Tom Pursglove debates involving the Ministry of Justice during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 28th Feb 2022
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments & Consideration of Lords amendments

Oral Answers to Questions

Tom Pursglove Excerpts
Tuesday 5th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

17. What plans he has to improve support for victims of crime.

Tom Pursglove Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Tom Pursglove)
- Hansard - -

Our landmark victims Bill will improve support for victims and help to give them confidence that if they report a crime the criminal justice system will treat them in the way that they should expect. We have increased the funding for victim and witness support services to £192 million by 2024-25—quadruple the level in 2009-10. With this funding we are increasing the number of independent sexual and domestic violence advisers to over 1,000—a 43% increase over the next three years—and introducing a 24/7 support line for victims of rape and sexual violence.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last June, a six-year-old girl was tragically killed when a car hit her and her father as they walked along a road in Stoke-on-Trent North. The victim’s mother has had to wait over a year, suffering in silence, because the defendant took so long to give permission for his blood sample to be tested. If a person has done nothing wrong they should have nothing to fear. That is why I am campaigning for an amendment to section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 for blood testing to take place without permission, required where loss of life has occurred, to give victims the answers they deserve and need quicker. Would my hon. Friend support such a change?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this terrible tragedy in the House today. The impact on the family is unthinkable and what has happened is just awful. He will recognise that the measures introduced in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022—with his support—came into force last week, tightening the offences and reflecting the culpability of offenders and the devastating harm that these crimes cause, as well as introducing a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving. The Department for Transport is about to launch a call for evidence looking at motoring offences, and I know it is keen to engage with my hon. Friend on that.

Simon Jupp Portrait Simon Jupp
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The draft victims Bill is a huge step forward to help victims recover from the impact of crime. Does my hon. Friend agree that proper funding for victim support services in Devon and elsewhere is also essential?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friend that the victims Bill focuses on delivering improvements to the quality and consistency of victim support services, backed up by more funding than ever before, with £192 million by 2024-25—a four times increase on 2009-10—as well as a multi-year commitment that gives victim support services confidence to plan for the future. That will benefit people in East Devon, and it is fair to say that this Government are committed to delivering on our promises.

Caroline Johnson Portrait Dr Johnson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

With the victims Bill, a quadrupling of money for support services and the lengthening of sentences, it is clear that this Government are on the side of victims. One key expectation of victims is that justice will be served and prisoners will not escape, yet twice this year violent sexual offenders have escaped from a Lincolnshire prison, causing anxiety and danger to my constituents. What is the Minister doing to ensure that that does not happen again?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I am hugely grateful to my hon. Friend for her support for the measures we are introducing through the victims Bill, and I know that the prisons Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) would be willing to speak to her about the specific issue of absconding. What I can say is that we are tightening the rules governing open prisons with a tough three-step test and greater ministerial oversight, which I hope will give her confidence on this issue.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would also like to raise the case of a constituent, because in an act of outstanding bravery, Sheila Whitehouse went to the aid of a neighbour who was being viciously attacked by a dog. The owner had no insurance, and when the case came to court, Sheila was awarded just a token sum. She suffered life-changing injuries, but had no compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Will the Minister review the eligibility for compensation for those injured in such circumstances as Sheila’s?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I am very sorry to hear about this particular incident, and I commend, as my hon. Friend did so brilliantly, Sheila’s bravery in stepping in to help the individual affected. The criminal injuries compensation scheme exists to compensate for serious physical or mental injury attributable to being a direct victim of a crime of violence. The scheme is publicly funded, which means that there are strict eligibility criteria. An animal attack will amount to a crime of violence only where the animal was used deliberately to inflict injury. In 2020, we had a consultation on proposals to make claiming compensation simpler for victims of violent crime. We set out that expanding the definition of a crime of violence would go far beyond the original intention of the scheme, but we will be publishing a response in due course.

Karl Turner Portrait Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid to tell the Minister that victims of crime are being further let down by the Government’s terrible handling of the Criminal Bar Association dispute. I know that a Minister has now finally agreed to meet the Bar Council and the Criminal Bar Association, and I think that meeting is tabled for next week, but what they need to know at that meeting is when the Department will set a timetable for implementing the money that Sir Christopher Bellamy said was needed urgently. Incidentally, Sir Christopher Bellamy, who I have a great deal of respect for, is now a member of the House of Lords. When is that money coming?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- View Speech - Hansard - -

No doubt the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), will be answering questions on that from Members on both sides of the House. I have heard what the hon. Gentleman said, but I note that the Opposition backed the Bellamy review and its outcomes, which we are getting on with delivering.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We now come to the shadow Secretary of State.

Steve Reed Portrait Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As we have heard, Members on both sides of the House want victims’ needs to be put first, so why did the Secretary of State tour the TV studios to defend the Prime Minister for ignoring the victim of predatory sexual behaviour by a former Foreign Office Minister when he promoted him to Deputy Chief Whip, despite having been alerted to that behaviour by the permanent under-secretary and despite the Minister in question having admitted to the behaviour?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My clear understanding is that the hon. Gentleman is wrong about that, but of course it is right that the processes that have been set out should be allowed to run their course. All hon. Members take a very dim view of people being ill-treated and it is right that due process can now be followed. What is not in question is the Government’s determination to ensure that outcomes for victims are better; the funding and the measures in the Bill are there, and we will get on and deliver that.

Andrew Lewer Portrait Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. What steps his Department is taking to modernise the courts system.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Tom Pursglove Excerpts
Required life sentence for manslaughter of emergency worker
Tom Pursglove Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Tom Pursglove)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Lords amendment 58, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendment 107, and Government motion to disagree.

Lords amendments 61 to 69, 94 to 106, 121 to 140, 144, 145, 149 to 152 and 155 to 161.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

There are no less than 161 Lords amendments for the House to consider this evening. To ensure that as many hon. and right hon. Members as possible who wish to speak can do so, I do not propose to detail all the amendments in this group, as many were uncontentious and will have the support of the whole House. I will, however, outline the key Lords amendments in this group brought forward by the Government, before commenting on the two amendments in this group that were agreed by their lordships contrary to the Government’s sound advice.

I know that MPs from across the House will want to share our support for the family and friends of PC Andrew Harper and their campaign to strengthen the law so that no other families go through the same heartbreak they have suffered. We were therefore pleased to announce our amendment in the other place, following our commitment to look at what action may be possible in this area. Lords amendment 1, known as Harper’s law, will impose mandatory life sentences on those convicted of unlawful act manslaughter where the victim is an emergency worker acting in the exercise of their functions as such a worker. The amendment will apply to adult offenders and 16 and 17-year-olds. The amendment will also contain judicial discretion for the court to impose an alternative sentence in exceptional circumstances.

In the case of Andrew Harper, the court did not impose life sentences on any of the defendants. Each received sentences of between 13 and 19 years for manslaughter—sentences that were subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeal. They will all be incarcerated for a significant period, but the Government believe that where a person is convicted of unlawful act manslaughter and the person who has been killed is an emergency worker, that should be punished with life imprisonment, except where there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offender or the offence.

The successful campaign of Lissie Harper, PC Harper’s widow, and the Police Federation drew this issue to the Government’s attention, and we are grateful for that. Lissie has shown incredible bravery, fortitude and courage in campaigning for this change, and I know that it has had a profound impact on Members from all parts of the House and on our constituents in communities across the country, who have come together to support this change.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister simply confirm that where an emergency service worker is off duty but an emergency occurs and they respond to that emergency, Harper’s law will apply to them?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s question. If the scope of this measure was restricted to mandatory life sentences in situations where the emergency worker was directly responding to the unlawful act at the heart of the offence, it would not capture all the cases in which this Government believe the mandatory life sentence should apply. For example, offender A injures a defendant during a fight and, in their attempts to escape the scene, they run over the responding paramedic, who is on their way to save the life of the person injured by person A. In another scenario, offender B commits exactly the same actions, but in fleeing the scene, they run over and kill a police officer responding to a separate incident a mile down the road.

Both defendants have committed the same unlawful act, and in the same dangerous circumstances, and both have caused the death of an emergency worker as a result, but the grounds for implementing the mandatory life sentence would be based on the pure happenstance that one emergency worker was responding to that specific unlawful act, and the other was not. That disparity in sentencing would not accurately reflect the Government’s aim to ensure that those who commit the unlawful act manslaughter of emergency workers who are exercising their functions face a life sentence.

It is also worth setting out for the House’s benefit who counts as an emergency worker. We will define emergency workers in the same way as the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 and section 68 of the Sentencing Act 2020. This definition includes police officers, prison officers, National Crime Agency officers and those employed in fire services, search and rescue services and frontline NHS health services, among others.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister has given us a great deal of information, but has not actually answered my specific question. I am happy for the Minister to continue, and if he can get assistance from the Box and answer it later, I will be very content.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

If I may, in the wind-up, I will happily clarify for the House’s benefit the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised. The points that I have put on the record are relevant, but I want to ensure that the House has complete clarity around those matters as we move forward.

--- Later in debate ---
Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is absolutely right to pay tribute to Lissie Harper and to our emergency services. He also makes the point that these are not isolated incidents. Will he take on board the broader point that, although there is obviously great support for this piece of legislation, the area that has not been addressed is the difficulty that juries face in deciding whether the offence—the facts made out—is murder or manslaughter?

I hope that the Minister will revisit a missed opportunity, which is the definitions of homicide under our current law. The Law Commission and others have suggested that they ought to be revisited because they create some difficulty and uncertainty, particularly in the difficult area between the intention to kill or to commit grievous bodily harm and gross negligence at the top end. I hope that the Government will consider revisiting the Law Commission’s work on that, because other jurisdictions have different categories of homicide, rather than the perhaps now old-fashioned categories of murder and manslaughter. We might then find it easier for juries to more accurately reflect the culpability by their verdicts, which is what we want to achieve.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s observations. We touched on those matters when we spoke last week when we engaged in advance of these proceedings. I said to him that that was something that I would certainly be willing to take away and consider, and I am willing to do that. He advocates that the Law Commission looks at the issue of homicide in the round and, as I say, I am happy to reflect on and consider that matter in the fullness of time.

To return to the question of the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), I am keen to provide the House with as much information as possible and to further clarify the position around it. If I understand his question correctly, it does apply to emergency workers who are off duty, but they must be acting as an emergency worker—off duty but still responding to an incident. I hope that that provides the House, in the correct terms, with the clarity that it is seeking on that point.

Ruth Edwards Portrait Ruth Edwards
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I clarify whether the provisions will apply to volunteer emergency services workers, such as special constables or first responders?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the question. If I may, I will touch on those matters in the wind-up, because I am conscious that hon. Members have quite a lot of questions and that there are quite a few hon. Members who are keen to speak. I will gladly pick up those points in the wind-up later when we have concluded.

Lords amendment 104 places on statute an aggravating factor for assault committed against anyone providing a service to the public. It will send a strong message that assaults against public-facing workers are totally unacceptable and will reinforce the seriousness with which the courts treat such offences. It has been welcomed by those in the retail sector who have campaigned on this important issue. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers), who has assiduously argued the case in this House for a change in the law in this area. In earlier proceedings, the House expressed a strong desire for such a change and I am proud that the Government are helping to deliver that.

In earlier stages of the Bill in this House, there were also calls for the Government to raise the maximum penalties for child cruelty offences. For years, my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) has campaigned tirelessly for Tony’s law, which is named after Tony Hudgell. As a baby, Tony was abused to such an extent by his birth parents that he is severely disabled. No child should suffer such appalling abuse, especially from those who should love and care for them the most. It is right to ensure that, in such cases, the punishment can fit the crime. Such criminality is truly shocking and heinous.

Tom Tugendhat Portrait Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I just place on record the extreme gratitude of Tony’s real parents—the parents who actually love him—who have cared for him since a few days after he was born and have restored him to an extraordinary and loving child? May I also place on record my enormous gratitude to the Lord Chancellor for his work on the matter, and to the Minister and the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), who are both on the Front Bench, for showing the courage and determination to make sure the measure passes? This changes not, sadly, Tony’s life—thank God, he has been cared for well—but, with any luck, the lives of many in deterring such awful crimes from ever happening again.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend puts the case very eloquently, and it is a privilege to be able to stand at this Dispatch Box and announce these changes in the House. He has been a tireless campaigner on this issue, and this change is a great credit to him, to Tony and to his adopted family, with their incredible care and their advocacy on these issues. I think all of them can be hugely proud of the work they have done to bring about this change. I am sure the House will agree, especially in the light of more recent appalling cases, that the courts should, where necessary, have the fullest range of sentencing powers available to deal appropriately with those who abuse children.

Lords amendments 121 and 122 extend the disregards and pardons scheme relating to historical convictions for same-sex sexual activity. The disregards scheme, introduced by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, enables men with historical cautions and convictions for certain gay sex offences to apply to the Secretary of State to have their cautions and convictions disregarded. If successful, the applicant is treated in all circumstances as if the offence had never occurred, and also receives an automatic pardon. The Government accept that the scope of the current scheme is too narrow, as it is largely confined to the now repealed offences of buggery and gross indecency between men, and excludes other repealed offences that may also have been used to criminalise same-sex sexual activity. Lords amendment 121 will therefore extend the scheme to enable individuals convicted of same-sex sexual activity under any repealed or abolished offence to apply to have that caution or conviction disregarded. Lords amendment 122 ensures that pardons provisions will reflect the extension. Taken together, these amendments will help put right the wrongs of the past when people were unjustly criminalised simply on the basis of their sexuality.

In their lordships’ House, there was significant debate on the issue of imprisonment for public protection. Lords amendment 101 will put the Secretary of State’s policy of automatic referral of applications to terminate the IPP licence on to a statutory footing. This would enable all eligible IPP offenders to be referred to the parole board for consideration of a licence termination at the appropriate time.

Lords amendments 61 to 69 deliver the Government’s commitment, made in our action plan for animal welfare, to crack down further on illegal hare coursing. They do this by broadening the circumstances in which the police can investigate and bring charges for hare coursing-related activity, and by increasing the powers of the courts for dealing with this activity on conviction. In bringing forward these amendments, the Government have acted swiftly and decisively in response to the widespread concern about the impact of hare coursing expressed by hon. Members. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir Robert Goodwill), who raised this issue eloquently in Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) for his private Member’s Bill on this subject. They have both been assiduous champions of this issue on behalf of their rural communities.

Let me turn to the two amendments in this group on which we have tabled motions to disagree. Lords amendment 58 seeks to confer certain police powers on the national food crime unit of the Food Standards Agency. We agree that food crime is a serious issue, costing billions of pounds each year, and it is right that the FSA should be empowered to respond accordingly, improve resilience and reduce the burden on police forces, but this is not the way to legislate on this issue. We are dealing here with the intrusive powers of the state. As such, we need to ensure that any exercise of PACE powers—powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984—by the FSA would be necessary, proportionate and legitimate, with suitable governance and accountability arrangements in place. Amendment 58 puts the cart before the horse. That said, we are committed to working with the FSA, its sponsor the Department for Health and Social Care, and other partners to frame legislation that is fit for purpose.

Finally, Lords amendment 107 would allow local authorities to establish and maintain secure academies, either alone or in consortia. The parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, made it clear in the other place that it would be legally possible for a local authority to set up an entity capable of entering into academy arrangements directly with the Secretary of State, and that is not prevented by the Academies Act 2010—so there is no legal bar, rendering the amendment unnecessary. Government policy is that academy trusts are not local authority influenced companies, and our position on secure schools is to mirror the procedures of academies. However, to repeat the commitment that Lord Wolfson made in the other place, my Department will assess in detail the potential role of local authorities in running this new form of provision, before we invite applications to run any future secure schools.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear what the Minister is saying, but looking into something is not the same as giving a clear commitment, here and now, that local authorities can run those secure academies.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

I am always grateful to the hon. Lady for her interventions, and I repeat my point: we do not believe there is a barrier, but as I say, we will review the matter in the way I have set out to the House. We of course recognise that local authorities have a long established role in children’s social care and the provision of secure accommodation for children and young people. In particular, the secure children’s home legal framework may present a more straightforward route to the expansion of local authority involvement in the provision of secure accommodation than does the 16-to-19 academies framework. I reiterate: there is no legal bar, and as such the amendment must be unnecessary. Fortunately, there is much agreement on this group of amendments in the House, and I will pick up on points raised during the debate when I wind it up.

Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to follow the Minister. I will not speak to all 58 amendments under debate, as some are straightforward and many in this group at least—I am sure the Minister will be pleased to hear—have full support from the Labour Benches. We particularly welcome Lords amendments 1 and 150, which introduce Harper’s law. That has the Opposition’s full and strong support, and I join the Minister in paying tribute to Lissie Harper’s extraordinary and powerful work. When facing pain and grief unimaginable to most of us, she has campaigned for reform to protect our protectors. My right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) met Lissie Harper during her campaign, and I know they are particularly glad to see these amendments introduced by the Government. It is right that emergency service workers who put themselves at risk to keep the rest of us safe are protected by the strongest shield that the criminal justice system can provide.

We are also extremely pleased to see Lords amendments 27, 28 and 151, which will introduce Tony’s law, increasing penalties for those who commit child abuse. Again, I share the Minister’s admiration for the inspiring work of young Tony Hudgell and his loving parents, Paula and Mark. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), and my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) who have both done fantastic work throughout the passage of the Bill to increase protections for children, and supported Tony’s law in Committee. Cases as atrocious and horrifying as Tony’s are thankfully extremely rare, but it is right that when they do come before the courts, the judiciary can impose the full range of penalties that reflect the gravity of such horrific offending.

The Opposition welcome Lords amendment 104 which states that if someone who is carrying out a public service, such as a retail worker, is assaulted, the fact that they were carrying out a public service at the time of the offence will be an aggravating factor in sentencing. I am glad the Government have finally listened to the Opposition, trade unions and trade bodies who have been calling for greater protection, particularly for our shopworkers who have been unsung heroes and kept our country running throughout the pandemic. We pay particular thanks to the efforts of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, the Co-operative party, The British Retail Consortium, the Association of Convenience Stores, and Tesco, for their fantastic campaigning.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) for his tireless work on this issue in recent years. I also pay tribute to the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central and my noble Friend Lord Coaker, who throughout the Bill’s passage pushed for tougher penalties for those who assault shop workers.

--- Later in debate ---
Ruth Edwards Portrait Ruth Edwards
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Pointy black-tipped ears, furry and brown, and the ability to make a getaway at 45 mph. This is the description of the suspect I found digging in our veg patch the other week. I am, of course, talking about the brown hare. The occasional episode of vegetable vandalism aside, we feel privileged to share our home with these fascinating creatures that we often see streaking over the fields around our house or lolloping through our garden.

I strongly welcome Lords amendments 61 to 69, which create tougher penalties for hare coursing by increasing the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game to up to six months’ imprisonment. New offences have also been created: trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and, secondly, being equipped to do so.

Hare coursing is a huge problem in rural parts of Rushcliffe and throughout the Vale of Belvoir. Last night, I spoke to a local farmer, who told me that hare coursers had been trespassing on his land for as long as he could remember; several times a month they vandalise his property, destroying locks and pulling gates off their posts to gain access. They destroy his crop by driving all over it and, obviously, they destroy the local hare population. He told me there were now hardly any left. Worst of all, he told me, “We know who is doing a lot of it. It’s a couple of local families but they seem to be above the law.” Farmers who had challenged them had their workshops broken into and vandalised, which is why I am not sharing his name today.

I hope these new offences will give the police better powers to target such criminals. I welcome the new powers for courts to order the reimbursement of the police for kennelling dogs seized in relation to hare coursing, because taxpayers certainly should not be paying for it. I also welcome new powers for courts to disqualify offenders from owning a dog—no one engaged in this sort of cruelty to animals should be owning one.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

I thank Members from across the House for their many and varied contributions to the various amendments we are considering this evening. I wish to respond to a number of the points made.

First, let me respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) on IPPs. I have heard his view that the amendment does not go far enough and does not take action to help IPP offenders who are still in prison. The number of IPP offenders in prison, having never been released, stood at 1,661 on 30 September 2021, which represents enormous progress when we compare it with the peak of 6,000 in 2012. The IPP action plan, produced and regularly refreshed by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, remains the best means of providing all those continuing to serve the IPP sentence with every opportunity to show they can be safely released by the Parole Board. The action plan sets out a series of measures designed to rehabilitate IPP prisoners, including through psychology-led reviews, and improved central and regional strategic oversight of IPP progression. There is clear evidence that these measures are working, and the number of IPP prisoners has decreased. IPP prisoners continue to be released in significant numbers and have a high chance of a positive outcome from Parole Board hearings. In 2020-21, more than two thirds of IPP Parole Board oral hearings resulted in a positive outcome, either a release or a progressive move to open prison.

Despite all that, I hope I can reassure my hon. Friend by saying that, as Ministers have said during the passage of this Bill, in this House and in the other place, we are mindful that the Justice Committee in this House is currently conducting an inquiry into IPP sentences, and we look forward to hearing the recommendations of his Committee and we will certainly consider them closely. I, along with my fellow Ministers, will continue to engage with IPP stakeholders in this House and elsewhere, and we will continue to give full consideration to any options recommended. I hope that that gives him the reassurance that he is looking for as to our intentions.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister, as it does. I hope that he makes sure that we have a timely response; perhaps he can meet me once our Committee has reported.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

Yes, I am always keen that the Department is as timely as possible in engaging with my hon. Friend’s excellent Committee. We are always grateful for the tireless, thorough and considered work that he and colleagues do.

Let me turn to the issue of Harper’s law. Again, I was very grateful to Members from across the House, including the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) and my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards), for their clear, full-throated support for these changes. I was able to address one of the technical issues to provide clarity for the House earlier, and I just wish to provide further clarity, as I promised I would, on whether volunteers can be emergency workers under Harper’s law. The answer is yes, it applies to emergency workers who are engaged to supply emergency services in a voluntary capacity as well as to paid employees. It uses exactly the same definition as in the 2018 Act, and I hope that that helps to put the technical aspects of this provision on the record for the House’s benefit.

Lords amendment 107 covers the issue of secure schools. I am always conscious that I do not want to disappoint the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion). We have always had a very constructive working relationship on a whole host of issues, including on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, which I know she will be delighted completed its Commons consideration on Friday. None the less, on this occasion, I am afraid that I cannot deliver precisely on what she wishes to see. However, I reiterate the point that, before we invite applications for any future secure schools, the Ministry of Justice will assess in detail the potential role of local authorities in running this new form of provision. The Department for Education remains committed to moving towards a school system where every school has the benefits of being part of a family of schools in a strong multi-academy trust. The DFE will set out its plans in a schools White Paper to be published in the coming months.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

I will give the hon. Lady another opportunity.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Round 5, Minister.

Will the Minister please clarify what the objection is to making it very clear that local authorities can apply to run and maintain 16 to 19 academies? Moreover, is he able to explain why they were prevented from doing so in the first round of tendering?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady is persistent in these matters. All I can do, I am afraid, is simply refer her back to the comments that I have already made during the course of this debate. I will happily take away—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady is chuntering from a sedentary position. I am not sure whether she was here for the duration of this debate. We have covered this matter in some detail. I will gladly take away a copy of Hansard and study the points that she has raised in the course of this debate. If there is any further detail that I am able to provide, I will happily do so.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Are local authorities ruled in or ruled out?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - -

I refer to the point that I made earlier, which is that we believe there is no barrier.

Lords amendment 58 covers food standards. I hope that I can offer some comfort to the House. We are broadly supportive of the intention to confer such powers, which would be consistent with powers available to other bodies, but reject the amendment on the basis that there is further work to do before any legislative amendments are made. The current chairman of the Food Standards Agency, Susan Jebb, wrote to the Minister for Crime and Policing on 11 August 2021 expressing concern that the existing powers of the National Food Crime Unit were insufficient for their purposes. The Minister responded in October, expressing support for the request and indicated the Home Office’s intent to work with the NFCU to find a suitable legislative vehicle. In order to fully support any extension of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 powers to the NFCU, we would need reassurance that this is necessary, proportionate and legitimate and that suitable governance, accountability and oversight of investigations and complaints arrangements will be in place. There is also a lack of clarity over the necessary protocols when PACE powers would be exercised, which will need consideration with the NFCU before legislative amendments are made, but we will of course legislate at the next available opportunity.

I am also grateful to Members for their strong support for the hare coursing changes that the Government are introducing, particularly the observations made by my hon. Friends the Members for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly) and for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards), and by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Shailesh Vara), who is my neighbour, from just over the border. This issue matters a great deal. We have listened carefully to a wide range of voices, telling us just that. Hare coursing is not a quaint country tradition. It involves horrible cruelty to a much loved wild animal. It is associated with illegal gambling and other criminality. It brings serious harm to the rural areas where it takes place. Subject to parliamentary approval, we intend to get the tougher sentences in place before the start of the next hare coursing season.

I conclude by again thanking Members from across the House for their thoughtful contributions to this debate and also Members in the other place for their thorough consideration of these matters and for the engagement that colleagues have provided throughout the Bill. As a Minister coming to this rather late in the day, may I also place on record my sincere appreciation to my hon. Friends the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) and for Croydon South (Chris Philp) as well as to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland) for all their work in getting us to this stage.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendment 58 disagreed to.

Clause 139

Secure 16 to 19 Academies

Motion made, and Question put, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 107.—(Tom Pursglove.)