Spoke in Parliament on Wednesday about PC Andrew Harper and the need for mandatory life sentences for those found guilty of killing police officers. This is what the campaign led by PC Harper’s widow, Lissie, is calling for. I had planned to meet Lissie last month although unfortunately I wasn’t able to in the end because of my self-isolation. But of course this campaign has my full backing.
The three thugs who killed PC Harper brutally dragged him behind their car for over a mile but inexplicably were only found guilty of manslaughter. All of 3 of them will most likely be let out of prison with the vast majority of their life ahead of them despite ending the life of a young police officer and leaving his family with a wound that will never fully heal.
I was one of the 22 Conservative MPs who wrote the Attorney General earlier this year calling on her to review the pitiful sentences of the men who killed PC Harper, and I won’t stop raising it. His family deserves justice, but there also needs to be a complete confidence among the public that there will be no tolerance for those who harm the police officers who keep us safe.
This week I asked the Minister for Policing directly about getting robust punishments in place for those individuals who try to use Covid-19 as a weapon by spitting and coughing at police officers. Unfortunately we have seen reports of this despicable crime in Ipswich and around the country during this pandemic. And back in April I called in the House of Commons for the full force of the law to come down on anyone found guilty of assaulting our police officers in this heinous way, when they’re going above and beyond to keep us safe. I’ve also stressed the need to clamp down on this crime with the Government through written questions.
It was good to hear in the Minister’s response that the Government is seriously focusing in on this issue with prison sentences being handed out and that new laws are in the pipeline that will double the maximum sentence for assaults on emergency service workers. Spitting at police officers is a disgusting crime at the best of times, but during Covid-19 it’s particularly aggravating potentially with severe consequences for officers’ physical and mental health. I’ll be making the case that these new laws on tougher sentencing should be brought forward as soon as possible.
Made it very clear again in the House of Commons today that tackling illegal Channel crossings has to be a top priority. I’ve been making the case repeatedly at the highest levels over recent months how we must do everything we can to stop these crossings immediately. But we also need to have a further plan of action ready to go for when we are out of the EU transition period and we’re able to break with things like the EU’s Dublin Regulations which have restricted our ability to deal with this issue robustly.
Steps like a blockade in the Channel and the plans for an offshore processing centre which the Home Secretary has been considering this week have my full support. And we now need to deliver them as soon as possible. Once we’re out the transition period there can’t be any more excuses and any further delay to getting a grip of this issue would be completely unacceptable. No more time can be lost and I’ll put this point to the Government at every opportunity.
Action not words. That was my message last night when I met with the Immigration Minister Chris Philp along with a number of other Conservative MPs. I was invited as one of the MPs who has repeatably raised concerns about illegal channel crossings we’ve been seeing over the past few months. I one hundred percent share the same concerns as the majority of my constituents. This was a significant meeting and I feel confident that there is a solid plan to deal with the issue, for the first time since this really shot up the news agenda there is a real prospect of the issue being nipped in the bud in the not too distant future.
New legislation is likely soon to reform our failing asylum system (likely to be furiously opposed by Labour) as is robust action to stop the channel crossings in their tracks. I am limited in terms of the specific information I can reveal at this time but more will be announced by the Government soon. People are right to be extremely frustrated by the situation but I am confident that action is on the way. I feel significant compassion towards genuine refugees and its right that we have a process in place to legally accept those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries. But under no circumstances should we accept these illegal crossings where the individuals in question are coming from other safe European countries, not war torn countries.
Today I asked an urgent question to Home Office ministers about illegal channel crossings and to call for urgent legislation to get a grip of our easily exploited asylum system. Illegal migrants know that once they’re in our asylum system, the chances are they’ll be able to stay for good and this is a major reason why they continue to put their lives at risk to come here.
We must close ridiculous legal loopholes like those that allow failed asylum seekers to make repeated claims on entirely new grounds and avoid deportation. And end the unacceptable situation where tax payers’ money is spent on legal aid to support people who have broken our laws claim asylum. Over the last few months, I’ve been working with other Conservative MPs in the Common Sense Group to keep up the pressure on the Government on this issue by writing joint letters and meeting with the Home Secretary. And now Parliament has returned it’s important to continue this in the Chamber. I was glad to hear today that the Government is developing legislation to close these loopholes. This can’t come soon enough for many of my constituents who like me find the current situation unfair and unacceptable. And I’ll be monitoring developments very closely.
It was also disappointing today to see Labour accuse the Government of militarising the problem in the Channel and lacking compassion. This demonstrates how completely out of touch the Party has become with the law-abiding majority. And the real lack of compassion comes from those who defend the status quo, where migrants from safe European countries are incentivised to make dangerous crossings. And where our asylum system isn’t geared towards the most needy genuine asylum seekers around the world who want to come here legally.
I went on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon to talk about the unacceptable surge in illegal channel crossings and the letter I sent with 22 other Conservative MPs calling on the Home Secretary to take action so that illegal migrants are immediately returned.
I like many am completely fed up with the lawlessness in the Channel and the slap in the face it represents to the law-abiding people of this country and genuine asylum seekers who wish to come to this country legally. All of those who try to come here illegally across the Channel have left a safe European Country to do so and there is absolutely no justification for them to break our laws to get to the UK.
As we set out in our letter, action, not words, is what is needed now. It’s been over four years since we voted to take back control of our borders but our hands are still tied by EU and international rules which don’t allow us to put the people of this country first.
It is good that after the letter we sent, the Prime Minister has said we need to look at changing the law and efforts are underway to get the French to do more. But I’m also clear that our ability to control our borders must not be dependent on the whim of France or any other third country. We must be prepared to turn all illegal boats around and escort them back to France. These dangerous crossings will only stop when we have made it completely clear that all attempts will be futile as the Australians did when they were confronted with a similar problem.
I’ll keep working with other MPs to secure swift action and ensure this issue is treated with the seriousness it deserves and the public expects.
This week I’ve written about the pressing need for pet theft reform and how this campaign has become even more important during the Covid-19 lockdown. Cases of pet theft have increased significantly since lockdown begun, robbing people of their pets just when their companionship is needed most.
This cruel crime causes great distress to victims which can stay with them for years but the theft of a pet is currently treated under the law in the same way as the theft of an inanimate object like a mobile phone. This means that pet thieves, if caught, often only receive pitiful fines of no more than £250. We must make pet theft a specific offence under the Theft Act so prison sentences of up to 2 years become more readily available to judges. The current punishments clearly don’t represent justice for victims or a sufficient deterrent to stop pet theft from continuing to rise.
Following my virtual discussion with campaigners behind the pet theft reform petition last month, we have now received a written response from the Government which says that they have no plans to change the law. This is disappointing but it’s no means the end of the campaign. I’ve asked Ministers to meet with me directly to discuss this issue and I’ll be calling for a debate on pet theft reform in Parliament at the earliest opportunity. The status quo doesn’t reflect how important our pets are to us and needs to change.