Monday 18 January 2016
[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered e-petitions 114003 and 114907 relating to the exclusion of Donald Trump from the UK.
It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I thank the Petitions Committee, which under its inspired Chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones), has allowed me to introduce the debate on these two petitions. This is a bit of an occasion, because the first petition has been signed by more people than any other in this Parliament. It has 573,971 signatures, and its title is “Block Donald J Trump from UK entry”. The second petition is titled “Don’t ban Trump from the United Kingdom”. That petition is curious. It has 42,898 signatures, but 30,000 signatures were removed because they were thought to be suspect and coming from one source. Anyone who is trying to rig the system should be aware that they will be found out.
The text of the first petition reads:
“The signatories believe Donald J Trump should be banned from UK entry. The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the UK. If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.”
The text of the other petition states that
“we shouldn’t be banning people for their opinions on domestic actions in a US political race that doesn’t concern us. But more importantly if he does actually win the nomination, and then goes on to win the presidency. We then have to work with a man who we banned from our country in the first place…Lets mind our own business.”
The Government’s response to both petitions, which was not entirely helpful, said that
“the Government does not routinely comment on individual immigration and exclusion decisions…Exclusion powers are very serious and are not used lightly…The Prime Minister has made clear that he completely disagrees with Donald Trump’s remarks. The Home Secretary has said that Donald Trump’s remarks in relation to Muslims are divisive, unhelpful and wrong. The Government recognises the strength of feeling against…the marginalisation amongst those we endeavour to protect.”
The Government do not directly answer questions on those who are banned, but they did publish a list of 20 people who were denied entry to the United Kingdom between 2008 and 2009. I will not mention their names— I do not want to give them extra notoriety—but I will give some idea of the sort of people who have been banned. The first was a leader of a violent gang that beat migrants and posted films of the attacks on the internet. The gang leader was considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by fomenting serious criminal activity and seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts. Another was described as a preacher considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by fomenting terrorist violence in furtherance of his political beliefs. Another was considered to be engaged in unacceptable behaviour by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts. A fourth was a Muslim writer and public speaker from India. He was excluded from the United Kingdom because he had made anti-Jewish statements, thus fostering hatred among others. Those examples are entirely typical of the kind of people who are excluded.
We should say that the situation with Mr Donald Trump does not correspond with those cases, which are far more serious and presented an immediate threat of violence. The petitioners claim that violent attacks have been committed in Boston and elsewhere by people who quoted Donald Trump. It is alleged that one attacked a Hispanic person and one attacked a Mexican. That is what the petitioners are basing their points on.
One case does correspond with the situation with Donald Trump. Geert Wilders is a Dutch person who was seen to be fomenting hatred against Muslims and to be guilty of homophobia. He was banned by the Home Secretary in 2009. Mr Wilders appealed to the court and won. The result was that he was allowed into the country, and the publicity and attention that he gained for his Islamophobia and his film were multiplied a hundredfold by the ban. We should bear that in mind.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing and leading this debate. Does he share my concern about the number of cases—the cases have come to light since Mr Trump’s comments, but were not because of them—of British Muslims being refused admission to the United States of America? Does my hon. Friend agree that, whenever that happens and whether the people are Muslims or not, there should be a clear indication of why they have been refused admission?
The figures are worrying, but we are still in a position where the President of America is Barack Obama. I am sure that he would look with equal disapproval at those cases, but they need to be investigated. It is certainly of considerable concern, and Mr Wilders’ case is of great significance to us.
The creator of the main petition said:
“Freedom of any kind comes with responsibility; this includes free speech. Freedom of speech is not the freedom to engage in hate. Words can wound and can be a rallying cry to violence…The reality of hate speech’s ability to incite violent acts is why the UK’s laws have stopped some 80 individuals from entering the UK to date.”
The petitioner quotes certain violent acts that have taken place in America, which they put down to Mr Trump’s intervention.
The way in which this debate has been reported throughout the world has created an enormous amount of attention, and we want to make it clear that it is no attempt to disrespect in any way Americans or the American state. Our cultures have melded together over the years, getting ever closer. This is the country that sacrificed more of its sons and daughters in the cause of creating democracy in other countries than any other nation on Earth. This is the land of Barack Obama, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln.
I appreciate the balanced way in which the hon. Gentleman is presenting his argument. The election of his party leader has shown that remarkable things happen in politics. We have to be alive to the possibility that this ridiculous individual—that is, Mr Trump—may be elected as President of the United States. In that event, would such a ban be overturned? Were it not, that would be one almighty snub to the American citizens to whom the hon. Gentleman has been referring.
I am sure that is absolutely right. Our great difficulty is that showing disrespect for Mr Trump might be interpreted by his supporters and others in America as showing disrespect to the American nation, but that is not what we are doing. One individual is involved. If we attack this one man, we are in danger of fixing on him a halo of victimhood. We give him the role of martyrdom, which can seem to be an advantage among those who support him. The line will go out: “Here are these foreigners interfering and telling us what to do.” It would be a grave error if we allowed that situation to arise and if our deliberations today seemed anti-American.
Various people have said we should not discuss this issue, but it is difficult to ignore a vox pop that is so thunderous and the signatures of 500,000 people. The purpose of the Petitions Committee is to say that it is not only MPs, parties, Governments and Opposition who decide the agenda here in Parliament, but the public, and the public are speaking in a very loud voice indeed. Our best plan is not to give Mr Trump the accolade of martyrdom. We may already be in error by giving him far too much attention by way of this petition, but he has said some remarkable things that have caused a great deal of upset.
I do all the time, apparently. [Laughter.] Debate can be immediately shut down and that is a danger to democracy. Debates on a range of things have been shut down in this country, and people get labelled as xenophobes, right wing or left wing. Let us hear the debate and, if it is unreasonable, ignore it.
That is right. Petitioners have drawn to our attention how Mr Trump mocked a man for his disability in a cruel way. He described the people of Mexico as rapists and drug abusers. He made degrading remarks about women. More recently he suggested that Muslims not be allowed into his country, which is an extraordinary and extremely dangerous thing to say. We are faced with the most dangerous position between the nations in my lifetime, and I can clearly remember the start of the second world war. In the world today we have al-Qaeda, Daesh and other similar groups, spread throughout a score of countries. They want to divide the world between Christians and Muslims. They have a mad plan that one day there will be a war between Christians and Muslims, and the Muslims will win and will establish a caliphate throughout the world.
The most alarming thing is what is happening with our young people in this country, in my constituency and elsewhere. The groups have an almost irresistible appeal to adolescents. They say, “Come and join us; we can right ancient wrongs. You can take part in a battle. You can have a wife or a husband. You can have a great adventure serving your religion with the possibility of martyrdom followed by eternal bliss.” That is the kind of seduction that has been used by many cults over the years. Sadly, hundreds of our young people are falling for it. If we react to terrorist attacks by joining in wars and battles, the world will be in a very dangerous place. Although we have no right to inform Americans who they should elect as leader, we look forward with some trepidation to a future when difficult decisions have to be taken. Will they be taken by a person who is seen to be impulsive and not well informed, and who has been accused of racist views?
The hon. Gentleman is coming down on one side of the argument to say that Mr Trump should not be banned from entering this country. Are we not in a unique position here? I cannot think, in my lifetime, of another senior politician in America or anywhere else wishing the Government of their country to deny our citizens in the United Kingdom free international movement because of their religion. If the hon. Gentleman is to take the position that he seems to be taking, may I ask him: what would be an appropriate response by this country to the United States of America to protect the people we represent?
I think it is premature—we have had an intervention on this before—but if that was to happen, it would of course be an outrage. It would certainly be contrary to all American history—the words written on the Statue of Liberty—and a denial of the best in America’s history and its hospitality to those who wish to live in her country.
I would urge the alternative of inviting Mr Trump here. I would be delighted if he could show us where the so-called no-go areas for police are in this country—I have never been able to find one. It would be a pleasure to take him down to Brixton and show him the rich mixture of races and creeds that are living happily together there. Perhaps it would be interesting to have a chat about why in America there are more people killed by shotguns every day than are killed every year in this country. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested a trip to Islington around the mosques and possibly a meeting with his wife, who I understand is from Mexico. I am sure they would have a very interesting conversation. I believe we should greet the extreme things that Mr Trump says with our own reasonableness and hospitality. We should greet him with courtesy if he comes here, but we should not build him up by our attacks.
In conclusion, another great Republican said in 1990:
“Democrats and Republicans...I salute you. And on your behalf, as well as the behalf of this entire country, I now lift my pen to sign this Americans with Disabilities Act and say: Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”
Those are the words of President Bush. It was absolutely right that that Act, for those who are disabled, led to similar Acts in nations throughout the world. We should look to what we are seeing from Donald Trump at the moment and confront his words of prejudice, his lack of knowledge and intolerance. We should greet him with a welcoming hand of friendship, knowledge and truth, and then perhaps more shameful walls of prejudice will come tumbling down.
Order. Given how many hon. Members rose to speak, I am proposing to impose immediately a time limit of six minutes. If hon. Members are willing to adhere to that, we may be able to get most if not all Members who wish to speak into the debate.
I do not normally do this from the Chair, but given the number of Members who are seeking to catch my eye it might be helpful for me to read out who indicated before the debate that they wish to be called to speak. From the Opposition Benches I have on the list Tulip Siddiq, Gavin Robinson, Naz Shah, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Keith Vaz, Corri Wilson, Jack Dromey and Gavin Newlands. From the Government Benches I have Paul Scully, Sir Edward Leigh, Tom Tugendhat, Victoria Atkins, Steve Double, Lucy Frazer, Philip Davies, Simon Hoare and Kwasi Kwarteng. Those who are not on my list at this point—in other words those who did not indicate in writing that they wished to speak—may choose to seek to intervene rather than to be called. I call Paul Scully.
Thank you, Sir Roger. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), a fellow member of the Petitions Committee, on leading the debate. I was keen to participate not only because of the substance of the debate, but to echo the sentiments he expressed about why the Committee decided to hold it. The issue has caught the media’s eye, and some people have been concerned about our discussions. For any petition of more than 100,000 signatures, the mechanism is in place for us at least to seek to allow the public to have a voice in this place, whether through a Select Committee, in a wider debate that is already ongoing, or in the research that we carry out—for example, the Committee is looking at research into brain tumours.
In this instance, as has been the case on several other occasions, it is appropriate for us to give members of the public a voice in Westminster Hall. Donald Trump’s favourite UK columnist, Katie Hopkins, was on John Pienaar’s radio programme on Sunday and asked why we were not debating other matters, such as the immigration petition that has received a number of signatures. She claimed that it was down to us being politically correct. It was nothing of the sort. We held a debate on immigration, which I led, back in October, as a result of a petition that was worded in a very similar manner. It was more appropriate to push on with this debate. Wherever possible, we do not want to duplicate work. The hon. Member for Newport West forgot to mention one petition that we should roll up with the others. As of this morning, 75 people had signed a petition inviting Donald Trump to address Parliament. Perhaps we might want to consider that.
It is important that members of the public who are watching the debate understand that it is not going to result in a vote. It is not for us to decide whether Donald Trump should or should not be allowed into the country. It is for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to decide whether any visit that he might make is conducive to the public good. Nevertheless, the debate allows us to have our say, and I am sure that the Home Secretary will be listening. There are examples of when people have been excluded from this country. I have heard of a number of cases in which people have been excluded for incitement or for hatred; I have never heard of someone being excluded for stupidity, and I am not sure that we should start now.
I totally agree that we should not be focusing on one man. Over the course of the debate, I would like us to look at the wider issues surrounding this matter and how they affect the UK: immigration, global security, and the positive contributions made to this country by people with Muslim faith, whether they were born in this country or have come here and added to our economy, culture and community.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the second most popular petition on the website, with 457,000 signatures, is one with the title “Stop all immigration and close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated”? Does not that motion show why it is important to challenge views such as Donald Trump’s in a robust, evidence-based and democratic way?
Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes a really important point. That wording is very similar to the one for the debate I led in October. There are a lot of petitions out there with quite inciteful and clumsily worded approaches. There is a fear of immigration and for global security. I suspect that Donald Trump’s words were borne out of his own fears, although as an aspirant leader he should be leading the way towards a clearer understanding of this issue. It is not acceptable for him to say, “We need to stop immigration of this sort until we understand what is going on.” That is not acceptable for an aspirant world leader.
We know the benefits of controlled immigration in this country. As the son of someone who was born in Burma—I am half Anglo-Indian—I have seen the benefits of good immigration, when people contribute to this country, make no claims on social services and have incredible aspirations for education and hard work. But mass, uncontrolled immigration puts a lot of pressure on services and infrastructure and puts a lot of concern into people’s minds. I suspect that, like America, the UK feels that, hence the number of signatories to the petition, but we need to tackle it in a very different way.
We need to speak about the positive contributions made to business investment, to science and medical procedures, and to culture. Many Members will know that I do quite a lot of work with the British curry industry in my role as chair of the all-party group on the curry catering industry. That one industry alone is worth £3.5 billion to £4 billion to this country’s economy, depending on who one speaks to. It employs 100,000 people and affects a number more. We all enjoy a curry, and it would be bad for the UK economy if the industry continued to struggle. That is just one small industry. Let us look at the medical industry and business as a whole and at immigrants’ input to this country.
On global security, we need to look at the Government’s counter-extremism and counter-terrorism strategies. Those are far more clever, positive and practical ways to approach the issues than the impractical suggestion simply to close the country to people from one faith. How would someone determine people of one faith? Would they put a badge on them? Would they record them on a database? Although he has not gone quite as far as suggesting putting a badge on people, Donald Trump has not excluded keeping people on a database, which is an extraordinary route to go down.
We have very limited time, so I will bring my remarks to a close. I hope that over the course of the debate we will be able to concentrate on practical ways that this country can tackle immigration and community cohesion, rather than worrying about the ego of one man.
The arguments over why we are having this debate have already been articulated by the speakers who came before me—my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) and the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully). I want to discuss why this online petition, which has been signed by 3,000 of my constituents in Hampstead and Kilburn, has evoked such emotion. Is it because Donald Trump’s comments have tarnished the entire Muslim community with the views of a small group of extremists whose views ordinary Muslims absolutely condemn? Is it because the world’s largest economy might be excluding the world’s second largest religious community—more than 1.6 billion people? Or is it because people in this country are proud of the long history we have of welcoming immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers?
People often say that the public are apathetic about politics. This petition, signed by nearly 600,000 people, shows that when people feel a sense of justice—when they feel that we need to stop a poisonous, corrosive man from entering our country—they will act in good conscience. We are not talking about just any man. This is a man with an extremely high profile who has been involved in the American show-business industry for years—a man who is now interviewing for the most important job in the world. His words are not comical. His words are not funny. His words are poisonous and risk inflaming tensions between vulnerable communities. Let me make one thing clear: we have legislation in our country to ensure that we do not let people who are not conducive to the public good enter. My hon. Friend outlined some of the people the Home Office has banned from entering this country.
I think the question has been answered for the hon. Gentleman.
I looked at the cases of the 84 hate preachers who have not been allowed into the country. I want to highlight the case of a female blogger—I will not name her, but hon. Members are welcome to look her up—who was banned from entering our country. I looked at the rhetoric she used. Her crime was to equate the views of the entire Muslim population with those of a handful of extremists. The Home Office spokesperson said that she was not allowed into the country because:
“We condemn all those whose behaviours and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form.”
Her views and those of Donald Trump, who thinks that Muslims are all the same, are strikingly similar. They use very similar words. Will we apply our legislation equally to everyone or will we make exceptions for billionaire politicians, even when their words clearly fall short of the Home Office guidance?
The hon. Lady said that she does not want any exceptions, but I have heard large number of my constituents make similar remarks to those of Donald Trump. She may disagree with them, but lots of my constituents agree with what Donald Trump said, whether I like it or not. Does she think that they should be expelled from the country as a result of their views? If not, what is the difference?
The hon. Gentleman should think carefully about what he just said. That is not the same as our deciding not to let into the country someone whose views fall short of the Home Office guidance.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport West outlined Donald Trump’s views about Mexicans and black people. Do not forget that Donald Trump ran a dog-whistle campaign to see Barack Obama’s birth certificate to find out whether the President of America is really American. Imagine what would happen if, in the mother of Parliaments, my colleagues decided to question ethnic minority MPs about whether they are really British.
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention.
When Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump on Fox News to explain why he called some women
“‘fat pigs’, ‘dogs’, ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals’”,
“What I say is what I say.”
Is that the kind of man we want in our country?
I thoroughly anticipate the rebuttal that we cannot exclude people merely because they offend us or because we do not like them, but as politicians we have to make difficult decisions. We have to decide when freedom of speech compromises public safety. We are worried about our constituents’ safety. The Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism pointed out that anti-Muslim crime has increased in line with the rhetoric that Donald Trump used in the last three months of 2015. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport West mentioned the homeless Hispanic man who was beaten up by two brothers from south Boston. When they beat him up, they broke his nose and urinated on him. The police report said that one of them justified the act by saying:
“Donald Trump was right—all these illegals need to be deported.”
Donald Trump’s words stoke and inflame hate crime.
I am interested in the point that the hon. Lady seems to be making. To make sure I have understood her correctly, is she laying all the responsibility for the increase in hate crime against Muslims at Donald Trump’s door? Does she not believe that acts of terrorism, such as those in Paris, contributed to it?
Of course, I do not lay all the blame for the increase in hate crime at Donald Trump’s door, but there is a correlation between the words he uses and the increase in hate crime. The point is that his words lead to real crime and violence. That is where I draw the line on freedom of speech.
I do not mean to undermine the hon. Lady’s argument, but many things incite violence. For example, parliamentary regulations can incite violence: policemen have been attacked, and one had his head chopped off. That is not to say that we should shut down debate. All kinds of things incite violence—always by totally irresponsible people.
I do not have much time, so I will wrap up by saying that I draw the line on freedom of speech when it leads to violent ideology being imported, which is what I feel is happening. We have legislation in place to protect the people of Britain from such individuals. It has been used previously to prevent other people from coming into the country, and the same rules should apply to Donald Trump, which is why I feel he should not be given a visa to visit the multicultural country that we are so proud of.
The hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) was quoted this morning—I think in The Daily Telegraph —as saying she was going to “trash” Donald Trump this afternoon. I am not sure he is going to be terribly worried about this debate.
I respect the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) for the measured way in which he introduced the debate. It will be of no surprise that I oppose the ban. First, it just gives Donald Trump publicity. Actually, this debate is the only item about British politics in the US press at the moment. They are not talking about Corbynmania, Brexit or anything else; they are talking about this debate. Why feed the machine? We saw what happened with Geert Wilders. Did that do any good? I do not think so. The hon. Gentleman made that point in his measured speech.
Secondly, a ban would offend free speech. In a free country, people have a right to offend others. I introduced an amendment to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 to make that clear. I offend people in this House all the time; it is my right to do so.
Thirdly, the United States is a friendly country that came to our rescue twice in two world wars. This man may conceivably become President of our most important ally. Fourthly, we cannot translate American politics to UK politics, which is completely different. I was in a debate earlier this year on full fiscal autonomy for Scotland, and the Labour spokesman described me as an extreme right winger—God forbid. My amendment was supported by the shadow Chancellor when he was a Back Bencher; whether he is an extreme right winger, I do not know. As it happens, I am strongly in favour of gun control; I voted consistently against bombing Syria and invading Iraq; I am strongly in favour of the NHS, which I use exclusively; and I oppose capital punishment—would I survive in the Republican party? Nevertheless, I am told that I am an extreme right winger. US and UK politics are completely different, and it would be a great mistake to try to translate them.
Petitions such as this are a bit of good fun, but if the Government were to act on this one—God forbid—they would be playing into Mr Trump’s hands. His style of politics is to stoke controversy by saying outrageous things. Lavishing him with attention, even if our intent is to condemn or deride, is falling into the trap he set for us. His continuing popularity among voters—we may not like it, but he is popular—is evidence of that. We must be wary of lowering ourselves to demagoguery in fighting demagogues.
We all lament the divisiveness of politics, which seem particularly divisive in the United States when viewed from afar, from our side of the pond. Does a debate such as this really help? Would banning Mr Trump, which would be even worse, really help? Most of us in this room oppose Mr Trump for demonising his opponents. If we ban him from the country, are we not in danger of doing the same?
Like it or not, Mr Trump is also a contender to be the Head of State of arguably the most powerful country on the planet, a country which is a vital ally of ours. We have welcomed to this country Saudi and Chinese leaders, not to mention Mr Ceausescu, whose crimes are far worse than anything Mr Trump can dream up. These people do not just talk about violence; they practise violence on an extreme scale, but we have welcomed them to our country. I am a firm believer in free speech, which is a cause I have supported with such unlikely bedfellows as the National Secular Society and the Christian Institute. If we allow free speech only for those with whom we already agree, is that free speech at all? The solution is dialogue, not deeper division.
Let me end by saying that this is also an attempt to shut down an honest debate about immigration. As soon as one mentions immigration, one is labelled a right winger or a racist. That is not the way to solve the problem of integration. The Prime Minister wrote a fantastic article in The Times today, making the worthwhile and good point that our Muslim friends must learn from previous waves of immigrants, particularly the Jews of the 19th century, who have chosen to integrate fully in our society. Here are some of the prominent immigrants and children of immigrants, all intensely and identifiably British, all of whom arrived long before Britain’s post-war immigration waves: Hans Holbein, George Frederick Handel, Frederick William Herschel, Isaac and Benjamin Disraeli, Christina Rossetti, Gustav Holst, Augustus Pugin, Louis of Battenberg and his son Louis Mountbatten, Hilaire Belloc, Joseph Conrad, George Louis du Maurier, Winston Churchill, Leo Amery, T.S. Eliot, Lewis Namier, Learie Constantine, Alexander Korda, Emeric Pressburger, Nikolaus Pevsner, Isaiah Berlin, Geoffrey Elton, the two Michael Howards, and Solly Zuckerman. The list illustrates a fundamental point: although those figures immensely enhanced British life, they did not make their adopted nation cosmopolitan; their adopted nation made these cosmopolitans British, and we should be proud of them.
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute so early, Sir Roger. When considering my remarks for this debate, I thought that I would be in conflict with the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), but I am pleased to say that that is not the case. However, I want to make one point about exclusion to him, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) and the Petitions Committee. When I log on as a Northern Ireland Member and try to access the Committee’s online map, Northern Ireland does not exist. If there is an issue of exclusion, I hope that that can be addressed when the licensing is sorted out with Ordnance Survey.
I am also concerned and apprehensive that the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Sir Simon Burns) is present. He is the chief parliamentary proponent of Hillary Clinton. I wonder whether an intervention will be made to the detriment of Donald Trump.
I never thought I would say it, but I agree wholeheartedly with that dreadful right winger the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). In this debate, it is important that we consider the principles of democracy and of firm and thorough debate. We should stand robustly by our strong, well-principled position, and not run from fear or opposition or the contrary arguments that others may make, be they in this country or abroad.
Members present will know of Lynton Crosby, the political adviser and analyst, who has talked about the dead cat on the table theory. The idea is that, if one is losing an argument or not being referred to at all, throw a dead cat on the table and people will notice. They will stop and the direction of political discourse will change. That is exactly what Donald Trump is doing. It is not a one-off initiative; it marks his campaign entirely. He throws a dead cat on the table, people stop considering what they were considering and stop doing what they were doing. They listen to him and take him seriously.
There will be those today—the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) has done so already—who support Donald Trump’s exclusion. I want to see Donald Trump come to this country and be grilled either by Members of Parliament, by Andrew Neil or one of this country’s great interrogators in public discourse. I want them to challenge him. I want him to get a sense of the fury and the frustration caused by his xenophobic remarks. Let him leave this country feeling that there are better principles than what he has outlined so far. We as a country should be proud of our values, which we would like to see throughout the world. Confront him. Challenge him and confound him into recognising that what he outlines may get headlines and may change the nature of political discourse in the United States or across the world, but it is bad policy and would change the nature, image and reputation of the United States irrevocably from that created by the founding fathers and by those who have built up so much over the past three centuries.
Moving on, the Leader of the Opposition indicates that it would be appropriate to open back channels with Daesh, yet we have members of the same party saying that we should exclude somebody who has erred politically, but who is not a terrorist. For what should we open back channels with Daesh? To negotiate reasonably with somebody who would consider that negotiation in the context of whether to murder someone’s wife or rape her first before cutting off her head?
The same Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor gave succour to terrorists in our United Kingdom over the past 30 years. They supported the IRA murdering citizens in Northern Ireland and murdering our countrymen. To put into context what the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn would have us believe, she thinks it would be appropriate to ban somebody who has erred in political ideology, but who has not erred in law. This person has not promoted terrorism or extremism to the extent that lives have been lost and communities have been damaged or destroyed.
I think that it does. However, I am setting clear blue water between the support given by the hon. Lady’s leader in years gone by for terrorists who have destroyed, maimed and killed, and somebody who is a ridiculous xenophobe, but who we do not need to promote any further. That is my point.
Some might take a hypocritical stance, such as those north of the border from where we now sit, who are still very much part of our United Kingdom. They lauded and applauded Donald Trump. They invited him to their country, appointed him as an ambassador and regaled him with civic support and adoration because of brass tacks.
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Is he suggesting that somebody had a crystal ball and could predict that this individual would conceivably make comments condemning an entire religion?
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s intervention. If I ever criticise someone, some party or something in this place, I will always allow the right to respond, but a crystal ball was unnecessary. Donald Trump’s involvement in the “birther” scandal around Barack Obama’s lineage—was he born in Hawaii or in Kenya? Is he a Christian or is he a Muslim?—was ridiculous and happened not nine months ago, but in 2008 or 2009. They did not need a crystal ball. They just needed to know who they were working with. When his wife divorced him some 25 years ago, she took the opportunity to say that her much-loved former husband used to lie in bed at night and read the works of Adolf Hitler. We do not need a crystal ball to recognise that the person we are dealing with is not only a successful businessman, but a buffoon, and he has the dangerous capability of saying the most obscene or insensitive things to attract attention. None of that should be news, but we will not avoid the hypocrisy around it.
You have given me an additional minute, it seems, Sir Roger, because of the interventions, and I am grateful. However, my party and I as an individual cannot support the exclusion of Donald Trump from this country—bring him here, let us have the opportunity to challenge him and let him go home with his tail between his legs, recognising that the principles that he espouses no longer reflect this country, the United States of America or the aspirations that we should all seek to promote internationally.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger.
I find myself standing here and, for the first time ever, agreeing wholeheartedly with the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn). None of us can be as surprised about that as I am, but I was even more surprised to hear him warmly quoting the words of President Bush—admittedly, President Bush the father and not the son.
Today is one of the times this year when we will mark the 500th anniversary of a book called “Utopia”, by Saint Thomas More, who was tried and executed not so far from this place. In it he envisaged a new future and a new ideal, writing from his heart about the liberties of thought and faith that he hoped what he called Englishmen—those whom Mr Hannan refers to as the “Anglosphere”—would express across the globe. Yet today a report has come out showing that the liberties Thomas More hoped for and desired are in trouble.
An online journal called “Spiked” has gone around various universities and found that freedom of speech is being challenged. In our colleges, so-called “safe spaces”, which might also be known as “spaces of censorship”, now cover some 39% of universities. That is a threat to freedom of thought not only in those universities. We can see that this debate is being covered by many of our friends from the fourth estate, and it is worth remembering that they, too, are part of the democratic process. Although we who stand here and speak in the Chamber might sometimes not like it, their role in holding us to account is equally as important as our role to speak the truth.
With that cry for freedom and liberty, I speak in favour of considering the motion, but rejecting exclusion, because liberty is not something that we can take in portion or in part. It comes as one and as a whole. As the first amendment to the US constitution makes clear, freedom of expression is essential for a free people. That is why, although I may not like what has been said and although I am absolutely sure that I would not support it, it is no place for me or this House to criticise a man running for elected office in a foreign country. We might not wish him here, we might not like him here, but we should not vote against his ability to speak or his right to travel when we, too, value the same rights of liberty.
To be clear, did the hon. Gentleman say that it was not our place to criticise? Surely that would be a curtailment of freedom of speech for those of us who are opposed to what Donald Trump said. I am pretty sure that the hon. Gentleman said that we do not have the right to criticise.
The hon. Lady is quite right: we have the right to criticise. However, I do not think that we should exercise that right on people who are running for elected office in foreign countries. It is for the American people to judge Donald Trump and to hold him to account. It is bad politics and bad judgment to intervene in the electoral processes of other countries and I would wish to do it as little as possible.
I am delighted to comment on that, on the grounds that the United States makes wonderful provision for the balance of powers. The hon. Lady’s failure to understand that the President of the United States is neither a sovereign nor a despot, but is balanced by Congress and the courts, is a failure to understand the United States. Despite—let’s face it—having had one or two incumbents of the White House who might not have been Mensa candidates, the country has yet succeeded all the way through to today as a bastion of liberty and of economic success.
Today is also Martin Luther King Day and it is worth remembering that he, too, relied on those rights and freedoms. He, too, relied on those rights while he was campaigning to desegregate the University of Alabama. When those students bravely marched in on 11 June 1963, the prevailing opinion was that they should shut up and that their right to freedom of speech should be curtailed. I think that Donald Trump is crazy and has no valid points to make, but I will not be the one to silence his voice.
When I think about what more we should do, I say that we should stand aside and wait for an American to come forward as the great Joseph Welch, the chief counsel for the US army, did. In the 1954 trials, he looked at Senator McCarthy and asked, “Have you no shame, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” For someone to say that to Trump is surely better than for us to legislate on the freedom of expression or of travel of a citizen of that great country, the United States.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) on leading the debate.
I will start by quoting Martin Luther King, because he deserves much more recognition today than does Donald Trump:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Therefore, I welcome this discussion and I am grateful to the petitioners, who wanted us to raise our voices and to have the debate.
I want to share two things with the Chamber. I had an interesting lunch earlier with a number of people, including Rick Stengel, the US Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. In our conversation—I said that I had to get back for this Donald Trump debate—we agreed that Donald Trump was no more than a demagogue, who panders to people’s fears, rather than their strengths. I should know, because the people of Bradford West helped me to get rid of one in the general election—so it is not the first time that I have dealt with a demagogue.
I want to point out several things. I really value this debate and accept that the subject is emotive. I understand and respect the views of my colleagues who say that we should ban this person for inciting hatred—I agree. However, as the Member of Parliament for Bradford West, I would give an open invitation to Donald Trump to visit my constituency. I would take him to the synagogue, the church and the mosque and I would invite him for a curry—we are the curry capital of Britain. I would welcome him, then have a conversation with him and challenge him about his views.
I will make my point first. I would invite Donald Trump to join us in feeding the homeless at the InTouch Foundation, a Muslim charity that feeds homeless people in the city of Bradford. I would invite him to meet the Muslim volunteers who help at Human Appeal (International), a foundation based in a colleague’s constituency, and all those people who work together on issues that affect us as a country and as people, regardless of our race, gender, ethnicity or religion. That is what I would show to him.
I respect the views of my colleagues, but I do not agree with an overall ban. I would invite Donald Trump to Bradford West. I also think that the curries are better in Bradford West, but there we go.
There is an issue for me about challenging that narrative. In the name of democracy, it is important for us to challenge the hatred speech that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth. By the same token, I stand here as a proud British Muslim woman, and he would like me to be banned from America. I would not get a visa but my Islam and, as I understand it, Surah 41, verse 34 teach me—this is not word for word, but what I take from my Koran—that goodness is better than evil. If someone does bad, you do good in return. I will not allow the rhetoric of badness into my life and my heart or those of my constituents. I will challenge that with goodness, because hatred breeds hate and that is not something that I will tolerate.
Given that it is Martin Luther King day, I leave everyone with his words:
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I must make a declaration: I am the only Member of Parliament who can claim to represent the good people of New York—New York in Lincolnshire. When those seeking religious sanctuary in the 1600s reached the shores of what we now know as the United States of America, that tiny hamlet in my constituency lent its name to a patch of land that grew to be one of the greatest cities on the planet. The good people of the original New York—all 150 or so of them—wear that honour lightly.
Ted Cruz has launched a vicious attack on the people of New York, saying they are cosmopolitan—[Laughter]—so I hope my hon. Friend will stand up for the people of New York. Will she note, as I have, having looked at the map, that not a single person from Lincolnshire has signed the petition to ban Donald Trump?
My hon. Friend reaches my point before me. I promise to deal with New York values at the end of my speech.
I turn, as I must, to Mr Trump. His comments about Muslims are wrong. His policy to close borders, if he is elected as President, is bonkers. If he met one or two of my constituents in one of the many excellent pubs in my constituency, they may well tell him that he is a wazzock for dealing with the issue in that way. I sense that my constituents, whether in New York or Tetney, in Minting or Mablethorpe, feel that their values are more than robust enough to survive anything that Mr Trump may say. We in Lincolnshire—in fact, we in the United Kingdom—should have enough confidence in our values to allow him to say whatever he wants in New York, New York, or in New York, Lincolnshire, or anywhere else in the world, because our British values are stronger than some among us here today appear to fear.
Does the hon. Lady understand that it is all very well for us to say, “We feel strong and we can withstand this, so you can criticise and offend and we will stand up to you,” but she and I are not Muslims living in a country where Islamophobia is already rising? Comments such as his, from someone who has such influence over so many people and is getting so much media exposure, can only harm not people like us, but those on the streets who feel vulnerable. They do not feel as strong as she and her constituents claim to feel.
I can only give the hon. Lady reassurance. As someone who used to prosecute criminals for a living before I came to this place, any defendant who tried that on in court would get very short shrift from me and, I am sure, from the jury. We must not allow people who behave in such a disgraceful way—criminals who beat up other people on the basis of their religion or beliefs—to remove themselves from that by blaming someone on a different continent. If they beat up a Muslim on the streets of Britain, that is their responsibility and no one else’s.
One of the values that best sums up our country is the freedom to exchange thoughts and ideas within the law—the freedom to persuade or rebut; the freedom to inspire or eviscerate in argument; the freedom to speak; and the freedom to listen. That freedom is not always comfortable. Indeed, my hon. Friends the Members for South Dorset (Richard Drax) and for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) referred to the rising problem in some of our universities about allowing free speech and providing safe spaces for it, for fear that people may be offended, but the freedom of speech must mean that we will sometimes be offended. It means allowing those whose views we hold to be unedifying to speak their minds. Crucially, it also means the freedom to reply—to say, “No, Donald Trump, you are wrong, and you are wrong for the following reasons.” That freedom was hard won over centuries and it must be defended jealously, because it goes to the essence of democracy and the rule of law.
Opposition Members may rely on the argument of consistency—indeed, one Member said, “So-and-so has been excluded, so Mr Trump must be excluded.” Let us remind ourselves of the threshold that must be met for that to happen. The Home Secretary must conclude that the person’s presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good.
The House of Commons Library helpfully provided a briefing paper for the debate, which gives 14 examples of people who had been excluded by Labour Home Secretaries by May 2009. Of those, 10 were considered to be engaging in “unacceptable behaviour” by seeking to foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence. Nine were considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour in order to provoke others to commit terrorist acts or serious crimes. Five were considered to be fostering hatred that might lead to inter-community violence in the UK and one had spent 30 years in prison for killing four soldiers and a four-year-old girl.
I ask a simple question of those who would ban Donald Trump: are they really saying that his conduct, no matter how offensive it may be, meets those criteria? If Donald Trump poses any question for us as a country, the answer is not to fuel his publicity by talking about banning him—incidentally, this debate is doing that nicely—but to rebut his arguments. The answer is to challenge him in a robust, democratic argument on why he is wrong about the contribution of American and British Muslims to this country.
The hon. Lady cites 14 cases of people who have been banned. Has she considered the 84 hate preachers who are banned? If so, she will see that there is a striking resemblance between what was said by Donald Trump and by two bloggers who were banned two years ago by the Conservative Home Secretary. Will she comment on whether the same should apply to Donald Trump?
Forgive me, but I have already answered that. The House of Commons Library paper, as I think most people would accept, is a neutral document and those were its examples. I used every single one of the 14 examples given, and they are in a very different category from what Donald Trump has said on this issue and many others.
Finally, I will deal with the point raised by my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). In a recent Republican debate, Ted Cruz accused Donald Trump of having New York values. Both of them would be enriched by the values of my constituents in New York and beyond, who are hard-working, generous and welcoming. They may be rather bemused that we are fuelling that man’s publicity machine by having the debate at all.
It is indeed a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. Donald Trump’s comments that he would ban Muslim men, women and children from the USA, if he were to be elected as President, were almost universally condemned as racist and offensive. I welcome the condemnation that his statement received from all parts of the House and, indeed, in this debate. I also welcome the fact that Members of the public have decided that this issue is serious and merits parliamentary scrutiny, which is why we are having this debate.
In making his announcement and subsequent remarks, Mr Trump condemns a whole religion because of the actions of a terrorist death cult. He also speaks in derogatory terms about women, people with disabilities and Mexicans—the list is never-ending. He is not just wrong; his comments are dangerous, and his views must be tackled seriously.
It is not for us to try to get into Donald Trump’s mind. However, it is important for Members here to understand what it is like for Muslims in this country when people take comments made by those such as Mr Trump as expressing genuine concerns about those of us who practise the Muslim faith. That is a very uncomfortable place to be in, and I hope the hon. Gentleman accepts my personal experience in that respect.
Mr Trump condemns my family. In a similar vein, in the ridiculous situation he has created, he condemns the political editor of Sky News, the chief executive of Tate and Lyle, and some of our greatest Olympians. He condemns the leaders of Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan for the actions of the very terrorists they are working together to overcome in Iraq and Syria. He does that because we are all Muslims—that, for him, is the one and only common denominator.
Rather than combatting the serious issue of international terrorism, Trump’s statements have bolstered the twisted narrative promoted by the terrorist cult Daesh and others, which pits the west against the Muslim faith. He has fuelled racial tensions across the world, while undermining the national security of the US and the UK. Indeed, in the words of Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook at the time Mr Trump made his statement:
“anything that bolsters ISIL’s narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security”.
Donald Trump threatens not only the national security of our friends in the USA, but our security. Since her appointment in 2010, the Home Secretary has banned hundreds of individuals from the UK. Quite correctly, her job is to protect public safety and to promote our security. She has already explicitly excluded 84 people for hate speech, and she should make Donald Trump No. 85. Using the powers vested in her, she has excluded serious criminals, far-right extremists and homophobic extremists, and the same rules should be applied consistently and equally to all—if we agree they should exist, they should exist for that very reason. We have a responsibility to ensure peace and security, and we should ensure that whoever enters or leaves our country is treated in the same way.
I am proud that the Scottish Government have taken a lead by removing Trump’s status as a GlobalScot ambassador. As for questions about hypocrisy, it is important for me to confirm that that status was bestowed on him by a former Labour Administration, so let any myth about that be dispelled now. However, the same point applies: no genuine person could possibly have envisaged that this man would make such horrendous comments.
The UK Government now need to demonstrate their commitment to promoting religious harmony by applying their own rules consistently in this case. I understand the argument made by some that we should educate Mr Trump and that we should invite him here to see for himself how to build bridges with the Muslim community, rather than putting up barriers. This is a man who seeks to be President of the United States of America, and we think we need to educate him. We should be very worried if a man lacking such education seeks to lead a nation.
It is within the gift of the British state to deal with Mr Trump in the same manner it has dealt with other people. The hon. Gentleman referred to Mr Trump’s buffoonery, but his remarks condemn an entire religion—one that I practise. It may be difficult to understand how that affects people, but it does—Mr Trump is talking about me, my family and my children.
It is worthy of note, however, that Mr Trump’s policy would make it impossible for me or other Muslim friends of America to travel to his country to make the same case that we are making here. Parliament can be extremely proud of the improving record of strong Muslim MPs being elected to both sides of the House to represent their constituents’ interests. However, Mr Trump would ban new Members such as the hon. Members for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq), for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq), for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani), for Bradford West (Naz Shah) and for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) from entering the USA and making their case there.
I have heard others say that applying the rules consistently in Mr Trump’s case would only add to his notoriety and raise his profile. Anyone who has followed the race for the Republican nomination for President will know that lack of profile is not an issue for Mr Trump. The American people have an important decision to make this year about who they want to lead their country. I am sure they will make the right choice, and it is their choice to make.
Last week, Mr Trump added insult to injury by stating that he will withdraw his investment in two Scottish golf courses if he is subject to the same travel restrictions he advocates for others. However, contrary to his own assertions, he is bad for business. It is already clear that the Royal and Ancient will not include Turnberry on the Open rota while it is still owned by Trump, costing the local economy dearly. Furthermore, Mr Trump’s work actively to undermine a vital offshore renewables investment in the North sea may have serious repercussions for Scotland’s development as a world leader in that emerging technology.
Donald Trump has provided succour to terrorists and promoted racial hatred on both sides of the Atlantic. Of course, he has a right to be wrong, but his statements are dangerous, and they threaten our public safety and national security. We cannot have laws that are applied differently, depending on people’s income, public profile, religion or colour. What does that say about us? Our rules and laws must be applied consistently to all. I call on the Home Secretary to apply her judgment consistently in this case, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response. For her to do anything else would be unprincipled and quite simply wrong.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger, and to participate in the debate. I, too, am a member of the Petitions Committee, and I am delighted that we brought the debate to the House today. That is not because the Committee held a particular view, but because we felt that it was right, given the number of people who signed the petition, to air these important issues.
Like the hundreds of thousands of people who signed the petition, and no doubt millions of others across the country, I condemn wholeheartedly the comments Mr Trump made about not only Muslims, but Mexicans, women, people with disabilities and other minority groups. However, the question whether we should ban him from this country is interesting and important, and we need to address it head on.
This country has a long and strong tradition of free speech. Although, sadly, that principle and some of those freedoms have been eroded recently, we are still a country that welcomes debate and embraces a variety of views. If we were to go down the road of banning Mr Trump because we find his views objectionable or even offensive, where would we draw the line? There are many people with equally intolerant views—some come to this country and some, as we have heard, already live here. Are we to ban them because we do not like the things they say or we disagree with them?
The issue at stake is how our society handles people with different views from us when we find those views strongly objectionable or offensive—the issue of free speech. I believe it is about when someone crosses a line to incite others to acts of violence—to criminal acts. That is the line that I believe must be drawn, and at which we differentiate. I do not believe that Donald Trump has crossed that line. He may do it another time, and then we might need to reconsider, but I do not believe he has done it yet. It is perfectly right that the Home Secretary bans extremist preachers when they tell their followers to commit acts of terrorism and to cause harm and pain to individuals and communities—and, ultimately, to kill. However, I do not believe that Mr Trump has done that.
I wonder how long the list would be if our country began to ban people because they said things we did not like. Ignorant and unpleasant as Donald Trump’s comments are, he is not alone in saying such things. For starters, we would have to ban the Prime Minister of Hungary who has, I believe, said equally offensive things about Muslims. The way we deal with bigotry and prejudice is by confronting it head on, not trying to avoid it. Banning someone like Donald Trump risks making him a martyr. We would only fuel his cause and he would see himself as a martyr. I believe many of his supporters would feel the same.
What would banning Donald Trump achieve? We live in a global village. We will not stop his views reaching our shores purely because we ban him. In fact, I would argue the opposite. The promotion that would come from a ban would mean his views would be heard louder and stronger than they are now. Banning him would only play into his hands. Instead of wanting to ban Mr Trump, I am with those who say, “Let’s invite him to this country. Let’s bring him here and confront his views head on. Let’s take him and show him what a great nation we are, based on those values of tolerance and freedom of speech. Let’s take him to the places that he has spoken about and show him what life in Britain is really like.”
My final point is that I have been surprised at the amount of support Mr Trump has received from the Republican party. In my view, the greatest Republican President that the United States has had in my lifetime was Ronald Reagan, who, far from proposing building walls, was all about tearing them down. He said to President Gorbachev of Russia,
“if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Therefore, I am surprised that Donald Trump is getting the support he is. It seems to cut against the heritage and values that I understand the Republican party to be about.
I am not surprised at all. The fact is that in America and Britain there is widespread disillusion with mainstream establishment politicians, who do not seem to give an honest answer to people’s concerns about immigration and many issues. Therefore, there is no point in just bad-mouthing this guy. We have to take on these arguments and discuss them in an open way.
I agree with my hon. Friend that the response we are seeing is far more about people’s frustrations and concerns than about an individual man.
It would be ironic if we were to take the regressive stance of banning Donald Trump because he has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. We would surely be guilty of the thing we criticise him for. It would send a signal to the world that we are scared.
Does the hon. Gentleman understand the difference between what Donald Trump has said and what we are saying? Members on the Opposition side are calling for Donald Trump to be banned because of something dangerous that he said. He is calling for Muslims to be registered and tracked for no reason, because they have done nothing wrong. There is a huge difference.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. America is a great country—the land of the free and one of our oldest allies. Donald Trump is a fool. He is free to be a fool; he is not free to be a dangerous fool on our shores.
Here are some of the foolish things that Donald Trump has said:
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
“It’s freezing and snowing in New York—we need global warming!”
Of John McCain he said:
“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.”
Then he went on the offensive. He said about Mexico:
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.
Mark my words.”
The remarks are daft and offensive. I defend people’s right to be daft and offensive. I was chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties—now Liberty—and have fought to defend freedom of speech throughout my life, but freedom of speech is not an absolute. Neither is there an absolute right for Donald Trump or anyone else to come to our shores. Successive Governments have acted to exclude the preachers of hate whose presence would not be conducive to the public good. Preachers of hate, the effect of whose actions and words would be to incite violence, have no right to come to Britain.
I have some examples of the kinds of people who have been banned. Michael Savage, a US radio host, was
“considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour…and fostering hatred”.
He claimed that American Muslims “need deportation” and was banned from coming to our country. Yunis Al Astal, the Hamas MP and preacher, was found to be guilty of “unacceptable behaviour”. He had made a series of anti-Semitic remarks and was banned from coming to our country. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, founders of Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defence Initiative, were banned in 2013 by the current Secretary of State for the Home Office when they were due to speak at an English Defence League rally to be held on the location of Lee Rigby’s murder, as their arrival was deemed not
“conducive to the public good”.
Safwat Hegazi, an Egyptian television preacher, was in the words of the Home Office
“considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by glorifying terrorist violence”.
He had called for violence against Jews.
What has Donald Trump actually said? Of course, legendarily he spoke about a total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States. He went on to say that
“51% of those polled, ‘agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.’”
“Shariah authorizes such atrocities as murder against non-believers who won’t convert, beheadings and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans, especially women.”
It is little wonder that after those remarks a rise in attacks against Muslims in America was recorded.
Why do I argue for the exclusion of Donald Trump? It is because of the context in which we are having this debate. Our country faces a uniquely awful threat—a generational threat of evil terrorism. Terrorist arrests are being made at the rate of one a day in Britain. A key to preventing terrorist attacks has been the patient building by the police service of good relationships with the Muslim community through neighbourhood policing. That has been a key to the successful detection of terrorist after terrorist. The terrorism confronting the country takes two forms: first, organised cells that are organised from Raqqa; and, secondly, a strategy of radicalising the vulnerable—and in particular those with mental illness, and those suffering a sense of victimhood, encouraged by ISIS.
[Sir David Amess in the Chair]
What makes Donald Trump’s presence in our country so dangerous is that in the current febrile climate, ISIS needs Donald Trump and Donald Trump needs ISIS. On the one hand, ISIS needs to be able to say, “Muslims, you are under attack.” On the other hand, Donald Trump needs to be able to say, “You are under attack by Muslims.” That is why I strongly believe he should not be allowed to come to our country. Just think what would happen in the current climate if he came to Birmingham, London or Glasgow and preached that message of divisive hate. It would be damaging, dangerous and deeply divisive.
The hon. Gentleman makes some really interesting points. The examples he uses, however, are surely more about Donald Trump being a bigot than hatred. Britain is pretty good at roasting beef. Does the hon. Gentleman not think it would be better to just roast Trump?
I am sorry; I do not think that a debate such as this calls for flippancy. With the greatest of respect, when our police service and our security services are working night and day to prevent our country from being attacked, and when they need the support of the Muslim community, to have someone come to our shores who demonises all of the Muslim community would be fundamentally wrong and would undermine the safety and security of our citizens. That is not a risk I am prepared to take.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says powerfully. That has been echoed by the Muslim Members, who have given powerful evidence about how Donald Trump makes them feel. However, are not British values strong enough to stand up to that? Does it not help our Muslim community to hear voices on all sides of this House standing up for the values we believe in as a nation?
I strongly believe in the unity of all faiths, and indeed of those across the political spectrum, in rejecting terrorism. I welcome the initiatives in which I think all Members have been involved in their respective constituencies, and we have such initiatives in Birmingham. The simple reality, however, is that if a vulnerable radicalised young man who has mental illness and who believes in the victimhood promoted by ISIS hears Donald Trump in London or Birmingham, the consequences could be very serious indeed.
In conclusion, I do not think Donald Trump should be allowed within 1,000 miles of our shores, because he would embolden the EDL on the one hand and fuel the flames of terrorism on the other. Donald Trump is free to be a fool, but he is not free to be a dangerous fool in Britain.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the US Supreme Court said:
“The principle of free thought is not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate.”
Of course, there are limits to freedom of expression, even in a libertarian democracy, where statements will cause real harm. However, if we fear all outrageous statements, if we fear a swell of support for unpopular views and if we fear challenge, we will stifle not only free thought but independence and liberty. We will lose the opportunity to rebut and to expose to argument, analysis and scrutiny, and we will lose the opportunity to win over those who may have listened, silently supported and agreed.
Limiting free speech does not always quash unwelcome beliefs. France has more laws restricting free speech than any other western democracy. It also has Europe’s largest far-right party. In 2009, Nick Griffin appeared on “Question Time”, watched by 8 million people. At the time, the BNP polled 6.26% of the national vote. In the first general election after that it not only failed to win a seat but fragmented in the polls. Last week, the Electoral Commission announced that the BNP had been stripped of its status as an official political party. The New Statesman referred to the poor performance on “Question Time” as a factor in eroding Nick Griffin’s popularity and the support of the BNP. To persuade those who may share the beliefs of a speaker, we need to do more than silence that speaker. We need to address the real grievances of those who may support them. We need to listen. We need to take note, and then we need to respond.
It is important to have free speech, so that we have debate. Nick Griffin’s appearance on “Question Time” will have evoked a number of responses. When there is an advocate for something, there will always be people who follow them. It may be a small minority. What we need to do is put those voices out there in order to slam them down. That, ultimately, is what has happened to the BNP.
Donald Trump’s statement that all Muslims should be banned from the US wrongly categorises an entire religion with a few extremists. His statements should be exposed as such. Now is not the time to ban him. Now is the time to say clearly that extremist Islamists are wrong and must be rooted out and stopped. Now is the time to say that the Muslim community is not Daesh. Now is the time to say that Muslims have given us such things as algebra and transformed the study of light and optics—discoveries that founded one of the bases for our modern technologies.
The other real difficulty is that Donald Trump is a presidential candidate. If we banned the leader of every country who made offensive, inappropriate or inflammatory statements or who took steps we did not approve of, we would have a much more limited foreign policy. Indeed, we may not even have a Leader of the Opposition.
I welcome both petitions and this debate. We live in a democracy that respects freedom of expression. When people make unacceptable statements, we need to use our capacity to expose their weaknesses and then ultimately defeat their arguments.
Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, the constituency I am honoured to represent in this House, is a diverse bit of Scotland incorporating bustling towns, picturesque villages and rolling countryside. It is famous for its rugged coastline and stunning beaches, and for being the birthplace of Scotland’s national bard some 257 years ago next week. It is also home to one of the world’s earliest and most enduringly successful purpose-built golf resorts.
In 1902, golf course designer Willie Fernie was commissioned by the third Marquess of Ailsa to lay out a championship course at Turnberry, which has subsequently staged the Open championship four times. That brings me to why I am speaking today. Disappointingly, Turnberry has been dragged into the debate because that world-renowned course and the resort it sits in were bought by Donald Trump in 2014.
The resort is undergoing a complete refurbishment as we speak, with the Trump Organisation investing £200 million in it. To date, the materials for the development have been sourced locally. Local produce is used in its restaurants, and it employs some 200 local people—a figure set to rise when the hotel reopens this summer. In addition, Turnberry is expecting 300 contractors on site next month, many of whom are also local and all of whom will be spending money in our local businesses, thus contributing to the local economy.
That is a stark contrast with the Turnberry of a few short years ago. Throughout the 1990s, the majority of staff were seasonal, and we would have been hard-pushed to hear an Ayrshire accent among them. Now 80% of the staff are local. Under previous owners, food and drink for the resort’s bars and restaurants were ordered through a company here in London. Now local farmers are being consulted on the menu development. Despite promises of investment, the previous owner, Dubai World, proposed closing the resort from October through to Easter as its failure to invest in the venue meant it was unsustainable as a year-round resort. Before the Trump Organisation came in, staff were worried that it would shut down altogether. Now they are looking to employ between 350 and 400 people, with the vast majority on full-time contracts, and with part-time staff guaranteed hours and averaging 20 hours a week. In a constituency with a youth unemployment rate above 5%, Trump Turnberry is home to 24 apprentices and will employ around 80 local 16 to 24-year-olds, many of whom will continue to progress their careers at the resort.
I spent time at Turnberry last week and spoke to staff, contractors and members. There is no ambiguity about their feelings on this issue. They do not talk about Trump the politician, or Trump the showman. They talk about a man with a passion for golf and a commitment and a clear vision of the future for that resort. They talk of an organisation, a family-run business, that consults with local people and has an ambitious plan for the future of the area—an ambition that is being backed up by action. I heard last week from a gentleman who has played the course for 60 years. He talked of the respect that had been shown to the ordinary members and of how lucky they were that this historic course that had been left languishing for years has now found an engaged benefactor.
Donald Trump is a divisive character, and I have no intention of standing here to defend the man. His comments on Chinese people, Mexican immigrants and women have been deplorable and certainly do not mirror the type of politics that we aspire to in Scotland. The man seems to out-trump himself—no pun intended—each time he speaks in his bid to gain the Republican nomination, and I am delighted that over half a million people in the UK have chosen to call him out on the latest statements by standing up for our Muslim community and signing this petition. However, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock cannot afford to spurn the investment of the Trump Organisation because the head of the family business is spouting offensive right-wing rhetoric in an election campaign thousands of miles away.
Trump’s ability to run off at the mouth may well prove detrimental to his ambitions to host the Open, but being banned from the UK will ultimately be little more than a minor irritant for the man. One in three children in my constituency are growing up in poverty. Our beautiful landscapes are scarred by abandoned open cast mines, and almost 14% of the working-age population are on out-of-work benefits. In the words of the club captain,
“if the Trump Organisation pulls out of Turnberry because its head is locked out, it would be catastrophic for the resort, and a tragedy for the local community.”
Although I agree with others’ sentiments in this debate, I feel my role here is to speak for my constituency. Banning someone for wanting to ban others is, in my view, an inappropriate response. Perhaps it is not just Mr Trump who would benefit from reflecting on the words of Burns when he wrote “To a Louse”:
“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
to see oursels as ithers see us!”
We find ourselves in the ridiculous position where some people are so outraged that Donald Trump has suggested that people should be banned simply because of their beliefs that those people want to ban him for his beliefs.
Across the pond, Donald Trump has been waging what might be described as a one-man campaign against political correctness for some time now. As someone who has had their own campaign against political correctness for some time here in this Parliament, nobody will be surprised to hear that I can relate to that. In the race to become the next President, he has been gaining support with a political manner that could be described as “blunt directness”. He is definitely straight-talking and, as a Yorkshireman, I certainly applaud him for that too. In fact, I think that in this country, we could do with rather less political correctness and much more straight-talking across the board, and I think many of our constituents would agree.
We should be absolutely clear that today we are debating whether or not a man who has a chance of becoming the next President of the United States of America should be physically banned from entering the United Kingdom. By anyone’s standards, that is a rather big thing. His offence—to warrant such a call—is to suggest a ban on incoming Muslims to America until, as he puts it,
“our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
It is extremely clear that in the western world we are experiencing very difficult and dangerous times. Violent attacks are becoming all too frequent inside free countries, perpetrated by those who seek to replace freedom with religious conformity. The sickening march of Islamic State is something that all right-thinking people are deeply worried about. It is also clear that one path for terrorists and those who hate our way of living in our western countries is to enter as immigrants and refugees.
Determining what to do about that clear and worrying problem will obviously result in people having differing suggested solutions. Some people—if I may be so bold, in all our constituencies—will agree with Donald Trump’s view and some will disagree. As it happens, I disagree with his view, but whatever people think, surely he should be entitled to have that opinion and to express it, and to give all those people who have that view a voice in the political process.
There was an opinion poll on the matter, which showed that in the United Kingdom, 65% disagreed with Donald Trump and 24% agreed with him. When that was moved into the north of the country, the amount of people who agreed with him went from 24% to 35%. By anybody’s standards, that is a significant body of the population. Lots of people in this room who are always talking about the rights of minorities seem very quiet all of a sudden when people who have a minority opinion have the nerve to express it. What about the rights of those minorities in this country? It is amazing that the people who always preach about tolerance, saying that we should not have any intolerance, are always the very same people who are so intolerant of anybody who happens to have a different opinion from them.
Does the hon. Gentleman think there are any limits on freedom of speech? Would there come a point when someone such as Donald Trump should be banned because the words that he said were just so extreme? Many of us on the Opposition side feel that he is already inciting hatred against the Muslim community, both in this country and across the world.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s analysis, but yes, there do need to be some restrictions on free speech. If people are inciting violence or terrorism, that freedom of speech should be restricted and is unacceptable, but we certainly should not go around banning everyone from the country simply for voicing an opinion that the hon. Gentleman happens to disagree with.
I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that this motion is actually embarrassing to the UK and makes us look intolerant and totalitarian. I feel that we should almost apologise to the people of the United States. It is for them to decide on Mr Trump’s views, not us, and I think we should also remind those in America that these people over here on the Opposition Benches represent less than 1% of the population of this country.
No, I will not, because other people need to speak. I am afraid that there is not time—the hon. Lady has had her say.
The real issue for me is not Donald Trump’s remarks, but the reaction to them. He is not a serious threat of harm to our society in any way. The uproar is largely because he is rich, white and politically incorrect, and that, to me, is really the crux of the issue. The debate today is actually as much to do with political correctness as it is to do with his comments. It is about the political correctness that attacks free speech—the free speech that, quite rightly, Americans hold very dear, as do many of us here in this country.
The irony is that it is, in part, because of political correctness that the straight-talking of Donald Trump has proved so popular with the electorate over there. People are fed up of being told what they can and cannot think, and what they can and cannot say, and they find it refreshing. Even whether they agree or disagree with him, they find it refreshing to find a politician who has the guts to stand up and say what he thinks, even if it is controversial and unpopular. In many cases, we should celebrate more often politicians who stand up and say things that are unpopular and controversial. It is easy for anyone to stand up and trot out something about motherhood and apple pie, and something that is popular. Any old fool can trot out all that stuff, but it takes real guts to say unpopular and controversial things, and in that regard, I have a lot of respect for the Leader of the Opposition, whose hallmark is saying unpopular and controversial things. I will always defend his right to do that too.
Many people who are tolerated in this country because we believe in free speech would be placed higher up the list of barred people than Donald Trump: those who preach their hatred of all-things British from our own soil, and those who denounce freedom generally and hate the western way of protecting our very important individual freedoms and values. The silencing of opinions that we have seen in both countries only builds up resentment that would otherwise not exist.
People in this country stand up for the rights of foreign criminals we seek to deport but cannot because of human rights laws. Many of the people who are so keen to ban Donald Trump from entering the country are exactly the people who are so keen to keep foreign criminals in this country when we want to deport them. Yet we are debating whether Donald Trump should be banned. That is ridiculous and outrageous.
I end with a point I made at the start. For anyone who is outraged that Donald Trump thinks people should be banned from this country because of their beliefs but thinks the solution is to ban Donald Trump for his beliefs is ridiculous. You couldn’t make it up, and I could not agree less if I tried.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I would like to say it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), but instead I congratulate the more than 600,000 petitioners who have combined unintentionally to bring this debate to Parliament. I pay tribute to the speeches from hon. colleagues and the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) who led the debate in his inimitable and, on this occasion, balanced way.
It horrifies me that in the 21st century we are still dealing with racism, sexism, bigotry and any other form of prejudice that Donald J. Trump can squeeze into his campaign. Let us be clear, he is an idiot. I have tried to find different, perhaps more parliamentary adjectives to describe him but none was clear enough. He is an idiot. The fact that such a person can get so deep into the selection battle to be the Republican party candidate for President of the United States, the most powerful job in the world, speaks volumes about how far the once mighty GOP—the “Grand Old Party”—of Lincoln and Roosevelt has fallen.
The petitioners have asked us to consider banning, or otherwise, a possible presidential candidate from entering the UK. The question we should be asking ourselves is whether Trump should be treated differently from anyone else because of who he is, how rich he is, how powerful he may become or what business interests he may have in the UK. Our immigration rules must cover everyone, regardless of how powerful they are or what religion they believe in. If we are to ban extremists, we should consider banning Christian extremists in the same way and to the same extent that we consider banning Muslim extremists from travelling to the UK.
Each and every day, young people are being held back and bullied on the basis of their gender, skin colour, the creed of their school, their sexuality or a disability. Each and every day, families lives in fear because they have had the audacity to flee a war-torn country. Victims of these hateful and poisonous acts look to authority figures and lawmakers to help to solve the issue and to protect them in future. However, today’s debate asks us to contemplate that a bigot and downright bully may be elected President of the United States. If Trump is able to stand on Capitol Hill next January and deliver the oath of office, it will send a message to bigots, racists and sexists the world over. It will tell the bullies that their behaviour is okay, that bigotry is not only okay but commendable, and that it is okay to hate people who may look, speak or act differently.
The question before us today is how we as a united Parliament defeat the hateful politics of Donald Trump and others like him. I am in two minds about this. I want to challenge Trump head-on to show how ridiculous his views are and to defeat his poison by highlighting the contribution that everyone, no matter what their background, makes to society. However, I also want us to treat Mr Trump in the same way we treat everyone else who has been banned from the UK.
The arguments for banning Trump are based on the principle that we ban other hateful preachers and extremists from the UK so why should we not add Trump to that list of undesirables. It is unclear how many individuals the UK Government have banned from visiting the UK, but in 2014, the Home Secretary indicated that she had excluded hundreds of people from gaining entry. On what grounds is it acceptable to ban those people but not Mr Trump who, as the Prime Minister said, has used language that is “divisive, stupid and wrong”?
The Home Secretary and her officials can refuse entry to the UK for reasons related to a person’s character, conduct, associations or if their presence would not be conducive to the public good. A list of unacceptable behaviour was published in 2005 and included using means or medium that foster
“hatred which might lead to inter-community violence”.
On that basis and to ensure that we are operating consistently, I see no reason why Trump should be allowed a visa to visit the UK. His racist, bigoted and sexist views are dangerous and divisive. He does not believe that women are equal to men, and in reality I think he believes that no one is equal to the Donald. I have sympathy with the view that because he wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States, we should ban him from the UK.
Although I agree with many of the arguments of those who want to ban Trump, I want to tackle head-on the poisonous views and polices that he believes in. The way to defeat people like Trump is to show him how outrageous his views of the world are. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Invitations should be extended to Trump to visit a local mosque to meet ordinary Muslims to discuss their beliefs; to meet refugee families fleeing bloody war to hear their stories; to meet feminist and LGBTI—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex—groups to debate equality; and to visit homeless shelters and so on. Let him debate all these issues and he will soon be found out for what he is: an idiot.
Trump’s rhetoric is not dissimilar to that spouted by Nick Griffin and the British National party, and where is he now? We cannot and should not be afraid to tackle the views held by Trump and others like him. To do so would enable them to try to convert others to their cause without being fully challenged. The fight against racism, bigotry, sexism and prejudice in general is not over. We have a long way to go to ensure equality and fairness throughout the world.
We must not allow bullies like Trump to think they can continue to offend people based on how they look, who they love or who they believe in. We should send out a message saying “no” to Trump and his bigoted politics, but we should do so through the power of argument. We should not roll out the red carpet, but we should let Trump come to the UK and have that debate. He would soon wish he had been banned.
I am grateful, Sir David, to be called at this late stage of the debate. It has been interesting, with many sincerely held views. It is Martin Luther King day, and if he were here today, he would be surprised at some of the sugar-coated versions of American history on display. I am sorry to say that what Trump has proposed has been proposed many times in American legislation. The outright ban on people on the basis of race, colour or ethnicity has, regrettably, often happened in United States history. One need only look at the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was on the statute book for 61 years and banned Chinese labourers from entering the United States. The Immigration Act of 1924 similarly banned Arabs and Asians and was changed only in 1952. So Martin Luther King would be surprised at the—one might say “politically correct”, although I do not want to use that term—sanitised version of American history and politics that we have heard today.
In that light, Donald J. Tump’s objectionable and hateful views have a history in the American political arena. They are not unusual or something he dreamed up in his head; they come from a long line of nativist legislation. We may object to that, decry it and say it is terrible, evil and bad, but those are not grounds for banning a presidential candidate from coming here. He said in his speech in South Carolina that his ban would be temporary, and he might note that the ban under the Chinese Exclusion Act was not temporary but lasted for 60 years and that the ban on Asians and Arabs under the immigration Acts was not temporary, but lasted 30 years. I am afraid to say—I am sure Martin Luther King would agree with me—that American history is full of nativism. Donald Trump is part of a long tradition, but that does not mean we should ban him.
All the arguments against the ban are valid. No one has said this, but if the United Kingdom banned Donald J. Trump from coming into Britain, it would be the biggest boost we could give to his campaign in America in terms of publicity and the patriotism of the United States, in not wishing other countries to try to shape or determine the outcome of its elections. It would be a spectacular own goal.
I remember the Guardian attempt in 2004 to prevent George W. Bush from being re-elected in that campaign. I think a very misguided Guardian journalist—I mean no slur on that paper—had a letter-writing campaign to the people in Ohio. They had identified that Ohio was a key swing state and they got some of their readers to write to individual electors in that state, urging them not to vote for George W. Bush. Members of the House will not be surprised to learn that George W. Bush carried Ohio and was indeed re-elected as President of the United States. That campaign was often cited as a way in which foreigners—people trying to intervene in the election of another country—could get things completely wrong, and the same thing—
It is generous of the hon. Gentleman to give way; I am grateful. Does he not see the difference in this discussion? We are not seeking at all to influence what happens in the American presidential candidate elections or elections to follow. We are talking about what we can do here. We are talking about asking the Home Secretary to be consistent in her approach—the approach that we know she has used in relation to 84 other preachers. We are asking that those same rules be applied to Donald Trump in this country. We are talking about the United Kingdom, not anywhere else.
I fully appreciate the hon. Lady’s remarks. As far as she is concerned—in her own mind—that is the case, but I am asking her to consider how the people of America would interpret a ban. They do not have the luxury of having her lucidity and understanding of how our conventions and debates work. The headline—
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because he makes my point for me. It is all very well to say, “Let Donald Trump come here and have the discussion with us.” He wishes to ban people such as me—and the lucidity to which the hon. Gentleman refers—from going to the United States of America to make the case for the Muslims of this country, who want to live in peace and harmony, who are not represented by Daesh. That is the point, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and allowing me to make it.
I fully appreciate the hon. Lady’s remark, but as other people have observed, the answer to Donald Trump’s ban is not to ban him. That does not make any sense to me, and I will explain why briefly. He is banning Muslims. In his own mind, he is saying that Muslims constitute a danger to the United States. That is what he thinks, and on those grounds he is banning them. We are doing the same thing if we ban him. We are saying that Donald Trump represents a danger to the United Kingdom, and on that ground we are banning him from coming. The implied logic is exactly the same. The circumstances are different, but the logical thought is exactly the same.
I thoroughly disagree with the hon. Gentleman when he says that this is exactly the same. It is not exactly the same: Donald Trump has said that he wants to ban all Muslims because of their religion. That is 1.6 billion people whom he wants to ban, because of their religion. The reason why some Members are asking for him to be banned is the rhetoric, the sentiment and the values that he has expressed. That is different from banning someone because of their religion. I hope that that point is clear to another Member who made the same point.
I have been very generous with interventions, but I want to clarify that point. I do not have much time, but I repeat: the ground on which Donald Trump is banning Muslims is not their faith; it is because he believes that they constitute a danger to the United States. That is the ground—[Interruption.] I am just explaining his logic; I do not agree with it. And I am saying that any case to ban Donald Trump would be on the basis that he is a danger to our civic safety. Logically, it is exactly the same.
Yes, that would make our lives very difficult.
This has been a very engaging and enlightening debate, but it is no good saying, “Oh, he’s got huge publicity at the moment, so any more wouldn’t make any difference.” He was well known at the beginning of his campaign, but we have seen that there has been a crescendo of excitement and interest in the campaign. The very fact of this debate, as someone observed, is generating and stoking that excitement.
I will not take any more interventions. I can see the hon. Lady itching in her seat, but I will resist that temptation.
What I am saying is that we are simply adding fuel to this whole media circus, and that is playing exactly into Donald Trump’s hands. A ban, if it happened, would be a headline throughout the world. It would simply reignite all the publicity that he generated with his outrageous policy and would exacerbate the situation. It would make it more likely that he would be the eventual victor in the Republican nomination fight, and he may well—who knows?—win the election in November. Then we would be in the absurd situation in which we would have banned the President of the United States from coming to Britain. That would be an insane situation to be in.
People may say that he has no chance of becoming President, but look at the odds on the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) becoming the Leader of the Opposition. I think that someone in Essex—I am not sure whether it was in your constituency, Sir David—made £2,000, having put £10 on him at 200:1, and I can assure you that, as of today, the chances of Donald Trump becoming President are far greater than 200:1.
I think the question for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is this: is Donald Trump conducive to the public good? We have heard a lot of talk in this debate about buffoonery and terms such as “blunt directness”. If I were Muslim—I am not; I speak as a gentle atheist—I would find repulsive the thought that I should be excluded from the United States of America for no reason other than that I was a Muslim.
I am proud to represent Dartmouth. It was from Dartmouth, nearly 400 years ago, that the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to the Americas, and they sailed to escape from the kind of religious persecution that we are addressing today. We have seen in Europe what happens when an entire people are demonised for no reason other than their race, so I do not think that we should trivialise this discussion; it is a really important debate. Nor do I think that the result of the US presidential election will be decided on whether the Home Secretary decides to exclude Donald Trump. In fact, I would argue that, should Donald Trump be excluded from one of the US’s oldest allies, that would send a very clear message to the people of the United States about what we feel about those who demonise an entire people for no reason other than their religion.
I do not think that there is any realistic prospect that the Home Secretary will ban Donald Trump, but let us in this House send a very clear message to Muslims in this country, to British Muslims: we value you, we value your contribution and we will take this petition very seriously. Perhaps those arguments about religious freedom matter as much now as they did 400 years ago. I would welcome everyone across the pond in the United States who may be following this debate back to my constituency —the most beautiful constituency in Britain—to see Dartmouth, where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from. The anniversary is in 2020.
I say this to Donald Trump. Just reflect on the consequences of your kind of religious bigotry. This is not a laughing matter. Think again, and if you do visit this country, take time to visit the mosques; take time to meet Muslims; take time to understand just how profoundly offensive and dangerous that kind of thinking is. There is no place for it in this country or in the United States.
Twenty-five years ago, I was in New York City, and out of some sort of mawkish interest, perhaps in his notoriety, I did two things related to Mr Trump. I visited Trump Tower, which is a black and gold edifice to a certain sort of narcissism, and I read his book, “The Art of the Deal”, which I have to say was pretty similar in many ways. Those things were not very edifying, and his activities since have not got any more edifying, I would say.
We have, in this country, a long history of civilising tolerance, developed out of conflict, deliberation and progress. Westminster Hall is a place of particular resonance in that history, where overbearing attitudes have been brought into line with the thinking of the day, sometimes with force, even when they were held by the most powerful. King Charles I was sentenced to death just a few yards from this place.
MPs represent their constituents by leave of those who send them, and the sensible ones keep close to mind the summary nature of the decisions of public opinion that can end that representation. Those from whom the public withdraw their support have, happily, somewhat better prospects than they did in the past. No longer do political disagreements lead to duels, disembowelment or decapitation. There is a settled and more civilised system of elections, debates, votes and law courts to govern us, and for that we must all be grateful.
When a terrorist menace threatens our hard-won civilisation with a throwback to barbaric and outdated methods of dealing with difference, and when it brings those methods to our shores, it is right that we should oppose that menace in the strongest terms. Our American cousins feel no differently. They are conscious of freedom born of escape from religious intolerance, as we have just heard, a need to be self-reliant and a desire to make their own economic destiny. Their strong democratic and legal institutions have also been forged out of traumatic disagreement. When they speak, we should listen, even if we disagree. We should be robust with them where necessary and encourage them not to take retrograde steps.
Back to Mr Trump—the Donald, the orange prince of American self-publicity. He is more public than usual because he will be running for President if he wins the nomination as Republican candidate. He may be close to the presidency if Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary Clinton is selected as the Democrat candidate. He has said things that many of us would not, and the addition of celebrity has been somewhat grotesque. To say that he would ban Muslims from entering America was too simplistic, unhelpful and wrong. I do not think that there is any evidence that he does not believe in democracy itself, however, so talk of fascism is a bit overblown, notwithstanding the fact that his bedtime reading might leave quite a lot to be desired, as we heard earlier.
Although they have been cynically expressed and exploited by Mr Trump, people’s concerns about the terrorist challenge need to be addressed. However, we need to work positively with Muslim communities, rather than demonising them. Where better for Mr Trump’s spurious opinions and characterisations to be debated and debunked than here in the UK, the crucible of modern democracy, in which heads are no longer lost for dissent? Who would not want to watch him being pricked, poked and prodded on “Have I Got News for You”? Let him come. Bad opinions and characters have been allowed in Britain before—not a few of them home-grown. We would not want to allow him any victimhood with which further to hoodwink people. I hope that if he came, honest British Muslims would have their say, and even more people would decide to use their good sense and not vote for him. Less seriously—who knows?—up close, we might get to see just what is under that hair.
This petition, with more than 500,000 signatures, is a welcome indication of the scale of the revulsion with which we in these islands treat the xenophobia of Donald Trump. I am here to sum up for the Scottish National party. I doubt that many parties have a policy on Donald Trump; thankfully, such a policy has not been needed until now. Although I do not necessarily support a complete ban on Mr Trump entering the country, it is clear that his bigoted remarks against Muslims, against Mexicans and against other minorities—particularly his remarks about Muslims—deserve the utmost condemnation from all parts of the House and of society. I am proud of the petitioners and of all who signed the petition for rejecting his outrageous xenophobia and Islamophobia, and I hope that they will not take too much to heart the ticking off that they have had from some on the Government Benches for daring to raise the subject.
Some interesting arguments have been made on both sides of the debate. Those who are against banning Donald Trump, but who oppose him and everything that he stands for, have talked of bringing him here to educate him. I did not quite understand what other Members meant when they said, “I would like to invite him to my constituency and take him to the mosque to meet some Muslims.” Perhaps Members thought that those people would teach him a thing or two, and they would be absolutely right to do that. I believe that the strongest argument in favour of banning him is simply the argument of equality. Are Members correct to say that other, very similar, cases are treated very differently? That is something that the Minister needs to answer.
The fact that the petition was so popular highlights three worthy and important points. First, we in these islands reject wholeheartedly the notion of discriminating against anyone on the basis of their religion. Secondly, individuals of power such as Trump are happy to demonise others but would never consider that they could be treated in such a fashion. Thirdly, there has been public revulsion in this country and in the United States towards the statements of this public figure. Let us not forget the outcry from the many good people in the United States at Trump’s statements, which went against all the shared enlightenment values that tie together the United States and the countries of the United Kingdom.
In addition to recognising that Trump’s statements were distasteful, we should note the hypocrisy of the son of an immigrant, of a religious minority, advocating being so bigoted against other migrants and religious minorities.
The debate in America is far more nuanced than the hon. Lady suggests. All the Republican candidates in this election are expressing the traditional American view that America is a melting pot, and that it does not matter where someone comes from, but they have to be loyal to the flag and loyal to America. Trump may be articulating this feeling in a particularly extreme and controversial way, but for us to deny that many ordinary people in America are worried about their Americanness would be to deny the real and valid debate that is going on in America.
Thank you, Sir David. The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) talks about Republican politicians, but there are other politicians and activists in the United States of America who do not agree with Trump’s assessment of the situation.
I want to look at Donald Trump, the man and the boy. As his first name suggests, he is the son of a Scottish immigrant, and I apologise for that. Like countless others, his mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, left her homeland during the great depression and went to what was, after all, the land of liberty. The same desire for economic opportunity is what motivates many migrants from many other countries to go to America today. The Mexican migrants whom Trump so roundly defamed are engaged in the same quest as the one his forbears undertook. As a man who purports to be proud of his New York heritage, Trump would do well to look to Lady Liberty for some advice on immigration.
Of course, we would do well to remind Donald Trump, the son of a Scottish Presbyterian, of the countless generations of immigrants who left these shores and went to the US in search of religious toleration. The Puritans may have got a shock when they landed on Plymouth Rock, but they went on to forge a society where someone’s religion was, to a greater or lesser extent, irrelevant in public life. Although trailblazers such as Al Smith and John F. Kennedy faced anti-Catholic prejudice when they ran for office, they were always able to fall back on the fundamental truth that religious bigotry goes against all the enlightenment values that America shares with Europe.
It is easy for those of us who are protected by this parliamentary bubble to consider proposals and rhetoric such as Trump’s to be distasteful, opportunistic, funny or crude. However, I do not think that anyone here would disagree that all of us in public life have a duty to work for the common good and to oppose discrimination.
The hon. Lady said earlier in her speech that she hoped that the Home Secretary would consider whether this case is any different from others that have been raised. Does she not think that this case is considerably different from the other cases in that we are discussing a presidential candidate? If a presidential candidate was banned and then became President, the ability to forge links and to discuss policy on a whole range of issues would be extremely difficult.
That is why I am summing up by giving both sides of the argument. I am maybe just a bit more vociferous in my opposition to Donald Trump the person. I understand the hon. Lady’s argument, but the way in which I see this case as being different because Donald Trump is a presidential candidate is that he should be less likely to get away with such things because he has far more influence over many more people.
I completely agree. He should know better. I smiled to myself when I heard arguments from Conservative Members saying that we should not be interfering in anybody’s chances in the political process. Yet, there are MPs in this Parliament who Donald Trump would prevent from visiting his country. When someone of his prominence is running for the most powerful political position on the planet and is actively encouraging discrimination as state policy, it divides communities; it cannot do anything else. That example leads to countless acts of low-level bigotry and hatred that will never be reported.
I turn to some examples that have been reported and to the rise—not just from Donald Trump, but from his like—in Islamophobia. For example, after the Paris attacks, a friend of mine who is a Scottish National party councillor in Glasgow talked about his son being afraid to walk to school because he saw the headlines on the front pages of newspapers. One in particular claimed that a significant percentage—I think it might even have said “a majority”—of Muslims supported terrorism. The child was frightened to go to school. Some Muslim children are going to school and being called terrorists and bombers. They have absolutely no connection to any of the terrorist activities that are going on.
Today the Prime Minister announced funding to assist in English language lessons. I agree that we should support people—not force people—to integrate, but my understanding is that the funding is for Muslim women. What does religion have to do with the English language? How will that work? Will Muslim women routinely be tested to see whether their English language skills are up to speed? Has my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh) already passed that test or does she have to take a test in English? It is ridiculous. If the Prime Minister did, indeed, say that the money was not for women who do not speak English, but for Muslim women, and if that is not just how some of the press interpreted it, it is wrong. That, in itself, will assist Islamophobia. I am sure that it was not deliberate, but we all need to remember that language is so important and we all would do well to mind the language that we use.
With Donald Trump, the issue is not just the language that he used, but the intent behind a prepared statement. In pre-war Europe, Jews were forcibly registered. Donald Trump has called for Muslims not just to be banned from going into his country, but to be registered and tracked. To my mind, there is no difference between that and what happened to the Jews in pre-war Europe. That leads me to a number of questions I have for the Minister.
First, does the Minister agree with some of his colleagues that the impact of Donald Trump’s saying what he did is no greater and no more dangerous than their constituents saying it to one another? Secondly, is he comfortable that somebody such as Donald Trump will automatically be allowed to come into this country when I know several people who cannot get their wives or husbands into the country even for a visit? I see that the Minister is shaking his head. Are those people not as deserving of the right to visit the country? If Donald Trump is to be allowed into the country, will the Immigration Minister expect him to retract what he said before he comes here?
Another question I have is: if the President of China had called for all Christians to be refused entry to China, would he still have been invited to this country last year or would we have been saying, “Oh, but he’s the President”? So many in this debate have said, “Oh, but Donald Trump might be the President”, “He’s got the right to offend”, or “But lots of my constituents think like that.” Would the President of China have received the same treatment that Donald Trump is getting from this Government?
For several reasons, Saudi Arabia being among them, I am not comfortable with the fact that the UK Government are cosying up to a number of people.
I do not expect that the Minister is writing all my questions down or will answer them all, but I live in hope. Does he agree with me that my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire always gives top-rate, passionate speeches about her personal commitment to equality for all? Is it acceptable for us to welcome in the man who would stop her and her children entering the United States? My final question is: will the Minister join me in condemning the nasty, abusive, racist tweets that my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire has sat here receiving on account of her daring to speak out against Donald Trump, and does he think that Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim statement may have contributed to the abuse that she constantly has to put up with?
Donald Trump is on the record as saying that his second favourite book after the Bible is “The Art of the Deal” written by one Donald J. Trump. Perhaps it would be more beneficial if he spent time reading the constitution of the United States.
The hon. Lady is making a very good speech. On the point about the constitution of the United States, Donald Trump has suggested that Cruz—another Republican candidate in the election race—cannot stand for the presidency either. That shows that his views are confined not only to Muslims, but to other people. The man’s whole attitude is questionable. In which political direction is he going? More importantly, where is the Republican party going when it puts up two candidates and one is as bad as the other?
I agree with that. It is a matter for that political party, but it is a good point and perhaps a good reason for us all to support Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States. I am sorry—I forgot that I am not allowed to comment on the presidential elections.
As President Obama’s press secretary pointed out, Donald Trump’s statements make him unfit to be President. He cannot pledge to uphold the constitution of the United States if he does not believe in religious liberty and freedom from discrimination; or is he going to amend the constitution on his own? How would the people of the United States put up with that? Although Trump’s right-wing rhetoric might help him to pick up votes in the primary, in the general election the vast majority of voters in the States will no doubt be horrified that such an individual could lead them on the world stage. Trump believes himself to be plain-spoken. I understand some of the arguments of people who do not just want robotic politicians who churn out rehearsed press statements, but there is a huge difference between that and this case. Appealing to fears and prejudice is not the language and common sense of people here or in the United States.
It is tempting to give Trump a taste of his own medicine and to bar him, but would he love it? Would we be giving him a gift? Would it just, as some people have argued, give him even more publicity, or is the argument stronger that we will give him publicity by letting him in because, having said what he said and caused such controversy, he will be on every TV programme and chat show in the land spouting his nonsense? I do see an argument for allowing Trump in to do that because he will not be able to help himself. He will say things that will render him chargeable, guilty or able to be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred.
He is not a murderer, but surely the argument cannot be that we want to ban, jail or charge only murderers. There are other crimes, and we are talking about a crime that has a real impact, maybe not on my life but on many people’s lives. There have been many suggestions by Government Members that we should keep quiet about this and that members of the public who signed the petition, some of whom are here today, should just keep quiet.
I have tabled an early-day motion marking Martin Luther King day, which is today—in fact, today is the 30th anniversary of Martin Luther King day—and I encourage everyone to sign that EDM, if they have not done so already. I will quote Martin Luther King:
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
We will not be silent.
Like many others here, I welcome this debate. It is a good thing that 600,000 or so members of the public, one way or the other, have brought this subject to the House’s attention. There is clearly a wide range of views among the public, across all political parties and on both sides of the House. There have been powerful speeches and powerful interventions but in one important aspect, in all the speeches this afternoon, we are united in condemning the comments of Donald Trump on issues such as Mexican immigrants, Muslims and women. We should celebrate that, whatever our view of the proposals in these petitions. I add my name to the list of those condemning Donald Trump’s comments.
Before addressing the specific question of whether Donald Trump should be banned from entering the UK, I will spend a few moments on the wider context. Donald Trump made his comments about Muslims largely in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings on 2 December—that is when he was at his height with these comments. He is not the first, and he will not be the last, to make comments about a community in the wake of a terrorist atrocity, and we should make it clear that responsibility for terrorist acts lies with terrorists, not with the communities that they purport to come from. We must be clear in what we say about that, even when Donald Trump is not clear about what he says.
I am concerned about the rise in hate crime in the UK. Hate crime has been increasing, as has been mentioned in the debate. It went up 18% in 2015, and the number of offences involving religious hatred has more than doubled over the past three years. That rise is a concern, but it is not uniform—it always spikes after an atrocity. There is always a reaction in terms of hate crime.
Just last month, in my constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, I convened a meeting with Bengali and Somali women, from whom I was particularly concerned to hear. We spent the afternoon discussing their concerns—this was in December, after the Paris atrocities—and the one thing they raised with me repeatedly was that they, the Muslim women in my constituency, were very concerned that they were being insulted that day and that week as a result of what had happened in Paris. They perceived it and felt it, and they said that it was happening in Euston on the buses, on the trains and when they were shopping, for example. That is happening in our communities, and it spikes after atrocities. We have to unite around our values and our concern that that should be addressed.
The Government are now tracking Muslim hate crime as an independent category, which is welcome, and a number of steps are being taken to address hate crime. Anything the Minister can say on what is being done in addition to address such hate crime would be welcome. I join other Members in saying that I, too, and many others here, want to send a message to the Muslim community about how much we value them and what they bring to our society.
I am extremely grateful for the hon. and learned Gentleman’s sentiments about the Muslim community. It is important to put on the record that the Muslim community condemns all types of bigotry and racism, regardless who is spouting that. There seems to be a misconception, not least throughout this debate—I am referring to comments that I have received during the debate—that, for some reason, we think it is acceptable for Muslims to speak in derogatory terms about people of other religions. It is important that we put on record that that is absolutely not the case. Wherever the bigotry, racism or hate speech is coming from, it is not acceptable, regardless who might be delivering the message.
I am grateful for that intervention because I have a few comments on the approach that says, “Well, because he wants to ban Muslims, we should ban him.” That is far too simplistic. What lies at the heart of his belief that Muslims should be banned is that he thinks they are all dangerous. That is not buffoonery. That is absolutely repugnant. That is not what leads anybody in this debate, or anybody who signed the petition, to suggest that Donald Trump should not come here; it is a very different situation. His comments are so offensive to that whole community, and of course to women and to Mexicans, too—because of the assumptions and the belief that lie behind those comments.
In no way do I condone what Donald Trump said, but it is not right in fair dealing to say, “If you ban all of x, that means you think that all of x are dangerous,” whatever group it might be. Forgive me, but what Donald Trump is saying is that a very few from a certain group might be dangerous—that is where the proposed ban comes from. I do not condone the logic or the policy, but in this House of Commons we have to give fair dealing to the views that have been expressed.
We have to be very careful about equating the views of Members of this House who call for a ban with the views of Donald Trump. For me, his views edge towards treating a whole community as a suspect community. Of course, it may be that he does not think that of each and every member of the Muslim community, but this has happened before in many other contexts where a whole community has been treated as a suspect community. We stood against it in the past, and we should stand against it now.
The hon. and learned Gentleman comes to this debate with considerable and learned legal experience. This debate can be tied up on whether Mr Trump’s comments were, as has been described, outrageous or simply hate speech, as some of us believe. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) said, others have been banned from this country for saying exactly the same things.
I will address that specific issue in a moment. Obviously, one of the measures available to the Government is to ban any individual from entering the UK. That power has been used by successive Home Secretaries on a number of occasions, and many examples have been put before the House this afternoon. It is a power that should be applied equally to everybody, whatever their wealth or power. That is important. I do not hold the view that presidential candidates fall within a special category; they should be judged in the same way as everybody else, on the basis of what they have said or done.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the consequences of such hate speech are greater when it comes from high-profile individuals? At the heart of this debate is whether Donald Trump’s presence in the UK is conducive to the public good. We have heard repeatedly about the harm, and the hon. and learned Gentleman himself has elucidated the kinds of hate crimes about which we are talking.
I accept the substance of the hon. Lady’s intervention that certain words in the mouths of certain individuals are more likely to provoke a reaction. The question is what the test for a ban is and whether the words have to be linked to public disorder and violence rather than simply being offensive. I will come to that, but I accept the premise that different people will provoke different reactions, sometimes according to who they are. The narrower point is that simply because he has particular wealth, power or position should not affect the application of the same rules to him as would be applied to anybody else.
The threshold for banning is relatively high, and the power is relatively rarely used. The test is whether an individual’s exclusion from the UK would be conducive to the public good. In 2005, as has been mentioned, that was extended to include unacceptable behaviours. It is worth going through the list of indicative factors spelling out such behaviours. Four examples are given: fomenting, justifying or glorifying terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seeking to provoke others to terrorist acts; fomenting other serious criminal activity; and fostering hatred that might lead to inter-community violence in the UK. The touchstone has always been words provoking a response that includes elements of disorder or violence, so the threshold is quite high. Examples of some cases that have fallen under those provisions were given at the outset of this debate.
There is no doubt that some of Donald Trump’s comments have been offensive, shocking and disturbing, and I join those who say that they are not funny but repugnant, but they are just that—offensive, shocking and disturbing—and I do not think that that, in and of itself, is enough to provoke a ban at this stage, on the basis of what has been said so far. I return to a principle set out by the European Court of Human Rights almost a quarter of a century ago, in relation to a case in which The Sunday Times and our Government were slugging it out over “Spycatcher”. The ECHR said:
“Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society…it is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb”.
The point that the Court was making is important. Freedom of speech is not needed for welcome speech. The protection is not needed for speech that people treat with indifference; it is only relevant, and it only bites, in the sphere of offensive, shocking or disturbing speech. That is the whole point of the protection of free speech. Therefore, the speech that we are debating, however offensive, shocking or disturbing, is in fact protected speech under what we conceive to be freedom of expression.
How does that translate? Of course I would not want to have Donald Trump round for dinner to express his views, but I agree with others that we should invite him to join us in our various constituencies to meet our constituents and members of various religious orders, faiths and communities. Having listened to this debate, I realise that if he came here, he would be very busy, as he is already going to visit several constituencies. I would invite him to mine—at the end of a long list—to meet my constituents, because mine is an incredibly diverse and multicultural community. Donald Trump would see a UK very different from the picture that he painted. But should he be banned from entering the country on the basis of what he said? No; in my view, he should not. He should be met with words far more powerful than his.
I accept that this is a judgment call, and I respect those who have expressed, in this debate and on other occasions, the contrary view that the matter is so close to the line that action should be taken against Donald Trump. In the end, we should be guided by our own values, not his. Our own values include a deep belief in freedom of speech and in multi-faith and diverse societies in which everyone feels secure and respected.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) on the manner in which he opened this debate, underlining the reasons why we are debating the issue and the importance that we in this Parliament attach to petitions. When those supported by the public reach a threshold, it provides a voice for the public in this House. That has been an important addition to our processes. He was also right to underline the shared sense of history between the United Kingdom and the United States, and the relationship that we have enjoyed over a considerable period of time. This debate has underlined the value and importance that this House places on freedom of speech, as well as our ability to allow all different views and perspectives to argue those points. That has been done clearly and effectively in this impassioned debate.
Before I respond to a number of the points raised in this debate, there are a few things that I want to say at the outset. Britain is a successful multiracial, multi-faith, multi-ethnic country. Our strength derives from that diversity. Life in our country is based on fundamental values that have been shaped by our history and that are supported and shared by the overwhelming majority of the population: the rule of law, democracy and individual liberty; freedom of expression; mutual respect, tolerance and understanding among different faiths and beliefs. These make the foundation of our successful, pluralistic nation. They unite us and help our society to thrive.
I am proud that our country has so many vibrant, diverse communities comprising people of many faiths. I celebrate the contribution made by British Muslims in this country in every sphere and every walk of life, from those who fought in the trenches in world war one and fought fascism in world war two to businessmen, doctors, nurses, teachers, members of our armed services and Members of this House, some of whom have made powerful and impassioned speeches in this debate. They are proud to be both British and Muslim without any contradiction.
Yes, the threat from terrorism at home and abroad is serious and real; we have seen the damaging and corrosive effect of extremism in our communities. But suggesting that the solution is to ban Muslims who have done nothing wrong ignores the fact that extremism affects all communities and hatred can come from any part of society. It ignores the fact that Muslims are themselves far too often the targets of extremism and hatred, and that around the world many Muslims—more than any other group—are killed by terrorism. It also gives succour to the false view that Muslims cannot live a purposeful and fulfilled life in the west. Such assertions are fundamentally wrong, and as a country we could not be clearer in saying so.
If we are to defeat the threats that we face, we need to work together. We need everyone to play a part in stopping the poisonous spread of extremism and helping to protect vulnerable people from being drawn towards its twisted ideology. That is the approach that this Government seek to foster, because we have seen the devastating impact that radicalisation can have on individuals, families and communities and because around the world, more than 1.5 billion people of different nationalities, outlooks and political persuasions live peacefully, practising the Muslim faith.
We must protect those who might be vulnerable to the poisonous and pernicious influence of radicalisation, working with faith groups, community organisations and mosques across the country. It is a job for all of us, and we continue to work in partnership with communities of all faith backgrounds to challenge those who spread hatred and intolerance. We must work with the overwhelming majority of people of this country who abhor the twisted narrative that has seduced some of our people, and challenge those who use a warped version of faith to undermine our fundamental values.
Many of the contributions from right hon. and hon. Members this evening have focused on Donald Trump’s call for a temporary shutdown on Muslims entering the United States. The Prime Minister has said that Donald Trump’s comments are
“divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”
I reiterate the Prime Minister’s view and profoundly disagree with Donald Trump.
Regarding Mr Trump’s comments about the UK and London in particular, again he could not be further from the truth. We should all be proud of London’s status as one of the world’s most diverse and tolerant cities, and of the police’s role in keeping the entire city safe, working in all communities to protect people from radicalisation, and I pay tribute to their tireless work.
My right hon. Friend mentioned the Prime Minister. Before he sits down at the end of his remarks, will he commend the Prime Minister’s article in The Times today, in which the Prime Minister says the key to good race relations is full integration? The Prime Minister also points out that there is still a worryingly large number of Muslim women who do not speak English and are not in the jobs market, and he wants to improve the situation. Will my right hon. Friend the Minister commend the Prime Minister?
I agree with the policy that the Prime Minister has rightly identified today, in seeking to ensure that language is there to make sure that we help migrants to participate and integrate better in everyday life. That is the building block behind the policy that the Prime Minister has rightly identified.
Equally, the Prime Minister has been prepared to look at some uncomfortable facts; for example, the fact that in 2011 22% of British Muslim women spoke poor or no English compared with just 9% of British Muslim men. Therefore, it is how we can target that support at those communities in the greatest need that is important, and that is precisely why Louise Casey has been engaged, as part of her work, to go about identifying that.
Does the Minister understand the point I made earlier, that making this help available for migrant people who do not speak English is different from saying, “You must do it if you are a Muslim woman”? This support should not be aimed at a religion but at people who require it.
This is not a Muslim-only scheme, and the point that I rightly make is that it is targeted at those communities that are most impacted and most affected. Equally, that is why I make the point about the 22% figure that the Prime Minister has rightly highlighted today.
I will address the issue of exclusion. The Home Secretary has the power to exclude a national from outside the European Economic Area and refuse them entry to the UK if they have personally directed that that person’s exclusion from the UK is conducive to the public good. This power is derived from the royal prerogative and is exercised by the Home Secretary in person. Exclusion decisions are not taken lightly or in isolation. The Home Secretary makes every decision on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the information available and a wide range of policy and operational factors. These factors include views from across Government, including from the Department for Communities and Local Government, and from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They also include consideration of any interference with the person’s human rights under the European convention on human rights, such as their article 10 right to respect for freedom of speech. The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) has also underlined some of those factors and elements that are part of the policy that we adopt in considering matters of exclusion.
The Home Secretary uses her power to exclude foreign nationals to protect us from national security threats, to protect us from radicalisers and hate preachers, and to protect us from people who seek to undermine our core British values. The policy is not targeted at any particular community; it is targeted at all those who advocate hatred or violence, regardless of their origins or beliefs. The Home Secretary has prevented neo-Nazis, Islamist extremists and anti-Muslim hate preachers from entering the UK. She has excluded more preachers of hate than any other Home Secretary before her—103 since 2010—and she will continue to use the exclusion power against those who seek to do us harm.
The Government have a long-standing policy of not routinely commenting on those who are being considered for exclusion for sound legal reasons, and I will maintain that position this evening. However, what I can say is that the US remains our most important bilateral partner. It is in the UK’s interest that we engage all presidential candidates— Democratic and Republican—even though we may disagree profoundly on important issues. Where there are clear differences of opinion, the most effective way to influence our American partners is through a frank and open exchange of views in taking on those arguments. Today’s robust debate has provided a platform to do just that.
I thank the Minister for giving way again; I have almost forgotten what I was going to say. He said that the Home Secretary has a policy position of not commenting on people who are being considered for the exclusion list. Does that mean that he can neither confirm nor deny that Donald Trump is being considered for that list?
As I say, we do not comment on individual matters, but I would cite what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has rightly underlined in saying:
“The best way to defeat such nonsense is to engage in robust, democratic debate and make it very clear that his views”—
that is, Donald Trump’s views—
“are not welcome.”—[Official Report, 9 December 2015; Vol. 603, c. 990.]
We have also had remarks about Donald Trump’s comments in respect of investment in Scotland. The appointment of Global Scots is, of course, a matter for the Scottish Government. The UK Government have never given Mr Trump awards or appointments, honorary or otherwise. Mr Trump has threatened to withhold investment in Scotland in response to the calls to ban him from the UK. Over the years, Mr Trump has made a number of different statements about the scale of his investments in the UK and his willingness to maintain them. The UK is the No. 1 destination in Europe for inward investment and the World Bank has ranked the UK as the sixth easiest place in the world to do business. So, any organisation that makes promises about investment in the UK should live up to those promises.
In conclusion, we will not win the fight against extremism by demonising communities and tarring an entire religion because of the actions of a few, and we will not defeat the threats we face by acting in isolation. We will win the fight by working together, standing shoulder to shoulder with people of different faiths and different backgrounds, defending our values, and by showing that division, hatred and hostility have no place in our societies.
The triumph of today is that we have had a debate that has been seen by many people outside, including in the United States, and they have seen Parliament at its very best. We have had a diverse debate from a diverse Parliament, and I believe that it reinforces the need for the Petitions Committee, which is a very young and experimental Committee that is going very slowly, to build a role here. This subject was not chosen by any politicians but by people who initiated and signed a petition.
I think that we are all touched by the accounts of those of the Muslim faith about how devastating the threat from Donald Trump is, but I believe that all that has been said today will enhance the standing of this Parliament and reinforce our relationship with our great ally, the United States.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered e-petitions 114003 and 114907 relating to the exclusion of Donald Trump from the UK.