Following the tragic deaths of the people in the back of the lorry in Essex, the Home Secretary delivered a statement to the House on what further action has been undertaken.
I was keen to press the Home Secretary on a report undertaken by the Chief Inspector of Ports and Borders in 2016. The report identified a number of failings that needed to be rectified – including increasing the number of checks on vehicles entering the UK through our smaller ports. I wanted assurances that the Home Office had reviewed that report and will be undertaking further examinations of what action can be taken.
It was good to hear that the Home Secretary knew the report I was enquiring about, but we need to see action accompany her words.
This week we learnt of the heartbreaking news that 39 people died in the back of a lorry and were only discovered in Essex at the end of the route. The suffering that these people must have faced is unimaginable.
The barbarism of those who trafficked these people, 28 adults and one teenager, is a demonstration of pure evil. Praying on people’s desperation for profit and undertaking actions that put lives at risk.
I hope that our police have access to every tool imaginable to bring these people traffickers to justice.
During the statement I asked the Home Secretary what work has been done with EUROPOL in sharing information with other police forces in Europe.
For the past three years EUROPOL has worked with all police forces in Europe to tackle people trafficking head on. The information and expertise that they hold will be crucial in tracking down the gangs that have perpetrated this crime.
The Home Secretary made a statement to Parliament today which detailed how the UK Government would increase funding for the places of worship fund, including a £5m fund to provide security training. Established in 2016, the places of worship fund aims to help fight hate crime, and provide support and equipment so places of worship can operate safely.
I wanted the Home Secretary to provide more information on how police would be supported in their prevention strategies and how the Counter Terrorism teams would be given the powers they need to tackle closed social media groups.
The rise of far right terrorism across Europe is deeply worrying and we should be doing all we can to bring it to an end. The Home Office has cut 21,000 police officers from our streets, and although this funding is welcomed, they must rebuild our intelligence led policing capacity.
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.”