This Bill delivers on the manifesto commitments on which the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke elected me. I am particularly pleased that the Government have adopted proposals from the private Member’s Bill that my hon. Friend James Sunderland and I worked on together, to ensure that in every town, village or city across our United Kingdom, thugs who desecrate war memorials will feel the full force of the law. Judges will now be able to consider more than just the monetary value of damage to these sacred memorials to our glorious dead when they pass a sentence—which may be a maximum of 10 years, but that will not be the case in every instance, as some Opposition Members are trying to make out.
I want personally to thank the Home Secretary and Lord Chancellor for our meetings and close work on this aspect of the legislation. I am troubled to see some Labour Members deriding and demeaning this important work. That conflicts directly with the advice given to the Labour party from a leaked sensitive internal strategy document, which said that Labour Members should make “use” of the Union flag and veterans. The fact that the Labour party want to make use of such things, rather than being proud enough to believe and willing to fight for them, is embarrassing.
I have been fortunate to see the incredible work undertaken by Staffordshire police locally, whether that is by meeting PC Karl Mander and his police dog Audi, who was stabbed in service, leading to the first conviction under Finn’s law, or walking the beat with PCSO Matthew Hough-Clewes last week in a local anti-social behaviour hotspot. This legislation is important in giving our police and our courts the powers and guidance they need to keep us safe, so I am left baffled by Labour’s position.
Desperately scrambling for a reason to vote against, Labour Members claim the new law will silence lawful protests. This is simply not the case. In fact, the Bill simply clarifies the existing common law offence of public nuisance. As a constituent who emailed me today said,
“if you are not breaking the law you have nothing to worry about.”
However, if someone wants to block roads and stop ambulances getting sick people into hospital, or glue themselves to a train so people miss a day’s work, the police will now be able to take action, preventing eye-watering costs like the £37 million that Extinction Rebellion’s 2019 protests cost the UK taxpayer.
To sum up, when I vote for this Bill, I will be voting for tougher sentences for child murderers and sex offenders, life sentences for killer drivers, ending the automatic early release of the most dangerous criminals, greater protections for our emergency service workers and delivering Kay’s law, which will help to protect women from their abusers. Those are the sorts of things that people in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke expect to get done, and I will proudly do so.