Birmingham Attacks and Extinction Rebellion Protests

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:48 pm on 7th September 2020.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department 4:48 pm, 7th September 2020

The hon. Gentleman seems to be a little confused. Holding a joint statement on two issues does not necessarily conflate them. It is a single departmental statement because I have had to deal with both issues. We could have had two statements, but it might not have been an efficient use of your time, Madam Deputy Speaker, or indeed the Chamber’s. There has been no attempt to conflate the two.

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has positioned the SNP outside mainstream opinion. [Interruption.] Well, you’re all expressing consternation, and speaking, smiling and laughing. I do not know why me expressing concern is worthy of derision. In truth, the vast majority of people in this country, and all mainstream parties in this country, have expressed alarm at the tactics of Extinction Rebellion over the weekend and its stated aim of disrupting newspapers’ ability to distribute their views and opinions because they do not agree with them. One of the first things that happens in extremist states and takeovers is an attempt to grip the television station, the radio station or the newspapers. Control of information is key so we need to take care with these things. I hope he will agree with me in time.

On violence and public health, the hon. Gentleman is quite right that we want a 360° approach to combating violence. As somebody who worked at City Hall between 2008 and 2012 fighting the last spike in knife crime, I know only too well the value of that approach. I held many meetings a decade ago with Karyn McCluskey, who was then running the knife crime efforts in Glasgow, in parallel with those in London, and at the time we were both successful in driving numbers down.

Finally, on the right to protest, as I said in my statement, we in the Conservative party absolutely and fundamentally grasp the fact that our individual liberty is based on a series of freedoms—freedom to associate, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, property rights—that are fundamental to our view of the world and which will remain so into the future.