Can I first say, on using women as a reason to vote against the Bill, that I spoke about my own personal experiences last week? I remind those on the Opposition Benches that women and men are equal in law, so it all applies to women.
I want to raise the concerns of my constituents about the fundamental right to peaceful protest. It is important to make one thing clear: the Bill includes nothing that will threaten the genuine rights of people to engage in protests. What it does is address all those people who glue themselves to trains and buses, and block access to hospitals when somebody could need life-saving treatment. Those protests are not simply inconvenient; they make life intolerable for people living or working around them. This is about balancing the genuine and fundamental right that we shall have to protest. In short, the checks and balances remain firmly in place. I hope that the Minister in summing up will confirm that that is correct.
Like women and men up and down this country, my colleagues on the Government Benches believe in law and order and giving our police the tools that they have asked for—the right tools for the job. The Bill delivers on that pledge. I will briefly touch on some of its key points.
The Bill extends whole-life orders for the premeditated murder of a child and ends the automatic early release of dangerous criminals. It introduces life sentences for killer drivers—those who cause fatal accidents while speeding and racing. It doubles the maximum sentence for assaulting emergency workers. It protects communities from illegal Traveller sites being set up. It introduces tougher community sentences, and it brings in Kay’s law to better protect victims and witnesses in cases of violent and sexual offences. It also ensures that those who desecrate our war memorials face the full force of law after what we witnessed with the Churchill monument and others last year.
I want to tackle those issues and bring in measures that protect my constituents and make our streets safer. That is why I will support the Bill’s Second Reading, to allow it to move to Committee where it will be fully scrutinised. It appals me that the Labour party will vote against a Bill that will bring tougher sentences and protect people such as my constituents in Hyndburn and Haslingden. That once again highlights why so many turned their backs on Labour as it continues to turn its back on the wants and needs of constituents such as mine. I will support the Bill, as I wholeheartedly believe that we should punish criminals.