General election: Boris Johnson denies huge Tory funding cuts were 'mistake' and insists they played no part in London Bridge attack

'It was nothing to do with parole, nothing to do with the probation service'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 01 December 2019 11:22
Boris Johnson denies Tory cuts played role in London Bridge terror attack

Boris Johnson has denied huge Conservative funding cuts to probation services were “a mistake” and insisted they played no part in the London Bridge terror attack.

A former top prosecutor says he personally warned the prime minister about the risk posed by freeing terrorists who had not been deradicalised, but was told there was “no money” for a programme.

But, put under pressure on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the prime minister claimed Labour early-release rules alone were responsible for Friday’s atrocity.

Asked if steep cuts to the criminal justice system had been “a mistake”, Mr Johnson replied: “No”, arguing Labour had left the public finances “in utter ruins”.

“It was nothing to do with parole, nothing to do with the probation service,” he insisted, referring to Usman Khan’s deadly attack.

During a bad-tempered interview, the prime minister also:

* Revealed there were about 74 other people convicted of terror offences who had been released early in similar circumstances to the London Bridge attacker.

* Insisted he bore no responsibility for past Conservative spending cuts, saying: “I’m a new prime minister – we take a different approach.”

* Shifted the blame for hundreds of library closures, after government cuts – arguing “some” local councils had been able to keep them open.

* Claimed he had “a record of campaigning against prejudice” – when reminded of his past writing that “fear of Islam” is “a natural reaction”.

* Claimed “we will fix the crisis in social care” – although the Conservative manifesto has been widely-criticised for having no plan.

* Wrongly claimed the election followed his Queen's Speech being “blocked by parliament” – when it was voted through.

* Failed to commit to being interviewed by Andrew Neil, after the BBC allowed him to appear on the Marr show instead.

On Saturday, Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor for North West England, revealing his private conversation with Mr Johnson about failing to intervene properly in prisons.

He had raised the problem of terrorists being released “whilst ostensibly rehabilitated but still radicalised” in many government meetings, before warning Mr Johnson in June 2016.

“Back then, he hadn't found the 'money tree' so he frustratingly said there was no money,” Mr Afzal said.

But, in the interview, the prime minister claimed that Khan had been on the streets, able to kill, because of a “leftie government”.

“His release was necessary under the law because of the automatic early release scheme under which he was sentenced, that was the reality, and that was brought in by Labour with the support of Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the Labour Party.”

Mr Marr was repeatedly rebuffed by Mr Johnson when he argued the Tories had been in power “for ten years” during which it had failed to change sentencing rules and should “apologise” to the public.

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