Boris Johnson vows terror clampdown as Jeremy Corbyn says ministers want safety 'on the cheap' after London Bridge attack

Posted On: 
1st December 2019

A bitter election row has erupted in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack as Boris Johnson demanded tougher sentences for perpetrators and Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservatives of wanting security "on the cheap".

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit the site of the London Bridge attack.
Credit: 
PA

The "angry" Prime Minister pointed the finger at Labour for introducing a system of automatic prisoner early release, arguing that Friday afternoon's attack would have been stopped without it.

And he vowed to bring in a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years for those convicted of a terrorist offence if the Tories win a majority later this month.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn agree election campaign must continue despite terror attack

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But Mr Corbyn called on ministers to respond "calmly and seriously" as he renewed his criticism of British foreign policy and said public services able to help with the response to terror had been "cut back" under the Tories.

Friday's attack - which left two people dead - was carried out by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, who was released from prison on licence last December.

Mr Khan won a 2013 High Court appeal which saw his initial sentence for terror offences reduced on appeal. 

The Parole Board said it had no involvement in his release and that Mr Khan appeared "to have been released automatically on licence (as required by law)".

The Conservatives axed automatic release - introduced in 2008 - in 2012, but Mr Khan was convicted before those changes took effect.

Speaking after a visit to London Bridge, the Prime Minister pledged sweeping changes to anti-terror laws, including a review of conditions on the 70 terrorists released under license since 2000.

He said: "What I have seen over the last 24 hours has made me angry.

"It’s absolutely clear that we can’t carry on with the failed approaches of the past. If you are convicted of a serious terrorist offence, there should be a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years, and some should never be released. 

"For all terrorism and extremist offences the sentence announced by the judge must be the time actually served. These criminals must serve every day of their sentence, with no exceptions.

"These simple changes would have prevented this attack. I believe they will help stop further attacks and these changes will be made urgently in the new year if I am prime minister and have a majority in parliament."

Conservative strategists also pointed to the party's manifesto pledge to "update the Human Rights Act so that our security services can defend our country against terrorism".

'THE WRONG CALLS'

But Mr Corbyn, who will deliver a major speech in on the attacks later in York, will praise the "true professionals" in the emergency services who responded to the attacks as he tears into the Conservatives' record on public services and foreign policy.

"It is our duty to look calmly and seriously at what we need to do to give people real security," he will say.

"Our public services are the glue that bind our society together. Community policing, the probation service, mental health, youth and social services, all play a vital part.

"When those public services are cut back as they have been during the past decade, they leave behind gaps.

"That can lead to missed chances to intervene in the lives of people who go on to commit inexcusable acts, whether it’s during their childhood, their first brush with the law, their first conviction, or in prison through rehabilitation programmes."

He will add: "Real security doesn’t only come from strong laws and intelligence, it comes also from effective public services that have the funding they need. You can’t keep people safe on the cheap."

The Labour leader, a longstanding critic of British foreign policy in the Middle East, will meanwhile mount a fresh attack on war on terror, arguing it has made the problem worse.

"For far too long, our country’s leaders have made the wrong calls on our security," he will say.

"Their mistakes in no way absolve terrorists of blame for their murderous actions. The blame lies with the terrorists, their funders and recruiters. But if we are to protect people we must be honest about what threatens our security. 

"The threat of terrorism cannot and should not be reduced to questions of foreign policy alone. But too often the actions of successive governments have fuelled, not reduced that threat."

Pointing to his opposition to British interventions in Iraq and Libya, Mr Corbyn will add: "Real security requires calmly making the right calls at moments of high pressure, often against the grain of conventional wisdom. That requires the courage and strength to chart an independent course when we think our friends and allies are doing the wrong thing." 

'SEARCHING QUESTIONS'

The clash over terrorism came as Ian Acheson, a former counter-terrorism official and prison governor who was asked to review the dangers of Islamist extremism in Britain's jails, accused ministers of ignoring his warnings about strain on the parole system.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Acheson said there had been an "institutional timidity to deal with a terrorist threat that is more acute than senior officials want to admit", and called for a fresh review into the "culture and capability" of the prisons and probation service "to meet its primary role of keeping us safe from terrorism".

"We must ask searching questions about how a convicted terrorist under supervision was allowed to plunge our capital city into terror and grief," he warned.