THURSDAY 29 OCTOBER 2015
- Syrian Refugees:
– Baroness Morris of Bolton: I declare my interests as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Jordan and the Palestinian territories and as president of Medical Aid for Palestinians. In our previous debate on the Syrian refugee crisis, I spoke of the desperate plight of the Palestinians of Yarmouk camp caught between Daesh and Assad’s forces, their only choice to stay and face near starvation and typhoid in the camp, or to chance their fate with the people traffickers, although for many even that horrific choice is unavailable as they simply do not have the funds to pay those evil people. The Minister wrote following the debate, and I am most grateful to her for her thorough and thoughtful reply. I am enormously grateful for the work of UK aid in addressing the immediate need for food and blankets for those fleeing the camp, and for the millions of pounds the Government have allocated to UNRWA to help the Palestinian refugees affected by the violence in Syria. Despite all this, their situation remains precarious, and they really are some of the most vulnerable people in this whole sorry mess. I wonder whether it would be possible for my noble friend to arrange a meeting with her and the Minister for Refugees, Richard Harrington, to discuss the Palestinians in Syria.[extract]
– Bishop of Southwark: Secondly, parishes and churches in this country are continuing to support a range of charities and mission agencies at work in the region, including Christian Aid’s Syria emergency appeal. The Jesuit Refugee Service may well be the largest Christian organisation working in and around Syria, serving, by its own estimates, nearly half a million people in the region. Our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, is also active in Jordan and Lebanon, supported by the British charity Jerusalem and the Middle East Church Association.
– Lord Dykes: I am a life-long admirer of the state of Israel, but I find it rather peculiar, in contrast, that Israel is still in Palestine, 50 years after the 1967 war, because of the way in which the United States has allowed that to happen and international law to be violated in that way by the key democracy in the Middle East, which is Israel. [extract]
– Lord Wallace of Saltaire: The violence that the Syrian state has conducted against its citizens is horrifying. When I saw pictures of Yarmouk, a part of Damascus that I visited seven years ago, and how appallingly it now has been almost completely destroyed, I was horrified that a state could do that to its own citizens. [extract]
– Baroness Verma: I know that my noble friend Lady Morris is incredibly passionate about her work. She asked a number of questions about what she has seen being done with Palestinians in Syria. As my noble friend is aware, we have been supporting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other UN partners for Palestinian refugees in the Near East to ensure that the needs of highly vulnerable Palestinians are addressed both within Syria and in neighbouring countries. To date, the UK has allocated approximately £59 million to UNRWA to provide food parcels, relief items, hygiene packs, education and cash assistance for Palestinian refugees affected by the violence. She asked if I would agree to a meeting with herself, a group from the Refugee Council and Richard Harrington MP. I am happy to do so and I will ask my office to contact her directly to put the meeting in place. [extract]
- Advertising Standards Authority:
– Baroness Deech: My Lords, I have two interests to declare. The first is as a former claimant, partly successful, to the ASA—an event that triggered my interest in its nature and procedures. [ed: https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2015/4/Medical-Aid-for-Palestinians/SHP_ADJ_260488.aspx#.VjMes3dFDcs ] The second is as a regulator myself of many years’ standing. [extract]
– Lord Lipsey: Therefore, I quite understand why the noble Baroness is injured still by the fate of her complaint against the ad concerning Medical Aid for Palestinians, given that only four of the 22 complaints she made were ultimately upheld. We know how deeply that must have bit, because as recently as 2012, in a lecture at Gresham College, the noble Baroness said that, “the Advertising Standards Authority seems to work well as a self regulator”. [extract]
– Lord Palmer of Child’s Hill: The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, mentioned a particular Middle Eastern question which I do not have to hand, but are there experts from all sides of what is a ticklish problem for everyone in the international sector? [extract]
– Lord Smith of Finsbury: It is worth noting that in her own case, which triggered her recent campaign against the ASA, she brought 22 separate items of complaint about an ad by Medical Aid for Palestinians. This was a highly complex case in an even more highly controversial area of public concern. Some of it related to matters of fact; some of it to matters of competing judgment. It needed very careful consideration. As well as to the ASA council, it also went to the independent reviewer, Sir Hayden Phillips. Only four of the 22 points were upheld, but no one can say that careful consideration was not given.
On one matter, I accept that the noble Baroness has a point, or at least part of a point. She believes that we should have brought in outside experts to advise on her case. We do bring in expert advice on some cases, normally to assist on detailed technical or scientific evidence. We did so in 16 cases out of 900 investigations last year. However, in a matter of political controversy, what would count as an expert? Who would qualify as an expert on all the passionately argued debates about Israel and Palestine? It is difficult, but none the less I have already made a commitment to the noble Baroness that, in future similar cases, we will give careful consideration to bringing in an outside expert if we genuinely believe that they may be able to assist the process. [extract]
WEDNESDAY 28 OCTOBER 2015
- Questions to the DfID Secretary:
– Tommy Sheppard: What recent assessment has she made of the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
– Desmond Swayne: Some 2.3 million people in Gaza and the west bank have insecure access to food, and 1.4 million are in need of water, sanitation and hygiene. This month 58 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed, and 7,042 Palestinians and 70 Israelis have been injured.
– Tommy Sheppard: I have a related question on Gaza, if I may. What assessment has been made of the destruction of UK-funded facilities in Gaza by the bombing of the Israeli air force? It seems that we provide facilities, either directly or through the UN, but then those facilities get bombed and we have to provide them again. What can be done to stop that tragic merry-go-round, and will the Minister work with colleagues to try to persuade the Israeli Government to have a more proportionate response in Gaza and to stop hindering the relief effort?
– Speaker Bercow: I am sorry but these questions are too long. We are very short of time—we need pithy inquiries.
– DS: Twelve UK-funded United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools were substantially damaged in the hostilities. The only way that can be prevented is by a peace process.
– Speaker Bercow: A tutorial can be provided by Mr Howell.
– John Howell: Will my right hon. Friend praise the doctors at the Hadassah medical centre in Jerusalem, who are showing real humanitarian characteristics by treating victims and attackers at the same time?
– DS: That is an object lesson on the measure of leadership now required to overcome the huge amount of distrust and hatred.
– Debbie Abrahams: What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Israeli Government on the increase in illegal building on the west bank and the impact that that has had on current levels of violence?
– DS: I have had substantial discussions with the Israeli Government on this issue and could not have been more robust in my representations.
– Bob Blackman: What consideration has my right hon. Friend given to the provision of a desalination plant for Gaza, as proposed by the Israeli Government, which would supply all the water needs for Gaza and satisfy the humanitarian grounds we want to see?
– DS: My hon. Friend draws attention to a very important issue. UN studies predict that Gaza will become uninhabitable, as a consequence of the water problem, by 2020. A peace process is vital, so that the level of investment required to drive such developments becomes available.
– Richard Burden: Speaking about the situation in Palestine at the World Zionist Congress last week, the Israeli Prime Minister declared that Israel would have “to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future.” If Israel has no intention of allowing the creation of two states and prevents Palestinians from having equal rights in one state, what is left but apartheid, and what implications does that have for UK development policy?
– DS: It is vital that we get the peace process back on track, and I hope that the agreement at the weekend over Temple Mount and al-Aqsa will at least be the start of that process. However, the only way to address the issue the hon. Gentleman raises is to pursue a two-state solution.
Commons Oral Answers
- Andrew Smith: What (a) advice and (b) guidance does BIS give on the risks of (i) investment in and (ii) business with Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian territory?
- Guto Bebb: What reports has Foreign Secretary received on the involvement of Palestinian terror groups in the recent violence in Israel and the West Bank?
- Andy Slaughter: What discussions has Foreign Secretary had with his ministerial colleagues in the Cabinet Office on the removal from the Ministerial Code of a reference to Ministers having a duty to comply with the law including international law and treaty obligations and to uphold the administration of justice. [Answer given by Tobias Ellwood: Information relating to internal discussion and advice is not normally disclosed.]
- Peter Bone: What steps does DfID take to monitor how aid disbursed by the UK to the Palestinian Territories is used?
Nos 2-5 Commons Written Answers
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel following the shooting of Maram Abudl-Latif al-Qaddoumi and her father in September?
Lords Written Answers
Extracts from Home Affairs Select Committee hearings on countering extremism – 27.10.15
– David Winnick: “Recognising that it’s certainly inane to say the least for people to condemn Muslims in Britain because of ISIS or other terrorist murderous groups, do you accept that there is a danger that because of the situation in the Middle East, Israel in particular, there is a growth of anti-Semitism amongst a number of Muslims, and it’s equally inane, perhaps you’ll agree with me, that because you disagree – I happen to disagree very strongly myself – with Israel’s policies, that there’s any excuse whatsoever for any form of Jewish hatred?
– Harun Rashid Khan [Deputy Secretary, Muslim Council of Britain]: “Mr Chairman, during the height of the Gaza conflict 2014 there was a fear, especially expressed by the Jewish community and the Board of Deputies around some growth in anti-Semitism, which then led to us meeting with them and us coming out with a joint statement asking for calm within both communities and that expression of protesting against these kinds of actions by Israel and vice versa is something you can do but within peaceful means. But there’s no specific evidence to say that specifically from the Muslim community there has been a rise in anti-Semitism.”
In the final section the Committee hears Baroness Warsi, who resigned last August as Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in the Department for Communities and Local Government. She criticises the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy and stresses that the Government put too much emphasis on ideology. @ approx. 16:40:00 Keith Vaz asks her whether she feels that by resigning from her Cabinet position she has let down the Muslim community; should she not have stayed and fought her corner on these issues.
– Warsi: “Had I been a minister for transport at the time when the Gaza conflict was happening it may have been easier. But I was the minister for human rights, I was the minister for the UN, I was the minister for the ICC. I was sat [sic] at the Foreign Office, I was taking every question on this issue at the House of Lords, I was standing up and being given government lines that I didn’t agree with, and therefore was saying things at the dispatch box which in my view were not true and were not a reflection of what I felt, and I was creating effectively a dishonest record on Hansard of what I felt at that time. I therefore had a choice, do I carry on saying and doing things that I do not believe. And I’ve always had two very simple rules, which may not always go down too well, which is say what you do and do what you say. And that time I felt I was neither saying what I believe nor doing what I was saying.
– Vaz: “Even though it was a foreign policy issue, do you think that foreign policy does drive radicalisation? When young people see what is happening in Syria they decide to go and fight there?
– Warsi: “I think there are two separate issues here: there is the issue of my resignation, whether I felt, as the minister who had responsibilities for these areas, I could continue making and standing by the decisions the government was making – which I could not. But the second aspect of it comes down really I think to who we are in terms of our values and our principles. And there is much evidence, academic evidence, to support the fact that hypocrisy is consistently cited as something that is used to describe the way in which government, not just this particular government but governments, the establishment, deal with their communities. And as I said in my resignation letter, you know, if you believe in the British values of international justice and the rule of law and human rights, and accountability, then we have to be seen to be living by those values. And I think there is definitely an overlap between foreign policy and domestic affairs, which in many ways was the reason why I felt that the role I was doing was quite unique and important, because I was in a domestic department as well as in the Foreign Office. And I think there is an interplay between how we deal with things domestically and how that reflects on us internationally and the decisions we make internationally and how we are therefore viewed by domestic communities.”
TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER 2015
- Byron Davies: What discussions has Foreign Secretary had with the Palestinian Authority on the recent violence in Israel and the West Bank?
- Byron Davies: What recent representations has Foreign Secretary made to the Palestinian Authority in response to reports of incitement to violence against Israel?
- Matthew Offord: What representations has FCO made to the Palestinian Authority on its involvement in direct peace talks without preconditions with the Israeli government?
- Matthew Offord: What steps is FCO taking to encourage Palestinian Authority officials to address the issue of incitement to violence?
Nos 1-4 Commons Written Answers
- Home Affairs Select Committee hearing – extracts relating to Gaza conflict transcribed separately.
MONDAY 26 OCTOBER 2015
- Andrew Rosindell: What discussions has Foreign Secretary had with his counterparts in the (a) Palestinian Authority and (b) Israeli government on recent violent attacks in that region?
- Daniel Poulter: What assessment has Foreign Secretary made of the implications for his policies of recent violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories?
Nos 1-2 Commons Written Answers
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority concerning the disruption of the fuel supply to Gaza due to the closure of the crossing points during Jewish holidays?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel in the light of figures released by the Parliamentary Under Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which showed that the Israeli military have opened fire into the Gaza Access Restricted Area on at least 696 occasions since August 2014?
- Baroness Tonge: What steps have HMG taken to protect British journalists in the light of the assault by Israeli soldiers on two AFP journalists during a West Bank demonstration?
- Baroness Tonge: What action are HMG taking to support, and provide humanitarian aid to, the Palestinian refugees who took refuge in Syria prior to the civil war in that country?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations are HMG making to the government of Israel regarding the need for road and rail links between Rafah, Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus and Janin to serve Palestine?
- Baroness Tonge: What action are HMG taking in the light of the report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that, within West Bank Area C, 77 per cent of Israeli demolition orders affect structures located on privately-owned Palestinian land?
- Baroness Tonge: What representations have HMG made to the government of Israel concerning the destruction of olive trees belonging to Palestinians in the West Bank in order to create a Nature Reserve?
Nos 3-9 Lords Written Answers