Public Order

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 8th June 2020.

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Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Home Secretary 4:49 pm, 8th June 2020

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for advance sight of it. Like everyone in the House, I was appalled by the killing of George Floyd. His fateful words, “I can’t breathe” not only haunt us, but have become a catalyst for people across America and the world to say that the racism that continues to shame everyday life must stop. People in our communities with lived experiences and family legacies of the prejudice that black people in the United Kingdom face have bravely stepped forward. I want to be absolutely clear: I hear you and, not that it should need saying, black lives matter.

Words are important, but we cannot allow this moment of global demand for justice to pass without action: we on the Labour Benches will be at the forefront of calls for change. What is never a solution, though, is violence or vandalism. The vast majority of protestors are peaceful, but some of the actions we have seen from a minority are unacceptable. I condemn those who have attacked the police, and I pay tribute to the police officers who put themselves in harm’s way over the weekend. I hope the Home Secretary will update us on the condition of the 27 injured officers, including one in hospital, and the injured protester. When it comes to the statue of Edward Colston, I do not condone an act of criminal damage to remove it, but I will not miss a public statue of a slave trader. It should have been taken down many years ago.

At a time when politicians and public health experts are rightly stressing the need for caution around protests given the risk of coronavirus—I stress that again today—and the importance of social distancing, the imperative on those in power is all the greater to show that they have listened and that they understand the scale of the anger and the desire for meaningful action. At moments like this, it is for our leaders to unite communities, heal divisions and confront the injustices in our society.

Public Health England recently published its report on the disparities in the risk and outcomes of covid-19, showing that black males are four times more likely than expected to die with covid-19. The recommendations of that report need to be made public now. Coronavirus has shone a light on inequalities that have long existed. The damning findings of the Wendy Williams Windrush review need to be heeded and its recommendations acted upon. The Home Secretary said earlier that she was looking at them, but she urgently needs to come to the House and tell us the action she is taking.

My right hon. Friend Mr Lammy produced a report in September 2017 on the treatment of and outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic people from first point of contact with the police and then throughout the criminal justice system. It showed that black people make up around 3% of the general population but accounted for 12% of adult prisoners and more than 20% of children in custody. Those shameful statistics matter, and the Government should implement the report’s recommendations in full. In recent days, we have heard powerful testimonies from so many people on how racism continues to have an impact on daily lives in our country. Does the Home Secretary agree that now is not the moment for divisive rhetoric? Instead, this is a time for the Government to listen, to learn and to act.