Speeches from debate on riots (1)

I’ve already posted my speech from Thursday’s debate in Parliament on the riots. I thought Bristol readers might be interested to see the speech from Charlotte Leslie, MP for Bristol North West. Stephen Williams asked a Q of the PM in the morning’s statement but wasn’t there for the debate, he has blogged about it here – http://stephenwilliamsmp.wordpress.com.

I confess, I’m rather surprised by the “all the fault of human rights” line that Charlotte is using. Didn’t think she was that kind of Tory. But see what you think.

Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West) (Con): When Parliament was recalled, a couple of my constituents, having watched awful scenes on television, said to me, “Oh great, so the cities are burning and the politicians are going to talk. That is really going to fix things.” But I have been really pleased that this has not been a talking shop today and some really tangible provisions have come out of this. In many ways, the communities around our country feel that politics has been sleep-talking into this situation.

Although no one could have predicted the manner in which these riots arose, communities up and down the country have seen something that the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) pointed out: once kids see that they can do something and get away with it, the problem suddenly becomes an awful lot worse. Throughout communities, and certainly in my constituency, people have been terrorised in their own homes and prisoners in their own neighbourhoods because kids have been allowed to get away initially with low-level stuff, then a bit more, then a bit more.

So the frustration and despair that was felt in many communities at seeing that there were no consequences to these actions was suddenly writ large over the entire nation. The people of Britain know that there cannot be a situation in which actions have no consequences. That is one of the major lessons that we have to learn. It is like a broken window policy. We have to start low-level to avoid reaching the high level. Actions have consequences.

As chair of the all-party group on boxing, I cannot talk about the riots without mentioning the amazing role that boxing clubs have played. Moss Side boxing club and the boxing academy have been on the media. They reach out to young people with energy and aggression who are prone to activities such as rioting. Boxing clubs show them that actions do have consequences. There is discipline and if kids train and do well, they get better at something and they can take control of their life and do something with it. That is testament to fact that the concept that actions have consequences can work in a positive way.

How have we got to this stage? How have we got to the “You can’t touch me” approach that can be seen in schools when teachers try to discipline kids and on the streets when policemen try to move on or discipline kids in the street? It has to be down to an abuse of the very valid concept of human welfare and human rights. Over the past years we have seen the rights of criminals come above the rights of victims such as my constituent Helen Stockford. She has suffered terribly and the state has not been there for her, while it has been there to safeguard the rights of her attacker.

How has this been allowed to come about? Well-meaning human rights legislation has been taken out of context, perhaps by people who do not live in the daily reality of the consequences of a distorted human rights concept. The worst thing about a human rights concept that takes away action and consequence, and boundaries and discipline, is that not only our country suffers. Not only our cities burn when kids realise that they can loot stores and get away with it, and then get away with it again; those children themselves suffer. As everyone knows, without boundaries, we cannot know achievement. By taking away discipline, we are taking away from children the basic rule by which one can achieve, and that is simply wrong. It is a lesson that we must all take away from this wake-up call of a week.

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