Boris Johnson claims he leads 'new' government despite Tories' decade in power in row over London Bridge attack

Posted On: 
1st December 2019

Boris Johnson claimed he is part of a "new, one-Nation Conservative administration" as he faced a grilling on the Tories' near-decade in office in the wake of the London Bridge attack.

Boris Johnson.
Credit: 
BBC

The Prime Minister twice pointed to the fact he had only been in Number 10 for "120 days" as he sought to blame Labour-era justice reforms for the early release of the man responsible for Friday's terror killings.

A bitter political row has erupted between the two parties following the attack, which saw two people murdered and three injured by convicted terrorist Usman Khan.

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The 28-year-old was out on license having served half of his sentence over a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange.

Appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Johnson said it was "legitimate" to ask how Mr Khan could have been released early, and flagged 2008 changes to the law under Labour to allow automatic release.

And the PM argued: "The answer is, I'm afraid, that he was out because he was on automatic early release.

"When the judges reviewed his sentence in 2012 they had no option but to comply with the law that Labour brought in in 2008 which meant, effectively that he was out, they had to comply with the law as it stood and he was out in eight years."

Khan was originally sentenced under the now-abolished 'Imprisonment for Public Protection' (IPP) regime and handed a minimum term of eight years - a move that could have allowed him to be kept in prison beyond that period.

But the sentence was quashed and replaced with a fixed term of sixteen years in 2013, with the Court of Appeal ruling that he should serve half of that time in prison.

Mr Johnson on Sunday faced repeated questioning about his government's own record, with the BBC broadcaster pointing out the Conservative-led coalition government axed IPP sentences in 2012, the year before Khan's successful appeal.

But Mr Johnson responded by saying he had come into office "in the last three or four months".

Challenged again over the length of time the Conservatives have been in government, he said: "Sorry, I've only been in office for 120 days."

And, doubling down on his attack on Labour, he said Khan had been let out "because of changes to the law that were brought in by the Labour Party" and supported by leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He added: "I've been in office for 120 days. We're going to bring in tougher sentence for serious sexual, violent offenders and for terrorists. We've put more money into counter-terrorism. That is what we're going to do.

"I absolutely deplore the fact that this man was out of the streets. I think it's absolutely repulsive and we are going to take action against it."

Mr Johnson also said he believed the Government "should be investing more in the criminal justice system". Labour has accused ministers of seeking security "on the cheap" in the wake of the London attacked.

But the PM added: "What we're doing now under this new, one-Nation conservative administration, we are investing... It's new in our approach and it's new in the way we tackle the issues of public services."

'REAL SECURITY'

The Prime Minister has already vowed to bring in a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years for those convicted of a serious terrorist offence, and argued that those convicted should "serve every day of their sentence, with no exceptions".

But Mr Corbyn, who has delivered a major speech in York on Sunday, has said those convicted of terror offences should “not necessarily” serve their full prison sentences.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday he said: “I think it depends on the circumstances, it depends on the sentence but crucially depends on what they’ve done in prison.”

Asked if that meant it was not necessary for terrorists to stay in prison for their full sentence, Mr Corbyn replied: “No, not necessarily, no.

“I think there has to be an examination of how our prison services work and crucially what happens to them on release from prison."