Crime and Punishment
Crime is rising up the agenda locally, with many more emails and other correspondence on the matter covering everything from counter-terrorism measures after the SE1 attack, to anti-social behaviour in many parts of Rotherhithe, Bermondsey and Walworth, moped thefts and crimes using mopeds (stealing mobile phones for example).
Since 2010, Southwark has lost over 200 police officers and PCSOs under Lib Dem/Tory Government cuts. The inspectorate of constabulary reported earlier this year that the Met were short of 700 detectives. Too many crimes go unsolved and the growth of terror attacks and knife and other violent crime should mean the police have more resources and powers. Instead the Government is axing a further £400 million from London’s policing.
I met with Sophie Linden, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime at City Hall to discuss all these issues. The key items raised were:
- The potential merger of Southwark and Lambeth police forces which will leave our area with the highest 999 call volume anywhere in the capital. We already have a greater risk of terror incidents and a far higher volume of tourism and transport hubs serving millions of people but attracting some additional crime. I am seeking greater assurances that these issues were considered in drawing up plans.
- Sadiq Khan’s delivery of two dedicated ward officers to every local ward. This will hopefully improve local intelligence and visibility in the ten wards in Bermondsey and Old Southwark and with it reduce some opportunistic crime.
- The closure of the ‘front desk’ facility at Southwark police station. Rotherhithe station is already shut and Peckham faces closure. The only front counter in the whole of Southwark will be at Walworth police station, open 24 hours a day. I am unconvinced Walworth is either well-located or able to facilitate the larger footfall. It has just two counters, four waiting seats and a queue out the door whenever I have visited. City Hall will provide more information on plans to expand capacity.
- The inability of 101 to help enable more people to report crime by phone. At a recent Rotherhithe policing meeting, people mentioned waiting an hour to get a call answered which is unacceptable and is a side effect of higher 999 call volumes. The Met also want more crimes reported online. I hope the Met will properly assess broadband speeds to ensure this is possible consistently across Southwark. Rotherhithe does not have acceptable access/speeds for example.
- Moped related crime has rocketed across London. The Met’s specialist programme, Operation Venice, has drawn on serious and organised crime units to crack down and is seeing progress in some areas. Officers have discovered and removed four mopeds in Newington ward alone recently. I will be asking manufacturers like Vespa to do more to protect people who buy their vehicles but will also be seeking clarification on police powers. When I joined the recent emergency shift not one pursuit of a moped was permitted and this is part of the problem.
- Knife crime has also risen sadly again, with two more attacks on Walworth Road recently. Southwark has the highest knife crime rate in London. Shockingly, the prosecution rate is a mere 15%. The punishment for knife crime is not being meted out. It is the second anniversary of 15 year old Mohamed Dura-Ray’s murder. His family join the long queue awaiting justice. The Deputy Mayor agreed to hold a Southwark event to discuss the London strategy to tackle knife crime with local police, community organisations, schools and more. Please let me know if you’d like to attend.
Crime has a devastating effect on families across Southwark. But our police are being robbed of the ability to help prevent, tackle and solve crime by a Government unwilling to listen and completely out of touch with communities like ours.
Crime and Punishment Crime is rising up the agenda locally, with many more emails and other correspondence on the matter covering everything from counter-terrorism measures after the SE1 attack, to...
Lib Dems undermined access to justice and human rights
Yesterday's Daily Mirror covered the awful results legal aid cuts have had on families and individuals. The full article can be read here and it was great to see The Mirror show how this policy affects so many people unable to access justice either as swiftly or even at all under changes made since Labour left Government in 2010.
The legal aid changes were labelled ‘Tory cuts’ in The Mirror but were administered by the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition. No 'Liberal' worth their salt should have been undermining access to justice but these cuts would not have been possible without Lib Dem support, including Commons votes and at Ministerial level.
The array of old faces reappearing as frontbenchers at Lib Dem conference includes Cable, Davey and Swinson. It does not include the former Lib Dem Justice Minister and my predecessor Sir Simon Hughes. Hughes oversaw the legal aid cuts which left hundreds of thousands of people without the support they need, including local people I've seen who need help to escape violent relationships or secure custody of their children. Cuts that Amnesty say have created a two-tier legal service with only the wealthy able to afford full justice. Cuts that the Children’s Commissioner stated in 2014 were leaving the most vulnerable children in our society without access to justice and undermining human rights.
The Lib Dem Justice Minister's response to the Children's Commissioner's severe warning? He announced a 'review' - but Hughes' commitment was printed on Lib Dem press office paper and not from his Government department. It was never honoured and should be a stain on real liberals' collective conscience.
The Mirror is right to castigate Tory-led cuts. But the, albeit limited, exposure of former Lib Dem Ministers at their conference this week is also reminding voters of this guilty party's role in Coalition and with policies like slashing access to justice, trebling tuition fees and introducing the bedroom tax. People in Southwark and beyond still await apology and redress.
Lib Dems undermined access to justice and human rights Yesterday's Daily Mirror covered the awful results legal aid cuts have had on families and individuals. The full article can be read here and it...
Last night, I voted again against leaving the EU. My short comments below were designed to flesh out some of the reasons why (in the limited time MPs get to speak – which could be just 3 minutes).
Over summer I spent a lot of time discussing the Bill and Brexit with people across Bermondsey, Walworth, Rotherhithe, Borough and the Elephant, especially those who voted to Leave. I remind them I made a promise in both 2015 and 2017 to all constituents: I will never support anything in Parliament that could harm our community. It is a simple promise made in replacing a Lib Dem who voted for policies that did severe damage to local people left paying the Bedroom Tax, denied access to justice under legal aid cuts, or paying extortionate tuition fees. But it equally covers Brexit: the biggest issue facing our country and which would leave the whole UK worse off.
- I also met further constituency employers about the Bill. Businesses like ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) who highlight that it is EU not WTO rules that cover transatlantic flights and fear the Bill may not keep UK-US flights airborne.
- I met organisations like the British Toys and Hobbies Association who fear the UK could: lose trade we currently do within the EU; lose our place as global leader in this sector; and be flooded with counterfeit toys from new deals outside the EU.
- And met employers who worry the Bill does not answer fears about future workforce issues. The Bill and leaked Home Office proposals pose new concerns for employers and taxpayers. The Government wants a new expensive registration and visa system. The NHS alone would have to foot the bill for 54,000 new visas for existing staff. The taxpayer would pay for this, but loses doubly: also funding extra civil servants to administer the new system. And businesses would lose out by paying for employees’ visas and being less competitive with rivals within the EU and facing lengthy delays to get visas for new recruits. It often takes over 6 months for my constituents to get visas currently.
These are all issues which the advocates of Brexit should have had the answers to before the Government irresponsibly triggered Article 50. Big Ben might not be bonging but the clock is now ticking on leaving the EU and Ministers still don’t have a clue.
In June voters may have shorn the Government of its majority, but didn’t dent its arrogance, as we see from Henry VIII clauses and attempts to dominate Bill committees. But we shouldn’t be surprised at this authoritarian streak from a Government that tried to:
- rig electoral registers;
- inflate the number of unelected Lords whilst reducing elected MPs;
- cut funding for opposition political parties;
- gagged charities from speaking up about the impact of Coalition and Tory policies;
- and had to be dragged through courts to allow MPs to even debate Brexit, let alone scrutinise any detail.
And look at the people who try to justify this shoddy approach. They’re the same people who told us this would be easy. The same people who said we needed to ‘take back control’ but now say Parliament should adopt 40 years of legislation without scrutiny. And the same people who said they wanted the UK ‘Parliament to be sovereign’ who now try to impose a tinpot Maybot dictatorship over the Commons having ignored voters’ rejection of a hard Brexit in June.
It wasn’t just hard Brexit rejected though, it was ‘neglexit’ – the Government’s complete neglect of a positive domestic agenda, instead offering:
- More foodbanks for working people;
- Less chance to own your own home;
- Cuts to schools and social care;
- Longer NHS waiting times.
- A Government bereft of ideas, dominated by men with 1950s mindsets.
In failing to respect June’s result, in continuing to fail to have positive policies for British people, and in banging the drum for the hardest of possible Brexits and all the damage it would cause, Ministers and their backbenchers appear to be fighting amongst themselves on how best to lose the next general election.
Last night, I voted again against leaving the EU. My short comments below were designed to flesh out some of the reasons why (in the limited time MPs get to...