New Clause 98 - Offence of pet theft

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:38 pm on 5th July 2021.

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Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Home Secretary 9:38 pm, 5th July 2021

I thank the Bill team, the Clerks and House staff and the Library staff for facilitating debate in the House. It is a great shame that a Bill that could have commanded wide support ended up being so divisive. Indeed, Labour Members, working with other parties, campaigned for elements of the Bill: on increasing sentences for causing death by dangerous driving; on reform of the disclosure and barring service; and on sexual offences perpetrated by those in positions of trust. Some elements of the review by my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy have been included, though far too few. We also welcome the introduction of a police covenant, and great credit must go to the shadow Policing Minister, my hon. Friend Sarah Jones, for securing the concession to include non-Home Office police forces. That important change will make a difference. We will hold the Government to account on the implementation of the covenant, to make sure it really does make a significant difference to frontline officers.

On behalf of the Opposition, I have tabled amendments in relation to the Hillsborough disaster, in the light of the collapse of the trial of three men on 26 May. Those proposals are based on the detailed work of my hon. Friend Maria Eagle, and reflect her Public Advocate Bill, together with the work of the former Member for Leigh, with the introduction of a duty of candour and equality of arms for families in inquests. We think today, first and foremost, of the Hillsborough families and their remarkable courage and determination in seeking justice over decades. We owe a duty to seek to ensure that what happened to them can never happen again. The Opposition offer their full support to achieving that, which is the purpose of placing the proposals on the record. I hope that work can now be done to move things forward, with there no longer being an ongoing trial.

Sadly, this Bill has been made a divisive Bill, because of provisions put into it that are unconscionable and because of provisions not put into it that would have addressed the priorities of the British people, by dealing with the reasons why so many women and girls feel unsafe on our streets. This Bill showed a warped sense of priorities; it does more to protect statues than it does to protect women. It is a Bill that destroys the fine British tradition of protecting the right to protest. It allows the noise generated by persons taking part as a reason to curtail protest and criminalises people—mark this—who break a condition they “ought” to have known existed. Our laws of protest have always been a balance, and the way this proposed law disturbs it is wrong. I declare an interest: as a trade unionist, I refer to my relevant entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests on support from the Unite union and the GMB. Whether it is our trade unions or another group that wants to make its views known loudly in the streets, we limit their ability to do so at our peril.