Minority Ethnic and Religious Communities: Cultural and Economic Contribution — Motion to Take Note
Baroness Warsi (Minister without Portfolio; Conservative)
My Lords, I am delighted to be here today to reply to this fascinating debate on behalf of the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, is a noted entrepreneur and a great speaker, as we heard earlier today. He is a great businessman; Cobra Beer, which he founded, has celebrated a 5,000 mile journey from Bangalore to Burton, spanning 25 years. I am pleased to say that it is now fully brewed and distributed from the flagship Molson Coors brewery in Burton, the UK's biggest brewery. The noble Lord is renowned for his philanthropy and I can therefore think of no fitter person to initiate this debate. He is respected as an adviser both to previous Governments here and to the Government of India.
I am also pleased to take this opportunity to congratulate the Zoroastrian or Parsee community on celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe. It is a community just a few thousand strong but one that punches well above its weight. It is a community noted as much for its musicians such as Zubin Mehta and Freddie Mercury as for running businesses-not least Tata Motors, which has been referred to and whose Jaguar Land Rover enterprise employs over 19,000 people in this country. The Zoroastrian community has surely set an example for us all.
As we have heard from a number of noble Lords today, Britain's black and minority ethnic communities make a huge contribution to our economic, social and political life. You need only look at the bustling high streets, pick up a newspaper or switch on the television to see how much richer our society is because of these minority communities. My noble friend Lord Sheikh referred to their influence on food and the culinary delights of this country are now so immense, as I remind myself every time I hit the treadmill. The noble Lord, Lord Janner, reminded us that we owe even the very British fish and chips to the eastern European Jewish community, although my noble friend Lord Gold corrected him, suggesting that it is possibly the Spanish or Portuguese. Whoever it was, I am glad they did.
The noble Lord, Lord Loomba, and the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, spoke about the economic contribution that Britain's black and minority ethnic communities make. There are hundreds and thousands of ethnic minority-led small and medium enterprises in the United Kingdom, contributing an estimated £25 billion to the UK economy per year. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in BME communities and is needed in these difficult times more than ever.
The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, referred specifically to immigration and students. I can say categorically that there is no limit or cap on tier 4 student visas. This country will always remain open for genuine students who are coming here to study a genuine course at a genuine university. However, I am sure that many in this House would agree that if this country is open and welcoming for students coming to it to study, it should not follow that it must be an automatic right that they can remain here for ever. He also raised the catering industry, specifically in the Bangladeshi community. The Government are taking necessary steps to train British people to fill the gap in the Asian restaurant business as part of the wider skills for sustainable growth strategy. While I accept the huge contribution made by chefs who have come in from overseas, I am sure that your Lordships will acknowledge that sometimes it is in the very communities where these businesses come from that we see the worst rates of unemployment. Surely we must target the youth in those communities to be trained to do the very jobs for which we think that we can bring in only people from overseas. As my noble friend Lord Wei said, we must strike the right balance.
We have a huge economic advantage. We have a diaspora community that links us with many growing economies: the powerhouses in India, China, Pakistan and Africa. My noble friend Lord Hussain was quite right to highlight the contribution and achievements of many in this diaspora community, some of them from the Muslim community, who came to these shores with very little and have made such great contributions.
Many of your Lordships spoke about the political contribution that Britain's black and minority ethnic communities make. A record-breaking 27 individuals of African, Asian or Caribbean heritage were elected to the other place during the last general election in 2010. Sixteen of them were Labour and 11 were Conservatives. I am pleased that 10 of the 27 were women. However, we must do more and I must congratulate the party opposite on having achieved many of the milestones in relation to black and minority-ethnic parliamentarians many years ago. I am glad that the Conservative Party followed in 2010 by having its first Asian elected in Priti Patel and its first black woman elected in Helen Grant. This is indeed the greatest number and percentage increase ever seen in British politics, but I think we would all acknowledge that we must do more.
Greater black and minority-ethnic representation and greater involvement from all communities in the political process will only enhance our democracy. We are all aware of the positive contribution that black and minority-ethnic Peers, many of whom we heard from today, make to the work of this House. We are reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, about the Zoroastrian community's fine history in the Houses of Parliament in his references to Dadabhai Naoroji and Shapurji Saklatvala who were elected many years ago. Political parties indeed have a role in engaging with various communities. I know of the work that my noble friend Lord Wei is doing in relation to the Chinese community. I also know of the work done by the Labour Party. We saw in Bradford West that we must never take for granted the votes of these minority communities. They can turn quickly and we realise that by not listening and engaging extensively with them electoral losses can come about.
The noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, spoke about the vital role that Britain's black and minority-ethnic communities make in our public services and have made in the past, especially in the Armed Forces. The research and work of Jahan Mahmood, to whom he refers, is truly fascinating. The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, referred to the work of the Asian community in medicine, specifically to his contribution and that of his family and members of the Asian community to the National Health Service. Over a number of recent years, there has been less reliance on securing staff who have been trained overseas. The reformed education and training system is designed further to improve planning and to track progress and ensure that there are enough trainees in the National Health Service to create a workforce that meets the changing needs of patients.
The noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, spoke about the cultural contribution that Britain's black and minority-ethnic communities make, specifically that of the Caribbean community, in referring to the culture of carnival. In the arts, there are so many talented individuals that one could mention contributing to out rich cultural life: visual artists such as Chris Ofili, writers such as Monica Ali and Zadie Smith, musicians such as Tinie Tempah, Dizzee Rascal and still one of our biggest musical exports Sade. The noble Baroness herself played an enormous role in my life. Her presence on that iconic children's programme, "Playschool", formed the aspirations of many a non-white child. In fashion and clothes we can see further contributions. I was asked by one of my colleagues whether my outfit this morning was a nod to the debate that I was to going to close on behalf of the Government. I said that it was simply hot and too stuffy to wear a suit.
The noble Lord, Lord Paul, spoke of the contribution of black and minority-ethnic communities to sport. In football we have 66 black players who have represented England over the years. A little, unknown story behind that of the black footballer Fabrice Muamba, whom we saw collapse on the pitch, is that the doctor who came to his aid is Shabaaz Mughal, a British Pakistani. In cricket, we have Monty Panesar and Sajid Mahmood. In many ways, with cricketers like these maybe there is no further need for the famous cricket test. In rugby league and rugby union, we have black and minority-ethnic communities providing some of the best and most recognisable personalities, such as Martin Offiah, Jason Robinson, Jeremy Guscott and Ikram Butt. In boxing we all recognise Amir Khan and Lennox Lewis and in motor racing our very own Lewis Hamilton.
Diversity was a key reason why London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, was chosen to host the Olympic Games. The London Organising Committee is making diversity and inclusion the key aspect of our Games, celebrating the many differences among the cultures and communities of the United Kingdom. That is not just about our athletes. It is about the suppliers, the competitors, the officials and the spectators-in fact, everyone connected with the Games, from the security guards to the bus drivers. With just 64 days to the Olympics, I would like to take this opportunity, and I am sure noble Lords will too, to congratulate a member of this House who has been a huge driving force behind this event, the noble Lord, Lord Coe.
My noble friend Lord Popat spoke about the charitable contribution that Britain's BME and faith communities make, specifically the Hindu community. I also congratulate the work of the noble Lord, Lord Hilton, and of Forward Thinking, who do much to create better understanding between communities. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, spoke about the Government needing to do more in relation to social action in the voluntary sector. The Government are doing all that they can to open up more public services being delivered by the voluntary sector, not because the Government are shrinking from their responsibility but because the voluntary sector is invariable better at delivering them.
In relation to charities and faith organisations, I have rarely come across a church, mosque, temple, synagogue, gurdwara or any other place of worship that has looked holy within that did not want to take care of its neighbours, no matter if they had a different faith or indeed none. Some 31,000 religious charities are now registered in England and Wales, as well as many that draw their inspiration from faith. Six hundred and sixty-two new religious charities were registered between October of last year and March of this year, a quarter of all newly registered charities during this period. Religious charities have a combined annual income of over £7.5 billion and spend over £7 billion each year. Many of the best known charities have faith origins and are linked to particular denominations, including Christian Aid, Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief and Jewish Care. The noble Lord, Lord Bew, was right to refer to the contribution of the Jewish community in charitable work. The Children's Society, Save the World, World Vision and Tear Point and many charities which are now secular had faith origins, such as Oxfam.
This Government are on their side. I said at the Anglican Bishops' Conference, that is why as a Government we do God. I assure the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Derby that I will do all I can to continue to support initiatives such as Inter Faith Week and I hope that he gets some comfort from the Government's decision to enter into a three-year funding programme for the Inter Faith Network. We are keen, however, to see different faith groups link up to pool expertise and resources so that their impact is increased.
In conclusion, there is still much to do. Opportunity is the cornerstone and it is right that as well as the positives about which we heard this morning we remain committed to and aware of the reality of some as detailed by the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley. There are still many who feel that they do not have that opportunity.
I congratulate the work of UpRising, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. They are the leaders of the next generation and they do some tremendous work. In relation to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, on representation of the Zoroastrian community at the Cenotaph, I will ensure that I raise this with the Secretary of State. If he so wishes, I will also facilitate a meeting between him and officials at the department to take that forward. I agree wholeheartedly with some of the sentiments of the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, but I do not believe that British values and integration is a one-way street. British values are made of the values of everybody who is on these shores. When he visited a Muslim family with whom he spent time in Birmingham, the Prime Minister said that the value of looking after your elders, which he saw so starkly and strongly within the Muslim community, is a British value that we can all sign up to.
What are the opportunities in relation to entrenched inequalities? I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree that most fundamentally it boils down to opportunity and opportunity through schooling. The Government's programme of reform and investment in schools, in relation to academies and free schools, many of which have been opened in the most deprived communities, will be that first opportunity for those children to have a better life.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, referred to work on tackling discrimination. He has a long and commendable history in this work. I congratulate him on continuing on it. He asks, "What is all the fuss about multiculturalism?", a question that I find interesting. It sounds like the title of a very good paper which I am sure that the noble Lord could write.
We have been here before. We were reminded of this by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and I support his comments on keeping the public space open for religious opportunity. We are not like the French. I welcome the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. Politicians are not great historians. Every time I read British Catholic history, I see lessons that we can learn for challenges which are personal to me as a British Muslim.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, referred to the recent case of children in care, specifically girls in care. I will take his comments back and ensure that the Minister responsible for this, who I know is looking into this case, makes contact. The noble Earl may be aware of the comments I made last week in relation to that case.
Discrimination wherever it occurs and whoever instigates it must be spoken out against. Vulnerability can come in many forms. It is not just about the colour of a person's skin. We must also celebrate. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, was right to refer to celebrating each other's cultures by carrying each other's flags. I would go further and say that it is about speaking out for each other. It is when I, a Muslim, can speak out against anti-Semitism and my Jewish friend can speak out against Islamophobia that we are making true progress.
I was pleased to see my right honourable friend the Communities Secretary celebrate alongside the Ahmadiyya community on the recent charity walk. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, on all the work he does in relation to that community.
There is a tapestry in what we have seen this morning and in what we have seen in this debate. It is a tapestry that influences each and every aspect of our lives. I know that when I wake up in the morning and listen to the tones of the noble Lord, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, on "Thought for the Day" it sets me up for the rest of the day. I acknowledge that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, said, we can all continue to learn. I know that in this job, I have the privilege of doing that every single day.