Today's Home Office media stories include the security announcements by the Home Secretary, a survey on risk of fire in high-rises, the NCA's major county lines operation, and the use of laughing gas.
Home Secretary security speech
There is widespread coverage in print and broadcast of yesterday’s Home Secretary speech on security, where he announced that a new espionage bill was planned to tackle “hostile state activity”.
The Times reports that the new espionage bill could require foreign agents in the UK to register to make it easier to “detect hostile state activity in the future”.
The Independent says that the proposed espionage bill would “bring together new and modernised powers giving our security services the authority they need to tackle this threat.”
The Telegraph reports that under updated treason laws, courts could be given powers to impose life sentences on Britons who support terrorism abroad and hostile state activity, including British extremists.
An op-ed from the Home Secretary is carried in the Daily Express, which highlights the rising threat of terror in the UK and the ongoing work of the security services to tackle it. The op-ed also focuses on how Britain’s security would not be undermined by a no-deal Brexit.
Firefighters have criticised the Government over the fire risks associated with high-rise buildings, the Guardian and BBC report.
A survey by the (FBU) shows that most fire services would deploy between four and seven pumps to tackle high-rise fires, despite 40 being used at the Grenfell Tower disaster. Fire services in Durham and North Yorkshire have a pre-determined allocation of just two pumps.
In the newspaper, Matt Wrack, FBU leader, accuses the Fire Minister of “failing to grasp the severity” of the risk across the country.
Further FBU research suggesting that fire services remain unprepared to handle multiple fire-survival guidance calls due to a lack of operational policy is also reported.
A Government spokesperson said:
We are determined to do all we can to ensure the devastating tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire can never happen again.
Fire and rescue services have the resources they need and we are encouraged that the number of fire safety audits carried out on purpose-built flats of four or more storeys more than doubled to nearly 6,600 in 2017-18, compared with the previous year.
We have banned combustible cladding and are fully funding its replacement on high-rise residential buildings in the private and social housing sectors. We have also accepted all of the principles of the independent Hackitt Review and will be consulting on proposals ahead of legislation.
County Lines arrests
The Daily Mail, Times, Sun and Today Programme report that police have rescued more than 350 children from county lines gangs in a major nationwide crackdown.
The Times says that the operation by the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC), which was conducted over seven days, resulted in the arrest of 600 people. The NCLCC seized over £300,000 in cash, over £200,000 worth of drugs and confiscated 46 weapons, according to the newspaper.
The Sun reports that 519 vulnerable adults and 364 children were safeguarded, with 30 people referred as potential victims of slavery or human trafficking.
Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime Safeguarding and Vulnerability said:
As a government we are determined to crack down on County Lines, disrupt the networks devastating communities and put an end to the violence and exploitation of children and vulnerable adults.
Our Serious Violence Strategy includes a range of actions to enhance our response to this issue, and a multi-agency approach is key. That’s why we invested over £3.6m to establish the new National County Lines Co-ordination Centre, which has improved intelligence and supports cross border efforts to tackle this serious issue.
But it’s also imperative that we steer young people away from a life of crime in the first place, and our £22m Early Intervention Youth Fund is already funding six projects that specifically address those at risk of involvement in county lines including early intervention and outreach programmes.
Laughing gas remains the second most commonly used drug among 16-24 year-olds, three years after it was banned, the Guardian, Mirror, Sun and BBC report.
Figures for 2017-18 released by the Royal College of Nursing show that 6.5% of women and 11% of men use nitrous oxide, despite health risks including breathing problems and paranoia.
The Sun further reports that deaths rose from four in 2015 to eight in 2016, despite it being made illegal to sell nitrous oxide for psychoactive purposes three years ago.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
New psychoactive substances have already cost far too many lives, which is why this government changed the law to make it illegal to supply nitrous oxide for psychoactive effect.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) continues to prosecute cases involving nitrous oxide under the 2016 Act successfully. Government continues to work closely with the CPS, law enforcement and scientific experts to ensure that prosecutions of cases under the 2016 Act are supported by the best available evidence.