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Petitions

Volume 695: debated on Tuesday 11 May 2021

Petitions

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Observations

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Protection of monuments of Captain James Cook

The petition of residents of the constituency of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland,

Declares that the achievements of Captain James Cook in the fields of science, exploration and cartography are of immense historic significance and are rightly commemorated by a number of much-loved statues and monuments across Middlesbrough, the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that those monuments and sites which commemorate Captain James Cook are protected against harm or removal.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Simon Clarke, Official Report, 10 March 2021; Vol. 690, c. 970 .]

[P002651]

Observations from The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Oliver Dowden):

Captain James Cook is rightly considered one of the greatest navigators and explorers of all time: amongst his major achievements were the three voyages between 1768 and 1779 in the Pacific Ocean and to Australia in particular. Britain has a rich maritime heritage, and statues and monuments such as the ones dedicated to Captain James Cook across Middlesbrough, the Tees Valley, North Yorkshire and elsewhere are there to help educate us and future generations about all aspects of Britain’s past.

The petition from the constituents of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland highlights the significance of the Cook statue within their communities and the sense of pride they have in his legacy and achievements.

The Government do not support the removal of statues or similar objects, artwork and historical objects by any organisation. Historic England, as the Government’s adviser on the historic environment, supports this position.

Government have been clear that rather than removing or erasing objects, we should contextualise and interpret them in a way that enables the public to learn about all aspects of Britain’s past.

We are therefore committed to ensuring that this country’s heritage is appropriately protected. The removal of statues and other commemorative objects which are designated as a part of a listed building requires listed building consent. In addition, we have recently introduced new rules to ensure that proposals to remove unlisted statues, memorials and monuments which are important to local communities are given proper consideration through the planning permission system. In determining such applications, local planning authorities are required to have regard to the Government’s “retain and explain” policy. Local people can make their views known through the application process, and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has the power to call in applications for his own determination where he considers such action is appropriate.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Police violence in Lagos on 20 October 2020

The petition of residents of the constituency of Newcastle Upon Tyne Central,

Declares that the British Government and wider international community should condemn in the strongest possible terms the Nigerian military opening fire on protesters at Lagos Lekki Toll Gate on 20 October 2020 in which there are reports that 69 people were killed, of whom 51 are believed to be civilians, 11 police officers and seven were soldiers; further declares that these people were peacefully protesting against police brutality committed by, but not limited to, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to take action to rally the international community and ensure the Nigerian Government investigates this brutal violation of human rights in full, to encourage the relevant authorities to charge officers and soldiers guilty of killing unarmed protestors, to explore sanctions on the Nigerian Government if guilty of corruption, and to provide a strong voice against corruption and violence in Nigeria.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Chi Onwurah, Official Report, 17 November 2020; Vol. 684, c. 286.]

[P002628]

Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (James Duddridge):

The UK Government were deeply concerned by violence during #EndSARS protests in Nigeria in October 2020, which tragically claimed lives. Our thoughts are with the families of all those affected.

In response, the Foreign Secretary issued a statement calling for an end to the violence and for the Nigerian Government to urgently investigate reports of brutality by their security forces and hold those responsible to account. The Minister for Africa publicly encouraged the Nigerian authorities to restore peace and address concerns over brutality towards civilians. He reiterated these messages when he spoke to Foreign Minister Onyeama in October.

In November 2020, the Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), participated in a Westminster Hall Debate on behalf of the Government on imposing sanctions following the protests and the authorities’ response.

The Government welcomed the Nigerian authorities’ decision to disband the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the establishment of judicial panels on inquiry to investigate alleged incidents of brutality by the security services. We recognise that there is not yet clarity over the number of people killed in Lagos during the protests. The panels must investigate all incidents fully, including those in Lagos.

The Minister for Africa and my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), the UK Trade Envoy to Nigeria, have both stressed the importance of the police and military’s co-operation with the panels to the President’s Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, and the Governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, including during their joint visit in April 2021. The British high commissioner in Abuja has also raised the protests with representatives of the Nigerian Government and will continue to do so. Most panels are expected to report by summer 2021. The UK Government will continue to follow developments closely and we will consider our response.

On 26 April, we established the global anti-corruption sanctions regime. The global anti-corruption sanctions regime stands alongside the global human rights sanctions regime, established in July 2020, to give the UK an additional, powerful tool to prevent and combat corruption by allowing for sanctions to be imposed on those involved in serious corruption around the world. We keep all evidence and potential listings under close review. It is long-standing practice not to speculate on future sanctions designations as to do so could reduce the impact of the designations.

Alongside international and civil society partners, we will continue to push the Nigerian police to uphold human rights and the rule of law in all operations, investigate any incidents of brutality and hold those responsible to account.

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Independence of City of York Council

The petition of the residents of the constituency of York Central,

Declares that York’s residents and businesses are best served by having an independent council, on its current boundaries, that is focused solely on their needs and provides the basis for economic opportunity, high quality public services and a stronger community; further declares concern that if York is merged into a new council stretching 65 miles north to south there could be an increase in council tax by £117 per year; further that this would inevitably mean that resources could be diverted from York and residents would pay more money for poorer services; further that this would lead to the end of the 800-year connection between the city and its council; further that the role of Lord Mayor might be scrapped; further that the disruption to key service delivery across York would cost millions of pounds to implement; and further that it would be disastrous to do this during a public health crisis.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to listen closely to York’s residents and businesses and to the City of York Council’s submission to its consultation on local government devolution, and to work with all local politicians, including MPs, city councillors and parish and town councillors, on any decisions to do with York’s council.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Rachael Maskell, Official Report, 15 April 2021; Vol. 692, c. 610.]

[P002658]

Observations from The Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government (Luke Hall):

A consultation on proposals for unitary local government submitted by councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset was launched by Government on 22 February 2021 and closed, after 8 weeks, on 19 April 2021.

The thousands of responses to this consultation are now being considered, and will help inform the Secretary of State’s consideration of the extent to which proposals meet the criteria for unitarisation, whether they are likely to improve local government and service delivery across the area of the proposal, whether they command a good deal of local support as assessed in the round across the whole area of the proposal, and whether the area of any new unitary council is a credible geography.

In deciding which proposal, if any, to implement in an area, subject to parliamentary approval, the Secretary of State will make a balanced judgement assessing the proposals against these three criteria having regard to all representations received, including responses to the consultation, and to all other relevant information available to him.