Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:21 pm on 26th January 2023.
I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for allocating time for this important debate. I also thank Sajid Javid and my right hon. Friend Dame Margaret Hodge for jointly sponsoring the application, among other MPs. As a fellow Greater Manchester MP, I was particularly pleased by the maiden speech from my hon. Friend Andrew Western. I am keen to associate myself with his remarks about cricket, because he and I are known to enjoy a match or two at Lancashire county cricket club, although I should declare an interest as a member of that club.
Before I go into the main segment of my speech, I pay tribute to the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region, as well as the Jewish Leadership Council, and in particular Marc Levy, for all the work they do in celebrating the Jewish community in our city region and shedding light on antisemitism for the vile racism it is. There are also such organisations as the Jewish Labour Movement, which has done a lot of work within my party, and I am grateful to it. Several Members on both sides of the House have mentioned the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and I have noticed that many, including you, Madam Deputy Speaker, are wearing a badge from the trust. The Holocaust Educational Trust is well known for all the work it does in educational establishments across the country.
We have come a long way since the horrors of the holocaust, but it is important to remember and reflect on the atrocities and the lives taken. I had the privilege of listening to the testimony of Ike Alterman at the Yom Hashoah commemoration at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester last year. His story of surviving in four concentration camps was remarkable. Although tragically his family did not survive, as one of the Windermere children he was able to build a life here in Britain from almost nothing.
At a local level in my constituency, I am grateful to Councillor Dena Ryness and Stockport Council for organising the civic event in my town for Holocaust Memorial Day, where we come together to remember all those people whose lives were tragically taken from them. I will be attending the event in my constituency tomorrow.
My constituency of Stockport is in Greater Manchester. The region has the second largest Jewish community in Britain. In Greater Manchester the Jewish community is thriving and outward-facing but, like Jewish communities in the rest of the country, it has to deal with appalling hate crimes, both in person and online. The hate has sadly persisted, and there was a report last year on the rise in crimes against the Jewish community in Greater Manchester, which was covered by local and national media and must be tackled.
In the Online Safety Bill, work has been done to clamp down on online racial harassment and bigotry, but it is clear that social media companies and tech giants must go further and do a lot more to ensure that this issue is controlled. Bigotry is still bigotry, even if it is typed. I had the privilege of being on the Bill Committee. Lots of organisations got in touch with us. In particular, I highlight the contribution of Mr Danny Stone MBE, the chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust. He was quite helpful to me and other Committee members on both sides of the House.
I recently visited the site of Europe’s most recent genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as part of the International Development Committee delegation. I heard at first hand real and growing fears that the renewed weaponisation of hate speech and polarisation will lead to even more violence. We must all reflect. It is clear that Governments across the world must do more.
Last year the International Development Committee produced the report “From Srebrenica to a safer tomorrow: Preventing future mass atrocities around the world”. The report provides a concrete and practical road map for how Britain can show global leadership in preventing genocide and crimes against humanity. That includes establishing a national strategy on the prevention of mass atrocities and ensuring that all embassies, high commissions and diplomatic posts receive atrocity prevention training, with priority countries receiving specialist support and training and adequate resources.
Last week I signed the book of remembrance in Westminster Hall on behalf of the people of my constituency. Like everyone in this House, my message was “never again.” In order for us to do good on our promise of never again, we must commit to more than just words.