We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Multi-ethnicity and Multi-culturalism

– in the House of Lords at 5:35 pm on 20th March 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Parekh Lord Parekh Labour 5:35 pm, 20th March 2002

rose to call attention to the benefits of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism to Britain and to British society; and to move for Papers.

My Lords, over the centuries, different ethnic and cultural communities from different parts of Europe came and settled in our midst and have made Britain a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. Although these cultures interacted and created a composite collective culture, their traces still remain in the names of our villages, personal names, surnames, language, institutions and customs. Additionally, we have Scottish, Welsh and Irish cultures, as well as those based on class, gender, region and religion.

The arrival of blacks and Asians after the Second World War intensified, and rendered physically visible, our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural character, but they did not introduce a radically new element. It is vitally important to stress this point because it is sometimes argued that we were for centuries a culturally homogeneous society and that the arrival of Asians and Afro-Caribbeans represented a fall from that idyllic state. Such a lapsarian view of history is totally false. We have always been multicultural, and would remain so even if all the ethnic minorities were to leave the country—heaven forbid—or assimilate into the so-called mainstream.

We are not only multi-cultural but are bound to become even more so with the passage of time. Citizens of the rest of the European Union are free to settle here. We will continue to need immigrants from other parts of the world, numbering about 2 million in the next 15 years according to the Cabinet Office. In this age of globalisation, cultural influences from other parts of the world, especially the United States, freely flow into our country and shape us. As a result, our society is bound to display an even greater range of ethnic and cultural diversity.

This cultural diversity is not only inescapable but is also a valuable resource. The strengths that the ethnic minorities have brought to Britain are considerable. Their forebears died in their thousands to defend Britain and its civilisation during the dark days of the Second World War. Their net annual contribution to the economy today runs into hundreds of millions of pounds. They have kept many of our industries going and our NHS would be in an even greater crisis without its 26 per cent medical staff, 16 per cent dental staff and nearly 30 per cent non-medical staff, all drawn from the ethnic minorities.

South Asians, who amount to barely 4 per cent of the population, run 50 per cent of our cash and carry shops, 55 per cent of the independent retail trade and 70 per cent of independently-owned neighbourhood shops. In London alone, their just more than 15,000 businesses have created full or part-time work for more than 200,000 people. Afro-Caribbean sportsmen and athletes have brought us great honours and others among them have brought us great pleasure and profit in the areas of music, entertainment and the arts. Asians have so profoundly transformed our cuisine that many in your Lordships' House would experience withdrawal symptoms without the curry, and even perhaps the chicken tikka masala, once or twice a week.

Our ethnic minorities provide just over 13 per cent of our undergraduates, many of them specialising in vitally necessary economic disciplines, and some of them contribute more than their share to the fundamental scientific research in which Nobel prizes are won and commercially profitable discoveries are patented. They have also enriched our literature. They have added a new range of idioms and images to the English language; provided new sources of humour; offered new insights into the British way of life and thought; and deepened our critical self-consciousness. All this has made Britain an immensely lively and resourceful country—a great tribute both to its own generosity and openness and to the talents and self-confidence of the ethnic minorities.

Perhaps I may quote the words of my noble friend Lord Puttnam—who wanted to participate in the debate but was called away elsewhere. He states:

"the past 40 years have seen the emergence of what is, in every respect, a new and very different nation—one that has absorbed its multi-cultural future with a degree of confidence that must have left the early apostles of racial doom almost speechless".

It is sometimes argued that the riots last summer in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley demonstrated the failure of multi-culturalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were products of long-term, short-term and precipitating causes. The long-term causes involved the closure of textile mills, prolonged periods of unemployment, and segregated housing and education. The short-term causes involved increasing alienation among Muslim youth not only from the wider social culture but also from their own, a sense of powerlessness, and an ineffective and self-serving community leadership. The precipitating causes involved the intervention of the BNP and some police misjudgments.

In short, the riots had social, economic and other origins, and were little to do with the great multi-cultural experiment in which Britain is engaged. Had that experiment been a failure, as some Right-wing people argue, the white population would not have responded to the deplorable violence of the rioters with sympathy, understanding, compassion and a sense of solidarity. Whenever our multi-cultural experiment has gone hand-in-hand with economic and social justice, and has been conducted in a spirit of goodwill and self-confidence—as in London and Leicester—it has been a remarkable success.

Britain is a fine country—tolerant, playful, decent, and endowed with the great resources of imagination, creativity and moderation acquired during its long and fascinating history. I say this in all sincerity, and with great pride, in spite of having been a critical child of the British Empire. I suggest that, in spite of some recent and past setbacks, we can create a rich, lively and vibrant multi-cultural Britain and be a beacon to the world if we pay attention to the following points.

We need to tackle large pockets of unemployment in many parts of our country. The rate of unemployment among men is about 7 per cent within the white population, but it is 15 per cent among the Pakistanis and 20 per cent among Bangladeshis. To tackle such unemployment, we need well-considered strategies, as well as such policy tools as contract compliance—which we have tended to neglect—and a rigorous system of monitoring and targets in the private sector.

We also need to reduce economic inequality between the white population and the ethnic minorities. About 28 per cent of the white population live in households with less than half the national average income. The figure is as high as 65 per cent among Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Such inequalities generate anger and a sense of injustice, and they create a society in which different communities lead parallel lives with no shared experiences and aspirations to bind them together. Fairness and equal opportunity are not enough, because they pre-suppose level playing fields and an equal ability to take advantage of opportunities—and, sadly, that is not the case. Rather, our concern should be to remove self-reproducing structural disadvantages, so that all our citizens acquire the ability and the resources to benefit from the opportunities available to them and compete as equals.

There are glass ceilings in many areas of life. Hardly any of our large companies have blacks and Asians as chief executive officers, or in any of the most senior positions. That is true also of our Civil Service, the Judiciary, the public sector and—dare I say?—the Cabinet. That is in stark contrast to the United States, where five out of 20 top corporations have blacks and Asians, including recently arrived Indians, as chief executive officers, and where blacks occupy high cabinet and ambassadorial positions and other high public positions. The Government can do much in this area by setting an example and by exerting pressure on the private and public sectors.

We need to cultivate a common sense of belonging among our citizens and in our communities. By that, I mean a basic feeling that we all belong together, share a common fate, and are bound by the ties of loyalty to each other and to certain common institutions and values. This has nothing to do with a common British identity or what is called "Britishness". It is a glory of this country that we can be British in many different ways—"Britishness" is a language which is spoken in different accents—and we do not have to conform to a single mould as in France or in the United States. We can take different views of our history and of our political and economic institutions, and yet remain as British as the next man.

Ethnic minorities themselves need to do much to put their houses in order. Some of their religious institutions leave much to be desired. Some of their leaders are unrepresentative and self-serving, and have done little to promote the long-term interests of their community. Drug taking is increasing in some communities, and so are crimes, prostitution and intra- and inter-ethnic violence. Some of their youth are understandably alienated from their community. There can be no excuse for disloyalty to a country which has given them a home and a decent life. If minority communities expect the wider society to live up to certain norms and criticise it when it fails to do so, they are, in turn, expected to abide by certain norms of loyalty and good behaviour.

Since the point of our debate is to stimulate new policies, I shall conclude by asking the following six questions. First, while rightly condemning unacceptable minority practices without worrying about political correctness, what are the Government planning to do to present a positive picture of multi-cultural Britain and to give a lead to the country in appreciating great minority contributions?

Secondly, since our national curriculum does not fully reflect the great sacrifices of ethnic minorities in defending Britain and its civilisation 60 years ago and their great contributions towards making this country rich and prosperous, what are the Government doing to set the record straight and suitably to revise the national curriculum?

Thirdly, while some areas of our private sector have introduced ethnic monitoring and targets, others leave much to be desired. What are the Government planning to do to ensure the appointment of fully qualified blacks and Asians to the highest positions and to promote diversity in the boardrooms and in senior executive posts? Would they consider giving those members of the private sector, say, a year or two to put their houses in order, and extend to them the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 if they fail to do so?

Fourthly, what steps are the Government planning to take to ensure that suitably qualified ethnic minority people are appointed to the highest positions in the Civil Service and the Judiciary? I insist on the importance of qualifications, but when qualified people are available why does there still seem to exist some form of glass ceiling? What do the Government intend to do to encourage political parties to select suitably qualified Asians and Afro-Caribbeans in winnable seats and increase their representation in the House of Commons, as they have done in the House of Lords? The presence in the House of Commons is very important. Not only does it have symbolic significance; it is important in terms of power. If the ethnic minorities do not see themselves reflected in seats of power and symbols of our identity, they are bound not to develop a sense of common belonging.

Fifthly, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—for both of whom I have the highest admiration—have frequently convened high-powered national seminars on topics of public concern. These seminars have brought together eminent thinkers and practitioners and have generated sensible policy recommendations. They are badly needed in the field of race. When does the Home Office intend to hold such seminars, as the previous Home Secretary indicated that he would consider doing?

Finally, the Home Office is rightly concerned about national cohesion and is putting together a high-powered cohesion panel. How will the panel be composed, and what criteria govern its membership? Do the Government plan to include not just civil servants and men and women drawn from different social services, but also individuals and organisations with a long track record in this area, able to take a national and long-term perspective?

I am in no doubt that the Government mean well and that they have done much to tackle racial inequality and injustice. I salute their courage and confidence. However, as I am sure they will readily agree, much still remains to be done. I am confident that this debate will throw up interesting ideas concerning what more needs to be done, and why this is a matter of great urgency.

My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 5:49 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, on initiating this debate. Having seen the list of speakers, I look forward immensely to hearing what people have to say. I wondered whether to talk at length about my own direct experience of living in an area of old textile towns of the kind that the noble Lord described, with a significant ethnic minority population—mainly from south Asian countries. My nearest big town is Burnley. I live in Pendle, where 12 per cent of the population is of south Asian origin—mainly families who originated in Pakistan and Kashmir and are therefore mostly Muslim. They are concentrated in the towns of Nelson and Brierfield. In one particular ward, they are no longer an ethnic minority but comprise 65 per cent of the electorate.

I could talk at a personal level about my many Asian friends and contacts in local politics—although no doubt I have some enemies as well. However, as I have the privilege of speaking immediately following the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, I will consider instead what has happened since your Lordships last discussed the topic, in the form of an Unstarred Question on the Parekh report tabled last summer by the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin.

The report's executive summary stated that building and sustaining a community of citizens and communities would involve, inter alia, developing a balance between cohesion, equality and difference. Since then a substantial number of reports have been produced and the balance of the debate has moved towards cohesion and away from difference and diversity. In last summer's debate, the key word was "diversity". Now it is "cohesion", which represents a great shift and is partly—but only partly—beneficial.

Since last summer, there has been the report of the Burnley task force chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead. That magnum opus or tour de force was produced by local people about their own town. Also published was the Oldham independent review, the Ritchie report, and the Cantle report and the Home Office response to it, entitled Building Cohesive Communities. John Denham, Minister of State for the Home Department, visited Pendle recently and announced that, in future, local authorities would have to produce community cohesion strategies alongside all the others that they have to produce.

When those reports were published, the talk was about parallel lives and parallel communities—people who lived their own lives in their communities, not communicating much with the ethnic majority. The problem has been seen as one of residential separation in particular. The Cantle report refers to building on one kind of separation—at home—to separation at school, of religion and so on. Multiple separation leads to people not knowing people from other communities. I think that claim is exaggerated but there is some truth in it.

The publicity that those reports generated, particularly in the national tabloid press and on television, was not very beneficial. The impression was given that members of the ethnic minorities themselves, particularly from the south Asian sub-continent, were the problem. The Home Office Command Paper that was published in February was unfortunately entitled Secure Borders, Safe Haven. That is not what much of that White Paper is about. When I read it in detail, I found to my surprise that I could agree with much of its contents. The White Paper's subtitle was "Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain". Regardless of its contents, that gets it right. The media give the impression that the problem is that hoards of people are still entering this country. Almost every day we see television images of scenes such as those at the railway sidings at Calais at Christmas.

There is confusion about migration and asylum. The importance of an oath of allegiance has been pinpointed, with its implication that people are disloyal because they do not have to take an oath of allegiance at present. There has also been some concentration on the importance of learning English, as though large numbers of the people who have come to live in this country have not taken any great steps to learn English and that the boys and girls from ethnic minority families who attend local schools do not learn English. There has been a blurring of the distinction between arranged marriages and forced marriages.

The implication is that if the ethnic minorities did not exist, problems would not exist and everything would be okay. If one talks to white people in the street, one often hears comments such as "If they want to live here, they should do what we do and live how we live". The balance of the debate has shifted and it is right that the noble Lord has raised today the positive side of living in multi-cultural communities.

I am concerned about the emphasis on housing segregation. The media assume that such segregation is all about council estates but in fact it relates to private sector housing. Changes cannot and will not happen quickly. Communities with substantial residential segregation will exist for a long time to come. In many towns, such segregation will increase. We ought to concentrate on all the other aspects of people leading separate and parallel lives, rather than on residential segregation—which we cannot do much about in the short term and perhaps not in the medium term.

We should communicate with people, help to build communities and create public services that make provision for the whole community, not just parts of it. Renovation and improvement schemes should be done in such a way as to be seen locally to be racially fair.

Cohesion and diversity are not opposites. Voluntary integration through incentives, motivation, opportunity and personal example is the way forward. It is not for the Government to come along with a lot of money and tell people how to achieve integration. The towns themselves must take control of their own destinies. All the communities and individuals in the towns in question must begin to take responsibility for their towns as a whole—not just for their part of it, their families or their ethnic or religious community. Only when that happens will we see real progress. As politicians, we have a duty to get involved in that progress.

Photo of The Bishop of Bradford The Bishop of Bradford Bishop 5:59 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I am particularly pleased to contribute to a debate on a Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, because his reputation is quite outstanding. No one has done more to enable constructive debate of religious, cultural and ethnic diversity. The report that bears the noble Lord's name embodies his characteristic blend of wisdom, compassion and readability.

I shall, if I may, speak personally because I perceive a fair bit of criticism from here and there about spending far too much time bothering with these Muslims, and would I not be better spending my time elsewhere? Such, at least, was the graffiti chalked on to my gatepost last Sunday.

When I came to Bradford 10 years ago, I had never knowingly spoke to a Muslim, Hindu or Sikh in my life. In the past 10 years, my life has been enriched beyond all anticipation, and that has not been at the expense of my own self-understanding of who I am and where I belong. My respect for people of other faiths has grown considerably, and yet I remain even more strongly a person of Christian conviction. Insights into the culture of other Bradfordians has brought a richness to my experience of life which I find hard to describe fully enough. Yet in no way am I required to deny the culture in which I was born and bred. Learning to live alongside people of other races has increased both my understanding and my tolerance of those who are different, without in any way diminishing my pride and pleasure—if I am allowed to say so—in being English and having a surname like Smith.

To live in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-faith society does not in my experience involve any denial of what I hold dear; it places it in an even richer context. However, if I were asked for a strategy to achieve a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-faith society, I would find it hard to provide one. The way ahead, as I see it, is to deal with the practical issues that impede growth in mutual understanding, tolerance and respect, and then to see how progress can be made. So the experience of Bradford—and I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, in his assessment of what happened last summer—may help to identify practical problems that need to be resolved. The Cantle report also is very helpful in this respect. It states:

"Separate educational arrangements, community and voluntary bodies, employment, places of worship, language, social and cultural networks, mean that many communities operate on the basis of a series of parallel lives. These lives do not seem to touch at any point".

I believe that that is true, and I should like to make several points. First, it is clear that public funds must not be used to consolidate any such separatism. Secondly, disadvantaged communities, both white and Asian, must not be played off against one another through competitive bidding for urban renewal resources. It is distressing in the extreme to hear various communities vying with each other for money that comes in this category. Such competition is most unhelpful.

Thirdly, we have begun to use the word "Asian" very much more carefully, as minority communities often differ more from each other than from the majority community. That is clear from a recent Cabinet Office paper, produced by the Performance and Innovation Unit, entitled Improving Labour Market Achievements for Ethnic Minorities. The paper noted the dramatic differentials in achievement levels for distinct communities. Between 1992 and 2000, for example, the white community jumped from 37 per cent to 50 per cent in securing the benchmark 5 or more GSCE A* to C grades in year 11, whereas for Indian communities the comparable figure was 38 per cent to 62 per cent, and for black communities it was 23 per cent to 37 per cent. For Pakistani communities, however, the figure was 26 per cent to only 30 per cent.

There are real issues behind those figures. They indicate that minority communities should not be construed as passive victims of exclusion—racial, cultural, religious or economic—but rather as social actors who can draw on a range of resources within their communities to circumvent such exclusion. I should add that those resources would be the envy of many on our white council estates.

Fourthly, there is a recognition that the type of plastic, anti-racist rhetoric that had been used to prevent honest discussion has now been discarded and issues are honestly on the table for consideration. Transcontinental marriage remains an issue that needs to be addressed. Underachievement in education also needs to be dealt with. I should add, although I can speak for nowhere but Bradford, that faith schools are not part of the problem. Nevertheless, our situation is precisely reflected in the local education authority's problems. Although we work together closely and would all like to improve the balance, we find that the matter is decided largely by where people live and where they choose to send their children. It is quite a delusion to suggest that faith schools, in Bradford at least, play any part in that.

In Bradford, we also have the double whammy of deindustrialisation plus population increase. Therefore, improving the opportunities of work and training for work are major issues that will either help or begin to destroy all efforts towards social cohesion. Nevertheless, it is not all woe and despair. Last week, I convened and chaired a meeting of people in Bradford who work in housing, education, commerce, business, the police and elsewhere. The question at our meeting was this: what has happened since the riots in July? Everyone spoke about considerable progress, and all sorts of steps are being taken. People are taking initiatives here, there and everywhere, not least, and perhaps most importantly, with the young and disaffected. It is not all woe and despair; there is good news. This July, we hope and intend to put on a presentation of what is good about Bradford, to celebrate and rejoice what multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-faith communities can and are doing.

I appeal to anyone who can do this to say, it is a good thing to work towards a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-faith community. That would enrich all of our lives. It is the future to which we should all commit ourselves.

Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Labour 6:07 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for introducing this debate. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that he is rightly recognised for his work in relation to multicultural Britain. I should also like to apologise now for the fact that, due to a longstanding commitment, I shall have to be absent for the winding up.

I recall a discussion last year in which the right honourable Robin Cook not only spoke of how multi-cultural we have become, but described chicken tikka masala as a national dish. Needless to say, since then, much has happened that has directly affected the relationship between the various cultures in our society. Essentially, however, the underlying issues remain the same. Chicken tikka masala is a wonderful dish which is the product of eastern and western influences. Its interaction of flavours is perhaps the result of mutual appreciation and the interaction of the many cultures residing in Britain. However, although additional cultural seasoning is tolerated to an extent, should we not strive to instil acceptance in our pluralistic nation, as opposed to seeking the homogenization process summed up in the term "melting pot"? Britain should be proud that our country is a rich banquet with culturally distinct and complex ingredients.

Exotic cuisine is just one of the many ways in which ethnic minorities have contributed to Britain for several generations, and yet many of those minorities are still regarded as recently arrived refugees. Although my own family are now fourth-generation British citizens, they are still labelled as different when people think in terms of "them and us". My father and his family contributed to rebuilding this country after the Second World War. As with many immigrants at that time, they were cheap labour for the textile and steel industries. When I entered the working world, I worked 16 hours a day to match the income of my indigenous counterparts who worked only eight hours a day. Such inequality was experienced by many ethnic minorities.

We have all heard about the contribution made by the ethnic minority community in matters such as health, transport, business, arts, and so on. The list continues. Rather than there being a growing acknowledgement for ethnic minority communities, recent events encourage a growing resentment in Britain. A re-education of society is required at all levels to move away from the Powellite opinion that there are dangers lurking in the multi-cultural society. We should be moving towards realising the potential for lucrative symbiotic relationships with common interests for achieving common goals.

Taking an oath of allegiance is all very well in theory, but we must recognise that if we cannot reach the hearts and minds of our citizens, then it is a mere formality of indoctrination. The inherent inclination towards one's own culture is undoubtedly adapted by one's environment, but it is not a loyalty test. An example of that is a common language.

I support the need to ensure that everyone can speak English, which immediately allows us to belong to a nationwide community. But surely we should encourage regional accents within this broad community. I should have thought that to establish a dialogue between cultures, we must be open to learning from others. That does not mean, for example, that the odd phrase of Punjabi is necessary, but we must accept that there are communities with an additional language and identity.

I remind your Lordships of the example of the former Yugoslavia where the lack of integration over 400-500 years led not only to the external break-up of Yugoslavia but to genocide and crimes against humanity in that country. The reality in Britain is that there are distinct clusters of cultures that feel increasingly vulnerable. Ironically, the cause of the isolation is not necessarily a consequence of culture; it is economic and, subsequently, social factors that are strengthening this segregation.

I do not agree with the chairman of the CRE that if people are forced to live in certain areas, that will somehow lead to integration. During my 10 years on the housing policy board in Rotherham, I witnessed the resentment and fear in areas of poverty. Housing allocation for ethnic minorities on the relatively affluent side was tolerated, but those who were on the deprived side were on the receiving end of violence. Their windows were smashed and even the practice of fire-bombing was carried out.

What leads a group of supposedly civilised people to threaten innocent lives? It is not the differences in wardrobes but an on-going economic struggle that drives people to despair. That has been exploited by the BNP who have distorted and entangled race and class. Since devolution, there are increasing numbers of people who openly confess that they do not share a common loyalty. Yet, perhaps because of their self-sufficient status, they are not the prime concern of racist groups who try to justify that their abusive actions are for the sanctity of this country.

Your Lordships have already heard about racial tensions last year in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham. There is a vicious circle, in which the Pakistani and Bangladeshi, in particular, score poorly on all the main socio-economic indicators, with low levels of fluency in English. This leads to a further drifting away from mainstream ideology and opportunities, while becoming increasingly visible targets for instigators of racial hatred.

I am pleased that Diane Abbott organised a conference last weekend to ensure that black children could achieve higher standards of education. I hope to see similar efforts for British Pakistani and Bangladeshi children who achieve the lowest GCSE passes in the UK today, as we heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford. They are in serious need of support, and a good education lays the foundations not only for opportunity and mobility, but it instils consciousness and optimism.

For this reason, I support the Government's plans for introducing more faith-based state secondary schools. Critics of such institutions are anxious that society will become increasingly fragmented but these so-called "comfort zones" are already established. Rather than allowing them to go unnoticed and flourish either positively or negatively, they must be recognised. For example, in Oldham, there are six secondary schools where ethnic minority students make up less than 5 per cent of the school population and two schools where they make up 97 per cent and 77 per cent. However, there are no faith-based secondary schools as such.

One would infer from that that faith-based segregation already exists and that the parents have different expectations. Identifying that and adapting the education system will be more welcomed than treating the practice with suspicion and failing to provide the additional support that such schools require. This will be a positive step towards a harmonious multi-cultural Britain, not only because of the increasing fairness to all communities, but because it also appears that faith-based schools have on average better results and moral standards.

I am running out of time. I shall say finally that we should learn from the example of the Canadian Government whose refugee literature formerly said, "Welcome to our home", but was changed to, "Welcome to your home". It is my hope that that will happen here in the not so distant future, but I fear that that sentiment is a long way yet.

Photo of Baroness Prashar Baroness Prashar Crossbench 6:16 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, multi-ethnicity does not normally receive the thoughtful and considered attention that it deserves. I am, therefore, grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for initiating this debate.

To date, debate and policies in this area have been marred by ambivalence and a lack of deeper and comprehensive analysis and thinking. In our attempts to respond to challenges of multi-ethnicity in the past 40 years, we have been grappling with different approaches, based on assumptions of assimilation, integration, diversity within the framework of equality of opportunity, and more recently, community cohesion and citizenship. Furthermore, policy initiatives have been a response either to fear of immigration or crises, such as disturbances in our urban areas.

There was one notable exception in 1976 when an attempt was made by the then Home Secretary, now the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, under a Labour government, when he tried to fashion a "coherent and long-term strategy". Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons those aims and ambitions have never been fully realised.

A piecemeal response to events or crises inevitably leads to a distorted picture, distorted understanding and, consequently, to ineffective and flawed initiatives. Such responses do not lead to necessary structural and institutional changes; nor do they even influence the broader changes in society that may have implications for minorities. I would go even further and suggest that some of those initiatives have led to the separation of issues facing ethnic minorities from the mainstream and have contributed to the disengagement of minorities from some crucial spheres of life.

We have been slow to recognise that this minimal approach will not make much difference in our fast-transforming political, social and economic context. We have seen great disparities opening up as economic and social changes have unfolded. Some groups are prospering while others face multi-generational disadvantage. It is also evident that discrimination and ethnicity are not the only variables. We need to consider gender, age, class, location, condition, social and economic status and progress.

There have been a number of reports in recent years which have all attempted to deal with different aspects. The Macpherson report focused on inequitable institutional practices. The Hepple report on equality reviewed the enforcement of anti-discrimination legislation and what was wrong with existing laws. The Parekh report analysed the current state of multi-ethnic Britain and proposed ways of countering discrimination, disadvantage and making Britain a confident and vibrant multicultural society. The Ousley and Cantle reports made recommendations to promote community cohesion. More recently the Home Office published a White Paper, Secure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain, recommending the promotion of citizenship, civic renewal and engagement, and policy towards skilled and unskilled immigration and asylum policy. We have also seen the growing role of the European Union in such areas as labour market policy, social policy, migration and anti-discrimination.

Those reports, important as they are, deal with partial aspects of multi-ethnicity and discrimination and in some cases even cut across each other. But I believe we need to go further. We not only need to make the necessary connections between the issues raised by those different reports; we need to fill a gap which has been graphically illustrated by the recent report published by the Performance and Innovation Unit of the Cabinet Office. That interim analytical report, entitled, Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market, does not make any policy recommendations, but its analysis clearly points to a need for a more considered approach—not one based on traditional assumptions and notions of multi-culturalism, but one which is rooted in deeper understanding of the complexities and evidence before us.

The report's analysis highlights that many of the current assumptions and policy initiatives are at odds with a complex and multi-faceted situation on the ground. The report shows that the idea of integration has been applied mainly to broad social and cultural aspects and, to a lesser extent, to civil and political domains, and not so much to economic structures, labour markets and class patterns. It rightly suggests:

"that the outcomes that accrue to greater economic integration (particularly in the labour markets) are closely related to social and political integration".

To encourage civic engagement, social cohesion and better interaction between communities, we need to develop effective strategies which will encourage economic integration. In other words, it is a virtuous circle; if we want full participation, we need to engage people in the labour market.

In the White Paper, Secure Borders, Safe Haven, the Home Secretary said that the reports into last summer's disturbances in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley painted a vivid picture of fractured and divided communities, lacking a sense of common values or shared civic identities to unite around. He said that the reports signalled the need to foster and review the social future of our communities and to rebuild a sense of common citizenship which embraces the different and diverse experiences of today's Britain.

Civic renewal and community cohesion cannot be built merely by teaching citizenship or by enforced integration. We need to take seriously the messages which are emerging from the Performance and Innovation Unit and shift the paradigm within which we debate the issues of multi-ethnicity. We need a strategy where various policy initiatives not only complement each other but are pulling in the same direction.

It would be helpful for me to get an assurance tonight that the analysis of that report will be taken on board; that it will be followed by an approach which is well thought through to ensure that we can truly realise the benefits of multi-ethnicity and rebuild a sense of common citizenship, and that the Government will show leadership in helping to create a new climate in which to think and define policies which are based on analysis, evidence and fresh thinking.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Chesterton Lord Hunt of Chesterton Labour 6:23 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, we are doubly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Parekh; first for this valuable debate and secondly for his extremely interesting and valuable report, which was published last year. I regret that I am unable to stay until the end of the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, twisted my arm, and I appreciate being able to be here.

My views, like everyone else's, are affected by experiences. As an engineering student, I gave little thought to the issues of multi-ethnicity and problems of relations between ethnic groups until I went to the United States in the 1960s and found myself in a race riot in New York. It was frightening but also terrible to see ethnic groups so enraged that they could injure themselves and damage their own streets and houses. Sadly, we saw the same thing last year in England.

My second experience was when I saw the marked level of racial prejudice in England. My wife and I tried to rent a private flat in London in the 1960s. I put down that I was born in Ootacamund, India, which is, indeed, where I was born. Curiously, all the flats were taken until I appeared in person and, lo and behold, a flat was available. I assumed that a country such as the UK—albeit with much prejudice—with the continuation of its wider provisions of housing, education and health to all sections of society and less unemployment of the poorest groups, would never experience the United States' levels of inter-ethnic dislocation. Partly, that has been true, but there are many worrying trends, as other noble Lords have described.

I welcome the debate as one way forward to improve the comprehension and appreciation between different ethnic elements of society. That must be part of the action plan by every organisation and group in the UK from government to local communities.

The Parekh report issued last year provided useful guidelines and recommendations, which the Government and their agencies could do much more to follow up. That fact and other reports have been an example of the long-standing tradition in the UK of governments to analyse social problems. But there is now an American or social science approach—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Desai, will comment on that—as in the management of large organisations, of trying to seek problems, to identify attitudes and ideas, and using those as a basis for policy. The difficulty of that approach is that not everyone agrees with the analysis or the conclusions.

There is still a huge amount to do in that respect, perhaps more by education and the media than by government, to explain and appreciate how the UK population is made up of different social, ethnic and regional groups. I believe that the regionalisation of government is an important step in that direction. It is particularly important for us to understand that we are made up of those groups. Perhaps even in south-east England we need to appreciate that we are a distinct cultural group. I appreciated that strongly when I gave the Penguin Book of Jokes to a Philippine friend. Noble Lords will know the kind of thing: "Knock, knock". "Who's there?" "Isabel". "Isabel who?" "Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?". "Ah", she said, "a book of ethnic jokes".

More seriously, the critical, philosophical issue of our society is whether our ethnic groups can live together more successfully without the rather heavy policies of the US Government and their strongly conformist culture, including a highly self-censored media. In the United States in the 1960s and 1970s it used to be necessary to listen to Radio Moscow and the BBC to find out what was going on.

However, I believe that it is essential for the UK to move further to introduce positive discrimination—we are learning something from the United States—but without adopting the hectoring and excessively patriotic style of the recent US leaders. The recent speeches by the Home Secretary have emphasised the advantages of greater cohesion, and even conformity. That is obviously controversial, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, reminded us. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, rightly emphasised in his report and in his speech that more could be done by governments to ensure higher-level opportunities for minority ethnic groups.

When I was chief executive of a government agency in the middle nineties I received a circular from the Ministry of Defence to widen the representation of women and ethnic minorities on our advisory board. Being a dutiful civil servant I did just that and was extremely pleased with the results. That is one way, but organisations should not have to wait for a circular from the MoD. They should realise that appreciating the great value of multi-culturalism will enrich all organisations and the lives of everyone in the community.

There is steady progress by many organisations, but it should be faster. Recently a House of Lords committee visited a government laboratory. We were extremely pleased and interested to see an excellent presentation by the technical director, who was a distinguished British Asian. Government agencies employ many more people than Whitehall, as the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, is aware. However, in my experience they tend to be forgotten by the people in Whitehall dealing with policy. There are many more civil servants out there and the possibility of being able to use this important instrument of government needs not to be overlooked. Last week I discussed with the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, the new developments there will be in the Civil Service. The message given by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, should be taken seriously. I am sure that the role of the Civil Service Commission, led by the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, will be in the lead.

Photo of Lord Bhatia Lord Bhatia Crossbench 6:30 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for introducing this subject. I should also like to record my interest in the subject as chairman of the Ethnic Minority Foundation. It is one of the major national organisations working with and for ethnic minority communities in Britain.

Much has been said over the years about ethnic and minority issues in Britain. Some of those discussions have been framed in negative terms with prejudice, bigotry and ignorance. But today we are talking about the benefits to Britain in becoming a multi-cultural society. I believe that there is a lot to celebrate, but there is also a need to recognise that much has yet to be done.

When we talk about multi-cultural Britain we must set the context in which we became so. The history goes back about 200 years when Britain started to build its colonial and imperial empire. It was a multi-cultural empire. After the famous "wind of change" speech by Prime Minister Macmillan in the 1950s we started to move to a multi-cultural Commonwealth. It now has over 30 countries as sovereign independent states working together on common issues and concerns. It is a space created by common consent, where differences are debated and discussed, agreed to or disagreed with between equal partners.

Is not Britain a microcosm of the Commonwealth? Our population has about 4 million people from different nationalities, cultures, colours, faiths and languages. Just as the Commonwealth works—and there are many success stories and benefits—so does multi-cultural Britain work and bring benefits to all.

To identify a few highlights of the success stories and contributions of Britain's ethnic communities one has only to look at the sports, media, television and arts sectors for a start. Last week's success by England's cricket team, lead by Nasser Hussein, in New Zealand must be something to talk about. The contributions of a large number of ethnic professionals working in our National Health Service is largely acknowledged but not sufficiently recognised. In business, the ethnic minorities are strong in the retail and small business sectors. There are large manufacturing companies owned or controlled by ethnic minorities which employ thousands of people and contribute to the national exchequer by way of taxes and export earnings. The ethnic communities have introduced their cuisine to our daily diets in our homes and through Indian restaurants across the country. There are ethnic minority professionals in our financial institutions and in professions such as accountancy, law, education and many others.

However, much remains to be done. To build a truly multi-cultural society is a long-term project. There are no quick fixes by the Government or by the people themselves. Everyone has to come together to build the type of society we want, which is at ease with itself and with the world. It means the education of a huge number of peoples of different cultures over a long period of time. We must recognise that when many cultures come together, enough time and resources must be made available in order to make that possible.

Different cultures have different perceptions on any given issue. There are also generational issues. The people who came here in the 1960s have a different outlook from their children and grandchildren who were born and go to school here and who are growing up in a multi-cultural society. Out there inter-marriages take place and partnerships in personal lives and in businesses are constantly being forged. That is all against the background of a shrinking world created by information technology.

I believe that Britain is on the right path to becoming a plural, multi-ethnic country. It could be best described as a mosaic society where each colour is a part of one whole nation. We have most of the laws we need. I believe that the lines have been drawn about what is and what is not acceptable behaviour and conduct, and that the law is there to protect everyone, including the minorities. What we now need is time to consolidate and to build on the progress we have so far made.

Having said all that, there are some issues which need to be dealt with in order to enable ethnic minorities to become fully involved in the civic society of Britain. Through my work in the Ethnic Minority Foundation I have come to realise that there is a great need to build up the capacities of ethnic minority communities and their voluntary sector. Our research indicates that one of the major pathways into ethnic minority communities is through their 10,000 community voluntary organisations. Those groups need long-term core funding, support and help to build themselves and their communities so that they can participate in the civic society.

We find that in employment, education, health, housing, crime and prison population ethnic minorities are at the wrong end of the spectrum. Some of these issues are due to discrimination, ignorance and prejudice. They must be tackled on a long-term basis with resources, understanding and patience. I am pleased to report that some government departments are responding to these needs. I hope that that will continue on a long-term basis. The investments that are being made today must not be lost because of a short-term mindset.

It is a great pity that the Parekh report, published in 2000, got side-tracked, although many accept that it is a landmark and a serious piece of work. I urge the Government to look at it seriously and to take matters forward on some of the important issues that it raises. I believe that racism in Britain could undermine Britain's moral authority in the Commonwealth and in the rest of the world.

Let me share with your Lordships the recent experience I had during a Foreign Office-led mission to Morocco and Tunisia. The politicians and the people that we talked to were pleasantly surprised that there are 2 million Muslims in Britain; that we can practise our faith without any fear; and that we have 1,500 mosques in the United Kingdom. They were also quite surprised to hear that there are six Muslim parliamentarians and many more from other ethnic minority communities sitting in both Houses of Parliament. We were able to talk about the same issues of identity. We were told that the Tunisians saw themselves as Muslims, Tunisians, Mediterraneans and Africans. They were also surprised when we said that we saw no conflict in being Muslims and being British at the same time, and that we had full rights under the law.

I wish to refer to sensitive issues such as the "sus" laws, arranged marriages, asylum law and related matters. I beg the Government to look at these issues with a great deal of caution, patience and understanding. A bull in the china shop syndrome must be avoided. A great deal of discussion, and consultation must precede any change in law and its small print. An understanding of how the law will translate into action on the ground by police and other law enforcement agencies must be looked at in order to avoid damaging what has been built up over many years.

I want to end by quoting Robert Frost. He said:

"Nothing to look back to with pride and nothing to look forward to with hope".

That is not where we want to go. Britain in this millennium should be able to look back with pride and with hope for the future.

Photo of Lord Morgan Lord Morgan Labour 6:37 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, like other speakers, I should like to thank very much the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, both for his speech and for his wonderful report. In both he drew attention to the fact that the British, like Nelson Mandela's South Africa, have always been a rainbow people. We have been multi-ethnic and multi-national since the dawn of our history.

Britain has gone through many changes. The word "British" has gone through many changes. The term "British Empire" was actually invented by a Welshman in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, meaning that Britain was linked to Brutus of Troy and to King Arthur. He meant, if you like, the Welsh empire. Certainly, there is very little link between that and the Britishness of "Rule Britannia" two centuries later. It shows how ideas and words about culture and language can change.

In Victorian times this country was increasingly seen as being multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Many of the factors that are thought to have promoted integration in fact promoted diversity. Industrialisation created regional economies, local pride and local civic values. Literacy, which is commonly thought to have bound the country together, again intensified local cultures. In my own part of Britain it was the great age of Welsh language newspapers and the golden age of Welsh language poetry. So we have always been a culturally diverse, distinctly plural country. What has made people see our history differently is the rather special experience of the 20th century, which brought two world wars, a sense of union and shared patriotism combined with the unemployment of the inter-war years, which led to a phase of our history that I believe is now over. I believe that in so many ways Britain is now returning to its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic origins. By supporting devolution, my own party, the Labour Party, is in a way going back to its roots. It was an anti-centralist party, which supported home rule for Wales and Scotland and local government. It did not believe in the domination of Whitehall or that the gentlemen of Whitehall know best.

I wish to say something which no other speakers have said about the multi-ethnic and multi- cultural varieties that we had before Commonwealth immigration. Scotland and Wales I see as a very interesting contrast to the black and Asian communities which other speakers have knowledgeably and brilliantly discussed. In Scotland and Wales we have an example of cultural pluralism, which is moving towards the civic. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had their cultures recognised for a very long time and very beneficially so. I believe that we still have some way to go in relation to the Welsh language. We still have, as it were, the Anne Robinson syndrome abroad in the land, but on the whole the advance of the Welsh language is enormously enriching, particularly in Britain in a multi-cultural and multi-lingual Europe. Devolution will add to this process. It will add civic pluralism to cultural pluralism, which is very important, particularly in Wales whose culture has been recognised, but not in a civic sense. It has not had a sense of patriotism and citizenship in a political context which devolution is now providing.

It seems to me that as regards black and Asian citizens that experience is very different. Their civic recognition is leading to cultural recognition. We have had civic recognition of black and Asian citizens in Britain for a considerable time going back to the race relations legislation of the 1960s. But the problem is that it has not meant very much. We have created institutions which have had a beneficial effect and yet, as speaker after speaker has shown, we have clear inequality and discrimination. We have institutions like the BBC and the police accusing themselves of institutional racism. We have a criminal justice system that is weighted heavily in key respects including in sentencing policy against black and Asian immigrants. We have the civic recognition, but the implications of it have not been borne out.

I believe that some of the aspects of discrimination are economic, as other speakers have said. Reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, to sport. I passionately support the Arsenal Football Club

Noble Lords:

Hear, hear!

Photo of Lord Morgan Lord Morgan Labour

My Lords, there are also other supporters including, I believe, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and Osama bin Laden—make of that what one will. Arsenal Football Club is a team of almost entirely black players except the goalkeeper. But they play before white supporters, not because the club practises discrimination, but because black people simply cannot afford the tickets. In many ways we have a kind of tokenism as regards black participation in sport.

On a somewhat more controversial note—I suspect that there might not be so many "hear, hears" on this point—I worry greatly about education. It seems to me vital that education should be a way of promoting multi-ethnic pluralism and getting our children to know each other. I went to a school in north London with very large numbers of Jewish boys. I had not met Jews before. I found it deeply enriching and the most educative part of my schooling. I worry very much about the divisiveness of schools, including faith schools, which were criticised on both sides of the House last week, not in the sense that they are run by religious communities, but in the sense that they tend to promote division, mono-culturalism and to divide children one from another. We have heard of alienation in terms of residence. I would be deeply worried if that were reinforced by alienation in terms of education. In my opinion we do not want to encourage this development more than we need.

Fundamentalism is a great problem in many ways. It seems to me as an historian that it is a more worrying problem in the world than communism ever was. After all, communism was a philosophy of inclusion. In my younger days I used to sing "The Internationale unites the human race". That was a very long time ago and noble Lords will be glad to know that I do not intend to sing now. It is deeply worrying if we promote institutions of divisiveness.

Like all other speakers, I am optimistic. I believe that things are improving and that being British means something; that our country is flexible and tolerant. We have not had a Le Pen or a Haider in this country to inflame race relations. Our view of citizenship is relaxed. We do not have a citizenship test and, with respect to a distinguished Member of this House, we do not have a cricket test and I hope we never will. Britishness means something to the Welsh, the Scots and, increasingly, to black British, Asians and Afro-Caribbeans.

My final point is this: what does Britishness mean to the English? After all, the English are 80 per cent of this island. It worries me deeply that the English, a tolerant, talented, wonderful people, have no particular articulation of themselves. England has been described, I believe, by Richard Rose as a state of mind or perhaps a geographical expression in the way that Metternich described Italy in the 19th century. England is difficult to define and difficult to govern in the sense that we have no regional system for England. Without articulating the English identity of 80 per cent of the people of this island, I believe that a stable, multi-cultural Britain will not yet have arrived.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I invite him to visit one or two Roman Catholic state schools and assess whether or not they have a strong concern with social justice and a global dimension.

Photo of Lord Morgan Lord Morgan Labour

My Lords, that is a very interesting. I do not object at all to the fact that they are Roman Catholic. My worry—intensified by what I know of Northern Ireland—is what a mono-cultural, mono-religious background can produce. That is increasing. I believe that the important thing is to bring children together at the youngest possible age to get them to know each other in terms of culture and religion and, in Wales, in terms of language.

Photo of Lord Dahrendorf Lord Dahrendorf Liberal Democrat 6:47 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, on seeing the list of speakers in this important debate, a friend of mine remarked, "Ah! You are going to insert into a string of distinguished speakers with some connection to the sub-Continent the view of the Continent". I believe that the Continent is making some contribution to multi-cultural Britain, indeed, even to the Arsenal Football Club, if I may say so, where the continental players are quite indispensable.

I am an immigrant. I came to this country and decided to settle here because it is a country of liberty. It is a kind of liberty which is rarely found anywhere else in the world. It is a tradition which has managed to resist the two great totalitarian temptations of the last century. It managed to resist them more effectively than almost any other country I can think of. It is a mixture of respect for others, of leaving space for individual initiative, of trust, and of being able to rely on certain bonds of tradition—breathing the air of freedom. Yes, diversity of cultures enriches a society.

The reason why I am speaking is my great respect for the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, and what he stands for, which he has explained so well again this afternoon. There are not any really homogeneous societies, but those which think they are tend to be narrow minded, intolerant within and quite often aggressive without. The experience of having to live together—and wanting to live together—with people from different cultures helps civilised behaviour. There are, however, two conditions. One is that all must have equal opportunities to take part in economic, social and political life. Citizenship must be real. Several of your Lordships have spoken about this, beginning with my noble friend Lord Greaves.

The other condition is a more delicate and complicated one, and I want to spend a minute or two on it. It is that all must accept certain fundamentals of the society in which they live. On this there is, perhaps, no full agreement. I have read with great interest the report by the commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, entitled The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. I offer your Lordships a quotation from it, which is almost the sentence before the quotation that my noble friend Lord Greaves offered:

"Britain is both a community of citizens and a community of communities, both a liberal and a multicultural society, and needs to reconcile their sometimes conflicting requirements."

I am not sure that I would put it in quite that way. I would probably prefer to say that Britain is a society in which a diversity of cultures can flourish to the benefit of all, but they do so only if the principles of its liberal order are accepted by all.

Those principles include the freedoms given under the constitutional traditions of the country—freedoms that are evolving, but always under the rule of law. In my understanding, however, they also include an enlightened attitude to state and society. I use the word "enlightened" deliberately, because enlightenment is a part of British liberty. All free societies have pockets of fundamentalism, but the open advocacy of and insistence on pre-Enlightenment views seems to me to be unacceptable.

One of the great questions is: how exactly do we define these common fundamentals if one wishes to live in a country of enlightened liberty? I was quite impressed when the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said in yesterday's debate:

"Some in this country disapprove of the religious slaughter of animals but it does not follow that that practice, central to the life of Jews and Muslims, should be banned".—[Official Report, 19/3/02; col. 1331.]

I agree, but that is not accepted in all countries. Indeed, it is a highly controversial subject in a number of continental countries. On one side, however, it is acceptable. I have greater difficulty—although I take the point about arranged and forced marriages—with the treatment of women in different groups. Not all groups in our society automatically treat women in the way in which I would like to see them treated in this civilised, liberal order.

The most difficult point is, perhaps, one that has to do with the law. I was greatly impressed by what the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, said. The separation of faith and law is one of the essential features of an enlightened order. There are, therefore, real problems with Sharia law, Rabbinical law and Catholic fundamentalism. There are real problems whenever law is made part of faith and, therefore, non-negotiable and not part of civil society and its institutions. I would hope that it is recognised that we can live together in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society if we accept that the law is common to all and that it is made here in Parliament by the institutions designed to provide it.

I agree very much with another statement made in the Parekh report, which perhaps—at least, by implication—recognises this insistence on the commonness of the law:

"Every society needs to be cohesive as well as respectful of diversity, and must find ways of nurturing diversity while fostering a common sense of belonging and a shared identity among its constituent members"— that is, an identity under the law.

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour 6:55 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. Like me, he is a first-generation immigrant. However, although he is an immigrant, I am sure that he does not get asked the kind of questions that I get asked, such as "Where do you come from? Do you go back there often?" Perhaps he does. I bet that the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, does not get asked such questions. I do, however, and I have great difficulty with it.

I also have great difficulty with the topic of this debate because from childhood onwards I tried to escape the identity of being Indian. I wanted to be part of the world, and to be myself. If someone points a gun at me in the middle of the night and asks, "What are you?", I will say that I am an economist. Indeed, until I came to your Lordships' House, I was never thought of as south Asian; I did not think of myself as south Asian. I am an economist, I am middle class, I live in a middle-class area, and I have a good middle-class job. Although I was obviously liberal and anti-racist, and in no way denying where I was born, I never thought of myself as belonging to an ethnic minority. When I came here, however, I was "outed". People started thinking of me as representing a community, but I do not. I am not here as a representative of any ethnic minority.

I hope that I can explain that I have great difficulty with the whole notion of multi-culturalism. As my noble friend Lord Parekh knows, I have expressed my reservations in a review that I wrote of his book on multi-culturalism. I want to argue that creating a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society is not necessarily the great thing that it is said to be. I am not saying that we should not be tolerant or that we should not recognise the value of different languages, cultures, practices and cuisines. I am saying that we ought to distinguish between the public space and the private space. One great difficulty created by many of the policies followed over the last 50 years is that we have confused that distinction.

People from ethnic minorities, and other people as well, find themselves trapped by certain labels which inhibit their mobility out of where they are starting from. This leads to the perpetuation of poverty in certain groups. After all, when we talk about ethnic minorities we are now talking about third and fourth generation people. There are persistent imbalances between the educational achievement of Pakistani and Bangladeshi people, compared with other minorities. We labelled people, from the best possible motives, and insisted that their passport to certain public goods depended upon their producing that identity—housing, schools, their ability to find employment. It was done in order to help people. But once we have done that, we do not allow them to escape that labelling and become ordinary citizens.

Some noble Lords present may remember Lord Pitt. He was a distinguished Member of your Lordships' House. There is a story that, as he was going about his business in Hampstead High Street, a little boy was heard to say to his mother, "Mother, mother, there is a black man", and his mother said, "Hush child, that is not a black man. That is a doctor". I wish we could all become like that. I wish I did not have to carry my religion and my ethnicity on my lapel. That is not to say I want to deny those matters. I am not schizophrenic. But we labelled people with the best of intentions.

Originally people came from other countries to sustain industries which should have been shut down—the cotton and textile industries in the North of England—in any proper market conditions. But those people were brought in because they could be paid less than white people. Of course, since those industries were doomed to fail, those people were trapped in those regions and those regions are where they are trapped still. All the things they can get by way of public goods depend upon their identity and where they are located.

We have this horrendously depressed area across the Pennines. Both the economics and the politics are depressed. It is no good saying, "We are going to be multi-cultural", because the way to make Bradford better is to take a lot of Bradford people out of Bradford—just taking Bradford as an example.

The problem is that we are not following an egalitarian strategy; we are following a multi-cultural strategy. There is a difference. We do not see people in the way that my noble friend Lord Morgan described. It is true that we only formally recognise the civic nature of those groups, but none of their entitlements arose out of their colour. Although labelling arose out of a sense of helpfulness, it turned out to be a great immobilising strategy. And we must get out of that.

People do not appreciate how good a model the United States is for assimilation. Except in terms of Afro-Americans, it successfully integrated many people. The reason why they recently allowed Indians to head top US corporations is that they do not label people. Even for Afro-American blacks, their progress has been tremendous. We have not made that progress and we ought to ask why not.

Photo of The Bishop of Chester The Bishop of Chester Bishop 7:03 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I was grateful to read, in preparation for this debate, the report, The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, produced under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Parekh. In particular, like the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, I was struck by the way in which the report reveals that Britain has been always an evolving "community of communities". Perhaps that is changing more rapidly now than at some times in the past, but multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism are not entirely new phenomena for our country to face. Perhaps it is a wider and better appreciation of that would draw the sting of the very proper and eloquent complaint of the noble Lord, Lord Desai.

Among the many recommendations of the report, it requested a new commission on religion in public life to attend especially to legal and constitutional questions. Perhaps a new commission will be needed in due course. There is little doubt that we are in a period of quite rapid evolutionary change in the relation of faith communities to our society, and also at a more fundamental constitutional level.

I should like this evening to contribute a few comments from the perspective of the Church of England and its historic establishment. The "establishment" of the Church of England refers to a complex, multi-faceted and rather unique set of relationships between Church and state and Church and nation which go back well over 1,000 years into Saxon times. It is not, as is sometimes imagined, a phenomenon with roots in the 16th century; it goes back much further. And Anglicans have always traced their spiritual lineage to those earlier times.

The particular form and evolution of the English establishment has taken its place among other relationships between Church and state in these islands, and also on a wider European canvas. The very notion of Europe itself is in one sense a Christian concept. Europe denotes that area of the Asian land mass where the Christian civilisation took root. Prior to the 18th century the area which is now normally labelled "Europe" would usually have been called, "Christendom". So Europe is more a religious than a geographical concept.

Many of the distinguishing features of European civilisation have inevitably been deeply shaped by the Christian faith—the freedom and uniqueness of the individual with his or her rights; the characteristic moral emphases of our culture; even science itself, perhaps the most potent force in our society. Modern science was born in Christian Europe in the 16th century. Historians of science have often pointed out that it was Christian notions of creation coming to the fore in that century which were a necessary prerequisite for the scientific enterprise to emerge.

Perhaps the commonly recognised distinguishing characteristics of our country—our reputation for justice, fair play and so forth—which the report of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, acknowledged and to which several Members of this House referred this evening, partly emerged because of the long and distinguished emphases upon the spiritual basis of monarchy and Parliament alike—warm beer and ladies cycling to evensong indeed, even if we do now have to add chicken tikka masala, whatever that is.

I should like to say a further word at this point about the monarchy itself. It is a subject which the report of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, largely ignored. But it is relevant to how we attempt to hold together an increasingly pluralist and multi-ethnic "community of communities".

Why has the British monarchy survived and flourished while so many of its continental counterparts have died and diminished? Clearly we have been blessed with some fine individual monarchs. But the particular way in which the spiritual and sacred character of the monarchy has been nurtured and expressed has enabled our monarchy to relinquish political power without losing its fundamental raison d'être.

The transcendent rooting of the monarchy, vividly expressed at the coronation itself, has been vital to its grace and dignity. That feature of our constitutional monarchy has been mediated through a particular relationship with the Church of England. Cut that relationship and perhaps the Royal Family would be much more vulnerable to being seen as just another rich and privileged family (if I may use that phrase). Most of our citizens will continue to prefer our constitutional monarchy, with its sacred and spiritual basis, to the alternative symbols of flags, national anthems and myths of national destiny, which tend to fill the vacuum elsewhere, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, described.

But if the establishment of the Church of England is to survive, it will need to evolve; to take account of the new dimensions of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism in our midst. The precise character of the next coronation, I imagine, will need to be significantly different from the last. The Sovereign, I believe, can appropriately be described as a "defender of faith", as well as a "defender of the faith". I do not believe the two are in fundamental contradiction. Indeed, the Sovereign needs to be a defender equally of those who are agnostic or atheists. Authentic Christianity seeks to coerce no one against their God-given freedom and respects the dignity and rights of all.

However, just as one cannot really be religious without a religion, I do not think that we can recognise a spiritual basis to life in the structures of our society without mediating that through a particular faith community. That will bring new obligations and opportunities to that faith community. There is scope here, I believe, for the Church of England to be much more generous to the other faith communities in our midst, in relation, for example, to our buildings, but in many other ways as well. We have been slow out of the blocks in this matter and we are still lagging behind where we need to be.

We need to learn from the experience of other parts of the world. It has always struck me as significant that the mother house of Mother Theresa's Sisters of Charity in Calcutta is set in the precincts of a Hindu temple—or so I am told.

A more generous hospitality to other faith communities in various ways need not compromise our integrity at all, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford explained. Indeed, properly understood, it is part of that very integrity. At this point, I believe that the report of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, was absolutely right to say that better relationships between faith communities is a crucial part of the strategy to combat racism. I do not believe that the mainstream churches in this country—and let me speak here specifically of the Church of England—have yet fully grasped that challenge.

Some will say that it would be better to disestablish the Church of England and build a new order of society on secular and multi-faith foundations. Perhaps, but I doubt whether that is what our people, including most members of the minority faith communities, want. The Chief Rabbi articulated that very well in his Reith Lectures a few years ago.

From the perspective of the different faith communities, it was secular materialism which largely made the running in the second part of the 20th century and has left us a social, moral and artistic legacy which hardly seems to inspire. Statistics of suicide, especially among the young, mental illness, family breakdown, and crime, reinforce the point. The challenge in the 21st century is to establish more clearly, on a renewed basis, the sacred dignity of life and of our obligations to each other in society. I believe that the new communities will richly contribute to that process.

I remain unpersuaded that disestablishment of the Church of England is the best way to facilitate this, but neither do I underestimate the challenge of changes of attitude which are still required in many quarters, and which the distinguished contributions to this debate so far have very clearly identified.

Photo of Lord Morgan Lord Morgan Labour

My Lords, as one who comes from Wales where the kirk has been happily disestablished, perhaps I may ask the right reverend Prelate a question.

In his account of disestablishment, the right reverend Prelate quoted the views, as I am sure he rightly saw them, of the various faiths, who number 19 per cent of the population. Eighty-one per cent of the population would not have been included in his sample.

Photo of The Bishop of Chester The Bishop of Chester Bishop

My Lords, it depends entirely on who you count and which survey you use to get the particular proportions.

I gladly acknowledge, however, that there is a rich diversity of Christian expression in this country, to which the Church in Wales has made its contribution over the past 80 years. I am happy to acknowledge that and to include a dialogue with the other Christian denominations in the question of the future of church-state relationships.

Photo of Baroness Rendell of Babergh Baroness Rendell of Babergh Labour 7:13 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, among the benefits to this country of multi-ethnicity I would like particularly to draw your Lordships' attention to the contribution made by writers, as alluded to by my noble friend Lord Parekh. To him I am grateful for opening this debate with such an excellent and enlightening speech.

As a novelist myself, a reviewer and former judge in the Booker and Whitbread Prizes among others, I have noted with intense pleasure and a growing sense of wonderment the works, mostly of a very high standard indeed, that have come to us from writers of Caribbean origin, those from Turkey, Egypt, the Middle East in general, from Africa and from the Far East. It is not to disparage these novelists—many of them giants, whose work will endure—when I say that in my opinion the most remarkable phenomenon has been the fiction output of those whose roots are in the Asian sub-continent. On them I shall concentrate this evening. I hope that noble Lords who share their provenance will forgive me if I mispronounce names. I can only assure them that, without much guidance, I will do my best.

Paramount among these writers must be Salman Rushdie, who made waves early on in this Asian tide of literature with Midnight's Children, which won the Booker Prize. Since then he has three times been short-listed for that prize and was awarded the "Booker of Bookers" for coming top in a general contest of contributions over 25 years of the prize.

I think next of Amitav Ghosh and his masterpiece Shadow Lines, and of course of Arundati Roy, another Booker winner, with The God of Small Things. Of the Desais, Anita, with her prize-winning novels, and her daughter Kiran, making her debut with her tale of a guru, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard. Several other Asian novelists figure in the short lists which span three decades.

In case it may seem—though I think this would be a false conclusion to draw—that these novels are too intellectual and highbrow to reach a wide audience, I mention here the internationally renowned A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. In the best sense, this huge epic novel is accessible to everyone who enjoys reading and loves a good story. Essentially a serious book about India after independence and partition, it is also intimately concerned with family life and a mother's search for a suitable husband for her daughter. It is currently being serialised on BBC Radio 4.

All these novels—and I have described very few of the number published here each year—provide what fiction essentially should, that is, entertainment, excitement and suspense in the best sense of those words, as well as examining the human condition. They possess a freshness and originality sometimes lacking in the product of indigenous writers. They do much more than that, however, and this is where the true benefit they confer on our society makes its mark.

Whereas overseas publishers have for generations bought rights in books of British origin and published them alongside their own national works—often when doing so has necessitated translation—the number of foreign language books accepted by publishers here has always been small. Only the principal writers in their own countries, or the most popular and saleable, have found a market here.

The result of this has been that those of us who are not academics or who have never made a particular study of, say, Nigerian or Turkish literature, or works from Syria or Malaysia, have not only failed to appreciate that these countries too have a rich treasure of literature of their own but have learned nothing of the manner of living of the people who are these countries' nationals. This applies, or did recently, even to those who are our neighbours in Europe who are physically and geographically close to us.

It is the business of the novelist, if he or she writes of contemporary events, to present a picture of life as it is lived at the moment; of the houses people live in, the food they eat, the schools they go to, the faith they practise, their political situation, their tastes, their clothes and their customs. If we return to the Asian sub-continent, however, what have we known of the ways of the diverse peoples of this huge area except what we have read in geography books and in the works of Kipling, for instance, or E.M. Forster and Paul Scott? All of them, according to one's taste, are fine writers, but all of them British—indigenous British, even if domiciled or paying a long visit to India. Theirs have been the eyes and the ears of strangers in a strange land.

In the novels of those Asian writers I have spoken of, and in those of many of their fellows and contemporaries, we get the true picture. We derive from them insights into lives we never dreamed of; and we need not doubt their accuracy, for these are people writing about what they have known from infancy, what they grew up with and what their ancestors lived with.

I believe that this is an area of multi-ethnic contribution which has been neglected, few commenting on what has almost amounted to a literary revolution. I will not say "renaissance", for this talent and occasional genius were no doubt always there but untapped and unrealised. It has brought to the general reader, the woman or man on the Underground, if you like—how many people have I seen reading A Suitable Boy in the Tube?—a unique and otherwise unreachable source of knowledge of a group who live among us.

Knowledge of a society must help to bring about understanding. And understanding, even if it is a perception of the bad side of a way of life as well as the good, must lead to the sympathy and tolerance so essential when people from very different cultures are obliged to live side by side. After direct experience, something not open to all of us by any means, fiction is the best way of learning about our neighbours' religious beliefs and rituals, their marriage customs, their domestic habits, their ambitions and their aspirations.

Writers of fiction have been the ambassadors of those who have settled here in the United Kingdom, presenting their own rich civilisation and saying, "This is what we are like and this is what you must know if we are to live together successfully".

Photo of Lord Chan Lord Chan Crossbench 7:21 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, on securing this timely debate on important national issues that have tended to receive negative reports in the media. Our neighbours in Western Europe are also grappling with multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism. Some are keen to foster immigration of people from outside Europe, because demographic trends predict a reduction of 100 million people in Europe by the year 2050 if no immigration were to take place. That prediction comes from the United Nations population projections of 1998. The critical result of such a population decline will be the contraction of the workforce available to support the pensions of older retired people, a growing part of our population.

Germany has begun to feel the effects of this demographic change. In 1999, the German Government began offering full citizenship to non-European people for the first time in their national history. A seminar took place in the British Embassy in Berlin in November 2000, when German government officials met key representatives from Britain's multi-ethnic population to discuss issues of multi-culturalism. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and I were present, as was the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland.

Our Government are well aware of the benefits of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural population that provides skills in short supply, such as doctors and other health professionals in the National Health Service. Since April 2001, immigration rules have been relaxed to allow foreign students graduating in our universities to obtain employment immediately, instead of having to leave Britain. According to Department of Health statistics for 2000, one in four of our doctors and one in six of our dentists is black or Asian, and we continue to look for more health professionals to work in the NHS.

The Performance and Innovation Unit of the Cabinet Office published a report last month on Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market, from which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford quoted statistics. It shows that many ethnic minority men and women in Britain have higher rates of unemployment than white people. For those in employment, their salary is lower than their white counterparts in similar jobs.

Those issues are not new; they were reviewed by the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. Here, I declare an interest as a member of that independent commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, and supported by the Runnymede Trust. The commission's carefully researched publication was the most comprehensive work on this subject for 30 years. Yet, when the report was launched in October 2000, it received the most negative and biased reviews by both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers that I can remember, because it mentioned the need for making the term "Britishness" more inclusive for ethnic minority people. Even government distanced themselves from the commission's report.

The report focused on cohesion, equality and difference. It asked searching questions such as,

"What values and loyalties must be shared by communities and individuals in One Nation?", and,

"How should disputes and incompatible values between different communities be handled?", and,

"How is a balance to be struck between the need to treat people equally, the need to treat people differently, and the need to maintain shared values and social cohesion?".

The Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain argued that Britain should develop both as a community of citizens and as a community of communities. Although belonging to different ethnic groups and having different cultural practices, all Britons would share common values of justice, abide by our laws, and have respect for individuals' dignity.

In the past 18 months, it is evident that government have adopted some of the recommendations of the commission, particularly its emphasis on cohesion and common values. But it is regrettable that government have not given credit where it is due; namely, to the commission for its excellent and valuable contributions to the making of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and cohesive Britain.

Our vision of a cohesive and successful Britain where cultural diversity is valued cannot be built just on a set of common values. Our citizens from diverse backgrounds need to be convinced that they are valued by the way they are treated in their daily experience of life in Britain. Being treated fairly by employers, colleagues in the workplace, the police, the criminal justice system, and all public authorities, including the health service, is the proof that we all subscribe to common values of the equal worth of all our citizens irrespective of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. This is the way that ethnic minority people and communities can develop a sense of belonging to Britain.

Last summer's disturbances in Blackburn, Burnley and Oldham reminded us that our vision is still to be achieved. People from different cultural backgrounds cannot be isolated from each other to live "parallel lives". In 1995, when I was director of the NHS Ethnic Health Unit, I gave a small grant to people living in Glodwick, an inner-city district of Oldham. The grant administered by Oldham NHS Community Trust paid for the rental of a terraced house in the centre of where people lived. This house became a one-stop shop for health, social services, and the police for the residents of Glodwick, most of whom were Pakistanis needing bilingual interpreters. Local authorities did not continue the support and allowed this very helpful facility to close after two years, even though local residents and public authorities valued it and wanted its continuation.

Therefore, I was not surprised by the troubles in Oldham last summer; and I told the review team from Oldham so when it sought my views by coming to your Lordships' House. Local and public authorities have a significant role to play, in addition to their duties to provide services. It is to help people to meet and to live together in harmony in imaginative housing schemes.

Finally, I believe that central government need to give a lead by declaring the benefits of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Britain and encouraging good practice. Beginning from your Lordships' House, the Government's support should be seen to influence for good the lives of people in our inner cities.

Photo of Baroness Uddin Baroness Uddin Labour 7:29 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Parekh for introducing this Motion and especially for listing the eminent achievements of much of our community. Multi-culturalism and the issue of multi-ethnicity are both complex and exciting; and, indeed, most challenging. The process of change in our efforts to create a plural modern Britain has no room for complacency or stagnation. But there remains a lot of space and the need for honesty and candour. If any discourse on community relations is to be meaningful, it has to start from a point of introspection: a complete overhaul of all our theoretical assumptions, intellectual orthodoxies, practical experiments and the policies arising out of the 1980s and 1990s race relations industry.

The benefits of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism to Britain and Britishness of are beyond debate. They are manifest in all walks of life in modern Britain, from the curries on our table to the hip-hop on our hi-fis and the shalwar kamiz on Mrs Blair's elegant shoulders. Discussion on multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Britain needs to be broader and more sophisticated than the narrow, exotic picture that I have just described. We must liberate that crucial agenda from its entirely secular fundamentalist understanding, because without the context, change will be slow—as it has been—and the result will be what we saw in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham.

As a Muslim woman of Bengali descent and a Peer on the Labour Benches, I must admit that I am often deeply unhappy and frustrated by the current application and understanding of both Britishness and multi-culturalism at the highest level. I agree with much of what my noble friend, my good friend and mentor, Lord Desai said. Also as a Muslim, I can only touch on the pain, anger and helplessness that I feel at the way in which current debate has managed to marginalise and alienate much of our communities. The almost total denial for decades of our identity based on our faith has been devastating psychologically, socially and culturally and its economic impact has been well demonstrated. For years Britain's 2 million or so Muslims—the largest group within the country's visible minorities—have been totally bypassed even by the best-intentioned community and race relations initiatives because they have failed to take on board the fact that a major component of their identity is their faith.

Such an identity demanded more than just the stereotypical and lazy imposition of simple cultural labels based on race categorisations. British Muslims, consisting of more than 56 nationalities and speaking more than 100 languages, have never been and shall never be happy about an existence and understanding that rarely goes beyond somosas, Bollywood and bhangra. The fact that the wholeness of my identity as a British Muslim is not accepted even among the champions of multi-culturalism is deeply depressing, but the situation is worse when compounded by the negation of my experience as a woman. In response to the description of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, of the equality of women in numerous cultures and faiths, I would add that no society has a monopoly on equity to its women and none of us—including those of us on these Benches—can be deeply proud of what we have contributed thus far. The pain is all the more unbearable when I see the Government, formed from my party, lose significant sense and direction over policies aimed at facilitating the emergence of a genuinely plural society.

The Motion will be useful only if we have the magnanimity and wisdom to embrace the nature and blessings of the contributions that multiple faiths can make to our society. But to do that we must understand, appreciate and respect the fact that a large number of people in our society have much passion and aspiration to religious values. To ignore religion and the values for which it stands is therefore to ignore their innermost desire and fundamental human right to exist in the way they perceive to be right.

For me, the benefits of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism to Britain and British society can be invaluable only if they include the nuances of our multi-faith communities. From Scarman onwards, too many reports have missed the opportunity to address that important facet of Britishness. I am therefore deeply grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for his recent contribution by setting up a listening group to consider the issue of Muslims and Christians living together. No doubt the findings will be reported back to the right place.

I long for the day when a shalwar kamiz-wearing mother of two—or of four or five—walking in my neighbourhood in East London is identified not only with oppression, curries or terrorism but with the love and spiritual beauty that built the Taj Mahal, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul and the hanging gardens of Baghdad—I could continue with that list.

We have come of age. Our contribution to Britain cannot be overstated. Our children cannot continually be asked to prove their loyalty. If integration were to be assured by living together, speaking English and marrying in Britain, Stephen Lawrence would still be here, not where he is, and Kuddrus Ali would not be in a wheelchair. We have a grand track record of contribution to Britain. We now need institutions to do their job. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, states that eminently in his report.

If we are serious about the future of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-faith Britain, it is time for us to own up and invest now.

Photo of Lord Patel Lord Patel Crossbench 7:36 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for initiating this debate. I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Desai, that the name Patel is as British as one can get. No other name is more common in Britain.

Does the United Kingdom benefit from being a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society? Can anyone possibly argue that we do not? Yes, it may create problems, tension and a need to understand each other's cultures and values. That requires compromise from all of us and legislation to accommodate our being members of such a society. But there can be no doubt about whether multi-ethnic society benefits the United Kingdom.

I know a little personally about what multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society means. I am of Indian origin, born in Tanzania. My wife is English, born in Sheffield, but has lived nearly all her life in Scotland and thinks that she is now a Scot. I, too, have lived in Scotland for the past 42 years. I have a French son-in-law. That is a wonderful mix. If France beat England at rugby—unexpectedly—we join the celebrations. If Scotland wins the Five Nations Cup once, we remember it for ever. I hope that England will win the Test Match series in New Zealand.

Many noble Lords have spoken about the benefits of multi-ethnic society, but we have also heard how some of the ethnic minority citizens of our country feel undervalued and unfairly treated. The noble Lords, Lord Parekh and Lord Chan, both referred to the contributions of ethnic minority doctors and nurses. Our health service would collapse if it did not have a large number of doctors and nurses working in primary care and in hospitals, mostly from the so-called developing world.

Many of those doctors work in inner-city areas and, in the case of general practitioners, often single-handed and poorly supported. Most have been here for nearly all their lives. In hospitals, they mostly work in non-consultant career grades, despite their experience and competence, and in unpopular specialties. Many feel discriminated against and are unable to fight the culture of paternalism and the old boy network. Somehow, rules and regulations imposed either by government or professional bodies end up disadvantaging them. That problem needs to be recognised and something needs to be done if we are to continue to value those doctors and nurses and they are to feel that they are fairly treated. In the context of today's debate, I must say that those doctors and nurses bring immense benefits to our country.

The health of people from the ethnic minorities—particularly inequalities in health—is another issue that must be addressed. We must consider the relevance of evidence-based medicine, the translation of knowledge of ethnic minority health into NHS practice and the impact of public health policy on minority ethnic communities. Diseases such as coronary heart disease, strokes and cancer and mental ill health affect ethnic groups differently. Culture, biology and environment affect the incidence of disease, but it is important that we make sure that healthcare delivery does not produce inequalities. Currently, there is a great deal of inequality in the care of people from minorities who suffer from ill health. We need better ethnic monitoring of NHS databases to quantify service use accurately, and we must study the quality of the care offered to ethnic minorities.

The hour is late, and much has already been said. I shall not prolong the debate. Most members of ethnic minorities regard themselves as citizens of this country and wish to play a full role in its development. However, they also wish for fair treatment.

Photo of Lord Clarke of Hampstead Lord Clarke of Hampstead Labour 7:41 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Parekh for giving us such a good opportunity to discuss and call attention to the benefits of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism to Britain.

Last summer, we witnessed civil disturbances in several towns in the North of England. One of the towns affected was Burnley, which has been mentioned once or twice. Noble Lords may be aware that I had the privilege of heading the task force set up to look into what happened in Burnley last June and make recommendations that could help to prevent a re-occurrence. Unlike other reports, the report of the Burnley task force was the creation of Burnley people, through the local authority. I was approached to be the independent, voluntary chair of the task force. When I took on the job, I did not realise how long it would take or the amount of work that it would entail. The report is lengthy and contains numerous recommendations.

During those three days in June, young people from the white and Asian communities confronted each other in violent clashes. It is a little surprising, when we think about the event in the early hours of the morning that started it all. An Asian cab driver, who was going home, was dragged out of his cab and bludgeoned with a hammer. He was left bleeding on the road. We can all deplore what happened, but we must try to understand the motivations that led to those clashes.

The report of the task force was published just before Christmas. In the limited time that I have, I shall say a few words about some of the issues addressed by the task force that are relevant to this evening's discussions. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, used the keynote words "cohesion" and "integration". As a task force, our key word was "listening". We listened to the people of Burnley, who had experienced the dreadful occurrences.

A questionnaire was sent to 45,000 households in the borough—every household. The report is in the Library, and noble Lords can find the questions in it. The significant thing is that we had a 10 per cent response rate, so the task force's conclusions can be seen as representing the views of the people who took the trouble to respond. There were public meetings and parish meetings. The task force met almost every councillor, including the leaders of all the political parties represented on the local authority. Almost 250 letters and e-mails were received from individuals, and there were detailed submissions from many voluntary and statutory organisations.

The consultation exercise has been described as a model for finding out what people thought—rather than what we, as politicians and civic leaders thought—and what issues needed to be addressed. Among the 84 recommendations in the report were a number that dealt with community relations. The consultation showed clearly that there was much more work to be done if we were properly to enjoy the benefits of multi-culturalism that we have heard about during the debate. I speak about Burnley, but I am confident that what we discovered can be found in other parts of the country.

Progress towards better understanding between our differing cultures is obstructed by the racist and grossly offensive activities of far Right organisations. I make no apology for bringing that into the debate. Such organisations are active in Burnley and, no doubt, in other places. An examination of the appalling leaflets and comments that are widely circulated in Burnley—circulated this very week—by such organisations will show that they are deliberately framed in inflammatory language. They seek to make minority ethnic groups the scapegoats for the economic and social deprivation that is evident in parts of Burnley. Such activity is not confined to the Daneshouse/Stoneyholme area of Burnley, it is also evident in south-west Burnley. People's fears are being stoked up by the stuff that is coming through the door. When my noble friend the Minister replies, I hope that he will confirm that local police forces are encouraged to use all their powers to enforce the parts of the Race Relations Act 1976 that are in place to deal with those responsible for the production and distribution of such dreadful publications.

Our consultation showed that local authorities and statutory organisations must improve their communication with the public, especially with regard to providing the reasons and conditions for funding neighbourhood renewal. In particular, when that form of funding is allocated to areas with significant numbers of families from ethnic minorities, such bodies must make it clear why the money is going in that direction. They must not leave it to the Right-wing groups to say that it is unfair distribution of the nation's wealth. That need was illustrated time and time again. The propaganda and distortions of the far Right had, in many instances, fallen on fertile ground. Votes of 20 per cent were recorded for what I would describe as neo-fascist organisations in local and other elections. We must heed the warning, if we are to stop such things recurring.

I hope that I have not given the impression that the people of Burnley are despondent. Overwhelmingly, they are full of hope and determination to overcome what happened. I wish that there was more time to speak about the wonderful people who served on the task force. There were five youngsters—three from the Asian community—the Bishop of Burnley, the Right Reverend John Goddard, and an imam, Jihan Ali. They made sterling efforts to draw people together and were with me at each public meeting, where we were able to counter some of the terrible stuff that people were reading from leaflets that had been circulated by far Right groups. The imam and the bishop are now organising regular meetings between the churches and mosques to further the ideal of multi-racial harmony in Burnley.

I met schoolchildren, some of whom have since visited the House. They were receptive to my suggestion for exchanges between schools—maybe a day's exchange, to start with, or maybe for a week or a term—so that people can learn about one another's culture and the way in which other people live. They were very receptive to that. It is essential that we do something of that kind to remove ignorance and fear. Our young people must be given help to do what they want to do. I shall quote from a programme drawn up as a result of the work of the task force. Under "Other things we want", they list,

"Burnley Youth Theatre to create a performing arts project involving young Asian and white men . . . more integrated/residential youth work . . . more visits to each other's Youth Clubs . . . more training to help Youth Workers to help them tackle racist issues . . . the employment of more minority ethnic Youth Workers".

There is a list of things that young people have suggested should be done. The House would be well advised to take note of what is being said by young people in places such as Burnley, learn from it and do our utmost to ensure that what they ask for becomes a reality.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 7:50 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, we have come to the concluding part of this debate. Perhaps I may say first how much I welcome the opportunity to participate in a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Parekh. It is certainly timely.

I shall listen very carefully to what the Minister has to say in his response, but suffice it to say at this stage that those of us who participated in the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain were offended by the government response to our deliberations when the report was first published. I do not wish to rehearse those arguments again, except to say that the commission was made up of 22 distinguished individuals drawn from many community backgrounds and from different walks of life, all with a long record of active theoretical and practical engagement with race-related issues in Britain and elsewhere. Many of the report's recommendations are as valid today as they were when it was published. It was sad to see that the Government were quick to dismiss it simply because they were uncomfortable with a number of the findings.

I hope that that will not be the case today, because the debate has attracted contributions from such distinguished speakers of diverse cultural backgrounds. I suspect that this may well be the first occasion in the history of your Lordships' House that speakers from no fewer than nine ethnic minorities have contributed to a single debate. I shall start by saying that we need to move away from saris, samosas and spices and look seriously at the issues confronting the minorities in this country.

Britain has always been a nation of migrants. Migration and the global economy are interrelated. Evidence shows that economically-driven migration can bring substantial overall economic benefits both for growth and for the economy. Just take the example of the United States of America. The huge recent inflow of migrants, estimated at 11 million during the 1990s, has been a key to sustaining America's longest ever economic boom. The same is true of our economy. Let us not lose sight of the fact that migration to the United Kingdom is based on economic factors benefiting both the individual and the state. We cannot sustain a global economy by being Little Englanders.

Perhaps I may add a few statistics to those produced by the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, in his contribution. The recent census figures are yet to be published, but it is accepted that just over 7 per cent of the UK population is made up of the ethnic minorities. Immigration to the United Kingdom has never been a planned process. Most minorities have settled in Britain's major cities and conurbations. Over 70 per cent of the combined ethnic minorities are to be found in London, the South East and the West Midlands. Add to that some unique characteristics of the ethnic minority communities: in the United Kingdom population as a whole, women outnumber men, but it is quite the reverse in ethnic communities, where men outnumber women.

When we look at multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism, we have to look at other relevant factors. For example, the ethnic minorities belong to many diverse religions, as has already been pointed out by a number of noble Lords. Family structures vary among the different groups, as do language, employment practices and a number of other relevant factors.

Today's debate offers us an opportunity to examine ethnicity and multi-culturalism by taking into account events following the publication of the Runnymede report and also the conclusions reached by the Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Much has happened since. We have had disturbances in our northern towns of Burnley, Oldham and Bradford. Damilola Taylor was brutally murdered. We see the impact of black on black crime. We have to accept that the world will never be the same after the events of 11th September in America. It is most important that the debate does not lose sight of this changing situation.

No one should underestimate the value placed by the minorities on their ethnicity and in their belief in multi-culturalism, yet there is confusion in government circles. It is evident that we are prepared to pay lip service to the objective of an integrated society without qualifying our stance on these important values.

I have gone through some previous government reports. The concept of multi-culturalism in 1965 was qualified by a number of concerns. One report stated that:

"It must be recognised that the presence in this country of nearly 1 million immigrants from the Commonwealth with different social and cultural backgrounds raises a number of problems and various social tensions in those areas where they are concentrated".

That is as true in 2002 as it was in 1965. It is clear that assumptions that have been made over the past 50 years have not been realised. Even before my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, then the Home Secretary, defined "integration" not as a flattening process of assimilation but as one of equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance, policy makers had assumed that Britain was a true melting pot, that all the many racial, cultural and religious groups would be assimilated into a new whole—a single nation with shared ideals, attitudes and values.

But how wrong can we all be? Black and Asian groups have to a great extent retained their identities. Of course we now have cultural pluralism, but unlike previous migrations, this one is different because it is supplemented by the visual identity of the individuals. This confusion has continued from the days of early migration. The government stance in the 1960s had been based on the assumption that the Commonwealth immigrants would be absorbed into our community and that the good sense of the British people would prevail.

What we have failed to do is to reinforce among the population the fact that ethnicity and multi-culturalism should not mean the loss of national characteristics and culture. We do not need a melting pot, which would deprive us of most of the benefits of immigration, which are very great indeed.

Cultures do not remain static and communities change. Conflict often occurs over matters of gender, generation, religion, language and a community's relationship with the wider society. There is nothing to be frightened about. We are already witnessing fusion in music, the arts, fashion and sport. The new emerging culture will be exciting and, to an extent, it will lessen the need to put too much emphasis on ethnicity and multi-culturalism. That is why we require leadership at every level. We look to the Government and political parties to provide that leadership.

The United Kingdom has an enviable record on race legislation. The principle of equality before the law is rightly embedded in our legislation. But as my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill has often pointed out, we should not be too carried away but should understand the narrow limits of this principle. The 1965, 1968 and 1976 Race Relations Acts, along with the most recent Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, have all helped, but they have not removed inequalities. Now, with human rights legislation in place, is it not time to look again at an equality commission based on a similar model to that established in Northern Ireland?

I wish to emphasise that, despite over 60 years of settlement of black and Asian communities in the United Kingdom, race relations still remain very fragile and many of the issues affecting those communities are discussed on an emotional basis. We live in a fair and just society and all reasonable people would condemn racism and racial discrimination, but we still find that many of the practices we adopt may lead to precisely such outcomes.

Let me add that it is not so much what the law or a declaration specifically says as our general underlying attitudes and values which, as they are held and expressed, are of such importance for our social well-being. Equality should never be undermined. In the final analysis, the emphasis in any policy determination should be the manner in which and the extent to which minorities' deepest feelings about their race, colour, national or ethnic origins are truly accepted within the community and by the policy makers.

For as long as I can remember, I have expressed my concerns about the rights of the minorities: the right to live in peace, to receive an education, to get a job, to raise a family free from fear and, above all, the right to be treated fairly, without reference to race, colour, national or ethnic origins. These are the issues at the core of everything that needs to be done. They stand at the heart of every issue. No longer can a society endure in peace, really live with itself, really prosper in all ways, if in that society discriminatory practices still persist.

A number of issues now cry out for planned economic immigration to the United Kingdom: a shortage of labour, an ageing society and a diminishing workforce. Last night I attended a dinner hosted by the Asian Business Association. One in 10 businesses in London is now Asian owned. There are potentially huge economic benefits. Their record in providing service is second to none. A few isolated incidents of misdemeanours cannot take away the vibrant economy that the migrant community has created. Many of them are now contributing to charitable causes in the United Kingdom. This is the acceptable face of the ethnic communities in Britain.

Of course, to many of us, particularly the first generations, the challenge will be frightening. Look at what our youngsters are rejecting—class, élitism and conformity. But look at what we are gaining—interdependence, self-reliance, openness, liberty, diversity and pluralism.

It is evident that there is a conflict between the concept of what is appropriate and what is required. But, more fundamentally, after 50 years of settlement here we should be asking some pertinent questions. What kind of society do we want to take forward into the new century and the new millennium?

I am running out of time, but let me quote a politician whom I have always admired for his stand on race relations—the late Lord Boyle of Handsworth. He said:

"Political wisdom consists of trying to narrow the gap between the value which men and women place on their own personalities and the value placed on them by the community in which they live; furthermore no community can afford for long to deny the application of this principle to racial minorities as well".

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative 8:01 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for introducing the debate, I hope that he is very pleased with the result. I can count only eight out of the 19 contributors to the debate who might be called "English".

It is a considerable tribute to the development of both this country and Parliament that in this, the most traditional of all parts of the great British Parliament, there is a minority of English people to debate the important question of a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. I include in those remarks the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, who is Welsh. He and a number of other speakers—including the noble Lord, Lord Parekh—took the opening part of my speech from me in the sense that they all commented on the fact that Britain is not, and never has been, a homogeneous society. It has always been a diverse society of different races and different peoples. We know about the Scots and the Welsh, but I am never quite sure whether or not the Irish consider themselves British. Certainly a number of them do. We have not handled that problem well and I hope that on this side of the Irish Sea, at least, we can do rather better.

The big change in the world and in British society generally has happened over the past 50 years. Up until then it was not possible physically for large numbers of people to move easily about the world with any expedition and comfort. Since that time the world has become a very different place. Indeed, some say that transport is too available and that we move too easily. I do not have a problem with that. As the debate has shown, British society generally has developed and gained as a result of that change.

However, one point needs to be noted; that is, that if you change things too rapidly you create stress. This does not always happen as a result of changes in race or culture; it happens if you change very rapidly communities which are all of one race and culture anyway. Noble Lords should come to some of my towns and villages in Essex which have seen their populations double, treble and quadruple in a very short space of time—literally in three or four years—and see the tensions that that can create. While we do have some problems as a result of what has happened, this country has been very successful in dealing with these matters—although of course there are certain localities where there is stress.

I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, for picking up on an important aspect of what is happening in this country; that is, that we must take care not to lose the essential character that has made it worthwhile for people to come here in the first place.

It is often said that this country does not have a constitution. I have always said that it does. The constitution is the body of the law. In addition to that, we have the common law on which the body of the law is based. The trouble with that kind of constitution is that we, as legislators, are constantly changing our constitution.

But that also is beneficial in this context because it has brought us the race relations and other kinds of legislation which try very hard—I pay tribute to legislators of all political parties in this regard—to treat everyone as equally as can reasonably be done. But it is an evolutionary process and that is why we, as legislators, continue in business.

The noble Lord, Lord Chan, referred to a point, which I found interesting and which caused me some concern, when he mentioned the changing attitude to immigration in Europe. The demographers—for whom we should have great respect and of whom we should take great note—have been showing for some time that the population in western Europe will very soon decline. Therefore it is tempting for us, as a developed part of the world, to say that we should—and, indeed, can—rectify some of the problems that that will cause by bringing in people from other parts of the world.

That is perfectly true—but the demographers show that the global population will also go into decline. That of itself will create a different level of problem. It will mean that if we continue to accept wide numbers of people into our developed communities—as it is perfectly reasonable in every liberal sense to do—we shall be doing so at the expense of the rest of the world. That causes my conscience some problems.

I throw that in for what it is worth because it is something about which we need to think. It will have its impact on the problem we are discussing because, as has been said by many noble Lords, the health service, in particular, and many other aspects of our lives are now dependent on people who are not of immediate English extraction. But we have disadvantaged people within those communities who could—I hope we will have an opportunity to make this happen—begin to fill the requirements of society which we are already generating. We need to think very carefully about this problem before we start to find solutions from outside our own boundaries. I have always been of the view that we can do far more to help ourselves.

The education service was mentioned. It has its successes and its failures. I hope that the right reverend Prelates will not be upset when I say that I have some difficulty with church schools—partly because in my office I sit next to a colleague who has too much experience of Northern Ireland, where the faith schools have been so rigid that they are not a cure for the problem. Again, that is a situation that one would wish to see improved; but we need to examine these issues with great care.

In the end, the solution to the problems of our multi-ethnic society—I prefer that phrase to "multi-cultural", because we cannot as individuals be multi-cultural; we can only understand—if solution there be, will come through understanding, tolerance and mutual respect. If we can develop those characteristics, Britain will become an even better society than it is today. They are characteristics that cannot be developed by law. We can develop them by means of debates such as the one we have had today.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, Government Whip, Government Whip 8:11 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for introducing the debate and for stimulating what has been one of the most diverse, interesting and fascinating discussions on a report that I have ever had the privilege to listen to. It is always said that during our debates there are particular distinguished contributions. This time, all the contributions have been distinguished. They have dealt with many different aspects, not merely of the Parekh report, but of our national life, our cultural life and the problems that we confront: the issues of racism, the violence that exists in some of our inner-city areas, the passion with which people raise these issues and the central importance of understanding race and multi-culturalism in the 21st century.

I have made extensive notes. I do not know whether they are of value, but they help me to draw together some of the threads. I want to refer to some of the comments made by noble Lords on their experiences. I was particularly interested in the account by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, of his experience working in the communities where he was an elected representative and in the points that he made about residential separation and the complexities of developing communities with greater integration through housing strategies. Those were important comments. They reflect the difficulty of creating the social cohesion which the report of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has at its core.

I was impressed, too, by the remarks made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford about his understanding of the community in which he works, and how he had to develop a whole new knowledge of a faith; and how, through that work, he had come to the conclusion that faith schools, notwithstanding some of the difficulties and challenges with which they confront us, were not part of the problem but were, in fact, part of the solution. He felt that much progress had been made in the last year since the disturbances in Bradford.

The noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, made some telling comments about the lack of cohesion, as she saw it, in the overall policy direction of the Government with regard to dealing with multi-culturalism and the challenges that it provides. She spoke of the importance of providing good analysis and drawing on that so that cohesive strategies were developed. Importantly, she spoke of the value of leadership in that field.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, drew on his experiences in the United States, and asked us to look at the value of positive discrimination. Clearly, that is part of the wider agenda.

The noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, reflected on some of the values that had been developed and the progress that had been made in his own work at the Ethnic Minority Foundation. He made an important point about the need to build community capacity in many ethnic minority organisations. In this area, government departments have a vital role to play. I was pleased to hear that he felt that government organisations were engaged in that role, because of the recognition that they give and the funding that they provide, so that many of those organisations can fulfil important service activity.

The noble Lord, Lord Morgan, reminded us of the distinct contribution of Welshness. He pointed to the ironies of Arsenal football team and its fan base not perhaps perfectly reflecting each other—although, in defence of Arsenal, I would say that the club has a very pro-active attitude to engaging fans from the immediate locality and ensuring that ethnic minorities do not feel excluded in that football ground. I pay tribute to the club for the value of that work.

The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, reminded us—if we needed reminding—of the wisdom in the report. He made an interesting argument about the separation of faith and law being one of the vital, critical features of civic society.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, was a dissenting voice in the debate—nevertheless, as ever, an interesting and challenging one. The notion that the noble Lord could ever escape certain aspects of his personal identity is one that I find particularly challenging, as I am sure do most Members of this House.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester referred to the point in the report about communities, recognising that and drawing ideas and inspiration from it. He spoke also about the role of the Church and its understanding of multi-culturalism. He made the point that Europe was more of a religious concept than a geographical entity. I shall certainly pass that piece of wisdom on to my son as he struggles with his geography lessons. It was an interesting point.

The speech which I personally found most interesting, and one that I want to read, was that of the noble Baroness, Lady Rendell. I shall study it with great interest. She referred to the neglect in terms of understanding the contribution by writers from a whole range of ethnic backgrounds to our culture and to our understanding of other cultures. We should not otherwise have had the benefit of hearing those points.

I was impressed, too, by the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Chan, on the positive aspects of migration and the way in which demographers are looking at migratory shifts across Europe and the challenges that western economies, and the German economy in particular, are beginning to meet in examining the strengths and weaknesses in their labour markets.

The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, made an interesting set of observations about the process of change needing greater candour and honesty as we confront and develop our multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-ethnic community. The noble Baroness made a plea for the debate on multi-culturalism to move out of the cul-de-sac and liberate itself from its current confines.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, reminded us of the complexities not only of his own family structure and national loyalties, but of the profound contribution that ethnic minorities make to our health service—a health service which, without their support, work, endeavour and imagination—would indeed suffer greatly.

I listened with great interest to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, with his hands-on experience of the Burnley task force. I was most impressed by the quality of the work that went into that report, its depth of understanding, and its approach in seeking to listen to the communities of Burnley with their different problems.

There is a point that needs re-stating; namely, the importance of taking on and confronting far Right incitement to racial hatred. Of course the Government deplore and condemn the activities of the far Right extremists who actively exploit the fears which sometimes divide communities. We have given the police every encouragement and support in prosecuting all types of incitement to racial hatred. Many far Right groups are cunning and stay just inside the law in many of their activities. They probably take careful legal advice in the way in which they attempt to whip up racial hatred and incitement through innuendo.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the anti-terrorism legislation that was passed before Christmas made important changes to the law on incitement to racial hatred. That Act increased the maximum penalty from two to seven years' imprisonment, which is a measure of the seriousness with which we regard those offences. The Act also extended their scope to include hatred directed at groups abroad. We shall continue vigilantly to monitor the activities of far right organisations—not just because we should but because it is right to do so.

Racism has deeper roots. For all the efforts of the far right, we need a broader understanding of the part that race plays in our national life. The Government are determined to lead the national debate on community relations, shared values and identity—something that comes from the lessons of the Parekh report, in the way that it looked at the future of a multi-ethnic Britain and called for a re-evaluation of our national identity to find a common definition of what it means to be British today. We need an identity that can be shared and experienced by all members of our society. It is critically important to recognise the contribution made by the many different communities that make up the United Kingdom.

Britain has been transformed over the past two decades into a truly multi-cultural country. The contributions made by black and Asian Britons, as well as by people with Irish, European and other backgrounds, is plain to see daily. People from minority backgrounds contribute to industry, the public sector and the work of local authorities as well as to charities and culture—despite the discrimination that undoubtedly remains and prevents many people from making the contributions of which they are capable.

The Parekh report made an insightful and valuable contribution to the vision of a modern multi-cultural society. The Government place on record and welcome the contribution that the commission has made and can make in future. I know that the previous Home Secretary was extremely impressed by the report's detailed analysis and its recommendations. Last year, some 70 of the report's 130 recommendations were already part of government policy and thinking, which is an indication of the report's relevance. The idea of a "community of communities" is highly pertinent to the current debate about social cohesion and identity.

At the time of the report's publication, the Home Secretary commented that it highlighted the need for government resources to strengthen communities. One could add in parenthesis that the disturbances that followed in the summer were perhaps a demonstration of that need. We have put in that extra resource.

When communities do not feel that they are bonded by common values and principles, we will see something of the segregation and distrust that contributed to the disturbances in some of our northern towns last year. It is as important as ever to emphasise the positive aspects of multi-culturalism and to create an environment in which all communities can thrive. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 provides a robust framework for the Government and all public bodies in anticipating and preventing racial discrimination in our service to the public. That legislation will be supplemented by efforts across government, co-ordinated by the Home Office, to ensure that public bodies promote community cohesion.

We recognise that central, regional and local government and non-governmental organisations have a duty to promote a strong and pluralistic society in which cultural differences are appreciated and seen as a benefit to communities. If we do not take into account the diverse needs of the many groups that make up our communities and harness their potential, we as a nation will be the worse for it.

The Parekh report contained a wealth of ideas for tackling problems and making race equality a core issue for our public services and other national institutions. Many of the report's suggestions—particularly for monitoring performance, consulting with minority ethnic communities and taking a more structured approach to mainstreaming race equality—are being introduced or have been achieved in part through the implementation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, though not necessarily in the precise terms of the report.

Regret has been expressed at unfortunate press comments at the time of the Parekh report's publication, which focussed on one narrow aspect and deflected attention from the report's many positive and constructive contributions to the broader debate. We must challenge racism and discrimination if we are to achieve a wholly successful multi-cultural society. I draw strength from some of the work by the Burnley task force, which seeks to mainstream infrastructure changes that need to be made, so that we can fairly deliver on promises about achieving equality.

The police, local authorities and other local service providers, regeneration partnerships, employers in the public and private sectors and the Government must work together to respond to the needs of all the people that make up the communities that we seek to serve.

I can probably deal with four or five of the six specific questions that my noble friend Lord Parekh put to me. He asked about our vision of a multi-cultural society. We seek to ensure that multi-culturalism is supported and have for that reason developed funding schemes and streams across the country that try to connect communities and make them more self-confident.

We have tried also, particularly in the wake of September 11th, to provide more support and encouragement to Muslim communities, which felt themselves under pressure following that event. We have sought to ensure that our consultations with representatives of Britain's many and diverse faith communities reflect their vision of multi-culturalism.

Historically, the Government have looked at citizenship issues. A programme is being developed as part of the national curriculum to encourage young people to consider controversial issues and to challenge traditional stereotypes. That programme will play an important part in addressing some of the issues highlighted by my noble friend's report and his questions.

We want to promote into employment far more members of the many and diverse ethnic minority communities. Target percentages have been set by the Cabinet Office for each department of state and they must be met by 2005. Great progress has been made towards that. I know from personal experience that the matter has been tackled with some vigour within the police service, and each force area now has a precise target which it must achieve.

The Government are also seeking to promote ethnic minorities into senior Civil Service positions. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 introduced a new and enforceable duty on more than 25,000 key public bodies to promote race equality. It will also require them to prevent acts of race discrimination before they occur. The Community Cohesion Panel, to which the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, also referred, has not as yet been appointed, but its appointments will shortly be announced. The appointments will be determined by John Denham, the responsible Minister.

The process itself has been complicated. The Government have therefore sought to identify and contact a wide range of potential panel members, and to look at their range of experience in community relations and their knowledge of the issues raised by the disturbances. The Government have also looked at the many diverse reports on the issue, particularly that of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh. The objective is that the panel itself will support communities and advise government on the issues which were very usefully highlighted in the Parekh report.

I should like in closing to remind the House of how far we have come. Britain is a multi-cultural society. As the Parekh report makes clear, however, that is something that has not always been recognised in its institutions. People from ethnic minorities have made a massive contribution to Britain's prosperity and culture over many years despite the barriers of discrimination and racism. The Government have an active race equality agenda aimed at eliminating discrimination from public services. The recent legislation provides a robust framework to achieve those aims, and it is vital that we engage with communities to achieve the objectives set out in that legislation and secure meaningful change.

The reports commissioned following the disturbances in the North of England along with the Parekh report and the report by the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, regarding community relations in Bradford give us plenty of ammunition, food for thought and scope for further action. That whole set of issues is now being addressed as part of an action programme. Support is increasingly being given to public bodies to implement the race equality agenda. That is a job that requires not only positive thought, but action from every part of government and the private sector. Britain is enriched by the wide range of cultures and races represented in the modern British people. What we have to do is ensure that we reflect that fantastic diversity and celebrate and give voice to the new and emerging British culture so that we can satisfy and address the needs of all of our citizens. I believe that we can do that, and that all our citizens will be enabled to make a greater contribution to our national life.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, for his report. It has stimulated an amazingly good quality of debate. I only wish that I was halfway adequate in responding to the very many interesting points that have emerged during the course of this evening's deliberations.

Photo of Lord Parekh Lord Parekh Labour 8:32 pm, 20th March 2002

My Lords, following the excellent tradition of your Lordships' House, I shall be extremely brief. I thank all noble Lords and Baronesses who have spoken in this excellent three-hour debate. They have been most generous with their time and ideas and placed me and your Lordships' House in their permanent debt. I am a little disappointed that we have not had anyone from the Conservative Benches other than my friend Lord Dixon-Smith, but I suppose that Wednesday evening is not a good time for those on the other Benches. We shall have to bear that in mind for next time.

I also thank my noble friends Lord Bhatia, Lord Morgan, Lord Chan, Lord Dahrendorf, Lord Dholakia, Lady Prashar and the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Bradford and the Bishop of Chester for making extremely kind and generous references to my report. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Bassam for the extremely generous, courageous and kind words about the work that many of us put into that report. I am particularly delighted that he should have set the record straight and spoken well of the report. I am reassured.

My final remark is about my noble friend Lord Desai. He wondered about the vocabulary in which we have articulated our topic for debate, namely multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism. All I can tell him is that we are all born encumbered with multiple identities which stay with us until the end of our lives. We emerge as full human beings not by discarding them but by expanding them and critically reinterpreting them. Given that that is the case, ethnicity and culture will always remain part of our lives. They will therefore always remain subjects of public as well as philosophical discussions. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.