Focus on local crime and punishment

Edward Leigh MP
Edward Leigh MP

Many voters will have been as underwhelmed as I was by the way our new Police and Crime Commissioners were introduced.

As readers know, I am a firm believer in localism and in the important decisions – whether it be in policing, education, health, transport, or any other area – being made as closely to the people being affected by those decisions. It’s good for local people to be directly represented in the running of the police forces which maintain law and order in our towns and villages. I’m not yet convinced that our newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner will have enough of a say on how Lincolnshire Constabulary is run, but it is wiser that this new reform evolves as all the local partners involved adapt to the new situation.

There are still problems to be worked out. In the Commons recently, I asked Damian Green, the Policing Minister, “Should not we as a Government show a degree of humility in admitting that some very serious errors were made in the way we publicised last week’s elections?”

It is obvious that special care needs to be taken with regard to when elections for PCCs are held. If the turnout in these polls continues to be so low, it will become unacceptable that our commissioner is chosen by such a small portion of the electorate. But PCCs are a step in the right direction, though they might require further tweaking in the future to get them just right.

Criminals have been locked away at Her Majesty’s Prison Lincoln since 1872 (indeed, voters might be aware that at least two Members of Parliament have been imprisoned there over the years).

Currently there are proposals being discussed to shut it down as a prison and turn it into an immigration removal centre. If this proposed change is adopted, it will almost certainly result in a loss of many of the 400 jobs the facility provides to people in Lincolnshire. What’s more, it will lead to further distress for those local people who have family members that have strayed on to the wrong side of the law.

I asked the Prisons Minister Chris Grayling about HMP Lincoln. He assured me that the Government ‘are looking at a number of options, and no decisions have been taken on Lincoln prison - there is no proposal to close it.’

I’m glad to receive the Minister’s reassurances, but I will continue to consult with other local MPs and the relevant authorities to keep up the pressure to maintain HMP Lincoln as it is.