This evening there will be a debate in Parliament based on a petition which received nearly 270,000 signatures until its closure in early December 2020. The MP who is organising the debate is Chris Evans, the MP for Islwyn. The petition is entitled “Teach Britain’s colonial past as part of the UK’s compulsory curriculum” and like so many other petitions, the response from the Government was sadly not very supportive, even though this newspaper indicated Boris Johnson was supportive. Now of course some people would argue that adding compulsory elements to our educational curriculum can be challenging because there are many aspects that are already included. The response from the Government was
The history curriculum at Key Stage 3 includes the statutory theme “ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain 1745-1901″. Topics within statutory themes are chosen by schools and teachers.
It then goes on to describe some of the details of what took place between 1745 – 1901. Now of course one could take the view that such decision making should indeed take place in schools by the teachers. However, if the colonial past elements are not included, many of the pupils may be disadvantaged as they grow up without a meaningful understanding of that part of our nations history. I hope that this afternoon some of our Sussex MPs will take the time to participate in this discussion, partly because of the numbers of signatories from Sussex. The most significant numbers took place in Brighton and Hove with well over three times as many responses in our city as across the nation as a whole. Indeed 10 of the Sussex constituencies obtained higher levels of responses than the average from across the nation. As it happens the petition was discussed as part of a debate that took place last October under the subject of Black History Month. At that time the only Sussex MP who participated was Huw Merriman who is the MP for Bexhill and Battle. As part of his speech, he stated very clearly
I feel moved to speak, because it is important for all constituents who feel the burning desire of justice to have all their representatives speak up.
This is a very clear call from Huw and so one can assume that he will participate again today. This is despite the fact that his constituency is actually very close to the smallest number of signatories within Sussex. Another person who spoke in the debate last October was Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democratic MP for Bath who said
It is important that we have many more debates like this one, until every last person really gets it.
A few months earlier in June 2020 there was a debate that focused on Windrush Compensation and a reference to a review that had been carried out on that subject. One of the Luton MPs, Rachel Hopkins stated very clearly that
The review’s sixth recommendation sets out the need to accurately teach Britain’s colonial history, as part of a wider strategy to tackle institutional racism. What action has the Secretary of State taken so far regarding such a colonial history educational programme in the Home Office?
It was perhaps rather disappointing that the response from the Government to the petition came out at the end of July, five weeks after that Windrush debate which raised very clearly that there was a need for colonial history to be provided in our nation to tackle racism. Let us hope that today a meaningful number of Sussex MPs will get involved in the discussion. The challenge of course is that a discussion will not in itself lead to change and indeed it is very disturbing how many debates that take place in Parliament seem to lack any meaningful results. One that took place last week involved a proposal from the Labour Party that calls on the Government to protect the right of communities to object to individual planning applications. Now this is an approach that introduces many challenges as well as potentially enabling local people to play a more involved role than they are currently enabled to do so. We need our nation to take into account the need for extra homes which includes them being built in our communities. However, Andrew Griffith, the MP for Arundel and South Downs made a statement that seemed to be very similar to the call from the Labour Party for local people to block extra homes from being built. Yet when it came to the vote for the proposal to help shape the latest planning law that is being proposed by the Government, apart from the Labour and Green Party, only two Conservative MPs bothered to vote. As it happened they voted in favour of the comment but there was no votes against it and so one wonders why such processes are taking place.