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Government plans to legislate to protect statues – consultation to become mandatory?

Over the weekend Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, wrote an article in the Sunday Telegraph announcing plans to legislate to protect statues from what he described as ‘baying mobs’.

The announcement follows the prominent removal of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston from Bristol last year by members of a Black Lives Matter protest, and the subsequent debate about the removal of statuary of problematic individuals often associated with slavery, colonial atrocities or other abuses.

The Government’s plans, due to be announced in Parliament today would require proposed statue removals to seek planning permission and conduct a consultation with the local communities before statues could be taken down.

In his article, Mr Jenrick argues that we should not attempt to censor or edit our history, and points to new streets in Birmingham being named ‘Humanity Close’ and ‘Diversity Grove’ as attacks on the past. Opposition parties, thinktanks and historians have been so far critical of the plans, accusing the Government of attempting to create a ‘culture war’ over the matter.

We wrote last year about the tensions around statue removals, and identified a well-managed public consultation as a potential solution, but highlighted that it would have to be near-perfect to avoid any challenge from angry parties on either side. Rhion’s piece perhaps bears another read in light of these proposals, and we’ll certainly be looking at them again as more detail emerges.

 

About the Author

Stephen serves as the Institute’s Legal and Parliamentary Officer. Before joining the Institute Stephen studied Law at Bangor University and pursued a Masters’ degree in Aviation and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. After this, he returned to London and was called to the bar in 2016 at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, before deciding not to go into practice and move towards public policy work instead. Within the Institute, Stephen provides legal, political and policy analysis of UK and global current affairs of interest to consultors and consultees.

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