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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

That is perfectly true—he was there as the local MP—and, in fairness, I think Diane Abbott was there soon after, as was the Prime Minister. Political leadership is important, but that faith dimension is very important to note. But the noble Lord is absolutely right: he was there.

The same is true of the Manchester Arena attack, with communities coming together. In fact, there was interfaith activity after all of the attacks we have had, which is very important and signals what can, and often does, happen regularly—in difficult, and not so difficult, times. This often happens around food, dance, music and sport; coming together and becoming friends and allies.

Let me just say something about social media, which is a massive challenge, and which many noble Lords referred to—the noble Lords, Lord Triesman and Lord Desai, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay all referred to it. I was very interested in talking to HOPE not hate and, like the noble Lord, Lord Hain, I pay tribute to the work it does, as well as to Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card. They all do great work. I was interested in what it said about the massive amount of damage that can be done by a few lone wolves, often sitting in a bedsit, sending out this stuff on social media. The ability to tackle that, acting nationally, locally and globally, is a real challenge. Some organisations such as Google are doing good work, but others need to step up to the plate somewhat more. It is a real challenge and, again, we are trying to deal with that across parties and across Government.

There are a couple of things I would like to touch on briefly in this very limited time. In the autumn, the Government will come forward with the integration action plan, which relates to the earlier White Paper, indicating things that are important. One of those, which was touched on, was the importance of the English language. That is of key significance and makes a real difference. It perhaps ties in with what some noble Lords were saying about the need for positive action in communities to help with some of the issues that confront us.

We have social action programmes. I referred previously to the Hate Crime Action Plan and mentioned the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. Perhaps I may also mention the race disparity audit, the Prime Minister’s initiative to issue data across government on outcomes for different races. I appreciate that I have moved away from religion, but it is important to see where we are in the fields of health, education and housing in relation to different racial groups. When you have the data, which you cannot really disagree with, you then have to do something about it. We are in the process of doing that and some actions will be announced this month. They will take place on an ongoing basis, which is also important.

Perhaps I may mention one other key point. Action by government, local authorities and institutions is important, but so too—this came out at the meeting I had this morning when talking to a young Muslim teacher—are role models, not just at the local level, such as the doctor, the teacher, the accountant or the person who runs a small business, but nationally. I often say that Mo Farah, Nasser Hussain, Natasha Kaplinsky and so on probably do far more than government programmes could ever hope to do—certainly, they do it in a different way—and we should recognise that too.

In conclusion, I accept that political action is needed in all parties on behalf of all individuals, and we all have a responsibility to step up to the plate. It sticks in my craw that my fellow countrymen and women fear the tap on the shoulder and have a packed suitcase ready. Many across different faiths worry that they are not welcome in their own country—a country they were not born to but have lived in and a country they love. This is frankly outrageous and not acceptable. As politicians—whether it is Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn or anybody else—we have a responsibility to provide leadership across the country, because such a situation is fundamentally wrong and totally contrary to what makes this country great, and we must not tolerate it. Indeed, we will not tolerate it. I thank noble Lords for taking part in this debate.

Motion agreed.