Hate Crime Against the LGBT+ Community

– in Westminster Hall at 4:36 pm on 18 October 2023.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development) 4:36, 18 October 2023

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the matter of hate crime against the LGBT+ community.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mrs Cummins. I sincerely thank all colleagues present for attending today’s debate. I draw attention to my membership of the all-party parliamentary group on global LGBT+ rights, my role as co-chair of the LGBT+ parliamentary Labour party and, sadly, my own experience as a victim of LGBT+ hate crime.

I begin by thanking Stonewall, Galop and many other national organisations that speak up on these issues. Locally, in my constituency, I think of groups such as Pride Cymru and Glitter Cymru. I also want to mention the LGBT+ Safe Spaces venues, from our clubs and pubs to inclusive religious venues, and places such as the Queer Emporium in Cardiff, not to mention their brave security staff and managers, for all they do to keep our communities safe and welcome.

The fact is that, despite all the legal progress we have made in this country and the rapidly changing and welcome debate, particularly among younger generations, this is a perilous and profoundly uncertain time for the LGBT+ community in the UK. I would never seek to downplay the even worse threats of death and violence, let alone the absence of basic legal rights in many other contexts globally, but I can genuinely say that we are not in a good place here and things are getting worse.

That view is not just anecdotal. It is borne out by clear evidence and trends that I will come on to, and is sadly borne out by the stark, horrific reality that we saw in the homophobic murder of kind, compassionate Dr Gary Jenkins in my city of Cardiff in 2021. We can all think back to the horrors of the Admiral Duncan bombing in 1999 and the Stephen Port murders in 2014 to 2015 in east London, and all the failures around how that case was handled.

We are all aware of ongoing and more recent incidents, but I am conscious of the House sub judice rule and I will, therefore, refrain from commenting on a number of them. I know that colleagues will want to take particular care on that matter.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I commend the hon. Gentleman for bringing this matter forward. Unfortunately, I cannot stay for the debate; I have already informed the hon. Gentleman that I have a prior appointment. As someone interested in human rights issues, I want to put on the record my condemnation of those who carry out hate crimes against anybody, wherever that happens. I fully support what the hon. Gentleman is putting forward, which I want to put on the record.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

I thank the hon. Member for his support, which is genuinely welcome. The cross-party group that we have here today reflects the wide concern across the House at recently released statistics.

I will refer to my own experiences, which are sadly all too common for others. I have been assaulted with a homophobic element in my own constituency in broad daylight. I have been told online by somebody that he would sort me and my issues out while I was at football, while posting pictures of me dressed up at Pride. I have been called a “faggot” while walking along Queen Street in Cardiff. Like many other members of the community, I have worried whether it is safe to kiss my boyfriend or hold his hand on the bus or the tube. Even as a parliamentarian on an overseas trip, I was told to my face that people like me are detested.

In National Hate Crime Awareness Week, rather than belittling the impact of hate crime or suggesting that it is a “woke” irrelevance, it is critical that we look into the impact that attacks are having on the community, across the country, against people who just want to love who they love, live as themselves and get on with their daily lives. In the UK in 2023, the place of LGBT+ people in society, and their safety and wellbeing—is it really such a difficult thing to ask?—simply should not be contested notions, be up for debate or, worse, lead to violence, intimidation or assault; and yet here we are.

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Attorney General)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this incredibly important debate. The figures from my local police force, North Wales police, are staggering: the number of hate crimes based on transgender identity has surged by 771%. When we bear in mind that it is likely that only one in 10 hate crimes are reported, that gives us a sense of the level of suffering and the sheer size of the problem that we have to deal with.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

The right hon. Member is absolutely right to highlight not only the increase, but the context of significant under-reporting. We all ought to be shocked.

This is Hate Crime Awareness Week, and the reality is that hate crime remains stubbornly high across the piece. Not least in the current context, given the despicable incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobic hate crime, we must rightly focus on religious hate crime, and race-related hate crime remains stubbornly high. That is before we consider the less looked-at but equally important disability-related examples or, of course, the widespread epidemic of violence against women and girls.

Despite a slight year-on-year fall in sexual orientation-based hate crimes, the total number of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes remains well above 2018 levels, with 28,834 recorded this year, a net increase of 217% since 2017-18.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development Team Member)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate and on sharing his own personal experience. Those of us who have faced homophobic or—as I have—lesbophobic abuse know that it takes it out of us, quite frankly. How many more people have to share their stories or experience violence before we see a regression? As the hon. Gentleman has rightly said, we are talking about hate crime in the round. Does he agree that if those at the very top of Government make statements that attack some in our community, that only makes it more dangerous for everyone and justifies hate crimes against everyone?

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

As the hon. Member knows, I totally agree with her. The scale of this issue is staggering. Those statistics in practice mean 79 incidents a day—one roughly every 20 minutes—in 2023. Of course, there is better police awareness and reporting in some cases, but there is significant under-reporting. Fewer than 10% of LGBT people told the national LGBT survey in 2018 that they felt comfortable reporting hate crimes to the police, so it is likely that the statistics are a drop in the ocean.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank my hon. Friend for securing this really important debate. He has just talked about some of the statistics. Does he agree that things are even harder for LGBTQ+ black and minority ethnic people? One of the things that was flagged up with me when I attended Black Pride this year was that a number of people in that community still do not feel comfortable reporting to the police. The figures are just the tip of the iceberg.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I commend Black Pride and many of the other organisations that do incredible work in this area. The intersectionality of hate crime statistics should be deeply shocking to us all.

We heard about North Wales police. My force, South Wales police, provided me with its latest statistics. Just in the period from October last year to September this year, the force recorded 645 hate crimes related to sexual orientation, resulting in 33 charges, and 170 reports of transgender-related hate crimes, resulting in five charges. I am reassured by how seriously my local force takes these issues—I have had many conversations with it—and I have heard other positive examples while preparing for the debate, from Avon and Somerset to Lancashire to Norfolk, but there are significant challenges in some places. In London, the Casey report showed that trust in the Metropolitan police has fallen faster among LGBT+ Londoners than among non-LGBT+ Londoners. Leadership and action are far too patchy across England; in the absence of a central hate crime strategy, they depend too often on individual police and crime commissioners and forces.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales), Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. It comes at a time of a significant rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. I stood with the trans community in Merthyr Tydfil with Merthyr Pride last week at a rally. My hon. Friend mentioned the figures supplied by his police force, which is the same as mine. Does he agree that the particularly venomous comments from the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and other senior Tories do nothing to support those figures and will increase the problem further?

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

I greatly endorse what my hon. Friend said, and I welcome the work of Merthyr Pride. I think that was the first such event to take place in Merthyr, and the organisation does amazing work. I will come on to some of the context driving this.

We have colleagues here from across the United Kingdom. The Police Service of Northern Ireland records transphobic incidents and crimes motivated by transphobia, but unfortunately there is no enhanced sentencing for that motivation or hostility. We see a more positive picture in Wales, despite the statistics. The Welsh Labour Government’s LGBTQ+ action plan specifically covers safety, online hate, improving reporting and investing in local hate crime prevention programmes. In Scotland, there is a hate crime strategy focused on data, tackling crime online and on public transport, and supporting organisations working on these issues.

The effects of hate crime are deep and pernicious. They can unravel the lives of those who are among the most vulnerable in our society, and in the worst cases lives are lost and serious injury occurs. I pay tribute to all those who have been affected in that way, to their families and to all victims. But for many other victims of less violent offences, the crime itself is only the beginning. Some 42% of victims of hate crime felt a loss of confidence or felt vulnerable following the crime, compared with 19% for all other crimes; 29% of hate crime victims had difficulty sleeping, in comparison with 13% for all crimes; and 34% of hate crime victims suffered from anxiety or panic attacks compared with 14% for others.

Photo of Sarah Dyke Sarah Dyke Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome

I thank the hon. Member for bringing forward this important debate. I worry that too often the focus does not come from the point of view of the individuals who may be subject to this type of violence and their voices are suppressed. Does he agree that we must remember the unique position of LGBTQ+ women in our discussions?

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

Absolutely. I spoke earlier about intersectionality. When we look at wider violence against women and girls, or violence related to race or disability, there can be a double or triple whammy for people experiencing violence on the basis of who they are. It is simply unacceptable.

Given the shocking record and the shocking increases that we have seen in recent years, it is no wonder that many LGBT+ people—people we all represent—feel less safe and more afraid to walk down the road holding hands with their partner, to present themselves as they wish and to remain authentic, honest versions of themselves. But it does not have to be this way. We know that we are capable of providing vibrant, diverse, dynamic, beautiful and inclusive communities.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. I apologise that I will not be able to stay until the end. We have heard from others how the current climate has been fostered by the very unprofessional and negative comments from some Cabinet members. Will my hon. Friend ask the Minister what she will do to raise that with Cabinet members and ensure that they stop making things worse?

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development)

I wholeheartedly agree with what my hon. Friend says. It is worth looking at the fact that in 2013 the UK was rated as the best place in Europe for LGBT+ equality. We had taken pride over many years in being a beacon of the furtherance of LGBT+ rights. Indeed, there was a broad political consensus around advancing those rights; let us not forget that it was a cross-party coalition of Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and other parties represented here that passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. I was proud to serve on its Bill Committee.

However, today we see increasingly regressive forces in our politics, with sometimes explicit and sometimes more insidious attempts to divide and demonise our community; an increasingly hostile media and online environment; the influence of globally regressive forces, from Putin to the extreme religious right; and, across society more broadly, others vilifying our community and weaponising debates about our rights and, in many cases, even our existence. Shamefully for the Government, that means that since 2013, the UK has dropped to 14th place in the ILGA-Europe rainbow index, lagging behind the rest of western Europe.

Where once we had Prime Ministers who took pride in Britain being a leader on LGBT+ rights, we now see the plight of our community demeaned to cheap punchlines or political dog whistles. Where once we had consensus, compassion and kindness—and, indeed, legal action—now there is division, polarisation and a perpetuation of insidious culture wars. Quite frankly, we deserve better. Our constituents deserve much better.

I am proud that Labour has set out the need for a different approach—one that does not treat LGBT+ rights as a political football or an afterthought. It is a fact that hate crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and disability are not punished as severely as those based on other protected characteristics. I am proud that we have committed a Labour Government to fixing that injustice by equalising the law so that LGBT+ and, indeed, disability-related hate crimes are treated as aggravated offences. We will provide real accountability and assiduously pursue those who seek to harm an individual on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

One of the most concerning trends in recent statistics is the 11% increase in hate crimes committed against transgender people. Tragically, I would think that that would come as no surprise to any of us in this room. We have all seen the way in which the discussions around these issues have been conducted in recent years, with escalatory rhetoric increasingly poisoning and polarising our discourse. Of course there are valid, important and complex issues to be discussed, but the lives and experiences of an already small and vulnerable community are increasingly abstracted into a reductionist zero-sum game and, in many cases, people are dehumanised and targeted.

We see it with the rise of anti-trans rhetoric online, as well as in cheap shots politically. We also see it quantitatively in surveys of British public opinion. The latest British social attitudes research reports that the proportion of British people who describe themselves as being prejudiced against transgender people has increased from 18% to 36% since 2019. Most alarmingly, we see it in the sharp increase in anti-transgender hate crime, which is up 11% in one year. In the past six months alone, Galop, which does excellent work, has seen a 76% increase in trans people seeking support to deal with serious incidents.

In closing, I ask the Minister for clarity in a number of areas. First, will the Government end what the Law Commission calls a “hierarchy of protection” and bring about real parity between groups of all protected characteristics, or will it fall to a Labour Government to find the courage to take that step forward? LGBT+ people rightly feel that the current political set-up is weighted against them because the Government have failed to make achievable and critically necessary reforms such as introducing an inclusive ban on conversion therapy. How can the Government say that they are concerned with the plight of LGBT+ people while they continue to quietly acquiesce in that abhorrent practice? Lastly, given the shocking statistics, what specific support will the Minister give to the trans and non-binary community? Will she commit to stamping out the divisive and horrific rhetoric that comes from some parts of her own Government?

Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Conservative, Carshalton and Wallington 4:52, 18 October 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Cummins. I thank Stephen Doughty for bringing forward this important debate in such a timely manner, with the release of the latest hate crime statistics from the Home Office. It is a pleasure to see the Minister for Equalities, my right hon. Friend Stuart Andrew, in his place. I am very grateful that he is here.

We do not have a lot of time, which is a shame because there is so much that could be said. However, there are some important things that I want to raise, to add to what the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth has already mentioned. I start from the position that the LGBT+ community has—and must have—the same right to live a peaceful life as anyone else in this country, but sadly that so often is not the case, as we see in the latest statistics. I refer to some of the work that I and Dame Angela Eagle have done in this space over the past year or so as co-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group on global LGBT+ rights.

As we have heard, the statistics, although depressing in themselves, are actually only part of the picture, because there is massive under-reporting. Last year, the police recorded 24,000 hate crimes in England and Wales linked to sexual orientation and more than 4,700 cases linked to gender identity. Those figures represent increases of 112% and 186% respectively over the past five years.

As a London MP, it would be remiss of me not to mention Greater London, the Casey report and, not least, some of the tragic events that we have seen outside LGBT+ venues recently, including Two Brewers in Clapham not that long ago. Over the past five years in London alone—a city that we all assume is incredibly tolerant—hate crime has increased by 65% against people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and by 129% against those who have a transgender identity.

That is not helped by a lack of trust in the police, which was identified by the Casey report on the Metropolitan police. I welcome the steps that the new Met commissioner is trying to take to repair that, but trust in London’s police has fallen to an all-time low of 64%. I would be grateful if the Minister outlined what discussions the Home Office has had with the Metropolitan police about the contents of the Casey report and how it intends to keep track of the quality of the improvements that the Metropolitan police must make to repair its relationship with the LGBT+ community.

It has already been mentioned that the Home Office’s own blurb accompanying the statistics mentioned the public and toxic debate around trans rights that is happening in this place and across much of the media and academia. As many people in the Chamber have said, and as I have said before, we must find a way to lead from the front and take the heat and toxicity out of these discussions, because nobody wins from them. If any political party or candidate thinks that going into the next election on a platform of going after the LGBT+ community is smart—I am speaking to all political parties here; we have to be honest that all of us have had issues in our parties—they are mistaken. We must all stand up to that in our own political parties and try to stamp it out as much as possible. The LGBT+ community are not our enemy, they are not a threat and they are not dangerous. We cannot be surprised that trust in institutions such as the police reduces when these things are not stamped out.

Like the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, who spoke so eloquently about this, I have not been without attacks in my own constituency. Thankfully, I have never been physically assaulted, but I have been on the receiving end of homophobic abuse just going about my day-to-day work. Sadly, I am sure that other colleagues will bring up examples of what they have experienced. It is truly devastating, as Hannah Bardell said. It knocks it out of you and you wonder, “Why on earth am I putting myself in this position?” You think, “Why should I put myself in harm’s way? I don’t want to hold my partner’s hand in public. I don’t want to show affection in public. I don’t want to be my authentic self in public.” I am more worried about an attack than I am about being my authentic self. That absolutely is not right in 21st-century Britain.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development Team Member)

The hon. Member is absolutely right: if we are cowed and go into the darkness, the bigots win. In an interesting article, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that the US Christian right, militant European Catholics, Russian Orthodox hardliners and even sanctioned oligarchs are working concerted campaigns to undermine reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights across the world. We need to remember that when we talk to our own colleagues and others who seek to divide liberal democracies across the world.

Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Conservative, Carshalton and Wallington

I am grateful to the hon. Member for bringing that up, because she is absolutely right. Indeed, we have seen that in the work we have done in the APPG on global LGBT+ rights, particularly in parts of east Africa—not least Uganda, where an anti-homosexuality Bill was recently passed. There is massive geopolitical influence, with efforts to push an anti-human rights and anti-LGBT+ agenda as a way of exerting influence. We must be able to track where the money is going. We know it comes from the actors that she eloquently outlined, and we must call that out and stamp it out as much as humanly possible.

I do not want to go on for much longer, but I have a few questions for the Minister and I would be grateful if she would cover them in her response. The Home Office’s hate crime action plan for England and Wales has not been updated for years. Will she commit to updating it? What discussions has the Home Office had with the Metropolitan police and other police forces about homophobia in their own forces and how they plan to rebuild trust with the LGBT+ community? Will she offer an assurance that despite some of the rhetoric we have heard, it is a priority for the Home Office to get this right and to stamp that out? We were a leader in global LGBT+ rights. We must be a leader again.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

Order. Before I call the next speaker, I ask colleagues to stick to between two and half minutes and three minutes, tops.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Defence) 4:59, 18 October 2023

It is a privilege to speak in the debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty on calling it. I am proud to speak as Plymouth’s first-ever out Member of Parliament, which gives me a special responsibility not only to share my personal experience, but to speak up for communities who often feel neglected and abused by those in this place.

We know that hate crime is on the rise. It is on the rise in Plymouth; it is on the rise in all our communities. As politicians, we can choose whether we calm things or fan the flames of hate. That is a choice we can make. Despite progress over many years, LGBT hate crime rose by 186% in the past five years, according to Stonewall. How we tackle that hate crime matters, and it requires leadership from the top.

Like many people, I have been attacked because of who I am. I am proud to be a massive gay: it is part of who I am, it is part of my identity and I celebrate it. My office has been vandalised with homophobic graffiti; I have had homophobic threats and messages left on my answer machine; and I have received an enormous amount of abuse simply for tweeting a picture of me and my boyfriend on Valentine’s day. That is an experience that happens to far too many LGBT people throughout the country—being authentically themselves makes them a target. We should be in no doubt that we must call that out. That is why in the run-up to the next general election, it is incumbent on us all, as Elliot Colburn said, to call out hate wherever it comes from—whatever dark recesses of the communities we represent—but especially from those people who aspire to and occupy the highest offices of our country.

We have had a Prime Minister who refused to apologise for calling gay men “tank-topped bum boys”. We have a Home Secretary who has accused LGBT asylum seekers of faking their sexuality. As an MP, I have campaigned hard to stop the Home Office deporting gay asylum seekers to countries where they would be killed because of their sexuality. We have had senior Tory MPs saying that marriage between men and women is

“the only possible basis for a safe and successful society.”

I believe in the family—I think the family unit is at the heart of things—but I will not tell any single person what their family should look like. That is what we should aspire to.

When we have a Prime Minister whipping up transphobia, that is right out of the culture war playbook. That is why I want to ask the Minister whether she has heard of the CAT strategy, which will apparently form the basis of Government policy between now and the general election. It will focus on climate, asylum seekers and trans people. The culture war playbook is deliberately designed to divide. Leadership matters. We need the right leaders who build bridges and take the difficult step to unite, not the easy step to divide.

Has the Minister heard of that strategy? What is she doing to police other Ministers who make such divisive comments? Has she called out the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister on their recent divisive comments? If she has not, who does that within Government? If we are to tackle hate crime, we need to tackle it from the top, which means making sure that all the words we use, all our behaviours and all the campaigns we run respect everyone being able to be authentically true to themselves and being able to do so safely in every part of our country.

Photo of Chris Loder Chris Loder Conservative, West Dorset 5:02, 18 October 2023

It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Ms Cummins. I thank Stephen Doughty and congratulate him on securing this important debate. I will speak briefly from my own experiences and perspectives as someone who, before my election to this place, was physically assaulted for being who I am. It is incredibly important that we tackle the root causes that motivate and cause such behaviours against members of the LGBT community, which is why I am so pleased to support the hon. Gentleman’s debate.

As we tackle this hideous behaviour, though, it is also important that we lead by example and hold our own community to account, just as we would the wider public, because in the quest to reduce instances of hate crime against the LGBT community, we also have to look at our own behaviours within it. It is simply unacceptable for those who may well have been impacted by hate issues previously to provoke and manufacture homophobic hate against staff or innocent supporters of an MP for political purposes, especially when they are fuelled by alcohol. I am afraid that this is a growing issue and one that I have personally faced as recently as this week, in my home town of Sherborne. I put on the record my thanks to Dorset police for responding so promptly and for their help in calming an extraordinarily aggressive situation.

At Manchester Pride last year, the current shadow Leader of the House of CommonsLucy Powell, who is a Labour Member—turned up with her supporters in T-shirts bearing the words “Never kissed a Tory”. I am sorry to say so, but she should be ashamed for doing that and for making some people—

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

Order. Has the Member given notice of that?

Photo of Chris Loder Chris Loder Conservative, West Dorset

Yes, I have. As I was saying, I believe that the hon. Member for Manchester Central should be ashamed for doing that, and for making some people who do not share her political views uncomfortable for joining a Pride event—an event at which we should be united and not divided. I believe that it is as much our duty to call out such instances of hypocrisy within the community when we see them as it is to call out those outside the community who serve hate against us. I will not be threatened nor intimidated by that sort of nastiness. That kind of behaviour does not just stem from drunken louts, but can start and be fomented by supposedly upstanding members of the community.

When such comments originate from those who hold elected office, I hope they are taken into account at election time. Where the proprietors of local businesses spread that form of hate, I hope their customers fully know the values of that business and consider to whom they give their custom in future. Manufactured hate against gay people by gay people for the purposes of political difference is still hate. It has no place in our society, nor in our community, and where it happens and has happened, I shall shine an intense light on it—as I hope everybody will.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey 5:06, 18 October 2023

It is a pleasure to be in this debate with you in the Chair, Ms Cummins. I thank my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty for securing the debate on hate crimes against LGBT+ people as part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

I recognise that there is a rising trend of hate crime across the board, as our society becomes more divided. Those politicians who seek to peddle the politics of blame and division have a great deal of responsibility on their hands. We have seen a rise in that kind of politics across the globe, and sadly in some areas of our country. Today at Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister said that

“the words we say here have an impact beyond this House.”

We have seen that sometimes global issues have an effect on levels of hate crime for other reasons, and we are conscious of that today.

We are also conscious of some others. Problematising members of the community, particularly trans members of the LGBT community, othering them, and perpetrating discourse that casts them as a threat and a danger to children—the usual tropes that many who are old enough and have been involved in politics as long as I have remember from the 1980s—can end only with one effect. It is the effect that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth outlined effectively in his speech, and that we have heard about in other contributions: a massive increase in hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation in the past five years, up 112%. Hate crime against trans people is up 186%. In Merseyside, where my constituency of Wallasey is, hate crime based on sexual orientation is up 162%, and against trans people it is up 1,033%.

I ask the Minister what the Government are planning to do, given that six Cabinet Ministers took to the podium to rail against the trans community and so-called gender ideology and wokeism at the recent Conservative party conference? The Home Secretary’s speech was

“a signal to people who don’t like people who are LGBT+ people.”

Those are not my words; they are the words of the Conservative chair of the London Assembly as he was being thrown out of that conference. Let us get a grip. Let us remember that real people are involved. When hate crimes rise it ruins lives. Let us do something about it and let us unite to do so.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

Order. I have to impose a time limit of two minutes.

Photo of Peter Gibson Peter Gibson Conservative, Darlington 5:09, 18 October 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Cummins. I congratulate Stephen Doughty on securing this debate, and I am pleased to see the Minister present.

Many Members here today, in the most LGBT-represented Parliament in the world, are openly gay. We often reflect on how far we have come: same-sex marriage, equalised age of consent, the ban in the armed forces lifted, and the welcome recent apology by the Prime Minister for our LGBT veterans. However, the very fact that we are having this debate and the shocking statistics underlying it mean that there is no room for complacency.

Just over a week ago, I returned from a visit to Ghana as part of Parliament’s delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. There were other reasons for Members, including my right hon. Friend David Mundell and Hannah Bardell, to visit: we wanted to understand the situation with that country’s horrific proposed anti-LGBT legislation, which actively reduces human rights and criminalises people for simply who they are and whom they love, and we wanted to share our story about our nation’s progress.

Against the backdrop of a changing picture in parts of Europe, Africa and America, and a challenging dialogue in this country, we must be mindful of changes in the law and keep acting to protect human rights. I repeat my call for an inclusive ban on conversion therapy. The fact that we have people being abused, assaulted and, in the most extreme examples, stabbed and murdered in our country for just being who they are and loving whom they love is shocking and deeply saddening. Hate and abuse targeted towards anyone because of their sexuality or gender must never be acceptable in our community. This debate gives us an important opportunity to press the Minister to do more, and be seen to do more, to drive down the shocking statistics.

Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Labour, Salford and Eccles 5:11, 18 October 2023

I thank my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty for securing this important debate and for his passionate speech, which I associate myself with very much.

The statistics that my hon. Friend set out were absolutely shocking, but they are only the reported crimes. As we know, only one in 10 LGBTQ+ people report hate crimes or incidents. It is even more worrying and upsetting that over recent months we have seen Government spokespeople specifically using trans people—who already struggle against prejudice day in, day out—as a political football, for no reason other than stoking a culture war.

The Government’s words matter. I met a group of parents of trans young people in Salford on Sunday. The Government’s words mattered to them, and they mattered to the young people. I heard stories about how horrified those young people were when the Prime Minister made certain statements during his conference speech, and how in some cases those young people felt they had no place in the world. Some had even considered suicide. The Government must understand that their words have an impact, not just on increases in hate crime but on the mental health of the people they affect.

We have a moral duty in this place to speak up for those we feel are disenfranchised, and we have a moral duty to choose our words carefully. I am proud that Britain is a tolerant, respectful and inclusive country but, as the charity Stonewall states,

“a lack of positive action and threats to existing rights are taking the UK off course.”

We cannot allow that to happen. I urge the Minister to really take action today and listen to the words of my colleagues.

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam 5:13, 18 October 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mrs Cummins. I thank my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty for securing this important debate and for the words he put so well.

In just over a month, on 20 November, we will mark Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a moment for communities around the world to honour the memory of transgender people whose lives have been lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. In 2021, that was 375 people. We are facing a crisis. As we have heard today, LGBTQ+ hate crime is rising at a terrifying rate. The figures are startling, but what is worse is that they do not even represent the full picture. In the Government’s national LGBT survey, more than 91% of respondents said that the most serious incidents they had experienced in the preceding 12 months had not been reported. Those incidents included sexual assault and physical violence. That evidence is supported by Galop, which has said so much in the last year. It has seen a 65% increase in LGBT victims coming forward for its support.

As mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, we have slipped down the charts in terms of being LGBTQ+ friendly, and that should shame us all. Instead of taking steps to address the crisis, reduce hate and ensure that those who experience it can access all the support they need, our politics is focused on fuelling it:

“Transgender issues have been heavily discussed by politicians, the media and on social media over the last year, which may have led to an increase in these offences”.

Those are not my words, but the words of the Home Office. Filling the public domain with toxic language that dehumanises LGBTQ people has real, life-threatening consequences, and it is telling that those in this place who often spread hate are not here to listen to those consequences. When the Prime Minister suggests to his Conservative conference that transgender identities are not valid, his words do not go into a void: they have repercussions.

What must we do? We must get the hate crime action plan back and ensure that we bring in a total ban on conversion therapy. It is incredibly important that this issue is taken as seriously as it can be. We should stamp out hate as much as we can.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West 5:15, 18 October 2023

I thank my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty for an immeasurably heartfelt speech. He is so passionate about this issue, which we have discussed many times.

Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are up by 112% compared with this time five years ago. For trans people, that figure rises to 186%. Figures for West Yorkshire released in June 2022 showed a 39.9% rise in transphobic incidents in that year. Christina, a trans woman who supports victims through the charity TransLeeds, said that she was not surprised by the figure:

“I feel that is significantly low compared to what the real numbers would be because a lot of people don’t report. We still get a lot of mis-gendering, a lot of dead-naming. It doesn’t make someone feel safe when they are trying to report something that has happened to them.”

Last month, we heard our Home Secretary stand on the global stage and tell the world that being gay is not reason enough to seek asylum. There are still 11 countries where being gay carries the death penalty. Is the Home Office suggesting that we send gay people back to countries where they could be killed by their own Governments? Two weeks ago, the Tory party conference hinged on humiliating and scapegoating vulnerable people, with an obsessive focus on trans and gender non-conforming people. The Conservatives seem obsessed with trans and non-binary people. They tell us that our children are at risk simply because of the existence of LGBTQ+ people.

The moment we are in is a dark one. We live in a country that is unsafe for queer people, and have a ruling party that is fuelling transphobia and subsequent hate crime. Trans people and non-binary people have always existed. They will exist in spite of the vitriol, scapegoating and legislation. To any trans person listening, I want to address you directly. I see you, I stand with you and I respect you. I hope that in the face of this hardship, we can support you, and that we do much better for you in law.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities) 5:17, 18 October 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mrs Cummins. I am grateful to be able to speak in the debate secured by Stephen Doughty, which is particularly important in Hate Crime Awareness Week. His contribution was eloquent and moving, and some of the things he said should horrify us. We should be shocked to the core by the things that he shared, and we should all have pause for thought. Chris Loder also should have made us all think very deeply about the situation that our society faces.

The statistics shared by Liz Saville Roberts tell us about the huge increase in hate crime. She spoke about the increase in hate crime in relation to the transgender community, and we have heard clearly from a number of Members about how significant and troubling that is.

Elliot Colburn correctly made a point about how frightening the increase in hate crime is. That is all very well but, as he said, it is not the full story, because we know that that crime is under-represented. We also know that it is significantly on the increase, not just here but around the world. That is a particular challenge when we think of the policies of the UK Government, who are not at all minded to consider that fact when they move people around the globe without thinking about the consequences.

It is a time of polarisation of views and positions, as is clear from the online space, if Members ever brave it. Social media companies as well as Governments have a responsibility to deal with the shocking and disgraceful commentary on social media. Fundamentally, no one’s identity should be up for debate. No point of view can possibly excuse hate crime. As politicians, we need to take some responsibility here. Are we always measured and considered? I would say no, not all of us are always measured and considered. We have heard very clearly about some of the commentary coming from the Conservative conference, for instance. I think that was a point well made. Culture wars should never be a political strategy. We should all call it out and be confident in doing so. We need to get a grip on the hostile language that Dame Angela Eagle spoke about, because we know very well that it does embolden people to commit hate crimes against the LGBT community, who are just trying to live their lives, after all.

It is timely for us to point out how utterly unacceptable and troubling it is that we also see an uptick in other kinds of hate crime. Antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes are increasing at the moment. Whatever angle we look at this from, it is devastating to the LGBT community. It is damaging and erosive to all our communities. Everyone suffers when we accept this shocking attack on people’s identities. It is an unfortunate instinct of the UK Government to try to move along and pretend that this is not happening.

I wonder whether the Minister is able to answer the written question I submitted, which remains unanswered, about the draft Bill on banning conversion therapy. It is overdue, and I wonder if it is overdue because the Government do not want to answer it as they have no intention of following through on their previous commitments. That matters because that in itself has implications for hate crime and the way that people will be treated. As a useful political wedge for those who wish to seek division it might work, but we need to hear commitments here from the UK Government and the Minister that proper action will be taken to deliver a proper ban on conversion therapy, and that there is a commitment to recognising and understanding the impact on LGBT communities of hate crime.

I will conclude by thanking the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington for saying very eloquently that the LGBT community are not our enemy; they are not a threat. I think that is a sensible point to conclude on, because he is right. It is time for us all here to say, “Enough,” and call it out.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing) 5:22, 18 October 2023

It is a pleasure to see you in the chair, Mrs Cummins. I would like to start by thanking my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty for securing this debate, which has been so well attended. When I was shadow Public Health Minister, I had the chance to collaborate with him on his vital work to end the transmission of HIV. His efforts there have been remarkable, and he has set the tone and brought the same kind of spirit to today’s debate. He talked about the stark and horrific reality of hate crime, which should act as a call to action. He made crucial points about reference, which were echoed by my hon. Friends the Members for Wallasey (Dame Angela Eagle), for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) and for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake). We as leaders have a real responsibility in this space.

The debate has been important. I am particularly grateful to colleagues who were able to talk about their personal experiences. People assume that as parliamentarians we are confident in always sharing what can be very deep parts of our personality, but it really has enriched the debate, and I am exceptionally grateful for that. My hon. Friends the Members for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) and for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) and Elliot Colburn made really important points about under-reporting. Our efforts today and the leadership we show from this place—we must hear that from the Minister, and I will have some ideas myself—are the way to drive up reporting and build confidence. We know for too many people that confidence is not there at the moment.

I want to cover the point from Chris Loder. First, to be very clear, my hon. Friend Lucy Powell has a very diverse constituency in Manchester and represents all her constituents, no matter their background—political or otherwise. That T-shirt is not an act of hate. Similarly, we would not interpret condoms at Tory party conferences that say, “Labour isn’t working, but this condom will (*99% of the time)”, as such. We take it in the spirit in which it was meant. I would be saddened if it was not taken in the spirit in which it was meant. I want to put that on the record.

In recent years we have seen incidents of hate crime rise significantly. Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation have risen by almost 500% over the last decade. Crimes targeting transgender identity are up by 1,000%. We would expect to see some increase as we have, as a whole society, pushed to improve reporting, but even from isolating the data to the recent past four years—2018 to 2022—hate crime on the basis of sexual orientation is up by 41% and on the basis of gender identity by 56%. There is a problem here, and reporting alone cannot explain it. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport said, there are changes in all our communities.

LGBT+ people must be treated fairly, with dignity and with respect. As leaders in this place, our commitment is to treat these issues with sensitivity, rather than to stoke division and pit people against each other. We should be proud of our record as a tolerant country. We should be proud of our progress on equality. As Peter Gibson said, we should be overjoyed that we have the most out LGBT+ Members of Parliament of any legislative body in the world. But that progress is not inevitable. We need to hear the Government’s plan to reverse this trend in hate crime and to reverse how LGBT+ people feel today.

Where the Government will not step forward, we stand ready. We are proud that the previous Labour Government did more to advance LGBT+ equality than any in history and, if given the chance, the next will break new ground in this space, too. We would introduce a full and immediate trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy, protecting legitimate talking therapies but closing any consent loopholes that are put in the statute book in the meantime.

We will also strengthen and equalise the law so that anti-LGBT+ and disability hate crimes are treated as aggravated offences. In doing so, we would accept the Law Commission’s recommendations that the aggravated offences regime be extended across five protected characteristics: race, religion, sexual identity, transgender identity and disability. That will ensure that anyone who falls victim to hate crime is treated equally under the law and that the perpetrators of anti-LGBT+ and disability hate can no longer dodge longer sentences. Those commitments sit alongside our broader, crucial pledges to put 13,000 neighbourhood police officers and police community support officers back on our streets and embedded in our communities, so that they can build local relationships to combat hate crime and deter it through their visible presence.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

My hon. Friend will be aware of the horrific attack at the Two Brewers in my constituency of Vauxhall on Sunday 13 August. I commend the organisation for working with the police: the perpetrator was caught a month later and he is still on remand. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need more police officers across all our communities to ensure that anyone committing these heinous attacks will feel the full weight of the law?

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

Absolutely. We want to send a very strong signal that, under a future Labour Government, there would be 13,000 extra staff, compared with the 10,000 fewer we have at the moment, to take back our streets so that those who think they can break the law with impunity find out that they no longer can.

There is a significant point about charging. Our charging commission, chaired by former Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird, will be providing recommendations on raising the scandalously low charge rates that are so damaging to our justice system and are letting criminals off the hook. This is a plan to reverse a legacy of decline. We are determined to turn this situation around, and to make our streets safe with a police and justice system that is fit for the future and that the LGBT+ community can trust to combat hate crime and bring the perpetrators of it to justice.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:28, 18 October 2023

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Cummins. I am grateful to Stephen Doughty for securing this debate. It was abundantly clear throughout his remarks that this subject is of significance to him. He relayed his thoughts and personal experiences and, like those of other Members who have contributed to the debate, they were thought-provoking and I thank him for them.

Although the debate is specifically about hate crimes that target the LGBT community, I want to echo the remarks that the Prime Minister made on Monday. He mentioned that hate crime takes various forms and that we must look at the antisemitism of the past few days. We must stand not only with our Jewish community, but with our British Muslim community, too. We stand with both communities. I echo those remarks very firmly because they are important, and I want to lower the temperature of the debate. These matters are felt strongly not only by Members present, but by those in our communities. It does not help when intemperate language is used.

The Government are clear that there is no place for hate in our society. It does not reflect who we are: modern Britain. We are beyond that, but we still have room for improvement. Given the personal nature of these abhorrent crimes, I know how distressing they can be. I have heard some of the experiences of Members from across the House and the political divide. They are really thought-provoking. These things we are joined together on. I know how distressing these crimes are, as has been mentioned, for victims, their families, friends and the wider community. I therefore want to make it clear that any form of hate crime is unacceptable. The Government firmly believe that everyone should be able to lead their life free from discrimination, prejudice and hate. That is precisely why we are tackling all forms of hate crime, not lifting one or two above the other. They are all important to me.

One thing I was impressed with when I came into the House was just how these issues can be debated and how my own party has come so far in proposing marriage that had previously been unacceptable and representing the community. We are still world-leading; I think it is at our peril that we say we are not. There is always more to do, but we must not be too hysterical in language. That provides difficulties. My hon. Friend Chris Loder pointed that out: it can be misused, and it should not be. We should be together on that.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will carry on a little and then give way. A lot of specific questions were raised, and I want to answer them. I will then give way.

The UK has a proud history of protecting and promoting LGBT rights and the Government are committed to preserving that record. We are clear that victims of hate crime should be supported and the cowards who commit those hateful attacks should be brought to justice. I want to mention that I was delighted to see the Minister for Equalities, my right hon. Friend Stuart Andrew, here. That shows the important work that he has been doing and I know through cross-departmental ministerial meetings that he is working incredibly hard on this. I too have spoken to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the deputy commissioner on these issues as safeguarding Minister. They are taken very seriously.

Whatever some Opposition Members may say, I ask them to consider that we still have one of the world’s most comprehensive and robust legislative frameworks for hate crime. Indeed, in 2018 the Government asked the Law Commission to conduct a review of the coverage and approach of hate crime legislation in England and Wales. The Law Commission provided a very long, detailed and considered report. We are grateful for those detailed considerations and for the work put into that. We have responded to and accepted one of the recommendations in that report and will respond to the remaining recommendations shortly.

On online offending, it is evident that in modern life intemperate and illegal remarks can be whipped up online. We continue to work to ensure that people are protected against criminal activity, including threatening behaviour both on and offline. In my work with the National Crime Agency and various police forces, I have found a high level of commitment to improving this arena. There are people doing some very good work, and we must not forget that.

We have robust legislation in place to deal with threatening and abusive behaviour or behaviour that is intended to or is likely to stir up hatred. That applies whether it takes place here, in the wider world, or online. Further to that, we are making hate crime a priority offence in the Online Safety Bill, which, as hon. Members will be aware, has recently completed its passage through Parliament and is awaiting Royal Assent. There are legal duties of care under which technology companies will need to prevent, identify and remove illegal content and activity online. That means that less illegal content, including content that incites hate on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation, will appear online and that when it does it will be removed quickly.

The Government have also worked closely to fund True Vision, which is just part of our commitment in this area, for online hate crime reporting. The portal is designed so that victims of all sorts of hate crime do not have to visit a police station to report. We also continue to fund the national online hate crime hub, which is a central capability designed to support individual local police forces in dealing with online hate crime. The hub provides expert advice to police forces to support them in investigating these despicable offences.

There is much other work being done by the Government to broaden education, such as providing more than £3 million in funding between August 2021 and March 2024 to five anti-bullying organisations. There is much work being done, too, in schools to tackle this sort of hate crime. Also, the curriculum in schools is drafted in a way that will promote greater understanding in the field. It would not be fair to characterise the Government as somehow not being engaged and working in this field.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I want to go on to the issue of conversion practices, if I may; I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s patience. The Government have made it clear that conversion practices are abhorrent and have no place in our society. We are grateful to those who have responded to our consultation, which was very wide and well thought-out, and my ministerial colleagues will set out further details on that in due course. I cannot give a timeframe.

Photo of Peter Gibson Peter Gibson Conservative, Darlington

We have been promised “very soon” since January this year. Does the Minister have an update on specific dates?

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

As a junior Minister, I have learned that “very soon” is quite an interesting phrase. All I can say is that hopefully we will have some news very soon.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will address one or two of the points made by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth. He asked whether the Government will end the disparity between the different forms of hate crime, and I know he feels strongly about this issue. It is something that the Law Commission has considered in its recent report. We are considering that further and, again, will have more details shortly.

The Government’s has a proud record on LGBT rights. We have one of the most comprehensive and robust legislative frameworks, but the work on the HIV action plan—

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

Order. It is up to the Minister whether to give way.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I want to mention and praise the work of the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth on the HIV action plan. We have announced an ambitious target to end new HIV cases by 2030, which represents a lot of work done by the defence community and the UK armed forces. A lot of work has been done there. I have mentioned the ban on conversion therapy, to which we are committed and which was raised by Members in the debate.

The rise in hate crime statistics has been mentioned. At first glance, it is very alarming. The good news is that, generally, hate crimes are on a downward trajectory. However, specific hate crimes, such as those targeted at LGBT people, are on the rise. There has been a characterisation of the figures as given, so I will go through the actual statistics. As hon. Members have said, transgender identity hate crimes have risen by 11%—from 4,262 to 4,732. That is the highest number since the statistics began in the year ending in March 2012, so it is of concern. However, it would be wrong to say that that has been prompted by any particular politician. The report says:

“Transgender issues have been heavily discussed by politicians, the media and on social media over the last year, which may have led to an increase in these offences, or more awareness in the police in the identification and recording of these crimes.”

When we look at statistics, we need to look at the independent assessor, who did not say that, in isolation, the rise in such hate crimes is because politicians are talking about it. It is because this issue is discussed online and in the media. More importantly—I have witnessed this myself—police officers are now more likely to understand it and be able to report it than they were two, three, four or five years ago. Although it is alarming that hate crime in this field has risen by 11%, in some ways we must look for the positive, which is that more people are coming forward.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I just want to make this point: more people are coming forward, which is good news that I welcome. More people are reporting this sort of crime. [Interruption.]

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will make a concluding point. My hon. Friend Elliot Colburn made some very important points, and I can speak to him afterwards—

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development) 5:38, 18 October 2023

Thank you, Mrs Cummins. I thank all right hon. and hon. Members present today. I particularly thank Opposition Members, but I also want to thank Conservative colleagues for having the courage to speak up on these issues publicly and within their own party.

I am sorry to say that the Minister has shown how completely out of touch she and the Government are with the lived experience of LGBT+ people. To use words such as “hysterical” when we are talking about such serious issues is deeply disappointing. The evidence is there and is very clear. It is unequivocal: hate crime is up, people’s experiences are horrific and we have slipped down the rankings. The question is: when will she and the Government do something about this, rather than just talking and offering warm words?

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the matter of hate crime against the LGBT+ community.

Sitting adjourned.