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Lord Greaves: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply which was on the right lines but rather vague. I live only a few miles from the Stoneyholme and Daneshouse districts of Burnley where the riots erupted last weekend. That is obviously
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I agree with the thrust of the noble Lord's question but the last thing that would achieve good community relations is for any Member of this House, Minister or not, to list towns which may have problems as a result of the disturbances which have already occurred. That would set alight fires that need not be set alight. The noble Lord is right to say that we have to work with the voluntary sector and, of course, with the police authorities. I accept that I gave a generalised Answer. However, active steps are being taken to deal with the criminal elements involved. Some 43 arrests have occurred and there is much activity on the ground. The Government cannot solve this problem. In 1985 someone tried to set alight part of my former constituency and there were serious disturbances. Half the people who were subsequently arrested did not live in the area concerned and half of them had well-paid jobs. To argue that one riots just because one is unemployed is a slur on unemployed people who live in deprived areas. We are addressing that situation. The Government have a whole list of programmes from neighbourhood renewal to community relations. We shall address those programmes in detail in all the affected areas. However, we shall not list towns that may be affected by disturbances as that would be counter-productive.
Lord Renton: My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, whom I so well remember from another place. Is it not time for the Government to do what they can to remove these distressing conflicts by intensifying immigration control, including a closer watch on bogus asylum seekers?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful for the initial comment of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. There are successful and failed asylum seekers. We do not use the tabloid term "bogus" asylum seekers. I ask noble Lords to accept that the vast majority of people living in the towns and cities we are discussing were born there. They are not immigrants. These British citizens are as British as I am.
Lord Ahmed: My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that the BNP has distributed anti-Muslim literature in Oldham and Burnley? Does he agree that it is time for the Government to consider introducing religious discrimination laws? Do the Government accept that a judicial inquiry is required into the racial attacks and also into the riots that have occurred in those towns?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I accept what my noble friend said. However, there is no justification for a judicial inquiry into those incidents. Such an inquiry would take years to complete and nothing would result from it.There have been judicial inquiries in the past. Perhaps it is time to take the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman--perhaps people have not read that recently--from the bookshelf and learn lessons from that. I am not saying that it constitutes the Holy Grail and has all the answers. However, we do not have to reinvent the wheel in this respect. Many of these issues have already been examined and have been dealt with successfully by many authorities in this country. We can tackle head on the forces of racism, root out inequality and deprivation and re-introduce tranquillity and harmony to our communities. That can be done and has been done in many towns and cities throughout the country without recourse to judicial review.
The Earl of Onslow: Does he also accept that he is providing answers which I believe many of us on this side of the House of a more liberal tendency find deeply attractive? Is he not right to point out that the majority of the people who rioted are not first generation immigrants? Second generation immigrants are caught in a terrible culture clash and it is difficult for first generation immigrants toadapt. We should address that matter to help to ensure that these disturbances do not recur.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I cannot for one moment accept the noble Earl's opening remark. There were, rightly, cheers from all sides of the House for my predecessor. I shall not permit any division to arise between myself and my noble friend. Therefore, I reject outright the noble Earl's comment. That makes it much more difficult for me to give the noble Earl a decent reply to the other comments he made, which deserve such a reply.
I refer to the different generations of immigrants. In my former constituency I witnessed the village culture among the older immigrants, who still believe that that culture has not changed from the time they left their respective countries some 30 years ago. However, the second generation immigrants know that that is not the case. The different generations of immigrants hold different views. The immigrants born in this country may want to maintain the culture of their families and their communities. However, that is not always easily achieved. We must do what we can to make that process easier and not to create divisions in society. I believe that that is possible through the moderate use of language and through targeting resources to cover everyone so that no group is deprived and can claim to be mistreated and left out because of its race or colour. We must ensure that such a situation does not occur anywhere.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I accept the Minister's statement that a judicial inquiry may not be appropriate. Does he accept that some wild literature is being published by the National Front and the British National Party? Who in government is monitoring it? Why have we not seen any action to date with regard to incitement of racial hatred which is a breach of race legislation?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am not a legal expert. However, prosecutions are not a matter for government. Therefore, if complaints are made to the appropriate authorities they will be dealt with; they will not be shelved or ignored. If such literature is in circulation it should be put before local authorities. If they do not take action, I would expect the issues to be raised here and in another place.
We are actively on the case. We know that there are people fomenting trouble. I can inform your Lordships that an application delivered in the past hour by the police and local authority for a month-long ban on marches in Burnley is being considered by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett.
Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, I agree that in some respects it would be impertinent of the Government to advise authorities in towns such as Blackburn, which has a similar problem to that of Burnley, Oldham and elsewhere. We are aware of the situation. We seek to encourage common sense between all parties within the local authority. The only thing the Government can do is to support us when we ask for help. It is not for the Government to impose help upon us.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I put the matter in a slightly different way. We should look at deprivation and diversity as challenges rather than a problem. We can give chapter and verse of examples throughout the country where past difficulties have been successfully dealt with. The local authority has drawn in all sections of the local community. It has not blocked people out because of their origin. Those people may not be a homogeneous group. They resent being
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