Question for Short Debate
My Lords, it is a privilege to lead this debate today, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who are speaking this evening. I declare my interest as outlined in the register.
In a speech on Magna Carta that I gave recently, I was asked what I would put into the first paragraph of a modern-day Magna Carta. My answer was an outline of who we are today as Britons. Whatever your view on Europe or immigration might be, Britain has changed and will continue to do so.
I will outline briefly some numbers and the contribution to our institutions. Of the UK’s 63 million population, 13% to 14% are black and minority ethnic, which is similar to the combined number of residents in Scotland and Wales. Our main cities, London, Manchester and Birmingham, do not just battle it out to be at the top of the premiership table, but as over half of the BME population live in these three cities each is competing to be the first majority non-white city. However, as a supporter of Leicester football club I think they may yet be pipped to the post for that honour.
Looking first through an ethnicity lens, Indians, who amount to 1.4 million citizens, are the most religiously diverse community, spread across Muslims, at 14%; Hindus, at 45%; Sikhs, at 22%; and Christians, who are overwhelmingly Catholic. Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in the UK are almost entirely Muslim. Black Caribbeans are largely Christian, often from newer denominations, and black Africans are largely Christian but with a significant minority of Muslims, at 20%.
Those of Muslim faith are particularly diverse: 7.8% are actually white, 67.6% are Asian, 10% are black and 10% are other. The recent arrival of the Gurkhas has meant a boost to the 59.7% of Asians who represent the Buddhist faith, and 33.8% of Buddhists are actually white. If you are from the black and minority ethnic community, you are more likely to identify with a religion than the white population, to be religiously observant and to see religion as an important part of your life. In the British Caribbean community, 95% identify as Christian and 57% are in church at least once a week. Overall, between a third and a half of our main ethnic groups attend a religious service once a week. Those same groups believe overwhelmingly—70% of them—that religion plays an important part in their lives, compared with just 14% of the white population.
In my community, Christians are 92.7% white and 3.9% are black. Religious-identity figures of 59% in the census for Christians mask the fact that religious observance for Christians is huge among the black and minority ethnic population, often outside the traditional denominations, although the Catholic Church is the most diverse place of worship in the UK, which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, will reference. A Nigerian denomination, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, started 296 new churches in the UK in the five years to 2013, the largest of any single denomination. In just over 20 years this has grown to 475 parishes.
In 2013, the University of Roehampton did research and found over 240 new black and minority ethnic churches in the Borough of Southwark. Half of those were in one postcode alone, SE15. The borough has the highest concentration of black Africans in London, who are the fastest growing of the black and minority ethnic communities: 70% are Christian and 27% attend church weekly. As 91.5% do not identify as Anglican, these figures should not be surprising. Twenty per cent of British Caribbeans identify as Anglicans. The remainder are in denominations such as the New Testament Church of God, currently led by Bishop Bolt.
Perhaps these figures explain why 15% of the English population lives in Greater London, but 24% of church-going people in England on a Sunday are in London. Non-conformists are not exempt from this either. Trinity Baptist Church in South Norwood is the largest Baptist church in Europe, with 2,400 members and led by a British Ghanaian. Can the Minister outline how the Government and her department in Whitehall engage with the leadership of this diaspora-led church, which forms a large percentage of the 48% of church-going people each week in England who are outside the Anglican and Catholic denominations?
Although I have said in many Foreign Office debates that western Europe is known for its religious exceptionalism—as the rest of the world got more religious, we did not in the late 20th century—this does not hold for our black and minority ethnic community. This is where our future lies. Between 2001 and 2011, 80% of the UK’s population growth was in the black and minority community. Twenty-five per cent of all under-10s are not white. In London, non-whites already outnumber whites in every age group up to the age of 20. Only 9% of the under-25s in Newham say that they have no religion, as opposed to 39% of their white counterparts.
The debate here might seem obvious as regards the ethnicity of British Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, but without black Pentecostals, Filipino, Polish and Brazilian Catholics, and the Chinese in Anglican churches such as All Souls in Langham Place, the figures for the UK church in the UK would be unimaginable. Livingstone and others must be marvelling at the African denominations planting churches back here in the UK and at their contribution.
I do not want to focus on these people’s great social capital, as there have been many comprehensive debates on this in your Lordships’ House, but on other contributions. I know of many within the black community who when out of work do not claim benefits, even to the extent of paying each other’s mortgages. Often the family, not the state, is the first port of call. I have also heard of this within the Chinese and Muslim communities. There is a very high view of family and marriage. But there is the strange anomaly of the lack of mosques that are registered for the purposes of UK marriage law. Therefore, many Muslim marriages are not legally valid, which often exposes women to vulnerability. The Law Commission is currently investigating, but this is an urgent matter that needs the Government’s attention.
The main contribution of British BME citizens can be summed up in the story of a friend of mine. She has been a teacher for more than 20 years, but for the first time in her career she went to a school with a large number of Muslim students. At parents’ evenings, she found that their concerns were just like everybody else’s. “Are my children behaving in class? Are they making good grades? Are they going to get into the right university?”. These communities are hard-working and industrious and often entrepreneurial. In fact, they are just British. The Government state:
“We will use … the strong personal links between our diaspora communities and other countries, to achieve the best for Britain”.
If a significant number of hard-working British citizens are in transnational—religious—groups that are growing in global influence, especially in some of our emerging markets, such as India, China and Nigeria, how can this be harnessed for economic growth? As 84% of the world’s population has a faith, a growing number of our citizens will be connected to business leaders and decision-makers overseas. I shall give a brief example. The Prime Minister addressed an event of black Christians from the Redeemed Christian Church of God at the invitation of their leader pastor Agu Irukwu. There were more 40,000 people there. The equivalent event in Nigeria attracts 1 million people, so it should come as no surprise that the newly elected vice-president of Nigeria’s previous job was as a Redeemed Christian Church of God pastor.
Have any of our local enterprise partnerships or enterprise zones been encouraged to use their funds and expertise to understand how diaspora communities, their religious leaders and their businesses could be a driver for economic growth? We need to harness our diaspora as a vehicle for growth to benefit everyone.
In our own institution, on the best data from our Library, 50 out of 760 Members of this House are BME, which is 6.6%. In the light of what I have said, I hope someone will appoint from within the black-led church leadership to this House. In the Commons, it is similar at 6%, and the electorate is now about 10% BME, so there is no room for complacency. Since David Cameron became PM, the Conservatives have risen from two to 17 non-white MPs. In the same period the rise in Labour has been eight.
I was not aware when I submitted this Question for debate that there had been a survey of House staff and media coverage and that there is no black person in the senior pay grade in the staff of the House of Lords. The Lord Speaker is apparently to monitor this, but the same dynamic is true of the Commons. Most BME staff are in the lower pay grades. With the great success of the education department of the House, even more school children visit Parliament, and I think that disclosure, without identifying the staff member, MP or Peer, of the ethnic profile of MPs’ and Peers’ staff would be a gesture of support to the House authorities. Children more often than not see those people rather than us or House staff when they do a tour. We may look rather foolish if parliamentary staff change over the next few years, and if parliamentarians have the same issue we will attract similar publicity to Google, Facebook and Twitter, which were in the news last week for being able to put all their black and minority ethnic staff on one jumbo jet.
Sometimes it is the institutions that you least expect that change first, as evidenced by the recent appointment of Ken Olisa, the first British-born non-executive of a FTSE 100 company who is now the lord-lieutenant of London. The key leadership role is a vital statement, so hats off to the palace. This should be the Parliament of the end of the first blacks in this role, where DCLG shows the rest of Whitehall how to relate to diaspora communities and where these personal diaspora links are unlocked, bringing economic benefit for all. I am proud to be British and to be born at this time, when the British population is so ethnically diverse.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for raising this debate in her own inimitable way. Black people’s experience is that there is a deficit in this country that holds back our children and chains our citizens to a life of a possibly untapped goldmine of potential. I am speaking not of a budget deficit but of a disparity of BME appointments to the highest echelons of this society in our public institutions.
I will first say a few words about the church. During World War II, thousands of black soldiers volunteered from all across the globe to support the British. It was the custom for American troops, made up of black and white soldiers, to attend a religious service on Sunday. In this country, the soldiers marched to church on the first Sunday of their residence here. What happened? They attended a service and went back to their base. On arriving on the second Sunday, the priest met them outside and said that black soldiers were not welcome at the service as they frightened the very delicate white congregation. They were soldiers in uniform and did nothing except be present. The soldiers had to wait outside until the service was over before they could go back to their base. They were turned away from the house of the Lord.
Another occurrence took place during my time in this House. It was the custom that a Church of England priest attached to the abbey would serve Parliament. When a black woman priest was chosen by Mr Speaker, Parliament and the abbey split. A white priest was chosen for the abbey and the black priest, thanks to Mr Speaker, kept her role as the priest here. I shall not bore the House with the excuses that were made when we challenged that.
Similar occurrences have happened through time on UK soil. Now they occur in more subtle ways. People from the Caribbean did not wait outside churches; they founded their own churches and, despite subtle attempts to stop them, they flourished. Our public institutions would do well to consider the type of institutional racism that goes on. There is never a lack of a congregation in black-run churches. The black community, when allowed, has always contributed greatly to the faith institutions of our country, but just as being equal in the eyes of the Lord did not stop black soldiers being turned away from a church on a cold winter’s day all those years ago, being equal in the eyes of the law does not allow black churches to do this. They now have different ways, but they still do not appreciate their black worshippers. Mostly, they are locked out of the highest ranks in our public institutions in the modern era. In law, great steps have been made in the long march towards true equality, many of which Members of this House witnessed and even contributed to, but even now within the walls and mindsets of public institutions progress has been stifled by complacency and a lack of attention to equality. The Prime Minister said that we must let hard-working people get on. There are no more hard-working people than the black community. Most of them will boast that they have never had a day off work. I am sure I do not need to tell the House of the black community’s great—when it is allowed—contribution to the country when the country needed it most.
If we are not represented as leaders and role models, the epidemic of underrepresentation in every sector of our society is depriving the whole nation of the talent of black and other ethnic groups contributing in a real and meaningful way.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for this opportunity to talk about a project that I think signals a way forward for our whole society. When the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic comes to be written, faith organisations will appear both in the credit column and the debit one. Across the world it is a great shame that some faith organisations have prevented people from seeking treatment and prevention. Equally, across the world there are millions of people who would not be cared for were it not for faith-based organisations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, said quite rightly that 13% of the United Kingdom population is from black, Asian and minority-ethnic communities but those same populations make up 47% of people diagnosed with HIV in the United Kingdom. Black, Asian and minority-ethnic faith-based organisations have a unique opportunity to get to those communities and work with them. However, there are a number of different barriers, not least the stigma and some of the teachings of some of those churches about the modes of transmission, such as sexual behaviour and intravenous drug use.
The NAZ black and minority-ethnic HIV/AIDS project has a wonderful programme, a very small one, called Testing Faith. This has worked with community leaders to find out what some of the main barriers are: denial that HIV infects communities of faith, lack of knowledge about the epidemiology, lack of knowledge about HIV and sexual health prevention interventions, and lack of knowledge about the benefits of HIV treatment. NAZ has put together a small two-day training programme for faith leaders to build their capacity to work with their communities. It has three objectives: first, to enable the leaders to draw up sexual health plans for their communities; secondly, to enable them to deliver point-of-care HIV testing and counselling within their communities for the people for whom it is right; and thirdly, to allow the leaders to refer people to GUM clinics.
The programme worked with a significant number of leaders from Christian faith groups and leaders from the Muslim community. The majority of people who went through the complete training were from the Christian communities, but there were some from the Muslim communities too and they deserve enormous credit for that. NAZ found that those community leaders needed help in understanding some of the basic information about the way things work and about how to raise the issue within their communities in ways that were appropriate. They managed to do that and as a result throughout 2014 there were 770 testing sessions. These are particularly important among black and minority-ethnic communities which, by comparison, present late and at a much more advanced state of the illness and consequently have far worse health outcomes. The work was concentrated around London, where the majority of these faith communities are, and in their particular boroughs, but they also managed to get out into other parts of the country. I am not quite sure of the exact outcome of the 770 tests because a number of individuals went to clinics and therefore their testing was anonymous.
It has been a very interesting project. It has had a profound effect on people from those communities who are HIV positive. It has also had a profound effect on some of the faith leaders themselves. It is a very good programme, saving the National Health Service money. One might expect that it gets funding from the NHS. It does not. It works with faith communities, so one might expect that it gets funding from faith communities. It does not. It is kept going by the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
This is one of those areas in which our mainstream institutions fail to understand the very real battles that people from minority communities, particularly minority communities of faith, have to contend with. They are, in health terms, communities that are much more vulnerable to risk than the rest of us. It would be excellent if, as a result of this debate, some appreciation and not least some funding could go towards the NAZ project and this particularly effective programme.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for securing this debate, as it enables us rightly to recognise the vast contribution made by Britain’s ethnic minorities both in public service and in faith communities. It was good to hear the noble Baroness speak of south London. In view of the time constraints I wish to make a brief observation and a broader comment.
In my own diocese of Southwark, comprising most of the south London boroughs, there has been considerable numerical growth in our ethnic-minority population over many years. In the diocese of Southwark this means up to 25% of worshipping Anglicans are from such communities and I rejoice in the diversity this brings to our churches, a growing number of which are now black-majority. This is something of which we are rightly proud and it is good to see a growing confidence in people from our minority-ethnic communities, which contributes much to church growth. I also note that many of our inner urban churches also provide hospitality to Pentecostal black-led churches. However, there is much to do to further encourage those in ethnic-minority communities to take a place in leadership and governance roles. Indeed, I have recently instigated a review of the diocese’s work in this area, which is leading to a fresh vision of ensuring that those in our churches find their way into leadership and ordained roles. At a national level the Church of England’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns is working hard to encourage and foster black and Asian minority-ethnic vocations, as well as developing senior leadership in the church.
What consistently strikes me and humbles me about the contribution of our ethnic-minority communities in the life of the church is that the faithfulness exhibited in worship follows through into the way lives are lived and service offered elsewhere. Indeed, many such worshippers also find their way into working in the public sector and our public institutions—often in healthcare of one form or another, or local government. This is a vocational response and a living out of faith. Certainly in south London, our minority-ethnic communities are increasingly the backbone of our NHS and public services. We need to pay attention to this–to recognise fully this contribution and the sobering reality of where we all would be without it. The ongoing public discourse about immigration—which is rarely conducted in a fitting manner—must pay attention to this fact. Indeed we should think long and hard before we endorse immigration policies that will only put the cohesion of our public services at risk.
Our ethnic-minority communities have a valued and valuable place in our religious and public life. Both churches and public institutions continue to have much to learn but importantly, given the journey we have been on in recent years, something to teach about building communities that celebrate their diversity and are at ease with themselves. Such communities are something we should all strive for.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak on the contribution of ethnic minorities to public life and faith communities in the UK, about which I might be said to have a little experience. However, before I proceed further, it is worth taking note of the detailed research showing the spread of BME communities that was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Berridge.
This country has a long history of ethnic minority immigration. From the influx of Russian Jews in 1914 to the acceptance of Ugandan Asian immigrants expelled by Idi Amin, this country has accepted ethnic minorities from all over the world, especially those, like me, from the Commonwealth nations. Such ethnic minorities have contributed hugely to Britain’s public institutions. Of course, the foremost public institution in the land—or perhaps the second most important—is the other place. It is heartening to see a 65% increase in the representation of black and minority-ethnic Members in the other place. It is a valuable step, which puts it far closer to achieving parity with society as a whole.
I have been deeply involved with public institutions. Since coming to this country in 1974, I have felt that a greater diversity of people in public institutions was needed to put them in step with modern society. By serving as a justice of the peace in Ealing and Acton magistrates’ courts and, before that, participating in the neighbourhood watch scheme, I feel I have played my part in contributions to public life.
It is deeply important that we encourage more ethnic minorities into public institutions. The British Asian Conservative Link, which I helped to found in 1997, has had great success in encouraging more British Asians to enter politics and engage with the political system here. To be effective in upholding citizens’ interests, public institutions must resemble the population that they represent.
Other than the obvious point of making sure our institutions represent the people they serve, there is a further benefit to having more ethnic minorities in our public institutions. A wider range of viewpoints and opinions reduces the risk of groupthink in policymaking and the risk of a herd mentality that allows poorly planned decisions to be rushed through without proper scrutiny. Bearing this in mind, it is no surprise that one of this country’s most economically important trades, the financial services market, is also one of the most ethnically diverse, with more than 30% of workers being black or minority ethnic. Minorities often specialise in particular fields, such as medicine. The NHS is an incredible organisation. The work it does is world-class, and extremely impressive up close. Twenty-six per cent of its staff are from ethnic minorities, which is more than a quarter and a full 12 points clear of the overall percentage of minorities. These people do a stellar job in keeping us safe, and it is right to pay tribute to them here.
The other point of discussion we have before us is the contribution of ethnic minorities to faith communities. Ethnic minorities have brought a rich diversity to the religious make-up of the UK, bringing new traditions and religions. I am a Sikh, and I am proud to have contributed to the building of the first gurdwara—Sikh temple—in Ealing. It offers a number of community services, including religious worship, learning and social activities. There are at least 300 gurdwaras in Britain. They are charitable establishments, run by minimal or no government funding, funded rather by donations from the community. The other religions brought to this country by ethnic minorities include Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, among others. Participation by ethnic minorities in these religions and others increases the cohesiveness of society, as it binds citizens together by what could be called common sympathies.
This country has one of the most diverse and tolerant societies in the world. That is a force for good and this resolve is strengthened by the contribution of ethnic minorities to public institutions and faith communities here.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for introducing this debate. It has many aspects; I do not know if I can cover all of them, but I will try my best to cover those that are on my mind.
I was very pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Howells, mentioned the fact that blacks were not welcomed in churches in this country when they first came. I am so old that I remember that year, and many other things that happened in this country; for example, how people had signs that said, “No blacks, Irish or dogs”, or whatever. It is amazing that we have wiped that out of our minds now, and in a way that is a good thing. We have moved forward. All my time before I came to your Lordships’ House was spent in race relations, and I saw the changes coming and saw new generations that were able to see themselves more as British than earlier ones had.
Having said that, we need to look at certain issues. One is that we must treat all people the same. We say that we do, but we do not. If they are white, we treat them one way, good or bad. If they are not white, we do not treat them the same way, good or bad. That is one of the things about grooming. There are so many scandals about the grooming of young girls up and down the country. We have turned a blind eye to that, because we think, “We don’t want anybody to criticise us or say that we’re racist”. Why should we not be racist about issues that deserve to be rooted out? We must not accept anything from anybody which is not acceptable under any circumstances.
I know I am probably talking about Muslims, but we now have this business of sharia marriages. The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, mentioned the position of women. It is appalling that the man can get a divorce by just asking for it, while a woman may have to wait years, and may still not get it. She can get a British divorce, but not a sharia divorce. Noble Lords may ask, “Why does that matter?”, and I asked that of those women. They replied, “It means that we can’t go to Pakistan”. If they go there, the husband can come and take the children away, no matter what age they are. In any case, the husband can take the children from a sharia marriage when they are seven. All marriages should be automatically registered in this country. It is not fair to the women that some British women—they are British women when they come here—are treated in a different and unacceptable way from others.
I will bring one other thing to the attention of noble Lords. There are a lot of first-cousin marriages in certain communities, particularly among Pakistanis who come from the Pakistani Kashmir area. We know so much about DNA now, but there is so much disability among the children, which is absolutely appalling. You go to any such family and there will be four or five children, at least one or two of whom will have some disability. That is absolutely unacceptable, and if we cannot do anything about it, is it fair to the children? Never mind the parents—it is not fair to the children that they should be allowed to become disabled because of a social practice. It is a social practice which does not belong in today’s age, when we know so much about DNA. There should at least be some rule which says that you must have a DNA examination before your marriage can be registered. The church allows first-cousin marriages, and it would be wonderful if it decided that they will not take place unless the couple’s DNA history is produced.
There are issues which we need to look at. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Suri, about the Sikhs. What they do is wonderful. You can go to any Sikh temple at any time and you will be fed. That is a wonderful thing. It is very inclusive: men and women both go. Women do not go to the mosque; only men go to the mosque. If you go to the Hare Krishna temple in Watford, you see lines of people at lunchtime. Not only do they take food for themselves; they bring banks to take food for the whole family. So, very good things are being done in the name of religion, but certain things are unacceptable and against the ethos of this country. We should not be lily-livered and say, “No, no, no, they are not white, so we will not say anything”. We must say something. We have to stop the business of halal meat. Anyone who saw the sheep being killed on television would never eat halal meat. It is just not, and should not be, acceptable. We have worked so hard to improve the position of women, and to do what we can for animals. Why should we allow anybody who comes to this country voluntarily to do that? It is not right.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Berridge on securing this important and timely debate.
Britain is a beacon of light for millions of people around the globe. People come here—and many more want to—because our country upholds values that appeal to people of every race, creed and faith. Britain is a free and fair country. We have the rule of law, stability and democracy. We are a tolerant nation where religious freedom is valued and discrimination outlawed. We are a nation of opportunities: if you are willing to work hard and take opportunities, nobody will stand in your way.
My favourite speech to make when I am invited to events is centred around that list: what Britain means to us, how it has given those of us fortunate to move here so many opportunities. It is perhaps a reminder that the reverse of this Question for Short Debate—what contribution the United Kingdom has made to Britain’s ethnic minorities—is something we should also remember. Indeed, as someone who arrived here as a refugee and who feels that he owes this country more than can ever be repaid, I feel that it is particularly important that we acknowledge that there is another side of this debate.
At a time when immigration, identity and faith are never far from our minds, it is vital that we state clearly that this is not a one-way street: that the values of this country have allowed Britain’s ethnic minorities and many faith communities to prosper. Those who abuse our values and tolerance, such as the individuals who have travelled to Syria in support of murderous terrorists, should lose their rights in this nation. British citizenship is a privilege that comes with responsibilities, ones that the overwhelming majority of minorities in this country take very seriously. I ask the Minister to encourage the Home Secretary to go further than the powers afforded to her office through the Immigration Act 2014 and ensure that those individuals have their citizenship revoked. It is incumbent on all of us who love this nation to express its rich history and encourage the continued upholding of its values. That way, our national identity will continue to thrive.
My faith is an integral part of who I am. I am particularly proud that, at my urging, the Hindu Forum adopted the slogan, “Proud to be British and proud to be Hindu”, a few years ago. I felt that that was a strong statement of our modern identity: our faith is important, but is secondary to the place we call home.
My faith and my patriotism are mutually beneficial. The only time I have ever experienced a conflict was during consideration in your Lordships’ House last year of an amendment adding caste discrimination to a list of discriminatory factors under the Equality Act 2010. This was a hugely unpopular move in the British Hindu community. Caste is an outdated notion that has been left behind by the vast majority of our community. It was a rare moment in this House when division was favoured over unity.
I have also been privileged to have been involved in a number of interfaith organisations. This work has allowed me to appreciate the commonalities our faiths have. The increasing role that so many faith communities play in caring for the elderly, the sick and the disadvantaged is as inspirational as it is essential. The most pleasing element of that interfaith work has been the realisation that we all share a passion for British values. When researching this debate, I was drawn, as I so often am, to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks. During his brilliant speech in September 2011, he suggested that,
“all Britain’s faith communities should be invited to make a voluntary covenant with Britain articulating our responsibilities to others and to the nation as a whole, so that we can be true to our faith while being a blessing to others regardless of theirs”.—[Official Report, 8/9/2011; col. 476.]
The idea has stayed with me since I first heard it. It is simple and yet profoundly important. I very much encourage our faith communities and the Government to work together on such a covenant: it would be a tremendous statement about modern Britain.
The greatest contribution that Britain’s ethnic minorities and faith communities have made and can make is embracing the values that have helped this nation to prosper for centuries. We all have to play a role in upholding the values that made the country so appealing to us in the first place.
My Lords, this is a timely debate, because it provides us with the opportunity to put on record the immense contribution that ethnic minorities make to faith communities and to our society more widely. In a climate where public attitudes towards migration and even asylum are often distorted by misinformation or negative stereotypes, it is more important than ever that we acknowledge the extent to which ethnic minorities enrich this country.
I shall focus my comments on the Catholic community, which is one of the most ethnically diverse faith groups. Given that more than one quarter of Britain’s 5 million Catholics are from minority ethnic backgrounds, it is hardly surprising that they play such a prominent role in the church’s education and social action work. Many noble Lords will be aware that the Catholic Church is responsible for 10% of schools throughout England and Wales, educating more than 800,000 pupils at any one time. Those schools play a particularly significant role in serving the most deprived areas, while consistently outperforming national standards in both Ofsted inspections and examination results. Perhaps less well known is that almost one in five teachers in Catholic schools is from an ethnic minority background, a higher than average proportion across the education sector as a whole.
Catholic schools also have a long and positive record of supporting the integration of new migrant populations into local communities. Similarly, ethnic minorities play a prominent role in the country’s many Catholic charities. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are helped by food banks, shelters, children’s centres, advice centres or youth projects linked to the church. Often, the staff and volunteers belong to minority communities and in many cases are first-generation migrants or refugees. The Cardinal Hume Centre, not far from this House, which I know well having worked in the charity shop and in the programme teaching people to read, provides support to homeless young people and families in poverty. It is a fantastic demonstration of the difference ethnic minority volunteers and staff can make to the lives of those in need. For example, over half the volunteers in the centre’s assessment team are from ethnic minorities. Their understanding of the cultural and social needs of different client groups greatly enhances their work providing advice or support to 100 new people every month. The wider range of languages in which services can now be offered has proved especially valuable. A Spanish volunteer is now able to support clients from the Latin American community, and a newly recruited Arabic-speaking volunteer is currently helping the centre’s work with increased numbers of clients from countries like Syria.
It is worth giving a specific mention to the church’s work tackling the abhorrent practice of modern slavery. Through the Bakhita initiative—named after a Christian saint who was herself trafficked—the church is delivering education and training. It is raising public awareness, providing supported accommodation for victims, and assisting those who wish to return home voluntarily. An international alliance has been established under the leadership of Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Cardinal Vincent Nichols to co-ordinate efforts between the church and law enforcement agencies on prevention, pastoral care and reintegration. All this work is considerably enhanced by the involvement of minority communities and ethnic chaplaincies, which are often at the forefront of identifying, supporting and rehabilitating victims.
The church’s annual migrant Mass takes place across the river at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark on the feast of St. Joseph the worker, 1 May. It marks the significant contribution of migrant and minority workers in our businesses and public services. It is fitting that the church’s own work providing high quality education and caring for the most vulnerable in our society is also made possible by the contribution of ethnic minority communities. I hope that the Minister will have the opportunity to acknowledge this when she responds.
My Lords, I recently spoke in your Lordships’ House on issues currently facing British Muslim communities following Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech. I briefly touched on the positive contributions made by Muslims in the United Kingdom. I shall expand on this. I am chairman of four companies. I am also the president of the Conservative Muslim Forum and have been involved extensively in both community and charitable work. My thoughts reflect my own experiences and findings.
My glorious religion has been hijacked by a tiny minority who are totally distorting the image of Islam and understanding of Islam. Unfortunately, as a result the entire Muslim community is in some circles tarred with the same brush. There are over 3 million Muslims in the United Kingdom and they have contributed significantly in all walks of life. We are currently commemorating the centenary of the First World War. Over 400,000 Muslims fought in the war. The first Victoria Cross awarded to a non-white person went to a Muslim named Khudadad Khan. I invited his grandson to an event that I hosted recently. Muslims also took part in the Second World War. This includes members of my own family. Muslims have therefore been actively involved in loyally serving the King and the Empire.
I am the joint treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces and very close to the Armed Forces Muslim Association. Muslims are represented in all three services of our Armed Forces. They have held and continue to hold senior positions, and include one rear-admiral, two group captains and a lieutenant-colonel.
I am co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamic Finance and Diversity in Financial Markets and a patron of the Islamic Finance Council UK. The United Kingdom has the biggest centre for Islamic finance outside the Muslim world. The UK’s Sharia-compliant assets exceed £20 billion. The Islamic finance industry therefore generates considerable revenue for the country and provides employment. It also gives us a high standing in the enormous and growing market for Islamic finance across the world.
I am co-president of the British Curry Catering Industry All-Party Parliamentary Group and a vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh. There are over 12,000 British Bangladeshi restaurants and takeaway places in the United Kingdom. This curry industry, owned mainly by Muslims, employs over 100,000 people and has an annual turnover of nearly £5 billion.
There have been great Muslim dynasties, notably the Umayyad and the Abbasid. Muslims at that time led the world in various fields, including mathematics, science, astronomy and medical knowledge. These attributes are in the DNA of Muslims. There are now a significant number of Muslim doctors who work in the United Kingdom and make a valuable contribution to the health and well-being of the country. Also, many Muslims are successful bankers and accountants. My own brother qualified as a chartered accountant and was very successful in his field. Muslims have also done well on the sports field. There are a number who have excelled, including Mo Farah in athletics, Moeen Ali in cricket and Amir Khan in boxing. We also have successful Muslim media figures, such as Mishal Husain, Asad Ahmad and Mehdi Hasan.
When I became a Member of your Lordships’ House, I took the title of Baron Sheikh, of Cornhill in the City of London, because of my strong connections with the City. I have met many Muslim entrepreneurs who have created thriving businesses. They have generated income for the country, provided employment and furthered our trade. There is also wider Muslim representation in both your Lordships’ House and in the other place. There has recently been a fresh intake following the general election.
Some 33% of Muslims are aged 15 years or under. This youthful population is a strategic asset at a time of an ageing population and will be economically active in the future labour market. Encouragingly, 73% of Muslims here state that their only national identity is British. I hope and believe that the Muslim community will continue to play a significant part in our country’s future.
The speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, was in some parts unfair and irrelevant, and will not help community cohesion in this country.
My Lords, there is hardly a major religious community in the UK that does not embrace some kind of ethnic or racial diversity in its heart, and there are no ethnic minorities that have not given us one or all of doctors or academics, entrepreneurs or councillors, lawyers or soldiers, diplomats, nurses or volunteers. I want here to celebrate their contribution to health and social care, to comment on the diversity and contribution of the Catholic community and to bring to the House’s attention a new awards scheme for young people in faith communities with which I am associated.
The NHS is in many ways the most British of institutions, but it is also one of the most diverse and global institutions rooted in British soil. In 2004, Mary Seacole was voted the greatest black Briton for her work in caring for soldiers during the Crimean War. Less recognised were the Irish Sisters who joined Florence Nightingale’s team as nurses, so enabling another pioneer of British healthcare to take her first groundbreaking steps. The noble Lord, Lord Suri, referred to the high proportion of NHS staff from ethnic minorities. I would add that in one recent survey 11% of all NHS staff were recorded as being nationals of a country other than Britain. The British Medical Association, of which I am a past president, believes that without that distinctive contribution, especially from Commonwealth countries, the health service would struggle. So in its origins and in its present reality, our healthcare system is one part of our national life into which minority communities have been truly welcomed and in which they have thrived and contributed out of all proportion to their number in our wider society.
The British Catholic community has had to explore and manage the interface between ethnicity and religious belonging in communities across the country perhaps more than most. Grounded in mass Irish immigration, the community’s numbers rose in the 19th and 20th centuries. The history of our great cities and social reform movements cannot be written without recognising its huge contribution to social welfare and city leadership.
These new Irish arrivals often built schools before churches and founded charities to relieve need, irrespective of their recipients’ religious background. Many of today’s charities, described by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, are fruits of that tradition. There is hardly a department of state that is not working in some way, every day, with an institution or charity of the Catholic community. Today, that community is even more diverse, including the Filipino nurses gathered at Mass while resting from their service in the NHS, and the busy Polish congregations which act as mini labour exchanges for those seeking work.
In many parts of the UK, it is a mainstream experience to find local Catholic churches whose origins and ethnicities include those of over 80 nationalities. In Southampton, the church launched a groundbreaking welcome project for migrants, co-funded by the local authority and widely respected as an adviser to other agencies across the central south, and there are many other examples.
Last week, in Leicester Square, I had the honour of hosting the first ever national Celebrating Young People awards, which recognise the contribution of young people associated with our Catholic communities, from all faiths and none. I was delighted that Cardinal Nichols was able to join us to recognise and reward the overall winner with the Pope Francis award. The awards, created by the charity Million Minutes, had invited nominations and applications from across the country of young people who have contributed to building up their local communities. From hundreds of applications, the category winners were as diverse as our nation. They included a young woman in remission from leukaemia from Leicester who had become a campaigner for bone marrow donors, a psychiatric nurse from south Wales volunteering with young people at risk, and a pioneer of anti-homophobic bullying education. I was especially pleased that among the winners were those of south Asian and African heritage and those from a variety of religious traditions other than Christianity. Welcoming the young people to tea here in the House before the ceremony, one could only admire the young Muslim students who were fasting for Ramadan on the hottest day in decades. Their work to build common community bonds, one in a Catholic school, the other at Exeter University, was even more admirable.
In the coming year, these awards will be launched on a bigger scale thanks to a strategic partnership between St Mary’s University in Twickenham and Million Minutes made possible by the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s innovation fund. I am sure that the organisers would welcome interest and support from the Minister and her officials at the DCLG. Our hope is that together we can develop a shared civic life in which all—especially the most vulnerable among us—may flourish. Young people, such as those recognised by the Celebrating Young People awards, must be at the core of that task.
My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Berridge has secured this debate today on such an interesting and important topic. As many of us will have observed on the doorsteps while we were involved in the recent general election, the issue of immigration creates many reactions, not always positive. I feel that my life has been greatly enhanced by coming from a major metropolitan district that can truly be described as cosmopolitan. Bradford has welcomed immigrants from all over the world since the time of the Huguenots. The city experienced significant levels of immigration throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. As a very small schoolgirl, I remember looking with admiration at many of the older girls in my school with names that sounded very exotic. Many were from behind the Iron Curtain in what we called the captive nations including Latvia and Lithuania. My father explained to me the dreadful life and trouble that they had all gone through to come to this country—something that has always remained with me.
This debate is about contributions made by immigrants to both faith communities and public institutions. The Jewish community in Bradford has been an excellent example of an immigrant community that did precisely that. Jews started coming to Bradford in the 1830s to help build what was first a borough and then a city into the wool capital of the world. In 1850, more than £40 million-worth of textiles, which is an enormous amount in today’s value, was exported by the Jewish merchants.
Among the early settlers, was Jacob Behrens, born in 1806, who came to Bradford in 1838. He was knighted in 1882 and said:
“Who would have thought it possible that now just fifty years after I stepped ashore on English soil at Hull, a foreigner and a Jew, I should be deemed worthy of the offer of a knighthood by the Queen’s government?”.
His firm, the Sir Jacob Behrens Group, still exists today. Jacob Behrens was the founder of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce along with Jacob Unna, born in 1800 in Hamburg, who came to Bradford in 1846, having previously lived in Manchester and Leeds. Unna was greatly involved in the life of Bradford, becoming a magistrate and deputy lieutenant of West Yorkshire. Among his descendants was the actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft.
Bradford became a borough in 1847. As early as 1863, Charles Joseph Semon, a German Jew born in Danzig and a textile merchant, became the first Jewish mayor of Bradford. He was followed by three Jewish mayors—Jacob Moser in 1910, David Black in 1958 and Olive Messer in 1984. Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Bradford College, Bradford Royal Infirmary and Bradford Central Library are just a few of the services that we use today that enjoyed the financial support and promotional ploys of Mr Moser and other Jewish philanthropists like him.
In the period when there were problems in Russia, lots of Jews came to Bradford between 1880 and 1910. One particular family, the Stroud family, built a large textile manufacturing company with a Christian friend, Wynne Riley. He and Oswald Stroud had met as serving soldiers together in the First World War. During the Second World War, many of the young soldiers from Bradford came from the Jewish community.
The subject of immigration, as I said, is often sensitive and people sometimes feel threatened by those with lifestyles and languages unknown to them. If we are to live together in more harmonious communities, we need to work at it. Here I declare an interest as chairman of the charity Near Neighbours. Near Neighbours is all about bringing people together who are near neighbours in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so that they get to know each other better, build relationships of trust and collaborate on initiatives that improve the local community. Near Neighbours has two key objectives—social interaction to develop positive relationships in multifaith areas, and social action to encourage people of different faiths and of no faith to come together for initiatives that improve their local neighbourhoods.
Many neighbourhoods in the United Kingdom have a number of different faith and ethnic communities living close to each other. Some of these communities rarely interact with one another and instead live parallel but separate lives. Such separation can lead to misunderstanding and a lack of trust or respect for each other. These are often areas of deprivation with people living there sharing common concerns for a better community, but despite this shared concern they do not come together to talk or act as much as they should. Near Neighbours brings people together, breaking down misunderstanding and developing trust to help change communities for the better. I am pleased to say that many immigrants from different faith groups through Near Neighbours now join together. Bradford continues to welcome immigrants from all over the world. Through the work of Near Neighbours, recently the Muslim community has supported the upkeep of the last synagogue in Bradford. That is surely a demonstration from both immigrant communities that they make a valued contribution to both faith communities and public institutions.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for tabling this Question for debate today. It gives the House the opportunity to debate the important and growing contribution made by Britain’s ethnic minorities to faith communities and public institutions in the United Kingdom.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, said, approximately 8 million people, or 14% of the UK population, belong to an ethnic minority. Most of these communities live in urban areas but I was surprised to learn that half of them live in three cities in the UK, namely Greater London, Greater Birmingham and Greater Manchester. The noble Baroness is right: Leicester is already a majority ethnic minority city. It is also true that, for the BME community as a whole, faith plays an important part in the lives of a considerably greater proportion than it does for the white population of this country. Faith groups and local authorities show one of the very fruitful ways that faith communities and public institutions work together. The contributions made by faith groups to their local communities are varied—from working as street pastors to running food banks, providing debt advice or credit unions and caring for elderly and young people.
Ensuring good community relations or helping to improve community relations is one of the many ways in which ethnic minorities working with and in faith groups have been able to improve situations locally. Although there has always been room for improvement in the interaction between faith communities and local authorities, there appears to be no evidence that faith groups that look to provide caring services seek to do so only wholly within or exclusively for their own community. To improve the situation further, work needs to be undertaken jointly to get over these concerns and to build greater understanding and trust so that there is confidence on the ground. In particular, where it is proposed that services be provided by faith groups, maybe they should work together and be encouraged so that different organisations work together to tackle problems that they all share as a community.
Considerably more work needs to be done to get ethnic minorities elected to public authorities or Parliament and appointed to public bodies through the appointments process, although recently politicians have been elected and appointments made from ethnic minorities in far greater numbers. That is welcome.
We must never forget the contribution, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, of the service men and women from the Commonwealth. They came and fought and died for this country over many years in numerous conflicts. I hope that, while we are commemorating the First World War over the next few years, we ensure that the sacrifice of people from the Commonwealth is properly recognised in those commemorations.
It is always a pleasure to speak in a debate with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. I agree with his contribution today, particularly on getting members of ethnic minorities into leadership roles in the church. As the right reverend Prelate said, one area of public service that has had a much greater proportion of people from ethnic minorities working in it is the National Health Service. The NHS staff census showed that 41% of hospital and community doctors are from ethnic minorities, along with 20% of all qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff. The NHS is a wonderful institution and we have reason to be thankful for the care it provides for us all. We would all want not to be without it. However, without the contribution from the ethnic minority population, it would be unable to cope with the pressures every day in hospitals and other NHS institutions. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, made very important points regarding HIV and sexual health plans. Those are things that need to be addressed.
My noble friend Lord Touhig spoke about the contribution of Catholic education. As someone who was a beneficiary of that system, attending St Joseph’s Camberwell and St Thomas the Apostle secondary school in Peckham, I very much agree with his comments. I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, about the contribution of the Irish community and the Catholic community to this country.
In conclusion, I hope I can say to the right reverend Prelate that maybe a future debate will include all the Southwarks in the current House, representing every Bench. I again thank the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for tabling the Question for today. She should be very encouraged by the response. I think we could have gone on for at least another hour if we had had more time.
My Lords, I add to the comments from other noble Lords thanking my noble friend Lady Berridge for securing this debate. Like the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, I think we could have gone on for at least another hour and brought so many things into it.
It is a particularly poignant day to discuss this issue because we remembered today in Westminster Abbey the anniversary of the atrocities in Srebrenica in Bosnia. This atrocity, against predominantly Muslim Bosnians, is a reminder that hate should not be tolerated in any of its ugly guises. That event was all the more shocking for the speed at which it gathered pace and the horrors that unfolded because of it. The UK is leading the way in commemorating this atrocity with a series of events across the country including the service today. I am very pleased that today the Prime Minister also announced a further £1.2 million of funding for the Remembering Srebrenica charity.
Britain is multiethnic and it is multifaith. According to the 2011 census, some 12% of the population of the UK identify as belonging to an ethnic minority. Members of the UK’s ethnic minority communities, including the many different communities of African, Caribbean and Asian descent, have made an enormous contribution to the UK’s social, economic and cultural life, including to our public institutions. They have also made an enormous contribution to our faith communities, and the Government recognise this.
Faith is a powerful force motivating millions of people to do good in their local communities. Faith communities play a valuable role in British society. They provide hope and encouragement to their adherents, they strengthen local communities and they contribute to the well-being of their neighbours. At this point I pay tribute to the work that my noble friend Lady Eaton does in the Near Neighbours project. I visited a Near Neighbours project and was very impressed by the positive contribution it makes, not only across faiths but across ages and different communities and the benefit that it brings to those communities.
Many faith groups are the heartbeat of communities up and down the country, providing comfort to those who feel isolated, responding in times of trouble to relieve hardship and building communities of trust so that people respect each other. At this point I applaud the generosity and social-minded spirit of our Dharmic faith communities. The temples and the Gurdwaras across the country regularly throw open their doors to offer meals to those in need. I also welcome the commitment among many Christian groups to social action. This includes the black majority churches that do excellent work providing welfare services for the elderly and for ex-offenders. I am sure that the whole House looks forward to welcoming the first female Lords Spiritual in the autumn. I also commend the work of the Church of England’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns on the subject of diversity in church leadership and I warmly welcome the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark this evening.
A few noble Lords talked on the subject of Muslim marriage and a Muslim marriage working group, co-ordinated by the Ministry of Justice, has been looking at how best to promote awareness of religious-only marriages and the benefit of having a marriage that is legally contracted. The Government are looking at ways of communicating this benefit to those Muslim women who might be unaware of their rights under English civil and family law. Both my noble friend Lady Berridge, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, talked about the lack of mosques registered for marriage and the mention of a Law Commission marriage project. There are 263 mosques and other buildings where Muslim faith is practised which are registered for the solemnisation of marriages. The Law Commission is currently under- taking a preliminary scoping study to prepare the way for potential future reform of the law concerning marriage ceremonies and the commission is due to report by December.
The noble Baroness, Lady Flather also mentioned churches allowing first-cousin marriages and the resultant problems that can arise. I will just put it on the record that it is, in fact, against British law and against canon law to marry your first cousin.
My Lords, I can confirm that first-cousin marriages are against the law in this country and the church does not condone them—not any church that I know of, anyway.
Several noble Lords talked about public body appointments. BME police officers currently make up 5.2% of police officers nationally and 11% in the Metropolitan Police area. The police have worked hard to improve equality and diversity since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. More women and members of ethnic minorities have joined the service. But we are clear that there is more for forces to do. Our reforms will allow for faster progress on equality and diversity. Police and crime commissioners and the College of Policing will play a key role in ensuring improvements in police forces. New entry routes to policing, such as Direct Entry, Fast Track and Police Now are proving attractive and are increasing the diversity of the police workforce.
A couple of noble Lords talked about the National Health Service, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and the contribution that faith communities have made to it. NHS England and the NHS Equality and Diversity Council have overseen work to support employees from black and ethnic minority backgrounds in having equal access to career opportunities and receiving fair treatment in the workplace. The move follows recent reports that have highlighted disparities in the number of BME people in senior leadership positions across the NHS, as well as lower levels of well-being among the BME population.
A couple of noble Lords mentioned the contribution to the Armed Forces by the BME community. My noble friend Lord Sheikh and another noble Lord who I shall be reminded of shortly talked about how the first Victoria Cross to be awarded to a non-white was to a Muslim. We recognised VC recipients from across the Commonwealth back in March but I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work that they did in fighting for this country.
Turning to individual points that noble Lords have made, the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, talked about the slightly contradictory role of faith—we come across this all the time—on one hand, helping; on the other hand, perhaps not helping so much. She talked about the NAZ project: how the faith communities have worked hand in glove with the HIV positive community and the very positive contribution they have made there.
The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, talked about how we have come such a long way. She talked about the sign that one would see on B&Bs many years ago—not in my lifetime, but in my parents’ lifetime—“No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”. If that was still in place today, neither she nor I could get into a bed and breakfast and we probably would not be in your Lordships’ House. That might be a good thing in my case but it certainly shows how much society has changed.
My noble friend Lord Popat talked about the freedom, the tolerance and the opportunities that this country has given him. It is always a joy to listen to him and hear just how proud he is to live in this country as a British citizen. He talked about the contribution of Britain’s ethnic minorities to business, and I could not agree more.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Barker and Lady Flather, talked about strengthening faith institutions, including the response to child grooming claims. My department is considering applications for a strengthening faith institutions funding programme. The funding will be used to develop training materials and provide practical support to new and emerging faith institutions. This support will include safeguarding, best practice and signposting to important social and health services.
I pay tribute to the work that my noble friend Lord Sheikh does in promoting not only cohesion in this country but a number of other aspects of integration in society. He talked—very sensibly, I think—about the actions of the few not tainting the many among our faith communities. I think that is so true. He also paid tribute to the contributions of Muslims in both business and sport—Amir Khan and Mo Farah, among others—and the representation that we have now in both Houses of what is, in the Muslim community, a very young population. He is absolutely right about that. I wish him and other noble Lords a peaceful Ramadan and encourage everyone to visit their local mosque and share in the breaking of the fast as part of the Big Iftar. It is a very enjoyable event.
The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, talked about the education standards that Catholic schools provide and the great community role that they inarguably play. It is good to know where the Catholics are in this House—including the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. I wondered how many Catholics were in this House when I arrived and it is good to identify them as time goes on. The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, talked about the Cardinal Hume centre, which I would like to visit with him one day if I may.
My noble friend Lord Popat talked about the faith covenant. I note that idea. The Government welcome the contribution of Britain’s faith communities united in our shared appreciation for British values.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, asked about government support for the Million Minutes charity. I welcome the work that she referred to and would be very happy to meet with her.
Finally, my noble friend Lady Eaton talked about the contribution of the Jewish community, not just in the country but particularly in the metropolitan areas of the north. I very much enjoyed listening to her talking about the arrival of the Jewish people in the 19th century, the Jewish merchants, Jacob Behrens and his knighthood, and their contribution to philanthropy —the sums she mentioned were incredible in those days. She also mentioned the soldiers in the First World War; she is the Member of your Lordships’ House to whom I was referring earlier.
My Lords, I have gone over time which is not good. I thank again all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. In terms of the ethnic diversity of this country, it is not where we are from, it is where we are going.
House adjourned at 8.27 pm.