Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write to me regarding the Black Lives Matter campaign.
Like many others, I have been deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd and I understand the anger and the grief that is felt not just in America but around the world. George Floyd suffered a grave injustice and I welcome the news that there is a federal review currently under way and charges have been brought in relation to the perpetrator.
I have written a brief response to each of the issues raised in the emails I have received on this matter below. I will continue to update this page in the coming days so if your topic has not been covered, please ensure you check back as it may be included in a future update.
If anyone has any further questions or topics you would like me to raise, please get back in touch and I will do what I can to help.
The UK takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world. We rigorously examine each export licence application on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
The Consolidated Criteria provide a thorough risk assessment framework and require the UK to think hard about the impact of providing equipment and its capabilities. These are not decisions the government take lightly, and going forward, the government will continue to ensure that everything we export is in accordance with the consolidated guidance on human rights.
Compulsory Black History Education
I agree that diversity in education is important. History helps pupils to understand the complexity of people’s lives, the process of change, the diversity of societies and relationships between different groups, as well as their own identity and the challenges of their time.
The Department for Education’s national curriculum programmes of study for history already prescribe some mandatory subject content in this area. For example, at key stages 1 and 2 the national curriculum states that pupils should receive a “historically grounded understanding of abstract terms such as ‘empire’ […]”. At key stage 3, the history curriculum states that students should be taught about “ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901”.
This being said, I take on board the concerns of those who feel that this needs to be extended and I can confirm that I have flagged this to the Department for Education for consideration.
However, I must stress that the Department for Education’s national curriculum is only mandatory for maintained schools in England; academies, free schools and fee-paying schools are not required to teach it (although many academies will use national curriculum programmes of study). The majority of secondary schools are now academies so I would strongly encourage students to discuss this matter with their schools and teachers directly.
Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19
Recently, the Government commissioned a review from Public Health England into the disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19.
The report has found that, as well as age, the risk of dying among those diagnosed with COVID-19 was higher in males than females; higher in those living in the more deprived areas than those living in the least deprived; and higher in those in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups than in White ethnic groups.
The relationship between ethnicity and health is complex and likely to be the result of a combination of factors. The report did not consider the existence of comorbidities, which are strongly associated with the risk of death from COVID-19 and are likely to explain some of the differences in all groups.
The report was an important first step, and the Government will now take forward further work in this area to form a better understanding and take action to address the issues it raised.
As I’m sure you can appreciate, it is not always easy to go directly from the analysis to making recommendations. It is important the report from PHE is now widely disseminated and discussed as recommendations for actions are formulated.
The government take these findings very seriously and this Government is absolutely committed to taking action in this area and the Prime Minister has asked the Equalities Minister to undertake the work needed to address these disparities.
In the meantime, the NHS Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer have sent a letter to NHS trusts setting out their next steps in the response, and asking NHS services to risk assess staff, include those from BAME backgrounds.
Additionally, NHS England and the NHS Confederation have confirmed the creation of a new centre to investigate the impact of race and ethnicity on people’s health. The NHS Race and Health Observatory, will identify and tackle the specific health challenges facing people from BAME backgrounds.
The report can be read in full here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/889195/disparities_review.pdf
Police in the UK
The relationship between the police and the public in the UK is strong however, I also understand that there is always more to do.
Every day, up and down the country, officers and staff are working to strengthen those relationships and address concerns. Only by working closely with their communities do they build trust and help keep people safe.
Chief Constables from police forces across the country, the Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Chief Executive of the College of Policing and the President of the Police Superintendents' Association issued a joint statement following the death and the events that have followed in the United States.
“We stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life. Justice and accountability should follow.
“We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many US cities since then. Our hearts go out to all those affected by these terrible events and hope that peace and order will soon be restored”.
In the UK we have a long established tradition of policing by consent, working in communities to prevent crime and solve problems. Officers are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary. We strive to continuously learn and improve. We will tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it.
Policing is complex and challenging and sometimes we fall short. When we do, we are not afraid to shine a light on injustices or to be held to account”
Protests in the UK
I agree that the right to peaceful protest is an important part of any free society.
However, coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people. So I would urge people who want to come together and protest to do so peacefully and to continue to respect social distancing measures. This will help prevent the spread of the virus and save lives.