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UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

8th April 2019

Harriett Baldwin responds to a Parliamentary debate to mark the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)

It is a privilege to respond to a very fine debate to mark the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. I fear, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I have far too little time to respond to the range of points that were made in this important debate. I acknowledge the case that was made to mark the day on a regular basis, every year.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Warrington South (Faisal Rashid) and the Backbench Business Committee on securing time on the Floor of the House to debate this important subject. The hon. Gentleman made an exceptionally powerful speech. I was delighted to hear him explain, as a former Mayor of Warrington, the hospitable and tolerant nature of his home city, and the call he made for peace and tolerance.

There were excellent speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), for Solihull (Julian Knight), for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) and from the hon. Members for Bradford East (Imran Hussain), for Dudley North (Ian Austin), for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) and for Brent Central (Dawn Butler). Common themes arose. There was an iteration of the observation of the rise of extreme far-right and fascist views, which we all agree have no place in our society. There was an observation about the prevalence of such views on social media, and comments welcoming the “Online Harms” White Paper that the Government ​published today. I encourage all right hon. and hon. Members to write in with support for the approach being taken in the White Paper.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling said one of his local imams wants a society that represents a bouquet of different flowers; those words were particularly powerful. I also acknowledge the point made about citizen service, the International Citizen Service and the role that can play in community engagement.

The hon. Member for Brent Central made a powerful speech in which she read out a list of names. There is a live debate about whether we should dignify those people by naming them, and so ensuring that their names recorded for posterity in Hansard. I am jealous of her for having as a constituent Raheem Sterling, and I pay tribute to the exceptional work he and others are doing in the world of football.

The 1960 Sharpeville massacre led to the establishment of this international day, but only yesterday I was in Kigali, Rwanda, to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi. As we look across the world today, it is upsetting and absolutely wrong that since 1960 we have continued to witness incidences of intolerance, discrimination and violence on the basis of race, ethnicity and nationality. The hon. Member for Warrington South rightly mentioned incidences of religious hatred, because the horrific cases in New Zealand and the synagogue in Pittsburgh are so fresh in our minds. We all want cohesive communities across this country and in every country in which every individual feels safe from discrimination and hate. We all have a responsibility to fight racial discrimination and strengthen our communities, but, as many have said, Governments have a specific responsibility.

The Prime Minister made clear her determination to tackle racial discrimination from the very first day she took office. The racial disparities audit has revealed racial disparities in our country, and its work in highlighting ​them will help to end the inequalities and injustices that members of ethnic minorities can face when they access public services and the jobs market. Every individual should be able to fulfil their potential through their enjoyment of equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities. Since 2017, the Government have taken action in education, employment, health and criminal justice. We have also made strides in our international work. We are determined to root out racial discrimination both at home and abroad.

I reassure all colleagues of the Government’s absolute commitment to the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. We will continue to tackle these issues both domestically and internationally. We are fully committed to building safe, strong and united communities.


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Harriett Baldwin
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