[1st Allocated Day]

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:56 pm on 15th March 2021.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 8:56 pm, 15th March 2021

Tonight, I pay my respects to the life of Sarah Everard. As she grew up in York, her loss is deeply felt by me and my community.

Extraordinary liberties have been relinquished to ensure that we kept safe during this last year, but when our liberties are stolen—and, I say this as a woman, at the very time we need them most—the measures in the Bill can only be described as repressive. We have a justice system that is institutionally discriminatory against women; that does not secure high-quality representation for them, that fails to prosecute the most heinous of crimes, that delays cases for years without survivors being able to access vital and necessary trauma services, and that completely fails to keep women safe. The Home Secretary was remiss in her opening speech, since the Bill fails women, fails society and fails to advance our justice. Now is the time when we need to take to the streets and reclaim them, yet the Bill threatens to criminalise us for using our power to force Government and their institutions to change. With economic, social and environmental failure, it is our duty to enable people to exercise their rights, but part 3 of the Bill restrains them.

Let me move on to part 4. I shudder at how the Government are drawing on the darkest periods of history by criminalising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. This demonstrates that the hostile environment continues to fester in the Home Office, and it must be called out.

Before I close, I want to focus on clause 45. I have made a number of representations to Justice and Home Office Ministers, so they will know what I am about to say. It is not just in sport and religious settings where young people have been groomed and abused. My constituent received private tuition—music coaching—and was groomed for two years before being raped. Her case was one of the 99% of rape cases reported, but not prosecuted. Her perpetrator, now known for sexual impropriety, had no DBS check. If he had, she would have been safe. She was failed, and the Bill fails her and many more. All private tuition settings need full safeguarding checks and measures to be introduced. Secondly, host families of international students accommodate young people of different cultures and language. They need the protections covered by clause 45 too. I trust that the Minister will support such amendments.

The Bill is woefully insufficient when it comes to protection yet overtly hostile in disallowing people their rights and their voice. I came to this Parliament to fight for equality, protect the rights of my constituents and advance justice. It is unconscionable not to stand in the way of the repressive ideology advanced in the Bill. I call on the Government to think again and I will vote against the Bill.