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House of Lords Hansard
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14 September 2016
Volume 774

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government why their report Action Against Hate: The UK Government’s plan for tackling hate crime, published in July 2016, does not report on the incidence of hate crimes against non-Abrahamic faith communities.

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My Lords, we take all forms of hate crime very seriously. Until April, the police did not routinely record religious hate incidents by faith. However, we are grateful to both the Community Security Trust and Tell MAMA, which have provided anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hate crime data for some time. The first disaggregated police recorded data will be available in 2017. Action Against Hate brings together a range of departments and agencies, and includes funding for places of worship and further action in education.

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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response but it does not address my concerns over the narrow and biased thinking in a report that details 45 examples of hate crime against Abrahamic faiths but not a single example of the many, well-documented mistaken-identity hate crimes suffered by Sikhs and others—and this in a report emanating from a department with specifically designated officers to consider hate crime against the Jewish and Muslim communities but not anyone else. Would the Minister agree that that omission is more due to ignorance than deliberate discrimination? Would she further agree that those who preach the need for religious literacy should first themselves acquire some basic religious literacy, and apologise to those they have offended in such a way?

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My Lords, the Government have engaged with non-Abrahamic faith communities and will continue to do so. In Manchester in July, in my previous role, I held round-table events with victims of hate crime, including members of the Sikh community alongside other faiths. On Monday, my noble friend Lord Bourne also hosted a round table to discuss hate crime with Sikh organisations as the latest engagement with the Sikh community. We find such round tables a good way to discuss widely concerns on hate crime and look at a variety of issues and approaches. However, while we know that there are common issues across the strands of hate crime, we also accept that there are issues that affect communities specifically. I and/or officials will be very happy to meet the noble Lord to discuss his concerns. On religious literacy, we have talked about this in the past. People such as the media have a role to play in improving their religious literacy.

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My Lords, sadly, we are all too aware where hate crime can lead. Will my noble friend join me in welcoming the launch of the international design competition for the national memorial and underground learning centre commemorating the Holocaust, announced by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister earlier today and officially launched in 15 minutes’ time by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities, next door in Victoria Tower Gardens? Would my noble friend also agree that this memorial and learning centre aim to inspire future generations to respect and embrace difference, and to fight prejudice and hatred?

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I most certainly join my noble friend in welcoming this announcement and the fact that my right honourable friend Sajid Javid will be launching it in about 10 minutes’ time. My noble friend is absolutely right that these memorials do not just serve to help us remember. The education centres alongside them ensure that our children and the children of future generations know the horrors that went on in the past and, we hope, learn from them for the future.

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Can the noble Baroness tell me how the genocide of the Roma people is to be commemorated in the Holocaust memorial drawn attention to by the noble Lord opposite?

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My Lords, of course the killing of the Roma people was all part of the terrible Holocaust. I will provide more details to the noble Baroness in due course.

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My Lords, do the Government agree that when we describe hateful and violent people as “radical”, “extreme” or “militant”, we are nearly always referring to Islamists and not, in this country, to the adherents of any other religion?

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I am afraid to say to the noble Lord that we are not talking about just Islamist extremism. Hate crime against Polish people rose in the aftermath of the EU referendum, and of course, hate crime against the Jewish people has been happening for as long as we can all remember. It is not confined to Islamist extremism.

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My Lords, just yesterday a woman in a headscarf was attacked and lost her baby as a result. We know from the rise in this sort of hate crime that it is now a daily occurrence. Can the public sector equality duty be used to reduce such hate crime, and will the Government consider looking at the analysis of the figures she is collecting as a way of trying to reduce it?

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I know the case that the noble Baroness refers to—on the face of it, a truly horrific thing has happened to this lady, but I cannot comment on it further as it is being investigated. The public sector equality duty and other elements of the Equality Act certainly have their role to play. The hate crime action plan which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary published just a few weeks ago will add to measures on what is really quite a vicious crime.

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My Lords, perhaps I may bring the Minister back to the original Question, which is about the concern felt by the Sikh community regarding the reporting of crime. The police have to be able to identify those who have been attacked because they are Sikhs. What discussions has the Minister had with the College of Policing and chief constables about the training of police to ensure that they can accurately record such crimes?

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As I mentioned earlier, the police are disaggregating the types of hate crime by religion, such as against the main Abrahamic religions plus crimes against Sikhs and Buddhists. That disaggregation went live in April. However, we have published a new cross-government hate crime action plan to drive forward action, including training for the police, against all forms of hate crime.