On 29th June 2015 the House of Lords heard the Leader of the House repeat a statement by the Prime Minister on the terrorist attacks in Tunisia. In questions to the Leader after the statement, the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, focused on the need to strengthen community relations in the UK.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, we, too, on these Benches send our sympathies to those who have been bereaved and those who are injured. It is deeply concerning that Tunisia, a relatively peaceful haven in a part of the world in which there are many tensions, has now had this attack. Does the Minister agree that it calls for a renewed emphasis on working to strengthen community relations here in this country? The danger is that the events from Tunisia, Kuwait, Kobani and France could inflame ethnic and other violence and inspire copycat attacks here in this country.
It has been interesting over the weekend to hear of some of the fairly rapid responses that were made by community leaders. In my own diocese in Luton, we had a Britain First demonstration on Saturday. We had already planned to deploy a number of people on the streets, and that gave huge impetus to redouble our efforts. Fortunately, it went off relatively peacefully, but it had all the potential simply to bring those tensions that are overseas on to our own streets. There is really quite a pressing need to see what we can do. In some areas, community leaders including church leaders were immediately making contact with their counterparts in the Muslim community; certainly, that was going on in some of the interfaith areas in my own diocese. I know of at least one area—for example, the diocese of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester—where a vigil was organised. Does the Minister agree that we need to redouble our efforts to work on these relationships?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The right reverend Prelate touches on an important point. Certainly, with regard to the Muslim community, there has been a lot of effort over the past few years to step up and increase integration. I have a couple of recent examples of things that we have done to support them and build relations in communities. One is the Big Iftar—and I had the great pleasure of going to one of those last year when I was a DCLG Minister. There is also the Sadaqa Day, a social action day of community, which is a bit like the ones that we support with the Jewish faith. Those are to try to make sure that those communities can play their part in the wider community as they want to do so.
As for extremism more generally, one reason why we are developing the extremism strategy that we are developing and intend to bring forward the legislation that we will is because we want to tackle all forms of extremism, not just the specific extremism that we have focused on in the Statement today. That is what we will ensure that we do.