Racism has absolutely no place in today’s society, whether that be in Carshalton and Wallington, the UK or anywhere across the globe. Whilst I have not have experienced discrimination based on the colour of my skin and recognise that I will never be able to fully understand the lived experiences of those who have, as an openly gay man I do know what it feels like to be persecuted simply because of who or what you are – it is one of the most vile things anyone can experience in their lives, but sadly many, if not most, BAME and LGBT+ people will experience prejudice in their lifetimes.
The BAME and LGBT+ communities have stood side-by-side together in the past during times of adversity; indeed it was black civil rights and LGBT+ activist, Marsha P. Johnson, who helped begin the gay liberation movement in the late 60s and, just as then, we stand together now. As an ally of the BAME community, I am proud to stand with them in declaring that black lives matter.
It is often exhausting having to explain and call out discrimination in whatever form it takes, and it becomes frustrating, so I entirely understand the strength of feeling. The horrific death of George Floyd is just one recent example of a discrimination that is nothing new, nor sadly unique to the US as we have seen with the death of Belly Mujinga, but is something that requires real change to break down institutional racism and power biases. I will continue fighting for just that.
I strongly believe in the right to protest, but we must also remember that we are still in the midst of a global health pandemic and, whilst stamping out discrimination cannot wait, we have to ensure people are taking the steps to keep themselves and others safe and in line with the lockdown measures. I also know the vast majority of those protesting agree that there is no justification for violence against the police, their horses or others, and we cannot allow the actions of a few to undermine the important message of the many.
Locally, I am proud to represent a community as diverse as Carshalton and Wallington. It is my privilege to work very closely with each and every part of our community and, as a Conservative councillor, I am proud to sit in a group on Sutton Council as diverse as ours, regardless of their race, gender, background, faith or sexuality. It is my commitment to continue that dialogue with local community leaders, including the BAME community leaders that I have had the privilege to work with so far, and standing up for every single person in my hometown and further afield.
I want to address the specific issues that have been raised with me in recent days, and have structured my thoughts into the following sections. I hope this is helpful, however please do feel free to raise any further points you have with me.
On George Floyd
I don’t think anyone could fail to be horrified by what we all saw happen to George Floyd in the US.
I understand that the police officer involved has been charged with second-degree murder, and the three other officers involved during George’s killing were also charged with aiding and abetting his murder and there will be a federal review. Justice must be done, and I know from those who have been in contact with me, as well as tributes online, that many Carshalton and Wallington residents are reaching out to express their sympathies for George’s family and all victims of racism.
I have been heartened by the solidarity shown to George’s family. I have also been struck by the number of British people wanting to demonstrate their support for the Black Lives Matter campaign; the strength of feeling in the wake of George’s killing serves as a reminder that so much work remains to be done here in the UK. Like all societies, the progress we have made cannot eclipse the fact there are still many problems in the UK, which will take honest reflection, hard work and tough action to change.
I will of course be following developments in the States closely, including throughout the federal review and I sent a letter to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, last week to demonstrate the strength of feeling of local residents, which I have attached for your information.
The death of Belly Mujinga was tragic after she was reportedly spat at by a man claiming to have coronavirus.
I was concerned when I read the statement from the British Transport Police (BTP) when they stated that they had decided to take no further action on the investigation into Belly’s death, especially given the apparent witness evidence. I have written to the Head of the BTP last week to express these concerns; copy attached.
More than 1 million people have signed a petition in support of Belly and, since I wrote, I am pleased to see that the Crown Prosecution Service has been asked to review evidence into her death. I look forward to a full and impartial review of the evidence, as well as a detailed consideration of any and all other lines of enquiry, including whether the act of spitting itself was racially motivated, and I entirely agree that it should be prosecuted as such – i.e. racially aggravated assault – if proven.
However, I know that justice must go further and, whilst it is vital that we keep our transport system going, we must also protect transport staff.
I know that the Government has been working hard with transport operators and issued detailed guidance to ensure that their staff are kept safe. I have also written to the Chief Executive of Govia Thameslink Railway, the managing operators of the network that Belly worked on, to ask that they acknowledge the strength of feeling felt by the British public, and ensure they are taking all necessary steps to keep their staff safe so that this tragedy can never happen again. I have attached a copy of that letter for you.
On racism in the UK
Of course, this isn't just about George and Belly, and we remember so many others, like Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner, as well as those closer to home; Darren Cumberbatch, Sheku Bayoh, Mikey Powell, and, of course, the senseless murder of Stephen Lawrence, to name but a few.
Black lives matter.
It is over 20 years since the Macpherson Report was published, following the inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence's murder, with its damning conclusion of the Metropolitan Police as "institutionally racist". Whilst we have come a long way since that 1999 report, it is clear to me that there is so much more we need to do. I welcomed the recent announcement that the Home Affairs Committee will be picking up its predecessors' work on the Macpherson Report and examining police racism in the UK, including questioning police leaders and human rights groups on issues such as the use of force, stop and search, and disproportionate fines during the coronavirus lockdown.
That said, I absolutely recognise and support the work that our police forces, across the country, do to keep us safe; they place themselves in harm's way that we don't have to. Their service for us is remarkable, and I think back to the heroism shown by officers in responding to the London Bridge attacks, the Manchester Arena bombing, the 7/7 London bombings, the 1999 London nail bombings, and so many other horrific events. I am reminded, on a daily basis, of their acts of bravery by the memorial to PC Keith Palmer outside Parliament, who was killed in the 2017 Westminster attacks as he rushed towards danger without a second thought. I was also touched by the statement from Chief Constables from 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 following the death of George Floyd.
The Peelian Principles of Policing, set out by Robert Peel in 1829 and which form the basis of our understanding of "policing by consent", state that the police should "recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect." With only around 15 per cent of Met officers coming from BAME backgrounds, when around 40 per cent of London's population identify as BAME, there is obviously much more work to do to ensure police consent, approval, and respect.
For instance, it is true that BAME individuals are subject to a disproportionate number of stop and searches, with statistics showing that in 2018/19 black people were at least ten times more likely to be searched than white people. Leroy Logan, the former ex-chairman of the National Black Police Association, said last year that black people are "20 times more likely to be stopped under section 60 roadblocks and you are more likely to be tasered if you are black". The Equality and Human Rights Commission concluded that the “evidence points to racial discrimination being a significant reason” for the disparity. I have written to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to ensure the vital work on rebuilding trust between communities and the police continues; copy attached.
Of course, the need for equitable and fair policing, whilst hugely important, is only one of the issues still facing BAME people today, and we must stamp out racism and inequality in every part of our society, whether in housing, employment, education, healthcare, or wherever it occurs.
I was heartened to hear the impassioned words of the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, in Parliament last week as she made it clear the efficacy of measures in the UK would indeed be a top priority for her in her new role, and I have also written to her to express my support in making the UK the best country it can be for everyone who lives here; copy attached.
On export of riot gear and treatment of US protesters
I know the Government takes its export control responsibilities very seriously. Indeed, the UK operates one of the world’s most robust and transparent export control regimes. Each export licence application is considered 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, requiring the Government to think very carefully about the possible impact of providing equipment and its capabilities. My understanding is that the Government will not grant an export licence if doing so would be inconsistent with the criteria. However, I have been deeply concerned by some of the images we are seeing coming out of the United States of injured protesters and I have written to the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, to ask what assurances she can give that UK equipment is not being used against unarmed civilians in the States. I have attached that letter for your information.
On findings of BAME COVID-19 report
The Health Secretary commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to complete an urgent review on the disparities in risk and outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic and has now published its findings. The report confirms that being black or from a minority ethnic background is a major risk factor, both in contracting the disease and, sadly, dying from it. Importantly, this racial disparity holds even after accounting for the effects of other factors such as age, deprivation, region and sex.
I note Ministers have said PHE has been engaging with a significant number of individuals and organisations from BAME backgrounds over the past couple of months to hear their views. I am told that this engagement will be built on.
Ministers have reassured me that, in the wake of the report, PHE has been commissioned to carry out further work to better understand the key drivers of the disparities identified in the initial report and the relationships between the different risk factors. I understand the Race Disparity Unit will be closely involved in this work, but if we are to get to the heart of this racial inequality, a number of Government departments will need to be involved.
This report is a welcome first step, but this work has not yet gone far enough. I will continue to follow this issue extremely closely and to press ministerial colleagues to keep up the fight against health and racial inequalities.
On racism in schools
I know our local schools are proud of their diversity, both in the staff and their pupils, and I would be horrified to hear of examples of racism in any Carshalton and Wallington school. I know schools have robust policies to deal with racism, including complaints procedures when things go wrong. If the school does not investigate the matter properly, there is the opportunity to take the complaint higher to the Department for Education.
If you have an example of racism in any local school, and you feel it has not been dealt with appropriately, please do let me know and I would be happy to take up this complaint and support you in its investigation.
I hope this is the start of building more just societies in the UK and around the world. I also hope you are reassured of my own position, as an ally of the BAME community, and my support for the peaceful advancement of civil rights and liberties. The Black Lives Matters movement is speaking with a powerful voice; millions are listening, and I hope all those with the power to affect change are listening too.
UPDATE [9 JUNE]: Black Curriculum
I have written to the Education Secretary to raise the important point about the inclusivity of our shared curriculum, and to highlight the clear need to ensure that black history in our country is being taught in our classrooms. There are many ways we can do this, from looking at Britain's role as an Empire to celebrating the achievements of black people in all fields, much as there has been a significant push in recent years to emphasise the achievements of women. I have attached the letter for interest.
I will be uploading copies of responses to these letters as and when I receive them.
UPDATE [11 JUNE]: Reply from the British Transport Police
Today I have received a reply from the British Transport Police about the tragic death of Belly Mujinga, which I have attached below. I understand that the CPS is still reviewing the evidence into Belly's death, and I will update as I hear more.
UPDATE [12 JUNE]: Call with Govia Thameslink Railway
This afternoon I had a virtual meeting with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), where Belly worked before her tragic death. GTR spoke to me about the work they are doing to keep staff and passengers safe, but also to work with Belly's family to help them through this tragic time. They advised me, similarly to the British Transport Police yesterday, that the CPS are reviewing the evidence into Belly's death, and have promised to keep me updated.
UPDATE [16 JUNE]: Reply from the Department of International Trade
Today I have received a reply from the Department of International Trade about export of riot gear to the USA, which I have attached below.
UPDATE [22 JUNE]: TellMAMA
Today I had a virtual meeting with TellMAMA, a national project which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents in the United Kingdom, to discuss Islamophobia.
You can find out more information here.
UPDATE [23 JUNE]: Sutton Fairness Commission
Today I have written to the Chief Executive of Community Action Sutton to ask to join the Sutton Fairness Commission's board. The Commission replaced the former Sutton Equality and Diversity Forum, and has powers of governance in the Sutton Local Plan to deliver on equality and diversity objectives in the Borough. I have asked to be included in those discussions to help promote the diverse place that Sutton is.
UPDATE [24 JUNE]: COVID-19 BAME Review Webinar
I was pleased to be able to join the All-Party Parliamentary Health Group COVID-19 Webinar, chaired by Baroness Lola Young, CEO of the Royal College of Nursing, on the impact of COVID-19 on the BAME community and discuss the Public Health England rapid review of disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19.
UPDATE [26 JUNE]: Joining the Sutton Fairness Commission
This afternoon I had a call with Alison Navarro, Chief Executive of Community Action Sutton and Chair of the Sutton Fairness Commission. She updated me on the work of the Commission and its aims, including a regular virtual meeting she was holding to discuss matters affecting the BAME community in Sutton and how we can make a difference. I was delighted that she agreed to invite me to be part of the Commission, and I will shortly begin attending the meetings and being part of the conversation as to the actions we can take locally to make Sutton an even better place to celebrate our diversity.
UPDATE [26 JUNE]: Reply from the Department of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Today I have received a reply from the Department of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs about the protests in the USA, which I have attached below.
UPDATE [29 JUNE]: Tamil APPG
I am honoured to have been elected as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tamils today. Carshalton and Wallington's largest BAME population is Tamil, and I look forward to continuing the work of my predecessor, Paul Scully MP, in advancing human rights issues for the Tamil community in the UK and overseas.
UPDATE [1 JULY]: First Sutton Fairness Commission Meeting
I was very pleased to join the Sutton Fairness Commission for my first meeting to discuss how we can tackle racism and improve the lives of BAME people living in Sutton. In the meeting were representatives from the Council, the voluntary sector and the NHS. We spoke about the work needed to be done within our Borough and about the need for the political parties in Sutton to work together to achieve this, which I completely agree with. I will be using my position on the Commission to work with organisations across the Borough to advance these issues, and would encourage anyone who's interested in this topic to check out the Commission.
UPDATE [2 JULY]: Show Racism the Red Card APPG
It was very interesting to join colleagues from all political parties this afternoon as part of the Show Racism the Red Card All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). During the meeting we heard from Shaka Hislop (former Newcastle United, Portsmouth, Reading, West Ham and Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper), Baroness Christine Blower (Vice President of Show Racism the Red Card), Ged Grebby (Chief Executive of Show Racism the Red Card) and speakers from all political parties where we spoke about black history, anti-racism in the National curriculum and actions for the future.
UPDATE [13 JULY]: Convalescent Plasma Donation
I am supporting NHS Blood and Transplant in exploring ways to increase BAME participation in NHS Blood and Transplant's convalescent plasma clinical trial, as this group is underrepresented in the sampling. Convalescent plasma is plasma from people who have recovered from an infection. Recovered patients’ plasma may contain antibodies that their immune systems have produced in fighting the virus. That plasma can be transfused to patients whose immune systems are struggling to develop their own antibodies. The trials will investigate whether transfusions may improve a patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival. Plasma can also be collected and frozen ahead of any second wave of COVID-19. Donation is safe and easy and takes about 45 minutes. The plasma donated is usually replaced in 24-48 and the antibodies are also quickly replaced. Plasma can be donated as often as every two weeks.
UPDATE [16 JULY]: Launch of the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities
I welcome that today the Government has announced the membership of its Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. The Commission will aim to report its findings on the priority areas of health, education, criminal justice and employment by the end of this year. The work of the Commission will report to the Prime Minister. The Sponsoring Minister for this work is Kemi Badenoch, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and Equalities Minister. You can find out more information here.
UPDATE [21 JULY]: Joining the Women and Equalities Select Committee
Today I was proud to have my first meeting as a new member of the Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee. When a vacancy on the Committee became available, I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to join and take part in the extensive work that is being done to tackle inequalities in society, so I was delighted to be accepted onto the Committee. There is already an inquiry taking place into the unequal impact of Coronavirus on the BAME community, as well as much more besides, so I am delighted to be working as part of the Committee to ensure we can make the UK an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
UPDATE [24 JULY]: Reply from the Home Office
Today I have received a reply from the Home Office about tackling racism in the UK, which I have attached below.
UPDATE [27 JULY]: Stop Hate Crime UK Event
This evening I joined fellow Councillors in the London Borough of Sutton for a virtual event run by Stop Hate Crime UK to talk about the work they do. They shared information about hate crimes and incidents, as well as a discussion not just about the picture across the UK, but also here in Sutton. It was a very informative session and I look forward to continuing to work with Stop Hate Crime UK.
UPDATE [6 AUGUST]: Reply from the Department for Education
Today I have received a reply from the Department for Education about BAME history and the national curriculum, which I have attached below.
UPDATE [6 AUGUST]: CPS Statement on Death of Belly Mujinga
The Crown Prosecution Service has today concluded its review into the evidence surrounding the tragic death of Belly Mujinga in April this year. Following an extensive investigation, the CPS has found that the evidence does not support action against any suspect(s) in the case, and that it could not conclusively be demonstrated - on the evidence available - that an offence had been committed. I know that this will be deeply disappointing for Belly's family and all those who sought justice for her death, and I will continue to press Ministers and rail operators on action taken in the future to ensure that all transport workers are protected moving forward. You can read the CPS statement in full here.
UPDATE [21 AUGUST]: Support for We Too Build Britain Campaign
I have today offered my support to the We Too Build Britain campaign which aims to commission a new artwork in Parliament called 'Service to the Nation'. This would honour the contribution of NHS staff and other key workers during COVID-19 and would incorporate the unique role played by ethnic minority Britons. People from all communities stepped up to serve, despite the increased risk to them. It would also serve as a reminder of our collective heritage, community and the need for cohesion after the division of recent times. Supporters include Theresa May, Tom Tugendhat, Helen Grant, Neil Parish, Selaine Saxby, Harriet Harman, Clive Lewis, Stella Creasy, Bell Ribeiro Addy, Abena Oppong-Asare, Layla Moran, Baroness Ros Scott, Caroline Lucas and Lord Victor Adebowale. One member of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Simon Baynes MP, has said that he would endorse our proposal at the next meeting of the committee.
UPDATE [4 SEPTEMBER]: Meeting with Residents Against Racism
I had a constructive meeting today with members of Residents Against Racism to talk about where we can work together to tackle racism, both locally and nationally. I am pleased to be able to offer my support, through the Sutton Fairness Commission and the Women and Equalities Select Committee, to play my part in securing changes we all want to see, whether that be in schools, the Police, the NHS, the Council, businesses or any other organisation. I hope to be able to meet fairly regularly with the group in order to discuss progress in securing these aims.
UPDATE [17 SEPTEMBER]: Diversity and Inclusivity at South West London Clinical Commissioning Group
I have written to Sarah Blow, Accountable Officer at SWL CCG, to ask her what the CCG is doing to support and develop diversity of gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion and other such protected characteristics; what policies the CCG has in place to ensure that it actively promotes workplace diversity and inclusivity; how concerns can be raised where these expectations are not being met; and what measures are in place to ensure service users are treated equally and fairly. You can read a copy of this letter below.
UPDATE [21 SEPTEMBER]: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust
I have written to Daniel Elkeles, Chief Executive at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, to ask him what the Trust is doing to support and develop diversity of gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion and other such protected characteristics; what policies the Trust has in place to ensure that it actively promotes workplace diversity and inclusivity; how concerns can be raised where these expectations are not being met; and what measures are in place to ensure service users are treated equally and fairly. You can read a copy of this letter below.
UPDATE [23 SEPTEMBER]: Sutton Police and Community Cohesion
I have written to Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer of Sutton Police to ask him what steps he is taking to improve police diversity and inclusivity, as well as community cohesion. It is important that we have a police force that reflects the diversity of the community it serves, and one that supports and develops workplace diversity of gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion and other such protected characteristics. You can read a copy of this letter below.
UPDATE [25 SEPTEMBER]: Diversity and Inclusivity at Sutton Council
I have written to Helen Bailey, Chief Executive of Sutton Council, to ask what the Council is doing to support and develop diversity of gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion and other such protected characteristics. This includes what policies the Council has in place to ensure that it actively promotes workplace diversity and inclusivity; how this is measured and deemed effective; and how concerns can be raised where these expectations are not being met. I have also asked what measures are in place to ensure service users are treated equally and fairly. You can read a copy of this letter below.
UPDATE [30 SEPTEMBER]: Racism and Bullying in Schools
I have written to all primary and secondary schools in Carshalton and Wallington to ask what procedures they have in place to deal with racism; homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia; misogyny and misandry; ableism; and other forms of bullying. In particular, I want to know what behavioural support is in place for those pupils who are repeatedly found in violation of these procedures, including how they are managed if this is not successful, and how victims of bullying are looked after and supported moving forward. I have also asked for more details on what policies each school has in place to encourage teaching children about equality, diversity, and inclusion, and I am interested to hear how this is incorporated into the curriculum at the school, and what consideration is given on whether the correct balance is being struck. I will update as and when I hear back.
UPDATE [1 OCTOBER]: Response from Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Daniel Elkeles, Chief Executive of our local NHS Trust, has responded to my letter on equality, diversion and inclusion, and I am really pleased that he has reaffirmed his commitment to enshrining this within the workplace and in the way services are designed and delivered to local people. You can read his response in full below.
UPDATE [5 OCTOBER]: Black Lives Matter at Carshalton Boys Sports College
I was glad to see on a visit this morning that my old school, Carshalton Boys, is taking a visible stand on tackling racism, and working with pupils and staff to deal with racial injustices. I'm committed to working with all our schools to tackle racism and bullying in whatever form.
UPDATE [6 OCTOBER]: Response from Hackbridge Primary and Spencer Nursery on Racism and Bullying
Emma Walford, Headteacher of the Federation of Hackbridge Primary and Spencer Nursery, has written to me to set out their policies and practices around behaviour and race equality, as well as their statement on equality and diversity, which you can read here. I am glad that they also have in place a coherent PSHE curriculum, in line with the new statutory guidance, which provides opportunities for children to learn about issues related to equality, diversity, discrimination and stereotyping, in both explicit lessons throughout the year and implicitly through all curriculum areas. It's really encouraging to see Hackbridge's commitment here, and that they are working with several verified providers to further develop our practice and provision around these important areas.
UPDATE [6 OCTOBER]: Anti-Sikh Hate
Earlier today I joined a virtual lobby, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Sikhs, to discuss the important issue of anti-Sikh hate. We were joined by the Chief Executive of Stop Hate UK; Rana Singh Sodhi, the brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi who was the first person killed 19 years ago after 9/11; Jas Singh, a representative of the Sikh Network; Dabinderjit Singh who spoke about his personal experience of hate crime in London, the police response, and the final outcome; and other leading Sikhs from our community. Tackling hate crimes of any kind is hugely important, and I will continue to work with the APPG and the Sikh community to explore what more I can do to support them in this.
UPDATE [7 OCTOBER]: Response from All Saints Carshalton Church of England Primary School on Racism and Bullying
Emma Hart Dyke, Headteacher of All Saints Carshalton, has responded to my letter to set out the school's policies on Behaviour and Discipline, Anti-Bullying, PSHE and Single Equality, which you can find here. I am pleased to see that these issues are also covered across their curriculum in areas such as PSHE, Worship, RE and History.
UPDATE [7 OCTOBER]: Response from Wallington County Grammar School on Racism and Bullying
Jamie Bean, Headmaster of Wallington Grammar, has written to me to set out their zero tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination, which is great to see. Should a student engage in discriminatory behaviour it is likely they will receive a fixed term exclusion and will receive specialist pastoral support to help them understand where they went wrong. Also, in reaction to the death of George Floyd last summer, WCGS launched an anti-racism task force made up of current students, teachers, parents and alumni. The task force fed back its recommendations to the Senior Leadership Team two weeks ago which have been embraced and implemented. These included changes to policy and procedure (updated equal opportunities policy and behavioural policies; better support for students from ethnically diverse communities; publicised anonymous reporting systems; annual listening exercises with protected groups; and co-option of a Local Advisor from a black background) as well as changes to the curriculum (inclusion of wider global civilisation studies; post-colonial immigration into the UK including Windrush; the origins of Empire including the "black experience", slavery, emancipation and civil rights; greater inclusion of non-white literature and unseen extracts; wider involvement of alumni from ethnically diverse backgrounds; promotion of teaching as a career to students from ethnically diverse communities), and additionally further staff training on the black experience to all teachers. There is also a strong focus on the importance of equality and diversity through their Wellbeing Curriculum; assemblies; and pastoral care. I am really pleased to see Wallington Grammar's commitment on these important issues.
UPDATE [8 OCTOBER]: Response from Wilson's School on Racism and Bullying
Nathan Cole, Headmaster of Wilson's School, has replied to me to set out his clear view that tackling racism is an important issue, and one that Wilson's is committed to through proactive engagement. Racism is addressed directly by Heads of Years in assemblies, and through the PHSE curriculum which is constantly under review to consider further how race issues are addressed. Racism, homophobia and bullying are regularly discussed by Key Stage Directors and the wider Learner Development Team, with an emphasis on attention to changes in behaviour that might indicate abuse is taking place. The school has an anonymous Report a Concern page and also undertakes regular pupil surveys which look at issues around pupil safety and equality. You can read their full response below.
UPDATE [9 OCTOBER]: Response from Sutton Council on Workplace Diversity and Inclusion
Emily Nice, Assistant Director of HR at Sutton Council, has written to me to set out the Council's commitment to diversity and inclusion, and their aim to develop a workforce profile that broadly reflects the community they serve, at all levels in the Council. The Council has six equality staff network groups: BAME+Allies, LGBTQ+Allies, Youth Group+Allies, Women’s+Allies, Family & Carers+Allies, and Disability+Allies who all meet regularly. In response to Black Lives Matters, the Chief Executive set up a working group focused on (1) improving management capacity and confidence in supporting a diverse workforce; (2) reviewing systems and structures for recruiting and supporting colleagues; and (3) listening to and celebrating Sutton’s diverse communities. The Women's+Allies group has developed a Carers policy, including premature baby additional leave, as well as a Reproductive policy and Menopause guide. The Council has achieved ‘Disability Confident Committed’ status which helps them recruit, retain and develop disabled colleagues. The Council is also committed to supporting the work of the Sutton Fairness Commission, on which I sit, and I look forward to hearing more from them on their work in this important area. You can read the Council's annual workforce report here, and read their full response below.
UPDATE [14 OCTOBER] Further Response from Sutton Council on Workplace Diversity and Inclusion
Helen Bailey, Chief Executive of Sutton Council, has written to me to set out some further detail on the Council's commitment to diversity and inclusivity, including a detailed breakdown of the Council's workforce. You can read this letter below.
UPDATE [19 OCTOBER] Response from Carshalton Boys Sports College on Racism and Bullying
Jenny Gaylor, Vice Principal of Carshalton Boys, has responded to me, and I am pleased that my old school continues to take a robust stand against all forms of racism, bullying, and homophobia. The school seeks to educate young people into the damaging effects of bullying as well as providing strategies to support victims. Students who are repeatedly involved in bullying will be dealt with using their behaviour policy. Any issues of hate crime, whether in school or outside in the community are reported to the police safer schools team. Their curriculum also covers all aspects of inclusion, around the principals in their ‘We believe’ statement, and this year the school is running PSHE sessions covering a variety of themes including: Black History month; LGBTQ+ history month; Feminism is for everyone.
UPDATE [19 OCTOBER] Response from Sutton Police on Community Cohesion
PC Jo Ball, Staff Officer for Chief Superintendent Stringer, has replied to my letter on the importance of community cohesion. Across the Metropolitan Police, BAME police officers currently represent 15.3 per cent of the total, and BAME police staff is at 26.1 per cent. This is well below their aspirations of 40 per cent, and I am pleased that the Police recognise there is much more work to be done on this. The Police Cadets programme is one scheme that looks at increasing engagement with the BAME community; currently 25.1 per cent of Sutton Police Cadets are from a BAME background, against a BAME community population of 21.4 per cent. There is a focus across different areas in London with specialist recruitment officers whose role is to specifically in place to attract BAME and the hard to reach communities. I welcome the commitment from the Police to do more to ensure that we have a police force that reflects the diversity of the community it serves.
UPDATE [22 OCTOBER]: Health Outcomes for BAME Constituents
The Minister for Equalities gave a statement to the House today to update on the cross-government work to address the findings of the Public Health England (PHE) report ‘COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes'. I asked her what more we could do to establish a fuller picture of the impact of COVID on constituents from BAME backgrounds, and how we can use the data to improve health outcomes.
UPDATE [26 OCTOBER]: Response from South West London Clinical Commissioning Group on Workplace Diversity and Inclusion
Sarah Blow, the Accountable Officer for NHS SWLCCG wrote to me to set out her organisation's commitment on these key issues. I was pleased to see that their stated equality and diversity aims are: ensuring that their workforce is representative of the communities they serve; that they eradicate behaviours that discriminate, harass or intimidate people; and ensure compliance with the aims of the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010. The response is comprehensive and detailed, and you can read it in full below.
UPDATE [28 OCTOBER]: APPG on Hate Crime
I met again virtually this morning with Tell MAMA - the confidential one stop shop service supporting victims of anti-Muslim hate - to discuss our continuing work together, and my proposals to organise community-based surgery appointments that are more accessible for people of different faiths. I am also pleased to support Tell MAMA's #No2H8 November campaign and I stand united with them against all forms of hate and intolerance. Further to that, I have agreed to join the APPG on Hate Crime, of which Tell MAMA is the Secretariat, to continue to explore what more I can do locally to support my constituents in this important issue.
UPDATE [28 OCTOBER]: Independent Office for Police Conduct Review Identifies Eleven Opportunities for the Met to Improve on Stop and Search
Earlier today, the IOPC announced that their review into recent stop and search cases has identified eleven opportunities for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to improve the way it exercises stop and search powers. The IOPC completed five investigations involving the stop and search of Black men by MPS officers and reviewed the collective evidence gathered to consider disproportionality, legitimacy and how force was used. I am pleased that the Met has accepted all the recommendations in their response to the IOPC, and I hope that these will help to rebuild trust between different communities and the Police. You can read the full announcement below.
UPDATE [5 NOVEMBER]: Black History and Cultural Diversity in the Curriculum
The Petitions Committee (of which I am a member) took its first evidence session earlier today on black history and cultural diversity in the curriculum, following thousands of people signing petitions calling on the Government to diversify the school curriculum to include a greater range of perspectives and voices. Read more here.
UPDATE [6 NOVEMBER]: Pan-African Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK Remembrance Service
I attended PAAMA's virtual remembrance service today to honour service men, women and all Commonwealth Forces who serve and served to defend our freedom.
UPDATE [18 NOVEMBER]: Anti-Semitism
This morning I met virtually with the London Jewish Forum to learn more about the concerns of our local Jewish community. I have joined the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews as well as the APPG Against Antisemitism, and look forward to working closely with them to support the Jewish community in Sutton. We also spoke about online harms and antisemitism, and the intersectional abuse of Jewish women. I made clear my support to the Jewish community, and that I entirely condemn all acts of anti-semitism in the strongest possible terms. Any discrimination or intimidation based on religion or race is deplorable and must not be tolerated.
UPDATE [18 NOVEMBER]: Second Evidence Session on Black History Education
This afternoon, the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee - both of which I am a member - held their second joint evidence session on black history and cultural diversity in the curriculum. Read more here.
UPDATE [19 NOVEMBER]: African and Caribbean Community
I have written to the Sutton African and Caribbean Cultural Organisation (SACCO) and the African & Caribbean Heritage Association (ACHA) to ask to meet with them to learn more about their work on behalf of members of the African and Caribbean community across Sutton, and how I can best support them as their MP.
UPDATE [23 NOVEMBER]: Racial Disparity within the Care System
I have written to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families to raise concerns about about racial disparity issues that exist within care, fostering and adoption on behalf of the children's charity Home for Good. You can read more here.
UPDATE [23 NOVEMBER]: Persecution of Ahmadis
This evening, I spoke in the debate on the Persecution of Ahmadis. I am proud to represent the Ahmadiyya community in our area, a great many of whom live in Carshalton and Wallington due to our proximity to the Baitul Futuh mosque in Morden. The UK has long been a beacon of hope and safety, and we should continue to provide this support and offer Ahmadis escaping religious persecution a route to safety.
UPDATE [24 NOVEMBER]: All Party Parliamentary Group on Hate Crime
This afternoon I attended the inaugural meeting of the APPG on Hate Crime, and have agreed to become Vice Chair. I look forward to working with colleagues of all parties across Parliament on this important issue.
UPDATE [11 DECEMBER]: Kunda Kids
Kunda Kids is a fantastic local black-owned publishing company dedicated to educating children about African history and culture, and I had the pleasure of meeting co-founder Louisa Olafuyi earlier today. Currently only 3 per cent of children's books published in the UK had a BAME main character, and only 1 per cent had a black main character, and I am working with Louisa to look at how we can address this locally.
UPDATE [15 DECEMBER]: Women and Equalities Select Committee Report into the impact of Coronavirus on BAME people
Today the Women and Equalities Select Committee, which I sit on, published it's report into the impact of Coronavirus on BAME people.
We received evidence about how the pandemic has hit Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in the UK, from health, to education and financial support packages, and have today collated our evidence in a report, which makes a number of recommendations to Government under the following headings:
- Health inequalities
- Universal Credit
- No recourse to public funds
You can read the full report here.
UPDATE [17 DECEMBER]: Response from Government Equalities Office via Kemi Badenoch
I was pleased to have a response from the Minister to my letter of 4 June, and I welcome her commitment to tackling the racial disparities across the world and here in the UK. You can read a copy of her full response below.
UPDATE [22 JANUARY]: Racist Stickers in Carshalton and Wallington
I've been very concerned to hear that racist stickers have been appearing in Carshalton and Wallington. We have always been a welcoming community in Sutton, and we all do so much better when we come together. These attempts to drive divisions between us will not succeed. I will be meeting with Tell MAMA and other groups to discuss what we can do together to tackle this.
UPDATE [28 JANUARY]: Debate on Holocaust Memorial Day
It was humbling to take part in the debate on Holocaust Memorial Day today, to remember those who were lost in the most heinous way imaginable, remembering the survivors today, and ensuring such abhorrent crimes can never happen again. Read more here.
UPDATE [3 FEBRUARY]: Petitions Committee and Women & Equalities Committee meet with Hackney's Diverse Curriculum
As part of our inquiry into diversity in the curriculum, today the Petitions Committee and Women & Equalities Committee held an informal private meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Hackney to discuss 'Hackney's Diverse Curriculum' and what lessons we could take from their scheme.
We heard how they were trying to include more BAME representation in the local curriculum, ensuring a wider range of voices and experiences are heard, adding to, rather than removing, parts of the existing curriculum.
This will form part of our wider enquiry and evidence that we are collating on this issue.
UPDATE [4 FEBRUARY]: Treatment of the Uyghur population
Today I asked a question to the Foreign Affairs Minister about the ongoing situation in Xinjiang detention camps in China, and the Uyghur population who are being subject to terrible human rights abuses there. Read more here.
UPDATE [5 FEBRUARY]: Meeting with TellMAMA
I met again today with Iman Atta, the Director of TellMAMA, to discuss the recent spate of racist stickers that have sadly appeared in parts of Carshalton and Wallington. We have agreed to work together over the coming months to look at ways to bring different community and faith leaders together to talk about what more we can do together to tackle this, as well as how I can better engage with communities that are harder-to-reach and for whom English is not a first language.
UPDATE [12 FEBRUARY]: Africa's Little Kings and Queens
I was delighted to receive a complimentary copy of Kunda Kids' children's book series "Africa's Little Kings and Queens". As I don't have any children of my own (yet), I am donating these to the Queen Mary's Hospital for Children based at St Helier Hospital.
UPDATE [15 FEBRUARY]: Facebook Webinar on the rollout of the Coronavirus Vaccine in Sutton and what it means for the BAME community
Tonight I held an online webinar on my Facebook page to discuss the rollout of the vaccine in Sutton, and in particular, to urge those from the BAME community to come forward and get their vaccine when they are called. I was joined by local NHS leaders, councillors and BAME community leaders to talk about some of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) asked about the vaccine and the concerns from the BAME community in having it, such as side effects, testing and safety.
UPDATE [25 FEBRUARY]: Petitions Committee session on curriculum diversity
This afternoon, as a member of the Petitions Committee, I had the opportunity to question the Schools Minister around how we can ensure a diverse curriculum is taught in our schools. Read more here.
UPDATE [1 MARCH]: Asking the Minister for Equalities about the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine among the BAME community
I was pleased to be called in the Chamber today to ask a question to the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, about the of the Covid-19 vaccine among the BAME community. Read more here.
UPDATE [2 MARCH]: Meeting with the Minister for Vaccinations about uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine among the BAME community
Today I met with the Minister for Vaccinations, Nadhim Zahawi MP, to discuss the lower uptake levels of the vaccine among Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities in the UK, and he informed me of some of the work the Government is doing to try and increase the take up, such as setting up vaccine centres in places of worship, recruiting community champions to spread public health messages, translating information, using community WhatsApp groups, etc. This is a piece of work that the Women and Equalities Select Committee continues to focus on, so I'm sure I will be having many more discussions with the Minister over the coming months.
UPDATE [4 MARCH]: Women and Equalities session on BAME vaccine take-up
This afternoon, as a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, I had the opportunity to discuss the take-up of COVID-19 vaccines in BAME communities and with women. We heard from a range of experts, and I asked about the importance of not just translating public health messages into different languages, but also translating the content appropriately for each community. We also discussed the important role that faith leaders have in encouraging vaccine uptakes. Read more here.
UPDATE [9 MARCH]: APPG on Race and Community
This morning I attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Race and Community, which held a virtual session on Race and Elections in 2020: political participation in black and ethnic minority communities. It was a really informative session on why some communities don't vote or stand for election at the same rate as others, and the work being done to try and address this, such as more accessible information and involving community leaders. I will also be taking steps to increase my accessibility, for example, holding surgeries occasionally at the local mosque, so that worshippers may feel more comfortable in seeking help.
UPDATE [10 MARCH]: Women and Equalities session on BAME vaccine take-up
Today the Women and Equalities Committee help another session on the uptake of the vaccine among BAME communities. Today we heard from the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, and Minister for Vaccinations, Nadhim Zahawi, and I asked a question about the disparity of vaccine uptake among NHS staff. You can watch the session here.
UPDATE [18 MARCH]: Debate on Human Rights in Sri Lanka
As Chair of the APPG for Tamils, and as the largest ethnic group in Carshalton and Wallington is Tamil, I was pleased to be able to take part in a debate in the House of Commons today on securing peace, justice and accountability in Sri Lanka, and justice for the worldwide Tamil population. I am delighted that the UK has led the way in pushing through a new resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, resolution 46/1, which looks to be similar in strength to previous resolutions passed on Syria and Myanmar for example, calling for a collection of evidence and reminding nation-states of their commitments. Read more here.
UPDATE [19 MARCH]: Meeting with Sutton Synagogue
It was a pleasure to meet with David Heller, Chair of the Sutton Synagogue, along with the London Jewish Forum today to discuss issues facing the local Jewish community. We discussed issues such as anti-semitism and the quality of Kosher meals for patients in hospitals, as well as the safe re-opening of the Synagogue with Covid restrictions allow. I look forward to working closely with David and other religious leaders for years to come.
UPDATE [26 MARCH]: Meeting with Sutton Hong Kongers
Today I joined with the MP for Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park, Paul Scully, and the Conservative candidate for Croydon and Sutton on the London Assembly, and local Councillor Neil Garratt, to meet with Hong Kongers who have made their home in the London Borough of Sutton. I am pleased that the UK has opened up visas and a path to citizenship for Hong Kongers given the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) there. We spoke about the concerns of the residents who have already moved here, particularly around education, but also about how Hong Kongers looking to come to Sutton are keen to integrate into UK society and get on well with the local population, so we have pledged to work closely with them as they seek a safer life away from the CCP.
UPDATE [29 MARCH]: Use of the word 'BAME'
News reports today suggest that the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which is due to publish its report to Government later this week, will suggest an end to the use of the word 'BAME', which stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, among other recommendations. But a source cited by the Telegraph said the term had become "unhelpful and redundant", with fears the term potentially masks the lived experiences of individual groups. I have been uncomfortable using this word in the past, as I think it presumes everyone from an ethnic minority background thinks and acts as a monolithic group, which of course is not the case, so I will be trying my hardest not to do so in future.
UPDATE [31 MARCH]: Report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities
I warmly welcome the publication of the report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published today. An evidenced-based report, it shows that racism still exists in the UK today, but disparities are also highly linked to geography and socio-economic factors. The independent report, headed by Dr Tony Sewell CBE, makes 24 recommendations. These are grouped into 4 broad themes:
- build trust
- promote fairness
- create agency
- achieve inclusivity
They cover the aspects of change that the Commission believes will catalyse the most effective way to meaningfully address disparities and inequalities for all those affected. As part of my work as a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, we will be holding Government to account to deliver on the recommendations in the report to build a fairer society.
You can read the full report and recommendations here.
UPDATE [6 APRIL]: Attitudes to vaccines
It is very encouraging to see the figures released by Ipsos Mori in their attitudes to vaccine survey, showing that almost identical numbers of white and ethnic minority Britons have already received or will probably receive their vaccine, with vaccine hesitancy at just 5% among white Britons and 6% among ethnic minority Britons. I am pleased that all the work that has gone into encouraging everyone to get the vaccine with their time comes seems to be paying off.