Jonathan Reynolds MP

Representing the communities of Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley, Longdendale, and Dukinfield
labour and coop candidate jonathan reynolds

Parliament is Recalled to Debate UK Riots

PARLIAMENT was recalled on Thursday for an urgent debate about the riots that have occurred across the UK.

Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds had hoped to speak in the debate.

During a debate MPs are chosen to speak at the discretion of the Speaker. On Thursday there were so many MPs wanting to contribute that Mr Reynolds was not called.

Here he has published the notes of a speech he had intended to deliver, had he been called to do so.

"Thank you for calling me to speak in this debate Mr Speaker.  As a Greater Manchester MP I wish to devote the time allowed to me to address the appalling events in Manchester and Salford last Tuesday night.

"Mr Speaker people in Greater Manchester have a special relationship with their city centre.  It's the heart of our city.  Before I was elected to this House I genuinely relished my arrival every day in the city centre on my way to work.   It's a tremendous place to live, to work and to relax in, and therefore it is very hard for us to believe that the people who sought to destroy it live near or alongside us.

"And so the appalling scenes of last Tuesday night have made people angry, and they are right to be angry.  The level of criminality we witnessed was simply unacceptable, and can surely have bore no relationship to the original incident in Tottenham concerning Mark Duggan which caused the initial disturbances.  As the Manchester Evening News put it so well: ‘as well as being evil and witless, this was a riot that was woefully lacking in imagination.' 

"There were no sign of protests, no sense that authority or the police themselves were the targets.  Instead, what we have is clear evidence that serious and organised criminals were the instigators of much of the problem.  And the sheer scale of the violence we saw raises some serious questions.

"At the outset I want to praise the officers of Greater Manchester Police.  They had scaled up their presence on the streets, they were already on 12 hour shifts, they were in receipt of mutual aid from other forces and they faced incredibly difficult circumstances with there being simultaneous trouble in Manchester and Salford.  I also want to extend that praise to our other emergency services, who displayed exceptional bravery and calm to do their jobs whilst in danger.  Can I also thank Greater Manchester Police Authority for keeping Members of Parliament closely informed.

"But we as Greater Manchester MPs need to look at what happened that night and what can be done in future, because we simply cannot tolerate a repeat of the violence, the criminal damage and the intimidation that we saw, and there are a number of points to make on that:

"Firstly, from the moment the riots spread to Birmingham from London there was clearly the possibility Manchester would be at risk.  We all knew it, yet we were not able to stop serious damage occurring.  We need to know that at all times our local police forces have the resources and the ability to keep order on the streets.  It's not about saying the police should have items like water cannons, though they should if they need them, but analysing what happened and making sure that in future we have the capacity and the strategy to respond to it.  

"The Government must also understand that, when MPs raise concerns about the levels of the forthcoming cuts in police numbers, they are not attempting to score points but simply articulate the feelings of what their shell-shocked constituents are telling them.

"And in responding to those who did participate in the lawlessness, we need swift justice so that people can see that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.  We cannot let our community think that those who have done this will not be brought to justice.  I welcome the indication already made that the courts will sit around the clock, and I know there will be no shortage of magistrates from my area willing to sit for those hours. 

"A lot has been said about the use of the social media.  The ability to communicate quickly on a large scale was clearly an asset to the rioters, but it shouldn't dumbfound the authorities. 

"Law-abiding citizens can use social media too - as we saw so vividly when it provided the means for people to coordinate their efforts in helping clean in the days afterwards.  I also applaud the way GM Police are using Twitter to publish the punishments handed out to people who they have arrested.

"But we do need to think about penalties for people who used social media that night to incite unrest, or deliberately mislead the police - we would prosecute people making phone calls to waste police time, and this should be treated no differently.

"Thankfully, Mr Speaker, we do have a great deal of evidence to help us find and charge the people who were involved in this.   I haven't time to get into a lengthy debate about civil liberties, but we should acknowledge that a great deal of this evidence comes from the extensive CCTV that covers our urban centres, and I just want this recognised in the ongoing debate about the balance between surveillance and civil liberties.

"Finally, Mr Speaker, as MPs we have received feedback from some police officers that there is a perception amongst some of them that, following the prosecution of officers for undue force in some high-profile cases, they had to be extremely cautious in the way they responded to the rioters.  I have listened to this Mr Speaker, but I say it simply cannot be the case that just because officers have been held accountable for their actions in tragic cases such as that of Mr. Ian Tomlinson, that somehow we can no longer adequately police a riot. I don't accept that that is the trade-off.  Surely, we can do both.

"Can I end by echoing the sentiments of other honourable members concerning the tremendous community response to the clean-up operation, which showed the true character of our cities. 

"We will, at some point, need to turn the debate to why there is still a constituency of people in our urban areas willing to behave in this way.

"It can't be simplistic;

"It won't satisfy those on either the left or the right who just want to blame the other side;

"It can't just be about blaming cuts, or the lack of tax-breaks for married couples.

"It has to consider opportunities, parenting, role models, people's skills and people's souls.  We can take solace in the fact that so many people, whatever their economic circumstances, did not participate in the looting and violence. But we cannot be satisfied when we know that even a minority did.

"This is the battle we must always be willing to fight.

"Can I end, Mr Speaker, by saying that the knowledge that the vast majority of people in Greater Manchester deplore those who participated in the riots is heartening, and will surely help us bring those who are responsible to justice.  I very much look forward to that commencing."

Published 15 August, 2011


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