On Thursday I was absolutely determined to get called in the Third Reading Debate on the Terror Bill as I wanted very much to get what my consultation with local Muslims had delivered onto the record.
The Chamber was relatively and eerily empty by comparison with the high drama of Wednesday’s votes – and so I got my chance after about the first four hours of bobbing up and down at the end of every speech.
I made two basic points: the first was to relate back the results of the consultation. The Prime Minister at PMQs (Prime Minster’s Question Time) had asserted that Muslims did not want to be associated with being against this Bill – and the inference was that everything with them was therefore hunky-dory. Well – it clearly wasn’t so simple and I read out the Secretary of the Mosque’s email to me as it makes moving reading.
There was no division at the end of the debate. Basically – the Government’s defeat yesterday means that the outstanding issues over ‘glorification’ and the definition of ‘terrorism’ will have to be sorted in the Lords. Now the aftermath of the Government defeat is the running news story. From what I can make out listening to John Reid – it was Parliament that got it wrong; Tony Blair is right. That statement appalled me. The democratic duty of Parliament and the will of Parliament were clear.
In the evening I had invited, with the help of Merel Ece, key members of the Turkish, Turkish Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot communities in to discuss informally with me the key issues for their communities. Overwhelmingly – it is education. Of course there is concern about Cyprus, minority rights in Turkey and autonomy of some sort for the Kurds – but it is here in this country that the main thrust of their problems lie. The attainment record in our schools is extraordinarily low – and relatively little seems to be being done, although some good projects are happening (at least one here in Haringey) but there is no coordination of best practise. There is clearly also a problem with the Home Office in terms of visas for students. The other issue that stood out was the lack of recognition for the Alevi – a faith and a culture but not a race.
So now I feel I have put faces to names and issues and it was a really interesting couple of hours. Simon Hughes MP also popped in to give a little troll through Liberal Democracy and our position on the international issues – which was really appreciated.