The Government is currently demonstrating how well they can set out poor proposals or fail to respond to real issues in a timely manner. Over the last few days this emerged in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which had its first reading on the 9th March and the second took place last week. Sadly, it includes several gaps along with very poor-quality elements. Some of the gaps have appeared previously in private members Bills over the last decade which so far have not managed to get adopted even though they are clearly vital. It is very disappointing that they have not been included by the authors of the current Bill. Because most of our local MPs have already approved the early versions of the Bill, we clearly need to find a way to be able to raise our concerns with more than our own MPs. As I have observed previously, several local MPs occasionally raise questions or call for changes for the whole of Sussex or for East or West Sussex. Given that this happens quite often and also that we are just 12 weeks away from Sussex Day on Wednesday 16th June, perhaps we could call on all Sussex MPs to begin to find a context within which they can respond to Sussex residents and workers rather than ignoring people outside of their constituency. Indeed as Sally-Ann Hart from Hastings expressed last Tuesday during the current policy debate
We must not forget that the police are the public and the public are the police. We all have a duty in community safety and welfare.
And she is right about the police and the public but she and her colleagues also need to address the links between Parliament and the public. It is not acceptable for MPs to focus in a way that prevents people they don’t want to talk to or respond to, being ignored.
The challenges that took place last week in Parliament as already mentioned related to issues such as crime and how the police can deal with people who are wanting to express legitimate concerns in a public space. The Bill has now had its second reading and it is next due to be set into its Committee Stage which is clearly capable of dramatically improving the Bill. There are also stages in the House of Lords that will also enable it to be improved. Let us hope that all Sussex MPs and Lords will work together to remove the bad elements and introduce new themes that are currently missing, particularly if they were introduced within Parliament in the past. The most recent element came from a group of MPs from Labour and Conservatives including Sally-Ann Hart to ensure that if a young person is charged with a crime and if they become an adult before they are taken to Court that they will be treated as a child, not as an adult criminal. That was introduced two weeks before the current Bill and yet it has still not had its second reading which demonstrates the poor priorities of Parliament. We could then go back a bit further when a Liberal Democratic MP just over a year ago on International Women’s Day 2020 introduced a Bill to try to make misogyny a hate crime. Wera Hobhouse spoke about it again last week and sadly the response from Priti Patel was that the Law Commission is considering it and she will continue to work on it. Particularly as the lack of misogyny in her own Bill is one of the reasons the Labour Party are currently opposed to it. Another reason for the Labour opposition to the Bill relates to the fact that 5 years ago Keir Starmer introduced a cross-party Bill for a victims’ law to give legally enforceable rights to victims. Peter Kyle from Hove has recently tabled a similar victims’ Bill that is before Parliament now and it is ready to go. As Keir Starmer told Boris Johnson
all it needs is the political will to act
He then followed that up with the reference to how the Conservative Government has been promising a victims’ law for the last 10 years and in their last three manifestos and yet it has still not appeared. These gaps are only part of the concerns. Another is poor quality elements that are included. Caroline Lucas raised some of these referring to a no-protest zone around Parliament and an attack on the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Also it is problematic for
up to 10 years in prison for any offence committed by destroying or damaging a memorial, and criminalising people for taking part in protests
Clearly what is needed is a fundamental right for peaceful protesting, which is a cornerstone of our nations liberal democracy!