FRIDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2016
- Helen Goodman: What meetings have (a) the Minister for the Cabinet Office and (b) Ministers of his Department had with (i) arms manufacturers, (ii) tobacco manufacturers and (iii) representatives of the Israeli embassy since the period covered in his Department’s most recent ministerial gifts, hospitality, travel and meetings data release?
Commons Written Answers
THURSDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2016
- Business of the House:
– Richard Burden: If the Leader of the House casts his mind back to business questions on 28 January, he may recall that on that
occasion he failed to answer a request from the shadow Leader of the House for details of how he would arrange for parliamentary scrutiny of the changes that the Cabinet Office was intending to introduce to local government pension rules and procurement guidelines for public institutions. He may also know that the Minister for the Cabinet Office decided to announce the second of those changes last week, not in the House but in Israel, during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Given that there is now real uncertainty about what those changes mean, and the apparent conflict between what the Minister for the Cabinet Office considers to be the target of the guidelines and official Foreign Office advice warning of the risks to business of becoming financially involved with illegal actions by Israel in the occupied territories, we are still waiting to hear how all this can be scrutinised. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Minister for the Cabinet Office finally to come to the House, make a statement and answer questions?
– Chris Grayling: The Minister for the Cabinet Office will be here on 9 March to take questions. Mr Speaker, you have been generous in granting opportunities to Members of this House to raise concerns in urgent questions, but I cannot remember this subject being raised in that way, so perhaps it is not that urgent.
Commons Oral Questions
- The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): The UK will deploy a squadron of Royal Engineers to provide short-term engineering support to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), a non-UN multilateral peacekeeping organisation in Egypt. The MFO was created by an agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel to monitor the terms of the 1979 Treaty of the Peace and continues to make an important contribution to peace and stability in the region. [extract]
Commons Written Statements
- Tania Mathias: Has the Foreign Secretary had discussions with the Israeli government on the displacement of Bedouin people from townships in the Negev?
Commons Written Answers
- Public Bodies: Israel Boycotts:
– Baroness Tonge: What advice have HMG given to local authorities and other public bodies concerning boycotts of goods and services from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank?
– Minister (Lord Bridges of Headley): My Lords, on 17 February, the Government published procurement guidance for public authorities on existing policy that has been in place for many years under successive Governments. The guidance makes it clear that boycotts in public procurement are inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargos and restrictions have been put in place by the UK Government. It is not an Israel-specific policy.
– Baroness Tonge: Knock me down with a feather, my Lords, if I was not expecting that reply. Is the Minister aware that the Foreign Office advice of July 2015 on overseas business risks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories said: “EU citizens and
businesses should … be aware of the potential reputational implications of getting involved in economic and financial activities in … settlements” – in the Occupied Territories, and – “should seek … legal advice before proceeding”? How does that equate with the advice that we received last week?
– Minister: I can easily tell the noble Baroness. Paragraph 2.4 of the advice says: “The UK Government is deeply committed to promoting our trade and business ties with Israel and strongly opposes boycotts.” This is the Foreign Office advice, and the Cabinet Office advice sits alongside that.
– Lord Grocott: Has the Minister had a chance to check what the Prime Minister said yesterday in answer to a Question about settlements? He said that, “the first time I visited Jerusalem … and saw what has happened with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem – occupied East Jerusalem – I found it genuinely shocking”. Did the Prime Minister not speak for many Members of both Houses and indeed of all parties when he said this? Is it not time that we move beyond general expressions of dissatisfaction with Israeli settlement activity and took more concerted international action?
– Minister: The noble Lord makes a perfectly valid point, but this is about the role of local authorities. I would gently say to him, with due respect, that local authorities should not pursue their own municipal foreign policy which contravenes international trade agreements. They should instead focus on local issues. The clue is in the name as regards local authorities.
– Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: In the light of local government guidance, could the Minister say what action the boycott movement has taken with regard to the Russian invasion of Crimea—I apologise for asking this of a Cabinet Office Minister—the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus and the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara?
– Minister: The noble Lord raises lots of issues, but this is about boycotts being conducted by local authorities, which I would argue are counterproductive. They widen gaps in understanding, poison and polarise debate, and block opportunities for co-operation and collaboration.
– Lord Hamilton: I was in Israel last week as a guest of the Israeli Government when my right honourable friend Matt Hancock announced this guidance that he was giving to local authorities. As both Israel and the United Kingdom are members of the WTO, surely it is illegal to impose these boycotts. They would actually be against the law.
– Minister: My noble friend is absolutely right. Such boycotts would be open to judicial review.
– Lord Wright: Hearing what the Minister has said about boycotts, can he reassure the House on behalf of his Foreign and Commonwealth Office colleagues that we and our European partners lose no opportunity to draw the attention of the Israeli Government to the illegality of their settlement policy and the damage which it is doing to the prospect of a two-state solution, which is surely in the interests of both Israel and Palestine?
– Minister: Yes, my Lords, and let me reassure the noble Lord that the Government remain completely committed to a two-state resolution to secure lasting peace in the Middle East. The best way to achieve that is by diplomacy and negotiation.
– Baroness Corston: Given that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St John’s, has repeatedly said at that Dispatch Box that the settlements are a contravention of international law, that we deplore them and that they should not be there, how does it follow that it is illegal or impossible for a local authority to take action in response to those repeated statements by refusing to trade with those very settlements?
– Minister: My Lords, to repeat what I said at the start, the guidance merely clarifies and reminds contracting authorities of their obligations under the WTO government procurement agreement, to which the EU is a signatory, which has been in place since 1996 and which the Labour Government and the coalition Government both upheld.
– Baroness Eaton: Three-quarters of Palestinian exports are destined for Israel and Israeli goods account for two-thirds of the West Bank’s imports. Does the Minister agree that a boycott of West Bank goods would be detrimental to the Palestinian economy?
– Minister: I just wish to repeat what I am saying all along: this guidance is not about Israel per se. While what my noble friend says may have validity, I would say that boycotts are counter-productive and should not be taken by local authorities unless there is already a government action in place.
Lords Oral Questions
WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2016
– Imran Hussain: Last week, together with several of my hon. Friends, I visited Palestine, where we went to the home of Nora and her family, who have lived in the old city of East Jerusalem since 1953. Israeli settlers, however, are now trying to force Nora from her home of over 60 years. There are many other cases like that. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that illegal settlements and constructions are a major roadblock that hinder peaceful negotiations? What are this Government doing to help prevent these infringements into Palestinian lives and land?
– David Cameron: The hon. Gentleman’s question is incredibly important. I am well known as a strong friend of Israel, but I have to say that the first time I visited Jerusalem, had a proper tour around that wonderful city and saw what has happened with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem—occupied East Jerusalem— I found it genuinely shocking. What this Government have consistently done and go on doing is to say that we are supporters of Israel, but we do not support illegal settlements and we do not support what is happening in East Jerusalem. It is very important for this capital city to be maintained in the way it was in the past.
Commons Oral Questions
- Treasury Statement on UK’s Counter-terrorist Asset-freezing Regime includes Palestinian persons and entities.
Commons Written Statements
- Richard Burden: What representations has Foreign Secretary (a) received and (b) made on the cancellation of the UK delegation to Israel and the Occupied Territories to follow up the report published by a delegation of British lawyers, entitled Children in Military Custody, in June 2012; and will he make a statement?
- Nigel Evans: Pursuant to the Answer of 9 February 2016 to Question 25988, on Palestinian radicalism, what recent reports has Foreign Secretary received on incitement to commit violence by the Palestinian Authority?
Mos 3-4 Commons Written Answers
- Lord Turnberg: What assessment have HMG made of the recent statements by Ismael Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, that they are rebuilding tunnels from Gaza with the intention of attacking Israel?
Lords Written Answers
TUESDAY 23 FEBRUARY 2016
1. Questions to the Foreign Secretary:
– Clive Lewis: What assessment has Foreign Secretary made of the effect of the outcome of the March 2015 election in Israel on the peace process in that region?
– Tobias Ellwood: Much gets said, as we know, during election cycles, and we were concerned by some of the statements that were made during the Israeli election. I was in Israel last week, and I can confirm that I had meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has made it very clear that he remains committed to the two-state solution.
– Clive Lewis: It is more than 20 years since Oslo. There are now more than 350,000 illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied west bank and 300,000 illegal Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem, and the Netanyahu Government continue to announce the building of more illegal settlements. Does the Minister believe that that will aid the peace process? If not, what is he doing about it?
– TE: The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and I have made it very clear on the record that that is unhelpful and takes us in the wrong direction. During my visit last week, I visited some of the settlements that are developing. Although announcements of new settlements have slowed, the existing settlements are starting to grow, and that happens without people seeing it. There is an area to the north of Jerusalem called the Ariel finger, which, if it continues to grow as it is doing, will eventually link up towards the north of Jericho. That will essentially mean that there will be no two-state solution. We need Israel to show that it is committed to the process and stop the settlements.
– Andrew Percy: On the issue of words, something that is regularly rubbished is the issue of incitement. We are seeing increasing incitement from the Palestinian Authority and on media such as Palestinian TV, some of which has been referenced by those committing knife attacks on civilians. Last week I visited a Jewish school in Brussels, where I heard some appalling stories of anti-Semitism being perpetrated in Europe, with people deliberately conflating Jews and Israel. Will the Minister condemn not only the incitement coming out of the Palestinian Authority, but the sort of attacks we are seeing in Europe as a result?
– TE: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that it is unacceptable for Israelis going about their business to be subject to some of the brutality and the murder we are seeing. Israel has the right—in fact, I would go further and say it has the obligation—to defend its citizens. We are seeing the anti-Semitism there, or such reactions, then reappearing, often through websites such as Facebook and so forth, in Europe or closer to home. We have been working hard with our international colleagues—the Prime Minister is very committed to this—to make sure that we stamp out anti-Semitism no matter where it is.
– Louise Ellman: A clear majority of Israelis consistently support setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Does the Minister agree that actions such as Hamas’s rebuilding the terror tunnels to mount attacks on Israeli civilians from Gaza make that less and less obtainable?
– TE: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. With some of the developments, it seems like déjà vu in the sense that we are going round this buoy again—rebuilding the tunnels, the aggravations, and then the missiles start to fly. Where does that actually take us? It is not a confidence-building measure, in the same way that building settlements is not a confidence-building measure. We need to make sure that we empower the Palestinian Authority to look after and take responsibility for the governance of Gaza. That is the way forward.
– Eric Pickles: Surely there is a big contrast in the growth of extremism. The Israeli authorities deal with Jewish extremism—they investigate, they prosecute and they condemn—whereas the Palestinian Authority names schools after violent extremists, names sporting events after them and glorifies them on television. Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to condemn absolutely the attitude of the Palestinian Authority and urge it to cease this senseless encouragement of violence?
– TE: My right hon. Friend makes a very powerful argument. It is important to see that affirmative actions can be taken on both sides to reduce tensions, but I would raise the specific matter of using words to inflame the situation. For example, the recent remarks by Health Minister in the Palestinian Authority condoning the attacks that are taking place were unhelpful. That takes us in the wrong direction, so we should do things to encourage those involved to refrain from doing so, and take steps to encourage them to act as a consequence.
– Clive Betts: On the Foreign Office website, there is very clear advice to private companies thinking of doing business with illegal Israeli settlements. It states: “Financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements as well as other economic activities…in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements, entail legal and economic risks” and “we do not encourage or offer support to such activity.” Do the Government give exactly the same advice to public bodies, including local councils, with regard to their procurement decisions?
– Philip Hammond: Yes, we are clear with local authorities that they are bound by and must follow procurement rules, but we are clear that we do not support boycott movements. The Minister for the Cabinet Office was in Israel just last week and made that abundantly clear then.
– Robert Jenrick: When I canvass the streets of Newark for the local elections, people ask me about the views of my local councillors on refuse collection or on potholes on Newark’s roads. I rarely hear them ask me their views on foreign policy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that foreign policy is set by the Foreign Secretary and by the Government and should be debated in this House—not by our town halls—so we should all support the Government’s action against boycotts and sanctions?
– PhH: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. One of my colleagues has just reminded me that my hon. Friend is not the only one who pounded the pavements of Newark. I think everyone on these Benches did so. Yes, foreign policy is, of course, a matter for the Government of the United Kingdom, and it is the business of this Parliament. It is very important that we have a single foreign policy, which is clearly projected so that Britain’s position in the world is understood and strengthened.
– Richard Burden: May I press the Foreign Secretary further on the answer he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts)? Is there anything in World Trade Organisation or other rules that fetters a public institution’s ability to act on the advice that the WTO puts on its website, which my hon. Friend quoted?
– PhH: Public bodies in this country are bound by the EU procurement directive in their purchasing activity and must follow those rules.
Commons Oral Questions
- Margaret Ritchie: What estimate has Foreign Secretary made of the number of attacks on Christian places of worship in Israel in each of the last three years?
- Trade Union Bill:
– Lord Leigh of Hurley: Not all of us would approve of the campaigns which receive donations from the trade union campaign funds. “Currently, as far as I can see, they include campaigns supporting the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, opposing outsourced contracts in the public sector, opposing welfare reform and, in particular, opposing Israel in the sense of supporting BDS—boycott, divestment and sanctions—as well as just general funding of think tanks.”
– Lord Callanan: We spent the previous couple of hours talking about the campaigns that trade unions run and the tens of millions of pounds they spend campaigning against Israel or whatever. That is perfectly proper and it is their right to do that, but they cannot argue on the one hand that it is in their members’ interests to spend lots of money campaigning on these various issues, but on the other that they need a taxpayer subsidy to represent their members in the workspace because they do not have enough money left in their coffers to pay for this facility themselves. [extract]
- What steps are HMG taking to increase understanding of the Middle East – Question tabled by Lord Grade.
Speakers: Lord Grade, Lord Anderson, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, Baroness Deech, Lord Empey, Lord Patten, Lord Stone, Baroness Coussins, Bishop of Worcester, Lord Risby, Lord Livermore, Baroness Nicholson, Lord Bew, Baroness Morris of Bolton, Lord Beecham, Lord Sacks, Lord Rotherwick, Baroness Morgan of Ely,
– Reply by Lord Maude:
Hansard video: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/af3dde4f-b2fe-4b4b-b17f-3ce26b018ce2?agenda=True @ 19:49:31
Nos 2-3 Lords Debates
- Lord Turnberg: What representations have HMG made to the government of Palestine about recent pronouncements by Mr Abbas praising the actions of Palestinians who have killed Israeli civilians?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel about allowing Mohammed Al -Qeeq to transfer to a hospital in Ramallah from Afula Hospital; and what further representations do they plan to make concerning the use of torture in Israeli prisons?
Nos 4-5 Lords Written Answers
Foreign Affairs Committee today discussed Human Rights.
Meeting started at 2.30pm, ended 3.46pm
First to give evidence was David Mepham, UK Director, Human Rights Watch, speaking from America via video-link. Here I have transcribed the opening few minutes:
– Crispin Blunt, Chairman: The written evidence you submitted has been fairly coruscating about the change of priorities in human rights, so I’m going to formally ask you: Has the government de-prioritised human rights, and if it’s yes, why, in your judgement?
– David Mepham: Yes, it does appear as if the government… I think it’s not just after the election, I think it’s probably linked in some way to the change in Foreign Secretary from William Hague to Philip Hammond. It appears as if a de-prioritisation of human rights has taken place in the Foreign Office. [passage omitted] I think the Foreign Secretary has a scepticism about human rights. That’s certainly what I pick up from his public statements. I think he is intellectually not persuaded that rights should be at the heart of foreign policy in the way that perhaps his predecessor did. He is sceptical about whether rights is really so central. I think he’s concerned that issues around security, prosperity, these sometimes require trade-offs, I think is the way that he would put it. And he appears to give the impression that perhaps human rights people like us are a little bit naïve and idealistic and actually that in the real world you have to get on with stuff, you have to deal with unpleasant people. [passage omitted]
Later, during questioning, David Mepham says the FCO’s next Human Rights Report, due out in April, will be a quarter of its previous length and Egypt is likely to be totally omitted.
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK, gives evidence from approx. 15:08. On the matter of the Arms Trade Treaty she says the present government is not just doing worse but is actually breaking the Treaty, with special reference to Saudi Arabia.
MONDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2016
- Richard Burden: What further discussions has DfID Secretary had with her EU counterparts on the (a) destruction of structures confirmed to have been funded by the EU and (b) possibility of seeking costs related to that damage from Israeli authorities?
- Joan Ryan: What proportion of DfID’s financial assistance for Palestinian development funds other projects which foster coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians?
- Joan Ryan: What estimate has DfID made of the proportion of the £349 million spent in support of Palestinian development from 2011 to 2015 which has gone to support projects which promote coexistence?
- Joan Ryan: Which 10 Israeli NGOs receive funding from the Conflict Stability and Security Fund; and which two NGOs receive funds through the Bilateral Programme Budgets?
Nos 1-4 Commons Written Answers
- Baroness Deech tabled a Question on freedom of speech at universities.
- Baroness Tonge: What representations are HMG making to the government of Israel with regard to the two Bedouin villages, Umm al-Ḥīrān and Atir, due to be destroyed by Israel in order to establish a new Jewish settlement and to plant a forest?
- Baroness Tonge: What steps has the UK Embassy in Israel taken to monitor attacks on Christian places of worship?
- Baroness Tonge: What discussions have HMG had with the government of Israel regarding its use of administrative detention?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel regarding the rejection by the Knesset of the amendment proposed by MK Jamal Zahalka to include a clause on equality in Israel’s Basic Law?
- Lord Hylton: What representations are HMG making to the government of Israel following the arrest of three members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hatim Qufayshah, Isa al-Ja’bari, and Muhammad Abu-Tayr; and will they take steps to discover what charges, if any, will be brought against them, and whether they will be released on bail?
- Baroness Tonge: What discussions have HMG had with the government of Israel regarding the deaths of two people killed during protests in Gaza in mid January?
- Baroness Tonge: What response have HMG made to Israel’s reported decision to reject recommendation 13 of UNICEF’s report Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel regarding its latest land appropriation in the Jordan Valley?
- Baroness Tonge: What recent representations have HMG made to the government of Israel concerning the case of the Hares Boys?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel regarding the demolition of 22 structures in Khirbet Jenbah in order to create an army training zone?
Nos 6-14 Lords Written Answers
EDM 1158 – THE BIG RIDE
That this House salutes The Big Ride, an initiative by supporters of the Palestinian people, for organising a series of three day rides in 2016 from Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and London that will converge in Birmingham on Sunday 7 August for a major public event with speakers from the growing solidarity movement; and notes that on Monday 8 August, hundreds of cyclists and supporters will leave Birmingham in a convoy to the Elbit-owned factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, for a peaceful demonstration to highlight the UK’s unethical arms trade with Israel.