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Lord Freud: My Lords, clearly what we are talking about today is a centralised national process. There are social care provisions on the ground which local authorities are responsible for. PIP will be far more consistent and, indeed, objective than the current DLA,
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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I wish to make two brief comments. First, I have a question, which I am sure the noble Lord will be able to answer. Of the 170,000 people who are going to lose DLA when it moves to PIP, how many are on the current lower-level rate? Secondly, perhaps I may challenge the Minister to be wary of the assumption that DLA should be an objective test. It was never intended to be as such in 1992, when we introduced it, primarily because two people with the same objective disability may have very different competences in coping with that disability. It will depend on their resilience, their family support, their educational ability and their financial resources. Because DLA was person-centred and not a box-ticking exercise against some objective at their assessment, it was able to respond to that difference in competence, as well as to the depth of the disability. I very much hope that the Minister will not be led by a false myth into thinking that this can be reduced to an objective account of external health or mental health which is standardised across the country. It cannot be and, in my view, it should not be.
I support my noble friend very strongly in urging the department to come up with a layered assessment of how all of those benefit changes are interacting. I share briefly with the House a letter I received from a disabled middle-aged lady in an eastern region city who lives in a two-bedroom bungalow. She has rented a nearby garage so that she can charge up her mobility scooter. She is now faced with a housing benefit cut and losing one of her bedrooms of her bungalow, but as she says, there is no one-bedroom bungalow for her to go to. She has had a wet room installed under the disability facilities grant, so if she moves out within five years she would have to repay the grant. If she moves she has to repay the grant; if she stays she has a housing benefit cut. On top of that, she will almost certainly be forced to pay 20% for the first time on council tax, even though she is on benefit, and on top of that, some of her DLA support may also be questioned under PIP. What advice will the noble Lord give me to give to that lady?
Lord Freud: I am told that we do not have that information. Clearly, we will be able to go through the figures, to the extent that we have them, when we meet on Monday. When I said that PIP was objective, I was not trying to imply that it was using the medical model. It is objective in the sense that it is looked at through specific competences. As the noble Baroness pointed out, people can respond very differently to different levels of disability. Taking the example raised by the noble Baroness, a substantial amount had been spent on adaptations-she referred to the wet room. We have a specific exemption for people with very heavily adapted homes for that reason. It would not make sense to sell, so it would not make sense to move. Clearly, I cannot comment on a particular case but one needs to look closely before one assumes the worst.
In making the different changes to our welfare system, we have set in train a thorough level of monitoring and assessment as we gradually bring these systems in. One of the reasons for our strategy of gradualism and monitoring is to understand what is happening on the ground and make appropriate changes if we find that we have to do so.
I refer to the way in which the noble Lord has approached this whole matter and the fact that the Statement was supposed to clarify the personal independence payment. I declare an interest as a mother of a child who is 33 and has autism, and I have some experience of speaking to other people. I say with respect that ordinarily and normally the Minister provides a great deal of clarity on such matters. However, today he has been less clear. If he is not able to put forward the case with clarity, how can he reassure the House and people with disabilities and their carers who are in a great deal of confusion, disarray and distress, as clearly laid out by a number of noble Lords this afternoon?
Lord Freud: My Lords, I made a very full Statement, which I hope was comprehensive. We have focused a lot on people with mental health and learning difficulties. Indeed, we divided communication activity in the new assessment criteria, so there is a new activity focused on reading and understanding signs, symbols and words. That reflects the importance we place on the non-physical side which is one of the areas on which PIP is far more satisfactory than DLA
Baroness Sherlock: I shall pick up where my noble friend Lady Hollis stopped. Will the Minister help us to understand the implication of the fact that some people will be better off and some worse off? We cannot understand whether those who will be worse off are those, for example, who are getting the severe disability premium at the moment on one benefit. It is hard to understand. We may simply be redistributing the large amounts of money currently given to people with very high needs by giving smaller amounts of money to those who have lower needs. A number of noble Lords were at a briefing this morning where a
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Lord Freud: We may have to pick that up and take it later as we are out of time. Within PIP there is a greater concentration towards the people with highest needs. I gave out percentages: I think it was 23 % of people on both top rates, which is more than under DLA.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, we each come to debates such as this with our own personal stories. Mine begins with my father who served with the British Mandate force, and I grew up with his memories and photographs, and a strong sense of the historical and moral responsibility that the UK still carries for where Israelis and Palestinians find themselves today. More directly, I have visited the area regularly for the past 35 years, as a one-time trustee of Christian Aid, as a patron of a range of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations and also of BibleLands-now Embrace the Middle East. Additionally, my diocese has a companion link with the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. I have met many people of all communities on the ground, and over the years have witnessed a radical change in the composition and culture of Israeli society, with one element of this being increased inequality and discrimination faced by Israel's Arab citizens. However, I have also seen directly, and wish publicly to affirm, the work of those organisations, including those that are Israeli, working to combat such discrimination and inequality. A wish to highlight both the problem and the work of those seeking to address it are among the reasons I sought this debate, but there are further reasons for having it now.
All the signs are that we may be reaching the end of any realistic prospect of a genuine two-state solution: the past assumption that progress in the peace process would help improve Arab-Jewish relations within Israel no longer holds. Addressing Israeli-Arab discrimination needs now to be seen as a justice issue in its own right and very much framed within a discourse of civil rights. In 2011, the EU acknowledged that Israel's treatment of its Arab citizens was a core issue that could not be postponed until the peace process is revived.
Secondly, this debate needs to be set within the context of a mood of democratic awakening across the Middle East. Last year, Israel experienced its own democratic awakening with the 14 July movement.
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The nature of such discrimination is well documented. Your Lordships will have seen the excellent briefing pack produced by the Library, and I am grateful for briefings not only from various human rights groups but from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the UK Task Force on issues facing Arab citizens of Israel, whose work I warmly commend, and the Jerusalem-based Jewish Centre for Jewish-Christian Understanding.
In many ways, this debate merely surfaces an ongoing debate in many Jewish circles, in Israel and here. That debate concerns a widening gap in Israeli society between law and practice. In law, Israeli Arabs enjoy full equality and are endowed with the full spectrum of democratic rights. It is also the case that Israeli Arab citizens have made considerable social and economic progress in recent years. Mortality rates have fallen by nearly two-thirds over the past few decades, while life expectancy has risen and infant mortality rates have been slashed.
However, in practice there are many areas of life where Israeli Arabs are systematically disadvantaged. While Israel's declaration of independence and basic laws purport to enshrine certain rights for Israel's non-Jewish citizens, there is no explicit constitutional right to equality. Israel is yet to reconcile the tension between its identity as a Jewish state and its claim to be a democracy with equal rights for all. This means that non-Jews are effectively, in many respects, second-class citizens, denied the full rights which their Jewish co-citizens enjoy. As the Association of Civil Rights in Israel has pointed out,
So, Jewish and Arab Israelis have different citizenship rights and constraints in relation to marriage and family reunification. Their economic and social circumstances differ. Despite a legal ban on employment discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion, Arab citizens face significant disadvantages in the labour force. The most recent official Israeli survey to
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A UN report in 2003 suggested that Arab citizens, despite their 20%-plus population share, privately own just 3.5% of the state's total land, while Arab municipalities had jurisdiction over only 2.5% of the total area of the state. In Galilee, despite a 72% share of the population, just 16% of the land is owned by Arab municipalities. Since 1961, there have been 291 new Jewish localities compared with, at most, 25 new non-Jewish ones. It is estimated that Arab citizens of Israel are, in practice, blocked from purchasing or leasing land on around 80% of the land in Israel on the basis of their ethnic identity. The way in which the 2011 admissions law is being used adds to the issue of discrimination a concern about further segregation.
Yet it did not have to be like this, and some of the early aspirations of the founders of the State of Israel were clearly very different. Indeed, the principles of equality and non-discrimination were enshrined in Israel's declaration of independence of 4 May 1948, when the new state undertook to,
Twenty years ago, there were some grounds for optimism. It is important to remember the constructive work that Yitzhak Rabin did in his second term as Prime Minister to address these issues of inequality in Israel's life. However, he was probably the last Israeli Prime Minister to do so.
In recent years, the Knesset has passed a raft of discriminatory legislation. In 2009, Avigdo Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party became the second largest coalition partner, after an election campaign during which he repeatedly attacked Israel's Arab minority. Since then, each Knesset session has been replete with overtly racist Bills that have helped further to alienate Israel's non-Jewish citizens. Together they seem to be forming a pattern whereby extreme back-bench proposals become watered down to form a steady drip of government initiatives that are slowly eroding minority rights.
This seems to be backed by changes in Jewish Israeli public opinion, with both the FCO and the US Department of State noting a growing and disturbing
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Some have suggested that this debate should not be taking place as it colludes with hostility towards Israel rather than offering it a hand of friendship. Nothing could be further from the truth. A peaceful and prosperous Middle East needs a strong and secure Israel. However, threats to Israel's security come not only from without but also from within. Increased discrimination so easily leads to radicalisation of those discriminated against, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Frustration fermenting beneath the surface could yet bubble over into societal conflict. Should current trends continue unabated, localised intercommunal violence should come as no surprise.
There is the further concern, raised by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a debate in your Lordships' House a year ago, that discrimination and inequality contribute to the emigration of indigenous Christians from Israel, a further cause of polarisation and loss of community cohesion. By contrast, addressing the discrimination and inequality experienced by Israel's Arab citizens, and so building community cohesion, could have positive implications both for the State of Israel and for the wider peace process. It would strengthen Israel's democratic credentials by inviting more participatory models of citizenship, so enhancing a sense of community and belonging. Rehumanising the "other" within Israel might encourage a reframing of the way that Israel negotiates with its Arab neighbours.
The anniversary of the Or report next year offers an important occasion to take stock of the steps and measures that have been taken by the Israeli Government to address the levels of discrimination and inequality faced by Israel's Arab citizens. Looking back nine years on, there is a widespread feeling that the institutional changes put forward by the Or Commission have not been whole-heartedly adopted. When I tabled a Written Question on the Or report a few months back, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, responded on 24 September that,
At the heart of this Motion is an understanding of human dignity and well-being. I am sure that all would agree that inequality and discrimination impair human dignity and flourishing. So I note with pleasure the strong interest shown by Her Majesty's ambassador to Israel in supporting Israel's minorities. Speaking at the Israeli Equal Opportunities Commission's 2011 conference, Ambassador Matthew Gould said:
However, if that diversity is allowed to lead to increasing division, then the fabric of Israel's society could be fatally damaged. For that to be avoided, the UK and the EU need to continue to press Israeli Governments for the realisation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, in which Jews and Arabs live together with full and equal human dignity and civil rights.
Lord Warner: My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the right reverend Prelate for obtaining this debate and for his constructive, excellent and robust introduction. I should declare my interest at the outset as a trustee of the Council for European Palestinian Relations, an organisation that facilitates visits by European parliamentarians to see at first hand the circumstances in which Palestinians live, in Israel, the Occupied Territories and, indeed, in the external refugee camps. The circumstances in which thousands of Palestinian women, children and vulnerable older people live in many of these areas are, frankly, an international disgrace.
Those of us who regularly raise our concerns about the treatment of Palestinians within Israel and the Occupied Territories are regularly accused of a lack of balance, or told of Israel's right to defend itself, or reminded of the firing of rockets by Hamas into civilian areas. The disproportionately high levels of Palestinian deaths and casualties, compared with those suffered by Israelis, are consistently and conveniently overlooked. There is always another side to the stories: the Palestinians cannot unite, Hamas is formed of terrorists-even though, somewhat inconveniently, Hamas won a fair and democratic election with international observers in 2006. It is Israel that is the real democracy-an island of democracy in a sea of Arab autocracy. We must not be too hard on Israel, if we want the virtually non-existent peace process to achieve progress and to keep alive the seriously damaged two-state solution. That is the context in which we have come to this kind of debate. Yet year after year, the Palestinians living in this shining example of democracy are seeing their already modest human and civic rights eroded further and further. They are supposed to put up with this without protest. The international community continues to accumulate more and more documents setting out the abuses of Palestinian human rights undertaken by, or at least with the collusion of, the Israeli Government. These catalogues of abuse are simply ignored by Israel, despite strenuous diplomatic efforts on the part of the UK and other Governments to bring them to the attention of Israel's Government.
The Library's excellent briefing for this debate identified some of the documentary evidence of Israeli abuses of civic rights and protection of its own citizens. The variety of the sources-UN, US state department, FCO, international human rights organisations, and brave Israeli internal organisations ashamed of their own Government's behaviour-all lend testimony to the same set of messages, which were extremely well set out by the right reverend Prelate. We are spoilt for
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I want to pick on one document in particular from the Library's briefing, from the FCO. It quotes from page 206 of the FCO's April 2012 report to Parliament on human rights and democracy in different countries. In that document the Government drew attention to their continued concerns on Israel and the occupied territories. I quote:
"Our particular concerns included Israeli demolitions and evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; the human rights effects of restrictions on Gaza; the increase in the number of attacks by extremist Israeli settlers; the treatment of Palestinian suspects within the Israel justice system; the high proportion of civilian casualties and fatalities resulting from Israeli airstrikes on Gaza".
By comparison, they did identify abuses of human rights within Gaza and the Palestinian authorities, but these abuses were modest by comparison with this particular catalogue. I ask the Minister to look at what the FCO, her own department, is citing: the concerns are not the kind of concerns that most British Governments have had with so-called allies and friends. They are on a scale which is fundamentally different in terms of the human rights concerns. Many of the discriminatory actions set out in the various reports are of long standing; but some are more recent, as the right reverend Prelate identified.
I have another example. In March 2011, the Knesset passed laws that authorised rural Jewish and majority communities to reject Palestinian Arab citizens and other "unsuitable" applicants from residency and imposed fines on any government-funded institution, including municipalities, which provide health and education for those commemorating Nakba, the destruction of Palestinian villages and the expulsion of their residents, after Israel's declaration of independence. That is a recent example of the kind of discriminatory behaviour that is being passed through the Israeli Parliament.
The heart of the problem of Palestinian discrimination is that the status of Palestinians under international human rights instruments, to which Israel is a state party, is that of a national, ethnic, linguistic and religious minority. But the basic laws of Israel do not recognise them as a national minority within the protections that flow from that position. The definition of Israel as a Jewish state makes inequality a continuing practical reality for Israel's Palestinian citizens. Worse still, they are frequently-and increasingly-seen as a "fifth column", simply because they are Palestinians.
I do not want to extend this catalogue of discrimination in the remainder of my time, because other speakers will no doubt do some of that. The question is-what should the UK, as part of the international community, do about this established and continuing pattern of behaviour and discrimination? It is a pattern of illegal, inhumane and abusive behaviour. When South Africa was engaged in this kind of behaviour, the international community was so shocked that it imposed sanctions of various kinds to try to change that behaviour. We have tried to brush this issue aside, but we cannot go on finger wagging at the Israeli Government and getting very little in the way of response. The time has
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Much of the argument in this House in recent times was that we needed to wait for the American presidential elections and get the Americans to help us take this forward. If you listened carefully to the Obama presidential campaign, the speeches made in that campaign made it clear that the time had come for America to do nation-building at home, not abroad. We have to understand that we cannot necessarily rely on activity on the part of the US in terms of pressure on Israel to change some of its behaviour. We have to be a bit more grown-up, work with our EU partners, and think about what we as Europeans want to do in trying to encourage Israel to reverse the trend of discrimination against its Arab citizens.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and I want to pick up on his last point at the end of my speech. However, I begin by thanking the right reverend Prelate for introducing this debate so comprehensively. I am often under attack by some of my Palestinian friends for being a paid-up member of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel. I want to make it clear to them and to the House that there is a clear distinction between being a friend of Israel, which I am, and a friend of the present Government of Israel, which I am certainly not. That is an important distinction which we ought to keep in mind throughout the debate.
My experience of the area goes back to when I was a very young MP. In 1967 I happened to be with a parliamentary delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations. I remember with pleasure the spirit of optimism in the British delegation. Lord Caradon was the British representative and a key figure in the formulation of UN Resolution 242, which was supposed to be the basis for peace in that part of the world. However, it is a very sad fact that the optimistic mood of 45 years ago has disappeared.
After I became the leader of the Liberal Party, I took a delegation around the Middle East to see for myself what the situation was on the ground. We went to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt and were received by the heads of government of all those countries. Four of us wrote a report while sitting in the garden of the embassy in Cairo. The report bears examination today because it was a prelude to the two-state solution. The only member of that group who is still with us is the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. But on that visit there was one head of government who did not meet us, and that was the Prime Minister of Israel. Why was that? It was because we had talked to Yasser Arafat in Damascus. Our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, was the young ambassador in Syria at the time, and in those days no British Minister would talk to a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation because it was a terrorist organisation. Officials could talk to its representatives, but I was the first party leader to talk to Yasser Arafat,
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Against that background, it is not surprising that we have seen the appalling launching of rockets against the southern part of Israel, where I have also been. I feel great sympathy for what the population has had to endure. But there is no substitute for talking to people with whom you disagree. The latest threat from the Netanyahu Government to create 3,000 new settlement residences on the West Bank has sounded for the first time a long overdue note of alarm from our own Foreign Office. As described, these settlements would isolate Ramallah and Bethlehem from East Jerusalem and from each other, and would make a complete mockery of any possibility of the two-state solution. That should be deeply alarming not just to this House and the Foreign Office, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Warner, has just said, it ought to be of deep concern to the United States, a keen supporter of Israel, as well.
The right reverend Prelate gave us many statistics to illustrate the discrimination between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel. These statistics are agonisingly familiar to those of us who have followed events in South Africa over many years. Because of my background as a boy in Africa, I was always a keen member of the Anti-apartheid Movement. During my time as president of that movement I visited South Africa a great deal. One thing that strikes me is the comparison between what is happening to the Arab citizens of Israel today and what happened to the non-white citizens of South Africa then. For example, the resettlement of some Arab citizens from Jerusalem to the West Bank is reminiscent of the Group Areas Act of the apartheid regime. The separate roads in the West Bank used by Israelis and Palestinians to travel are a reminder of the public transport arrangements in apartheid South Africa. What I remember now but which did not strike me at the time concerns the work I did for the AAM with people in South Africa and over here. When one looks at the names of friends of mine from that time-Helen Suzman and Zach de Beer, and others who were not Liberals but perhaps members of the South African Communist Party such as Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Hilda Bernstein, Helen Josephs, Albie Sachs and Ronnie Kasrils-the extraordinary thing was that the leadership of the white resistance to apartheid came from the Jewish community. Why was that? It was because in the decades after the Holocaust there was a deep-seated revulsion against any idea of racial superiority. That is what the right reverend Prelate reminded us of in his remarks. The founding charter of Israel is quite clear on the issue and the present Government have departed very far from it.
I am not naïve enough to think that if there was a settlement between Israel and Palestine, international terrorism would disappear, but there is no doubt in my
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I want to end on an optimistic note. A couple of weeks ago some of us attended a meeting upstairs with a group of Israeli businessmen who have formed the Israeli Peace Initiative to mirror the Arab Peace Initiative. That is a hopeful sign. They are not politicians but businessmen in Israel who are fed up with the intransigence of their own politicians and who are promoting peace with the Arab world. It is in that context that the end of discrimination against Arab citizens can become a real possibility. I shall finish by making the same point as that made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. I believe that as long as Israel consistently flouts international law, it is quite wrong that we in Europe should maintain a beneficial trade association with a country that is behaving in this way. We have got leverage and it is time that we used it.
Lord Bew: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter for securing this important debate. I start by conceding his critical point that precisely because, in the terms of the overall resolution of the problems of the Middle East, we are, unfortunately, in a period of conflict management rather than conflict resolution, the question of Israel's minority becomes, in a way, even more important. I declare an interest as chairman of the Anglo-Israel Association and, as the function of that body is to promote understanding between the United Kingdom and Israel, this debate provides an excellent opportunity to do just that.
I want to step back and take a historical perspective before returning to the nub of the debate as it has been defined thus far. Going back to the early part of the last century, school textbooks in the United Kingdom said to young readers that we are a mongrel people and that this was a matter to be proud of. In the United Kingdom it is now accepted that all people, no matter what their colour, background or class, have a right to equality of treatment, and it is one of our most profound defining features as a liberal democracy that we attempt to deliver equality of treatment for all our citizens. Even so, it has to be accepted that even in the United Kingdom at this time we sometimes fail quite markedly in the achievement of that objective. In Northern Ireland, where I come from, the watchword for United Kingdom government policy for several decades was, "equality of esteem for both traditions", but we can see, even in the past fortnight or so in Belfast, in the riots that have occurred, how difficult it can be to achieve that objective of equality of traditions where these disputes of ethnic, national and religious identity exist.
Israel, however, is a state that exists in quite a different context. Like another liberal, democratic state, the Republic of Ireland, its existence significantly reflects the trauma of one particular ethnic and religious group. In the Republic of Ireland's case, the brutal
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When we talk about the case of Israel it is widely accepted that by certain criteria which are supposed to be important to us in the West-freedom of speech, women's rights, gay rights, the protection of educational opportunity-Israel is a beacon in the region, far ahead of any other country. For example, and on a difficult point, in recent days there have been pro-Assad demonstrations in different parts of Israel and they have gone ahead peacefully. These are difficult questions for Israeli society but it seems to be rather better at handling them than many other countries in the region. It is said by some that that is only to be expected of Israel, though it is apparently not expected by all in the West of its neighbours.
Then one must look at the role of Israeli Arabs in the Knesset, the Parliament of Israel. To take one important and dramatic example, George Karra, a Christian Arab, was the presiding judge in the trial of a former Israeli President. It is inconceivable in any other country in the region that a member of a religious minority could play such a role. Mention has been made of Christian Arabs, but there is no doubt that by every known statistic Christian Arabs are a very successful and vital group, a spectacularly successful group, it could be said, in the society of Israel. Again, it is sometimes said with judicial appointments in Israel, in the United States and in this country, that there is an element of tokenism. Perhaps, but even so, it seems a pretty striking example.
Mention has already been made of Israel's declaration of independence and its promise of political, economic and social equality to all citizens, as well as the fact that Israel has laws against discrimination in employment. Is this just empty rhetoric? Taking it broadly, Israeli Arabs have an employment rate of 72.2% as against 77.7% for the rest of society. There is a disadvantage there in absolute terms of numbers; it is not a particularly startling or spectacular disadvantage. It is probably the case, I would accept, that Israeli Arabs have less well paid jobs-the point has already been made-but in terms of absolute figures in employment, it is not a dramatic disadvantage.
Let me take another figure-I often think it is the most important figure, and it is the one I always ask about; it is the figure that gives, for example, the proof
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So there are important considerations. There is not absolute equality of opportunity in Israel, I am very clear in my mind about that. There is a fundamental problem and a difficult problem to resolve. Some of the successes of the Israeli state in this respect should perhaps be recorded and acknowledged more fully than they have been.
Let me take one other very significant aspect of Israeli reality which I think that everyone who knows anything about the country is aware of. At the beginning of this century the magazine Kul Al-Arab carried out a survey of Israeli Arabs in towns adjacent to the West Bank and, consistently and by a large majority, those people resisted transfer to Arab rule. What is that telling us? Is it a meaningless finding? It cannot be; it tells us something about what life is like, for all its difficulties, in being an Arab under Israeli rule. Only last year the Council on Foreign Relations-a distinguished body in New York-and Princeton University carried out a poll in Jerusalem which asked its Arabs how they would stand on this matter. They discovered that a large slice of the Arabs in Jerusalem would prefer to remain in Israel. These findings, which are not seriously disputed, tell us what it is like to be an Arab in Israel despite there being many difficulties in that and they ought to be more respected than they have been thus far in this debate.
Finally, I hope that I have said enough to indicate that the problem is complex and that the implementation of liberal ideals is not always easy. At the moment, the Israeli press is full of considerable concern about racist chanting at football matches. If you read our own press in the past few weeks, you will also see considerable concern about racist chanting at football matches in this country. Reference has been made throughout this debate to the tradition in the Jewish community of support for human rights. I hope that I have said enough to suggest that this tradition is not yet extinguished in the modern state of Israel.
Lord Parekh: My Lords, I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter on securing this debate and on introducing it with great passion and erudition. I would make one small point of clarification. In the Motion, as well as in what has been said so far, Arab citizens of Israel are all being referred to as "Israel's Arab citizens". It is worth bearing in mind that they do not identify themselves or wish to be identified in this way. The Arab citizens of Israel prefer to call themselves Palestinian citizens of Israel
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These citizens do that for two reasons. First, by calling themselves Palestinian citizens of Israel they want to remind themselves and the world of their history: that they are a minority but not an immigrant minority or an indigenous minority, like the original nations in Canada and Australia. They are a majority that have been reduced to a minority. Their second reason for wanting to do so is to show that they are part of a diaspora or global community, in exactly the same way as the Israeli Jewish community is. Although I might from time to time slip into the language of talking about Israeli Arabs, I wanted to make that point clear and put it on record that we need to bear this in mind.
Although my good friend the noble Lord, Lord Bew, produced statistics to show that the picture is not as bleak as some have made out, let me make it absolutely clear that there are many areas of life where Israeli Palestinians suffer from considerable discrimination. I did not want to produce those figures but he has produced some on medical students. I could explain those figures in other ways, because they have been the subject of considerable analysis and are contradicted by figures in other areas, but I shall not do that. All I need to say here is what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter said. Justice Or's commission reported in 2003 that there had been a "neglectful and discriminatory" treatment of Israeli Palestinians. It went on to say that state resources were not allocated "in an equal manner".
These conclusions of the Justice Or commission have been supported by various independent research bodies. Let me mention half a dozen figures to give some picture of what I have in mind. Fifty per cent of Israeli Palestinians are classified as poor. Only 1.3% of Arabs who graduate in high-tech fields find work in their fields, although Israel is short of technical manpower. In fact, the recent report of the Bank of Israel said that not hiring Arabs costs Israel 31 billion new Israeli shekels a year in lost production. The average per student allocation in an Arab junior high school is one-fifth of that in the Jewish junior high schools. Less than 2% of academics are in tenured or tenure track positions. There is discrimination in areas relating to planning permission, housing, zoning regulation, urban development and civil rights.
Moving to the political area, to the best of my knowledge no Arab political party has ever been a part of the ruling coalition. There is constant talk in any negotiations about voluntary transfer or expulsion and territorial exchanges which treats Arab citizens of Israel as if they are dispensable-not a permanent part of Israel but one that can be got rid of in any negotiations. I would find it very difficult to live in a country if I were constantly told that I was dispensable and could be negotiated out of existence.
One might also look at the national anthem of Israel, which speaks very movingly, of course, of Zion and the yearning of the Jewish soul. That is fine, but imagine how you would feel singing the national anthem
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While that is one side of the picture, the other side is also strikingwhich is that many Israelis recognise this. Having been to Israel on two or three occasions, lecturing and debating precisely these questions, I am struck by the way in which many progressive groups in Israel feel strongly about what is going on. In the 1999 elections, Ehud Barak talked about "a state for all", implying thereby that it had not been a state for all. As a result, 95% of Arabs voted for him. When nothing happened, there was a grave sense of disappointment and when elections took place two years later, they boycotted them and 80% did not vote. The Supreme Court of Israel has constitutionally often stood up against the resolutions of the Knesset and pointed out that they are inconsistent with Israel's commitment to democracy and equality. As a result of this internal self-correction and self-criticism, there is the remarkable figure in a recent survey that showed that 45% to 50% of Israeli Palestinians are proud to call themselves Israelis.
In other words, I suggest there is a very complex picture. On the one hand there is the systematic marginalisation of and discrimination against Israeli Palestinians. On the other, there is constant criticism of this, with institutions like the Supreme Court constantly providing correcting mechanisms. How do we explain this? I suggest there is a deep tension at the very heart of the Israeli state's identity. On the one hand, it sees itself as a Jewish state. On the other, it is committed to democracy, to working-as the declaration of independence says-for the benefit of all its citizens and pursuing the ideas of liberty and justice. On the one hand, the Jewish state: on the other, democracy, liberty, equality and justice. How do you reconcile these two-not quite contradictory but conflicting-impulses at the very heart of Jewish identity? That is at the root of the marginalisation of its minorities.
When one talks about a Jewish state-something that I have talked and written about-what does one mean: a state of the Jews, by the Jews, for the Jews? It cannot possibly be that, because Israelis are already committed to some form of democracy. It could be "of" the Jews, but not just "by" them because there are Arabs; it cannot just be "for" the Jews, because it is committed to the benefit of all. I am not trying to preach, but I simply suggest that Israelis need to resolve this tension at the heart of their identity. In so far as it defines itself as a Jewish state, there is a constant thrust towards turning Israel into an ethno-cultural state, majoritarian, a state owned by its majority. In so far as they see themselves as committed to
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Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, the previous time I spoke in the same debate as the right reverend Prelate was a year ago when your Lordships' House debated Christianity in the Middle East. I remember his words in December 2011 when he said,
Sadly, to be a Jew in most countries of the region is not comfortable or even possible in many places. Indeed, Christians such as the Copts of Egypt are under severe pressure. Like the noble Lord, Lord Bew, I declare an interest: I am vice-president of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, and I welcome the right reverend Prelate's good intentions and masses of facts within his speech. As a Liberal Democrat, I must declare that I am against any unequal society, wherever it is.
The right reverend Prelate told mainly a story of a half-empty glass. I will try to tell a story of a half-full glass and how the Israeli Government, unlike their neighbours, are working hard to improve the situation of their minorities-in my view, not quickly enough; the sooner it happens the better. Israel's Arab population is about 20% of the whole and numbers 1.7 million. They are citizens, as the right reverend Prelate called them. The reason we call them Israeli Arab citizens is that that is the title used by the right reverend Prelate. Personally, I call them all "Israelis". They are all Israelis, they have rights and they should have all those rights.
As an example of a half-full glass, in 2010 Israel approved a $220 million five-year development plan for 13 Arab cities and towns, including $30 million for the expansion of public transportation. The plan is actually being implemented by the Authority for the Economic Development for Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors, based in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, and is focused on 12 specific Arab and Druze localities, including Nazareth and Rahat-I will not detail them all. The Israeli Government are also allocating funds for 13 industrial parks in Arab communities.
There are some real examples of action being taken. Prime Minister Netanyahu recognised the deficiencies in the workforce and stated earlier this year-I know it is only a statement but he said it-that:
In July 2012, the Israeli Government launched a new affirmative action campaign to encourage companies, especially in the high-tech sector, to employ Israeli Arabs, with the Government contributing 25% of their salary. The hope is that this will encourage companies which are, as has been mentioned, reluctant to take on Arab employees to do so. Once this had been done, it will reduce discrimination in the workplace. In June 2012, the Israeli Government launched a public awareness campaign against prejudice and discrimination by Israeli companies against Arabs. That cannot be tolerated. Also in June 2012, Cisco chief executive officer John Chambers announced a four-year plan to create 12,000 new technology jobs for Israeli Arabs. He said:
I would have hoped that the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords, while detailing the inequalities-which do exist-would at least have mentioned some of the actions being taken to rectify those problems. As has been mentioned, there are numerous organisations inside and outside Israel trying to rectify those problems. That will take time but they should be given credit for so doing.
This is all against a background of Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, on his very recent visit to Gaza, referring to the liberation of Palestine in Ramallah, Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa while the crowds yelled, "Hit, hit Tel Aviv". This is also at a time when 40,000 have been killed in Syria without a demonstration in the UK. Nor were there Motions in this House when Hamas shot men accused of being Israeli spies without even the pretence of a trial. Their bodies were then dragged through the street behind motorcycles. I am not saying that there are not inequalities for Israeli Arabs-or Israeli Palestinians if you want-that need to be dealt with and are being dealt with, but perhaps we should also reflect on the bloody conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the hounding of the Christian Coptic community in Egypt, the unrest in a number of Middle Eastern states and the toppling of regimes.
In Israel, Arabs have served as elected representatives in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, since Israel's first elections in 1949. There are currently 17 Israeli Arabs and Druze in the Knesset out of a Chamber of 120, although that is short of the 24 which under strict proportional terms would reflect the numbers of the Arab-Israeli population. There are many Israeli Arab judges. The noble Lord, Lord Bew, mentioned one of them. They include Israeli Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran and George Kara-he has been mentioned-who presided in the Tel Aviv district court that convicted former Israeli President Katsav.
Israel's first Muslim consul general was appointed in Atlanta in 1997; Israel's first Muslim ambassador was appointed to Finland in 1995; Israel's first Druze ambassador was appointed to Vietnam in 1999; in 2004 Bnei Sakhnin was the first Arab Israeli football team to win the State Cup; and-still on the soccer theme-the Arab Israeli football star Walid Badir is the captain of Hapoel Tel Aviv. The Arab-Israeli Mira Awad represented Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest; and the Arab Israeli Rana Raslan was Miss Israel.
Do noble Lords remember the amazing time-amazing to me and I am sure to everyone else-when Majalli Wahabi, a Druze, was the acting President of Israel? Noble Lords may have read the Bedouin Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi's book A Shepherd's Journey. In academia there are Bedouin professors and others whom I do not have enough time to relate.
Of course, if there was no problem, no action would be required. The reasons advanced for the standard of living for Israeli Arabs being generally lower than the Jewish and Christian Israeli population are poorer participation in education and the failure of women to take up employment. I will tell your Lordships' House the following sad statistics: twice as many Muslims leave school without qualification; three times as many are unemployed; three times as many live below the poverty line. I should add that these sad figures are not in Israel but in Britain. It is sad here and it is sad there.
The reasons for inequalities in Israel, Britain and elsewhere are generally due to education, employment and where you are in the food chain of life. The aim in Israel and the UK is to improve the conditions of all by improving opportunities for a better life.
Finally, it would be good if the right reverend Prelate could also acknowledge that 850,000 Jews have been forcibly displaced and exiled from Arab countries since 1948, and that justice for such Jewish refugees from Arab countries has been expunged from the peace and justice narrative for the past 65 years.
I trust that when my noble friend the Minister replies she will say how Her Majesty's Government will acknowledge inequalities and discrimination worldwide-not just in Israel-and not just the accusations against Israel made in this debate.
The April 2012 report of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on human rights and democracy reminds us of the some of the injustices suffered by Arabs living in Israel, with Israeli NGOs reporting a denial of basic hygiene, sleep deprivation and violence in interrogations; allegations of unequal treatment of Arabs by the Israeli judicial system and allegations of abuse of Arab detainees during arrest and in Israeli prisons.
It is to the credit of Israel that the country's constitution guarantees freedom of religion for Christian, Muslim and other Arab minorities and in general they are allowed to get on with their own lives-although as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, reminds us, generally in lesser employment. Non-Jewish citizens are exempt from compulsory service in the Israel Defence Forces, a concession that also underlines a lack of trust over possible divided loyalties. Politically, Israeli Muslims are part of the state, but loyalties are bound to be influenced by what happens to their kith and kin in Palestinian areas.
Concerns over evidence of aggressive Israeli policies in Palestinian territories affect and add to tensions and mistrust between Jews and Arabs in Israel. These
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However, Israel is not alone in the abuse of human rights. Palestinians, too, are frequently involved in gross abuses of the rights of other faiths. These include arbitrary detention, restrictions on the freedom of non-Muslims and the use of the death penalty. Palestinian human rights NGOs point out that senior court positions in Gaza are often filled by political appointees. There are also reports of violence against detainees.
When one considers the history of the formation of Israel, with the arbitrary displacement of the Palestinian population and the subsequent history of continuing conflict, it is easy to understand allegations of divided loyalties in the Arab Israeli population, the anger and bitterness of surrounding Palestinians and the hostility of the wider Muslim world. It is also easy to understand, and have a measure of sympathy for, the siege mentality of Israeli Jews. It is only when we look to and understand the difficult environment in which they work that we begin to understand the incredible courage and commitment of both Israeli and Arab NGOs, of international human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and of humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross and the UK-funded NGO, Defence for Children International. They deserve our appreciation and support for their near-impossible work.
It is frequently said that the only way to secure peace and the respect of human rights in this troubled part of the world is a two-state solution, with a fully independent Palestine. I may be in a minority of one in preferring to see positive initiatives for closer integration between the different communities, based on mutual interest. I am not convinced by the feasibility of artificial boundaries dividing an area of land which in part is historically and culturally entwined, with a shared history and culture. Recent history reminds us that rigid partition of a country where different groups share a common heritage inevitably leads to resentment and continuing conflict. The partition of the subcontinent of India cost millions of lives, and the stand-off over Kashmir continues. We should also remember the continuing threat to peace arising from the partition of Korea, the genocide resulting from the partition of the former Yugoslavia and, nearer home, years of conflict in Northern Ireland.
I know that religion gets a bad press, but with the constant failure of political initiatives it might be worth looking at religious teachings in a search for elusive peace. At a time of similar conflict between Hindus and Muslims-and different factions of those
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A few years ago, I was invited by the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, to join him on a visit to Israel to help look for ways to peace. We talked to university professors and office and manual workers in both the Jewish and Palestinian communities, and everywhere found a common desire in people to be allowed to just get on with their lives and look to their families in safety and security. They simply wished for the opportunity to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours in the ways taught by their different faiths.
In what now seems like a previous incarnation, I studied the works of Mary Parker Follett on conflict resolution in industry and used what she called "the law of the situation" with success. It is a concept that gets away from the usual two sides of a conflict or dispute and invites those involved to look at the different facets of common problems with a view to getting the best outcome for all concerned.
The signing of peace accords that ignore basic underlying concerns is like building grandiose structures on uncertain foundations, and is unlikely to lead to lasting peace. The more I look at that sad and beautiful land, sacred to the world's major faiths, the more convinced I become that the only way to true and lasting peace is for members of those different faiths to look beyond the trappings of religion to the common imperatives of respect and generosity to others contained in actual teachings. The NGOs working to highlight human rights abuses and provide humanitarian assistance are doing just this. It is important that we in the international community do all we can to support them. Addressing entrenched attitudes and prejudices is not easy and does not capture many headlines, but it is a challenge that can be met. A Christian hymn reminds us that, with faith, a weak arm,
Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, it would be very good if mutual faiths could bring us together and ensure that we have as much peace as possible between people of different religions in different parts of the world. One problem is that this does not always happen, as is the case in the Middle East. Sadly, inequality and discrimination happen throughout the world. Even sometimes here in Britain we, as citizens, have to deal with prejudice against race, gender, disability and other minority factors.
I know something of the Israeli situation. Its Bureau of Statistics shows that there are some 1.62 million Arabs in Israel, making up 20.5%, or about one-fifth,
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Although Israel is constantly working to try to merge the division between the Jewish and Arab communities, I am going to speak primarily about our British support to improve these issues. The United Kingdom Task Force is a wonderful organisation. It was established here in Britain to raise awareness of the issues relating to Israeli Arabs. It aims to deepen understanding of these matters among the United Kingdom Jewish community. That community is very centred on that concern. I declare my interest as one of the endorsers of this task force. The organisation does not work just with British Jewry but endeavours to teach communities worldwide, both religious and non-religious, about issues which surround Arab citizens. Even our own Government are involved, with a co-funded venture with the United Kingdom task force, through the British embassy in Israel.
Last year, in 2011, a total of some £340,000 was granted by the British Government to be used towards four specific projects that coincided with the British embassy manifesto. The United Kingdom task force press release states:
"It is to advance shared priorities in regard to the integration and empowerment of Arab communities in Israel ... These projects are to address the needs of Arab communities in the north, centre and south of Israel, thus achieving a geographic spread reflective of the diverse Arab communities in Israel".
The funding of £340,000 has been divided between four projects, each enhancing the role of Arab-Israeli citizens. The first project is with Tsofen High Technology Centre, an education centre working to integrate Arab engineering graduates into technology sectors. Israel is one of the most advanced countries for science and technology. The centre this year has welcomed even more Arab citizens to learn computer skills, and some 80% of the participants have been women, which is perhaps a rather better rate than we have here. The second project is to increase volunteering between the young-Jewish and Arab-after they have completed school. The final two projects relate to two mixed cities. These are places in Israel where Jews and Arabs live together. I have personally long worked tirelessly for co-existence in Israel and throughout the world. For me, these final projects with mixed cities are crucial to enforce understanding of one another.
I was truly privileged in October of this year when I received an honour from the state of Israel for my contribution to that country and dedication to building bridges between its Jewish and Arab communities. I have spent a lot of my working life on that issue. The State of Israel, with support from the ambassador here, Daniel Taub, for whom I have the very greatest respect, and the Israeli embassy in London, chose a kindergarten in a place called Ma'alot Tarshiha, which is a very unique town in the Galilees in the north of Israel, and named it-I cannot hide this from noble Lords-The Lord Greville Janner Education Centre, which is not what they call the House of Lords. That is
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"Ma'alot Tarshiha is a town with communities living together in a real way, seeing children who are Jewish and Arab playing with each other. You cannot tell at this kindergarten, if a child is Jewish or Arab, this is what is so wonderful about our town".
That is certainly correct. For us to overcome discrimination against minorities, we must emphasise the importance of co-existence. Every citizen has rights. This kindergarten in Ma'alot Tarshiha, demonstrates that dialogue and understanding should always start when people are young. These children can clap, sing, dance, play together and become friends while they are young rather than waiting until they become old or Members of the House of Lords.
I thank the right reverend Prelate for this debate. Some Members of the House who have already spoken have identified critics of Israel, and some who are yet to speak will do so, but I want the House to acknowledge that my own experience has shown me that the Arab citizens of Israel have just as great a desire for peace and prosperity as the Jewish Israelis who live around them. The benefits of building positive relations between the two communities are immeasurable and I commend the numerous organisations that are working to deepen understanding of these issues. May they succeed in doing so.
Lord Weidenfeld: My Lords, I have been involved in the cause of a Jewish state in the Holy Land for nearly 80 years. I was privileged to have served the first President of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, as adviser and head of his office and claim a continuous involvement with the theme of this debate. I am aware how, from the very outset, Israel's leaders upheld the founders' pledge to treat the Arab minority as equitably as any state in the civilised world would treat its minorities. This has been demonstrated in some eloquent contributions by the noble Lords, Lord Bew and Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, and I will not repeat their argument in detail.
Yet in my 36 years in your Lordships' House, the disproportion between debates questioning, through stern criticism, Israel's attitude to its Arab citizens and those concerning the most heinous persecution of minorities in the Arab world is surely rather disquieting. I see, for instance, no debate scheduled on the gruesome persecution of Christians in Arab lands, the burning of Coptic churches, the maltreatment of members of missionary orders and the serious economic erosion of Christian communities, causing forced emigration. In contrast, I claim that the treatment of Palestinian Arabs, Muslims and Christians in Israel is not only more than correct but remarkable if you reach back into the history of the state and consider that on three occasions-1947, 1967 and 1973-Arab armies launched wars against Israel, not just for minor strategic frontier rectifications but for the wholesale destruction of the state and various forms of removal of its Jewish inhabitants.
Only a few days ago a Hamas leader pledged ever deadlier rocket attacks against Israel's most populated areas and vowed to reconquer Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa, which is a euphemism for Tel Aviv. Israel's society of course is not free from intercommunal tensions. Quite apart from the questions of Jews and Arabs, it is shaded and diverse as to culture, geographic origin and degrees of religious orthodoxy, but it is united in the defence of freedom and justice. An Arab Israeli member of the Supreme Court presided at the trial of the President of the State of Israel. The Israeli Ambassador in Norway is a Druze; his deputy is a Christian Arab. A newly arrived counsellor to the London Israeli Embassy-I think the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, mentioned him-is a Bedouin of the Islamic faith. He has spoken on campuses in this country about his very interesting and moving experiences, proving that he is a loyal citizen of Israel and that Israel treated him very well. Arabs are exempt from compulsory military service in Israel but they are allowed to volunteer.
The number of Arab outpatients at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem often exceeds the number of Jewish citizens. In Rambam Hospital in Haifa-the biggest hospital in the north of Israel-30% of the doctors and 26% of the nurses are non-Jewish, such as Israeli Christians and Muslim Arabs. This means that non-Jewish staff in the hospital represent a higher proportion than their actual representation in Israeli society. In addition, some of the most senior heads of departments are Arab doctors-for example Dr Suheir Assady is the hospital's important head of nephrology.
Collaboration between Jewish and Arab cultural groups, ranging from popular music through dance and chamber music is very impressive. The Jerusalem Foundation, founded by the late mayor, Teddy Kollek, has an ever-widening range of joint intercommunal programmes.
Having been for 11 years chairman of the board of governors of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, I have had first-hand experience of the close relationship between Arab and Israeli students and lecturers, some of them beneficiaries of state stipends. Jewish students were regularly drafted to private teaching of Arab children from poor families. My involvement in furthering educational and social contact between Jews and Arabs in Israel is a source of great pleasure and pride to me. The number of NGOs of interfaith groupings monitoring most closely movements favouring the state of ever-closer cultural and social relations with the Arab minority in Israel is very impressive. If the right reverend Prelate wishes to obtain further information, I would be delighted to provide it.
When we speak of the occupation of Palestine, we tend to encompass Gaza and rarely focus our sight on, nor are we aware of, the size and significance of the Arab Palestinian population living within Israel. According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Arabs in 2010 was estimated at 1,573,000, representing 20% of the country's population. The majority of these identify themselves as Arabs or Palestinian by nationality and Israeli by citizenship, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said. Many continue to have family ties to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
With much of our permanent focus on events in Gaza and the West Bank, we hear little of the brutal repression and discrimination placed on them as citizens of Israel by Israelis, and it is that which I should like briefly to highlight. In September 2011, the Israeli Government approved the Prawer plan for the mass expulsion of the Arab Bedouin community in the Naqab, or Negev desert. If fully implemented, this plan will result in the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel and the destruction of 35 "unrecognized" villages, which are regarded by Israel as illegal. Despite the Arab Bedouin community's complete rejection of the plan and some strong disapproval from the international community and human rights groups within Israel, the Prawer plan is going ahead with impunity. More than 1,000 homes were demolished in 2011 and, in August this year, a special police force was established to officially begin implementing the plan and demolishing even more homes. In September this year, dozens of structures were destroyed in a single day, in what was proudly described by the Israel Land Administration as a "rolling enforcement operation" against "invasions" of state land. Then, on October 11, the recognised village of Bir Hadaj was raided, and officials posted demolition orders on some homes, prompting protests from village residents. In return, there was a harsh and brutal response by the police.
Around half the Bedouin population in Israel live in 45 so-called "unrecognised villages". The Israeli Government intend to force them out, claiming that their "squatting" is taking over the Negev desert. The truth is that while they make up 30% of the region's population, the Bedouin actually live within less than 5% of the total area.
Although the law that will serve as the implementing arm of the Prawer plan has not yet begun its legislative process in the Knesset, events on the ground indicate that the focus on demolition and displacement is already shaping policy that is targeting the Bedouin. In other words, Prawer is happening now, and we need to do something to prevent Israel from committing further atrocities on their Arab citizens.
There are many significant strategies and devices being used to discriminate against the Arabs as well as against other ethnic minorities in Israel. I should like to draw attention to two in particular. First, there is the cruel and deliberate discrimination which takes place in respect of the prevention of marriage between residents of the Arab-Israeli sector and their natural affiliates in Gaza and the West Bank, to which the right reverend Prelate has already referred.
I, too, welcome the activism within Israel. In January this year, Israeli rights groups and MPs denounced a court ruling upholding a law that prevents Palestinians
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The brutality of this law is best understood in the context of a statement made by Justice Asher Grunis, who is expected to become the next Supreme Court President. He justified the widely recognised racist law on the grounds that:
While the subjugation and abuse of Palestinians living within Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are well documented, what is less well known is how ingrained racism is in Israel; this is also perpetrated against Jews who come from the ethnic minority background of Falasha, Ethiopian Jews who have been brought into Israel in several mass transfer operations, who have found themselves relegated to an underclass. They are not only racially discriminated against in housing, employment, education and the army, but they have also been unwittingly used to bolster illegal settlements. Many Ethiopians put their experiences of this brutal racism down to the fact that they are black.
To my horror, I came across one report which suggests that health officials in Israel are subjecting many female Ethiopian immigrants to a controversial long-term birth control drug in what Israeli women's groups allege is a racist policy designed to reduce the number of black babies. Figures show that 57% of those prescribed Depo-Provera in Israel are Ethiopian women, despite the fact that Falasha represents only around 2% of the entire Israeli population.
This is the first time I have looked into this matter. It is not only shocking in its candour but also for the fact that it is being carried out by those who, above all others, should understand and appreciate brutality at the hands of the state.
In the search for information about this issue, I came across the impressive new and very rare publication by Ben White entitled Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy. I commend it to the House for its deep insight. I also thank Carl Arrindell, as well as the House of Lords Library briefing team,
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While I, too, propose that we should be implementing sanctions to demand a cessation to such brutal and deliberate treatment, at the very least I ask our Government not to turn a blind eye to these clear violations of international law when they assess issues such as joint trade agreements. I also ask that they do not simply view their engagement with Israel in terms of the West Bank and Gaza but that they take account of the plight of Israel's Arab, Ethiopian and other minority citizens. Much has been said today about discrimination against minority rights in that country and elsewhere. Such discrimination is not acceptable anywhere.
Finally, Britain has a specific responsibility to clear up this mess. In the light of the available evidence presented today and elsewhere, will the Minister confirm that the UK Government will not be bound by unquestioning loyalty to the official discourse when Israel continues to flout all international laws and natural justice?
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I echo the thanks to the right reverend Prelate for introducing this debate. In the course of it, I have found myself very much on the side of my noble friend Lord Singh. I speak from only little experience, but in July 2010, with colleagues from this House, I met in northern Israel two Palestinian Members of the Knesset and others from a committee linking Palestinian mayors and MKs. They pointed out that, since 1948, much Palestinian land has been confiscated under 20 separate laws of Israel; for example, lands of Muslim waqfs and absent owners, and land taken for roads and state purposes. Zoning, they said, discriminates by not allowing land for Palestinian housing and employment. They told us that two separate school systems exist, with, in their view, insufficient teaching of Palestinian history. They could have added that spending per child is more than five times higher in the Israeli schools.
As to health, infant mortality is about twice as high for Palestinians as for Jewish Israelis. Although Palestinians pay health insurance, they receive poorer-quality services. As to poverty, 50% of Palestinians live below the poverty line, while only 20% of Palestinian women are in work. Military service, as has been mentioned, is not compulsory for Palestinian citizens, so on the whole they do not do it for fear of having to attack their own people. Unemployment is far higher among Palestinians compared with other Israelis.
In general, the feeling was that Israel sees Palestinians as temporary residents, alien and not indigenous. Palestinians sense Israeli animosity and police suspicion. There is a sense of dispossession, since Palestinians own only 3.5% of the land within the 1967 borders, although they account for slightly more than 20% of the total population.
I do not see that much has changed over the past two years. This is despite the best efforts of Palestinian mayors and MKs and the good work of NGOs such as the Mossawa Centre, Adalah, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam-a shared village with a big outreach-or
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A grand plan is being drawn up for the future of the semi-desert Negev. It is felt that the Bedouin there were not sufficiently consulted. The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, has given considerable detail so I will add only that little thought seems to have been given to the wish to return to ancestral lands of the Jahaleen tribe now living east of Jerusalem.
Israel claims to be the only well established democracy in the Middle East. It deserves respect for many reasons but given its claims, it will be judged by a very high standard. This must, I suggest, include full equality and non-discrimination for all citizens. Such standards are built into the association agreement between Israel and the European Union.
I conclude by mentioning recent discussions on a possible variant of the idea of two contiguous but separate states. This would allow Israelis to remain voluntarily in the West Bank as full citizens of Palestine. In return, equality of rights would be enshrined for the Palestinian and non-Jewish citizens of Israel. I believe that this concept is worth examining. It would, of course, be difficult to implement because of separate living areas in Israel, and because separation is so embedded in law and practice. Several European states are nevertheless looking carefully at the concept. Will Her Majesty's Government examine it also, together with all other ideas that can prepare for political agreement and help eventual implementation?
Like others, I wanted to take part in this debate because of my personal passion and commitment to equality and the protection of human rights for all people, whatever their background, faith, race, sexuality, disability, and so on. My family were migrants to the UK; they came here in the early 1950s, before race relations legislation. Like many migrants who had arrived here over the decades, they faced open hostility and discrimination. We as a society have evolved, and have outlawed discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism, and we have developed co-existence and how to live with one another.
We support and promote the principles of equality and non-discrimination as a cornerstone of international human rights law. So when debating the continuing practices of a nation that itself was born out of European intolerance and racism in the extreme, it is hard to understand how it can be tolerated. There cannot be a Member of your Lordships' House who would support any form of discrimination. As a councillor in Hackney some 15 years ago, I worked closely with a large Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, ensuring that they had proper access to services for their children and young people. Often they did not have equal access and felt very discriminated against. I
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Sadly, it remains the case that in Israel the right to equality and freedom from discrimination is not explicitly enshrined in law as a constitutional right; nor is it protected by statute, as has already been mentioned. A recent poll in Israel revealed that a majority of Israeli Jews believe that the Jewish state practises apartheid against Palestinians, with many openly supporting discriminatory policies against the country's Arab citizens. Perhaps what is so depressing is that a third of respondents believe that Israel's Arab citizens should be denied the vote, while almost half-47%-would like to see them stripped of their citizenship rights and placed under Palestinian Authority control. These views appear to echo hard-line opinions that are usually associated with Israel's ultranationalist parties and depressingly suggest that racism and discrimination is more entrenched than was generally thought. Just over 40% would like to see separate housing and classrooms for Jews and Arabs. The findings reflect the widespread notion that Israel, as a Jewish state, should be a state that favours Jews. As a leading columnist commented:
The definition of Israel as "the Jewish state" makes inequality a practical, political and ideological reality for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, who are marginalised by and discriminated against by the state on the basis of their religious affiliations as non-Jews. Numerous groups of Palestinian citizens of Israel face multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of their membership of one or more distinctive sub-groups. Arab women in Israel, for example, face discrimination as members of the Arab minority and as women. As has been mentioned, Arab Bedouins face an additional layer of institutional discrimination. Individuals are subjected to multiple forms of discrimination. For example, a disabled Arab Bedouin child living in an unrecognised village in the Negev-referred to by the state as an illegally constructed village-faces intolerable discrimination.
It is therefore an irony that, in regard to certain marginalised groups, Israel has some of the world's most progressive laws and policies, with strong anti-discrimination legislation and legal protections for women and disabled persons. However, these have not been extended to the Palestinian minority in Israel. As a result, these marginalised groups do not receive the full benefit of such protections. More than 30 main laws discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Palestinian citizens, and the current Israeli Government have proposed a flood of new discriminatory Bills which are at various stages in the legislative process.
Underinvestment in Arab schools in Israel sustains these gaps between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority and, as Arab children account for 25% of all children in Israel, the unequal investment in their education and development further contributes to the inequality. According to official state data, the state provides three times as much funding to Jewish students as it does to Arab pupils. My noble friend Lord Palmer, a valued colleague, cites inequalities here in
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In the field of health, the inequalities are just as stark. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to mortality rates. The infant mortality rate, for example, among Palestinian citizens is double that among Jewish citizens, and higher still among the Arab Bedouin population. As to income and poverty, Arab families are greatly overrepresented among Israel's poor, with half of Arab families in Israel classified as poor compared to an average poverty rate of one-fifth. The unrecognised Arab Bedouin villages in the Negev are the poorest communities in the state. Gaps in income and poverty rates are directly related to institutional discrimination against Arab citizens.
Unemployment rates remain significantly higher among Arab than Jewish citizens. Arab women citizens make up only 20% of the workforce, among the lowest in the world. As the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, said, the Bedouins of the Negev valley are the most disadvantaged. They are systematically excluded from Israeli society and denied the rights and standards of living enjoyed by the majority. Approximately half of them are living in what are termed as unrecognised villages. They have Israeli citizenship but those living in these villages have no address registration, which can lead to problems with accessing services. The vast majority of Arab Bedouin citizens living in Negev have been expelled from their ancestral lands, some repeatedly. With no official status, these villages are excluded from state planning and government maps, have no local councils and receive few to no basic services and facilities.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the women from this community who established the charity Sidreh. Khadra Elsanah, who is the director of the charity, told me of the valuable work they are doing at the grass roots among Bedouin women organisations in the Negev. She referred to the way in which the Israeli Government demolish their homes. She said that they come in the morning, when the husband is away, so that only the women and the youngest children are in the house. Most of them cannot speak Hebrew, and even if they could, it would not help. She said that they demolish their homes; they leave people on the street, with no other accommodation. Then they send them the "bill" for the demolition.
I want to ask my noble friend why, as a friend of Israel, we tolerate this treatment of minorities, which we would never tolerate with our own communities. Surely tolerance and equality extended to all Israeli citizens would foster and be a step towards a climate of peace in the Middle East, something that we all want.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I too am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter for tabling this debate and for his robust and excellent introduction. It is also a timely debate, because this is a critical time for the peace process. The Israeli Arabs are profoundly affected by both lack of progress
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The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, was right to raise wider issues about the despicable treatment of Christians and other minorities in Arab countries, and, indeed, we do debate these issues. I know that all noble Lords recognise the vulnerable situation of Israel, which in so many ways is an extraordinary country. However, as a friend of Israel it is right to be critical of Israel.
For a minority population in any country, there are issues of integration while retaining identity and culture. However, it must be extraordinarily difficult to be an Israeli Arab facing discrimination not only by the day but also, at the moment, when the Government are building settlements encroaching on areas that do not belong to them and when the Government are occupying their land.
The issue of Israeli Arabs-or perhaps, like my noble friend, I should say Israeli Palestinians-is a crucial political dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of Israel should have the right to continue to live in their homeland without inequality and discrimination.
As an aside, while watching the BBC news last night about Syria and all the refugees, I thought it was right to remember that some of those coming out of Syria are in fact Palestinian refugees who are now twice refugees.
On the settlements, noble Lords will be aware of the anti-boycott law passed by the Knesset in 2011 that imposes sanctions on any individual or entity that calls for an economic boycott of Israeli settlements in the West Bank or of Israel itself. This is a controversial-indeed, shameful-law that offends against basic human rights. Human rights organisations have clearly stated, as is obvious, that it targets Israeli Arabs. At the time the law was passed the Knesset legal adviser warned that the legislation was "borderline illegal", but of course it went through notwithstanding. The High Court has recently asked the Government to explain within four months why the controversial law should not be cancelled. We look forward to further consideration of the case, which is of great importance to Israeli Arabs.
Yet there are so many instances of deep discrimination, about which we have heard today. The picture is depressing from the outside, intolerable for Israeli Arabs and demeaning for the State of Israel.
For example, with regard to employment, Arab and Jewish Israeli men suffer from unemployment at similar levels. However, on average Arab men earn 30% less than Jewish Israeli men. Among those employed, as
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The gap has grown since the 1990s when the Israeli economy began to move away from a reliance on agriculture and textiles and towards innovation and high-tech, but the state does not invest in the education and life chances of Israeli Arabs. In secondary education, a pupil in the Jewish system receives on average 2.01 teaching hours a day compared with 1.75 hours in Arab education. That is not right.
However, there are beacons of light, as has been said by my noble friend Lord Janner and others. I would draw the attention of noble Lords to Hand in Hand, an organisation with which I have had some association in the past and which I had the pleasure of visiting in Jerusalem. Hand in Hand operates a network of bilingual Hebrew-Arabic schools where Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel study together. There are five bilingual schools in Israel of which three are operated by Hand in Hand, and it will continue to build communities and open new schools to provide as many Israeli children as possible with the option of an integrated top-quality public education. However, increasing the number of bilingual schools in Israel is a challenge due to the geographical separation between most Jewish and Arab towns.
The British Council in Israel has backed several language projects, including Hand in Hand and English language communication and training for NGOs. Perhaps I may ask the Minister if there is anything else our Government can do to support these schools further. They are hugely beneficial to the students, who learn tolerance and strike up lifelong friendships, but they are also important in bringing parents together, who in turn foster understanding within their communities. I would say in passing that I am a great supporter of integrated education in Northern Ireland, and I know that Hand in Hand works together with integrated schools there. There is much that could be learnt by each of the two communities.
Many noble Lords have mentioned land distribution and planning, which is an area where Arab citizens suffer the most severe deprivation. There have been some initiatives to improve the situation, but land shortages have created the problem of illegal construction and resultant demolition orders. The frustrations caused by that must be mighty and are exacerbated by the proliferation of settlements. The Arabs see their houses being torn down, whereas the settlements are growing.
I can well understand that Arabs have served as elected representatives in the Knesset since was Israel was founded, and they also sit in Israel's powerful Supreme Court, but notwithstanding that, we must be honest about the lack of rights for Israeli Arabs and the intolerable discrimination that they suffer. The Israeli Government are taking action to combat inequalities, but not nearly enough. The commitment of the current Israeli Government to the needs of the
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In March 2010, the Israeli Government launched an initiative that allocated £135 million to develop employment, provide housing solutions, improve access to transportation, empower human capital and increase personal security and safety, but again, that is not enough. These initiatives are welcome, but they do not counter the systemic inequality and discrimination that is suffered by Israeli Arabs. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline what action the Government might consider they could take with our European partners, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Warner and the noble Lord, Lord Steel. We cannot just sit back and talk about discrimination, we have to take some action.
I understand that Israeli civil society is working to advance equality through, for example, the Abraham Fund Initiatives, which seeks to advance coexistence and equality between Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens. It runs the Language as a Cultural Bridge Initiative in co-operation with the ministry of education. But while this is welcome, much more action must be taken. I wonder if civil society in Israel is talking to civil society in Northern Ireland because so much was done about inequality there as a consequence of action taken by civil society.
Health inequalities are unacceptable, as has been said, but I draw attention to the wonderful Hadassah hospital where Arabs and Jews are treated together by Arab and Israeli doctors and nurses, everybody working together, putting the patient first. There were some real insights recently in a magazine when some of the staff were interviewed: they said that it is a learning process for all. These people, who live totally separate lives, when they come to work start to understand the differences between their communities. A credible peace process is the best way to ensure that Israeli Arabs can continue to live in their homeland without discrimination and inequality. However, they cannot wait for a two-state solution which grows ever more distant. A peaceful Middle East needs a strong Israel living side by side with a strong Palestinian state, but Israel can be truly strong only if it is tolerant within and without and if all its citizens have equal rights in practice as well as in theory.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for securing this important debate. I welcome his personal experience and interest in the issues surrounding Israel's Arab citizens and his proposals as to how Arab citizens might enjoy more equal and active citizenship. I acknowledge the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, about language and definition of identity. He speaks with great expertise, and I hope that he will forgive me if my FCO terminology does not quite meet those standards. In recent weeks
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The promotion and protection of human rights is at the heart of UK foreign policy. How a country treats its minorities is an important test of a country's democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law. This is equally true for Israel. Indeed, it will become even more important for Israel as the proportions of the Arab Israeli and ultra-orthodox communities increase over time. Israel, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has an international obligation to ensure equal social and political rights for all citizens, irrespective of religion and race. Israel's declaration of independence calls for the establishment of a Jewish state with equal social and political rights for all citizens irrespective of religion and race. However, successive Israeli Governments have acknowledged that Israel has not fully met its commitments with particular regard to the Israeli minority. The report by Justice Theodore Or in 2003 concluded that Government handling of the Arab sector had been neglectful and discriminatory and made numerous recommendations as to how this could be addressed.
As we have heard, significant concerns remain about the situation of the Arab Israeli community. It is widely acknowledged to suffer discrimination, particularly at work and in government spending on housing and education, as well as in educational attainment. For instance, despite Israel's impressive economic performance in recent years, current indicators suggest that the economic situation of Israeli Arabs is static or worsening. According to the OECD, 50% of Israeli Arabs live in poverty. The lack of town plans and planning permission for Israeli Arab towns is one of the main causes of inequality and of the failure of Israel's Arab citizens to fulfil their economic potential. In many areas with a large Israeli Arab population, town plans either do not exist, or are out of date and do not reflect population growth. In the absence of plans, new building cannot be approved, but faced with existing overcrowding and the expanding need for housing, Israeli Arab communities build without approval, which leaves them vulnerable to prosecution and demolition of the new structures. As such, no new Arab city has been built since the establishment of the State of Israel.
In the 10 years since the Or report was published there have been several positive changes, some of which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bew. For example, there has been an increase in non-Jewish police recruitment, from 0.1 percent to 8.9 percent; better police liaison with Israeli Arab municipalities and community leaders; and an end to the use of live fire as a means of crowd control. However, as the right reverend Prelate said, disappointingly few of the institutional recommendations put forward in the Or commission's report to address the socio-economic causes of Israeli Arab frustration have been adopted. We continue to urge the Israeli Government to implement the recommendations made by the commission; specifically, to address the economic disparities and unequal access to land and housing.
These are issues which matter to the United Kingdom. One of the strategic goals of the British Embassy in Tel Aviv is to help Israel become more cohesive and inclusive, in particular through ensuring the place of Arab Israelis and protecting Israeli civil society. The embassy is consistently monitoring events and reactions in the communities and attaches great importance to their concerns. Nothing should be done to prejudice Israel's non-Jewish citizens or to discriminate against people on the basis of their race or religion. We are deeply disturbed by instances of anti-Arab rhetoric or violence.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has taken important steps to support the socio-economic integration of Israel's Arab citizens. We allocated £250,000 in 2011-12 to the Arab community to support various projects that aim to redress some of the marginalisation. This year we funded Tsofen, a non-profit organisation, to strengthen the high-tech sector in Nazareth. Tsofen, founded in 2008 by Arab and Jewish high-tech and community leaders, aims to advance the economic and social equality of Arab citizens of Israel by accelerating their entry into the high-tech industry and helping Israel's high-tech industry to locate successfully in Arab towns.
We have also supported a project delivered by the Arab Center for Alternative Planning to help empower Arab municipalities to deal with the reform in planning legislation. This non-governmental organisation works towards equality and the integration of Israel's Arab citizens into public life activities, while preserving their cultural identity. The centre has now been formally recognised by Israel's Interior Minister and has the legal right to intervene in official planning procedures as an independent legal entity. The project's activities have significantly increased the knowledge and interests of engineers, planners and mayors of the Arab municipalities.
We are also extremely grateful for the supportive work of the UK Task Force on Issues Relating to Arab Citizens of Israel. As the noble Lord, Lord Janner, described, the UK task force was set up in 2009 under the joint leadership of the United Jewish Israel Appeal and the Pears Foundation with the aim of supporting an inclusive Israeli society. Its commitment to facilitating new partnerships to advance the integration and opportunities of Israel's Arab minority is entirely positive; I pay tribute to the particular role played by the noble Lord in this work. I will also take back the work that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, referred to-specifically, by Hand in Hand-and look at whether HMG could look to take some of that forward.
The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised the issue of the Bedouin minority in the Negev, one of the most discriminated groups within Israeli society. Estimated at approximately 170,000 people, the Bedouin in the Negev comprise 12% of the Arab citizens of Israel. Between 1968 and 1989, half of this population was transferred into several Israeli-built townships in the north-east of the Negev. The rest remain in unrecognised villages built spontaneously by the Bedouin, without basic services such as electricity and running water. Unable to secure planning permission for such villages, whole communities have been issued with demolition orders.
In 2007, the Israeli Government voted to create the Goldberg commission to address the Bedouin issue. In 2011, the Goldberg commission issued its report and made several key recommendations which, if implemented, could go some way to addressing the long-running land dispute between the state and the Bedouin. These included: the recognition of most of the Bedouin villages; allowing the majority of the homes to go through a legalising process; and establishing a committee to hear and settle traditional land claims. We remain concerned that those recommendations have not yet been implemented and that the situation of the unrecognised Bedouin villages and houses remains largely unchanged, with demolitions still occurring.
We note that, following the Goldberg report, the Israeli Government put forward the so-called Prawer plan, which was intended to implement those recommendations and led to significant concern and controversy-the noble Baroness referred to that. There is an ongoing consultation process between the Government and Bedouin representatives; we understand that there is still some way to go before proposals are finalised. During his visit to Israel last month, the Minister for the Middle East raised our concerns on implementing the Prawer plan for the Bedouin of the Negev, again with Benny Begin, the Minister responsible for the Bedouin community. This is an issue which Mr Burt and the British ambassador have raised on a number of occasions with the Israeli Government. We continue to encourage the Israeli Government and Bedouin communities to engage in further dialogue to find a lasting and satisfactory solution to this long-standing issue of unrecognised Bedouin villages.
These issues cannot, of course, be separated from the wider context of the Middle East peace process. The UK has long been clear that we support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe Israel, living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. This should be based on 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states and a just, fair and agreed settlement for refugees. That is the only way to secure a sustainable end to the conflict and it has wide support in this House and across the world. We welcome the fact that Palestine is now a non-member observer state at the United Nations, but sadly the situation on the ground remains the same. The UK will work urgently with the US and EU to call for a new initiative to restart the peace process.
The noble Lord, Lord Warner, made specific calls for a move towards potential sanctions. He spoke of the potential lack of initiative on the part of the US. While I accept and understand the noble Lord's frustrations, I am sure that he will accept that it will be difficult to deliver and move forward with a two-state solution without the co-operation of the United States. The noble Lord, Lord Singh, raised the issue of criminal justice and detainees. The treatment of Palestinian prisoners forms part of our ongoing dialogue with Israel, including the issue of child detainees. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded a visit and report by a team of respected British lawyers, which included the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland. We have passed the independent report to the Israeli authorities and urged them to take forward the
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My noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood spoke passionately and with great expertise and I agree that a settlement in the Middle East is in our interest. Instability there continues to have a destabilising effect on the region and the wider world. My noble friend Lord Palmer sought to bring an alternative view to the debate. He made an important contribution and I agree when he says that inequality must be tackled wherever and whenever it occurs. That point was also made by the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld. However, I am not sure that the reference by my noble friend Lord Palmer to the reasons for underachievement in communities in the United Kingdom bears any real comparison to the reasons for lower life chances among minorities in Israel. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Hussein-Ece outlined the equality of opportunity that she as a member of a minority was afforded by the United Kingdom. She raised the important point that inequality is not intentionally perpetuated in the United Kingdom by policy decisions. I am sure that all noble Lords will understand my discomfort with the argument that serious discrimination elsewhere should be cited as a reason for justifying discrimination anywhere. The "it's worse elsewhere" argument does not impress the Government much, because we will tackle inequality and discrimination of minorities wherever and whenever it arises.
To conclude, I thank noble Lords again for their participation in this thought-provoking debate. The situation of Israel's Arab population is an important one, for Israel and for the region, with implications for Israel's democracy and its relations with its neighbours. In line with the Government's firm commitment to human rights, we will continue to support efforts, including by the Israeli Government and civil society, to address the problems of Israel's Arab population and to build relations between the two communities.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, we have had a good debate. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part and to the Minister for her response. Every contribution raised a point to which I would be tempted to respond but I will resist that temptation. Just to return to the point made right at the beginning by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, on the important difference between the Israeli state and the Israeli Government, I regard myself as a loyal Briton but your Lordships may have noticed that I am not always the most enthusiastic flag-waver for everything that comes from the Front Bench to my right. To those noble Lords who talked about the importance of being friends to Israel, I am often remembered of that advertisement for malt whisky: "True friends give it to you straight".
This is not just a matter of government. It is also a matter of culture-and the disturbing development of culture. We have in Israel today a vicious circle in which discrimination in law and practice leads to
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Again, it is not just a question of law. A number of noble Lords pointed to the importance of grace. By one of those acts of serendipity, when I was having my breakfast this morning I turned on Radio 4 and heard "Thought for the Day", given by the noble Lord, Lord Sacks. It was a remarkable reflection. He talked about yesterday's results of the census and the rise in the number of those who say that they have no religion. He talked about the importance of religions facing the fact that they might be a minority. He said that was important because religion at its best speaks not out of power but out of powerlessness. Perhaps the healthiest society is one where all religions are a minority and so have to engage with one another. Those are wise words. They are a challenge to us here in the UK. They are also a challenge to Israel. I beg to move.
Lord Rix: My Lords, first, I should apologise for my limited appearances in your Lordship's House of late but my wife has been in hospital for some time and returns for major heart surgery at the beginning of January. I am sure your Lordships will understand where my priorities lie after some 63 years of marriage.
I am equally certain that all of us present today will have read the government report about Winterbourne View Hospital, Transforming Care, and will have welcomed the sentiments expressed by the Minister of State in his introduction to the report and in his Oral Statement. The report sets out a strong commitment to prevent abuse from happening again and stresses in no uncertain terms that clinical commissioning groups and local authorities must develop services so that people can remain in their communities and not be sent away, where they are at greater risk of abuse. As is the way of things, what is written on paper and what happens in practice is often very different. I urge the Government to remember that the policy on local and personalised support has been in place for years-it is the implementation that has failed. I can only hope that
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The serious abuse suffered by people with a learning disability at Winterbourne View Hospital has rightly shocked the nation. The images broadcast in the BBC's "Panorama" programme in 2011 and again in October this year have left us angered and bewildered. They have also left many of us astonished that such brutal treatment of extremely vulnerable people did not bring down the full force of the law on the management and board of directors of Castlebeck Care Ltd-the owners of that so-called hospital. Unhappily in this country, under successive Governments, people at the top of organisations who fail in their duties of oversight and accountability seem to escape scot-free, while those lower down the ladder are held to account for their role in scandals. I look forward to seeing proposals in the spring on what the Government intend to do to strengthen the accountability of managers and directors in both public and private providers.
To underline this whole sorry saga, let me tell you about Simon, whose experiences were written about in Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation's Out of sight campaign report. Simon has a learning disability and behaviour that challenges. He spent 15 long months at Winterbourne View, far from his family and the community that he grew up in. During that time he was hit, pushed, abused and tormented. Prior to Winterbourne, Simon had received support locally and lived close to his family. When Simon needed a few more hours of care and support, social services refused. Things got worse for Simon and he was sent to an assessment unit. From there he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and then sent far away to Winterbourne View. His parents describe the torment of being helpless to prevent this, sidelined by uncaring authorities who did not listen to them or to Simon. With the Care Quality Commission failing to see the signs of poor practice, it took a whistleblower and "Panorama" to expose what was happening. Simon's story and that of his family brings into sharp focus our failing as a society to care for and support those who are most vulnerable.
Winterbourne View Hospital was a 24-bed institution run by Castlebeck Care Ltd. It was registered as a treatment, assessment and rehabilitation centre for people with learning disabilities. What it became was a place where people remained for significant periods of time, sometimes years, well beyond the time they should have been there for the supposed purposes of assessment and treatment. In that time they were subjected to emotional, verbal and physical abuse.
There are over 1,500 people with a learning disability in assessment and treatment centres, and 3,400 in total in in-patient services. This is far too many. It should rarely be necessary to admit a person to an assessment and treatment unit. In most cases what the person needs is good assessment and support in the place where they are living. However, people are ending up in places like Winterbourne View because support services in their local areas are either not available or the skills and expertise to support people locally is lacking.
The late and much missed Professor Jim Mansell called these places "dumping grounds" used by commissioners looking for an easy so-called solution for placing some of our most vulnerable people with high support needs. And we should not forget cost. Each person at Winterbourne attracted funding of around £3,500 a week-money that would have been better spent on local support services that are in all likelihood cheaper.
What of the scale of the problem? We might be tempted to think that Winterbourne is an isolated incident, but this is not the case. Following the "Panorama" programme, the Care Quality Commission carried out unannounced inspections of all similar units and a number of social care residential services across the country. Its report in June of this year showed that half of the services investigated were not only failing to meet essential standards around care and welfare, but also failing to meet standards around protecting people from abuse. This was a deeply concerning finding, meaning that essential safeguards were seriously lacking in many institutions, placing vulnerable people at risk.
Of course, it comes as no surprise to organisations such as Mencap-of which I must declare an interest as president-and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation. We have been campaigning tirelessly on this issue and our joint report Out of sight must remain firmly on the Minister's desk in coming years to remind him of the task ahead.
The action plan in the government report commits to a timetable to review all current placements and, by June 2014, to move all those inappropriately placed to community-based provision. While clear timescales are to be welcomed, the future of vulnerable people in remote institutions seems now to hang on the words "inappropriately placed". Who will determine this? Will the person with a learning disability and their family have a say? I fear very much that the tendency of professionals, commissioners and public authorities to protect the status quo will win over. We must be bolder. These units must close and no more should be permitted to open by the Care Quality Commission.
I turn now to the Care Quality Commission. The regulator, when inspecting Winterbourne View, failed to spot the abuse that was taking place. Furthermore, its inaction when contacted by a whistleblower was totally unacceptable. However, it has since reacted quickly and purposefully to the scandal, carrying out a comprehensive programme of unannounced inspections. We may not see them often, but the CQC does have teeth. For example, it can refuse to register public and private providers who wish to develop new services that go against national policy and put people at high risk of abuse. The CQC can also deregister high-risk existing services. I want to see the Care Quality Commission using its powers to stop another institution like Winterbourne View ever being established.
Your Lordships may recall that back in the 1980s all the talk, and subsequent action, was about care in the community and the closure of long-stay subnormality hospitals-yet here we are, some 30 years later, still finding that care in the community does not exist for
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What happened to Simon? He is now back living near his family, and loving life again. He is at the residential care home he was in before he was sent away, but the service has been adapted to meet his needs. This has been done by developing a flat for him adjoining the care home, where he lives with his support team. Simon's package of care costs half as much as it did at Winterbourne View and I know from Mencap, which is working with his mother, that he feels safe and happy. A solution has been found.
Living safely and happily should be the reality for all those with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges, and we must strive to make it a reality. Then, and only then, will the promise of care in the community be fulfilled.
Lord Touhig: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rix, for securing this debate and for bringing to it his very great experience and background in giving support and care to people with disabilities.
"There are far too many people with learning disabilities or autism in hospital, and they are staying there for too long-sometimes for years ... We should no more tolerate people being placed in inappropriate care settings than we would people receiving the wrong cancer treatment".-[Official Report, Commons, 10/12/12; col. 49.]
As the noble Lord, Lord Rix, said, more than 30 years ago the big idea was care in the community. Everyone got worked up calling for the closure of institutionalised hospitals and care homes. At the county hospital near where I then lived in Pontypool was a ward called St Hilda's Ward. The hospital had been the local Victorian workhouse and this ward was given over to the care of around a dozen ladies with learning difficulties. It had become their home and they had become very much part of the community, shopping in local shops and attending every event from carol services to school fêtes. Care in the community was supposed to end this sort of caring arrangement, giving people an independent life in their local community, but I believe for many it has made things worse. In order to give people a degree of independence, they were put into small houses and encouraged to live in what were supposed to be family units, but for many the care was non-existent.
A dear friend of mine was persuaded that her daughter with Down's syndrome would be better off living independently in the community. She was placed
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Contrast that with three young women, all with Down's syndrome, whom I met during the Blaenau Gwent by-election. They lived together in a small house and their carer lived with them. It was truly a family environment. They had a rich and varied social life, and the carer was part of their family. That is real care in the community, but I believe it to be the exception rather than the rule. If any noble Lords walk down Victoria Street tonight, barely a few hundred yards from this Chamber they will see people sleeping in doorways. Many clearly have mental health problems and learning difficulties, but their homes are cardboard boxes. This is the life of many who should be cared for in the community.
The Minister, Mr Lamb, said that all hospital placements will be reviewed by June 2013 and everyone who is there inappropriately will move to community-based support as quickly as possible. Could the Minister say precisely what is meant by a move to community-based support? If it is like the so-called care in the community that we have now, I wonder how many will end up like the poor souls sleeping on Victoria Street.
I would now like to spend a few minutes speaking about another matter of concern-disability hate crime. More than a third of the patients at Winterbourne View had a diagnosis of autism and the National Autistic Society, of which I, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, have the honour of being a vice-president, has been campaigning to end poor care and abuse at large, institutional-style services such as Winterbourne View since "Panorama" first aired its programme. The 11 individuals who were charged following the Winterbourne View scandal were charged with disability hate crimes. Disability hate crime is a major concern, regardless of whether someone is in hospital, a care home or the community. It is clear that nobody should suffer abuse because of their disability. In race-related hate crime, the Attorney-General has the power to intervene to increase sentencing where he believes that it has been too lenient. I strongly believe that this power should be extended where there has been a disability-related hate crime.
A lack of training and support for staff can contribute to poor and, in the most extreme cases, abusive practices such as those seen at Winterbourne View. It is vital, therefore, that staff have access to training in the specific needs of patients, especially those with autism. The Department of Health made specific commitments related to training in the adult autism strategy. However, I know that the National Autistic Society is concerned that such commitments have not been fulfilled. In July, the National Audit Office published a memorandum
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I urge the Government-and I am sure I am not alone in this-to ensure that the training commitments made in the adult autism strategy are fulfilled. The review of the strategy will take place next year. This is the chance for the Government to carry out their promise to ensure adequate training. I certainly hope that they will embrace that.
Baroness Jolly: My Lords, I start by echoing the words of the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Rix, for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House. His personal expertise and wisdom have informed the House for many years, and long may it continue.
It is vital that we make public this failure in care and act swiftly to ensure that vulnerable populations in society are treated with dignity and afforded quality, compassionate treatment. Today, I want to touch on a few distinct aspects of this issue. Systemic and, perhaps, societal issues need to be raised. As evidenced by the 11 individuals prosecuted and sentenced for providing shockingly abusive care, the actions taken by these staff at Winterbourne View were criminal. There is no excuse for this appalling abuse. I am pleased to note that the criminals have been brought to justice and that larger investigations into more than 150 other hospitals have not found similar abuse and neglect. However, where were the safeguards within this hospital to identify failures in care and correct them? Where was the management of this organisation in monitoring abuse and establishing the quality of care?
Culturally, I am concerned that this event reflects a fault in how we value our vulnerable populations-those with mental health problems, the disabled and the elderly. Our respect for these populations is apparent in whom we charge to care for them and we undervalue them when we pay little attention to how their carers are trained and managed. However, we do little to respect the ill treated if we do not change the culture of care to prevent these crimes from happening again.
We were all rightly shocked when the BBC "Panorama" programme uncovered this systematic abuse of patients at Winterbourne View Hospital. Vulnerable patients were bullied, pinned down and tormented, not once or occasionally, but systematically. This would be appalling even if this treatment was limited to one staff member. What escalates the abuse at Winterbourne View to a national scandal was the culture of neglect and ill treatment that was fostered throughout the hospital. Even with this widespread negligent culture, the existing accountability safeguards did not detect the abuse.
I see two areas of concern. First, the patients who received ill treatment in the hospital should not have been in the hospital setting to begin with. The noble Lord, Lord Rix, made that point very clearly. Similar
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Secondly, the abuse was found in a private, foreign investment-backed firm. As we move towards a system with greater diversity in how health and social care is provided, will the Minister tell the House what oversight is being put in place to ensure that these new forms of care delivery are fit for purpose and free from repetitions of this kind of abuse? In these settings, good management is key to setting the standard for institutional practices. Clearly, there was a failure to lead and train staff effectively and eliminate unacceptable behaviour. In these new methods of care delivery, with less direct government oversight, how can we ensure that management is effective in setting behaviour standards and being held to account?
There is a cultural issue that I would like to raise around training, appraisal and professional development of care staff. Clearly, there was neglect at many levels of the organisation, but in particular I believe that how we value front-line care workers reflects how we value vulnerable populations. The following example has been used before in your Lordships' House. A very high-profile department store and grocery chain will not let a new employee on to the shop floor without providing basic training on the job in hand and on the corporate culture-and this takes weeks, not days. It is accepted and common practice that staff at all levels are given close monitoring until a probationary period is over and that they are part of an appraisal scheme. This is not overkill; it is to ensure that employees know what they are doing and that employers know what employees are doing and can take appropriate action if there is a problem.
This brings me to registration. I know that the Government are reluctant to regulate for the registration of care workers but, with a large population in all areas of health and social care, the failure to register looks like a failure to value their work. When we start setting a precedent of lower value for these workers, it shows in their professional behaviour. If this vital cohort of workers were part of a registered body, that would send a signal to any companies that see the health and care business as a cash cow. Care workers do a valuable job. They are a resource to be valued and their training is not a cost-something to come off the bottom line-but an investment.
Finally, I applaud the action plan set forth by my honourable friend Norman Lamb. At the same time as we embrace innovative forms of care delivery, we must complement this flexibility with accountability from all levels of care organisations: owners, boards of directors, managers and care workers. We need to stop patients being inappropriately placed in the hospital as their primary care setting and instead design personalised services enabling them to live in communities closer to their families.
Again, I reiterate: how we value care workers reflects how we value the populations they care for. Universal professional standards for care workers should be developed and implemented to create a culture where their work is professionally valued and appraised. We need to know, too, that they will be registered. By moving quickly to implement these reforms, we can make what was a horrible failure in care into an opportunity to prevent its repeat.
Baroness Kidron: My Lords, it is a great privilege to rise for the first time in your Lordships' House and I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to noble Lords from all sides of the House for their very warm welcome, as well as to the delightful staff whose acts of kindness and gentle instruction have kept my transgressions to a minimum.
I will detain your Lordships only a very short while to tell you my own journey to involvement with young people with learning difficulties. I declare an interest as a trustee of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which over many years has done excellent work in the area of learning disabilities, and as co-founder and vice-chair of the educational charity, FILMCLUB. FILMCLUB was founded six years ago as a way of engaging and educating young people with the intention that they should see a broader world. It has been a very successful endeavour, with many tens of thousands of young people each week watching, reviewing and debating subjects both in and out of the curriculum, and in doing so learning about a world much richer than the one they usually inhabit.
One of the surprising outcomes of the scheme was the number of SEN teachers in mainstream and specialist schools who adopted the FILMCLUB programme to teach young people with learning difficulties. For some it was simply a peaceful moment for a restless mind; others found a place where they could engage with subjects and emotions that they recognised but in daily life struggled to articulate. It is one small space where young people-some with very challenging behaviour-found a method to communicate on their own behalf what concerns them.
I am by profession a film-maker and it was in this capacity that I was introduced to Louise, a young woman with complex needs who-as is the Government's ambition-lives in her community with her family. She is exemplary in her achievements against the odds-bright, humorous and ambitious to make the most of her life. She is an advocate for Young Advisors and a keen sailor. She also has cerebral palsy, is confined to a wheelchair and needs a communication aid to speak. Louise's life has been blighted by a series of disagreements and misunderstandings about where her physical disability ends and her learning difficulty begins, putting her family at odds with those who deliver the support she needs.
Louise has been shunted between schools of every possible variety, each in turn unable to cater to her complex needs. In her last school, for young people with physical disabilities, she was accused of attention-seeking, resulting in punishments that included encircling her wheelchair with furniture, taking her from her chair and laying her on concrete paving, and removing
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Louise lives in her community with her very loving family, but still her treatment was out of sight of her parents. She did not have the capacity to describe what was terrifying her, but she did protest at going to school. She started self-harming and repeatedly said that she wanted to die because she was "bad". Feeling powerless at her distress and unable to get answers from those entrusted with her care, her family withdrew her from school permanently to give her 24-hour care themselves. She was 12 years old.
Winterbourne was a shameful episode, both for those who inflicted violence and humiliation on the vulnerable and for us as a community. However, my concern is that in moving back to community-based support we do not overlook the indignities and cruelties routinely experienced in other contexts, because a culture of "not understanding" can, as in Louise's case, prove as abusive as deliberate criminal acts.
There has been a broad welcome of the Government's plan to transfer more than 3,000 people incarcerated in inappropriate care settings, but we must have concern that the burden of care is not subtly or cruelly transferred on to families, many of whom are already on a lifelong journey of supporting loved ones with complex needs, without them being assured of a fully resourced effective implementation, delivered with a level of competence that meets the needs of even the most challenging, for the newly released and for those already struggling with care in the community. The legacy of Winterbourne must be that the care provided in our all institutions and services is imaginative, compassionate and trustworthy.
It is the tradition of a maiden speech not to be controversial, and I will leave it to others in this Chamber more expert and able than I to judge if the Government's response is adequate to the task of providing a level of care in institutions and public services of which we can be proud. However, it is my hope that in my time in this House I will be able to lend robust support to the voices of the young and those on the margins to whom we often do not listen closely or hear clearly when they try to speak.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and to have this opportunity to congratulate her on her maiden speech. She has been acclaimed both nationally and internationally as a film-maker, and we must add our congratulations on her choice of subject matter in her maiden speech. We look forward to future contributions from her as the years go by.
I begin by supporting and joining the call from my noble friend Lady Jolly on two points-first, on the registration and structure of care workers in health
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As my noble friend Lord Touhig-if I may call him that-said, a third of the patients at Winterbourne View had a diagnosis of autism. I am genuinely filled with despair that, after the high profile of the Bournewood case some years ago now, we are still looking at people with a diagnosis of autism being held in a hospital, and the views of parents and carers being dismissed by so-called professionals. I thought we had moved on from there and I am going to ask my noble friend to carry forward a suggestion I made when we had the Statement earlier in the week about the Mental Capacity Act, which I will come to in a moment.
First, I will say something very briefly about autism and challenging behaviour. There is no doubt that there are people with an autistic diagnosis who have comorbidities-they may be learning-disabled or have specifically diagnosed mental illnesses-and they are complex cases. In another place over many years I raised again and again the difficulty for psychiatrists who are dealing-particularly but not exclusively-with adult patients who present with very challenging and disturbing behaviour. However, sometimes when they are seen by psychiatrists with an understanding of and expertise in autism, it is possible to unscramble what appear as perhaps rather obvious mental health symptoms, when in fact those symptoms have an autistic base.
Autism is not a mental illness and very often the challenging behaviour that is presented does not have a psychotic base to it at all. People who work with adults with autism who are challenging will know that, with the right package of support and particularly with the right expertise of the people working with them, all too often you can identify the triggers that create that autistic behaviour. Why? It is actually rather simple: it is because the autistic mind works differently from the way other people think, and rationalisation is a very complex area. I have known of many-and I do mean many-autistic adults who have been held in some form of detention; some voluntarily, some not. When they have been placed in an appropriate setting with professionals who understand what those triggers are and why their often challenging behaviour presents in a certain way, with the right package of support they have been able to live and be supported in the community rather than locked up.
I say to my noble friend, we really cannot keep going round and round in circles, coming back to these high-profile cases where we seem to have learned nothing. I was involved in the Bournewood case with patient P, who was detained in a mental institution, and it was only when his carers went through not just all the courts in this country but to the European Court and got a judgment there that he was allowed to be released-and I use that word deliberately-from
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As always, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Rix. His work in this field is an exemplar for us all. Today I have written to the chairman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Dr Hywel Francis MP, because I have had grave concerns for some time that the Mental Capacity Act, on which I sat on both the pre-legislative scrutiny and the Bill committees in another place, is not in practice supporting the people whom Parliament intended it to support.
I say again to my noble friend that the Care Quality Commission needs to be more rigorous-we hope that we will have learnt lessons from this tragic case-and that the Mental Capacity Act is not doing what it should in terms of parents, carers and, in particular, patients. I also suggest that the deprivation of liberty safeguards are too narrowly defined by the courts and that the whole framework needs to be reviewed, taking account of the way in which the courts implement the framework.
I hope that my noble friend will understand the call not just for the Joint Committee on Human Rights but for the Government themselves to completely review the implementation of the Mental Capacity Act-an Act I thoroughly support. We will not get to the bottom of some of the problems that we are discussing today unless we are prepared to do that.
Lord Addington: My Lords, this is one of those debates where I think that the general element of agreement is going to be overwhelming: we should never have got anywhere near this situation; there were structural problems which were not addressed; and, as has clearly been pointed out, there was also criminal activity. The real question that we face is: how can we minimise the chances of anything like this happening again?
Having said that there is a considerable degree of consensus, looking at exactly what happened at Winterbourne View, we probably had a perfect storm for abuse, as I think it was described in some of the briefing that I received. There was bad management and a disinterested owner, who made no investment, which meant that care workers, who were badly recruited and badly trained, were left to deal with people with what has been called challenging behaviour. To play devil's advocate for a second, if you meet challenging behaviour-for instance, people who self-harm, are unable to communicate and occasionally lash out through frustration-and you have been trained only in basic restraint, that is what you will use. There is an almost iron inevitability about what will happen unless there is somebody alongside you telling you that there
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I want to take up a point which my noble friend raised earlier, on the training of staff. The care and support workers at Winterbourne View should have been given better training and-something that is incredibly easy to say but apparently incredibly difficult to do-they should have been told when to call for support. As anyone who has dealt with front-line support in public service will know, getting that message across at any level is difficult.
I have had a discussion with numerous Ministers from numerous parties over many years about many issues relating to people with disabilities. I have pointed out that the people in charge need to be told that the tick-box method does not work. They will need support, and that support will differ as circumstances change. Often, the Minister or senior official has said, "Yes, we'll do it", but it does not happen. I have had meetings with Ministers of all Governments and have asked when they are going to implement this. The response has been, "But we said we'll do it in legislation or in guidance". However, it does not happen on the ground. That is clearly the situation that we have here. Therefore, we created something that was bound to go wrong-perhaps not as wrong as it did but it was bound to go wrong.
We have to bring about worker registration and make sure that these people have a responsible job where they can develop a career so that they have some stake in it, as well as a stake in making sure that their co-workers are correctly registered. We could talk about whistleblowing here. If we make sure that people have a job where they have a future and a clear duty, the chances of this happening again will go down. We can never totally remove it. Indeed, the idea for better inspections, et cetera, by those higher up are, of course, needed. We can start to take away a part of this cocktail of disaster; we can start to remove it. We can have a group of people who have a stake and who will go back in again.
I do not envy my noble friend her job, but I hope that when she replies she can give us a clear idea of exactly what process we are talking about and where it will be implemented. We must have people who are trained well enough to recognise that they need support and who are willing to ask questions. We must start to work with the situation for those with autism. The noble Baroness, Lady Browning, has been an important part of my secondary education on autism. Once we start working in that field, we need a different approach. There is always a danger that those of us dealing with a disability will think that it is like the disability we have. Probably our problems with bureaucracy are more similar than our actual on-the-ground experience. Unless our front-line workers are better trained and told that it is okay to ask for help and support, such problems will occur again. I hope that my noble friend will say that steps are being taken. We are trying to
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Baroness Hollins: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Rix for his inspiration and tenacity on behalf of people with learning disabilities, and I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, on her eloquent maiden speech, which reflects her long-standing commitment to social justice.
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