Inter Faith Network Closure

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:13 am on 22 February 2024.

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Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 11:13, 22 February 2024

I thank my right hon. Friend Sir Stephen Timms for securing the urgent question.

Inter-faith and multi-faith dialogue are absolutely essential components of society, not only to resolve differences but to build strong and collaborative communities that are able to come together in times of need. Given recent events—the war and violence in Gaza—that is more important than ever. As I am sure the whole House recognises, the Government have a special responsibility to facilitate positive relationships between different faith communities, and although I appreciate that the Minister has now given some explanation of why they have chosen to withdraw funding for the IFN, outstanding questions remain.

Let me ask the Minister some straightforward questions. When was the decision to withdraw funding from the network made? What impact assessment was made, and what discussions were had about the vital need to continue to promote understanding about and between different faith groups, and to encourage co-operation? When was the Inter Faith Network notified of the decision? Does the Minister have plans to increase support for other groups to make up for any loss of provision arising from this decision?

Every Department will inevitably monitor and review the grants that they award, but the House should expect that to be done in the spirit of due process. As politicians, we have a responsibility to bring communities together. At a time when divisions are being exposed, I hope that the Minister can assure the House that the Government remain committed to inter-faith and multi-faith dialogue.