I want to start by offering my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Sarah Everard.
May her soul rest in peace.
Parts of Clapham Common falls within my constituency. And having lived in Brixton all my life, I’ve walked the same streets that Sarah did. My first job was at the Sainsburys supermarket on Clapham High Street and my sixth form college, St Francis Xavier is located at the southern tip of Clapham Common, at Clapham South
I’ve felt afraid, and I don’t want my daughter to grow up making the same adjustments that I did – that all women do.
In the past few days, I’ve been contacted by hundreds of women and men, young and old, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers who live in Clapham and across my constituency of Vauxhall and now no longer feel safe.
Our streets and public spaces should not be places of fear for women. We need to listen to women’s voices, and we must believe what they are telling us.
This includes making sure we listen to all women – including the voices of black women and trans women. Far too often we do not hear the names of black and minority ethnic women in the news or on social media but sadly many of them have been failed by the police and criminal justice system, and so I say the names of Blessing Olusegun, Joy Morgan, Bibba Henry and Nicole Smallman and many others who have died on our streets. Only then can we start to heal the mistrust and put in place long overdue protections against this unacceptable violence. We must, and we will, Reclaim These Streets.
Madam Deputy Speaker –
This Bill is wide ranging, and it contains a number of important measures that I welcome.
I’d like to pay tribute to my Honourable colleagues for their tireless campaigning on dangerous driving, protecting our emergency service workers, reforming the DBS scheme, and widening the law to prevent adults in ‘positions of trust’ from engaging in sexual relationships with young people under 18. These measures will make us all safer.
But this Bill is also missed opportunity for much needed reforms.
It doesn’t do nearly enough to address the urgent issue of racial disproportionality in our criminal justice system. And as Co-Chair of the APPG on Knife Crime and Violence Reduction, I’m disappointed that the Government has missed an opportunity to focus on prevention – by ensuring organisations have the long term funding they need to tackle serious violence and build trust with communities that often feel that they are viewed as the perpetrators when many of them are actually victims. This includes the many girls and young women caught up in violence associated with gang violence.
I want to focus my remarks on perhaps the most egregious measures proposed in this Bill – those that seek to control free expression and the right to protest.
My constituency of Vauxhall has a long and proud history of protest. In 1848 the Chartists organised a huge rally from Kennington Park to Parliament. Led by William Cuffay, the black son of a freed slave, they argued for a more democratic system of governance including many of the measures that we now take for granted.
Since then, Kennington Park has been at the epicentre of important movements for social change. In 1926 it was occupied during the General Strike. In 1990 it saw the start a poll tax march. And throughout the 80s and 90s, it was the starting place for Gay Pride. More recently, following the tragic death of George Floyd, thousands of people came to Vauxhall in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
These were all movements for change. And they succeeded.
This Bill will restrict my constituents’ right to protest. And it will have a chilling effect on free expression. If this Bill passes, they will now think twice about speaking freely in public on the issues they care about most.
That is why I cannot support this Bill, and I would urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this Bill.
Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker