HC Deb 07 July 1997 vol 297 cc598-9
6. Mr. Timms

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how he plans to contribute to the European Year against Racism and Xenophobia. [5511]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien)

We are determined to do all that we can to support the European Year against Racism and Xenophobia. We have already committed significant resources to the administration of the year and we have also recently announced a further £300,000 of support for local and national events.

Mr. Timms

How refreshing it is to hear a Minister being positive and enthusiastic about that European initiative. Does he agree that we should celebrate and enjoy the multiracial character of our nation including, for example, at the Trades Union Congress "Respect" conference this weekend? Is my hon. Friend willing to accompany me to one of the events in Newham's programme to mark the year, which I had the pleasure of launching a couple of weeks ago? How much importance do the Government attach to working together in Europe to combat racism?

Mr. O'Brien

Diversity is a source of strength to our country and having a multicultural society is something of which we can, in many ways, be proud. We also need to ensure that we commit resources to combating racism where it arises. My hon. Friend has shown, by launching that programme in Newham, the importance he attaches to the European Year against Racism and Xenophobia, as have the local authorities by their support. I am happy to consider any invitation that my hon. Friend sends to me.

Mr. Forth

How many people's attitudes will be changed by this gesture?

Mr. O'Brien

The right hon. Gentleman may like to know that, across Europe, a lot of importance is attached to the European Year against Racism and Xenophobia. He may not think that the issue is important, but let me say this: last week, I spoke with the family of a six-year-old child who had been the subject of vicious racism, including having excrement thrown at her in the street. Ensuring that we effectively tackle these issues and raise them in the public consciousness—and that we have effective legal mechanisms to deal with them—is important. That is why we will introduce in a Bill this year new penalties for and new crimes of racial violence and harassment. We will ensure that we deal with these issues—something that the previous Government failed to do.

Mr. Winnick

Would not one contribution to this European year be to bring the murderers of Stephen Lawrence to justice? I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has met Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, as I have raised this case on a number of occasions. Has not a newspaper—the Daily Mail, to its credit—published the names of those who it believes to be guilty of this terrible and vicious murder? Is not the justice system paralysed when those accused of this terrible crime cannot be brought to justice?

Mr. O'Brien

All hon. Members are greatly concerned about this terrible crime. The issues that my hon. Friend raises are difficult because, as he knows, there has been a trial at which certain persons were acquitted. We are looking at the matter. Together with the Home Secretary, I met Mrs. Lawrence, her husband and representatives of the campaign relating to the case. We were deeply moved and concerned by the things she told us and we are considering the various proposals that she made.