By Tim Montgomerie
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Tory MP Gavin Barwell discovered that metal thieves had stripped a memorial from his father's grave. His reaction on his Twitter account was retweeted across the internet:
The Sun has made Mr Barwelll their "hero of the week" for his instinctive response:
"Politicians who speak their mind are a rare commodity. Most tip-toe around the issues, prevaricate and avoid saying anything that might loosen their grip on the greasy pole. So it was refreshing to hear Gavin Barwell speak with such honesty when he suffered a devastating personal setback this week. The Croydon Central MP was shocked to discover sick metal thieves had stolen a memorial plaque from the gravestone of his dad David, who died in 2005. The dad-of-three didn't pull his punches when he spoke about the incident because he'd one eye on his career. He branded the thief a "scumbag" and warned: "If I ever find out who you are, you are going to regret it." It was a very natural, very human response to an appalling crime. Mr Barwell had already impressed many in Westminster with his response to the devastating impact of last summer's riots on Croydon. At a time of crisis, he spoke out eloquently on behalf of the silent majority of law-abiding people in his town. We could do with a few more MPs like Mr Barwell in Westminster."
In the Commons yesterday Sir George Young told Mr Barwell that the Government was considering tougher penalties for those convicted of metal theft. Here is the full exchange:
Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): "Last night I learned that the plaque marking my father’s grave has been stolen, along with a huge number of other plaques in Beckenham cemetery. I am sure that all Members share my utter contempt for people who would steal, and trade in, such memorials. The Government have taken some action in relation to the scrap metal industry, but may we have a debate on what other measures might be needed, and in particular the proposal raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s question on whether this should be an aggravating factor in sentencing?"
Sir George Young: "I am very sorry to hear of what happened to my hon. Friend’s father’s tombstone; I understand how distressing that must be. He will know what the Prime Minister said at yesterday’s PMQs. We have already taken some steps in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, but we recognise that other measures may well be needed. The Government are actively considering what further steps we might take, such as increasing the penalties and having a better regulatory regime for scrap metal, in order to avoid distressing incidents such as that which my hon. Friend described."