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I was delighted to hear that the government has announced that help will be available to Jewish schools.
However, she made it clear that the real problem was the revenue funding for day-to-day security. Last year, Menorah spent more than £20,000 on the employment of security guards. I phoned Rosh Pinah this morning, and it spent £15,000 on new alarms and a similar sum on security guards. Mathilda Marks Kennedy school reports similar figures. The Independent Jewish day school spends £18,000 a year on guards and Hasmonean junior school spends £19,500. This is a serious problem. We heard the debate a while ago about school admissions and schools charging parents to allow their children to attend. It is a voluntary contribution, but Jewish parents are expected to pay towards the cost of ensuring that
their children are secure at school. At Menorah, the security element is £300 a year; for Rosh Pinar it is £200, for Mathilda Marks Kennedy £240 and for Hasmonean £105. It is not fair that parents are expected to pay for what every other parent takes for grantedthe security and safety of their children when they go to school.
The school has been given clear guidelines that we cannot allow students on site without comprehensive security measures.
Given that these measures are an absolute requirement in order to be able to ensure the safety of our students it is the view of the school that it is unacceptable that the financial burden is borne by the school. Surely in todays society the students have a right to be educated in safety and it is incumbent on the government to be responsible for ensuring this basic need.
I very much agree. The capital has been made available in theory, but in practice it has not been filtering through. We need to do far more and ensure that we address the issue of revenue spending, which is the lions share and takes tens of thousands of pounds out of the schools budgets, supported by voluntary contributions from the parents. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister can give us some reassurances on that point.
Reference has been made to the Holocaust Educational Trust. There has been some confusion in the debate, with people praising the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for work that the HET does and vice versa, but the two do very different jobs. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is very important, and indeed, Holocaust memorial day came into existence partly because of the campaign I ran in the House after a visit to Auschwitz with the HET, so there is a link. Both organisations do extremely important work, and I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that when he replies to the debate.
The issue of universities has been mentioned. The students and sixth formers in my constituency who go to university have started to select where they should go by how frightened they might be when they get there. Some campusesI shall not name nameshave a reputation for active anti-Semitism that the university authorities do nothing about. Indeed, I have had complaints from students at some universities that they are required to sit their exams on Shabbat because the university will not make special arrangements for them to do otherwise. I take such complaints up with the vice-chancellor or principal concerned and sometimes we can get that changed. It is not fair and it discriminates against students, and is therefore a form of anti-Semitism.
Finally, I wish to highlight my concerns about the activities of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which I mentioned earlier. One of its purposes, to persuade young British Muslims to vote, is laudable. However, that message hides a vehemently anti-Semitic organisation with extremist views. It has no offices or fixed premises, and exists as a website. It is not a charitable organisation, listed company or political party, and it should perhaps be registered by the Electoral Commission.
The MPAC continually vilifies those whom it believes to be supporters of Zionism. In the last general election, it mounted a vitriolic campaign against my right hon.
Friend the Lord Chancellor. It also targeted Lorna Fitzsimons and claims credit for de-seating her, having described her in leaflets as
a Jewish member of the Labour Friends of Israel.
She is not Jewish, but it libelledif that is the right wordher in that way. Personally, I would not take it as a libel to be called Jewish, but MPAC claims it had an effect on her electoral prospects. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) has been described in MPAC literature as a
fat, smug and gloating racist...vile racist child killer...filthy blood-soaked criminal.
We have to expose the activities of those people, who are trying to target Members of Parliament for standing up for Jewish constituents. That cannot be right. I have also been on the receiving end of such stuff. MPAC talks about the Zionist cabal instead of the Jewish cabal to try to pretend that it is not anti-Semitic, but the message is clear. They want people who stand up for Jewish people not to be Members of this House. I hope that we will stand united against their activities and that the Government will take action in that regard.
I am proud to represent the wonderful and vibrant Jewish community in my constituency, but it has this serious problem. Anti-Semitism has been a light sleeper and it is starting to awaken. We have had attacks on cemeteries and schoolchildren, which generate fear. We have to recognise that something has to be done. The all-party group report is a good start, but a lot more must follow.
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): I do not intend to detain the House for long, but I should like to make the point that there is something deeply depressing about the fact that, in the 21st century, there is still unwarranted prejudice and hatred across our society that affects a variety of lifestyles, religions and genders. We have seen some considerable improvements in recent years. However, as many hon. Members who have spoken in the debate have made clear, the depth of anti-Semitism within certain parts of our society is unacceptable and unforgivable.
I believe that the important way forward is through education. There is now a generation of children for whom the second world war and the atrocities of the Nazi regime are but a very distant footnote in history. Only by bringing to their attention the sheer scale and horror of what went on between 1933 and 1945 can we remind people and educate some people from birth of those horrors and take action to seek to minimise the opportunity for such hatred to continue to be perpetuated. In that respect, I pay tremendous tribute to the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Like many other hon. Members, I have been fortunate enough to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau with the trust and three of the schools in my constituencyBoswells school, New Hall and Chelmer Valleyand I have to say as an adult that I found it one of the most harrowing and moving days of my life. For the young people whom I accompanied, it was even more distressing and harrowing because of their age, and it brought home to them the sheer horror of mankinds cruelty to man, woman and
child. That is the most effective way to make the case for doing all that we can to remove, reduce and minimise anti-Semitism and the hatred of the Jewish faith and race.
It is just inconceivable that one group of human beings could treat another in such a disgusting way. So I am pleased about the funding and the efforts that the trust receives from the Government, so that it can continue its vital work. Its work must continue to ensure for our generation of children and the next generation of children that the sheer horror of anti-Semitism at its rawest and most disgraceful is brought home to everyone.
Mr. Dhanda: I have been somewhat sacrificed for the sake of Back Benchers in todays debate, but perhaps in some ways that is not such a bad thing, bearing in mind that so much of the work that we have talked about is a consequence of the all-party groups work on anti-Semitism.
I will try to respond to a few of the questions that I was asked and some of the comments that were made during the debate. First, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) said that he would like a debate on Islamophobia to be held in the Chamber. Personally, I would welcome such a debate; there is a synergy in the discussions. He also mentioned Hizb ut-Tahrir. I had one of those dubious pleasures that come up in life when I received a phone call saying, The Department would like you to do a piece for Panorama on Hizb ut-Tahrirsomething that is quite a frightening experience, to say the least. It gave me the opportunity to study the issue in depth. Although I find that groups views abhorrent, the Association of Chief Police Officers has a point when it says that we must tread very carefully when we proscribe groups. Let us face it: we must keep these things under review, and if the evidence exists to proscribe them, we should do so. However, if there is a danger that we might fail to do so or if such things went to judicial review, we would give those groups a recruiting sergeant, which is the last thing that we would wish to do. Very many ex-members of those groups are now saying that those groups are abhorrent but that we can beat them by the power of argument. I agree with that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) handed me a copy of abhorrent graffiti that he has seen in Londonwe have seen it elsewherebut I know that he will agree that, when it talks about jihad and the Jewish community, it is not representative of the views of the vast majority of Muslim people in this country who are equally appalled by such graffiti. He also made an interesting point about the role of the premier league and the Football League and the possibilities of role models doing far more to help us to tackle anti-Semitism. That is certainly something that he is on to, and the Football Foundation has approached me about it as well, because it would like to do much more about it.
The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) made a considered and cogent speech in which he talked about the experience of our colleagues in the Netherlands. I
have been fortunate enough to meet our counterparts in Holland and Sweden, where some great work is going on. We can learn from that work, a lot of which focuses on talking to their different community groups, whether they are Jewish or Muslim, and wherever they are from, and saying, Actually, youre Dutch or Youre Swedish. In the same way, we must make the point that the people who live here are British and that they should be proud to be British.
As the Minister with responsibility for community cohesion, I sometimes ask myself whether I am the right person to be doing this job, bearing in mind that my parents are from India, that I was born in the west midlands, that I represent Gloucester and support Liverpool football club in the north-west and that I unashamedly failed the Norman Tebbit cricket test by supporting India against England at cricketbut perhaps that is representative of what it means to be British in the here and now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Barbara Keeley) made a very good point about youth offending teams. This is not just about finding people who do bad things and prosecuting them, although that is important, but about making them aware of the error of their ways.
John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In an earlier exchange, the Opposition Chief Whip stated that two questions during business questions were planted. Normally, I would regard that as political tittle-tattle. However, planting the questions, one of which was from me, would have entailed a major breach of parliamentary privilege, because the report that was referred to was available to Members only from 11 oclock. Therefore, the right hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) made an allegation of a major breach of parliamentary privilege. The allegation in relation to me is entirely untrue, and I seek your advice about a Member alleging a major breach of privilege in that way, which is untrue, and what should be done about it.
Madam Deputy Speaker: Mr. Speaker dealt earlier with a point of order from the Opposition Chief Whip, as the hon. Gentleman says, and I will therefore refer the matter to Mr. Speaker for his consideration.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In an earlier ruling, Mr. Speaker reminded the House of the importance in the majority of cases of giving notice and advising Members when they are going to be mentioned in the Chamber. I understand that the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) was present in the Chamber when Mr. Speaker gave that ruling, so I am rather surprised that he has forgotten so quickly Mr. Speakers clear ruling on the matter.
That this House takes note of the 41st and the 42nd and the 46th to the 65th Reports of the Committee of Public Accounts of Session 2006-07, and of the Treasury Minutes on these Reports (Cm 7275, 7276 and 7322); and of the 1st to the 4th, the 6th and the 9th to the 13th Reports of the Committee of Session 2007-08, and of the Treasury Minutes on these Reports (Cm 7323 and 7364).
It is a pleasure to open this debate. I will never tire of extolling to Members the importance of these bi-annual opportunities to address the issues raised by the Public Accounts Committees scrutiny of the spending of more than £800 billion-worth of public money. As the Committees 45th Chairman, I was proud to mark the Committees 150th anniversary last autumn. At the event, I noted that two former Chairmen had fallen prey to the assassins knife; I hope that my speech today does not give the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury any wayward thoughts.
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Angela Eagle): May I reassure the hon. Gentleman that thoughts of assassins knives have never been further from my mind? He has absolutely no worries on that score.
Mr. Leigh: That is very reassuring. On these occasions, it is tempting to recite from our canon of reports a litany of Government failures, sugaring the medicine with the occasional acknowledgement of hard-won success. I want to focus on three themes arising from the reports referred to in the motionthemes that reach the core of not just the Committees work, but its very purpose.
I hope that hon. Members will recognise that the Committee seeks to protect the publics interests in public spendingthat is what we are there forbut the public are not just providers of ready money to Her Majestys Government: their interest goes beyond the question of how efficiently taxes are collected and spent, important though that question is. The Committee seeks to represent the taxpayers interests in the efficiency and productivity of public services, but we recognise that taxpayers are also patients, parents and pensioners. Many of those consumers are those with the least voice and yet the greatest vulnerability. Alone, they are small citizens faced with a large state.
Obviously, the publicwhether as taxpayer or consumerbenefit most from the Committees activities when we have most impact. There is power in our bark, hard and even horrible though it may be to some witnesses at our hearings. There is power in our bite, toothe power of our recommendations to lead to savings for the taxpayer and better services for the consumer. I want to use this opportunity to highlight several such bites.
Recent reports have shown both light and shadow in the way in which vulnerable consumers are treated by public services. There is a clear need for the Government to design services around the needs of citizens, not the convenience of those who deliver them. For instance, our 12th report examined the compensation scheme for former miners suffering from work-related lung disease and hand injuries. The early stages of the implementation
of the two schemes were seriously mismanaged. Many of those claiming were elderly and ill, and in no position to wait 10 years or more for compensation, as some did. Some claimants died while they were waiting.
I welcome the fact that money has now come through to many claimants, but the schemes failings offer a clear example of the human suffering that was a consequence of poor planning at the start of a project. The taxpayer, too, has taken a big hit. The cost merely of administering the schemes is expected to total nearly £2.3 billion, not least because the relevant Departments negotiation of solicitors fees was weak. I do not hesitate to say that some solicitors engaged in what I can only term profiteering.
Solicitors also featured not too creditably in our report on legal aid and mediation for people involved in family breakdown. In one third of cases, solicitors did not advise their clients that professional mediation was an option, yet mediation is often a swifter, less acrimonious pathand it is, of course, cheaper. That is not to ignore the wider social problems that family breakdown creates, but we should never forget that it is children who are the most vulnerable party, and they warrant special consideration. Even when the mediation path is taken, children are not routinely consulted.
Our work also illuminates neglected or unfashionable issues. To my great pride, we have raised greatly the profile of hospital-acquired infection and stroke care. The Committee has played an important role in bringing those issues way up the political agenda. This year, we want to do the same for dementia, one of the last great taboo subjects. We tackled it in a report this year. It affects more than half a million people in England and costs some £14 billion a year. The number of cases is predicted to soar by more than 30 per cent. in the next 30 years, yet dementia remains relatively neglected by health and social care services.
If the NHS is to discharge its duty of care to the vulnerable and those without a voice, awareness is key. Too often both the public and professionals believe that little can be done to help sufferers. Many general practitioners lack the knowledge to make a formal diagnosis of dementia. Often a diagnosis is not early enough and specialist care is not available. As a result, carersusually family membersbear a heavy burden and play a vital role, saving the taxpayer many millions of pounds by caring for relatives with dementia at home. They need and deserve better support. In my view, dementia must be given the same priority that is accorded to cancer and coronary heart disease. Like those conditions, it should be given a single leader within the Department of Health with the power to drive through improvements in diagnosis, treatment and care.
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