There are now just eleven days left until Christmas and Swindon is looking more festive by the day! The lights in Swindon town centre and Old Town are looking fantastic this year. As ever, my diary is looking very busy and the reality for me and most MPs is that we carry on working right up until the big day, making visits to organisations in our constituencies, attending events and meeting with residents.
Last week, I enjoyed attending a charity coffee morning, which was organised by 1st Wroughton Scout Group to raise money for their new premises. I was pleased to see a whole host of locally made arts, crafts and wreaths on sale at the event and enjoyed catching up with friends and fellow neighbours in Wroughton.
Speaking of festivities, I am looking forward to taking part in a Charity Christmas Bag Pack along with my team at Waitrose in Swindon on Tuesday, 20th December. The event has been organised by the Swindon Therapy Centre for Multiple Sclerosis. This local charity plays an invaluable role in the local community and is a lifeline for its many members and their families. As well as raising valuable funds, bag packing and store collections are an important way of raising awareness of the Centre and I am looking forward to helping out at this event.
I am also looking forward to donning my Christmas jumper on 16th December and taking part in Save the Children’s annual Christmas Jumper Day.
In my role as Solicitor General, I answered questions in the Commons last week and discussed important subjects including the Modern Slavery Act and the successes it has had in combatting people trafficking, in particular, the trafficking of the most vulnerable individuals including women and children. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 gave law enforcement agencies the power to seize traffickers’ assets and introduced risk and prevention orders which restrict the activities of traffickers outside prison if they are judged to pose a serious threat. The Conservative Government is committed to stamping out modern slavery, including human trafficking and this act gives law enforcement agencies the tools they need to tackle this heinous crime, places a duty on large businesses to report on their steps to prevent modern slavery in their global supply chains, and ensures that perpetrators can receive suitably severe sentences of up to life imprisonment.
I also answered questions about hate crime, a subject that has long concerned me, both as a lawyer and an MP. Since being appointed Solicitor General, I have made it one of my priorities, and dealing with the prosecution of these cases has been a particular focus of mine. In 2015/16, the Crown Prosecution service completed 15,442 hate crime prosecutions - the highest number ever. There was a 41% increase in disability hate crime prosecutions compared to 2014/15; the highest ever proportion of sentence uplifts in racially and religiously aggravated crime cases; and the highest ever conviction rate in homophobic and transphobic prosecutions. There is no acceptable level for hate crime; it is a pernicious crime that affects victims disproportionately and it has no place in a Britain that works for everyone. I will continue to do all I can to stamp out this abhorrent crime.