6 Nadia Whittome debates involving the Ministry of Justice

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 16th May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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The rule of law is absolutely essential to who we are as a nation. It does mean, on the one hand, that no one should be mightier than the law and we should all be accountable equally before it, but it also means that where there are those who break the law—I pause to note that arriving illegally in the UK has been against the law for decades—there must be consequences. If there are not, the rule of law is brought into disrepute. That would be bad for our country and, indeed, for the international rules-based order.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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5. Whether it remains his Department's policy to progress the Bill of Rights Bill.

Alex Chalk Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Alex Chalk)
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I am looking carefully at the full range of the Department’s work before setting out plans in detail.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome
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The Human Rights Act 1998 is an essential piece of legislation that protects us all from abuses of power, yet the Bill of Rights Bill proposes to scrap it, weakening human rights protections in UK law and making it harder for people to hold the Government and other public bodies to account. If the Minister will not answer my question about the Bill’s future, can he at least commit to keeping the Human Rights Act on the statute book?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk
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Human rights are important. I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave a few moments ago.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 18th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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It did not take long to get on to a separatist debate in oral questions today, but as I have said, we are looking at the Bill of Rights. Actually, the Government have consulted all the devolved authorities through the entire process of looking at the Bill of Rights; I know that my predecessor did that as well. I will always look to continue to engage, but we are committed to delivering on our manifesto pledges and doing the right thing by the people of the United Kingdom—all of the United Kingdom.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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7. Whether it is his policy to increase the sentencing powers of magistrates.

Gareth Johnson Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Gareth Johnson)
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We extended magistrates courts’ sentencing powers from a maximum of six months’ imprisonment to 12 months’ imprisonment for single triable either way offences in April of this year. We estimate this will save up to 1,700 Crown court sitting days a year, and we are keeping the impact of these increased powers under review.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome
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That does not really answer my question, although I thank the Minister for his response. My question is whether he intends to extend the sentencing powers further. Although I obviously share his desire to tackle backlogs and reduce waiting times in the Crown courts, concerns have been raised that further increasing the sentencing powers of magistrates is not the right way to go about this. More defendants may elect to be tried in Crown courts anyway, and expanded powers could result in higher sentences, putting even more pressure on already overcrowded prisons and leading to an increase in Crown court appeals. What consideration has he given to these concerns, and what alternatives are there?

Gareth Johnson Portrait Gareth Johnson
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I make no apologies for locking up criminals. I have confidence in the good blend of district judges and justices of the peace in the magistrates courts. We have not seen how the existing increase in powers has been borne out, and we have not seen what the impact will be. We will keep that under review and, until we have that information, I cannot add anything further.

--- Later in debate ---
Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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This Government are determined to stand behind victims of crime. That is why, as the hon. Lady knows, the Justice Committee has carried out detailed pre-legislative scrutiny. We are reviewing that very carefully and we will bring forward the victims Bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Brandon Lewis Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Brandon Lewis)
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My immediate priority on becoming Justice Secretary was to end the disruptive strike action that was delaying justice in our criminal courts. I am pleased that the Criminal Bar Association voted to agree a new legal aid deal and its members returned to work last week.

The Government have reset a constructive relationship with barristers and we have agreed to work together to bring down court backlogs, so that victims can get the timely justice they deserve. We have also announced more plans for more prison leavers to be fitted with GPS tags, so that we can keep a close eye on them to help deter reoffending, reduce crime and, importantly, keep our citizens and communities safe.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome
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Ten years since the abolition of the sentence of imprisonment for public protection, nearly 3,000 people are still in prison serving indeterminate sentences. Last month, the Justice Committee released a report calling the sentence “irredeemably flawed”, highlighting the severe psychological harm it causes and its adverse impact on rehabilitation. Will the Secretary of State act on the report’s recommendation to bring in legislation to resentence prisoners subject to IPP sentences?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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As the hon. Lady rightly says, that report has been published. We are considering it and we will respond in due course.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 5th July 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
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I thank my hon. Friend, who has a long record of tackling homelessness. We are particularly conscious of the impact that homelessness can have on ex-offenders released from prison, so, in addition to our commitment to legislate on Friday releases, by 2024-25 we will invest an additional £200 million a year to transform our approach to rehabilitation, including expanding our transitional accommodation service across England and Wales. Ex-offenders need a home, a job and a support network, and we are determined to help them to gain all three.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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20. What steps he is taking to tackle delays to trials for (a) child and (b) adult victims of sexual offences.

James Cartlidge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (James Cartlidge)
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The Government are committed to supporting the recovery of the courts for all court users, including those who face delays in accessing justice in serious sex cases. Of course, the listing of cases is a judicial function, and judges continue to work to prioritise cases involving vulnerable complainants and witnesses such as serious sex cases.

Timeliness is improving. The time that it takes for adult rape cases to be completed from charge continues to fall and is down by five weeks since the peak last year. I do not have the figures for child cases, which are not broken down on that basis. I confirm that we are increasing funding for victim support services to £192 million by 2024-25.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome
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I thank the Minister for his reply. In Nottinghamshire last year, for cases involving rape the average time between a case arriving at the Crown court and being completed was 470 days—more than a year and three months. I am sure he agrees that that is completely unacceptable. I welcome the pilot of specialist courts to prosecute rape cases in just three areas, but that will not tackle the root causes of the backlog, which was growing long before the pandemic and which the Victims’ Commissioner says is due to underinvestment. When will the Minister reverse the cuts and ensure that everybody receives the justice they deserve?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady. She talks about the backlog being a problem before the pandemic, but I have to point out to her that the backlog was lower going into the pandemic than it was when Labour was last in power. There is always a backlog of cases. There are always outstanding cases. The point is that when the pandemic hit there was a complete and total collapse in our courts, because they were closed, and then we had two-metre social distancing and they took a long time to recover. But they have recovered and the backlog is coming down. She talks—[Interruption.] I am answering the hon. Lady’s question. She talks about funding. I can confirm that we put in almost half a billion pounds of funding into the spending review. That will ensure, for example, that this year, for the second year on the trot, we are removing the ceiling on sitting days in the Crown court. Provided we reduce the disruption we are experiencing now, we should be able to continue to reduce the backlog and deliver swifter and better justice for our constituents.

IOPC Report on Metropolitan Police Officers' Conduct: Charing Cross Police Station

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I have previously expressed sincere regret for the results in the criminal justice system on rape. I hope the hon. Lady will recognise that some of our actions—not least Operation Soteria, which is showing good signs of making progress in this area—will give people more confidence in getting a result. However, the incidence of reported rape in this country continues to rise as more and more people come forward to report that appalling crime, and we must ensure that they are confident of getting justice through the criminal justice system. That is what the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean), and I are dedicated to.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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The IOPC’s report was truly damning, but it is not the only example of misogyny in the Met police that has come to light in the past couple of weeks. The Met has also been made to pay compensation to a woman in Nottingham who was deceived into a relationship with an undercover officer, and it has been made to apologise to my constituent Dr Koshka Duff for misogynistic and derogatory comments made before and after a strip search. Does the Minister agree with the report’s conclusion that the incidents the IOPC investigated are

“not isolated or simply the behaviour of a few ‘bad apples’”?

Will he commit to an independent, public, statutory inquiry into institutional misogyny in the Metropolitan police?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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Given the incidents we have seen—I too was appalled by the incident to which the hon. Lady refers—it is hard not to agree with the IOPC conclusions. As I have explained in the past few minutes, several inquiries in this area are ongoing within the Met, and I think it best to wait for them to conclude before deciding on what the next steps may be.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading - Day 2
Tuesday 16th March 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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There is so much wrong with the Bill that three minutes could not possibly cover it. It marks a descent into authoritarianism.

We are debating the Bill today because the Home Secretary despises Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, having described them as hooligans, thugs and criminals. The Bill is designed to make it more difficult for working people to hold the powerful to account by expanding police powers to a level that should not be seen in any modern democracy. In fact, if this proposed legislation was being debating in another country, I am sure Members of this House would be condemning that country as an authoritarian regime. Make no mistake, this is the biggest assault on our rights and freedom to protest in recent history. It moves to criminalise Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

I attended the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Nottingham East, and the protests and vigils at Scotland Yard and Parliament on Sunday and yesterday. We took to the streets because people are angry. We are hurting. We are sick of male violence, whether it is at the hands of the state, our partners, our family members or strangers. We march because some people do not survive male violence: Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Christina Abbotts, Naomi Hersi and many more. The public realm belongs to women too, and women should have the right to go wherever we choose without men harassing us, assaulting us and raping us. We have a right to walk home.

This Bill does nothing to protect women. In fact, the Bill protects statues of dead men—slave owners, even—more than living women. It hands unaccountable power to the police—the same police who were forcing women to the ground at Clapham common on Saturday night. I will be voting against the Bill.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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

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

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