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Islamophobia

Volume 746: debated on Monday 4 March 2024

We have been clear that anti-Muslim hatred has absolutely no place in our communities. I feel that strongly, as I represent one of the most diverse constituencies in the country. We have provided over £6 million to the anti-Muslim hatred monitoring and support service Tell MAMA, and just shy of £13 million to schemes protecting mosques and faith schools. Funding for both measures had been uplifted in response to increased reporting since October.

An extreme right-wing Conservative MP was allowed to go on an extreme right-wing Conservative-funding TV station and make a series of vile Islamophobic remarks. The MP was not suspended for Islamophobia; he was suspended for refusing to obey an order from his party leader. Does the Minister understand why it is that, not only among Muslim communities but across a much wider range of believers and non-believers, people are becoming increasingly concerned that, in the eyes of this Government, Islamophobia is seen as somehow less abhorrent than other forms of racism?

The Government were absolutely clear that those were not appropriate comments. That is completely clear. Any form of religious hatred is not acceptable in our society.

The recent rise in anti-Muslim hate incidents and crimes is really worrying. Will the Government do everything they can to improve education so as to improve multi-faith understanding and tackle this scourge?

My right hon. Friend makes a good point. Education is critical, and we need to bring our communities together. Last weekend, I was delighted to attend an inter-faith event in my constituency that included Holland Park synagogue, where it was hosted, and al-Manaar mosque. That inter-faith work and communities working together is critical.

For almost two years this Tory Government have failed to appoint an independent adviser on Islamophobia. The former adviser has criticised the Government for their failure to engage, and revealed that he could not even get them to provide terms of reference for his role. Does the Minister agree that this Government lack the political will to tackle this pernicious hatred, or even to call it out?

I strongly disagree. We plan to appoint a new independent adviser on anti-Muslim hatred, and we will update the House shortly.

Like so many, I am fearful of the inability to call out Islamophobia becoming a scaremongering tactic to stoke fear and division and garner support for the extreme far right. It makes life difficult or even dangerous for Muslims. Across all four nations, more can and should be done on a cross-party basis to tackle that hatred. That starts with being able to call out Islamophobia when it occurs. Could the Minister clarify the line between being wrong and being Islamophobic?

There is no question but that those comments were wrong. I face the Mayor of London in opposition all the time, and I could criticise him for many things—housing, policing, fire or transport—but I would never accuse him of being in any way under the influence of Islamists.

That response will give people little comfort. Let me paint a picture for the Minister of what life is like for many Muslims growing up and living across these four nations. A month after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, my local mosque in Carfin was petrol bombed. The two men were sentenced to one year and nine months respectively. If asked, most Muslims will have their own stories. Muslims are not asking for special treatment. They work, pay taxes, send their kids to the same schools and support the same football teams. The Government have had ample opportunity over the past few weeks to commit to tackling this stain on society, but there has been no substantial change in policy. Next Friday 15 March marks the UN’s International Day to Combat Islamophobia. Will the Government use that opportunity to commit to adopting the definition of the all-party parliamentary group?

I want to make it clear that this Government will not tolerate religious hatred towards Muslims or any other faith group. That is a red line. This Government are aware, very sadly, of incidents of anti-Muslim hatred, which is why we put in place an extra £4.9 million of protective security funding for Muslim mosques, faith schools and communities. We are 100% behind our Muslim communities.

7. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of section 21 evictions on levels of homelessness. (901766)

9. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of section 21 evictions on levels of homelessness. (901768)

14. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of section 21 evictions on levels of homelessness. (901773)

The Department publishes official statistics on homelessness duties owed, including the number of households threatened with homelessness following service of a valid section 21 notice. We are committed to the abolition of section 21 through our landmark Renters (Reform) Bill, which will deliver a fairer private rented sector for both tenants and landlords.

In 2019 the Government promised to abolish section 21 no-fault evictions, but the Bill that they finally published five years later, which the Minister mentioned, does not actually abolish section 21 no-fault evictions. Meanwhile, 140,000 children are living in costly temporary accommodation. In my constituency we get one or two cases every week. The problems are piling up. When will this Government do what they promised—stop delaying, stop dithering, and abolish no-fault evictions?

As I have already said, we are absolutely committed to abolishing section 21. The Renters (Reform) Bill is going through Parliament and I look forward to debating it with the hon. Lady when it returns to this House.

My borough of Enfield topped London’s league for section 21 evictions last year, setting a grim record and resulting in a dramatic rise in homeless families approaching the council for help. At its peak, the borough had 400 families approach the council for help in one month, yet Ministers are unwilling to stand up to their own Back Benchers. The Minister says the Government are committed to abolishing section 21 evictions. Can I please ask him when? When will he bring the Bill back, so we can bring an end to no-fault evictions?

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who I have heard campaigning on this issue a number of times. I am well aware of her concerns for her constituents. As I said, we are absolutely committed to abolishing section 21. We will bring forward the Bill as soon as we are able to do so. I would also say to her that the Mayor of London is not building enough homes. He is not building enough homes to meet the Government-assessed need for London. He is not even building homes to his own targets, so I encourage her to have a conversation with him as well.

In Salford, from April to November last year, approximately 466 individuals presented to Salford City Council in crisis because of section 21 notices. Salford’s social housing waiting list is currently in the thousands. Private market rents are outstripping incomes and local housing allowance rates at a frighteningly exponential rate. There are no affordable homes to go to once someone is evicted from a property, so homelessness is now at acute levels in Salford. This is not just a housing crisis; this is a homelessness crisis in Salford. When are the Government going to bring back the Renters (Reform) Bill, with robust amendments finally banning section 21 evictions? What action will the Minister take to ensure that my constituents urgently have long-term secure tenancies?

Again, I have heard the hon. Lady talk about this issue a number of times. We are absolutely committed to the abolition of section 21. I am personally committed to that. We will bring back the Bill as soon as we are able to do so.

In resisting Labour’s efforts to strengthen the Renters (Reform) Bill, Ministers have repeatedly argued that the legislation as drafted strikes precisely the right balance between the interests of tenants and those of landlords, yet by watering down protections for renters and further delaying the long-overdue abolition of section 21 evictions, the package of draft Government amendments to the Bill that we saw last week will tilt the playing field decisively back towards the landlord interest. Are we to believe that the Government have honestly decided, at the 11th hour, that it is landlords who need more rights and powers, or is this not simply a crude attempt to manage an increasingly fractious Tory party at a shameful cost to hard-pressed private tenants?

The hon. Gentleman, like various Members who have spoken, is a committed campaigner on this issue. I enjoyed our time together in the Public Bill Committee. We need to strike the balance he has just spoken about. That is why we are discussing the Bill with both landlord groups and tenant groups. We are meeting colleagues on the Government Benches and the Labour Benches, and those in the smaller parties, too. We are ensuring that when we bring the Bill back it is in the best possible shape so that it affords protections and security for tenants, but protections, in fairness, for landlords too.