Yvette Cooper's speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 2012

3 October 2012

Yvette Cooper

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Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said today at Labour Party Annual Conference 2012:

Conference. Here in Manchester this morning family, friends and colleagues are gathering for the funeral of PC Nicola Hughes. Tomorrow the city will do the same for PC Fiona Bone.

They answered a 999 call. As police officers do every single day of the week, not knowing what they will find.

That’s their job. And their families have said it was a job they loved.

They were shot down in a brutal act. They showed bravery they and other emergency services take for granted, but that we never must.

From across the country 5,000 officers volunteered to come to Manchester today on their rest days to provide cover and join in policing in the city.

And today police officers from Cheshire, Lancashire, Merseyside, from Wiltshire, Bedfordshire, Humberside, police officers from every one of the 43 forces in the country will be on duty here in central Manchester showing their support.

The police have gathered from across the country, and so today have we. So we join them, the people of Manchester, the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the country in paying tribute to those brave officers and to all our emergency services, as we bid those officers farewell.

Conference, we are all very proud to be back in the city of Manchester.

Down the road from here in Piccadilly Gardens stands a statue.

Sir Robert Peel, son of Bury, founder of the British police over 180 years ago.

Peel established powerful principles. Ed, you could call them One Nation principles – just a few decades earlier than Disraeli’s Free Trade Hall speech.

He said, “The police are the public, the public are the police.”

Able to uphold our laws not because of coercion but because of consent.

British police are not guards they are guardians.

Unlike so many foreign forces they are unarmed – and like British police officers themselves we are proud of that tradition.

And Conference, yesterday as we heard that same one nation tradition is part of Labour’s vision today – in that brilliant and inspiring speech by our party leader and our next Prime Minister, Ed Miliband.

Because it’s not just about policing. Be it crime fighting, prevention or immigration we believe in active public services working with active communities:

- to keep people safe;

- stand up for victims;

- keep our borders secure; 

- and to build a sense of public respect and solidarity.

That’s why our party worked so hard to help cut crime by 40 per cent when we were in Government.

Why we brought in neighbourhood policing to put police back on the streets.

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.

And that’s why our party believes in working with the police, not undermining the police.

So to the officers who cancelled their summer holidays last year to reclaim our city streets from the riots, and this year so the rest of us could celebrate a fantastic and safe Olympic Games, Conference, we say thank you.

And to the staff of G4S who have been professional and helpful at Conference entrance, it is not your fault that the company’s senior managers let everyone down, and we say thank you.

Conference, we all enjoyed those brilliant pictures of the police during the Olympics:

- touring with torch;

- laughing with the crowds;

- doing the Mobot. 

The police really are the public, the public are the police.

And to all those troops and officers who stepped in at the last minute without complaint when G4S management let the country down, we say thank you for saving our Games.

Because we know that’s what good public servants do.

Maybe that’s what really happened with Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell.

We said the police were public servants. He thought we just meant they were his servants.

When they asked him to use the side gate he thought they were saying he should use the tradesman’s entrance.

Let me tell you what Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson said in this very Conference Hall just 12 months ago. He said: “if people swear at the police, they must expect to be arrested.”

Except – it seems – in Downing Street.

It really comes to something when the Prime Minister and the Government Chief Whip end up being reprimanded for their lack of respect by a fellow member of the Bullingdon Club. 

It tells you a lot about this Government’s attitude to the police and to the public.

In Newcastle last week I met residents who are frustrated by repeated problems with antisocial behaviour on the estate.

One woman said to me, “Some of the kids round here just aren’t taught enough respect for the police,”

Then she paused and added, “mind it doesn’t help if Ministers are calling them names too.”

She has a point.

I talked to a party member last night who told me she was arrested and fined as a teenager because she swore at the police.

We expect teenagers to show respect for the police. We expect drivers in traffic to show respect for the police.

It’s just not what David Cameron expects from his Cabinet.

Because this is about David Cameron, not just Andrew Mitchell.

He chose to back him not sack him.

Just like the tax breaks for millionaires.

Once again it’s one rule for the Cabinet, another for the plebs.

So out of touch they aren’t fit to govern.

So come on Conference, let’s bring on the plebiscite.

Plebs of the world unite, we have nothing to lose but this Government.

Look at the damage the Government is doing now to our police and the vital work they do.

8,000 officers gone already.

15,000 expected to go.

That’s the equivalent of every officer in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire put together.

Or every officer in the entire South East region.

Thousands of PCSOs and support staff are going too. Even though they help keep officers out on the streets.

Of course the police should make savings.

We backed cuts of £1 billion over a Parliament. Work by the Inspectorate and others shows that could have kept the frontline safe. But this Government has cut £2 billion.

999 units, neighbourhood teams and traffic cops hardest hit – the very officers we rely on when emergency strikes. And it matters.

A Midlands police officer told me it took 45 minutes to get an officer to a 999 call about a hit and run against a child.

A South West officer told me a woman calling 999 in fear of domestic violence was twice told no officer could attend. Only when she called back the third time – by then having been assaulted – was the response car sent.

And all this from a Prime Minister who promised no cuts to the police frontline.

A Deputy Prime Minister who promised 3,000 more police.

Yet another disgraceful broken promise.

Perhaps for their next You Tube outing David Cameron and Nick Clegg should sing a duet

In six weeks’ time the country has the chance to vote on policing.

We didn’t support the introduction of Police & Crime Commissioners. We wanted more checks and balances. We’re clear more reforms will be needed.

But policing is too important to turn our backs on these elections now.

You’ve seen our talented candidates – experienced in policing, criminal justice, counter terror, community work.

Here in Manchester, the much respected Tony Lloyd. You’ve heard today from the brilliant Jane Kennedy and Jane Basham and the unstoppable campaign phenomenon that is our own John Prescott.

We don’t want Tory cheerleaders for cuts decimating our police, we want Labour campaigners who will stand up for their communities.

So let’s send the Government a clear message on November 15th: you don’t cut crime by cutting frontline police.

And as for expecting people to go out to vote on a dark night in November…

It’s a shabby coalition deal.

Pushing the cost up. Pushing the votes down. Making a mockery of democracy.

Conference let us pledge today that we will campaign hard across the country, but nowhere harder than to back Olly Martins in Bedfordshire against the EDL.

Because we should never, never let extremists and racists ever take charge of our police.

But conference it is because we value the work police do that we support reform:

- to keep up with modern technology;

- to adopt new professional methods and ideas.

That is why we launched an independent commission led by Lord John Stevens, former Commissioner of the Met to report next year with a new vision for 21st century policing. 

We want the police to do more to reflect the public – including recruiting more black and minority ethnic officers too.

And we also want stronger action when policing goes wrong.

The public need to see that poor policing is dealt with to maintain confidence and consent for the vital work the police do.

Police officers need to know serious problems will be rooted out so they don’t cast a shadow over everyone else.

Policing in a democracy needs proper checks and balances.

Yet the system takes too long and the powers often aren’t strong enough.

It took too long to get a new hacking investigation underway.

It took too long for the truth to come out about what happened to Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protest.

And it took far, far, far too long for the truth to come out about the tragedy and senior police cover up at Hillsborough. Liverpool needs justice. But we also need to make sure no one ever, ever again has to fight for the truth for 23 years after losing a loved one or child.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission wasn’t able to sort out any of those cases. The authoritative new Chair Anne Owers has warned about “its lack of powers”.

We need reform. After discussion with Lord Stevens, I believe we need a new stronger Police Standards Authority – replacing the IPCC -- to raise standards, pursue powerful investigations and ensure there are proper safeguards in place.

But Tory reforms won’t improve policing, cut crime or help communities. Quite the opposite.

Ministers are pushing for big private contracts to replace the work police do. Nothing ruled out. Not even detective work or neighbourhood patrols.

Forces pushed to sign massive contracts with a single company.

Has this Government learned nothing from the Olympics?

Public private partnerships can be valuable – new contracts will be needed for example on information technology.

But contracts must pass tough tests:

- on value for money;

- on resilience and security;

- on transparency and accountability;

- and most of all on public trust.

And for the Labour Party, and for people across the country, there are red lines – or perhaps we should say blue lines.

Policing by consent means the police need the confidence of the public.

And the public need to trust that policing is being done in the interests of the justice not the corporate balance sheet.

And let’s be blunt about this. We don’t want private companies patrolling the public streets of Britain, we want police officers and PCSOs doing the job.

Cuts and privatisation, chaos and confusion. That is Tory reform.

A careless attitude not just to the public services that keep us safe but to the public services that keep our borders secure

5,000 borders staff cut.

Border security checks downgraded last summer. Hours of border queues last spring.

Fewer foreign criminals deported.

More illegal migrants absconding at the border.

Abu Qatada nearly released because Theresa May got the date wrong.

Turning the borders force into a borders farce.

And David Cameron is breaking his promise on immigration, failing badly on his target, public confidence is falling, and Universities and international businesses are still being hit.

The worst of all worlds.

Conference, we got things wrong on immigration – we should have restricted Eastern European migration and acted earlier to cut low skilled migration.

We know that while there were economic benefits, those on lowest incomes often lost out. 

We still need to listen and learn.

We will always provide refuge for people who are fleeing persecution.

And we know the value to our culture, economy and communities from people who have come from across the world to help build our country.

But more needs to be done to deal with exploitation, housing pressures and the concerns communities have.

Now that global travel and trade is greater than ever before, Britain does need stronger controls and limits to make the system fair.

But for public confidence those rules need to be enforced. The Government is doing the opposite. We need much stronger action on illegal immigration and on things like the minimum wage. It isn’t fair on everyone else if people are getting round the rules. 

And we have to be tough on cross border crime too.

When a teacher runs off with a 15-year-old girl to France we have to be able to catch them and bring them back to Britain.

When Hussain Osman fled to Italy in July 2005 after trying to blow up the tube at Shepherds Bush, it was our right to bring him back to Britain to stand trial and go to prison for his crime.

600 suspected criminals have been brought back to face British justice thanks to the European Arrest Warrant.

Yet David Cameron and the Tory right want to rip it up just because it has the word Europe in the title.

That’s not putting victims first. 

That’s not justice.

That’s pandering to Tory backbenchers.

It’s weak politics. And let’s be blunt, it is weak on crime.

We should never allow dangerous criminals to run abroad and hide from British justice.

But that’s the shocking thing about this Government.

They won’t put victims first.

Taking 17,000 rape suspects off the DNA database

Abolishing ASBOs so that repeat antisocial behaviour is no longer a criminal offence

They don’t seem to understand the damage crime does to families and communities.

Because they don’t believe in using the power of government or the strength of communities to cut crime or keep people safe.

So let me tell you three things I think we should do right now to fight crime.

People are fed up with the fact that some criminals seem to be untouchable, making millions on the drugs, trafficking or the security rackets that ruin young lives.

Even if they go to prison, when they come out they get back into their flash cars and drive home to big houses. Money they’ve got through crime, extortion, violence.

We’re only getting back an estimated five per cent of the illegal cash. Criminals have found ways round the laws we introduced. So it’s time to choke off the legal loopholes and choke off organised crime.

Second we need stronger action on economic crime. 

Look at the LIBOR scandal that emerged this summer. It is a multibillion pound fraud. People were fiddling the figures to get rich, while small businesses paid the price. Yet no one has been arrested.

In the US they have seen 800 prosecutions for serious fraud since last year. Yet as Emily Thornberry has pointed out, here in the UK where the Serious Fraud Office budget has been cut by 25 per cent, they have pursued only 20.

If you don’t pay your TV licence you’ll end up in court.

But defraud millions of pensioners or small businesses and you can get off scot free.

We need an end to the double standards. New action and new laws. People need to be able to invest with confidence knowing everyone is playing by the same fair rules.

Third we need new action and standards to cut domestic and sexual violence.

Labour did much in government – specialist officers, courts and support.

But two women are still killed every week by a partner. Only six per cent of rape cases ever reach conviction.

We have to do more to help and protect women like the mother I spoke to last month who locked herself and her children into her bedroom every night for months for fear of what her husband would do.

In Rochdale, vulnerable girls aged 12 to 18 were ignored and described as prostitutes by the authorities who were supposed to protect them.

I feel very strongly that more action is needed fast. We need proper minimum standards, backed by a new Domestic and Sexual Violence Board starting with rapid action to protect vulnerable children and young people.

Conference, this Government is weak on policing and weak on crime. And I’m not sure they even understand the words “Tough on the Causes of Crime.”

CCTV restricted.

Youth services decimated.

Action on gangs cut back – when they promised after the riots it would increase.

Police officers taken out of communities.

Long term unemployment going up and up.

Communities under stress.

And if the Government really wanted to do more to prevent violence in relationships among the next generation they could act.

We should have the statutory sex and relationship education in schools that the Tories shamefully blocked before the election. For boys and for girls. Including zero tolerance of violence in relationships.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats are failing to act.

Failing to set out plans to cut crime, help victims or to back our police.

Failing because in the end they don’t believe in the power of public service or the strength of society.

And they just don’t value the public servants we need to keep us safe.

Whatever happened to the party of Peel?

People used to think the Tories backed the police and supported law and order.

Not any more.

Weak on crime, weak on the causes of crime – that is David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

Cutting the police.

Undermining communities.

Swearing at officers.

Turning their backs on victims.

Conference it is the Labour Party that is now the party for policing.

Labour the party for law and order.

Labour the One Nation Party.

And Conference unlike the Tories, we won’t let our communities down.