Lord Polak debates involving the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

There have been 3 exchanges involving Lord Polak and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Thu 28th March 2019 Meat: Ritual Slaughter and Religious Freedom (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (98 words)
Mon 26th November 2018 Kindertransport Commemoration (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (664 words)
Mon 29th October 2018 Pittsburgh: Synagogue Attack (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (275 words)

Meat: Ritual Slaughter and Religious Freedom

Lord Polak Excerpts
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has indicated that it will look at labelling in the round to ensure that we take account of consumer demand. Therefore, that is something that we can ensure. It has been perfectly legal to sell kosher and halal meat since the 1930s and that position remains unchanged. The only change is that since January this year—this is not to do with the judgment—it has not been possible for it to be classified in this country as organic.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I would like to register an interest in that I eat only kosher meat. I understood that labelling meat as organic is about how the animal is reared or fed, not about how it is killed. However, does the Minister agree that mechanical stunning methods are not fool-proof? Why does he think that campaigners often concentrate on shechita, for example? According to Defra, mis-stunning, which can cause an animal distress, affects about 1% of the total poultry slaughtered per annum—9.5 million—when the total number of poultry for the kosher market is just 1 million a year.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I note what my noble friend says and he is absolutely right: the number of mis-stunning incidents in abattoirs is very low, and that has been the case over a period of time. As I said, there is a delicate balance to be struck here between what might be desirable from an animal sentience point of view and what is desirable from a religious rights point of view. It is a very delicate balance but I think that we have it right in this country. Certainly, my department has had very few representations on this issue; I do not think that it is a major issue with the public.

Kindertransport Commemoration

Lord Polak Excerpts
Monday 26th November 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, these figures are rough estimates but I understand that in 2017, 33,000 children—many unaccompanied—arrived in Europe. In Greece nearly 3,000 children are currently waiting for a place in a shelter, living in camps or on the streets, in deplorable and dangerous conditions. There are also several hundred in France and an unknown number in Italy.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for securing the debate and for all the work that he has done and continues to do. If I may say so, we are all glad that he is still here.

In preparation for my short contribution, I made one visit and one phone call. The visit was to Dr Hilda Cohen, a close friend of my wife’s family, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. I visited her on Friday morning because as a 10 year-old girl she was sent on the Kindertransport to the UK. She brought Kristallnacht to life for me. She talked of the flames, the burning and the destruction of her own synagogue in Frankfurt on the night of Wednesday 9 November 1938. Just two days later, her father was taken away from the family Shabbat table. Incredibly, Hilda recalled that the discussion was more about whether or not her father should take a suitcase with him as it was forbidden to carry in the public domain on the Sabbath. He was held for a month but was then returned to the family—probably, she recalled, due to the fact that he had received an Iron Cross for his service in World War I. In July 1939 Hilda was taken by her parents to Frankfurt station. They were not a kissing and hugging family but Hilda recalled, some 80 years later, that there was kissing and hugging as she left with a small bag containing her prayer book, her Bible, some silver ladles and a few photos. That, of course, was the last day she saw her parents and brother. The story is all too familiar.

On 3 September 1939, Hilda, aged 11, found herself in Merthyr in south Wales, and she was looked after by a childless couple who showed her selfless kindness. Hilda went on to study medicine. She became a doctor and worked for many years in the blood transfusion unit. She became a Cardiff city councillor and a JP serving on the Bench in south Wales for more than 40 years. Serving the community and doing for others, Hilda has been an inspiration. She has three children and 16 grandchildren and is expecting her 10th great-grandchild imminently. Hilda’s story is about the selfless kindness of the host family and the generous decision of the Government of the day.

That sense of community led me to the phone call, which I made yesterday. I called the renowned playwright Diane Samuels, who was in my class in school in Liverpool. Diane wrote the play “Kindertransport”, which was first performed here in the UK in 1993. I recommend it to those noble Lords who may not have seen it. Diane cited three reasons for writing that play, which she published. The first was that she saw a friend, whose father had been on the Kindertransport, struggling with the concept of survival. The second was when she heard another friend being shocked to find out that his mother was in Auschwitz—he did not know this all his life. The third reason was the admission of another woman in her fifties, who had come on the Kindertransport, and had expressed a feeling of rage at her dead parents who had abandoned her, even though that abandonment had led to the saving of her life.

These are challenging issues but on the call yesterday, I reminded Diane that as young teenagers in Liverpool we and our friends were inspired by Stanley Morris of the Shifrin Foundation. This was an educational drama group that played a huge part in our upbringing and taught us a massive sense of community. Diane was a superstar then, as she is today.

For me, the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport is a reminder of acts of kindness and bravery, a commitment to one’s fellows and a striving for a better world. It is the inspiring story of Hilda and the educational creativity of Diane that give me hope for a better future.

Lord Judd Portrait Lord Judd (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I must say that I am a personal friend of my noble friend Lord Dubs and if there is one person whom we should mention in our debate today, it is Lady Dubs. When my noble friend has been so frantically and tirelessly committed, she has given him stalwart support throughout the whole enterprise.

It is important that when we are confronted with issues such as this, we do not just agonise but do something. When something can be done, we should do it; my noble friend Lord Dubs has illustrated that this is true. But the best way in which we can honour those who were courageous enough to stand up and organise the transport for those who were able to come—the best tribute—is to remember those who were not able to come: the millions who died in the concentration camps and the Holocaust. We should also recommit ourselves to an overriding drive to ensure that such things cannot happen again. We must work effectively and internationally to deal with the causes of what we were confronted with in the 1930s.

I would be glad to have clarification from the Minister on one very practical point. Families are psychologically crucial to the developing and maturing child. Can we really not become more imaginative about the arrangements that can be made to enable some relatives—at least one—to come and join a child who has made it to the UK? This could have a tremendous impact on the future of the child and on their well-being and security. At the moment, the Government take the line that this would only encourage still more to come, but I have seen no evidence whatever for this. If the Government are going to take that hard line, they really must produce the evidence of why it is the case. I am much more concerned about the child and the child’s future. That demands action on that front.

It is great that my noble friend Lord Dubs has taken this action and has had so much support from across the House for doing so, but we live in the reality of the world as it is. We talk so much here about immigration, and we do not talk enough about the huge global issue of migration. With the help of the Library, I have dug out some statistics. At the moment, in the world there are 19,941,347 refugees, 3,090,898 asylum seekers and 39,118,516 internally displaced people. If we are struck by and compelled to respond to the situation in Europe that confronts us and the distressing scenes that we have all witnessed, we must remember that those distressing scenes are being repeated all over the world on an almost unimaginable scale. This is a tremendous humanitarian challenge, of course, but it is also a security challenge, because I do not see how we can have a peaceful, stable world if we have that number of people being stunted in their upbringing, frustrated and so on because many are extremely able, intelligent people who feel completely excluded, and that will not lead to a peaceful world.

We have heard a Statement this afternoon about the latest developments on the European Union. I am deeply disappointed that when we talk about the political declaration, we talk in theoretical, analytical terms about the things that we need to do structurally in this situation, but what are we doing to address the issues that confront us around the globe morally and security-wise? Please can we hear some specific language about how we can, by whatever arrangements we make, do something more effective, together with our partners in Europe, to meet those challenges?

Pittsburgh: Synagogue Attack

Lord Polak Excerpts
Monday 29th October 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak
- Hansard - -

To ask Her Majesty’s Government following the murder of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, what action they are taking to protect and reassure the Jewish Community here in the United Kingdom.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have all been appalled by the horrific attack on worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the consequent dreadful loss of life. We stand in solidarity against this hatred and have committed to provide over £50 million since 2015, including £13.4 million this year to the Community Security Trust, to ensure that people can pray and live without fear at over 500 Jewish institutions across the country. I pay tribute to their outstanding work. No one should be afraid to practise their faith, and our places of worship should not engender fear. We will not let fear overcome us. Hatred will not win.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak
- Hansard - -

I thank my noble friend for his reply, and I am certain that the Jewish community will be comforted by his words and actions. It was an unspeakable act—the cold-blooded murder of 11 Jews on Shabbat—and Jewish communities throughout the world are afraid. Have we learned nothing from history? For me, it is nice to stand shoulder to shoulder and offer sympathy, but it is action that is now required. Has the Minister read the editorial in the Times today, which is spot on? It ends:

“The Jewish people have withstood pogroms and prejudice for millennia based on fakery, fraud and myths. There will always be people gripped by ideological wickedness but the context matters and responsible politicians set that context”.

We in the UK cannot mend the world, but we can take action here. If there were anti-Semitism in my party, I would call it out. If there is anti-Semitism in no party, I will call it out. I hope that all noble Lords will do the same if they encounter it in their own parties. It is often said that anti-Semitism is a problem for the Jewish community. Yes, it does affect that community, but does my noble friend agree that it should be seen as a grave threat to British values and British decency and to all that we hold dear?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I agree with the sentiments expressed so well by my noble friend. This morning I spoke to the Chief Rabbi’s office, which has described the response of British communities around the country as, “heartening and reassuring”. It is important that we stand united against this hatred. It has been heartening that other religious communities, particularly the Muslim one, have been leading crowd funding for the victims of Pittsburgh. I repeat: we will not let hatred win.