Motion to Take Note (Continued)
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on his foresight in tabling this debate on shared values. I also add my own congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, on their poignant and insightful maiden speeches.
In the diocese of Gloucester, I have recently been talking to young people about body image and reflecting with them on how their true worth begins deep within, the place from which true values emerge and are lived. Last Saturday, I hosted a huge community party in Cheltenham to publicly launch our new vision for the diocese of Gloucester. The vision has emerged from conversations in local communities, urban and rural, involving about 6,000 people, churchgoers and otherwise, discussing what sort of church they want to see in their communities. The vision is one of human flourishing and transformation, emanating from those words of Jesus from the gospel of John:
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.
That is a good starting place when it comes to talking about values.
Our party was a place of welcome and hospitality—key values for our country, and at the heart of this is relationship. Yesterday, in the diocese of Gloucester, people were meeting to talk about supporting and sponsoring refugee families in our communities. That is beyond the financial means of most parish churches on their own, but becomes possible when we pull together, living the shared values of hospitality, welcome and compassion. As a nation, we have prided ourselves on our compassionate hospitality, such as welcoming the 17th-century Huguenot refugees, in the Kindertransport scheme during the Second World War, and the various refugee movements over the years, including the present day.
These are big headlines and the challenge is to enable the values of hospitality, welcome and compassion to be lived at local level, not least with people who are different from ourselves. Just one example of this in Gloucester is our plan to use a diocesan property to accommodate women on release from Eastwood Park Prison. This is being made possible by partnering with the Nelson Trust, which is inspirational in its work with vulnerable women. This is about bringing together local resources with a charitable organisation occupying the middle space, so that shared values can be modelled and lived. Of course, such welcome can be sustainable only when we live the value of generosity—not just generosity with time and finance but generosity of spirit, wanting others to thrive and flourish, a willingness to respect others as we ourselves would want to be respected.
Next Friday, I will host a breakfast focused around mental health issues in young people. Those of us present will ask how we can use our influence in our different spheres of activity to be change-makers at a local level. When it comes to human flourishing and transformation, this is not only about welcome, hospitality, compassion and generosity, it is about modelling courage and indeed the hope that is so central to the Christian faith.
Recently, a baby in Gloucester died as a result of numerous injuries and his parents were arrested for neglect. The shocked community came together in its parish church. When in times of pain people come together and light candles in our churches and cathedrals, we are proclaiming together that the light of hope is stronger than the darkness of fear. Shared values cannot be actively lived in communities marked by fear. I think we can all agree that there have been times over the past year when communities in Britain and across the world have not always reflected the values of which we have been speaking. People can easily turn in on themselves and hope has sometimes been diminished by fear and distrust. For some, there has been a feeling that somehow those who enjoy power and responsibility are too keen to be the projectors of values rather than participants in their shared expression. That slogan in the EU referendum, “Take back control”, clearly had power for a reason, and these concerns cannot simply be dismissed.
Rather than pulling further apart as a society, we need to draw closer together, and that begins at the local level where relationships are forged and partnerships built. This enables values to be lived. The values of which I have spoken, modelled within local communities, are not about doing things to other people or even always for other people, they are about creating a culture of “with” other people. At our community party last Saturday there were people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, representatives of different local organisations, charities and enterprises. All were celebrating what we can be and do together; celebrating our assets, not our deficits. In it all I glimpsed those values being lived and it was a place of great hope being lived at the local level.
If we want to help build communities that embody healthy values which have shaped Britain at its best, we must ensure that our policies are courageous in empowering communities to make these values their own and be participants in their own futures. We must do what we can to resource and equip communities and enable charities and organisations in the middle ground to work with local communities so that people can live these values freely with others. It is a challenge that I believe the Church is rising to in local communities up and down the land. It is also a challenge for us here as legislators not simply to talk about values but to model them in who we are and what we do, and to use our influence to create the conditions within which these values can be lived for the flourishing of all, particularly at the local level.
My Lords, it is a great honour to speak in a debate initiated by the most reverend Primate and to follow so many speakers who have marked the importance of our shared values, and of respecting and celebrating them. As an Iranian Member of this House—I was born in Iran and we can never give up our nationality—who was educated at a French Catholic school in Iran, subsequently in a Protestant school in England and finally at a fiercely secular university, I would like to suggest that there are universal values which underpin humanity and civilised interactions which can be shared by all, regardless of creed, colour or nationality.
As a mother whose daughter has conducted her church’s junior choir and is now about to conduct the Yorkshire deaf children’s choir, I can say that over the Christmas period we as a family will be spending a great deal of time in a whole variety of churches celebrating the coming of Christmas and listening to our grandchildren singing in various choirs. My family used to celebrate Christmas with my aunt who was of Russian-German origin, and now we celebrate it and the Persian new year with our daughter, who is of Persian and New Zealand extraction. It seems to me that there is a universality of values which are important and have to be shared.
As a third generation feminist I know how difficult it is to fight for and obtain rights, and how much more difficult it is to retain the rights that we have actually achieved. It can be very dangerous to assume that we have accepted shared values and that we are going to adhere to them. We need to be vigilant and to defend them as far as we are able. Perhaps one of the best ways to move forward is by not labelling people as “British” or by their creed or colour because each of these “otherises” many of us and thus excludes us. A more positive approach might be to celebrate difference by welcoming the various pathways that people of different origins take towards the same end, and to participate in celebrating across cultures and across creeds. Perhaps we could mark the new year celebrations of all citizens and of all faiths and participate as far as we possibly can in the celebration of difference. Once we learn to celebrate and bring joy to difference and to recognise the shared value of enjoyment rather than an obligation and duty to respect, perhaps we could become part of the same society. The different approaches that we have to life are important and should be valorised and recognised. We ought not just to assume that we can insist on shared values as a principle; we can actively participate in them and perhaps we will then get somewhere.
My Lords, I am very pleased to follow the noble Baroness. When she talked about values, how right were the things she said to us. Values are to be found at individual, community and national levels, and in some sense universally. It seems to me that in this debate, so brilliantly introduced by the most reverend Primate, it is universal values we need to think about most carefully.
There are two things on the role of intermediates and institutions I want to bring out as a prelude. We would not be sitting here if it had not been for the role of intermediates and institutions. Westminster democracy arose at least strongly in part from the efforts of the Church as an intermediary and as an institution. As a final preliminary thought, I am informed by the phrase, “By their deeds ye shall know them”. Much of what we have heard has been about front-line action and deeds that have been taken and which are going on every day.
This Motion is very carefully and skilfully crafted. It represents a challenge when we come to the end of it. We first have to identify values. In my opinion that is not too difficult. We then have to consider which are shared, which is a more complex exercise. The shared values then have to have some role in underpinning our society—again, an additional complexity. Finally, the challenge is what the role of these shared and underpinning values is in settling our priorities in a liberal democracy. That is not so easy. I will try to concentrate on priorities.
At school, I had a history master who was a school chaplain and a canon of Winchester Cathedral. He had set pieces in his classes. One was about democratic expectations. He described the onward march of science, technology and knowledge in his life. He also taught us a lot about art and poetry. Walt Whitman was a great favourite of his. He worried because he said that the pace and quality of change was such that there must be some doubt that we would be able to cope with what was happening to us. He saw that as a threat to liberal democracy. He felt we would come to the day when we did not have the resources. We would know so much and have so much potential that we would fail to have the resources. He would have put people first and money second. If all this was to happen, there would be disappointment. There must be a question as to whether we could cope with that disappointment.
Briefly, a personal disappointment: I had always thought since the end of the Second World War and 1949 that our efforts to bring Europe together to avoid what had happened to us in the first half of the last century would never come to an end. How wrong I have been proved by the Brexit vote.
There are other things that draw one’s attention to the difficulty of establishing priorities: how are we coping with social media—that has also been mentioned —in our schools and more widely in our society? We have recently been debating, and will again, the integration of mental and physical health, which raises all sorts of priority problems and philosophical problems that we may not yet satisfactorily have solved. Then there is prison reform, which, along with many other features of our modern society, causes us difficulties when we come to decide which we should choose, and which we should choose first. We probably need to think very carefully, along the lines of the Motion, about priorities; probably much more carefully than we have been wont to do in the recent past. There is a text from Disraeli that runs:
“Without a knowledge of the spirit of the age life might prove a blunder … It did not follow that the spirit of the age should be adopted; it might be necessary to resist it; but it was essential to understand it”.
Good advice, I think. The challenge is to define our priorities and, I would add, to get much better at explaining why we choose the priorities that we do.
My Lords, listening to the most reverend Primate’s opening speech made me realise that this House is worth it and that it is a wonderful thing for us to be here to listen to people such as him, not because we agree on everything but because it certainly makes us think. That is probably more important than anything else. I have given some thought to what I believe and I shall share my thoughts with noble Lords.
I first came to this country in 1947—yes, I am that old—and realised how different the British were in their own country from how they were in my country. It was 1947, the year India got its independence, and my experience of the British in India was totally different from my experience of people here. People here were nice, had no problem with anything and went out of their way to help you; I just could not believe it. It was partly a shock and partly a pleasure. That was my introduction to this country.
I then went to University College London to study law. I have huge admiration for the common law of England. It is based on all the sensible things, the sort of things that mattered at a time when there was not so much legislation. We have been extremely lucky in the common law of England. It could have been much worse had there been some other kind of law. Of course, it was not quite like the Code Napoléon; it is not in one book that one can pick up and study but it has underpinned a lot of values. Everybody should spend a little time looking at the law.
I was very well treated at university. I never, ever felt I was any different from anybody else. At that time there were two Asians—one man and me—and one black man among the 80 students; the rest were all white, but none of us was ever made to feel any different. It was a wonderful time for me. All the things I feel I can do now took root at that time. It is very important to me that some of the fundamental values are set down in the common law of Britain. The noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, are right in saying that these are not just Christian values. They are values of society and they are required for us to be able to function together. If we do not have some shared values in a society, we cannot function together. They may take root in each person’s faith, but they are not faith-based: they are shared values in themselves.
There are some issues that we have to look at. Some faith practices are not the same as the ones we are used to. We have been very conscious of not saying anything about them. Political correctness is one of the biggest disasters of the past 25 to 30 years. We do not like to speak about things that we do not like about other people because it is racist. No, it is not racist. There are faiths, especially the Abrahamic faiths, which treat women very badly. It is up to us to make sure that all women who live in this country are treated the same. It took women in this country more than a century—a century and a half, at least—to get the kind of status that they have now. Why should other women who come to live here not have the same? Why do they have to live according to different truths? The Catholics will not allow women family planning. The population of Italy is diminishing. The population of Africa is increasing. The Archbishop of Uganda said that every Catholic church must tell women that it is a great sin to use any kind of family planning. These women do not have money or food. They have illness and their children die—“That is all right but you must keep producing them”. I have a very big problem with that.
Then we have the sharia councils here, which do not treat women well. We are doing some work on this. Two reviews are being carried out, one by the Home Office and one by the Home Affairs Committee. The main problems are for women and children. In sharia, once the child reaches seven, the man can take the child away. The man can divorce the woman, he can put her out, and then if you say, “Why don’t you look after your family?”, the man says, “Oh, the Government will look after them”. There are some things we should not close our eyes to. Everyone who comes to live here must abide by the law and the customs of this country. It is completely wrong that people should do things that we do not do; otherwise, give those rights to everyone in this country.
The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, talked about terrorism. Terrorism is not part of Islam but somebody is brainwashing these young people into thinking that this is the right way to heaven. I do not know what kind of heaven they are going to but killing innocent people is completely against Islam. It has never been part of Islam, which says to be merciful to your enemies, not just to ordinary people. Daesh and terrorism are no part of Islam. But we must remember that if the good people keep quiet, it allows the bad ones to win, so anybody who can raise their voice against these things should do so.
I see that I am running out of time—I always do. I am also very concerned about faith schools. I used to be a teacher and, in my experience, it is young children who make relationships with each other. Faith schools separate children. We know what that has done in Northern Ireland. We, who have the experience of Northern Ireland, decided to have faith schools in this country—how is that possible? Sometimes I really cannot understand the thinking. The Anglican schools are all right because they take everybody but the other schools do not. Who will go to a Muslim school? Nobody. That is not a good prognosis for community cohesion.
We talk about rights and freedoms and individuality. We never mention responsibility. Every right comes with responsibility.
My Lords, I too thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for securing this timely debate. It is timely as, after the Brexit vote on 23 June, the nation is now more than ever considering what its shared values are and how they will impact our future.
Those who know me will be aware that I was born and raised in perhaps, in my opinion, the world’s most glamorous paradise. It is called Birmingham, just off the M6 motorway, by the gasworks. Being from a Jamaican immigrant family, I certainly believe that ethnic minorities here share certain values that are not uniquely British but universal—values such as fairness, tolerance, justice, democracy and freedom of speech. These values are taught first and foremost in the family, so government policies should always have the goal of strengthening families at their core. Families are the centre of British life.
There are some aspects of British life that are the envy of the world and need to be cherished and promoted. Britain is a sovereign nation, ruled by a monarch who has been the non-political head of state, and of the Commonwealth, for 64 years. She and her Royal Family have done it with a style matched by no others. Some years ago, I was waiting in line to receive the Queen and Prince Philip at a Commonwealth event. Prince Philip looked quizzically at me and asked, “What exotic part of the world are you from?”. I replied, “Birmingham”. He laughed and responded, “Well, I suppose somebody’s got to be”. We then both laughed, but my serious point is that the British monarchy is not just a figurehead; it has an important role in our future. There are 28 nations in the European Union, comprised of different languages and cultures. The Brexit vote will enable us to do more trade with the 52 nations of the Commonwealth, with which we have more in common in many ways than with Europe. The key common factors are the Queen, the English language, the Christian faith, our historical ties and, because of the Commonwealth Games, sports.
Another of our key values is tolerance, but it is worrying that, post Brexit, the number of racist attacks and amount of xenophobia have increased. I am glad to hear that the Government have commissioned an audit to strengthen policies against racial inequality and intolerance, but I hope that audit will lead to action.
Diversity and creativity are also hallmarks of modern Britain. A few years ago, I was delighted to watch my own daughters, who are talented musicians and dancers, perform across America. The creative industries are now worth more than £84 billion per year to the UK economy and generate almost £10 million per hour for it. Post Brexit, our exports will be vital to our prosperity, so it is disappointing to read in a recent report that cuts in funding to creative arts education are placing these industries at risk and that entry into them is increasingly becoming the preserve of the white middle class. Earlier this week the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation quoted the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, describing the British theatre industry as still totally white. He added that, for his industry to survive, there need to be more black and Asian people performing on stage and behind the scenes. He warned that the theatre cannot be sustained by dwindling, ageing, white middle-class audiences.
Part of my family background is in sport. I still remember the thrill and excitement, as a 12 year-old, of playing my first game for the Warwickshire under-13 schools cricket team. It was a typically English cricket game in early summer, played first with bitterly cold frost on the ground followed by torrential rain. The game reached the usual ending after 45 minutes of “Rain stopped play”, but for me it was an early introduction to the joys of sport and teamwork. What is perhaps not recognised is that, since the middle of the 19th century, 10 major sports have been invented in Britain. They are soccer, rugby, cricket, hockey, tennis, boxing, badminton, squash, table tennis and curling. Cricket in turn led to baseball, while rugby was also adopted by the Americans as gridiron football. In modern times, Britain has excelled in the Olympics and Paralympics, while the English Premier League is the envy of the soccer world. Most of the major sports around the world were codified in Great Britain. This makes it all the more sad that one school every two weeks gets the Government’s approval to sell off land or playing fields. Nearly 100 schools have sold their playing fields since the London Olympics in 2012. My son was one of the fastest schoolboy sprinters in England for his age group, yet he had nowhere to practise at his school.
My wife, Lady Laura, is American, and she saw at first hand how the dreadful atrocity of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was an attack on the shared values which the British and the Americans hold dear. We must in faith believe that we will continue to uphold these values. Faith has had a transforming role in our lives. We see this in particular in the 19th century in the lives of great Christian men and women—for example, William Wilberforce with anti-slavery, Lord Shaftesbury in the factories, Elizabeth Fry in the prisons and William Booth with the foundation of the Salvation Army. They believed that values could underpin a better life for everyone, even when progress in social conditions appeared to be far too slow. We have to adopt the same attitude of never giving up in promoting our shared values to shape public policies for the better. After all, faith is counting the stars, even when you cannot see them.
My Lords, we are all extremely grateful to the most reverend Primate for giving us the opportunity to have this wide-ranging debate. Having heard every single word that has been uttered, I can say it certainly has been a wide-ranging debate. During his extremely perceptive—I could almost use the word “visionary”—speech, the most reverend Primate talked about working towards a common purpose based on the shared values which, we have been reminded so often, are not uniquely British values but shared values that underpin any civilised society.
I could not help but think of the words said in the Chamber before the most reverend Primate made his splendid speech because, as with every last sitting day of the week, we began with Psalm 121, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills”, although this morning we had it in the metrical version from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. When I go back to my home city of Lincoln and I look at the great and glorious cathedral on the hill, dominating not only the city but the countryside around, I think of how many people have been given inspiration and hope and have had their aspirations developed by that great building and all that it represents and encapsulates. And I cannot help but reflect that the true poor of the 21st century are those who have neither hope nor aspiration.
The real challenge facing us is to try to give to individuals a sense of hope and an aspiration. It is particularly germane at the moment because, without wanting to enter into the arguments over Brexit yet again, the fact of the matter is that, rightly or wrongly, many young people, including my grandchildren, feel that their hopes have been dashed and their aspirations reduced. It is up to us to try to prove them wrong, but that is how they feel, so this debate is indeed in every sense timely.
I want to give just two practical examples of how we could bring this sense of purpose to our national life. We have talked about the Abrahamic faith and other faiths. We had a very interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Singh, about the Sikhs. There is one thing that brings people of good will, whether of faith or not, together, and it is perhaps best encapsulated in the second great commandment, which is part of the communion service in the Anglican Church every week: “Love thy neighbour as thyself”, or in its secular version, “Do to others as you would be done by”.
I have said something similar to the most reverend Primate in the past, but I think he is in a unique position. As the senior Bishop under the Supreme Governor, Her Majesty the Queen, in the Anglican Communion he has a unique role. He can act as a catalyst. I would like to see, built on his splendid debate today, his taking a lead in bringing together the leaders of all faiths, whom I know he meets with regularly, and people of good will, including the humanists, to try and work out a charter of true values which can be inculcated in the young via their schools and universities.
That brings me on to my second point. At the risk of repeating things that I have said only recently, particularly in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, I am a tremendous believer in our having a national citizenship scheme. I believe that every young person between the age of 15 and 18 should do some community service and receive a much higher level of citizenship education than is normally the case at the moment. When they reach the age of 18, they should make a public recognition not only of their rights but, to take up a point made a few moments ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, of their responsibilities, so that they have a rite of passage, or coming of age as it were, where they become full citizens. I would like this to be accompanied by the sort of citizenship ceremony that many new British subjects go through when they proclaim their allegiance to their new country.
I offer these as practical suggestions to the most reverend Primate, and in doing so, thank him again for the inspirational lead he gave at the beginning of this debate, which has indeed underlined many of those shared values which all of us fundamentally hold dear.
My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. His belief in bringing people together is really important. In this debate I want to focus on a number of specific issues.
In a debate at the end of last year, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, said that it was important for Churches to,
“make a distinction between teaching which may be applicable for their own members in their private lives and the basic rights and dignity that need to be accorded to everyone in their society, whatever their religion or belief”.—[Official Report, 17/9/15; col. 2034.]
I must say, however, that there were times in the debate on the same-sex marriage legislation when I felt the Church of England appeared not able or prepared to face up to that distinction. Where freedom of religion or belief is under attack, other fundamental freedoms often face a threat too. For me this remains the most critical issue for us in today’s debate, which I am extremely grateful to the most reverend Primate for initiating.
In our world today it is estimated that between 2% and 6% of adults identify as LGBTI. At a conservative estimate that is 58 million people, and the figure could be as many as 174 million people. The situation for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain has changed significantly, and I am extremely proud that this has been achieved with a level of cross-party support that would have been unthinkable in the 1980s.
However, domestic progress is not enough. We should speak up for those beyond our borders. In too many countries LGBT people are jailed, threatened and prosecuted because of who they are and who they love. Too many Governments have proposed or enacted laws that aim to curb freedom of expression, association, religion and peaceful protest. Often it is those countries that then criminalise homosexual behaviour or make it illegal. In fact same-sex conduct remains criminalised in 78 jurisdictions in the world, and 40 of the 53 Commonwealth countries criminalise same-sex relations for men, women or both.
Many of those laws are a hangover from British colonial rule. While they remain on the statute book, they have a continuing impact of fear, stigma, rejection, violence and, far too often, murder. However, some of the new laws being promulgated in Africa in particular stem not from British colonial rule but from the new conservative religious thrust from forces in America, which are lining up with intolerant Church leaders in Africa. In Nigeria—I was fortunate to host an event this week with a Nigerian refugee, an actor, about what it is like to be gay in that country—the law prohibiting same-sex marriage, as it is called, is the most draconian law against homosexuality in the world. They are, unfortunately, using language that was used in the same-sex marriage arguments when we had that debate here.
However, I recognise and welcome the declaration made by the primates of the global Anglian communion at the beginning of the year, unequivocally denouncing of laws to criminalise homosexuality and condemning homophobic prejudice and violence. At the time, the most reverend Primate took the opportunity to say personally,
“how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and present, that the church has caused and the love that we at times completely failed to show, and still do, in many parts of the world including in this country”.
In the debate, the most reverend Primate referred to the rule of intermediate organisations in nurturing, protecting and enhancing our freedoms. As a lifelong trade unionist, I know only too well the importance of this. I too listened to “Thought for the Day” with the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and it certainly inspired me. However, organisations need to change. As a young trade unionist, I knew only too well that they were not then bastions of women’s rights and gay rights. We had to change them, and we did so by focusing on shared common beliefs in solidarity and equality. They are organisations for progress, and we must never forget that. Randy Berry, the US special envoy for human rights of LGBT persons—a post that I hope will continue in future—said last year that in addition to the usual diplomacy with Governments, he believed that an essential part of his job was to engage robustly with civil society organisations, foundations and businesses, both in the US and overseas, promoting greater respect for LGBT people. Real progress on gay equality will ultimately come from grass-roots movements, but we need to help to create the conditions where those local gay rights movements can emerge and be sustained.
I truly welcome the words of the most reverend Primate, but my hope is that the Church he leads will translate those words into deeds, with action to be at the head of the movement of change throughout the world, so that all faiths defend and respect not only each other but the human rights of people like me.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and I could not agree more with everything he said about LGBT. Something I will never understand is the awfulness of a young person having to choose between their religious faith and their sexuality; I find that incomprehensible.
I am very grateful to have this debate and congratulate the most reverent Primate on bringing it to the House. What are our shared values? I know what I would like them to be—openness, tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, kindness, honesty, liberty and community—but the world does not appear to work like that. Brexit, as many have said, showed what a divided and somewhat nasty country we can be.
The political backdrop against which our lives play out inevitably colours the atmosphere of our day. Public policy on health, crime, employment, housing, education and the environment all contribute—and, clearly, a more equal society is vital in addressing the current malaise—but public policy can do only so much. It is both society and its governance—and religion—chicken and egg, that set our value system. There is an underlying rationale for malaise and misery when loss, divorce, unemployment, crime or ill health come our way; but there is relatively low unemployment and a relatively decent health service, and crime has been dropping for some time, but there is still malaise and misery. The old structures that held our society in place—marriage, religion, law, class or a virtual, unwritten but universal understanding of acceptable behaviour—are now far less certain, uniform or permanent than used to be the case. That is thankfully so in some of those instances, as they did not always embody values that I might wish to share.
How can we balance what is good for “me” with what is best for “us”: the aspiration for the common good, as opposed to selfish individual advancement? What role does government have in all this? This is tricky territory to tread, as with one false slip in the sentence, you open yourself to pastiche as wanting a ministry of fun and state-regulated, force-fed humour courses.
The deal was always that we behaved well because the Church and other religious establishments, parents, teachers, the police and our Government—pillars of society—said we should. They, at least theoretically, set an example of good behaviour and expected us to do the same. If we did as we were expected to, we were rewarded with approbation from our family, friends, teachers, the community or God—depending on our proclivity—or even an inner feeling of positivity or well-being, because we can actually as human beings universally distinguish right from wrong.
From our establishments, institutions and leaders came a code of social conduct that we all understood. There was either a penalty for deviating from the expectation of good behaviour, such as social exclusion, civil or state punishment or excommunication; or the simple reward of doing the right thing to fulfil our own expectations of ourselves, stemming from our innate sense of good behaviour.
That is no longer the case. This ordered existence has been disintegrating for years. Church attendance and belief are dropping, teachers’ position and authority is diminishing, parents are not exercising the level of control or influence over their children that they used to, and we have had the scandal of MPs’ expenses, banks defrauding us, paedophiles in the Catholic Church, sportspeople cheating, and so on and on. There are feet of clay all over the place, and the media feed the frenzy of this downward spiral and catalogue the cataclysm. The media themselves emphasise the negative, the nasty, the banal and the low-grade, let alone the 24-hour news cycle that is a monster that has to be fed. What about us? We shop on credit, we drink, we take drugs, we numb ourselves by sitting in front of one sort of screen or another and we blame everyone else—generally the Government or foreigners.
This is decline and fall. Governments have allowed a society to develop in which inequality, exclusion, stress and low-level tension are the norm. Mutual support and neighbourliness have declined; isolation is increasing, mental illness is more prevalent, and the signs of day-to-day anger and tension are everywhere. So we should look at policies to reduce stress and inequality, with much less emphasis on status and much more on co-operation and friendship. Status and friendship have their roots in fundamentally different ways of resolving the problem of the competition for scarce resources. Status is based on a pecking order, coercion and privileged access to resources, such as we in this House enjoy, while friendship is based on a more egalitarian basis of social obligations and reciprocity.
Of course, we need to re-establish trust in the state, and in the behaviour and nature of the state—perhaps even in experts—and they need to lead by example. In fact, that is the terror of Trump right now. In the grand sweep of policy, there are obviously “big picture” items, such as tackling poverty, reducing social exclusion, cutting crime and building more homes. But so often now the remedies that we apply to keep us on the straight and narrow are legal rather than social boundaries. However more stringent our laws are, with surveillance, rules, regulations, targets and punishments, they achieve so very little in terms of changing behaviour for the better. The exposure of the level of paedophilia in sport this last week, the Savile scandal and the sexual exploitation in Rotherham are not, I sadly suggest, scandals of the past alone. I suspect that, if we were to look under any rock, anywhere in this country, we would still find these horrors—and there are no values that I share with those who are the perpetrators of such horrors.
Public policy may set the tone for change of behaviour, but we all have a responsibility for behaviour change, and we cannot leave it to public policy or the Government. We must all learn to intervene and all challenge unacceptable behaviour. This is not authoritarian; this is social liberalism—and, ultimately, we must all take responsibility for our own behaviour.
I am glad to follow the noble Baroness. I think that I detected perhaps an extra spark in her speech this morning, in the light perhaps of the result of the by-election in London.
There have been an enormous variety of views in this interesting debate. I would almost describe it as a goldmine of thinking, and it will be well worth reading Hansard afterwards. But it is taking place against the background, as we have all agreed in this debate, of an unsettled country and an uncertainty shared very much with the rest of the western world—the rise of populism and the challenge to so-called establishments in all these countries and to international order. So it is an important time to discuss our values. Like everybody else, I would like to thank the most reverend Primate for his leadership. Before I get into trouble, I should declare an interest as the chair of the 2012 commission of the See of Canterbury which led to his nomination to the Queen to become Archbishop. I am extremely proud of that responsibility—unlike some of the other responsibilities that I have had in the past.
It is very healthy that there are signs of much more debate in society today about values—younger generations wanting to rediscover important values in their lives. I can illustrate this. Recently, I retired as High Steward of Westminster Abbey, where three years ago the Dean and Chapter established the Westminster Abbey Institute, in which a number of noble Lords participate, under the excellent leadership of Claire Foster-Gilbert. It is proving to be successful and meeting a demand. Its vision is to nurture and revitalise moral and spiritual virtues in public life; to inspire vocation to public service in those working in Whitehall and Westminster; and to promote public understanding of, and support for, public services as the basis of a civilised society. This covers Parliament, the judiciary, the Civil Service, the Government and the media, and the good news is the response—the participation by so many people from younger generations in these institutions, who want to discuss these issues. It is a wonderful indication of the desire to reinterpret our values.
In this debate, we have discussed the many values which we have established—and adapted—over centuries, ranging from democracy, the rule of law and free speech to honesty, integrity and truth. I want to highlight two today. The first is service, or duty, and the second is humility. The following words are familiar to the whole House:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service … But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do”.
I declare an interest as a former Lord Chamberlain. Those are, of course, the words of Her Majesty the Queen, when she was Princess Elizabeth, in her famous broadcast from Cape Town on her 21st birthday. Throughout her reign she has demonstrated what service means. We, the public, all know what she meant and we responded. But she did not mean it to apply just to herself. That sense of duty and service should apply to all of us in all walks of life, whether in government, Parliament, the Civil Service or our local community. Above all, it means service to those who are weaker than ourselves.
Then there is humility. Like many others, I think there is too much focus on self and rights and too little on responsibility. Both service and humility are true Christian principles but they also underpin other faiths and humanism. All principles, but these two above all, must always be fulfilled in an atmosphere of humour. Next door to my house is the only Carthusian monastery in the British Isles. I recently went in, as I do from time to time, to talk to the father prior. We talked about humility and he said, “Yes, and the Carthusian order is far more humble than the Benedictines”—and then collapsed in laughter. We need more of that when discussing difficult issues at the present time.
I am also reminded of the words of Willie Whitelaw who said to me one evening: “Richard, you must remember that things are never so bad or never so good as you think they are”. How true that is. To put it in perspective, many good things have happened since World War II. To my mind, the biggest and most wonderful revolution that has taken place in our lifetime is equality of opportunity for women. There is greater equality for other groups in the community; there is less hierarchy; less class consciousness; people are living longer; there is less poverty; and many diseases have been eradicated worldwide.
But in the last decade we have had the financial crisis, which has left some communities deeply alienated and some of the wealthiest getting richer still. More recently, the referendums in Scotland and on the European Union have both threatened the unity of the United Kingdom and created uncertainty about our role in the world. Political leadership right across the board has embarked on a coarse debate, with a great deal of personal animosity, generating growing mistrust. Society has therefore become more polarised; promises have been broken; and there are more hate crimes and an undercurrent of violence and intolerance. The young today are uncertain and facing much mental stress. Modern technology, which brings many good things such as communication and more and better information, has nevertheless evoked a nasty degree of prejudice and hatred through social media, generating more frenzy in the atmosphere and a less reflective society.
The challenge is how to reunite the people of the United Kingdom: to bring all sections of the community together and to have give and take in our communities, not “let us have our cake and eat it”. So we must reconcile communities, heal and look outwards to the world, remembering our history and what those millions sacrificed their lives for. We may be leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe. We have to find ways to create greater security, as well as prosperity, by co-operation.
Looking outwards to the Commonwealth, we are still paternalistic as a nation. We need more humility in our approach. Only recently, we have confirmed that in the 1960s and 1970s we expelled the Chagossians from the British Indian Ocean Territory. We need more humility ourselves rather than preaching to others. We have our own experience of Northern Ireland, which we can share with others.
In conclusion, I believe that through the forum of the Commonwealth, and dialogue with it, as a family of friends, we can achieve an enormous amount in facing the challenges of the world today, bearing in mind the principles of service, duty and humility.
My Lords, I too thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating today’s important and timely debate.
I am very proud to be British. This is a great country, one that I love with all my heart. The reason for my love is quite simple—the values of Great Britain. I agree with the most reverend Primate that most of these values come from the Christian faith. Many consider our values to be Britain’s finest exports and imports—the importance of democracy, the rule of law, equality and tolerance are all British values, as is the need to speak English. Moving to this country and not speaking the language is, I believe, breaking one of the social contracts that bind us together.
When putting together my notes for this debate, what struck me most were the differences between various communities living in Britain, how they define Britishness, and what constitutes shared values. This debate should be about bringing communities together through our shared values of love and loyalty to this great country. However, it is also vital to address the issues which prevent some communities integrating as well as others. That is, after all, in this country’s interest as well as their own.
The British Indian community is one of the most successful communities in Britain today, both socially and economically. The secret behind our community’s success is our commitment to integration. Many of the values that guide our community are the same as those which so often dictate our work in your Lordships’ House—the need for a good education; the importance of trade and entrepreneurship; the desire to own, and pride in owning, our own home; caring for one’s family and community; looking after those less fortunate than ourselves; and working to give the next generation more than we had ourselves. These values are promoted from the very top in the Hindu community through this country’s greatest Hindu institutions such as the Bhaktivedanta Manor in Elstree and the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Neasden, one of London’s most iconic buildings, which my noble friend the Minister visited in the summer. Both these institutions promote integration by taking part, and being at the forefront of, great British landmarks, including welcoming the Olympic torch for the London 2012 Olympic Games, celebrating Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, taking part in Remembrance Sunday services every year, and holding vegan-style Great British Bake Offs.
I sometimes fear for the future of this country when I find that other communities in Britain do not have the same level of commitment to promoting our shared values. Simple things such as ensuring that events are held in English, ensuring gender equality within communities, promoting national events and encouraging engagement in the political process can have a tremendous impact on communities. We should encourage all immigrant communities who have moved to the UK to take these simple steps. This helps to support integration and creates good will.
I will touch on two areas where we have not quite met our own high standards. The first is a loss of politeness in our political discussions. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth—none of us is right all the time. All of us have a duty to listen, even when we disagree. The referendum this year brought out the very worst in political debate, from all sides. Gone were the sensible discussions in which people politely disagree; in their place came a disgraceful attitude towards open and informative debate.
The other topic I am concerned about is the segmentation of political discussions. It is important to remember that we are one nation. That integration, and seeing ourselves as something bigger than ourselves, is vital for building a strong nation. Instead, all we are doing is posturing or inflaming a sense of “us and them”. When the Hindu Forum of Britain chose its slogan a number of years ago, it decided that “Proud to be British, Proud to be a Hindu” was the most appropriate. It shows that first and foremost, we are British. We all have our own identity and religion as well, but our primary role is as supporters of this great country. This morning I was pleased to read on the front page of the Times that a large number of people in the Muslim community are equally as patriotic as the Hindus.
Britain is now home to people from many different backgrounds, with different religions, communities and languages, but that makes it all the more important to promote the history and values of this great nation and ensure that we are united by a shared set of customs. There is simply no excuse for people and communities to remain isolated or to live by a different set of rules. It is divisive and, frankly, not British.
I started by saying that the importance of democracy is a great British value. It is, and we should treasure and protect it. I wish only to say that I was forced out of the country of my birth because of my skin colour. I was beaten and tortured there. I saw what a collapsing democracy and an intolerant nation look like. Britain in 2016 is far from it.
My Lords, I always look forward to the most reverend Primate’s annual debate because he invariably chooses an important subject that does not feature in the day-to-day business of this House, and today is no exception. I begin by expressing my thanks to him for giving me the opportunity to say some things that are close to my heart, and in doing so I salute him for all that he does for our national life and the way that he does it, endorsing the wisdom of my noble friend Lord Luce’s selection.
I hope that I will be forgiven for basing my contribution on my reflections on one aspect of our national life, namely the current crisis facing our prisons. Sadly I have had to conclude that, had certain values which I will outline underpinned the shaping of priorities concerning prison policy, the crisis might have been avoided.
The ethos of my regiment, The Rifle Brigade, was laid down by an ancestor of mine, Sir John Moore, who was killed at Corunna. The regiment was to be united by a mutual bond of trust and affection between all ranks, which the officers had to earn. The first standing regulations, published in 1801, began with the following:
“For a subject to meet with attention, it is necessary that the principle upon which it is founded should be thoroughly understood.
Experience has taught all those who have fully considered the nature and composition of armed bodies of men, that the most effectual and the most just mode of securing Discipline … is by establishing such an exact gradation of responsibility, from the Field Officer who commands the Corps to the Corporal who directs the squad, that not only every individual entrusted with command knows his precise station, and what is required of him, but performs his portion of duty cheerfully, when convinced that that portion is peculiarly his share, and is not oppressive to him, the rank immediately above him being equally subject to the authority of the next in superiority”.
Prisons are not armed bodies of men, but they are operational organisations, staffed by people who, being people, respond to the leadership of other people far better than they do to impersonal instructions issued on paper. Leadership, which has been most ably mentioned by my noble friend Lord Dannatt, has in too many instances become something of a dirty word in too many parts of the public sector, being replaced by the cult of managerialism, practised by bureaucracies.
When I was colonel commandant of the Royal Green Jackets, into which the Rifle Brigade was merged, the honorary colonel of our territorial regiment was a lovely man called Richard Wood. He had lost both legs in the war at the age of 21, and subsequently became a Conservative MP and Minister of Pensions. When I asked him whom he wanted to make the speech at his retirement dinner, he replied that he would like the person to whom he gave their first ministerial job, Margaret Thatcher. She spoke of the Ministry of Pensions as being a very happy place in which to work because Richard knew everyone and it was like being in a large family, which was not possible now because ministries had become so vast and impersonal. “Whose fault is that, Margaret?”, interjected Richard. But the point of the story is that the Prison Service, part of the vast and impersonal Ministry of Justice, is not managed by an “exact gradation of responsibility”—an essential if staff are to be led to protect the public by rehabilitating prisoners.
Among the statistics that should send shivers up the spines of those responsible for shaping public policy are those showing the current skills shortages and the appallingly low levels of literacy and numeracy among young people. The educational state of those received into young offender institutions is nothing less than an indictment of the educational system in this country. Those responsible for shaping public policy should reflect on this, because it suggests that they, and too many of their predecessors, have not understood the values that underpin national life.
On the day that I was appointed Chief Inspector of Prisons, someone told me that I should look out a speech made on 20 July 1910 by the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, in a debate on prison estimates. I did so, and it remained on my desk for the next five and a half years. Among the hallmarks of a decent and humane criminal justice system, he included,
“an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/7/1910; col. 1354.]
The only raw material that every nation has in common is its people, and woe betide it if it does not do everything possible to identify, nurture and develop the talents of its people—all its people. If it does not, it has only itself to blame if it fails. I fear that this has been ignored by too many policymakers, such as those who decreed the demise of vocational education or who pretend that everyone has the same academic ability. If only educational policy included aptitude testing, so that the innate treasure in the heart of every child could be discovered early enough for it to be nurtured and developed, there would not be such a hideous number of those who cannot read or write and those who do not have any skills that can be gainfully employed. I shall never forget the beam on one young offender’s face when such a test identified a talent, which the staff said they could develop—and then did, by finding a potential employer, who sent in teachers to increase his skill level. He left prison for secure employment. Why is there not more of this?
I rest my case, but I beg those responsible for shaping public policy to remember that people are not things and that, by ignoring proven values, they risk undermining national life.
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity provided by the most reverend Primate to debate so many of the most important challenges facing our country today. I would also like to congratulate my noble friends Lord McInnes and Lady Bertin on their excellent and thoughtful maiden speeches.
The most reverend Primate has spoken about our practices, loyalties and values, of human dignity for all human beings and of our failures, which call upon us to be clearer about our shared values. In this context, there are two crucial issues that we must not overlook: the suffering of women oppressed by religiously sanctioned gender discrimination, and a rapidly developing alternative quasi-legal system that undermines the fundamental principle of one law for all. More specifically, there are growing concerns about the application of established sharia-law principles, which threaten to destabilise even the most basic freedoms of women in our country today. I listened to the wise words of the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and I will risk repeating some of what she has said already today. According to the Home Office, British women have been divorced under sharia law and left in penury. Sharia councils—we understand that there are more than 80 across the United Kingdom—give the testimony of a woman only half the weight of that of a man, and wives have been forced to return to abusive relationships because sharia councils have said that a husband has a right to chastise.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and I, together with cross-party support, have raised these two important issues on the Policing and Crime Bill. We are asking the Government to have the courage to require all marriages to be registered, so protecting vulnerable women by granting them legal protection and preventing polygamy. Many Muslim women are in marriages that are not legally recognised by English law and live in what are effectively polygamous households. In many instances these women are misled as to their legal status, and are therefore vulnerable. For example, divorce under sharia law means that a man may divorce his wife merely by uttering the words, “I divorce you”, three times. We know that Muslim women find it extremely difficult to speak out because they would be accused of going against so many moral codes within their faith. However, the evidence is there and it is growing, as their fear turns to courage.
We have been turning a blind eye to this discrimination for many years, chiefly because we would be called racist or intolerant of different cultures. We have preferred to focus on “multiculturalism” in the hope of developing shared values. We have also preferred to talk about promoting the rights of women in other parts of the world, particularly in conflict zones, while allowing so many shameful practices to continue here in the United Kingdom. It brings to mind a lady called Sami, born in the Middle East and now living in the UK. She said:
“Like me, many Muslim women are asylum seekers. They have fled their home country to live a safe life, they are running away from oppression and persecution that they suffered in their home country. They should not arrive in the UK to be met with further oppression through the operation of Sharia law”.
My own fear of speaking out for these women was largely diffused by talking to young Muslim men, born in this country, who have told me that they do not respect “my people” because we are weak and do not stand up for what we believe. In many ways I believe that these men are right. In our quest to be inclusive and seek to share our values, we have acquiesced in the disrespect, outright abuse and denial of equal access to our rule of law. It is time to put that right.
A Law Society scoping paper dated 2015 advocates the need for reform, recognising that the issue of religious-only marriages is one that is particularly prevalent in Muslim communities. It notes that there were only 200 legal marriages in Muslim places of marriage recorded in 2010, against a background of a population of 2.7 million Muslims in the 2011 census. In addition, of 1,242 Muslim places of worship, only 270 are registered for marriage. There is also a Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into this issue at the moment and I have to ask why has it taken 40-plus years for MPs to look at this when, if they are active in their constituencies, they must surely know what is going on.
In addition, there is a Home Office review under way. However, it has drawn criticism from various quarters including Muslim women, mainly on the grounds that it focuses on the application of sharia law and seeks examples of best practice—in other words, how sharia is applied and how that application might be incompatible with our public law, rather than asking the fundamentally important question of whether sharia law itself is incompatible with our public law. By accepting sharia law in principle we are, and have been, accepting that one body of people living here in the UK may ignore the rule of law when they believe that it conflicts with their views and beliefs, particularly with regard to the treatment of women.
The most reverend Primate spoke of the rule of law not being of paramount importance when the law is unjust; in this context, surely we must insist that our rule of law is complied with, to protect these women from threat and fear and from isolation and, in the words of the most reverend Primate, from existing “alone in the dark”. Of course we must support freedom of religion and belief. However, we should not allow any institution or individuals to issue rulings and/or promote policies that are fundamentally incompatible with the values, laws, principles and policies of our United Kingdom. I therefore urge both my noble friend the Minister and the most reverend Primate to confront these vital issues as a priority to ensure that when we are shaping public policy priorities—perhaps, yes, using a more beautiful narrative—we can put hand on heart and say that we do so in a country where there is genuinely one law and equality and dignity for all.
My Lords, I was unable to be present for the whole debate, but with the leave of the House, I would like to speak in the most reverend Primate’s debate today. I wish to ask: who are we, the British, our national group of people? I speak as someone who knows my background to be—and it is probably much wider—Huguenot, Norwegian, Welsh, Cornish and English. Those are the ones I know about, although I am sure there are many more.
I stood in the ward of Ribbleton in Preston, Lancashire, in 1977 with a National Front opponent. At the time, I was involved in the Council of Europe with a project for primary school children to look at why people lived in their own communities. The children in Ribbleton exchanged with children in Finland to look at why people lived there. One of the most insightful moments was when I pointed something out to a boy. Noble Lords can imagine there was a lot of anti-Muslim feeling around with the National Front. One boy looked at me and said, “How dare you come here and talk to us about looking after them, the immigrants”. I said, “I know you well. I know your grandparents. You are from an immigrant family”. At that time, Ribbleton had the highest percentage of any area in the country of Catholics, originally Irish immigrants coming over to work in the textile industry. He looked at me and said, “I’m not one of them”. I said, “But you are, I know your grandparents. They are Irish and they came here”. “Oh”, he said and went quiet. Another boy said, “You’re a Paki”. He said, “No I’m not. I’m no different from you. Your grandparents are Irish, too”. I ask the most reverend Primate to look at the issue of who are we, the British nationals, because in many communities it is very different.
In my home city of Preston, I live near a mosque. I took a 14 year-old who had never been to a mosque before to the open day for a new mosque. Afterwards he said, “That is amazing. It is all so much like the church”. I was delighted by his reaction. In my community, which has a mosque, an Anglican church and just down the road a Catholic church, because of the people who were originally migrants from Ireland, local public policy issues and priorities often centre around, “Who has got the right to park here?”. It is not other subjects, but the shared space issues which are important when it comes to public policy.
I have intervened in this debate having listened to almost all of it with great interest, in particular to references to the sense of locality, the sense of being British and the sense of being who we are. I am aware that there are members of our local Muslim community in Preston who are working to tackle some of the issues just spoken of by the noble Baroness. The way we change things is by working together. There are people of good will in all groups in our society who wish to change things. I do not think that berating from the outside changes anyone. When we in your Lordships’ House are berated by the media, it does not change us; it makes us more determined to stand up for how important we are. Working with us would work much better.
My Lords, I start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, on their excellent maiden speeches. I remember that when I made my maiden speech and the subsequent noble Lord to speak stood up and said the same thing, a colleague leaned across to me and said, “Don’t believe a word of it because they do not mean it”. Well, I do mean it, in particular the appropriate use of humour, which was very skilfully demonstrated by both of our maiden speakers. I also thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for this debate. Among the many things that he spoke about were the values of freedom of speech and tolerance. There has been much debate about whether we should have the right to offend other people. It may not be the law, but we should remember Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in which he said that we should not abuse freedom of speech by doing what he described as “speaking the truth in love”. I wonder sometimes, particularly when we talk about the Muslim faith, whether we want to perpetuate an attack on the faith rather than genuinely wanting to find solutions.
The most reverend Primate also talked about the Prevent strategy and how we need something more beautiful and more powerful to replace the destructive and distorted so-called religion of the terrorists. I remember that when I was the police spokesman following the 7 July 2005 bombings, I made a statement that as far as I was concerned, Islamic terrorism was a contradiction in terms. That got me into all sorts of trouble and I am very happy to continue getting into trouble for stating it again today. What the most reverend Primate said also reminded me of the views of the former Chief Rabbi, the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who said recently that he believes that an effective counter to Islamist extremism is not necessarily no religion but a true, positive and optimistic religion. I have to say that I share the concern of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, about the expression “fundamental British values”. We should talk about shared or universal values so as not to exclude anyone we are fortunate enough to have with us in this nation, as my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire said.
My noble friend Lord Newby talked about it not being a good year for positive values. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, gave a very worrying account of the implications for him personally as a result. This week, for the first time, I had the privilege to meet men and women asylum seekers, mainly from Syria. It was the first time I had ever had a personal encounter with these people. Nothing was more transformational for me in my attitude towards asylum seekers than to talk to a young engineer who had fled from Syria. He asked me to tell your Lordships that he did not want to claim benefits; he wanted to contribute to our society and to go back as soon as he could to rebuild the country he loves.
It has not been a good year for positive values, but I believe it is a good year to learn lessons. Before I continue, I should say I have the utmost respect for other faiths—I remember warmly when I ran as a candidate for Mayor of London the sincere and warm welcome I received from the Jewish community when I went to address them—for those who have high moral values that are not dependent on any religion, and in particular for the example of the Sikh religion, so well represented by the noble Lord, Lord Singh of Wimbledon.
To take up a theme mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, which was a major theme of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Luce, this time of year is a good opportunity to look at the life of Jesus Christ. I appreciate that not everybody believes in the divinity of Christ, or even believes in God. I was once among those who did not believe. To those who do not share such a belief, I give instead the idea of the inverted pyramid. Traditional organisations narrow at the top like a pyramid, but I have always tried to act as though the pyramid was upside down: that the more senior you become, the more people you are responsible for and have a duty to support. Whether elected representatives, the rich, or others who are powerful, we must not forget the example of Christ: we should be the servants of the people, not their masters.
It is with some trepidation I move to the subject of leadership, already referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Dannatt and Lord Ramsbotham. Leadership is about not just doing what the rabble want leaders to do, nor is it about getting people to do what you want them to do. Leadership is about getting people to want to do what you want them to do. You cannot convince people that virtue and tolerance are right unless you listen and understand what people are saying. That is the very positive lesson we should take from this year’s events. You cannot guide people who are hopelessly lost if you do not know and cannot understand where they are. If we learn that lesson, we have an opportunity we should grasp with both hands.
My Lords, we owe a considerable debt to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for this debate. He introduced it so well that I have almost forgiven the noble Lord, Lord Luce, for taking him away from Durham and transporting him back down to London. I am not quite there yet, but—I declare an interest as a Christian—I am still working on it. Some things take time.
This has been a wonderful debate. We have had two very engaging maiden speeches. I look forward very much to hearing more from the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and the noble Lord, Lord McInnes. I will be able to engage with only a fraction of what has been said, but I will try to do so. The question of who we are or who we want to be tends to surface at the times when there is either no obvious answer or we have lost confidence in the answer of yesteryear. The timing for this is very good.
So what are our shared values? The list I have gathered today includes: democracy, freedom, tolerance, fairness, hospitality, creativity, entrepreneurialism, courage, sustainability, internationalism, social justice and more. I actually love all those. I would want to add to any discussion of values something that reflects our more communitarian instincts, something that recognises that we are not just a nation of individuals, but a community of communities, and acknowledges—in fact celebrates—our interdependence in some way. I also greatly like the idea, touched on by my noble friends Lord Glasman and Lord Stone, of virtue and understanding what we do as well as what we think about who we are.
Some interesting questions were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, and others. Can we invent such a view or does it have to evolve? The noble Baroness said that each generation invents these values again. I think the most reverend Primate was wise on that: perhaps what they do is reinterpret and add to these values; perhaps these change, generation by generation. Can these values be aspirational, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, yet still resonate and feel real to a majority of people to whom they need to apply? Who will develop these values? It will need to be a shared experience—government cannot just invent identity; it has to be a collective enterprise.
If we want to be aspirational, we first need to have a shared view of what good looks like. The most reverend Primate referred to the kind of deep values which are way above my pay grade, so I will plough the shallows in which I am rather more comfortable. I think we all agree that a good country is one which enables its citizens to flourish. I go a step further and say that a good society is one which recognises that the flourishing of each depends upon the flourishing of all, and that a society structured to enable some to flourish at the expense of others is ultimately bad for everybody.
Professor Michael Sandel, in his now famous 2009 Reith lectures, talked very thoughtfully about the purpose of democracy. Markets are there to “organise productive activity”, but democratic governance is about much more:
“It’s also about seeking distributive justice; promoting the health of democratic institutions; and cultivating the solidarity, and sense of community, that democracy requires”.
Sandel goes on to make a really strong case that we cannot do that without thinking hard about inequality within nation states. Anyone who has read The Spirit Level will know that there is a lot of evidence, and it is incredibly interesting, that some of the main factors affecting the strength of societies, do not relate to the average income but correlate much more to differences within society. It is not surprising that the poor do better in more equal societies; what is really interesting is that the rich do too, as does society as a whole.
Sandel goes even further. He says:
“The real problem with inequality lies in the damage it does to the civic project, to the common good.”
This is, in part, because as inequality deepens, rich and poor live separate lives. The rich use private, not state schools, and private healthcare, not the NHS. They take out private insurance rather than rely on the welfare state; they use private gyms, not council swimming pools, and have second cars rather than use buses or trains. Towns and cities become segregated by wealth. Public services deteriorate as those who do not use them become less willing to pay for them. People literally do not mix. In Sandel’s words:
“The hollowing out of the public realm makes it difficult to cultivate the sense of community that democratic citizenship requires”.
Any politics of the common good demands that we address inequality and invest in the infrastructure of civic life; in transport, health service, libraries, and leisure; but also, I suggest, in a revitalised contributory welfare state—a term coined, of course, by Archbishop William Temple—which is not only a safety net but can fulfil its original ambition to be a companion service to the NHS, one which pools risk across the population and across lifetimes, so we pay in, work and contribute when we can and we take out when we cannot, or when our needs are greater. That would go a long way towards helping us be a single society again.
I agree very much with the stress on intermediate institutions given by the most reverend Primate and a number of other noble Lords. I am particularly interested in the role of charities, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and faith groups, as the noble Lord, Lord Singh, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester described so powerfully.
How does this sense of interdependence and its outworking in public policy relate to the idea of listing values? I wonder whether we can talk not just about lists but about the stories we tell about ourselves. I think that these tell us much more about where we came from, how we understand our history, how we see ourselves and how the rest of the world sees us. It is also the songs we sing, the sports we play, the books we read, the art that we make and consume. It is about our democracy, our public institutions and our creativity. Of course, the story evolves, as the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, said, as each new generation comes along and joins in. It becomes a different story in future.
A good example is the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. That told us a story about who we are. It talked about Glastonbury Tor and the Industrial Revolution but also “Windrush”, the shipping forecast and “EastEnders”; it had The Wind in the Willows and Lord Voldemort, Elgar and the Sex Pistols, James Bond and Mr Bean; it had the dead of two world wars and 7/7; it had Tim Berners-Lee and the internet; and it had the NHS, our most valued shared public institution, as the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, pointed out. One bemused American watching it tweeted: “Imagine loving your health service so much, you do a happy dance about it on television”. But actually it was because it embodied something about who we are as a people rather than being about just a public service. That is not definitive but it tells us something very important.
I will respond to some of the points that have been made. Immigration has been raised by a couple of noble Lords and I think we need to talk about this in the wake of Brexit and some of the discussion. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, I have come across young people who are concerned about what has happened to their future. I have also talked to people in the north-east who are very concerned about migration. They do not live in areas where there has been very high migration and they are worried about the impact on public services, which needs addressing. They often live in areas where there has been no migration at all—no one moves there because there are no jobs—and yet they feel very strongly about what is happening. Often what they are really saying is that they feel they have not been heard, a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley. They have been marginalised. The Government or global capitalism have passed them by. Somehow they are not being listened to. Their living standards have suffered, a point made very well by the noble Lord, Lord Newby. They feel they have not been listened to, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. That tells us something we need to think very hard about.
Is integration the answer? The noble Lord, Lord Popat, raised this. During my time at the Refugee Council, we ran some very effective integration work, supported by the Home Office. I want to lay down a couple of markers. First, integration, like friendship, has to be a two-way process. It begins with being welcomed. Secondly, like the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, I believe that integration is not assimilation. I do not want us to end up as a nation of identikit, roast beef-eating, bowler-hatted Stepford citizens. I also do not want us to end up like France, where you cannot wear a yarmulke or hijab in school and women are fined for wearing the wrong clothes in the street or on the beach, or when you get to the point where Marine Le Pen says that schools should not be offering non-pork alternatives. Do we end up like Belgium, which passed a law in 2011 banning face veils? Three years later Gavan Titley wrote in the Guardian about an incident in which members of a right-wing Flemish nationalist group stormed a food festival at a school and reportedly forced pork sausages into the mouths of children. We need to think very carefully about where this goes.
We must challenge the demonisation of any minority group the minute it appears. The 1930s are not that long ago and they saw the rise of fascism on our very own streets. Now, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, said, we have lost a colleague—my honourable friend Jo Cox, killed by a neo-Nazi. We have seen the alt-right doing fascist salutes to welcome Trump. Our citizens who are members of minority ethnic and religious communities are frightened. They have every right to believe that we will stand up and defend them from the very beginning.
I will make two more brief points. The education and post-truth question was raised by a number of noble Lords. This is incredibly important and something we need to come back to. There is a real role for schools here in helping young people understand how to evaluate the sources of information that are being brought to them. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely made a really important point about the role of schools in helping young people to work out how to disagree well. Let us not kid ourselves: the values we have sometimes clash and if they are going to clash, we need to understand how to engage properly with the other and how to model that to young people and to each other.
My final point concerns Britain in the world. There is no time to go into our whole future post-Brexit but surely the biggest challenge is for us to maintain our ability to be an outward-looking country, where we forge relationships with others on the basis of our values, as Angela Merkel put it. I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Collins about the importance of challenging homophobia at home and abroad and using the resources we have in government and faith groups to do so effectively. But some of our proudest moments as Britons have been when we have reached out and shown who we are. In the terrible times of the Second World War, we welcomed the Kindertransport. In the 1970s, when we were struggling, we welcomed Ugandan Asian and Vietnamese refugees. People brought them into their homes and their communities were better for it.
What is going to happen next? I hope that this is only the first step in a national debate. I hope that the most reverend Primate has not been put off and is willing to carry on what he has started. Perhaps he would like to think about doing some work to identify a shared ethical sense that could underpin our common life and institutions. To do that, we would need to engage with the communities across our country, not just government but local faith groups, trade unions, community groups—all the different components that make up our national life. It is an ambitious task but the prize is potentially huge: a pathway to once again being a truly United Kingdom, a country genuinely at ease with itself and its place in the world, caring for all its citizens and secure enough to be outward-looking, facing the future with hope.
My Lords, this has been an extraordinary debate. I thank the most reverend Primate for leading a very thought-provoking debate on our shared values and their role in shaping public policy. It has been a debate of great quality, and probably the most interesting and relevant that I have sat in since I have been a Member of the House. I apologise in advance if all that is about to change. The most reverend Primate started off by talking about the untidiness of the British approach and the difficulty of justifying it on logical grounds but said that it worked. Members of the House of Lords should have no difficulty in identifying with that particular precept.
This has been an outward-looking and all-encompassing debate, one that has focused not merely on our saviour Jesus Christ but on different religions: the Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu religions and others, along with St Paul, Rabindranath Tagore, CS Lewis, Edmund Burke, Dostoyevsky, Sartre, Emile Durkheim, Voltaire, Peel, Disraeli and, of course, Walt Whitman.
The most reverend Primate talked about some key themes in our shared values: about our Christian and faith bedrock and about a theme that many others took up, the importance of intermediate institutions. It was interesting that he illustrated his speech by referring to schools, families and companies. Others took that theme up. The noble Lord, Lord Glasman, spoke of the role of unions; my noble friend Lady Bottomley spoke of the NHS, as did the noble Lord, Lord Crisp; the noble Lord, Lord Newby, spoke of the BBC and the law; the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, talked of the importance of local institutions. Others developed the theme with values and virtues.
Selflessness and respect for others was added by the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, and touched on too by my noble friend Lord Blencathra. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester quite rightly referred to generosity of spirit. My noble friend Lord Eccles also spoke of the importance of intermediary institutions such as the Church. The unifying force of the Royal Family was referred to by my noble friend Lord Blencathra and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Warwick. The noble Lord, Lord Luce, developed that theme as well and just now, in a very powerful speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, spoke of the importance of community institutions—what Burke would have called the little platoons. I absolutely agree with and endorse what she said.
I take a moment to congratulate my noble friends Lord McInnes of Kilwinning and Lady Bertin on their excellent maiden speeches, which certainly augur well for the future. My noble friend Lord McInnes spoke in a very analytical way, in the finest traditions of your Lordships’ House, and demonstrated that he has a massive contribution to give, as did my noble friend Lady Bertin. She spoke compellingly of charitable work, of her brother, of her political and public service and of her commercial expertise. They were speeches of great value.
I want to say something about core values. Some people say that we should not call them simply British values—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Singh, who reminded us that these are universal values, echoing in a way Sir Cecil Spring Rice’s “And there's another country”. That well-made point was also brought up by my noble friend Lady Warsi and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. On core values, we need to look at things that were touched on such as the rule of law, acceptance of democracy, equality, free speech and respect for minorities.
The noble Lord, Lord Stone, spoke of mercy, compassion and mindfulness in a powerful speech, while my noble friend Lady Warsi spoke powerfully of patriotism and of Jo Cox. I never had the privilege of meeting Jo Cox. I am very sad that that is the case but I say, I am sure on behalf of all of us, that Jo Cox was the true patriot of this episode: somebody who stood up for the traditional values of our country in a way that was laudable. Whatever minor political differences there may be in this context, the great point about Jo Cox, and why I am sure she will never be forgotten, was that she stood up for British values. These values are important. The rule of law means everyone is subject to the law, including, importantly, lawmakers. Democracy protects us from the arbitrary abuse of power. Equality before the law is important because the alternative is discrimination and suffering.
Thinking about this debate, I asked a range of people what they thought of as British values and characteristics. They suggested many of the points that have been made. Other added characteristics such as eccentricity, humour and love of the underdog. Rather like the Habsburg face, different people identify different qualities, and not all those qualities will necessarily be evident to all the people, but overall the essence of Britishness is undeniable and identifiable and has been well interpreted today.
At the heart of our values is a simple and inclusive proposition: everyone living in this country is equal before the law and everybody is free to lead their life as they see fit. For this to work, however, everyone has to respect the right of other people to do so, too. We value freedom of the press and free speech—themes touched on by my noble friend Lady Fall—and support people’s right to conduct their lives in accordance with their faith, providing that does not interfere with the rights of others. People must accept not just this fundamental principle but the institutions and laws that make it possible. Thomas Fuller, a 17th century jurist who was often quoted by Lord Denning, said:
“Be ye never so high, the law is above you”.
That is important.
One theme that the most reverend Primate touched on that was not greatly taken up was positivism and natural law and when there is a duty to obey the law—the Austinian view—and when there is a duty not to obey the law because it runs contrary to natural law, and one thinks of the Nazi regime, apartheid and so on. Those themes are important as are the works of St Thomas Aquinas in this context. Times prevents me going into it in great detail at this moment—while I notice that everybody is pressing me to do so, I will resist that great temptation.
Foreign policy was touched on by some noble Lords. Our foreign policy rests on the pillars of democratic values, the rules-based international system and human rights. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, touched on this in a very powerful speech. He reminded us that all hate crime is a scourge against the LGBT community, racial and religious minorities and the disabled. This theme was picked up by the noble Baroness, Lady Featherstone. I pay tribute to the great work she has done in this area.
A characteristic of this country is our shared humanity. The United Kingdom is a world leader in humanitarian responses at both the private and public level. I am very proud of what we have done with our target for international aid. I know we have had cross-party support on that, which is a very important point.
This Government are committed to creating a fair society in which all people, of whatever ethnic origin, background, religion or sexuality and whether or not they are disabled, are fully valued as equal citizens of this great country. In coming into office, the Prime Minister spoke of the need to ensure that our society works for everyone, and that is underpinned by her Christian faith. Reference has been made to the race disparity audit being carried out across Government, which is clearly important.
This Christian belief and attitude translate to fairness in very simple terms. Some are promoted through my department’s programmes, such as Near Neighbours. I say to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, that “post-truth” has a horrific Orwellian ring to it, but it is not something that one hears in streets of Bradford, Luton, Leicester, Carlisle or even Hull. You are more likely to hear the word “neighbour”, and often preceded by “good”. What is happening in our communities up and down the country is not always reflected in the media. There is an awful lot of good going on at community level.
I will certainly take back the message about a visit to Hull. I intend to visit if my noble friend, as well as the people of Hull, will give me a welcome.
Education was touched upon. Our schools are required to promote core values. Religious education remains compulsory at all key stages for maintained schools and academies. It includes not just the Christian religion but, quite rightly, instruction about other religions, which is important. This helps to foster a country that works for everyone. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, reminded us of the importance of this when he spoke of the Prime Minister entering No. 10. Fostering understanding between children of different faiths and races is also important, a point also touched on by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely when he spoke about St Luke’s in Bury—I pay tribute to the excellent work it does.
I visited a primarily Muslim school yesterday in London, run by the al-Khoei Foundation, which was an excellent experience. It was about teaching and learning in the best tradition of our country, and it made me extremely proud. I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, that the school includes Christian pupils—indeed, they are queuing up to get into this excellent school. It made me immensely optimistic and proud.
Another institution of great importance I will just mention here is the legal system, bolstered by a humane prison service—something underlined and touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. I applaud the work that many prisons are doing. I recently visited a Cardiff prison where they are doing work on rehabilitation. I realise there is much more to do, but it was a point well made and consistent with our national qualities of compassion and mercy.
I turn now to the recent referendum and the points made during this debate—not least very forcibly and powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria—about some of the hate crime that followed it. Indeed, during the campaign some quite awful language was utilised. First, I assure the House that notwithstanding that there is still racial and religious hatred out there—until we have got it to and kept it at zero, it is not job done—the spike has now, thank goodness, gone away. We are now getting the figures on a weekly basis from the police—we did not used to, but it is important that we do, because these spikes do occur, sometimes predictably at certain events, but sometimes from something that is completely left field within our own country or indeed overseas. It was a minuscule, extremist minority who used—or rather abused—the opportunity to vent their spleen on people who are legally here and belong here. Some parts of the media, too, fanned the flames of division.
The Government have no truck with that; nor do the British people. My noble friend Lord Popat also spoke very movingly of this. Like my noble friend Lady Warsi, I was at the launch of Better than That yesterday, which is a cross-party approach to tackling race hate. There was very good representation there from across parties and from the diplomatic community. Many people from our different, diverse communities were represented—it was the best of our country extending the hand of welcome and demonstrating open-heartedness and generosity.
The role of faith, and the recognition of different faiths, is central to our approach in this country. Like other noble Lords, although I have faith, I recognise that the role of humanists in this country is most often to promote tolerance and integration, and I applaud that. The most reverend Primate reminded us that Christianity has shaped the values of this country. It has been, and still is, the faith of the great majority in the country and we should celebrate that.
I believe also that, because of our common and universal values, alongside the Christian values of responsibility, charity, compassion, humility and love, Britain has become such a successful home to people of all faiths and backgrounds. That is not to say that there are not challenges ahead—some were identified today, for example the situation in relation to family law noted by my noble friend Lady Buscombe.
We must always recognise and celebrate the fact that Britain is a multifaith society. We should also celebrate the contribution that people of all faiths make to our country and to strengthening our values, whether that is through collecting for charity, volunteering at soup kitchens or responding to emergencies, such as the group of Muslim young men from Bradford I heard about when I was there who spent time cleaning up homes in Carlisle after the floods at the end of last year.
Recently, we had Mitzvah Day, when the Jewish faith comes together with the Muslim faith to help in many charities and with many institutions up and down the country—I went to St Mungo’s homelessness charity in London and saw the great work that was being done there.
I also recently visited Bradford to discuss interfaith work there and to see several projects in the city. The day included meeting some English-language students, largely from Muslim communities in the city, and largely women. They told me that their aim was to be able to survive in Britain. That concerned me; it echoed the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, about the need for people to flourish. They were delightful, they are British and they have much to contribute to our country. The aim of our society and of this Government should be to ensure that they thrive as part of Britain today rather than merely surviving. I will not rest, nor will the Government, until that is a reality in our country.
The most reverend Primate spoke about religion and the values that we have in countering extremism, and his contribution to this debate was extremely valuable. We in the Government are clear that it is a perversion of religion when we see extremist organisations and death cults such as Daesh, a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. The overwhelming majority of Muslims, as with other faiths living in Britain, are law-abiding, peaceful and an accepted part of our country.
Britain has a proud tradition of religious tolerance within the law, and the Government are committed to creating a strong and integrated society in which hatred and prejudice are not tolerated and in which all people are free to express their identity and live without fear of harassment and crime that targets them because of their identity. My noble friend Lady Berridge spoke correctly of the need for strong leadership in relation to this and our institutions. I will pass on her heartfelt plea regarding public holidays, with which I personally have great sympathy, to other members of the Government.
A key part of our tolerance is respect for others of different beliefs. I have made a point in office of seeking to visit as many different religious institutions as possible. In my early office I saw eight different faith institutions in a day—a Jain temple, a Zoroastrian temple, a Hindu temple, a Sikh gurdwara, a synagogue, churches and mosques—which was extremely important. All of them are playing great roles in interfaith, and that has to be something that we encourage as a country; indeed, we encourage it in the department.
Given the limit of time today, it will not be possible for me to respond to all the contributions that we have heard today, but I will ensure that I write to Members, copying it to everyone who has participated in the debate, to pick up specific policies and points that were made on national citizenship, the prison system, housing, family law, bank holidays, corporate social responsibility, mental health, corporate pay, disability, art and sports funding and the visit to Hull. Possibly I have missed some others, which I will pick up later.
It was great to hear contributions in this debate across faith—from the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, the noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, the noble Lord, Lord Singh, and the noble Lord, Lord Glasman—from Sikh, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim perspectives. That was extremely valuable. I have already mentioned the point about humanists, but I want to echo it again: they too have a role to play in integration. Interestingly, when I met them, they also said they were keen to participate in interfaith work, which had me wondering but I was pleased to hear it anyway.
We can be proud that nine out of 10 people agree that their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. That is not to say “job accomplished”—there is still much to do—but there is much good news out there. The work of faith communities in interfaith dialogue is certainly helping in that regard. As I have indicated, the Government have invested money in the Near Neighbours programme; in fact, the figure is £9.5 million, and I have seen the good that that is doing in communities up and down the country.
I aim to visit all 42 Anglican cathedrals in England over the coming years. I was explaining to the most reverend Primate that I have visited quite a few already, but I hope to finish the tour in Canterbury and I hope that he will be there; if he is not responding to the invitation to visit Hull on that day, perhaps I could meet him.
I have been particularly struck by the work that faith communities are doing to support homeless people. I saw this at a Roman Catholic church in Acton, and I was impressed with the work that Bradford cathedral does in leasing out some of its properties at no cost to provide accommodation for the homeless.
I have visited many Near Neighbours projects and seen the good that they are doing, too. Some of this is in sport. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, spoke about the value of sport. I saw a Near Neighbours project, a boxing club, teaching people in Tower Hamlets about healthy living. In Bradford, I saw the Bangla Bantams, people descended from Bangladeshi immigrants, working successfully with Bradford City Football Club to break down barriers and encourage local Britons descended from South Asians to attend local football matches.
In October, I had the opportunity to speak at the launch of a schools linking programme. Many people have talked about the importance of education, and I should like to mention the work of 3FF, which is based on work from the Judaic, Christian and Muslim traditions coming together, although it is not limited to those faiths, bringing children together in a very successful way.
Also during Interfaith Week, which has just passed, I launched a new £250,000 fund through the Church Urban Fund for small projects to help more communities rebuild trust and address tensions, the Common Good Fund, which is just beginning to roll out. It would be easy to dismiss those small projects as insignificant, but they make a real difference locally, as I am sure noble Lords know, as I believe that it is at community level that much of the really good work is done.
I again thank the most reverend Primate for leading this debate. We should be very proud of our British values. We welcome the role of faith in helping to deliver many of these things—as has been said, they cannot be delivered by government alone. A point well made earlier was that the Government can put up housing but cannot create communities.
The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, made a valuable point: all of us are ultimately descended from immigrant stock. We are all cocktails and that does not really matter; that is what has made this country great and will continue to do so.
My Lords, perhaps I may just add that recently, I went to a funeral at the local Catholic church in Ribbleton. One of the men I referred to, whom I had spoken to as a child, turned to me and said: “You know, our population was going down. They’ve saved it”. He was referring to the Polish community.
My Lords, I was speaking to some communities in Wales where they told me that they had had problems from the influx of Poles into their community, and I braced myself for a tirade, but they said that it was only that there were not enough seats in the church, so I was very relieved.
As I said, there are challenges out there which we are seeking to meet. One point I would like to make was echoed yesterday when I was at the Al-Khoei educational facility I mentioned. The principal of Al-Khoei, who regards himself as, and is, a proud British Muslim, said: “We as Britons do not shout often enough about our successes”. There is some truth in that.
As I was putting this speech together, I was reminded of the comments of another great, welcome immigrant, Bill Bryson, who said of Britain that it is an enigma why, after establishing a welfare system that worked, dismantling an empire, generally in a benign way, winning a noble war in the previous century and doing many things right, Britain regards itself as an abject failure. I finish on that, at the same time saying that we in government and, I am sure, everyone in this House, welcome the diversity of the United Kingdom. It makes our country stronger. We will meet these challenges, as we always do. Once again, I thank the most reverend Primate for bringing this subject to the House in what I think has been a first-class debate.
My Lords, we have been going for almost five hours, so I shall be very brief. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, in his comprehensive summing up of the debate and join it, rather than going through everything again—as I am sure you would like me not to do.
I should like to pick up just a couple of points. First, I again say thank you to the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and the noble Lord, Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, for their maiden speeches, powerful opening speeches for which we are most grateful. Secondly, I am not sure I or the House would thank the noble Lord, Lord Luce, for getting me into this job, but there we are. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, for giving a little plug for my new book—my only book. All I can say is that that means we might sell two copies: one to my mother and one to someone else.
To sum up, the overall mood of the debate was hopeful and positive. There were marvellous contributions on the good things that are going on in our society. Rightly, a lot of noble Lords picked up on the life and example of Jo Cox, whom I am sure we will go on missing for many years.
I thought that the closing speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, was particularly powerful and picked up in particular on issues of identity, to which I shall come back in a moment. Among the hopeful things was the affirmation of intermediate institutions, how they work and their contribution to our values, and the emphasis on shared values rather than British values. I agree with that very much—and the powerful exposition of that from the noble Lord, Lord Singh, will stay with me for a very long time. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, picked up on that extremely effectively.
We heard many good and particular examples—and I especially mention that of the Armed Forces in the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt. But concerns were also mentioned, above all that of inequality. Something we share right across the House is the sense that inequality can lead only to instability and extremism and to people being pushed into places they would never have thought of finding themselves. There were concerns about the atmosphere after the referendum. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, will also stick with me for a long time—a passionate declaration of what it is to belong to this country and yet find yourself at the wrong end of abuse. We will all feel a common sense of shame that that happened in this country. Concern was mentioned about post-truth and the sense that if you say something loud enough, it will be believed. That links to the issue of social media and its continual abuse, particularly in the context of young people. Noble Lords talked about the mental health of young people and how they are victimised and marginalised, particularly over sexuality. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, with much attention and will reflect closely on what he said in a powerful, passionate and compelling speech.
A number of individual issues were raised as well, and underlying them one major question that we must go on discussing is that of values. I do not believe that values can be tidy; we do not end up with a single list to which we all affirm. Values are necessarily dynamic and constantly adjusting to the situations around us. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, made that point very powerfully. The word “inclusion” is a two-edged sword. There have been celebrated and huge advances as a result of inclusion. The noble Lord, Lord Popat, and the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, spoke of the massive contribution from communities that have come into this country in the past 40, 50, 60 or 70 years, and how they have transformed us for the better. We welcome that unreservedly. But there is also, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said very powerfully, the incommensurability of values—when there are two or many completely different ways in which to look at values, and we struggle to know how to deal with them. I was particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, for raising the issue of “disagreeing well”, and how to develop that as a new value. In the Church of England, we have not had a universally brilliant history of that, as my inbox today has already shown me. But it is something we have learned to do by coming together in carefully structured conversation, as happens particularly over LGBTIQ issues.
I close with something which was echoed around the House numerous times during the debate. We actually do not talk about values so much as practices. That was said by the noble Lord, Lord Glasman, and demonstrated by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp. When we look back at how we have demonstrated our values, one of the pre-eminent examples must be the work of the Labour Government after 1945. They demonstrated a change in values from the 1930s, coming out of the destruction of the war and bringing out the things that we wanted to be—the NHS and the implementation of the Beveridge report. If that is going to happen, we have to have confidence in what we are doing. Inclusion can become an excuse for lack of confidence. We accept that everything is all right really, but it is not, of course, when you do that and you end up with the kind of problem that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, was speaking of. There has to be a sense of identity, as was brought out powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Popat.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, spoke of communitarianism. I will finish with a brief anecdote. A couple of weeks back, I heard a radio interview with a senior member of a parliament within Europe—I will not be too rude by being precise. When asked, “What about the Islamic community in your country?”, they replied, “There is no such thing. We do not do communities; we do the state and individuals”. What that leaves you with is vulnerable individuals and an incapable state. We have to have the confidence to say, as has been said numerous times this afternoon, that we believe passionately in communities—we are communitarian—and if they clash, we will learn how to clash well. That is a value to which we will hold. I am extraordinarily grateful to all noble Lords who have been here and participated in this long debate.
House adjourned at 3.02 pm.