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I wish to speak about uniformed organisations. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is in his place. He has obtained debates about offenders and young people who have no stakeholders or champions. A difficult child may be cared for by his family, his grandparent or his aunt. He may be sent to a special school, or social services may find special provision. My experience as a juvenile court chairman was that children who nobody cared about were the
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I have a practical point for the Minister. Why can we not have a culture where we have paid leave for volunteers in uniformed organisations in the same way that we do for magistrates? There is no problem about magistrates getting paid leave, but it is incredibly difficult for volunteers in the uniformed organisations. They take their leave out of their own pocket to do so much for young people who are often in very difficult circumstances. We are promoting a culture where employer-supported volunteering is becoming ever more important. I would like to see an experiment where we make it as easy for volunteers as it is for the magistracy to find the time to support young people because what young people need is the continuity and stability of a family. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, will speak in due course. I do not entirely agree with him about the role of the family and globalisation, but I do think that as family styles change, children need those continuities of relationship even more, so that the person who checks a child at three months, at three years, at nine and at 13 has the legitimacy to have an influence when the child is 16. The people who control and influence are the people who praise us as well as punish us. Just having people in a punitive role is not as effective in bringing out the best in people. Therefore, we need to look again at community people who will give that time, care and commitment.
That brings me on to mentoring. There are a lot of interesting mentoring programmes under way. I consulted the young people who work in my firm, and several of them are involved in projects hearing reading in schools. Others are involved in Adab, a programme set up to help black and minority ethnic youngsters get on, particularly those with a Muslim background. I ask the Minister for more mentoring, paid leave for those working in uniformed organisations, single-sex shortlists at primary schools and more health visitors, but even then there will be much more for us to do.
Lord Best: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, for initiating this important debate and for the good sense in her speech, which echoed some important points made over recent months by Iain Duncan Smith, whom I have listened to with appreciation.
I should like to underline the significance of placethe home and the neighbourhood; in other words, location, location, location. Where you liveyour immediate environmenthas a huge impact on your life chances, your social mobility and your opportunity and capacity to achieve at school and at work, to bring up your family successfully and to be a good neighbour and a good citizen. Unpopular, troubled placesso often council estates or social housing where past policies have concentrated the poorest households, those without jobs and facing the most problemsnot only reflect the continuing inequalities in our society but exacerbate and perpetuate them.
At its simplest, if a family lives in an overcrowded, insanitary placeI recently visited a family of five living in a one-bedroom flat with very little prospect of being rehoused in the near futurenormal family life is impossible. It is hard to be a good parent or a good pupil when you are all living on top of each other. Tempers get frayed; there is little chance of doing any homework at home; and children's health and parents mental health suffers badly.
The Government's efforts to ensure that there are enough decent homes to go around should certainly remain a very high priority, but outside the home itself, place can exert a powerful influence. If the school's catchment area is a neighbourhood where most children grow up with the attitude that school is rubbish, where truancy is rife and exclusion from school is a badge of honour, there is no point just blaming the teachers. It is the milieu, the prevailing culture of the place, as well as its physical conditions that hamper the capacity to learn.
A Member in the other place recently told me that last year only six people from his deprived urban constituency went to universitythat is six people in a year from one parliamentary constituency. In Sussex or Surrey, one small village would contribute more young people to university. The place predicts and determines educational attainment. To me, it follows that we should think about different approaches to education, to school, for different areas. Current systems are failing in some places, so should we think about a different curriculum, different teaching methods, different ways of engaging parents, depending on the nature of the place?
Similar considerations apply to the causes and, perhaps, the solutions to so many other social problems: teenage pregnancy, drug misuse, alcohol abuse, many aspects of health. Of course you will reoffend if you leave a young offender institution and return straight back to the neighbourhood and the influences that led you into the criminal activity in the first place.
The place where you live can bring you down and hold you down. We must take account of that, not only in adapting national policies to fit local circumstances but by tackling the problems of place head on. That begins with housing policies. We must backtrack on the policies for allocating social housing that can lead to American-style ghettos of the dispossessed. Incorporating affordable, subsidised housing within mixed-income, mixed-tenure communities of owners and tenants together changes the image of the place
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Government must also look at those policies that are specifically targeted at trying to change neighbourhoods. Many of them grew out of the Social Exclusion Units most famous report, which produced the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal at the very beginning of this decade. It led to powerful place-based action, such as the New Deal for Communities and the projects that came under the heading of the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund. Those initiatives do not come cheap, and neither do the excellent Sure Start schemes around the country, but they promote local measures that change a place, they support leadership within local communities, and they promote ways of neighbours doing positive things together. They are slowly but, in many places, successfully transforming neighbourhoods.
I say to the Minister: please tell your colleagues to keep the faith, not to retreat from the commitment made six years ago that no one should be disadvantaged by where they live by 2020, to recognise that place has the power to ruin life chances or, with resources and commitment, to give real hope and opportunity to some of our most excluded families.
Lord Addington: My Lords, when I saw the title of this debate, what attracted my attention was the community cohesion part. I may not quite give the same emphasis to families as did the noble Baroness in her opening remarks, but I want to draw attention to something that can help most communities; that is, the structure of amateur sports clubs. I do so not because those sports clubs have a particular virtue in themselves but because they draw on the groups within them and make them come together. I refer to the local sports club and not to the idea of sport generallythat is, a club that has to come together as a unit to achieve its goals. Effectively, the selfishness of those involved is brought together in a group. I refer to anyone who has had the wonderful experience of trying to get a team together for a Saturday afternoon. What is required? First, you must identify those who want to take part with you. You have to do something so that they know that you are there and that you can reach them. That involves identifying people at schools who might eventually want to come to play in your clubif it is for adultsand giving them a reason to participate with you before they have left school. You bring people together in a coherent group. You then have to train them and provide support and organisation to get them to come to join in the activity that you want them to be involved in. You have to have organisation, support, coaching and training.
You also have to make sure that you fund your organisation. I do not know how this fits in with great comments about binge drinking and free alcohol, but that usually means providing a clubhouse and a bar. You also have to man the organisation. You need club secretaries, treasurers and all those other groups. What have you done at the end of it? In order to get 11 like-minded fellows together to kick a ball aroundto take a sport that is not my ownyou must provide a structure which involves two or three times that number of people. You must interact with another group with the same aims. They must be fairly local because you do not have a great amount of time. You have to interact with each other.
We are effectively covering most of the forms of activity that have been suggested by virtually every other noble Lord, and more widely. I take the health benefits as read. What do we need to try to encourage that activity? We need, for example, public space that is available for sport. We can take as read the usual arguments about playing fields and their history; are the Government going to ensure that there is easy access to public facilities of sufficient quality for use both casually and by sports teams, especially in the start-up period? The idea has been that if you leave something derelict for five years, you can get rid of it. Have much further have we got? Are we making sure that local authorities have the encouragement and advice to enable them to access that local resource?
Are we trying to get people to undertake an activity that brings about interaction with their neighbours on a friendly basis and encourages responsibility, even if it is only the responsibility of turning up? Anyone who has been involved in a local sports club knows that the shaming, shall we say, of someone who is consistently late or occasionally does not make it is quite an impressive force. Take your Lordships House. You get tutted if you regularly do not turn up for a debate or scratch your a name off the list. There are also debates that cannot take place at all. That is magnified when it involves your leisure activity. There is a considerable amount of pressure on someone to ensure that they honour their commitments. What are we doing to help?
We are at a very interesting point in sports development in this country. As we have heard, the Treasury is much more involved than it was. Let us face it; when the Department of Culture, Media and Sport bureaucracy cranks into gear, it does not exactly intimidate the rest of Whitehall. The Treasury does. How far is the Treasury trying to guarantee this type of activity?
We have heard, and will hear, a great deal about school sports. Seventy per cent of people, I think, drop out of regular sport when they leave school, so ultimately it makes no difference to the health benefits if you concentrate only on school sports and have nowhere for that to go. What are the Government doing to encourage these local groups, which, without any need for a bleeding heart or any great need to solve the problems of the world, do what they enjoy or indulge in an activity that encourages responsibility and provides role models and interaction with their peers? What are we doing in this area? If the Government make just a little effort here, they may well find that a
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Lord Parekh: My Lords, like many noble Lords who have spoken before me, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, and congratulating her on securing this debate. We all agree on the importance of social cohesion. We also share the widespread feeling that, for all kinds of reasons, social cohesion is weakening and that we should do something about it. This question is particularly urgent in relation to ethnic minorities. I shall therefore concentrate on them.
We are told that social cohesion is weakening and is being frayed and undermined because of something called multiculturalism. The answer, we are told, lies in something called a shared sense of Britishness. I have some difficulty with both these notions, and I shall spend the time allotted to me concentrating on these two questions.
Multiculturalism has emerged as a new villain. We are told this by no less a person than Trevor Phillips, who was with me on the Runnymede Trusts Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain and who signed up, at least at the time, to the view that multiculturalism has a lot to be said for it. Of course people are welcome to change their minds, and he is certainly welcome to do that. More recently, David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, has added his voice to this and told us that multiculturalism is the new devil shadowing our community.
I ask myself what is being dismissed or attacked in the name of multiculturalism. There is always a danger of setting up a straw man, knocking him down, and in the process losing some of the important ideas that we might have developed over the years. I suggest that we are in danger of making precisely that mistake. For reasons that I do not understand, multiculturalism is equated with cultural apartheid or, if you are a philosopher, with some kind of cultural relativism, which basically means that every community is a law unto itself and should not be touched. Its customs, practices and beliefs are beyond question because each community is entitled to its own standards of right and wrong. I am surprised that the term has come to mean that. This is not what it has generally meantthe kind of policy that we have followed in this country since the 1960s in the name of multiculturalismand no one of sane mind contributes to the preposterous doctrine that every community is a moral law unto itself.
Basically, multiculturalism means two things. First, it means that people are culturally embedded and live out their lives from a particular way of looking at the world. Secondly, it means that no culture is perfect and that therefore every culture benefits from a dialogue with othershence the emphasis on multiculturalism. Obviously not all forms of cultural diversity can be tolerated; everyone recognises this. Even within a community, certain forms of diversity are not tolerated, so there is already the presumption that there are certain universal principles that will
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There is an agreement, by and large, that we should rely on the principles of human rights, on which there is a considerable amount of universal consensus. This is how we have understood multiculturalism in this country ever since I have known it, which is going back nearly 40 or 45 years. We are all agreed that there are certain principles that will lay down the framework within which there will be relations between different cultures. This is why we have banned certain practices, such as female circumcision or polygamy, without any opposition from any ethnic minority that I know of. No community objected to this because by and large it was agreed that these were unacceptable practices.
This is also how and why we welcomed, or at least tolerated, certain minority practices, such as ritual animal slaughter among Jews and Muslims, or the Hindu practice of scattering the ashes of the dead in our rivers. Initially there was some opposition, but then people said that there was nothing wrong with it because it did not violate any of the basic principles. Then there is the Sikh practice of wearing a turban, Muslim girls wearing a hijab in schools, Muslim and Hindu nurses being allowed to wear their traditional dresses under their uniforms, or the Islamic practice of finance that bans interest.
In all these cases, we have shown respect for certain minority practices and tried to make provision for those that do not violate what we take to be the fundamental values of our society. In all these cases, multiculturalism was a way of showing respect for minority practices when they did not violate certain principles: in other words, when they deserved respect. Multiculturalism was therefore a way of integrating minority communities, not disintegrating them. It was a vital measure toward national integrationa nation-building project. This is how it has always been seen wherever it has been practised, whether in Canada, Australia, India or the United States, where hyphenated identities and multicultural curricula are a common practice.
As far as I understand him, this is also what the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was trying to say in an interesting speech. Of course there were a couple of potentially misleading expressions, but by and large his basic thesis in that lecture, if carefully read, and in the more important lecture which he delivered last year, was that we need to agree on certain common principles, subject to which we should have multiculturalism in the form of intercultural dialogue. Let us not discard multiculturalism or try to demonise it even before we have had a chance to understand it, because it does not mean what it is taken to mean. It has stood us in good stead and allowed us to chalk up a wonderful record compared with France, the Netherlands and many other countries.
I shall briefly discuss the idea of Britishness. We all agree that there must be a shared sense of national identity if people are to live and work together and develop a common sense of loyalty. I am not entirely happy with equating British national identity with
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We have made considerable progress in that direction. Hindus, Sikhs and Jews are a fully integrated part of our society, so are a large body of Muslims. However, one problem which tends to arouse a lot of fear and panic concerns a small section of young Muslims. Alienated from their own culture and their own society, they feel deeply concerned about certain issues. The problem therefore is specific and does not concern ethnic minorities in general where there is no problem. The problem is that one small section of society feels alienated. What should we be doing about this?
I say that because it is important not to panic. When we panic and feel that the cultural fabric that we have built together is falling apartabout which the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, spoke with great eloquence and about which my noble friend Lord Giddens has written with great passionand that all we have been doing for the past 40 years has fallen apart, there is always a danger that we will make wrong choices. We may pick on a community and create a climate in which that community feels besieged, which is the surest way to undermine all that we have achieved and to fail to achieve what we need to achieve.
Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes for initiating this debate. Its aim is crucial to the future of our country and I am very struck by the sense of agreement on all sides of the House. For generations, all over the world, the family has always been the basic unit of a stable society. Having enjoyed a happy marriage and the loving support of my children and grandchildren now, I believe that more
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As a former chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, I believe deeply in equal opportunities for men and women. Such worthwhile schemes as job-share, flexi-time and bridging career breaks, which enable women to combine rewarding work with stable family life and not losing their skills, are essential for the women and their employers. Those sorts of ideas flexibly carried out certainly help to strengthen families over the long term for both fathers and mothers.
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