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.