Priti Patel is Home Secretary, and MP for Witham.
The longest parliamentary session since the English Civil War has finally ended and the new government can finally set out its domestic agenda. We are being ambitious.
Obviously getting Brexit is the top priority. It has taken up so much bandwidth over the past three and a half years that everything else has been at a virtual standstill. When we get Brexit done, we can focus on what people really want us to: the NHS, schools, the cost of living and the scourge of violent crime.
Unfortunately, most of those on the Opposition benches would rather stick their fingers in their ears and continue to frustrate the referendum result with pieces of procedural trickery and the Surrender Bill.
The 2016 referendum should have been a wake-up for the political class but many of them have chosen to wag their fingers at the voters instead. The disconnect between the people and politicians is greater now than at any time I can recall in my career.
Nowhere is this disconnect greater than when it comes to law and order.
I am told almost every day by left-wing campaign groups, politicians and newspapers that I am “hardline”. Do these people ever meet the British public?
People sick and tired of hearing about serious violent and sexual offenders being let out of prison after serving half of what already looked like a lenient sentence. This government is going to end this and ensure that they serve an absolute minimum of two-thirds of their sentence.
The worst offenders should be spending more time being bars. Victims will lose trust and confidence in our justice system if we don’t make sure they do.
There won’t just be tougher sentences for British criminals, though. As it stands, Foreign National Offenders get away with a slap on the wrist for returning to the UK in breach of deportation orders. The typical ten-week prison sentence isn’t much of a deterrent for the 400 or so criminals who return each year. We will end the soft-touch approach to deter them from returning and ensure that those who do spend years, rather than weeks behind bars.
And when it comes to fugitives wanted by our trusted allies, we are removing obstacles to their arrest. Currently, police have to apply for a warrant to arrest on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice. This takes at least six to eight hours. When time is of the essence, this is simply too long. We will remove the need to apply for a warrant in these cases, but only when the country issuing the notice has a trusted criminal justice system.
But we can’t do all of this unless we back the police. That’s why we’re recruiting 20,000 new police officers and giving them the tools and resources to do their jobs as safely as possible. At Party Conference last week, I announced that the number of officers carrying tasers would be drastically increased in response to the spate of serious assaults on police officers which has appalled those of us who back the police.
But it’s not just about kit, it’s about the powers they have. They can’t be expected to keep the streets safe if they have one hand tied behind their backs. That’s why one of the first things this government did was to lift restrictions on the use of stop and search powers for all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
Again, this is an area where there is an enormous disconnect between the public and SW1.
In my first few weeks as Home Secretary, I visited Peckham Police Station to hear first hand experiences of officers. I was shown three tables piles high with weapons that could not, under any reasonable definition be described as “knives.” They had all been seized in the past 24 hours. The officers I spoke to, and indeed all the senior officers I have spoken to, have been unequivocal about stop and search: it works.
These are not “right-wing” policies as our opponents will no doubt claim– they are policies that deliver on the people’s priorities.
If Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP want to vote against them, then good luck explaining why to the public.