Funeral Director Services Regulation

Christina Rees Excerpts
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees (in the Chair)
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Before we begin, I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when not speaking in the debate, in line with current Government and House of Commons Commission guidance. I remind Members that they are asked by the House to have a lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. This can be done either at the testing centre in the House or at home. Please give each other and members of staff space when seated and when entering and leaving the room.

Oral Answers to Questions

Christina Rees Excerpts
Monday 23rd January 2017

(5 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton
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I do indeed. The UK is a world leader in the fight to stamp out forced marriage, and I am clear that to end these crimes in the UK we must end them overseas, too. That is why we are pursuing an ambitious programme of work at an international level, including with the Department for International Development, through its £36 million programme to end child, early and forced marriage.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab/Co-op)
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14. What representations she has received on the economic value to the UK of international students studying at universities.

Robert Goodwill Portrait The Minister for Immigration (Mr Robert Goodwill)
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The Government recognise that international students make an important contribution during their time here and help to make our education system one of the best in the world. We are in regular contact with the sector, and there is no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come here to study in the UK.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees
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International students bring academic and cultural benefits to our universities, contribute billions of pounds to the economy, support the creation of tens of thousands of jobs and enable these institutions to innovate, build links with businesses and invest even more in every student in every region and country of the UK. Will the Minister assure the House that the Government have no plans to reduce the number of international students coming to every UK university, and tell us what steps they will take to increase numbers?

Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Goodwill
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I agree with the hon. Lady absolutely. As I mentioned, there is no limit on the number of students who can come here. Since 2010, we have seen a 17% increase in the number of university applications from outside the EU, while the Russell Group has seen an amazing 47% increase.

Oral Answers to Questions

Christina Rees Excerpts
Monday 5th December 2016

(5 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Home Secretary outlined last week the importance we place on this issue. It is important, as we saw with the Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary inspection, that the Met police takes the opportunity to get to grips with training to ensure that its teams are properly trained to deal with these delicate issues.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab/Co-op)
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If the refugee family reunion section of UK immigration rules was widened, many refugee children could arrive directly from the conflict region rather than via Calais. Will the Home Secretary commit to look again at these rules so that children do not have to risk their lives to be with their families?

Amber Rudd Portrait Amber Rudd
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We are constantly looking at our immigration rules to ensure that we have the right balance to support vulnerable children on the continent—most of them coming from Calais—whom we are trying to help, but we have other programmes that enable us to give direct help to vulnerable children who are out in the conflict regions.

Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Christina Rees Excerpts
Monday 21st November 2016

(5 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton
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I agree to make sure that the hon. Lady gets a response to her letter and the detailed concerns she raises.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab/Co-op)
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There has never been an official Welsh representative on the inquiry, despite intense lobbying by Welsh Government Ministers, the then Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, and the Social Services Minister, Gwenda Thomas. Considering that this is an England and Wales inquiry, will the Minister give an assurance that there are open lines of communication with the Welsh Government, so that devolved aspects can be appropriately discussed? Will she confirm that the interests of Welsh victims are adequately protected?

Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton
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Of course, it is really important that people living in Wales, like those living all over our country, can have their voices heard. It is an independent inquiry, however, so I respectfully ask that the hon. Lady makes those representations to Professor Jay to make sure that she is satisfied that victims in Wales feel they are being listened to.

Police Dogs and Horses

Christina Rees Excerpts
Monday 14th November 2016

(5 years, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Mackintosh Portrait David Mackintosh
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I have done some research into sentencing for this sort of act, which proves and backs up what he said. Alongside the 2006 Act is another option, the Criminal Damage Act 1971, which, sadly, likens any attack on an animal to damage to a police car or riot van, and does not reflect the bravery of the animal. That is wrong.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab/Co-op)
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Animals are sentient beings. They are capable of feelings, emotions and pain. The law currently regards animals as mere property that is capable of being destroyed or damaged under the 1971 Act. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this law must be changed so that animals are given the protection they deserve?

David Mackintosh Portrait David Mackintosh
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I am grateful for that intervention. I do believe the law should be examined and changed or a new law introduced. When looking into the issue in the run-up to this debate, I contacted or was contacted by various organisations, and their views are mixed. Organisations such as the RSPCA believe that the current legislation is adequate, but the Kennel Club feels strongly that such offences should be treated as assault or attempted murder. Clearly, there is a wide range of opinion.

As the petition demonstrates, there is a feeling among the wider public that police animals deserve greater legal protection than they currently enjoy, in recognition of the risks they face in the service of our society. In this respect, the law is definitely at odds with public opinion and that of the police, who care for their animals with exceptional compassion and humanity.

My concern is that although it may be technically possible to secure convictions with up to 10 years’ imprisonment, the failure to prosecute means that has no deterrent effect. There is an argument for enhanced protection for police animals, as we have heard from colleagues here today. I note that the Government’s response states that the maximum penalty for such offences is 10 years, but figures supplied by the House of Commons Library show that in 2015, the average custodial sentence for a prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 Act was just 3.3 months and the average fine just £244. Custodial sentences applied in just 10% of convictions. What sort of message does that send about how we treat and protect animals acting to uphold the law and who work to keep us safe?

The feeling among police officers is that prosecutions are so unlikely that assaults on animals are often not recorded, so it is hard to understand the scale of the issue. A specific offence of causing malicious harm or death to a police or service animal with clear penalties outside the 2006 Act would be a more effective deterrent and would recognise the unique risks these animals face. There is a sound argument for enhancing the current protection, but without suitable changes to the procedures for seeking and securing a prosecution, this would prove ineffective. A new offence would help to empower the police to seek a prosecution and provide clarity for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Understandably, police officers have extremely close bonds with their animals. They help the police to prevent and to fight crime and to secure convictions. The animals are placed in harm’s way daily and, sadly, often suffer physical harm that sometimes results in death. We must not forget their role in protecting police officers and the public and in preventing injury and loss of life. Police officers have told me that on occasions, if it had not been for the animal and its intervention, they fear they would have been killed.

The care with which the police treat their animals and the affection they receive from the public should be echoed in the protection they receive under the law. We have a clear moral and ethical responsibility for the welfare of these animals, and I support the introduction of the sort of measures suggested in the petition. I am grateful to be able to lead this debate today.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees
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The South Wales Police Federation constables branch board chair, Steve Treharne, wrote to me recently about the safety of police officers, but he also talked about the need to give the same protections to police animals, as an extension of what he called the police family. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is time that police animals were given the same status?

David Mackintosh Portrait David Mackintosh
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The hon. Lady makes a very clear point and is backed up by a message from her constituent. It lends weight to the argument that we have heard already today: that we should be looking to introduce new protections in legislation for police animals.

Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the UK) Bill

Christina Rees Excerpts
Friday 11th March 2016

(6 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab)
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I will keep my comments brief. Members throughout the House agree that foreign criminals who are guilty of serious crimes have no place in this country. British hospitality should extend only so far, and those who pose a risk to public safety should have their requests to remain here refused.

We are therefore in agreement with the Bill in principle, and I welcome the opportunity to debate this crucial issue. The question, however, is how we tackle the problem in practical terms, and I suggest that the introduction of new laws, extra court time, and added strains on our overburdened criminal justice system, is not the solution. The solution is for the Government properly to enforce existing laws—something that they are failing to do on a grand scale.

Just yesterday it was revealed that the Home Office is releasing five foreign criminals a day on to Britain’s streets, instead of deporting them. The Home Affairs Committee said in a shocking report that in the three months to December last year, 429 foreign national offenders were freed into the community when they should have been deported. Those are people who, according to our existing laws, should no longer be allowed to remain in this country. It is unacceptable that the Committee found that a total of 5,267 overseas criminals are living in Britain and due for deportation, including those convicted of the most serious crimes. That is the highest number since 2012.

It is little wonder that the Home Office has been accused of a “complete failure” to get a grip on the system for deporting overseas convicts. The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), said of his Committee’s findings:

“The Prime Minister promised to make the speedy removal of foreign national offenders a priority but these figures show the Home Office has failed to do so. The public will be alarmed that 1,800 offenders are still here after five years. This demonstrates either incompetence, inefficiency or both.”

Michael Tomlinson Portrait Michael Tomlinson
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Does the hon. Lady accept that not just this Government but Governments throughout history have failed to get to grips with this issue? That is why this important and clearly presented Bill should be supported.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees
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I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, and I will come on to that in due course.

The Committee’s findings add to a long list of damning reports on the Government’s failure to crack down on foreign criminals. The Public Accounts Committee released a scathing report in 2014, which found that more than a third of failed removals were the result of factors within Home Office control, including poor co-operation between relevant bodies on detention, release and deportation, poor use of IT, failure to use the powers available, cumbersome and slow referral processes, and inefficiency in processing. Crucially, it found that only 30% of foreign nationals were being checked against international databases. Two years on from that report, the Government have not learned from their mistakes. By contrast, the last Labour Government made this issue a priority and increased the number of foreign prisoners who were removed.

In conclusion, as I have made clear, we support the principle behind the Bill that more foreign criminals should be deported, especially given how poor the Government’s track record has been. However, the Bill’s proposals are not the way to tackle the problem. As a shadow Justice Minister, I know all too well how strained our criminal justice system already is, as indeed are our police, prisons and probation service. Wasting extra court time is not the remedy, and we need the Government to honour their promise to deal with the dangerous criminals who Parliament, the public, and the authorities have already agreed have lost their right to remain in the UK. Labour Members welcome this timely debate, and call on Ministers to stop dragging their feet and deal as a matter of urgency with this issue that is so crucial to public safety.

Oral Answers to Questions

Christina Rees Excerpts
Monday 6th July 2015

(6 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Theresa May Portrait Mrs May
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I can assure the hon. Lady that we do a great deal of work with colleagues across the international environment on this issue. Indeed, the UK has been at the forefront of two particular issues in Europe: encouraging the development, by Europol, of an internet referral unit similar to the counter-terrorism internet referral unit run here in the United Kingdom; and supporting the SSCAT project, the Syria strategic communication advisory team, a group funded by the European Union and based in Belgium that provides support for a number of countries around the EU to ensure that a counter-narrative message is given across Europe to defeat extremism.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab)
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9. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on the potential effect on victims of domestic abuse of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
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15. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on the potential effect on victims of domestic abuse of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998.

Karen Bradley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley)
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The new British Bill of Rights will continue to protect fundamental human rights, including those for victims of domestic abuse. The Government are committed to strengthening victims’ rights further with a new victims law, which will enshrine key rights for all victims.

Christina Rees Portrait Christina Rees
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The Ministers knows that the UN rapporteur, Rashida Manjoo, is worried about violence against women in the UK and the impact of the Government’s austerity programme on relevant services. She has appealed for safeguards and guarantees that local authorities will continue to operate within the human rights framework in compliance the UK’s international obligations. Does the Minister agree that repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 would further undermine efforts to tackle violence against women and girls in the UK?

Karen Bradley Portrait Karen Bradley
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I am tempted to give the very short answer of no, I do not agree. Human rights did not come into existence in 1998 with the Human Rights Act. The Government are absolutely committed to maintaining Britain’s high standards of human rights, which we have had for at least 800 years.