I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Just one week after celebrating the achievement of women around the world on International Women’s Day, I would like to open this debate by once again expressing my sadness at the horrific developments in the Sarah Everard case. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sarah, her family and friends at this unbearable time. This is also a stark moment to reflect on what more we can do to protect women and girls against crime, and the events of the last few days have rightly ignited anger at the danger posed to women by predatory men—an anger I feel as strongly as anyone.
This Government were elected just over a year ago on a clear manifesto commitment to support the police and to keep our country safe. It is vital that we continue to deliver on that promise to the British people, and our commitment to law and order is having a real impact across the country. There are already over 6,600 more police officers in our communities, thanks to the unprecedented campaign to recruit an additional 20,000 more police officers. Our crackdown on county line drug gangs is delivering results, particularly in London, the west midlands and Merseyside. The police have made more than 3,400 arrests, shut down more than 550 deal lines and safeguarded more than 770 vulnerable people. Last year, we saw the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation strike a blow against organised crime, with over 1,000 arrests, £54 million of criminal cash seized, and 77 firearms and over two tonnes of drugs seized. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will go further still in our mission to back the police, to make our communities safe and to restore confidence in the criminal justice system.
We ask our brave police officers to do the most difficult of jobs—they run towards danger to keep us all safe—and that is why I have worked closely with the Police Federation in developing this Bill. I would like to pay tribute to the chair of the Police Federation, John Apter, for his constructive way of working since I became Home Secretary, admirably fighting for his members every single day. He has voiced his members’ concerns to me directly, and I have acted upon them.
This Bill will enshrine in law a requirement to report annually to Parliament on the police covenant, which sets out our commitment to enhance support and protection for those working within or retired from policing roles, whether paid or as volunteers, and their families. The covenant will initially focus on physical protection and support for families, officers and staff, and their health and wellbeing, with a duty to report in place to ensure parliamentary scrutiny.
Despite all that they do, emergency workers are still subject to violence and abuse. The statistics paint an alarming picture. There were more than 30,000 assaults on police officers in the year to March 2020, and over the past year we have all seen the reports of people deliberately coughing at our emergency workers, claiming to have coronavirus and threatening to infect them. There have been too many disgusting examples of police officers and ambulance drivers being spat at and violently attacked as they go out to work day after day to make sure that the rest of us are safe and cared for.