Immediate Release

News from Liam Byrne MP                                                                           26/10/2015


Byrne challenges Nicky Morgan to add 'compassion' to the official list of British values 


Liam Byrne MP today challenged the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to add 'compassion' to the official list of British values celebrated nationally and promoted in the nation's schools.


You can read their exchange below:


Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): This term, schools around the country are rightly being asked not only to respect but to promote British values. Does the Secretary of State agree with the proposal in my early-day motion, tabled today, that it is time we added compassion to that list of values? My constituents think that that is one of the qualities that make this country great. Should we not start to celebrate it as such?

Nicky Morgan: I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s commitment and his support for the teaching of fundamental British values in all our schools. He is absolutely right to say that those are the values that make our country great. I am very happy to look at this. We could have an endless debate on which values to capture, but the ones that we have, particularly respect and tolerance, are hugely important and I want everyone to get on with thinking about how best we can promote them.


Byrne backed his question with a motion in Parliament calling for the change after extensive research amongst residents of Birmingham who cited 'compassion' as one of the most important qualities they loved about modern Britain.


The government 'official' list of British values was set out in the Prevent Strategy 2011 which declared: "...we would consider to be mainstream British values: democracy, rule of law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and the rights of all men and women to live free from persecution of any kind."


In November 2014, following the so-called Trojan Horse incident - which Liam Byrne helped expose - the Department for Education required schools  to 'promote' British Values and specified a revised list including;


"the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs"

Following research in Birmingham, however, Liam Byrne said: 'In multi-cultural Birmingham, people hold the same values dear as the rest of the country; freedom, equality, diversity ‘tolerance’, and ‘respect’.


'But all my research tells me, the government is missing something fundamental from the list: good old fashioned British compassion. 


'In our surveys on 'British' values, kindness, compassion, 'looking after the needy' - and indeed looking after one another - is something people think makes our country special.


'It's why in poll after poll on our favourite institutions, up there with the Queen and our magnificent armed forces is the amazing NHS. It's compassion in action'.
Byrne will argue that adding 'compassion' to the list of British values will also help honour the role of faith - especially Christianity and Islam - in national life and encourage the government to promote integration through 'Big Society' style projects.




  1. As immigration minister, Liam Byrne proposed changes to citizenship laws to introduce 'earned citizenship'. The text of his early day motion in Parliament is as follows:


'That this house notes the list of British values published in the Prevent Strategy 2011 includes democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs; believes that 'compassion' is a fundamental British value which our government should affirm and our schools seek to actively promote; and calls for the Government to add 'compassion' to the official definition of British values.'


  1. Liam's survey of Birmingham residents can be found here: /sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/British-Values-survey-Briefing-Note.pdf
  2. British values were first specified as 'shared values' in the Prevent Strategy: a Guide for Local Partners in England" 2008 (Page 60)


"Shared values including:

  • Respect for the rule of law;
  • freedom of speech;
  • equality of opportunity;
  • respect for others; and
  • responsibility towards others.