Credit where due: Tory MP Richard Fuller on caste discrimination

Every now and then, I hear something from someone I’d regard as a political opponent that I want to give credit for. I’ve been catching up a bit this morning on Today in Parliament podcasts. As it’s been a busy week, I am only up to last Tuesday’s broadcast, and I was listening to coverage of the Commons debate about a Lords amendment concerning the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

One contribution caught my attention in particular. Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for Bedford, opposed his government’s motion to reject an amendment by the Lords including discrimination based on caste (social position according to the Hindu religion, especially affecting the Dalits, or ‘untouchables’. It’s worth repeating in full the part that made my ears prick up:

I have listened intently to the debate. A number of speakers have said that this is a complex issue, including the Minister, the shadow Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma). I regard all those colleagues with great esteem, so I hope that they will forgive my saying that the idea that this is a complex issue is rubbish. This is a straightforward issue. Caste discrimination in the workplace is wrong and the people who suffer from it deserve legal protection. That is the beginning and end of the matter.

There have apparently been many instances of Dalits being refused jobs or promotion simply because they are Dalits, at the bottom of the social order in the eyes of those who believe in the caste system. It’s self-evidently correct that such discrimination has no place in the UK and should be as illegal as discrimination based on gender, race or sexual preference.

I don’t know much else about Mr Fuller, except that he has also campaigned for decent treatment of pregnant women caught up in the asylum/immigration system. But I applaud him for his clear, no-nonsense statement on the issue of caste-based discrimination (and for standing up for pregnant asylum-seekers!).

Unfortunately, his party did not measure up to the standard he set – the government’s proposal to reject the Lords amendment was carried, and the Dalits are still outside the protection of the law as far as this odious discrimination is concerned. But that shouldn’t detract from an honourable stand on principle.


  1. Well said, Richard Fuller! I listened to some of the debate on the Untouchables but must have missed his contribution. Sometimes ‘we liberals’ try so hard to be (seen as) non-judgemental that we actually miss when someone else is being discriminatory and make excuses for them. Mr Fuller is right – there is absolutely no excuse for it, and there is no place for it in British society (nor should there be in Indian society either, and Gandhi, as both a statesman and trained lawyer said so a long time ago. Perhaps we should be putting pressure on the Indian government to fully implement their own laws on discrimination on caste bases).

  2. Wonder if he’ll speak up for the unemployed & the sick – who are more or less bein’ treated as ‘dalits’ by the mainstream media?

    How about he speaks up about scousers, geordies or glaswegians or any ‘regional racism’ that exists amongst the indigenous – especially when it comes to the home counties’ perceived attitudes of them?

    Won’t happen. Bedford doesn’t have as many scouse, geordie or glaswegian voters as Indians……or is it ‘racist’ to point that out?

  3. I have to admit I know nothing of the subject matter, and may well be misunderstanding the situation, but to me this just sounds like a simple case of racial discrimination.
    My main reason for commenting though is to congratulate you on showing no partisan bias in your blog. This can only add weight to your campaigns, in their impartiality to origin and genuine concern for their content. well done!

    1. Thank you! I can’t really claim to have no bias – I just try not to let it blind me to good stuff on the other side if I find it! 🙂

  4. Just seen the news and pictures of muslims being burnt and hacked apart in Burma because they are, er, muslims. This is where such random discrimination ends. Caste discrimination is nothing short of ridiculous and should not be tolerated in the UK. Nor in India where it must be well over half a century since Gandhi pointed that out – so they’ve had plenty of time!

  5. I knew nothing about this vote so I googled it and found In a setback to Dalits in Britain, the House of Commons has voted against a controversial amendment to include caste among other forms of discrimination. Members of the UK-based Dalit community were rooting for the amendment, a part of the Equality Act, 2010, as a legal safeguard against caste-based discrimination.

    The House of Lords had voted last month by a majority of 103 in favour of the amendment through a clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. The lower house, however, rejected the amendment on Tuesday evening by 307 to 243 votes. Equalities minister Jo Swinson told the members that the legislation could increase the stigma rather than ease the problem. The bill is to return to the House of Lords on April 22.
    from http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-04-18/uk/38646609_1_caste-discrimination-caste-based-discrimination-caste-system
    The notion of caste is repugnant and Dalits suffer because of it. They should be afforded protection.
    Stating that “legislation could increase the stigma rather than ease the problem” clearly shows little understanding of the issue and perhaps denial of the same.

      1. Actually, that argument was unsuccesfully used when the Race Relations Act were being debated. I think it was Enoch Powell who argued it could be more devisive than unifying.

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