Parliament has now dissolved and won’t return until 11th May 2015 at the earliest.
THURSDAY 26 MARCH 2015
1. Dame Joan Ruddock: [extract from her valedictory speech] Another great regret is to see the plight of yet another generation of Palestinians. I cannot believe that the international community has tolerated such oppression for so long.
2. Matthew Offord: What estimate has Business Secretary made of the number of higher education institutes that participated in Israel Apartheid Week?
3. Katy Clark: With reference to the oral evidence taken by the Committees on Arms Export Controls on 1 December 2014 [see https://www.palestinecampaign.org/parliament-scrutiny-arms-exports/], will Business Secretary say when the report of the review of extant exporting licensing and the licensing of new applications for Israel will be published?
4. Jim Shannon: What discussions has Prime Minister had with his Israeli counterpart since the recent elections in that country on relations between the UK and Israel?
Nos 2-4 Commons Written Answers
WEDNESDAY 25 MARCH 2015
- Jeremy Corbyn: What steps has DEFRA Secretary taken to ensure that animal products originating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are not imported into the UK with sanitary or phytosanitary certification issued by the Israeli authorities, and when were those steps taken?
- Matthew Offord: What monitoring does DfID undertake of the content of UNRWA educational materials in Gaza and the West Bank?
Nos 1-2 Commons Written Answers
- Israel Elections: Question tabled by Baroness Prosser: What changes do HMG plan to make to their policy in respect of the Middle East following the recent election result in Israel?
– Baroness Anelay: The UK’s policy in the Middle East remains clear following the recent election in Israel. We look forward to good relations with the new Israeli Government, when formed, and to working closely together to address the vitally important task of building peace and stability between Israel and the Palestinians and the wider Middle East. Making progress towards the two-state solution remains a foreign policy priority for the United Kingdom.
– Baroness Prosser: I thank the Minister for that reply, but could she tell the House whether or not the Government will be developing a strategy to build a broad alliance of allies committed to persuading the Israeli Government that it is in their interests and the interests of the Israeli people to take more seriously the need for a two-state solution? Can she further tell us whether the Government propose to ensure that Mr Netanyahu takes that commitment more seriously?
– BA: I welcome the narrative that the noble Baroness has set out. We are in close consultation with international partners, including the US, EU and Arab states, on how we should encourage both parties to make progress towards peace. The UK has already led EU efforts to set out a package of unprecedented support that Europe would offer both parties in the event of a final status agreement. That offer is still on the table. Through the Arab peace initiative, Arab states have offered Israel the normalisation of relations in the event of a comprehensive peace agreement. That signals the benefits that peace would bring to the entire region. It is important that both Netanyahu and the Palestinians understand the serious proposals on offer and take them up.
– Baroness Falkner: Does my noble friend accept that now may be the time to bring the United Nations back in? What discussions have the Government had with other EU Governments about a framework resolution on a peace settlement through the UN Security Council now that the United States is recalibrating its position?
– BA: I am sure these matters will continue to be discussed within the United Nations. In particular, of course, we are still awaiting the opportunity to see what the commission of inquiry into Israel produces in its report. We are disappointed that Israel did not allow the commission access to specific places. As to EU co-operation, currently discussions are going ahead in the EU about what further sanctions might be required if progress on the peace initiative is not made.
– Lord Leigh: On the subject of our involvement in the Middle East, does my noble friend share the concerns expressed by the UN political affairs chief, Jeffrey Feltman? He has cited evidence of Hamas testing missiles and attempting to smuggle in materials that could be used for missile production. Does she share my concerns that Hamas might be preparing for another conflict against civilians?
– BA: We have assessed that Hamas is seeking to rebuild infrastructure, including the tunnel network in Gaza, and we are indeed deeply concerned about the reports to which my noble friend has referred of militant groups rearming. Hamas faces a fundamental decision about whether it is prepared to accept the quartet principles and join in with the efforts for peace or whether it will continue to use violence and terror, with all the terrible consequences for the people of Gaza. Hamas needs to make that choice.
– Lord Clarke of Hampstead: The election results in Israel show a clear concern for internal security and for the surrounding borders. Does the Minister agree that any future discussions about policy should take into account the developing nuclear programme in Iran, which poses a constant threat to the peace of the whole region? I hope that we will continue the work to stop Iran producing a nuclear bomb.
– BA: Discussions are currently under way with Iran about producing a political framework to resolve the issue of the potential development of its nuclear capability. As I say, those negotiations are currently under way and I would not wish to compromise them, but clearly a huge amount of effort has been put into them. We are of course aware of the implications for the whole region of getting that settlement right. We need a good deal and the right deal, and all our efforts are bent towards that. It is important not only for Israel and Palestine; it is important for the whole region and for us.
– Lord Ashdown: There are of course many impediments to peace in the Middle East, but is not the greatest of these Israel’s flagrantly illegal occupation of Palestinian territory?
– BA: I assume that my noble friend is referring to the way in which Israel has extended settlements against the original agreements rather than simply where Israel has its own territory as such under international law. Our position on settlements is clear. They are illegal under international law, they present an obstacle to peace and they take us further away from a two-state solution. We strongly urge the Government of Israel to reverse their policy on illegal settlements.
– Lord Bach: The House will be pleased to hear that Her Majesty’s Government’s support for a two-state solution remains strong, and I should say that Her Majesty’s Opposition continue to support a two-state solution as the best way to end this tragic impasse. My question is this: will Her Majesty’s Government make it clear in the strongest possible terms to the new Israeli Government, when formed, that any move away from this principle will leave Israel more isolated from the international community and will make it more difficult for its friends around the world?
– BA: I welcome the support of the Opposition which the noble Lord, Lord Bach, has just evinced, and I agree with every single word of his analysis.
Lords Oral Answers
TUESDAY 24 MARCH 2015
- Foreign Secretary attended the 16 March 2015 FAC in Brussels, where, under Other Business, Luxembourg raised Israel’s withholding of tax receipts from the Palestinian Authority.
Commons Written Statements
- Gareth Thomas: What discussions have FCO Ministers had with their Israeli counterparts since the Israeli elections on 17 March 2015, and will Foreign Secretary make a statement?
- Andrew Smith: With reference to the demolition by Israeli authorities in October 2014 of a latrine unit, constructed using DfID funding, in Khashem ad Daraj, has compensation been requested from the Israeli authorities?
- Andrew Smith: With reference to the demolition by Israeli authorities in October 2014 of a latrine unit, constructed using DfID funding, in Khashem ad Daraj, what estimate has DfID Secretary made of the cost of replacing that unit?
- Andrew Smith: With reference to the demolition by Israeli authorities in October 2014 of a latrine unit, constructed using DfID funding, in Khashem ad Daraj, what was the cost of that construction project?
- Andrew Smith: With reference to the demolition by Israeli authorities in October 2014 of a latrine unit, constructed using DfID funding, in Khashem ad Daraj, what discussions has DfID Secretary had with her Israeli counterparts on the reasons for that demolition?
Nos 2-6 Commons Written Answers
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel concerning its recent demolition of a European Union-funded shelter for displaced people on Mount Scopus, in north-east Jerusalem?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel concerning deaths and injuries in Gaza since August 2014 from explosive remnants of war (ERW); and what plans does the international community have to deal with ERW?
- Baroness Tonge: What discussions have HMG held with the government of Israel concerning the Palestinian children killed by live ammunition in 2014; how many of the soldiers responsible have been charged?
- Baroness Tonge: What assessment have HMG made of the Israeli Peace Initiative; and what action, if any, will they take to promote it?
- Lord Turnberg: Further to the Written Answer HL5374 [ed: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2015-03-03/HL5374], what steps are HMG taking to alert Gazan citizens to the need to vacate the area where Hamas are rebuilding tunnels close to the border with Israel?
- Lord Hylton: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel about the refusal to allow delegations of British parliamentarians to enter Gaza from Israel since 2009; were similar requests for entry via Egypt refused in 2014; and what representations have HMG made for access in such situations?
- Baroness Tonge: What assessment have HMG made of Israel’s nuclear submarine capability?
- Baroness Tonge: What encouragement will HMG give to Israel to become a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?
Nos 7-14 Lords Written Answers
MONDAY 23 MARCH 2015
- Prime Minister delivers statement on European Council:
– Ed Miliband: Before turning to other matters, I also want to note that since the last European Council we have had the Israeli elections, although they do not appear to have been discussed at the European Council. Let me say that there is now one overriding priority, which is restarting negotiations towards a two-state solution: a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state. Can the Prime Minister, when he replies, say whether he agrees that we must put pressure on both sides now to restart negotiations? In the light of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments in the run-up to the election, has our Prime Minister sought reassurances about his continuing commitment to a two-state solution? [extract]
– David Cameron: On the very important matter of the Israeli elections, I am sure that we will all want to congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu on his election victory. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we must put pressure on both sides to ensure that talks on a two-state solution get going. I will be talking with Prime Minister Netanyahu this evening, and I will make it very clear that I support a two-state solution. I think that is in the long-term interests of not only the Palestinians, but the Israelis, and Britain’s policy on that will not change. [extract]
– Jack Straw: When the Prime Minister speaks to Mr Netanyahu this evening, will he underline two things—first, that in respect of the negotiations with Iran, a deal which is acceptable and honourable on both sides is more likely to help guarantee Israel’s security, as well as that of others, than no deal at all? Secondly, will he emphasise to Mr Netanyahu that what his party and Government have been involved in is trying to change the reality on the ground through settlement building, so that if it goes on, it will be impossible for there to be a separate state of Palestine, and that if he carries on like this, the patience of this House and of Europe will run out? [extract]
– DC: The two points that the right hon. Gentleman makes about Israel are right and they are points that I will be happy to make. They are linked: if there is no two-state solution, the situation ends up moving towards a one-state solution, which I think will be disastrous for the Jewish people in Israel, so I really do believe in the two-state solution. We are very much opposed to the settlement building that has taken place. We have been very clear about that and will continue to be clear about that. It makes a two-state solution more difficult and that, in turn, will make Israel less stable, rather than more stable. [extract]
Commons Oral Questions
- Chris Williamson: Will the Foreign Secretary make representations to the Israeli government to stop the demolition of Umm al-Hiran?
- Chris Williamson: What reports has Foreign Secretary received on plans to demolish Umm al-Hiran in the Negev?
- Chris Williamson: Does FCO provide support to the civil rights organisation Adalah in Israel?
- Chris Williamson: Will Foreign Secretary take steps to encourage the Israeli government to provide essential services to unrecognised villages in the Negev?
Nos 2-5 Commons Written Questions
- Question tabled by Baroness Tonge: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Israel about lifting the blockade of Gaza.
– Baroness Anelay: We have frequent discussions with the Government of Israel about the need to ease restrictions on Gaza. We welcome Israel’s recent decisions to double water supply to Gaza and to begin some imports of food for the first time since 2007. We call on the Israeli Government to ease restrictions further and for Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt to work together to ensure a durable solution for Gaza.
– BT: I thank the Minister for that reply and the efforts that our Government are making, but is she aware of the bleak and dangerous conditions in Gaza at the moment, which are spreading to the West Bank and east Jerusalem? Now that Mr Netanyahu has shown his true colours and—to quote his own words—we no longer have a “partner for peace” to do business with, should we not fulfil our responsibilities to the Palestinians, stated in the Balfour Declaration, and call for divestment and sanctions against Israel until an agreement is reached on a two-state solution based on the Israeli peace initiative, of which I know she is aware?
– BA: There were several strands in there. Clearly, it is still a priority for this Government to achieve a two-state solution to the issue of Israel. With regard to the words used by Mr Netanyahu, who is at this moment seeking to form a Government, on Thursday 19 March he said:
“I do not want a one-state solution, I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution but for that circumstances have to change”.
We have to agree. Partners from the region would be welcome if they become involved in constructive peace negotiations, but of course Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously signed agreements and Israel, for example, must stop its settlements expansion policy.
– Lord Davies of Stamford: Is it not the case that the Hamas regime in Gaza could get the blockade lifted any day they wanted by the simple action of renouncing violence, recognising the state of Israel and accepting existing agreements, including the Oslo accords? Would it not be very much in the interest of everybody, but particularly the long-suffering people of Gaza, if they did just that?
– BA: Yes, my Lords.
– Lord Alderdice: Is it not clear that the Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu has now received a mandate for his statements that there would be no two-state solution agreed on his watch? If Her Majesty’s Government insist on their approach of finding a two-state solution, that will require the recognition of a Palestinian state, including Gaza and the West Bank, without the agreement of the incoming Israeli Government.
– BA: As I mentioned earlier, Mr Netanyahu is in the process of forming a Government. He has made it clear that he wants a sustainable, peaceful, two-state solution, and there will be great pressure on him to achieve exactly that, including from this Government.
– Lord Hughes of Woodside: Did not Mr Netanyahu say, quite specifically, that there would be no two-state solution on his watch? Then there is this change of view, where apparently he says that he does, but he does not. Is it not time that the Government spoke very firmly to that Prime Minister and say that he must make it absolutely clear that nothing less than a two-state solution will do?
– BA: I agree entirely with that second sentiment. We make it clear to Israel that only a two-state solution will do, and one which can be achieved by an agreement between both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That is, I agree, the right way forward.
– Baroness Warsi: What is the Government’s position on the legality or illegality of settlements? In light of that position, once the new Government have been formed, what will be their position on engaging with those politicians who are themselves settlers?
– BA: We have made it clear, and our position is clear, that they are illegal under international law. They present an obstacle to peace, and that remains the same today, as it was before the elections. They take us further away from a two-state solution, and we strongly urge the Government of Israel to reverse their policy on illegal settlements. That is essential for a peace process to go ahead.
– Baroness Morgan of Ely: Aid agencies have estimated that at current rates it will take 100 years to import enough construction materials to rebuild Gaza. Can the Minister comment on whether she thinks an independent monitoring regime will help to assuage Israeli concerns and ensure that imported building materials go only on rebuilding civilian homes, not on the building of military tunnels by Hamas?
BA: The noble Baroness raises an extremely important issue—that the reconstruction of Gaza must be for the benefit of civilians, not as a way to provide Hamas with materiel further to launch assaults on Israel, which would undermine any move towards peace. At present the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism is a step in the right direction to import materials that are urgently needed, and at present there is no evidence that any materials are diverted for military means. Some are used for civilian rebuilding means, but certainly oversight is crucial, as she said.
– Baroness Eaton: Since last summer, Israel has permitted 88,000 tonnes of construction material to enter Gaza, enabling 57,000 Gaza residents to rebuild their homes. While much more needs to be done, will my noble friend join me in acknowledging the important role Israel has played in this humanitarian effort thus far?
– BA: Yes, but of course it is even more important that those who have committed to providing material to that area for rebuilding pay up the money. We have already paid a quarter of the £20 million that we committed to last October; my right honourable friend Desmond Swayne in another place made clear that the rest, we hope, will be transmitted very soon in the new financial year. However, it is up to others to come up to the mark, too, to get the aid in.
– Lord Kilclooney: Now that Israel is losing support not just across Europe but in the United States of America, will the Government refer the new circumstances in Israel and Palestine to the European Union?
– BA: My Lords, we discuss matters with regard to the Middle East process across a range of other interlocutors, including the European Union. This is a peace effort in which all can play a constructive part; the important thing is to remain patient but utterly determined.
– Lord Dykes: Would my noble friend agree that it is essential for the United States to stop endless vetoes obliging Israel to disobey international law? There have been 35 since 1968.
– BA: Nobody should disobey international law. Our position on that is clear, particularly with regard to cases before the International Criminal Court. Of course, recently we have had discussions about Ukraine’s and Russia’s breaking of international law. It should not be done.
Lords Oral Questions
- Debate on “Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Amendment and Guidance) Regulations 2015”:
– Lord Bates: The issue of how universities and colleges balance the Prevent duty with the need to secure freedom of speech and to have regard to the importance of academic freedom is extremely important. Indeed, on account of this, the Government amended the legislation to ensure that institutions pay particular regard to the importance of academic freedom and freedom of speech when complying with the Prevent duty. [extract]
– Baroness Lister: For all the very welcome improvements that were made to the Bill during its passage through your Lordships’ House and the improvements that have been made to the guidance, the guidance still raises a number of very real worries. This is all the more so in the light of the recent newspaper report about Imperial College cancelling a booking [ed: – by Friends of al-Aqsa] for an international conference on Palestine at the last minute because of what speakers might say. If this is true—I have not been able to check the newspaper report—it suggests that the legislation is already having the very chilling effect that many Members of your Lordships’ House warned about when the legislation was going through. I am not convinced that the guidance as it stands is sufficiently robust to guard against such a chilling effect. [extract]
– Lord Hannay: “….Lady Lister, raised [on] the vexed issue of non-violent extremism. The Government have consistently refused to define what they mean by non-violent extremism, so they are now passing this extremely hot potato straight to the universities and expecting that they will do better than the Government and will be able to define non-violent extremism. Well, the Minister has one last chance now to do something about that and I ask him to do it. The failure of the Government to say what they mean by this extremely nebulous concept of non-violent extremism is putting universities in a pretty difficult position. [extract]
– Lord Judd: My Lords, I hope that the Minister will take seriously the points which have just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and, in particular, the contribution of my noble friend Lady Lister. Universities are crucial—this is not to overstate the case—to the future of the species. They must be centres of excellence, of course, but they must also be centres of scholarly excellence, free exchange and originality on an international basis—because any relevant university in our age must be an international community. We have to be careful surely in all that we do that we do not unintentionally inhibit the quality and freedom of discourse, discussion and analysis that are central to humanity’s future. [extract]
– Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I have not spoken previously on this matter, but I just want to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that Southampton University is organising a conference on legal issues surrounding Israel and Palestine, the two states, in the middle of April and is under intense pressure from the Israel lobby to drop it on the grounds that it will be anti-Semitic. Will he comment on this—or could he, in the interests of freedom of speech and particularly freedom of expression in universities, help Southampton University in this matter?
– Lord Bates: I am conscious of the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Morgan and Lord Judd, in talking about how precious our higher education institutions are as a bulwark against extremism. That was one of the finest debates that we had on the Bill. Early on, the noble Lord, Lord Deben, talked about bringing areas of contention out into the open and said that having a debate about them was critically important. That was why, as part of that, we put in place in the Bill and reiterated in the guidance that institutions should have particular regard to academic freedom duties in the 1988 Act and freedom of speech issues in the 1986 Act. Without getting into specific issues that the noble Baroness [Lister] raised about Imperial and my noble friend [Baroness Tonge] raised about Southampton, that is what needs to be taken back to those authorities, to remind them that that is what the guidance states, rather than what it does not—and sometimes how it is interpreted. [extract]
- After Baroness Stowell repeated Prime Minister’s Statement on the European Council:
– Baroness Morgan of Ely: As the noble Baroness went way beyond the Council communiqué, I shall stray only slightly by noting that, since the last European Council, we have also had the Israeli elections. Although they do not appear to have been discussed at the Council, there should be one overriding priority in relation to Israel: restarting negotiations towards a two-state solution—a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state. In the light of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments in the run-up to the election, have the Government sought reassurances about his commitment to a two-state solution? Does the noble Baroness agree that we must put pressure on both sides to restart negotiations? Nothing short of a meaningful peace process will do for this region of the world. [extract]
– Baroness Stowell: The noble Baroness asked me about Israel and whether we would put pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu to continue towards a two-state solution. I certainly congratulate Mr Netanyahu on his election victory, and I agree with the noble Baroness that we must put pressure on both sides to ensure that talks get going on a two-state solution. Indeed, the Prime Minister will be talking to Mr Netanyahu this evening, and he will be very clear in that conversation about our support for such a solution; it is in the long-term interests not just of the Palestinian people but of the Israelis and the wider situation in the Middle East, and Britain’s position on that will not change. [extract]
– Lord Stoddart: We all agree that Iran must never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, but I would remind the Leader of the House that Iran is a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Israel is not, yet it has nuclear weapons. What will the Government do to persuade Israel that it too should join the non-proliferation treaty so that proper discussions can take place between two equal parties?
– Baroness Stowell: The noble Lord raises an important question, but in the time available I will not be able to do it justice. Clearly we want to prevent the extension of nuclear arms wherever there may be a risk of that happening.
Lords Oral Questions
- Baroness Tonge: What assessment have HMG made of the reported links between the settler group Elad and the Israeli Antiquities Association?
- Baroness Tonge: What steps will HMG take to support access to Gaza by Scotland’s Minister for External Affairs and other United Kingdom Ministers?
- Lord Turnberg: Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 9th March [ed: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2015-02-23/HL5115/], what assessment have HMG made of reports that Hamas has diverted building materials to reconstruct tunnels adjacent to the border between Gaza and Israel?
Nos 9-11 Lords Written Answers