It is a pleasure to be back here physically to speak.
A Government’s first duty is always to protect their people, and this flagship Bill will ensure that our justice system will always serve the law-abiding majority. It is timely after recent events as it emphasises that this Government put women’s safety front and centre. The Bill lengthens jail time for serious sexual offenders and prevents their early release. It keeps those most horrific individuals who rape or sexually assault children in jail for longer too.
We should consider this Bill in the context of the second major piece of legislation that will protect women—the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, which introduces new provisions to ban the rough sex defence and extends the law against revenge pornography, as well as creating the specific new offence of non-fatal strangulation. This is flagship policy making. I am proud of a Government who since 2010 have put women’s safety at the heart of their policy making.
The way to test any Bill passed by Government is on whether it changes things for the better for people. This Bill will do just that. It delivers important manifesto commitments, including ensuring that serious violent and sexual offenders spend more of their sentence in prison, increasing to life the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving, increasing sentences for desecrating a war memorial, doubling the sentence for assaulting an emergency worker, and enabling prisoners who become dangerous to spend all their sentence in prison. It also makes sure that more repeat knife offenders and burglars serve the specified minimum jail term. Every stabbing creates a trail of misery, and often devastated families when it ends a life, as in the case of my constituent Ryan Passey.
I welcome the strengthening of police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments. That will be particularly welcome for my residents in Withymoor Village in Amblecote. I fully recognise that everyone has the right to a nomadic life, but this must be balanced against the rights of local communities. For me, the balance has never been quite right, and we needed greater police powers. The Bill delivers just that, for which I thank the Government enormously. It will change things for the better for my constituents. Police will now have the powers to seize vehicles and arrest or fine trespassers who intend to reside on private and public land without permission. Yet Opposition Members attack plans for criminal penalties for those who refuse to leave unauthorised encampments as discriminatory and unworkable. Once again, they show themselves to be on the side of those who break the law rather than the law-abiding.
With this new Bill, we will have more tools at our disposal than ever before to protect our residents. I support it for all that it delivers. It will make my community in Stourbridge safer. After listening to this debate, my concern is that those who vote against the vital measures in the Bill will be putting a day’s headline or strapline ahead of the safety of my constituents, particularly that of women.