HC Deb 10 July 2001 vol 371 cc663-74 3.31 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the disorder in Bradford at the weekend.

I believe that the response of the whole House will be to make it absolutely clear that we cannot and will not tolerate the wanton destruction and violence that we have witnessed over the last few days. The message must be unequivocal and unwavering: whatever the debate about alienation and disaffection, attacking the police, destroying the well-being of the local community and playing into the hands of organised groups will simply not be tolerated.

The facts can be recounted briefly. The banning order on all marches and processions in Bradford for three months has been in force since 4 July. The police were aware of reports of extreme right-wing elements seeking to defy the ban. Fighting began in the town centre in the late afternoon as efforts were made to disperse an Anti-Nazi League rally. The fighting shifted from the city centre to the Manningham area in the early evening, by which time the police themselves were the focus for attack. Missiles, including petrol bombs that had clearly been prepared in advance, were thrown at the police by a mob numbering 400 to 500 at its peak; 164 police officers were injured; 36 people were arrested, only two of whom were from outside Bradford.

On Sunday night and Monday morning the Manningham area was quiet. Subsequently there was a serious attack on a restaurant in the Ravenscliff area, and I regret to say that there was further disorder last night, involving youths throwing missiles in the Ravenscliff and Holmwood areas of the city. There have been 34 more arrests arising from disorder in the city since Sunday. The police commander at the scene spoke of "senseless violence and criminality"; I endorse his judgment and applaud the courage shown by the police in dealing with the situation.

The damage to local businesses and the prosperity of the area will not be made good quickly. As always, the people who will suffer in the long run are members of the local community. We wish to work with the people of Bradford to restore calm and look to the future. But let me make it clear that a prerequisite for dealing with social ills or rebuilding confidence within the community is to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that order is restored.

Following the disturbances in Oldham and Burnley, I asked the Minister of State with responsibility for crime reduction, policing and community safety, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), to draw together an inter-departmental ministerial group. This has met twice already. My right hon. Friend will today publish preliminary details of wider action proposed by the group in addressing the concerns in a range of communities throughout the country and the way in which, in conjunction with local people, the Government can do more to minimise the risk of further disorder.

I wish to stress that we are not seeking to impose solutions from Whitehall or lift responsibility, which must rest at local level, but we are seeking from local communities possible ideas on how young people can be further aided in taking up opportunities for recreation and other activities over the summer and, in particular, measures that bring together different religious, racial, and community groups.

I now propose to take that work a stage further. The ministerial group will undertake an urgent review over the summer of all the relevant community issues and will be supported by a small, dedicated review team of people with the right skills. That team will seek views from people on the ground in areas which have suffered from violence the most, as well as in other places with similar social and demographic features which have not. The aim will be to draw lessons which can inform future policy at national, local and community levels. The group will continue its work and will be complemented by the development of longer-term proposals from the performance and innovation unit based in the Cabinet Office.

There are many lessons to be learned from the past, as well as present events. For the police, intelligence and practical planning issues are particular challenges. We now need to ensure that the professionalism and experience of our police service is made available quickly and effectively to prevent further disturbances. The Association of Chief Police Officers has already held one meeting of commanders under the auspices of the national operations faculty to establish what lessons can be learned not just in preventing but in bringing to a rapid conclusion the kind of disorder that we saw on Saturday evening.

I will wish to discuss with ACPO how we might build on that initiative, pooling such experience and ensuring that operational commanders can find sources of advice immediately to help them to deal with the exceptionally difficult situation that they face. The vast majority of people in our society, regardless of their ethnic background, want the same things for themselves and their children. As we share a common citizenship, we have to find ways of working and living together in harmony. Our aim is to create an inclusive society, local communities which meet the needs of all groups, and a dialogue which transcends differences.

Organised thugs from whatever background or standpoint undermine that possibility, and that is why the threat from them must be met head on. The message from today is that we will not accept the destruction of hard-won improvements in the most difficult areas of our country—and nor would local people forgive us if we do not provide them with the protection that they deserve.

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury)

I thank the Home Secretary for coming to the House to make a statement this afternoon. On behalf of the Opposition, may I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself with his condemnation of the violence and the criminal attacks on both people and property in Bradford over the past few days? Does he agree that the fact that no fewer than 164 police officers were injured is a stark rebuke to those people who now allege that the police were in some way the perpetrators of the violence, rather than the service trying to restore order to the streets of Bradford? On behalf of the Opposition, I should like to offer support to the police, Bradford city council and others in Bradford who are working to restore order and the city's reputation for good community relations.

Will the Home Secretary consider the part played by extremists of both right and left? Does he agree with several people in Bradford and some Labour Members that militant extremists from the self-styled Anti-Nazi League were out to inflame rather than heal divisions in Bradford last weekend?

A couple of days ago, the Home Secretary talked about the possibility of equipping the police with water cannon and tear gas to cope with future riots. Is he still considering that? Have the police in West Yorkshire or elsewhere requested the provision of such equipment? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is too simplistic to brand events in Bradford the product of racial tension? I agree with him that the social problems that he described—poor education, lack of skills and poor opportunities—afflict young men from British Pakistani and British white homes alike. Those problems must be tackled but they do not for a moment justify the behaviour in Bradford on Saturday night and more recently.

Will the Home Secretary launch an urgent inquiry into policing pressures in Bradford and elsewhere in West Yorkshire? Surely he knows that police numbers in the West Yorkshire force are nearly 400 lower than when the Government first took office. Even last year, the West Yorkshire police force lost more officers through resignation than it was able to recruit. Is he aware of local anxiety in Bradford that the police are too stretched to deal promptly and effectively with minor disorder, drug dealing and racist abuse on the streets? That encourages criminals and political extremists to be bolder.

I assure the Home Secretary that if he takes the necessary steps to bolster the strength and effectiveness of the police force, he will deserve support from all parties.

Mr. Blunkett

I welcome the first part of the hon. Gentleman's response. I am sorry that the second half degenerated into the party politics of police numbers. I want to make it clear that a lack of police did not contribute to the prolonged disorder on Saturday night. The number of police available was that requested from West Yorkshire police and neighbouring authorities throughout the north of England. Those numbers remain available; there are approximately 300 police on the streets. We are determined to ensure that they are there when needed.

Under the crime fighting fund, we had already planned for 292 extra police, with 92 being appointed immediately. The local police authority was also contributing through the police grant and local resources so that the total increase this year was to be 400 extra police officers—far more than 200 when we had netted off any losses through those leaving.

Last weekend was not caused by a lack of policing or police numbers. As I said earlier, we must deal with issues such as how to make the best use of experience, including that in the Metropolitan police. It is a question of how we can do that quickly and effectively when police commanders on the ground need it.

The hon. Gentleman asked me about particular police methods and equipment. I want to make it clear—on a lighter note, the shadow Chancellor might share this belief—that we should not always believe what we read in The Guardian. Although plastic baton rounds and CS gas are available, I have never mentioned gas of any sort either publicly or privately to colleagues or journalists; so they made it up. I am interested in how we can use methods that are less of a risk than plastic baton rounds, which are available on the British mainland, but about which I have doubts in terms of public safety.

I am prepared to consider other methods that would allow the police to deal quickly and effectively with mass disorder and a threat to life, limb and property. I shall receive reports and we will consider the issues carefully, but in the end, good intelligence and preparation, and the willingness of the local community to be part of the solution, will be the way forward. I think that the House will join me in wanting to find ways of preventing, predicting and then dealing quickly with any further incidents of this sort.

Mr. Terry Rooney (Bradford, North)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. We must bear in mind the fact that what happened on Saturday was pure, wanton, mindless and criminal violence, but notwithstanding that, we can see the similarities between what has happened in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley. The common thread is the presence on the streets of far-right groups: the National Front and the British National party. Those organisations exist purely to foment racial hatred. We in Bradford have believed for many years that there is no place on the streets for fascists and Nazis. Is it possible to call on the full powers of the National Criminal Intelligence Service to track and control the movement of these fascist thugs? I believe that the time is coming when Parliament must seriously consider proscribing those organisations and removing that blight from our society. Communities such as Bradford will never feel safe as long as these people are about.

Mr. Blunkett

I thank my hon. Friend, and I want to say to the people of Bradford how sorry we all are that they have had to endure these disturbances and have their well-being undermined and destroyed by others who came from outside to do so or threaten to do so, who were part of the cause. There is no question but that if the National Front had not sought a march and demonstration in Bradford, and if the reaction that led to the curtailment of the Bradford Vision festival had not been provoked, people would on Saturday have been living not only in peace and quietude but in racial harmony. They would have been enjoying themselves as part of that multiracial festival, which is drawing people together and building on the lessons of 1995.

Yes, I am unequivocal in my condemnation, but I also ask those who seek to combat fascism to hold their hand carefully. I ask them to allow us to deal with public order and not to take it into their own hands. I agree that the National Criminal Intelligence Service and our security services will need to consider all those who threaten our democracy. If we can develop intelligence to know where and when they intend to destroy our community and racial harmony, we can take effective measures to stop them.

Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

I thank the Home Secretary for his statement, which I endorse. I want to share with him from the Liberal Democrat Benches the feeling that, whatever the problems in the urban communities of our country, resort to violence, racism and intolerance of the sort that we saw at the weekend is an unacceptable response, wherever it comes from. I happily join with him and the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) in sending our support to the police and the elected representatives of the city of Bradford—the two groups that are most accountable for good order in that great city.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with me that the city council, which I understand has already commissioned some work and some reports which are due out later this week, must receive the support that it needs and for which it has asked in dealing with the problems that it is aware of and is seeking to address?

Slightly more broadly, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider that the responses that he proposes through the working group and the performance and innovation unit may before long be better dealt with by the Government's doing for urban policy what they sensibly did for rural policy after the election? That would involve finding a Cabinet Minister—it may be the right hon. Gentleman or a colleague—who would be responsible throughout the country for pulling together policy in urban and suburban areas. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said in his statement, these matters are not only about law and order but about education, community relations and other factors.

There is an important supplementary question that follows on from the remarks of the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney). As part of the review of policy—I do not go down the road of proscribing far-right or far-left organisations—can we consider the intelligence that relates to what has happened in recent months throughout the country, the links between the far right and occasionally the far left and community disorder, and the way in which we might be able to review public order legislation to make it less frequently possible for people to "exercise their rights", when actually they are seeking to provoke difficulty, tension and racism in urban communities? We must deal with those who have committed offences through the law.

The other common thread is that many young people have taken to the streets, misbehaving and demonstrating clearly that they are willing to participate. Can we ensure that what they want to say about the future of their city and of their communities is listened to as much as what anyone else says, so that the next generation feels empowered in the process of developing their future? Wherever they come from and whatever their race, let us ensure that they do not feel that they are disengaged from, or have no stake in, the city or the town in which they belong and to which I am sure they want to contribute.

Mr. Blunkett

I think that there were four key questions. On a slightly light note, after the past four and a half weeks, I feel that I have enough on my plate without taking on the whole of urban Britain. However, I take the point about the coherence of the response. That is why, both within the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Cabinet Office, we will want to pull together regeneration programmes with a review.

We will want carefully to listen to young people. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State will include young people in the review group so that they are clearly represented and heard. However, it is my evidence—perhaps colleagues from Bradford will confirm it—that some of the hard core who were stimulating, organising and communicating the disorder on Saturday night were not young people who will join our review groups. That is because they are drug pushers and traffickers, and we need to deal with them head on.

Yes, we will take on board Lord Ouseley's report. However, I hope that everyone will come forward with ideas for finding solutions, rather than merely posing questions for others to answer. Bussing children round cities to ensure multi-ethnic schooling is easier said than done. It was tried in Bradford and it has been tried extensively in north America, and on every occasion it has been abandoned.

We all share an intent. Finding solutions that are acceptable in a democracy is entirely another matter. We would consider public order legislation, but, again, it is a difficult area. I said to the chief constable of Manchester after the Oldham incidents that the issue of when a march or assembly turns out to be a gathering of citizens goes back to 1815 and Peterloo. There are some difficult legal issues. I will happily consider them, but we have an interesting reversal of positions here: I am defending human rights and the hon. Gentleman is helping me to find the right balance between those who would destroy our society and those who have the right to demonstrate in it.

Mr. Marsha Singh (Bradford, West)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. Does he appreciate the level of dismay and shock felt by me, my fellow Bradford MPs and the people of Bradford at what happened on Saturday? Does he appreciate how dangerous the situation now is in Bradford and how fractured community relations are? Does he agree that the vast majority of the Muslim community in Bradford are peaceful, decent and law-abiding and should not be scapegoated along with the mindless minority?

I join my right hon. Friend in praising the police for their courage. I was there and I saw it. It cannot be right for our police forces to face for hour upon hour a sustained assault of bricks, bottles, powerful explosives and petrol bombs without being able to do anything about it. It cannot be right for a community to be laid siege to for hour upon hour when it needs emergency services. We have a duty of care to them, too. When my right hon. Friends consults chief officers about the need for water cannon on our streets, I hope that he will consult ordinary bobbies to see what they feel about it.

Will my right hon. Friend look at giving areas such as Bradford, over and above the police complement, beat bobbies dedicated to troubled areas who work just that beat? May I ask him to understand our feeling that Bradford lies bleeding? It needs to heal. We need my right hon. Friend's support and the support of the whole House for that healing process to begin and to finish.

Mr. Blunkett

I thank my hon. Friend, who puts it eloquently and with great feeling. What the people of Bradford need immediately is the quietness and calm that will enable the prosperity and the image of Bradford to be restored to what it was for several years following enormous efforts by the community, the business community and those who came together in the Vision platform. Let us take up my hon. Friend's suggestion and be able to respond to what is required within the community itself: the dedicated policing that he describes seems an admirable suggestion.

It also seems that a wider community safety and disorder partnership is required, so that we can work with local people to identify those responsible, giving them the courage and protection that they need if they witness people destroying their neighbourhood and area. If we can come together and back people who witness those events, we will be able to see off those who have not only destroyed the immediate neighbourhood and people's prosperity and well-being, but created dangerous racial tension in Bradford and throughout the country. We are at a difficult moment. That is why getting it right quickly matters to all of us.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

As 34 of the 36 persons who were arrested were effectively local residents, are we not in danger of misleading ourselves by thinking that the prime responsibility lies with troublemakers from outside? Would it not be better for the Home Secretary to think carefully about the fact that, in all areas of Britain and the world where people are effectively segregated on the basis of religion, nationality or colour, there is always the potential for violence? All the Government's efforts should be aimed at trying to integrate the societies and stop having areas that are inhabited by one race or another race.

Mr. Blunkett

I understand the hon. Gentleman's intention, which is being expressed more broadly at the moment, including in Herman Ouseley's report, but, as I have said, the question is how to achieve that aim. Those who have come into the country over the years—be they Jewish, Chinese, Irish, or latterly from the Caribbean, Pakistan, Bangladesh or India—have inevitably come together with family and cultural friends in the initial stages of their integration into society. It is difficult to break that up, given the availability of specific housing and support services. We all want to ensure that there is true integration, in which people understand cultural differences and diversity and the strength that they bring; but achieving that is another matter.

Yes, it was primarily local people who—regrettably—were destroying their own community, and many of them will not be those who must experience the consequences that we must address. As with Oldham and Burnley, however, people came into Bradford to cause trouble. These people light fires and walk away from them, leaving others both to take the blame and to pick up the pieces. It is they who are our true enemy, and we should be clear about that.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the work done over the years to build community relations in Bradford has been an exemplar for all of us? Living close to Bradford as I do, with a constituency close to Bradford, I much admire what has been done both by my colleagues in the House and by community leaders.

Does my right hon. Friend also agree that, while most of the Bradford community hated all that happened on Saturday night, there are extreme and wicked people on all sides—in the ethnic minorities, on the right and on the left? They are a very dangerous mix: they will move across the Pennines, and from town to city, in order to stir up trouble in many different ways.

Is it not time for us, as politicians, to ponder deeply what is happening, not just on the streets of Bradford? In the last few years, we have witnessed politics going on to the streets. I do not like that, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend does not. We have seen a wider phenomenon recently, internationally—in Gothenburg during the recent meeting there, and in Seattle during meetings of the World Bank and G7—and in our own cities, with "Reclaim the Streets" in the City of London. We ignore that wider phenomenon at our peril; if we do so, we shall fail either to understand or to combat it.

I hope my right hon. Friend agrees that we need thought and firm action in equal measure.

Mr. Blunkett

I entirely agree with the last suggestion.

My hon. Friend is right: there is a danger of alienation from politics, politicians and democracy. I commented on that the day after the general election. One of the main things that alienate people from democracy is Government's inability to deliver the most basic requirement of all—order in communities, and the ability to live peacefully. It is important for us to establish that as a prerequisite.

History shows us that those who wish to destroy society benefit most when there is disorder on the streets. That is a simple lesson not just from the last century but from long before. Those of us on the left who miss that key lesson from history delude ourselves into believing that the Weimar republic, or what happened in republican Spain, was some kind of accident. That is not so. The right flourished as a result of the disorder on the streets when the left failed to act.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar)

I associate myself with what was said by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Singh). For those of us who have great affection for Bradford, it was a shocking experience to see the television pictures at the weekend and to discuss the events with friends yesterday and today.

I commend the Home Secretary's robust attitude to the extremists on both right and left who lit the fires and have gone away. Those of good intent will now have to put things right. I see one danger, however. Some newspapers have mentioned the suggestion that one solution would be to disperse people of Asian descent around the city. I am with the Home Secretary on this matter. I think that the idea of bussing or housing dispersal is anathema and plays right into the hands of racists.

We have a vibrant community in Bradford. Some parts of the community come originally from the Indian sub-continent, but they are all an integral part of Bradford, and Bradford would be the less for it were they to be dispersed through either education or housing. It is our duty as politicians to meet the needs of people rather than to get people to meet the needs of those services. I therefore hope that ideas such as bussing and dispersal will be resisted.

I hope that the Home Secretary will look favourably on the idea of opening up schools and further education institutions in the summer. Schools are about to break up, and such an arrangement would be helpful. I also go along with the suggestion, which I read about, made by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Singh). We need an accelerated programme to recruit black and Asian British to the West Yorkshire police force.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Before the Home Secretary replies, I remind the House that there is another statement. I wish to call all hon. Members who are standing, but I will need the co-operation of the House to do so. I therefore require shorter questions and, of course, shorter answers.

Mr. Blunkett

I shall attempt to be brief, Mr. Speaker.

After all the years in which the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) and I were in local government and disagreed, it is nice for us to agree on something. It is also appropriate that we should do so today. I agree with his remarks on dispersal. Additionally, throughout the summer, we should and we will provide activities in colleges, theatres and leisure centres. Moreover, this year, the outward bound programme for 15 and 16-year-olds will be backed by £10 million. I am proud of that because I was the one who initiated it.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley)

I endorse the comments of my right hon. Friend and of my two Bradford colleagues. However, I feel that we should perhaps be digging a little deeper and looking a little further, beyond the actions on Saturday of a minority of Bradfordians. The reason why young Asian men were on the streets of Bradford last Saturday could just be that they feel disaffected. They cannot appreciate why the good jobs, the expensive cars and the nice homes should all go to the whites. Perhaps we, too, should be asking why.

May I suggest that the remedies will not be found in new and better community centres? The remedies that I am going to suggest—like my comments two years ago on forced marriages—will not go down well with the Asian leadership in Bradford or Keighley. However, I feel compelled to make them because of the severity of the situation.

In Canada, which has otherwise very similar immigration laws to ours—

Mr. Speaker

Order. During a statement hon. Members must ask questions. The hon. Lady seems to be making a speech.

Mrs. Cryer

I am coming to it, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think the hon. Lady has given the Home Secretary enough to chew on.

Mrs. Cryer

I was about—

Mr. Speaker

Order. My ruling is that the Home Secretary will reply to the hon. Lady.

Mr. Blunkett

My hon. Friend's reference to Canada must have been in connection with the Canadians' induction programme, which involves the acquisition of language and culture. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Asylum and Immigration, the Under-Secretary who has responsibility for immigration and nationality, my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle), and I will want to take ideas on how we can make being a British citizen and British national something to be proud of and ensure that induction into our community involves positive measures rather than simply the right to remain.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

The Home Secretary mentioned the Oldham and Burnley events that occurred before Bradford. To what extent has he explored the possibility that these are not simply copycat events, but co-ordinated events which form part of a conspiracy? Has he considered the use of the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the Secret Intelligence Service to investigate the activities of far-right and far-left groups who may be deliberately stirring up trouble in those three towns and others in the north in the weeks to come?

Mr. Blunkett

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney) asked about NCIS and the use of the available intelligence in looking at the issues. I gave a comprehensive reply, but I repeat that we must act as sensitively and sensibly as we can. There is no evidence of conspiracy in relation to Saturday night's events and provocation, but there was enormous communication via mobile phones and other equipment to co-ordinate the action against the police.

Mrs. Lorna Fitzsimons (Rochdale)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that my constituents in Rochdale are vigilant because we are aware that what happened in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley could happen to us? Does he agree that we all have an individual responsibility to do all we can to ensure that violence such as that which we saw on Saturday does not continue and get a foothold in our community? However, does he agree that we cannot criminalise all young people, whether white or Asian? We must do all we can to empower them within their communities and make sure that they are involved in formal decision making to give them some ownership in the future.

Mr. Blunkett

None of us would seek to criminalise young people; we want to engage with them positively. However, there must he messages from the family and the cultural communities. I am aware of the divide between elders and young people in some of the communities. The message in the peer group has to be clear; bringing about greater engagement and reducing alienation will not come from destroying the livelihoods of others on the streets.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

May I commend the wise warning of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Singh) and suggest that what he has said ought to be heeded by many hon. Members who represent big-city constituencies? I also applaud the early formation of the inter-departmental ministerial group by the Government and suggest that its work ought to be reinforced by Members of Parliament. Could we not have an ad hoc Select Committee on race relations and immigration that sits specifically to investigate the question of racial tension in our big cities and reports in advance of the formation of other departmental Select Committees? This is a matter of the gravest importance that concerns constituents in many cities and the country as a whole.

Mr. Blunkett

I respond in the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman asked his question, and I welcome what he said. My right hon. and hon. Friends who are taking the matter forward will be happy to engage with Members of Parliament. When the Select Committee is formed, we will be happy to talk with the Chairman and others about how we make the approach inclusive. I am very happy to do so.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

I support what my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, West (Mr. Singh) and for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney) have said, and join them in condemning the mindless violence in Bradford. We must make it clear that this is not a game and that if it does not stop, someone will be killed. On a more positive note, will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating my local newspaper editor and his staff, Mr. Chaudhury Hussein—the chairman of the Calderdale youth forum—local authority officers and others who last night met hundreds of young Asians who, in a good-humoured and constructive meeting, pledged their commitment to work for a continued peaceful co-existence not just in Bradford but in Halifax? That is the way forward for all our communities; not petrol bombs, violence or the hatred and racism preached by the British National party.

Mr. Blunkett

I happen to know that my hon. Friend has herself played a significant role and was one of the first to make contact to warn of the dangers ahead, and I commend her for it. I also commend wholeheartedly the initiative taken at local level in Halifax, and the role that the local news media can play and have played in this instance. There is a crucial role for local newspapers and radio, and for regional television, in ensuring that we get this right. Reporters must ask sensible questions, not stirring up hatred and division but fostering and spreading excellent initiatives such as the one to which she referred.

Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the activities of the National Front and the far right sparked some of the trouble that took place at the weekend, and that, although we would all condemn the violence, in some East Lancashire and West Yorkshire towns pockets of alienation are growing, despite all the wealth being generated in this country, and some youths are being tempted into joining drugs gangs, which were obviously active at the weekend? Does he agree that regeneration is the answer, so that youngsters do not fall prey to that temptation and can engage in legitimate activity?

Mr. Blunkett

Regeneration, employment and positive hope for the future, so that people have an expectation that tomorrow will be better than today, are crucial, but there is no magic wand to be waved in relation to what is happening with drugs and the pressure on young people. It will take a great effort and great wisdom to be able to pull together the resources and the commitment necessary to overcome that scourge around us.

Mr. David Lammy (Tottenham)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. Many younger people in this country, including myself, who woke up after similar problems in the 1980s in places such as Brixton and Tottenham will be saddened because we know that the stigma lasts a long time and that it can never be right for people to destroy their own homes and those of their neighbours. Will he take note of the examples of success in some of our multi-ethnic communities, such as the Broadwater Farm estate in my constituency? I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) would want me to talk about success in Brixton in her constituency, too. There are examples of people working successfully together and turning things around. We need to create a bank of best practice in multi-ethnic constituencies.

Mr. Blunkett

I agree entirely. That is precisely what my colleagues are seeking to do in pulling the group together: to learn from experience and share best practice, enabling us to configure similar social and demographic factors in other areas and consider what has worked best there.

Make no mistake, though: the issues of regeneration, avoiding alienation and tackling some of the greatest social scourges of our time are not ones solely for areas where there are inter-racial or ethnic tensions. They also exist on the white housing estates such as those that I represent. We must balance the two if the message is to be clear that we care about all, regardless of race, colour or creed. If we do that, we will stop those who deliberately stir up hatred and use those factors to light the flames that we saw on Saturday in Bradford. That is a task for all of us.