Terrorist Attack: New Zealand - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:46 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 6:46 pm, 18th March 2019

I thank the noble Baroness for her comments. To start with her last point, I understood that some of Generation Identity’s members were supposed to be speaking at an event last year in this country and that the organisers cancelled the event so that Generation Identity could not have a platform to spread its hate. None the less, the mainstream media invited a comment from it.

The White Paper is entirely the platform from which to discuss—effectively, it is a pre-consultation on the legislation—whether mainstream media should be included. Mainstream media should also get its religious literacy right. The noble Lord, Lord Singh, who is not in his place, always talks about it: people are very sloppy with language. We all have a responsibility to be careful about that. The noble Baroness talked about people saying things in the name of freedom of speech, but with freedom of speech comes the responsibility to not let hate take hold. I have often heard freedom of speech used as an excuse to mete out hate and division towards other people—wherever they might be, but particularly in communities where they seem to have a grip.

She also talked about Muslims living in fear—and Muslims are in fear. In Manchester on Friday, I felt a terrible sense of unease. However, there was a lovely vigil on Friday evening, where people of all faiths came together—it was really touching. While people were out celebrating St Patrick’s Day in one bit of Manchester, in another part, just nearby, everyone of any faith and none was coming together to think and pray for our friends in New Zealand.

The noble Baroness also talked about Prevent, which is as much about the far right as it is about Islamist extremism. In fact, we are absolutely cognisant of the referrals to Channel on that issue over the past couple of years having increased significantly, going from 30% to nearly 50% of all referrals. We cannot talk about Prevent without talking about the far right.