Political Violence and Disruption: Walney Report

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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On the SNP Benches, we stand firmly against intimidation, violence and extremism anywhere. We stand against antisemitism, Islamophobia and hate in all its pernicious forms. But this report goes nowhere near tackling the causes of hate and violence. To recommend—as it does in many different ways—clamping down further on people’s right to protest is entirely inappropriate.

Just yesterday, Liberty won a notable victory at the High Court. The Tory anti-protest laws have led to substantially increased exposure to criminal sanctions on the part of protesters exercising their civil rights, and the court found that the Home Secretary had failed to consult groups who may be affected. Last year, when we debated the statutory instrument on which that court case was founded, I criticised the wide and vague definitions within that SI, which led the Government to that challenge. We certainly do not need more illiberal legislation—that goes against our democratic principles, does it not?

It is in that context that we have Lord Walney’s doorstop of anti-democratic measures in front of us today. I note that Lord Walney has a serious conflict of interest in this matter, as a paid adviser to defence and oil and gas interests—a matter of public record. To say that there should be further restrictions on groups such as Just Stop Oil or anti-war demonstrators smacks of a conflict of interest. It certainly strikes me, as somebody who has been on many protests over the years, that the author of this report must have been on very few, based on his lack of understanding of such protests, how they are organised and the types of people who attend them.

I also ask the Minister if he will take this opportunity to clarify what the Prime Minister said the other week when he put people who support the democratic self-determination of their country in the same bracket as those who support extremist regimes around the world. Scottish nationalists are not extremists. We have been asking for our independence for a very long time and in democratic ways.

I also wish to—[Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker, it is a very long report. I also wish to criticise in particular recommendation 4, which says:

“Serious incel-related violence in the UK should not be routinely categorised as terrorism”,

which I think is extremely worrying. I would ask the Minister to reconsider that. In the online space, I also feel there are a lot of contradictions, as the report says that platforms should not use artificial intelligence but that the police should be empowered to do so.

Tom Tugendhat Portrait Tom Tugendhat
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The hon. Lady and I have a slightly different perception on many things—that is true—but certainly on liberty. Over the past few weeks and months, I have seen members of our communities terrified to walk the streets of our country. I have seen people, particularly from the Jewish community, but from many others as well, fearful that the radicalisation and violence threatened by some of the protests is threatening them. I have also spoken to friends in the Muslim community who are terrified that their children will be radicalised into groups that advocate violence. I think it is the job of this Government—of any British Government—to defend the interests of all our citizens. I make absolutely no apology for standing up against extremism; whether it seeks to target Jews, young Muslims or anybody else, it is simply unacceptable.

The suggestions that Lord Walney has set out are just that—suggestions. They are suggestions that the Government will look at, consider and come back to, and I will update the House as soon as we have been able to do that. However, if liberty means anything, it means the ability to travel freely to the synagogue on Saturday, to the mosque on Friday, and to the church on Sunday. It means being free from intimidation. It means the ability to enjoy life in the United Kingdom free of those pressures and terrors. This Government will always stand up for those freedoms.

Crash-for-cash Insurance Fraud

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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It is lovely to see you in the chair, Ms Fovargue. I thank the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) for bringing this important debate to the Chamber.

In preparing for the debate, I found out that Glasgow is sixth in the league table of places for crash-for-cash claims—although it is not something that my constituents have raised with me yet—so it is certainly an issue that I will be taking up as well. Allianz has mentioned that there was a sixtyfold increase, in 2023 alone, of motorbike crash-for-cash claims, so we should not be treating this lightly or ignoring it; it is increasing and we should do more to deal with it. Aviva has put a figure of £59 million on motor fraud as a result of some of these activities. Again, that has an impact on all our insurance premiums, which have already gone up considerably. A lot more can be done to highlight the issue so that nobody ends up a victim of this crime.

It was interesting to hear from the hon. Members for Carshalton and Wallington and for Mitcham and Morden (Dame Siobhain McDonagh) about the frightening impact on victims. The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden clearly went through a difficult and confusing experience. The victim does not know what is going on when someone comes at them and behaves in that way, which is very frightening. The seeming targeting of mums on the school run is again frightening, particularly if children are in the car when something happens—that can be distressing and something they will not easily forget. There is something nasty about this type of crime.

As has been said, car insurance industry research shows that scammers use three different types of tactics for their staged accidents. Incidents where fraudsters crash into each other and claim on their separate insurance policies perhaps have less impact on the rest of us, although it has a worrying impact in terms of fraud. There are contrived accidents, where scammers make insurance claims; made-up accidents that have never taken place; and induced accidents, crash for cash, where a person deliberately drives dangerously or badly to force a collision with an innocent motorist—slamming on the brakes without warning, swerving into them or pulling out at a junction or roundabout, giving an incoming car no chance to avoid them.

This activity has a serious and frightening impact on people, and is a growing problem. The Insurance Fraud Bureau says that crash-for-cash scams happen every four minutes on UK roads; during this debate there will have been multiple scams. The bureau estimates that 30,000 incidents take place every year, costing insurers about £350 million in losses. The impact on insurance premiums is a rise of about £44 per person. The increase in such fraud is worrying, because when driving we expect to proceed in a normal way. We do not expect people to come at us in the way that these motorbikes or cars may do. That scenario can cause serious injury, particularly if it happens on a faster road. There is a real risk of injury and serious harm from the impact on the car and person. The scammers are posing a serious risk to themselves and other people.

I would be grateful if the Minister gave more details about the involvement of organised crime gangs, and how they are organising themselves to carry this out. There has been talk about other kinds of fraud being facilitated over social media. Is there such evidence for this type of crime as well? Social media has been an organising and facilitating method for many other types of fraud, both in recruiting people to be part of the scams, and for sharing information. It would be useful to know whether that is happening.

I encourage people to listen carefully to the advice given by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington about what we can do as motorists and car passengers in these instances. We should be vigilant, look around and pay attention, as we always should when driving. Should something like this happen, we should look for damage, take photographs and be aware of what is going on. We should not feel forced into taking someone’s details. Sometimes scammers try to force people to part with cash there and then, on the scene, to try to avoid insurance claims. Do not go ahead and do that, because that is part of the scam. Take as many details as possible of the person involved.

It was quite chilling to hear that some of the bystanders—the people watching—could also be part of this scam. Victims should try to find somebody to help and support them, collect as much evidence as possible, and contact their own insurer and the police, because with evidence we can tackle these crimes, crack down on the perpetrators and get to the root of the organised crime gangs running these operations. All evidence is very useful. Taxi drivers can particularly fall victim to this kind of scam, which can take their business off the road. They are now obliged to have dashcams, both front and rear, in their vehicles. It would be useful to hear how many people have had dashcams installed to deal with this kind of scenario.

What is happening with public awareness of this issue, Minister? What are the Government doing to let people know that it is happening? This cannot be left just to insurers or to police; we need a co-ordinated effort to ensure that people are aware and that we do not provide an open door to crime gangs to perpetrate these awful incidents. As the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden said so powerfully, they can be frightening and long-lasting. I ask the Minister for more details of what will be done.

Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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I thank the Labour Front-Bench spokesperson, the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), for his kind words about Scotland. I was rather worried, given the lengths he was going to, that I might not get back to Scotland this evening.

In responding to this statutory instrument today, I very much welcome the engagement that the Home Office has had with the Scottish Government and partners and organisations in Scotland. We have been able to tailor Prevent to the Scottish context, and it is important that we do so, because some of the threats we face are not quite the same, as has been acknowledged.

I will also take this opportunity to thank Figen Murray for all the work and advocacy she has done following the Manchester Arena bombing. I ask the Minister for any update he can give on the status of the proposed legislation. We would all like to know what exactly the Government are planning for that. In that light, I also pay tribute to Eilidh MacLeod from Barra, who also lost her life in that bombing, and remark on the wonderful work that the trust in her memory does to develop youth music as a lovely legacy from something so terrible.

The Scottish Government have tailored Prevent to emphasise early intervention, safeguarding and preventing people from becoming alienated or isolated, with the aim of reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to toxic extremist narratives. According to the review, “Understanding extremism in Scotland”—those research findings were published in July last year—stakeholders, public sector practitioners and members of the public often found it difficult to articulate a precise definition of the concept of extremism when asked. Extremism is often depicted as views or behaviours in opposition to societal and cultural norms, values and morals. The use of advocacy of violence to promote a viewpoint or in pursuit of a particular aim is also a common feature of the definitions found in that research.

Broadly, in that research, public sector practitioners felt that because there are smaller ethnic minority populations in Scotland, as compared with England, the response is slightly different. People may feel less marginalised in Scotland, less susceptible to some of those messages and less vulnerable to radicalisation.

It would be negligent of me not to mention the wider concerns about Prevent. A few months ago I met Amnesty, which has concerns about Prevent and has produced a report. It was worried by some of the extreme examples where Prevent had gone horribly wrong and people had ended up stigmatised. People with neurodiversity or learning disabilities have sometimes been caught up in Prevent, for example. What safeguards are the Government putting in place to prevent the awful things that have happened to people, and the impact that can have on their day-to-day lives? People who are no threat should not end up in Prevent because of a misunderstanding by someone who has the right to report them.

Let me reflect on my wider concerns about the Walney report and some of the comments of the Levelling Up Secretary earlier this year. Some in the community felt that they were being stigmatised undeservedly. I worry that their involvement in groups may push them towards radicalisation and Prevent when they should not be. We should try to draw people away from being stigmatised. I repeat what I said earlier—we should think about the far right in our definition of extremism, because it is a serious worry for me and many others. We should also be concerned about extreme British nationalism. Many of the people who come after me on social media have Union flags in their profiles. They are not any other kind of extremist but definitely British nationalists who come at me because I believe in independence for my country. Those people should be acknowledged in the report.

I encourage the Minister to go further on misogyny and incel extremism, because that is a clear and definite threat to women. Our young people are at severe risk of radicalisation, and are already being radicalised. As the mother of a teenage boy, I am deeply worried by the kinds of things that teenage boys see on their social media feeds. Will the Minister to do more about that within the Prevent strategy?

The Scottish Government will continue to work with the UK Government on Prevent, developing the necessary guidelines, co-operating with anti-terror police and tackling extremist violent threats wherever they reside. The numbers of people referred to Prevent in Scotland have been small. I do not want the number of reports to increase greatly, because that would cause wider concerns about where we are going as a society. I urge caution and the need for community cohesion, because that is the very best defence against people being drawn into extremism—if the community stands around them and they do not feel isolated and excluded but part of something, rather than feeling marginalised and driven apart.

Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Wednesday 24th April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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The SNP firmly supports this order as well, and believes that no organisation should be free to spread extremist hate and encourage violence in the UK, so it is absolutely right that the Terrorgram collective is proscribed as a terrorist organisation. I heard the Minister mention that Terrorgram is the sixth extreme right group to be proscribed and, as I understand it, it is the first online network to be proscribed in this way, and I welcome that he has taken that step.

Tech Against Terrorism, which also welcomed this proscription, has been tracking and reporting on Terrorgram’s content for some time and has stated that it sent alerts on this content to seven different platforms, only four of which have removed it. I understand from the explanatory notes that this order now gives the Government the power to compel platforms to take down such content. Has the Minister had any communication with Tech Against Terrorism, or has he instructed these platforms to take down this content, because it has no place on them, especially given this proscription order from today?

I understand that the Huffington Post has named a woman in the US, Dallas Humber, as Terrorgram’s propagandist and a narrator of some of its content. As this is, to some extent, an issue of human rights abuses, is it possible that we can look at proscribing an individual under our existing Magnitsky legislation? Could the Government put restrictions on this woman, who has been named as perpetuating hate online, or any other individuals who are involved in setting up this site? These people should not be allowed to travel around the world. If this women were to travel to the UK, for example, she could speak to people in the real world as opposed to just online. Will the Minister take that away and consider whether something of that kind is indeed possible?

Can the Minister give us an up-to-date assessment of far right groups, as the Government and the various intelligence agencies are picking up on this and giving it such a high priority, especially given the scenes that we saw on the streets of London earlier this week? Extremism does not begin with organisations such as Terrorgram or with the atrocities that people inspired by Terrorgram have committed. It starts at a much lower level, and people, via the algorithms that these sites use, get exposed to more and more extremist content. Has any work gone into tracing how some of these people got to very extreme content, and what steps could have been taken to remove content at a less extreme level before they got exposed to something that radicalised them to the point of carrying out atrocities?

There is prevention work to be done here. I have seen various cases where somebody came in with a concern about lockdown and is now a serious anti-vaxxer because they saw more and more extreme content, and then got exposed to more far-right content and more dangerous content as a result. There is a job of work to be done to deradicalise people who have been exposed to such material. What are the Government doing, and what thoughts do they have on how they might go about deradicalising those who have been exposed to far-right content? It is a very serious threat to our democracy and the safety of people, particularly minorities, in the UK. I do not think that it is quite being taken seriously enough.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesman.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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I will start in order with Lords amendment 1D in the name of Lord Coaker. The Minister asked why the Government ought to have due regard for those particular pieces of legislation—why would we want to have due regard for international law and various Acts, including the Children Act 1989, the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Modern Slavery Act 2015? Well, the reason is found on the face of the Bill, which states, in the name of the Home Secretary:

“I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill are compatible with the Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.”

The Government are setting out to undermine our international obligations, so it is quite right for the Lords to insist that we abide by them. That is the very least the Government should be doing. There are implications for children, for people who have been victims of slavery and trafficking, and for people whose human rights will be abused. The Government should be paying far more attention to that.

On Lords amendment 3E in the name of Lord Hope, there is significance in ensuring that the monitoring committee can do its job properly. It is not clear in what circumstances Rwanda can be declared not safe. The monitoring committee is supposed to produce an annual report that then goes up the chain to the Joint Committee, but there is no mechanism for the committee to blow the whistle should something happen. There is no mechanism for it to say, “Suddenly, something has happened and Rwanda is no longer safe.” What happens in that circumstance to those recommendations? How are they acted on, and what then happens to the people the UK wants to send to Rwanda?

There no such mechanism in this legislation—or, as far as I can see, in the treaty, which involves a three-month delay, and the agreement of both parties, before anything can be annulled. What happens should something untoward occur in Rwanda? I referred to the action of the M23 rebels in my remarks earlier this week, but the Minister did not respond to it in his summing up. What happens if something goes awry? We do not know; we are beholden to the Government’s assertion that Rwanda is safe in perpetuity. There is no mechanism to remove the perpetuity of Rwanda’s designation as “safe.”

I highlight the experience of the Irish author and journalist Sally Hayden, who wrote “My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World's Deadliest Migration Route”. She has raised concerns about the mechanisms of scrutiny in Rwanda itself, and about the treatment of refugees in Rwanda. She has visited the country on several occasions, but was denied entry last month as she went to cover the 30th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. She has tried to resolve that with the Rwandan authorities, but believes that she was refused entry precisely because she has criticised them and their treatment of refugees. Should that not alarm us all when it comes to the scrutiny of the Bill both here and in Rwanda? She said:

“Proper scrutiny of the consequences of this policy are not possible because it’s not a country with freedom of media and freedom of speech”.

We should be deeply concerned about that. Without that independence and scrutiny, we cannot be certain that what is happening in Rwanda is what the UK Government intend or what the Rwandan Government are telling us. Press freedom is crucial for that level of scrutiny, beyond the supposedly independent monitoring committee. I support amendment 3E.

I also support amendment 6D, in the name of Baroness Chakrabarti, because it stands up for the right of our own authorities to make proper decisions. It empowers our decision makers and our courts, as they should be empowered, to look at the evidence before them and make proper decisions. The Government are asking the judiciary, immigration officers, tribunals and everybody in the system to engage in a legal fantasy—that they should ignore all the evidence before them and believe the Government when they say that Rwanda is safe in perpetuity. With reference to proposed new subsection 1(c), which deals with refoulement, I remind the House that Rwanda engaged in the refoulement of several persons during the negotiation of the treaty, never mind at any time. We should be worried about that.

Lords amendment 10D proposes the new clause, “Exemption for agents, allies and employees of the UK Overseas”. We had an urgent question earlier today about the people from Afghanistan who are being yeeted out of Pakistan. The Pakistani Government are apparently pleading by using Rwanda as some kind of justification for that behaviour. That really indicates the ripple effect of what the Government are doing: other countries are praying in aid this legislation when they look to do things that we also have concerns about.

Oral Answers to Questions

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Monday 15th April 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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The cruel Conservative hikes to the visa minimum income threshold have caused deep distress—deep, deep distress—to many. Does the Home Secretary understand the pain that these changes have caused, and what message does he believe it sends out to those who would do us the honour of making their home in these islands that he puts such a high price on love and family life?

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly
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It is absolutely right that any nation in the world puts conditionality on the people it accepts within its own borders. This country has a long-standing tradition—in fact, I am a product of this, as are the Prime Minister, the Business and Trade Secretary and many others in the Government—of being open and welcoming. However, when we see the orders of magnitude of legal migration that we have seen over the last couple of years, it is incumbent on us to take action. We have made it clear what action we will take, and we have given notice of the changes so that people can make their plans accordingly. When there are special cases, there is a special cases exemption, so that we can both control immigration and do our moral duty to protect those people who seek our protection, and be an attractive place for people to come and work.

--- Later in debate ---
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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Gaza Families Reunited’s petition for a Palestinian family visa scheme has garnered 100,000 signatures, and I hope it will soon be debated in Parliament. Gazans are stuck in a cruel and irrational Catch-22 situation: they cannot cross the border to Egypt because they do not have visas, as they cannot get their biometrics registered, but they cannot get their biometrics registered because they cannot get to a visa application centre in Egypt. The Government have the power to waive the requirement for biometrics to be registered, and it is in the Minister’s hands to do so. Why won’t he?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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The hon. Lady will appreciate that the security of the system is imperative. We must act in accordance with the requirements, which we put front and centre. I will not comment on ongoing litigation, but I can say that we will continue to work with Foreign Office colleagues in the way that we have described. Elements of the peace process are at play in relation to these issues, but we will keep our response to this crisis under review as matters develop.

Oral Answers to Questions

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Monday 26th February 2024

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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People who come here to work, study and live make a significant impact on Scotland’s economy and society, so reducing their number is entirely self-defeating. Reunite Families UK has highlighted the disproportionate impact that Tory changes to visa income thresholds will have on women. I have asked the Minister this before, and I have yet to have an answer: when will he publish the full equality impact assessment on this damaging policy?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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We will publish the equality impact assessment associated with the policy in due course. The hon. Lady will appreciate that the Government’s position is clear that the current levels of net migration are not sustainable. We need to take forward a set of policy measures that deal with that and that promote domestic employment wherever possible. There is a strong moral case for the approach that we are taking. None of the measures being applied is retrospective, but we are convinced that this is the right thing to do. The British people think that action is needed, and action is what they are getting.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
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I spent a lot of time this weekend with members of the Glasgow branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, which put on a major demonstration and a service in Glasgow cathedral at the weekend to mark two years since the escalation of Russian aggression in Ukraine. The Government’s changes to the Ukraine scheme came with very little notice and caused a great deal of uncertainty and distress in that community. Will the Minister tell me whether, for example, a wife whose husband has been injured fighting on the frontline against Putin’s war machine will be able to sponsor her husband to come here under these restricted rules?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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As we said when we debated this issue in the House last week, the Government are very proud of the amazing response from people across this country who have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees. There will continue to be an out-of-country route through the Homes for Ukraine scheme to facilitate people being able to come here from Ukraine. Ukrainian refugees here in the UK will be able to extend their visas. We gave that certainty way ahead of the curve, when compared with our international partners. Ukrainian nationals who would have qualified under the Ukraine family scheme will still be able to apply under Homes for Ukraine.

Deportation of Foreign National Offenders

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Wednesday 7th February 2024

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Gray.

I do not really know where to start in this debate. Uncharacteristically for me, as someone who does not profess to be any kind of person of faith, I might start with a passage from Leviticus:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

The Bible may not talk about asylum seekers and refugees, as the hon. Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) says—I honestly would not know—but there is certainly an awful lot in there about treating other people as you would treat yourself and your own family. There has been very little of that in this afternoon’s debate.

We are here in very febrile times. I completely understand how upset people are about the attack in Clapham. That person should be fully held to account for his actions. He should face the full extent of the law and the justice system, and deportation, if indeed that is what is decided. There is no question about that. There is a process there that should be respected.

Hon. Members have heard me talk many, many times about the issues around asylum, but they probably have not have heard me say that, yes, there are circumstances in which people need to be removed. The right hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) will remember that when she was Home Secretary I wrote to her plenty of times about many constituents in many complex situations. There is very little that I have not seen in my constituency, given the complexity of casework that I have.

However, I also know that there are circumstances in which people cannot be deported, because to do so would mean their execution. We do not extradite to countries that have the death penalty, for example, so to say that everyone must be deported in all circumstances simply is not the basis on which the law of this country operates. I have had situations like that in my constituency, where people could not be removed and sent back to their countries of origin, because they would almost certainly have been executed on arrival.

The only thing on which I agree with the hon. Member for Redditch is that this situation is, indeed, the fault of the current Government and their predecessors.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
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That is not what I said.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
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The hon. Lady said that it is the current Government’s fault. She is quite correct in saying that. The Conservatives have been in control for quite some time now, and they have failed on numerous occasions to deal with the situation.

Stephen Shaw’s review of the issue identified many areas in which the Home Office had failed to deal properly with foreign national offenders. I appreciate that time is limited, but I want particularly to pick up on the excellent point from the hon. Member for East Lothian (Kenny MacAskill) about our responsibilities to people who are more British than foreign. Stephen Shaw reflected on that in his review, saying that

“a significant proportion of those deemed FNOs had grown up in the UK, some having been born here but the majority having arrived in very early childhood. These detainees often had strong UK accents, had been to UK schools, and all of their close family and friends were based in the UK… Many had no command of the language of the country to which they were to be ‘returned’, or any remaining families ties there… The removal of these individuals raises real ethical issues.”

He also said that

“the twelve month sentence criterion for deportation in the UK Borders Act is not a very good guide to criminality”—

we can all think of sentences of 12 months or so that are not the types of sentences that some hon. Members read out earlier. He further said:

“I find the policy of removing individuals brought up here from infancy to be deeply troubling. For low-risk offenders, it seems entirely disproportionate to tear them away from their lives, families and friends in the UK, and send them to countries where they may not speak the language or have any ties.”

If we believe in rehabilitation, that means that if I were to commit a crime, I would go to prison, serve my sentence, and then be considered rehabilitated; I would not be sent to another country. We have a double standard in how we treat these people.

Stephen Shaw’s review also points out the inability of caseworkers to manage the FNOs within the system currently. It makes it clear that they are not being well managed, that casework is not being well managed and that people are not being prepared for return. He feels that all those circumstances lead to a risk that people will be brought back to a life of crime and will not be rehabilitated at all.

The independent chief inspector of borders and immigration has expressed the same concerns, saying:

“This is no way to run a government department.”

There is a lot that the UK Government could be doing better to achieve some of the aims that Government Members would put forward.

Knife and Sword Ban

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Tuesday 6th February 2024

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, because she has done incredible work that is admired by me and the shadow Home Secretary. A lot of what I am about to talk about is based on that experience, because that work has been very good.

The Young Futures programme will bring together services locally to better co-ordinate the delivery of preventive, evidence-based interventions around a young person that help to tackle mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and issues that people might get into with their friends and family. We will then bring that together in a national network that shares evidence, delivers support for teenagers at risk of being drawn into crime across boundaries and, where appropriate, could deliver universal youth provision. Then, crucially—this speaks to the point just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali)—we would build out from that, with youth workers in accident and emergency units and in custody centres, and with mentors in pupil referral units, to target young people who are starting to be drawn to violence.

Those are change moments, particularly in healthcare and custody settings. We know it might be the moment when an individual who is sliding into serious violence, whether as a perpetrator or a victim, may need that intervention. It might be the moment where we can get that change in behaviour that will in many cases save their lives. That is why it is so crucial that we have this degree of investment into young people, because otherwise such measures will not work.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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The hon. Member makes good point. As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) pointed out, a lot of this work has been going on in Scotland. Has the hon. Member met Medics Against Violence, whose “Navigator” project does exactly what he is talking about within a hospital setting? It intervenes through people with lived experience to try to get young people into that frame of mind where they might want to exit that lifestyle and that violence they have got themselves into.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris
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There is clearly much that we can learn from the Scottish approach. I have not had the opportunity to meet Medics Against Violence, but on the hon. Member’s recommendation I will seek to do that. We strongly support the idea of support and mentors in A&E and custody settings. The evidence shows that would be highly effective.

We need to end the exploitation of children and young people by criminal gangs, and that includes county lines. We need a new criminal offence of child exploitation and a new serious organised crime strategy to go after those cowards who make millions off the back of exploiting young people. To bring the change to deliver that, we need a new, proper cross-Government coalition to end knife crime, bringing together those who have key roles in tackling it and in keeping young people safe, whether they are Ministers, community leaders, faith leaders, the families of victims, sporting bodies, tech companies or young people themselves. Everybody should be brought into this fight. That is the sort of Government that we would seek to lead, if given the opportunity.

Draft Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2024

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Wednesday 24th January 2024

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

General Committees
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Hollobone. I apologise for my tardiness—as colleagues explained, I inadvertently got stuck in a lift trying to get to Committee today and I missed the beginning of the Minister’s statement.

I am pretty sceptical about these orders adding more dangerous drugs to the already quite long list of dangerous drugs and about the effect that will have. Adding drugs to a list certainly does not prevent or deter people from taking them. The analysis of the risk at paragraph 79 in the impact assessment from the Home Office states:

“The analysis does not consider any deterrence effect in which indivduals stop misusing the controlled drugs as a result of the intervention. This is not included due to a lack of evidence on the likelihood of a deterrence following drug control both across all controlled drugs and the specific drugs controlled in this legislation.”

I would be interested to hear from the Minister why he thinks that adding these drugs to the list will stop people taking drugs. The very nature of drugs is that they are quite moreish, and people tend to keep taking them. That is the history of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

I also reinforce the findings of the Home Affairs Committee report, which asked the Government, among other things, to look again at the Misuse of Drugs Act, which is a very outdated and largely ineffective piece of legislation. I very much agree with that point.

The hon. Member for Nottingham North mentioned the significance of naloxone in tackling opioids and in reversing the effects of opioid overdoses. That has been used to great effect in Scotland. It is carried by the police, and I and my office staff have been trained in how to administer it, not just the nasal form but the injectable one. It is available in Scotland for people to have training on. The Scottish drugs agencies help to make sure that people can get that training in the community, which is really important, given that drug addiction and overdoses are, sadly, still too prevalent. I would encourage all Members to take up the opportunity if it is available to them, because it is important to be able to make that intervention and to save lives where we can. I will not oppose the order, but I certainly remain sceptical about the effect that it will actually have.

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Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
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On the point about synthetic opioids, many charities are concerned about the impact that the stymieing of the flow of drugs from Afghanistan may have on the development of synthetic opioids in Europe, because they do not need to be transported; they can be made right here. That is a risk factor should the supply of heroin into the UK be stopped as a result of the action taken in Afghanistan. What assessment has the Minister made of that risk?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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We have assessed the risk. We are aware of the new Taliban policy to ban opium production in Afghanistan and the consequent likely reduction in the heroin supply into western Europe and North America. It will take a while to filter through the supply chain—it will not have an immediate effect—but we are aware of the problem. The hon. Lady identifies one of the risks, which is why staying ahead of synthetic opioid importation through surveillance, border control and a zero-tolerance law enforcement approach is particularly important—more so than it would ordinarily be because of the substitution risk that she rightly refers to.

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings asked about the ACMD’s remit. The Home Office is able to commission the ACMD to look at various matters. Whenever a matter of concern arises, we commission ACMD to look at it, and monkey dust is an example of that. A number of colleagues, including my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) and for Newcastle-under-Lyme, raised that issue, and we commissioned the ACMD to take a look at it. We can take action whenever a new harmful illegal substance pops up.

The final question relates to treatment. Although members of the Committee will discern from my comments that I believe in having a strong—indeed, a zero-tolerance—approach to enforcement, treatment is also important. Naloxone should be used as routinely as possible because, as Members know, it combats the effect of opioid overdose. It is successful and effective at doing that, but treatment is also important for getting people off drugs. We have invested £532 million over three years in creating 55,000 extra treatment places, and we are tracking the uptake of those places. I am encouraging the police to refer addicted people into treatment in addition to prosecuting criminals, and I am encouraging the courts to do the same thing. A combination of strong enforcement and referrals to treatment can keep our society free from drugs, and today’s order is an important part, but only a part, of that fight.

Question put and agreed to.