We are aware of the following headline that was posted in a local Bristol paper suggesting that the Undersecretary of State for DCLG, Stephen Williams MP, had suggested that local pub closures were due to Somali communities who had moved into the area.
The actual set of comments made by the Minister are listed below, though there are a few things to note and which we believe to be the case. Stephen Williams MP is a hard working and diligent Minister with a strong emotional intelligence for communities and who is willing to listen and to make informed choices. His comments only served to highlight that if the demand for goods and services are not there, they will not survive and this is what he was highlighting by the example that he provided. He was not insinuating that Somali communities are to ‘blame’ in any way and that reading does not accurately reflect what he was trying to explain.
We have confidence in the Ministerial leadership that Stephen Williams MP provides and we hope that we can continue to support and work with his Department to tackle bigotry hate and intolerance and the phenomenon of anti-Muslim hate.
Comments by Stephen Williams MP in the House of Commons
“A blanket protection for every single public house in the country, which is what the new clause envisages, would protect pubs that for various reasons are no longer enjoying the patronage of the community.”
“In my constituency, lots of pubs have closed, but it is usually because of demographic change. Some parts of my constituency, which had a ‘white working-class community’ 20 or 30 years ago, are now populated primarily by recently arrived Somalis and other people. Obviously the pubs in those areas have closed, and some have been converted to other uses, but some of them are still derelict.”
“Is the hon. Gentleman really saying that in all those circumstances, whatever they might be, full planning permission should be required simply to change the use of a former pub to something that may be of benefit to the community?”
“The Government are proposing to look at the public houses that are genuinely popular and valued by the community now, giving them the protection that is already allowed under the Localism Act, and further enhancing that protection under the planning laws, saying, “You cannot convert this pub into another use or demolish it without planning permission.”
“That should address all the worries that people rightly have about the pubs that really are important to them.”