Hayes in the Hose by MP John Hayes
In his seminal novel ‘Sybil’, the then future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli wrote of “two nations …who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets –the rich and the poor.”
Growing inequality, as the consequence of 19th century industrialisation, drove Disraeli’s desire to build a Britain where social obligation replaced selfish individualism; where aristocrats would no longer choose indifference towards working class people.
Disraeli’s mission holds true today; his One Nation principles underpin my determination to make opportunity more equal, ensuring that a person’s background should not be a barrier to their achievements. It’s why we are cutting taxes for the lowest earners, reforming welfare so that it pays to work, improving schools by raising educational standards, boosting apprenticeships, and doubling free childcare for working families.
Fundamental to extending opportunity is that we have a justice system that works for all Britons. That’s why the Justice Secretary Michael Gove spoke last week about how the status quo is failing society’s poorest people. He highlighted that while those with money – particularly wealthy foreigners - can pay for the finest legal provision in the land, for the majority of others the court system is often “creaking, outdated and dysfunctional”. Tragically, this means that the people most let down by the system are those victims and witnesses of crime obliged to be part of it through no fault or desire of their own.
No one should suffer twice – at the hands of criminals, and then as a result of our criminal justice system. Michael Gove spoke of a young woman pressing a rape charge who had to wait nearly two years before her case was heard and of countless other cases disrupted by the late arrival of prisoners or missing paperwork. The human cost of these failures hurts the vulnerable and poorest most.
This unconscionable divide, because it shames our nation, underlines the need for radical reform to our criminal courts. Prosecutions must be brought more efficiently, unnecessary procedures ended, and evidence served in a timely way to ensure that everyone receives the best service possible.
Having worked with local lawyers in the fight for access to justice - which will mean that though our magistrates’ court has closed, a video link to other courts will be provided here in Spalding – I know just how much they share my passion for fairness.
The rule of law protects the weak from the abuses of the strong; it is the bedrock of a civilised society. We must do much more to strengthen its power to serve virtue. In doing so, we can realise Disraeli’s vision of a One Nation Britain.