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EU Referendum: Hate Crime

Volume 613: debated on Thursday 21 July 2016

1. What steps the Government have taken to tackle hate crime against black, Asian and minority ethnic communities since the EU referendum. (905983)

As the House has just discussed, hate crime of any kind, including that which is targeted at BAME communities, has absolutely no place in our society. I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say how appalled I am at the recent reported increase in hate crime. The Government are monitoring the situation and working across Departments and with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and community partners to provide reassurance and send out a clear message that hate crime will not be tolerated, and that we will take action against those who promote hatred.

I am proud of the Safer Neath Port Talbot partnership, which has been working to counteract the rise in hate crime since the EU referendum by holding hate crime awareness sessions in Neath communities. We should all say no to hate crime. What steps is the Minister taking to adopt such best practice and roll it out across the country to raise awareness and heal divisions in communities?

I would be very interested to talk to the hon. Lady further about her experience of the work under way in her own community. As she highlights, one of the most effective things we can do to tackle hate crime is to work at community level to spread a message of inclusion, acceptance and tolerance across our society. The broader work happening in Government is being done not just through policing and the Home Office, but through the Department for Communities and Local Government and in my own Department—the Department for Education—through schools.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to her position. Does she feel, as I do, that we should also be looking at online hate crime, from which people often suffer the most? Does she believe, as I do, that platforms and social media outlets should do more to standardise reporting in this area and, frankly, to take more action against the perpetrators?

I agree with my right hon. Friend that it is important to address the online element of this crime effectively. She will be aware that one of the things the Government have recently done is to strengthen online reporting. Part of the increase in hate crime is due to the tool we set up called True Vision, a website where people can report it online more effectively. She is absolutely right to say that there are different channels through which hate crimes are perpetrated and all of them need a strong response.

The Minister’s answer on online hate crime and online reporting is very welcome, but does she agree that, given the level of vile hatred that exists in certain parts of social media, it is absolutely essential for law enforcement agencies to chase it down and bring specific cases to court to ensure that there is no hiding place for the violent hatred that people pour on to social media?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. As crime moves on to different forums, including online, it is important that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service collectively take strong action to show that this sort of behaviour across our country will not be tolerated and that we will take action against it wherever it raises its head.

This may be a special occasion because all 12 Members on both the Government and Opposition Front Benches are female.

Last night, Kettering Borough Council passed a motion condemning racism, xenophobia and hate crimes. I am proud to be a member of Kettering Borough Council and to have supported the motion. Will my right hon. Friend encourage other local authorities to do the same?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very perceptive observation about the make-up of the Front Benches. The merit of his making it is that it is now on the record in Hansard forever.

That is perhaps appropriate given that this is Women and Equalities questions. I should say that when the Government decided to draw Ministers from across Departments to answer these questions, there was no particular attempt to make sure we had an all-women list of Ministers, but it shows how things are changing with female representation in Parliament, alongside the fact that, as of last week, we have our second female Prime Minister.

To come to my hon. Friend’s very important question, I applaud Kettering Borough Council for its strong stance against racism. Part of ensuring that we stamp out hate crime and racism generally is not only for us to work strongly on the ground, but for people in positions of authority—community leaders included—to advocate the kind of inclusive society that we all want. The steps taken by Kettering Borough Council are particularly welcome, and I hope other councils follow suit.

Last Saturday, I attended an event in my constituency organised by a fantastic community group called Kumon Y’all. It was amazing to see people of many faiths and no faith engaging with each other through sport and other activities. Does the Minister agree that such events should be encouraged wherever possible, especially in these troubled times when we are seeing an alarming rise in hate crime?

Yes, I do. We all have our own experiences of that at constituency level. My local Ahmadiyya Muslim community holds a peace conference every year, which brings together all faiths and all parts of our community, and it does a huge amount of fundraising, which also benefits our broader community. These are the kinds of examples of community leadership to which I was just referring. As MPs, we can play a real role in encouraging and supporting that when we see it happening in our own localities.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Minister to her place. I am really proud to be one of the women on the all-women Front Benches. It seems that we might be taking over the world slowly but surely, which is fantastic.

We have heard from many Members on both sides of the House that there has been a dramatic wave of hate crime, hostility and intolerance towards EU nationals and members of the BAME community living in the UK. I have been encouraged by the many members of the public and people in high-profile positions who have challenged that behaviour and shown what a great multicultural Britain we are. However, like many across the House and the country I was dismayed and upset by The Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie’s disgraceful Islamophobic attack on the “Channel 4 News” presenter Fatima Manji. Will the Minister join me in making it clear that all parties in this House regard those comments as totally unacceptable? That being the case, will she also join me in urging Mr MacKenzie to make a full public apology, and The Sun and other media to be more responsible as to who and what they allow on their media outlets?

Order. As a result of the extreme seriousness of the matter I let the hon. Lady complete her question, but never again must she ask such a long question. I am afraid it was not just too long, but far too long, albeit very important.

The hon. Lady has raised an important issue. This is not the first time that Kelvin MacKenzie has written and said things that are deeply controversial and to many people in our country deeply offensive, frankly. It is for him to decide how he wants to respond to the wave of criticism he has received since writing that article. From my perspective, I am proud that we live in a country where men and women are equal. That includes women having the right to wear what they want and to be able to get on in their job wearing what they want. In my view, that includes newscasters and journalists. We need to make sure we have some kind of consensus on not rising to the bait of people such as Kelvin MacKenzie. Frankly, I hope that we can treat his comments with the derision that they deserve.