The recent events in the USA have been heart-breaking and sent shockwaves around the world. I stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter; equality makes us stronger.
The death of George Floyd and the footage of it, has been traumatising, and my thoughts are with his family and friends. For many who have the privilege not to think about racism every day, it has been a starting point for introspection and conversations with others. These are often uncomfortable, but necessary, and should continue. However, law and order must be respected as this dialogue moves forward and the Prime Minister has been clear that social distancing guidelines should be adhered to.
A national conversation with concrete outcomes is needed in the UK. We need to look at education opportunities, the use of positive action, investment, and so much more, as part of the levelling up agenda. I am glad that there is ongoing work to investigate the disproportionate impact of Coronavirus on BAME communities in West Sussex as well as nationally. Public Health England (PHE) has now published its report on disparities, and further work is being taken forward by my colleague Kemi Badenoch, Minister for Equalities to recommend action.
Diversity improves decision making. This is especially important in my line of work, as I represent people from different backgrounds, with different views. I am pleased that Parliament has started to improve diversity by implementing programmes such as The Speaker’s Parliamentary Placement Scheme (SPPS) and others which seek to encourage people into political careers who might otherwise not have had the opportunity. Programmes like these support participants with skills development and learning experiences both within an MPs office and beyond. I have been lucky enough to have two SPPS interns so far and look forward to continuing to support this programme.
A number of people have raised concerns about our exports to the USA. 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. I have ensured Ministers are aware of the points that have been raised about these exports.