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Some encouraging news at the end of a long and difficult week
13/08/2011 00:46:00

 
 

Thank you to the hundreds of people who replied to the email I sent out on Tuesday with suggestions of what I should say if I was called to speak in Thursday's debate on the riots in the House of Commons. Due to the huge number of people who responded, I wasn't able to reply to each one individually but I stayed up most of the night on Wednesday to read them all and I really appreciate everyone taking the time to let me have their views.

In the event, I was the first backbencher called to speak after the Home Secretary and Shadow Home Secretary, something that is unlikely to happen again (normally longer-serving MPs are called first and new arrivals like myself have to wait till later but on this occasion the Speaker kindly called those MPs whose constituencies who had been worst affected first). If you're interested, you can watch my speech here (fast-forward to 5 hours 25 minutes). I hope those of you who sent in suggestions feel I covered the points you raised - I had a 5 minute limit so it wasn't easy fitting everything in!

Before the debate, the Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons updating MPs on the Government's response to the riots. He made a number of welcome announcements, addressing issues that many of you raised in your emails to me including:

- work with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at stopping people communicating via social media when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality;

- giving the police discretion to remove face coverings under any circumstances when there is reasonable suspicion they are related to criminal activity;

- looking at whether any wider power of curfew is necessary;

- confirming that any individual or business that has suffered damage to, or loss of, their property as a result of rioting can seek compensation under the Riot Damages Act even if uninsured, that the police will have the funds they need to pay these claims and that the deadline for claims will be extended to 42 days;

- setting up a £20 million high street support scheme to help affected businesses get back up and running quickly;

- instructing the Valuation Office to immediately stop liability for Council Tax and business rates for the houses and businesses that have been most badly damaged;

- establishing a £10 million Recovery Scheme to help local councils make areas safe and clean; and

- work on a cross-government programme to deal with gang culture.

If you're interested, you can read the Prime Minister’s full statement here.

Boris Johnson also announced a £50 million fund on Thursday to help make major long term improvements to the capital’s town centres and high streets damaged by the recent disturbances. You can read the details here. And today he in Croydon to re-open the tram network between Wandle Park and East Croydon just 4 days after the huge fire at Reeves Corner, which brought down the power lines - a sign that our town is back open for business.

Finally, as a small but visible sign of our solidarity in confronting the tiny minority who did such damage to our town on Monday, the Council have asked me to encourage you to 'like' the Facebook page ‘Support Croydon’s recovery’ by clicking here.

If I have the honour to go on representing Croydon in Parliament for many years to come, I hope I never have to go through another week like this week but if there is a silver lining to what happened it is that the vast majority of Croydonians of all ages and backgrounds are united that we have been too soft on those who break the law, too forgiving of those who show no respect for others and too indifferent to the divisions in our society. The real Croydon is not the few hundred people who started fire and looted shops on Monday night but:

- the outnumbered police officers, the firemen and ambulance crews who risked serious injury to try to help people;

- the Council officers who worked overnight to ensure the homeless were housed;

- the thousands of people who have offered to help clean up or donated money to help businesses rebuild;

- the businesses who have provided clothing for those who lost everything;

- the people of New Addington who came out to defend their shopping parade; and

- the decent majority who care about their town.

It was a privilege to represent those people in Parliament yesterday.

Comment on this blog

 

Readers' Comments

On 13/08/2011 11:12:00 Croydonsfuture wrote:
Bravo! Your Commons speech is thoughtful, strikes the right balance and is well made. On the video link, it commences at 16.59 – not at 5 hours 25 minutes as per your post above.

As an observation, both you and Malcolm Wicks did a sterling job of representing Croydon in the difficult days following 8/8. Both of you are to be commended.

I agree that the appalling events of 8/8 compel a real “root and branch” rethink of how to remedy the underlying causes - so as to prevent any future repetition. Also, we need to seek radical solutions to many of the deep rooted problems contributing to these appalling events.

All of the evidence points to organised gangs having spearheaded Croydon’s riots. Unfortunately, many “opportunists” subsequently took advantage of the mayhem. To prevent a recurrence, we urgently need to neuter Croydon’s gangs. Even before the appalling events of 8/8, Croydon’s gangs – particularly DSN, Gipset and SMN – have blighted life in the borough. Hopefully, the aftermath of 8/8 presents a golden opportunity to tackle Croydon’s gangs in a really effective and concerted way.

I disagree with you profoundly on the proposed cuts to police funding. The ability to walk our streets in safety and having no fear of being burnt alive in our homes are basics in any decent society. If it means that the necessary cost savings are achieved by immediately ending our involvement in Libya and Afghanistan, then so be it. The need to preserve order at home has to be the national priority – even if it means steering clear of “worthy” (but ruinously costly) interventions abroad.

It is clear that the events of 8/8 have done untold damage to Croydon’s image. Regenerating Croydon was never going to be easy but 8/8 has made this necessity a real challenge. Historically, Croydon has tried to portray itself in a very positive light. However, this approach has hidden Croydon’s underlying deep rooted problems - that were so brutally exposed on 8/8. Also, this approach seems to have had very little positive benefit to date.

In the aftermath of 8/8, maybe a completely new approach should be adopted to achieve the regeneration Croydon so desperately needs? Maybe we should swallow our pride and admit to Croydon’s many deep rooted problems? There are large swathes of the north of the borough that are poor not only relative to London standards, but indeed by reference to national standards. Perhaps we need to highlight this poverty to central government so as to secure a major government regeneration investment?

As an immediate step on placing Croydon on the road to recovery, we need to secure Enterprise Zone status as soon as possible. Perversely, perhaps one silver lining of 8/8 will be a recognition by central government of Croydon’s many deep rooted problems. Perhaps this recognition will at last unlock the much needed central government support that Croydon so desperately needs.

 
On 17/08/2011 08:20:00 Gavin wrote:
Croydonsfuture

I don't think we really disagree on police funding. I have now problem with efficiency savings being made but I won't support a cut in visible policing.

 
 

 

 

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Gavin Barwell, 133 Wickham Road, CR0 8TE, Tel  020 8663 8741      © Gavin Barwell  2017       Promoted by Ian Parker on behalf of Gavin Barwell, both at 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG