have perhaps influenced the introduction of the new offences relating to jurors, especially given changes in technology. We already have the Contempt of Court Act 1981, so I am not entirely sure how necessary some of the measures are, but they may well be necessary.

I note the reasons given for increasing the maximum age of jurors from 70 to 75. I could not agree more with the rationale for that change, but I am tempted to table an amendment—my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) mentioned this—to extend the change to magistrates and judges. I cannot see any difference between a juror of that age being able to determine the guilt or innocence of somebody in a serious criminal trial, and a member of a bench of magistrates or a judge of that age passing sentence. I do not really see why a person is capable of doing one of those things between the ages of 70 and 75, but not the others.

As the Ministry of Justice helpfully explained,

“According to the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics, the healthy life expectancy of both men and women at age 65 is at least 10 years in England and Wales.

The existing age limit for jury service, which was set in 1988, does not reflect the current health of older people. Official figures show that healthy life expectancy of 65 year olds in England and Wales has risen since 2000.

We believe the selection of jurors should reflect that fact.”

If that is the case for jurors, presumably the case is exactly the same for magistrates and judges. There would be a cost saving if we extended the measure to magistrates, as they can claim for loss of earnings when they sit, and clearly magistrates who are aged 70 to 75

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are less likely to be earning, or concerned with covering their loss of earnings, than those who are younger. Magistrates would still be subject to appraisals, so their competence would not be an issue. I have raised the issue of increasing the age limit before in this place. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) once pointed out, it was ironic that the then Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), was past the retirement age for the magistrates of whom he was in charge. The amendment that I would like to see would rectify that anomaly.

I very much welcome the changes relating to judicial review. I hope that they mean that we will have less interference with decisions by judges who hear such cases. Parliament should set the law. Very often, as people will know, I do not particularly agree with Parliament’s decisions, but that is the price of democracy: sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Parliament should set the laws of the land, and judges should implement the law as it stands. I do not like—we have seen this far too often in recent years—judges thinking that they should determine the law. If judges want to decide what the law is, they should give up being judges and put themselves up for election like everybody else. If they are not prepared to do that, they should accept the will of Parliament, whether they—or I—like it or not.

On clauses 29 to 31, I certainly understand the principle in the Bill that criminals should contribute to the costs of running courts. I note that the proposed criminal courts charge means that in future, somebody could be ordered in court to pay the following financial penalties: a fine; a victim surcharge; compensation; prosecution costs; and now this extra courts charge. The victim surcharge, which is basically a tax on offenders, has been a rather unhelpful development, particularly when it applies to people who are being sent to prison for long periods of time. When it was first introduced, for most offences, it was levied in cases where there was no victim. It seems bizarre that the victim surcharge was paid by offenders solely in cases where there was no victim. If the courts charge replaced the victim surcharge, that might make more sense. I certainly agree with the principle of making offenders pay; I just have reservations about how these things tend to work in practice.

Kate Green: I am slightly puzzled by what the hon. Gentleman says. My understanding was that the victim surcharge was applied on a case-by-case basis—

Philip Davies indicated dissent.

Kate Green: I advise the hon. Gentleman that when I was a magistrate sitting on the bench, we applied the surcharge, as part of our sentencing decision, with regard to individual cases. Does he agree that there should be a pecking order when it comes to how payments are applied? We should put the victim surcharge and compensation payments to particular victims ahead of recompense for the cost of the court.

Philip Davies: I am all for making sure that the victim is at the head of the queue when it comes to payments, but the victim surcharge was specifically targeted by the

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previous Government at offences in which there were no victims. That is the fact of the matter, whether the hon. Lady recalls it that way or not.

I welcome the sentiment behind the changes to release on licence. I am pleased to see any proposals that mean that more of the sentence given by the court is served by offenders. In fact, I have long argued that the sentence given by the court should be served in full by offenders, and that people should not be released early for good behaviour—they should be kept in longer for bad behaviour. At the very least, offenders should not be released automatically halfway through their sentence. That was an absolute scandal that was introduced by the previous Government. I would like to see the Bill go further to rectify that, but I appreciate the point made by the Secretary of State that even though he cannot rectify it in full, he wants to make a start in doing so, and I support him in that.

According to research carried out by Lord Ashcroft, more than 80% of the public think that sentences should be served in full. I cannot improve on the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who spoke earlier today. On Second Reading of the Bill that became the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, he said, as shadow Secretary of State:

“We have said that there should be a policy of honesty in sentencing. The fight against crime depends on integrity in the criminal justice system and on courts that deliver swift, effective justice, with punishments appropriate to the crime and the criminal. In the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the Government introduced automatic release on licence halfway through the sentence for all determinate sentences of longer than 12 months…If this were our Bill, we would introduce provisions to restore honesty in sentencing, in order to reassure victims and leave criminals in no doubt that justice is done.”—[Official Report, 8 October 2007; Vol. 464, c. 79.]

I think that many people went out and voted Conservative at the last general election on the basis that we would restore that honesty to sentencing. The provision is a small step in that direction, but a welcome one. I should like the Government to make clear their intention to remove early release altogether. I appreciate that coalition restraints often do not make such things possible, but I am bound to say that this does not go far enough.

I am pleased that, under clause 6 offenders could be ordered to be subject to compulsory electronic monitoring. I am a big fan of electronic monitoring, particularly monitoring that uses tracking technology, which I hope will have an effect both as a deterrent against future crime and as a means of convicting and punishing those who reoffend while on licence. Similarly, I welcome the changes to the recall of prisoners released on licence, but with some reservations, as the changes do not go nearly far enough. The fixed-term recall, in which the offender is returned to prison for breaching their licence for just 28 days—not, as most people would expect, the rest of the period of their original sentence—is a very bad law. It means not only that offenders are released early but that they are released extremely early again if they fail to abide by their licence conditions both the first time round and if they reoffend. That is outrageous, and the Government need to clamp down on it.

For life sentences, the proposed changes could be going in the right direction, but I still believe that life should mean life. I have highlighted that many times: in my view and that of most of the constituents I speak to

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there should be no release of a prisoner sent to prison for life. We would not have to deal with the issue of release after the recall of a life prisoner if we did not release life prisoners in first place. The issue of prisoners absconding or not returning to custody is something I have been concerned about for a while. As I mentioned earlier, anything that increases sentencing or toughens up the current position is something I shall happily support. The new offence created by the Bill and the increased penalties for the existing offence are changes that certainly have my support. I only wish we were not releasing people who went on to reoffend or breach their conditions.

Figures I obtained from parliamentary questions show the alarmingly high number of absconds and people not returned to custody after recall. The most persistent are murderers and attempted murderers. Not only my constituents but people up and down the country are asking why on earth we release so many of these murderers on licence.

Cautions were mentioned by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), and I agree with him. For some time, I have highlighted, along with him, the use of cautions for very serious offences. I am pleased that the Bill seeks to address the issue. It is worth repeating that a caution is given only when an individual accepts responsibility for the crime—they admit that they are guilty—so their use for serious indictable offences has naturally concerned me and many others. I welcome the curbing of the use of repeat cautions, which has always seemed bizarre to me. A person is given a warning for doing something, they do it again, and instead of being sent to court to face the music, some people are given yet another warning, and yet another warning, and even another warning after that. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, recent Ministry of Justice figures apparently showed that 62,000 offenders given a caution in the 12 months to March 2013 had already received a caution previously. The figures also showed that 8,800 criminals who were handed a caution last year had accepted at least one caution for the same offence previously. Perhaps more staggering is the fact that an offender in Northumbria had been given cautions on 50 occasions, and over 50% of persistent offenders do not receive immediate custody. This is an absolute scandal and makes a mockery of the criminal justice system, so I welcome these changes.

I will not detain the House on the issue of young offenders, but I would like some clarification that the proposals will apply equally to boys as well as girls. I would not want to support any proposal that treats them differently, particularly when they have committed the same offence.

I will certainly be tabling an amendment to extend the time limit for an appeal by the Attorney-General against an unduly lenient sentence. I am concerned that the strict 28-day deadline has been, and could be in future, missed in some serious cases. Victims and the public in general need to have confidence in the judicial system, and in the case of an unduly lenient sentence, if the deadline is missed simply because the victim was not made aware of it in time and so did not ask for it to be referred, that confidence could be undermined. I understand the desire to have these things treated quickly, so I would not be looking for an extremely lengthy extension of time. I pay tribute to Jean Taylor and the campaign

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group Families Fighting for Justice, who have done a lot of work campaigning on this issue. I hope that the Government will be responsive to an extension, perhaps to 90 days, for the most serious offence where people are in custody for a long time, but perhaps not long enough given the seriousness of the offence. I hope that the Government will look favourably upon such an amendment.

I would also like the Bill to end the ludicrous position where time spent on a tagged curfew is credited as if it was time spent on remand in prison. In 2008, on the subject of allowing a curfew whilst on bail to count as credit towards a prison sentence, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier), speaking as the shadow Minister said:

“If someone has committed an offence that crosses the custody threshold—an offence that is serious enough to warrant a custodial sentence—it will cause a great deal of scepticism, undermine public confidence in the justice system and make the Government look increasingly ridiculous if the court is then required to say, ‘By the way, all the time that you have spent at home in bed is time that can be taken away from your custodial sentence.’”—[Official Report, 9 January 2008; Vol. 470, c. 369.]

I agreed with his comments then and I still agree with them now. He was absolutely right to say that when the last Government introduced this ridiculous rule. I hope that the Government, even if they will not do it in this Bill, will seek the earliest opportunity to scrap that ridiculous state of affairs.

I would also like to have seen magistrates allowed to sentence people to prison for up to 12 months for one offence, instead of the current six-month limit. The Conservative party was committed to that at the last election and it is something that I certainly still support. Magistrates have the power to sentence offenders to prison for 12 months for two or more either-way offences and nobody seems concerned about that. There is a possibility that this measure may also cut the cost of our judicial system by allowing more cases to be dealt with in the cheaper magistrates courts compared with the more expensive Crown courts.

I would also like to see consideration given in the Bill to making judges accountable for their decisions, particularly where they do not hand down custodial sentences that would be perfectly justifiable and possibly even expected, and where the offender then goes on to re-offend. I do not think I need to say now what the consequences of the collection of this information should be, but it should be quite clear to many that there should be consequences for a judge who consistently allows offenders to avoid prison, if those offenders go on to make others suffer as a result of their continuing crime sprees. At the very least there should be some assessment of their ability to perform their role.

I talked about boy and girl offenders earlier and I would also like to place on record my continued interest in seeing male and female offenders treated in the same way, particularly when they are convicted of the same offences. That should apply not just for sentencing purposes but for all aspects of the criminal justice system. I am pleased that it is becoming increasingly accepted that women are treated far more leniently than men in the criminal justice system, and that needs to be addressed.

I would like the Bill to have included the principle of a sentencing escalator. The principle was proposed in a private Member’s Bill introduced by my hon. Friends the

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Members for Kettering and for Bury North (Mr Nuttall). It is extremely popular with the public. Thanks to polling carried out by Lord Ashcroft, we know that it has the support of at least 67% of the British public. The British public clearly think, as I do, that if someone commits an offence and then does it again, the punishment on the second occasion should be more severe than the punishment on the first, and that the punishment on a third occasion should be more severe than the punishment on the second. I would like the Government to make progress on that.

Despite those omissions, on which I would like to see the Government make progress, either in this Bill or in future, the Bill can still be seen as a substantial step forward for the criminal justice system in this country, and the Government and the Secretary of State should be commended for that. Even when the Bill reaches the statute book—hopefully with some of the amendments I propose—I will still be here on the Back Benches urging the Government to go much further.

8.41 pm

Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate on our criminal justice system. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who made an excellent speech.

Although the figures on overall recorded crime over the past few years have been encouraging, it is clear to me and to many of my constituents that the deterrent for a number of crimes still needs to be increased so that the courts can be tougher in a variety of cases. As a result of high-profile cases in the media, as well as the terrorist threat facing London and other parts of the UK, there seems to be a perception that crime is increasing, despite what the statistics show. Members of the public need to be reassured that the courts system is keeping pace with the challenges it faces, and I believe that the many sensible measures in the Bill go some way towards achieving that.

My constituency was in the news not so long ago because of a fugitive. Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed sliced off his security tag and vanished from Acton’s An-Noor centre dressed in a burqa, spreading considerable concern throughout the community. We welcome the measures in the Bill designed to clamp down on being unlawfully at large.

I also very much welcome the introduction of life sentences for terror-related offences, including training and manufacturing weapons for terrorist activity. Although very serious in themselves, those offences are also a factor in the wider problem of radicalisation of young British citizens, which threatens the peaceful future of some of our communities. That dangerous manipulation of vulnerable young minds must be addressed with the toughest of sanctions. The case of Abu Hamza, a long-standing resident in my constituency, aroused considerable concern that the law as it stood was ineffective in dealing with someone who was proud to boast about his support for terrorist activity or with his dangerous proselytising outside the Finsbury Park mosque.

It is vital that those fears are addressed. I believe that the widening of the enhanced dangerous offenders sentencing scheme will help achieve that. The sanction

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of a life sentence must be available to the courts when dealing with those convicted of terrorist offences. I understand that mandatory life sentences for those convicted of a second terrorist offence and the end of automatic parole for terrorism offences would affect as many as 30 people a year.

The issues of sentencing for certain serious crimes and the use of cautions are well covered in the proposed legislation. For too long criminals have operated in the knowledge that custodial sentences are often half what the term suggests, in many cases automatically so. I am pleased that under the proposed changes those guilty of terror offences and certain sexual offences will no longer be automatically up for parole. It is quite right that no one serving an extended determinate sentence should be released without going before a parole board.

The use of police cautions for repeat offenders has resulted in serial offenders regularly escaping jail sentences and has left many of my constituents asking whether the law of the land has any serious role to play in certain crimes. Figures published by the Centre for Crime Prevention last year show that over a five-year period the number of offenders with at least 10 or more previous cautions and subsequent convictions rose by a quarter to 140,000, which suggests that cautions offer very little deterrent, especially to the hardened repeat offender. I am also caused to wonder how much police time and resource is wasted in having to issue cautions time after time to the same people. Given that cautions are intended to represent a warning for relatively minor offences, it is appropriate that they will no longer be used in cases such as rape, possession of an offensive weapon, or sexual offences against children. In fact, it seems extraordinary that such crimes could ever be treated so leniently.

While welcoming the tougher sentences, I also support the idea that some straightforward criminal justice processes need to be streamlined. It is hard to see why a bench of three magistrates is needed to make decisions on charges such as evasion of a television licence or road tax. While not trivialising such offences, the focus of magistrates’ expertise must surely be on more contentious issues. The imposition of financial charges on those convicted in the criminal courts will not only relieve the burden on the taxpayer but provide an additional deterrent. I welcome the sense of fairness that such a charge would engender, which is important for the justice system. The Government must continue to be on the side of those who stick to the rules.

I support the proposed legislation to deal with juror conduct in the internet age. While there may be an absence of malicious intent, jurors need to be very clear that researching cases in which they are involved or disclosing jury deliberations by electronic means are grave offences that could prejudice fair justice. Guidelines on this have suffered accusations of inconsistency, and the courts need a clear message. The provisions outlined in the Bill do a great deal better to equip the courts to deal with the modern challenges they face.

It has surely always been true that there is an implicit deal between those who administer and deliver justice and everyone else—that is, “Leave it to them and they will not disappoint.” However, that deal requires trust, and any breakdown in that trust has serious consequences, as a great previous Conservative Home Secretary, now Lord Howard, well understood. At this point, I should add that I am truly delighted that our Court of Appeal

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has rejected attempts by the European Court of Human Rights to prohibit our judges from imposing whole life sentences on the most heinous murderers. This is a common-sense victory for our justice system and its ability to decide what is in the best interests of this country.

When crimes are brought to court, society needs to feel that justice has been fully done and seen to be done. If the system begins to fail on this count, that is when people begin to lose faith in the law. The Bill will do much to restore confidence in this regard. I would be delighted, if selected, to serve on the Bill Committee to help ensure that it emerges perhaps improved even further as it progresses to its next stage.

8.47 pm

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray), an old colleague on the London Assembly where we attempted, among other things, to scrutinise the Metropolitan Police Authority in its early days. I strongly agree with the sentiments she expressed.

I am delighted to see the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), back in his place. With respect, his was very much a speech of two parts. When I listened to the first part, I thought, “Well, he clearly wants to stand for Mayor of London because he is doing a south London knockabout comic turn.” I was glad that he turned serious in the second part, although I do not agree with all of his analysis. I gently say this to him: keep the day job going because potential Mayors of London are now expected to be various turns, comic or otherwise, from north of the river rather than south. Leaving aside our political disagreement, I say with respect that the one thing that did trouble me—I hope it was perhaps a slip of the tongue—was his saying, as it certainly appeared to a number of Government Members, that judicial review should be capable of challenging primary legislation. I cannot believe that is what he meant to convey.

Sadiq Khan indicated dissent.

Robert Neill: Given how the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, I will take his word on that. I think we all accept that judicial review was not and never should be intended to challenge the will of Parliament. It does, though, have a legitimate role in relation to secondary legislation and the Executive, and I will return to that later. I am grateful that he has clarified his view on that point, which troubled me because it was surprising, if I may put it that way.

I warmly welcome the thrust of the Bill and congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on introducing it. I will not touch on all parts of the Bill, but I want to discuss some areas that remind me of my past life—although that may be a dangerous thing to talk about at too much length in this House—and professional experience, namely the 25 years or more that I spent at the criminal Bar. I am delighted with some of the changes to make sentencing more realistic. I do not take the view that sentencing must always be draconian and that all those convicted in the courts are beyond a degree of redemption. That is clearly not the case. It is important, however, that sentencing has the confidence

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of the public, the victims and the majority law-abiding community. It is also worth remembering that sometimes the families of offenders are themselves victims to a degree. It is very important to have confidence in sentencing, so the greater transparency proposed by the Bill with regard to the amount of time served and the consequences of bad behaviour is a valuable step forward.

The same applies to the use of cautions. I have sympathy with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), who is another former practising barrister and to whom I apologise because I was not present to hear his speech. It degrades the value of cautions to use them for serious offences for which any ordinary, right-thinking member of the public—in other words, to use the famous lawyer’s test, any man or woman on the Clapham omnibus—will conclude that they were never intended to be used. Cautions were intended to be used for trivial matters, so using them for more serious offences degrades their value in those areas where they have a legitimate role. I hope there will be no suggestion that there has been any pressure in terms of targets or resources. The Government have taken a step in the right direction.

A logical step on from that is recognising the importance of making best use, at all levels, of the available judicial resources. Just as it is important to use such resources to prosecute really serious crimes before the court, rather than use cautions, it is entirely sensible for the Bill to free up resources to deal with what are not regulatory, but essentially non-contentious—in so far as anything can be in the criminal justice system—matters. Many of us with experience of the criminal Bar will have been instructed as young, junior advocates on behalf of the prosecution—no doubt happily for us and our fortunately moderate bank balances—to read through and prove a whole list of traffic offences, even in instances of non-appearance. The empty courtroom could have been used for other cases, but time and again we would read out section 9 statements and produce various certificates of conviction that the traffic lights were working properly and heaven knows what, just to prove a case that nobody was arguing about. Removing that anomaly is an important, valuable and major step forward. I will not repeat the point that there are sensible safeguards built into the system for those who want to argue their case.

By way of digression, once upon a time there was—I think there still is—an offence of failing to provide a statutory statement of ownership. In those days, my earnings at the Bar were greatly boosted by being standing counsel to Croydon council and invariably turning up to prosecute such matters without anyone turning up to contest them. That is an extreme example, because sometimes cases got appealed and nobody turned up at the Crown court to prosecute the appeal either. Removing that sort of nonsense from the system has to be in everybody’s interest.

Ensuring that there is an open and publicly accessible record of the system is sensible, because it means that we need not clog up a fully equipped courtroom with witness facilities and other valuable resources that could be used for a contested hearing. It could be done in an anteroom and the press could be provided with access to the results. That is an entirely sensible and proportionate response, for which the Government are to be commended.

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A number of the other changes are very useful and sensible. I will not go into the details, but I welcome the changes in relation to rape. Pornographic depiction of rape does seem an obvious matter to deal with—Rape Crisis South London in my constituency has done a lot of work on it—and I am glad that that has been recognised. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton would agree with me that there may still be gaps in the adequacy of sentencing for other sexual offences, particularly in relation to videos and DVDs of various kinds—we might be able to look at that in due course—but the change is a valuable step forward that we should all welcome.

I am pleased about the arrangements for costs. I was very often instructed to apply for costs against a convicted defendant. That was fine as far as it went—effectively, only the prosecution costs could be awarded, and whatever legal aid contribution was made—but it is legitimate to go further. After all, we are talking about only those who have been convicted. It is currently regarded as a legitimate and proper means of sentencing to give a discount for a guilty plea to reflect, first, remorse; secondly, the potential avoidance of trauma for witnesses; and thirdly, the saving to court time. Those are all legitimate factors, and if we regard the saving of court time as a legitimate factor in the equation for a penalty in the broadest sense, it is not unreasonable to calculate costs more realistically in terms of the totality of court time, rather than just of prosecution costs or an amount towards legal aid. The very sensible change will add to the transparency of the arrangements being put in place.

The change in relation to jurors is valuable. I am particularly pleased about that because my constituent Mr Graham Pound from Bromley specifically raised that matter with me. I received a very sympathetic response from the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, who was of course not able to indicate exactly what he had in mind, but I know that Mr Pound is delighted with the outcome, which reflects reality. Although I accept that there are differences, I have a measure of sympathy with the suggestion that we might go further. My only query with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley is that there is a difference between the burden of jury service that we expect someone to undertake, which is generally for a comparatively limited period, and the burden of being a busy member of the bench in a busy magistrates court or of sitting full time as a circuit judge.

In relation to the judiciary—I suspect that such matters could be dealt with by regulation—there might be an advantage in bringing back some recently retired senior circuit judges to sit in the Court of Appeal, as they perhaps did before they retired, while sparing them the burden of presiding over their home courts as resident judges. That might be a very modest first step in maintaining a degree of judicial independence, particularly in the criminal system, because by no means all High Court judges will have the degree of experience of criminal cases at first instance and of regularly sentencing heavy crime that those recently retired circuit judges have. I commend that thought to the Minister as a means of building on the welcome proposals about juries.

I also welcome the changes on the whole question of judicial review. A different part of my experience kicks in on that—as a local councillor and a Minister.

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I accept the proposition made by the shadow Secretary of State and other Opposition Members that there is a role for judicial review, which can have the salutary effect of concentrating the mind of decision makers and those who advise them. After all, it is not proposed to abolish judicial review, but, equally, it must be approached with a degree of proportion. One difficulty has been a lack of balance and proportion in its use. That is a shame, because there is a risk that a valuable tool, which can be a safeguard for individuals, may become discredited by overuse and exploitation by individuals or groups for what are often seen as partisan, if not party political, means or entirely self-serving ones. The Bill rightly seeks to rectify that.

I am perhaps even older than my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly), who talked about being a young Bar student in the ’80s and learning about administrative law. When I did my law exams in the 1970s, judicial review was a very recent concept. It was coming back into existence, thanks largely to Lord Denning. Nowadays, we do not consider him to have been a judge with the most liberal of sentiments, but he was seen as rather radical in those days.

Until the late ’60s and early ’70s, there was virtually no administrative law in this country. It is therefore slightly over-egging the case for judicial review to say, as even some distinguished judges do, that it has been an inherent part of our system since Magna Carta. That is not correct. It has grown up from a root that was in the common law. Through the various prerogative orders, such as mandamus and certiorari, it was constructed by judges into a judicial tool as society and government action became more complex in the ’50s and ’60s. It is a fairly recent feature of our system and it fulfils a valuable role.

Judicial review came into existence because the system needed to be flexible. Perhaps Members will remember Lord Denning telling a former Labour Attorney-General,

“Be you never so high, the law is above you.”

That was in reference to a Labour Government behaving in a peremptory fashion. If the system needed to be flexible at that time, it is equally reasonable to say now, when the industry that has grown up around judicial review has become so oppressive that it has overbalanced the system, that we should pull it back into proportion. That puts what the Secretary of State is seeking to do into its proper context.

Some of the proposals are sensible and straightforward. I do not think that anyone disputes that it is sensible to have the same time limit for a judicial review as for a statutory challenge under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Nobody has argued with the reduction in the time limit, because anybody who has dealt with planning matters knows that, particularly now that there has to be so much pre-application disclosure and there can be written representations from objectors and so on, the issues are very well crystallised in people’s minds. I suspect that that is not the most contentious issue.

There are issues with clause 50, although I do not share the criticism of it. I approach it from a slightly different angle. It seems to me that it is not unreasonable to move from the current inevitability test to a test of whether the outcome is likely to have been affected. Ironically, the current inevitability test seems to import something rather like the criminal burden of proof of reasonable doubt—or perhaps an even greater burden

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of proof—into what is essentially a civil procedure. It is not unreasonable to move to something that is closer to the normal test in civil proceedings of the balance of probabilities.

It is argued that we must act almost punitively to be a constraint on bad decision makers. However, I would have thought that clause 50 contained enough flexibility to provide a more balanced approach, to prevent judicial review from falling into disrepute when somebody wins on a purely technical error by a decision maker that was under no circumstances taken in malice or made negligently, and that would under no circumstances make any difference to the outcome. It is not unreasonable to say that the costs of a judicial review should not be fully provided in those circumstances.

We generally expect much more transparency in decision making in this country. In relation to clause 51, I think that that ought to apply, to a degree, to judicial decision making and to the judicial process generally. Because more and more judicial reviews are, in reality, supported and funded by groups—sometimes lobby groups, sometimes commercial groups that may have an interest—it is legitimate for the taxpayer and law-abiding citizens to have an idea about the source of that funding and, to some degree, the real motive behind the judicial review. Clause 51 is a proportionate means for dealing with that. Similarly, interveners must be aware that a considerably greater cost will occur through a legitimate intervention, especially when—as we have all seen in some cases—the intervener may become the principal driver of the judicial review, and do much more to extend the length of the hearing than the initial parties. Under those circumstances, it is not unreasonable that they should bear the bulk of the risk, since they have driven the bulk of court time as a consequence of the way they pursued their intervention. I would argue that the Bill contains a balanced package on judicial review that should commend itself to the House.

I will not dwell on what might have been in the Bill as I think what it contains is good and valuable. I am, however, a little tempted by the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley on the accountability of judges. I do not think the Bill is necessarily the right vehicle for that, but we are talking generally about improving the accountability of decision making, and about accountability and transparency within the system. Given that judicial decisions—in judicial review or otherwise —sometimes affect not only large bodies or the state but can affect individuals, there is perhaps an argument to be had about whether our current arrangements to ensure consistency of professionalism in the judiciary are adequate.

There is a strong case for saying that Parliament must be wary of trespassing on the independence of the judiciary. However, I had in my casework a constituent who was seriously aggrieved in the national press because of an inaccurate judgment. In the obiter dicta of the case, the judge quoted wrongly from the papers before him, but released the judgment to the press, with considerable adverse publicity for the person concerned. There is, therefore, an argument for saying that when the Office for Judicial Complaints says, “Unfortunately that is not within our powers because he turned up and he wasn’t drunk and he wasn’t abusive in these terms. There is nothing we can do about this”, we might think that is not really fair. Would we not expect a professional judge to get the facts right and to have read the papers properly? That is an interesting area to consider.

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That brings me to my final point, which is that, ultimately, the court system is about transparency and balance. Sometimes balance shifts one way or another, and it is the job of this House, and Parliament as a legislature, to decide on the appropriate balance in the circumstances in which we find it. I agree with the Secretary of State that the balance has moved too far one way, and the Bill seeks to redress that. I therefore commend it to the House.

9.8 pm

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me in this important debate. For far too many years we have had a tradition of Governments—Conservative and Labour—trying to talk tough on crime and repeatedly aiming for the tabloid commentary, rather than dealing with the underlying causes of crime. That is why I am pleased that we are taking a different approach now, ensuring that we work on rehabilitation and reducing reoffending and initial offending, and tackling the causes of crime together with other Departments. That is an important process and it is good to have restorative justice and various things such as that in the proposals.

The mark of a good and functioning society is low prison numbers and low crime, not how many people we can fit into prison. In 1980, the prison population was 44,000. The then Home Secretary, Willie Whitelaw, described that as “dangerously high”, yet we saw numbers continue to rise year after year, helped of course by the previous Government’s 3,600 new criminal offences. We saw a huge 54% increase in the prison population under the previous Government, who wanted to increase capacity to 96,000—almost two and a half times the number described by Willie Whitelaw as “dangerously high”. That is deeply alarming.

It is not just me who thinks that the previous Government made a huge mistake. It is good to see the shadow Justice Secretary, the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) back in his place. He has said:

“in office…it was a mistake to not focus more on the issue of reducing reoffending. We became hesitant in talking about rehabilitation and the merits of investment in bringing down re-offending rates. We got into the position whereby a focus on rehabilitation and reducing re-offending was seen as being soft on crime when in fact it is effective in reducing crime.”

He was right then—he clearly had not been previously—and it is good that this Government are acting on that, because it does make a huge difference. What we saw was a Government who jailed more people than anywhere else in Europe just to sound tough. We can take a better approach that will reduce crime, and that makes a big difference.

That applies to young people in particular. It is astonishing to look at the figures for young people. We have managed almost to halve the number of children serving custodial sentences, from 2,136 in May 2010 to 1,168 in December 2013. I am incredibly proud of that. In 2009, 600 children aged between 12 and 14 were locked up, some for summary offences. There may well be rare cases where somebody as young as 12 should be locked up, but they should be incredibly rare and I find it bizarre that hundreds of children suffered in that way. The Howard League for Penal Reform states:

“the refreshing approach of police forces across England and Wales to reduce the number of unnecessary child arrests, has allowed a renewed focus on crime prevention and alternatives to

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custody. Youth justice reinvestment pilots in Manchester and inner London boroughs have also shown how investment in diversion rather than criminal justice can yield benefits in terms of public safety.”

We can make the public safer and not lock children up.

Philip Davies: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr Huppert: No. We heard enough from the hon. Gentleman in his rather long speech earlier. I know he disagrees with Churchill. He probably finds Churchill far too liberal for his own tastes, as he probably was when he criticised road tax.

What I do not want to see is children and young people languishing in detention and coming out and reoffending. That is absolutely not the right thing to do. It is not right for anybody—the Offender Rehabilitation Bill aims to help people with short sentences, which will help—but it is particularly the case for young people. I was pleased to hear the Justice Secretary and the Deputy Prime Minister say that we will double the time that young offenders spend in education from 15 hours a week to 30 hours a week by 2015. That was a manifesto commitment we made in 2010—the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) very much remembers that—and something that we are delivering. It makes a difference. Education is a really important thing for these people, so that they can leave custody with skills and an education they can build on.

The secure college has to have an educational focus and that is what makes it good and worthwhile. By making it progressive rather than punitive, we will really engage with people, give them skills and help them to have a life later that does not involve going into crime. Many of these young people are vulnerable and damaged. We have to provide them with care and support in a safe and secure environment to help turn them back into citizens who will reintegrate into the community on release.

That is all very good, but I have some concerns that I will explore in Committee. Schedule 4 allows restraint to

“secure good order and discipline”.

That sounds worryingly Victorian. The courts have already said that that is not appropriate. I hope we can have clarity from the Government on what exactly is intended. I hope that that is not the intention of this Government.

Before I leave the subject of the number of people in prison, it is worth highlighting the changes in the female prison population, which has declined substantially. It was more than 4,000 when we came into office; it is now substantially below 4,000. That makes a big difference. Women’s prisons will become resettlement prisons, so that offenders serve their sentences as close to home as possible to maintain crucial family relationships, especially with children. There are times when women need to be punished in this way, but we need to help to ensure that afterwards they are able to engage better into society and do not suffer the problems that they could be left with.

I am concerned about the criminal courts charge. I heard what the Justice Secretary said, but I am still

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concerned that it will end up being unenforceable and skew the way our system works. Justice has made it clear that it is

“concerned that the imposition of a charge may have an unfair bearing on the exercise of a person’s right to plead not guilty, and therefore the presumption of innocence.”

How will it apply to appeals? Will people not be able to take advantage of their right of appeal because of concern about cost?

I was interested by what the Justice Secretary said about the £1.4 billion that was owed to the Courts and Tribunals Service. He talked a lot about dead people; I did not fully understand what he was saying. However, if another charge is added to the list, given that he said that that this would be the lowest priority, far less of it will be collected than the 80% that goes to the top priority. That seems obvious, because it will decay faster and faster.

The Justice Secretary said that if people did not reoffend, the charge would be written off. I should like to know more about how that would operate, but, again, far less would be collected. I am also very concerned about how the charge could be recovered without disproportionate enforcement costs, particularly in relation to the contractors involved. I am also worried about whether there is sufficient discretion in the process.

I am still concerned about tagging. I believe that there have still been no successful prosecutions for violations of tagging curfews when people have challenged the prosecutions and pleaded not guilty. Professor Ross Anderson of the University of Cambridge and others have been expert witnesses in cases that have been dropped on the basis of their evidence, because the tags have been proved not to be sufficiently reliable. I should have thought that there were better ways of spending money, especially given that the tags are not satisfactory.

I am very pleased that the Justice Secretary has given ground on judicial review. Many of us have been pressing him on that for some time, and I am glad that he has now taken some sensible steps. It is really important for ordinary people to be able to challenge the Government. We need transparency, and the Government are pushing for it; shielding the Government from legal challenge by clamping down on judicial review would run completely contrary to that. However, I am still concerned about the changes in relation to interveners. Third parties add important value and expertise to cases, at great cost to themselves and in the wider public interest. I did not think that the Justice Secretary addressed my concern about cases in which people intervene, as opposed to cases involving the “human shield” that he described. That is not the only kind of case involved.

Courts already have strong powers to control interveners. They accept only interventions that are in the public interest. Baroness Hale, the deputy president of the Supreme Court, has said:

“Once a matter is in court, the more important the subject, the more difficult the issues, the more help we”

—the judges—

“need to try and get the right answer… interventions are enormously helpful… . They usually supply arguments and authorities, rather than factual information, which the parties may not have supplied.”

Interveners play a very important role, but the Bill would require them to bear not just their own costs—which are not recouped, which I understand—but those of other parties whose involvement results from their

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intervention. The application of that could be incredibly broad. If someone intervened and that person’s intervention generated extra work to be done by someone else, the intervener would be billed for all of it. That would deter experts from giving useful and potentially instrumental evidence. We would shoot ourselves in the foot: court decisions would become worse, as the courts themselves have said.

The courts already have discretion to control who intervenes, how people intervene, and for how long they can intervene, and they can fine interveners whose interventions are unreasonable. That strikes me as a sensible balance. I think that the Bill goes too far in clamping down on interventions, and I hope that the Government will look at it more carefully. I understand that there may be cases in which intervention is inappropriate, but the Government must protect appropriate and important interventions,

There is much else that we shall need to consider in Committee, because the Bill contains a great deal of detailed material, but I think that the focus is right. I welcome much of what the Government are doing, but I think that they should concentrate even less on how many people can be locked up, and more on how much crime can be reduced.

9.18 pm

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): It is curious that a Government who did not think that they needed a Bill to dismantle criminal legal aid or to privatise the probation service should decide that they do need one to encourage courts to report wasted costs orders to the Bar Standards Board. It is also curious that a Lord Chancellor who is reluctant to debate the restriction of access to justice, or risks to public safety, can find plenty of parliamentary time in which to discuss age limits for jurors.

The Government have a curious sense of priorities; but the clue is in the phrase “find time”. We heard earlier that the Lord Chancellor was the only Cabinet Minister to volunteer to conjure up a Bill to fill the yawning void that is the last 15 months of the current Parliament—a carry-over Bill intended to mark time while the coalition parties manufacture disagreements to keep their own core voters happy. His reward—and I am pleased to see him in his place—was to miss the Cabinet’s day out in Aberdeen. There is no justice for the Justice Secretary.

However, I do not want to denigrate the Bill; I merely wish to set it in context. Although there are parts of it that we strongly oppose, much of it is unobjectionable, and some of it is even laudable. It makes sensible administrative changes, and introduces new offences that clarify or reinforce important parts of the law such as contempt, or address failings in the Government’s own legislation or practice. We are not going to find reasons to oppose such measures and, on balance, we will not oppose the Bill tonight, in the hope that improvements can be made before Third Reading.

I can do nothing but praise the quality of the debate today. We are fortunate to have heard from some of the most experienced and thoughtful Members on both sides, and I hope that the Minister will take on board their observations not only when he responds to the debate tonight but when he reviews the Bill in Committee. We have heard former Justice Ministers, including

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the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly) and the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), and from Select Committee Chairs including my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith). We have also heard from eminent practitioners such as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) and the hon. Members for Dewsbury (Simon Reevell) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill).

I hope, however, that none of those Members will be offended if I say that the most perceptive comments often came from those who show a lay interest in these matters. The hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) talked about exercising caution over the use of cautions and about education on the secure estate, and I agreed with much that my neighbour, the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray), said in her tour d’horizon of the Bill. I was slightly confused, however, by the contributions of the hon. Members for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and for Shipley (Philip Davies). Both seemed to love the Bill, but one of them thought it was about restorative justice and reducing the prison population by 30,000 while the other thought it was about punishment and increasing the prison population by that number.

Sadiq Khan: They can’t both be right.

Mr Slaughter: Indeed, but the Lord Chancellor has at least managed to make both of them happy, and he should be praised for that, if for nothing else.

I want to make specific mention of the contributions from my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd), who made robust defences of judicial review and of open justice. They correctly echoed the view expressed in the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s briefing that judicial review is

“used rarely by community groups in relation to planning decisions because it is costly and a significant and daunting undertaking.”

No one would imagine that, from what the Government have said today.

I shall take my cue from my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington and the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd in dealing first with the most contentious and objectionable part of the Bill—part 4, which covers judicial review. What is it about this Lord Chancellor and judicial review that the mention of it makes him behave in an irrational and unreasonable way? He has taken to the columns of the Daily Mail to denounce one of our most important constitutional safeguards as

“a promotional tool for countless Left-wing campaigners.”

It is unclear whether those left-wing campaigners include the Countryside Alliance, the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, UKIP’s Stuart Wheeler and numerous Conservative councils, all of whom have initiated judicial reviews in recent times. However, the senior judiciary’s response to the Lord Chancellor’s consultation shot that particular fox when it stated that it had seen no

“evidence of inappropriate use of judicial review as a campaigning tool, and it is not the experience of the senior judiciary that this is a common problem.”

The Lord Chancellor has already taken bites out of judicial review by imposing additional fees and limiting the time for bringing a claim, in some cases to six weeks.

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He is also going to restrict the use of legal aid by statutory instrument, rather than through primary legislation. He would wish to hobble applicants more by restricting the recovery of costs until beyond the permission stage and allowing defendants to intervene at that stage with the prospect of recovering their costs. The Bill contains a variety of additional ways to discourage judicial review by increasing applicants’ costs or putting them at risk of paying defendants’ costs. Protective costs orders will not be abolished, but they will be available only in narrow circumstances and once permission is granted.

The worst aspects are in clauses 50 and 53, attacking both the raison d’être of judicial review to correct Executive error in decision making and the ability of third parties to intervene in the public interest and to assist the court. Already heavily criticised, the new test in clause 50 refuses permission where it is “highly likely” the outcome for the applicant

“would not have been substantially different if the conduct complained of had not occurred”.

This confuses unlawfulness with remedy. It will encourage bad decision making and it is likely to lead to a full trial of the issues at permission stage. Lord Pannick, in an article that has already been quoted today, has said that the clause will give the Government a

“get out of jail free card”,

and allow public bodies to

“avoid a hearing and judgment on the legality of their conduct.”

Under clause 53, third parties—often non-governmental organisations, charities and human rights organisations—that intervene in judicial reviews to clarify issues that often assist the court will now be severely discouraged from doing so by cost penalties. Yet Lady Justice Hale of the Supreme Court has said that

“interventions are enormously helpful…The most frequent are NGOs such as Liberty and Justice, whose commitment is usually to a principle rather than a person. They usually supply arguments and authorities, rather than factual information, which the parties may not have supplied.”

In aggregate, these proposals mean that only applicants of substantial means will be able to bring a claim or risk the costs of losing it. In a country without a written constitution, judicial review is one important way of holding the Executive to account. This Government want to insulate their bad decision making from legal challenge and place themselves outside the rule of law. They are strengthening Executive power and weakening a critical check on the power of the state. This Lord Chancellor, for misguided party political motives and as part of a sustained attack on access to justice, is undermining our civil liberties, and these changes should be against everything the Liberal Democrats stand for. Under this Government, seeking justice is getting harder and these proposals show them on the side of their corporate friends, not of individual citizens and communities. Politicians in power might find judicial review an awkward irritant, but that is precisely what it is intended to be. Combined with the cuts to legal aid, limitations on no win, no fee cases, and threats to the Human Rights Act and European convention, this proposal amounts to a sustained attack on the rights of individual citizens to hold those in power to account. As the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger puts it,

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“one must be very careful about any proposals whose aim is to cut down the right to judicial review”.

He has also said:

“The courts have no more important function than that of protecting citizens from the abuses and excesses of the executive.”

We have serious concerns about other parts of the Bill. As they stand, the plans for secure colleges may prove damaging to thousands of young offenders in our criminal justice system. The Bill leaves a question mark over the future of secure children’s homes, which cater for the most vulnerable young people. Such homes typically house small numbers of children, provide intensive support and are staffed by highly qualified specialists in social care. The homes have good educational outcomes and are recognised as the preferred model of youth custody, but they look set to lose out to the Lord Chancellor’s new and untested pet project. It is untested according to the Government’s own impact assessment, but still £85 million is needed to build just one secure college.

The Justice Committee pointed out in its report last March that the average time in youth custody is only 79 days, so most young offenders would not be in a college long enough to improve their basic skills. What levels of training or qualification would the college staff have? Why will college custody officers be empowered to use “reasonable force” for the maintenance of “good order and discipline”? That may well be unlawful under the European convention on human rights, according to a Court of Appeal 2008 ruling and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which stated in 2007:

“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. The use of restraint or force, including physical, mechanical and medical restraints, should be under close and direct control of a medical and/or psychological professional. It must never be used as a means of punishment.”

As regards part 3 of the Bill, we support the use of single justices, given that their jurisdiction will apply only to summary, non-imprisonable offences where an adult defendant pleads guilty. However, we object strongly to taking these cases out of the courtroom and into offices away from public view. Such an approach damages the principle of British justice that cases are heard and the results made known in public. This Government are too fond of secret courts, and even in minor cases the principle of open justice should be rarely departed from. We agree in principle that convicted criminals could contribute to the costs of trial, but the substantial amount of uncollected fines from criminals already totals more than £1 billion and it is likely that this proposal will just add to the total of uncollected moneys from criminals. We have no objection in principle to leapfrog appeals, for example, on issues of national importance, though they are most likely to be used by government trying to hurry the process up. The danger is that this simply overloads the Supreme Court and that the issues it has to deal with are insufficiently refined by earlier hearings.

It is a good idea to update the jury room process and the rules on reporting cases to accommodate the social media age. The Attorney-General is to be commended for taking a personal interest in the limitations on reporting and in discouraging jurors from using social media to research or publicise details of trials. However, the Government fail to provide any support to juries in

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explaining their roles and remit as part of any new offences, and it is not clear whether they have considered the full implications of the numbers of people using social media and the variety of methods available. We have no objection to raising the age of jury service to 75.

There are two glaring problems with part 1 of the Bill. It does not do what it says on the tin, which is to protect the public adequately from violent and dangerous offenders, but it does incur costs and prison resources that the Government do not have in place. I fear that the hon. Member for Shipley may have been slightly taken in by the rhetoric rather the actuality of what is in part 1. The changes to sentences for the most serious and violent criminals are a poor substitute for indeterminate sentences for public protection, which this Government abolished in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012—[Interruption.] I do like to mention that, because it is the one thing that we both agree on.

Philip Davies: Absolutely.

Mr Slaughter: I am afraid that the Government have been playing catch-up ever since IPPs were abolished, but none of what is proposed offers the same level of public protection. The Government’s own impact assessment states that the sentencing changes will require 1,050 additional prison places, but there are fewer than half that currently available. It also states that the costs of additional custody are not quantified. We noted with concern the Lord Chancellor’s inability to answer any of the questions about his Department’s budgets. Proposals in part 1 will also see a greater work load for the Parole Board, with an additional 1,100 Parole Board hearings a year, according to the Government’s impact assessment. However, no additional resources are being made available, at a time when Parole Board staff numbers have already been cut by nearly one in five.

We support the ban on the possession of extreme pornographic images depicting rape and other non-consensual sexual penetration. That is a welcome victory for campaign groups such as Rape Crisis South London and the End Violence Against Women Coalition. We support the restrictions on the use of simple cautions.

Criminal justice Bills have a reputation for being Christmas tree Bills, and this one is no different. It is a mixture of the minor and non-contentious with some major, damaging and poorly thought-out measures, such as those in part 4, which, if they survive here, will be butchered in the other place.

This is also quite a mean little Bill, reflecting the character of its author. It further limits the rights of the citizen against the state, and it scratches around to find some more savings because the Treasury has been overpromised. Desperate to impress the Prime Minister, this is the best that the Secretary of State could come up with. Much of it is unexceptional or unobjectionable. It is legislation for legislation’s sake, and is designed to fill an intellectual and actual void in the Government’s programme. It is irrelevant to the big issues being played out in our justice system. It reinforces the growing view in the country that it is time for this failing Lord Chancellor and this Government to move on.

9.33 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Shailesh Vara): May I start by thanking all Members, on both sides of the House, who have spoken today?

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The debate has been both considered and thorough, and the number of points that have been raised confirms the importance of the issues before us.

As my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor set out at the start of this debate, the Bill represents the next stage of our reforms to deliver a cost-effective justice system in which the public can have real confidence. The key elements of the Bill will deliver a firm but fair package of sentencing and criminal law reforms, which will properly punish serious and repeat offenders and better protect victims and the public. We are clear that people who break the law will not escape the law.

The Bill provides for the creation of secure colleges, putting education at the very heart of youth custody, giving young offenders the tools they need to lead a life away from crime. We are modernising the law to tackle the influence of the internet on trials by jury to ensure that defendants receive a fair trial, reflecting how technology and the wealth of information available at the touch of a button has changed the way in which we live. We will reduce the burden of the cost of courts on hard-working taxpayers by making sure that criminals pay towards the cost of their court cases. The Bill will make critical reforms to judicial review, to tackle unmeritorious claims and unnecessary delays in the system.

Members have raised a number of issues, many of which will, of course, be debated further in Committee. However, I should like to touch on some of the points made by colleagues. They will forgive me for not being able to mention every point made in every speech, but I shall try to cover as many of them as I possibly can.

My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly) started by commenting on the proposals for single magistrates to deal with low-level, uncontested cases. This issue was touched on by a number of other colleagues. Let me be clear that we are talking about low-level, uncontested cases. Let me also be clear that where someone wishes to contest a case, they can have it heard before two or three magistrates and it can be dealt with in the usual way. This proposal is for cases—the vast majority of them—where people simply do not bother to turn up or reply, or if they do, they plead guilty.

Karl Turner: If that is the Government’s intention, why does the Bill not say that?

Mr Vara: It does.

My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon spoke about the age limit for jurors being raised from 70 to 75. The reason is that we must recognise that people are now living longer and healthier lives. It is important that jurors reflect society at large. If society is growing older, we need to ensure that jurors, who decide cases, reflect that. I accept that we have a problem in attracting young people to become magistrates, and we must continue to try to address that issue, but that is not to say that we should not increase the age.

On court costs, several colleagues were concerned about the rate of recovery. Let me clarify the point. At present, the recovery rates for compensation, fines and the victim surcharge stands at 80%, and there is no reason to believe that court charges will not be recovered at similar rate.

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Dr Huppert: We heard earlier that such charges would be the lowest priority of claim. The Justice Secretary was clear on that. Surely, if only 80% of the higher priority claims are collected and some people run out of money when they have paid the highest priority, a lower proportion of the low-priority claims will be collected.

Mr Vara: My hon. Friend needs to appreciate that the time lag will be longer. This will be the last element to be claimed. It will be claimed after the others. There will be a priority element, and this will be the last bit. There is no reason to conclude that, if the other four criteria have been met with an 80% collection rate, the fifth one will not.

The right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd)—I hope that I have pronounced the constituency name correctly, or close enough—had concerns about prison places. As the Justice Secretary said in his opening remarks, in the next 15 or so months, we expect that there will be some 2,000 more places, and Wrexham prison will have more than 2,000 places by 2017. He raised secure colleges. I emphasise that the aim is to reduce reoffending and have the expertise to provide for educational needs.

Kate Green rose—

Mr Vara: I will give way, but this must be the last intervention because I want to cover a number of points.

Kate Green: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. How does he think that the public will react to the concept of 350 fairly seriously offending young men living on a single site in their neighbourhood?

Mr Vara: There are institutions of a custodial nature in which the numbers of people are far more than that at the moment. They will not all live in one unit. There will be separate units and different age groups and categories of people. I see no reason why, at a more cost-effective rate, we cannot seek to do what is not happening at present: reduce reoffending rates.

The right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd also spoke of the possible use of force, and that issue was also raised by a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I will just point out that the Bill sets up secure colleges but it does not speak of using force. That issue needs to be addressed later, when it comes to dealing with the rules for secure colleges. I recognise that it is an important issue, which needs to be dealt with sensitively, and I am sure that when those rules are drawn up, that is how it will be dealt with.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) gave a very supportive speech and spoke with experience of having been a Minister both in my Department and in the Home Office. His arguments were well reasoned and he spoke about early release, electronic tagging and a number of other issues. He pointed out to the House that the magistracy that we have been discussing has been with us for some 650 years.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) also raised the issue of magistrates sitting on their own and I hope that I have covered that. He also touched on the issue of judicial reviews, as did the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green),

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in a number of interventions, and other hon. Members. Let me be clear about this point too. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor did not say that all claims were being made by left-wing campaign groups, but it is a fact that some claims have been or are made by such groups. The hon. Lady herself admitted, in one of her interventions, that before she entered the House, she ran a group and was regularly involved in judicial reviews. If people are going to throw ammunition at this side, it is important that they at least put things in context.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) spoke with experience and was right to put education at the heart of secure colleges. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston continues to mutter away, but I suggest that she looks at Hansard tomorrow morning. My hon. Friend was right to highlight the issue of education and I am grateful for his general approval for all that the Government are doing.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) also spoke of secure colleges. I emphasise to him that, as I said earlier, there will be separate units to cater for different categories of people in those colleges rather than everyone being in one structure.

As far as the magistrates courts are concerned, there was concern about openness and transparency—

John McDonnell: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Vara: I will not give way, as I want to make progress. I believe that I have been generous in taking a number of interventions, but I have limited time.

The issue of openness and transparency was raised, and I want to make it clear that each magistrates court publishes within its court buildings daily lists of cases being heard at that court. All magistrates courts routinely make lists of case results available to the local media, and the criminal procedure rules also oblige courts to give certain additional information on cases in response to third-party requests. I also want to put on the record that we are looking at further ways of making court processes and outcomes more transparent, including exploring the possibility of publishing court outcomes electronically.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Simon Reevell) reflected his experience at the Bar in the issues that he raised, and I am grateful for his support for the measures that we are introducing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) was characteristically robust and raised a number of issues. I am delighted, as I am sure the Chief Whip is, that he supports the proposals that we are seeking to introduce today, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor is appreciative of the personal congratulations that he conveyed to him earlier on introducing these measures.

My hon. Friend mentioned the magistrates courts; I assure him that our intention is to ensure that the proposals are confined to low-level offences. He also asked an important question: why can the maximum age of jurors be raised from 70 to 75, when a similar age increase is not allowed for magistrates and judges? One of the reasons is that jurors will work on one trial, and then return to their daily, routine lives, whereas magistrates

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and judges have to play their role day in, day out, and of course that is completely different from jurors sitting on odd cases.

My hon. Friend will be aware that there are transitional arrangements in place. When the rule about the age of 70 came in for the judiciary, those judges who were still in place could opt to work until they were 75. He also spoke of judges being held to account. All I would say to that is that we have to be mindful that the judiciary is an independent section of our constitution.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray) for her supportive comments, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), who, again, spoke of his personal experience at the Bar. He was right to refer to the man on the Clapham omnibus and the use of common sense. Many of the proposals that we are introducing are absolutely that: common-sense proposals with which the majority of the public would agree.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) is right to highlight Labour’s record in government, because all that Labour Members, and certainly its Front Benchers, have been doing is complaining, rather than acknowledging their errors when in government. He also spoke about secure colleges. He is right to say that no one wants young children to reoffend. He is absolutely correct when he says that we have to give them education, and the skills and discipline to ensure that they can lead productive lives. Like others, he referred to the issue of force, but I hope that he accepts that I have given reassurance on that. He was concerned about the court charges that we propose, and I have dealt with that issue.

I thank the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), both senior Members of the House and Chairmen of important Select Committees. Their contributions reflected their expertise and breadth of knowledge.

The Bill toughens up terrorism and terrorism-related offences and ends automatic early release for certain serious, violent and sexual offences. The new secure colleges will place education at the heart of youth custody, ensuring that young people acquire the skills, qualifications and self-discipline to lead productive lives on release, and break away from the cycle of reoffending.

It has to be right for criminals who use the courts to pay towards the cost of running them, thereby reducing the burden on hard-working taxpayers. We are also putting in place important measures to deal with the growing number of unmeritorious judicial review applications that are clogging up our court system and putting additional burdens on public services. The consequences of the internet world that we live in simply cannot be ignored. That is why we are ensuring that jurors base their decisions on the evidence put before them, and not on the results of a Google search. These and the other measures in this Bill are important, sensible and necessary. They represent a critical next step in strengthening confidence in our justice system, and providing safety and security for people and their communities. I welcome all the contributions made today, and I assure the House that many of the issues raised will be debated in further detail in Committee.

Finally, I note that we have a new clock, which shows seconds, and not just minutes as the one before did.

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Happily, I can assure the House that I do not have to rely on the seconds today; I am more than happy to finish a little early—by minutes, rather than seconds. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.