After an apology from the Justice Secretary this week during an update statement on the End-to-End Rape Review, the Government outlined its intention to return the numbers of those being charged to 2016 levels – when the decline in prosecutions began to appear. However, following Labour’s calls for these targets to be met within a year, and for Robert Buckland to resign if they were not met, the Justice Secretary has now branded such targets “constitutionally illiterate”. It is disgraceful that after years of Tory incompetence and pernicious budget cutting rape prosecutions and convictions are at a record low, and after promising to take action to fix its failure of rape victims the Government continue to make contradictory remarks. The gap between the Tories’ rhetoric on being ‘tough on crime’ and the miserable reality is widening. The last thing we need right now is a U-turn from the UK Government after committing to targets. They must urgently clarify whether they intend to stick to the target of increasing the number of rapists who are charged and end up in court. But this of course will require the Government to reverse their harmful and short-sighted budget cuts and ensure that the police have the specialised resources to investigate rape crimes and to ensure that the courts have the capacity to hear the cases. Shifting the blame onto independent bodies and insinuating that the record-low prosecution rates are not the Government’s responsibility is an insult to victims of rape in Birmingham Ladywood. We need urgent action and investment now.
The campaign group Claddag are running an important petition to ensure that disabled people are not forgotten in new building safety plans. Following court action against the Government and an open letter, the Government have launched a consultation, which can be contributed to here via the gov.uk website. Claddag, however, fears that this process could become a meaningless tick-box exercise and are therefore calling for certain conditions to be made in any plans, including assurances that everyone would be included in evacuation plans. Under the current proposal, disabled people living on higher floors would be excluded simply because their overall building does not meet the arbitrary building height. There is also no mention of the costs of evacuation aids. Building owners need to take responsibility for buildings which were not designed with an inclusive evacuation strategy. Alternatively, the Government must set up a central funding mechanism. Charging disabled people for their means of escape is wrong. If buildings are not designed to meet the needs of 21st century society then they are not appropriate for our towns and cities. No one should be excluded from safety and security.
We’ve seen Chinese aggression in Hong Kong continue unabated this week as pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily announced that it would likely be forced to close within days following raids on their premises and the freezing of assets. The UK Government must ramp up the pressure on the Chinese Government to ensure that the international agreements that were put in place in 1997 are respected so that Hong Kongers can continue to enjoy the freedoms that they demand and that they were promised.
On Saturday we mark Armed Forces Day. The Covid pandemic has resulted in service personnel contributing to life in Britain in a far more visible way over the past year. Our Armed Forces have a much more varied role than many of us give them credit for: the engineers helped build the Nightingale hospitals, medics and dentists are involved in the testing and vaccination programme, and helicopters were provided for the rapid transfer of patients, supplies, and healthcare workers. Their expertise in leading in crises and their adaptability have shown a Forces that we in Britain can be proud of. Abroad the Royal Navy continues to protect vital shipping lanes from piracy, the Army works to promote humanitarian work in countries across Africa and Asia, and the Air Force continues to provide support to NATO’s eastern flank in patrolling the Baltics to deter Russian aggression. Saturday is a day when we can remind ourselves of all the work that they do and to say ‘thank you’ to our Forces.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!