Mr Deputy Speaker,
May I praise the honourable member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock for his Maiden Speech which gave a positive and full description of his constituency, and I was amused by his quip about Robert the Bruce and the link to his own commitment to Scottish Independence which I’m sure he will fight for strongly – though a committed unionist, I look forward to some lively debate.
And my honourable friend, the Member for Devizes, who gave an incredibly thoughtful and powerful speech which spoke to the heart. His point about sense of place and identity are things we can all relate to in our own constituencies and in our lives, and he will be a valued addition to these green benches.
This debate is about policing and crime. Let me start by saying that our police are heroes. I have already spoken in this place of the incredible support my family received from Karen Cocker of South Yorkshire Police. I’d also like to pay tribute to Angus Hopper and Jamie Riley of Durham Constabulary for their personal support over the past few months.
Across my constituency, whether in Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor, Barnard Castle, or Shildon, local residents overwhelmingly tell me they want us to take tough action to tackle crime, particularly on things like Anti Social Behaviour, which has such a sustained impact on people’s day to day lives.
Several times now in Spennymoor, a bus in transit has had its windows shattered with air rifles the suspected weapon. In the last incident, the projectile narrowly missed hitting a passenger. This cannot be allowed to continue.
For people out there, Mr Deputy Speaker, cracking down on crime is not rocket science, but is common sense policy that has been championed by the Blue Collar Conservative Group that I am proud to be a part of.
We tackle crime in a variety of ways, Mr Deputy Speaker, and a large part of that is through empowering our incredible Police.
Increasing police numbers is so important, and I am delighted that County Durham will receive an additional 68 officers in the first tranche of recruitment. I will, of course, be lobbying for a group of those officers to come to crime hotspots in areas like Spennymoor to help keep my constituency’s streets safe.
Labour members say often “it’s not enough”. If the Members opposite were cast in the Greatest Showman, their favourite sone would be “never enough”. Whatever this Government proposes, it is never enough, because they always pledge more with no transparency over how that will be funded. They seemingly forget the reason that the purse strings had to be tightened at all was due to the mess our public finances were left in after the last Labour Government.
But we have brought our public finances into control and strengthened our economy, meaning we can now invest properly but sustainable in our public services, and that is what we are doing.
So 68 new officers for County Durham, but let me emphasise the point, this is only the first tranche of recruitment! There is more to come!
But it’s not just about officers, it’s about making sure our existing officers feel valued. I am delighted to support the Police Covenant, and the moves to allow Special Constables to access the full benefits of being members of the Police Federation. All positive steps, Mr Deputy Speaker, to support our incredible police.
Something I reckon I won’t say too often in this place is that I agree with the Shadow Home Secretary on her point about the need for serious policy on law and order. But what I reject strongly is her view that her party is the one that will deliver that serious policy.
Their talk on sentencing is weak and feeble, whilst we are planning a new Sentencing Bill to review sentencing right across the board.
As an early part of this review, yesterday, the House debated a new statutory instrument on ending the automatic halfway release point for serious offences. I was disappointed to see so few members on the benches opposite, though welcomed the strong and moving contribution from the Honourable Member for Rotherham.
As someone whose father was killed through violence, I spoke yesterday about the need for victims to be represented in the legislative process on crime and justice.
How dare the Shadow Home Secretary sit there and accuse our benches of having disdain for victims of crime? That is a shameful accusation, and totally trivialises debates of such crucial national importance for the sake of a snappy ten second social media clip.
The victims of crime want action and they want results.
This Government is listening. That’s why we are taking steps to extend stop and search powers.
On this point, the Right Honourable Lady and I find ourselves agreeing once again, Mr Deputy Speaker, on opposing random stop and search. She spoke passionately about this in her opening remarks, but spoke as though this Government plans to roll it out across all Police forces.
But that is not our plan for stop and search, Mr Deputy Speaker. We plan only to extend emergency and targeted stop and search powers to help get weapons off our streets and protect our citizens. After all, in 2017/18, stop and search resulted in over 48,000 arrests, with almost 8,000 of those arrests for weapons and firearms.
Our proposed changes have been welcomed by many, including the National Police Chief Council Lead for Stop and Search, and by Caroline Shearer, who founded Only Cowards Carry after her 17 year old son, Jay Whiston, was fatally stabbed in 2012.
The victims and families of the victims who have been affected by violent crime know that it is common sense that stop and search can save injuries and save lives.
The job of any Government is to keep its citizens safe, something we as a Party recognise and are further acting upon. With 20,000 new police officers, funding for the rollout of tasers, enhanced but targeted stop and search powers, tougher sentences, and more, I am proud to support the Government’s amendment.