During Home Office questions my colleague Yvette Cooper MP asked the Home Secretary how many police officers would be recruited to increase our ability to tackle extremists and their terrorist activities. No answer was forthcoming so I used my question to ask the Home Secretary once more how many officers would be employed and when.
Not only did the Government frontbench feel that it was appropriate to snort at the call for more police the Home Secretary said it wasn’t the most important aspect of tackling terrorism. As a former Security and Policing Minister I can tell you that the number of bobbies on the beat in communities really does make a difference.
It is also important to remember that when the Home Secretary was running for leadership of the Tories he pledged to recruit another 20,000 officers. Miraculously now that he is no longer a candidate for the leadership he has forgotten this pledge despite the fact he occupies the one job in government where he could recruit more police.
The rising in violent crime in North Wales should concern us all. It is happening under a backdrop of cuts to our policing budgets and the number of police officers on our streets.
This week, Labour secured an Urgent Question on the rise in violent crime following the devastating deaths on the streets of London. We are struggling with similar problems in North East Wales as County Lines have spread from Liverpool to Cheshire and Flintshire. The only way to tackle this in the long-term is through Neighbourhood Policing.
I pointed out to the Minister that even her own boss, the Home Secretary, has said that he wants to recruit 20,000 more police officers if he becomes Prime Minister. That happens to be the number of police officers cut since I was Policing Minister for Labour in 2009-10. Cuts that I said at the time would have dire consequences.
The Minister tried to sing the praises of the additional 3,000 officers. It doesn’t take complex mathematics to figure out that still means we have 17,000 officers fewer than 2009-10. She then mentioned that I voted down the Policing Grant last year. This is true. But what the Minister did not mention was this is due to the fact that it was still a cut from previous budgets.
The Government need to listen to communities and police officers. We need more police and we need them now.
I have pledged support for a campaign to grant survivor pensions for life to police widows and widowers.
Following a change to the Police Pension Regulations, there are now three different approaches to survivors’ pensions in the UK and what happens if an individual remarries, co-habits or forms a civil partnership after the death of their spouse.
In Northern Ireland all police widows retain their survivors’ pension upon remarriage, co-habitation or civil partnership irrespective of the circumstances of the death of their spouse. Whereas throughout the rest of the UK, the pension is only retained if the death of the spouse occurred on duty or as a result of an injury on duty. To further complicate matters in England and Wales the pension is only retained if the remarriage or cohabitation occurred after 1 April 2015, whereas in Scotland there is no such restriction.
This unfair policy puts widows and widowers in an incredibly difficult position, forced to make a choice between financial security or isolation. This is why National Association for Retired Police Officers (NARPO) is urgently calling for the UK Government to align the status and rights of police widows and widowers in England, Wales and Scotland with the rights of Northern Ireland police widows and widowers. This would mean that they would retain their pension entitlement in full regardless of how and when their spouse died.
I believe all police widows and widowers deserve to be treated the same throughout the UK. Their contribution to public service often goes unrecognised but they provide crucial support to their spouses in conducting their roles, both emotionally and practically. They should be given the opportunity to live out the rest of their lives with both financial security and the option to remarry or cohabit.
NARPO Chief Executive, Steve Edwards, said:
“We hear from our members every day about the significant impact this policy has had on their lives and the lives of their families. We are very grateful for the support we’ve received from parliamentarians. It is now time for the Government to recognise that this inequality that exists within the UK is unjust and rethink their approach.”
It was announced this week that the Director of Public Prosecutions introduced a new form that will request consent forms to be completed by victims of crime – including those who are alleging rape – to allow the police to access information including emails, messages and photographs. If people fail to give consent it is said that the prosecution may risk not going ahead.
Victim Support said the move could stop victims coming forward and I share their serious concerns that people who have faced an ordeal beyond imagination are having further pressure placed on them.
That is why I asked the Minister of State what is being done to ensure that victims are put first. We cannot get ourselves to the situation where people do not feel able to come forward an report a crime. This not only ensures that people live in emotional and physical pain without support, but the alleged perpetrators of these crimes may get away with it.
More can and should be done for victims.