If you want to watch the debate which is very good go here - my speech is at 1 hour 3 minutes and 30 seconds in: http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/house-of-commons-27979638
The text is here:
"A democratic state surely has a duty and a vested interest in ensuring that its citizens are aware of their rights and responsibilities, and in that respect schools are the obvious place to start. They should be a place of learning and understanding, where naivety is met with guidance and questions presented with answers.
The subject of this debate, which I congratulate Mr Denham on securing, has long been an issue—it has been an issue for generations. My hon. Friend Alok Sharma spoke eloquently, and it will be no surprise that, with names like Sharma and Opperman, neither of our families were at the battle of Hastings repelling the French. We arrived not a thousand years ago to repel the French but, in his case, approximately 50 years ago and, in my case, approximately 100 years ago. You can imagine, Mr Bone, the difficulties that my ancestors had through two world wars with a name like Opperman, fighting their German cousins—and fighting with distinction—for the British Army.
Integration is something that we are all seeking. This is an issue that has not suddenly popped up in the last year, five years or 10 years; it has been an issue down the generations for different cultural identities. When we ask ourselves this question, I believe that it is right that the Government are promoting the consultation on British values in schools. I am certain that the Minister will outline the details of the consultation, but the strategy that sets it out seeks
- “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs”.
One would hope that those are universal values, but we know that the reality worldwide is that they are not universal values, but are particular values of this country. In that respect, these purportedly universal values are, in fact, very British and their promotion must be a very good thing. One must not forget that promotion is not the same as teaching something or having respect for it. One can respectfully disagree with an idea that is promoted—one may take a differing view—but one is definitely much better informed for it, and that is surely the point we are trying to make, so I welcome the consultation.
Like many hon. Members, I will make my full speech available on my website, guyopperman.blogspot.co.uk. While my hon. Friend Dr Lewis may have 98 followers on theyworkforyou.com, my 17,000 followers will, I am sure, greatly enjoy this particular speech.
Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
You need them more than I do. [Laughter.]
Guy Opperman (Hexham, Conservative)
It is rare that one gets barracked by one’s own side, but one has to get used to it.
What are British values? Sarcasm may be one value that we would particularly wish to identify. We are—are we not?—good at queuing, and we are bad at football. As everyone knows, we are the inventors of football, a game we play for 90 minutes before the Germans win on penalties—unless we are not even making the further rounds. We are the creators of proper breakfasts, the world’s finest sauces—everything from ketchup to HP—and all the best boy bands that could possibly exist.
Many of our constituents—returning to a serious point—are British Muslim, British Indian, British Chinese, Scottish and British, and Welsh and British. Some would argue that the likes of Monty Panesar are way more British than Kevin Pietersen, and I think that they would be right.
Do we take advice from the French? It is a rare thing and I know it is something you would never do, Mr Bone, but you will recall that Jacques Chirac said: “One cannot trust people”—that, by the way, is the British— “whose cuisine is so bad”.
However, we would surely reply that our national dish is not roast beef any more; it is, of course, curry.
On that point, I would like to make my contribution to the debate, which is to ask whether we need to consider introducing, as the Canadians have, a Minister for integration. In Canada, he is the famous Jason Kenney, who has been so successful at formulating and promoting integration of people of many different faiths. His portfolio includes citizenship, multiculturalism, immigration and integration. It is the unification of those strands of Government Departments and the difficulties faced that we genuinely need to address.
I take the view that this process is about creating a stronger society, not splitting it. Surely the purpose of promoting British values is to ensure that by doing so we are not being counter-productive, because any person in this country can uphold their religious, national and cultural identity as well as their British identity. In that respect, surely we should be supporting this debate, this dialogue and this discussion."