[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:14 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford 8:14 pm, 15th March 2021

I welcome the Bill, which seeks to inject fairness into the criminal justice system and rights many wrongs currently in existence. The protection that clause 46 gives to war memorials and wreaths laid on them is admirable, and I am glad that the provision is being introduced. To desecrate a memorial is a particularly low thing to do and the law should reflect that.

May I also welcome the changes to sentencing powers to allow for life imprisonment for death by dangerous driving? In too many cases, the courts have been unable to deal with these matters effectively and consequently they have given inadequate sentences for even the worst incidents. That will stop, and we will all be safer as a consequence. I have to say, it would have helped if the Crown Prosecution Service had been more minded to lay manslaughter charges in many such instances. It seems to be only on the road that an offence can happen in which someone carries out a deliberate action that creates an obvious risk that is against the law, and yet the CPS is reluctant to lay manslaughter charges. That will change because of these proposals, which I welcome with open arms.

The serious violence reduction orders to be brought in by the Bill are truly groundbreaking. Knife crime is an evil that destroys lives and terrifies communities, but the Bill gives the police powers to make a difference. However, we do not want knives simply to be replaced as the weapon of choice by acid, so I ask the Minister to consider including the possession of noxious liquids in the provisions. That would build on the massive improvements that both the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office have achieved in reducing the number of such attacks.

Finally, we need to counter the serious misinformation that has been spread about proposals in the Bill to place conditions on demonstrations. The proposed extra powers are not a ban on protests—far from it. There must always be a right to protest, but there must always be rights for those going about their business, too. The Bill seeks to balance those competing rights. It will allow protests, vigils, demonstrations and marches, but not the blocking of bridges or stopping traffic and bringing cities to a standstill. Protests, yes; causing serious disruption to others, no. The Labour party’s voting against the Bill is totally wrong. The message needs to go out loud and clear that Labour Members are voting against provisions to extend sentences for death by dangerous driving, child killers, and serious violence and knife crime. They should vote for the Bill.