The recent riots that we witnessed in Bradford, Oldham and other towns can only damage race relations. Riots grab headlines, but when the TV cameras move on, it is the local community that is left to sweep up the debris. The riots caused millions of pounds’ worth of damage. People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.
But these episodes are a warning which we must heed. If we cannot prosper as one nation, in time we may become no nation. Racist groups thrive on ignorance. They would have us believe that the riots were caused by the inability of white and Asian communities to live together. That ignores factors such as unemployment and poverty which are major causes of the discontent. It is on such unhappy social conditions that the racist vultures target and feed.
I welcome the Parekh report on the future of multiethnic Britain. I pay tribute to the commitment which the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, and his colleagues clearly gave to producing this work. There is time to highlight only a few of the recommendations that I support. For example, I believe that a truly independent mechanism to investigate complaints made against the police is long overdue. This in itself may also encourage more black and Asian recruitment, which is needed in the police service.
The report rightly urges deeper thinking about the policy of exclusion of pupils from schools. This is a particular issue in the black community. A balance needs to be struck between maintaining school discipline and offering support to pupils who display problems. The majority of youngsters that I have represented in criminal courts had already been expelled or excluded from school, with little or nothing to occupy their time. Criminal prevention is the best crime prevention. It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.