It is an honour to follow Stuart C. McDonald. I note the degree of consensus from the Government Benches—although it is perhaps not the same as the degree of enthusiasm for the vote last summer—and I found a certain solace in point 11 of the Government’s plan and the commitment to continue co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism. However, those are just words at the moment and the Government must demonstrate with action how the evident need for international co-operation will be realised.
I add my voice to the many better qualified than me who detailed the aspects of co-operation that best serve the citizens of the United Kingdom. I understand that there are 133 EU measures in place on co-operation, and we have a fair amount of work on our hands to co-ordinate and work in concord.
There are a few issues of particular relevance to Wales and the western seaboard. As we well know, the common travel area allows Irish and UK citizens to travel between the two countries without showing a passport. We welcome the announcement that that is to remain, but I will explain why, from the point of view of Wales and of the security of Wales, the border warrants consideration.
Key Welsh ports such as Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock deal with thousands of passengers and huge amounts of freight coming from Ireland each and every day. Milford Haven is a major port for fuel arriving by sea, and Holyhead is second only to Dover in terms of passenger numbers, with 1.9 million passengers in 2015. In the present circumstances, will the security status of the port of Holyhead be revisited? Plaid Cymru’s police and crime commissioners, Arfon Jones and Dafydd Llywelyn, have warned that, were the border to become more tangible, it is likely that there would be a rise in criminality in Holyhead in the form of cross-border smuggling, and even the possibility of terrorist violence focused on physical manifestations of the border. That possibility must be avoided at all costs.
David Anderson QC, the outgoing independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, highlighted in his December 2016 report that ports on the western front could be the “soft underbelly” of this island’s security. With more than 1,680 miles of coast and relatively small police forces covering vast rural areas, the practical difficulties of policing Wales’s coastline are enormous. Ports and police services in Wales are already facing immense pressure, as public service cuts have seen their capacity slashed—this is, of course, a domestic issue as much as an international issue—and there are concerns that posts may be lost at Welsh ports if the cuts continue. As we are aware, the Border Force is already struggling to fill the gaps.
A senior police officer has warned me that
“people will be coming in and we’ll be missing them.”
There are real concerns that the still-unresolved police funding formula and the high priority accorded to urban adversity will disproportionately affect rural police forces such as Dyfed–Powys and North Wales. I urge the Policing Minister to consider the risks of over-simplifying the number of funding indicators if it is evident that they fail to take account of the variation in policing needs and policing environments across forces.
I specifically request a meeting with the Policing Minister to discuss concerns about the future funding of North Wales police in light of what we are discussing today. From stopping the smuggling of goods and people to stopping outright acts of terrorism, if the Government are serious about ensuring the continued security of this country in a time of great uncertainty, they must recognise and address the unique issues faced by Welsh police services. Brexit must not mean more cuts and more uncertainty for the forces that work day in and day out to protect us.