Category: Racism

Trade Bill

My Lords, it is imperative that we support Amendment 68, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. I commend him on his excellent speech; he did indeed speak from the heart.

 

At the outset, I would like to say that in 1972 my family and thousands of Asians were expelled from Uganda by General Amin. I have personal experience of ill treatment being imposed on innocent people by a tyrant. I have spoken previously about crimes against humanity in your Lordships’ House. I would like to declare that I am the co-chair of the APPG for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.

 

I commend the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this amendment, which sends a clear message that the UK will not be associated in any way with regimes found by law to be committing genocide. The amendment would mean that regulations made under this Bill to authorise the implementation of trade agreements would be revoked if the High Court of England decides that they should be, on the grounds that a signatory to a relevant trade agreement has committed genocide.

 

The amendment would also grant the right to persons or groups of persons belonging to national, ethnic, racial or religious groups that have been subjected to ?genocide to oblige the UK courts to request that a trade agreement be revoked. It is right that the High Court decides, as the court will be impartial and decisions will be arrived at logically.

 

In 2017, the Conservative Party published the Kigali declaration affirming our commitment to prevent and punish genocide. The declaration states:

 

“Whether at home or abroad we will seek to protect individuals and groups who are targeted because of their identity, from hate crime to genocide to violent extremism. Our responsibility to protect begins at home but extends around the world.”

 

 

This requires us to ensure that any potential violation of human rights is considered before doing business with any country. If the United Kingdom maintains trade agreements with states committing genocide, we risk being seen as complicit in these crimes and we send a message that our trading partners may commit genocide without any consequence.

 

This amendment must be accepted, because the UK is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the 2005 Responsibility to Protect commitment. Furthermore, the International Criminal Court in 2001 incorporated the Rome statute into English law. These commitments mean that we have a legal and moral obligation to act against genocide.

 

I and other Members of your Lordships’ House spoke on Second Reading of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill about the treatment of Uighurs and Falun Gong in China. Evidence of the Uighur genocide is growing. The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders has estimated that 1 million Uighurs have been detained and organs are being harvested on a massive scale. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute report suggested that 80,000 Uighurs were transferred out of Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019, and they are likely working under forced labour conditions while supplying global brands.

 

The proposed amendment is modest. The United States has gone much further to condemn and punish those responsible for those human rights abuses. Earlier this year, Congress passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which places sanctions on officials responsible for oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang. US companies with operations in Xinjiang have been compelled to ensure that their supply chains are free from forced labour.

 

Furthermore, US Customs and Border Protection has issued five withhold release orders barring imports from such producers of cotton, apples, hair products, computer parts and other goods in the Xinjiang region. The House of Representatives recently passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act with almost unanimous support from both main parties. If this law, which now has to go to the Senate, is passed, it will ensure that goods made with forced labour in the Xinjiang region will not enter the US market.

 

Through these Acts, the United States holds the Chinese Government accountable and ensures that Americans do not benefit from goods created by forced labour or under potential genocide. This amendment goes some way towards this, by giving UK courts the ?option to remove trade co-operation with states found to be perpetrating genocide, establishing a principle that may be taken further in future legislation.

 

 

This is a modest amendment, but it has limits in practice. By its referral to Sections 1(1) and 2(1) of the Bill, which concern the implementation of the UK’s obligations in the Agreement on Government Procurement—the GPA—the powers that it would grant to the High Court would not pertain to all trade agreements but would only apply to the 48 members of the GPA, to which China is currently acceding. Furthermore, the amendment would mean that any successful application in the High Court would not prevent trade with a genocidal regime but would only mean that the existing trade agreement was revoked. This power is an important symbolic gesture to demonstrate the United Kingdom’s condemnation of genocide and our refusal to co-operate with those who perpetrate it.

 

It is important that we accept this modest amendment, to ensure that the UK is never seen to condone acts of genocide and crimes against humanity. We must establish a precedent, which must be built on, as there is nothing currently in UK legislation to ensure that trading is aligned with obligations on the prevention or punishment of genocide.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool noted:

The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said that the amendment would send a clear message. He talked about its symbolic importance and the creation of precedence. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, reminded us of the manipulation of international bodies. She specifically referred to the Human Rights Council, where even today more votes are taking place on its membership. It seems rather like the burglar and the watchdog becoming one and the same thing when China has such a leading role in an organisation of that kind.

 

See the full debate on Hansard. 

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

My Lords, to effectively tackle terrorism we must use a combination of radicalisation prevention, rehabilitation and punishment. This Bill is not balanced: it places too much reliance on punishment. We must effectively address the root causes and implement real solutions to deal with the problems of radicalisation, extremism and terrorism.

To stop radicalisation and terrorism we must not merely apply stronger punishments. I am actively involved in the issues of radicalisation and terrorism, having prepared two reports on the subject and spoken about it in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere. I have also been very effective in dealing with the issues in the community. To deal with these problems we need input and participation in the form of new partnerships involving the Government, the police, local authorities, prisons and members of the community at all levels. We need a holistic approach—that is what may work. Unfortunately, a tiny minority of Muslims have been radicalised and committed terrorist acts. These Muslims go against the peaceful principles of Islam.

I recently asked a Question in the House about the lack of diversity in the justice system, and I have written to my noble friends Lady Williams and Lord Greenhalgh asking for their support for an in-depth study of Muslims in prison. I have not yet received a reply, so I ask my noble friend Lady Williams to comment on my request, and on the points I made about radicalisation, in her response.

I refer now to the important matter of the Prevent strategy. I repeat what I said in this House in November 2018:

“The Prevent strategy has caused concerns and raised objections. Some critics of the strategy have said that there is racial profiling, excessive spying and the removal of basic civil liberties from innocent individuals.”—[Official Report, 12/11/18; col. 1737.]

It is imperative that a suitable person is appointed to review the strategy and, importantly, that that person’s ?terms of reference must be reconsidered and be appropriate. The terms should, for example, include full consultations with communities.

Furthermore, it is important that a new date for the review, which must be adhered to, is fixed; otherwise, the matter may be kicked into the long grass. I ask the Minister to comment on this point and what I have said about the Prevent strategy.

I will now refer briefly to some of the Bill’s provisions. Due to constraints of time, I do not have a great deal to say. I am concerned about the Bill’s blanket approach to stopping release at the two-thirds point of the custodial sentence for certain offences and removing any early releases for the offences. Preventing the possibility of early release in this way will have unintended consequences, especially for those who were radicalised when vulnerable and have genuinely reformed in prison. Assuming that this is never the case is unfair and may undermine the chance for effective reform. Instead, I suggest we continue to implement the TORER Act 2020, as this considers individual circumstances. We cannot generalise when it comes to rights.

I am also concerned about how the Bill approaches the increasing severity of non-terrorist sentences considered to have a terrorist connection. In a climate of intolerance, it is possible that members of BAME communities would receive harsher sentences. Unfortunately, this is already happening, and I have said so previously in your Lordships’ House.

I want to express my worry about expanding the list of offences that can result in a sentence for offenders of particular concern. It begs the question of how an offender of particular concern will be determined. The sentence may be open to misinterpretation and bias, particularly if sentencing occurs in the wake of an unpleasant incident.

Finally, I express my disquiet about lowering the standard of proof for TPIMs and removing the two-year limits, which can cause problems. This, again, is open to greater interpretation, and the power to indefinitely impose conditions could undermine civil liberties by increasing surveillance. In conclusion, this is an important Bill, and we need to look carefully at its provisions.

 

The following was noted by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: 

It was made by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, and my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who went on to make the important point that there needs to be full resourcing of deradicalisation programmes, as they are very resource heavy.

 

Baroness Williams of Trafford responded with: 

I also say to my noble friend Lord Sheikh that I will respond to his letter as soon as I possibly can; I apologise to him.

 

Link to full debate on Hansard. 

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?

 

Link to full debate on Hansard. 

Windrush Compensation Scheme

My Lords, the Windrush scandal is, without doubt, one of the most unfortunate episodes in this country’s history. My family came to Britain as refugees from Uganda, so I understand how it feels to leave the only country you have ever known behind. To be told that you are not welcome in the country you thought was your home is one of the most painful experiences one can imagine.

When we arrived in Britain, we were given shelter and assistance by the Conservative Government led by Ted Heath. The treatment of the Windrush generation was the opposite. These people included veterans who had fought in both world wars for king and country but were later made to feel desperately unwelcome. They saw themselves as British, with their right to citizenship enshrined in law, but the treatment they received from some of their fellow Britons was less than welcoming. The new arrivals faced discrimination in employment and housing as well as socially. They were prey to vultures like Peter Rachman, who terrorised his Caribbean tenants with bouncers, dogs and impossible demands for rent. To have endured this treatment only to be told later that you have no right to remain is nothing short of scandalous. Not only the immigrants but their children have been badly treated.

I therefore wholeheartedly welcome the Government’s efforts to put right these grave injustices through the Windrush compensation scheme. It is vital that those who have suffered can seek redress and support as much as possible. Those in positions of authority must learn from past mistakes to ensure that they are not repeated in the future. The review by Wendy Williams forms an important part of this learning. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could inform your Lordships’ House as to what steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to implement the findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.

It is deeply regrettable that, to this day, we do not know how many people have been affected by this disaster. Many lost their jobs, were evicted, detained in migration centres, denied medical treatment, or may have been deported. Worst of all, we know that a number have passed away without being able to seek justice. I sincerely hope that the Windrush compensation scheme will go some way towards restoring trust and healing the wounds caused to victims and their loved ones.

 

Link to full debate on Hansard. 

Police: Racism

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent assessment they have made of the level of racism within British police forces and how this can best be addressed.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, the Government take allegations of police racism very seriously. Any such allegations must be investigated thoroughly and, when and where required, perpetrators must be dealt with robustly. I have confidence in the ability of leaders of the police service to deal with this issue.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. What assurance can my noble friend give your Lordships’ House that police officers and staff are receiving appropriate training in community and race relations following on from recent events? Academic research has found that there is still a low level of diversity in senior and specialist ranks of the police forces. What more can be done to encourage police forces to recruit, retain and promote police officers from a diverse background?

Lord Henley: My Lords, taking the noble Lord’s first question first, he is right to talk about the importance of appropriate training, which all police forces are doing up and down the country. We will encourage them to continue doing so. As for his second question about low levels of diversity in the senior and specialist ranks of the police force, he is right to emphasise that point. It is important that we improve diversity at all levels and that police forces remain representative of the communities that they serve so that they can better understand their needs and ensure that the services they provide are appropriate. That is something that the leadership of police forces up and down the country is ensuring is done.

 

Army: Combating Racism

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    What they are doing to combat possible racism in the Household Division; and whether through enhanced public relations they are tackling any perception of racism in the Army by promoting awareness of the Army and its values. [HL4941]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Drayson): The Army has a policy of zero tolerance on all forms of prejudice, harassment and bullying. Any allegations are thoroughly investigated and action is taken where appropriate. To reinforce the Army’s core values and standards, and to ensure that all personnel are aware of current equality and diversity policy and their obligation to comply with it, they are required to undertake annual training. These provisions apply equally in the Household Division as they do to the rest of the

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Army. All Army recruitment initiatives have a clear diversity dimension and through efforts such as media campaigns, work in schools and with ethnic minority communities, a positive perception is being given and more young people are seeing the Army as a career option of first choice.