Starmer accuses PM of wanting to issue ‘get out of free jail cards’ to criminals

Sir Keir Starmer has urged Rishi Sunak to stop trying to issue “get out of jail free cards” to criminals, as he compared the Prime Minister to a “jumped-up milk monitor”.

The Labour leader used Prime Minister’s Questions to press Mr Sunak for assurances that domestic abusers and other serious offenders would not be freed from jail early as part of a Government bid to cut overcrowding.

Sir Keir said Mr Sunak should focus on the “chaos” facing prisons instead of “colourful lanyards”, a nod to suggestions from a minister over a ban on civil servants wearing rainbow lanyards.

The Government has insisted the early release measure would be temporary and would only allow “low-level offenders” out of prison up to 18 days early under strict supervision.

It has since emerged that ministers were preparing to extend the scheme for a second time so some criminals could be freed from jail up to 70 days before their release date.

(PA Graphics)

Sir Keir, who mocked Mr Sunak for launching “version 7.0” of himself earlier this week, said: “Does the early release of stalkers, domestic abusers and those considered a risk to children sound like the work of someone who is making the country more secure?”

Mr Sunak replied: “No-one should be put on this scheme if they are a threat to the public.

“And let me be crystal clear, it does not apply to anyone serving a life sentence, anyone convicted of a serious violent offence, anyone convicted of terrorism, anyone convicted of a sex offence and, crucially, in contrast to the system Labour put in place, governors in the prison service have an absolute lock so that no-one is put on the scheme who shouldn’t be.”

Mr Sunak went on to criticise the efforts of previous Labour governments, with Sir Keir countering: “I’m glad to hear those on life sentences aren’t being released early.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London (UK Parliament/PA)

“He may not think that releasing domestic abusers is a problem but Labour has repeatedly called for domestic abusers to be exempt from his scheme to release prisoners early.

“His Government has shamefully ignored those calls.”

Mr Sunak repeated there is an “absolute governor lock” on who is put on the scheme before defending the Government’s approach and claiming a Labour frontbencher believes “prison doesn’t prevent crime”.

He added: “It’s always the same with the Labour Party, soft on crime and soft on criminals.”

Sir Keir said: “He’s literally letting criminals out early and the only answer to the question I asked – whether domestic abusers should be exempt from his early release scheme, from anyone serious about security – is yes.

“Perhaps the most ludicrous part of the Prime Minister’s speech on Monday was when he said he won’t accept the idea that any of the problems people are facing are caused by the 14 years of Conservative Government.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London (UK Parliament/PA)

“He won’t say how many prisoners they’ve released early, he won’t say if they’re burglars, abusers or stalkers. He won’t say where they are or what support their victims are getting.

“Yet he thinks he has the right to tell people they can’t blame his Government for any of it.

“Doesn’t he think that rather than confiscating lanyards like some jumped-up milk monitor he should stop issuing ‘get out of jail free cards’ to prisoners considered a risk to children?”

Mr Sunak replied: “Another week with no ideas and absolutely no plan for the country.

“They’ve had 14 years to think about nothing but the future, but all they can do is talk about the past.”

Earlier in the session, Sir Keir stumbled over his words as he labelled Mr Sunak a “tech bro” with Mr Sunak replying: “He just showed why he’s just not fit to lead this country into the future.

“This country has a proud tradition of leading the world, we led the world when it came to the industrial revolution but if he was around he would have probably called James Watt a ‘steam bro’.”

On the exchanges on lanyards, Mr Sunak took aim at former senior civil servant Sue Gray – the partygate investigator turned Sir Keir’s chief of staff.

He said: “Civil service impartiality is an important principle that we’re right to support, perhaps he could ask his chief of staff about that?”