Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:44 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State 1:44 pm, 20th June 2019

In the interests of time, I will not give way, but I am happy to meet the noble Baroness, as she knows.

This relationship is an important one, as with any country—I mentioned Malaysia earlier. We must stress in our bilateral exchanges that where we disagree with a country, we will raise it. We will continue to invest in our relationships worldwide. It is the strength of those relationships that allows us to challenge on certain issues.

I turn to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. As my noble friend Lord Pickles reminded us, the UK was among the first to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism in 2016. We value the definition because it illustrates specific examples of behaviour that may be anti-Semitic. This means that while it is not legally binding, it is a useful tool for criminal justice agencies and other public bodies in understanding how anti-Semitism manifests itself in the world today. It also helps combat Holocaust denial, in an age of indifference to objective truth. For these reasons, we are lobbying others to adopt the definition. My noble friend Lord Pickles has been especially active in this area, recently mentoring Australia on its journey to join this alliance.

My noble friends Lord Sheikh and Lord Gold raised specific questions about online abuse. I agree that religious intolerance spreads quickly and globally online. The Government recognises the extent of this threat. I assure noble Lords that we are working with internet providers and other Governments to regulate social media, shut down hate speech and protect users. For example, in November 2018, we supported an international experts’ conference which looked at anti-Semitic abuse online, particularly against women. We are currently working with the Antisemitism Policy Trust on this very issue.

My noble friend Lady Berridge asked about the G20 agenda for the meeting which will take place later this month in Japan. The specific issue of online harms is certainly being looked at. I will also raise the issue that she raised about anti-Semitism, which I am sure will feature in the margins of that meeting.

My noble friend Lord Polak asked a simple question about how we come together on collective action. He will know from our conversations that I have a simple answer to his question: yes, of course I agree. In his powerful contribution, he talked about how communities can achieve the outcomes that we desire only by acting together.

The noble Lords, Lord Harris of Haringey and Lord Campbell-Savours, talked about the domestic challenges. We must acknowledge the global nature of the problem, while knowing that there are actions we can take at home. The Government have maintained a close relationship with Jewish communities through the cross-government working group to tackle anti-Semitism. We have committed £14 million to the protective security grant to keep Jewish schools and institutions safe. I hold regular faith round tables, at which Jewish and other faith leaders join me to discuss current issues and emerging concerns.

I am sure I speak for many in your Lordships’ Chamber when I pay particular tribute to our Prime Minister, Mrs May. When my right honourable friend was Home Secretary, I saw the passion and conviction she had for ensuring that those funds were not just protected and sustained but strengthened. I am sure that, in time, history will judge her for the important role that she played in tackling anti-Semitism.