I am proud to represent Sheffield, Hallam. Sheffield was the first place to call itself a city of sanctuary, and I pay tribute to all the great organisations, such as City of Sanctuary Sheffield, the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group, ASSIST Sheffield and many more, that do such good work in my city—my home—to make it as welcoming a place as possible to people fleeing war, persecution and violence.
It is in that spirit of humanity, compassion and genuine internationalism that I completely reject the divisiveness written into nearly every clause and line of this Bill. The Bill is divisive—in the way it pits so-called group 1, or “good” asylum seekers against so-called group 2, or “bad” asylum seekers; in the way that it stacks our legal system against some of the most vulnerable people coming to the UK; and in the way that it criminalises altruism and basic acts of compassion.
Every line of the Bill strains to break the human bonds that hold us all together. It is an affront to the spirit of the 1951 refugee convention. The convention clearly states that refugees
“shall enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination,”
yet discrimination seems to be at the heart of the Bill.
The Government know that there are no visa or pre-entry clearances for someone wishing to claim asylum—there is no such thing as an “illegal asylum seeker”—but the most vulnerable asylum seekers are those who rely on illegal methods to get into the country. The distinction between group 1 and group 2 asylum seekers is a completely bogus differentiation which will introduce more legal hurdles for some of the most traumatised and brutalised people on our planet. It is also chilling that there are no restrictions to prevent the Home Secretary from treating group 2 asylum seekers differently. Those people are already under huge amounts of pressure to provide evidence of their cases, often when they have had to leave their homes behind very quickly. There are massive barriers to their submitting coherent evidence on arrival in the UK. The proposal for decision makers to doubt applications on the basis of late evidence is a wilful misunderstanding of the challenges, the horrors and the deep trauma that asylum applicants have faced to be here, as well as the lack of legal advice.
One of the most appalling aspects of the Bill is the criminalisation of anyone who helps someone seeking asylum to enter the country. What does that mean in practice? For example, how is it compatible with the duty of a ship to attempt to rescue people who are in danger at sea?
This Bill is discriminatory, a violation of our international treaty obligations, inhumane, spiteful, and badly thought through. I suspect that it is more about appealing to a subset of ugly populist opinion than about addressing the real problems in the system, such as the lack of safe and legal routes into the UK to claim asylum. Today I will be upholding the best traditions of my constituency, and voting firmly against it.
May I begin by wishing the Muslim community in my constituency of Airdrie and Shotts and across the globe a very blessed Eid al-Adha? During this pandemic, Muslims have been at the heart of community outreach, with many mosques in various constituencies becoming vaccination centres. Many who follow the Muslim faith will be spending time today with their families and eating. I will miss out on my mum’s famous biryani, but speaking in today’s debate is much more important.
By naming this piece of legislation the Nationality and Borders Bill, this Tory Government are attempting to legitimise a frankly abhorrent way in which to treat those who are escaping extreme violence, so let us just call this Bill what it is: the anti-refugee Bill. This Government want to treat vulnerable people who are fleeing persecution, many of whom are women and children, as criminals. The proposals in the Bill are a brutal, cruel and cold-hearted response by this Government.
I am astounded by the language that has been used by those on the Government Benches; it is of great concern. Refugees need compassion and not to be accused of being economic migrants. They are humans like all of us. To be perfectly frank, one of the main differences between them and us is that most of us were born here.
Members have already referred to the two-tier system that the Tories are creating. This is a horrific way to treat some of the most vulnerable people in the world. We cannot and must not send out a message that anyone fleeing persecution whose route out of that persecution is to travel to the UK via other countries will automatically be viewed as a criminal. By focusing on the method of arrival, the Government are ignoring the fact that people do not have the luxury of phoning up and telling the Home Office that they will be arriving here to ensure that their arrival is approved. They are literally fleeing conflict, running for their lives. They are in danger.
I have been elected to this House for fewer than 70 days. The Tories continually run away from any form of international responsibility and co-operation. From the cuts to aid budgets to this two-tiered refugee system, this Tory Government are pushing their “us versus them” narrative. They are pitching communities against one another. Of course, we should not be surprised by that. I have spoken previously in this very Chamber about the manner in which this Tory Government view immigration and foreigners coming into this country. Just because someone was not born here or does not have a British passport does not mean that they will not make a valuable contribution, whether socially, economically or politically.
Dr Waheed Arain is just one example. Waheed fled forced conscription into the Taliban in Afghanistan as a child and made an irregular journey to the UK. Under the proposed rules, Waheed would not have been granted refuge by this country, which, historically, has offered protection and opportunity. Waheed Arain is now working as an NHS doctor. He released an open letter, in which he said:
“I spent my childhood hiding from rockets in refugee camps in Afghanistan. Fleeing the civil war, I arrived in London, separated from my family, as a traumatised 15-year-old. I dreamed of becoming a doctor.”
He went on to say:
“Under this Government’s proposed plans, I would not have been given the chance to become an NHS doctor, let alone learn English or studied medicine at Cambridge University. I would have been classed as an ‘illegal arrival’, denied access to the asylum system, prosecuted for breaking the law, and…removed from the country.”
My message to Waheed today is: sorry. I am sorry that the country that you sought refuge in is treating people in this manner. I am sorry to those who are seeking refuge that this Tory Government are moving towards a dangerous, far-right trajectory. I am sorry that this country is meant to be a global power but is turning into little, insular Britain. My message to you is that the Scottish National party will stand by you and we will stand by your side against this Bill.
It is an honour and a privilege to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds), who is clearly an expert in this field. If I remember rightly, his maiden speech was made during a debate on Syrian refugees.
I find myself in the unusual position, very early on, of agreeing with the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin), in that I normally get about three minutes for a speech in this place, but that has gone up to four minutes, five minutes and six minutes, and we are now on eight minutes; I am afraid that my notes might not last that long.
I welcome the introduction of the new Nationality and Borders Bill. It is the cornerstone of the Government’s new plan for immigration and delivers the most comprehensive reform in decades to fix our broken asylum system. With this Bill, we are truly delivering on our manifesto commitment to the British people to take back control of our borders and put in place an asylum system that works for those in genuine need—and I do emphasis the genuine need aspect.
I want to take a minute to highlight some of the, quite frankly, disturbing comments from the Opposition Benches. I think in particular of the hon. Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) and the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), who called Government Members racist for wanting to look after our borders and the communities that we represent. Quite frankly, comments like that are abhorrent and disgusting. At some point, Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to speak to you about that, because in my view it is neither honourable, nor respectful of this Chamber, to be insulting Members.
It is almost like they are creating another argument for the Online Safety Bill. They want to insult us via virtual participation, and then turn their screen off and hide away because they cannot deal with the arguments. What we are hearing is generally insulting and, quite frankly, wrong. We are truly representing the views of the people—the views of our constituents.
The hon. Member is quite right. As I have said, the numbers are deeply, deeply regrettable, and he is correct that not enough victims are getting justice in court. There have obviously been significant changes in technology, not least the advent of the mobile phone and the critical part it plays in so many of these investigations. We need to get ourselves in shape, both in terms of capacity and capability, and we need the right framework around inquiry and disclosure for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. That work is ongoing. We have ambitions, obviously, to raise the number very significantly, but I would not underestimate the operational challenge in embedding this across 43 police forces. The hon. Gentleman will know that creating the structural change alongside the cultural change in two operationally independent organisations, as well as in the court system, will take time and a foundational approach to change, which we are committed to and on which the work has started already.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who, as usual, puts her finger on the key issue—the relationship between the police and the CPS, in their collaboration to get a case to court, is absolutely critical. I hope she saw that, in January, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Crown Prosecution Service launched their joint national action plan, with five themed areas of work that are designed to do exactly that. Those are on support for victims; casework quality and progression; digital capability and disclosure, including looking at mobile phones, as I mentioned earlier; people and expertise—critically, building knowledge and expertise—and engaging properly with stakeholders. I know that Deputy Chief Constable Sarah Crew, with whom I have met many times, and Baljit Ubhey and Sue Hemming from the CPS are leading the charge on this. They form part of the criminal justice support taskforce, which I lead, to try to drive the kind of results that we want to see.
I too send my best wishes to the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire). I have told the Government repeatedly that many residents in Salford face exorbitant fire and safety remediation costs—up to £100,000 per flat in some cases. I told them that even buildings under 18 metres were failing EWS1, and that many residents were being forced to pay thousands for measures such as waking watch, and increased insurance premiums.
On 10 February, I hoped against hope that the Government had listened—that they had heeded the recommendations of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, the all-party parliamentary group on leasehold and commonhold reform, a range of sector bodies and MPs from across the political spectrum, and had decided finally to address this great moral injustice, to ensure an urgent national effort to make buildings safe, and to guarantee that no resident or leaseholder would ever have to pay for a crisis that they did not cause. Sadly, the Government did not listen. The extra £3.5 billion of funding announced was only for cladding removal, not for remediating fire safety defects, which usually accounts for the majority of remediation costs. Only buildings over 18 metres are eligible. Residents in all other buildings, including those even one metre under, will need to apply for a loan, and buildings under 11 metres will receive nothing at all.
My constituents are devastated. Every day, bills for interim fire safety measures and increased insurance premiums rack up. They cannot move or sell; they struggle to get credit; and, worse, some may face bankruptcy or homelessness. It is so bad that the UK Cladding Action Group reports suicides nationally, and 23% of those surveyed by the group had considered suicide or self-harm. My constituents are victims of systemic regulatory failure or, worse, corporate malfeasance, but the Government are making the victims take responsibility. This has to end today. I say to the Minister that his Government have a moral duty to agree to legislate for the principle that residents and leaseholders should not pay for historical fire safety defects. I urge him to support amendments to that effect today; to ensure that the Government lead an urgent national effort to carry out fire safety remediation by June 2022; to forward-fund that work; and to reclaim the costs from those responsible and via a levy on new development.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. We are in the middle of a building safety crisis, and post Grenfell, we must all play our part in ensuring that no one is ever unsafe in their home again. The amendments we are discussing are a step in the right direction, and I urge my colleagues to support those that enhance protections for leaseholders, but the Bill is a missed opportunity to enshrine in law further amendments to protect leaseholders.
The issue I want to draw the House’s attention to is interim costs of temporary fire safety measures that leaseholders have to put in place while they wait for the start of long-term remedial work, such as the replacement of dangerous cladding. They have to put those measures in place, because they have been told by the fire authorities that their buildings are too unsafe to live in without them. The vast majority of these interim costs are not covered by any Government assistance, and hundreds of my leaseholder constituents in Vauxhall are already paying out, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The amendment that I tabled to the Bill would have ensured that building owners could not pass these interim safety costs on to leaseholders. These costs are extortionate, involving eye-watering sums of money. Thousands of pounds are being paid by ordinary, working people, and it is money that they just do not have. How can that be right or fair? I am sure that my honourable colleagues do not need reminding that this building safety crisis was not caused by leaseholders. They are the innocent victims, caught between an industry that has failed them and a Government who are unwilling to go the full distance. Ensuring that leaseholders do not pay these interim costs is not only morally right, but essential if they are not to face financial hardship or ruin. The building industry and the Government must take full responsibility for protecting leaseholders from these interim costs. No leaseholder should have to pay a penny for making their home safe.
On the safe working environment, I have already mentioned that Public Health England and Public Health Wales, which are the relevant bodies, find our courts to be safe environments. But as I have said, if any legal practitioner or other court user comes across a particular circumstance that concerns them in a court, there are reporting mechanisms that I strongly encourage them to utilise if required.
In relation to hours, we are carefully considering the options; no decisions have been taken. But I would have thought that many people working in the legal profession would be glad to have additional working hours. Some practitioners say that they have not been earning as much as they ordinarily would because of the coronavirus restrictions, particularly over the summer. Clearly, additional hours provide an opportunity in that regard. But as I say, no decisions have been taken and we continue to think carefully and listen carefully to everybody with an interest in the system.
I would point to the quarter of a billion pounds that we have invested this year alone—extra money for making sure that our courts are covid safe and have the capacity needed to deliver justice. That is a striking investment and a striking commitment—one that has not only started the court recovery, but one that I hope and expect will sustain it in the months ahead.
There is a robust screening process in place, via the single competent authority and the national referral mechanism. That is working, I think it is fair to say, extremely effectively, so the risks the hon. Member identifies do not currently exist. This is a matter that is frequently tested in the courts, so we will almost certainly not be stopping removals and deportations. The Government are determined to apply the law, whether to people who have failed in their asylum claims or dangerous criminals who pose a threat to our constituents. I hope the Labour party and the hon. Gentleman will join us in supporting the proper operation of our law and protecting our constituents.
My hon. Friend is right. European Union countries, including the ones she lists, are obviously manifestly safe and civilised countries. People who find themselves in need of protection in those countries should claim asylum there, as she says. They should not attempt dangerous crossings of the English channel, facilitated by ruthless criminals, and every single Member of this House should send the same message.
There are obviously legal channels through which individuals can raise concerns of the type of the hon. Gentleman just referred to. As I say, many people do precisely that. Just a few days ago, a convicted murderer was removed from the flight for similar reasons. However, let me make it clear that it is our priority to protect British citizens, and that should be the hon. Gentleman’s priority, too.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. It has been conspicuous this afternoon that it has been Government Members who have stood up to speak out for victims and for the safety of their constituents; we have heard almost nothing of that from Opposition Members. The British public will have heard that, and they will draw their own conclusions.
Once again, the hon. Gentleman asks a question that is outside my purview. Just to reassure nationalist colleagues, this Government have no problem with being urged to go further and faster, to achieve more and to aim higher. What we have a problem with is people who commit a crime in order to do so.
I can reassure my hon. Friend that, actually, our streets have been very orderly—often more orderly than usual—during the pandemic lockdown. Indeed, crime has been significantly lower than we would have expected, which is great news, notwithstanding the amplified impact of these protests. I am more than happy to congratulate Thames Valley police, and I will be able to do so tomorrow morning in person, because I am visiting them.
As I have touched on, this will form part of the Home Office’s wider work on all sorts of aspects of nationality law and the complexities of immigration law and the immigration system. As I said, we need the time and ability to do this, which is what we are undertaking right now and will continue to do so. In due course, I will report back. We will look at all these issues, and I am sure that many more will surface in the weeks and months ahead.
My hon. Friend speaks with experience of process, which is a point that has been touched on already. There are many lessons to be learned, but on process there are also issues with the management of case files, technology, record keeping, data retention—you name it. These are long-term, long-standing issues that the Home Office needs to grip and are part of wider changes to the machinery of government that we are looking at.
The hon. Lady tempts me to start to rehearse all the arguments around the age of maturity. We know that children up to the age of 18 are treated differently under the law, much as the group between 18 and 20 are supposed to be treated differently. There is more and more evidence all the time. In particular, there have been some studies in Scotland—I am looking at the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) for the SNP—that are starting to talk in terms of, “Maybe we should be looking at 25 as the age of maturity.” That is all the more reason why we have to think carefully about how we treat young people in the justice system, because young people ought to be treated differently. They have a better chance of being rehabilitated, and it is important we give them that chance.
My hon. Friend is right. Every pound that we spend helping vulnerable people in a conflict zone can help far more people, and often those people are more vulnerable than those who come to the UK. Our money is most effectively spent in those conflict zones, which is why we are the only G7 economy to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid, why we are the second biggest donor in the Syria region, and why we help so many people. I think our aid budget is the biggest or the second biggest of any European country. That is a measure of this country’s passion. It is through that programme that we can help the largest number of people in need.
Yes, I can categorically confirm that. The safety of our citizens is this Government’s highest priority. Where people, including asylum seekers, commit very serious offences, we will take appropriate action through the criminal justice system. But if someone who has been granted asylum commits a very serious offence, we are able, consistent with the refugee convention, to seek to remove that person. If somebody comes here and accepts our welcome and our hospitality but then commits a very serious criminal offence, endangering the public, it is right that that person should be eligible for removal, as allowed by the law.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point in terms of policing and arrest. The police absolutely have the powers that they need; this point has been raised already. It is important, though, once people are arrested, that they go through the right processes, and that also means the right processes in the criminal justice system. My staff, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, will always look to do everything we can to protect the police through police powers and protection, but fundamentally make sure that the thugs involved absolutely face the full force of the law.
The hon. Lady raises a number of points. First, I thank everyone who is involved, and has been involved, in many of the outreach groups and the events that have taken place across the country. I have mentioned the stakeholder group in particular, which is something that I set up. I have spent a lot of time with volunteers and community activists, and their work has been remarkable and should be commended. There is much more that we need to do on that basis, and that equally applies to members of other Commonwealth countries. This report is very clear about that, and I am very clear about that as well. I said in my statement that we have not done enough yet to reach out to everyone, and that there is a lot of work to do in reaching out to other individuals and communities. I have asked other colleagues and Members of this House to work with us and their communities so that we can ensure that we reach the people who need help and support. That goes exactly to the point about recourse to public funds. I spoke about assistance with benefit claims and things of that nature. Again, we need to identify those individuals, and there is more we can do collectively.
The hon. Lady touched on the current crisis with covid-19 and how we will continue to do these things. That is a fair challenge to us all, because we will not be able to hold events in the way we had planned to. Much more work will now take place through media campaigns and our casework approach, but also through one-on-one communications. I would like the individuals she mentioned in her constituency, and other individuals who are working at the grassroots, to get in touch with me and my office. We will absolutely work with them to create a network locally.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have announced today that we will open a £500,000 fund for grassroots organisations. All Members’ constituents, and organisations locally, can benefit from that outreach. I will publish details shortly of how we can work together—the House needs to come together—and make sure we can reach out to these individuals and communities. I will make those details available to everyone.
Under the hon. Gentleman’s Government, national debt has doubled, but it also comes down to this simple reality: ultimately, political choices were made back in 2010. Choices were made about cutting the police that should never, ever have been made. I stress again what I said at the start: the first duty of any Government is the safety and security of their citizens. Is the hon. Gentleman seriously defending a cut to the police service of 20,000, which has had such catastrophic consequences for our country? I hope he is not.
It will take years to rebuild, but rebuild will must, because those relationships of trust and confidence are absolutely key. It will be necessary too, in the spirit of neighbourhood policing, that we see, for example, the rebuilding of youth services in cities such as Birmingham. We have had 43 youth centres closed in the city. That used to be an absolutely key part of working with the police to divert young people from crime.
Neighbourhood policing is key for one other reason. I remember that Mark Rowley, the former head of counter-terrorism, made an outstanding speech where he said that it is not just, for example, the security services, but intelligence gathering that is crucial to counter-terrorism. It is about relationships of trust and confidence in communities, whereby people come forward and say, “I think it’s him who is engaged in acts of terrorism.” We are talking about not just acts of Islamist terrorism, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) said, the rise in right-wing terrorism in our country. I stress again that the rebuilding of neighbourhood policing will be absolutely key, and that is not just about more police officers.
In conclusion, of course it is true that any increase in the number of police officers is welcome, but—forgive me for saying this—the Government need to reflect on the consequences of their actions. As a result of what has happened over the last 10 years, many, many people in my constituency, in Birmingham and throughout the country have paid a very heavy price. That is why I finish with what I said at the start: the Government have failed in the first duty of any Government, and that is the safety and security of their citizens.
I congratulate the three Members who have given their maiden speeches today, including, lastly, the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey)—100 years later, another American made a very good contribution. Her predecessor was much respected across the House and I am sure from her contribution that she will be too.
We have seen the Government again trumpet that this is the best police settlement for a decade, which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) quite rightly pointed out, is extremely rich, given that this is the decade when the Conservative party has been in power and has brought us some of the most drastic police cuts that we have seen.
In Gwent, which is similar to other forces across Wales, council tax payers are paying almost half the budget of Gwent police through the policing precept. No local force or police and crime commissioner wants to ask local taxpayers to pay more, but there has been little choice during the 10 years of Tory austerity. I have said this before, but it needs emphasising: Gwent police have seen their budget cut by a staggering 40% over the last decade. As my right hon. Friend rightly said, even with the extra cash, the damage of the last decade will not be reversed by the settlement. In Gwent, Operation Uplift will take officer levels only back to where they were in 2010, if that.
As well as the loss of officers over the past decade, most forces have had to reduce their support departments, facilities and other functions that are absolutely vital to the successful training and deployment of police officers. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) said, the loss of expertise, long service, skills and talent is keenly felt.
Today Gwent police, like other forces across the country, are still faced with uncertainty over their funding, particularly the long-term funding of new police officers under Operation Uplift. The 2020-21 settlement apparently includes the consequential costs of the programme—things such as cars, body armour, information and communications technology and uniforms—but provides no clarity about how this vital equipment will be funded in future years. This is a crucial omission, especially given that the bulk of the new officers will not be recruited until years two and three of the scheme.
We need clarity about the training for new officers and how it will be funded after the first year, and answers on the apprenticeship levy for Welsh forces. Gwent police and other Welsh police forces have paid in excess of £2 million towards the apprenticeship levy each year since it was introduced in 2017. After pressure from the police and crime commissioners in Wales, including our local PCC, Jeff Cuthbert, the Home Office advised it would provide Welsh forces directly with their share of the levy from 2019, but Welsh forces have yet to see any of that money. I ask again: please will Ministers look into this and tell us what is going on?
I would also like the Government to provide more detail on the funding for police community support officers, who play such a vital and often unsung role. Across England and Wales, the number of PCSOs fell by almost 7,000 between 2010 and 2018. In Wales, their numbers would have been even harder hit, had not the Welsh Labour Government, who have no responsibility for policing, stepped in to fund 500 PCSOs. This is most welcome but it is yet another case of others having to step in to plug the gap left by the Home Office.
The Government still need to address the pensions issue, which others have raised. John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation, has highlighted that the police funding formula needs to be revisited for future years to ensure a fairer allocation of officers across all forces. The underlying issue is that behind the headline announcements, the Government still have not produced a long-term plan for funding our police. Yes, we need more officers on the beat, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham pointed out, we also need investment in police control rooms and custody suites, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, victims services and, crucially, the diversionary activities and targeted intervention to prevent people from committing crime in the first place. We also need to acknowledge the increasingly complex nature of policing, given the scale and complexity of new criminality, a lot of work on which goes unseen.
In the recent Opposition day debate on police, I cited the example of Gwent’s early action together team, which has transformed the way the force responds to children and vulnerable people. It has trained more than 1,300 officers to deal with complex vulnerability issues and offer families help and support at the earliest opportunity. It is the sort of scheme I am sure the Home Office would want to get behind, yet the police transformation fund, which has paid for that work, is to be cut. I urge Ministers to reconsider this decision for the sake of the vulnerable people whom this fund is potentially helping to turn away from crime and antisocial behaviour. This focused early potential should be funded at a national level.
Any increase in funding for our police forces is welcome—of course I welcome any increase in police resources—but this settlement does not go far enough and is defined by short-termism. The Government now need to concentrate their efforts on devising a long-term strategy for police funding. Like other hon. Members, I pay tribute to Gwent’s officers and admin staff, as well as Chief Constable Pam Kelly and PCC Jeff Cuthbert, both of whom were in Newport East on Friday, for the amazing, often unseen work they do, day in, day out and under great pressure, in order to keep us safe. I spoke at much greater length in a debate a few weeks ago about their work on serious and organised crime in Newport East. Let us never forget, though, the impact of the Government’s cuts over the last decade on the stress levels and workload of existing police staff. That should never be underestimated.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments, and the new committee that the Prime Minister has established seeks to do exactly this. We have to look across Government. No one Department has the answers to any of the challenges not only with the system but in terms of how we can protect victims and individuals. Cross-government working is absolutely crucial, and I am very happy to work with individuals and people who have experience of this.
The Government are determined to stop the terrible exploitation of children and rid our streets of criminal county lines gangs. That is why we are augmenting significant police activity with an extra £25 million of targeted investment across the next two years to uplift the law and enforcement response to county lines and increase the support available to children, young people and their families.
One of the most significant deterrents that we think will be available to us is differential sentencing. A judge, on giving a sentence to somebody who is involved in county lines, can already take into act culpability factors, such as the use of children. My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the Sentencing Council is currently reviewing those guidelines, and we hope and believe that the most severe penalties will be meted out to those who exploit children in this way.