Labour Accuse Government Of Being “Missing In Action” On Crime
Dominic Raab replaced Rishi Sunak at PMQs on Wednesday (Alamy)
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has accused the government of being “missing in action” on crime and anti-social behaviour, as she faced deputy prime minister Dominic Raab at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
The government has announced a string of measures to tackle antisocial behaviour, including offenders being required to carry out immediate repair work to damaged spaces, a pilot of ‘hotspot’ policing in areas prone to higher rates of crime, and a ban on ‘laughing gas’ nitrous oxide.
The deputy leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties went head to head in PMQs, as Prime minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer attended the funeral of former Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd.
Raab is currently being investigated by the government's independent ethics adviser, Adam Tolley KC, into whether he bullied civil servants during his initial tenure as Justice Secretary.
The justice secretary has denied the allegations and said he “behaved professionally” at all times.
But the senior Cabinet minister said he would accept accountability and resign from cabinet if the investigation does rule against him.
“It’s not just his department where antisocial behavior is running out of control,” Rayner said.
“It's happening across the country. Police officers disappearing from our streets, replaced by criminals plaguing our towns and leaving people feeling unsafe.
“The truth is that the Conservatives are missing in action in the fight against crime."
She added that there are now 6,000 fewer neighbourhood police officers on Britain's streets since the Conservatives came into power 13 years ago.
Rayner joked at PMQs that the deputy PM “knows firsthand the misery caused by thugs and their intimidating behaviour” and asked Raab whether, under the antisocial behaviour policies, bullies would be “brought to justice”.
On Wednesday afternoon, Raab will propose new legislation allowing ministers to be able to block the release of some prisoners and grant further rights for victims of crime.
The government is pledging to give victims more of a say in the justice system, with reforms to be implemented in the new Victims and Prisoners Bill.
Raab said the plans will "make sure that victims are front and centre of the criminal justice system" and make public protection an “exclusive focus”.
At PMQs, Raab urged Labour to back the new bill and said: “If [Rayner] really wants to stand up for the public and the victims of crime, they should back up bill to protect victims and protect the most vulnerable from serious killers, rapists and terrorists.”
Labour’s deputy leader also challenged Raab on the rate of rape convictions: 1.6 per cent of rapists are currently charged for their crime.
“In the last 13 years of the Tory government, more than half a million cases of rape have been recorded by the police, but their charge rate for those attacks have collapsed,” she said.
“[Raab] has served on the five Tory prime ministers and on his watch, rapists are left to roam the streets. So will he apologise to those victims who will never get justice because of his failures?”
The deputy prime minister did not apologise, but responded by saying that the issue of rape and serious sexual offences against women is a “top priority” for government, and added that since 2019, police referrals of cases doubled and CPS charges have doubled.
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