London: Britain’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, invoked the concept of ‘sewa’ Tuesday as she set out a series of crime fighting measures, including tougher penalties for protesters disrupting highways, tougher action on crimes against women and enhanced drugs testing of offenders.
In her flagship speech at the ongoing Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, the senior Indian-origin Cabinet minister said it was the concept of service and putting others’ interests first that drives her work in the UK’s Home Office.
“Our values embody service before self. This can be neatly defined by the Hindu word sewa, which can mean service, commitment and dedication to others,” she said.
“Ensuring the best interests of our country come first is what drives me each and every day. That is my responsibility. That is my service. That is our party. And it is because of our commitment to putting the needs of the hardworking, often silent, majority first, that I will not tolerate so called ecowarriors, trampling over our way of life and draining police resources,” she said, in reference to key motorways being blocked by climate protesters in recent days, causing major disruption to transport networks.
“Their actions over recent weeks have amounted to some of the most self-defeating ‘environmental’ protests this country has ever seen. Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our Party will forever fight to uphold. But it must be within the law,” said Patel, adding that the Conservative Party government is determined to take the tough decisions needed to cut crime and make streets safer.
“So today I can announce I will also increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway, criminalise interference with key infrastructure such as roads, railways and our free press, and give the police and courts new powers to deal with the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities,” she said.
In the wake of a serving Scotland Yard officer being sentenced recently for the rape and murder of a 33-year-old woman walking home at night in London, Patel also confirmed an inquiry to provide independent oversight to ensure mistakes are not repeated within the police force.
“I say this as Home Secretary, but also as a woman – such unconscionable crimes and acts of violence against women and girls have no place in our society. And that is why I have redoubled my efforts to ensure women and girls feel safer,” she said.
Patel also highlighted the progress of the post-Brexit points-based system of immigration she had launched last year. With reference to the country’s new visas and immigration system, the 49-year-old Gujarati-origin politician welcomed an end to the European Union (EU) policy of free movement of people within the economic bloc.
She said: “We have finally ended free movement. Delivered our new points-based immigration system, welcoming people to our country based on the skills they have to offer, not the colour of their passport.
“Our new routes are attracting the best and brightest talent from around the world. Welcoming brilliant scientists, the finest academics, and leading people in their fields, all helping to drive our economy forwards as we Build Back Better from the pandemic. And at long last, the British immigration system is under the control of the British government.”
Under the points-based system in force since early this year, migrants from anywhere in the world – including India – are expected to apply to live and work in the UK based on their level of skills rather than the country of origin.
The ruling Conservative Party’s annual conference will run until Wednesday, with senior ministers addressing party delegates on the government’s priorities and conclude with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s flagship speech.