ANALYSIS MPs’ race-hate report, a year on
LITTLE MORE than a year ago, an all-party parliamentary report into antisemitism painted a grim picture: the oldest hatred was alive and well in Britain.
The MPs from the all-party parliamentary group on antisemitism who produced it admitted they had been shocked by some of the things they uncovered — for example, the levels of security at Jewish schools paid for by the community.
More often than not, such reports are presented with a similar fanfare and then swiftly consigned to a House of Commons library shelf to gather dust. So what has happened to this one? Quite a lot, with more on the way. The government signalled how seriously it took the report’s findings by quickly meeting one of the key recommendations, the setting up of a cross-departmental antisemitism task force chaired by Parmjit Dhanda MP, parliamentary under-secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government. It was due to hold its second meeting yesterday.
But the JC understands that two ministries, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, have been rapped over the knuckles for not taking the issue seriously enough.
“These departments sent junior civil servants who were not properly briefed, while everyone else was represented by senior personnel. There was serious pressure from Number 10 and the Cabinet Office to make this succeed and the departments were told to get their act together,” the JC was told.
A number of other recommendations have been put forward.
Schools Minister Jim Knight announced last month that the government will pay for new security measures in schools out of its capital budget.
All 43 British police forces will be using the same system to report antisemitic crimes and incidents by 2009 at the latest.
The Schools Linking Network, a programme to link together schools of different faiths and backgrounds based on a model in Bradford in the wake of race riots there, has been extended nationally, with £2 million of government money together with £1 million from the Pears Foundation.
The Crown Prosecution Service has started an internal review of how it deals with cases of race hate and racial incitement.
Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said the message he and communal colleagues took to their meeting with Mr Dhanda this week was positive.
He said: “The important thing was that a serious cross-departmental work-programme was developed around the report.
“We are delighted that the government established a cross-departmental task force to oversee delivery. The involvement of the JLC, Board of Deputies and Community Security Trust in such a task-force is unprecedented. It is a serious and meaningful enhancement of the partnership between government and the Jewish Community in tackling antisemitism.
“It is true that some departments have been slower off the mark. However, recent meetings of the group have demonstrated that it has real teeth and the ability to hold officials to account where action is not forthcoming.
“We have every confidence that the Secretary of State will be well positioned to take an overwhelmingly positive report back to parliament next May.”
Mark Gardner of the CST commented: “The fact that the inquiry is now referred to by the government as a select committee is an important demonstration of its commitment to the process.”
On the recommendation of joint leadership programmes for young Jews and Muslims, Mr Gardner said: “The Jewish community is well aware of the need for better communication with Muslims.
“We welcome the ongoing development of moderate Muslim communal bodies and note the recent excellent example of the Chief Rabbi addressing the City Circle group, a Muslim forum in the City of London.”
The all-party group chairman, John Mann MP, visited the US Congress last week after an invitation from the recently re-launched Congressional Taskforce against Antisemitism, fulfilling another recommendation that the group should take the example of the inquiry and its findings abroad.
He said: “We welcome all the developments, particularly the consensus we have with the other parties. This means that the government has no ‘wriggle room’ on this.”
Denis MacShane MP, who chaired the report committee, said: “Many of the points Mr Brown made in his speech on Wednesday first appeared in the report. We set the agenda.”