In a House of Lords debate on Wednesday, CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Lords), Rt. Hon. Lord Pickles along with other Conservative peers expressed their concerns about the rise of antisemitism and religious intolerance in society and the need to ensure the legacy of Holocaust survivors is secure.
In the debate secured by Lord Bourne on the challenges posed by religious intolerance and prejudice in the United Kingdom, Lord Pickles said “I think it is beholden upon us, as politicians—as leaders of society—to speak clearly and robustly against antisemitism and any form of prejudice, but to do so in moderate and liberal language”.
The debate came as Home Office data released this week shows a 40% surge in hate crime directed at people in England and Wales because of their religious beliefs over the past year. 52% of the offences were aimed at Muslims.
He pressed that “whether we are politicians or distinguished columnists, we have a duty to ensure that in defending liberal values, we don’t speak in illiberal terms”.
Speaking about the importance of erecting a National Memorial and Learning Centre to the Holocaust by Parliament, he said: “At a time when parts of Europe are seeking to rewrite this history, it is important for us to set a clear example that we will look at our history with an unblinking eye. The real reason why it’s going there is because of its situation. It [the Holocaust memorial] stands right next to Parliament”.
Lord Pickles added: “It will remind people, as they leave the monument and look towards Victoria Tower, that this place is a bastion against tyranny. But as we look out at the memorial, it will remind both Houses of Parliament that the legislature has a power to protect or to oppress. We will remember that a compliant legislature introduced the Nuremberg laws”.
He concluded: “it is my sincere hope that we will build a monument that we will all be proud of; that we will build a learning centre that will be a beacon to the world”.
Lord Suri also spoke in the debate, stating he believed that “Labour’s summer of denying the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism gave succour to extremists who would use the actions of the Israeli state to attack and demonise British Jews who have no part in the conflict in the Middle East”.
Lord Suri also underlined: “antisemitism is the first of many evils in society, and Jews are the canary in the coalmine for waves of incoming prejudice. We dismiss concerns at our peril”.
Among Conservative Lords to contribute to the debate were CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Lords) Rt. Hon. Lord Pickles Lord Bourne, Lord Cormack, Lord Griffiths, Lord Suri, Lord Patten, and Baroness Warsi.