My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement delivered in the other place by my honourable friend, Karen Bradley. The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, hate crime of any kind, directed against any community, race or religion has absolutely no place in our society.
As the Prime Minister has told the House today, we are utterly committed to tackling hate crime, and we will provide extra funding in order to do so. We will also take steps to boost the reporting of hate crime, support victims, issue new CPS guidance to prosecutors on racially aggravated crime, provide a new fund for protective security measures at potentially vulnerable institutions and offer additional funding to community organisations so they can tackle hate crime.
The scenes and behaviour we have seen in recent days, including offensive graffiti and abuse hurled at people because they are members of ethnic minorities or because of their nationality, are despicable and shameful. We must stand together against such hate crime and ensure that it is stamped out.
Over the last week, there has been a 57% increase in reporting to the police online reporting portal, True Vision, compared to this time last month, with 85 reports made between Thursday 23 June and Sunday 26 June, compared to 54 reports in the corresponding four days four weeks ago. However, I would urge caution in drawing conclusions from these figures, as they are a small snapshot of reports as a guide to the trend, rather than definitive statistics.
Much of the reporting of these incidents has been through social media, including reports of the xenophobic abuse of eastern Europeans in the UK, as well as attacks against members of the Muslim community. However, we have seen messages of support and friendship on social media, and I am sure the whole House will want to join me in commending those who we have seen stand up for what is right, and uphold the shared values that bring us together as a country, such as those who opposed the racist and hateful speech shown in the recent video taken on a tram in Manchester.
These recent events are shocking, but sadly this is not a new phenomenon. Statistics from the Tell MAMA report, published today, show that in 2015 there was a 326% increase from 2014 in street-based anti-Muslim incidents reported directly to Tell MAMA, such as verbal abuse in the street and women’s veils being pulled away—with 437 incidents reported to Tell MAMA. Worryingly, the report also finds that 45% of online hate crime perpetrators are supportive of the far right. In recent days we have seen far-right groups engaged in organised marches and demonstrations, sowing division and fear in our communities. We have also seen far-right groups broadcasting extreme racist and anti-Semitic ideology online, along with despicable hate speech posted online following the shocking death of our colleague Jo Cox.
Her appalling death just under two weeks ago shocked and sickened people not only in communities up and down this country but in many other countries around the world. As we heard in the many moving tributes paid in this House, her loss will be keenly felt, and we will always remember that a husband is now without his loving wife and two young children will now grow up without a mother.
The investigation of hate crimes is of course an operational matter for the police. But I would urge anyone who has experienced hate crime to report it, whether directly to the police at a police station, by phoning the 101 hotline, or online through the True Vision website.
In this country we have some of the strongest legislation in the world to protect communities from hostility, violence and bigotry. This includes specific offences for racially and religiously aggravated activity and offences of stirring up hatred on the grounds of race, religion and sexual orientation. It is imperative that those laws are rigorously enforced. The national police lead for hate crime, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, has issued a statement confirming that police forces are working closely with their communities to maintain unity and prevent any hate crime or abuse. Police forces will respond robustly to any incidents, and victims can be reassured that their concerns about hate crime will be taken seriously by the police and courts. Any decisions regarding the resourcing of front-line policing are a matter for chief constables in conjunction with their police and crime commissioner.
Since coming into office, the Government have worked with the police to improve our collective response to hate crime. The Home Secretary has asked the police to ensure that the recording of religious-based hate crime now includes the faith of the victim, a measure that came into effect this April. We have also established joint training between the police and Crown Prosecution Service staff to improve the way the police identify and investigate hate crime. Alongside this training, the College of Policing, as the professional body for policing, has published a national strategy and operational guidance in this area to ensure that policing deals with hate crime effectively.
But we need to do more to understand the hate crime that we are seeing and to tackle it. That is why we will be publishing a new hate crime action plan, covering all forms of hate crime, including xenophobic attacks. We have developed the plan in partnership with communities and departments across government. It will include measures to increase the reporting of hate incidents and crimes, including working with communities and police to develop third-party reporting centres. It will work to prevent hate crimes on transport and to tackle attacks against Muslim women, which we recognise is an area of great concern to the community. The action plan will also provide stronger support for victims, helping to put a stop to this pernicious behaviour.
We also appreciate that places of worship are feeling particularly vulnerable at this time, and that is why we have established funding for the security of places of worship, as announced by the Prime Minister last October. This will enable places of worship to bid for money to fund additional security measures, such as CCTV cameras or fencing. We have also been working with communities to encourage them to come forward to report such crimes and to give them the confidence that these crimes will be taken seriously by the police and courts. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, have today visited the Polish cultural centre in Hammersmith, which was the victim of disgusting graffiti, to express their support. We are working closely with organisations such as Tell MAMA and the Community Security Trust to monitor hate crime incidents, as well as working with the national community tensions team within the police to keep community tensions under review.
The Government are clear that hate crime of any kind must be taken very seriously indeed. Our country is thriving, liberal and modern precisely because of the rich co-existence of people of different backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities, and that rich co-existence is something that we must treasure and strive to protect. We must work together to protect that diversity, defeat hate crime and uphold the values that underpin the British way of life, and we must ensure that all those who seek to spread hatred and division in our communities are dealt with robustly by the police and the courts”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier in the House of Commons and for the words about Jo Cox MP. Will he assure us that the reason this important Statement, on a matter of real concern, was not made by the Home Secretary in the Commons was definitely due to unavoidable reasons unrelated to internal politics within the Conservative Party?
Since last Thursday’s referendum, there are reports of a fivefold increase in race hate comments on social media channels and a more than 50% increase in hate crimes reported to the police online hate crime reporting channel. That increase is on top of an already rising tide of hate crimes in England and Wales. Last year the police recorded over 52,000 hate crimes—an increase of 18% on the year before—and more than four-fifths of these were racially motivated.
There are also reports, in the aftermath of the referendum campaign and result, of attacks on individuals and incidents of racial hatred against specific communities: a Muslim schoolgirl cornered by a group of people who told her, “Get out, we voted leave”, a Polish community centre daubed with racist graffiti, a halal butcher’s shop petrol-bombed, and a US Army veteran and university lecturer told to “get back to Africa” by three youths on a tram. There are even cases of people who were born in this country, have lived in this country all their lives, and are as British as I am, being told to go back to their own country.
All this was unleashed by the campaigning during, and outcome of, a referendum that was called not in the national interest but because of splits in the Conservative Party. There would have been no referendum if the Conservative Party had not been so divided on the issue of Europe. The result of the referendum has emboldened those with feelings of such hatred, because in the light of the tenor of much of the campaign and its concentration on migration, such people now feel that the result has been an indication of support for their abhorrent views, and has given those abhorrent views a level of respectability that they did not have before.
It is a small minority of people who seek to use a time like this to peddle hatred and violence—but if you are on the receiving end of such hatred and violence, it does not feel like a small minority. I do not know what is happening in our country—or to our country—today. We seem to be becoming an increasingly intolerant society. The question now is: how do we get the evil genie back in the bottle? That will not be easy, particularly in the new world of social media. If the Government take the view that we just have to ride out the next few weeks and months and everything will rectify itself, that will be complacency in the extreme—and a damaging and dangerous complacency at that. It all depends what the measures referred to in today’s Statement mean in practice, as opposed to in words. We all have a responsibility to respect the decision that has been made by the people in the referendum, to work to heal the divisions that it has magnified and to take on directly, and defeat, those filled with feelings of hatred and violence towards others.
The Government have announced an action plan to tackle hate crime, and said that it will be published shortly. This will not be the first plan this Government have had. What is needed are results—positive results. Perhaps the Minister can say when the plan will be published, and why he thinks it is going to deliver. Can he tell us whether it will have specific objectives that can be measured, and what will be included in those objectives which can be measured? Since the Government have said that the action plan is to tackle hate crime, presumably one aspect will be apprehending those engaged in such crime. What more resources, financial and human, will be provided to our police forces, which have been cut and cut again since 2010? From which budget will the extra funding referred to in the Statement be taken, and how much will it amount to?
Hate crime of any kind is abhorrent and has no place in society. It is in itself, and by its very nature, a rejection of the British values that have always bound us together. Non-British nationals living in Britain will today feel worried about their safety and that of their children and families, and will be in need of reassurance. I hope the Minister and the Government will be able to provide it. People need reassurance that action will be taken now. Can the Minister tell us what extra steps are being taken to monitor reports of hate crime, and what immediate advice the Home Office is giving to the police on tackling such incidents? Will decisions on the extra resources that should now be used from police budgets to address rising hate crime and violence be for police and crime commissioners or for chief constables?
Confidence to report such hate crimes will increase if people believe that reports will be followed up. What specific action will be taken to address this point? To provide further reassurance at this difficult time, can the Government say more to provide reassurance to EU nationals in this country about their future status in this country? Frankly, the response by the Government in Oral Questions today about the position of EU nationals who live in this country will not have helped the situation. The referendum is over but its scars remain. We now need to work to make sure that our country remains the open and welcoming place we know and love.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. We on these Benches condemn all hate crime, whatever the target, and deplore the appalling murder of Jo Cox MP—our thoughts are with her family. We need to stand together to have a united, strong, liberal voice against those who try to stir up hatred in our communities. We as Liberal Democrats are prepared to do that. We beg both of the other major parties in this House to stand together to try to fight this issue.
It is difficult to judge what the longer-term impact of the EU referendum will be on hate crime, but far more worrying to us on these Benches is the impact the immigration debate and increasing xenophobia had on the EU referendum rather than the other way round. In addition to the increase in Islamophobia mentioned in the Statement, and as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, just said, in 2014-15 there was an 18% increase in reported hate crime compared with the year before, and anecdotally, those who have rarely experienced hate crime in the past now report becoming victims, including members of minority groups on these Benches.
To what extent does the Minister share my concern that these developments are a worrying reflection of a change in the culture of this country—a shift, of whatever magnitude, away from being an open and tolerant society that welcomes diversity? What will the Government do about it? It is not just about reporting investigations into hate crimes, treating the symptoms, but about treating the causes. What will they do to try to address this shift in culture towards xenophobia and racism? As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and other noble Lords, have asked this afternoon, what does the Minister think the impact on xenophobia will be of the Government’s apparent position—that the status of 2 million EU citizens currently resident in the UK will be the subject of negotiation with the EU? Surely the Minister realises that this will increase hate crime, not decrease it. What will the Government do about it?
My Lords, first, I thank both noble Lords for their contributions. Various questions have been asked; I will take some of them head-on.
Questions were raised, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, with regard to recent events. As the Statement alluded to today, my noble friend Lady Williams and I went to the cultural centre in Hammersmith to reassure people there, and we were accompanied by the Polish ambassador. The positive element we heard from both the Polish community and the ambassador about reporting such hate crimes since the vote last week was that, while they have been reported, they are pockets and certainly not an emerging trend. That said, we cannot show any degree of complacency. I talked about the True Vision online police reporting stats, and there are two elements to that. It is of course concerning that if you look at some of the statistics, from Thursday to Saturday there was about a 27% increase compared to the same period in the previous month, but if you include Sunday’s figures, it went up to a 57% increase in reported crimes. This is just a snapshot but, nevertheless, it is indicative of how certain mindsets, and indeed criminals, will use opportunities such as the vote last week to demonstrate their criminal intent against minority communities.
Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that during the coming weeks and months—both in my personal work and in my work as a government Minister—I shall leave no stone unturned in ensuring that we eradicate all levels of hate crime. But in doing so, we must work in partnership with all communities. We must also emphasise—coming back to a point noble Lords made about how we tackle embedded culture issues—that part of this is down to education. We must ensure a level of integration in which, not only can someone from any culture, community or faith feel that their identity is protected, but they are also protected through mutual respect of one another’s right to belong to whichever faith or community they choose.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked how the Government are addressing the levels of intolerance in society, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, who also asked about the national action plan. We have consulted very extensively on this and we are in the process of getting cross-government sign-off for it. The noble Lord also asked about certain measures that will be in place. We need to ensure we can measure hate crime effectively in all its ugly guises.
In terms of specific measures, asked about by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, we have taken serious steps to address various issues, as I am sure he is aware. Previously, only anti-Semitism was recorded as a specific religious hate crime but, from 1 April this year, any hate crime against any religious community—including anti-Muslim hatred—is now specifically recorded by the police.
We have also seen a much higher take-up in the reporting of hate crime, particularly within the Muslim community, and that is a positive development. People know that they can report hate crime; the fear of reporting it is often forgotten. People increasingly have the confidence to come forward at a local level to report hate crime, but more needs to be done.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about the general immigration debate. There were certain elements of the referendum campaign—there is no better example than when a particular poster was revealed—that all of us across this Chamber felt were best described as vile. They played on fears, division and the history and legacy of a path that we all not only deplore but do not wish to see arising again in our country. Anyone who supports such campaigning needs to reflect very deeply on their own intent, as to what kind of atmosphere and environment they are creating.
The Government have further recently announced that we are in the midst of finalising the governance of how funding will work. As noble Lords will be aware, we work very closely with the Community Security Trust to protect of places of worship—synagogues—and schools within the Jewish community. The Government have now announced funding to protect other places of worship that are coming under attack or are being targeted by extreme right-wing groups, particularly mosques. We have seen instances of gurdwaras being attacked, sometimes due to the sheer ignorance of attackers thinking they are mosques. As I have previously commented to Members of your Lordships’ House, we have to overcome the kind of prejudices whereby, for example, if the noble Lord, Lord Singh, and I were walking down the street, he may be perceived, because of his attire, by an ignorant person as a Muslim while I may not. Those are the kind of ignorant attitudes we must address. They are partly driven by fear, but also partly by hate. We must address these attitudes full-on.
I would be happy to talk to noble Lords across the Chamber to see how we tackle all forms of hate crime. Any form of hate, be it based on religion, culture, community, sexual orientation, race or gender is, frankly, unacceptable.
My Lords, I am very interested in the Minister saying that he will leave no stone unturned. There will be a stone immediately before the House in the next few weeks—the Policing and Crime Bill. There is no point in the police arresting people for these crimes and the Crown Prosecution Service then putting them in front of the courts unless the courts do something about it. I am not a natural hanger and flogger but a clause in the Policing and Crime Bill saying that the starting position for hate crime is a custodial sentence would send a message. We did exactly that regarding the possession of knives during the knife-crime epidemic. We said that the starting point was a custodial sentence, and I firmly suggest that the Government bring forward an amendment to that effect in Committee.
The noble Lord speaks from great experience in that respect. At this juncture, it would be best if I took back what he said and followed it up at the Home Office.
My Lords, I am sure everybody in your Lordships’ House is reassured by the fact that my noble friend is dealing with this subject. He brings great sensitivity to it, as well as great experience. Perhaps I may return to a matter that was raised several times during both the previous Statement and this one. I am sure that the remarks made by our noble and learned friend Lord Keen of Elie were not ill intentioned but they were extremely clumsily phrased, and they have sent out a message which must cause great anxiety among the EU citizens resident in this country. They are not, and must never be, a bargaining counter in any negotiations. Will my noble friend undertake at the very least to have an early conversation with my noble and learned friend Lord Keen and with the Leader of the House so that we can have clarification of those unfortunate statements before the House rises at the end of this week?
I thank my noble friend for his remarks. I see it as a huge privilege and an honour to serve your Lordships’ House. When it comes to issues such as tackling hate crime—in particular, we have seen a rise in the levels of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia—we have the strength and experience in this House to face the challenges from all types of extremists who seek to disrupt what we have. Those challenges require a unified response, and I shall remain open in the discussions as we tackle some of the more serious issues.
On the specific points that he raised, I am the first to admit that we are going through unprecedented times in terms of how we go forward as a country. However, I am an eternal optimist. I believe in the positive nature of our country and in our resilience. It is important to reassure every citizen who chooses to make the UK their home, including those from the European Union, that their rights, safety and security will be safeguarded, and this is perhaps the most appropriate time to re-emphasise that. Unfortunately, I was not in the House when my noble and learned friend spoke but I will certainly reflect on his comments. However, I was here when my noble friend the Leader of the House spoke, and I think she provided clarity on some of the comments and questions that were raised.
My Lords, I welcome what the Minister has said today, and I very much welcome what my noble friend Lord Rosser said in his response. I think back to the wonderful days of the Olympics, when we were a multicultural country. We were delighted to have people here from all over the world and this was a country that showed tolerance. Since then, we have become small, inward-looking and mean-minded. I would like to put two things to the Minister.
First, if ever the country needed leadership to tackle hate crime and to condemn those awful people in our society who take advantage of minorities in this country, it is now. I am dismayed that somebody who wants to be Prime Minister of this country peddled racial hatred and opposition to migration by saying that millions of Turks were going to come to this country. After the referendum, he said, “Oh, it wasn’t about immigration at all”. Anybody who knocked on doors knows that there was one issue that won the referendum for the leave campaign and that was immigration. There were some worthy, decent people in the leave campaign but the fact is that it was the immigration argument that did it and the hate crime is a result of that immigration argument.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes some powerful points. First, let me assure him that, when it comes to dealing with the issue of hate crime, there is no void in leadership—and not just within the Government. Of course, the Government facilitate and demonstrate their intent. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has been instrumental in some of the initiatives that I have already talked about. I am sure noble Lords will agree that she is not someone who shies away from difficult and tough calls. She has protected certain police budgets, but at the same time she has been at the forefront of providing the kind of protection and policies that we are seeing coming to the fore. I also pay tribute to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. When we took up the mantle of new government, I spoke to him about tackling hate crime, particularly within certain religious communities, and ensuring that the fund for the protection of places of worship is instrumental and reflects this.
The noble Lord talked about those who play on the fear of immigration. I have already made my views clear on that. Anyone who plays on these fears to divide society needs to take a long, hard look at themselves.
My Lords, first, I express my appreciation to the Minister for his long-standing, staunch attacks on prejudice. He has been excellent in this regard. Secondly, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that one should take a broader view of this. It would be wrong, and we would be burying our heads in the sand, if we thought it was simply the EU and immigration unleashing racism in this country. Sadly, as many of us know, there have been a growing number of attacks for decades on Muslims, for which Tell MAMA can provide the statistics, and on Jews. The Community Security Trust too, of which I am a patron, has statistics. Unfortunately, they spike when there is an incident such as Gaza, but I do not want to go there now. We must ask ourselves: whence comes this racism, which has gone on for so very long? It is not a new phenomenon from last week, although obviously one appreciates the vigour of the condemnation from the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, now that it has happened and been brought to our attention in a wider way.
I simply ask the Minister not to forget the forthcoming report of the Chakrabarti inquiry looking into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and the as yet unpublished report from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall—on incidents in the Oxford University Labour Club, I am ashamed to say. All these incidents must be taken on board; it is not a narrow phenomenon of the EU and immigration. I do not know whether the Minister will agree with me, but I suggest that one possible theory is segregated education and that university authorities have not been cracking down in the way they should have on the continuation of some of the prejudices, which I fear have been nurtured in segregated education. I do not mean just in regular schooling but unfortunately after school as well.
My Lords, Back-Bench questions are meant to be brief, so will the noble Baroness please ask a question?
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Baroness for the work that she does for the CST. Indeed, I commend the work of organisations such as the CST for the Jewish community and of Tell MAMA in the reporting that it provides within the Muslim community. Our faith communities are central and pivotal in helping us to find and determine some of the solutions for the kind of integration that we want to see.
The noble Baroness makes a point about schools. There are many good examples of schools that are operating according to a particular faith ethos. We need to take those examples and ensure that they are translated across the board. Let me assure the noble Baroness that the Government are not complacent. The challenges that we are facing in certain sectors of society showing fragmentation and isolation need to be tackled full on, and the Government are seeking to do that through various policies, including tackling some of the challenges of radicalisation, both from the far right and from those usurping and hijacking faith, through our counterextremism strategy.
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister two specific questions about religious literacy and religious education. First, I welcome the Statement and the responses from the other Front Benches, and of course express my own great dismay at the incidents that we have experienced in recent days. As I said in the House on Monday, the diocese where I serve includes some of the most multicultural parts of this country. I have heard many disturbing stories, and even more of them here today.
My first question relates to religious education. We have discovered in recent days something that is already there within us and that has been stirred up and legitimised by some of the debate, yet religious education has less of a place in the national curriculum than it used to. I wonder whether this is another opportunity for the Government to look again at the place of religious education in schools.
My second question is about religious literacy. I serve on this House’s Select Committee on Communications. We have recently completed a report on the renewal of the BBC charter. Religious broadcasting has almost disappeared from public service broadcasting, and the BBC no longer has a commissioning editor for religious broadcasting. Surely this is a time when we need to do more about this. It is a very practical matter that the Government could address.
I thank the right reverend Prelate, whose question relates to the central issues of literacy and education. It is important that school curricula reflect the diversity of faiths and of communities that demonstrates what modern Britain is. He made a very valid point, too, about religious literacy and spoke of how we might look towards our broadcasters to see how religion can be debated and discussed, because it is relevant to so many people’s lives in our country.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister and echo the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I know personally of his dedication and commitment to eradicating the hatred that has reared its head in our society. As somebody said to me the other day, few of us believe that the 52% of the electorate who voted for Brexit are racist. However, the minority in this society who clearly are, and perhaps always have been, seem to think that the 52% suddenly agree with them and that the outpouring of hatred that we have seen has become legitimised. We all have to work together to tackle this, and there must be strong leadership.
Just last week, I was filled with dismay at the sight of the posters, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, on Turkey and on a “breaking point”. All of them fed into people’s fears. As we know, 41 people have died so far as a result of three suicide bombers attacking ordinary civilians at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul last night. I have family and friends who have been greatly affected by it, and I still feel shaken by what has happened—I was grateful for the comments and tributes paid earlier. However, those very Turks who faced terrorism last night were vilified in posters around this country. It was said that 78 million were coming here from a country that was full of criminals and terrorists to threaten our way of life. I have not heard the people who led in that campaign—namely, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and various others who repeated the claims and legitimised those posters—distance themselves from them or say that they were not appropriate. I feel very sad that that is the case.
I want to ask two questions of the Minister. Hate crime is taking place in schools and workplaces. Children are being told to go home. Is the Secretary of State in touch with schools, notifying head teachers and giving support to make sure that such behaviour is not tolerated and that children should not be attacked in this way? Also, I have heard reports of people in their workplaces being told to go home, to get back to their country, and of employers turning a blind eye. These are very serious things. A lot of this stuff is not being reported, and we must send out very strong signals that these people will be supported and that employers have a responsibility to support their employees when others are breaking the law.
Finally, what are we going to do to prevent hate crime?
First, I join the noble Baroness, as I am sure do all noble Lords, in that we have all been stunned. Turkey has suffered greatly from acts of terrorisms, as we have seen, and we stand with Turkey at this time after a terrorist attack on Istanbul airport resulting in the loss of many innocent lives.
On the issue that she raised about what people said during the campaign, we are all accountable for what we say, and it is very much for people to look at themselves to see where they stand and the kind of Britain that they want to create.
I for one take heart, with all the negative reporting, from one report that reached my desk. There was a mother having a conversation with her son on a bus in another language. The lady concerned had a veil on. A person on the bus turned round to the lady and said, “This is Britain, don’t you know? You should speak English”. At which point another, more elderly lady on the bus responded, “Actually, we are in Wales and that mother is talking Welsh to her son”. I think that reflects the kind of attributes we find. It does not matter who you are, what you are or what you wear; we are proud of our identities, by faith, by community, by culture and by nationality. Yes, we are proud to be British, but I am heartened by the fact that there are others, who may not be of the same faith or the same community, who will be the first to defend someone’s rights to be who and what they are.
My Lords, I return to the question of the fragile position of new nationals who have made their residence here. It is a matter of supreme importance. I believe, with very great respect, that the Leader of the House failed to touch on the reality of the situation, which is that this is not a matter for the European Union at all. The basic premise, which we seem to have avoided up to now, is that it is a domestic matter, a matter of domestic municipal law. These people have invested their trust and that of their families in us. When they came to Britain they made themselves subject to our law and they are entitled to the protection of that law. To say that we will negotiate with anybody in relation to that is utterly wrong. We owe them that as a matter of trust.
Let me reassure the noble Lord. I have already commented on this, but I have put on record the fact that there are EU nationals, along with citizens of other countries, who have made Britain their home. We celebrate and value their contributions to our economic growth. They have provided jobs, and the noble Lord is quite right to point out that there is a responsibility on the Government of the day to ensure that all citizens, no matter where they come from, are provided with safety, security and a sense that, yes, they belong. I am sure that comments that have been made today will be reflected on.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that in such a dangerous atmosphere all minorities are at risk, including Britain’s LGBT community? I refer him to a report in Pink News yesterday of a mob going down Drury Lane singing, “Rule, Britannia, Britannia rules the waves. First we’ll get the Poles out. Then the gays”. Will he reassure Britain’s LGBT community that the Government will continue to do all they can to crack down on homophobic abuse and bullying?
I assure my noble friend that we support the sentiments that he has expressed about ensuring that people from the LGBT community are fully protected. Sometimes you get passing racism; I have experienced the question, “Where are you from?”, myself. I assure them that I am from Wimbledon. On a more positive note, we need to demonstrate what we are as a country. I was heartened by the fact that we had Gay Pride week last week and at the front of the Gay Pride parade was the London Mayor. Yes, he is the son of a bus driver, as is often said, but he is of Pakistani heritage and of Muslim faith.
My Lords, it is well recognised—indeed, the Minister has told us this afternoon—that incitement to racial hatred went on during the referendum campaign. Some disgraceful things were done over the nine weeks of the campaign. Do the Government have any plans to prosecute anyone for the crimes that were committed? At the very least, could they not have a government inquiry into what went on, which was instigated by the campaign managers?
I assure the noble Baroness that if a specific crime has been reported to the police, they work hand in glove with our criminal justice system. For those who commit a crime, there is a simple message: you will be brought to justice. I look forward to working together to ensure that the kinds of issues that have been raised today across the board on hate crime are addressed and that we collectively protect, sustain and strengthen the kind of country that we are.