Religious Intolerance and Prejudice - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:04 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 10:04 pm, 17th October 2018

One might say, “To a degree, Lord Copper”. I will not defend his use of language but I think the noble Lord would agree that the structural issue in the leadership of the Labour Party is different from that. I accept that there are issues that need addressing. They are being investigated in the party and I hope an appropriate conclusion will be reached.

If I may move on, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, spoke about Holocaust denial, which is important, and important too in the context of genocide denial. My noble friend Lord Cormack spoke about the need for balance. I agree with that and about the importance of freedom of speech, and with much of what the most reverend Primate said about it, except that freedom of speech cannot exist in a vacuum. Nobody has the right to go into a crowded theatre and cry “Fire!” during a performance. That would be freedom of speech but there are laws to protect against it and I am sure that neither Voltaire nor Stephen Hawking would disagree with that. This has to be in the context that many people who fear greatly for the future of this country and their position in it are protected against some of the things happening in our country at the moment.

I too applaud the Church of England for adopting the definition of anti-Semitism, as many other institutions have done—our Government were the first in the world to do so. On Islamophobia, I applaud once again the work done by my noble friend Lady Warsi—Yorkshirewoman of the year, as announced by our Yorkshireman, my noble friend Lord Pickles. I seem to have had a rather Yorkshire day today, with a question on Yorkshire too. The noble Baroness is formidable and I am pleased about the work that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia has been doing on the definition. As I think she knows, I have refreshed the membership of what is currently the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group—a bit of a mouthful. It has a strong membership, well led by Akeela Ahmed. It will be looking at the definition of Islamophobia and, as it is revamped with new life injected into it, a proper budget and proper work schedule, it will be looking at different aspects of Islamophobia and how we can help in that regard.

That should not, however, be at the expense of neglecting other communities. We meet representatives of the Sikh community regularly, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Singh, would acknowledge. I accept that they too are subject to attacks and prejudice, and that must not be forgotten.