The new cross-government hate crime action plan published in July sets out a comprehensive programme of action to reduce hate crime. This includes education programmes to prevent hate incidents, measures to improve the police response and recording of hate crime and stronger sentencing guidelines for the judiciary. As part of the action plan, we have committed £2.4 million of funding for security for places of worship which have been targeted by hate crime. We are also sharing £300,000 of funding across communities to tackle hate crime through innovative projects.
My Lords, the Home Secretary said in relation to the recent figures that the Government intended to stamp out hate crime. That and the actions referred to by the Minister are very welcome, but does she agree that, while it may be possible to stamp out behaviour, stamping out hatred in people’s hearts and minds is more difficult? What is required in addition to these actions is for the Government to take the lead in saying loud and clear that everyone who lives in this country is welcome, that we live in a multicultural, multiracial and increasingly diverse country, that this is not going to change and that it is a good thing.
I agree with the noble Lord to the extent that stamping out hatred in people’s hearts and minds is a bigger issue than just providing a hate crime action plan, but this country is tolerant and welcoming. We have seen that in the past 24 hours with some of those fleeing persecution in other countries coming across and being welcomed to this country. It involves more than just action plans—attitudes and the way that we approach our fellow man or woman in everyday life.
My Lords, hate crime is an extreme form of prejudice, and prejudice arises from ignorance. Does the Minister agree that there is a much greater need for religious literacy at all levels of society, including government, where it is not always visible? Does she further agree that another contributory factor to hate crime is the reticence of the British people to talk about religion? Religion, which tells us how to live, move and have our being, should be open to challenge if we want a more cohesive society.
I agree with the noble Lord, as I often do, that religious literacy in all aspects of society—particularly through the media—is incredibly important and something that schools can promote through PSHE. The Government have made a number of funding streams available in order for people to not only discuss what unites them in terms of their religions but celebrate what is different about them. That celebration is a good thing.
My Lords, it most certainly was not because we are all free to express our opinions. It is absolutely right that this country is a country in which we can express our opinions. The line lies where that expression incites people to commit hate crimes.
My Lords, racist and religious instances of abuse jumped 41% in the month after the UK voted to leave the EU. Does the Minister attribute that rise to some of the more unpleasant aspects of the EU debate? What further actions are the Government taking and what are the review mechanisms in place in government to ensure that we have the most effective, tough and up-to-date laws to tackle anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all other forms of racist and religious abuse?
The noble Lord is absolutely right: in the post-EU referendum period we did see a spike in hate crimes, particularly those that were racially motivated. I held a number of round tables with people of different religions in Manchester and met the Polish ambassador following the graffiti and hatred directed towards the Polish community in Hammersmith. It was very clear that it was a spike in crime motivated by people who used the EU referendum as an opportunity to vent their hate. I am very pleased that those figures have now calmed right down to almost normal levels. However, it teaches us a lesson that, in light of events that might cause such feelings, we need to quell them quickly.
My Lords, as the Minister mentioned, the incidence of race and religious hate crimes has gone up by some 40%. The figure the Home Office released is 5,468 at the end of July. Can she say how many of those incidents have been properly investigated, whether there have been any convictions and whether she has any figures? Until there are convictions and examples are made to show that we will not tolerate hate crime as a society, it will continue. As the Minister is aware, many more people do not report this sort of incident and the figure could well be double the 40% that the Home Office has reported.
One of the things that we did while I was in my other job in the DCLG was to encourage people to report both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hatred through the CST, Tell MAMA and the True Vision website, which encourages people to report hate crimes. Yes, there has been an increase in hate crime, but there has also been an increase in its reporting. In terms of prosecutions for hate crime—I asked that question earlier today because I was genuinely interested in the answer—there have been 15,442 in 2015-16. That is a 4.8% increase on the previous year. There has also been a very depressing 41% increase in disability hate crime. We cannot relax across any of those strands that we are looking at.