Thank you for contacting me about Black Lives Matters.
I share the Prime Minister’s sentiment that the killing of George Floyd was “appalling” and “inexcusable”. As a Christian I totally abhor racism and believe it has no place in our society, nor in any. The United Kingdom is a diverse country where many peoples from all over the world have found a home in peace and security, and there are still more who aspire to come here.
We are not immune to the problems of racism ourselves, but we have made immense progress, especially since the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. The maintenance of law and order in the UK relies on policing by consent, and recent figures from the annual Crime Survey for England & Wales showed that 70 per cent of black people aged 16 and over in England and Wales said they had confidence in their local police.
The UK has implemented measures to ensure accountability and transparency across police forces. This includes regular inspections of police engagement with communities, frequent publication of data on police powers, and strengthening the police complaints system.
I know that authorities are working to build a more diverse police force. The recruitment of 20,000 officers provides our country with a unique opportunity to address under representation in recruitment and support the police to become even more representative of the communities they serve.
The Government is also very clear that disciplinary and criminal proceedings may follow any serious breach of the standards expected of police officers.
As a firm defender of citizens’ rights from undue encroachment by the state, I believe concerns about stop and search are understandable. There has to be a balance between deploying tactics to help fight crime and ensuring no one feels unduly threatened. However, I want to be absolutely clear, no one should be targeted because of their race.
I think that most protesters are well-intentioned people who want to bring about what they think is a more just society, and I a firm believer in the right to public protest. However, protest must be at all times peaceable and never resort to violence. Furthermore, the temporary threat to public health means it is entirely justifiable for protests to be limited for the time being because of social distancing rules that I hope will be lifted as soon as is possible.
As the Prime Minister has made very clear, protesters have no right to attack the police. We have all seen scenes of thuggery and violence by some in the crowds, and the Government has assured me that those responsible will be held to account.
Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch with me.
EDWARD LEIGH MP