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As we have heard, the Commonwealth is not just an alliance of Governments. It is an association of civil society organisations, the private sector and governments. Unrivalled among global organisations, the Commonwealth can realistically aspire to be a community of democracies. The Commonwealth's attributes and connections, coupled with informal and unthreatening ways of working, make it well suited for building democratic societies from the ground up for conflict, resolution and mediation. Here is the opportunity with civil society to create what was referred to earlier as a very popular consciousness of the Commonwealth.
Some excellent work is being done by non-governmental organisations-for example, on migration and on issues of gender equality. The Commonwealth is a resilient and enduring force for good. It is a wide network both within and without. Now is the opportunity to grasp this moment with commitment and sharp purpose. I very much hope that the Government will do all in their power to assist with this process of reform and adaptation, in particular with the implementation of the Eminent Persons Group's
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Lord Selsdon: My Lords, as always, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lady Hooper for the way in which she introduces these debates. She is a remarkably dynamic character. As she knows well, dynamics stands for "Do you need a more interesting challenge?". I have spoken in these debates on many occasions because, in a strange way, I am descended from colonials who failed in the United Kingdom and went to Australia, New Zealand and Canada, or around the world, to try to do well. We Scots were always like that. I am descended from the first Lord Mayor of Melbourne and I was conceived on the beach in Jamaica, so I was told, and which I have reported to your Lordships before.
I do not like this term "common wealth". At an earlier time, the French always referred to the Commonwealth and thought that the United Kingdom was a republic. I will go back to history in order that we may determine the future by looking at the past. We have had these crises of our economies over time. Perhaps the greatest was in the early 16th century when we had to form the council of trade because our coin was being devalued. That led to what one would today call international development. In those days, it was colonisation. It meant going out to acquire products at the lowest possible price from countries producing things that we needed and sending people out to increase production-whether that was sugar, jute, coir or even minerals.
We have forgotten that we as a nation at the moment have a major balance of trade deficit on manufacturing and that we have to be a worldwide trading nation. We forget, too, that we know these countries and they know us; but over a period of time we forgot what we would now call, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, "soft power". We still felt that we had some great economic power when becoming an importing nation which needs to source its products. As noble Lords have pointed out, we have the technology to grow anything, anywhere in the world, at any time. We also have our historic relationships; I felt strongly that people in countries that left to become independent territories should have been treated differently and given Commonwealth passports. While I like the generic term Commonwealth-it has been used in the Commonwealth of Independent States across the board-I believe in the opportunities for bilateral relations.
During my time on various trade boards it was thought a good idea to go out to the colonies to see what they made and what they could produce. We forgot to look back at the records at what we had bought and imported. In my office I have a chart which the Department for Transport-the Ministry of Shipping-gave to me when I was trying to save the shipbuilding industry; it shows the position of His Majesty's ships at sea and in harbour 14 days after my birth in 1937. It also shows what products we imported from which countries-rubber, flax or whatever. It
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We have the opportunity of being the world's biggest client of individual Commonwealth countries, even if we have to re-export. You can give an order, an offtake agreement, to those countries in Africa which can produce enormous quantities of food-Sudan, for example, was meant to be the breadbasket of the Arab world-to acquire whatever they can produce. It could then be delivered to a particular port to be loaded on any one of the Commonwealth vessels-and these, as your Lordships know, make up 20,000 of the 90,000 vessels floating on the surface of the earth. The coastline of the Commonwealth is the largest in the world, some 44,000 kilometres.
If we look at those coastlines and we go back to Greenwich-which is of course the centre of the world-and we get a Mercator chart out and look down from the sky above from a satellite, beneath us there is an awful lot of sea, which is itself a great asset. Perhaps we should encourage certain initiatives with members of the Commonwealth countries, not least Her Majesty's overseas territories, dependencies and islands. We have a normal 200-mile limit in the world. I think each of these countries should now declare a 500-mile limit and lay claim to all the resources that may be within or under the sea. If we look at the map, it shows where the resources are.
We as a country have no future as an insulated island; we have the ability, however, to look at soft power and build rapidly upon these historical relationships with Commonwealth countries provided we can bring an economic issue into the equation which will help their economies.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, it must be a happy day when so many of us are lining up behind the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, to celebrate the Commonwealth and the achievements of the CPA. It is an almost religious occasion. It is not fashionable to be positive about the state of the world at the moment; this weekend we are approaching another much less happy anniversary reminding us of terrorism. This is an important debate in that respect. Having been in New York last week I can confirm that Americans still have that spring in their step which has carried their economy through hard times in the past and has helped more than once to energise the post-war European continent. Whatever we do in foreign policy or in the Commonwealth we must not forget the underlying value of the transatlantic partnership to Europe and the rest of the world.
I, too, was brought up to admire the Commonwealth, not least as the son of a leading Eurosceptic who was the president of the anti-Common Market league and the safeguards campaign, no less. While I was never a supporter of that campaign and I voted for Europe, I have always recognised that this country has long depended on its relations around the world, as much as those in Europe, and those diplomatic and political ties with the Commonwealth remain equally strong and may be getting stronger.
There can be no doubt about the achievements of the Commonwealth and of the CPA; they belong to every sphere of activity and in some ways, as my noble friend Lord Luce suggested, the Commonwealth is the world's largest NGO. It is this area of interest-the link between national parliaments, civil society and international development-on which I wish to focus. I declare my interest, having worked with several international NGOs and having benefited from visits through the CPA and others to parliaments in Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda, India, Nepal and, latterly, South Sudan.
I have read much of what my colleagues and others have written in the excellent CPA conference supplement. They summarise all the splendid values and objectives of the Commonwealth, notably in promoting democracy, human rights and development. There is no need for me to comment on these except to say that they include a number of unattainable targets such as some of the millennium development goals. Our own DfID has been a little more honest than the Commonwealth in explaining that a significant number of the development targets, as we now know, simply cannot be met within the timetable.
Poverty in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is so acute that the systems we expect to be in place to carry out these targets are just not there and when we try to import or reinforce those systems we are only adding to the logjam of development. Have we got to the point where, remembering Iraq and Afghanistan, our aid is part of the problem and not the solution? This question will, I hope, be answered in part by our development Minister when he comes to report on the comprehensive aid review. Aid effectiveness is now on the agenda not only of our own Parliament but in Europe, Africa and Asia as well, and we must hope that this discussion will lead to beneficial changes and not another layer of government. My sympathies lie outside government, with civil society and with parliaments. Parliaments are very different in character of course-some are representative, some are a pretence or what used to be called a mockery of democracy.
The Africa All-Party Group published a groundbreaking report called Strengthening Parliaments in Africa and this has been important for the CPA in sharing experience and bringing expertise into parliaments. However, I firmly believe that we should go much further than this, through the CPA and other channels, and press for even more engagement between Parliament and the people, and thus draw governments into more meaningful development.
I have found that civil society organisations are, as my noble friend Lady Prashar has said, essential to this process. Human rights, however, illustrate a possible weakness of this engagement though the Commonwealth. My noble friends Lady Prashar and Lady Flather have mentioned the rule of law; my noble friend Lady Stern has written about this from her considerable experience. The New Delhi human rights office needs to be strengthened, CMAG could be more active. There is international support for the rule of law in Africa through the European Union and the African Union in Addis Ababa and this sets a good example for the Commonwealth. In Africa there are many stoic figures
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The independent human rights commissions, which I have visited in Kenya and elsewhere, bravely take up causes, sometimes with the help of the media and civil society, but they lack the political muscle which is sometimes only given to a parallel stooge government commission. Surely the Commonwealth, in the wake of the Harare Declaration, should do more in this area of human rights, which is always the neglected younger sister of development.
Finally, I hope that, like others, we can see a way for South Sudan to join the Commonwealth. Ideally, both parts of Sudan should belong, but there are problems. Let us hope that the conflict along the border will not prevent the south from benefiting directly through the Commonwealth from much wider contact with the region and other countries so that the people have an opportunity of lifting themselves out of poverty.
Lord Black of Brentwood: My Lords, I join others in congratulating my noble friend on securing this important debate, in which I declare an interest as chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union Media Trust. We have been privileged today to hear many eloquent speeches about what an extraordinary institution the Commonwealth is, the benefits it brings and what remarkable opportunities exist for its development. While acknowledging those successes, I believe we must recognise a number of challenging areas where it must play a more forceful role in shaping the future stability and prosperity of its member states and their peoples, and I would like to highlight two of those.
The first relates to equality and the dreadful treatment in too many Commonwealth countries of gay men and women, a subject ignored for far too long by the Commonwealth. It is time for change. There has been some progress in recent years and I commend the Commonwealth Secretary-General for stating that:
That comment follows a vital ruling in the High Court in Delhi which led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India, and of course South Africa's post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Those are positive steps, but I fear they are dwarfed by the oppressive regimes in many other countries. Consider this: homosexual acts are still punishable by life imprisonment in seven Commonwealth states-Bangladesh, Barbados, Guyana, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda. In a further six, they are punishable by hard labour and flogging. Thirty-eight out of 54 member states still criminalise homosexuality, and indeed half of all the countries in the world that criminalise homosexuality are to be found in the Commonwealth. This state of affairs is wholly unacceptable.
There are many terrible examples of the human consequences of this. In Jamaica, sexual assaults on gay women are known by the odious term "corrective rape" and happen far too often. In Uganda, David Kato, a well known gay activist, was brutally murdered,
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My second issue is that of press freedom, and I declare an interest accordingly as chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance. Press freedom is important to developing countries, not just as a matter of principle, but because it is a vital precursor to successful economic growth and social progress. There are some Commonwealth countries where the record on press freedom is execrable. In the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, many member states languish near the bottom of the table, with Rwanda an appalling 169th, in close proximity to North Korea and Iran. But the Commonwealth does take this matter seriously and recently there have been considerable gains in press freedom in Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia. In a number of other countries, Governments have moved away from the repressive architecture of state media control to allow the press the ability to self-regulate. Sri Lanka has made considerable progress in this area and there have also been significant strides in Bermuda, Vanuatu, Samoa and Namibia among others.
But my greatest fear is that funnily enough it is events in this country, the font of Commonwealth democracy and individual freedoms, which now cast a pall over further progress. For it is Britain, with a history of press freedom stretching back over many centuries, which has always been the shining example for those seeking such freedoms for themselves. For years we have assisted those seeking to move away from state control of the media, not just through our leadership but through practical help, as happened with the establishment of a press complaints commission in Sri Lanka. But now there are threatening noises here. Self-regulation has "failed", we are told; the press must be "controlled". "Independent regulation" is the way forward. How the repressive regimes in many member states must be cheering that. Let us be in no doubt that they will use what happens here as an excuse to crack down on the budding of a free press in their own countries. Already it has begun in Sri Lanka,
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I am deeply anxious that intemperate language about press freedom in this country could rebound to the long-term detriment of all member states in the Commonwealth, when what we should be doing is showing a leadership role. I would therefore urge the Government to make clear in Perth that this country continues passionately to believe in a free press, and will continue to do all it can to ensure that the ancient liberties we enjoy in this country are increasingly widely shared across the Commonwealth. That would be a great achievement.
Lord Liddle: My Lords, I am grateful to the House for allowing me to speak in place of my noble friend Lord Triesman without giving proper notice, and I thank the government Chief Whip for facilitating this. I apologise on behalf of my noble friend Lord Triesman for his unavoidable absence.
We all owe a sincere thank you to the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for initiating this debate. It has been a great debate which has triggered some absolutely fascinating and, for me, educative contributions. She summarised very well the excellent work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and certainly the Opposition want to join her in celebrating its work on the occasion of its centenary. There have also been some great contributions from around the House. I have learnt a lot from the noble Lords, Lord Luce and Lord Glenarthur, who both have great experience; and from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, who spoke most movingly about the grass-roots work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We all pay tribute to that.
My own views on the Commonwealth are very similar to those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe. I am pro-Europe and I am pro-Commonwealth, and I do not see one as a substitute for the other. Indeed, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, probably feels much the same. Perhaps I may say that this was embodied in my own family. My father-in-law, who was a Member of this House before he died, George Thomson, served as a Commonwealth Secretary in the Wilson Governments and as one of our first European Commissioners, so that is as pro-Europe and pro-Commonwealth as anyone can be.
A lot of people contributing to the debate have talked about what the Commonwealth meant to them personally. It certainly does not mean to me what it means to the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, who was conceived on a Jamaica beach, and I do not want to annoy the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London because obviously the Commonwealth is one of the great foundation stones of the Anglican Communion. However, the notable features of this debate were speeches from two Methodist ministers-my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Burry Port and the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno. It was in chapel in my home town of Carlisle that I learnt the virtues of the Commonwealth. We had fairly well drummed into us, although it did not have to be drummed very much, the problems of world poverty and the essential need
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Let me make one general point before I ask the Minister some questions. I think that we need to be clear about what the Commonwealth is and what it is not. The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, described the Commonwealth as a voluntary association of nations, but I think that it is more than that. I think that the Commonwealth should aspire to be a living network of values, sustained not just at the political level but at the people-to-people level, which many Members of the House have stressed. However, to be honest, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, that the Commonwealth is a kind of fool's substitute for a proper foreign policy in the modern world. It is not a defence and security organisation or a trade bloc; it is not NATO or the EU, which are vital pillars of our economic security and our position in the world.
Lord Lexden: In describing the Commonwealth, I applauded the fact that, under this Government, it was becoming a major strand of foreign policy. I certainly did not intend to suggest-and I do not think that I did-that that was to the exclusion of many other important strands.
Lord Liddle: Of course, I was not trying to suggest that, but there is a little bit of a danger in the present Government's discourse if you think about the three circles of influence of the past 60 years. There is clearly a weakening of the transatlantic tie with the United States, in that America is looking more Pacific-wards, it has its own economic problems and it does not think that Europe has stood up to the plate in world conflicts. Then we have all the problems with our relationship with the European Union, from which many Members of the party opposite would like to distance us. Given that that is happening to two of the three circles, I do not think that we can imagine that the Commonwealth is a substitute for those. I see the Commonwealth as playing a very big supplementary role in foreign policy because, as a multilateral organisation, it is an instrument of soft power. We should see it as a network of influence and values that can aid us in achieving our objectives.
On questions for the Minister, I want to ask first about the people-to-people aspects of the Commonwealth. I was very struck by the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, that about 50 per cent of the Commonwealth's citizens are young people. What ideas do the Government have for strengthening links between young people within the Commonwealth? That brings me to the point about higher education made by the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, because there is no doubt that in the last few decades our universities have lost out in appealing to Commonwealth students-he mentioned the case of postgraduate medical students. How do we once again make our universities the first choice? Of course, we need to make sure that Immigration Rules do not stop that happening, which is a very important point.
On civil society links, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, gave as a good example the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth. We need those kinds
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On the government-to-government aspect of the Commonwealth relationship, what leverage can we exercise and what issues will the British Government put on the table as they try to strengthen the influence and role of the Commonwealth? As we have seen in this debate, there is clearly a role in climate change, both in highlighting the risks to the very survival of the island states in the Pacific and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, mentioned, in persuading rich countries that they cannot become climate deniers-we have to be blunt with people like the Canadians, who have to live up to their responsibilities.
On the human rights issues that the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, mentioned, on migration which the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, mentioned, and on the corruption issues that the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, mentioned, how are we going to prioritise these topics for discussion? How are we going to use positively the opportunity of membership of the Commonwealth to improve people's situation-the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, spoke about Somaliland's membership? Conversely, how can the Commonwealth be used as a sanction? The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, gave the example of the actions taken by the Fijian Government against the Methodist Church and we have the very big example of Zimbabwe. How in future do we play this mix of incentives and sanctions? What are the Government's proposals for strengthening the Commonwealth secretariat, including its funding, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, mentioned?
This has been an excellent debate, which has shown the value of the House of Lords, has been well attended and has included some excellent contributions. It has celebrated the cross-party work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association-long may that continue-and it has demonstrated that the Commonwealth remains a good and great cause. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, I would like to see the sun rise once again on the Commonwealth, but it will do so only on the basis of a proper analysis of its true potential as a unique instrument of benevolent influence in our very troubled world.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, I cannot disguise my pleasure for this occasion this afternoon, or do anything to reduce or diminish my very warm gratitude to my noble friend Lady Hooper for initiating the debate. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that this is a happy day when we have heard so much skill, expertise and insights about the possibilities of the future, not about the baggage of the past-although some of the baggage of the past, not all of it of course, one is proud enough to carry-that have made this a terrific debate. I know that that is the normal phraseology, but in this case I really mean it.
Let me start with the comments of my noble friend Lady Hooper, who launched us into the debate. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which she focused on to begin with, is a marvellous example of the non-governmental Commonwealth network that is really at the heart of what makes the Commonwealth unlike other multinational organisations and more attuned to the 21st century than many of the organisations that we inherited from the 20th century.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association celebrated its centenary this year. That in July 1911 it was called the Empire Parliamentary Association is a reminder of its historical links, but July's conference here, which I attended, showed how far it has come from that. We talked about Commonwealth mark 1, mark 2 and mark 3, and we are moving into a new pattern altogether. The more than 600 participants demonstrated the staggering diversity and yet unity of the Commonwealth, covering a huge range of cultures, religions and races with every country, as one of your Lordships rightly reminded us, on an equal footing-large and small, richer and not so rich, mighty and developing and holding back for the time being.
Of course, there is a very long way to go; your Lordships have all recognised that. The Commonwealth needs to have a more forceful role, as my noble friend Lord Black, one of the final contributors to the debate, has just reminded us, especially in the field of human rights, in matters such as sexual differentiation, and in other issues and the rights of minorities. Indeed, only last week I attended an amazing gathering at the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau, which was also attended by Justice Albie Sachs, who lost an arm when it was blown off by a bomb planted in his car. He has campaigned brilliantly down the years for homosexual rights in South Africa and throughout the Commonwealth.
All this sums up why the Government have made a powerful commitment to upgrading the UK's relationships with the Commonwealth network, and strengthening it as a focus for democracy, development and prosperity. Next month's Heads of Government meeting at Perth-the so-called CHOGM; I do not like the sound of that word, but that is what they call it-at which these recommendations will be discussed, has the potential to be a defining moment for the future of the Commonwealth. It provides an opportunity for this organisation to take its rightful place on the global platform and in the 21st century global system.
I would go a little further even than that and say that I think that from the point of view of Britain and this Government, of which I am a member, the Commonwealth marks out our country with a degree of exceptionalism. We have links, developed in the past from our own experience and from the way we have handled the unwinding of the old Empire and old Commonwealth while yet developing new friendships, and this gives the UK an exceptionalism that I think many people are looking for in a world in which we are constantly threatened by homogenisation and unification, and being submerged in the greater blocs that the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, rightly suggested were a thing of the past.
When one thinks about the millions of people in our own country with Commonwealth connections, Commonwealth origins, Commonwealth relatives,
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We must not get carried away. It is of course true that the Commonwealth has its faults and problems. It does not have the executive power or the resources of many other multinational institutions. In consequence, I am afraid, it is from time to time sneered at by ill-informed columnists. I should hasten to say that we have some very good columnists, but alas we have an ample supply of the ill-informed. They do not understand that in this age of citizen empowerment it is the voluntarily and grass-roots-supported nature of the Commonwealth network, with its enormous latticework of trans-Commonwealth linkages not just at government level but at sub-governmental level-on the professional, social, cultural, scientific, judicial, and educational levels, mentioned by several of your Lordships, as well as business, agricultural and technical levels-which makes the Commonwealth such an amazingly relevant organisation for this information age and such a huge pool of potential opportunities for all who belong to it, not least our own country, the United Kingdom. That is what gives the Commonwealth its deep-rooted power and influence, such as no other international institution can offer its members, and it explains why today so many nations are anxious to be associated with it, or are indeed queuing up to join it, a point which too many members of our own media seem to comprehend only dimly, if at all. The marvellous thing this afternoon is that your Lordships comprehend it, which must give some people at any rate very great encouragement.
Let me turn to a number of the specific points that have been made. I shall try to comment on almost everybody's arguments, but I shall not be able to cover all the points that were made. My noble friend who opened the debate referred to the CPA and to the educational element that binds the Commonwealth together. There is much more to do, and the right reverend Prelate emphasised the tasks ahead in bringing the young people of the Commonwealth into closer linkages through links between Commonwealth schools and so on; I will say a word about that in a moment. We are expanding the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan and it is my hope that we have more to come on that front, so I can assure noble Lords that the crucial importance of education, at primary, secondary, higher and postgraduate levels, is not for a moment lost from sight.
The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, expressed-and I think it was a valuable input to the debate-some scepticism about putting too much emphasis on what the Commonwealth network stands for and can achieve. As he rightly said, soft power is the thing. Several of
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The noble Lord talked about the need to beef up the human rights element, and the need for a new commissioner. That, of course, is one of the proposals of the Eminent Persons Groups, which has been much mentioned in the debate, that there should be a new commissioner for human rights, democracy and good governance. That EPG proposal is one that Her Majesty's Government will back. The question then arises: will it happen? I cannot answer that. We are going to Perth to argue through these things with 53 other nations, many of which have very firm views on how the EPG ideas should be processed. We will push them very hard indeed and put our full backing behind them, but it is a democratic organisation and I cannot guarantee that all members will come out in this way. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that the general aims of the EPG-to upgrade and reinvigorate the Commonwealth and bring it to its own standards of strong commitment to human rights, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and good governance-will be seen to be the values of the future that make the Commonwealth what it is.
The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, also mentioned another matter that I am hesitant to mention as it is not really my business: the position of the Republic of Ireland. I refer to it only because I think no less than three or four of your Lordships all referred to the Republic of Ireland and the Commonwealth. I would have to say from this Dispatch Box that it is of course entirely a matter for the Government in Dublin and the Republic of Ireland to decide their attitudes towards these matters, but I put down a marker that there is obviously a strong consciousness and interest in this House about that matter. It is a rather fascinating thought when one puts it in its historical perspective.
My noble friend Lord Chidgey, who is very active in all these fields, mentioned the need to commit ourselves to the EPG aims. We do. The establishment of a commissioner is just one of them; the charter is another. There is a whole string of ideas and proposals for upgrading the Commonwealth, for giving the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group-CMAG-more teeth and making it more proactive, and for bringing home to everyone in the Commonwealth the idea that reform of the Commonwealth will help.
The noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, and several others, pointed out that these are two sides of the same thing: more democracy and more commitment to values and the rule of law equals more attraction for investment, more trust, more trade, more people ready to commit their resources to a country where they know there will be no knock on the door from the police in the middle of the night or some corrupt device removing investments and assets from the person who owns them.
Trust is the key to this. There was some derision of the new language in talking about badges and brands for the Commonwealth, but in this transparent age that is really what is needed. There should be trust among business investors as to which countries they can safely operate in and which less so. With high standards, the Commonwealth becomes a sort of brand-dare I say, a sort of kitemark-for investment, which alone will be the main driver in lifting nations out of poverty and low-income.
The right reverend Prelate was the first to raise the big theme of young people in the Commonwealth. Half the Commonwealth are very young people. The case for more linkages and even involvement in the national curricula of the Commonwealth is a very good one, which I have made to the Department for Education here myself. He also mentioned, as did many others, the climate and energy issues. That is a fascinating area, because many smaller Commonwealth members face a hideous dilemma: how do you find the energy and power-electricity, if you like-to start the development that lifts villages in remote areas out of poverty in a low-carbon way? It has to be an inexpensive way, as they cannot afford the expensive diesel and other fossil fuels that they are having to import. They need low-carbon green electricity, but of course green power is very expensive. There is a gap to be filled there and the Commonwealth can play a part in that. I think it will be on the agenda at Perth.
My noble and learned friend Lord Howe told us about yet another fascinating element of his glittering career, when he led an African military operational unit. He then turned to the issue of Somaliland, which my noble friend Lord Luce also mentioned. There is a difficulty. First, Somaliland is obviously not a nation at present, so even if the 54 nations of the Commonwealth were to consider it, it would not qualify. The question then arises about the recognition of Somaliland as separate from the whole Somalia complex. I ask noble Lords to consider the dangers that if one goes for fragmentation in that area, plenty of other bits and pieces there would also fragment with very great dangers, possibly with bloodshed pursuing.
Meanwhile, to put a positive note into this, there is just a chance that the new Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu is at last getting established. The al-Shabaab terrorist groups have withdrawn from Mogadishu. There is a possibility that Somaliland would be able to find the right relationship of reasonable autonomy within the Somalia complex. It would be a pity at this very moment to turn things in another direction, so one has to be very careful about encouraging any fragmentation trends in that area.
Fiji, and the attack on the Methodist community there, was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths. We are working with Commonwealth colleagues. I was personally involved in these matters down in Vanuatu last year at the Pacific Islands Forum. My colleague Jeremy Browne is down there this year, at this moment, trying to see how we can get ways of getting better dialogue and bringing home to the Fijians that their pattern of government really must be less dictatorial. It is not at all easy, but the pressure is there and is organised. Both we and Australia, and
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My noble friend Lord Roberts mentioned that he was the second Welshman to speak in this debate. Well, I can tell him that here is the third Welshman speaking now. The carnival of Commonwealth music sounds a terrific idea and I hope I get the chance to visit it.
I have a number of comments on the very interesting ideas from the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, about unifying health education and health training for graduates throughout the Commonwealth. I am advised that the Commonwealth scholarship system provides for UK medical professionals, while the Commonwealth Health Ministers meeting gets support from the Commonwealth Secretariat for its dialogue on medical issues. That does not quite meet what I think the noble Lord was saying and I would like to write to him on his interesting and precise details. I am very glad that my noble friend Lady Gardner is here. She described the ways in which that was a little precarious at times, but it has come out the right way and we enormously value her contributions on the Commonwealth, of which she is such a distinguished member. The Commonwealth Foundation came into the debate from my noble friend Lord Luce. That is being reset. There are new ideas, which will be brought forward at Perth, about how that foundation, which has been through some difficult times, can be strengthened. He also mentioned the Somaliland issues, which I have dealt with.
My noble friend Lord Sheikh, who stands on a marvellous platform on these issues, mentioned Sri Lanka. We want to see Sri Lanka come up to Commonwealth standards and to position itself so that it can be a responsible host for a future CHOGM in two years' time. However, there are of course difficulties and we are trying to develop a much better dialogue than we have had in the past. On South Sudan, yes, we support its membership. It is of course up to the whole Commonwealth, all 54 members, but we think it is a good idea and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said so in terms.
Is there a loud enough voice in the Commonwealth, asked my noble friend Lord Glenarthur? No, I do not think that there is; the Secretariat must speak up. The Commonwealth is emerging as a major force in dealing with global trends, of which one is the Chinese developing their interests all over the Indian Ocean. What is the alternative to that Chinese interest? It is no longer America or the Atlantic but possibly the great Commonwealth unity of nations. We need a stronger voice in the Commonwealth for what we stand for, and for how we can bring the stability and relief from poverty to this modern world more effectively.
I mentioned agriculture, which my noble friend Lord Gardiner quite rightly referred to. The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, was right to emphasise the rule of law. My noble friend Lord Flight talked about Hong Kong, which is very interesting. It is a gateway to China and a former member of the Commonwealth. Some of its members still turn up on an informal basis at Commonwealth meetings, which is a very good linkage to have to the great Chinese markets. Generally,
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My noble friend Lady Benjamin talked about celebrations outside London. These already happen in Cardiff on Commonwealth Day and should happen elsewhere so that other cities can be encouraged to participate. She mentioned the vexed question of passenger duty. I can tell her that a process of consultation on the structure was launched and is under way and that the APD has been frozen for this year, so the Government are looking at this and are well aware of the feelings of unfairness about the structure.
My noble friend Lord Lexden asked whether this was a turning point for the whole Commonwealth. I believe that it is and that we are going into an entirely new pattern that is much more associated with the fabric of international relations than in the past. As the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, said, the Commonwealth has a powerful future and it could, as my noble friend Lord Popat said, be a driver for economic development and for liberalising trade. The Foreign Secretary has emphasised those points.
Action is needed and not just words, said the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, quite rightly, reminding us again of the link between democracy and rule of law on the one hand and economic development on the other-the two go together. There is also the support of the Commonwealth for gender equality and other social aims, which are sometimes not given enough prominence in international or United Nations circles.
The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, gave us his unique historical perspective, as he often does, and reminded us about the criss-cross nature of trade within the Commonwealth. I have already mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Black, but he made some very powerful points about human rights. Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, asked questions about young people. Half the people of the Commonwealth are young. We have to deliver real Commonwealth gains, and not just rhetoric and high-sounding speeches, for young people in employment, education, opportunities and travel.
We have mentioned the climate issues, which are very important for the smaller nations. There is a whole organisation focused entirely on migration problems throughout the Commonwealth, which are considerable but which I do not have the time to go into. He raised the issue of Somaliland again and what sanctions we can bring to bear on the miscreants-the Zimbabweans, who walked out in a huff but would have been sacked anyway-and Fiji, which is suspended. These are problem areas that can be addressed by careful Commonwealth co-operation and subtle dialogue and pressures. They are matters that will all be on the agenda at Perth.
Perth could be a defining moment for the Commonwealth. Heads will need to take bold and vital decisions in response to the EPG recommendations, which will shape the role of this unique organisation,
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I repeat that the CPA has an integral role in reinvigorating the Commonwealth and helping to put the Commonwealth and its networks on a firmer footing for the future. My right honourable friend, the Foreign Secretary, said the other day:
The Government share Her Majesty's ambition that the Commonwealth becomes a central platform of the international landscape, representing an enlightened and responsible association that plays an active role in shaping the direction that our world is moving in and the destinies of this nation as well.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, this debate has amply fulfilled my hope that a wide variety of issues would be raised by those with a real personal knowledge and background in them. We have heard about healthcare, agriculture, climate change, specific projects, voluntary groups and partnerships. I was particularly fascinated to hear about the diocese of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and its relationship with Mozambique, one of the newest members of the Commonwealth. The consensus over the importance and value of education at all levels must be followed up to ensure that it is promoted by the Commonwealth in appropriate ways. I am glad to hear from my noble friend that the Commonwealth scholarship scheme is to be extended.
I particularly liked the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, referred to the role of the Queen as the ingredient that makes the chemistry of the Commonwealth work. The Queen plays an invaluable role and is much loved and appreciated throughout the Commonwealth.
Today is a Conservative day for debate and I am most grateful to the Government Chief Whip for making it possible at such a suitable time after the CPA conference in July and just before CHOGM. I am also delighted that the tone of the debate had a very cross-party feel, which I feel was entirely appropriate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on stepping in so admirably at the last moment, and I thank the Minister for his comprehensive wind-up. Finally, my
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To call attention to the disparity in the authorisation procedures for European economic area (EEA) and non-EEA citizens who are seeking to practise as health professionals in the United Kingdom; and to move for Papers.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to initiate this debate and particularly grateful to those noble Lords who will speak, as notice only came last Thursday because of the Recess.
I call attention to the disparity of treatment of health professionals trained within the EEA and outside it. It is particularly marked in the case of nurses, but applies to a greater or lesser degree to all healthcare professionals. I am deliberately omitting mentioning doctors in great depth as I know distinguished doctors taking part in the debate will speak with authority on this subject. The Nursing and Midwifery Council-the NMC-is responsible for the registration of and setting standards for all nurses throughout the United Kingdom and the islands. There is no better way of viewing this disparity than through the eyes of the NMC and I make no apology for taking that route myself.
Let me summarise the main differences. Nurses from outside the EEA have to take the overseas nursing programme as part of registering. This is a comprehensive 20-day course invoking professional competency and, where applicable, a period of supervised practice of between three and six months in length. All applicants have to undergo the International English Language Testing System. The NMC is therefore in a position to exercise total control over the registration of these non-EEA applicants. Contrast this with healthcare professionals trained within the EEA, who are subject to the Commission's mutual recognition of professional qualifications directive of 2005. Under this directive, healthcare professionals seeking to register and practise in another EEA member state have the right to do so provided that their qualifications meet the minimum standards as laid out in the directive. If these standards are met, the member states' competent authorities-I shall refer to them as regulators, as it is rather easier-must automatically recognise the qualification and register those professionals as fit to practise in their countries. They have no option. Regulators are not allowed to undertake further competency checks, including checking whether practice competencies had been kept up to date or the applicant has basic communications skills in English.
Thus the directive does not require a migrating EEA nurse or midwife to demonstrate that they have kept their practice up to date since obtaining their
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I wish to cite a number of examples where, in the case of EEA applicants, the directive causes the registration process to be inadequate. First, member states' training standards can vary greatly. For example, different countries put different emphasis on the importance of record-keeping. In inquiries that I made, I was amazed to find that several advanced countries did not have a tradition of patient notes such as we have in this country. While training in a large number is comparable to that in the UK, this is not the case with some of the newer accession countries. EEA standards for general nursing and midwifery date back three decades and do not account for fundamental changes in the professions over this time. Those changes include the use of new technologies and evidence basis, the shift from acute to community nursing and the move in some countries to a degree-level standard of training.
As regards language testing, as I said, under the directive EEA nurses and midwives applying for registration cannot be systematically tested for language competency. This is in stark contrast to the IELTS for non-EEA applicants, which includes even those from English-speaking countries. I consider that this is illogical and inefficient. Your Lordships will be aware that the directive places the onus of measuring language competency on employers rather than regulators. This has a number of practical defects, the first and crucial one being the lack of uniformity. For instance, hospital B may refuse an applicant on the ground of language competency, but that applicant may have come from hospital A where there was no problem. Not all hospital personnel departments are experienced in spotting language deficiency. A significant number of cases certainly slip through the net. The case of Dr Daniel Ubani is well known. In that case a patient died through an incorrect drugs dosage which was traced to the doctor's inadequate command of English. Too much should not be made of this case as it was, after all, one isolated incident. However, for the reasons that I have just outlined, I suggest that there is another disaster waiting to happen. I know of one hospital where a number of consultant surgeons have refused to perform operations unless every member of the theatre team has English as his or her first language.
Here I come to the blunt instrument which will be familiar to those experienced in these matters. Until recently, the NMC required all applicants, including those from the EEA, to demonstrate at least 450 hours of practice in the three years prior to their application. However, over the past two years the Government have had no option but to request the NMC to drop this requirement as it affects nurses coming from the EEA on the ground that it is incompatible with the directive. I am told by the NMC that it has reluctantly had to comply.
On a more encouraging note, the Commission, the Department of Health and BIS are well aware of the urgency of the language and other competency risks I have discussed. Many of the risks to which I have referred could be mitigated through changes to the existing directive. A review of the directive is under way and is due to be completed by 2012. The NMC is leading a group of 25 European nurse regulators to co-ordinate their responses through the review process. As part of the review the European Commission released a Green Paper in June exploring changes to the directive. The Green Paper suggestions have gone some way to addressing concerns but they are still not clear enough. It is worth summarising what the NMC wishes to see in nurses from within the EEA registered in the United Kingdom. This is taken from its submission to Sub-Committee G-I am very pleased to see the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, in her place-and is an excellent summary of what is expected from a nurse or midwife from the EEA seeking to practise in the UK. They should be trained to a level equivalent to that of training in the UK. They should be fit to practise within the scope of practice of the professions in the UK and they should be able to communicate effectively in English.
In the light of this the NMC has a "shopping list" which I respectfully bring to the Minister's attention. First, minimum training requirements should be modernised to reflect the changing roles of nurses and midwives, potentially to a degree-level standard. I am talking about other EEA members here. Secondly, all EU regulators in the Community should be required to implement continuous professional development to ensure that competencies are kept up to date. Thirdly, the principle of partial access must not be applied to the healthcare professions. Finally, and most importantly-this is at the heart of this debate-regulators must be allowed to satisfy themselves of language competence at the point of registration, and employers should be allowed to undertake competency checks.
BIS, supported by the Department of Health, has recognised throughout the review process the unique position of healthcare professionals and supports many of the changes proposed by the NMC. I think that it also appreciates the urgency of the situation. The Government are to be commended for their recent efforts to strengthen a local-level system of language competency checks to be put in place at an early stage and operate until a full-scale revision of the directive is completed, which will take a number of years. I urge BIS to continue to reflect the concerns of the nursing profession in its submission to the Green Paper consultation, which closes on 21 September. I also urge the Government to continue this support when
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I hope that a feature of this debate will be patient safety. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure the House that he and his colleagues in BIS will keep up the pressure on the Commission not only to set up an interim regulatory system but to ensure that the directive as revised emerges as helping to maintain the traditionally high standards of nursing in the United Kingdom rather than acting as a hindrance, which it sadly does at present. As with any measures taken to prevent or minimise accidents, tomorrow may be too late. I beg to move for Papers.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I remind noble Lords that this is a strictly time-limited debate and that therefore when the clock reaches four, noble Lords will have had their time. To go further will take either from the time of other noble Lords or of the Minister responding at the end.
Lord Winston: My Lords, in January 1944 the American VI Corps of the Fifth Army was engaged in a bitter struggle at the Anzio beachhead when a doctor, Henry Knowles Beecher, ran out of morphine. In his field station with these desperately wounded patients, his nurse in desperation decided to put up a drip for each patient and tell them that inside the saline drip was a powerful pain reliever. The remarkable effect on these soldiers was such that very few of them complained of the pain, the amputations and the other horrific surgery that they were undergoing. Beecher founded in consequence the randomised control trial, which-the Minister will be aware-led to our partial understanding of the placebo effect. It was very clear that the communication with those patients was the key issue.
Since that time, Dr Bensing in the health service's research department in Utrecht has looked at the growing tendency in medicine towards the business-like interview between patient and doctor, and has taken video tapes over some 20 years showing that. They show a gradual deterioration in the kind of care that is going on-probably throughout Europe. Bensing's work is really very interesting. This is not due simply to a placebo effect. There is a very important publication from as long ago as 1976 by Patel and Daley showing that 77 per cent of hypertension patients' condition improved simply by talking to the doctor and the doctor listening to them in great detail. It is obvious that this was not a placebo effect because in the main these patients did not require drugs afterwards to suppress their hypertension. Most of them required at least a reduction in drugs and some needed no drugs at all. What is impressive about the study is that that effect continued for at least six months or a year.
That is something that we will come back to during our discussions on the health Bill. Communication between the patient and the professional is vital. We run the risk of losing it with nurses who cannot speak English and who have been trained in a different way. I am particularly concerned about nurses coming from
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I hope that we will make sure that that, plus the fact that record-keeping is not fully understood by those nursing staff, are aspects that we will fight on in the European Union. I know that the Minister is caring and responsible, has high integrity and communicates and listens brilliantly. I understand that it is not entirely his problem because he has to communicate with BIS to represent our views in Europe. As he knows, Europe has already threatened our health service in other ways and I hope that we can make the strongest case possible to ensure proper communication between patient and carer.
Since the inception of the NHS in 1948, it has relied heavily on overseas-trained nurses and staff to bolster its workforce. The NHS was built with the help of immigrant workers and professionals from across the world when the call went out around the empire that the UK needed their labour. Thousands of doctors and nurses migrated here from the West Indies, as it then was, Pakistan, India, and elsewhere during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. They were recruited in response to a health service in desperate need of health professionals in the post-war years. The value of their huge contribution has always been recognised, and it is that diversity on which the NHS was based and is now run. It has been a success story.
We know that more than 30 per cent of NHS professionals were born overseas. Without them, the NHS would come to a standstill. In some cases the NHS is now less reliant on overseas trained professionals to deliver services, but international recruitment has been regularly used as the main option for employers trying to fill vacancies in both health and social care, and in professions and specialisms with recognised shortages. Many Asian and black health professionals have been the backbone of the NHS, often concentrated in the lowest paid roles, the least glamorous specialisms, and in the least popular parts of the country. Some have faced racism and, for many, there has been slow promotion in their working lives.
There are legitimate concerns that the countries from which the nurses and midwives are recruited suffer from a knowledge and skills drain, reducing their capacity to provide healthcare to their own populations. But there have been huge advantages when professional staff have returned to their country of origin, taking with them the skills and development that they have acquired here. No one is advocating uncontrolled immigration but the introduction of a cap on non-EU health workers is insulting to those doctors and nurses who came to work in Britain's hospitals. Many of them have faced difficult circumstances
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Social care is another area which is being hit by these procedures. It remains one of the lowest-paid sectors, and it is notoriously difficult to recruit for here in the UK. The National Care Association paints a rather stark picture of the policy's impact on social care. It is already complaining that the care sector cannot get the workforce needed to deliver services in this country. It is estimated that 1 million extra workers will be needed to support the UK's ageing population by 2025. In 2007, one in three care workers was recruited from outside the UK, while an estimated 60 per cent of London care workers were non-EU migrants. Meanwhile, we have the same problem with children's services where there has also been a cap, putting vulnerable children at risk because of the shortage of qualified and experienced social workers in some parts of the country, particularly in London. While measures put in place to train people from the UK and EU for roles now filled by non-EU migrant workers will help, it will take more than three years to have enough suitably qualified candidates to fill these positions.
I believe that successive Governments have failed to put the compelling case to the UK public that communities, from hospitals to schools, right through to local authorities, need to be encouraged to develop a more realistic understanding of immigration matters in this respect, and of how reliant we are on skilled migrant workers for our public services. In addition, we need to shape a practical, common-sense approach to this issue, one that reflects our heritage and our values.
Baroness Young of Hornsey: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for securing this debate, as it gives me an opportunity as chairman of EU Sub-Committee G on Social Policies and Consumer Protection to let your Lordships know of the some of the aspects of the inquiry the committee has just completed. I very much look forward to seeing the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, on our committee in the near future.
We launched this inquiry into the mobility of healthcare professionals in June and received a substantial amount of written and oral evidence which has informed our response to the Commission's Green Paper-mentioned by the noble Viscount-on the modernisation of the directive which governs intra-EU mobility of professionals. The report has not yet been debated by Select Committees, and we anticipate publishing it some time in early October. I am going to draw on some of the evidence we have received to point to the particular aspect which the noble Viscount has drawn to our attention.
The inquiry heard from the major regulators of healthcare professions in the UK, including the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council. They expressed serious concerns that discrepancies in a number of areas were forcing them to admit to their
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It is right that there be some differences between EEA and non-EEA applications. For example, automatic recognition of professions is based on the fact that there are harmonised, minimum training requirements for these professions which do not exist for third countries. The majority of witnesses felt that the problem was not one of differences per se, but that the system lacked the necessary flexibility to take account of the specific nature of the healthcare professions, and did not reflect the nature and requirements of modern practice.
In certain areas, regulators argued that they should be able to apply the same standards to EU and non-EU applicants-for example, systematic language testing, as has already been indicated-at the point of registration. Others simply wished for greater freedom to decide what was appropriate in each case; for example, the ability to test more widely when they had doubts.
The fact that the Commission is looking at the issue is clearly welcome. However, there will need to be some far-reaching changes to ensure that intra-EU mobility of healthcare professionals maintains the confidence of patients and professionals alike. Mobility can bring significant benefits: exchange of ideas, new treatments, and so on. But as has been emphasised by all the witnesses, patient safety is the most essential thing and should be the priority over mobility.
Professionals holding specific qualifications and currently registered with a competent authority in one member state can register to practise in any other member state without having to satisfy further tests or formalities. Automatic recognition of qualifications under the directive 2005/36/EC is about granting access to professional registration, not about suitability to undertake a particular job. It is up to employers to ensure that the applicant has the necessary skills and competencies to perform the role for which they are applying. In the limited time available I will make some general remarks about issues that affect the dental profession. I declare an interest as a former dental practitioner.
Registration of non-UK dentists with the GDC is dependent both on the individual's nationality and the country in which they qualified. Dentists who are EU
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There are regulations for dentists who are EU citizens with degrees obtained outside the EU; regulations for dentists with a qualification gained before and after 01/01/01 from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia; and regulations for dentists who are not EU citizens but who have obtained degrees within the EU. I would like to have had the time to explain this more fully. The regulations are considered to work well, both with regard to the minimum training standards and the compensation measures for those countries that joined the EU more recently and did not at the beginning comply with the directive. A consultation is currently taking place with a view to modernising the directive.
The main concerns for dentistry have been the lack of language testing at registration points and the lack in some countries of practical training involving seeing patients. In the current review there is a welcome option for more formal language testing. I suggest that there is also a need to update the minimum training standards in accordance with the latest science.
Another concern that is not directly related to registration with the GDC is the fact that dentists from Europe are exempt from the requirement to undertake vocational training. UK-qualified dentists as well as non-EU dentists are required to undertake this training, while EU dentists are able to register without further training on a local performer list. All dentists should be required to undertake such training. However, to ensure fairness of the system all places would have to be funded. EU dentists are eligible to apply for foundation training but, if allocated a place, take it away from a UK graduate. There is high competition for these training places across the UK.
The overseas registration exam for non-UK dentists is designed as a competency test set at the level of a UK undergraduate. The pass rate is not high. Concerns over the exam remain with regard to appropriate provision of exam places, as there continues to be a waiting list. Dentists who are not EU citizens are required to undertake vocational training or foundation training through an equivalence route before they can become independent performers. My time is up: I look forward to hearing from the Minister.
Lord Kakkar: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Viscount on having secured this important debate. I will confine my remarks to medical practitioners and declare my interest as a practising surgeon.
For practitioners who have qualified outside the European Union, the situation is clear: our national regulatory body, the General Medical Council, is obliged to test their language skills and competency and is fully entitled to inquire into the content and quality of their medical education and training. For practitioners from the European Union, this is not the case: the GMC is not able to test language skills, is unable to make an assessment of their competency and is unable to inquire into their training and education. Clearly this is not acceptable, but the situation is worse even than that because, for practitioners who are registered elsewhere in the European Union and who, as we have heard, are entitled to come to the United Kingdom and practise, and for whom the General Medical Council is obliged to provide the opportunity for automatic registration, there is no obligation on the part of their home regulatory bodies to report any concerns that they may have about the practice of the individual-whether they have been suspended or whether there are any inquiries into their practice. That is an intolerable situation. It is not right for fellow practitioners who have to work with these individuals, but most of all it is not right for the citizens of our country who, at times when they are unwell and are becoming patients in our healthcare system, need to be absolutely certain that the practitioners to whom they are exposed are competent, meet the standards required of medical practitioners in our country and therefore can, with certainty, provide the quality of care that citizens in our country deserve.
There is a simple way forward. On language testing, I understand that a change in domestic legislation will allow immediately for the General Medical Council to move forward and assume responsibility for ensuring language competence. On professional competence, there will need to be changes at the European level. I know that the General Medical Council-and I am sure medical practitioners in our country-would warmly encourage the Government to pursue discussions at a European level of professional competence training, but in the mean time it would be most helpful if Her Majesty's Government would consider looking at language testing and determining whether a change to domestic legislation could ensure that that particular problem is overcome. Ultimately this should not be a matter of politics or even of European relations: it is simply a matter of patient safety and providing for the people of our country the certainty they deserve in knowing that when they are unwell, the practitioners who will look after them all meet the same standard, whether they have been trained in the United Kingdom, in a European country or elsewhere in the world.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I declare an interest as a practising solicitor and partner for more than 40 years in the international commercial law firm Beachcroft. This debate gives me a wonderful opportunity, first, to thank my noble friend Lord Bridgeman for having introduced such an important subject, and also to support my chairman on Sub-Committee G and say to my noble friend Lady Young of Hornsey that I warmly applaud everything she has said. I am delighted that our overall chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Roper,
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There are two areas of concern upon which I agree with my noble friend Lady Young of Hornsey. The first is the diversity of regulatory systems and approaches to registration right across the European Union. The second is the variation in the competencies of individuals, even where they hold the requisite qualification. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, that right at the heart of all this is patient safety. In the limited time I have, I want to make two points. First, I am concerned about the lack of what is called continuous professional development. There must, surely, be a CPD requirement. I agree with the Nursing and Midwifery Council that the idea that we have automatically to register all EU nurses and midwives who meet EU minimum requirements, even those who may not have practised for 20 years, makes it sound as though there is something fundamentally wrong. We need to get this right. Secondly, as I complete six years as chairman of the English Speaking Union, I have to refer to communication skills. I do so by quoting from the Guardian. An article in the Guardian recently said:
"As Good Medical Practice makes clear, communication skills are fundamental to a doctor's work and the success of many doctor-patient relationships is often determined by the doctor's ability to communicate effectively with patients, particularly when obtaining consent or if something goes wrong".
I am very grateful to the Medical Defence Union for making me aware of the statistics. Its journal of June 2011 revealed that around 30 per cent of complaints notified to the MDU by its GP members involved allegations of poor communication. This is such an important subject, and it is about time that we started to make sure we get it right across the European Union.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, for bringing this important matter to your Lordships' House. Although this is a short debate, it is none the less of huge importance. I am very keen to identify these Benches with the need to resolve this matter. A Health Select Committee report last year looked at the death of David Gray as a result of Dr Daniel Ubani and said then that this is a matter of great importance and urgency. How much more so now? That report stated that if the GMC had been able to carry out language and competence tests on EEA doctors wishing to practise as GPs then that life and perhaps other lives would have been saved. The Select Committee was keen to see the issue resolved then.
We know that the Government need to press for change to the relevant EU directive to enable the GMC to test the clinical competence of doctors and to undertake systematic testing of languages. I was very pleased to see that Sub-Committee G of our European Union Committee has taken evidence on this matter and will be reporting. That helps to strengthen the case. It would possibly have been helpful if it had
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We know that the GMC and the NMC have huge responsibilities for patient safety and we know that we must listen to them about this problem because this is about risk to patients. The problem we face is that this directive is an overarching document based on the principle of freedom of movement in the internal market and applies to several hundred professions, not just to those in the healthcare sector. While we on these Benches of course support the principle of freedom of movement and recognise the positive contribution of European Union nurses, midwives and doctors in the provision of healthcare in the UK, as the noble Viscount said, freedom of movement should not take precedence over patient safety. That is the challenge facing the UK Government in these negotiations.
I hope that this debate will help the Minister in his representations to BIS on behalf of the Department of Health about why this review is so important and why we have to stand firm on it. I join other noble Lords in urging BIS to continue to reflect our concerns in its submission to the Green Paper consultations and I urge the Government to continue their support when the draft legislation changes are made later this year for the consideration of the European Parliament and Council of Ministers.
We also know that the wheels of European directives move exceedingly slowly, which is why the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, and others about addressing this issue in the mean time, if we possibly can, are also important. I would also like to identify these Benches with the call to do that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, my noble friend Lord Bridgeman deserves our thanks for tabling this very useful debate and for introducing the subject so ably. As he and other speakers have rightly indicated, there is considerable disquiet about the implications of European law in respect of the free movement of healthcare workers. I should particularly like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, on her committee's very helpful report and on her concise remarks today in support of it.
Several healthcare professional regulatory bodies have expressed concerns about whether we have the right safeguards in place to check whether European Economic Area migrants wishing to work in the UK
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Any EEA national whose qualification is automatically recognised must hold a European qualification which conforms to the standards set out in the directive. Picking up the point so well made by the noble Lord, Lord Winston, this should ensure that, for example, a general care nurse's qualifications broadly attest to his or her competence, but it is then up to whoever employs, or contracts with, the nurse to make sure that the individual in question has the right skills and qualifications for the role. My noble friend Lord Colwyn made this point very well in the context of dentists.
The UK system of health professions regulation largely treats registered professionals equally, regardless of their nationality and background. The differences lie primarily in entry to the profession-that is to say, entry into the register. In looking at the directive, our view is that elements of it need strengthening but overall the system for mutual recognition is effective. I can, however, reassure my noble friend Lord Hunt that we are absolutely committed to making the European system as strong and robust as it can be.
This summer we have been working constructively with other government departments and the health regulators themselves to formulate our response to the European Commission's Green Paper on reforms to the directive. On that Green Paper there is very little on which the department and our partners disagree regarding areas of the directive that need strengthening. We agree that the harmonised training standards underpinning automatic recognition need updating and that a mechanism for regular updates is required. We would also like to see a focus over time on competencies in training rather than particular length of training.
My noble friend Lord Hunt referred to continuous professional development. We think that all member states should be required to have a system of CPD in place for the healthcare professions on their territories. Out-of-date training for the health professions can pose a much greater risk than for other professions covered by the directive. We agree that that issue needs to be tackled in a revised directive. We would want to ensure that EEA migrants subject to CPD requirements in their home state are obliged to demonstrate they meet such requirements when they register in another member state.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman mentioned the principle of partial access. We share his concerns. The concept exists in European law through case law, whether we like it or not. The current case law allows that partial access can be denied if there are overriding reasons of public interest. We would argue that this means that it is not applicable to the health sector, particularly where harmonised training requirements
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My noble friend and the noble Lords, Lord Winston and Lord Kakkar, referred to the issue of language checks. In fact, I think all speakers did so. Article 53 of the directive also states that those benefiting from automatic recognition,
in the relevant member state. However, case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union precludes systematic language testing at the point of registration, and European Commission guidance states that the lack of language knowledge cannot be a ground for refusal of recognition of qualifications. So while a competent authority could test the communications skills of a healthcare worker from a non-EEA country, it could not routinely or systematically do the same for an EEA healthcare worker. Furthermore, such checks could not act as a barrier to recognition of their professional qualifications. However, both the directive and case law support language checks before a professional takes up a particular role provided that checks are not systematic, are proportionate and reflect individual circumstances.
In the UK, we have implemented a system of checks at a local level through duties on primary care trusts and guidelines to local NHS employers. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, is totally right to say that this is an issue of major importance for the quality of patient care. We have already taken steps to strengthen the system, and since January all designated bodies have been required to nominate or appoint a responsible officer-for example, a medical director in an NHS trust. In England, the responsible officer's duties include ensuring that medical practitioners have the qualifications and experience necessary for the role and that references are checked. However, we think that we can and should do more, so we are working with the GMC to develop further proposals that will build on these existing duties.
Work is currently focused on the medical profession because risks there are perhaps most acute, especially in the context of general practice. However, we will also work with the relevant healthcare professional regulatory bodies and the European Commission to explore how a strengthened system of proportionate local checks might be introduced for other professions where there is evidence of justified concerns about patient safety.
The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, referred to the unfairness to migrants from non-EEA countries. I think the issue here is that regulators have to reconcile the need for fairness and reasonable treatment of migrants seeking registration with their principal objective of protecting public health and safety. International migrants, as the noble Lord said, may undertake training in a very different cultural context-for example, in relation to child protection. For that reason it is essential that robust checks on professional competence are undertaken. At the point of entry to the UK, the regulator may seek confirmation from the home member state, if it is an EEA candidate, that there are no known concerns about the individual. Our concern relates more to the need for a proactive duty to share information when concerns actually arise.
My noble friend Lord Colwyn spoke about dentists in his customarily authoritative way. We consider that there is an opportunity here in the context of the proposal to update the minimum training standards in the directive to address the long-standing concerns that some newly qualified EEA dentists do not have the same level of practical training at the point of qualification. It will, however, remain essential that PCTs and other contracting or employing bodies ensure that any person they appoint to their performers list is appropriately trained and qualified for the role to which they will be appointed.
On the issue of our interaction with the EU Commission and the efforts by my department and those of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, I can reassure noble Lords, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and the noble Lord, Lord Winston, that the two departments have been working very closely together on the production of a response to the Green Paper. The closing date for responses to the Commission is 20 September. The Government's response is being finalised more or less as I speak.
My noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece was correct in what she said. There is no question that, overall, the UK healthcare system benefits from the free movement of professionals and has done for many years. Thankfully, the NHS is moving more and more towards self-sufficiency in terms of its workforce but her point was very well made.
However, perhaps I may conclude by re-emphasising one issue. It is essential that there are effective checks on the suitability of all healthcare professionals for the specific jobs that they are going to undertake. In that context, there has to be, as there is now, a key role for those employing or contracting with healthcare professionals in undertaking those same checks.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I am slightly disappointed by the Minister. I understand that he is hamstrung by the requirements for the language testing. However, I draw the attention of your Lordships to the Green Paper where a number of quite constructive options are set out. I hope that, with tremendous support, the Government will pursue these with great vigour. I am particularly grateful for the Minister's reassurance on the question of partial access. I think noble Lords will be reassured on that.
Turning to my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece's point, it is essential that the free movement of all health professionals is not impeded. I am confident that in due course satisfactory checks as to suitability and language will emerge. I should also like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for her kind words of welcome and I very much look forward to serving on that committee with my noble friend Lord Hunt. I have seen the submissions, which are of very high quality. We can expect some very interesting results. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, first, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of Corporal Mark Palin from 1st Battalion The Rifles, Marine James Wright from 42 Commando Royal Marines, Lieutenant Daniel Clack from 1st Battalion The Rifles and Sergeant Barry Weston from 42 Commando Royal Marines, who were killed on operations in Afghanistan recently; and Senior Aircraftman James Smart, from No. 2 (Mechanical Transport) Squadron, RAF Wittering, who was killed in Italy on Wednesday 20 July while supporting Operation Ellamy. My thoughts are also with the wounded and I pay tribute to the courage and fortitude in which they face their rehabilitation.
"Mr Speaker, with permission I would like to make a Statement on the report into the death of Mr Baha Mousa in Iraq in 2003. In any conflict, no matter what the reason for our country's involvement and no matter how difficult the circumstances, what separates us from our adversaries are the values with which we prosecute it and the ethics that guide our actions.
To represent Britain, in war as well as in peace, is to represent our inherent democratic values, the rule of law and respect for life. When those values are transgressed, it is vital that we get to the bottom of what has happened, are open about the issues and their causes, make sure that what reparations we can make are made and do all we can to prevent it happening again. Only in that way can we ensure that those values hold firm, in how we think of ourselves and in how others perceive us.
I am today laying before the House the independent report published this morning by Sir William Gage as chairman of the public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Baha Mousa in Iraq in 2003. I am grateful to Sir William and his team, who have produced a report that is sober, focused and detailed. Above all, I believe it to be both fair and balanced. It is, however, a painful and difficult read. As the report sets out, Baha Mousa was subject to violent and cowardly abuse and assaults by British servicemen whose job it was to guard him and treat him humanely, and this was the primary cause of his death.
This inquiry was rightly set up in 2008 by the previous Government with the intent to shine a spotlight on the events surrounding the death of Baha Mousa and to provide the most definitive account possible in the circumstances. It does that comprehensively. What happened to Baha Mousa and his fellow detainees in September 2003 was deplorable, shocking and shameful. The Ministry of Defence and the Army have previously made a full apology to the family of Baha Mousa and to his fellow detainees and have paid full compensation to them. We can take some limited comfort that incidents like this are extremely rare but we cannot be satisfied by that.
Given the seriousness of this case, there is a series of questions that I have asked myself and that others in this House will ask, too. Among these are, 'Who was responsible and what happened as a consequence?', 'What action has been taken to prevent a recurrence?', 'Do we have the right protection in place today in Afghanistan?', and, of course, 'How will the Government respond to the recommendations made in the report?'.
First, on responsibility, the report makes clear the extent of the failings of individuals, the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces at the time and in earlier years. In addition to the shocking displays of brutality for which individuals are responsible, it is also clear that there were serious failings in command and discipline in the 1st Battalion Queen's Lancashire Regiment. There was a lack of clarity in the allocation of responsibility for the prisoner-handling process, and sadly too there was a lack of moral courage to report abuse. However, it must be acknowledged that a small number behaved with both integrity and courage in reporting what they had witnessed. They are examples of how others should have behaved.
Wider than the battalion, there were also deficiencies in policies, orders and training relating to detention at that time. The chairman notes that there was inadequate doctrine on prisoner handling. There was a 'systemic failure' that allowed knowledge of the prohibition on abusive techniques made by the Heath Government to be lost over the years. The report confirms that the Army was underprepared for the task of handling civilian detainees, having expected after the end of war fighting to provide humanitarian aid rather than become involved in counterinsurgency activities.
Since this incident in 2003, six different Defence Secretaries have stood at this Dispatch Box. I am sure all will regret that it has taken so long to get to the bottom of what happened, and that even now the refusal of some involved to tell the whole truth means that it has not been possible to establish the full extent of the culpability of individuals. Their behaviour is a matter for their own consciences, but others must take responsibility for the wider failures and deficiencies.
This report does not mean that our investigations of the mistreatment of detainees are over. The evidence from the inquiry will now be reviewed to see whether more can be done to bring those responsible to justice. It would therefore not be appropriate to comment here in the House of Commons on specific individuals and the role they played in this appalling episode. Where individuals are still serving, I have asked the Chief of the General Staff to take urgent action to ensure that the Army's ethical standards are upheld. That action is now under way through the chain of command.
The investigations of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, IHAT, which started work in November last year, are now well under way and are revealing evidence of some concern. It is too early to comment on what the conclusions of the IHAT investigations might be, but cases will be referred to the Director of Service Prosecutions if and when there is sufficient evidence to justify this.
Since 2003, action by the Ministry of Defence and the Army to address failings as they were identified has touched every aspect of the prisoner handling system, from policy and doctrine to ground-level directives as well as training and oversight. The changes wrought have been fundamental. The Army inspector's report in 2010, validated by an independent expert adviser, is one example of the detailed scrutiny applied to the training and doctrine for handling detainees. I can assure the House that there is a commitment to continuous improvement at all levels inside and outside the Armed Forces.
As the report acknowledges, further positive changes have been made as a result of matters that emerged from evidence heard during this inquiry's final module, module 4, which was a thorough scrutiny of our current detention policies, practices and training. The Minister for the Armed Forces and I take a close personal interest in detention matters in Afghanistan. I am confident that our approach to detention in Afghanistan is now markedly improved from the period rightly criticised in this report. But we are in no way complacent about the issues identified by Sir William. I can inform the House that I am accepting in principle all of his recommendations with one reservation. It is vital that we retain the techniques necessary to secure swiftly in appropriate circumstances the intelligence that can save lives. The recommendation that we institute a blanket ban during tactical questioning on the use of certain verbal and non-physical techniques referred to in the report as the harsh approach, I am afraid, I cannot accept. However, I share some of Sir William's concerns and I have asked the Chief of the Defence Staff to ensure that this approach only be used by defined people in defined circumstances.
Let me conclude by saying this. In Iraq, between 2003 and 2008, 179 British personnel were killed serving their country and many more returned injured. In autumn 2003, the 1st Battalion Queen's Lancashire Regiment faced an immensely difficult challenge as they attempted to bring law and order to a large area that had been subject to a brutally oppressive regime for many years. As Sir William acknowledges, the issues addressed in his report,
There are few of us sitting in the comfort of the House of Commons who can claim to understand what that must have been like. However, the vast majority of Armed Forces personnel faced these same challenges and did not behave in the way outlined in this report. They represent the fine ethical values found day in and day out in our Armed Forces, and we must not allow the unspeakable actions of a very few to damage the reputation of the whole.
I want to make it clear that Baha Mousa was not a casualty of war. His death occurred while he was a detainee in British custody. It was avoidable and preventable, and there can be no excuses. There is no place in our Armed Forces for the mistreatment of detainees, and there is no place for a perverted sense of
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Lord Rosser: My Lords, we also wish to express our sincere condolences to the families and friends of Corporal Mark Palin, Marine James Wright, Lieutenant Daniel Clack and Sergeant Barry Weston, who have lost their lives in operations in Afghanistan recently, and Senior Aircraftman James Smart, killed in Italy in July while supporting Operation Ellamy.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the other place by the Secretary of State and for giving me sight of the lengthy inquiry report. I have not been able fully to digest its contents, but the Minister is in the same position. However, even sight of the summary of the report and its conclusions is enough to know that a small group has acted in a shocking, brutal and totally unacceptable manner and, as the Minister has said, that there were serious failings in command and discipline in the 1st Battalion The Queen's Lancashire Regiment.
I would like to add my thanks to Sir William Gage, the chairman of the public inquiry set up in 2008 by the previous Government into the events surrounding the death of Mr Baha Mousa, and to the members of his team for their detailed and thorough report. The report had to be painstaking, thorough and detailed because it appears that getting at the truth was not made any easier by the difficulties that some appeared to have in telling the truth.
The report makes it clear that the brutal and shocking behaviour was not just in relation to Mr Baha Mousa whose death occurred in British custody but also to other detainees. Other allegations of maltreatment are still being investigated by the Iraq historic allegations team, whose creation was announced in March 2010, which started in November 2010. Presumably, any further allegations will be investigated by this body.
A small group has acted in a way that is totally alien to the manner in which our Armed Forces conduct themselves and the standards they uphold, and is totally alien to the professionalism and bravery of our Armed Forces personnel, all too many of whom have given their lives or suffered life-changing injuries, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or over Libya. This report does nothing to diminish our pride in our Armed Forces. It is precisely because what happened is so far removed from the standards demanded and upheld that this inquiry has taken place, and why its findings will cause such dismay.
There are one or two points that I wish to raise with the Minister. As he has said, the Secretary of State has accepted all the recommendations except one, which
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Can I also ask the Minister if he is satisfied with the action that has been taken or is still to be taken to ensure that, as far as is humanly possible, there is no repeat of the unacceptable actions spelled out in the inquiry report, in Afghanistan or anywhere else? It is not just about making sure that appropriate processes and procedures are in place. It is presumably also about making sure that people who do have immediate responsibility for detainees have the qualities needed to meet the high demands that this role can place on the standards of behaviour of individuals concerned, particularly in the kinds of conditions and circumstances that were faced in Iraq, and also on their strength of character, to speak up if actions are being taken which they must know are unacceptable. It also means that those at the highest levels of command take a direct and active interest in what is actually happening to detainees, as opposed to what should be happening to them according to the rules and procedures. Can the Minister say what importance is attached to the role of being responsible for detainees, and whether he is satisfied that relevant checks or assessments are made of those who are given this onerous responsibility?
I want also to ask the Minister whether in the light of the inquiry report it is felt there is a need for any legislative measures to strengthen the position in relation to the treatment of detainees or the powers and duties of those who have responsibility for them. I ask that in the context that we currently have the Armed Forces Bill going through your Lordships' House, and since there will presumably not be another one for five years, action on this point ought to be taken now if it is considered necessary.
The inquiry referred to an "inadequate doctrine" on prisoner handling, as the Minister has said, and also to a "systemic failure" that allowed knowledge of the prohibition on abuse techniques to be lost over the years. The 1972 Act banned certain interrogation techniques, but it appears from the inquiry report that the terms of the Act have been overlooked when it comes to training policies and orders relating to detention. Will the Minister give an assurance that the Act will be enforced, including the cultural change needed to ensure that?
A third point I would like to raise, and without asking the noble Lord the Minister to refer to any specific individuals mentioned in the report, is whether legal action will be taken, or is being considered, against any of those involved. I appreciate immunity from prosecution was given, but that presumably related only to an individual's own evidence. Will the Minister say how many of those referred to in the report who are still currently serving have been suspended or have had other sanctions taken against them?
We support the statement the Minister has made. We are proud of our Armed Forces. We will not allow unacceptable and shocking behaviour by a small number of individuals to tarnish the reputation of our Armed Forces, and those who breach the standards we uphold must be held to account.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support for the Statement and for the chairman's thorough report. It is clear that what happened in 2003 was utterly deplorable, and we have apologised wholeheartedly to the detainees and to Baha Mousa's family for that. As the noble Lord said, lessons must be learnt.
As the noble Lord said, there were serious failings in command and discipline in the 1st Battalion The Queen's Lancashire Regiment but this shameful episode should not be a reflection on the Armed Forces in general. Indeed, we must not forget that over 120,000 British troops served in Iraq and that the vast majority conducted themselves with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances. We are grateful to them and it is deeply regrettable that they have been let down by a very small minority.
"It is vital that we retain the techniques necessary to secure swiftly in appropriate circumstances the intelligence that can save lives. The recommendation that we institute a blanket ban during tactical questioning on the use of certain verbal and non-physical techniques referred to in the report as the harsh approach, I'm afraid I cannot accept".
The noble Lord asked whether we have taken action, as the previous Government did, to ensure that there was no repeat of those terrible circumstances. This is a very important question. We have moved on since Iraq. Questioning secures information that is vital for force protection and saves life. The questioning is highly regulated and important safeguards are in place, including the recording and monitoring of all interrogation sessions. Detainees are given ample opportunity, at various stages of the detention process, to raise concerns about their treatment. Very few concerns have been raised, and where there are any each is investigated by the Royal Military Police special investigation branch.
The chairman has recommended that we cease using the so-called "harsh approach". The old harsh approach is no more but, as the Secretary of State said, we need to keep a broad range of techniques to allow us to extract intelligence that helps to save lives. The controlled use of short spells of shouting and a sarcastic, cynical tone of voice still have utility in questioning in certain circumstances. We have combined these elements into an approach that is now called challenging, which is very carefully defined and taught. It is designed to get detainees to focus on the questioning that they are undergoing. We will look again at our training and
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The noble Lord asked whether those guarding detainees are given sufficient training. All personnel who deploy now have a good level of training in detention, because anyone could become involved in this activity. The Military Provost Staff, who are the detention experts, are highly trained professionals. They are deployed in Afghanistan to provide advice. Regimental provost staff also receive training in managing custody facilities, which has an operational element.
The noble Lord asked whether we needed to legislate to make any changes. I can confirm that we are looking at this. At the moment, we do not believe that we will need any legislation. The noble Lord asked if any legal action is being taken or considered against any of those involved. The service police will review the chairman's findings on individuals-serving and non-serving-to establish whether any further investigation might be necessary. The military chain of command will also consider whether action should be taken against former, or serving, personnel. I anticipate a number of suspensions imminently of serving soldiers. Finally, as the noble Lord said, there is an awful lot to read in this excellent report. I would be very happy to organise a briefing in the Ministry of Defence on 18 October, when officials and the senior army officer most closely involved with the report will be on hand to brief Peers and answer any questions that they have.
Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, first, I join these Benches in the earlier tribute. I, too, thank my noble friend the Minister for repeating the Statement and for the offer of the briefing on 18 October. We have only had a few hours to study the 1,400 pages or so of this report. Clearly, in that time, one has only been able to skim through certain sections of it. It makes sickening reading. The horrifying thing is that, had Mr Baha Mousa not died, there would not have been an inquiry, a report or this Statement. Neither would there have been the 73 recommendations which, we hope, will prevent a ghastly act like this happening again.
I ask two specific questions. First, there has been a certain amount about Afghanistan in the press. What is the position in relation to our forces handing over detainees to the Afghan authorities and do we have any ability to monitor what happens to them when they are in Afghan hands? Secondly, would it be possible for the Ministry to investigate, possibly using closed-circuit television in some of our detention centres overseas or in our overseas prisons to give us an ability to monitor the behaviour of our troops and the treatment of detainees? If we had CCTV in this particular situation, perhaps this ghastly incident would not have happened.
Lord Astor of Hever: I agree with my noble friend that this report makes ghastly reading. We monitor very carefully the detainees that we hold and we hand over detainees to the Afghans only very carefully. To the best of my knowledge, we do our best to monitor the detainees that we hand over to the Afghans. However, I will undertake to write to my noble friend on this point.
Lord Dannatt: My Lords, I was the Chief of the General Staff in 2008 when, in conjunction with the then Secretary of State for Defence, the noble Lord, Lord Browne, it was agreed that the inquiry that has reported today should be convened. We knew that at some point in the future today would come and that this report would be difficult and a very uncomfortable experience. The inquiry reports on grave and shameful events but rightly says that they are a shocking deviation from the normal standards of behaviour expected from the Army.
We have rightly apologised to and compensated the family of Mr Baha Mousa. Of course, that is no real compensation for what happened. Does the Minister agree with me that today's report would not have come about had the Army not been open and transparent prior to the inception of this inquiry, and that it was only the publication of the Aitken report-we commissioned that internal report ourselves as we were already disturbed by what we had learnt-that brought about the decision by the then Secretary of State for Defence, the noble Lord, Lord Browne, to instigate this report? I offer that comment and look to the Minister for agreement simply to enable me to say that we do not, and will not, tolerate disgraceful behaviour from any rank in the Armed Forces or the Army. High standards, according to our core values and standards, are absolutely key when we deploy on a foreign operation, and do so in a position, whether wittingly or unwittingly, close to the moral high ground, and knowing that when actions like this occur we fall from the high ground to the valley in a trice under the full glare of the media.
Today is a desperately sad day for the reputation of the Army and for a number of members of it who know that their conduct has been less than it should have been and can be described only as disgraceful. However, we have tried to cover up nothing. The Aitken report laid the foundation which gave the previous Government the opportunity to instigate this inquiry. We fully accept its outcome.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, of course, I agree entirely with the noble Lord. The Army has been very open and transparent and we should congratulate it on that. The noble Lord said that this is a sad day for the Army. It is a very sad day for a small number of people who behaved outrageously. The Army should be congratulated on the very open and transparent way in which it has reacted. The noble Lord said that he was the Chief of the General Staff when the noble Lord, Lord Browne, set up the report. I compliment the noble Lord, who is not in his place, on setting up this very important report.
Viscount Slim: My Lords, I hope that noble Lords will not misunderstand me. My reading of this is that the behaviour was unforgivable, but we are not discussing the behaviour of professional interrogators. Interrogation is a subtle art. There is the problem of when discomfort becomes torture. If we were to introduce draconian legislation in relation to the interrogation processes and techniques that our professionals use, we would be in danger of hamstringing ourselves in obtaining the intelligence that is needed. We have to be very careful here because if we do not get the intelligence
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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the noble Viscount makes a very important point and I quite agree with him. The ability to seek and obtain intelligence from detainees is too important but we will always seek to ensure that it is done within the constraints of the Geneva conventions. The UK Armed Forces are at all times subject to English criminal law. MoD policy reflects applicable international law, including prohibitions on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I apologise for not being here at the beginning of the Statement. It has been said that today is a sad day, but I have to say that I feel extremely proud of being in a nation that allows such an all-embracing report to be produced. I am extremely proud of being a member of the Armed Forces of this nation where the vast majority of them perform amazingly and with all the constraints that they should in very difficult circumstances. Does the Minister agree that I should feel that way?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I quite agree with the noble Lord and feel very proud to be a Minister at this time. I congratulate the previous Government on what they did to initiate this report; as the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, said, the Army has been very open in the way in which it has followed up on these terrible deeds.
Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, I apologise, too, for not being here at the beginning of the Statement but I have been able to read it. There was misinformation about what time the noble Lord would be standing up.
I welcome the Statement and the report. I ask the Minister, first, to consider whether he agrees that it entirely vindicates the decision taken, although criticised at the time, to bring prosecutions. Secondly, would he also agree that there remain questions to be answered, which Sir William Gage said were not a part of his inquiry, as to how the criminal investigations took place? The Minister may recall that he and I have debated these matters before on concerns that I have in relation to that. Thirdly, would he agree-I have in mind statements that he himself made in July 2005 in this House on a debate on prosecutions-that it would not be right in the light of these findings to describe a need to look at these matters in the light of law as anything to do with political correctness? What undermines respect for the discipline and for the armed services is not trying to uncover what took place and to deal with it, but the sort of circumstances that sadly
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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his support for the Statement and for the report. I can confirm that the noble and learned Lord's Government acted at all times in a very proper and correct way in this matter.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am conscious that we are running rather ahead of time and that not everyone is here for the next debate, although I note that the Leader of the Opposition is. I suggest that we adjourn for five minutes to enable everyone to join us.
Lord Mitchell: My Lords, I am quite overwhelmed by the response of noble Lords to this debate. I am sure that the next 90 minutes are going to be both illuminating and enhancing. I know it is only four minutes per noble Lord, but I am sure it is going to be a good debate and I thank everybody for participating.
I was on holiday during the August riots, but even following events on the internet, one incident made a huge impression on me. Tariq Jahan had just lost his son, Haroon, who was murderously mowed down when he and his friends were trying to protect local shops from looters. Mr Jahan's words were haunting:
I have twin sons who are the same age as Haroon, and I very much doubt whether I would be so generously minded were the same thing to happen to one of my boys. His words are seared on to my soul. Tariq Jahan said more about inter-communal dialogue in those few words than any of us could do in a lifetime.
Two weeks earlier, in a senseless act of Islamophobia, a white supremacist slaughtered 77 white teenagers at a political holiday resort in Norway. A white killing whites: how can that be Islamophobic, you might ask. Anders Breivik saw the Norwegian Labour party's policy of defending diversity and tolerance as being supportive of minorities, which indeed it is, and therefore, in his twisted mind, worthy of the terrible carnage that he wrought. His gun was aimed at whites but his true targets were Norwegian Turks. With the tenth anniversary
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The Prime Minister in his speech in Munich last February addressed racism, terrorism, and the failures of multiculturalism. Addressing the issues of extremist ideology, he concentrated on two platforms. The first was to tackle all forms of extremism; the second was to encourage stronger citizenship. He coined the phrase "muscular liberalism". I would like to introduce a third component: greater understanding. I confess that, for much of my life, every time I heard the word "interfaith", my heart sank. I saw it as the language of do-gooders-people who speak well and do nothing. My gradual immersion in the world of interfaith dialogue has been a personal journey of overcoming my prejudices. The more I am exposed to the subject, the more convinced I am that it is a crucial way to achieve greater understanding in our society.
Like many noble Lords speaking today, I am a descendant of immigrants. I am Jewish: my grandparents and great-grandparents emigrated to this country from eastern Europe during the 19th century. They trod a well worn path. Like Huguenots and Irish Catholics before them, and Caribbeans, Indians and Pakistanis after them, they came to this country for a better life. Some came to escape persecution, others for the opportunity to participate in the freedom and prosperity that this country has to offer-but all of them came to be part of our nation. When I hear people say that immigrants are lazy scroungers, I look at what the children of immigrants have achieved in business, science, sport, the arts and entertainment, and the professions. This country has been enriched by us all. I do not know this for sure, but I would bet that getting on for 15 per cent of your Lordships' House can trace their ancestry back to relatively recent immigration. What an achievement and what a statement about our country.
In truth, I agree with him. Like three other Lords in your Lordships' House, including the noble Lords, Lord Sacks and Lord Young of Graffham, I went to a grammar school in Finchley called Christ's College. The name is ironic given that all four noble Lords are Jewish, as were at least 50 per cent of boys at the school. Even though we did not attend Christian prayers, we had religious studies on the syllabus. We learnt about the New Testament and Christianity. I am glad to have a good understanding of what is still the dominant and established church in this country. Has this made me a lesser Jew? I think not.
Today, it seems that many minority faith schools pay only lip service to understanding other religions and customs. How can a child from one faith understand a child from another if they never mix, play together
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Our ignorance of each other's religions and traditions is shameful. I find it amazing that Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Pesach-major Jewish religious holidays-are simply blurs to most non-Jews. But then, what do I know about Islam and Muslim holidays, or Hindu or Buddhist? Not much, I grant you, but these days I am trying hard to learn. I would like to see the Government begin a programme of instruction to develop interfaith understanding. I would like to see schoolchildren really immersed in other religions so that they know what being a Muslim or a Hindu is really about. I would like to see university administrators and faculty members, school teachers and civil servants versed in minority religions. Here I must pay tribute to the Three Faiths Forum, which does sterling work encouraging school teachers to understand other faiths.
Dietary rules are very important to observant Muslims and Jews, so campus administrators and employers need to know about halal and kosher. It is outrageous that universities still hold exams on major minority religious holidays and then claim, as I have heard them say, that they had no idea. The Coexistence Trust, which I chair-I declare my interest-has a very focused remit. We seek to bring greater understanding between Jewish and Muslim students on our university campuses. Many people are surprised when I tell them that among the Jewish community several universities have been considered no-go areas. They are also surprised to learn that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia exist not just among the students, but among the faculty. I do not want to overstate the case, but the fact is that it lurks below the surface and comes to prominence every time there is an incident in the Middle East. Many faculty members and university administrators have a curious attitude towards these anxieties. They say that universities are not only places of learning, but also places of intellectual challenge. Students, they say, must be prepared to hear things that they do not like, things which may cause them distress; such is campus life. Who will disagree with that? However, when administrators and faculties believe that the laws of the land are somehow not relevant in the campus, as I have witnessed, we have problems. Free speech is of paramount importance, but it has to exist within the law. Universities also have a duty to ensure that hate crimes and racial slurs are not committed. They also have a duty of care to all their students.
How do we go about trying to change these attitudes? The Coexistence Trust addresses issues between Jews and Muslims on 12 of our national campuses. We confine our activities just to Jews and Muslims, just to universities and just to 12 campuses-we have limited resources and we have to be very focused. We set up the trust in such a way that it reflects a balance between both communities. Our trustees, many of them speaking this afternoon, are all Members of
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Finally, last April I was invited by the British consulate in New York and the British Council, also in that city, to tell the American Jewish community about our activities. There were many misguided opinions about Britain, some quite absurd, but I think that we did a great job of convincing them that we are robustly addressing the problem and when we pushed hard we were astonished to learn that American campuses, too, face many of the same issues that we have in the UK. Anyhow, they must have liked what we said because the FCO and the British Council are encouraging us to set up a partnership with CAUSE-NY, New York-an important example of transatlantic collaboration on intercultural issues. It is a British export of British ideas.
Changing deep-seated opinions and prejudices is not easy. I believe to my innermost core that meeting each other, working with each other and understanding each other's cultures through interfaith dialogue is a vital way to reduce tensions and make our country a happier place.
Lord Young of Graffham: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, for bringing forward this debate today and I declare an interest as a trustee of Coexistence Trust. I pay tribute to the work and the way in which he has transformed the trust over the past few years.
There are three monotheistic faiths. All have the Bible in common, all believe in the same creator, yet so many have suffered down the centuries through ignorance of each other. I am first generation. My father was an immigrant. He came here in 1905 aged five. His elder sister, who was three years older, came with him and kept a diary. She recounted how at night they crept out from the village where they lived, how they were smuggled across the border and how, after a difficult journey, they arrived here and found to their amazement that they could speak the language-they arrived in the Pool of London, the East End was next door, and the language was Yiddish. She quickly learnt that there were other languages. By the early 1920s, my father was playing club cricket and keeping wicket. Never did they wish to give up on their religion, but they were proud to be English. They regarded themselves as English Jews and never forgot their debt of gratitude to this country that gave them shelter and relief from persecution and pogrom.
My noble friend Lord Tebbit has a very succinct way of expressing ideas. His idea of the cricket test-that when you come somewhere, you should follow its side-is one that my father passed with flying colours, but I must confess that I have not yet heard of Lithuania playing test cricket. When they arrived, they expected to conform. They expected to rely on themselves or their coreligionists, for this was decades before Beveridge. However, many decades have passed, and after a period of what appeared unrestrained immigration we are where we are with some parts of our country appearing like another country and another culture, and that is not something that we can just accept.
To declare an interest, I am chair of the Jewish Museum in London, and I commend it to your Lordships' House. Please pay it a visit because it is a museum that shows the experience of an immigrant population that came here and subsumed itself in the life of the nation. Indeed, when our patron, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, came to visit us last November, he was met at the door by a group of 30 schoolchildren under 10 singing Hebrew songs, and they were, without exception, Christian and Muslim. I see the museum as a powerful force in order to spread knowledge of each other's faiths. Every quarter, 100 Met officers who deal with immigrant communities come through. We have visits from many Muslim schools to better understand our faith. As soon as they see what our religion is about, they realise the similarities with their own religion and how similar the concepts are.
The only antidote to prejudice is knowledge and familiarity. I believe that there is an obligation not so much on the Government, although the Government have their role to play, but on each and every one of us as citizens of this country to reach out where we can to immigrants who arrived after us to show the way and to show how to play a part in the full life of this nation. We intend to widen our board to bring in others of different faiths, and although I may have referred mainly to the Muslim community in what I have said today, because that has been the greatest point of tension, I welcome very much those from the Hindu and Sikh communities.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, my noble friend's debate begs the question: why do we need interfaith dialogue? After all, no religion preaches hatred of our fellow men. Indeed in ancient times, Rabbi Hillel famously summarised the whole of the Torah with the words,
Like the grandfather of the noble Lord, Lord Young, I came here aged five-yes, from Lithuania. I am ancient enough to remember people being openly anti-Semitic, openly talking about the Jewish conspiracy to gain control of the world by corrupting non-Jewish society. The Council of Christians and Jews recognised that dialogue could help deal with this, and it has been
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I do not say that anti-Semitism has entirely gone away. I agree with my noble friend Lord Mitchell: it is much reduced; it is not expressed openly any more. It is sometimes expressed in terms of criticism of Israel and it has also gone on to the internet. What has replaced it is Islamophobia. This is discussed openly. In 1997, the Runnymede Trust coined the expression to capture the already growing animosity towards Muslims. In a way, Islamophobia has replaced anti-Semitism. It is as dangerous to our society and our civilisation now as anti-Semitism was then and it should be fought with equal determination.
How do we fight the ignorance and prejudice of the faithful? We do it with dialogue. The work and initiatives of my noble friend Lord Mitchell's Coexistence Trust and others is crucial. Then there is the law. As my noble friend has said, we have very powerful laws on the statute book regarding hate crime and they need to be enforced and made more known. We are also a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which has plenty to say about respecting each other's faiths and traditions. The faith communities themselves must try to understand their own communities better. I declare an interest as Honorary President of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, which is using the recent census and a parallel survey to better understand the nature of the Jewish community. This work is important because the data can be used to both inform dialogue within faiths and inform interfaith work and policy.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Mitchell that publicly funded faith schools act as a barrier to dialogue and the Government should not encourage them. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Rees, will tell us that science can help. Maybe modern genetic science, modern body chemistry and our better understanding of behaviour can help. Most important is the internet, as a means both of dialogue and of expressing prejudice. The Arab spring and the recent riots have demonstrated what a potent force it is and the power that it gives to the internet generation.
My approach to interfaith dialogue was inspired many years ago by Isaiah Berlin. There are no moral absolutes, he said. There is no absolute mercy, no absolute justice, no absolute compassion. We just have to work it out together-through dialogue.
Lord Hussain: My Lords, I apologise for being a couple of minutes late to this debate. The Government have a clear responsibility to support greater interfaith dialogue in Britain today. It has never been as critical as it is now to recognise and value the importance of the diversity and richness of a whole variety of cultures which now make up the wonderful tapestry of modern-day Britain.
However, the Government are not the only body to have such responsibilities. Many local authorities are doing splendid work in promoting interfaith dialogue and supporting community-based projects that promote
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However, the Government should pay particular attention to those local authorities which are not doing enough in this regard. We must be careful not to use this debate to place the burden of dialogue solely on faiths associated with settled communities, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism et cetera. This can lead to stigmatism and isolation within what should essentially be an inclusive debate. It is therefore just as important to get Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Methodist and other Christian denominations talking to each other as it is to get Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi and other Muslim groups communicating and promoting understanding.
My home town of Luton often gets headlines for the wrong reasons and ends up getting more than its fair share of negative publicity. At times, it gets branded as a stronghold of the BNP and the English Defence League; at others, as a hot bed of Islamic extremists. These images exist only in the media and are far from reality. I can proudly say that Luton is a shining example of multiculturalism and is able to display some excellent examples of multifaith dialogue and co-operation.
Luton has many multifaith projects which are run by the Luton Council of Faiths. It successfully organises an annual peace walk, where representatives from a variety of faiths walk together from one place of worship to another. It enables people of different faiths to observe the Holocaust memorials together. It holds open days in mosques, churches, Hindu temples and other places of worship so that believers of other faiths can visit and gain knowledge and understanding of each other's faiths. It holds evenings of learning, sacred music events and diversity weeks.
The incredibly hard work of Luton Council of Faiths has been fostered and encouraged in Luton by both Labour and Liberal Democrat administrations in the town hall for the past 20 years. These projects help to promote the whole process of bringing people together from different faiths and cultures and allowing them to appreciate the value of what each other has to offer. Luton Borough Council has also launched the Luton in Harmony initiative, which is a unique campaign to draw diverse communities together to work in partnership and challenge extremism. It is precisely because of the success of this hard work that extremist organisations such as the English Defence League and the British National Party, and Muslim extremist groups such as Al-Muhajiroun, enjoy very little support in the town.
Improving cultural awareness should also be higher up the agenda in schools. Education regarding faith and culture should comprise visits by faith representatives to share their beliefs and practices. In addition, pupils should undertake faith tours, comprising visits to key places of worship.
All initiatives should most definitely be community led and remain completely independent of local and central government control. Anything other than this approach is likely to damage the credibility of faith bodies and will most definitely hinder the great work already being carried out in numerous places across the land.
Lord Sacks: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, for initiating this important and necessary debate. I go back to words said by an expert on the subject 2,600 years ago. His name was Jeremiah and he became known as a prophet of gloom. Were he to return to life today, doubtless he would be an economist. He was the first person to analyse the situation many find themselves in today of being a minority in a culture whose beliefs are not their own.
He told them in effect: "Maintain your identity while contributing to the common good. Be true to your faith while being a blessing to others regardless of their faith". That is the challenge today. The good news about religion is that it creates communities based on altruism and trust. It teaches people to make sacrifices for the sake of others. It builds social capital. The bad news is that every community divides as it unites, because for every "us" there is a "them"-the people not like us.
The best way to improve interfaith dialogue in multicultural Britain is to create a sense of national identity so strong that it brings different ethnic and religious communities together in pursuit of the common good-not just the good for "my" group, but the good for all of us together. A nation should respect its faiths, and faiths should respect the nation. That is the only way we will achieve integrated diversity and the dignity of difference, in which we see our differences as contributions that we bring to the common good.
That is what Britain means to us in the Jewish community, and surely to the vast majority in all our faith communities. It is vital that we teach all our children, whether in faith schools or not, to honour this country, respect its traditions, contribute to its welfare and show the same respect to others as we ask others to show to us.
Therefore I have a simple proposal. I believe that all Britain's faith communities should be invited to make a voluntary covenant with Britain articulating our responsibilities to others and to the nation as a whole, so that we can be true to our faith while being a blessing to others regardless of theirs.
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, it is a very great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, because I think that he has done more than almost anybody to provide us with a vocabulary-a grammar- that commends and communicates the dignity of difference. I know that I speak for many people when I say how grateful we are.
I declare an interest as the president of St Ethelburga's Centre for preventing and transforming those conflicts that have a religious dimension. The centre was established in a church bombed by the IRA-of course there is a conflicted history there-with the support of Cardinal Hume and indeed of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, who is Chief Rabbi, and various Muslim friends as well. I mention that not just to draw attention to a piece of work that is relevant to the debate initiated-for which we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell-but to acknowledge a recent shift in attitudes that, I am glad to say, has already been reflected in government policy. After the very serious disturbances in the northern cities, the subsequent reports and discussion tended to suggest that religion was a problem and that faith schools were a problem. Of course, faith schools are rather different from the church school that the Chief Rabbi attended. It is a quite different idea. We resent very deeply being lumped into that constituency. However, after the northern cities, there was quite an emphasis on religion as a problem.
What happened at the riots in August? Religious tensions did not play a part. Actually, parishes and religious communities were in the forefront of trying to help. That enormously impressive plea from the father of that young man, with the subsequent prayer meeting, was an example of that. Here is another extraordinary example from Tower Hamlets. Already the provocative demonstration of last weekend has been described. A woman member of the EDL got detached from her company and was assaulted not by someone from a different faith but by a totally apolitical ruffian of the borough. He went for her. She was rescued by stewards of the Muslim forum for Europe, who threw a cordon around her and escorted her politely to the Underground station. It is a wonderful vignette of community relations in Tower Hamlets, which, like Luton, sometimes gets a very bad press.
It seems to me that often we have a suggestion that members of certain faith communities are hostile to what are called western values such as freedom and tolerance. In my experience, it is not so much that there is a hatred of our values, but people are appalled by a vacuum of values and an absence of moral true north of the kind visible on our streets in August. That is where there can be a useful partnership between government and faith communities. It is clearly desirable that there should be religious literacy at all levels of government, not least in local authorities, with the capacity to distinguish self-appointed community leaders from people with real followership and commitment to the common good.
I pay tribute to the work that has already been done by government thinking and planning on social cohesion in this area. I am grateful in particular for the Near Neighbours programme, which recognises the positive capacity of churches, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras and temples to engage with one another across confessional boundaries, and to build alliances in the interests of the common good. I believe that we are in a new world.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My Lords, first, I thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, on securing this timely debate in view of the challenges that we face-not just in Britain but across the globe. Notwithstanding the hundreds of differences we have between us, people of faith all believe in God, in creation and in the Creator. After all, we belong to the same denomination. We are all God's creatures. We belong to the same race-the human race. As inhabitants and citizens of the same country, we are mutual neighbours. That applies to all communities.
This requires that we build understanding and friendships with each other based on the purity of heart and sincerity of intentions. We dispose kindly towards one another. In the difficulties pertaining to religious and worldly matters, we should exercise empathy, sympathy and understanding towards one another's views. After all, a religion which does not inculcate universal compassion is no religion. Similarly, a human being without the faculty of compassion is no human at all. If someone questions the possibility of reaching reconciliation where differences have occurred-indeed, religious differences-because they perceive that it is playing a negative role such as dividing hearts and minds, it can succeed only if it is not based on human values. All religions are based on common, human values. That what binds us is greater than what divides us. It is a danger to our community, to our nation and to the fragmentation of our society if we let those who seek to divide us come forth. Differences can only destroy communities and nations if the process of reconciliation results in some people resorting to insulting and being blasphemous towards the views and religions of others.
Perhaps I may suggest to my noble friend the Minister some practical steps. The Muslim community in which I grew up had a concept of religious founders' days. A common theme is chosen, such as peace or humanity. All faiths are invited to present. But here comes the special ingredient. The Christian will present the Hindu's view on peace or humanity. The Muslim will present the Jewish perspective and so on. This does not only broaden horizons among people; it educates and teaches not just tolerance but respect and reverence towards the beliefs of all.
The second element I would suggest to the Minister is this. I had the pleasure of following her as the Conservative Party's vice-chairman for cities, yet when I travelled the country I saw divisions. Under the guise of inclusion we allowed children to be excluded from schools. A child who did not wish to attend a religious education class was allowed to sit aside, but what kind of inclusion is that? Like many others, I am a product of a Church of England school. I learned the Lord's Prayer. Did it make me any less of a Muslim? As the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, suggested, not at all-it broadened my understanding and taught me about other faiths and communities and, most importantly, respect for all faiths.
The final component is that we must continue to stand up against extremists of all kinds. We should be intolerant of those who are intolerant towards others. If a person wishes to exclude someone, that is the time to instead exclude them.
In conclusion, I am an optimist but I am not complacent. I defy those who say that problems are caused by faith, which means that communities cannot ever work together. I defy those who say those of faith cannot work with those of no faith-they can and our country is testament to that. Faith matters and religion has the solution to build new communities. I accept that we have challenges but they will be overcome. Those who refute the diversity of strength in our faiths and our communities and indeed our nation should look no further than to your Lordships' House, which is reflective of the strength and the success of our nation-our country-Britain.
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