Tuesday, 9 August 2011

What Yvette could say!

Yvette Cooper will have a difficult job on Thursday morning, as she makes her statements, and asks a number of questions of the Home Secretary, as parliament is recalled to debate the events in London over the last three nights. It seems David Cameron may employ the same tactic he has in debates on the hacking scandal, and have a separate Q & A before the main debate.

Indeed, by the time they meet, more occurrences may have taken place, and a young man from Croydon died today, having been shot on Monday night. There will also be discussion on the current financial crisis, though I expect Osborne and Balls to be leading the debate on this.

If I was in Yvette's position this is what I would say (though after reading it, you may well be grateful I'm not):

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement, and for the advance copy she sent to me. I join her in paying tribute to the police and emergency services for the courage they have shown, putting themselves on the line to protect people and property.

The Prime Minister was right to return home at this time, and to recall parliament, so we have the opportunity to debate before the people what we believe is the way forward.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to also pay tribute to the Home Secretary, her immediate return, and the calm and assured way she has dealt with events to date. She has not panicked, and has resisted calls for water cannon, rubber bullets or the army to take to the streets of London.

As we have seen unfolding, dreadful things have happened in the last few days, but it is essential that government and police remain calm in the face of such provocation. There can be no excuse for the lootings and violence that occurred over the weekend and into this week, and the police must be enabled to take any necessary measures to restore order. As my Right Honourable friend said on Tuesday afternoon, there must be no no-go areas.

As we know, there was a peaceful protest in Tottenham on Saturday afternoon, by members of the community against the shooting on Thursday of Mark Duggan, as part of an 'Operation Trident' initiative.

There are reports that initial trouble started when a sixteen year old girl was assaulted by police officers. So my first question is, what does the Home Secretary know about this, and can she confirm whether it is true or not?

Even if true, that does not of course excuse what followed, as a crowd went on a rampage through the streets of Tottenham, destroying property, putting innocent people at risk, and making many others homeless.

As we seen since, this has spread to other parts of London, and subsequently to Birmingham and Liverpool amongst others.

There have been many arrests sebsequently, with no doubt, many more to follow. The courts must be enabled to carry through due process, and the perpetrators severely punished.

These people seem to have no other motive than destruction, violence and theft. Many businesses have been destroyed, and people have lost their jobs, and untold damage has been done to the local economies.

What plans does the government have in place to help those businesses, and individuals affected by these events? Can the Prime Minister urge insurance companies to make quick payouts, so businesses can get up and running as quickly as possible.

As a sad consequence of the economic crisis, there are many properties lying empty, and therefore, could the government talk to local authorities allowing rapid relocation of businesses, and giving holidays on council taxes so they can get up and running?

There can be no justification for the events of the last few days, and if any police officers need to be brought to book over actions either in Tottenham, then the Independent Police Complaints Commission, must investigate, and act if fault is found.

We have debated in the past our different views of the impact of government cuts and policies, and we will do so again. However, this is not the time for that. Now we are fully behind the government, and police as they seek to deal with this crisis, for as long as the response stays proportionate.

Therefore, I just ask the Home Secretary these questions before I close:

What plans do the government have to help businesses ruined by the events of the last few days?

Will the government be setting up a fund to help those businesses and individuals who aren't adequately insured?

The police and other emergency services have done a magnificent job dealing with the violence and destruction, and it would be sensible to put cuts on hold, whilst a review is carried out in light of events. Does the Home Secretary agree?

Finally, there will be a number of inquiries initiated to investigate causes and effects of the riots, as well as what changes should come in. Whilst I do not expect the Home Secretary to preempt the outcomes of those inquiries, could she please let us know if there will be a separate government inquiry, with the remit to gather information from the others, so we can get a clear overall picture of events, to avoid repeating the errors?

As I said a short while ago, the government, and police, have our full support as they seek to deal with these events in a responsible and proportionate way.

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