Category: Questions

Student Loans

My Lords, at the outset, I declare that I co-chair the APPG on Islamic Finance. In 2013, David Cameron spoke at the World Islamic Economic Forum and made a promise to introduce a sharia-compliant student loan scheme. In March 2017 and in July 2019, I and other noble Lords spoke on the subject in your Lordships’ House. We were told that the Government were committed to introducing a suitable arrangement; I understand that a comprehensive submission has been made by the advisers to the DfE on the arrangements. There is no mention of sharia-compliant student loans on the SLC website. Can my noble friend say what progress has been made regarding the scheme and what is the timetable for its introduction?

 

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Lammy Review

My Lords, 41% of children in prisons are from the BAME community, and a large number of them are Muslims. About 15% of prisoners are Muslims, and in London, the figure is 27%. Some of those Muslims have been victimised by the staff. The custodial sentences imposed on those from BAME communities can be up to 10 years longer than those applied to white people—several lawyers have said this to me. There is an appalling lack of diversity in our judiciary, from the magistrates’ courts to the Supreme Court. Only 7% of judges are from BAME communities, and the figure for magistrates is 12%. Stop and search in BAME communities has risen by 69% for the last five years. I have been stopped by police for allegedly using a phone, which was not so. A sergeant then turned up and said that if there was any difference of opinion between me and his officer, he would believe the officer. I was appalled by the closing of ranks. I believe that I was picked upon because I was driving a Bentley coupé with a personalised number plate. Can the Minister comment on my points?

 

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South Korea

My Lords, following the invasion of South Korea by North Korea, 16 UN member nations, including the United Kingdom, sent fighting units to the peninsula under the auspices of the United Nations—we sent more than 100,000 servicemen. The United Nations command provided core military strategic direction. Subsequently, the UN has passed resolutions and applied sanctions. In 1953, an armistice agreement was signed, but no formal peace agreement has ever been signed. Recently, the situation in North Korea has deteriorated. I would like to ask my noble friend the Minister if the UN can play a more active role in achieving peace. Can we influence this in any way?

 

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Armed Forces: Racism and Diversity

My Lords, I encourage the ethnic minorities to join the Armed Forces. The problem is that very few are promoted above the middle ranks, which causes frustration. Furthermore, ethnic minorities make up only 2.5% of officers, which is very low. For us to improve diversity and assist the mental and ?spiritual well-being of servicemen, chaplains of all religions need to be full-time officers. Muslim and Sikh chaplains have received full officer training but are part-time reservists. They need to be regular full-time officers with adequate ranks. Can my noble friend the Minister look at this point?

 

In response, Baroness Goldie responded

I listened with great interest to the point raised by my noble friend. I have no specific information about the appointment of chaplains or the backgrounds from which they are appointed. I shall investigate and write further to him.

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Covid-19: Masks

My Lords, it has been announced that from 15 June anyone travelling on public transport must, as a rule, wear a face covering. In addition, all hospital visitors and outpatients will ?have to wear a face covering and all staff will have to wear surgical masks at all times. The WHO has now revised its guidance relating to the wearing of masks. Will the Minister comment on the recent announcement by the WHO and on whether we should make it compulsory for face coverings to be worn by everyone where social distancing is not possible, as advised by the BMA? As someone who wears a face mask all the time when I go out, I would like us to follow the BMA’s advice. I also feel that the social distancing rule should be reduced from two metres to one metre. Lastly, we need to ensure that face masks sold in the market are of appropriate quality.

Link to full debate on Hansard.