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 will not, because we are very short of time. Media reports even suggest that the National Police Chiefs Council, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services and the Metropolitan police have all stated that they did not request these noise clauses to be added to the Bill. Today, there is a piece in The Times where senior former police officers have written warning that this Bill is “dangerous” and has

“harmful implications for the ability of police officers to enforce the law and for the health of our democracy.”

Isn’t the truth that the mask has slipped? Ministers are not acting on legitimate concerns about keeping people safe; they are trying to clamp down on people’s legitimate and democratic right to protest. I wonder what it is about the appalling record of this Government that makes them so concerned about people organising protest against them. That the Government attack our democratic traditions in this way, limiting the rights of those whose beliefs are inconvenient to them, is dangerous and to their shame. The unauthorised encampments section of the Bill, clearly targeted at Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, will potentially breach the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act 2010. When Friends, Families and Travellers researched the consultation responses the Government received, it found that 84% of police responses did not support the criminalisation of unauthorised encampments. It is unconscionable and unworkable.

This Bill is also a missed opportunity. There should be wider measures to protect the pandemic heroes, extending the protections to shop workers as well as other frontline workers. I wrote this weekend, with the general secretary of Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers that during the pandemic we united as a country to clap for our frontline workers, such as shop workers. Now is the time to deliver on this. Instead the Government MPs voted against that today. [Interruption.] Well, it is true because the amendment was down today and MPs have voted it down. The Bill also continues to ignore the disproportionality that exists from start to finish in the criminal justice system. Black people have bravely stepped forward to share their testimony of structural racism and the impact it still has. This Government seem to want to deny that structural racism even exists. Meanwhile, while communities up and down the country suffer the consequences of antisocial behaviour, this Government prefer to waste more than £200 million on a pointless yacht. Labour would invest that money in tackling crime.

When it comes to addressing the appalling issue of violence against women and girls, this is an empty Bill. Labour even published a Green Paper with suggestions for the Government to act: a rape survivors support plan, victims having the right to support, cases of rape and serious sexual violence fast-tracked, and a Minister with specific responsibility for driving change. That 1.6% of reported rapes lead to a charge is a national scandal. The Lord Chancellor offered an apology, but not the resources we need, and the Prime Minister shamefully dismissed concerns as “jabber”.

This Bill was an opportunity to show that addressing violence against women and girls was a priority for this Government, but they have failed. Women and girls who feel unsafe on our streets should have been a priority in this Bill. It should have delivered on inadequate sentences for rape, stalking, and domestic homicide. It should have addressed unacceptable and intimidating street harassment. It should have delivered properly resourced domestic abuse services.

Whether it is our frontline workers, those who have suffered as a consequence of disproportionality, or victims of antisocial behaviour, we on these Benches will continue to campaign for them and put victims first.