Monday 8th June 2020

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Home Office

The Secretary of State was asked—

Ed Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
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If she will hold discussions with the Prime Minister on the suspension of the “no recourse to public funds” condition during the covid-19 outbreak. [903001]

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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The Government have made it our priority to protect the vulnerable throughout this national emergency, but we do not believe it is necessary to suspend the NRPF condition to do so. It is right that migrants coming to the UK are financially independent; however, practical support, such as rent protections and the coronavirus job retention scheme, apply to those NRPF conditions. We have allocated more than £3.2 billion to local authorities and £750 million to charities to support the most vulnerable.

Ed Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey
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The Home Secretary does not get it. People who have worked here and paid taxes here for years are being denied support and falling into destitution. People who have lost their jobs or seen their income slashed can be excluded from the very protections that the Home Secretary cites. Given that the rule disproportionately impacts people in our black and minority ethnic communities the hardest, will the Home Secretary suspend the “no recourse to public funds” rule for the duration of the pandemic?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question and his comments. The answer is no. Local authorities have provided a basic safety net, and that is because of the significant financial provisions that the Government introduced and the range of measures to support those people who had been working. Because of coronavirus—because of the national health pandemic situation we find ourselves in—we will support people with “no recourse to public funds”, and that assistance is being given under the coronavirus retention scheme and also the self-employed income support scheme, so funds are available. It is wrong to imply that safety nets are not in place. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay tribute to local authorities which, throughout this pandemic and this crisis, have been resourced with an extra £3.2 billion to provide vital financial help.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
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Further to the comments that the Home Secretary just made, Ministers from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote to all councils on 26 March asking them to utilise alternative powers and funding to assist those with “no recourse to public funds”, so it seems that the Government have understood in principle that NRPF is counterproductive during the pandemic, but the lack of clarity from the Home Office means that in practice people are still facing destitution. With that in mind, will the Home Secretary look again at the spirit of the Prime Minister’s comments to the Liaison Committee and outline how the Government intend to support these families?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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It is important to put on the record that this is not just about the Home Office; we work across Government and MHCLG—the Department responsible for local government and communities—is obviously central to this issue. In terms of the resources that have been provided, practical support, such as rent protections and the coronavirus job retention scheme, apply to those under the “no recourse to public funds” conditions. The hon. Lady specifically mentioned MHCLG and local authorities; £3.2 billion has been provided. I have been working directly with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and I have also been part of discussions with the devolved Administrations, throughout the past 10 weeks, looking at the protective measures and the support that can be provided through the resources provided from central Government.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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The Black Lives Matter movement and Public Health England’s review of the disparities in risks and outcomes in the covid-19 outbreak have highlighted the inequalities suffered by black and minority ethnic people in our society. Does the Home Secretary accept that the “no recourse to public funds” policy disproportionately affects people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities? If she does, why will she not push for it to be suspended, as a concrete step towards tackling the inequalities that so appal many of our constituents?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I have a number of points to make to the hon. and learned Lady. First, the Government published the report last week on the impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. The findings are indeed shocking and it is right that the Government invest their time and resources, particularly through the Minister for Equalities, to look at the measures that can be put in place. The “no recourse to public funds” policy is one of many policies, and it is right that as a Government we look at all policies that affect all communities in the round, without singling out one particular policy.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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I am glad to hear that the Home Secretary is looking at the policy, but I urge her to read a report that came out this time last year by Agnes Woolley called, “The Cost of the No Recourse to Public Funds Policy”. It found that most families with “no recourse to public funds” in the United Kingdom have at least one child who is British by birth, and nearly all those families are black and minority ethnic. Accordingly, “no recourse to public funds” is inherently more likely to affect BAME British children than white British children. Therefore, given this evidence that “no recourse to public funds” is a policy with racially discriminatory impacts, why will she not accept that it needs to go?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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If I may say, it is wrong to characterise the policy as racially discriminatory. It is a fact, however, that, for all communities and people of all backgrounds, there are many financial protections in place through the safety net of the welfare state. In addition, when it comes to children, funds have been made available through the Department for Education in the pupil premium. There are a plethora of support packages, which, combined collectively, are based on individual needs and individual circumstances. It is right that we treat people as individuals and not just categorise them. It is important to recognise that a plethora of issues affect people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, but we cannot assume that there is a one-size-fits-all approach, or a single-policy solution, to address those issues. It is right, as I have already indicated, that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities looks at the report that was published last week and that the Government provide a collective response to the many challenges facing the community.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to ensure that (a) police forces and (b) fire services have access to adequate levels of personal protective equipment during the covid-19 outbreak. [903002]

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question. My Department is working extremely closely with the police and the fire and rescue services, as he will be aware, to ensure that they receive all the support and PPE that they need throughout this covid-19 outbreak.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell
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I thank the Home Secretary for her answer. May I also take this opportunity to put on record my support for the police? I sympathise with those police who were injured in the past few days. I believe that Staffordshire police have done a fantastic job throughout the covid-19 outbreak. They have issued one of the lowest numbers of fines in the country, which is because they have been policing with consent and with the good sense of the people of Newcastle-under-Lyme and the county more widely. On PPE, it is my understanding from them that they are expecting to be reimbursed for the supplies that they have—they have sufficient supplies. Will she confirm that this will be the case?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He represents a constituency with which I am familiar. The work of his local resilience forum, his chief constable and police officers and staff throughout the pandemic has been exemplary. I want to put on the record my praise for them. On PPE supplies, it is my understanding that the force has achieved sufficient supplies. That is something that we have been working on at a national level. The Government have previously indicated that forces should be reimbursed for expenditure and, obviously, we will be working on that across Government.

Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to help reduce the level of theft of tools from trades people. [903003]

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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Stealing someone’s tools is a particularly rotten kind of crime. Not only does it deprive them of their belongings, which is bad enough, but it also often deprives them of their livelihood, notwithstanding the inconvenience that it causes to them and their employers. We are determined to do something about this, which is why I recently convened a group of people from the industry and from policing to look at what more we can do to help. We are spending £25 million on our safer streets fund to drive down exactly this kind of acquisitive crime.

Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami
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I thank the Minister for his response. Will he join me in championing the use of modern technology to combat tool theft such as the ToolWatch app designed by Harpenden residents, Denise and Alan Brett? This technology makes each tool traceable and can help police fight this crime. Will he take this opportunity to champion ToolWatch and help to spread its use in police forces throughout the country?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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My hon. Friend is one of the most original thinkers in the House and therefore it is no surprise that he champions innovation in all things, including crime fighting. Yes, he is absolutely right, there is lots more we can do in harnessing technology to fight crime, and I would be very interested, when we get back to normal, to visit his constituents and see ToolWatch for myself so that we can take it and promote it to the industry more generally.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
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If her Department will introduce a cap on the number of immigrants permitted to enter the UK each year. [903004]

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
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I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. He has long experience of matters such as this in the Home Office and elsewhere. On 1 January, for the first time in decades, the United Kingdom will have full democratic control over our immigration system, giving us power to determine who comes here and for how long. We do not intend to impose a cap, but our points-based system will ensure that only those with the skills our country needs come to the United Kingdom, and it is our expectation that total migration, as a consequence, will reduce.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes
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With the post-covid economy facing unprecedented challenges and the prospect of job losses, in the same spirit that the Home Secretary showed in condemning this weekend’s wicked violence, will the Minister look again at the resident labour market test, which means that jobs have to be offered here before they can be filled from abroad? Rebuilding Britain mean backing British workers.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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My right hon. Friend is correct that we want to encourage as many people as we can from the UK to take up job opportunities that are available. Our objective, ultimately, is to see a full rate of employment. We have laid out the points-based test that will apply from 1 January next year, ensuring that only people with high skills can come here, but it is up to this House and this Parliament to keep that under review, to ensure that we are striking the right balance in the way he describes.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
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I am grateful for all that the Home Secretary is doing to bring in this new policy, which I hope brings higher wages and higher skills, but does it not also require tougher enforcement against the dreadful people traffickers who are making money out of making a mockery of our laws and undermining all that we stand for?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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My right hon. Friend is correct: people trafficking and people smuggling is a shocking offence that causes untold human misery. Last year, Immigration Enforcement made 259 arrests in connection with people smuggling and secured 101 criminal convictions, but I would like to assure him that this is an area where we can, must and will go a great deal further.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to help protect victims of domestic abuse. [903005]

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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Domestic abuse is a horrific crime that shatters the lives of those affected. We are working closely with domestic abuse organisations, the domestic abuse commissioner and the police to ensure that help and support continues to be available, and more so while the covid-19 restrictions apply.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell
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I thank my right hon. Friend for her commitment to work in this area. One in four perpetrators are repeat offenders, and some have as many as six different victims. In that light, does she agree that greater uptake of Drive, an intensive intervention programme aimed at perpetrators, could save lives, change the narrative and break the generational cycle which sees children raised in homes where they have witnessed abuse go on in later life to be at greater risk of becoming either abuser or victim?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. She has highlighted many of the challenges but also the opportunities, in terms of how we can work with partner organisations to provide the right kind of support needed to tackle the root causes of domestic abuse, to protect children and to educate them in terms of their own safeguarding. There are many opportunities through which the Government are doing that, so that we can tackle this heinous crime. The landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, which began its Committee stage on 4 June, is a significant opportunity to transform our response to domestic abuse, provide critical support to victims and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
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I know that there will be a statement on the events of the weekend following this session, so I will address those matters then. On domestic abuse, I welcome the fact that the Government responded to the calls of Opposition Members and campaigning charities on the need for a funding package for the sector. Labour called for £75 million for domestic abuse services, with specialist services such as those for migrant women protected. Can the Home Secretary confirm how much of that investment has reached the frontline?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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8 Jun 2020, 2:49 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware of the funding packages that the Home Office, along with the MHCLG and the Ministry of Justice, put towards the Treasury recently. To date, £1.2 million has been allocated to 13 frontline support organisations running key and vital services, including helplines, chat functions and improving technological capabilities, specifically for the covid-19 response. The funding will help to expand helplines and online capability to provide additional support and guidance so that victims can continue to access the support that they need.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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8 Jun 2020, 2:51 p.m.

Well, £1.2 million of support for helplines is obviously welcome, but it is a tiny proportion of the overall £75 million, which needs to reach where it is needed as soon as possible. As of 2019, one in six refuges has closed since 2010. In 2017, local authority spending as a consequence of austerity had fallen from £31.2 million to £23.9 million, resulting in 60% of women being turned away from refuges for lack of spaces. That simply is not good enough. Even if the Home Secretary does not know the specific figures today, will she confirm that she will do all that she can to ensure that the money that has been announced actually reaches the frontline? Yes, the Domestic Abuse Bill is coming through Parliament, but we cannot just legislate our way out of this—that money is needed now.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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8 Jun 2020, 2:51 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the money that is required to go to frontline services. As I indicated, the £76 million of funding that has been allocated to domestic abuse is split across three Departments. The Ministry of Justice has received £15 million for work with local domestic abuse charities through the criminal justice system.

On the hon. Gentleman’s specific question about the need for refuge provision, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will be allocating £10 million to domestic abuse safe accommodation services. It is important that we all recognise that that is where the demand is. Throughout this very difficult period where refuges have found it difficult to operate, there has been a wide spread of measures where we as Government, in our engagement with the refuges directly, as well as with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and the Victims Commissioner, have deliberately sought practical means of support for the frontline throughout this emergency.

Edward Timpson Portrait Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) (Con)
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8 Jun 2020, 2:52 p.m.

Building on my right hon. Friend’s answer to the question on refuges, covid-19 has also highlighted the fact that despite the best efforts of the staff in our refuges across the country, including in the north-west, many of those who have sought refuge there, including their children in some circumstances, have not always had access to a good internet connection, which is often a lifeline for them, especially for children who need education. As we start to roll out broadband across the country to fulfil our manifesto commitment, will she commit herself to looking at refuges as one of the organisations that should be at the front of the queue so that people know that access will be there should they seek such sanctuary?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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8 Jun 2020, 2:52 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a vital important point. I have seen for myself, working with refuge and other third-party organisations in the domestic abuse space, the amazing work that they do in terms of internet safety within refuges. We must always put first and foremost the safety of the victims in the environments within which they are living. He is right to highlight the fact that without the internet, too many people, including children, are cut off, and that is a hindrance to their development and wellbeing. I will absolutely take his suggestion away with me and ensure that as we build greater internet safety provisions in refuges for domestic victims, we also think about what more we can do to give them the right kind of safeguards with the right provisions.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to stop migrants crossing the English Channel illegally. [903006]

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to stop migrants crossing the English Channel illegally. [903016]

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to stop migrants crossing the English Channel illegally. [903019]

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
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I am very glad that this question has arisen. We should be absolutely clear that these crossings of the English channel are extremely dangerous. They are crossing the busiest shipping lines in the world. They are facilitated by criminal gangs who are ruthlessly exploiting vulnerable people. The crossings are also entirely unnecessary because France is a safe country and it has a very well-established and functioning asylum system. We are therefore working with our French counterparts around the clock, sharing intelligence between our National Crime Agency and the French authorities, to stop illegally facilitated crossings and to prevent on-the-beach embarkations.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
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8 Jun 2020, 12:08 a.m.

That is a very clear answer as far as it goes, but it appears that French patrol boats are escorting these dangerously overloaded inflatables across the channel until they reach English waters—I should say UK waters—whereupon our patrol boats pick up the occupants and ferry them to our shores. I understand that this is because we have to save people who put themselves, and sometimes their families, at serious risk at sea, but how can we remove perverse incentives to behave in such a dangerous fashion?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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It is worth emphasising that where boats get into difficulties in French waters—for example, if their engine breaks down—the French will pick them up and take them back to France. We must, as my right hon. Friend says, be mindful of safety of life, but we are reviewing our operational practices in these areas, for the reasons he mentions. Half the attempted crossings are intercepted by the French on the beach. We have so far, since last January, returned 155 people who have crossed and we seek to return many more.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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Migration policy is a core aspect of our national sovereignty. Will my hon. Friend please confirm that the UK will have a fair immigration policy that welcomes people who come to the UK legally, irrespective of nationality or religion, and that we will take back control over illegal immigration?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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8 Jun 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I entirely agree with the point my hon. Friend makes, and with the similar points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke), on this topic. We have a points-based system coming into force shortly. We granted asylum or protection to 20,000 people last year, one of the highest figures in Europe, and we welcomed 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, the highest number of any country in Europe. Our legal migration methods are entirely fair. We should therefore be policing illegal migration routes with complete effectiveness, and the Home Secretary and I are determined to do that.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling
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I thank my hon. Friend for his earlier answer, but we know that the migrants, as they cross the channel, sometimes threaten the French navy that they will throw themselves or their children into the sea. That is an appalling act, and we need to get the French navy to step up to the plate and take those people off the boats in international waters. What are we doing now to ensure that this happens?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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8 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Discussions are under way between the UK Government and the French Government. Indeed, I am speaking to my opposite number, the French deputy Interior Minister, Monsieur Nunez, on Thursday this week. There is more we are doing as well, including working with the French OCRIEST, the French gendarmes and the Police aux Frontières—the PAF—to ensure that as many of those embarkations are stopped before they even get on to the water. About 50% are stopped before they get on to the water, but we would like that number to be a great deal higher.

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake (Sheffield, Hallam) (Lab)
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What steps she is taking to help prevent hate crimes against (a) people and (b) places of worship while covid-19 lockdown measures are eased. [903007]

Kim Johnson Portrait Kim Johnson (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab)
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What steps she is taking to help prevent hate crimes against (a) people and (b) places of worship while covid-19 lockdown measures are eased. [903008]

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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8 Jun 2020, 12:06 a.m.

The Home Office is committed to rooting out hate crime across our society, and we are in continued conversations and discussions with the police and partners across Government to ensure that these criminals face justice. The Government have a zero-tolerance approach to the vicious misinformation that seeks to blame any race or religion for the spread of all sorts of coronavirus rumours and misinformation. The deliberate spreading of false information in order to undermine our respect and tolerance for each other has been disgraceful, and obviously we are working across Government to stamp this out.

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake
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8 Jun 2020, 12:07 a.m.

Last month in South Yorkshire there was a tripling in hate crime and, even more shockingly, a doubling in the amount directed at people of east or south Asian descent. Muslim communities have also been attacked and singled out over Ramadan and Eid. What engagement has the Home Secretary had with those communities at risk?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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First, the figures that the hon. Lady has cited are simply shocking, disgraceful and unacceptable. That speaks to a small minority of individuals and their lack of tolerance and respect for the communities she mentions. She specifically asks me about the engagement I have had, but of course across Government, and in the Home Office as well, we are engaging with different groups and different leaders of organisations at a ministerial level, but also at an individual level. I would say to her and all colleagues that we absolutely condemn the appalling racial discrimination and the hateful way in which misinformation has been spread, but also the way in which this has been targeted against specific communities.

Kim Johnson Portrait Kim Johnson
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As we are all aware, there has been a disproportionate number of deaths of black people as a result of the coronavirus, with a number of equality organisations raising concerns about closed online groups mobilising to incite hatred and violence against communities that are becoming covid-19 scapegoats. Stop Hate UK claims that the real number of hate crimes is likely to be much higher as incidents against people and places of worship are significantly under-reported. Can the Secretary of State confirm what specific plans have been put in place proactively to address the feared increase in hate crime?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank the hon. Lady for her very important question and the points she has made. Any form of hate crime is of course completely unacceptable, and we expect the perpetrators of such crimes to be brought to justice. I suggest and ask that anybody who is a victim ensures that they engage with the police and has crimes reported. On the Government’s response and work across Government, obviously the Home Office and MHCLG continue to work closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, importantly to ensure that all police forces—we police by consent in this country—are providing assistance to communities and community organisations, and having the right kind of dialogue and support. But we are also encouraging that hate crimes—throughout this pandemic, there are no excuses for them—are reported. I and we, across police and across Government, continue to work with civil society partners. That is absolutely the right thing to do, and we will continue to do so.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
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As the Secretary of State has mentioned, there has been a sharp increase in online hate crime during the coronavirus lockdown. Organisations providing advice and support for victims are predicting a big surge in hate crime following the relaxation of lockdown measures, so what steps are the Government taking to introduce counter-messaging for religious, ethnic and LGBT+ groups that fear an escalation in hate attacks, and what additional funding will be given to the organisations responding to increased demand for advice and support?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and he is right to ask about the cross-Government work that we do, and the support that we give to organisations, in the Home Office, but also with MHCLG. It is clear, in particular, that we see a lot of this activity taking place online. We are absolutely making sure that we can tackle that. We have robust legislation in place to deal with cyber-attacks, internet trolls, harassment, and perpetrators of grossly offensive, menacing and obscene behaviour, and we will continue to do so. Of course, through other means, such as places of worship funds and other activities across Government, we will absolutely continue to make sure that such organisations are resourced in the right way and, importantly, that we continue such community engagement and dialogue.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of levels of financial support for people in the asylum system during the covid-19 outbreak. [903009]

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
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I have been making an assessment of this matter in recent weeks, and following publication of the most recent Office for National Statistics data, I can announce to the House today that, with effect from 15 June, the asylum support rate will be increased by 5%, from £37.75 a week up to £39.60 a week. That is about five times higher than the prevailing rate of inflation, which is currently 0.8%.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West
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That is rather an ungenerous increase, I have to say, given that the rate can be as low as £37 a day for certain people seeking asylum. However, any increase is something I welcome. Could the Minister tell me whether he could live on under £40 a day?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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Well, it is per week: the rate is £39.60 per week. It is calculated by a methodology that is approved by the courts, and it is done with reference to ONS data, based on the incomes of people in the bottom 10% of the population. It is done with reference to figures, by a court-approved method, and that is the right way to fix this thing. I say again that a 5% increase is very substantially higher than inflation.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking to increase the number of police officers. [903010]

Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell (Sedgefield) (Con)
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24. What steps her Department is taking to increase the number of police officers. [903013]

Kit Malthouse Portrait The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse)
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The Government are of course committed to delivering an extra 20,000 police officers over the next three years and to putting violent criminals behind bars for longer. That is why we are giving the police literally wheelbarrows full of cash, with £700 million this year to help with the recruitment of 6,000 additional officers by the end of March 2021; 3,005 of those officers have already been recruited.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
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May I first ask the Minister to join me in congratulating all of Aylesbury’s police on ensuring that the Black Lives Matter march in the town on Saturday passed off peacefully? Thanks are also due to the organisers and the community partners for their co-operation. Having recently been on a socially distanced patrol with the police superintendent in Aylesbury, I know the increase in officer numbers and the cash my hon. Friend mentioned will be greatly appreciated. Can he assure me that the process of additional recruitment be sustained, despite the undoubted pressures on the public purse due to coronavirus?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I join my hon. Friend in congratulating his local police on the peaceful passing off of the protests in his area on Saturday, and I thank him for taking the trouble in his first few months as a Member of this House to spend some time with his local police. It is always informative, and I urge all Members to do the same.

Of all the promises made at the general election, I know that delivering Brexit and delivering 20,000 police officers are the two closest to the Prime Minister’s heart. With confidence, therefore, I can say that we will complete that task in the time allotted.

Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell
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I want to take the opportunity to place on record my thanks to Jo Farrell, the chief constable of Durham and Darlington police force, for the calm and controlled conduct of her force and, in particular, for her excellent weekly cross-party virtual briefings to make sure that local MPs and council leaders are up to speed. In recent calls, one point of concern has been frustration with delays in restarting court proceedings. Will my hon. Friend further encourage the Ministry of Justice to do everything possible to find a safe way to make as much progress as possible in reopening courts, so that all our police forces’ work results in criminals being dealt with?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I join my hon. Friend in offering congratulations to his local police force and chief constable for the work they have done throughout the lockdown. Police across the entire country have done a fantastic job and remained remarkably resilient throughout the last few difficult weeks. He is right that the impact of the crisis on the courts has been profound and has resulted in the workload—the case load—rising quite significantly. Double-hatted as I am between the Home Office and the MOJ, I have a ringside seat on creating a recovery plan for the courts. On Friday, I held a meeting between the courts service, the Lord Chancellor and chief constables from across the country to start to outline the recovery plan to them, and I am confident that it will be put in place quite soon.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab)
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As the shadow Home Secretary said earlier, issues around the horrific killing of George Floyd and the protests at the weekend will be dealt with in a statement later this afternoon. Now, I would like to ask the Minister about his “wheelbarrows full of cash”. With many police and crime commissioners, we wrote to the Home Secretary in early May, responding to a letter from the Minister for Crime and Policing to a PCC suggesting that funding for recruitment of the first tranche of the 20,000 additional police officers promised by the Prime Minister be repurposed to fund the response to covid-19 pressures. Will the Minister categorically confirm today that that letter was incorrect and that funding for recruitment of those desperately needed additional staff will not be diverted, and that the wheelbarrows full of cash will continue to be used to recruit those 20,000 police as promised?

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for allowing me to clear up what is obviously a misunder- standing. Throughout the crisis, I have held weekly calls with police and crime commissioners across the country to talk to them about the issues they are facing. One issue brought to us relatively early was cash flow, as a number of forces have faced additional costs during the crisis and they felt that their cash flow—not the absolute cost, but their cash flow—might come under pressure. We therefore agreed to a number of measures, not least advancement of the pension grant and the early delivery of half of the ring-fenced funding for recruitment, to ease that cash-flow pressure. That is a separate issue from the overall cost, and our discussions with the Treasury about that cost and with PCCs are ongoing.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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What steps her Department is taking to enforce social distancing measures during the covid-19 outbreak. [903012]

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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As we battle coronavirus, I am in constant contact with law enforcement leads, alongside the Policing Minister. We have listened to their needs from the start and empowered our outstanding police officers and forces to reduce the spread of coronavirus and save lives. Of course, central to that are the social distancing measures, and police continue to work constructively across all our communities to engage, explain and encourage, with enforcement the last resort.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell
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8 Jun 2020, midnight

There is so much confusion now about social distancing. Despite just guidance having been given, in Wales, legislation was made to give the police the powers they need to put this in place, so what discussions has the Home Secretary had with Cabinet colleagues to introduce similar legislation now, particularly as we are seeing lockdown lifted and more danger being presented into our communities?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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8 Jun 2020, midnight

First of all, when it comes to social distancing measures, the Government could not have been clearer that we all need, in order to stop the spread of the virus and control it—[Interruption.] We do, and from a policing perspective, the regulations are very clear in ensuring that we work constructively with our communities to social distance. As I have said, enforcement is the last resort, and the police have the power to issue fines of up to £100 in the first instance. The hon. Lady will be interested to know that 15,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued from 27 March to 25 May. In Wales, which she mentioned, 1,300 FPNs have been issued, taking the total for England and Wales to just under 17,000.

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab)
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What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the quarantining of people entering the UK during the covid-19 pandemic. [903014]

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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8 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

As set out in my statement last week in the Commons, the public health measures at the border that are being introduced from today are the latest cross-Government measures in our collective response and fight to save lives, protect the British people and, importantly, prevent a second wave of coronavirus. Alongside the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Secretaries of State for Transport, for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and for Health and Social Care, I have worked across Government and the devolved Administrations, with science and industry, to carefully develop this health policy from a cross-Government perspective.

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali
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I thank the Home Secretary for her answer, but the reality is that some of the Government’s response is likely to increase the risk of a second wave. It is also not clear why the Government are not agreeing to a 48-hour fast-track system of quarantining, instead of 14 days, which will do damage to our businesses. What steps will she take to ensure that this can be done in 48 hours?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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8 Jun 2020, 12:02 a.m.

First of all, the policy is clear and it has been outlined not just by me but by other colleagues across Government—this is a cross-Government policy. The hon. Lady will be aware that the regulations are public health regulations, and in addition, the specific measures that clearly have an impact on the transport sector are being led by the Department for Transport and other Government Departments. From a health perspective—this is all about health; these are public health measures at the border—we have been guided not just by the science, but by working with the Department of Health and Social Care and SAGE advice and scientific advisers, in how this policy has been developed.

Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab)
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8 Jun 2020, 12:03 a.m.

Scientists say that the quarantine introduced today has come too late. The police say it is unenforceable. The tourism and aviation industry say that it will ruin them, and the Home Secretary’s Department said that it is very hard to imagine how it will practically work. In contrast, our proposal for a 48-hour testing-led model would be targeted and efficient and would keep the country open for business. Can the Home Secretary explain to the House how her plan is better and why the Government think that they are right and everybody else is wrong?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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To the hon. Gentleman, I would say the following—first of all, this is not my plan; this is a Government plan and Government policy. In terms of the approach that has been taken, the Government have maintained throughout this pandemic that medical and scientific advice, in terms of border measures, are consistent and are now being applied. That is why throughout this entire outbreak—across the whole of Government, working with every Department—we have brought in and identified the right measures. He is right to highlight the impact on business and the economy, which is why I held a roundtable with the transport sector last week. It raised a number of issues about not just quarantine, but business costs and issues around business rates and furlough.

It is not solely for one Department to address these issues, and it is right that we work across Government to look at how we can introduce new measures. As the hon. Gentleman might recall from my statement last week and the questions I answered, I covered potential air bridges, fast testing, immunity passports and how we can digitalise the response at the border. That is a cross-Government response and it is something that all my colleagues across Government, led by the Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care, are currently working on.

Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State claimed again that this policy is backed by the science. The chief scientific officer says that it is not. Will the Home Secretary please publish today the advice that she received from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that led her to introduce this irrational jobs and holidays-destroying measure?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the comments that I made in the House last week regarding the scientific advice from the Home Office’s own scientific adviser. Of course, that advice will be published.

Natalie Elphicke Portrait Mrs Natalie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
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If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. [903026]

Priti Patel Portrait The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Priti Patel)
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The remarkable success of Hong Kong is predicated on its freedom, its autonomy and the remarkable industry of its people. The decision by the Chinese National People’s Congress to impose a national security law on Hong Kong is a clear breach of China’s international obligation and a threat to the freedom of the people of Hong Kong. If China follows through with this legislation, Britain will not hesitate to act. We will put in place new arrangements to allow those in Hong Kong who hold British national overseas passports to come to the UK, enabling them to live and apply to study and work for extendable periods of 12 months, leading to a pathway to British citizenship. If it proves necessary, the British Government will take this step, and take it willingly. We will never abandon our commitment to the freedom of Hong Kong and its people.

Natalie Elphicke Portrait Mrs Elphicke
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New-born babies put at risk of hypothermia; toddlers stripped of their life jackets and dangled over the side to prevent interceptions; and pregnant women forced to board at gunpoint. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is humanitarian—as well as the right thing to do—to tackle and put a stop to ruthless criminal gangs, to return boats to France and to give her the legal powers that she needs to put a stop to these small boat crossings once and for all?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She will know from the discussions that we had as recently as Friday the extent of the criminality, exposure and abuse undertaken by people traffickers, who are forcing mothers and children on to unseaworthy vessels, and the horrendous circumstances that they are put in. My hon. Friend the Immigration Minister earlier outlined the approach that the Government are taking to tackle these abuses, and to go after the criminals and the facilitators of this crime. We will not stop pursuing this policy until we absolutely break the pathway that these criminal gangs are using.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)
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The Home Office says that 9,000 looked-after children and care leavers are eligible for EU settled status. To date, 11% of these children have had such status. Why does the Home Office not consider a blanket approval for these vulnerable children, and spare us all an administrative nightmare and a second Windrush? [903027]

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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When it comes to EU settled status, we are working with local authorities to give them the support that they need. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, and all hon. and right hon. Members across the House, will continue to work in a constructive manner in their constituencies to ensure that children are granted the settled status that they are due.

Saqib Bhatti Portrait Saqib Bhatti (Meriden) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that the right to protest is a fundamental part of our democracy, but that that right does not extend to physically assaulting our heroic police officers? Can she confirm that those perpetrators who assaulted police officers and engaged in public disorder over the last few days will feel the full force of the law? [903029]

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. We strongly support the right to protest peacefully, but that does not extend to the violent behaviour that we have witnessed across the country throughout the weekend. Any assault on our brave police is completely unacceptable. Any perpetrator should be in absolutely no doubt that they will be arrested and prosecuted. Assaults on emergency workers must be handled with the appropriate severity by the entire criminal justice system in a consistent way, and this Government will go even further, as we have committed to consult shortly on doubling the minimum sentence for those who assault emergency workers, in order to ensure that the sentence truly fits the crime.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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The Government need a refresher course in their own policies: the Prime Minister does not know what “no recourse to public funds” means and the Equalities Minister and apparently the Home Secretary think it means that lots of help and support are available. In Newcastle today, “no recourse to public funds” means a mother unable to buy food or nappies for her baby, a British citizen, in the middle of a pandemic with no public help available. Does the Home Secretary know that? Does she care? [903028]

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The hon. Lady is completely wrong in her categorisation. First, public health measures are available right now, in addition to the fact that this is a public health emergency, so it is wrong to assert that in the way she has done. Also, I have outlined the funds. Working across Government, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, vital funds and resources have been provided to local authorities to provide support to people who need that extra support. That is something the Government are committed to.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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8 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I know that we will return to the protest issues in the statement shortly. This evening, there will be a television dramatisation of the terrible injustice inflicted on Anthony Bryan by the UK Home Office during the Windrush scandal. It was a case we raised in the Home Office Select Committee two years ago. Does the Home Secretary agree with the urgency and importance of the Government now accepting and acting on all the recommendations in Wendy Williams’ review? In particular, given the timing of the immigration Bill, has she implemented recommendation 7 on a review of the hostile environment, including its impact on race equality?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The right hon. Lady will be well aware, from the statement I made in the House earlier this year, that I am looking at all the recommendations in the Windrush lessons learned review and have committed to returning to the House to outline those recommendations and their implementation. It is important for me to say categorically again, on the record, that the review was distressing and many strands in terms of institutional thoughtlessness were applied to the Home Office. Last week—Wednesday, I think—I met again and had a substantive discussion with the Windrush advisory taskforce to look at various facets of the review and to discuss the issues around compensation but also to discuss the measures that do need to continue to be pursued by the Home Office in terms of ways of working. That work is absolutely ongoing. There are cultural changes that need to be brought to the Home Office as well to understand and resolve many of the issues that she as Chair of the Select Committee will be familiar with and which her Select Committee covered two years ago. It is important that we give not just the Department but myself the time to work with Wendy Williams to bring forward those measures so that we can right the wrongs of the past.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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Just a couple of weeks after I gained the nomination to stand for election as the Member of Parliament for Bosworth, a young man was stabbed to death at the end of my road in Hinckley. What has the Home Secretary’s Department been doing to rid us of the horrible scourge of knife crime both before and during the covid-19 outbreak? [903031]

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for raising a distressing and horrendous case. Too many young lives have been lost to knife crime, which is why we continue with our plans and determination to recruit 20,000 police officers—the Policing Minister has already outlined a way that is working and the funds allocated. Importantly, it is right that we have legislated to take more knives off our streets and that our serious violence Bill will place a new duty on public agencies to reduce serious violence. That means public agencies coming together at a community level to work to stamp out that violence but also to provide the support that young people need in the community to avoid a life of crime and violence and to be protected from these horrible, heinous crimes.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We will be pleased to hear from a virtual Barry Sheerman.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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I only wish I could be with you, Mr Speaker, to ask this question to the Home Secretary. She will know that drugs and drug running are at the heart of so much violence when it occurs in our constituencies. There is some good money that she is responsible for—the violence reduction units—and which is very welcome because it enables police forces to have those extra resources, but it is on a yearly basis. My police and crime commissioner and my local police tell me that, in order for that to be effective, it needs to be known that they will have that money for a number of years. Will the Home Secretary move on that and help my community, and communities up and down the country?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and also for highlighting some of the most shocking aspects of serious violence. He mentions the violence reduction units, which play a phenomenal role in reducing violent crime at a local level. He also touched on drugs, and particularly county line drugs. A lot of work has been combined, and there are now more resources available to police forces specifically for reducing serious violence and for violence reduction units, but also for rolling up county lines. He will be absolutely cognisant and aware of the work taking place in his constituency with his chief constable and police and crime commissioner to make sure that all those strands come together, to make sure that we can absolutely tackle the scourge of serious violence.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
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In Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, residents report the illegal use of off-road bikes around natural beauty spots, such as Ford Green nature reserve, the football pitches of Kidsgrove Ladsandads and Birchenwood country park. Will my right hon. Friend join me and local councillor Dave Evans in encouraging my local police and crime commissioner, Matthew Ellis, to work with the chief constable to start taking tougher action on the illegal use of vehicles, and to confiscate those vehicles when the law has repeatedly been broken? [903032]

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, the rule of law applies to everybody. I particularly commend the work he has led, with his local council colleagues, on working with the chief constable to urge the police and crime commissioner to tackle this scourge. Any crime of this nature blights communities, and communities are disproportionately affected by this.

Tracey Crouch Portrait Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con)
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While many people completely understood the impact of the strict global lockdown on their personal travel plans, things are beginning to change at destinations across the world. Many of our constituents are due to travel in the next few weeks but now face potential financial loss because of the lack of clarity over whether the quarantine policies are a refundable reason for cancellation under their insurance policies. What discussions has the Home Secretary had with the insurance industry about cancellations due to the impracticality of quarantine for those about to go abroad, and will she commit to giving her speedy support to travel corridors, so that our hard-working constituents can go on the holidays they have saved for? [903033]

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend will be well aware of my comments last week about travel corridors, and specifically international travel corridors. I have been working across Government, with Transport but also the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The travel advice right now still clearly advises against non-essential travel. However, this is important, and my hon. Friend makes a valid point about insurance companies, refunds and some of the financial responsibilities and liabilities. We are working across Government, as I said to the House not only today but last week, to make sure that all those considerations are actively pursued and discussed. She will hear from other Government colleagues who lead on those policy areas.

Pauline Latham Portrait Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)[V]
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Some charities are reporting a decline in the use of domestic abuse helplines during this lockdown, as people are entrapped with their abusers. This is a particular problem for those victims facing language barriers, where English is not their first language. What steps is the Home Secretary taking to ensure that those victims, using those helplines, are directed to specialist charities with bilingual call handlers, such as Karma Nirvana? [903034]

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight that. A great deal of work has taken place with specialist domestic abuse organisations, particularly those that offer bilingual services. A wide-ranging awareness campaign has been launched, the “You are not alone” campaign, which signposts victims to the specific practical support that they need. We have provided £2 million to bolster those services. That is for helplines, and to help organisations to bolster their own technological capacity and provide direct practical skills to ensure that victims remain protected.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
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We learn and understand our history in schools and museums, and we build statues of those whom we deem worthy of our adoration. Does the Secretary of State agree that where there is the democratic desire to do so, statues of white men who enslaved and killed black men, women and children can, and should, be removed from our streets?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue. We live in an open democracy and a free society, where we can do as he suggests through democratic means at a local level, with elected mayors and local councillors. Those processes must be maintained so that people can have their voices heard, exercise their democratic rights and freedoms and, importantly, stay within the rule of law.

Lee Rowley Portrait Lee Rowley (North East Derbyshire) (Con)
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Following on from the question asked by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn), does my right hon. Friend agree with so many residents of North East Derbyshire who contacted me over the weekend that violence is never an acceptable method of pursuing political ends? [903035]

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are privileged to live in an open and democratic country with many values entrenched in our constitution and our rules-based system. There is no justification for violence. There are many avenues through which people can exercise their voice and raise their concerns at a local council level. That is the right way to approach these issues.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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8 Jun 2020, 12:08 a.m.

Topical question 16—not here.

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for five minutes.

Sitting suspended.