The past year has been strongly defined by the pandemic. However, alongside our coronavirus response it has been a busy time in Parliament, as the Government has continued to pursue its legislative mandate. Among lockdowns, economic support packages, testing and vaccines, a remarkable amount of progress on other key legislation has been achieved.
Illegal immigration is of particular concern here in Dover and Deal. The scale of illegal channel crossings remains unacceptable, and a danger to all those making the treacherous journey from the safety of France across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Having reached an agreement with France towards the end of last year, the Home Secretary made clear her intention to bring forward legislation to facilitate returns and introduce tougher sentences for those criminal gangs behind the illegal migration routes. This week she brought forward far-reaching legislation, which also included wholesale reform of asylum and immigration law as she made good on her commitments.
Making our streets safer is rightly a key priority of this Government. We are ahead of schedule on our commitment to recruit 20,000 more police officers nationally by 2023. Locally policing progress has been excellent. There are around 660 extra Kent Police resulting in more dedicated police allocated for our community as well as town teams for both Deal and Dover. Legislation is currently making its way through Parliament which will introduce tougher sentences for serious crimes, as well as stopping the automatic early release of offenders who pose a terrorist threat or are otherwise a danger to the public.
Keeping people safe is not just about policing at home. It also relies on robust defence and foreign policy. The Government committed an extra £24 Billion over the next four years to defence, representing the largest UK military investment since the Cold War. This was followed by the Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy which sets out the landscape of new risks and threats to our country and our allies around the world. Last week, we saw the Government setting out how Britain will adapt to meet those new risks and threats globally, including with new programmes to protect Space and Cyber-Space.
Leaving the European Union has provided the UK with the opportunity to secure trade agreements with 65 countries, including the EU, covering trade with a value of over £890 billion. We have also applied to join the £9 trillion Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Security, international trade, law and order, illegal migration – there has been no let-up in the determination both to tackle the pandemic and the long-term challenges for our country. As we begin our recovery, I look forward as we continue with this Government’s ambitious legislative agenda to fight the virus, level up across the country and keep our country safe and secure.