Minority Ethnic and Religious Communities: Cultural and Economic Contribution — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:53 pm on 24th May 2012.

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Photo of Lord Janner of Braunstone Lord Janner of Braunstone Labour 12:53 pm, 24th May 2012

My Lords, I am delighted to speak in this debate proposed by my great and brilliant noble friend Lord Bilimoria. It celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Zoroastrian Trust Fund, when the Parsees established their own community outside Mumbai, or Bombay, from where they originated. However, I also want to recognise other minorities who have also put their mark on this great country. We in Britain should be very proud of our country's diversity. Every town, city and region has both ethnic and religious communities that bring their culture to the places where they live. Just looking at the Houses of Parliament, especially in the House of Lords, we can see all different faiths and minorities working together. I am pleased to be a Member of one of them.

When I was Member of Parliament for a part of Leicester, it truly was-and continues to be-a very distinctive city. Although Christianity is the most practised religion in Leicester, there is a very large population of Indian origin, with more residents who are practising Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims in comparison with almost all of our other cities. There are also small, thriving Jewish and Buddhist communities. Each minority brings its own values and cultures to this city and to British traditions.

I have dedicated much of my life to the importance of ensuring that minorities are treated and respected with equality, because without understanding and respect, we have only got ignorance. I am proud to have founded the Coexistence Trust with Prince Hassan of Jordan, which is now chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell. It is an organisation that identifies and promotes trust and understanding for the growing Jewish and Muslim communities, emphasising our cultural and traditional similarities.

The contribution made by minority ethnic and religious communities to our culture and economy is outstanding and we should recognise and praise their input to this country. Were it not for the Indian community, we would not have one of our most famous cuisines in the UK. The famous British fish and chips were first introduced by eastern European Jewish immigrants, like my family, so we have made a contribution to this country. We must all recognise and celebrate our true diversity, continue to work with all our minorities in our fine country, and keep Britain a truly unique and wonderful place in which to live.