Inter Faith Network Closure

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 11:13 am ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 11:13, 22 Chwefror 2024

May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising the issue of the Inter Faith Network? I am grateful for all his work as chair of the all-party group on faith and society and as a long-standing advocate for dialogue across faiths.

As the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend Simon Hoare said during an Adjournment debate in January, we know full well the role that faith communities play in our society. We are extremely supportive of efforts by faith groups and others to bring together people of different faiths and beliefs.

The Secretary of State wrote to the co-chairs of the Inter Faith Network on 19 January this year to inform them that he was minded to withdraw the offer of funding for the 2023-24 financial year. This was because of the appointment of a member of the Muslim Council of Britain to the board of trustees of the IFN. As the House will be aware, successive Governments have had a long-standing policy of non-engagement with the MCB. The appointment of an MCB member to the core governance structure of a Government-funded organisation therefore poses a reputational risk to the Government.

The Secretary of State invited the IFN to make representations on this matter, which it subsequently did. He carefully considered the points raised by the IFN before concluding that its points were outweighed by the need to maintain the Government’s policy of non- engagement with the MCB, and the risk of compromising the credibility and effectiveness of that policy. Inter-faith work is valuable, but that does not require us to use taxpayers’ money in a way that legitimises the influence of organisations such as the MCB.

The Department regularly reminds our partners, including the IFN, of the importance of developing sustainable funding arrangements rather than relying on taxpayers’ money, which can never be guaranteed. The potential closure of the organisation is therefore a matter for the IFN, as an independent charity, and not the Government. The Government continue to be fully supportive of developing and maintaining strong relationships across faiths and beliefs.