Lib Dem MP says his Somali pub comments misrepresented

29th January 2015: Communities Minister Stephen Williams has defended his Somali pub comments saying they were misrepresented.

The Lib Dem MP for Bristol West told the Parliament that pubs were closing in some parts of the city because of the decline of the "white working class".

He said: "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.”

Reporting on the debate, The Telegraph wrote: “Pubs are closing as a result of Somali immigrants arriving in Britain, a Government minister has said.”

Mr Williams told the BBC that his remarks had been "twisted" to suggest a focus on race.

"There was no value judgement in what I said. It was simply an observation," he said. "Some pubs in the Barton Hill and Redcliffe area of my constituency have closed because of the arrival of a non-drinking Muslim population to the area.

"I could have made a point about pubs closing because of the decline of a factory or a football stadium – both of which also apply to my constituency," he said.

He also rejected any suggestion his comments had been motivated by a negative view of migration.

"I have consistently argued that immigration is a good thing," Mr Williams said. "That is my view as a Liberal."

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