A new year is a time to think hard about challenges, to set out priorities and assess progress. There are many issues which affect our community, which I work hard on throughout the year. Two serious topics which have hit the headlines over the Christmas period are the small boat crossings and teenage knife murders.
This year ended with a staggering number of people coming into the UK through the small boat crossings – more than 28,000 people in 2021. What started as just a few small boats is now completely out of hand. The new laws going through Parliament at the moment – the Nationality and Borders Bill, upcoming human rights reforms as well as changes to the immigration system – are all designed to address this migrant crisis. Those changes can’t come in soon enough. Everyone who is concerned to have strong, secure borders or to help those in need, or both, should be backing these reforms. No ifs or buts. The UK has established family reunion pathways which a family member can use safely from the UK for a vulnerable relative abroad. The UK plays a leading role in providing safe places near conflict zones. As well as bringing the most vulnerable refugees, identified by the UN refugee council and others, direct into the UK. People are safe on land in France – they should not be making these dangerous journeys in the hands of people traffickers. It’s high time it was stopped.
This Christmas, two more teenagers were stabbed to death in London. The Metropolitan Police have linked the current wave of violent teenage deaths, a shocking thirty London teenagers in 2021, to illegal drugs activities and social media – where insults and violent threats online translate into in-person violence and death.
Problems caused by misuse of the internet is an area that Parliament is legislating and reviewing through the Online Safety Bill. The internet is an amazing technology. It has connected, informed and enabled us in ways that couldn’t have been imagined. It has also brought out some of the worst in people. From cruelty to malice, from mistruth to hate. Even in our own community there are examples written with the meanest of minds and the vilest of tongues. The internet must be reclaimed so that young people do not commit self-harm, or die, because of what they see, read or do on social media. The internet isn’t a video game. It is real life. It needs to be understood as such, and the law strengthened so that the same offences – of hate, of threats of violence, of encouraging suicide, and so on – apply every bit as much online as off it.
This week Parliament goes back with a host of serious challenges. It’s a reminder of the solemn responsibility of being a Member of Parliament, and the seriousness of the issues that must be addressed.