Economic Crime: Law Enforcement

Mims Davies Excerpts
Thursday 7th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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That is absolutely right. My hon. Friend has much experience and expertise in this area as the former Government anti-corruption champion. He is absolutely right that we are tackling this in an analogue way in a digital era, and that we need to look at it completely differently. This is about enforcement and resources, and understanding the scale of the problem and meeting that with the right scale of response. However, we also need to look at legislative areas, because there are things we could do to make sure we get a better bang for our buck from our enforcement agencies, rather than just have more and more people, and I will talk about some other measures shortly.

On my hon. Friend’s point, at the moment 0.8% of our police and enforcement agencies’ time is spent tackling economic crime. Of the 20,000 new police officers who are going to be recruited, 725 are going to be dedicated to economic crime. That is better, but it is still only 3.6% of that cohort, so he is absolutely right. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary says that 90% of cases of economic crime are not even looked at, which is shocking.

The FCA is responsible for controlling money laundering in our financial organisations. Most of this runs through financial organisations—not just through the likes of Binance, which are shadowy enterprises—and I will talk about our main institutions in a moment. For money laundering purposes, the FCA regulates 22,000 organisations, which is a huge number, of which 5,000 are defined as high-risk organisations for money laundering. Last year it did 200 checks—only 200 out of those 5,000—and some of those were desktop checks, for money laundering. I would argue that we are never going to be able to tackle this just by having more and more people, although we do need more people.

This is not just about Binance. I am sure that, sooner or later, we will catch up with Binance. At some point in time, it will be banned, fined or something. In particular, the German regulators and the US enforcement agencies are on to it. Binance is based in the Cayman Islands, as Members might imagine. This is about our UK institutions as well.

If we look at our banks, we see that they have a horrendous record. HSBC was fined £1.4 billion for facilitating money laundering for Mexican drug cartels—the Escobars of this world—in 2012. That was a £1.4 billion fine, and it was fined another £64 million in 2021 for facilitating money laundering offences. In 2019, Standard Chartered was fined £840 million in the US and £102 million in the UK. In 2021, MT Global was fined £23 million by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for money laundering offences. NatWest was fined about £260 million this year, which was the first ever corporate criminal prosecution by the FCA. I welcome the fact that this year is the first time this has ever happened for historical money laundering offences. UBS has had the biggest ever fine—£3.2 billion by the French authority in 2019.

Danske Bank has facilitated £200 billion of money laundering offences, but it has not been fined yet. This has been identified, and it will be fined for the £200 billion of Russian money coming out of Russia and being spread around the world, with it all going through small banks in Estonia via Danske Bank—horrendous. We talk about how Putin funds his invasion of Ukraine. He does so by keeping a coterie of people around him who are stealing Russian assets and making him—there is no doubt about this—the wealthiest person in the world. However, we are facilitating this, because UK companies are involved in the shell companies moving that money around.

I could cite other examples of economic crime from my involvement with the all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking. Criminal fraud at Lloyds HBOS was proven in 2017, and the cover-up associated with that is an utter disgrace. We are yet to see the Dobbs review, which later this year should identify the scale of the cover-up by Lloyds of what went on at HBOS. We have also seen the problems with Royal Bank of Scotland’s Global Restructuring Group, which devastated tens of thousands of businesses, in effect by defrauding businesses of their assets. On all those occasions, all those businesses ever got was a fine. Not a single senior executive in any of those cases has gone to jail. What we need is personal liability or this stuff will just be seen as a cost of doing business. That is the reality.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Mid Sussex) (Con)
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My hon. Friend speaks with knowledge and clarity about these crimes, and about the impact on constituents and the global impact—the two are very much interlinked. Many of my constituents have been impacted, to the tune of hundreds or thousands of pounds, which then filters into the global impact. How can we tackle this problem without people feeling that the answers are beyond them? We are talking about the global scale but this is affecting individuals; the two are inextricably linked and people want to see action.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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That is the right question. These problems are not difficult to solve if people are willing to apply the right rules. On the money taken from my hon. Friend’s constituents, there is probably an organised criminal gang behind that, contacting the constituent, saying they should move the money, and when they do that the money is probably moved through a mule account in one of the major banks and then off somewhere else, offshore, and it then disappears into the ether. The reality, of course, is that the banks would clamp down on mule accounts if they had the right incentive or the willingness to do so. These crimes can be stopped, but people will not stop them until that is in their interests to do so, and we need to make sure that is the case. Yes, we need the enforcement and enough people, but we need the people who are currently facilitating this, who are largely UK-based in this context, to be willing to prevent it.

The UK plays a particular role in all this economic crime. It is seen as a place where money is laundered, not necessarily where it is kept, although that is different in the case of kleptocrats or Russian oligarchs. The money is usually laundered in the UK and then goes off to other jurisdictions, largely the US. That is because of the consolidation of expertise in the City of London—we should be very proud of the City—and the financial organisations and the advisers who sit around them, who are also culpable in this regard. We have strong regulation in some areas and very weak regulation in others, particularly on offshore regulation, where in the UK there is a particular relationship between its domestic regulations and what happens offshore.

Report on Recent Terrorist Attacks

Mims Davies Excerpts
Tuesday 5th December 2017

(6 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Amber Rudd Portrait Amber Rudd
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I agree with much of what the hon. Lady said, but would point out that it is not just about policing, important though policing and community policing are; it is about the wider community as well, which is why we are approaching this differently and saying that we want to have a multiagency approach. We will be trialling that—including in Manchester, we hope—so that we can work out how best to yield the information in a supportive, positive way, so that we have better ears and eyes on the ground. I hope the hon. Lady will engage with us positively to support that.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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Hampshire police recently undertook anti-terrorism training at its headquarters in Hamble in my constituency. It was absolutely fascinating and deeply reassuring for my constituents, and it highlighted the cross-border work with Thames Valley police following what happened in London and Manchester. Will the Home Secretary also consider the marine threat around the Solent and the risk of threat coming over the water, ensuring that that is highlighted in any approach that she takes to counter-terrorism?

Amber Rudd Portrait Amber Rudd
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My hon. Friend raises an important point. It is reassuring to hear of her positive experience of the training, but we are of course looking at what more we can do in the marine environment. We work closely with Border Force to ensure that we always stay on top of evolving crime, and I hope that we can continue to make progress there, as we do in other areas.

Online Hate Speech

Mims Davies Excerpts
Thursday 30th November 2017

(6 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Amber Rudd Portrait Amber Rudd
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There is no pretence here: we are absolutely clear about the action we will take against people who propagate hate. The hon. Gentleman should not under- estimate the Prime Minister’s views on this and her absolute clarity in showing them to the public by criticising the President in her comment to him. I will not take any criticism from the hon. Gentleman on the fact that Conservative Members and the Government are committed to the agenda of making sure that we protect people and promote British values, and I will continue to take that position.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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I thank the Home Secretary for her important words this morning, echoing those of the Prime Minister. Does the Home Secretary agree that all politicians and community leaders at every level and in every community have a duty to be temperate in their language, tolerant in their actions and mindful of their social media presence, and will she make sure that she holds content platforms to account so that community cohesion and understanding are maintained?

Amber Rudd Portrait Amber Rudd
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Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is incredibly important to make sure that we support communities in their genuine efforts, plans and programmes to hold together, despite the difficulties that may come along. We saw that this year when, in spite of and in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks, our communities did hold together, and many of them went out of their way to support other faiths when other people were criticising them. That is the British way, those are our values and that is what we should be proud of.

Modern Slavery Act 2015

Mims Davies Excerpts
Thursday 26th October 2017

(6 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), who is a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, and who made a passionate contribution to this passionate debate. Some of the very difficult personal experiences such as those that she described really do hit home. I also thank the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) for securing the debate. He, too, made a passionate speech. Tackling modern slavery is extremely important, and I thank him for his work on the issue. I also thank Members on both sides of the House, and other individuals and organisations, who do so much in this regard.

I know that the Minister shares our strong concerns about exploitation and the safety of women and girls, and about the need to ensure that victims are identified and looked after, working with partners such as the NHS. As we have heard, the Prime Minister, in both her previous and her current roles, has been a leading example of those who speak of the need for us to step up our efforts to stamp out slavery internationally, in all its forms. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for women in Parliament, I know how important it is that there are more women in all parts of the House than ever before, and that they are able to stand up and make themselves heard, as they have today.

Mark Tami Portrait Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab)
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A few months ago there were some police raids in north Wales. People were being kept effectively as slaves. A common response was, “We never realised that this sort of thing went on here.” There is an idea that it only happens in London or other big cities, but it is happening throughout the country.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I absolutely agree. Indeed, I have found the same in my constituency. I did not think that it affected Hampshire, but it does. We need to be vigilant. We need to focus on drug trafficking and criminal exploitation, which, as we have heard, happens in the agricultural sector. We must also tackle the sexual exploitation of vulnerable people, including, in my area, people with learning difficulties.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 has been very welcome, but my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) made some excellent points about the need to make progress on the basis of that groundbreaking Act, and it would be very hard to disagree with what she said. The Act sent a strong signal to criminals about the vile trade that is going on, but, as with any Act, we have an opportunity to move forward. Nevertheless, the Act is already making a difference not just locally, but domestically and abroad.

Let me say more about what we are doing abroad, including the work done by the Department for International Development to ensure that we spend a minimum of 0.7% of our GDP on aid. It is important that that work is being seen throughout the world. We are putting in a great deal of work, around the world and indeed locally, but, as has been said at a roundtable on the issue, we need to focus on outcomes. It is crucially important for us to help those affected by modern slavery. We are spending about £150 million on tackling it, including a £20 million investment in the global fund, but it is also crucial to focus on outcomes, rather than just talking about change.

The Prime Minister has worked with the United Nations on this issue, and as we know there has been an event at Speaker’s House, so we all know what needs to be done. Church representatives have raised their concerns with me locally, in Eastleigh, and both they and representatives of Churches internationally seem to be very clued up.

Let me say more about my local experience. I particularly remember a constituency surgery at which I met the mother of a girl in her mid-teens, who was struggling to explain to her daughter that what she thought was a positive relationship was actually based on exploitation, and on doing things in exchange for sex or presents. We tend to think about large exploitative gangs, but sometimes this can be down to one or two people with a handful of young girls who interpret such relationships as positive.

Another issue of concern in my constituency is the exploitation by grown-up children of their parents or grandparents for drug money. In effect, they are making those parents and grandparents continue to go to work in order to fund their choices—to support people who may be addicted to drugs, and who are bludging off their families. They are forcing members of their own families to go on working when they do not need to, in order to fund a lifestyle choice. In that context too, we need to look more broadly at the 2015 Act.

Like other Members on both sides of the House, I think that more can be done. The Government have made some giant leaps forward, particularly in respect of the human aspects—the pain and suffering that we see—but business and communities also have a role to play. They need to seek this out, and not allow people to hide. There must be transparency in businesses and supply chains, especially the fashion industry. How do we know the circumstances in which the garments that we are wearing were made, and are we confident about what we think we know?

My constituency is on the Hamble river, and I recently went out on an operation with the Hampshire Constabulary marine unit on to Southampton water and across to the Solent. I thank all the police involved in such operations out on those waters, making sure they are doing the right thing to deal with slavery, because victims are being trafficked across, and without those members of the marine unit, we would not find out what is going on. They shared with me some grave concerns that they have, and said what needs to be done to enable them to help people who are sent in boats across the water.

I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments, and welcome the opportunity that this House has to take the Modern Slavery Act 2015 forward and change the lives of so many people, just by opening our eyes.

Drugs Policy

Mims Davies Excerpts
Tuesday 18th July 2017

(6 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton
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I will address how more people with long-term substance misuse problems are dying, but I remind the hon. Lady that the public health grant remains ring-fenced. It is for local authorities, working with partners in their communities, to come up with the best ways of tackling people’s serious and long-term substance misuse problems.

We have seen a phenomenal improvement in our understanding of the overlap between mental health problems and substance abuse problems. Councils not only have the public health grant and their partnerships in local communities; they also have the significant additional funding that the Government have made available for mental health services and community mental health services, as well as the homelessness prevention and troubled families funding. As I will hopefully have an opportunity to say, what is different about the strategy, in part, is the partnership working that we see as being at the heart of driving further improvements.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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Parents will welcome the Government’s focus on an updated and joined-up strategy. The mental health impacts associated with cannabis use, particularly by teenagers and young people, are one of the most upsetting issues raised in my constituency surgeries. Does she agree that this joined-up approach to local access is vital to the affected families?

Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. I doubt there is a single Member who has not had either a family member or a constituent come to speak to them about their huge concern about the harrowing effect on young family members who get involved in drugs. There is a growing evidence base and deep concern about the impact of cannabis on the development of young minds. A lot of concern is being raised about how psychosis can be brought on by even modest exposure to cannabis. It is essential that we consider mental health and substance misuse together. I assure her that that is at the heart of what we will be doing.

Although we have all far too frequently come across these heart-breaking cases of young people who have faced the terrible consequences of taking drugs, including losing their life, it is worth noting that, overall, fewer young people are taking drugs. Reliable data show that drug use among 11 to 15-year-olds peaked in 2013, and there has since been a continual decline. Again, we are not at all complacent, and we will be doing more work to educate young people about those harms.

Not only are fewer people taking drugs in the first place, but those who enter treatment services are having a good experience. The average waiting time to access treatment remains three days, and within two days for under-18s. Some 80% of young people who enter treatment leave successfully, so we have good foundations on which to work.

--- Later in debate ---
Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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Police and law enforcement issues have also been raised in my constituency. Will the Minister be prepared to consider legislation to deal with situations where prolonged cannabis use is having an impact on neighbours, with long-term users having an impact on the daily lives of children and babies next door?

Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. What I would be prepared to do is write to her setting out the range of powers that already exist. I know from my constituency that the police are not always aware of all the civil powers they have, in addition to the criminal powers, to tackle some of the antisocial behaviour associated with persistent drug use. I understand and recognise the challenge she is portraying. The troubled families programme is designed in part to help those families where a drug user has substance misuse problems and, in so doing, help the children living in those households.

David Nuttall Portrait Mr Nuttall
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To be quite honest, I entirely agree that anyone who has been the victim of domestic violence, or of violence outside the domestic setting, should be reporting that violence, and that applies to both men and women. Incidentally, the incidence of men reporting such violence because of fears that people might laugh at them is much lower than it is among women, particularly where domestic violence is concerned. How on earth anyone can think that just because the Government have ratified a convention, which most members of the public have never even heard of, will make one iota of difference to whether or not someone reports a crime is beyond me.

If the issue is whether I think that people should report domestic violence, then of course the answer is yes, but on whether I think that the figure will be changed as a result of the ratification of the convention, the answer is no, I do not. In countries where ratification has already taken place, the figures that have been provided by their ambassadors to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley show that there is a very mixed picture—and that is putting it very modestly—of the effect that this convention has had in reducing the incidence of domestic violence. We all want to see violence against women, violence against men and domestic violence reduced—there is no issue about that—but this Bill is not about that.

Let me now return to the issue of the timescale, which is the main thrust of this Bill. The purpose is to try to tie down the Government to doing something and to stop this matter from drifting on. What do we have now? The words “the date by” have been replaced by “the timescale”. Previously, the report, which was to set out the date, had to be laid

“within four weeks of this Act receiving Royal Assent.”

That has been changed to

“as soon as reasonably practicable after this Act comes into force.”

There is a subtle change there. It is no longer after

“this Act receiving Royal Assent”.

Another Government amendment changes the date on which the Act comes into force from being the date on which the Act receives Royal Assent to a period of two months beginning on the day on which the Act is passed. So, we have a two-month delay, and then an unlimited amount of time before the report has to be laid. Even when the report is laid, all it has to do is set out a “timescale”—there is no specific date. Frankly, we might as well say it is the 12th of never, because that is essentially what this Bill is saying. No specific date is given and there are no provisions in the Bill to tie down the Government. If Members want proof of that assertion, they should simply ask this question: on what date would it be possible for anyone to turn around and look at this Act—if it passes through this place and the House of Lords—and say, “Ah, the Government have not complied with the Act.” I venture that it would be difficult to pick any day. The Bill is now so widely drafted that there would never be a date when it would not be possible for the Government to say, “We’re not quite there yet. We are dealing with things. It is not reasonably practicable at this stage to deliver the report.” Even if a report were delivered, we would still have to get over the hurdle of the timescale, which could be very vague indeed.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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Much progress has been made under this Government, particularly when the Prime Minister was Home Secretary, with criminalising acts such as forced marriage, dealing with stalking, tackling female genital mutilation, and the domestic violence protection orders. I chair the all-party parliamentary group for women in Parliament. Does my hon. Friend agree that this global commitment is constructive in leading the way to continue the fight?

David Nuttall Portrait Mr Nuttall
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My hon. Friend highlights some of the valuable work that the Government have already been doing without ratifying the convention. Other countries may well want to look at the work of this country to see whether they could improve their procedures and adopt some of the things we have been doing. It is interesting that my hon. Friend highlights those points because, of course, all that has happened without ratifying the Istanbul convention.

UN International Day: Violence against Women

Mims Davies Excerpts
Thursday 8th December 2016

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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It is an unbelievable thing to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Michelle Thomson), who has just shared a horrific event from 37 years ago. As the mother of two daughters, I find it very hard to comprehend the impact of such an incident on a 14-year-old and the sense of shame and blame.

Thank you for calling me to speak in this very important debate, Mr Speaker, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) on securing it. It gives us an opportunity to share our experiences. This House is at its best when it speaks to the nation.

It is incredibly concerning and depressing, and deeply distressing, that we are having a debate about violence against women, because there are so many different themes to discuss. One of my first points was going to be about rape being used as a disgusting weapon of war, and about the fear and, as we have heard, the actuality of it happening to our youngsters on our streets.

Last night, I hosted an event with colleagues from the all-party group for women in Parliament and the women and enterprise all-party group to help, support, inspire and link with women in our communities. A diverse group of women came to Parliament to talk about their backgrounds and their growing and thriving networks.

Sadly, we have to accept that, as we have heard, women and children who live with gender-based inequality and the daily threat of violence are robbed of basic life chances and opportunities. Whether we are talking about acts of institutional violence against women worldwide or domestic abuse, so much needs to be done to protect women from gender-based violence. It is astonishing and heartbreaking that one third of women report experiencing physical or sexual violence—and that is just the women who feel able to report it. More than two thirds of family-related homicides are of our women.

In my constituency work, I hear weekly in my surgeries from people who are, as I realise when I sit there and listen to them, living with coercive control. We now have a law against it, and I have spoken to the Home Secretary and the chief constable of Hampshire police about understanding that law and the opportunity it gives us to protect people who find themselves living with coercive control. Even as they are sitting in my office and going through what the law covers, people start to recognise that it describes their situation.

I encounter constituents who tell me how they have had to deal with domestic violence and interact with the police. They describe living in fear and feeling under threat, and they ask me to feed into debates such as this the actuality of their situation. I am shocked by the controlling and threatening behaviour that people experience in relation to family courts. It still surprises me that people do not feel safe in a place where they are reporting what has happened to them so that they can go on to have a better life, which they truly deserve.

I welcome the Government’s work on a vital strategy to end violence against women, and their commitment to a transformation of service delivery and a long-term reduction in the terrible crimes that we are discussing. I am proud to have contributed to the work of the Women and Equalities Committee, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller)—she is not in her place at the moment—on the pure commitment and leadership she has shown to make the Committee effective, bold and vital to the work of the House. The strategy and the £80 million of associated funding that we have heard about will go some way towards fighting violence against women. I am especially pleased that, as we have heard, £20 million more will go towards supporting women’s refuges and helping councils to provide further accommodation for those—often women—who are fleeing violent partners.

I want to touch on three key areas on which I feel I can contribute to this debate: human trafficking, stalking and the international effort to stop violence against women. Human trafficking is widely accepted to be a form of violence directed against women. The police and other authorities identified at least 3,266 people last year who were thought to have been victims of modern slavery. I suspect, as we must all do, that the real number—including those who go undetected—is much higher.

The Government are doing excellent work to increase the rate of detection and liberate modern slaves from their abusers. Victims of modern slavery are often women who have been sold a lie. They are forced, with threats of violence, into this country and into degrading and dangerous servitude. While we debate this motion in a palace beside the river, women in this city are being beaten, enslaved and forced into prostitution. No effort is too great, and we must leave no stone unturned in finding and punishing the gangs responsible for those hideous crimes.

I welcome the work that the first Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, is doing. I hope that his recent report will shine a light on the acts of these despicable criminal gangs, and that we will capture and bring to justice the gangs that exploit our women. The Department for International Development “Work in Freedom” programme has reached more than 200,000 people so far, and I am delighted that the Government are supporting DFID’s aid budget.

Under section 111 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the Government created two new stalking offences. The more serious of the two is the section 4A offence, which is defined as:

“Stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress”.

There, again, we see the recurring theme of women facing the threat of violence. The number of prosecutions has risen dramatically every year, from 91 in the first six months to more than 1,100 commenced in 2014-15. In December 2015, the Home Office published a consultation on the introduction of a stalking protection order for cases of “stranger stalking”.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) for his work and focus on that terrible crime, and I share with him personal experience of it from my former career. I was also affected by the confusion surrounding the Data Protection Act—the idea that it was safe for me not to know the identity of the person who was stalking me because of data protection concerns. It was a terrible personal experience.

The summary of the consultation responses was published yesterday. An astonishing 20% of respondents stressed that there was a lack of understanding of stalking among professionals, including the police, and, sadly, a continued failure to take it seriously. Interestingly, it appears that the consultation responses are broadly in favour of increasing the strength of the law in this area. I absolutely agree, and I am very pleased that the Government have announced that they will introduce a new civil stalking protection order. That is a good measure, which should go some way to strengthening the law.

Finally, I want to touch on the international effort. I congratulate the Secretary of State for International Development on her work in this area. We are contributing £8 million to the UN trust fund to end violence against women and £35 million to the programme to reduce female genital mutilation, and that money is having an effect. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of going to the Women of the Year lunch, at which one attendee took me to one side and said that she applauded the Conservative party and our Government for tackling FGM. She said that our Prime Minister had led the way in this matter. She went on to say that we were the only party that realised that we had nothing in it for us, so we were able to go where others had not dared to tread.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
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My hon. Friend is so right about FGM. The issue has slightly gone off the burner in the last few months, and it must come back again. Does she agree that it is absolutely vital that we get proper prosecutions? Does she also agree on the importance of the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, which is being implemented by the Government?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I was very proud to sit at the Women of the Year lunch with some really diverse and fantastic ladies from around the country who had done a great deal of positive work in this area, and to know that people felt that we had gone into an area that had been left and ignored for a long time. I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend.

The UK’s contribution to women’s rights organisations is critical to ensure that there is an international and co-ordinated effort to deal with the crimes that we are discussing. The debate is part of that effort, and I am delighted to contribute to it. The UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is, as we have heard, held on 25 November, and the 16 days of vital activism highlight all the important issues. We have made the UK one of the leading voices in the world, and I am proud to support the Government in doing so.

Many statistics have been cited to describe the truly enormous amount of work that needs to be done. However, these are not just statistics; they are mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, friends and colleagues. If we are truly to end violence against women and girls, we need to make sure that there is no part of the world, state or society where the abuse of women is allowed, and no lack of laws, laws left unused or inappropriate laws that mean such abuse is allowed. We need to crush the human trafficking gangs, and we need to strengthen our institutional resolve to fight violence in this country. More needs to be done so that no sister is left behind, or, even worse, ever feels that she is left so.

Calais Children and Immigration Act

Mims Davies Excerpts
Wednesday 16th November 2016

(7 years, 5 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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Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Goodwill
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The main criterion we would look at is gender, as we know that girls are more likely to be victims of sexual exploitation, but if any other individuals were in that category, they would also be considered.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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How many criminal gangs that have been exploiting these young people in Calais have been stopped due to our co-operation with France? What have we learned from those arrests in terms of the future safety of our borders?

Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Goodwill
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There have been a number of interceptions in France of these criminal gangs, and I am pleased to say that the number of interceptions has increased. Indeed, we have also had arrests in the United Kingdom, some of which have come to court. This is something we are very determined to address. These criminal gangs profit from people’s misery, and they must be prevented from doing so.

Police Dogs and Horses

Mims Davies Excerpts
Monday 14th November 2016

(7 years, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He is absolutely right: offering that protection to dogs will lend further support to handlers and to their colleagues more widely.

I did not know until I was made aware by the “Finn’s Law” campaign that the only mechanism for charging someone who assaults or kills a police dog or horse is in section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Conviction carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison. Alternatively, in the most serious cases, an offender can be charged with criminal damage. Kent Police Federation tweeted me yesterday and summed the position up perfectly. It said that

“the Finn’s law campaign isn’t about the law treating Police Dogs the same as cops, but it is about treating them better than a broken window.”

I understand that a constructive meeting has already taken place between the campaign team and the Policing Minister, which is encouraging, but I think the Minister already knows my view: police officers and police animals alike deserve the full backing of the justice system, and tough sentences must play a role in deterring anyone who thinks that it is acceptable to assault either a police officer or a police animal—quite often it is both. That simply must not be tolerated.

Although I welcome the recent progress made, as with assaults on police officers it has been difficult to establish the scale of the problem of assaults on police animals because of a lack of official statistics. That is partly due to the difficulties of getting an offence to court and securing a conviction, as we have heard. The evidence required to secure either an animal welfare or a criminal damage conviction has to clear such a high threshold that offences are, sadly, going unpunished. To prove criminal damage, it has to be shown that property—a dog or horse in this instance—has been deliberately or recklessly broken, permanently or temporarily. Bruises and cuts resulting from kicks or punches are almost impossible to demonstrate under an animal’s fur. Similar challenges apply under the Animal Welfare Act: it would need to be proved that an offender inflicted “unnecessary suffering” on an animal and did so deliberately. If an offender claimed that a kick to a police dog’s head was an involuntary reaction to being scared, for example, a prosecution would be difficult to secure.

The average cost of the initial training of a police dog is about £20,000, and the lifetime cost, including vets’ bills, food and kennelling, is about £50,000. That is a significant investment on the part of a police force, but it makes that investment because police dogs are a highly trained asset and incredibly effective at what they do. However, precisely because of what they do, they are exposed to heightened and very different risks from other animals, and I agree with the “Finn’s Law” campaign that that should be reflected in the laws that protect them.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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I salute the hon. Lady on the “Protect the Protectors” campaign. This weekend, I stood among people laying remembrance wreaths. People from all different parts of the services were paying their respects to the people who gave their lives for our country. The work that we are doing today on the safety of police officers is similarly important. I served on the Policing and Crime Bill Committee, and this matter was not raised as an opportunity to support police dogs and horses. Does the hon. Lady think that this debate is an opportunity to ask the Minister whether the protection can be extended?

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
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I thank the hon. Lady very much for that intervention. She is absolutely right, and it perhaps was a missed opportunity that we did not address the matter at that opportune moment, but hopefully not too much time has been lost and we have the ability to correct that mistake today.

I asked the Police Federation whether it had cases of assaults on police animals and details of whether convictions had been secured following those assaults, and some really troubling stories were passed on to me. In February 2013, police dog Euro was repeatedly punched around the head and kicked in what his handler described as a “violent and unpredicted” attack; Euro sustained bruising and cuts to his mouth and lip. In that instance, the offender was charged and found guilty of the offence of criminal damage to police property, but only received a community order and was ordered to pay court costs. Police dog Buzz, who I mentioned earlier, was attending a large public order incident and was kicked in the head, sustaining injuries to his tongue and the inside of his mouth. On that occasion, the offender was detained and charged under the Animal Welfare Act.

Sam, a nine-year-old German Shepherd police dog, was asked to give chase to a driver who ran from a vehicle. The man climbed on top of another car and began kicking Sam’s head; when Sam managed to pull the offender from the roof of the car, the male then began to twist the police dog’s collar, restricting his airway until he was unconscious. The dog’s handler, PC Ian Head, had to draw his baton in order to get the male to let go of Sam’s collar. Fortunately, Sam slowly began to regain consciousness, and a short time later got back to work assisting with the arrest of the offender. The offender in question was later charged with failing to provide a specimen on suspicion of drink-driving, which was the more serious of the charges against him. Part of the problem that needs to be addressed, which is often the case in prosecuting assaults on police officers as well as on animals, is that the circumstances leading to the assault take precedence, with the most serious charges being pursued at the expense of lesser charges. Too often, animal welfare charges, and even police assault charges, have been sidelined.

Those are some of the assaults that have been recorded and did go to court, but the feedback from dog handlers is that in the vast majority of cases the injuries sustained do not meet the evidence threshold required to secure a prosecution, so much of that information is then lost and not recorded. The “Finn’s Law” team spoke to 71 serving dog handlers, 75.7% of whom said that their dog had been either kicked or punched in the line of duty. Only 8% saw charges brought, with 82% of assaults on police dogs going uncharged. Some 10% of those surveyed said that they had experienced their dogs being stabbed or seriously injured.

Other countries have successfully introduced much tougher deterrents, as the hon. Member for Northampton South said. In America, specific federal laws apply to anyone who harms an animal used in law enforcement. The law states:

“Whoever willfully and maliciously harms any police animal, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not more than 1 year. If the offense permanently disables or disfigures the animal, or causes serious bodily injury to or the death of the animal, the maximum term of imprisonment shall be 10 years.”

In this instance, “police animal” refers to

“a dog or horse employed by a Federal agency… for the principal purpose of aiding in the detection of criminal activity, enforcement of laws, or apprehension of criminal offenders.”

In Canada, Quanto’s law extends similar protections to all service animals used in law enforcement, the military and for individuals with disabilities or specific medical needs. Quanto was a police dog who was fatally stabbed while helping to apprehend a fleeing suspect. The federal law in his name means that jail sentences of up to five years can now be imposed on anyone who intentionally kills a police dog or service animal.

I said that I have had some horrible examples passed to me. I want to share one of the most awful, because to me it shows the risks that both police officers and police animals face and why our justice system must offer the greatest possible protection to them both. It dates back to 1998 and was recounted to me by a Federation representative.

Police officers attended a domestic incident, where dog handler PC Churms arrived with police dog Bryn. Shouting and screaming could be heard from inside the premises, so PC Churms advised other attending officers that he would deploy with Bryn. As he approached the house, a male appeared holding a hunter’s rifle with a silencer to the head of his female partner. The officers with PC Churms backed off, and he and police dog Bryn were left with the offender in the confines of a garden. The officer attempted to negotiate a successful outcome, but as he attempted to quieten Bryn he was shot in the leg causing significant injury. As the offender lifted the gun to shoot the officer again, PC Churms released Bryn in an attempt to bring the male under control and protect himself and the female. Police dog Bryn was killed with a single fatal shot to the head. The female attempted to run off and was shot in the shoulder. The offender dragged the female back and forced the barrel of the gun into the officer’s mouth and said, “I will come back for you,” before dragging the female away. The officer dragged himself into the street and was taken into a neighbour’s house, where they barricaded themselves and the officer was tended to.

The risks faced by our front-line officers and animals alike could not be more serious. I hope that tougher sentences for those who assault police dogs will serve to keep both dogs and handlers that bit safer in the line of duty, as the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney) said.

I am reassured that the Minister has met with the “Finn’s Law” campaign team. Once again, I thank the “Finn’s Law” team for the work they have done in putting this issue on the political agenda. For me, the challenge with granting police animals the same protections as police officers is that I am still of the opinion there is much more we should be doing in relation to police officer safety, so I am hoping to keep going with the broader debate about how we protect our protectors and keep front-line officers and animals safe in the line of duty. I hope that the Minister is able to reflect on the examples from other countries, as well as on some of the tales of police animal bravery that we have heard today, and think about what more can be done to offer police animals like Finn the greatest possible protection.

Hate Crime

Mims Davies Excerpts
Wednesday 29th June 2016

(7 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Karen Bradley Portrait Karen Bradley
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The right hon. Gentleman is right that this cannot be solved by Government alone or by legislation. This is something we all have to act on. The hate crime action plan we are working on is cross-Government, but it cuts across all sectors and all parts of society, including civil society, local government and other agencies.

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con)
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As a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, I welcome the comments by the Chair of that Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller). I also welcome the Minister’s important statement. It is absolutely right that we do not allow this behaviour to be ignored. It is wrong, pure and simple. There are no excuses. Will the Minister confirm that anybody using the referendum as an excuse to commit hate crime will be made an example of, and that there will be no hiding spaces, whether online, in our schools, in our workplaces or around our religious places of worship?

Karen Bradley Portrait Karen Bradley
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. There is no excuse at all for this behaviour. As I said earlier, I know the hard-working, loyal British people who voted in the referendum will want nothing to do with this behaviour and certainly do not want it to be used as an excuse for it.