Changes in US Immigration Policy: 30th January 2017

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
It is very difficult to follow the excellent and wise words of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). I add my congratulations to my new friend the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), and my dear friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), who so ably represents his constituency.

Mr Speaker, I agree with everything that has been said, and you will be pleased to know that I do not intend to repeat any of it. One danger of these sorts of debates is that we become like an echo chamber—we fall over one another to agree, exposing in us in some cases large “L” Liberal values, but in most of us small “l” liberal values, as we unite in condemnation of this Executive order for all the reasons that many other hon. Members have expressed.

Sir Mo Farah said that the Executive order was based on prejudice and ignorance flowing from Donald Trump, but many others in that great nation unfortunately no doubt support what he has done. We must be honest that, in this country, we too suffer from much of that prejudice and ignorance. It is all well and good for hon. Members to talk as we do, but we must now ensure that we face up to the reality in our country where, unfortunately, too many people share some of the views we see mirrored in the order.

I would love to say that such things are a fancy in my constituency. We have welcomed four Syrian refugee families to Broxtowe. I am very proud of that. I am a Conservative as it happens—it really does not matter—but everybody on my council has come together to give those four families the sort of warm and generous welcome that we would expect. I do not know whether the situation is the same in America, but it is worth remembering the tough bar for Syrian refugees coming to our country. I praise our Government for the generosity and good work we have done in bringing so many ​Syrian refugee families into this country, but they have to pass quite a high test. They are among the most vulnerable refugees—they have suffered either sexual abuse or torture.

It gives me no pleasure to say this as someone who has spent almost the entirety of my life in Nottinghamshire, but one of those four families did not come straight to my constituency. They started off in another town in the county of Nottinghamshire and had to leave it, such was the prejudice and lack of welcome and the blatant hostility towards them. I am proud that my constituency has taken them in. I am equally proud that our deputy mayor, Halimah Khaled, happens to be a Muslim. I have always thought of it in that way—somebody happens to be a Muslim, happens to be a Jew, happens to have brown skin, happens to be gay or happens to be straight.

I remember once seeing a documentary that shocked me to the bottom of my boots. I must have been about 11 years old. A black woman explained what it felt like to see a sign that said, “No dogs, no Irish, no blacks.” I understood how she felt, but I found it shocking that anyone would discriminate against someone because of the colour of their skin. When we were in our salad days as student politicians back in the ’70s, I genuinely thought we had made great progress over the decades. The attitude was that nobody cared what colour or race someone was.

All those wonderful things had begun to flourish in our country, but something has happened—and it has happened not just in America, but in our country. I gravely fear that that spirit of tolerance has gone from too many. Seeds that I had thought lay dormant, or had been destroyed by the power of tolerance, have germinated and grown, whether in the EU referendum campaign or the presidential campaign. If we are not careful, they are in danger of flourishing.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir Simon Burns) rightly said that our Government have a role in challenging the American President, taking him on in his views and seeking to change them. Each and every one of us in the House has a duty to stop just agreeing with one another. We have to take those messages out into our constituencies, build the campaigns of tolerance, peace and understanding, and abolish stereotypes. We have to do the hard job that lies ahead of us to ensure that the absolutely fundamental British value of tolerance once again dominates our society. If we do not, we are in danger of finding that too many people in our own nation support this abominable Executive direction from the President. It is our job to ensure that tolerance is always the overriding principle at home and abroad.