3 Baroness Flather debates involving the Home Office

International Women’s Day

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Thursday 9th March 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather (CB)
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I am sorry, but I have a little frog in my throat. I am sure it will go away. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Shields, for introducing the debate. I am sorry that I am not with her on the technical side.

In 1990 I came to your Lordships’ House and, at that time, I was the only Asian in the House, man or woman. I increased the number of non-white Members by 100%. The only other person here who was non-white was Lord Pitt. I bring this up to point out how much the House has changed. It is worth thinking how much we have changed—and how much more women are doing today than they were in the House when I first came. They are Ministers, they are leading and they are on the Front Bench. We did not get that sort of thing from women when I first came, and I feel that it is a matter of pride that we have moved forward in ourselves. I have friends who have been here a longer time than me, and we have moved on—and that is a good sign.

I have picked up a couple of things from other speakers. The noble Lords, Lord Sheikh and Lord Singh, talked about their faiths. There is no doubt that what the founder of the Sikh religion said is probably the most wonderful statement for people to live by. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said how women are respected in Islam. Maybe they are respected in their religion or faith, but they are not respected in practice, either in the Sikh religion or in Islam. I am sorry that neither noble Lord is here, but I really do think that we have to get away from what the faith says to what people are doing—because they are not doing what their faith says.

The next thing that I wanted to say refers to what the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, said about how few men are speaking in this debate. Without men’s support, women cannot move forward. It is a fact—we all have to work together, and the men have to work with us. So I am very disappointed that there are so few men speaking.

I know that it is a little bitty, but I just want to point out that I always feel that living in this country is a little like living in heaven compared to most other countries, especially the developing countries. People who have not been to other countries, or have not stayed in them, do not know. If you go as a tourist it is not enough, but if you have lived in any other country or you have visited to learn about that country, you will know that living here is like living in heaven. It is such a pity that most British people do not realise what they have and what they have achieved, for everyone.

I know that there is a long way to go for women. Part of the reason for that, if I may say so—it may be an unpopular statement—is that women themselves are at fault in many ways. They do not support each other and they are not sisters; they are rivals rather than sisters. When women learn how to support each other and how to work together, it will help a great deal. Please can all the wonderful ladies who have been involved in all sorts of things tell other women to support each other, because I have seen that they do not? I myself have experienced not being supported by women in different areas that I have worked in. That is by the by, but it is an important thing for us to remember. We need to be supportive of each other and help each other to move on.

My interest is mainly in developing countries, because my origins are from India. The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, said something about there being an enormous amount of money in India. There is—in very few hands, and they do not part with it, not a penny. There is a new law in India that 2% of net profits should go to corporate social responsibility. Very people do that, though, and most of the middle-level businesses do not even know that they are supposed to do so. That is bad, given that, according to the World Bank, Indian billionaires could wipe out India’s poverty overnight. They will not do it because they do not spend any money; some people say that that is why they are rich, and perhaps that is so.

I have set up a charity called Women Matter. Our object is to find work for women that is paid—in developing countries, not in the UK. If a woman earns a little bit of money in Nigeria or India, for example—or anywhere—her life changes. She changes; her family changes; their health changes; everything changes. Education is essential, and the mother who earns a little money is very keen to send her children to school, much more so than the one who has nothing. There is no self-awareness in women in developing countries. They do not realise that they are worth anything because they have been told from birth that they are worth nothing. It is extremely important that we work on getting them access to economic empowerment, because with that comes self-awareness, self-respect and understanding of what their family needs.

I will give you an example of that. Bangladesh is not a remarkable country, as we know; it has not got a remarkable Government. We all know that, too. But do you know what has happened to Bangladesh? There are all those garment factories, and many girls and women working in them. It is better than India on every major tick-box: better education, better food, better family planning, and better in economic terms. There is an example for us. Women need not the Government but access to finance, because everything runs with money. Please, everyone, think about that, and see what you can do to get women some work.

Cycling

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Wednesday 10th February 2016

(8 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather (CB)
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My Lords, I thought that I would be the only one to say that it is also the responsibility of cyclists to look after themselves. They should also take care of other road users, who should take care of them, too.

I am very lucky to have a driver. Often when driving in London, having come from Maidenhead, where I live, we have one or two shocks from cyclists doing things that are totally unacceptable. I know that everybody says it is the few, but while this may be so, it is the few motorists, the few cyclists and the few pedestrians who cause problems for everybody else. It is very common to see cyclists who do not give hand signals. That is not unusual at all. I have had cyclists overtake my car when we are trying to turn right, we have signalled and there is nothing coming from the other side, so it is to be expected that we would want to turn right. Okay, we are careful. We do not knock them down. But it is important that they follow the same rules. They often do not stop for red lights. They need to follow the same rules as we do.

I wrote to the mayor about it and he talked about some kind of training programme. I do not know whether it would be voluntary or compulsory. I think that it should be compulsory for all cyclists in a big city such as London, because everybody needs to know what they should and should not be doing, and what makes things dangerous for them and for other road users.

Prevent Strategy

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Wednesday 30th November 2011

(12 years, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, may I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Noon, for giving us this opportunity to say how we feel about this issue? It is a very important issue, and I have given it much thought, over a long period of time. There are now cities in this country with areas where no white people live and no white people go, and usually they are Muslim areas. It is very sad, because in fact the people who live there have no desire to mix with the white people. There is of course a reason for it, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Hameed, has very properly touched on it.

They feel they are disliked by us. The Muslims now feel that people of this country think of every Muslim as a terrorist. That has had a very important and negative effect on relationships. We all know, of course, what Islam is like, but do they know what Islam is like? I am surprised that none of your Lordships has mentioned what happens in mosques, which are the crucial areas where recruitment and extremisation of people takes place.

Lord Sheikh Portrait Lord Sheikh
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You have made a statement about mosques. Where is your evidence?

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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I will get you evidence, but I do not have it to hand at the moment. I hope you realise that it is happening. Schoolchildren go to mosques every day; they have no time to do their homework and they are falling behind in education. What is wrong with seeing that the imams are properly educated, that they can speak English and that they know what Islam teaches? One of the most important aspects of starting integration is making sure that people who go to a mosque are taught Islam in the proper way, as has been spoken about in this Chamber. I am sorry to say this is not happening.

The second point, which I am very keen on, is that the young—young men in particular—are not skilled in anything. It is time we started programmes for skilling them. Education is important, and they are lagging behind in it, but if we can give them a skill to earn their living, we might see a change in their lives. We do not want young people to not get jobs, to live on benefits all their lives and then start the trend again. Their fathers may be on benefits, they are going to be on benefits, their children will be on benefits. This is what happened in Northern Ireland. We must stop this somewhere. We have to start doing programmes, we have to skill them, and we have to make sure that they are capable of holding proper jobs. This will give them self-respect and respect from other people as well, which is very important. I repeat that we must make sure the imams in the mosques are properly educated and are teaching the people proper Islam, not what they think is Islam. If you talk to young Muslim people, they do not think like that. They do not say “Islam is a religion of peace”. They say that they want this country to become Islamic; they want to change this country into an Islamic country.

I am also very concerned about the advent of Sharia, particularly because it is discriminatory against women. That is not the way we live in this country. We have an Equality Act, yet we allow Sharia, which is totally discriminatory to women, to deal with family situations. No boy over seven is given to the mother—he automatically goes to the father. Property rights are not respected. I hope that your Lordships, especially those of you who are Muslims, will do your best to change these things.