The disorder of this week began at the weekend in Tottenham in North London following the police shooting of a young man suspected of involvement in gun crime. When an incident like this takes place, it is standard procedure for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to investigate. That investigation is ongoing and I make no further comment on it here.
The rioting that followed caused a huge amount of damage in Tottenham including people being burnt out of their homes. It was condemned by local people and the local MP. In the following nights we saw the spread of arson, looting and vandalism first to other parts of London and then to other cities in the UK including Wolverhampton.
On Tuesday afternoon and evening there were a number of incidents in Wolverhampton including broken windows in Currys and PC World in St John’s Retail Park (though the looters did not gain access to those shops), damage and theft from House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer, Foot Locker and a number of small retailers including the Simantek computer shop in Broad St which was completely looted and ransacked. One shop in Dudley Road was robbed and one shop in Bilston had its window smashed.
This damage is completely inexcusable. It does nothing but harm to our city and those responsible should be caught, charged and punished. I took a walk round the city centre on Tuesday evening and I am convinced that had there not been a heavy police presence the damage could have been even worse. I want to pay tribute to the hard work and courage of the police officers who were trying to keep the city safe on Tuesday night.
Tuesday also saw the tragic and senseless deaths of three young men in Birmingham trying to protect their community from the lawlessness that had broken out. The whole country was struck by the dignity of the father of one young man, Tariq Jahan, who in the midst of his heartbreak issued a call for no retribution or further violence.
On Wednesday we saw the best of Wolverhampton and in particular the city’s young people when many turned out to help in the clean up effort. I also want to thank the city council for doing such a good job of cleaning up the damage in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
I spent Wednesday, accompanied by local councillors and the police, speaking to worried traders in Dudley Road and Bilston who feared more damage and who were planning to close early. I was struck by the fear that replaces freedom when order breaks down. It is wrong that decent people flee our shopping areas and city centres around 5pm and that traders have to close early.
On Wednesday afternoon I met with the Prime Minister and local retailers affected. I stressed to the Prime Minister that order must be restored and we must make our cities safe for law abiding people. It was heart rending to hear the stories of hard working retailers who have spent years building up business to see them trashed by wanton vandalism and theft.
On Wednesday night there was an even bigger police presence and, apart from one or two incidents, the night passed off peacefully both here and elsewhere in England.
On Thursday Parliament reassembled and the Prime Minister announced help for small businesses affected including compensation under the Riot Act, even for businesses which are uninsured. I hope this help is made available easily with the minimum of red tape. Businesses have 42 days to apply.
I spoke in the Commons of what happens when order breaks down – liberty is destroyed and replaced by fear. I asked the Prime Minister to help the decent majority by enabling communities to have access to CCTV (which the Government plans to make more restrictive) and by reconsidering plans to cut police budgets by 20%. Politicians have been united in condemning the violence this week but I believe that in the wake of what we have seen it is legitimate for the Opposition to raise questions of police budgets and police numbers. Numbers make a difference. We all saw that this week.
Wolverhampton is open for business and there has been a real determination this week not to be defeated by what happened. It was a dangerous moment for our city but I believe that decency will prevail.
I hope you have found this update useful.
Posted on 12 August 2011.