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It is a pleasure to follow Mohammad Yasin. One area on which I certainly agree with him is that I think the Queen’s Speech was clearly a party political broadcast for the Conservatives. I was inclined to think, as I read it, that perhaps Her Majesty should bill Conservative central office for services rendered. There are three areas I would like to touch on, and which I was disappointed were not covered in the Queen’s Speech, even though I am quite sure that after the election there will be a completely different one.
The first area relates to the WASPI women. As has already been said, some are in Parliament today talking to a number of MPs. I have been very involved with the issue ever since my re-election in 2017. We all understand the challenges and the issues around the extension of the retirement age. We understand the rationale behind it. I was just disappointed that the Government did not use the opportunity in the Queen’s Speech to at least come up with some compensation and money that could perhaps assuage the frustration, anxiety and anger that a lot of WASPI women feel. I have been pressing the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman for nine months or so to conduct an inquiry into maladministration. I will keep pressing, but I regret there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech that recognised the frustration and anger felt by many millions of WASPI women around the country.
There are two more areas that I would like to concentrate on. I have been here since the beginning of the debate—a joy of six hours—and originally the Home Secretary was on the Front Bench. I am very disappointed that two areas in particular that are covered by her Department were not touched on in the Queen’s Speech: the first is to do with injustice and the second with the public’s lack of trust.
Colleagues may not be aware that a British citizen who is affected by an act of terror does not automatically get the support from the Government, either legally or otherwise—including through legal aid—that a French citizen would. If someone is a French citizen, the French state immediately moves in to look after and protect them and provide legal aid, so that as they go through the coroner’s inquiry they are absolutely supported. We do not get that as British citizens and that is an anomaly. As we saw recently in the London Bridge and Westminster attacks and the Manchester bombing, British citizens who are affected by an act of terror often have to crowdfund so that they can be represented adequately and properly at the inquiries. That is completely wrong.
I have been pressing this issue for a while, including through an early-day motion—I thank many colleagues across the House and across parties who supported it—urging the Home Secretary and the Ministry of Justice to ensure that British citizens who are affected by acts of terror should be properly looked after and protected, both legally and otherwise. I am also well aware that many hundreds of thousands of people have supported this campaign on change.org. I was disappointed that such a measure was not in the Queen’s Speech. After the election, when there is another Queen’s Speech, I urge whoever is in government to look at that. Who knows? Maybe it will be the Lib Dems—I am one of nature’s optimists, folks.
On the lack of trust, I appreciate that the Home Secretary talked about the additional funds that were promised in the Queen’s Speech, but, again, I will believe that only after the election, because I think that that is just flannel at the minute. None the less, there is an understanding across the House that we need more police. It has now been around 60 or 70 years since the last police royal commission—since there was an independent exploration by a royal commission of what we want our police to do. Policing has changed hugely in the intervening period. Every Government tweak things here and there, cut this, expand that, promise the earth and often do not deliver, and I believe that it is time for another royal commission.
I offer the Government that suggestion in the spirit of optimism, because I think it makes for good politics. I say to both Front-Bench teams: the public no longer trust politicians on policing—I mean all parties, and I am not casting any particular aspersions. They have lost that trust, so I urge both Front-Bench teams to implement a police royal commission. It would be independent— I would have no politicians or tabloid press on it, and I would have it properly exploring exactly what policing should look like and how it should be funded for the next 40 or 50 years. Then, whichever Government are in charge should implement that report, and I believe that that would improve policing and the public’s trust in the police.