12 Nov 2012 15:02:42

Stop Dangerous Drivers, urges Steve Barclay MP in new web campaign

By Tim Montgomerie
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The video above can also be watched on StopDangerousDrivers.com, a website that was recently launched by Steve Barclay MP. The video, website and campaign aims to change sentencing guidelines for "drivers who kill".

The campaign notes that over 600 people were killed last year by dangerous drivers but that, last year, "150 drivers who killed DID NOT GO TO PRISON AT ALL".

Visitors to the site are urged to sign a petition that, among other things, urges "the Sentencing Council to review the guidelines for Causing Death by Dangerous Driving."

About 2,000 people look to have signed the petition so far.

The campaign has also received significant media attention, including on ITV1's Daybreak.

I'm not writing this blog to comment on the specifics of Steve Barclay's campaign but I'm impressed by the nature of the campaign. The video, the web design and the petition all communicate seriousness about an issue that clearly matters to Steve Barclay and, I suspect to many people inside and beyond his constituency. At ConHome we're always interested in good campaign ideas. Do send them to us via news[at]conservativehome.com.

21 Dec 2011 11:20:13

History, Europe, family and needs of business feature in Christmas adjournment debate

By Joseph Willits 
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In yesterday's Adjournment debate before the start of the Christmas recess, a mix of topics were raised by MPs.

SkidmoreChris Skidmore MP (Kingswood), who also wrote on ConservativeHome yesterday about making history a compulsory subject for under-16s, spoke of the study of history reaching a record low. Skidmore said that "in 77 local authorities fewer than one in five pupils is passing history GCSE". Despite these figures already being low enough as it is, there was a need to break them down, he said, "because in places such as Knowsley under 8% of pupils are passing history GCSE". 

Skidmore continued:

"Often it is the Daily Mail or academics who discuss what type of history should be studied in schools, whose history should be studied, how history should be studied in the curriculum, whether we should have a narrative form of history or a more interpretive form of history that looks at sources, and whether history should be seen as a framework of facts."

Whilst this debate was important, he warned of history "becoming a subject of two nations" and Britain's isolation in Europe, if people were not united in the view "that history is a crucial subject that binds us as one nation".

Continue reading "History, Europe, family and needs of business feature in Christmas adjournment debate " »

6 Dec 2011 12:31:18

Raab's proposed motion demanding a review of the extradition treaty between the UK and US, is backed by MPs

By Joseph Willits 
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RaabLast night in Parliament, a motion tabled by Dominic Raab MP (Esher and Walton), demanding a review of the 2003 extradition treaty between the UK and US, was agreed without a vote. Raab was clear in that the tabled motion was "not about abolishing extradition, which is vital to international efforts in relation to law enforcement" but "whether, in taking the fight to the terrorists and the serious criminals after 9/11, the pendulum swung too far the other way." The purpose of the review, Raab said, was to "inject a dose of common sense into the blunt extradition regime that we now have in place".

Raab cited comments made by Alun Jones QC (who represented the Spanish Government in the Pinochet case) in the Telegraph yesterday, who warned of an imbalance within the UK-US extradition treaty. Raab said:

"An American citizen who is subject to an extradition warrant in the US has the constitutional safeguard that a judge must examine the evidence. In this country, a short recitation of the allegations suffices. That is a very real and important imbalance."

Continue reading "Raab's proposed motion demanding a review of the extradition treaty between the UK and US, is backed by MPs" »

22 Oct 2011 12:26:45

Nick de Bois' knife crime amendment wins praise from the Sun

By Joseph Willits 
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6a00d83451b31c69e2015432942f5b970c-150wiEnfield North MP Nick de Bois has won plaudits from the Sun in pursuing his knife amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. The Sun describes "a lowly MP who humbled a Prime Minister"who "refused to give up, and eventually won the support of the PM's own knife advisor, Brooke Kinsella". 

The amendment states that under 18s who use a knife in a threatening or endangering fashion will face a mandatory six-month prison sentence. 40 backbench MPs are supporting the amendment.

De Bois's perseverance with the issue stems from ten fatal stabbings happening in Enfield North since 2008 - the most recent being the murder of Stephen Grisales in September 2010, killed by under 18s in a knife attack. It bears no hallmark of political wrangling or getting one over on the Government, but of immense community concern. There is a sense, which the Sun has picked up on, that encouragement from the Government has been minimal up until now.

Continue reading "Nick de Bois' knife crime amendment wins praise from the Sun" »

23 Sep 2011 13:23:51

Priti Patel makes her first appearance on Question Time

Screen shot 2011-09-23 at 11.43.20

By Joseph Willits 
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A first appearance on Question Time can be a daunting experience.  For Priti Patel, this would have been no exception.  Last night the 'rising star' of Cameron's new intake of MPs appeared on the programme, which was severely lacking in excitement.  Despite several hugely emotive issues; the Dale Farm eviction order, capital punishment, and the Palestinian statehood bid, political debate was somewhat lacklustre.

There was a point in the evening, and this morning, where Priti Patel was trending on the Twittersphere.  This would have been for her comments about capital punishment, in light of Troy Davis' execution in Georgia. Patel said:

"I would actually support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent, because I do think we don no't have enough deterrents in this country for criminals."

Continue reading "Priti Patel makes her first appearance on Question Time" »

15 Sep 2011 11:45:13

Nick Herbert calls for "swift and sure" local justice


By Joseph Willits 
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In a speech at the Police Superintendents Conference in Warwickshire yesterday, Nick Herbert, the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, pledged radical reforms to "bring justice into the 21st century" and implement justice from within communities themselves. 

Herbert's message represented a significant toughening of the Government's message on criminal justice, an area which has come under scrutiny in the recent past.  In his address, Herbert laboured a message of "swift justice" and "sure justice, where the consequences of offending are swiftly brought home to the criminal, is effective justice".

Following on from the riots, Herbert stressed how imperative it was to learn from them, and how the justice system was forced to react to unforeseen events. During the disturbances, we saw courtrooms and magistrates working through the night and on weekends, and in future could do so again.

Continue reading "Nick Herbert calls for "swift and sure" local justice " »

8 Jun 2011 10:30:58

David Davis draws attention to prison-visiting imam who celebrated Taliban jail-break

By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday in Parliament, during questions on the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy (which Paul Goodman covered on ToryDiary yesterday), former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis highlighted the case of a Muslim prisoner who had witnessed extremist preaching in a "high-security prison": 

DAVIS DAVID "Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I welcome wholeheartedly my right hon. Friend’s statement and comments, not least because a couple of weeks ago I received a letter from a Muslim inmate of one of our high-security prisons, in which he said:

‘Last week our prison service imam told us ‘not to believe western media’ in relation to the death of Usama bin Laden. The week prior to that the imam celebrated the escape of hundreds of Taliban prisoners from the Kabul jail. He went on to list equally inappropriate teachings by prison imams in a total of five prisons.

The Home Secretary is right to draw attention to the previous Government’s complacency over the issue. Will she give an undertaking that this will be put right and that we will not be able to say those things next year?"

In response, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, promised to work more closely with the prison service in order to stamp out extremism of the nature Mr Davis mentioned. 

May Theresa in black "Mrs May: I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing that letter to the attention of the House and, in doing so, raising a very important aspect of the work on which we wish to focus. There is a great deal more to be done in prisons, and a number of steps that we intend to take are set out in the Prevent strategy today. I should be very happy to receive a copy of that letter, if he feels able to share it with me, so that we can look at the specific allegations that have been made, but we intend to work more carefully with prisons, prison staff, the National Offender Management Service and those going into prisons to deal with individual prisoners in order to try to ensure that we do not see the sort of activity taking place that he has identified."

12 Jan 2011 08:38:27

Tory MPs call for Cameron to show "backbone" and resist voting rights for prisoners

Tim Montgomerie

In Westminster Hall yesterday, ahead of the binding Commons vote, Philip Hollobone instigated a debate on voting rights for prisoners. Mark Harper MP for the Coalition is proposing that prisoners with sentences of four year or less should get the vote. Labour will seek to amend that proposal, limiting voting rights to one year sentences or less. Unless the Coalition compromises it is likely to be defeated.

Jail Vote Philip Hollobone called for David Cameron to show backbone in resisting votes for prisoners

"Here is a question for hon. Members. Who said: 

"Frankly, when people commit a crime and go to prison, they should lose their rights, including the right to vote"?

He also said:

"It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison."

The answer is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and I could not agree more with him. The vast majority of people in this country would also back him in those sentiments. One difference between the Prime Minister and myself, however, is that he is actually in a position to do something about this issue. We need some backbone-we need a hardened spine-if we are to take on the European Court of Human Rights and resist its judgment."

Dr Thérèse Coffey noted that rapists will be given the vote under the Coalition's four year limit

"On the point about limits, does my hon. Friend agree that the crimes of rape, for which a three-and-a-half year sentence was awarded in November, in a case in Warwick, and armed robbery with a knife, which has also been given a sentence of less than four years, are serious crimes, and that it is shocking that the Government even contemplate that such things should be covered?"

Matthew Offord pointed out that many other nations have not complied with the European Courts on this issue

"It may interest hon. Members to know that 13 other countries that are signatories to the European convention on human rights also have blanket bans. Why is this country being singled out for the treatment it is getting from the European Court, when blanket bans continue in other countries, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Moldova and Slovakia, among others? Our constituents will be outraged that the UK is being singled out for special treatment."

Stewart Jackson argued that the Government's four year limit was "arbitrary"

"Is not it true that the recent case of Greens and M.T. v. the United Kingdom specifically allows the Government to proceed with a range of policy options, which, like the consultation in 2009, could be put out for public discussion? Instead the Government have gone for an arbitrary four-year limit, without any further debate or discussion in the House or with the public."

Continue reading "Tory MPs call for Cameron to show "backbone" and resist voting rights for prisoners" »

19 Jun 2010 08:02:27

Conservatives retreat from Michael Howard's 'prison works' policy

The Daily Mail, on Monday, was first to notice the change in policy.  In the 1990s Michael Howard instituted his 'prison works' policy and crime began to fall because repeat law-breakers could not commit offences so long as they were incarcerated. Incarceration, rather than the deterrent or rehabilitation effects, were most important in turning the tide against crime. Dr David Green of the Civitas think tank has long been a champion of this view.

Ken Clarke - under huge budgetary pressures and in alliance with the anti-prison Liberal Democrats - is ready to operate a more targeted prisons policy. Ken Clarke, thundered the Mail, needed to be "a little less Liberal and a little more Conservative".

The extent of the retreat from Michael Howard's 'prison works' policy was evident during Justice questions on Tuesday. Pasted below are some key exchanges between MPs and prisons minister, Crispin Blunt.


Screen shot 2010-06-18 at 17.50.00 Mrs Helen Grant MP: In the context of capacity and overcrowding, what are the Minister's views on short sentences, especially for women?

Mr Blunt: The evidence is that short custodial sentences are not working. They produce terrible reoffending rates. We do not have the capacity in the probation service to address people on licence, which is one reason why they do not have any supervision when they leave prison, and we are on the most dreadful merry-go-round. It is one of the glaring gaps in the way that we deal with offenders and reoffending behaviour, and the current Administration will do their level best to address the issue.


Mr Jack Straw MP (Lab): "Does the Under-Secretary acknowledge that there has been a sustained fall in crime from 1995 to date, and that the increase in prison places and the fact that more serious and violent offenders are now incarcerated has contributed to that fall?

Mr Blunt: "Evidence on the effects of incarceration is mixed at best. We must take the political temperature out of the debate. Outbidding each other on how robust we will be in dealing with offenders probably does potential future victims no good. We must have policies that address future offending behaviour and consider the life cycle of potential and actual offenders so that we can support them effectively."

Mr Straw: "The whole House would agree that the fundamental test of an anti-crime policy is whether crime has fallen. With that in mind, will the Minister now acknowledge that crime fell consistently from 1995 and throughout the 1997 to 2010 Administration?"

Mr Blunt: "No, because the change in trend on crime was achieved by Michael Howard, the then Home Secretary, who delivered a robust policy that effected changes. He was the author of the change in policy, but there is a limit to continuing that process, as there must be to the rate of growth of incarceration. In the end, we cannot lock up everybody who might be a threat to someone, because in that way, the entire population would end up in prison. There is a logical end to that process, and we will do our level best to deliver more effective policies to ensure that there are fewer victims in future."


Dr William McCrea (DUP): "The Justice Secretary is reported as saying that millions of pounds could be saved by jailing fewer offenders and slashing sentences. Does the Minister accept that our first duty is the protection of the public and that we must provide prison capacity accordingly?"

Mr Blunt: "Yes, but I do not entirely recognise the hon. Gentleman's presentation of my right hon. and learned Friend the Justice Secretary's comments over the weekend. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the first objective is public protection, and if we are to protect the public of tomorrow, so that there are fewer victims, we have to ensure that we have a justice service that will deliver a reduction in reoffending rates and can divert people from offending in the first place."

More in Hansard.

Tim Montgomerie

6 May 2009 10:53:49

No-one should be forced to fund a political party

Julie Kirkbride MP There were questions to Justice ministers yesterday. These are the highlights.

Bromsgrove MP Julie Kirkbride raised the thorny issue of the state funding of political parties:

"Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a huge conundrum when it comes to party political funding? The public want democracy, but it is expensive. They do not want to pay for it with their own taxes, and they do not want other people to pay for it with their hard-earned cash.

Mr. Straw: The hon. Lady has put the dilemma very acutely. She will know that one of Sir Hayden’s key recommendations was that in return for donation limits there should be very extensive state funding. I think it is now recognised, not least given the state of the British economy, that the British people would not take kindly to that proposition. In Canada, where there had been state funding, the Government of Mr. Stephen Harper suddenly decided to withdraw it as an economy measure, causing a fundamental crisis in Canadian politics. That, I suggest, is another reason not to introduce comprehensive state funding.

Yes, it is true to some extent that the public want democracy and do not want to pay for it. Meanwhile, I happen to believe that it is entirely honourable to ask people to contribute to the political parties of their choice, provided that those who donate make it clear that they are donating."

Large donations should be declared. No-one should be compelled to donate to a political party, either through their membership of an organisation or through their taxes. It should be up to parties to make themselves sufficiently appealing to voters that they want to support them, and many of us would deeply resent being made to fund a political movement we find repugnant (and I'm not even thinking of the ghastly extremist parties!).

Continue reading "No-one should be forced to fund a political party" »

29 Apr 2009 15:02:01

Jacqui Lait calls for children to be protected from exploitation

Jacqui Smith MP Beckenham MP Jacqui Lait introduced a Bill in the Commons yesterday. It seeks to "prevent the exploitation by parents of their children by means of seeking publicity, primarily for the purpose of financial gain, in respect of the actions of such children; and for connected purposes".

The Bill was presented by Mrs Lait, Charles Hendry, Mr. Nigel Waterson, Mr. Iain Duncan Smith, Mrs. Maria Miller and Tim Loughton (Shadow Minister for Children). It will be read a second time on 26 June.

Mrs Lait said:

"It would be a rare adult who was not appalled to discover that a mother could plot with other members of her extended family to kidnap her daughter for financial gain, and I, for one, was relieved that the plot was discovered and the mother and her accomplice jailed. Not much later, the story broke of the alleged 13-year-old father, and we had to endure the spectacle of him, the baby, the mother and other claimants to fatherhood all over the world’s media.

I ought to declare an interest as my husband is leader of East Sussex county council, which was involved in that case. Senior officers in the council have done much devilling work for me and I am grateful to them for their help and advice, as I am to the Clerks and the Library of the House. I am also grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) and for Wealden (Charles Hendry), among others, for sponsoring the Bill, and I hope they do not think I am treading on their toes. I regard this as potentially a nationwide issue.

I also alerted the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Malik) to the fact that I was planning this Bill. I quite understand that, as a Minister in the Ministry of Justice, he cannot be involved, but I hope he hears my argument and acts on it. I am also hugely grateful to the Centre for Social Justice for its analytical work, which has opened up the whole debate on the impact of family breakdown on society

Those two cases had in common the misguided desire of a self-interested adult member of a dysfunctional family to profit by exposing their child to a media storm. I shall not refer any more to the details of those cases as those involved have had the protection of the law to regain their anonymity. What alarmed me about them was the damage that would inevitably be caused to the youngsters who were exposed to the full glare of publicity.

Continue reading "Jacqui Lait calls for children to be protected from exploitation" »

28 Apr 2009 11:24:59

Dominic Grieve: "Prison crisis is entirely of the Government's own making"

Dominic Grieve Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve responded for the Conservatives to Jack Straw's statement on prisons and probation yesterday:

"I thank the Justice Secretary for advance sight of his statement. I join him in paying tribute to the service and commitment of prison and probation staff, and police and emergency services, under such challenging conditions. May I therefore express my disappointment that once again he has trailed a major policy announcement in the weekend press, with the Government’s usual disdain for this House?

I should say at the outset that I welcome the Government’s U-turn on Titan prisons; giant warehouses are no good for reforming prisoners or for protecting the public. However, the Justice Secretary first announced Titans amid great fanfare in 2007. Why has it taken almost two years to work out what Opposition parties, the chief inspector of prisons, the voluntary sector and prison officers told him then? Is it because the Government ran out of money, or because the policy ran out of spin? The stark reality is that this U-turn is the nail in the coffin of a flawed approach to tackling crime.

Violent crime has nearly doubled under Labour, with Ministers advised to expect a further surge during this recession. The Justice Secretary has released more than 50,000 prisoners early, including 14 violent offenders every day, to grossly inadequate aftercare; and we have seen Ashwell prison virtually destroyed in a riot. Does he now at last accept that these systematic failures are the direct result of his Government failing both to provide enough prisons and to provide the right prison regime? Take prison numbers; more than half of prisons are overcrowded, and 70 per cent. of prisoners are in overcrowded cells; and on top of early release, dangerous offenders have been moved to open prisons to create space. We now face the possibility of serious unrest, with prisons bursting at the seams. Can he tell the House whether he received any warning from the Prison Service of the riot at Ashwell before it took place? Has he received any further warnings of possible unrest elsewhere?

The current crisis is a direct result of reckless neglect by Ministers. Many will suspect that the sudden conversion over Titans is really just cover to delay or dilute the Government’s pledge to provide the additional 15,000 places that we need, net, by 2014. Ministry of Justice officials advised only last year that 15 prisons would be needed to match the capacity otherwise provided by Titans, but the Justice Secretary is now proposing just five. Will these be mini-Titans, or is he reneging on his pledge to provide the extra places that we need within the timetable that his officials have said is necessary? We will look carefully at the particular sites that he now proposes. Can he explain what consultation process is under way for each site?

Then there are the costs. The Prison Service already faces a black hole of nearly £500 million. How will the Justice Secretary fund these proposals? He says that he intends to end early release. Well, he has said that before. When will it end, and does he recognise that nothing can make up for the failure to invest in the prison estate since he was first warned of the looming crisis more than a decade ago?

As I said, I welcome the abandonment of the Titan model in favour of smaller prisons, because we will never reform until our prisons until we reform the poor regimes that are the direct result of overcrowding. However, these proposals are too little and too late. Can the Justice Secretary confirm that more than half of all prisoners now have serious drug addictions, but that less than 10 per cent. are on rehabilitation programmes? Can he confirm that vital programmes in work and skills have been shelved because of the overcrowding, and does he accept that far from a reduction in adult male reoffending from prison, as he claims, there has in fact been a rise in reoffending from 57 per cent. in 1996 to 65 per cent. in 2006, at which point the Government fiddled the figures rather than tackle the problem?

Turning to probation, the Justice Secretary has, I think, announced cuts. Will he tell the House how many probation areas will see a reduction in their budget, and can he guarantee that public safety will not be compromised? Amid the disinformation and bluster, two things are now crystal clear. The Government are papering over the cracks of a prison crisis that is entirely of their own making and, as the author of that failure, the Justice Secretary appears incapable of providing a credible solution."

24 Mar 2009 15:45:14

Dominic Grieve attacks Government on constitutional reform

Dominic Grieve MP Justice Secretary Jack Straw made a statement yesterday on a Green Paper entitled: "Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework".

The Green Paper presents arguments for a written constitution. Mr Straw said:

"Duties and responsibilities are to be found in the convention, in statute, in common law and woven deeply into our social and moral fabric. We have a latent understanding and acceptance of our duties to one another and to the state. That said, responsibilities have been a poor cousin to rights. The Green Paper proposes that responsibilities are given greater prominence in our constitutional arrangements, better to articulate what we owe, as much as what we expect. That is how we can move away from a “rights culture” to a “rights and responsibilities culture”.

Some responsibilities are obvious, such as obeying the law, paying taxes and undertaking jury service. Others are less obviously recalled at the moment they should be exercised, such as a responsibility towards future generations to live within environmental limits, the duty we have to protect the well-being of children in our care, a civic duty to vote, responsibilities towards our neighbours, respect for those public sector workers who care for us and a responsibility towards the taxpayer—for example, not claiming benefits if one is able to work.


A key question set out in the Green Paper is whether any Bill should have, directly or indirectly, the force of law. Bills of Rights from around the world are a combination of symbolism, aspiration and law across a spectrum of legal effect. There need not be a binary choice between the justiciable and the declaratory. As the Green Paper points out, the Government do not necessarily consider a model of directly legally enforceable rights or responsibilities to be the most appropriate."

Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve responded for the Conservatives.

"I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. It was not in fact needed, as it was all in The Sunday Times. Yet again, even on serious matters of constitutional reform, this Government demonstrate their disdain for this House by first announcing policy to the media.


We have had a decade of botched constitutional reform from this Government. The Justice Secretary was there from the start, and now he has been instructed by the Prime Minister to clear up the mess. In truth, there can be only two reasons for this Green Paper, which he says sets the framework of debate. Has he come to the House because he accepts that the Human Rights Act, which has been in force for less than nine years, has proved badly flawed, and that new thought is needed? Or is the statement just the latest exercise in pure spin, designed to make absolutely no difference in practice?

Continue reading "Dominic Grieve attacks Government on constitutional reform" »

3 Mar 2009 15:48:02

James Duddridge clashes with Bob Spink over political donations

James_duddridgeBob Spink, erstwhile Tory and MP for Castle Point, rather upset some of his former Conservative colleagues yesterday during a debate on the Political Parties and Elections Bill, including James Duddridge (right).

MPs were debating raising the threshold for public donations to parties from £200 to £500.

Mr Spink intervened:

"An amount of £200 is not seen as an insignificant sum, and £500 is a considerable sum. Why is he pushing the matter so far? Why is a 250 per cent. increase proposed, which can only reduce transparency for local people? People in Castle Point want to know who is funding the Castle Point Tories and Castle Point Labour party. Those people may be developers or businesses; they may have a vested interest in what goes on in local government and in this place.


I was making a point about the Minister’s attitude towards the Conservative amendments. I would be more sanguine about the amendments if I did not know the Conservative party’s track record in driving a coach and horses through election law and the public test of what is acceptable—for instance, by taking money from people who do not pay tax in this country to fund marginal constituencies by £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000 a year before the election is even declared. I do not want to give the Conservative party any loophole through which it can jump; nor do the public and nor do those in the media, who are watching us carefully in the House."

Rochford & Southend East MP James Duddridge put the boot in:

"For example, I was considering making a £50 donation, having met Rebecca Harris, the Conservative candidate in Castle Point. That would have been below the £200 threshold. I am actually incredibly proud of wanting to make that donation, and I think that I shall increase it to £201, so that it can go on the record, as part of the attempt to bring greater democracy and accountability to Parliament, rather than having to wait until the threshold goes up to £500 to make the same point. That would also be an awful lot more expensive for my pocket. So Castle Point Conservatives can expect a £201 donation from me as a result of this debate.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): We all want to make a donation.

James Duddridge: This seems to be quite popular. Perhaps I will arrange a whip-round after the debate."

There are good arguments on both sides in regard to raising the threshold for donations being made public. But it's a bit rich for Bob Spink to pour cold water over a party which he was a member of until recently.

What is clear is that any donation to the outstanding Rebecca Harris's campaign would be money well spent. She is a constant reminder that some people really are motivated to become MPs by a desire to serve the public and, although she'd be the last person to agree, she is fearsomely bright.

Tom Greeves

6 Feb 2009 18:17:04

David Burrowes says Government has failed on effective sentencing

David_burrowes_mpYesterday Shadow Justice Minister (and practising criminal solicitor) David Burrowes spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on effective sentencing. This follows a report from the Justice Committee (chaired by the Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith).

Mr Burrowes made a lengthy speech. Herewith highlights.

"Reference has been made to the whole issue of reoffending and seeking to reduce it. The statistics make stark reading and impact severely on all our communities. There is an estimate—and it has to be an estimate in many ways—of 65 per cent. reconvictions. I make that point because it is only in relation to the reconvictions about which we know that we are able to say that 65 per cent. of adults are reoffending. What is the figure in terms of actual reoffending—in other words, those who do not get to the criminal justice system?

The point has also been made that reoffending sadly increases when the age of an offender is younger—the figure is 75 per cent. of 18 to 21 year olds and is even higher for those under 18. Therefore, the matter is of real concern to us all.


There are certain answers that we can come up with for what works. If one talks to the Youth Justice Board or to others—as it has, indeed, pointed out to me in a meeting today—housing, family ties and having a job helps. Those three factors have a massive impact on someone when they have been released from prison. All too often, there is a lack of not just one, but all three of those factors in relation to helping drive down crime. We need to consider sentencing in relation not only to the process of what happens in court and the sentence that is handed down, but the effect of the sentence and how it is enforced both in custody and in a non-custodial setting. Crucially, we also need to consider what happens in the time after a sentence and ensure that the investment in trying to ensure that the offender does not reoffend is properly made out and given true value by resettlement.

That is why we have produced the document “Prisons with a Purpose”—if you will forgive me, Mr. Key, for advertising it. I have not got a signed copy here, but I certainly recommend that all hon. Members read it. We would say that a key part of providing effective sentencing is to improve accountability, which is so lacking throughout the system. In terms of the adult prison estates, we must ensure that a prison governor, through a prison rehabilitation trust, has that accountability. Indeed, payment by results would ensure that rehabilitation programmes in prison drive down the risks of reoffending, that there is involvement outside on resettlement and that there is housing, a family connection and a job. That would very much help to reduce high reoffending rates.


I commend the Committee on highlighting the failings of the Government’s sentencing approach. They include: the plethora of ill-considered and reactive legislation; the failure to plan for the introduction of indeterminate sentences; the inappropriate warehousing of mentally ill prisoners, whom we have not had the opportunity to discuss, but who are a key concern; the lack of judicial and public confidence in community penalties; the massive overcrowding; and the almost 50,000 criminals who are released early. They represent a damning verdict on the Government, particularly in terms of providing sufficient prison capacity—despite numerous warnings that their building programme was inadequate."