|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan). I congratulate him on his bid for the commission to be based in Tooting. However, I hope that he will carry out his threat and distribute copies of what I have to say in Castle Point because I honestly believe that I speak for the people. British people believe in fair play. We instinctively support measures that prevent people from being treated unfairly, and an equality Bill thus seems perfectly reasonable.
I accept that the Bill has good intentions. I can support many of its aims, but that said, I wish to make several important points. We are still a Christian country. More than three quarters of people declared in the 2001 census that they considered themselves to be Christians. Our strong Christian heritage is a key part of our charm and strength as a nation. It has engendered our tolerance and our fight for the human rights, freedom and democracy that have helped to shape a better world.
We are not multicultural. Our culture and traditions are British with a Christian basis. That has served us and the rest of the world well over the centuries. Our Christian traditions guide how we relate to fellow men and give us a strong belief in the dignity and worth of every individual human being, regardless of
21 Nov 2005 : Column 1290
background, race, sex, or who they are. Those values and traditions are sadly missing in some of the cultures that we are being driven to assimilate into our society. I need make no apology for stating that people who come to this country to live should respect our culture and our time-honoured standards.
Bob Spink: My hon. Friend has intervened 10 or 12 times. We will have a detailed debate in Committee, and I hope that he will hold his interventions until that time. Many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, some of whom will be disappointed.
The Bill creates a commission to enforce all laws on discrimination, including those on race, sex and disability, taking over from the existing commissions. It will also cover sexual orientation, age, and religion or belief. Part 2 creates free-standing religious discrimination rights for the first time. I hope that combining all those areas in one commission will work, but it could result in a very large and possibly oppressive bureaucratic body that has unprecedented powers and that costs a lot more than the existing arrangements.
The other place, with characteristic wisdom, expressed great concern about the original clause 3, which charged the commission with the "creation of a society" in which there is no discrimination. Who will define and interpret discrimination, and who in this unelected and unaccountable quango will make the complex and controversial decisions between the groups? Let us take the case of Travellers, for instance. Some claim that it is discriminating for a community to expect Travellers to respect the same laws and regulations that the rest of society has to respect. I disagree with that, but I will not be asked to join the commission, because I am much too un-PC, as the House will by now have gathered.
If experience is anything to go by, the commission will comprise some very PC people who push their marginal agendas on society. One has just to look at another quangothe Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Its gatekeepers are drawn in a very biased manner from the pro-choice side, neglecting the pro-life stance. Thus the HFEA is grossly out of step with society, but it thinks that it knows better than ordinary people and is pushing its agenda, fast and furious, against the stream of public opinion.
Do we really want to hand over to an unrepresentative and unaccountable body the job of changing our society, putting our traditions and tolerant British way of life at risk? I believe that this Bill could create a backlash that will boost extremist groups in this country. We must stop that. Like so many Government initiatives, the Bill has good intentions behind it but falls foul of the law of unintended consequences. What business is it of unelected, possibly
21 Nov 2005 : Column 1291
biased and PC bureaucrats to decide what sort of society we should live in? Why are the Government promoting that? Is it a mistake? Do they not understand the dangers, or do they have designs on our British traditions, as they have on the destruction of the other place, our police forces, our counties, our sovereignty, and now, it seems, society itself?
Mr. Newmark: Does my hon. Friend not understand that our society has changed over the years? Does he not agree that there is indeed discrimination against blacks, against Muslims and against people of all sort of races, and that we need a body to keep an eye on such bigotry in our country?
Bob Spink: I agree, of course, that we must tackle discrimination in all its evil forms. I want to do that and I think that we can do that without creating a single body made up of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who push their biased agendas on society. Society has changed over the years and will continue to do so, but it must change organically. It is not for some bureaucratic body to force that change through against the wishes of the people.
but those weasel words do not resolve the problem. The Bill still tells this band of commissioners that changing our society is their responsibility. That is dangerous and it is wrong. Legislation should be about limiting the powers of state bodies. I believe that, and that is why I am on the Conservative Benches. We need smaller, less intrusive government. The clause is about giving the commission unprecedented powers over society, and my theory is that in time the commissioners will take even more powers for themselves, just as the HFEA has done and is still doing. People who already fear the nanny state will find this abhorrent. Good souls such as Littlejohn, Hitchens and other celebrity defenders of our way of life must stop the country sleepwalking into this one.
Evangelical Christian groups want the freedom to proclaim the gospel wherever they go, and I have no problem with that. Secularist groups cannot bear to be preached at; they find all religion abhorrentso be itbut how will the commission decide which interests come first?
21 Nov 2005 : Column 1292
Judy Mallaber: I assume that the hon. Gentleman would accept that one English tradition that he would think very good would be that of morris men. I can guarantee that if I went to see Ripley morris men, with whom I am very friendly, I would get 100 per cent. support for a desire to end bigotry, discrimination, and so on. I am interested to hear how the hon. Gentleman intends to end bigotry, discrimination and prejudice in Castle Point, or does it not exist there?
Bob Spink: The hon. Lady makes a very fair point. We have got bigotry, we have got discrimination, and we have to tackle that. My thesis is that, given some of the problems with some of the clauses, this Bill will boost the emergence of more fundamentalism and more extremist groups and parties, which will engender a backlash in society that could be counter-productive.
Then there is the clash between homosexual rights and religion. The six main faiths still believe that homosexual practice is sinful. Homosexual rights advocates deny that there is any moral component to homosexuality, and that clash of views is irreconcilable.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|