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Topical Questions

Volume 622: debated on Monday 6 March 2017

On Wednesday, we celebrate International Women’s Day when we recognise the achievements of women internationally and acknowledge the real challenges still faced by so many. One of my priorities as Home Secretary is to ensure that all women are protected from violence. Since 2010, we have done more than ever before to tackle gender-based violence. Last year, we launched the ending violence against women and girls strategy and pledged increased funding of £80 million in support. We have strengthened the laws and provided agencies with tools to support victims and bring perpetrators to justice. We know that there is more that we can do to bring those crimes out of the shadows, which is why the Justice Secretary and I will be leading a comprehensive programme of work to combat domestic abuse, including considering a new domestic violence Bill. The Government will continue to take steps to achieve our ambition that no woman should live in fear of abuse, and that every girl should grow up feeling safe and protected.

Parents will be shocked to know that, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, youth leaders and sports coaches are not included within the definition of a “trusted position”, which means that they can legally have sex with 16 and 17-year-olds for whom they are responsible and whom they supervise. Will the Home Secretary work with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to close that loophole in the law?

I will certainly look at the situation that the hon. Lady raises and, if necessary, talk to the NSPCC. I will invite her to participate in those discussions as well.

T3. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the £10 million of investment that has been spent refurbishing Southend police station, and does he agree that the extra investment and better technology should result in improved crime detection and crime prevention? (909038)

My hon. Friend gives a really good example of a very forward thinking police force in Essex. Credit must go to the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable for the work that they are doing to use modern techniques and good technology to drive forward and to be efficient and effective. That is a good example of why we are increasing the police transformation fund to some £175 million this year.

Does the Home Secretary really believe that the 45 days of support for suspected victims of trafficking is adequate, given that the organisations working at the coalface of the problem, such as the Human Trafficking Foundation, the Salvation Army, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, the Snowdrop Project, City Hearts and ECPAT, all say that it is completely unrealistic to expect to deal with the immigration, psychological, economic and housing issues that these vulnerable individuals are experiencing in 45 days? All those organisations also agree that this lethal combination is exposing victims to the real possibility of being re-trafficked.

I think that it is important to remember that the Prime Minister has led a global challenge to crack down on slavery. We now have some of the best anti-trafficking legislation in the world, and really excellent protection for victims. What the hon. Lady said is not actually correct, because the average time that people receive through the national referral mechanism is 90 days. We are working on reforms to the system to ensure that it is absolutely the best in the world.

T5. I welcome the Minister’s visit to Cardiff, particularly to discuss with South Wales police the security for the UEFA champions league final—the most watched sporting event in the world—which is taking place in Cardiff on 3 June. What is he doing to focus minds on security? (909041)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; arguably that will be the most watched sporting event in the world this year. It is an opportunity for the United Kingdom, and indeed for Wales, to show clearly what we have to offer. I was delighted to accept his invitation to go and meet the team down in Cardiff. We will keep a close eye on them to ensure that they have all the structural organisation they need to give everyone a fantastic event.

T2. In October, baby monitors were hijacked by organised crime for cyber-attacks. Last week, the secrets that children whisper to their teddy bears were to be found online. This Government have ensured that responsibility for cyber-security is literally all over the place. Does the Home Secretary realise that when there is a devastating attack by an internet-connected device—and there will be—she will be the one we blame? (909037)

The hon. Lady makes an interesting point—and a few wild allegations. It is this Government who set up the National Cyber Security Centre to ensure that we correctly align our response to cyber-attacks, getting it out through Cyber Aware and a range of cyber awareness campaigns to ensure that people are properly protected, working alongside manufacturers, and using the full weight and expertise of GCHQ to counter cybercrime. That is making a difference, and I hope that people are more aware, rather than scared by her allegations.

T6. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary recently rated Essex police as good, which represents a significant improvement. Although there is still work to be done, will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the hard-working officers for that amazing achievement? (909042)

Yes. My hon. Friend’s question backs up the earlier comment from our hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), because Essex police have done some phenomenally good work, as we can see in HMIC’s report. I congratulate everybody at Essex police on that. I will urge one note of caution, however, because there are still areas that need improvement, and I expect to see the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner focusing on those to deliver for the people of Essex in future. But it is good news, so well done to them.

T4. On a previous attempt to recalculate the national police funding formula, Lancashire police was set to lose £25 million a year. That was revised down to £8 million in year when inaccuracies were identified. That is on top of the £76 million that it had already saved since 2010. What steps is the Policing Minister taking to ensure that the national police funding formula will not repeat the same mistakes and will accurately reflect the demands on police forces? (909039)

I can assure the hon. Lady that there is a substantial piece of work going on, with academics, police chief constables and police and crime commissioners across the country working to feed in and ensure that the police funding formula review takes account of everything it needs to take account of. A lot of people in the sector are outlining to us how pleased they are with the process. We are determined to see that through. We will see where it goes for all forces in order to get a fair formula in future.

T8. What steps are the Government taking to crack down on cyber-terrorism, given that business is increasingly being done online and in the light of the recent announcement from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of a new digital strategy to encourage even more businesses to have the skills and confidence they need to make the most of digital technology? (909044)

The Government take cyber-security extremely seriously, which is why we have committed to spending £1.9 billion on cyber-security over this Parliament. The newly created National Cyber Security Centre is at the forefront of driving forward the Government’s national cyber-security strategy, which will include working with businesses and the private sector, and developing an ambitious skills programme.

T7. As the price of scrap metal rises, so, sadly, does the number of scrap metal thefts. Will the Minister say when the Government intend to produce a response to their consultation, which ended in January? (909043)

The Government will respond to that consultation in due course—to the House—once we have had a chance to go through all the replies.

T9. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Government remain committed to resettling 23,000 of the most vulnerable children and adults directly from Syria, the middle east and north Africa over this Parliament, in addition to asylum seekers and family reunion cases? Will she update the House on how many people have been resettled in the past year? (909045)

I reassure my hon. Friend that we remain committed to those numbers, ensuring that we protect and move people over from the region. We have, in fact, brought over 4,369 in the past 12 months. The last Labour Government capped their figure at 750 per year, and we are pleased to be doing five times that every year.

Further to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) and others, the report of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary that was published last week found that a third of police forces required improvement or were inadequate, that there was a national shortage of detectives, that neighbourhood policing is being eroded and that there is no coherent strategy for the threat posed to communities by organised criminals. Will the Home Office respond to that damning report and outline what impact the findings will have on the police funding formula review, which we expect to see in the next few weeks?

The response is for police forces, and I look forward to all police forces responding with the outcomes for their areas. I will write to all those forces that were found to require improvement. Straight after the report came out last week, I met the chief constable of the only one that was found inadequate, and I was impressed with their response to want to deal with the issues. Ultimately, there has also been a big improvement on previous years, which is good news, but the police need to respond and do the work to deliver.

I thank the Fire Minister for his intervention, which has seen Staffordshire fire authority cancel a £4 million life-skills centre. Does he agree that the fire authority was right to review the scheme as we need to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely, and that there are other ways to deliver all-important fire prevention work?

I thank my hon. Friend for her very kind comment. Importantly, the credit goes to a really good fire authority that has looked at the programme and taken a proper view on using taxpayers’ money effectively. I congratulate the authority on and thank it for that work.

My constituent, Robert Makutsa, who is a well-known figure on the Scottish music scene, has now been in detention for 38 days, which is taking a brutal toll on his mental and physical health. I wrote to the Minister for Immigration on 16 January, but have yet to receive a response. Will he now meet me to discuss Robert’s ongoing detention?

We do not, as a rule, comment on individual cases, but I would be more than happy to meet the hon. Lady as soon as possible.

Does the Secretary of State agree that looking after adult victims of human trafficking through the Salvation Army is the best system in Europe? Will she also confirm that the 45 days mentioned is the minimum period, not the maximum?

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. I pay tribute to the incredible work he has done in helping us to put the system in place. We use third parties such as the Salvation Army, which does a fantastic job looking after people who have been trafficked. He is right that 45 days is a minimum. Quite often, we look after people for much longer, but we will always keep that under review because we want to help these vulnerable people.

At the weekend, I heard the heart-breaking story of one of the children, who has only ever known her father as a face on a laptop. When he stood up to walk away during a Skype call, she shouted, “Mummy, look! Daddy’s got legs too.” Does the Home Secretary find that as distressing as I do? If she does, and given that I have no power to do anything about it but she does, what will she do?

I am not entirely clear what the situation is, but I will meet the hon. Lady, or she can meet the Immigration Minister, to discuss it.

Will the Home Secretary give an absolute guarantee that there will be no changes in the rules relating to EU migrant labour this summer, so as to allow fruit pickers in my constituency to implement the contracts they have already entered into?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to remind everybody that while we are members of the EU that situation is unchanged—that position can be guaranteed.

My constituent Mr Kreem was empowered by, and worked with, coalition forces in Iraq post the 2003 invasion to set up an academy to train security forces in Mosul. That work put his and his family’s lives in probable danger, particularly post the invasion of Mosul by Daesh. In 2014, the family claimed asylum, and they have still not heard back, despite numerous interventions by their previous MP with the ministerial team. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me to discuss this special and urgent case?

Trafford Council has already received 10 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and is supporting two more. The council and the community are keen to support more such children in need, but they are finding it difficult to establish with the North West Regional Strategic Migration Partnership the exact numbers they can expect over coming months. Given the uncertainty local authorities face in planning to receive such vulnerable children, what assurances can the Home Secretary give?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. The fact is that it is sometimes uncertain when we are able to bring the children over to the UK. When we had the situation with Calais, we were told x number by the French one day, and it moved very quickly the next. We will always do our best to give councils as much notice as possible, but sometimes the numbers change at very short notice.

My constituent Barrie Smith was born in Dumfries, was raised in Dumfries and is 100% Scottish. Due to a mistake with his mother’s maiden name on her marriage certificate, he has been denied a passport and been told that he will need to reapply for British citizenship at the cost of £2,000. Will somebody from the Home Office meet me behind the Speaker’s Chair so that we can discuss this hideous case?

The hon. Gentleman does not need to make it sound quite so furtive. It can be behind the Chair, but it could be in quite a large number of other places on the parliamentary estate, or in a ministerial office for that matter. There is nothing odd about it.

Mr Speaker, it sounds like I am going to be quite busy having meetings with colleagues from the SNP, but I am more than happy to have that meeting as well.

Order. I am sorry, but we must move on. I think I have called everybody who had not previously asked a question.