[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:39 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill, Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill 8:39 pm, 15th March 2021

I was discussing the Bill with a constituent over the weekend, when, bizarrely, she asked me whether I would be disloyal to my party. Loyalty is clearly an underrated concept, but this is much less about party loyalty and much more about doing the right thing. Those who claim that this Bill is anti-conservative, anti-libertarian, anti-democracy or even that it seeks to ban peaceful protest are wrong; it is actually about the silent majority, promises made in our manifesto, law and order, and the need to take this country to where it needs to be. I will be voting it through.

To me, this is one of the most pro-law and order Bills passed in recent decades. It gives police authorities much more confidence in the job that they have been trusted to do. It enshrines the police covenant into law, increases the maximum penalty from 12 months to two years in prison for assaults or battery against emergency workers, ensures that criminal courts have sufficient sentencing powers and, as we have heard, strengthens police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments. It also strengthens the management of sex offenders, and of terrorist risk offenders on licence.

I want to focus briefly on one particular aspect of the Bill—namely, the desecration of war memorials. Alongside my hon. Friend Jonathan Gullis, who is my very good friend, I was one of the signatories to the Desecration of War Memorials Bill, which will now been subsumed into law. I thank the Home Secretary, the Lord Chancellor, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Alex Chalk, and many others for all their support.

Every single war memorial, irrespective of nation, faith or location, serves as a visual reminder of the horrors of war and the appalling conditions that people face when fighting for their country. These names are not just an inscription on stone, but actual human beings who lived, loved and were loved. These heroes had friends and families, and were in the prime of their life when they were taken, so each memorial bears testimony to lives cut short, the anguish suffered by families, the potential that was never fulfilled, the children that were never born and the guilt suffered by those who did come home. That is why we must ensure that all war memorials are sufficiently protected in law, and that those who seek to damage them through wilful ignorance or stupidity are brought to justice. This Bill is excellent, and I will not hesitate to vote it through the House.