I beg to move,
That this House has considered the matter of anti-Semitism.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House for calling this debate on anti-Semitism. It comes at an appropriate time, as it has been a year since the all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism reported on its inquiry. On Monday I laid a Command Paper before the House. It gave an opportunity to reflect on the all-party group’s work, and today’s debate is a good opportunity to congratulate all Members of this House—Back Benchers from all parties—on the contributions that they have made, and to congratulate our stakeholders.
More than 100 people were present on Monday, including spokespersons from Front-Bench teams from all the political parties, Members of the House of Lords and stakeholders from the Jewish community, including Jon Benjamin, Jeremy Newmark and Richard Benson from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council. Just as importantly, there were many people of other faiths, and as the chair of the Faith Communities Consultative Council I was particularly pleased about that. The name of our consultation document that has been sent to faith communities is “Face to Face, Side by Side”, a phrase coined by the Chief Rabbi himself. I was also pleased that he was present on Monday to contribute to our celebration of the work of the all-party group, the Command Paper and the work that has been done, one year on.
I am going to talk about the measures in the document, the work of the all-party group and other measures as well. It is a good time to state our gratitude to the all-party group and the team of officials who have been working incredibly hard to bring 10 Departments together, while working in harness with the Jewish community to bring about a cogent set of proposals.
I will talk in a moment about the proposals made by the Department for Children, Schools and Families on school linking, the proposals to allow devolved capital to be used to provide security for school buildings for the Jewish community, better data collection involving the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which is important, and the role of the inter-faith strategy and how it ties in with that work, as well as my Department’s work with other Departments supporting the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism.
Although a great deal of work has been done, I am sure that hon. Members will talk about the great deal of work that remains to be done. I am the first to accept that a great deal remains to be done about hate crime on campuses, for example. I will talk a little about that, as well as about our recent debates in the Chamber about Holocaust memorial day. I received a number of representations after Holocaust memorial day calling for additional funding for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. I am pleased to say that we have enhanced its funding from £500,000 to £750,000.
While the Minister is on that subject, I am sure he will agree that the trust deserves admiration for and congratulations on its tremendous work. It is very important to increase education about the history of the past 70 years, to help to minimise for a new generation the chance of a repetition of that history.
I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Gentleman on that point. Although this debate is about anti-Semitism, one of the most encouraging aspects of this week, and of Monday in particular, is that other faith communities and groups that face prejudice are set to benefit from the outcomes of the inquiry. The valuable lessons to be learned from the work, which is supported by some funding from my Department, are now being learned in other parts of Europe and around the world. We should all be pleased about that.
That work must be underpinned by policies and strategies to increase racial equality and build community cohesion, particularly through education. More generally, I am pleased to say that my Department has made some £50 million available throughout the country to fund community cohesion projects. We have made significant progress on many of the commitments that we made in response to the inquiry, which made 35 detailed recommendations. However, we recognise that there is no room for complacency.
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK remains far too high. The Community Security Trust recorded 547 incidents in 2007. Although that represents an 8 per cent. fall over the previous year, it is still the second worst figure on record. We must therefore continue to work with all our stakeholders to bear down on the problem.
Since the publication of the inquiry’s report, my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and his colleagues have worked to encourage parliamentarians in other countries to conduct similar inquiries. The Government greatly appreciate the group’s work and have offered it support, including financial support. My Department has provided funding, which has helped the inquiry to go across Europe and beyond, to the United States and Canada. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our embassies and high commissions have worked with the all-party group to make its overseas visits a success, offering practical support and local advice on parliamentary structures and suitable contacts.
A key development has been the establishment of the inter-departmental working group, which consists of representatives from across Whitehall, the parliamentary committee against anti-Semitism, representatives from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust, and other Departments, including the FCO, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney-General’s office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and my Department, as well as the police, who have worked closely with us.
The working group is unique in that it brings together the Jewish community and Departments to ensure that commitments made in our original response are taken forward. The working group has been hailed across Europe and in the United States as a model of best practice. However, we cannot leave the matter there. We will review the work again in 2010 and there will be regular meetings of the inter-departmental group at least twice a year.
We have ensured that by April 2009 all police forces will collect data on all hate crime, including anti-Semitism. We recognise that anti-Semitic discourse continues to be a concern, and to this end we have funded the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism to research the impact of anti-Semitic discourse on the atmosphere of acceptance of anti-Semitism.
The inquiry also focused on the importance of school linking. The Government acknowledge that and are providing £2 million in funding over the next three years, which is supported by a £1 million donation from the Pears Foundation. I should like to put on record my personal gratitude to Trevor Pears for his support for the project. That funding will provide a national website and resources to help to support schools in forming effective links.
Members who were present for our debate earlier this year on Holocaust memorial day will recall the support expressed in all parts of the House for the scheme that the DCFS is funding, with some £1.5 million, for two sixth-formers from every sixth-form college to have the opportunity to travel to Auschwitz. I was fortunate to meet a couple of sixth-formers from the Crypt school in my constituency who had been. I know that the scheme is welcomed throughout the House.
I had the good fortune on Tuesday to travel to Auschwitz with the Holocaust Educational Trust and students from my constituency. Everybody who was there—the Members of Parliament and all the students—found the day a deeply moving experience. Will my hon. Friend the Minister assure me that support for such visits will continue?
I can, for the very reasons that my hon. Friend has stated. Those visits have received support from across the House. I know from conversations that I have had with young people who have been that the visits have made a difference to their lives, and I am sure that that has been her experience, too.
Time is short and it is important to give other hon. Members the chance to contribute to the debate. Ongoing work is being done on anti-Semitism and the internet, which I shall happily discuss when I wind up the debate. I have already mentioned the importance of targeting anti-Semitism on our campuses, on which my Department and the inter-departmental group is doing sustained work with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Through our work with the police and the CPS, we will continue to work to ensure a greater number of prosecutions, which is incredibly important.
The Minister is touching on an important issue, which is the what is happening on campuses. I should like to highlight the excellent work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, which means that students arrive on campus much more aware of the dangers. However, is there not a considerable responsibility on university authorities to take more action? The issue is not just about crime, but about that telling phrase, which I remember from my Northern Ireland days, “the chill factor”—that is, not necessarily crime, but making people feel that they are unwanted. Do university authorities not have a greater role to play in making their campuses welcoming to people, so that we can have genuine academic freedom?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The powers are already there, in legislation, but it must be incumbent on individual universities to take this issue and those powers seriously. That is part of the reason why my hon. Friend the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education brought out guidance earlier this year. He has also met Jewish students to see how that work can be taken further.
I conclude by saying that although a great deal of work has been done, I appreciate that there is much more to do.
The official Opposition welcome unreservedly this topical debate, which is the first such debate we have had, although I remember debating the issue in Westminster Hall about a year ago. We would welcome topical debates on other aspects of racial and religious hatred, such as Islamophobia.
The debate allows the House to consider the Government’s progress report on combating anti-Semitism, which followed last year’s Command Paper, as the Minister said. The Command Paper followed the all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism, which was chaired by the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). We honour the work of the all-party group against anti-Semitism, and I try to stay in close touch with its chairman, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), who is present. I am especially mindful of the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), who is a vice-chairman of the all-party group and who might seek to catch your eye today, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Before turning to the progress report and issues that arise from it, I want to consider briefly the context in which the report was set—namely, the level of anti-Semitism in Britain today and its impact on the country generally and on the Jewish community in particular. I have mentioned racial and religious hatred. All forms of hatred against people on the basis of their race, religion, sexuality or condition—indeed, all forms of hatred against people—are an unqualified and unmitigated evil. However, there is a special horror for those of us who are Europeans, in the widest sense of the word, in and about anti-Semitism. The reason for that is almost too obvious to state: the holocaust.
As the Minister has reminded us, the Government recently marked Holocaust memorial day with a debate. Looking around the Chamber, I see that many hon. Members who attended that debate are present. There was a powerful and unmistakable consensus in that debate that the legacy of the holocaust—itself the consequence of more than 2,000 years of anti-Semitism in Europe—is still with us. Let me give a striking example. Many places of worship in Britain today have been subject to violence, including churches, mosques and gurdwaras. There have been atrocious incidents, but only one religious institution in Britain is under threat to such a degree that those who attend it are advised not to linger outside after worship: the synagogue.
We all commend the outstanding work of the Community Security Trust, which is involved in dialogue with the Government at a deep level. The Minister spoke about the multi-faith dimension of work on this issue. It is characteristic of the CST that it offers to other religious institutions and faith groups its expertise in protecting congregations and synagogues. Like a virus, anti-Semitism is peculiarly mutative, adaptable and resilient. It is multifaceted and, as was observed in the Holocaust memorial day debate, a light sleeper.
When I was growing up, anti-Semitism was largely confined, in the context of extremist ideology, to neo-Nazi groups, but that has changed. It is now also championed by some who claim—mistakenly, as my Muslim constituents would point out—to speak in the name of Islam. It is in that context especially that contemporary anti-Semitism, in general, and the Government’s progress report in particular, must be considered. I shall concentrate on four issues: the internet, anti-Semitic incidents, universities and the responsibilities of institutions more widely.
As I have said, anti-Semitism is peculiarly adaptable. It adapts to technology, and anti-Semitic hatred is now available online at the click of a mouse. The Government’s report says that the Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will
“host a ministerial seminar to find ways of improving action and impact on internet hate”.
The Minister said that he would touch on those matters when he responds to the debate. It would help if he told the House whether the Government had any objections to signing the additional protocol to the Council of Europe’s convention on cybercrime, and how the recommendations of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe conference on the same subject have been followed up.
The Government have committed to introducing national police monitoring of anti-Semitic incidents and offences by 2009. Again, it would be useful if the Minister confirmed that that deadline will be met and if he described what the Government will do to encourage the reporting of anti-Semitic incidents and offences. Picking up on a point that he made, I know he will agree that we must not be deceived by the fall in number that he reported into thinking that the problem is necessarily easing, because one could argue that the figures from the previous year were artificially boosted by what happened in Lebanon at that time, about which there were many reports.
As for universities, as the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr. Spellar) said, the menace of anti-Semitism is particularly acute in higher education. That menace does not express itself only in the visible activity of anti-Semitic groups, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. Jewish students also report anti-Semitism on campus as a mood, an atmosphere and a mode of discourse. The right hon. Gentleman described it as a chill in the atmosphere. That leaks out especially, perhaps, from debates on the middle east, and can prevent Jewish students from enjoying a normal university experience. It can even deter young Jewish people from attending certain institutions altogether.
It is significant that the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the CST and the Jewish Leadership Council support the Union of Jewish Students in the view that much work remains to be done. I note that the all-party group is disappointed that the DIUS is still only considering the CST’s proposal that it should set up a sub-group on anti-Semitism in higher education. When will Ministers take a decision on that?
Finally, I want to address the responsibilities of institutions and of local and national Government. We believe that it is wrong for institutions to participate in events that are hosted by anti-Semitic parties such as the British National party. It therefore follows that it is also wrong for them to participate in events hosted by other anti-Semitic organisations, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. I make that point because it was reported this week that John Holmwood, a sociology professor at Birmingham university, which is an excellent institution, spoke at a local debate that was organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir. It should also be unacceptable for local authorities to support groups that are willing to engage actively with Hizb ut-Tahrir, such as the Cordoba Foundation; we understand that that is the case in Tower Hamlets. The Cordoba Foundation appears to be involved in Campusalam—a Government-sponsored programme to tackle extremism on campus—so we would welcome clarification from the Minister on that.
I repeat that we welcome the debate. We honour the contribution that the Jewish community makes to Britain and has made for many years. We stand united, in this House, against anti-Semitism. There are huge challenges and there has been some progress, but there is a great deal more work to do.
I, too, start by welcoming the debate as well as the efforts of the all-party group against anti-Semitism and the Government to eradicate anti-Semitism. There is a sensible consensus on this issue in the House.
I have no criticism of the Minister, but I will make one helpful suggestion for future debates. In his press release, the Minister honestly outlined the areas in which the Government believe that further action needs to be taken—addressing the number of cases brought to prosecution, tackling anti-Semitism on university campuses, and challenging hate crime and extremism on the internet. The Minister has very helpfully said that he will update us on progress when he responds to the debate. Perhaps, in future, he might be willing to do that at the beginning of a debate, as that would give us the opportunity to ask further questions on the back of the information that we have received, rather than simply hearing the Minister’s response at the end, when there is no opportunity for us to ask more questions.
I recognise that the Government are doing a good job, and it is clear that progress is being made in a number of areas. However, the Minister, who has responsibility for community cohesion, has also said that there is no room for complacency, and that is quite right, because there is no reason or justification for complacency. I am sure that other hon. Members will have been sent the figures for violent assaults on members of the Jewish community in the UK last year, when they reached record levels. Even in what is portrayed as leafy, trouble-free Surrey, there have been incidents recently of swastikas being daubed on vehicles, pavements and signposts. Just as worrying—if not more so—are the allegations involving teachers in certain schools being anti-Semitic, because there would clearly be a long-term impact on the pupils if any indoctrination were taking place. There is no room for complacency.
The Government have made some welcome proposals in relation to increased funding for the Holocaust Educational Trust, which we fully support. Like many, if not all, the hon. Members here today, I have been on a visit to Auschwitz organised by the trust, and I think that we all came away with a permanent impression. The evidence of the industrial scale of killing there certainly left an indelible impression on me. That is something that we cannot, and never should, forget.
There are areas in which the Government are making progress, but some additional questions need to be asked. The Minister has said that by April 2009 police forces will collect data on hate crime, including anti-Semitism. Will he update us on how many police authorities are already in a position to do that, so that we can get a feel for whether that is a realistic target? If he tells us that only three or five are ready, clearly we are not on track. If he responds by saying that only 10 per cent. are in a position to do it, we might need to examine the matter more carefully.
The Minister has also highlighted the fact that local authorities can use their devolved capital funding for investment in security in schools, which is welcome. Will he clarify what will happen where there is no devolved capital funding available? Is there any scope for additional funding from a central pot to be made available if the local authorities cannot access funding for themselves?
Good progress is being made, but, as the Minister highlighted, there are also areas in which further progress is needed. He mentioned the prosecution of hate crimes, and it would be useful to know whether research shows that there is a greater inclination not to pursue hate crimes involving anti-Semitism—as opposed to other hate crimes— through to prosecution. It would be useful to know whether there is any difference or whether the problems are consistent across all hate crimes, in which case any proposals would be beneficial in tackling all kinds of hate crimes and ensuring that they are taken through to prosecution.
The spokesman for the official Opposition, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman), asked specific questions about the action that is to be taken in universities, and I hope that the Minister will respond to them. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned hate crime and extremism on the internet. The Government clearly need to take action in that regard, but also to acknowledge that in some cases it will be difficult for the service providers to know precisely what is going on. This relates not only to anti-Semitism; I understand that there are issues relating to the way in which some of the political websites report on women MPs in the House of Commons. Some very aggressive things have been said. The Minister needs to look at those issues.
I should like to conclude by saying that there is all-party agreement on this matter. There is a consensus and a desire on the part of all Members of Parliament to ensure that anti-Semitism is consigned to the dustbin of history, where it belongs, and that firm action is taken as and when anti-Semitism rears its ugly head in any corner of the country. The Minister is guaranteed our support on this matter, and we welcome all the efforts that he is making to tackle the problem.
I thank the Leader of the House for very appropriately allocating Government time to debate this issue today. Only yesterday, in Stamford Hill, yet more serious anti-Semitic graffiti appeared. I have left a photograph of an example for the Minister. The stencilled graffiti are clearly part of a concerted campaign calling for jihad in an area with a significant Jewish population.
Is it not even more sinister that it chillingly describes jihad as the only solution for Israel?
Indeed. Worryingly, reports are also coming in that the problem has spread to other parts of north London in the past 24 hours. This highlights the necessity not only for vigilance but for ongoing action. I encourage all Members on both sides of the House to join and actively participate in the all-party group against anti-Semitism.
One thing that has characterised this issue perhaps more than most others in my brief six or seven years in the House is the fact that we have managed to achieve a coalition, not only intellectually but in relation to activity and working practice. Perhaps even more remarkably, the Government have managed, cross-departmentally, to bring every single one of the eight Government Departments into active participation, and allowed us, the ordinary Members of Parliament, to be vigilant in regard to those who do not place this matter high on their priority list, with a view to ensuring that all eight Departments participate fully.
On the point about collaboration that the hon. Gentleman has rightly made, does he think that it might be helpful, when the Government draw up their statement of British values, to include a history of Jews in the United Kingdom and an observation about tolerance? Any new citizen signing a citizenship contract should be aware of the history of tolerance in this country.
I am sure that the Minister will take that consideration back to those making the decisions.
I want to highlight a couple of the positives in relation to Government action. In my view, the Home Office has been the most decisive in taking action. An example is its agreeing to change the hate crime reporting system in every police authority in England and Wales, which will have benefits not only for the Jewish community but for all communities affected by hate crime. That is a significant step forward. Only two weeks ago, the Crown Prosecution Service produced a report, which I have described as meticulous in its detail, outlining the service’s action plan for the future. The plan has been timetabled, and it has clear outputs. It is extremely encouraging to see that development taking place.
Of course, there are issues on which we need more action. These include devolved capital funding, because a significant amount of that funding has gone to local authorities for school buildings. Objectively, a large increase in the amount of money has come through this year, and it is a permanent increase. If one looks at the authorities with Jewish schools that have capital security needs, one can identify the authorities in Manchester, Barnet, Stockport and Leeds. The more discerning local election result analysts will immediately grasp that that covers all the parties present for this debate and also coalitions between some parties. I urge politicians of all those parties to squeeze our own authorities, individually as well as collectively, somewhat harder to ensure that they deliver on meeting those needs given that the Government have provided them with the capital to do so.
Perhaps the issue that the Jewish community is most concerned about, and on which we seek more progress, is anti-Semitism in higher education. About 80 per cent.—an extraordinarily high percentage—of young Jewish people go to university, but that necessarily means that any problems on campus will have a disproportionate impact on that community. However small the issues on any one campus may be perceived to be, they are of great significance. Unfortunately, on some campuses, “small” is not a term that one could use. The problem is often not physical attacks, although they do occur; it is more often a problem of what I would call antisocial behaviour created by a hostile atmosphere on campus.
An extremely successful seminar with young Jewish students and others was recently hosted by Baroness Morgan. It gave me greater confidence that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is going to take action on this issue. It will be most welcome when the Department states that it is going to establish its own working group to work in partnership with the community to deliver real results. It is possible to make real progress in the universities. We saw that with the action of the National Union of Students, which is now one of the leading bodies in being intolerant of intolerance; it has directly tackled anti-Semitism. Its action helped to build confidence, to end discrimination in university timetabling and to provide institutional university leadership that is minded to take swift action on the basis of clear written policies on what should be done. I believe that, over the next year, we will see even faster and more positive change in the universities, which is vital.
In my estimation, most universities have an egalitarian approach and most students are incredibly egalitarian in every regard. Clearly, however, where incidents of hate crime occur, they should be stamped on immediately. There is a duty on the vice-chancellor of every university to ensure that proper protocols are in place and that all students know exactly what they are so that these hate crimes can be stamped out from the start.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I am increasingly confident, following the meeting convened by Baroness Morgan—I believe she is going to convene a second one—that detailed progress will be made. The all-party group and—I hope and I am sure—the Government will be honest in their assessment of whether progress has been made. No one wants a tick-box approach; we want real tangible progress, so that a Jewish student on campus feels that it is a pleasure and a privilege, rather than a hassle, to be at any university in the country.
As well as an announcement from DIUS, I hope that we will hear a swift announcement on the mooted “UK-Israeli academic collaboration fund”. Another important issue is the boycott of academia from Israel by an increasingly irrelevant University and College Union, which has rather clouded our reputation abroad and the respect accorded to British universities. If that union wants to regain proper status and standing in the universities, I strongly recommend that it concentrate on the real issues that university lecturers and others need addressing rather than on the frivolities brought in at the extremes of politics to fill a vacuum that has clearly occurred. An announcement from DIUS would be equally welcome; swiftness is important.
Not all achievements are domestic. I see that that the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) is in his place and he doubtless wants to contribute. With me and others, he has visited other Parliaments. The German Bundestag is carrying out its own inquiry, which is modelled on ours, and Canada’s Parliament is contemplating doing the same. The US Congressional anti-Semitism task force is now back up and running. Increasingly important work is going on in Latvia and the Baltic countries on the back of pioneering work over the last few years by Lord Janner. The work that we parliamentarians have done is important and we will continue to do it. At this point, I would blatantly advertise the joint all-party group and Holocaust Educational Trust visit to Poland, which is taking place in July—a significant number of Members have already signed up to it—in order to engage the Polish Parliament in these issues.
My hon. Friend raises an important point about cross-national co-operation. I know of a case in which senior officials of a mainstream political party in a particular country were expelled for making the most appalling anti-Semitic comments. Politicians, along with everybody else, have to take responsibility for ensuring that their own parties do not entertain anti-Semitic views.
I absolutely endorse the spirit and the detail of what my hon. Friend says. He is totally right and what he said applies to this country as much as to any other.
Professor Irwin Cotler of Canada, who is a former Justice Minister, I and others have formed an international parliamentary coalition for dealing with anti-Semitism over recent months. I am pleased to announce that we will be hosting the coalition’s first international conference on anti-Semitism—it is aimed specifically at parliamentarians—in London in February 2009. I am delighted that the Foreign Office will fully support this vital conference; I am working with it to ensure success. Members will be invited fully to participate in that conference.
My final point is that our cross-party work and the effective response to it from the Government are having an impact on civil society. In a Westminster Hall debate last year, I highlighted good practice in the world of football. I am pleased to report that, following a conference on tackling anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the football world, a significant initiative has been made that will bring about further progress. It involves the Football Association, which has taken the lead, the premier league and the Football League. Practical action is a real possibility in the next year or two and it may well provide a moral example to others in sport and beyond it. In other words, community and social institutions, along with Parliament, the political parties and the Government, are taking a lead in tackling the dangers of anti-Semitism. I highly commend that work and activity to all hon. Members.
The debate is timely and appropriate and I begin by paying tribute to the chair of the all-party group, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), for taking the lead on this important matter. There may be grounds for satisfaction, but no room for complacency or self-satisfaction, in respect of what has happened so far. That applies in two respects. First, the House will know that I was involved in the all-party study that took place under the auspices of the all-party group. It was a group of tolerant, well-meaning people and democrats coming together to ask whether there were any problems in this area and, if so, to confront them openly, discuss them and submit them for mitigation and solution rather than pretend that they did not exist.
That was important, but, although I do not often pay tribute to the Government, it is equally important to acknowledge their role. I have no material complaint to make about the response that they published this week. It was a considerable achievement to form a departmental coalition involving 10 Departments and to create Whitehall machinery to take the agenda forward. The first fruits of that have been seen mainly in the Home Office, policing and the Crown Prosecution Service, in the shape of decisions that have already been mentioned this afternoon. It all looks very promising, although, as the Minister has conceded, there is much more work to be done. The difficulty lies in moving the focus from overt expressions of anti-Semitic hatred such as those referred to, sadly, only this week in the Chamber, and attacks on individuals—those being the most horrible but also the most salient examples, and thus the easiest to deal with—to the much more complicated area of diffuse anti-Semitism, which involves cultural factors. Nothing is necessarily scored or even said in public, but the effects can be just as corrosive, or even more damaging.
I join others in commending the work done on the British agenda and I advise the Minister to work with the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education to ensure that that Department—in which I used to serve—takes seriously the issue of discrimination in higher education. That period of people’s lives, which is of interest to us all, should be a delight and an ornament, and it is extremely distressing if it is turned into corrupted goods.
I recall that at an early meeting with Universities UK—partly because the evidence is diffuse, anecdotal and difficult to tie down to specific instances, and partly because the academic world looks for certainty and clarity—there were some reservations about what was going on, but I think everyone understands now that there is something of a problem, and is prepared to tackle it. I pay tribute to the vice-chancellors for responding. They do have codes; the question is whether they are sufficiently sensitive to pick up what is going on beneath the surface.
The second issue that I want to raise, in a measured way, is the rise of the British National party. I do not suggest for a moment that everything the BNP says is anti-Semitic—its members are rather careful to avoid that—or that it should be proscribed. As a general rule, I do not like the proscription of democratic parties: I think it better to allow the public expression of views. However, it concerns me that, whatever may have happened historically, we are now seeing a dispersal of that effort into different parts of the world. If the BNP can reach small towns in the middle of Northamptonshire like Daventry, stand in wards with relatively high deprivation and, while not defeating the sitting Conservative councillor—of whom, incidentally, I am very proud—succeed in coming second and pushing the Labour party into third place, that should concern all of us, and we should work with Searchlight and others to ensure that we are briefed and alert.
I do not want to suggest that the home picture is negative. During my visit to the Netherlands last month, I became aware of the work of the Anne Frank Trust prison project in the United Kingdom. I wrote to the governors of all three of the penal establishments in my constituency following my return, and was encouraged by the fact that they all responded positively. That is an example of the work that we ourselves must do beneath the surface to change attitudes.
I visited the Netherlands on behalf of the all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism, but with funding from the Minister’s Department, for which I was grateful because I felt that the visit was entirely worth while. I went to Amsterdam and The Hague. It was fascinating and, I hope, educational to observe the subtle differences between close neighbours and friends, which are always worth picking up. The first thing that I noticed about the Netherlands was that, because of its history of occupation and the holocaust and the specific circumstances of Anne Frank, it functions as a kind of national trustee for the memory of Anne Frank and of what happened on that dreadful occasion. No one who has ever visited that house, as I did, is likely to be left unchanged.
The population of Netherlands is roughly a quarter of the size of the population of the United Kingdom. As a direct consequence of the holocaust, it has a very small Jewish population: 30,000, compared with a conventional estimate of 300,000 in the United Kingdom Conversely—this relates to concern in the country about inter-community tensions, which extend beyond anti-Semitism—it has a Muslim population of 1 million, half the size of the British Muslim population. A danger arises from those two factors. Although there is a degree of restraint in public debate, some tensions may be suppressed, and the result may be a release of pressure through violence. There have been two notorious political assassinations in the Netherlands, which is extremely disturbing.
I want to say something about the good work that I saw being done by the founders of the Anne Frank House in relation to education and school resources. The house—the museum—speaks for itself, but there is a particularly good room where a set of moral choices are put to children and other visitors. That is quite demanding, and something that I think we could emulate. I also visited the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel. I suppose that the nearest equivalent here is the Community Security Trust. We studied not only what the centre was saying about the security situation, but the inter-faith co-operation that it was actively promoting in cities such as Rotterdam, which has a large Islamic population and where there is a clear potential for tension. I also commend to the Minister the material produced—helpfully, in English—by the Dutch counterpart of his Department on its community cohesion plan. It is excellent and very readable, and I hope that officials here will study it.
All those tensions, and the need to resolve them, will become more critical in the event of a systematic slowing of the world economy. Deprivation and setbacks lead to a sense of victimisation and a wish to take it out on others.
Like some other European systems, the Dutch system does not have a structure involving all-party groups to which we could relate directly, so we may not be able to set up quite the same kind of inquiry, although when Dutch parliamentarians visited the House this morning we talked to them about what we have been doing. That is why the international initiative led by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw is so important: it can involve all Parliaments.
I believe that we should be less worried by those who admit to their problems than by those who push them under the carpet. Some time ago I visited the European Parliament, again with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, and I remember vividly a conversation with a legislator from one of the Baltic states. When I asked “What is the position with anti-Semitism in your country?”, the answer was “It is not a problem for us.” I do not know whether that was naivety or disingenuousness, and in a sense I do not care, for both are equally concerning.
Many things that we do in this place are one-offs. We produce a report, a press release is issued, and we all move on to the next business. The business of anti-Semitism, however, is a process. It involves many partners as well as the Government, and many interests over and above those of Jewish organisations. We ought to remember the wise words of the Chief Rabbi, who pointed out on Monday that anti-Semitism never stops with the Jews, but always proceeds to other kinds of intolerance. While in no sense denying the uniqueness of the holocaust as an historical event and while also being absolutely supportive of all the efforts the Government, the Holocaust Educational Trust and others are making to keep its memory and the lessons to be learned from it alive, we need to remember collectively that intolerance and hatred are indivisible evils—and we, as democrats, should fight them, because, for us, tolerance is indivisible as well.
I am very pleased to be called to speak in this important topical debate.
The publication of the Government’s “One year on progress report” gives us the chance to reflect on how far we have come, and also on what still needs to be done. The report shows a commitment to making genuine progress in tackling anti-Semitism, particularly in the areas of hate crime prosecutions, universities and internet hate. It also highlights that the Government are taking this subject seriously and tackling anti-Semitism head-on; I also think their cross-departmental working is particularly important.
I spoke from a regional perspective when Parliament last debated this subject in July last year, and I shall do so again today, as Greater Manchester was a geographically important part of the initial inquiry because it has the second largest Jewish population in the country—about 30,000. About a quarter of that population live in Salford, the local authority for my constituency.
In last year’s debate, I touched on figures compiled by the Community Security Trust on anti-Semitic incidents in 2006. The number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Greater Manchester seemed disproportionately high compared with those for the rest of the country: Greater Manchester has 10 per cent. of the total UK Jewish population, but its 144 reported anti-Semitic incidents was 24 per cent. of the total. The 2007 figures released earlier this year show a small increase on the 2006 figures: 147 incidents, which was 27 per cent. of the total incidents in the UK. As in the previous year, some incidents reported by the Community Security Trust in Manchester were shocking. A man in north Manchester was verbally abused and had bricks thrown at his head simply because he was leaving a synagogue after his religious observance. Such incidents are deplorable.
The Greater Manchester figures could be seen as bad news when compared with the figures for the rest of the country, and in 2006 there was, in fact, a fall in anti-Semitic incidents across the rest of the country of 8 per cent. As I said in last year’s debate, however, the opposite is the case: Greater Manchester police are exemplary in recording and monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and in co-operating with the Community Security Trust. Therefore, the high figure of incidents from the first year of 2006 and the slight increase in 2007 should be seen not as a sign that things are getting worse in Greater Manchester, but that more incidents are being reported. That is to be welcomed, because understanding the problem through accurate data is an important step forward.
I agree that the accurate reporting of these crimes is important—and not only in the UK, but in the rest of the world. The Council of Europe, on which I sit, produced a report last year which seemed to show that things were a lot worse in the UK than in other parts of Europe. Clearly, that is not the case. We are far more assiduous in recording these hate crimes than other European countries. Perhaps one good thing that could come out of the international conference is that we might get across to other MPs that their police forces and legal systems ought to be taking anti-Semitism far more seriously in their own countries.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Not only have we in Greater Manchester got better reporting of such crimes, but, happily, we also have more prosecutions. A Jewish man was walking down a road in north Manchester when he was verbally abused—we heard of many similar verbal abuse incidents, such as of young people going to school or of people going to and leaving their synagogue. The perpetrator was traced by the police, admitted the offence and then sentenced to rehabilitation work with the local youth offending team. I hope the example Greater Manchester police have set in working with the Jewish community and co-operating with the Community Security Trust is followed through.
In last year’s debate, I also touched on school security. My right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) and I visited the King David school in Manchester, which educates 1,000 pupils, many of whom we met. I reported in the earlier debate that the security measures we saw on our visit to that school were surprisingly complex, and all of it had been done on the expert advice of the Community Security Trust. Closed circuit television and fencing are, perhaps, normal in schools, but anti-shatter glass was also being used and reinforced walls were required, as well as security guards and a security rota of parents. There were regular bomb drills, too, as well as the usual fire drills. These security measures were, at the time of our visit, being funded by the parents. My right hon. Friend and I thought it shocking that such security measures were necessary just because of the religious faith of the pupils. The move forward on support for the security of Jewish schools is very important; that is one of the key recommendations of the inquiry, and it is great that progress has been made.
I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Minister for Schools and Learners made it clear that schools and authorities can use their devolved capital funding for investment in security equipment of the sort that we saw at King David school. That pledge is crucial because many schools, such as King David, require them. It is a comfort to parents to know that they have them, but the funding question is key. It is important to follow-up on that. It has been a good move to say that schools can fund such equipment. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) has written to every local authority with Jewish state schools, but I also know that he has not received responses from many of them. I suggest that the Department for Children, Schools and Families should take further action. It should now request that local authorities make formal responses on the action taken as a result of the letter. We need to make sure that across the country appropriate levels of funding are both available and being used to meet school security needs. The Department, the all-party group against anti-Semitism and the Community Security Trust need to look at that from time to time to ensure proper delivery. I hope that the progress made so far can be continued, and that Ministers working on this will periodically report back to us.
The original inquiry also concluded that there were other ways for schools to tackle anti-Semitism more generally. I seem to be the only Member who has spoken who has not managed to go on one of the Lessons From Auschwitz programme trips with the Holocaust Educational Trust, but I intend to do so, and it is clear from talking to colleagues that that is a life-changing experience. Pupils at Bridgewater school in my constituency benefited from the programme in November. It is very important that we continue to educate young people about the holocaust, and I welcome the Government’s commitment to the programme.
The inquiry also identified that community cohesion and understanding can be further nurtured by forming strong links between schools of all faiths; that is key, too. The year-on report commits the Government to extending the work of the Schools Linking Network, with the provision of funding for that; that is also key. I hope that that and other programmes can be further extended, along with continued commitment to the Lessons From Auschwitz programme.
These commitments must be combined with cross-government measures to tackle anti-Semitism in universities. I hope that much more progress on that can be made over the next 12 months. It is fine tackling these issues at school, but it is equally problematic if things are difficult for large numbers of Jewish students when they move on to university.
Although there has been real progress in terms of the Government’s response to the inquiry, as Members have said, we can never be complacent about this subject. The work of the inquiry and the all-party group provides a solid platform in the UK for tackling anti-Semitism. We reaffirm through this work the kind of society we all believe in—one that is just, democratic and tolerant. Regardless of race or religion, we are tolerant of everyone and everyone has the same worth. That is why this debate is important, and that is why the Government must continue to keep their strong focus and to build on the progress made over the past 12 months.
May I begin by paying tribute to Britain’s Jewish community, which has contributed to British life over many centuries? Its contribution has been immense, on many occasions setting Britain at the forefront of science, the arts, music and medicine. Be it in the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th or 21st century, the Jewish community in the United Kingdom has made a huge contribution to our way of life and to the advancement of the social condition. Indeed, this place has a history of very distinguished Jewish parliamentarians, from Prime Minister to Back Bencher. The Jewish contribution to British parliamentary democracy and the British parliamentary system has been significant indeed.
I should like to pay my own tribute to the Holocaust Educational Trust and in particular to Karen Pollock, its chief executive, and her excellent staff—Nancy Tenenbaum and the others who work so hard. They do a vital job, and I am grateful that the Government have put in additional funding for the trust. I hope that they will keep that funding under review and if they feel that more is required, given the rising anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, that funding will increase. The number of incidents decreased slightly last year, but as the Minister rightly mentioned, the previous figure was the highest since figures started to be recorded in 1984. There is no room for complacency, as colleagues have pointed out.
It is right that we are all reminded about anti-Semitism and the atrocities of the holocaust not only as adults, but as children in schools and as students in higher and further education facilities. However, I hope that the Government will not be tempted to legislate in respect of holocaust denial. I know that there is some debate about that, and I hope that the Minister will comment on that. Although I find it abhorrent that people should take that position, at least if people deny the holocaust in the open, that position can be countered and refuted, rather than driven underground for the lies to be peddled from a secret location. The importance of education will continue as other influences, such as the internet, which has no borders, peddle myths about the holocaust into people’s homes up and down this country. The Holocaust Education Trust’s work is important not only for those reasons and for education, but because it is the right thing to do.
This issue is not just about physical attacks on individuals—reference has been made to recent attacks in north London and Manchester, where the largest Jewish community in this country live; it is also about attacks on property, verbal abuse, offensive literature and, as I have said, neo-fascist and neo-Nazi websites.
I shall discuss the media, but first I wish to ask a question: can someone be anti-Israel, but not anti-Semitic? Yes, I think so. Can someone be anti-Semitic, but pro-Israel? Probably not, and that is why the media’s role is so important; they have to be neutral and non-partisan. Unfortunately, we still do not have the internal report that the BBC collated on the claims that it was biased against Israel. One might ask what Israel has got to do with anti-Semitism, but that is very relevant, because the messages that broadcast and print journalists put out about Israel have a direct impact on anti-Semitism on campuses and on the streets of London and Manchester.
My concern is that in some, but not all, parts, the BBC is still institutionally biased against Israel. If it is not, as a public corporation that is funded by British taxpayers through the licence fee and also directly through Government funding, it should make available to full public scrutiny—perhaps before the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport—the internal report that it commissioned. I have written to the report’s author on several occasions asking for the release of that information, yet it has not been forthcoming. What has the BBC got to hide? If it has nothing to hide, it should let Parliament and the people who pay for the BBC see the report.
The music industry also has an important part to play. Over recent years, much research has been done on rap music and on hate lyrics concerning all parts of the community—for example, homophobic lyrics and violent and abusive lyrics against women in some rap music. However, very little research has been done—perhaps the Government might want to consider conducting some research in this area, in partnership with the music industry—on skinhead and neo-Nazi music, which peddles anti-Semitic messages and racist music.
Other faiths have a key part to play in curbing anti-Semitism. The Muslim Council of Britain should speak out far more. I welcome the comments that Pope Benedict made in his Cologne speech. I think that the Church of England should do more; it should speak out against anti-Semitism. Locally, I should like to praise the work of Reverend Rous, who runs Donnington Baptist church in my constituency and who does a lot of work in this area to educate young people, in particular.
In conclusion, I congratulate the state of Israel on its 60th birthday. May Israel live in peace and may British Jews live in peace. We must all fight anti-Semitism. If we do not, we are betraying the fundamental British values of freedom of speech and freedom of religion—values that we abandon at our peril.
I have the honour of representing the constituency that has the highest proportion of Jewish people in the country; one in every five of my constituents is Jewish. I think that my constituency has more synagogues than any other, and they represent every strand of Jewish faith. There is none to which I cannot go, not being a Jew myself, which means that I can get a full flavour of the different parts and ceremonies of the different faiths. More importantly, I get the opportunity to speak to many different people from the Jewish community.
My constituency has more Jewish schools than any other—it has five primaries, one big secondary school on a split site and a number of private schools—and dozens of charities, non-governmental organisations, societies, care homes and businesses. The uniting factor is that none has name plates, signs or boards outside advertising what or who it is, and we must ask why that is. It surprised me when I was first elected and I was going round trying to find those places to visit them. It slowly dawned on me that the real problem was the fear in which the Jewish community lives. Things that we take for granted as non-Jews, they can never do.
In the past 10 days, I have attended six major functions organised for the Jewish community, all of which opened their doors an hour early. Why did they do that? They did so in order that people could trail through the enormous security measures that have to be taken. Luckily, I can usually jump the queue, although that was not the case at one of the functions. Such measures include X-ray searches and bag inspections, the locations not being announced in advance for fear of what might happen and secrecy about who may be turning up, particularly if the guest is high-profile. The exception to that occurred last week, when the Prime Minister proudly announced to the House, in response to my question on the subject, that he was going to finish what he was doing and go on that night to the 60th anniversary of Israel event. I understand that he sent his security people into a bit of a spin.
The threat and reality of anti-Semitism is with us. We are talking not only about Islamic extremists, but about the far right, as has been mentioned, and sometimes about plain nutcases. Jewish people are the only community in our country who live in a permanent state of siege and underlying fear. Looking at it from the outside, I really started to appreciate the mentality of people who are permanently worried and looking over their shoulder. The Chief Rabbi tells a story, which he repeated earlier this week, about the telegram that is sent to a Jewish family from a relative from afar stating, “Start worrying. Details to follow.” That may be a joke, but unfortunately it represents the fear that some people experience.
I have learnt about that myself, because although I am not Jewish, I am targeted because I am seen as someone who stands up for the Jewish community. I have had hate mail and death threats. I have been on the receiving end of action by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which has campaigned against me in my constituency because of my support for Jewish people. So I sympathise with what Jewish people experience, although I can never directly experience it myself.
The local police are effective in dealing with the problem. They work closely with the safer neighbourhood teams, which align their patrols in Jewish wards with Shabbat, and with the Community Security Trust. They also have third-party reporting initiatives. In 2006-07, 57 hate crimes were reported in my borough, and 50 were reported last year. So far this year, the number appears to be slightly up. I hope that when hate crimes are recorded nationally from next year, we will have separate recording of anti-Semitic incidents. I suspect that the hate crimes in my constituency were mainly anti-Semitic, but we cannot be sure without the statistics being broken down into greater detail. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to tell us about that when he replies to the debate.
The Community Security Trust is based in my constituency and I am a member of its advisory board. I was pleased that the Home Secretary accepted my invitation to visit it recently to congratulate it on its performance of its enormous task and to hear more about its work. It supports 1,000 events a year with 1,000 trained, unpaid volunteers and 55 full-time staff. It monitors anti-Semitic groups and organisations, and advises the Government and the police, and more importantly, it provides training courses and is there when it is needed. It also carries out statistical analysis, as we have heard.
I wish to focus on school security. The Government have said that capital expenditure allocations can be used for security, but I have real doubts about whether that is happening, because the money is not ring-fenced and can be allocated only within the existing devolved budgets. I spoke to the acting education officer in my borough and he told me that no money had been directly allocated for security by Barnet so far. The fact remains that in north London, the CST has recorded many examples of hostile reconnaissance at school sites, including the photographing and filming of schools, note-taking on the perimeters, and examples of trespassing and other attempts to get on to the sites. Schools are sent anti-Semitic literature and subjected to abusive phone calls, stones thrown through windows and anti-Semitic graffiti. At a primary school in my constituency, a suitcase was found chained to a lamppost outside. The building had to be evacuated and a controlled explosion carried out. I visit schools all the time, and the students—from the little kids to sixth formers—tell me time and again about the anti-Semitic incidents that they experience, whether on the 240 bus or on the way to school.
The money allocated for capital is welcome. The bursar of the Menorah foundation school wrote to me to say:
“I was delighted to hear that the government has announced that help will be available to Jewish schools”.
However, she made it clear that the real problem was the revenue funding for day-to-day security. Last year, Menorah spent more than £20,000 on the employment of security guards. I phoned Rosh Pinah this morning, and it spent £15,000 on new alarms and a similar sum on security guards. Mathilda Marks Kennedy school reports similar figures. The Independent Jewish day school spends £18,000 a year on guards and Hasmonean junior school spends £19,500. This is a serious problem. We had a debate a while ago about school admissions and schools charging parents to allow their children to attend. It is a voluntary contribution, but Jewish parents are expected to pay towards the cost of ensuring that their children are secure at school. At Menorah, the security element is £300 a year; for Rosh Pinar it is £200, for Mathilda Marks Kennedy £240 and for Hasmonean £105. It is not fair that parents are expected to pay for what every other parent takes for granted—the security and safety of their children when they go to school.
The secondary school in my constituency, Hasmonean, has to spend £90,000 on security guards every year. The head teacher wrote to me saying:
“The school has been given clear guidelines that we cannot allow students on site without comprehensive security measures.”
He sets out a list of precautions that, for obvious reasons, I shall not detail. The letter continues:
“Given that these measures are an absolute requirement in order to be able to ensure the safety of our students it is the view of the school that it is unacceptable that the financial burden is borne by the school. Surely in today’s society the students have a right to be educated in safety and it is incumbent on the government to be responsible for ensuring this basic need.”
I very much agree. The capital has been made available in theory, but in practice it has not been filtering through. We need to do far more and ensure that we address the issue of revenue spending, which is the lion’s share and takes tens of thousands of pounds out of the schools’ budgets, supported by voluntary contributions from the parents. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister can give us some reassurances on that point.
Reference has been made to the Holocaust Educational Trust. There has been some confusion in the debate, with people praising the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for work that the HET does and vice versa, but the two do very different jobs. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is very important, and indeed, Holocaust memorial day came into existence partly because of the campaign I ran in the House after a visit to Auschwitz with the HET, so there is a link. Both organisations do extremely important work, and I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that when he replies to the debate.
The issue of universities has been mentioned. The students and sixth formers in my constituency who go to university have started to select where they should go by how frightened they might be when they get there. Some campuses—I shall not name names—have a reputation for active anti-Semitism that the university authorities do nothing about. Indeed, I have had complaints from students at some universities that they are required to sit their exams on Shabbat because the university will not make special arrangements for them to do otherwise. I take such complaints up with the vice-chancellor or principal concerned and sometimes we can get that changed. It is not fair and it discriminates against students, and is therefore a form of anti-Semitism.
Finally, I wish to highlight my concerns about the activities of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which I mentioned earlier. One of its purposes, to persuade young British Muslims to vote, is laudable. However, that message hides a vehemently anti-Semitic organisation with extremist views. It has no offices or fixed premises, and exists as a website. It is not a charitable organisation, listed company or political party, and it should perhaps be registered by the Electoral Commission.
The MPAC continually vilifies those whom it believes to be supporters of Zionism. In the last general election, it mounted a vitriolic campaign against my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor. It also targeted Lorna Fitzsimons and claims credit for de-seating her, having described her in leaflets as
“a Jewish member of the Labour Friends of Israel”.
She is not Jewish, but it libelled—if that is the right word—her in that way. Personally, I would not take it as a libel to be called Jewish, but MPAC claims it had an effect on her electoral prospects. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) has been described in MPAC literature as a
“fat, smug and gloating racist…vile racist child killer…filthy blood-soaked criminal”.
That type of language conjures up images of the anti-Semitic myth of the blood libel.
We have to expose the activities of those people, who are trying to target Members of Parliament for standing up for Jewish constituents. That cannot be right. I have also been on the receiving end of such stuff. MPAC talks about the “Zionist cabal” instead of the “Jewish cabal” to try to pretend that it is not anti-Semitic, but the message is clear. They want people who stand up for Jewish people not to be Members of this House. I hope that we will stand united against their activities and that the Government will take action in that regard.
I am proud to represent the wonderful and vibrant Jewish community in my constituency, but it has this serious problem. Anti-Semitism has been a light sleeper and it is starting to awaken. We have had attacks on cemeteries and schoolchildren, which generate fear. We have to recognise that something has to be done. The all-party group report is a good start, but a lot more must follow.
I do not intend to detain the House for long, but I should like to make the point that there is something deeply depressing about the fact that, in the 21st century, there is still unwarranted prejudice and hatred across our society that affects a variety of lifestyles, religions and genders. We have seen some considerable improvements in recent years. However, as many hon. Members who have spoken in the debate have made clear, the depth of anti-Semitism within certain parts of our society is unacceptable and unforgivable.
I believe that the important way forward is through education. There is now a generation of children for whom the second world war and the atrocities of the Nazi regime are but a very distant footnote in history. Only by bringing to their attention the sheer scale and horror of what went on between 1933 and 1945 can we remind people and educate some people from birth of those horrors and take action to seek to minimise the opportunity for such hatred to continue to be perpetuated. In that respect, I pay tremendous tribute to the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Like many other hon. Members, I have been fortunate enough to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau with the trust and three of the schools in my constituency—Bosworth school, New Hall and Chelmer Valley—and I have to say as an adult that I found it one of the most harrowing and moving days of my life. For the young people whom I accompanied, it was even more distressing and harrowing because of their age, and it brought home to them the sheer horror of mankind’s cruelty to man, woman and child. That is the most effective way to make the case for doing all that we can to remove, reduce and minimise anti-Semitism and the hatred of the Jewish faith and race.
It is just inconceivable that one group of human beings could treat another in such a disgusting way. So I am pleased about the funding and the efforts that the trust receives from the Government, so that it can continue its vital work. Its work must continue to ensure for our generation of children and the next generation of children that the sheer horror of anti-Semitism at its rawest and most disgraceful is brought home to everyone.
I have been somewhat sacrificed for the sake of Back Benchers in today’s debate, but perhaps in some ways that is not such a bad thing, bearing in mind that so much of the work that we have talked about is a consequence of the all-party group’s work on anti-Semitism.
I will try to respond to a few of the questions that I was asked and some of the comments that were made during the debate. First, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) said that he would like a debate on Islamophobia to be held in the Chamber. Personally, I would welcome such a debate; there is a synergy in the discussions. He also mentioned Hizb ut-Tahrir. I had one of those dubious pleasures that come up in life when I received a phone call saying, “The Department would like you to do a piece for ‘Panorama’ on Hizb ut-Tahrir”—something that is quite a frightening experience, to say the least. It gave me the opportunity to study the issue in depth. Although I find that group’s views abhorrent, the Association of Chief Police Officers has a point when it says that we must tread very carefully when we proscribe groups. Let us face it: we must keep these things under review, and if the evidence exists to proscribe them, we should do so. However, if there is a danger that we might fail to do so or if such things went to judicial review, we would give those groups a recruiting sergeant, which is the last thing that we would wish to do. Very many ex-members of those groups are now saying that those groups are abhorrent but that we can beat them by the power of argument. I agree with that.
The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) said that, unfortunately, anti-Semitism issues are alive and well in the leafy suburbs of Surrey, as much as anywhere else.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) handed me a copy of abhorrent graffiti that he has seen in London—we have seen it elsewhere—but I know that he will agree that, when it talks about jihad and the Jewish community, it is not representative of the views of the vast majority of Muslim people in this country who are equally appalled by such graffiti. He also made an interesting point about the role of the premier league and the Football League and the possibilities of role models doing far more to help us to tackle anti-Semitism. That is certainly something that he is on to, and the Football Foundation has approached me about it as well, because it would like to do much more about it.
The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) made a considered and cogent speech in which he talked about the experience of our colleagues in the Netherlands. I have been fortunate enough to meet our counterparts in Holland and Sweden, where some great work is going on. We can learn from that work, a lot of which focuses on talking to their different community groups, whether they are Jewish or Muslim, and wherever they are from, and saying, “Actually, you’re Dutch” or “You’re Swedish.” In the same way, we must make the point that the people who live here are British and that they should be proud to be British.
As the Minister with responsibility for community cohesion, I sometimes ask myself whether I am the right person to be doing this job, bearing in mind that my parents are from India, that I was born in the west midlands, that I represent Gloucester and support Liverpool football club in the north-west and that I unashamedly failed the Norman Tebbit cricket test by supporting India against England at cricket—but perhaps that is representative of what it means to be British in the here and now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Barbara Keeley) made a very good point about youth offending teams. This is not just about finding people who do bad things and prosecuting them, although that is important, but about making them aware of the error of their ways.
The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) made the point about holocaust denial—a very fair point as well.
It being one and a half hours after the commencement of the proceedings, the motion lapsed, without Question put, pursuant to the Temporary Standing Order (Topical debates).
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In an earlier exchange, the Opposition Chief Whip stated that two questions during business questions were planted. Normally, I would regard that as political tittle-tattle. However, planting the questions, one of which was from me, would have entailed a major breach of parliamentary privilege, because the report that was referred to was available to Members only from 11 o’clock. Therefore, the right hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) made an allegation of a major breach of parliamentary privilege. The allegation in relation to me is entirely untrue, and I seek your advice about a Member alleging a major breach of privilege in that way, which is untrue, and what should be done about it.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In an earlier ruling, Mr. Speaker reminded the House of the importance in the majority of cases of giving notice and advising Members when they are going to be mentioned in the Chamber. I understand that the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) was present in the Chamber when Mr. Speaker gave that ruling, so I am rather surprised that he has forgotten so quickly Mr. Speaker’s clear ruling on the matter.