3 Baroness Flather debates involving the Scotland Office

Fri 27th Jan 2017

Queen’s Speech

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Wednesday 8th January 2020

(4 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather (CB)
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My Lords, I have something very different to say, as usual. I am going to be very non-politically correct, and I want your Lordships to think about political correctness because I think we have tied ourselves up in knots by giving in to it. It is not a good thing for us. We see things happening but we do not speak about them because it is not politically correct. Who says so? Who says that we should not speak about things that need to be put right just because they involve somebody from a minority background? Who says that you cannot say “black coffee” or “white coffee”? What is this nonsense? I remember when political correctness first came about. We all thought it was rather funny, but all of a sudden it has become a mantra. Everybody is saying, “This is not PC.” But what is PC? If there is anything going on in this country that does not help it, we should all be talking about it.

There are a number of issues. There are a lot of people in, say, Bradford who do not learn English. In many European countries, people have to learn the language if they want to get their benefits. We do no such thing because it is non-PC. We say, “Please learn”, and we have the Casey report and this report and that report, but nobody will learn anything unless you make them. I have always felt that way and will go on feeling that way. If people do not speak the language, they are deaf and dumb in this country; they do not know what is going on and have to rely on children or somebody who does speak English. It is completely and utterly wrong.

Another issue is first-cousin marriages. These marriages mean that the NHS has to take the burden of any child, from birth to death. We should not allow that to happen. I asked the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury to introduce DNA testing for first-cousin marriages, given that Anglicans allow them. He said, “No, there will be trouble.” He is also PC and therefore cannot do it. But we should do it for everybody, not just for Muslims. If there is a first-cousin marriage, there must be a DNA test, so that people will know how badly affected any child born will be. But no, we do not do that.

Then there is halal meat. We do not label halal meat. I do not know whether noble Lords know that we are all now eating halal meat. All the takeaways sell halal meat, all the hospitals serve halal meat to patients and all the schools serve halal meat to pupils. I do not think that is fair. It is not fair to those of us who do not want to eat it. I have tried to get Michael Gove to label it. He said, “Oh, but it will make it expensive for the Muslims and the Jews.” Well, what the hell? Are we running this country for their benefit or are we running it as it should be run? In any case, there are two kinds of halal: pre-stunned and non-pre-stunned. If the halal meat served was just labelled as pre-stunned, it would not have been ritually killed and there would be no problem; we could all eat it because all our meat is pre-stunned. Instead we hear, “Oh, we are going to set up a committee.” How many committees are there going to be before these decisions are taken? If you go to Bradford, parts of it are like “Little Pakistan”, with no people other than Muslims. I have nothing against Muslims and nothing against people living together, but these have almost become no-go areas. There is not much work there, so they do not work. Somebody very important, who I cannot name, asked me why they come here. Why would they not come here? We give them benefits, we give them healthcare, we give them schooling, we give them homes. Why would anyone not come here? Everybody thinks Britain is a piece of heaven and wants to come here.

The values of this country need to be protected. There was even a sentence in the gracious Speech about the Government doing everything to protect the values of this country. I think it was meant for outsiders, but we must protect our values inside as well.

Sharia Law: Marriages

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd October 2019

(4 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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My Lords, forced marriage is a criminal offence in this country and has been since 2014. Indeed, in 2017 we introduced lifelong anonymity for the victims of forced marriage to encourage more people to come forward and report it. The age of marriage is 16 but, in the period from 16 to 18, marriage can of course be carried out only with the consent of the parent. There are no immediate plans to increase the age in respect of marriage.

Baroness Afshar Portrait Baroness Afshar (CB)
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My Lords, are the Government aware that these courts deprive Muslim women of not only their rights but their Islamic rights? They do not give them the rights that the Koran gives to women: to independence, to charge for housework and to charge for motherhood. It is high time that someone who is familiar with the Koranic teachings of Islamic rights intervened to prevent this façade of sharia courts imposing absolutely unjust and unlawful demands on women. What will this Government do about that?

Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill [HL]

Baroness Flather Excerpts
Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather (CB)
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My Lords, I am proud to call the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, my very dear friend. She is a bully, you know, and what is so good is that she does her bullying in such a way that you do not mind it—you are pleased to help her. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, on her speech. The speeches related well to each other and set the scene for us.

I am concerned about a number of things. First, I lay the blame squarely at the door of the Government. There is no way that a Government should be allowing a parallel system to affect their citizens. We have first to decide whether the Muslims and the Muslim women are citizens of this country. If they are, they all deserve, and ought to be given, equal treatment. There should not be another system of so-called law which is a religious law—not a law of the land—and which interferes with and decides how people, particularly women and children, are treated.

Through my noble friend Lady Cox I have met women and heard stories about events which you cannot believe are happening in our country. I have come from elsewhere to live in this country and I respect this country. It has never interfered with my belief—I am not a Christian—and the important thing is that I respect its laws and culture.

I want to say something important about the word “culture”. A lot of the people who deal with minority women are told, “This is our culture”, but what does that mean? If they are beaten and chastised, that is their culture. If they are not given any money, that is their culture. If they are not given a divorce, that is their culture. But what is culture? I always imagined that it was something that developed for the good of society—not something that is no better than a social practice. You can have social practices which are appalling or social practices which are wonderful, but you cannot have an appalling culture. Hiding behind something called “culture” is one of the worst things to have come about, particularly when it is cited by social workers and other people who deal with these issues.

According to scholars, sharia law is discriminatory against women in every respect. No matter what we do, it will never provide equality. Therefore, it is our Government’s job to make sure that women are not discriminated against under sharia practice. Pakistan has only just passed a law saying that honour killing is now viewed as murder. It has taken a long time but it came about because a woman burned her daughter. India is now trying to stop multiple marriages, saying that everybody is entitled to marry only one person. Strictly speaking, we do not allow multiple marriages here, but when the Home Affairs Committee tried to tackle that, it discovered that it would cost the Government a huge amount of money to take care of all the so-called non-wives, because under that system there is always a wife, a nanny, a cousin or somebody else to look after the children.

As your Lordships know, when a Muslim man divorces his wife, with great ease, he puts her out on the street. When people ask why he is doing that, he says, “Why does it matter? The Government will look after her. She won’t starve or sleep on the street. I don’t have to worry about that”. As somebody has already stated, fathers are entitled to take children who have reached the age of seven. You can get a British divorce if you have a British marriage, but if you go to Pakistan or any other Islamic country the husband can take the children away because the woman is not divorced in the eyes of Islamic law. I learned this graphically from a woman who had had a British divorce and tried for six years to get a sharia divorce. This is an absolute scandal.

When the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, was a Minister, I discussed with him the possibility of at least registering the marriages of all the people who come to live in this country. Their marriages, at least, should be registered and, once they are, questions of bigamy and rights come up. Without that, the women have nothing. Let us get on with it and change things.