Nick Thomas-Symonds – 2020 Speech on Public Order

Below is the text of the speech made by Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour MP for Torfaen, in the House of Commons on 15 June 2020.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for her statement and for advance sight of it. Like everyone in this House, I was appalled by the scenes in London this weekend. The violence, intimidation and antisocial behaviour were unacceptable, and as I said over the weekend, we condemn these acts absolutely.​

It was clear that people, including the far right, had come out with the intention of causing violence, coupled with Nazi salutes and missiles hurled at the police. It was despicable to see a man apparently urinating by the memorial dedicated to PC Keith Palmer—a man who defended this very building to keep us Members safe. For such a disgusting act to occur next to a monument to a man who gave the ultimate service to his country shows how vile the events of Saturday became. PC Palmer’s bravery will never be forgotten.

In these terrible scenes, we were reminded once again of the bravery, dedication and professionalism of our frontline police officers, and we again owe them a debt of gratitude. I understand that 23 officers were injured this weekend, and that is, of course, in addition to officers who were injured in previous incidents. I ask the Home Secretary to update us on their wellbeing. I have been in contact this morning with policing representatives to pass on the thanks of those of us on the Opposition Benches.

On the issue of the law around war memorials, I recognise the importance of local memorials including cenotaphs, and I will scrutinise carefully the proposal on the issue that the law as it stands puts the financial value of repair above the hurt caused to the community. On sentencing, bearing in mind some of the media coverage at the weekend, I should point out that the maximum sentence for criminal damage is already 10 years, and sentencing guidelines for damaging memorials would need to be developed considering sentences already handed out for other serious offences.

The Prime Minister should also be clear that we will not allow him to move the focus from the action to address the discrimination that people face now. Let us be clear: there should be no attempt to draw comparisons between those who were intent on violence this weekend and the legitimate cause of the Black Lives Matter campaigners, who have brought attention to the impact that racism and inequality continue to have both here in the UK and across the world. Now is the time for action. To borrow a phrase from another movement for equality and justice, what is required now are deeds not words.

The Prime Minister’s decision to announce yet another review falls woefully short of what is required, because he could act now. He could implement all the recommendations of the Lammy review that have been sitting there since September 2017. He could bring forward actions on the Wendy Williams lessons learned review now. He could address the fact that just 60 people have been compensated so far in the first year of the Windrush compensation scheme—just 60 out of thousands, which is unacceptable. To use the Prime Minister’s own words, these plans are “oven-ready” and could be done now. The Prime Minister has the information to act now. The Prime Minister has the recommendations in front of him to act now. The Prime Minister has the power to act now. Are we not in the middle of a powerful national moment when more delay is not the answer? Is it not the truth that by failing to act now, the Prime Minister just is not offering the leadership required?