The noble Lord, Lord Leigh, referred to the bizarre thinking of the University of Southampton in reference to a recent debate. By contrast, it was the University of Southampton which, at the recent Enactus World Cup in Johannesburg, in front of 5,000 students, won the Enactus World Champion award for the best international project of any university. It shows that in the same establishment, by taking a different approach, students can learn how to speak by acting proactively.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 850

Specifically, the University of Southampton’s students had devised an interesting way in which human waste could be used for fertilising agricultural lands. That human waste and fertilisation gave empowerment to, and provided business enterprise for, groups of people who, before, had been locked out of the economy. That won the global prize ahead of projects from 36 other countries.

That opportunity for university students to use their time articulating, thinking about, discussing and engaging with ideas and targeting those ideas effectively in voluntary work—giving 180,000 hours to the Enactus organisation in the United Kingdom and, globally, more than 6 million hours of voluntary time and commitment, all of which impact on more than 2 million people annually—is a very constructive way of making sure that free speech is maintained. By acting decisively in the interests of wider communities, students learn how to think with an open mind.

2.10 pm

Baroness Bakewell (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Deech on introducing this very important debate, which is enlightening us all as we go along.

I speak as president of Birkbeck in the University of London. It is the home of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism—the only centre in the UK and one of only two in Europe whose mission is to promote the understanding of anti-Semitism. My noble friend Lady Deech asked what is to be done. Studies and institutes such as this can investigate the state of freedom of speech in our society.

Most recently, the institute has been dealing with what it calls the “new anti-Semitism”—a reference to when criticism of Israel and the policies of its Government are condemned as being anti-Semitic. There is no absolutely no consensus on this, and the noble Lord, Lord Polak, has just made a strong case on this very issue. Some colleagues in the academic world have chosen to boycott their corresponding faculties in Israel; others believe in engaging in debate with those they disagree with. I oppose boycotts. I believe in fierce and engaged debate, as indeed do the Israelis.

I turn to a different story. Recently, students at the University of Ottawa decided to cancel yoga practices. They made the case that it was derived from, and therefore usurped, a religious observance of another culture and should not be used as a keep-fit routine. Members of the transgender community recently denounced the film “Zoolander 2”, in which Benedict Cumberbatch stars as an androgynous model. In our highly individualised and narcissistic society, when groups—often of young people and often using social media—feel threatened and hurt by the contempt and mockery of others, they seek ever more protection for their feelings. That has to be resisted.

There is already an overabundance of laws that control or restrict what can be said. My noble friend Lady Deech gave a whole raft of them but she did not mention the laws of libel or slander. Of course, laws cannot control what is thought, and universities are about thinking. Universities, more than anywhere else, equip people to think clearly and consistently, and to

26 Nov 2015 : Column 851

express their views within a safe and collegiate atmosphere. They should be the custodians of our free speech, not a challenge to it. If such a challenge comes from the student body, university authorities must be given the strength to resist it. Those who want to “no platform” speakers and ban meetings need to be confronted directly about their fears and objections. Discourse is the way to deal with ideas that we dislike. We need to keep that discourse going.

2.13 pm

Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB): My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lady Deech on securing this important debate and on her brilliant speech.

Everyone agrees that freedom of speech is essential for a functioning democracy. Unfortunately, it means different things to different people. To me, it is the right to criticise the actions of those in authority—Governments and powerful institutions, including religions and those in religious authority. Freedom of speech does not carry a right to gratuitously offend. Actions deliberately causing fear and distress are, rightly, against the law. While we should all uphold true freedom of speech, we also need to be on guard to ensure that it is not used as a force to harm or silence the weak and vulnerable.

Although I have real concerns about banning speakers who sometimes challenge conventional thinking, my main concern today is the treatment of religion and religious expression in universities. Despite government programmes such as Prevent, extremist preachers all too frequently use freedom of speech to incite hatred against others or to undermine democratic institutions or the rights and beliefs of others. At the same time, they are the first to react with bluster and threat to criticism of their actions. University authorities seem loath to act against such people.

Today, raising concerns about the behaviour of some young Muslims who bring disgrace to their faith carries the risk of being labelled as Islamophobic. The smear “Islamophobia” is often used to stifle even the mildest criticism. Another argument advanced by both people of religion and those in secular society is that religion is a personal matter and therefore beyond questioning and criticism. I strongly disagree with this view. Religion is not some sort of endangered way of life that excludes it from legitimate questioning and debate. If religions claim to hold eternal truths and the solution to many of the ills in society, they must open themselves up to robust challenge and questioning. Freedom of speech must include the right to challenge without fears of instant smears of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or any other religious phobia.

As a Sikh, I believe, particularly now, that religion should allow and encourage the querying of teachings on social issues which, to some, may seem out of kilter with accepted norms and, at times, even out of kilter with common sense. In speaking to Sikh and other faith groups, I always say that if a practice seems to go against common sense, it must be challenged—in places of worship, universities and other walks of life. Universities are ideal places in which to conduct discussions affecting society. Such discussions can and should be probing but they must be conducted in courteous terms and never be used to demean or belittle.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 852

2.17 pm

Lord Lester of Herne Hill (LD): My Lords, we are in the bleak shadow of the mass murders in Paris by those who hate our way of life and all that we cherish, including free speech. These psychopathic killers blaspheme against Islam and play into the hands of bigots who seek to stir up hatred against Muslim communities. Nothing in Islam authorises the cowardly massacre of innocent unarmed women, men, children and babies.

The great American jurist Louis Brandeis explained the value of free speech in near absolute terms. He wrote that,

“the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones”.

Like the rest of Europe, the United Kingdom does not go as far as the United States in protecting free speech as near absolute. We recognise that the right to free speech must be qualified to respect the rights of others, the prevention of crime and the protection of national security. As Anthony Lewis, the biographer of the First Amendment, wrote,

“in an age where words have inspired acts of mass murder … it is not easy to believe that the only remedy for evil counsels ... should be good ones”.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said, we have ample legislation in this country protecting public order and criminalising the incitement of racial and religious hatred and the glorification of terrorism. Its enforcement, however, is problematic and can often create a Catch-22. What matters much more than legal protection is a vibrant culture of liberty. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Polak, and others who have rightly criticised boycotts that I successfully advised University College London that the boycott of Israel by academics was unlawful, and it ended.

What is lacking is the spirit of liberty among those who seek to deny a platform to controversial speakers. A week ago, high security had to be invoked to protect Germaine Greer when she gave a lecture at Cardiff University. She defied a fierce campaign to stop her delivering it on the ground that she had expressed transphobic views. As many have said, the governors and students of our universities should not deny a platform to anyone unless there is a clear and present danger of violence or the insidious abuse of freedom of speech by those who glorify terrorism, such as jihadi extremists and radical clerics inciting hatred and violence under cover of religion, or terrorists using social media to spread filthy messages that brainwash vulnerable young men and women into supporting their vile crimes.

The Government’s heavy-handed approach to defining extremism has not assisted universities. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and say that the Government use far too broad a concept of “extremism”, capturing anything that constitutes,

“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values”.

The concept of “British values” is vague enough to run the risk that those who strongly disagree with the Government and their actions will be treated as un-British and subversive. That has led to many university institutions cancelling events to be on the safe side. Unwittingly, they have opened themselves up to legal action on the

26 Nov 2015 : Column 853

basis of Section 43(2) of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, which forbids universities to deny the use of their premises to any individual or group on the grounds of their beliefs, views or policy objectives.

I say to the Government, as well as to universities, that we should encourage more rather than less speech and debate, provided always that it does not deny the very essence of liberty and make a mockery of free expression.

2.22 pm

Lord Skidelsky (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for making possible this debate. I shall draw your Lordships’ attention to two threats to free speech on the campus. In four minutes I have time for only two threats, but I think that they cover most of the ground.

The first threat comes from the Government. The state has a duty to protect its citizens from terrorism. The Government have conceived of that duty in part as preventing university students from being what they call “radicalised”. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 requires universities to,

“prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism”.

This is construed as part of their duty to “care” for “vulnerable” students. Universities are required to assess the risks of students being drawn into terrorism and extremism, and to train staff how to assess those risks and “challenge extremist ideas”. Universities must seek government guidance on which speakers to allow on campus. In this guidance terrorism and extremism are frequently conflated, as the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Lester, have pointed out, although very occasionally the drafters remember that one can hold extremist views without being a terrorist.

I turn to the second threat. The National Union of Students has opposed the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act on the grounds that it will lead to mass campus surveillance and the criminalisation of Muslims and black people. The universities should be kept as “open democratic spaces”. All this would carry more conviction if student bodies were not themselves a big threat to free speech on the campus. Student unions in many universities run “no platform” policies for speakers whose views they consider reprehensible, even though they are legal. For the NUS—and this is the key—keeping students “safe” is paramount. Bristol University Students’ Union runs a “safe space” policy aimed at ensuring students’ safety from harassment. However, keeping students safe turns out to include keeping them “safe from radicalisation”. So, despite the verbal skirmishes, the Government and students are quite united on the need to protect students from harmful ideas, differing only slightly in their definition of what they regard as harmful.

I must come clean: I hate the doublespeak that runs through the public pronouncements that I have read on this topic. How Orwell would have shuddered. The facts are pretty clear: universities have a statutory duty to uphold free speech and are bound by the Public Order Act to ban incitement to racial and religious hatred. So they have a duty to uphold free speech within the law. Similarly, the security forces have a

26 Nov 2015 : Column 854

duty to keep the country safe from terrorism wherever it sprouts—prevention does not stop or continue on the campus. What I deny is that university students are an especially vulnerable species needing special protection against being abused or radicalised. Students are adults: they can vote, fight and die for their country, drive, drink alcohol and so on. Why should they be treated as adults in one branch of life and as children in another?

In particular, I think it is an abuse of thought and language to extend the good liberal notion of protecting people against harms to the decidedly unliberal notion of protecting them against harmful ideas.

2.26 pm

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, I echo the thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for introducing this debate so splendidly.

In the dark days of January 1941, President Roosevelt looked forward to the time when we would have a world where everyone was free to worship and free from want and fear. At the top of his list, though, he looked to a world where everyone would have freedom of speech. Some 50 years after that, I had the great privilege of conducting some seminars in democracy in Bucharest, shortly after the fall of the ghastly tyrant. In those 50 years a large chunk of Europe, having emerged from a devastating war, had never known the meaning of freedom of speech. It was a marvellous experience to meet young people who had kept their spirits up by listening to the BBC World Service and who now felt that they were citizens of a country where they could indeed speak freely, expose the evils to which they had been subjected and look forward to a brighter day.

Since then, intolerance and intimidation have gone viral—one of the bad results of the internet. We now have a situation, graphically described not only by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, but by two admirable maiden speakers and others, where freedom is “cabined, cribbed, confined” in every university in the land. I am surprised, in the aftermath of Paris, that no one has yet quoted Voltaire. His words have always been my watchword on this subject: “I may dislike what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Those words should be emblazoned over the door, or gate, of every university in the land. What we need in this year of Magna Carta—noble Lords must forgive my mentioning this yet again—is a charter of freedom for our universities, where young people are told that they must always exercise respect, good manners and tolerance towards those with whom they can perhaps never agree, but with whom they must always be prepared to listen and to debate. And there is no better place to make those points than in your Lordships’ House.

We should also bear in mind that when you are dealing with the young, to ban is to provoke. We need a vigorously tolerant society—that is in no sense an oxymoron—where the best of British values are espoused. If I had to sum up British values in one sentence, I would say: the promotion of freedom untrammelled and unconfined.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 855

2.30 pm

Lord Bew (CB): My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Deech for her brilliant and complex opening speech. I speak on this subject from the perspective of somebody who has taught on the university campuses in Belfast since 1975, while freedom of speech was most violently contested within the United Kingdom. We had speakers coming to give lectures, such as visiting judges, who were blown up and shot at or had their police guards killed. A law lecturer, Edgar Graham, was shot on the steps of the library—a particular sacrilege, in my view. These events punctuated the life of the university and those assaults were consistent. All the actions I have just described were by the IRA but the loyalist killers had a habit of killing academics at home. My dear friend and departmental colleague Adrian Guelke was shot in his bed and my Irish history colleague Miriam Daly was murdered in her own kitchen.

Even when the violence at that level quietened down for a while and we were able to have, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, visiting Belfast to give an important lecture on his book Politicians and the Slump, there was the constant flow of poison-pen, threatening letters to academics. They were anonymous but, again, deeply challenging to the principle of free speech. It was an achievement that somehow or other the principle of a liberal education was kept alive by both universities in this period, in part because academics such as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, were willing to come to Belfast at a dangerous time to speak to our students.

Even in the post 9/11 world and with the coming of peace in Northern Ireland, we are not free from these difficulties. In 2007, the chairman of our Islamic society was one of those who burnt himself to death in the attack on Glasgow Airport, sadly, having made the journey from Belfast to be there. In the last few months, noble Lords will have been aware from coverage in the Guardian and elsewhere that the vice-chancellor of my own university made the decision to cancel a meeting in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo. He then reversed it, I am glad to say, following criticism of his failure to protect free speech, but that was again on the evidence of sensitivities.

We have to say frankly that one of the sensitivities is that our university authorities fear being accused of Islamophobia more than they want to consider the implications of terrorist acts. This is not because they are in any way sympathetic to terrorist acts but because they know that they will not be blamed for them. They rightly consider, however, that they might well be blamed for Islamophobia. Their attitude towards the Prevent programme, which has been discussed today, is determined to some degree—let us put it kindly—by a lack of enthusiasm for the programme on the part of the Government, who anyway do not love them enough or give them enough money.

I heard what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and very pointedly by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, about some of the otiose elements of the Prevent programme. In my view, frankly, there have been some impractical and possibly dangerous attempts to intervene in the life of universities. However, I want

26 Nov 2015 : Column 856

noble Lords to consider this. Were the Government to retreat from the underlying principle that the issue is not just terrorist activity but the ideologies which promote terrorism, would that be a good thing, particularly for the balance of forces within the Muslim community?

I am not convinced that the agnosticism which the Government adopted during the long years of the Northern Irish Troubles—as if Irish republicanism of the most militant sort was absolutely fine as long as nobody was killed—really helped the peace process. That was the attitude of the British Government for three decades. In a liberal democracy, we have to consider whether agnosticism about these most central questions at the heart of our thinking is for sure the way forward. It is entirely legitimate to raise issues about an inhibition of free speech as a result of the Prevent programme, but one also has to consider in our discussions the very serious questions the programme attempts to face up to.

I will conclude with this point. I listened carefully to the very important speech of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. I accept the point she made about how important it is, at a time of division, to maintain a dialogue in universities with those people whom one disagrees with. I absolutely accept that universities are a key place for that. During the Troubles, I attempted to maintain a dialogue with IRA prisoners and others who were my students. I am not convinced that anything in the Prevent programme prevents academics carrying on these sensitive dialogues today, even though I accept that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, raised points of detail which are worrying.

2.36 pm

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, as somebody who has been involved in the governance of universities at the LSE, Newcastle and Lancaster for more than 30 years, I strongly welcome this debate and thank the noble Baroness for it. It is an immensely important subject, as the debate has underlined.

First, I would like to raise an issue that to me seems pretty important: what is the purpose of a university? What is the ideal—let us not be afraid of that word—of a university? I suggest to the House that the ideal of a university is a community of scholars seeking truth, hopefully on an interdisciplinary basis, and that to civilised society this is an absolutely indispensable contribution. Universities are coming under a lot of quantitative pressure these days, with measurement here and there of their performance or the other thing. This sees them more and more as a facility for servicing the machine of society as it is.

It is important to say that I am not a Luddite. But what I fear is happening is that we are neglecting the qualitative considerations—the imaginative and visionary considerations—that lead to the originality of thought and research which are the guarantee, in the long term, of the well-being of our society and indeed of its material success. This debate is related to all that because if we are to have a search for truth, you must have controversy. Differences must be brought into the open and people must be encouraged to be brave and put their ideas forward. In the context of argument, discussion and analysis we move forward.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 857

There will always be those who have very unimaginative, cruel and vicious objectives. Let us hear those views, deal with them in open discussion with confidence and win the argument. We were discussing at some length this morning and this afternoon the Prime Minister’s Statement on the possibility of bombing in Syria. This is going to be a very significant issue, but we should not lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, the war—if we must use this negative term, which I hate using—will be won by the battle of the mind. Decent views, civilised views and responsible views have to win the argument. That is how it will be won. We have to be very careful, when we start discussing the rules and regulations of debate in universities, that we are not giving up or losing faith in our own confidence in what makes our society worth having. It would be a damnable outcome of all the tensions, stresses and dangers—and there are huge dangers—that we live under at the moment if we ended up having ourselves destroyed the society we want to have.

2.41 pm

Lord Blair of Boughton (CB): My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Deech. I was sitting next to her when she delivered her speech, and it was fascinating to watch the way the House slowly fell more and more silent listening to what was one of the great parliamentary speeches of this Session. I was slightly alarmed immediately afterwards that by the time that she and the noble Lord, Lord Patten, had finished, they had mentioned the two main points that I was going to speak about. I am of course the last speaker before those charged with answering on behalf of the parties come back in, but I hope that I will have something to say about both the Prevent strategy and Cecil Rhodes.

First, I declare an interest as somebody who has had their own personal demonstration against them attending as a speaker on a campus. It is a great privilege to have had that. I could not express better than the noble Lord, Lord Bew, did the significance of Prevent as a strategy against the advance of violent extremism. It is not without its faults but it is really important. I was at the beginning of the conversations which invented Prevent and everything that followed 7/7. However, I always felt that there was one problem in the heart of the delivery of Prevent, which was the enormous importance given to the police as its delivery agency. The police have two roles: they are in that community meeting, working with people to try and strengthen communities against extremism, but they are the same organisation that then arrives in darkened vans with balaclavas and machine guns and takes away the children of that community. That is a dilemma that can only be made worse if those responsible for other organisations do not join the police in handling Prevent.

Further education and higher education authorities are absolutely vital in that, because they are the first in loco parentis for these young people away from home. If they are not seen to understand the significance of Prevent, it will just be left to the police; and if you do not disagree with the police when you are a teenager and a young adult, you are not really alive. It would be

26 Nov 2015 : Column 858

very wrong for the 500 lecturers who the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, mentioned to try and walk away from their responsibilities in this regard.

In turning to Cecil Rhodes, I make another declaration of interest. I put my old college tie on this morning—the duster from Christ Church. For three years there, where I am now an honorary student, I never noticed when walking past Oriel that the four-foot statue of a man waving a hat was Cecil Rhodes. This is political correctness turned into political madness. There is nothing wrong with political correctness—calling people what they want to be called, whether it is black and minority ethnic, Inuit et cetera—and there is nothing wrong with demonstrations. But to try and reverse or rewrite history is the most ridiculous student practice I can think of—and I have indulged in some myself, so I have some record of that.

If we go down this line, we will have to take down the picture of Henry VIII in the Great Hall at Christ Church, on the basis that he burned first Protestants and then Catholics. Above all, we will have to take down the Roman emperors outside the Sheldonian—grow up please.

2.45 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford (LD): My Lords, this has been a very stimulating debate, and along with other noble Lords I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for a very trenchant and excellent introduction to it. I very much enjoyed the two maiden speeches that we heard today—I found them both enlightening and amusing, which is just what maiden speeches should be. I congratulate the two Members concerned.

Like any good liberal, when it comes to freedom of speech, I refer myself back to JS Mill, who provided us with a very robust defence of freedom of speech. I will quote one of the seminal bits of Mill. It has been quoted often, but it is worth requoting it:

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind”.

That is a very interesting view in the context of universities and the arguments that we have been having in the debate in the Chamber today. He then goes on to argue that even if an opinion is false, the truth can be better understood by refuting the error, and that since most opinions are neither completely right nor completely false, allowing freedom of expression allows the airing of competing views as a way of preserving the “partial” truth of various opinions. Freedom of expression, he argues, allows for personal growth and self-realisation.

It is vital for us to recognise that. I could not agree more with the views that have been expressed about how supine so many of our universities—or their administrations—have been in the face of on the one hand the pressures on them from students’ unions, resorting constantly to the safety argument, and on the other hand the pressures on them from the Government. As the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said, part of the problem perhaps here has been the Government, in terms of their imposing rules that are too stringent. I shall come back to that point later. What Mill was saying fits in with and echoes very well

26 Nov 2015 : Column 859

all that we have heard today about how important it is that universities should be the places where we allow even extreme views to be argued over and defeated in debate, rather than just arbitrarily silenced.

Mill of course recognised that there is a need for some sort of rule of conduct to regulate the actions of those with extreme views. He proposed that this should hinge on what he called a “very simple principle”, the principle of harm. He says that,

“the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others”.

He then goes on to give an example which I found quite amusing, because it fits in so well with the society in which he lived in the mid-19th century, which saw riots against the Corn Laws. He said that someone should be at liberty at any point to suggest, in a speech or in writing, that corn dealers are starving the poor. Such a view would be acceptable, but it would not be acceptable to express it outside the home of a corn dealer, because this might constitute,

“a positive instigation to some mischievous act”.

This principle of harm has indeed underlain much of the debate since then about the limits of freedom of speech and the balance necessary between protecting this right and others such as: privacy, where we can think back to the debates over Leveson; security, with today’s debates over that and extremism; and democratic equality, for example in the sort of debates we had about women’s suffrage in the first parts of the 20th century. There is no reason to assume that there is something inherent in freedom of speech that it should implicitly trump all these other freedoms.

In the 1980s, Joel Feinberg at Oxford argued that the harm principle set the bar too low and suggested instead an offence principle—which we touched on today. He said you can legitimately prohibit some forms of expression because they are offensive and that the prevention of offensive conduct is properly the state’s business. Others referred to the remark of Onora O’Neill—the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill—that there is no right not to be offended.

In general, the principle of not causing offence is much more difficult to apply because what is offensive to one person is of course not offensive to another. It seems, too, that in some cases these two principles—one of harm and the other of offence—get mixed up. Take the Germaine Greer case that has been referred to. The “no platform” decision was made basically because it was thought that the views were offensive to the transsexual community, but the justification that the student union provided was based on harm—that it could not guarantee the safety of the speaker or of the meeting. Student unions have used that constant plea for safety, and the risk of harm, when they called for “no platform” decisions. Arguably, our university authorities have given way to that much too readily.

When we first talked about the Prevent strategy, it seemed firmly rooted in this harm principle: we are limiting freedom of speech to maintain security, to prevent impressionable and sometimes vulnerable young people from speakers and activities that might cause them to be drawn into extremism. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, that in this sense these

26 Nov 2015 : Column 860

are young adults with the right to their own views and we are perhaps kowtowing too much to the notion that they are vulnerable in the extreme. As the UUK briefing that we received makes clear, attending university, especially where a student leaves home for the first time, involves significant upheaval from existing social and support networks. In some regard, this means that the university has the responsibility—as the noble Lord, Lord Blair, mentioned—of loco parentis.

When the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, from the Opposition Benches replied to the debate on the Prevent regulations in September, he stressed the importance of the need,

“to apply common sense and avoid stereotyping”.—[

Official Report

, 17/9/15; col. 2054.]

That is the danger of codifying the harm principle into laws and regulations. In the original draft regulations it was put to us that all speakers going to universities should provide, two weeks ahead of going, a summary of what they would say and any overheads they would use. That got very short thrift around this House, as noble Lords may remember. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, remarked that when she went to speak at universities—as she does very often—she rarely knew the night before precisely what she would say.

From these Benches, we somewhat reluctantly accepted that the new regulations were necessary, partly for the reasons put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Bew and Lord Blair, given this age of terrorism and particularly where social media are so important. We agreed very much that common sense was necessary, and rather regretted the necessity of bringing the regulations forward. We share with UUK the worries about the statement in the guidance that events should be cancelled unless the university authorities are,

“entirely convinced that such risk”—

that is, the risk of people being drawn into terrorism—“can be fully mitigated”. Is that not much too a high a bar to set? Does it really make sense? There will always be some doubts and risks. You can never totally eliminate risk.

I come back to where I began: the best defence of free speech is free speech itself. Universities are institutions where there should be open and inclusive discussion. Their aim is to foster critical thinking among both students and staff. If extremist ideas are to be challenged it is in such an environment. It is vital that we as a society maintain their integrity in this regard.

2.55 pm

Lord Mendelsohn (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, on securing this debate. In an utterly remarkable speech—it was compelling and comprehensive—she outlined many issues that found an echo across this Chamber. Indeed, she drew our attention to a remarkable list of incidents and events, set out the very broad responsibilities and duties in legislation that universities must adhere to, and also warned that people using the notion of sermons not speakers allowed for a variety of things to take place that have been difficult. She highlighted perhaps the National Union of Students’ worst years and its identification with Cage. We hope it will not follow that path again. I thank her again for securing this debate. It has been absolutely excellent.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 861

I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, for his immaculate and impressive speech and on his entry into this House. The noble Lord has had a remarkable career at Policy Exchange and working for the Prime Minister. I have been thoroughly impressed with his work at his new organisation, Floreat Education, and the schools it has delivered. That is truly outstanding. As a former employer of the noble Lord, I am so pleased that I did not say when he handed in his letter of resignation, “You are making a big mistake”. He is one of the most thoughtful and imaginative thinkers and an outstanding leader in education. He will make a fantastic contribution to this House and we welcome him hugely.

I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey, on his absolutely outstanding maiden speech. He is a very distinguished Silk, and I believe is described in Chambers as having a “Rolls-Royce mind”. We were given our first drive around in his mind today. I understand that he is a specialist in professional indemnity. He has done a great deal with the investment industry, the pensions industry, tax advisers, auditors and professionals in the financial services industry. I suspect he has been pretty busy these last few years. I hope that his wisdom will come into our House on more occasions. I was very interested in his phrasing, particularly when he referred to the “weaponising of hypersensitivity”. These sorts of insight will be great additions to this House. We welcome him warmly.

This has been an extraordinary and outstanding debate with a great deal of agreement, most importantly the firm assertion of the need for freedom of expression—freedom of speech and academic freedom—balanced by a sensible and appropriate restriction to liberty on occasion. I will just make a few observations on freedom of speech, on Prevent and its responsibilities, and on some issues around the future.

Our universities are great places of learning, where contrasting and competing views, with freedom of research, thought and ideas, are generated and debated. They are great places of socialisation into our society and our values. Universities are places where controversial ideas must be able to be heard, debated and challenged. The encouragement, development and nurturing of independent thought is at the heart of the purpose of tertiary education. The process of learning is at the heart of universities. As my noble friend Lady Warwick has said, freedom of speech and the ability to question orthodoxy and present challenging views is its essential purpose.

The principle at the heart of how we should apply this was very well expressed by my noble friend and colleague Lord Rosser when he expressed support for the new Prevent guidance. He stressed the need to apply common sense and avoid stereotyping if the widespread acceptance of the need for these regulations was to be secured. This principle was endorsed by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, in her excellent speech.

How do we institutionalise common sense? I believe that university leaders need to be more strident advocates of their own positions. We should congratulate them on much of the work that they do. Universities have

26 Nov 2015 : Column 862

many policies and procedures; they take a great deal of care in dealing with some of these most difficult problems. They do not always get the answers right, but it is certainly incorrect to say that they have not taken their responsibilities seriously.

Set against this good practice are some issues around student unions. My noble friend Lady Warwick has made these comments on many occasions and they were echoed very strongly in the House. Warnings about the current approach of the National Union of Students were very well articulated by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky. The existence of student union policies and practices which seek to bar lawful free speech causes us deep concern; so do the findings of a survey on the censorship of free speech on campuses earlier this year, which highlighted calls for many organisations to be banned and student unions lobbying for universities to place warnings on course texts which contain anything potentially upsetting. That point was made forcefully by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood earlier in this debate.

Listening to and rigorously questioning speakers about controversial issues is vital training for undergraduates and a life skill that universities are uniquely equipped to teach. Banning speakers whose views are antithetical to one particular group undermines the university’s role in defending our society’s values, which include the freedom to differ or even the freedom to insult.

While I am addressing freedom of speech, I want to address briefly a matter raised by the noble Lords, Lord Leigh, Lord Polak and Lord Lester of Herne Hill, who raised the question of how Israeli academics, Israeli students, Jewish students, Jewish societies and others have been dealt with. This is a matter of great concern to us, particularly as safe space has always seemed to have been denied to this group. I restate the view of my noble friend the shadow Foreign Secretary that the Opposition wholly and totally reject the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its objectives; they have no place in our party and no place in our universities. It is not just that they are antithetical to any attempts towards peace in the region in which they profess to play a role, but they are against our values and our notions of what universities should be. It is a source of regret that they appeared.

In this context, I say to my noble friend Lady Bakewell, who also raised this issue, that we compliment the outstanding work of the Pears Institute at her institution. She identified the new antisemitism. The All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism has also done so and made some recommendations recently about what should be done at universities. Will the Minister address their recommendations in her comments?

Like the noble Lords, Lord Bew and Lord Blair, we support the need for Prevent. The threats are there; they are very real. People from universities have been identified in planning terrorism and have been present among foreign fighters. This is not new. In 1994, the bombing of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community centre in north London were the product of people who had been at universities. One of those convicted was, I believe, a very strong university activist at

26 Nov 2015 : Column 863

Leicester University. However, the attacks we face now have a very different dimension and it is right that we have Prevent at universities. The noble Lord, Lord Bew, made an important point about complexities and concerns in relation to its implementation. I refer again to the view of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that its successful adoption will depend on its careful implementation.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, made the important point that Muslim students must feel engaged in this. I accept that we must do this, and I also accept, as does our party, that the purpose of Prevent is to drive a very strong wedge to isolate the very small number of Muslim students who wish to adopt this form of behaviour. I would be grateful if the Minister would tell us how the Government see its implementation and any issues or lessons for the future.

On other issues about the future, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, made a very important point about the internet and the use of social media. We see from some of the language used on these things, the bullying and intimidation, even the way some people’s comments are used to great detriment and the way that campaigns are organised, that we are likely to have more rather than less of these conflicts and issues present on our campuses. It is a matter which I hope the university authorities are very alive to, and it means, in my view, that we should support the notions of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, on what training and other things are required. Training, education, leadership and character are always the sorts of things we should look to continue to instil in our university leaders.

In these challenging times, it is no easy task for universities to identify when the pursuit of freedom of ideas and expression crosses a threshold and becomes extremism or intolerance. We have to make sure that we allow for these views to be confronted, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and my noble friend Lord Judd said. We should not let these fester underground, because it is not just about protecting universities but about defending the strength of our values and our society. We should not, as my noble friend Lord Judd said, lose faith and confidence in our society and our ability to challenge these things; we must always confront them. We must make sure that we do not shy away from our responsibility when it comes to our universities.

3.06 pm

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): My Lords, as the noble Lord has just said, this has been an extremely interesting and informative debate. I thank all noble Lords for participating, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for initiating this debate and for her extremely powerful contribution. I congratulate my noble friend Lord O’Shaughnessy and the noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey, on their maiden speeches. It is clear from their contributions today that they are going to be great assets to this House. On a personal note, it was an honour for me to introduce my noble friend a few weeks ago and an added bonus that I get to congratulate him from the Dispatch Box today.

The Government recognise that freedom of speech and academic freedom in universities is a key component in their success. University autonomy from the state

26 Nov 2015 : Column 864

has been a central principle in this country for many hundreds of years, and it is one that this Government respect. The principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech at universities are enshrined in statute, as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, pointed out. The Education Reform Act 1988 requires universities to ensure,

“that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions”.

The Education Act (No. 2) 1986 provides that,

“persons concerned in the government of any establishment ... shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers”.

The preservation of autonomy allows universities to fulfil their role in society as places of debate and discussion, where ideas can be tested and developed.

I have no doubt that the strong principle of autonomy in the UK higher education sector is the reason our universities are such a fertile ground for research and the advancement of knowledge. With 1% of the world’s population, the UK produces around 8% of the world’s academic publications and receives more than 14% of citations with the highest impact. This is a record to be proud of, and to preserve and promote. However, while respecting the importance of freedom of speech and academic freedom at universities, it is also important that the sector acts as a partner of Government in rooting out and challenging extremism. This is an endeavour in which all public institutions have a role to play.

As noble Lords have mentioned, the recent tragic events in Paris have illustrated that the emergence of ISIL presents a heightened threat to our national security. The murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in May 2013 was a chilling incursion of extremism on to the streets of our own capital, and since then the departure of at least 750 UK-linked people to Syria has provided further grave cause for concern. The intelligence agencies tell us that the threat is now worse than at any time since 9/11.

As part of the response to this threat, we must continue to combat the underlying ideology that feeds terrorism, as the noble Lord, Lord Bew, so powerfully stated. Terrorist groups look to set mood music that is anti-democracy and anti-West and in opposition to debate and freedom. This can be a starting point, but we must try to turn and prevent people being drawn on to that path. This is a challenge for all our community. Schools, universities and colleges are in a unique position to give young people the confidence and ability to challenge extremist ideology robustly. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, rightly pointed out that students are adults and questioned why they need special protection. He is right, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, the stage of life when many students attend university can also be a particularly vulnerable time for them. Students may have left home for the first time and be cut off from the support networks with which they are familiar, so there is also a duty to protect students against extremist narratives, which can push them towards radicalisation.

In this context, the Government have introduced the Prevent duty, which many noble Lords mentioned today, on a wide range of bodies. Higher education

26 Nov 2015 : Column 865

institutions are covered by the duty, which is part of a broader effort by the education sector. As the noble Lord, Lord Blair, said, it cannot simply be left to the police. We all have to play our part. Schools and colleges have a vital role to play. We are all aware of the disturbing events that came to light last year at several schools in Birmingham. They were catalogued by Peter Clarke in his report published in July 2014. It is important that we address the effects of extreme narratives on students before they arrive at university.

As part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which is concerned with reducing the risk of people being drawn into terrorism, Section 26 placed a statutory duty on specified authorities to,

“have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”,

when exercising their functions. As noble Lords are aware, this is referred to as the Prevent duty. The duty came into force in July this year, with the exception of the higher and further education sectors, for which it came into force this September.

The Prevent duty is about protecting people from the poisonous and pernicious influence of extremist ideas used to legitimise terrorism, and making sure that key bodies across the country play their part and work in partnership to do this. The duty is categorically not about oppressing freedom of speech or stifling academic freedom and debate. Indeed, they are keys weapons in our armoury against extremist ideas, a point many noble Lords made. The duty is about making sure that radical views and ideas do not flourish and cannot go unchecked.

How universities and colleges balance the Prevent duty with the need to secure freedom of speech and promote academic freedom is extremely important and, as we heard from several noble Lords, difficult. It is not easy, but freedom of speech has never been an absolute. It has always come with challenges and responsibilities, which is something with which we will always grapple. During the passage of the legislation that placed Prevent on a statutory footing, concerns were raised in this House on behalf of the HE sector about whether this duty would lead to university administrators being overzealous in banning events and speakers. This problem was raised today, and I will return to it shortly. This is in no way the intention of the duty. The legislation makes explicit that in carrying out responsibilities under this duty universities must have regard to their duty to promote freedom of speech.

Striking this balance is clearly not easy, which is why we have worked very closely with the sector and with HEFCE, which will be monitoring compliance with the duty, to make sure that the guidance and advice we give to institutions recognise the need to balance these two things. I pay tribute in particular to Universities UK, which has been an instrumental partner in working through these difficult issues.

There are signs that progress is being made. We know that in 2014 some 70 events took place featuring extremist speakers on and off campus across 30 or more institutions in England and Wales. Due to increased awareness and much better assessment of risk by universities, in part due to better engagement with

26 Nov 2015 : Column 866

Prevent in the run-up to it gaining a statutory basis, that number is significantly lower in 2015. It is vital that we continue to maintain our efforts.

A couple of points were raised by noble Lords. The noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Lester, expressed concerns about the Prevent guidance. We have made clarifications to it to make it more workable for institutions, taking into account responses from the sector during the consultation exercise, but we continue to learn and make sure that the guidance is as clear as it can be. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that we do not expect universities to cancel all events. We expect them to put in place a system for assessing the risks associated with planning events and to take action to mitigate those risks where they are identified. That action may include ensuring that any extremist views are challenged when an event is allowed to proceed. We do not expect universities to be disproportionately risk-averse; they just need to be aware of the dangers and risks. I will be very interested to read the report referred to by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. We are very keen for all views on how we make sure this duty works.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Sharp, also asked about the Prevent guidance. We will certainly look to ensure that it is practical and helpful to all those who are implementing it. We are continuing to work with Universities UK and others to develop further support and advice that helps universities in this challenging area.

A number of noble Lords raised the approach of the NUS. As I think I have made clear, we believe Prevent is a hugely important part of protecting the welfare of students at universities. We were disappointed by the anti-Prevent motion passed at the NUS conference in March, but we are encouraged by the NUS leadership’s subsequent commitment not to work with Cage. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, and the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, that at times the NUS has taken a rather inconsistent approach to free speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, asked about the definition of non-violent extremism. The Bill he was referring to is the counter-extremism Bill. As yet there is no set publication date, so I cannot give him any further information at the moment.

The Prevent strategy is about balancing the principle of freedom of speech at universities with the duty to address the danger of radicalisation. As we have heard today, we have seen student bodies assert that there is also a balance to be struck between the principle of freedom of speech in universities and the need for students of all kinds to feel that their campus is a safe place where prejudice against them will not be tolerated. This endeavour has led to the practice of “no platforming”, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and others. It is a long-standing policy of the National Unions of Students, which has been an increasing focus in recent months.

The Government’s position on this debate is that universities and student unions must make their own decisions on who speaks at their universities. They should do this within the context of clearly set-out policies and procedures. They should weigh up the risks associated with any speaker or event, and take their decision based on those risks.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 867

On discrimination at universities, which no platform in part attempts to address, I am grateful for the chance to reiterate that staff and students from all backgrounds, religions, cultures and communities must be welcome in our higher education sector. The UK has one of the strongest legislative frameworks to protect people from harassment and abuse, especially racial or religious persecution. For example, the Equality Act 2010 protects groups against discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and Part III of the Public Order Act 1986 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 provide protection against criminal offences related to race. There are other relevant statutes, and organisations such as Universities UK, the Equality Challenge Unit and the National Union of Students have provided helpful summaries of the law that universities and student unions are able to bring to bear in combating discrimination.

Noble Lords raised other specific points. I assure my noble friends Lord Leigh and Lord Polak and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, that the UK Government do not support academic or cultural boycotts of Israel. Indeed, the UK has engaged in 60 years of vibrant exchange, partnership and collaboration with Israel, which does so much to make both our countries stronger. I was very interested to hear about the work of the Pears Institute, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness. I congratulate it on the great work it is doing.

The responsibility for ensuring that students do not face anti-Semitism on campus rests with universities, which have the tools they need to tackle it. Clearly, if anti-Semitic incidents continue or increase, we must look to do more and we will, of course, make sure that we do whatever we can to stop this. Universities UK has undertaken considerable work to promote safer campus communities and support universities in this area and has received direct support from BIS to do so.

As a number of noble Lords mentioned in their comments, no one has the right not to be offended; unfortunately, at times we have seen debates shut down based on limited or no evidence of any safety or welfare risks other than that unpalatable views may be expressed. Having said that, there is a responsibility to ensure that all students feel able to take part in debate free from intimidation. This has not always been the case, and the NUS has a role to play to help ensure that those with the loudest voices and those with the most aggressive and vocal followers are not allowed to silence others.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, is absolutely right that universities are uniquely placed to provide the intellectual and robust challenge to extremist narratives, and they must continue to do this. However, we have seen incidences on campus when there is no desire for debate, where the speaker will not accept or listen to any challenge, and even where the speaker will not accept a question from women. In these cases the university has to impose conditions on the event.

The principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech in universities are tenets central to our globally successful higher education system. These principles are enshrined in statute but in both cases

26 Nov 2015 : Column 868

the drafting makes clear that these principles must be respected “within the law”. As I have already said, freedom of speech is not an absolute right—it comes with responsibilities and challenges, and it is important to remember that.

The Prevent duty and the support and guidance we give to universities and colleges through our network of Prevent co-ordinators and from within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should help universities address the task of promoting these principles of freedom of speech within the law while also recognising the very real and tangible threat we face. In particular, the Prevent strategy ensures that universities act as partners with other public institutions in combating radicalisation and the rise of extremism. Recent events, as I have said, have reminded us how crucial this endeavour is.

Once again I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for reminding us of both the importance of protecting freedom of speech in universities and the important issues that arise in ensuring this is done within the law, and I thank all noble Lords for their valuable contributions.

3.22 pm

Baroness Deech: My Lords, I have been struck by the consensus across all parties this afternoon on the problems that have arisen in universities. I thank the Minister for her awareness of this. I have also been struck by the wit, wisdom and erudition of our speakers this afternoon and for the quotations they have been able to bring up from their memories, no doubt from their past university education. Not least have I been struck by the expertise and wisdom of our two maiden speakers, who certainly chose the right forum for their maiden speeches and impressed us all with their different perspectives here.

Talking of erudition, it was interesting that we have so many university speakers here, as well as lawyers. It is true that I did a good job of teaching the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, but I also have to confess that in that first tutorial I had that lightbulb moment, which I am sure many tutors here have experienced, when you realise that the student in front of you is cleverer than you are.

I think that four messages have come from the debate this afternoon. One is that Universities UK must be encouraged to demonstrate backbone—if that is one does with backbone. After all, university teachers have been trained and have spent their lifetimes balancing and critiquing, and I would have hoped from a bit more push from the Government to encourage UUK to do its job both in opening up free speech and in observing the law.

The second message is that there are problems with the Prevent strategy, most particularly in relation to definitions. We cannot wait for those definitions—we need them now. Many of the problems that people have pointed out in relation to the Prevent guidance would be resolved if meetings where we suspect extremist speakers are saying unpleasant and illegal things were opened up. I fear that the difficulty is that those speeches take place in a closed environment. The students themselves stop those who want to challenge

26 Nov 2015 : Column 869

the speaker. The meeting may be held in a closed room and open only to certain categories of people. It is essential for the Prevent guidance to work and for extremism to be challenged that we have open meetings where other students can come in a safe environment and have their say as well as the speaker. That would resolve the difficulties we all feel there are with the Prevent guidance.

Finally, we say to Oxford University, “Stiffen your backbone, too, in relation to Cecil Rhodes”. After all, think of the good that has been done with his money. Maybe it was ill-gotten, but we have had more than 100 years of Rhodes scholars, some of whom are here; many others have returned to their countries to be leaders and mentors. As the noble Lord, Lord Blair, said, if we start taking down the statues and images of all those who have offended over the centuries, indeed, this Palace would be stripped bare.

Once again I thank noble Lords for their most interesting and valuable contributions, and I urge the Minister once more to make sure that UUK and the NUS live up to their responsibilities.

Motion agreed.

Counterterrorism: Communities

Question for Short Debate

3.26 pm

Asked by Baroness Mobarik

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the attacks in Paris on 13 November, what steps they plan to take to foster links between communities, as part of their counterterrorism strategy.

Baroness Mobarik (Con): My Lords, on Friday 13 November unspeakable horror was visited upon ordinary, predominantly young Parisians as they enjoyed an evening with friends. It was a deliberate act carried out with indiscriminate and callous abandon. The French President rightly described the perpetrators of this crime as psychopathic monsters.

Some have said that this is the world that we should now expect. We are told that what happened in Paris will most likely happen in other European cities, as indeed has been happening in the Middle East and beyond for many years. This “piecemeal” third world war, as Pope Francis has defined it, has no geographic boundaries and is not about religion, although some would have us see it that way. Religion is just a convenient label. This conflict is simply between those who hold humanity as sacred and those who do not.

I was one of the 100,000 who marched in Glasgow to say no to war in Iraq, fearing that it would lead to ever-greater conflict, bloodshed and chaos. I have always believed that peace and dialogue is by far the better path. Yet when ISIL, or Daesh, first began to be mentioned by our news channels, like others I had a sense of dread and foreboding that this was like no other terrorist group before it—that it was a death cult that needed to be eradicated sooner rather than later.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 870

I fear that it is later—and it is certainly too late for the 136 who died in Paris on 13 November, the 44 who died in Beirut the day before, or the 224 who died in the Russian plane over Egypt last month. Add to this the many thousands of Muslims—both Shia and Sunni—and Yazidis and Christians in Syria and Iraq, who have been slaughtered at the hands of Daesh. Sometimes even those of us who are pacifists—and I count myself as one—believe that there is no justification in standing back. But if and when military action is taken, a well-structured plan for reconciliation and reconstruction is crucial.

Whatever the mistakes and differences of the past and whatever else we do, we must stand united against those who would have us be divided. Whenever there is a terrorist attack, Muslims are urged to condemn the terrorists. Ordinary, peaceful, hard-working, law-abiding Muslim citizens of the state are urged to publicly condemn these acts of violence, in a way that the Irish Catholic community was never asked to do when the IRA was bombing our mainland. And Muslim leaders and communities have condemned these acts, openly and publicly, for no right-minded person could ever do otherwise. In fact, most recently, they took out an advert in a national newspaper to condemn the Paris attacks. It represented more than 300 mosques and community groups.

However, if Muslims articulate their heartfelt belief that this bloodlust is nothing to do with their religion, which speaks of peace, love and forgiveness, they are accused of being apologists. This is irresponsible. This accusation only makes people defensive and will only divide us—and Daesh would relish that. Nevertheless, because it is Islam that is being hijacked and misrepresented, there is an obligation on Muslims to speak out. Islam teaches that the middle path is the best and that extremes of any kind are wrong.

The threat that we all face requires a collective response. Blaming this, that and the other, or indeed each other, is no longer an option. The “them and us” that some of our citizens subscribe to must come to an end. The consequences of discord affect all of us.

This is not the time for prejudice; the stakes are far too high. Each of us—Muslims, Christians, Jews, members of any other religion and of none—must examine our own prejudices and levels of intolerance, which clearly do exist. Throughout my life, I have made it a duty to point out intolerance whenever I recognise it, whether from people of my own religious background or of any other.

The goal has to be that everyone feels that they are a citizen of the state and a stakeholder. Remaining in silos is not the way forward. People can hold on to their faith and cultural heritage while being part of the mainstream—that is what makes the United Kingdom so special. Most of us have multiple identities and there is no conflict in that. In fact, it is enriching and can be an asset. It is for strong voices within local communities to interact with each other and give clear and positive messages of trust and respect.

The great efforts made by this country and the raft of race relations and equality legislation over the last five decades have meant that people have been able to integrate in a way that has not been possible in other

26 Nov 2015 : Column 871

European countries. We enjoy freedom and security to live our lives and to worship in the way that we please. But with that freedom and security comes a duty and a responsibility. We can see around us, in the chaos that exists elsewhere, that what we have has to be safeguarded and cherished, and that we all have a part to play. It is incumbent on all of us that we reach out and try to understand each other’s perspective, fears and concerns.

The challenge is for us all: not just politicians and the police but also schools, universities, faith groups, charitable organisations, factory workers, even fishermen on the high seas—and the media. The media arguably have the biggest role of all. Now is not the time for sensationalism. It is a time for responsibility, unlike the actions of a certain tabloid newspaper which recently reported false statistics to deliberately vilify the Muslim community. This has been happening even as far back as pre-9/11, when the media gave much airtime to extremists such as Abu Hamza, never clarifying that he was preaching outside Finsbury mosque because the rational, moderate majority had thrown him out. When the media falsely associate such extremists with mainstream Islam, they do no favours in respect of community cohesion.

One of the most sinister aspects of current-day extremism is the way that the internet has become a tool with which to spread poisonous ideologies. The Government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy, published last month, addresses this issue and points out that groups such as Daesh or neo-Nazi and extreme right-wing groups are using the internet in ever-more sophisticated ways to disseminate their propaganda. The neo-Nazi website, Stormfront, is often described as the first website dedicated to racial hatred. Companies that are involved in social media provision have an obligation to identify and eradicate extremist material on the internet.

Statistics prove that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in recent times. Last week, in Scotland, the deputy chief constable announced that 64 examples of Islamophobic abuse were reported to the police in the week after the Paris attacks. When there is a rise in such incidents, there is also an inadvertent effect on other communities, such as the Sikh community, because some that harbour resentments and prejudice cannot differentiate between different faith groups.

I am heartened to read that the Government will be supporting those who wish to put forward mainstream views and empowering internet users to report extremist content. Perhaps the Minister can tell us more about the Government’s aim to assist particular projects for funding and to provide social media training and technical assistance to counter the extremist narrative. I welcome this initiative but would caution that we must monitor such funding closely. What we do not need is negativity arising from any misappropriation of funds.

What is required most of all is action at grass-roots level, not just official reports. I am aware that much work is being done in consultation and collaboration with groups and individuals at a local level. This recognises the diversity within the Muslim community. What is required in conjunction with these initiatives

26 Nov 2015 : Column 872

is encouragement for every citizen to help foster links between communities and faith groups and to join in a movement for greater unity. Then we can begin to overcome the challenge of our age.

3.37 pm

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, for introducing this debate and giving us an opportunity to debate this important topic. However, having said that, the wording of the question, although not the content of the noble Baroness’s speech, is wrong. The premise behind it is wrong, as indeed are the premises behind so much of the Government’s counterextremism strategy. “Fostering links between communities” in this country is the right policy, but it should not be seen as just a by-product of counterterrorism strategy. It should be seen as part of building a harmonious society. It will be counterproductive if it is seen as only as a response to terrorism.

I spent 24 years as an elected politician in Haringey, where two-thirds of the population and 70% of the young people come from ethnic minority backgrounds—collectively they are not a minority, they are the overwhelming majority. I was an elected member of the London Assembly representing two other London boroughs: Brent, which at the time was the most ethnically diverse local authority area in the country; and Harrow, which was the most religiously diverse. Indeed, most of my life has been spent trying to foster and nurture positive relationships between communities. That is something all of us in public life should do all the time, and all public agencies should see it as part of their duty. It should be part of that duty not just in the immediate aftermath of, or as a response to, a terrorist atrocity, whether here or elsewhere.

Seven years ago, I led a major inquiry into public attitudes to counterterrorism policing. Some memories from that inquiry stand out very strongly in my mind, such as the message—repeated in different contexts and different groups—from students and young people who said, “Don’t just take an interest in us and come to us when you want information about terrorism. You need to be there all the time supporting us with our problems”. The lesson for police and politicians is that they must not be fair-weather friends to particular communities. They should not just make contact when they need the help of that community. They should be there all the time, whatever the circumstances.

What is more, the only way that the police will be able to build community confidence, so they have the trust of the community that will bring intelligence and support when action has to be taken, is through that constant presence and investment of time and energy—sorting out the ordinary day-to-day problems of particular communities. The police must not be an occupying force, whizzing about in cars and responding to incidents. They should be there for the day-to-day concerns of communities—the problems in the corner shops and on the streets, or perhaps thefts from student lodgings.

That is why neighbourhood policing has been so important. It is so tragic that it has been almost dismantled in London in the past year or so. Before the Minister dusts off the quotation from the Prime Minister the other day, I should say that I think he was

26 Nov 2015 : Column 873

presented with misleading statistics about the extent of neighbourhood policing and the numbers involved. In the Metropolitan Police area, which has dominated the statistics across the country, the definition of what is a neighbourhood police officer has been dramatically changed to include all the response police officers concerned.

The message is very clear. If we want community confidence, if we want communities to have links and be part of a harmonious wider community and society, we have to be there all the time for them, supporting those interests and working with them all the time. That goes for the police and all of us in public life.

3.41 pm

Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, for securing this important and timely debate. I have a few comments about some of things she touched on. Over the years, Muslims in Britain have spoken out against terrorism with one voice, even though many of us feel very strongly that we cannot possibly have any responsibility for or connection with barbaric ideologies like Daesh. However, every time there is another atrocity, the UK’s 2.7 million Muslims are put under greater scrutiny and held somehow responsible. That is tragic.

Articles are written, often by rational, eminent people, calling on Muslim leaders and the community to condemn these attacks. I condemn them. We all do. Any rational person would, like the vast majority of people from my background and others. But I condemn them as a member of our society, community and the human race, not because of my faith or background, whatever that may be. If I am asked to apologise or condemn these attacks, that tells me there must be a suspicion that I am somehow sympathetic. That is a growing problem within the wider Muslim communities. These terrorists have no faith. They have no humanity and no religion. Let us be clear about that.

As the noble Baroness said, unlike other European countries, we have an excellent record in good community cohesion and inter-faith work. We have a very positive record, unlike France, where 70% of the prison population is Muslim.

If we are to talk about counterterrorism, we have consistently argued that the best counterterrorism strategy involves upholding our values, freedoms and civil liberties, but at the same time promoting greater community cohesion, without turning the spotlight on minority communities in a way our enemies would like us to do. Doing so risks alienating those already vulnerable and more socially excluded members of society, and their being groomed and drawn into those fringe ideologies.

Global terrorism-related events cause a sharp spike in hate crime and physical attacks on members of our communities. We have seen yet again a rise in race attacks on people of the Muslim faith, post the terrible events in Paris. I felt anger and then dread when I heard what had happened in Paris. I felt anger at the terrorist attacks against all those ordinary people who were murdered there—and then dread came at the predictable and almost certain ripple effect and backlash against Muslim communities here in the UK.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 874

We rightly say that our values—promoting the rule of law, participation in and acceptance of democracy, equality, free speech and respect for minorities—are very important; they underpin our society. However, we put that at risk if we do not do more to ensure that everyone who is a citizen feels that they belong and do not feel ostracised. Tell MAMA is a helpline which records that attacks against British Muslims since 13 November have gone up by a reported 300%. The majority of those are women and girls, and sadly, they report that most people look on and do very little to intervene.

The noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, mentioned some of the reporting in the media. Noble Lords may have seen the cartoon in the Daily Mail depicting Syrian refugees—gun-toting women in Burkas—surrounded by rats coming into Europe. Does the Minister condemn that kind of reporting and those depictions of refugees—human beings? How does it help our society when the media behave that way? How have we come to this?

Time is pressing, so I shall end by quoting President Obama:

“We will not give in to fear, or start turning on each other, or treating some people differently because of religion or race or background”.

He also said:

“That’s precisely what terrorists like Daesh want, because ultimately, that is the only way that they can win”.

I hope the Government, working with faith groups, communities, and NGOs, will also keep this message at the forefront in the difficult weeks and months ahead.

3.46 pm

Baroness Eaton (Con): My Lords, I declare my interest as chairman of the charity Near Neighbours. There is no doubt that we are living in worrying and distressing times, and I thank my noble friend Lady Mobarik for facilitating this debate today.

It is, of course, important that where necessary there is a military response to violent extremism and that we build robust security and intelligence services. But we also need to do the work of building relationships between communities in neighbourhoods. Integration is the best antidote to radicalisation, with all communities and individuals having a sense of being able to invest in building British society.

Previous policies, such as multiculturalism, have created a climate of separation. We now need actively to build relationships across communities with different views of living together well. There is a significant consensus on integration that is contrary to the commonly held view that suggests that there is great opposition to it. This consensus on integration is held across the country, so we need to see integration as an important policy objective. In Sunder Katwala’s research, TheIntegration Consensus: British Future 2014, 83% fully agreed and only 3% disagreed with the following statement:

“To belong to our shared society, everyone must speak our language, obey our laws and pay their taxes—so that everyone who plays by the rules counts as equally British, and should be able to reach their potential”.

The Church of England’s Near Neighbours programme, supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government, has been building

26 Nov 2015 : Column 875

links across communities for the past five years. The Near Neighbours programme has reached more than 1.3 million people, encouraging the individuals taking part to work together on social action projects in their community. Such community projects create trust between individuals. When individuals in communities trust each other, it becomes possible to tackle extreme voices. It strengthens the capacity of local people and communities to respond to their own needs, building up social cohesion using relational methods. This approach builds relationships and attracts and uses co-option to bring about change.

I would like to share just a few brief examples of Near Neighbours projects with your Lordships. Rabbi Tanya and Sajid together teamed up a synagogue and a Muslim charity to feed the homeless in Nottingham; a Muslim and a Jew are prospering in peace as they work to make their community stronger.

In east London, the programme has brought together a rabbi and a group of young Muslim men to talk about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. In Bradford, the synagogue was about to close as the roof needed repairs. The congregation did not have the money to pay for the work. The members of the mosque and the synagogue met through a Near Neighbours project. Now, the local mosque has funded the repairing of the synagogue roof, which I think must be one of the most unusual combinations to imagine—but it has happened, much to our delight. There are many other projects, involving Christians, Hindus and people of other faiths and none, but there is not time to mention them all.

Community approaches such as Near Neighbours tackle the root of the problem of extremism. They are about changing hearts and minds. They therefore create a sustainable way forward and need to be part of the response to the Paris attacks. It is separation that makes hate possible, because people do not have a real human interaction with others who are different, and it is hate that makes violence possible: it allows people to dehumanise others. We have to tackle the violence through security measures, but we need also to tackle the hate and separation. It is much better when it is tackled through good community relations, where myths can be challenged and human encounter can do its work, helping people to recognise that they may have differences but that they have a great deal in common, not least sharing a common humanity.

3.51 pm

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, for initiating the debate and for the opportunity to speak in it. I am grateful, too, to the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, for saying some of the things about Near Neighbours that I might have said. That will save me having to do it. It is good to have other advocates of these things.

The point has been made already, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that the important issues raised in the debate, although perhaps prompted by part of the current world situation, have been there for many generations. Many of us have been working away at them for a good many years. None the less, one of the strands in the Government’s counterterrorism strategy, published last month, has been the building

26 Nov 2015 : Column 876

and strengthening of community links within and between communities. It is a very important strand that clearly builds on things that many of us have been involved in before. In many ways it is the most difficult strand, because it requires perseverance and hard work over many years. It requires commitment in local communities and all the things that lead to fruitful engagement.

This is an area of life in which the language of religious faith and identity are often used, even when, as has been pointed out already, the connection with any true religion is somewhat tenuous at best. The rabbi, the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, commented on this very cogently in his recent book Not in God’s Name, which I commend to noble Lords if they have time to read it. Religious beliefs may, in some cases, be stated as givens, but religious practice, including what we might call deviant religious practice, is actually nurtured within our communities—in families, in neighbourhoods and in other settings. Therefore, as has already been said, it is this local work in communities and neighbourhoods that is key in dealing with this dimension of these issues.

As we know, the challenges are significant: issues of segregation and separation, not least in some of our cities, are still there, with the need to break down barriers of mistrust. There are some very real issues of leadership capacity in some of our communities. That is an area where investment, not so much of money but of training and development and those kinds of things, could reap benefits; it already does in some instances. Particular attention has already been given to the invidious position in which some of the leaders of our Muslim communities are put at times. Proper support and development of the skills of leaders such as those is important.

I do not think that anyone has yet mentioned the particular issues around young people. Again, that is clearly something of huge importance. Investment in that, not just of money but of time and attention at the local level, is very important in addressing the matters before us.

These issues are tackled most fruitfully and effectively at local levels, where time and commitment can be given to building trust, often over generations as people live alongside one another and as they get to know one another. The Near Neighbours initiative, to which the noble Baroness has already referred, is one such example which the Church of England has been pleased to sponsor through the Church Urban Fund and which would welcome support from the Government. That initiative is having an effect in many different places in the country; some examples of its work have already been given.

I will also mention the work of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Birmingham, who has taken the initiative to convene regular conversations between the leading faith leaders in the city of Birmingham. Clearly, that is a city where that kind of work is really important. I worked there myself for 18 years and it is close to my heart.

We on these Benches assure this House of our continuing commitment to work for the building of trust, understanding and practical collaboration within

26 Nov 2015 : Column 877

and between communities throughout our land. We will play our continuing part in building strong communities between people of different faiths and backgrounds.

3.55 pm

Lord Sheikh (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Mobarik for initiating this very important debate. I have met and spoken with many people across the Muslim community in recent months, and subsequently prepared a detailed report setting out various issues affecting the Muslim community and suggesting appropriate action to be taken. The report has been sent to my noble friend the Minister as well as my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

There are various factors that lead to someone becoming radicalised. They include alienation, socioeconomic factors, objections to foreign policy and a warped grasp of ideology. The small minority of young people who are radicalised are on the fringes of society. We must tackle youth alienation and give young Muslims a stake in society. Around 50% of Muslims are under the age of 25. It is imperative that we set up a mechanism to engage with them. In my report, I talked about the best ways of engaging with the young, but because of time constraints I cannot elaborate on these points further.

There are prevailing concerns posed to us by the radicalisation of a tiny minority of young Muslims and these need to be addressed on two fronts. We must do more to prevent such radicalisation to begin with; and for those who have been radicalised and then return from abroad, we must develop a mechanism for dealing with them. Mosques must become more than just a place of worship; they must be used as a tool of integration for the Muslim community. I have connections with mosques that are actively undertaking this.

The Government need to understand the Muslim community’s concern about the Prevent strategy and its effectiveness. Muslims are not convinced that the Government’s counterterrorism strategy is working. It needs to be overhauled, with participation from the Muslim community. Furthermore, I urge the Government to undertake adequate research before proscribing any individual or organisation.

There has been an increase in the number of hate crimes directed towards Muslims. I am a patron of an organisation that is taking measures to combat this. We much appreciate what the police have started to do, but the Government need to reassure the community that they are tackling this problem. They must take a holistic approach and work in conjunction with the community, local authorities, schools, universities, prison authorities and the police to deal with issues concerning Muslim communities.

Mosques and imams also have a role to play. We must take steps to understand and combat radicalisation, including utilising social media, and for this the Government must work with organisations that can do this effectively. Some imams need further training to be effective. I am supporting a programme that undertakes this.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 878

Deprivation among the Muslim community is a key concern. Almost half the British Muslim population live in the 10% most deprived areas. Socioeconomic status plays an important role in determining outcomes of education, employment prospects and health. We need to address these issues of deprivation among Muslims.

There is also widespread misunderstanding about Islamic principles. We must set up an initiative to tackle misconceptions about Islam. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and I must emphasise that Islam is, indeed, a religion of peace. There are around 3 million Muslims in the UK and they have contributed significantly to our country in all walks of life. We must remember and respect the positive aspects of British Muslims.

I conclude by saying that we must all unite to combat extremism.

4 pm

Lord Stone of Blackheath (Lab): My Lords, only last week, I chaired a meeting here on the estate of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation, where, for the first time, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and a senior imam of a major UK mosque shared a public platform. We discussed Jewish-Muslim relations with senior rabbis and imams, civic leaders from both communities, academics and university students. The atmosphere and fellowship were palpable and warm and we are now co-operating on many fronts.

Also, two years ago, when, having been daubed with graffiti by the EDF, the north London community centre of the Bravanese Islamic community from south-east Somalia was burned down in an arson attack, Rabbi Miriam Berger’s community at Finchley synagogue agreed to host them throughout Ramadan. We here were able to make it safe for them, with the help of our noble friend Lord Dear and his security contacts. The communities, in coming together, got on so well that we asked a former colleague of mine from Marks & Spencer, Tom Nathan, who now manages Brent Cross shopping centre, to allow us to put on a bhaji and bagel party there for the two communities, who now happily shop as one.

On a broader platform involving young people, to counterbalance the hostility in social media, a Palestinian, Joana Osman, and an Israeli, Ronny Edry, founded Peace Factory to build communities online, particularly across borders where people cannot physically meet. They connect people, giving them a voice and a face in a safe space where they can become friends in their online world. These young people are showing us the way to foster links globally.

With the help of your Lordships, I would like to suggest a way to foster global links collectively at leadership level to promote a counterterrorism strategy. The terrorist issue involves economics, politics and security, yes, but, of course, religion and faith, whether genuine or distorted, are also involved. Recently, His Holiness the Dalai Lama clarified for me the three aspects or levels within all religions and faiths, and even secular mindfulness. First, there is a total agreement that the basis of humanity is compassion and we are all one. Secondly, there are mutually agreed differences of philosophy—for example, on the nature and existence

26 Nov 2015 : Column 879

of God and the afterlife. Thirdly, there are contentious cultural barriers and customs, such as Kashrut and halal in some, dress codes in others and varying moral standards.

Perhaps the leaders of all the major religions, philosophies and wisdoms could come together in one place urgently now, as a grand coalition if you like, to emphasise the mutual spiritual underpinning of all faiths, and then agree on their political differences but strive to find a consensus and agree on a joint statement that nullifies the claim that terrorism has a religious justification. So, on the first level, they declare their unanimity in the belief that we are all one, and all agree with the golden rule that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. On the second level, where there are subtle philosophical differences, each will explain how this golden rule is true but with a difference in their own philosophy. On the third level, where religion begins to impinge on politics and law and there is not agreement on cultural traditions, each religious leader, citing their own scripture and teachings of their own historical masters, can absolutely negate the cultural or political justification for terrorism. In this way, it can be made clear that we should all respect each other with our differences because we know that in reality we are all one. Perhaps a practical step might be for them to agree to build a world peace centre at the base of Mount Sinai, as the late President Anwar Sadat suggested. It might be a good place for them to have this meeting.

Her Majesty’s Government must foster global links between communities as part of a counterterrorism strategy. In times of terror we can choose to respond with fear or with compassion, and our response will determine our future and our freedom. To continue to survive, the human race should come together compassionately to reject any justification for terrorism.

4.05 pm

Lord Suri (Con): My Lords, I join the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester and my noble friend Lord Sheikh in thanking our noble friend who initiated this debate, and those who have participated in it.

Terrorism strategy is not an easy task. The Government are doing their best to tackle this issue. But the attacks in Paris on 13 November show that this is getting worse and getting out of hand. To foster links between the communities is a step in the right direction, but we have to think deeper. Why is terrorism spreading like wildfire and not being controlled?

There are many examples in the world of people who have resolved conflicts by peaceful means, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many more such noble persons. I happened to meet the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, on his recent visit to the UK. He invited questions from the guests at the reception. I sent him a short written question: how can we see the end of terrorism? His thoughtful one-word reply was, “Education”. Education starts at home and a child can start learning while in his mother’s womb.

Last week, a reader’s comment on the Daily Telegraph website said that,

“not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims”.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 880

Islam is a peaceful religion. In Arabic, “Islam” means peace—like “shalom” in Hebrew or “shanti” in Hindi. The Muslim community should take a lead in talking to these people and should educate them to stop treading on this dangerous path and lead a good life. If they have any concerns, they should come forward and talk to the community or to their parents.

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, said five and a half centuries ago that the human race is the image of God—our maker, whatever name you may call it. He is not locked in any cupboard or anywhere. He lives in you. Search your heart and try to find who you are. Why kill the image of God? Why kill innocent people? He preached that we should always pray for the welfare of the whole of mankind.

4.08 pm

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness for giving us this opportunity. Like others, I do not link the components of the title of the debate in the way that they might be read.

Inevitably, events in Paris and Brussels have a greater impact than those in, say, Beirut or Tunis—or Nigeria, which saw almost a quarter of the deaths caused by terrorist activity last year. One of the impacts is how “others” in the UK are perceived. I heard yesterday of a teenage boy at a football club who was found by his coach in tears. He had been abused because of Paris. The language of anti-Muslim prejudice seems to have changed from “groomers” and “paedos” post-Rotherham to “terrorists” and “bombers”. That was a boy who, with his family, had managed to get out of Syria. It seems to me that any non-white person is now liable to be categorised as a Muslim and to be abused on that basis.

I am not aware that the counterterrorism strategy embraces support for teachers and others in that sort of situation, as distinct from using them as a reporting and enforcement agency. Nor am I aware that it is capable of identifying vulnerable young people who may be victims of grooming for different purposes, of which terrorism is one. At this point, I say, too, that I am concerned about issues of trust and confidentiality, and about information gained under Prevent being using for prosecutions. I am sure that this point and others got a very good airing in the previous debate.

Attacks are mainly against visible Muslim women in traditional dress. Is it that men perceive that women can be very influential? I think we are. I recently attended the launch of an organisation called Nisa-Nashim, a Jewish-Muslim women’s network supported by the Government. I, too, pay tribute to the various women’s and other community groups that work towards community cohesion. Maintaining grass-roots and community activity will be all the more important if or when the UK’s activity in the Middle East increases.

I think it is unhelpful to talk of “British values”, and I say that very seriously. According to the Government, extremism is vocal or active opposition to British values. The values listed are by no means exclusively British, and I believe that the phrase turns this into a political definition. “British” in this context is not cohesive.

I am no psychologist but I should like the Minister to assure me that the Government are putting effort

26 Nov 2015 : Column 881

and energy into analysing why different individuals and perhaps cohorts are susceptible to being attracted to extremism—especially extremist action. This is intrinsically important, of course, but it is important, too, because we know that alienation is such a good recruiting sergeant.

I think that I just have time to say that there was a time when, in my circles, being labelled as “radical” was a compliment.

4.12 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on securing this Question for Short Debate.

All of us were appalled at what we witnessed in Paris recently. We stand in solidarity with the French people and fully support the British Government and the full remit of the security services in their efforts to assist the French authorities and ensure that we are protected here in Britain.

The noble Baroness’s Question is important because it is about the fostering of good community links and the celebration of difference. It is also about being a multiracial, multifaith democracy where you can live in freedom, make a contribution to your community and be respected for who you are, no matter what the colour of your skin is or which faith you are of, including being of no faith. The noble Baroness was right to talk about all of us speaking out against intolerance and having a duty to understand different points of view. By coming together we will face down extremism wherever it comes from, be it neo-Nazism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or Islamist extremism. Strong institutions in the public and voluntary sectors and in civil society in general are vital in challenging extremism in all forms and preventing people being drawn into terrorism. My noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey was right when he spoke of the need for the police and others to work with communities on a day-to-day basis to build confidence and not just to appear when information is needed.

Faith groups provide vital leadership in combating extremism, promoting dialogue between different groups and bringing people together. I recall the excellent work undertaken by Reverend Graham Shaw at St Paul’s in Walworth when I was a councillor in Southwark many years ago. As someone brought up in the Catholic faith, I can say I saw first-hand the excellent work that the Church of England and Reverend Shaw undertook in bringing the community together and challenging attitudes. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester referred to the work that he had undertaken over many years, which had led to fruitful engagement. I have been impressed by the work of the Inter Faith Network, which works to advance public knowledge, the mutual understanding of different faith communities and the promotion of good relations between people of different faiths in the country at national and local level.

Faith groups themselves need good governance programmes to develop resilience to extremism and deliver proper engagement with young people. It will be helpful to the House if the Minister can explain the

26 Nov 2015 : Column 882

work that the Government are doing in this area to support faith communities, as they are a vital part of overall plan to fight against terrorism and extremism. What specific support did the Government give in Inter Faith Week, which was held last week?

Schools are a focal point in our communities where young people come together to learn, and they must be places where good values are in evidence. The school community can help to build a strong and safe wider community that protects vulnerable people. There have been examples where this has not been the case, and we must be on guard against the influence of extremists in future. Does the Minister believe that we have got the balance right in protecting young people at school, or is there possibly more work that needs to be done?

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, that social media has been an area where extremist views have grown. The Government must take firm action there.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, when she said that the depiction of the Muslim community by some national newspapers was wrong, untrue and unhelpful in bringing communities together and making us all safer. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, that coming from an Irish Catholic family and growing up in London in the 1970s bore its own challenges. I thank the noble Baroness for bringing this Question before the House for debate today.

4.16 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, I am pleased to respond to this debate on behalf of the Government. I thank my noble friend Lady Mobarik for raising this important issue at a very appropriate time, and congratulate her not only on securing this debate but on her excellent contribution. It reflected the quality of the debate that we have had today, albeit briefly, and I am sure that this is a subject that we will return to.

I am sure that I speak for every Member of this House and beyond when I say that at this juncture our thoughts go out to all those who have been affected by the horrific attacks we have seen recently in Paris, Beirut, Mali and, most recently, Tunisia, and indeed to all those who have suffered from terrorist attacks across the world. We in Britain, across the country, irrespective of who we are, where we came from or what religion we are, stand together in condemning these attacks. We stand as one community, one nation, united with one another.

Following the attacks in Paris, I personally spoke to many members of different communities to reassure them that the Government stand with them, and I know that the police and local authorities have been engaging with communities who may live in fear of right-wing reprisals. Those communities need to be provided with reassurance. I praise all those who have worked very hard to continue to bring communities together and condemn any attempts to divide our society.

Let me be very clear that, as other noble Lords have said, not least my noble friends Lady Mobarik and Lord Sheikh, that the attacks we have seen across the

26 Nov 2015 : Column 883

world, and across the Channel, have nothing to do with Islam, a religion that is followed peacefully by millions of people around the world. Those attacks have been rightly and strongly condemned; the heinous acts that we saw in Paris and Africa and that we see in the Middle East have been rightly condemned by all—yes, including Muslims, not just in Britain but beyond. As the Home Secretary and indeed the Prime Minister have made clear, none of us want to see, and none of us will tolerate, any sort of backlash against any part of the community as a result of the attacks. The terrorists may seek to divide us, but they will fail.

Before I go any further, a number of noble Lords have drawn attention to the point that my noble friend asked about: the Government’s counterterrorism strategy, Contest. Our counterterrorism work aims to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from terrorism, including from the extremist views on which terrorism draws. The Prevent strategy, which has been talked about, was clear that this work must be done in conjunction with the communities. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that the work that was done previously continues with this Government. To give noble Lords some insight, and to answer the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, about the level of government support, last year alone the Government and local authorities worked together with just under 40,000 people, reaching those targeted by extremists and terrorist ideologies. Many others throughout the communities work tirelessly without financial support.

However, terrorism is not the only harm caused by extremism. The Government have been clear to make that distinction with the launch of our counter-extremism strategy. To those who wish to see the intent behind the strategy, I give the following quote:

“Whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian or Sikh, whether you were born here or born abroad, we can all feel part of this country and we must now all come together and stand up for our values with confidence and pride”.

Those are the words of the Prime Minister, spoken in July of this year. The Government continue to emphasise the important work that we are doing with faith and civic communities. We must do everything we can to protect the society we have built together. As my noble friend Lady Eaton rightly pointed out, a project such as Near Neighbours is a shining example of how communities of different faiths can come together to ensure that the society in which they live benefits from the actions of all.

Our country is built on values. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about stating British values. Our strategy and the words of all Ministers reflect the fact that these are shared human values: respect, tolerance and democracy. These unite us and help our society to thrive. But let us accept the basic fact that they are increasingly challenged by extremists who seek to spread hatred and division. That is why the Government launched their counter-extremism strategy in October. It is our intention to protect society and safeguard individuals from the influence of extremists, in partnership—I emphasise this—with communities.

As the Minister responsible for this at the Home Office, let me assure noble Lords that our strategy is based on these fundamental pillars: building a partnership with all those opposed to extremism, both at home

26 Nov 2015 : Column 884

and abroad; disrupting the activities of extremists; countering extremist ideology; and building and continuing to strengthen our cohesive communities. It will challenge extremism in all its forms, violent and non-violent—those who seek to hijack Islam and those neo-Nazis who seek to divide societies. Let us be quite clear: tragically, when we see terrorist acts it is the Muslims, not just in this country but overseas, who are too often the victims of extremism and terrorism. We are determined to take direct action to protect British Muslims and everyone in society.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, condemned the media images that she saw. I join with her in condemning such images. These are the very images which I am sure we all condemn. Indeed, in the light of the events which have taken place in Paris, the Home Secretary has once again emphasised that this should not reflect on our role in helping those who need help. I am proud of the role that Britain plays in helping refugees, not just from the Syrian crisis but from the crises that we have seen before. We have done this historically—it is our legacy—and we continue to do it today, as we will in future.

My noble friends Lord Sheikh and Lady Mobarik also mentioned rising anti-Muslim hatred. I assure noble Lords that the Government, as many will know, recently announced that anti-Muslim hate crime will be recorded as a specific hate crime by the police, across all forces in England and Wales, from April next year. This will help us to focus attention on that important issue, but it is important that that message resonates across all communities. We have to be intolerant of intolerance.

We know that extremists, whoever they are, use a twisted narrative of grievance and conflict to draw people in. Those who hijack Islam supposedly present a view that there is an incompatibility between liberal democracy and their perverse interpretation of Islam. They promote an idea of “the war on Islam”, while the neo-Nazis try to drive a core hatred of minorities. In the counter-extremism strategy, we have stated that we will challenge those perverse ideologies head on, showing them for what they are: baseless and inaccurate.

I am pushed for time because of the notable contributions that we have had. The right reverend Prelate talked about the excellent work being done in Birmingham, which I have seen first-hand. I have seen that at the Joseph Interfaith Foundation. The noble Lord, Lord Stone, always speaks in positive terms, which I think we all welcome, about the experiences of faith groups and how we share those together. To counter extremist ideologies, we must confront and challenge extremist propaganda. I assure noble Lords we are committed to working with individuals and groups across the country which are already speaking out against extremism, and we will support them to increase their impact within the community. Finally, I assure noble Lords that we will consult on all the measures within the proposed counter-extremism strategy. A cornerstone of this is partnership and building cohesive communities.

Once again, I thank my noble friend Lady Mobarik for securing this debate. The Government welcome any opportunity to debate this important subject. To

26 Nov 2015 : Column 885

defeat extremists, we must stand together and work in partnership with communities. In doing that, let us also celebrate the country we are: from the Big Iftar to Sadaqa Day, from Mitzvah Day to Sevah Day, from the minarets of mosques to the steeples of churches, to the gurdwaras and mandhirs that we see today in Britain. That is a celebration of what we are as a nation. Against those who seek to divide us, we will unite as one nation. As the Prime Minister himself has said, we will face this challenge head on and we will prevail.


Motion to Take Note

4.26 pm

Moved by Lord Crisp

To move that this House takes note of the case for building a health-creating society in the United Kingdom where all sectors contribute to creating a healthy and resilient population.

Lord Crisp (CB): My Lords, first, I thank my noble friends on the Cross Benches for choosing this debate today, but I also thank all noble Lords who are taking part in it. I am very much looking forward to hearing everybody’s contributions. I recognise that this is last business on a Thursday, so I am particularly grateful to noble Lords taking part. I also welcome the three noble Lords making their maiden speeches. I know that we are very much looking forward to what they have to say now and in many future contributions in your Lordships House.

The health and care system is under great strain as needs grow, particularly from older people with long-term conditions, and as costs rise. This mirrors the position elsewhere, not only in Europe and America but in many fast-developing countries. Not surprisingly, and not just in the UK, there is widespread concern and considerable confusion about the future for health. This uncertainty and insecurity means that it is more important than ever to understand the complex nature of health problems and what can be done about them, and to set out a long-term vision and strategy for the future.

Health and well-being are affected by three big things: the availability and quality of health and care services; individual lifestyles and behaviours—individual responsibility for our own health is absolutely vital; and all the physical, economic and social factors such as education, employment, wealth, social structures and the physical environment. Those are the many determinants of health, and co-ordinated action is need across all three areas. However, my focus today is on the third of these—the wider determinants of health, which go way beyond the reach of the NHS and individuals.

There is a great World Health Organization quotation:

“Modern societies actively market unhealthy life styles”.

I want to talk about how we can set that on its head. What would it be like, instead, to build a health-creating society where everyone—citizens, families, communities and businesses alike—had a role to play? None of

26 Nov 2015 : Column 886

what I have said, however, should detract from the importance of the first two—the health and care system, and the choices and actions of individuals—and I am sure other noble Lords will address those.

Let me just give a few examples of what I am talking about. Barely half of our children achieve a good level of development by the time they start school, which affects their future physical and mental health and, of course, their ability to learn. Going to the other end of the age range, social isolation and loneliness in old age have the equivalent health impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and a slow recovery from illness. There is recent evidence that they also lead to earlier death. Having a social network and some meaning in life is hugely beneficial. Some groups in the population are affected more than others, including people with mental health problems. Men with severe mental health problems die up to 20 years earlier, and women 15 years earlier, than people without such problems. Importantly, there are also lower levels of subjective well-being and a higher burden of ill health in people from black and minority ethnic communities. Moreover, as Sir Michael Marmot has demonstrated, inequality damages health, with the most disadvantaged being most prone to ill health and living shorter lives.

Perhaps the most alarming statistic of all is that, on average, UK citizens have about seven years of ill health before we die; at the top of the scale, the Norwegians have only two years. What if we could reduce the UK figure by even one year? What a difference that would make for individuals and, at the same time, for the health and care system and therefore the economy. What is so different about Norway? This surely gives us a target to aim at.

These are complex problems, and they illustrate clearly that health cannot simply be left to individuals, the NHS, professionals or government. Everyone in every sector has a role to play. Moreover, improvements in health go hand in hand with improvements elsewhere. Education, the environment and the economy: all will benefit from a health-creating society. Better health and greater prosperity go together.

This is also very relevant to the future sustainability of the NHS, which is often discussed, like so much in health, in largely economic terms, as if it were really an economic problem and there could be purely economic solutions concerned with financing and/or restricting services and treatments. However, experience from the Netherlands to the USA shows that those solutions produce at best limited gains and may increase the economic cost to society as well as individuals. The long-term sustainability of the health and care system will come from changes in practice, finding health solutions to health problems and moving upstream into prevention, health promotion and, as I suggest here, building a health-creating society. Arguably, the NHS will not be sustainable without this.

Those are the problems, but an enormous amount is already being done. We can look at what is going on in the community and voluntary sector, and I am sure we will hear a great deal about that from other noble Lords. We know, for example, that informal carers

26 Nov 2015 : Column 887

contribute services worth an estimated £119 billion a year at least. If the informal care sector fails, the burden falls on the formal sector. People do not want to be dependent and are keen to live independent lives.

Connecting Communities brings together many of the organisations that work on small, local health projects. There is a wonderful African saying: health is made at home, hospitals are for repairs. It matches the scientific evidence about creating the right environment in every sense. It is also for us a reminder of the work in the UK of the Early Intervention Foundation.

Let me turn to other sectors: to designers, architects and planners, who can design buildings which encourage walking and the use of stairs, communities where people meet each other and public buildings which bring together different services. I declare an interest as a member of the council of Reading University, and note as an example the work going on there on the built environment. Researchers are looking at topics as diverse as indoor air quality in schools and workplaces and its effect on health and the well-being and educational performance of children and workers, and the relationship between the design of homes and health and well-being.

Moving on to businesses, as well as developing healthy products, they can create healthy environments for their workforce, recognising how much time and productivity is lost every year through ill health. They can both promote health and tackle specific problems, as the firms working together in the City Mental Health Alliance are doing. It is good to see the work of Dame Carol Black as a government adviser raising standards in this area. Schools, colleges and universities can promote health literacy and competencies, integrate healthy activities into daily life and share facilities with health and other services.

I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Mawson will talk about the St Paul’s Way Transformation Project in the East End of London. It is perhaps the most complete example of all these things that I have ever come across. It is about the community coming together with the private sector, education, health and care services: joining up the dots, as I suspect he may say, and informed by an entrepreneurial spirit. It is very much a model for the future.

Of course, government has many roles here. I recognise the importance of the economy and that the aspiration for a higher skilled and higher paid workforce is fundamental to health and well-being. Government is also able to address regulation and legislation, be it on salt, sugar, alcohol or elsewhere. Government can run great public education campaigns, but it also needs to do more to support civil society. I question whether it is doing enough now to build the sort of enabling environment we want, with all the social and community activities I mentioned earlier. It can also support disabled people to live independent lives. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Campbell will have something to say on this, both in this debate and elsewhere.

So there is already an enormous amount going on. Let me note the work of NHS England, Public Health England and other such bodies, local government—I welcome the devolution of responsibilities in Manchester and elsewhere—voluntary bodies, professional associations, researchers and many more than I have listed here. My purpose in this debate is to

26 Nov 2015 : Column 888

point to all this and ask how much more we could achieve if we did it in an even more co-ordinated way. I am sure the Minister has a briefing folder bulging with excellent examples of policies, initiatives and activities, and I look forward to hearing about them. There are many out there. However, the Government could do much more in a joined-up way across government, bringing in all those bodies and sectors of society that shape the health of the population. In truth, only Government can really mobilise everyone who needs to be involved.

As the Minister knows, I wrote to the Prime Minister immediately after the election to propose that he and the Government take a big, bold initiative to mobilise all sectors around building a health-creating society. I received a broadly warm reply and understand that the time needs to be right for such an initiative. Now, with winter coming and industrial action planned, is certainly not it, but the time will come for a bold and imaginative commitment to engage all sectors in building a health-creating society. Does the Minister accept this analysis? Will the Government, at the right time, reach out and mobilise all those other sectors to help build a health-creating society—and not, as it so often appears in the newspapers, leave it all to the NHS, government and individuals?

There is also a challenge here for all political parties. I meet a lot of people working in the health and care system and I observe two things. One is frustration, depression and sometimes even despair about the future. However, when I listen to them I also hear a common vision of what that future might be like. In summary, and in very simplified form, this vision is of a transition from the current hospital-led, professional-dominated and fragmented system where things are done to and for patients, to a much more seamless people and community-based one where patients and communities play their roles alongside professionals. This is a vision of high-quality services, delivered in homes as well as local facilities, with a different infrastructure and far greater use of technology. My noble friend Lady Lane-Fox has talked about that, and I suspect she will do so again. With these changes comes the potential for both higher quality and lower costs.

This vision will require major change. I have no doubt that it will require the closure of some hospitals and changing roles for staff. This will be difficult, both practically and politically, and will need political support. The challenge to the political parties seems to be that we need a shared vision for the future and some cross-party political will to make this happen. There will be plenty of political differences about the means of getting there but it seems that this end, this sort of vision, is common ground.

We already have some elements of such a vision in current policy: the Five Year Forward View is very good and has a lot of support, but is ultimately a technocratic and managerial document—I know because I have written such documents in the past. There is a need for a broad-based, cross-party coalition of agreement about what the future looks like. I do not know how that should be achieved, whether through some appointed commission or otherwise. What I do know is that people in the NHS and the country more widely would benefit from clarity of vision and strategy.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 889

Your Lordships’ House also has a role here. It has very often led the way in discussing new and coming ideas and influencing the future. I think of debates I have heard here, for example, on genetics and, most recently, on securing parity between mental and physical health. Noble Lords from all sides of this House argued that case cogently and ultimately very successfully. I hope we might be able to do the same sort of thing here. I note that we are presently asked if we want to put forward proposals for ad hoc committees. I wonder if we should put forward one on building a health-creating society, so that these important ideas can be deliberated on in much more detail than the five minutes noble Lords have today allows. I would be interested to know if noble Lords thought that a good idea and would like to join me in making such a proposal.

Let me finish in optimistic and mildly jingoistic style. The UK is a great world leader in health. We have astonishing strengths in academia, the NHS, the role of DfID globally, the voluntary sector and our commercial organisations. The UK was a pioneer in providing a National Health Service that covered everyone in the population. It would be wonderful if we could lead the way again in moving beyond the professionally dominated and rather industrialised system of service to build a health-creating society served by a modern, fit for purpose health and care system. That would benefit us all as individuals, and bring with it wide-ranging benefits to the country in both prosperity and health. I beg to move.

4.40 pm

Baroness Jay of Paddington (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, for introducing this debate in such an informative and authoritative way. It is obviously a very important issue. I wholeheartedly agree with the terms of the noble Lord’s Motion and support his points about the way in which the determinants of health in today’s society are often driven by matters such as alcoholism, obesity and other concerns, which are obviously not the sole responsibility of the NHS, however much we support it.

I think that the way that the noble Lord has proposed is the only way to improve the stark health inequalities in this country. As he reminded us, we are all familiar with the really disgraceful record of discrepancies in morbidity and mortality between different social and economic groups in this country. It has become almost a truism of health economics that low income and low social status are major contributors to ill health, and probably the determining factor in more rapid ageing.

The proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, for working towards a “health-creating society”—I am still finding it a little difficult to put those three words together—must be the right approach, but my concern this afternoon is: if the ideas and the vision he describes gain general support, how are they to be delivered? How will we make it happen? As noble Lords are aware, there is enormous emphasis nowadays on localism and finding solutions and organising action as near as possible to the communities involved. I worry that there are difficulties in relying primarily on the local approach to tackle some of the somewhat intractable problems of public health.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 890

Of course, community-based alliances of public service, private enterprise and the voluntary sector can often unleash especially effective energy, and there have been some interesting and radical ideas put forward recently on this ground. I was intrigued, for example, by an article by the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, who wrote about the local high street as “an untapped resource” for promoting health. She picked up on the WHO statement that modern society is actively marketing very unhealthy lifestyles, which the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, has already referred to, and argued that stricter local planning laws and differential business rates could drive businesses such as fast-food outlets, betting shops and payday loan shops out of the high street and reduce the tempting opportunities for unhealthy lifestyle choices. I can see the attraction of this proposal, but in the broader picture I fear that the huge reductions in the budgets of local authorities, combined with a lack of local expertise in specialist problems such as sexual health, may make local projects inadequate and sometimes even increase inequalities.

I hope I will not be labelled a centralist dinosaur for saying that national government and a senior Minister must take the lead responsibility for promoting change in this area and achieving the necessary collaboration to build a health-creating society. I was proud to be a Health Minister when the very first Minister for Public Health, my noble friend Lady Jowell, was appointed to that post. She was a senior Minister of State with a wide remit and, although the post has continued in successive Governments, it has not always had the authority of the original appointment and, very importantly from my point of view, it has always been based in the Department of Health. In my view, a Cabinet post should be created—we will have to think of a good title—to take forward the cross-cutting policies we are discussing. This Minister should be based in the Cabinet Office, with co-ordinating powers across government.

My enthusiasm for this approach is partly based on my experience as Minister for Women, when I was based in the Cabinet Office and worked with several departments across Whitehall and with outside agencies. It was a largely successful arrangement. My Cabinet Office team acted as a kind of internal pressure group within the Government; we legitimately raised issues of women’s employment, education, health and pensions across Whitehall and had the authority to do so. I think that the interesting and imaginative proposals for a health-creating society can only be delivered by an imaginative approach from the machinery of government, and I would like to see a Cabinet Minister leading the initiative towards this vision.

4.45 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, I, too, congratulate to the noble Lord, Lord Crisp. He has the holistic and internationalist approach that health worldwide requires. We know that he has drawn the attention of the whole world to the impact of influential and dangerous diseases, such as Ebola and other national and international illnesses, crossing borders. I wholly agree with him that what this country needs most is an all-party approach to our National

26 Nov 2015 : Column 891

Health Service that recognises the remarkable things it has achieved and that, instead of quarrelling among ourselves, we should take strength from it and extend its influence and understanding more widely than at present.

In my four minutes, I shall whizz through a number of things that we ought to be able to do. One thing they show up is that many departments, not simply the Department of Health, have a responsibility. It is very important to notice that, in the last spending review, we sadly saw serious cuts to local government—for example, 6.2% of public health expenditure by local government, which amounts to a loss of £200 million—so what the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said is very relevant. That will be saved, thank God, by central government giving additional resources to the National Health Service: the £8 billion or so that was announced only yesterday, to my great pleasure. It still means that the local connection and local responsibility have been fundamentally weakened, and that is not in the long-term interest of this country’s prospective health-creating society.

I shall stop for a moment on the position of central government, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, referred. We could save between £10 billion and £12 billion a year by effectively addressing the illnesses that are very closely related to excessive sugar in our diet. I shall not make a direct connection to type 2 diabetes, but there is enough medical evidence to show that there is a very close relationship. Bearing out what the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said, the House will know that in the poorest parts of the country and among the poorest people in those parts of the country, consumption of sugar, fizzy drinks and other sugar-related foods is very much higher than in Kensington and Chelsea. That means we are pushing some of the poorest members of our society into eating cheap unhealthy foods, which lands the National Health Service with the responsibility for dealing with the consequences. Last year, those consequences were estimated to be of the order of £14 billion. It is interesting that the amount of extra money given to the health service is £8 billion, which shows very forcefully the case made by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, about what happens if you do not address prevention soon enough and land the whole price on cure, which is exactly the wrong way to go.

My second point relates to the Department for Education, which we have not discussed very much. There has been a considerable fall in the amount of time given in state-maintained schools to PE and games. The figure has dropped from around 127 hours a month to fewer than 100 hours. There has been a sharp decline in the amount of time spent on PE and, in a situation where so many children inevitably spend their time watching television, the effects of that drop are very serious.

As my time is running out, I shall conclude very quickly with one reference to mental health, to which the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, referred. There are three things about it. The first is the terrifying increase in domestic violence casualties—not of overall crime, which has fallen—both women and men, but primarily women.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 892

The second is the impact of social networks, particularly in legalising, as it were, serious bullying in education and of young people and adults alike, which we have to address. I suggest to the House—my last thought but one—that we should begin to look at the possibility of insisting that social networks hold a contact name and address of those who use them, not to censor people but just so that they know that somebody knows they are the person responsible for trolling in a way that makes the lives of many of our fellow citizens highly disagreeable, and which is sometimes cruel and brutal.

Finally on mental health, I agree completely with what the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, said about the equality of treatment working both ways, but we must also address very closely, therefore, the effects of loneliness—of families and societies that are breaking down—on the mental health, particularly of many older people.

4.50 pm

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton (CB): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Crisp for tabling this very timely debate. Over the years, my noble friend and I have often exchanged ideas on what I like to refer to as the empowerment model of health and social care well-being. That was the model that drove my leadership of the charities the National Centre for Independent Living and, after that, the Social Care Institute for Excellence, where I was privileged to be founding chair from 2001 to 2006.

Michael Marmot, in his book The Health Gap, argues that not health services but the social determinants of health are more important in determining the health of the population. Like Marmot, I believe it is more important to change the conditions in which people live—to empower people holistically—than simply to address their medical condition or their care need, which disabled people have described to me as the medical model.

It is more important to empower people in health and social care than simply to address their immediate medical conditions. Therefore, the National Centre for Independent Living used the empowerment model to support disabled people to move from dependency-creating care provision to independent living support. Our work was born out of the Community Care (Direct Payments) Act, legislation that was conceived and largely implemented by disabled people. For the first time in our lives we had direct control over our social care budgets. I have to say that traditional care providers were very opposed at the time but, with the assistance of enlightened directors of social services, civil servants and a very enlightened politician, the tectonic plates of power shifted from “the professional knows best” to “the client knows better”.

This care revolution could not have been achieved without the national infrastructure of local centres for independent living. These local centres are largely run and controlled by disabled people, who provide advocacy, advice, buddying, volunteering and jobs. Over 15 years, I saw people society had written off come out of residential care, long-stay hospital wards or their parents’ homes and begin to live as rounded human beings. Relationships were formed, families were made and children born.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 893

Things have rightly progressed over the years, and now people with learning disabilities also enjoy the same right to choice and control over the way their support is delivered and experienced. So, too, do people with enduring mental health challenges, who developed their own empowerment model, the recovery model, which demands greater focus on life chances rather than more psychiatrists, more treatment and more loneliness, pushing a culture shift in the provision of mental health services.

There is rich evidence that the independent living movement drove a culture shift that has led to a wider personalisation approach and now, at last, it is beginning to catch on with personal health budgets. But I remind noble Lords that this was conceived by the people who have the condition and not the experts.

It really baffles me why, when the economy shrank, local and national politicians decided to cut first the independent living infrastructure that is necessary for progressive personalisation. I remember campaigning for a national independent living scheme, which became the Independent Living Fund, over 21 years ago. It was the epitome of the independent living empowerment approach, yet again it was sadly cast aside without a government strategy to ensure its principle and outcomes were not lost when transferred to local authorities.

Independent living pays for itself again and again. It is well evidenced that people who live independently in the community with the right support lead healthier and more cost-effective lives. It is the very basis of health and well-being creation, where professionals enable, facilitate and inform, and the service user learns, takes control and lives—not just survives.

Finally, I congratulate the Government on the Chancellor’s spending review statement yesterday, allowing as it does local authorities to levy a new social care precept of up to 2% on council tax. This is good news. But a word of caution: let the £2 billion investment be directed at social care that enables the service user to become an active, empowered citizen.

Winston Churchill said of scientists that they need to be,

“on tap, not on top”.

We need their expertise, but for God’s sake, do not let them run the country. I would argue that the same applies to health and social care professionals: we need their expertise, but for God’s sake, do not let them run people’s lives. I suggest that legislators, policymakers, economists and politicians should seriously reach out to disabled people and the service users and let them be part of the solution, not a problem to be dealt with. Perhaps we could give leadership to my noble friend’s health-creating society and not simply be the users of it.

4.57 pm

Baroness Redfern (Con) (Maiden Speech): My Lords, it is with a great source of pride, having spent more than 28 years in continuous service to the Isle of Axholme as an elected councillor and now leader, to be able to stand among you today as a Member of your Lordships’ House.

26 Nov 2015 : Column 894

Preparing for today—I am sure many noble Lords are acquainted with this—I realised my predicament in speaking before so many learned and talented individuals from all sides of the House. Now that I am a Member of your Lordships’ House, I should like to say what a delight it is to observe the wealth of knowledge that this House provides, and the great kindness and warmth shown to me not only by noble Lords but by all the staff who I have encountered since I took my seat here. I would also like to register my eternal thanks to my family and long-standing colleagues. I also thank my two sponsors, my noble friends Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Lady Eaton, both of whom have aided me and provided helpful guidance in my initial few weeks here.

I will, if I may, briefly take this opportunity to share with noble Lords the historic origins of the Isle of Axholme and how the isle came into being. I moved to the isle following marriage and we started our businesses here, enabling us to integrate into what continues to be a close-knit and very friendly community.

The isle is dominated by marshland and peat, with many of the original communities, including Crowle, Epworth and Haxey, all built on what was previously the only high and dry land available. Indeed, the isle is known to many by the early influences of the Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuyden, an engineer whose work at Windsor brought him to the notice of Charles I. The King subsequently commissioned him in 1626 to drain Hatfield Chase.

The isle is known as an isle as it was previously separated by four rivers—the Idle, Don, Trent and Torn—which created a unique and strong identity. A number of notable individuals hail from the isle, and Epworth is the birthplace of Wesleyan Methodism. We have a strong appreciation of agricultural activity and the beautiful watercourses that the isle has to offer, which have produced, among other things, high-quality beetroot and celery. That said, the isle and our area more widely are very susceptible to flooding, and securing funding for proper flood defences is something that I have already championed and will continue to pursue.

It might seem appropriate to speak on health, considering my heart rate in delivering this maiden speech, and I welcome the debate secured by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, today. Across North Lincolnshire, we have worked hard to engage all of the community and provide opportunities to improve health prospects—both physically and mentally. North Lincolnshire Council has invested in a successful programme of community well-being hubs, which provide advice and support for a wide range of individuals and groups, including vulnerable adults. This is against a backdrop of declining local government budgets and I am proud that we have achieved this by making necessary savings elsewhere to secure and improve front-line services.

The hubs work with and support older people, young adults and also carers; recognising the wide mix of people involved in healthcare. They work neatly with the national health agenda by integrating services for the benefit of both patients and the broader health economy. Indeed, the regulation of health and social care professionals not only impacts on the lives of

26 Nov 2015 : Column 895

registered and aspiring professionals but affects the lives of all those who use these services. The community hubs also provide a base for well-being checks which, among other aims, address poor nutrition and raise awareness of healthy eating and choice. Poor nutrition, which manifests itself very much in older people, is estimated to cost the NHS £13 billion a year. Looking at ways of addressing this and creating health aspirations locally is something that I am passionate about.

The latest addition to our commitment to develop health opportunities in North Lincolnshire is the Sir John Mason House intermediate care facility in Winterton, the town where I was born, and this brand-new facility was launched this year. Those using this service may stay there for a period of rehabilitation and reablement, for example following a hospital stay. With an ever-increasing older population, loneliness and isolation are key challenges for all local authorities, and North Lincolnshire Council is working hard to combat this. Like many areas, memory cafes are held across North Lincolnshire and help link residents with health services. These are shining examples of co-operation between the community and different agencies. However, we must look at ways to further integrate services and at the wider health debate as social isolation is known to increase the chances of premature death by up to a third.

Finally, the Isle of Axholme is blessed with some outstanding scenery and is a very special place. I am passionate about encouraging and assisting local residents to access this shared space with opportunities such as Walking the Way to Health, which is a project to organise walking activities. While my walking days are nowhere near behind me, I look forward to spending plenty of time sitting in on the many future debates regarding health and sharing the positive achievements across North Lincolnshire, and particularly on the isle, with this House.

5.03 pm

Lord Best (CB): My Lords, I am delighted to follow the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Redfern. She comes to us as a distinguished council leader whose insights, not least from North Lincolnshire, will add an important localist dimension to our deliberations, as she has so impressively shown today. Greg Clark, the Secretary of State, said last year that she was,

“one of the Conservative Party’s most effective politicians”.

Wearing my hat as a past president of the Local Government Association, I am particularly pleased to see the voice of local government strengthened by her presence here. We all look forward to her future contributions in your Lordships’ House.

I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, for initiating and organising this debate, and for his insightful and excellent opening speech. I want to fasten on to the first words in the title of our debate—“building a health-creating society”—and to make a connection between the buildings we inhabit and the health we enjoy.

Housing and health have long been intertwined. For the first half of the last century the Minister for Health doubled as the Housing Minister, so close were the two issues. In the ageing society of the 21st century

26 Nov 2015 : Column 896

that linkage needs revitalising and reinforcing. Unsuitable accommodation carries with it a series of dangers to our health and well-being. Overcrowding and poor conditions can create endless ailments and mental health problems. All families have a fundamental need for a decent home in which children have the space and security to develop.

Speaking as chair of the HAPPI group—Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation—and as co-chair of the Housing and Care for Older People APPG, I want to concentrate on the housing and health equation as it affects older people. So many older people spend virtually every hour of every day inside their home. It can be a trap, a virtual prison, if mobility problems mean that steps and stairs become an insuperable barrier, or if your spouse or your carer must carry you upstairs for a bath. If your central heating has not worked for years because you cannot afford to replace the old system and if the two steps at the front door get icy in bad weather, sooner or later your home will let you down—or indeed, may be the death of you.

As research by Professor Sir Michael Marmot has shown so clearly, cold conditions in this country’s homes lead to respiratory and circulatory diseases and premature winter deaths, contrasting with the outcomes from the far better-insulated homes in Scandinavia where mortality rates do not vary with the seasons. Trips and falls in the home account for a high proportion of hospital admissions by older people. It is the unsuitability of the home that prevents so many older people being discharged from hospital, or causes them to be readmitted after they have left. You may want to go home and the hospital certainly wants the bed you occupy, but if your accommodation is totally unsuitable, you must stay in hospital and the NHS is left with an escalating bill for a service you do not want.

Conversely, decent, well-designed housing enhances our enjoyment of life and our ability to live independently and well for longer. If our homes are well insulated, warm and efficient, as well as being well ventilated; if they are light and bright, with sufficient space; if they are lifetime homes—fully accessible, even when we may need a wheelchair—we are unlikely to require hugely costly residential care, and our later years can continue to be fulfilling. I welcome the spending review measures to raise funds for social care, but the biggest savings can come from preventing the need for residential and other care.

Housing designed specifically for older people can also combat that scourge of later life referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Redfern—loneliness from isolation and a lack of social contacts. Retirement villages, age-exclusive apartments, extra care and assisted living—today’s version by housing associations of the sheltered housing of yesteryear—are all housing solutions that can provide companionable, engaging communities for people with similar ages and interests.

In my five minutes I cannot spell out the range of steps that could be taken by central government in joining up housing with health and care, supporting the creation of new accommodation and funding grants for disabled facilities and home improvement; or by local government in planning policies on integrating

26 Nov 2015 : Column 897

housing, care and health, with joint assessment and commissioning, not just in new combined authorities with devolved powers but through health and well-being boards everywhere; or even by each of us past retirement age who should not just wait for a crisis before considering downsizing to sustain our own independence, free up our family homes for the next generation and save the resources of the NHS, social care budgets and our own funds. I must satisfy myself with simply making the plea that all those interested in the health of the nation should never forget the immense significance of housing.

5.09 pm

Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Crisp for securing this debate, which comes at a time when the NHS is under serious stress. The demands on it are immense, but, as my noble friend suggests, if everybody pulled together a healthy and resilient population may be achieved.

It is of great concern that the funds for public health are being cut back, because grants to voluntary organisations can help people who need support in so many different ways. It will be at our peril if sexually transmitted diseases and their clinics are neglected. In West Yorkshire some strains of gonorrhoea have become resistant to their treatment drugs. In London there are some excellent HIV/AIDS treatment units, but HIV infection is still increasing. Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis are also increasing. It would be very unwise to become complacent.

Public Health England should educate the public about the dangers of a wide variety of infections. Hepatitis C can now be cured, but few patients are getting the drugs they need. The problems of alcohol abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse must be addressed. Treatment centres should not be put at risk. I ask the Minister: how will cuts to public health budgets affect drug and alcohol clinics? If Public Health England cannot afford to tackle these problems with NHS England and NGOs, perhaps the drinks industry and the private sector can help. Working together must be the answer.