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Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 09:26 GMT
Straw discusses 'parallel lives'
Jack Straw
Jack Straw urged communities to live side by side
Commons leader and Blackburn MP Jack Straw has said more must be done to encourage people from all communities to live side by side.

Mr Straw made the comments in front of a 100-strong audience at a debate about the issue of people from different backgrounds living without integration.

The public debate, called Parallel Lives, was organised by the BBC in Mr Straw's Lancashire constituency.

It was prompted by his comments on veils worn by Muslim women.

Speaking at the debate on Thursday night, Mr Straw told how a friend of his had seen, at first hand, so-called "white flight" - where white families move out of an area when Asian families move in.

'White flight'

Mr Straw said his friend had told him: "How do you think it feels when we've bought a house in an area because it is mixed and then we see 'for sale' signs going up...it's awful.

"Or if we've put our kids in a mixed school and then all the white kids move out."

Mr Straw added that something had to be done to combat the problem.

Also on the panel were Prof Ted Cantle, from the Institute of Community Cohesion, who wrote the reports into the Bradford, Burnley and Oldham race riots and Shanaz Hussain, a magistrate and advisor on women's issues to the Lancashire Council of Mosques.

Shanaz Hussain and Professor Ted Cantle
Building confidence between communities will help integration

Prof Cantle said it was vital to build confidence between communities in order to improve integration and that much of the work could start with education.

"There are many schools now that have twinning links between all Asian and all white schools," he said.

"They have joint teaching programmes - joint arts programmes, joint sports programmes - and even where the parents are beginning to meet each other in different communities.

"But I think that's only the start... it's about building confidence so they can actually mix and interrelate and we can perhaps go on from there to develop mixed intakes and really shared facilities."

Blackburn businesswoman and columnist Margo Grimshaw and Dr Amar Ahmed, a GP in Cheshire and a man tipped as a future parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party also joined the debate.

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