Understandably this week at Questions to the Prime Minister or PMQs a lot of the focus was on the visit to America by Theresa May. She went through the various Questions and Answers, mostly batting away criticism until Jonathan Reynolds had his turn. Jonathan is MP for Stalybridge and Hyde and he is also the Shadow Economic Secretary. His question was pretty direct and elicited a response from Mrs May which on the surface appeared to be robust, but sadly was only because of a great deal of exaggeration buried away!
JR: Prime Minister, your responses today have been deeply unsatisfactory. The President of the United States has advocated torture, misogyny, racial discrimination, sexual assault and isolationism. The leaders of Canada and Germany were able to respond robustly, but your response was to jump on a plane as soon as possible to hold his hand. Does this country not deserve a leader who is willing to stand up for British values?
TM: I will tell you what standing up for British values is. I and this Government introduced the first Modern Slavery Act in this country. I have ensured that stop and search has reduced, because I do not believe that anyone on the streets of this country should be stopped and searched because of the colour of their skin, and I ensured justice for the families of Hillsborough.
- Stop and search continues to be a challenge for all Police services and whilst as Home Secretary Theresa May did call for a reduction in this activity, to argue that this Government has done something that the previous Government was not also doing is at best exaggeration. Even this morning on Marr the head of the Metropolitan Police was claiming he was the reason why the levels had dropped in London since 2011. In fact I first heard about the Stop and Search in 2004 when I joined the Independent Advisory Group for Sussex Police. Sussex Police like most Police services has been seeking to reduce this throughout that period, in part because of the concern from Central Government agencies of both political hues. This is not an issue that this Government or Hogan Howe can alone claim with any real integrity.
- The decision on Hillsborough has also been something that whilst concluded under this Government, was begun and set into motion by Gordon Brown. Many believe had Tony Blair not been so close to Rupert Murdoch and the Sun, that the enquiry would have begun much earlier. In any event the offences of Hillsborough happened when Theresa May was outside of Parliament, but when her hero was not only running the country but also covering up these terrible crimes.
- Finally we have the modern slavery act which was first publicly discussed in the Summer of 2013 as I wrote in this blog. At that time Mrs May had been Home Secretary for 3 years and been in opposition for 13 years before that. In the years before the election of the Conservative Party, charities such as Stop The Traffik had been lobbying politicians of all parties to bring an end to trafficking and slavery. Nevertheless in 2013 Mrs May stated “It has been a profound shock to discover the extent to which slavery has reappeared in our country” Theresa May did introduce the Act and many people including myself are very grateful that she did so. However passing legislation is only one step in the right direction. As this article explains a key part of the legislation has been delayed for at least another two years meaning it will be delivered more than four years behind schedule. The Slavery legislation required local authorities to provide independent child trafficking advocates to all children who need them. The initiative was trialed in over 20 areas between September 2014 and September 2015, but in December 2015 when Theresa was still running the Home Office, her department announced that the national launch would be delayed as there was “work still to be done”, particularly around preventing children going missing and engaging with justice officials. It is anticipated that this will not occur until 2019 at the earliest. If Mrs May is going to claim this as one of the things she has achieved we need this to happen now!
I would like to see the Prime Minister and her Government continuing to address all three of these issues. The conclusion of the investigation into Hillsborough leaves the appalling actions of the Government over Orgreave needing investigation. If as Mrs May suggests this is about values, the same applies to Orgreave. The ongoing focus needed to ensure that stop and search is monitored and remains at acceptable levels is vital. Finally we need proper resources to ensure that the modern slavery act is allowed to be delivered in its fullness. Otherwise Mrs May is going to be an exaggerator, not an effective Prime Minister.