RICHARD DAY ADJOURNMENT DEBATE
I was proud to have led an Adjournment debate on the life of Richard Day and on calling for a tougher and stronger Criminal Justice System. I wanted to ensure that the memory of Richard Day, who was killed last year by Andrea Cristea, lives on. The death of Richard shook the whole of Ipswich and has had a devastating impact on his family. I paid tribute on the House’s written record Hansard, to how kind and generous Richard was and what an asset to his job and community he had been. I explained how integral he was to his family, caring for his mother and supporting his three brothers whenever he could.
I also wanted to point out how pitiful the sentence of Cristea is and that in the opinion of everyone I have spoken to about this, it does not give the family, or Ipswich, the sense that justice has been served. I wanted to highlight to the Minister how sentences like this do not send a clear message of deterrence or prevent individuals like Cristea from setting foot in Ipswich again. I welcomed the news that some reform for murder was being introduced, using a ‘sliding-scale’ to prevent an unreasonable shift in sentences between 17 and 18 year olds but I am keen to see this applies to manslaughter as well as murder. I also wanted to explore the possibility that should Cristea not be a British national, deportation must be considered to prevent the possibility of another attack by Cristea on British soil.
I was then very encouraged by the Minister’s response. He assured me that he would take a serious look into extending this ‘sliding scale’ to incorporate manslaughter as well as murder, and that by bringing this case to his attention, he believes that there is evidence for why this should certainly be considered. He also reassured me that should Andrea not be a British national, his deportation will definitely be considered due to the length of his sentence. I welcome this news and will be monitoring closely these developments.
I hope that in strengthening the law to protect us from individuals like Cristea, we can do justice to Richard’s memory and ensure families like Richard’s do not have to go through this ordeal again.
ST FRANCIS TOWER
I was very disturbed by what I witnessed during my visit to St Francis Tower yesterday to meet residents. A massive shrink wrap now covers the Tower. My constituents are literally living in the dark, virtually no natural sun light. No consultation and they’ve been told it could all last 18 months.
Bizarrely construction work on the building hasn’t even started. I fear that this will be debilitating to the mental health of my constituents.
The building manager has shown a total lack of respect and regard to St Francis Road residents and it cannot continue.
I have already written one letter to the building manager but will be sending a second very strongly worded letter following my visit. I will also be alerting the Housing Minister and raising in Parliament as many times as I need to until this is sorted.
As a word “angry” doesn’t do justice to the emotions I felt when I left the Tower.
MARYON ROAD CHICANE
I have written to Matthew Hicks, the head of the County Council, about getting some action on removing the chicane on Maryon Road.
As you may know Cllr Harsant and I have been consulting the community around Maryon Rd about the chicane after it was raised with me on the doorstep a number of times while out talking to local residents.
We are now in a position where we can say with confidence that the overwhelming majority of residents want to see it removed because it has such a negative impact on traffic levels and because there are other traffic calming measures in place which work much better.
I have asked Matthew Hicks if he could provide the funds from the council to sort this issue out. In hindsight, the introduction of the chicane was a mistake which we now need to rectify. It will be quite expensive to remove (more than a single councillor’s locality budget for the year) so we will need the County Council to step up and explore other avenues of funding.
I was interested to see that the Borough Council are intending to launch a bid to gain City status for Ipswich.
This will be a highly competitive national process with only one place being granted new City status to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year.
I can definitely see that there could be some practical benefits associated with Ipswich becoming a City. However, I do also believe that bound up within this matter are complicated issues to do with local identity that many of my constituents feel differently about.
Ultimately for the bid to be successful I think it’s an absolute must that there is clear public support from the people of Ipswich for the bid. The reality is that we’re going to be up against many different areas where there is clear and enthusiastic public support.
Last week I carried out my own poll which I promoted on social media and which 1000s took part in. I note also that the Ipswich Star carried out its own poll which likely had a higher participation rate that my own one. In my poll 66% rejected the City status bid and 70% rejected it in the Ipswich Star poll.
I take the point that these are hardly scientific polls but ultimately, they’re all we’ve got to go on as it stands. And when I add to it the fact that it’s rarely ever been brought up on the doorstep with me nor in correspondence, I simply don’t think that I’m in a position to say with any degree of confidence that City status is what my constituents want.
I say all this knowing that Ipswich Central strongly back City status. I do sympathise with many of the reasons why local businesses see City status and bringing economic benefits to the Town.
However, bearing in mind this is a significant change from the status quo I think the burden is on those who want to change the status quo to provide evidence of significant support from across the community at every level.
I appreciate that the Borough council have said the bid wouldn’t cost much money or be a distraction from key priorities, but if it were to be done properly it almost certainly would be. And if we weren’t to do it properly what would be the point of doing it?
I don’t think it’s fair to brand those people who are happy for Ipswich to remain a Town as not being ambitious for the place where they live. I can see both sides of the argument and could well see a time in the future where we could really unite together as a community to push for City status. I just don’t see now as being that time.
Ipswich is a great place to live and I’m incredibly proud to represent one of this country’s oldest Towns in Parliament. We don’t need to be a City to achieve what we want to achieve and just because we’re not a City it doesn’t mean we’re a lesser place to, say, Norwich or Chelmsford. Of course, I’d argue we’re a far better place.
My number one focus is and will continue to be addressing all the major issues there are across Town and working with the Borough Council, Ipswich Central and other key partners to deliver the £25 million Town Deal projects whilst keeping an eye open for new opportunities for investment.” — Tom Hunt MP
PRISON EDUCATION AND SEND
This week I wrote my weekly column on why we desperately need to start properly assessing prisoners for special educational needs (SEND) when they come into the system.
In the Education Select Committee on Tuesday we were discussing prison education with the heads of a number of charities, and I wanted to ask about SEND. Data reports that 30% of prisoners have learning difficulties. When I asked around the individual witnesses, there was consensus that this figure is a drastic underestimate given that it relies on self-reporting when an offender comes into prison.
I believe we need to do proper assessments to get a much more accurate picture.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, if we have an accurate picture of the numbers of those coming into prison with SEND from early on in their sentence, then we will be able to tailor prison education directly to those offenders throughout their time behind bars. Education in prison is a crucial aspect of the rehabilitation of our prisoners and the goal that when they come out they might contribute to society in more valuable ways than they previously had done. It is therefore very important that we get this right.
Secondly, and what I believe is of the greatest importance, if we get a more accurate depiction of the levels of SEND amongst the prison population, then we might be more fully aware of the implications of the underfunding of SEND in our education system today. Until we get every person tested, then we won’t know the true scale of the problem and how to move forward.
As someone with dyspraxia and dyslexia myself, I know how fortunate I was to have been diagnosed early on at school and get the support I needed to go on and excel in my education. When I was 12 I actually had the reading and writing age of an 8 year old and I myself at that point in my life wasn’t happy with my situation. I was often angry that no one seemed to understand me and couldn’t understand why I was different from my peers and falling behind everyone else.
For people who aren’t diagnosed, the fact that their poor school attainment is often attributed to inattention, distractibility, or laziness can negatively reinforce behaviours and ensure these children are left behind. If someone feels that the system is failing them as an individual then it is not surprising that over time they turn against the system; it is not surprising that there is this link. We desperately need to make sure that this doesn’t continue to happen.
When it comes to providing first class support for SEND, while not everything is about money, making sure we have sufficient resources going in at every stage isn’t just the right thing to do at a moral level, but at a societal level as well. Ultimately it is unmet needs which makes it more likely that these people end up in the criminal justice system. It is not just bad for society, but for the exchequer in the long run as well.
Get it right and you can utilise the talents of unconventional thinkers which is great for our society. Get it wrong and you end up with more people in the criminal justice system.
A few weeks ago, I received a letter from Sammy Steven who is a customer at the Papworth trust on Foundation St in Ipswich, which is a trust which does fantastic work supporting the disabled community in Ipswich and adults with learning disabilities. When the lockdown started, they were very down and didn’t know how they would cope. Because of the exceptional work done by the staff and volunteers they made it work and they created a lockdown journal. They became journalists and wrote about their experiences so they will remember them forevermore and they also tried new things. They became poets and music instructors. I asked Jacob Rees-Mogg if the Government would find time for us to debate in the House of Commons how we fund and how we structure these services to support adults who have got learning disabilities, but also to focus on what they can do positively, not always on what they can’t.
Jacob Rees-Mogg responded by saying that we should always think about what people can do and we should always be positive as a society. He told me that he was glad to hear about the work of the Papworth Trust. He acknowledged that organisations like this are a lifeline of support for some of the most vulnerable in our communities and everything that can be done to support them should be done.
Levelling Up Agenda
Talk Radio discussing New Plan for Immigration
This afternoon I was on TalkRadio to talk about Priti Patel’s New Plan for Immigration. She wants to fix a currently broken system and create a new US-Style Electronic Travel Authorisation which will make the border more secure by automatically checking for criminals from other countries and allowing more accurate statistics. We will know who comes and who goes out. It has been a problem in the past that people have come over here under the auspices of coming on holiday and staying illegally.
The Home Secretary plans to be much tougher on illegal immigration and I very much support her proposals. On the issue of illegal crossings with small boats we also need to send out the message that people coming illegally across the channel cannot stay. As far as I am concerned if you are coming here from a safe country like France, then you are not a refugee. Priti Patel wants to stop the endless cycles of appeals by lawyers introducing asylum claims last minute to clog up our system.
At the end of the day, there is nothing compassionate about fuelling the illegal human trafficking trade by sending out the message that it is worth coming here illegally. Not only this, but you are also limiting our capacity as a country to show compassion towards the most genuine of refugees who are fleeing areas of conflict where they are at risk of persecution. This is why the moral thing is to have strong borders.
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!