This week I have written my weekly column on illegal immigration and on why the views of some prominent members in the SNP and the Labour Party mean they shouldn’t be in power.
The tendency of certain factions in the Labour Party to be weak on illegal immigration was shown last Thursday, when two men were in the process of being deported by the police in Glasgow.
A crowd of activists thronged the police vans and held them in a stand-off until the police were forced to release them from the van. These activists on the ground were joined by a chorus of Labour MPs applauding them on Twitter.
Nadia Whittome MP tweeted: “This is what solidarity looks like. When the Home Office carried out an immigration raid on two Muslim men during Eid the people of Glasgow got their neighbours released.”
This was echoed by Angela Rayner MP, Sir Kier Starmer’s deputy, Zarah Sultana MP and Bell Rebeiro-Addy MP, to name but a few. Each of them mentioned the fact that it was the Muslim festival of Eid. They were also joined by the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, who was the Scottish justice secretary at the time – not company I would like to keep.
Unsurprisingly, these Labour MPs jumping on the activist bandwagon had no idea what they are talking about.
Firstly, Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh, the men being taken away by the Home Office and the police were not Muslim – they were members of the Sikh community. They were from India, a democracy which doesn’t regularly torture or persecute its citizens. Their visas had expired, with at least one having been expired as long ago as 2016.
Secondly, it seems odd to me that activists and MPs are suggesting that we should somehow suspend our laws on illegal immigration when it suits them. We can’t have a bar on applying the law during Muslim holidays, or any other festivals for that matter.
Thirdly, it is clear to me that this stance is not going to be an election winner for the Labour Party. 77% of the public thought that illegal immigration was a serious issue facing the UK in 2018, and 62% of Britons say those arriving illegally via the Channel do not need to claim asylum in Britain and should be sent back. I agree with this. France is a safe country and people crossing from Calais are not escaping persecution. Moreover, encouraging illegal immigration like these Labour and SNP politicians are doing is not compassionate. It encourages vile human traffickers to take advantage of vulnerable people and wastes our resources processing people who should not be here when we should be focussing on people coming from the most dangerous parts of the world and the most horrid persecution.
If only the Labour party chose to actually listen to the people who they are trying to win votes from, they might do better in elections!
Today in Parliament I asked a question to the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees Mogg about tougher sentencing for the most violent criminals. I explained to him the sad case of Richard Day who was killed in Ipswich last year. His killer, Andrea Cristea was found guilty of manslaughter having punched Richard in the neck and kicked him while he was down. As Richard lay dying Andrea was seen standing over the body laughing and he also went though his pockets. He was only sentenced to four years in prison and with automatic halfway release and time spent on remand he will only serve a total of ten months behind bars. This has been a huge blow for Richard’s family and for the whole of Ipswich who have been rightly outraged by both the crime and the sentence. I explained that my constituents are furious that justice has not been done, and there is also a question about the public safety of my constituents if he is back out on the streets of Ipswich. I asked him if the Government would find time for us to debate sentences such as these and what we can do to restore the trust of the British people in our criminal justice system?
Jacob Rees-Mogg addressed the deeply troubling case. He said that the sadness for Mr Day’s family and the burden that they will carry all their lives is one of unimaginable distress. It is hard in these circumstances to go through the reassurances about the Government taking tackling crime seriously, which of course they do. He acknowledged that this is where general national policy meets the individual circumstance, and it is so important that, in the individual circumstance, the right, appropriate and just sentence is passed.
He said that Parliament gives the power to the courts to do this, and the maximum penalty for manslaughter is a life sentence. Ultimately, however there is the problem with Cristea’s age which meant that he was given a much lighter sentence. But I really think that this should be looked at. It makes no sense why a 16 year old should be treated the same as a 12 year old. Ultimately his sentence should have been far far tougher than it was.
Jacob Rees-Mogg acknowledged that we have independent courts, but it would be wrong to pretend that our courts always get the individual judgments right and so it is therefore quite proper for people to seek redress for the grievances of their constituents and to raise these matters in the House so that the judiciary may know what concern there is when light sentences are passed on people who, by a violent murder, have destroyed the happiness of a family.
I have written to the Attorney General in the hope that he will review the sentence handed down to Andrea Cristea and I will continue to raise the matter in the House to see what can be done to get Justice for Richard’s family.
With the permission of the family of Richard Day, who was killed in Ipswich last year, I have written to the Attorney General asking for a review into the sentence of Andrea Cristea, his killer.
As many of you will know, Richard Day was killed in Ipswich in February 2020 from a punch to the neck followed by kicks. Andrea Cristea was seen laughing over Richard Day’s body and rifling through his pockets for money. The account of the killing detailed in the court is sickening. However, Cristea was only sentenced to 4 years in a young offenders institution. He will be let out of prison automatically after two years and has already served 14 months on remand, meaning that he will be behind bars for only 10 months in total.
I don’t believe that this is justice for Richard Day’s family or for the people of Ipswich who were outraged by this heinous crime and, rightly, do not want people like this on our streets. This is why I have asked the Attorney General to review Andrea Cristea’s sentence. It seems wrong that a 17-year-old should be treated the same as a 12-year-old and I believe that more weight should have been placed on the fact that Cristea was a repeat offender. He committed this killing while awaiting trial for something very similar which demonstrates just how unsafe and unremorseful he is. I would like this to count much more strongly against him.
I also believe that the Sentencing Guidelines should allow greater scope for judicial discretion in sentencing in order to take into account the most horrendous aspects of crimes such as in the killing of Richard Day.
I have always said that I have a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to crime and anti-social behaviour in our town. All deserve to get about their business and have fun in our town free from the fear of crime and antisocial behaviour. I also want to push to toughen up sentences to make sure that victims and their families get justice when crimes like this happen.
What a wonderful place the Papworth Trust centre on Foundation Street is. Sammy one of the customers sent me a hand written letter about the Lockdown Journal publication they’ve all worked on detailing their experiences throughout the pandemic.
When the centre wasn’t able to operate normally the staff put in a huge amount of work making sure they could run sessions virtually and they made it work. The Papworth Trust and its staff have been a lifeline of support to some of the most vulnerable within the Town and I couldn’t speak more highly of what they do.
Sammy has actually taken up poetry throughout the lockdown and one of her poems, “A storm is a brewing” was actually published in the “Lockdown Journal”.
Due to the hardwork and dedication of staff and volunteers for many customers the last year will be a time they look back on with some fond memories. What as a very challenging situation for the Trust was confronted and something brilliant came out of it.
They have my full support going forward and I’m going to be in touch with them this week to discuss what more we can do to work together.
This morning I visited Rushmere Hall Primary School to meet Headteacher Paul Fykin. My first visit to the school. I was very pleased to be able to understand more about the support they provide pupils, particularly those with special educational needs. They have a higher than average number of children with education, health and care (EHC) plans and are known for being a mainstream school that provides great support for children with special needs. They also have a very unique unit for those with speech and language difficulties.
Always love visiting Primary schools in Town and seeing so many happy young faces.
Yesterday I spoke in the debate following the Queen’s speech on some of the plans that the Government have introduced for this session of Parliament.
I welcomed some of the Governments robust plans for tackling illegal immigration. There is nothing compassionate about sending out a message that it is worth the risk to make these journeys, fuelling the evil human trafficking trade and limiting the capacity of this country to help the most genuine refugees. These are refugees fleeing actual areas of conflict, not other safe European countries such as France.
I also welcomed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which will introduce tougher sentences on some of the most serious offenders as well as introducing measures so that police can more effectively deal with protests that become violent and excessively disruptive. But I said that there is a lot further to go. Many of my constituents feel that the system is broken and looking at the sentencing of the man who killed Richard Day in Ipswich, it is hard to blame them. He received only four years for the manslaughter and will get out automatically after two. This is a man who punched Richard Day in the neck and was seen laughing over him as he died. I will be taking this case up further in Parliament and will push for much tougher sentencing for heinous crimes like this one.
As for skills, we are in a great position to benefit from the new freeport in Felixstowe. But in order to make the most advantage, we have to have an ecosystem approach to skills and education. We need to create a framework of dialogue for business, Further Education Colleges and our universities and we need to start careers advice early so that there is a sense that there are multiple pathways both academic and technical and that no one route is superior to any other.
I welcomed the lifetime skills guarantee and also the town deal which will also be a huge benefit to Ipswich. I mentioned the example of Spirit Yachts, which designs some of the world’s most in-demand elegant yachts. In the past they have had to rely on people coming from outside the area to work on their yachts, but now the Town Deal will be funding a maritime skills academy in order to train up a local high-skilled workforce to take up jobs in this sector. It is great that local people will have the opportunities to get these jobs and sell products from Ipswich – the greatest town in the country – around the world!
Today the Common Sense Group of MPs have launched our new book, Common Sense: conservative thinking for a post-liberal age, which covers a range of topics.
I have contributed a chapter, co-authored with Chris Loder MP, on ‘Taking the Politics out of Policing’ which is an area I have spoken about since I was elected.
I have been a member of the Common Sense Group since its founding shortly after the 2019 general election and think it is incredibly important as a way of voicing some of the concerns of ordinary people that I speak to in Ipswich. It allows us as MPs to put pressure on the Government on some key issues such as tougher policing. The expectation of our voters is for a government that reflects the will of the people, rather than pandering to the peculiar preoccupations of the liberal elite and the distorted priorities of left-wing activists. This is why we have written this book.
In my chapter I have written about the creeping role of the force in policing public discourse, particularly with regards to the recording of non-crime hate incidents. These are incidents which are registered without being crimes and despite being non-evidenced and yet they are formally recorded and can even show up during DBS checks when applying for work. This is unacceptable. It has a chilling effect on free speech and allows the police to be used as a weapon by ideologically driven activists who unfortunately think they should be able to control what people say.
It is very clear to me from knocking on doors in Ipswich that the vast majority of people want to see more police out in our town doing what they do best – protecting us from dangerous crime and anti-social behaviour on our streets. This is the people’s priority, but also that of regular police officers. They want don’t want to have to waste their time investigating offensive jokes made on Facebook which don’t constitute a crime, but sadly this is exactly what the College of Policing Guidance tells them that they must do.
I have welcomed the 20,000 new police officers being introduced by the Government and have spoken at length about wanting to push for a fairer funding deal for police in Ipswich. But I think that is just one half of the approach we need to be taking. I believe that we should be creating a framework for policing which ditches the ambiguous guidance about non-crime hate incidents, cuts bureaucracy and paperwork and allows them to do their jobs. This would be a framework which incentivises them to deal with actual crimes.
I have also written about amending the Public Order Act 1986 to enable police to more effectively deal with the most disruptive protests that have taken place over the past year. There is a place in our society for protest, but the police need to be able to act effectively when things become violent and intimidating. As previously stated, I am also a firm believer of the need to get more police on the streets which is another proposal I have recommended in my chapter.
There are a range of other issues tackled in my chapter and across the book as a whole, and I am looking forward to continued discussion in parliament on all of these.
It really is looking like bridge closures due to strong winds are a thing of the past.
The first time the new 40pmh speed limit on the bridge will be in use. Likely to be the case tomorrow as well. Very pleased that the major disruption associated with bridge closures will be avoided.
This new much more sensible approach which has been made possible by the new electronic signs was a v long time coming but I for one am glad its here.
Today I spoke at the launch of the new “Speak for Change” report by the Oracy APPG on the importance of developing speaking skills in school which featured The Oaks Primary School in Chantry, Ipswich. Oracy is the development of speaking skills which allows students to express themselves fluently and confidently.
The report shows just how key Oracy is to pupil’s development in school but also for their social and emotional wellbeing. It’s been clear from the dislocation a lot of young students have felt this year, that the social aspect of improving these skills cannot be understated.
I found it particularly concerning as highlighted in the report that 66% of primary teachers and nearly half of secondary teachers have said that school closures during the pandemic had a negative effect on the spoken language development of pupils eligible for free school meals. In my role on the Education Committee this year we have spoken at length about how to best support students in making up lost learning and I believe that making Oracy a key focus is crucial to this.
Evidence in the report also shows that Oracy’s benefits extend well beyond school to improving young people’s chances of securing their preferred education and training pathway as they leave secondary school and boosting their employment prospects. It is my belief that, on top of other areas of the curriculum, we need to make sure that all our young people have access to a language-rich environment. Unfortunately, there are so many talented young people from more deprived backgrounds who do well in school but when they get to interview for jobs don’t perform to their full potential. Every child in this country should get the oral communication skills that will see them thrive.
I have always been a keen advocate for the benefits of speaking skills throughout education. When I was at university, I was the mentor for the charity Debate Mate and actually ran a debating class in all girls schools in an underprivileged part of Manchester. I coached them for 6 months and then entered them into the regional final and saw how their speaking skills and their confidence grew over that time. It was incredibly fulfilling to see this positive transformation.
I was also really thrilled that The Oaks Primary school in Ipswich was included in the report and wanted to thank co-headteacher, Jeremy Pentreath, for his contributions. I visited them very recently and they explained to me all the work they have been doing. They have done a fantastic job at effectively implementing their Oracy programme and it is clear they are seeing the results. Staff have noticed the positive impact it is having on teaching and learning, particularly in areas such as vocabulary, Pupil Premium underachievement, engagement, positive learning behaviours and retention of facts.
I am now a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy and am keen to help further the cause going forward.
I voted in favour of an amendment (the Lord Bishop’s Amendment) to the Fire Safety Bill which sought to protect leaseholders from the remediation costs associated with all fire safety defects (not just cladding). As you may know I was an early signatory to the McPartland-Smith amendment which was very similar but was voted down by the House of Commons on the 22nd March. I was disappointed that that vote was unsuccessful and hoped that the Lords Amendment would pass today. Unfortunately, it did not.
This is the second time I’ve voted against the Government on this key issue and it’s not something I take lightly, but given that there had been no material change between the last vote and this one in a way that would see many of my constituents better protected, I felt that I had to once again vote this way.
I’ve always been clear that my priority is to represent my constituents and it’s possible that from time to time this will involve me voting a different way from my Party colleagues. Yes, when people voted for me, they voted for a Conservative MP, but I also believe that people hoped they were voting for someone who was prepared to make difficult decisions that put their constituents first.
Over the past year the Government have outlined a range of support for leaseholders (in the Billions) and many of my constituents who are leaseholders have received the support they need. However not all. When discussing this matter with Ipswich leaseholders I have been clear that I do not want any leaseholder to be left behind, and sadly at this stage, many still are.
This issue is not just about cladding. Many leaseholders live in properties where there are fire safety defects that need to be urgently addressed including wall insulation, fire doors, wooden balconies and fire brakes. Sometimes remediating these issues can cost thousands of pounds and it is resulting in leaseholders being unable to sell their properties as many mortgage lenders are refusing to lend, essentially making many of the properties valueless.
These leaseholders have bought their properties in good faith and are not to blame for these fire safety defects, and I fail to see why they should be forced to saddle the costs.
Ultimately the taxpayer shouldn’t have to bear the cost of this either. Those who should pay are those who are responsible. Whether it’s the builders or the management agents.
I have had many detailed discussions with the Housing Minister over this matter and he has made clear to me that the Building Safety Bill will be the place to resolve these issues. However, a key concern for me is there isn’t currently much detail regarding this, and I haven’t been given a clear timeline for when this new Bill will be in place and when the uncertainty and anxiety that many of my constituents face will be ended. Ultimately this is what led to me voting again the way I did today.
Since the moment I was elected I’ve done everything I can to support leaseholders in Ipswich and I will continue to do so.