The Secretary of State was asked—
Prevention of Illegal Protests
I will pay my tribute shortly to our dear friend Sir David, but before I respond to the question, I want to echo your words, Mr Speaker, by saying that his killing is a terrible and sad moment in our history. It is an attack on our democracy and an appalling tragedy, and we are all thinking of David and Julia and their family. I also want to echo your words about our dear, dear colleague James Brokenshire, the Member of Parliament for Old Bexley and Sidcup, who bravely battled cancer over the past year. James, Cathy and their children are in all our thoughts.
In response to question No. 1, these protests are extremely dangerous. They have caused great economic harm and caused misery and distress to the law-abiding public. They have also prevented members of the public from going about their daily business.
On Friday we saw the worst type of illegal protest, when my good friend was stabbed as he did his job. Mr Speaker, I hope to catch your eye later and give my own tribute to this most excellent fellow, and I thank you for making this possible. Sadly on this occasion it was one of our colleagues, but will the Government review how we can help to keep safe all those who work in public-facing roles?
I echo the words of my hon. Friend. Of course we have a duty and a responsibility, and there is a great deal of work taking place right now with Mr Speaker and with police forces across the country to do exactly that. There will be further updates over the next few days, particularly for Members of Parliament but also for wider public protection.
Of course, I also pay tribute to Sir David Amess. I never managed to persuade him to support gay marriage, but he always asked after my husband. I think that was the character of the man.
The difficulty is in judging the boundary between legal and illegal protests, because some people who protest online think vile abuse is perfectly justifiable. We seem to have developed a toxic way of doing politics. How do we simply change it so that we become a bit more like Sir David and, for that matter, a bit more like James?
The hon. Gentleman captures the mood of the nation on the discourse we have in public life. Clearly we see far too much cruelty in the online space, and we all have a responsibility and a duty to work together, which is part of the solution here. In this place, in public life and in politics, I would use one word: respect.
Pet Theft Taskforce
I start by associating myself with the remarks of the Home Secretary on James Brokenshire, who I worked with over the last 15 years on all manner of subjects. He was a lovely man and a pleasure to know.
It is poignant to realise that Sir David would have spotted the subject of these two questions and, given his long interest in animal welfare, should in any just world be bobbing behind me now to ask a question.
Stealing a pet from its loving owner is a particularly cruel crime, causing heartbreak for the family and great distress to the pet. The Home Office is working with the police to ensure that pet thefts are recorded in a consistent manner and are readily identifiable within the information management systems of forces across England and Wales. The pet theft taskforce has recently made a series of recommendations, which we are considering, and we will introduce a new criminal offence of pet abduction.
I add my tribute to Sir David. As the Minister said, he dedicated his career to better animal welfare. This topic was very close to Sir David’s heart, and I know he had been lobbying the Minister very hard on it.
As we continue to see a rise in pet thefts by criminal gangs who use the proceeds to fund further criminal activity, does the Minister agree that we have to bring forward legislation on this as quickly as possible? We cannot delay any further. Can he give a clear timescale for when we can vote on that important legislation in this House?
My hon. Friend is right that, unfortunately, one of the effects of the pandemic, and particularly of the rise in the value of pets, particularly dogs and cats that are happily in demand by many families who look to them for companionship, has been a criminal phenomenon that we need to address. The taskforce has made a number of recommendations and, although I cannot give him an absolute timetable today, he has our undertaking that we are keen to move as swiftly as possible to give him the opportunity to put this offence on the statute book.
Like other hon. Members here, I am honoured to ask this question in memory of Sir David. I met local residents concerned about pet theft recently, in Hanmer, in my constituency. What message would the Minister give to those constituents, who have been worried about this issue locally?
It is typical of my hon. Friend that he would gather his constituents together to give voice to their concern in this area. The message I would give them is that we recognise their distress and concern. As dog and cat owners ourselves, it is inconceivable to us that our pets might be stolen; the damage and trauma that would be caused to my family if that awful event were to happen is keenly in our minds. The policy development work on this offence has begun. As I said earlier, we hope to bring legislation forward as quickly as possible, so that he and the many other Members who are very interested in this subject and recognise the distress that has been caused in communities up and down the land by this crime can exercise their free democratic will and put the offence on the statute book.
Psilocybin: Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001
We currently have no plans to reschedule psilocybin to schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has recently published stage 1 of its advice on reducing barriers to research on controlled drugs. We will consider the advice, including its implications for psilocybin, carefully before responding.
Does my right hon. Friend understand the emerging potential of the psychedelic class of drugs, with psilocybin to the fore, to treat depression, trauma and addiction? Some of this science was emerging in the 1960s, before our current drugs laws closed it down. In 2019, 90,503 of our fellow citizens were driven to suicide by their depression or trauma, or their rock-bottom in addiction has been death. If there is any scale of potential for these drugs, and it appears that there is, any further delay in getting the science and research going is not defensible—in fact, it is a morally disgraceful abrogation of our duty to the public good.
As a founder of the all-party group on life sciences, I am well aware of the potential of any number of compounds to assist us in the constant battle against mental and physical illness, and of the need for this country to lead in research that might alleviate the problem, not just here, but in the rest of the world. My hon. Friend will know that we reschedule particular compounds where medicines are approved on the advice of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and of the ACMD. He will know that, for example, in June last year we placed Epidyolex, a cannabis-based medicine used to treat certain forms of epilepsy, in schedule 5 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, following exactly that sort of advice. There are ongoing trials and research studies into psilocybin taking place in the UK; a medicine has yet to be licensed by the MHRA, but if and when one is, we will consider rescheduling.
The research is being undertaken in a number of academic institutions, as far as I am aware. I am happy to dig out the detail of where specifically this is being researched—I do not have it to hand. It is worth reinforcing the point that the process for the rescheduling of compounds is that approval is given for a medicine by the MHRA, and advice is then taken from the ACMD as to the rescheduling, as we did with Epidyolex. As soon as those medicines are approved by the MHRA for use, I would be happy to consider rescheduling.
Victims of Domestic Abuse: Support
I would like to associate myself with the comments made by my ministerial colleagues on the sad loss of our dear colleagues.
Supporting victims of domestic abuse is a Government priority. Building on the landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and the tackling violence against women and girls strategy, published this year, we will also publish a dedicated domestic abuse strategy, which will drive action to prevent offending, support victims, relentlessly pursue perpetrators and strengthen the system as a whole.
May I place on the record, on my behalf and that of my Meon Valley constituents, our deep and utter shock at the death of Sir David Amess, and also that of James Brokenshire? I pass on their deepest condolences to the families, constituents and many friends here and outside Westminster.
Over the past year, 26,785 domestic abuse offences were recorded in Hampshire, with a 14% year-on-year increase in the first period of lockdown. Will my hon. Friend continue her support for the police and crime commissioners, such as Donna Jones in Hampshire, who are tackling this dreadful crime as a priority?
I thank Donna Jones for the way that she has prioritised domestic abuse, backed by an uplift in the Hampshire police funding settlement. I assure my hon. Friend that we will work closely with policing colleagues, including police and crime commissioners, and the new police lead for tackling violence against women and girls, Maggie Blyth, to drive forward improvements in the police response to such crimes. Furthermore, we will publish a refreshed national statement of expectations on violence against women and girls to support local commissioners, including PCCs, in the commissioning of effective services.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sexuality or background, but how many men have been subjected to domestic abuse and what is offered to them that is different from what is offered to women?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that men and boys can be victims of domestic abuse and, indeed, the other crimes that fall under the umbrella of what we call violence against women and girls. For the year ending March 2020, the crime survey of England and Wales estimated that 757,000 men experienced domestic abuse—that is approximately seven men in every 100.[Official Report, 1 November 2021, Vol. 702, c. 4MC.] We did a lot of work to publish the first ever cross-Government male victims position statement to strengthen our response; we need to refresh that statement. We also fund the Men’s Advice Line, which is run by Respect, to provide specialist support to victims.
Small Boat Channel Crossings
May I, too, associate myself with the tributes that have been paid, and that no doubt will be paid for the rest of the day, to both Sir David and James Brokenshire? They were model parliamentarians and great friends, and we are far poorer in this House for their passing.
Illegal entry to the UK via small boats is unsafe, unfair and unacceptable. We are working tirelessly to make the route unviable through a comprehensive package of measures—there is no one single answer. Our new plan for immigration and the Nationality and Borders Bill will address the challenge of illegal immigration by increasing maximum sentences for people smugglers and making it easier to swiftly remove those who enter the UK illegally.
My right hon. Friend will know that the provisions in the Bill are comprehensive, many and varied. As I said, there is not one single answer to the challenge that we face in relation to illegal channel crossings. We must make the route unviable and, of course, in the Bill we reserve the right to do exactly what my right hon. Friend advocates.
As ever, my right hon. Friend gets to the nub of the issue. I make the point again, because it bears repeating, that there is no one single answer to resolve the challenge that we face. In swift order, we require the comprehensive measures set out in the Bill, which are there to tackle dangerous crossings. Of course, we also need global assistance to help us to achieve our aims. We must put these evil criminal gangs out of business once and for all and preserve human life, which is exactly what the measures we have proposed seek to do.
I want to add my sincere condolences to Sir David and his family and friends. Sir David was kind to everyone in Parliament and he will be greatly missed.
Last week, Sir David and I were part of a parliamentary delegation in Qatar. During the visit, we met the unaccompanied child refugees who had been evacuated from Afghanistan and are now being housed in temporary accommodation in Qatar. As many as 13 of those children have family members in the UK and are desperate to be reunited with them. Will the Home Secretary now take steps urgently to facilitate the reunion of those children with their families?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. We are working across Government on these matters. I know that engagement is going on through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office with the authorities that he describes. We have a proud record and tradition in this country of providing sanctuary to those who find themselves in desperate circumstances. That absolutely continues to be the case. That is a firm commitment of this Government and it is perfectly in line with this country’s proud traditions. People across our country would expect us to continue to do that, and that is exactly what we will do.
I and my colleagues, from the bottom of our hearts, send our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of both Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire. It is fair to say that, in short, everyone knew Sir David and everyone liked and respected him, without exception.
I shadowed James Brokenshire as Immigration Minister in my first year in this place, and he made my job 10 times tougher, not only because of his mastery of the brief, but because he, too, was a person whom it was impossible not to respect and to like and we will sorely miss him.
At the last Home Office questions, the Home Secretary suggested that I had not read the Nationality and Borders Bill when I said that it would see Uyghurs, persecuted Christians and Syrians fleeing war prosecuted and sentenced to prison, but I have read it and that is precisely what clause 37 will do. I welcome the Minister to his place, but if he does not want to see Uyghurs, persecuted Christians and Syrians prosecuted and imprisoned, will he take that clause out of the Bill?
I would expect nothing less from the hon. Gentleman given that we are beginning line-by-line consideration of the Bill tomorrow in Committee. I have no doubt that he will have studied every single clause very carefully and will be interrogating me on each of them. We do not want to see anybody persecuted. As I have said previously, as a country and as a Government, we are absolutely determined to make sure that there continue to be safe and legal routes, so that people who qualify can continue to access sanctuary in this country. Also, of course, through our international engagement, we always press home that human rights must be respected and upheld at every turn.
I warmly welcome the Minister and, indeed, the Government’s forthcoming legislation on this issue, but may I urge on him the utmost haste and speed in delivering it to this House for our consideration? The trade, as it were, of human trafficking is a hideous crime. Lives are being lost now. It is making a laughing stock of the two systems on both sides of the channel. We need to put a stop to it. It should not be beyond the wit of the Government to do so.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend who has consistently raised these matters. He is right to say that we want to deliver the provisions of the Nationality and Borders Bill as quickly as possible, because we believe that they are fundamental to preventing these dangerous channel crossings as part of an overall package to deliver on that. I hope that the Bill will command support across the House.
My hon. Friend is also right to raise the issue of collaboration with our international partners; of course, the French are integral to that. We have an arrangement with the French. It is bearing results, but there is clearly still more to do. This issue cannot be resolved entirely without that collaboration.
Drug Safety Testing at Events
No illicit drug can be assumed to be safe.
I echo the tributes to Sir Davis Amess and James Brokenshire, and send my commiserations to their friends and families.
Over a single weekend in Bristol this summer, one young person died and 20 others were hospitalised, leading to police warnings about a lethal batch of pills circulating in the city. It just is not enough for the Government to say, “Don’t do drugs”; that clearly does not work. Will the Government work with organisations such as The Loop, which provides testing, or provide their own drugs testing service as the Welsh Government have been doing since 2014? That is the only way that they are going to save lives.
We are obviously all distressed to hear the news from Bristol. Any life lost to drugs is obviously to be mourned. Anyone interested in lawfully undertaking activities that include the possession, supply or production of controlled drugs, including through the course of drug testing services, can already apply to the Home Office for a domestic licence, and they will be subject to the usual visits and considerations about the activities that they undertake. I understand the hon. Lady’s implication that we should look at this subject in the round. It is our hope that we will publish later this year a comprehensive, cross-Government strategy on drugs in the round, including on their impact and what we can do about them.
Violence against Women and Girls
Cases including the sickening murder of Sarah Everard and the appalling murders of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman have caused immense pain and understandably prompted huge concerns. That is why the Home Secretary commissioned an inspection of the police response to violence against women and girls, and why we supported the recommendation to appoint a full-time national policing lead to drive forward progress on this hugely important issue.
I also extend my deepest sympathies to the families of Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire. Southend has lost two sons and we have lost two very special parliamentary colleagues.
I would like to recognise the work that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has been doing over the past few, very challenging weeks, which have had damaging implications for the relationship between the police and the safety of women. Last week, The Times reported that more than half of the disciplinary hearings that had been conducted over the past three years were held in private and almost no force published the findings. We know how important transparency is to public confidence, so will my hon. Friend the Minister tell us what steps she is taking to ensure that members of the public can see what is going on with their local force?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that public confidence in the policing response is vital to tackling violence against women and girls. I am determined, as is the Home Secretary, to do all we can to combat these sickening crimes. We are committed to ensuring that policing is subject to stringent levels of transparency and accountability. Misconduct hearings are chaired independently of forces by legally qualified chairs. Sometimes those hearings must be held in private, for several legitimate reasons. We will be looking at the matter further to ensure that the system is accountable to the public.
Obviously, all of us on the Opposition Benches wish to be associated with the words of the Home Secretary, and send our love and best regards to Sir David’s family. He was kind and good, but for me, above all else, he was funny and he did not take himself too seriously.
As for James, as the Immigration Minister he was incredibly approachable and kind; he was a good and thorough Minister.
I wish also briefly to say from Members on the Labour Benches, who know how it feels to have someone fall, that our love—through you, Mr Speaker—is with all the friends and colleagues of those who have died.
I simply rise to ask the Minister whether her Department has decided whether it is going to implement all the recommendations and the timeframe laid out in last month’s report of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, in order to improve our national response to violence against women and girls. In September, the Minister told the House:
“The Home Secretary has committed to considering the report’s full recommendations and will update Parliament when she has done so.”—[Official Report, 22 September 2021; Vol. 701, c. 287.]
An update on that position would be welcomed.
I thank the hon. Lady for her words just now.
Clearly the report that the hon. Lady mentions is a very important one, and the Home Secretary and Home Office are considering it in detail. We have already put in place a number of important actions, including appointing Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth to her new role and chairing a new taskforce to drive cross-Government action. The Home Secretary has also announced an independent inquiry into the issues surrounding Wayne Couzens and the wider culture in policing.
Agri-food Industry: Labour Shortages
When we introduced the new skilled worker visa last year, we broadened the skills threshold from the academically focused graduate level under the previous tier 2 visa to school-leaver level, or RQF—regulated qualifications framework—level 3, to ensure that a wider range of skilled work was recognised. That change means that roles such as butcher, farmer and poultry processor qualify for the skilled worker route, allowing recruitment into them on a global level.
I extend my thoughts and prayers to the families, friends, colleagues and staff of Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire. I trust that I will have the opportunity to speak further on that later.
I thank the Home Secretary for meeting me and party colleagues a few short weeks ago on the issue of labour shortages and for the actions taken since then to alleviate the labour supply pressures, but I fear that the short window of opportunity being offered will not be enough to attract the necessary workers. Additionally, our farmers, particularly our pig farmers, are in crisis as we speak in this House today. What additional efforts are being made, alongside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to support this industry and meet the pressing demand for labour, with farms backing up with healthy pigs and abattoirs cancelling 25% of their pig slaughter due to staff shortages?
I note that the hon. Lady met the Home Secretary recently to talk about this issue. Events have moved on since; we have flexibility on visas and the issues around cold storage are being addressed. However, it is clear that this is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution. We must continue to focus—I think people in our country would rightly expect us to do so—on what more we can do to make sure that we improve skills, training, wages and terms and conditions so that the domestic labour market is able to fulfil these roles in the longer term. We have been responsive to industry’s asks, and of course our ears continue to be open.
It would have been very appropriate today if David Amess had been the first to welcome the new Minister to the Dispatch Box, because the three of us worked together on Grassroots Out, and David held the first rally for us. That is appropriate to this question: is it not right, Minister, that coming out of the European Union gives us the ability to decide on these issues?
I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for his question. It will not surprise him to hear that only a couple of weeks ago I received a note from Sir David congratulating me on my appointment. It is something that I will absolutely treasure in the years ahead. His encouragement was always second to none. The truth is that people like he and I campaigned in the referendum for a global immigration system, which is exactly what we have delivered. I genuinely believe that that is the right approach to immigration for the years ahead, based on skills—recruiting the skills that we need, but making sure that we do right by the domestic labour market and people in this country by improving skills, opportunity, training and terms and conditions, and making sure that we can recruit more readily to these roles.
I, too, wish to pay my tributes to Sir David and James Brokenshire and pass on my deepest condolences and sympathies to their families. They were two of the kindest, most decent parliamentarians I have ever met. I will certainly miss my conversations with Sir David by the lifts in 1 Parliament Street, always with a smile.
The National Farmers Union has told MPs that there is a chronic shortage of butchers and agriculture workers that has led to 150,000 pigs being backed up on farms. Will the Government add butchers and agriculture workers to the shortage-occupation list, and will the Government agree to review the list earlier than 2022, as is the current plan?
The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting question. He should know that the Home Office and Ministers in the Home Office are working constructively with DEFRA, which is regularly engaging, no doubt, with the National Farmers Union around these matters. Following last year’s SOL review by the Migration Advisory Committee, the Government set out their response, stating that the labour market is changing as a result of covid and that it is important to assess changes in the labour market before making widespread changes to the SOL. This is particularly true at a time when so many British people still face uncertain times with the ending of furlough. We are committed to addressing these challenges and we have taken steps in the short term to do so, but, as I say, such steps are really not the long-term solution to those challenges. Of course, we are responsive as the situation develops.
Although I take this opportunity to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove) to his position on the Front Bench, he might not welcome what I have to say after I congratulate him and echo the comments he made in condolence for our dear departed colleagues, David and James.
So far, we have not had any facts and figures. What are the numbers of shortages? How many applications have been made? How many visas have been granted?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. As I say, we have been responsive to the needs that have arisen in our economy. We have been engaging with the various sectors that have come forward to raise concerns. For example, there is a commitment to supporting visas for 4,700 HGV food drivers, up to 5,500 poultry workers and 300 fuel drivers. I think the key thing now is that those industries that sought that extra support and that flexibility through visas now get on and recruit to those roles.
Online Fraud and Scams
I, too, wish to associate myself with your words, Mr Speaker, and those of the Home Secretary in memory of our two cherished friends, David and James—outstanding parliamentarians both. James, among his many other accomplishments, was also an exceptionally effective and highly respected Security Minister, in which role he set the enduring example. As well as by colleagues in this House, he is very much missed by officials in the Home Office and by the agencies and partners with which he worked.
Online fraud and scams have a devastating impact, and we are taking action to protect the public and make it harder for fraudsters to operate. The online safety Bill will tackle some of the highest harm frauds online.
I wish to put on record my own condolences to the families of James Brokenshire and Sir David. A lot of people have said that Sir David was a good support to new MPs, but he was also a good support to those of us doing things for the first time. Indeed, he chaired the Bill Committee when I was first on the Opposition Front Bench. He was a great support to me and will be dearly missed from the House.
Many of my Fleetwood constituents are seriously concerned about pension scams, which are on the rise. I pay tribute to the work of Age UK raising awareness of the risk of pension scams. Can the Minister tell me what steps he plans to take in the online harms Bill specifically on pension scams?
The hon. Lady is exactly right to identify the wickedness of pension scams picking on people, often at a time of weakness, which is part of a wider field of investment scams. As she will know, the online safety Bill is currently going through pre-legislative scrutiny, which is an opportunity for issues to be fleshed out. She is absolutely right that the Government focus remains very much on the pension scams that she mentions.
May I express my deep sadness at the loss of Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire?
May I also ask the Minister what action the Government and the police are taking to protect the elderly in particular from scams? One of the most repellent aspects of such crime is that the criminals particularly prey on the elderly and vulnerable.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that question, which follows on from what the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) was saying. It is very important that we raise awareness of how people can protect themselves from these scams and the things to look out for. We need to encourage reporting so that we can build up a wider picture. It is also very important that we focus on victim support when these crimes have occurred and that we prevent re-victimisation. We are increasing our efforts in that area.
I echo what has been said about Sir David Amess. When it comes to James Brokenshire, quite simply he was everything you would have wanted in an opposite number. He was co-operative, constructive, but occasionally combative, and I will miss him.
I congratulate the new Security Minister, the right hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), and I think we have already established a similar working relationship.
Online harms have been brought sharply into focus during the past 18 months. That includes not only fraud and scams, but extremism, radicalisation and terrorism. The police and the intelligence and security services are very concerned, and we sadly know the tragic consequences. Is the Minister satisfied that he can address that in the online safety Bill, or are specific and perhaps more urgent actions required? I assure him that if they are, we would seek to work with the Government in finding common ground to bring forward any necessary measures.
I thank the hon. Gentleman twice over: for what he said at the start and for his expression of support for doing what we must to ensure that we disrupt the terrible messaging, propaganda and ways of association that can have the most horrific outcomes and consequences, and thwart those efforts. There are important steps on illegal content in the online safety Bill that will improve our arsenal and toolkit. However, we must also work in particular on end-to-end encryption and platforms deliberately blinding themselves against being able to take down very harmful material. I look forward to working with him on that.
May I pay respects on behalf of the people of Stroud to the families of Sir David and James Brokenshire?
On the BBC yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was compelling when she spoke about the challenges of tackling anonymous abuse and understanding that the public are looking to us to make changes. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss my verification campaign with Clean Up the Internet to see how the Department can assist that work?
I will certainly meet my hon. Friend, who I recognise has done a lot of work in this area. I want to make it clear that where people are engaged in illegal abuse, they can be identified and prosecuted via existing legislation—the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016—but I accept that there are more aspects to this. I am happy to meet her and look forward to hearing her thoughts.
The whole country is horrified and shaken by the dreadful killing of our colleague and friend Sir David Amess. There has been a tidal wave of stories about David’s kindness and compassion from all quarters. To me, he was a dear and loyal friend. We are all utterly devastated for David’s wife Julia and their family and loved ones.
David, as we have already heard across the House, had a huge number of friends in this House, in his constituency, in the county of Essex and well beyond. The causes he supported were diverse, with so many relating to people and, of course, his much-loved animals. Many sittings in this House were enlivened, Mr Speaker, by his calls for city status for Southend. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] It is agonising to know that we will not see his wonderful smile again.
It took no effort on David’s part to conduct the business of politics in a civilised, good-humoured way, which came naturally to him. Decency ran through him like the writing in a stick of Southend rock. David represented all that was good about this place, so let us all carry his light forward and reflect his passionate commitment to making things better for the people we serve.
May I pay my respects to Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire and send my best wishes to their family, friends and staff?
Today, on Anti-Slavery Day, statistics obtained by After Exploitation show that since 2016 more than 4,500 suspected trafficking victims have been referred for support only after leaving immigration detention. That shows a major failing and demonstrates how the trauma of detention prevents victims from disclosing their exploitation. Will the Home Secretary explain what work is being carried out to tackle the problem and why the Home Office is still planning to open a new immigration centre for women this month in County Durham?
First, on the really important point that the hon. Member makes about modern-day slavery and trafficking, the Government are absolutely committed to undertaking every step and measure to provide support through the national referral mechanism, as well as support on victims and victimisation through much of our modern-day slavery work. I reassure her that more work is taking place through the current Nationality and Borders Bill on what measures we can put in place to safeguard victims and their testimony and ensure that they get the support that they need.
I commend my hon. Friend for engaging with his constituents on what, very often, is easily the closest subject to all of our constituents’ hearts. He will be pleased to hear that we are now approaching the halfway mark on our 20,000 extra police officers, which obviously represents a gross recruitment of something over 20,000. I hope that he will feel the effect of the now well over 100 police officers recruited by Derbyshire constabulary on the streets of his constituency in the weeks to come.
I first met Sir David Amess when I entered this House in 2015 and he approached me, as a new Member, to ask how I was and how I was settling in. That conversation captured the essence of Sir David, who was a kind, thoughtful and generous man, always cheerful and smiling. He was dedicated to the service of his constituents, he had passionate beliefs and he worked across party lines on causes that mattered to him and those he served. He was respected and held in affection across the House, and we on the Opposition Benches send our condolences to his wife Julia, and to all his loved ones and parliamentary colleagues.
Sadly, another Member of this House, James Brokenshire, was taken from us too young. I worked with James on a number of security issues, and he was a man of firm beliefs, staunch integrity and unfailing good humour. He pursued causes with passion and respect, and represented politics at its best. We on these Benches send our sympathies to his wife Cathy, and to all his loved ones and parliamentary colleagues.
I would also like to send my best wishes to Lynne Owens, thank her for her work as director general of the National Crime Agency and wish her a swift recovery from her recent surgery.
Mr Speaker, I am grateful to your office and to the Home Secretary for the work on MPs’ security since the heinous crime that was committed on Friday, but I wonder whether she Secretary could offer some more details on the review. Can she confirm when the review she has announced will be completed, and what she will do to ensure that any recommendations are applied consistently by police forces up and down the country?
First, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments about Sir David and James, and Lynne Owens as well.
Obviously, these are important points about Members’ security that the Speaker and I have been working on over recent days. I think it is absolutely right for all Members of the House to recognise that we want to see consistency across the board when it comes to the safety and security of Members of Parliament and our ability to conduct our public duties as democratically elected Members of this House.
The review is under way right now, and I can confirm to the right hon. Gentleman and to all hon. and right hon. Members that the policing review itself will be concluding in the next few days. There will be more communications to all colleagues across the House about how to conduct their work publicly in a safe and secure way, while at the same time giving the public the confidence and the assurance that they need when they are coming to meet Members in forums such as surgeries. But the one-to-one contact that Members of Parliament require will be taking place—actually, starting from this afternoon.
I am grateful for that answer. The awful murder of Sir David follows the dreadful murder of our friend Jo Cox, an attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), a plot to kill my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) and the murder of Andrew Pennington, who was killed after an attack at the office of the now noble Lord Jones of Cheltenham. Any attack on any elected representative is an attack on our whole democracy, and it is with that imperative that we have to approach this. I appreciate that the current investigation is at a very early stage, and the Home Secretary will quite rightly be very guarded on the specifics, but could she comment more broadly on the issue of lone attackers? Can the Home Secretary set out what steps the Government intend to take to investigate this type of attack and the radicalisation of perpetrators, and will a strategy be put in place to reduce the risk of such attacks in future?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that, with the live investigation taking place, I will not be drawn into any commentary whatsoever, and no Member should. The issue of lone attackers is not new, and across society and across our country and other countries around the world, sadly, we have seen too many lone attackers in previous years as well. There is a great deal of work taking place, and we will continue to discuss the work that takes place across intelligence, policing and security, prisons and probation to prevent these attacks, but also the data and intelligence sharing undertaken across our systems, across Government and across all aspects of various institutions and society. Of course, that is linked to some of the current inquiries that are also taking place.
So a great deal of work is under way, but it is also important to recognise—I would like all Members to hear this—that we have some of the best intelligence and security agencies in the world, and I want to pay tribute to them and our police forces today for the work they have been doing, specifically with regard to the current investigation but also the much wider work they do to keep us safe every single day.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and question. He is absolutely right, and I think all Members take pride in our constituency work and the ability for constituents to approach us and us to be approachable for them. A number of security reviews are under way right now and we are rightly looking at practical considerations to protect Members and the public to enable us to carry out our functions as democratically elected Members of this House.
Having expressed our condolences, can we also express our thanks both to you, Mr Speaker, and the Home Secretary for the work that is already ongoing to review and improve our security? I agree with the Home Secretary that we must make it our mission both to improve safety and to protect the close links between the public and their representatives, but does she agree that this must be true at all levels of democracy? I would mention in particular our local councillors, who are at the coalface and often doing surgeries alone week in, week out.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I pay tribute to all elected representatives across the United Kingdom, because they conduct themselves with great determination day in, day out, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that work is taking place through the Cabinet Office to look at the right kinds of measures and support.
I have made a commitment in this House before that we will introduce a new funding formula for police forces across the land before the next election. That is the objective we are currently working towards, although I would warn everybody that all cannot have prizes.
Unexplained wealth orders are a very important tool and, yes, we are absolutely making sure the resources are there to support their use.
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Today we mark Anti-Slavery Day. One of the first people in Government to recognise the importance of that issue was our much missed colleague James Brokenshire. Will my right hon. Friend please confirm that her priority will be to continue James’s work, making this issue a priority for her and making the UK a world leader in this area?