Author: David Alton

Pay Day Loans Targetted At Children and Proposals On Germ Line Gene Therapy That Risk Public Safety

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1 July 2014 : Question Time: Column 1641

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that personal debt in Britain now stands at a staggering £1.4 trillion, and that in one recent year, payday loans were advertised in more than 400,000 spots on television? This included advertising, some of it by Wonga, that was targeted at young people and used puppets. Surely it cannot be in our national interest to promote indebtedness on that scale and to have a new rising generation encouraged to take out personal debts as well.

Lord Newby: My Lords, I agree with that, but the fact that we are now regulating the industry in a way that has never been done before is likely to have a significant impact on both the number of firms—firms are exiting the sector very quickly at the moment—and public perception of the industry. If we go back a year or two, the Wongas of this world were seen to be soft and cuddly institutions; nobody believes that any more

July 1st 2014 debate on the Consumer Rights Bill

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):⁠ My Lords, like other noble Lords, I too support and welcome this Bill on consumer rights. It introduces a much needed single framework that clearly sets out in one place the rights and obligations of consumers and traders. The Bill succeeds in ensuring that consumers will be better informed about their rights and what they are buying. Simplifying and clarifying consumer law, as the Bill does, will mean that consumers spend less time trying to understand their rights and working out how to apply them. It also provides a firm foundation for empowering consumers. Where businesses treat their customers fairly, those enterprises will benefit and they have nothing to fear from this legislation. As the ombudsman services policy adviser, Simon Darby, has remarked:

“The Consumer Rights Bill represents an excellent opportunity to deliver an improved, enhanced and simplified rights and redress landscape that would tangibly improve the support and outcomes available to consumers”.

There is also, however, a widely held view that the efficacy of the Bill will rest entirely on the extent to which the legislation is enforced, both privately and publicly. Mechanisms such as the alternative dispute resolution referred to earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham of Droxford, could significantly add to the Bill’s effectiveness. I was stuck that a briefing from Which? stated:

“The powers on redress and enforcement could be improved in the Bill”.I hope that the Government will, as the Bill goes through its further stages, give that further thought.

When considering Bills such as this, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, and the noble Lord, Lord Wills, correctly remarked, have a consolidating function, it is important that we do not limit our ambitions simply to consolidating but introduce new provisions where they are desirable or necessary.

I have three issues that I should like to see addressed in the Bill.

The first is one that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, referred to in her remarks and which I raised during Question Time today. It was also flagged up earlier this year by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, which recommended banning payday loan adverts from programming aimed at children. The committee said:

“We do not believe that these are appropriate channels for payday loans. We recommend that payday loan adverts are banned from programming aimed at children … We are concerned that payday loans increase the pressure on families already struggling with unmanageable debt and believe that payday loan adverts should not be shown on children’s television”.
This Bill provides a timely and welcome legislative opportunity to implement that recommendation and to protect vulnerable children and families from advertising for high-cost loans.

The need to do so was underlined by the Children’s Society in a joint report with the StepChange debt charity, entitled, The Debt Trap: Exposing the Impact of Problem Debt on Children.

Certainly, this was an issue that I encountered during my time as a Member of the House of Commons representing a constituency in the heart of Liverpool. I saw it regularly even before this massive increase in advertising and the use of payday loans. Debt can have an incredibly corrosive effect on families and communities.

The report found that problem debt can have a severe impact on every aspect of children’s lives, from missing out on the essentials, to problems with family relationships, and even bullying in schools. It states that more than half of children in families with problem debt say that they worry about their family’s financial situation. It argues that the Government should use the Consumer Rights Bill to,

“review the case for tighter restrictions on loan advertising seen by children”.
Legislation in this area would undoubtedly help in preventing children being bombarded with advertising from moneylenders, usurers and loan sharks, but children should also learn from their parents and schools about money management and the dangers of debt, not least in a country where outstanding personal debt stood at £1.443 trillion at the end of April 2014.

Put another way, £161 million was the daily amount of interest paid on personal debt in April this year, while 6,519 debt problems were dealt with by the CAB each working day last year.

Ministers should also reflect that a petition calling on Ofcom to ban short-term, high-interest lenders from advertising on programming aimed at children gathered almost 10,000 signatures. But in their official response to the report of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, the Government rejected the demand and played down the scale of the problem, saying:

The increase reported by Ofcom in the number of payday lending ads seen by children is concerning, but it is also important to note that they comprise a relatively small 0.6% of TV ads seen by children aged 4-15”.

This is complacent and disturbing. A recent survey by the Children’s Society, already alluded to, suggests that 56% of children aged 10 to 17 are seeing advertising for loans “often” or “all the time”. Conversely, only 21% said that their school taught them about debt and money management.

Research published by Ofcom last December showed that there were 17,000 payday loan advertisement spots on TV in 2008. That increased to 243,000 in 2011 and reached a staggering 397,000 in 2012. Put slightly differently from the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, who gave the percentage increase, expressed it, that is a year-on-year increase of 64%. According to Ofcom, the average child aged four to 15 saw 70 payday loan adverts just last year.
At a hearing of the committee last year, Martin Lewis, founder of the MoneySavingExpert.com website, called for a blanket ban on advertising designed to “normalise” the idea of short-term loans among children. He accused the firms of,

“grooming a new generation towards this type of borrowing. If you think we have got problems now, you wait until 10 years’ time. Grooming is the right term. We are talking about a market that did not exist five years ago”.
He condemned the adverts as “deliberately contrived and controlled”, singling out Wonga’s adverts featuring puppets to appeal to children.

These concerns appear to be well founded. A survey on MoneySavingExpert.com found that a third of parents reported their under-10s repeating payday lenders’ slogans, while 14% said that, when they had refused to buy a toy, their child had nagged them to take out a payday loan.

It is completely unacceptable that payday loan companies should be allowed to target parents through their children. We should consider whether it is acceptable to allow payday loan advertising to continue to mushroom generally, but there is no doubt that immediate action should be taken with respect to the targeting of children.I appreciate that the Government have suggested that the Advertising Standards Authority and Financial Conduct Authority could ban irresponsible and misleading adverts which breach their rules. However I firmly believe that, rather than regulatory bodies banning particular adverts, the Government should use this Bill to make it explicit that all adverts targeted at children should cease. If the Government are not prepared to act, we as a House should do so.

When the noble Viscount replies, I would be grateful if he would tell us what discussions the Government have had with Ofcom about banning payday lenders from advertising on children’s TV; whether the Government will consider using the Bill better to protect children from the advertising of payday loans; and how the Government will ensure that young people get financial education from schools, not from advertising of high-cost credit.

I now want to refer briefly to two other issues.

In particular, I support the point made about local authority trading standards officers providing 48 hours’ notice of routine business inspections. As originally drafted, that requirement would have restricted the ability of trading standards officers to undertake unannounced inspections where they have reasonable grounds to do so—for example, because of a known risk relating to a business or type of activity.

Maintaining the freedom of trading standards officers to turn up unannounced in those contexts, where they have reasonable grounds to do so, is vital. During pre-legislative scrutiny, the Trading Standards Institute, along with the Local Government Association, of which I am also a vice-president, made it plain that although it welcomes the overall direction of the Bill, it felt that that provision required urgent revision.

I am happy to say that the Government have, to some extent, responded positively, but additional clarity is required. Specifically, there remains doubt about whether the exemption can be applied in respect of unannounced inspections relating to a known risk in an area, rather than to specific premises. I will listen with interest when the noble Viscount comes to reply on that.

I turn to my third and final point. Right at the heart of any credible concern for consumer rights must be concern for the safety of consumers. With the Eldorado tendency within the biotech industry, which sees vast profits to be made from genetic engineering and streets paved with biotech gold, we need much clearer safeguards, tempering the desire to make breakthroughs with proper concern for the safety of the public.

One example is the growing public concern about the Government’s proposal to introduce regulations permitting pro-nuclear and maternal spindle transfer in the hope of creating children who do not inherit mitochondrial disease. That issue was raised during debate on the Bill in the other place. Regrettably, a bipartisan amendment tabled by the admirable Mrs Fiona Bruce, the Conservative Member for Congleton, and the equally admirable Mr Jim Dobbin, the Labour Member for Heywood and Middleton, was not reached or properly debated in another place.

In Committee here, there will be a further opportunity to discuss this important subject. For today, I shall not go into great detail, but, in short, the Government have asked the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority on three separate occasions to produce a report on the safety of the proposed procedures. In its report, the HFEA has concluded that there is no evidence to demonstrate that the procedures are unsafe, but it has recommended a series of pre-clinical research experiments, some of which it describes as critical.

In March this year, the head of the United States Food and Drug Administration warned that there are not enough data on animals or in humans to move to those new techniques, and it is unclear whether the procedures would be effective. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, who is of course a leading expert in fertility treatments, has expressed his deep concern, stating that,

“the problem is that I do not believe there has been enough work done to make sure mitochondrial replacement is truly safe”.

Like the head of the Food and Drug Administration, the noble Lord warns that not enough research has been done on animal models and that more tests should be done to assess the risks to the child.

In addition, only earlier this week, two leading bioethicists said that the United Kingdom is rushing to introduce mitochondrial transfer despite the profound safety risks.

Donna Dickenson, emeritus professor of medical ethics at the University of London, and Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the US Center for Genetics and Society, pointed to America, where there are “no plans” to allow those techniques.

In an article for New Scientist magazine, the bioethicists highlighted concerns raised by an advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration that there is no evidence to support the use of GM techniques in humans.

Despite the desire of the biotech industry to stampede us into giving a green light, the risks and safety concerns of those techniques are therefore considerable. Given the importance of public safety, it would be quite wrong to rush into those procedures.

In the context of a Bill that puts the safety and protection of people at the heart of its consideration, it is right to ask Ministers how they intend to provide the necessary scaffold of public protection when such developments occur. Clearly, unamendable regulations will not provide for safety thresholds but, as Members of the House of Commons argued, the Bill could do so.

The public need to know that Parliament has properly considered these matters and not been rushed pell-mell into signing them off while pre-clinical research remains unfinished. This is an issue I raised directly with the Secretary of State for Health only yesterday, and in correspondence and in questions to the noble Viscount’s department and to the noble Earl, Lord Howe.

At the very minimum, I hope that the Minister will reassure the House that no regulations will be laid before Parliament until all the pre-clinical research recommended by the HFEA has been conducted and written up in peer-reviewed journals that are in the public domain, where they can be scrutinised by Members of Parliament and concerned members of the public.

There is much more that could be said, but that can wait until another day and until later stages. For now, I welcome the Bill and hope that it makes good progress on to the statute book. I look forward to the reply of the noble Viscount at the conclusion of our debate.

4.30 pm
David Alton ( Lord Alton of Liverpool).

Award for Championing Religious Freedom and Minority Rights

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Award for Championing religious Freedom presented at a meeting in the American Congress 2014

David (Lord) Alton, has received an award for his work for human rights and particularly for championing the rights of minorities persecuted for their beliefs.

The award was presented at a meeting being held in Washington DC at the American Congress. David Alton was nominated for the award by Egypt’s Coptic community for his long standing work on their behalf.

For the past twenty years Lord Alton has served as honorary President of the UK Copts.

At the award ceremony he said that “all over the world majorities and minorities need to learn again the art of co-existence, learning to respect diversity and plurality. Without co-exisence and ability to live together peaceably the world descends into chaos.”

Roscoe Lectures – Forthcoming Lectures June 2014

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The 120th Roscoe Lecture will take place in Liverpool on Monday June 9th. It will be delivered by the Mexican Ambassador.

 

As part of series of encounters with Ambassadors accredited to the Court of St.James we will be staging some “Meet the Ambassadors” Roscoe Lecture lunchtime events.

These are in collaboration with the Liverpool Consular Corps, who sponsor our Liverpool John Moores University Good Citizenship award for international initiatives.
The first of these will be on Monday June 9th when the new Mexican Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering, who recently presented his credentials to her Majesty the Queen, will speak. Details of the time and venue available from Mrs.Barbara Mace at b.mace@ljmu.ac.uk <a href=” b.mace@ljmu.ac.uk”></a>&nbsp;

 

Mexican Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering presents his credentials to H.M.The Queen
Mexican Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering presents his credentials to H.M.The Queen

20114 is the eightieth anniversary of the creation of UK and Mexican diplomatic relations, in 1934, and 2015 has officially been designated as BritMex “The year of Mexico in the United Kingdom” and “The year of the United Kingdom in Mexico”, where the theme of innovation will be at the foreground of planned events. Commercial and business ties have significantly increased in recent years with trade generating revenues of around £4 billion – double the 2008 figure.

 

Liverpool’s own links with Mexico can be traced back over 200 years. In 1795 , a contemporary of William Roscoe, William Bullock , founded a Museum of Natural Curiosities at 24 Lord Street and later travelled to Mexico. Some of the artefacts he collected are listed in “ Companion to the Liverpool Museum, containing a brief description of … natural & foreign curiosities, antiquities & productions of the fine arts, open for public inspection … at the house of William Bullock”
More recently, Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery and Museum hosted a disturbing exhibition highlighting one of the most challenging questions facing modern Mexico. The exhibition, “Remember Them’ featured work by a group of international artists drawing attention to the huge amount of mainly female disappearances and murders committed in Ciudad Juárez in Northern Mexico, a city described as one of the most violent in the world.
The exhibition, premiered in Liverpool, featured work by Mexican photographer, Julián Cardona, Irish painter, Brian Maguire, Norwegian artist, Lise Bjørne Linnert and Mexican artist, Teresa Margolles.
Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering will talk about life in Mexico and be in conversation with David Alton – followed by questions from the audience.

Later in the week, on Thursday June 12th, the Rt.Hon Charles Kennedy MP, Member of Parliament for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and former leader of his Party, will speak on The Case Against Scottish Independence.

rt.Hon Charles Kennedy MP will put the case against a Yes vote in the Scottish Referendum
rt.Hon Charles Kennedy MP will put the case against a Yes vote in the Scottish Referendum

 

This follows the earlier Roscoe Lecture by the Rt.Hon Alex Salmond MSP, who put the case for a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum.
Mr.Kennedy represents the UK’s largest constituency – stretching coast to coast, from Cromarty to Ardnamurchan – and was elected to Parliament as its youngest member in 1983.
As a student he was elected as President of the Glasgow University Union and won the Observer Mace debating competition. In 2008 and 2011 he was elected as Rector of Glasgow University. He is author of The Future of Politics (2000) and has been a prominent member of Scotland’s “Better Together” campaign for a No vote in the 2014 referendum. The Lecture will take place at the Adelphi Hotel. Details and tickets available from Mrs.Barbara <Mace at b.mace@ljmu.ac.uk

 

 

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Among recent Roscoe lectures have been those of Vasily Petrenko (119), Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Baroness (Sheila) Hollins (118).

Vasily Petrenko
Vasily Petrenko
Baroness Sheila
Baroness Sheila

 

To hear them go to:

http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/roscoe/101110.htm

Wednesday 14 May 2014 – Mr Vasily Petrenko, Chief Conductor, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – in conversation with Darren Henley, Managing Director of Classic FM | download audio | Stream video

Thursday 27 March 2014 – Professor Sheila the Baroness Hollins – Talking about Mental Health | download audio | PowerPoint presentation

 

Previously, the Liverpool John Moores Roscoe Foundation for Citizenship staged the a Roscoe Lecture by Vava Tampa, founder of Save The Congo, spoke on the history of conflict and human rights abuses in the DRC and about the role of the early twentieth century human rights campaigned, E.D.Morel and Morel’s Liverpool connections:http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/NewsUpdate/viewarticle/1097/Audio Link to Vava Tampa’s Lecture

http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/roscoe/101110.htm

Visit Vava Tampa’s Save The Congo web site:

http://www.savethecongo.org.uk/#

E.D.Morel
E.D.Morel
Vava Tampa
Vava Tampa

sAVE THE CONGO

Link to an article on Morel from Nerve Magazine issue 7, Winter 2005:

http://www.catalystmedia.org.uk/issues/nerve7/edmund_morel.htm

Link to E D Morel’s Maiden speech of 1922 (featured in Hansard’s Centenary anthology of historic and memorable speeches) warning of the punitive reparations imposed on Germany:
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1922/nov/24/foreign-affairsAll Parliamentary contributions from E D Morel can be found here:
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/mr-edmund-morel/

http://lordalton.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/congos-holocaust-120708-by-khalil-bendib.jpg”&gt;congos-holocaust-120708-by-khalil-bendibCongo2jpg

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…and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, Paralympic athlete, spoke on Overcoming Disability and Adversity.

Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE
Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE

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On Thursday November 28th, Ms.Diane Lees, Director General of the Imperial War Museum  spoke on 1914: Why Remembering the Great War Matters. The lecture will be held at the Philharmonic Hall at 6.oopm.

Monday 11 November 2013 – Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE – Overcoming Disability and Adversity | download audio (please note: the beginning of this talk is missing due to a technical issue) http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/roscoe

/101110.htm

Tickets are free and available from Mrs.Barbara Mace at b.mace@ljmu.ac.uk

Queens Speech Debate at Westminster – the fate of Meriam Ibrahim the Sudanese pregnant woman sentenced to death and 100 lashes is raised along with the violence which continues in Darfur and South Kordofan

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Meriam Ibrahim
Question 25 Jun 2014 : Column WA164

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will answer the question asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool on 10 June (HL Deb, col 236), and on 11 June (HL Deb, col 418), about whether asylum in the United Kingdom will be offered to Meriam Ibrahim, who has been imprisoned and given a death sentence in Sudan.[HL317]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): The UK has a proud record of offering sanctuary to those who need it. Each claim for asylum is carefully considered and where we find individuals are in need of our protection, asylum is given. However, to be eligible for international protection, a person must be located outside of their country of origin.

Meriam Ibrahim
Meriam Ibrahim

South Sudan
Question 25 Jun 2014 : Column WA171

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to commit to ensuring that diplomatic engagement with South Sudan continues beyond the signing of and re-commitment to a ceasefire, in order to support an inclusive national dialogue process.[HL315]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): Recommitting to a ceasefire is an important step, but it is only the first step in a long process towards national reconciliation in South Sudan. We welcome the agreement reached between President Salva Kir and Riek Machar to work towards the formation of a transitional government of national unity. This is a further positive step. But both parties must continue to engage constructively in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-mediated peace talks in Addis. The UK, along with our troika (UK, US and Norway) and EU partners, continues to support IGAD efforts to resolve the crisis with both financial assistance and expertise. The UK Special Envoy to the South Sudan peace talks has attended each session of the talks in an advisory capacity since his appointment in January this year, including when the latest agreement on transitional government was reached on 10 June. The Special Envoy has also
met with both parties in South Sudan and has engaged regional leaders whose influence is vital to the peace process. We are exploring with troika partners further ways in which we can support the national dialogue process, both financially and administratively.

Wednesday June 11th Queens Speech Debate
http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/lords/todays-lords-debates/#m738

5.15 pm
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):

My Lords, the Government and the Foreign Secretary deserve to be congratulated for the commitment that they have made to combating violence against women. The House can take real pride in the role that the Minister of State, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, has taken in demonstrating that gender, talent and faith can be great assets while holding high office.

How very different the situation is in Nigeria, where Boko Haram—which means “eradicate western education”—can abduct and kill with impunity. How very different the situation is in Sudan, which incarcerates a woman and sentences her to death on trumped-up charges of adultery and apostasy. How very different the situation is in Pakistan, where a brave and courageous schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, was shot for defying the Taliban’s opposition to education for girls; a country disfigured by honour killings, blasphemy laws and impunity in the face of the assassination of its courageous Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, whose killers have still not been brought to justice.
The jihadists, from Boko Haram to Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, hold a common, distorted ideology, which festers in poverty, hates difference and exploits grievance. For majorities, such as women, or for followers of minority faiths, life is often a living hell. Last week, the charity Open Doors said that, today, one Christian is martyred every three hours. On 31 May, the Times, in a powerful leading article, said:

“Western politicians until now have been reluctant to speak out … We cannot be spectators at this carnage”.

When they are not being murdered, they are being forced to pay extortionate jizya tax—protection money—to leave or to die, like the two men who were recently crucified by ISIS in Syria. I was given an account only today from Syrian refugees who are in Jordan, unable to pay a ransom. The head of the family was kidnapped and executed.

Last night, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord King, and my noble and gallant friend Lord Stirrup, Mosul fell to ISIS. Not surprisingly, overnight, 120,000 people, many Christians, were reported to have fled from Mosul to the plains of Nineveh. When he comes to reply, I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, will tell us what is being done to protect those people who are fleeing from the depredations of ISIS.

I also hope that the noble and learned Lord will update us on the plight of the 276 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April in north-east Nigeria, along with 20 more women abducted this week.

Meriam ibrahim2

I hope that he will also answer the question left partially unanswered yesterday when I raised the case of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to 100 lashes and execution, and forced to give birth while shackled in her prison cell. I asked if we would unambiguously offer Meriam Ibrahim and her two little ones asylum and refugee status in this country, demonstrating our values against the values of those who have perpetrated what, for me, is the real crime.

Sudan’s archaic, cruel and medieval laws have also led to Intisar Sharif Abdallah being sentenced to death by stoning and to Lubna Hussein being sentenced to lashing for dressing indecently—that is, for wearing trousers. According to Al-Jazeera, in Sudan in one recent year, 43,000 women were publicly flogged. As we have seen in Darfur, where an additional 600,000 IDPs in the past year have brought the number of displaced people to more than 2.2 million, and in the genocidal campaign in South Kordofan, this is a corrupt Government which uses Sharia to prey on the weak and to kill its own people.

Three months ago, Sudan suspended the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In April, it expelled a senior official of the United Nations. When did we last raise these questions in the Security Council? This, after all, is a country which signed up to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is not worth the paper on which it is written as far as Sudan is concerned. We have to be clear about the implications when a radicalised view of Islam comes to prevail and when democracy, modernity and secularism are seen as spectres—the implications are there of course for the United Kingdom too.

The noble Baroness represents an alternative approach, based on plurality, tolerance, decency and common humanity.

I have previously argued in your Lordships’ House that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be at the heart of such an approach and, indeed, of our foreign policy, and should inform every aspect of the positions that we strike. The implementation of the declaration should be the goal of our foreign policy and a condition of both aid and support.

I will end with one final example. I have chaired the All-Party Group on North Korea for 10 years. Earlier this year, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Mr Justice Kirby, said of North Korea:

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

If that is so, and if we are committed to the upholding of human rights, why have we done nothing so far to ensure that the findings in that Commission of Inquiry Report have been laid before the Security Council?
5.20 pm

Meriam ibrahim3

Pregnant Christian Woman Sentenced to Death in Sudan.

http://www.copts.eu/articles/6596-first-picture-and-video-of-the-baby-born-in-a-sudan-jail-to-mother-sentenced-to-hang-for-marrying-a-christian.html

Also see http://t.co/EXbM8T05Y7 – the view of Muslims who oppose this barbarism in Sudan.

To help Meriam Yahia Ibrahim sign this petition:

President of Sudan , Omar Al-Bashir: Save Mariam Yahya
To: President of Sudan , Omar Al-Bashir:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/President_of_Sudan_Omar_AlBashir_Save_Mariam_Yahya/?keUkhab

Also see this article by Nina Shea

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/17/in-sudan-a-pregnant-woman-may-be-hanged-for-marrying-a-christian.html# 

 

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, a Christian woman from a Muslim background, was arrested on 17th February 2014 and charged on 4th March with adultery and apostasy. She is married to a Christian of South Sudanese origin. The couple have a young son (who is with Meriam in prison) and are expecting their second child later this month. The Government of Omar al Bshir (indicted by the International Criminal Court for Crimes against Humanity) does not recognise the couple’s marriage, hence the adultery charge.


Heavily pregnant and in a Sudanese prison - sentenced to 100 lashes and execution by hanging.
Heavily pregnant and in a Sudanese prison – sentenced to 100 lashes and execution by hanging.

A further court hearing was held today (15th May). Meriam had been given three days to recant. However, at today’s hearing she calmly confirmed to the judge that she remains a Christian. The judge accordingly confirmed the sentence for apostasy of death by hanging. He also sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery. The death sentence is to be imposed two years after she gives birth to their second child.

The lawyer acting for Meriam is preparing an appeal which must be submitted within 15 days. Meriam’s husband was not permitted to attend the court hearing today, and has been denied access to Meriam and their son in the prison.

Representations may be made to Sudan’s Misiter of Justice, Mohamed Bushara Dousa at moj@moj.gov.sd

The telephone number of the Sudan Embassy in London is 0207 839 8080
info@sudan-embassy.co.uk or tweet the UK embassy in Khartoum @SudanUnit

Promise to Pray, Protest, Pressurise, and Provide
Promise to Pray, Protest, Pressurise, and Provide

Meanwhile, in South Kordofan the killing continues as the Government of Sudan bomb the region’s only hospital. It is condemned as a war crime.

The hospital, funded by Irish donors in the Nuba mountains region of South Sudan, is back up and running having suffered aerial attacks over two days at the beginning of May.

The Catholic Mother of Mercy hospital, which is funded by donations via Trócaire, is the only functioning hospital for the area of South Kordofan and caters for some 150,000 people amid the conflict between rival forces first sparked in 2011, ostensibly over the disputed oil-rich Abyei region.

There are currently 1,000 patients at the facility.

Bombing of the hospital is "a war crime" by Khartoum's Government
Bombing of the hospital is “a war crime” by Khartoum’s Government

Despite being located away from military installations and strategic interests, the hospital became the target of an aerial bombardment on May 1, and again the following day. Five of some 11 bombs dropped found their target, and though no fatalities were reported, staff and patients were injured as hospital buildings were blasted.

The European Union delegation to Khartoum said in a statement that it “noted with concern” reports of the bombing, stressing that hospitals are protected civilian facilities under international law.

Failure to distinguish between the military and civilians “represents an indiscriminate attack and is a war crime,” the statement said.

- See more at: http://www.irishcatholic.ie/article/irish-backed-hospital-south-sudan-bombed#sthash.cxBwpQPu.dpuf

Speech on the situation in South Sudan, 6.58 pm 24 Mar 2014 : Column 414

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, the whole House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for tabling this Question for Short Debate. I am sure that we all thank him for the eloquent way in which he set the scene for this debate.

Following the fighting that broke out in Juba last December, we have seen the violence spread like a plague to Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states, where fresh clashes only last week have rendered those areas inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. As we have heard, unverified reports suggest more than 10,000 fatalities. The key message of our debate to all sides should surely be that there should be an immediate cessation of hostilities with no delay.

Both President Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, must understand that anything which further exacerbates the existing ethnic tensions, particularly between the Dinka and Nuer, risks the very future of South Sudan and plays into the hands of those who wanted the world’s newest state to fail from the very outset. They should also take careful note of the statement of the special envoys of the European Union, the United States and Norway in which the troika warned them that, if they fail to engage constructively with the IGAD-led talks, “they will face consequences” and that:

“The people of South Sudan expect renewal, they expect their voices to be heard in forging a more sustainable peace. Business as usual is not a viable way forward”.

The suffering of the people of South Sudan is being further compounded by the collateral effects on humanitarian relief and those who work so selflessly to provide it. Since January there have been three fatalities among aid workers, more than 100 were prevented from relocating from Yirol in Lakes state to Juba for safety, and more than 75 humanitarian vehicles have been commandeered or stolen. It is impossible to feel anything but deep admiration for those aid workers still in the field, risking their lives to bring relief and help to the destitute. Surely there is more that we could do to give them practical help and support.

With 3.7 million people now experiencing acute food insecurity and 7 million facing some degree of food insecurity, according to figures provided by the food security and livelihoods cluster, does the Minister

24 Mar 2014 : Column 414

agree that if, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has just mentioned, pastoralists and farmers prove unable to move with their livestock or to plant their seeds at the outset of this rainy season, it is becoming increasingly possible that this crisis of food insecurity will freefall into outright famine? I hope that the Minister will update us on the Government’s own assessment. Perhaps she can also tell us whether, with the reallocation of funds from development projects in other parts of the country to emergency food relief, she would concur that this poses a threat to the country’s long-term recovery. Is it the case that the crisis response plan for humanitarian activities until June 2014 is around only 23% funded, with a shortfall of £592 million? How can that gap be filled?

Over these weeks we have seen former allies become enemies, old grievances re-ignited, and tribalism and factions threatening the cohesion of South Sudan. The failure to address many of these underlying issues and challenges—many of which were well known but ignored in the framing of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement—has played its part in the genesis of this new eruption of violence. Any political agreement crafted between power brokers and warlords that does not address grievances and fails to reach out to affected communities will be a poor basis on which to build a peace. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way that politics is practised in South Sudan. It cannot be based on deals between a couple of competing leaders. Sudan’s churches have always had a historic and important role as peacemakers, and groups such as Citizens for Peace and Justice—a coalition of 30 civil society organisations—should be given direct and independent participation at the IGAD negotiating table. They at least, in contrast to some of the political leaders, have had an enduring interest in the humanitarian needs of the people.

As is always the case when violence replaces negotiated political solutions, powerless, vulnerable people, especially women and children, are caught in the cross-fire and are the ones who suffer the most. From December to mid-January, almost 500,000 people were displaced. It is predicted that total displacement may reach more than 900,000 and that 40% of those will be children. The impact is also spreading to neighbouring countries. As we have heard, there are now around 222,000 refugees. As of 12 March, 70,000 South Sudanese had crossed into Ethiopia seeking asylum, with the number expected to reach more than 150,000 by the end of this year. Perhaps the Minister can update us on the Government’s own assessment of the numbers and of those who have been responsible for these events. Is there not an argument for the United Kingdom to have in place a full-time special envoy to Sudan?

We have seen attacks on civilians by government forces, attacks on civilians by opposition forces, ethnic targeting by government forces, and widespread destruction and looting. Perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us what is being done to hold those responsible to account and particularly to tackle the recruitment and arming of children and young people into their militias. Can she also tell us whether she thinks that the commission of inquiry, which has been referred to, is sufficiently well resourced? Will it have unimpeded access to the affected areas? As well as bringing

24 Mar 2014 : Column 415

perpetrators to justice, does it have within its terms of reference the creation of mechanisms for settling grievances which might pre-empt future eruptions of violence, while fostering a climate in which reconciliation might occur? Reconciliation is not a soft issue—an add-on which might be nice to have—but a hard-edged security requirement.

Will the Minister say what child protection specialists are in the field and whether we have formally requested the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to travel to South Sudan and report to the Security Council, so that due weight can be attached to addressing the appalling plight of the children whose lives have been shattered by these events? Perhaps I may also ask whether the British Government will be bankrolling the elections next year. How can we possibly imagine that an accurate census can be taken when 1 million people are displaced? What genuine choices will be able to be made?

As I conclude, I should be grateful if the Government would tell us what intelligence they have on the role and influence of South Sudan’s neighbours in the conflict. The harsh reality is that events in South Sudan have enabled Khartoum to continue its systematic war of attrition against the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The reality is that events in South Sudan have taken the spotlight off the 18 states affected by armed conflict in the north—not least in Darfur, where violence continues unabated and largely unreported.

7.06 pm
David Alton ( Lord Alton of Liverpool).

 

South Sudan
Questions
4 Feb 2014 : Column WA47

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recruitment of child soldiers by the White Army in South Sudan; what are the command structures of the Army; who they consider controls it; and what they consider can be done to disarm it.[HL4973]

Baroness Warsi: The so-called White Army is an amalgamation of disparate community-based forces with wide-ranging motivations including ethnic rivalry and political grievances. It does not have a command structure in the conventional military sense and has no clear single commander. Various claims have been made during the recent conflict about the political affiliation and command of groups of Nuer youth, described as the White Army by some commentators and political leaders, but evidence to support these claims is limited.
We do not currently have direct evidence of active recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups, but we judge that it is highly likely to have taken place. It will take some time following the cessation of hostilities to assess the humanitarian impact on South Sudan’s children, and whether any resurgence of child recruitment may have taken place.
The Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed on 23 January should apply to all those groups involved in the recent conflict, including those groups who have been described as the White Army. We expect the demobilisation and disarmament of irregular forces will be important questions for the political negotiations that are expected to resume on 7 February. It is vital that the needs of any children recruited during the conflict are specifically addressed as part of any disarmament and demobilisation process.

Boko Haram – and the abduction of

Posted on Updated on

Boko Haram say they want to destroy all westerrn ideas, including democracy, and replace Ngieria's federal constitution with Sharia law.
Boko Haram say they want to destroy all westerrn ideas, including democracy, and replace Ngieria’s federal constitution with Sharia law.

Boko Haram protest

Boko Haram, the Nigerian radical Islamist group, has claimed responsibility for the abduction of 276 schoolgirls during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month. Boko Haram means “eradicate western education/influence.”The group’s leader Abubakar Shekau has publically boasted: “I abducted your girls” – referring to the hundreds of students kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno state, on April 14.

“By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace,” he said in the video that starts with fighters lofting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great”.

Boko Haram stormed the all-girl secondary school, then packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon. They have previously attacked students, children, churches and other targets.

On May 7th 2014 it was further reported that suspected Boko Haram Islamist militants have abducted eight more girls in north-eastern Nigeria.

The latest kidnapping happened on Sunday night in the village of Warabe, in Borno state. The girls taken were aged between 12 and 15
.

Boko Haram's leader has threatened to "sell" more than 230 girls seized from their school,  in Borno, on 14 April 2014.
Boko Haram’s leader has threatened to “sell” more than 230 girls seized from their school, in Borno, on 14 April 2014.

In recent months these have been some of the questions to the British government about the role which Boko Haram has been playing in spreading violence and intimidation, destabilising previously tolerant relationships of co-existence.

Boke Haram have murdered more than 600 Nigerians during the first six months of this year
Boke Haram have murdered more than 600 Nigerians during the first six months of this year

Cameroon: Boko HaramQuestion – May 2014
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the kidnapping of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun by unidentified gunmen in the Maroua district of Cameroon, and of the identity of the perpetrators; and what information they have of the spread of Boko Haram’s influence and activity in Cameroon.[HL6642]

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): We are very concerned about kidnappings in Cameroon, which follow two similar incidents in 2013. We are aware of the growing evidence of Boko Haram having a presence in Cameroon, and discuss this regularly with the Government of Cameroon and other partners in the region. Our Travel Advice reflects the threat from kidnapping in Cameroon and other countries in the region. We have advised against all travel to the Far North Province of Cameroon since March 2013.

March 27th 2014:

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have had discussions with the government of Turkey concerning reports that Turkish Airlines was used to ship weapons to the Nigerian terrorist organisation Boko Haram.
• Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 27 March 2014, c146W)

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)
We are aware of allegations by some media outlets and certain members of the Turkish opposition suggesting that Turkish Airlines shipped lethal material to Nigeria. We have not discussed the allegations with the Turkish government, but our officials regularly meet their Turkish counterparts to discuss counter terrorism issues.

January 16th 2014
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
My Lords, can the Minister reflect on the role that outside insurgents are playing in the Central African Republic? Can she tell us what the Security Council is doing to ensure that the western borders of the republic are secured, so that organisations such as Boko Haram are not able to influence events inside the CAR, where jihadists are already present?
• • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 16 January 2014, c350)

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)
The information that I have from my brief—although I stand to be corrected by the noble Lord, who is greatly experienced in the area—is that the situation has at this stage been contained within the borders of the Central African Republic. There are some concerns about external elements and a potential religious element to this developing, and we are of course keeping an eye on that.

Feb 4th 2013
Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Hill of Oareford on 21 January (Official Report, col. 970) that Ansaru was proscribed by Her Majesty’s Government as a terrorist organisation in November 2012, how many attacks and fatalities have been attributed to Ansaru; how many attacks and fatalities have been attributed to Boko Haram; and what factors have led to the proscribing of Ansaru but not Boko Haram.
• Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 4 February 2013, c1W)

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)
There are no reliable statistics available on the division of responsibility for attacks in Nigeria.
I refer the noble Lord to the Statement made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs, my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, on 22 November (Hansard, col. 2020) for the circumstances which led to the proscription of Ansaru. Ansaru is an Islamist terrorist organisation, based in Nigeria, which publicly emerged in January 2012. It is motivated by an anti-Nigerian Government and anti-western agenda and is broadly aligned with al-Qaeda.
Ansaru is believed to be responsible for the murder of British national Christopher McManus and his Italian co-worker, Franco Lamolinara, in March 2012, the kidnap of a French national in northern Nigeria in December 2012, the attacks on a police station in Abuja in December 2012 and also the recent attack on a Nigerian military convoy in Kogi state.
With respect to Boko Haram, the Government do not comment on whether any group is under consideration for proscription.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) January 21st 2013.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that two of the fatalities were men from Liverpool? Paul Morgan, the head of security, originated from Aigburth, and was killed while trying to repel the attackers. Garry Barlow, from Allerton, reportedly had Semtex strapped to his chest. Their deaths left their loved ones and the local community utterly devastated. Will the Minister ensure that every practical help is given to these and the other grieving families as they try to come to terms with their loss? As this jihadist contagion threatens other countries, especially Nigeria, will he look again at the proscribing of Boko Haram, which has been responsible for hundreds of deaths, and the need to find political and economic solutions to deter the easy recruitment of the disaffected, as well as the wisdom of supporting militias in places such as Syria, which have links with Al-Qaeda, or share jihadist indifference to the slaughter of innocent people?• • Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 21 January 2013, c969)

Lord Hill of Oareford (Conservative)
First, I agree very much with the noble Lord how important it is that these poor families have every support that we can give them. I know that through the police and in other ways through our embassy we have been providing as much of that support as we possibly can.
On his broader point about Nigeria, we strongly condemn the violence that there has been in northern Nigeria. We are working with the Nigerian authorities to try to find lasting solutions to that conflict and, through our High Commission in Abuja, we are supporting counterterrorism work and interfaith projects. In November, the terrorist organisation, Ansaru, was proscribed by Her Majesty’s Government, which I hope sent a clear message that we condemn its terrorist activities.

Nigeria Risks Becomming Another Sudan - where 2 million died after Khartoum declared war on its own people.
Nigeria Risks Becomming Another Sudan – where 2 million died after Khartoum declared war on its own people.

Nigeria
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the number of people (1) displaced, and (2) facing a humanitarian crisis, in the northern Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa as a result of the insurgency by Boko Haram; and what assessment they have made of the needs of those people for aid.[HL6380]
Baroness Northover (LD): The UK Government supports the assessment of humanitarian needs in Northern Nigeria through OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Although figures are difficult to quantify, OCHA estimate 5.9 million people have been affected by the insurgency in northeast Nigeria and an estimated 350,000 people have been displaced since May 2013, both within Nigeria and across the borders into Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Most displaced people are living in host communities, although around 5,000 are in camps. OCHA has assessed the priority needs of affected people as food, water, health and shelter.

Left for dead Nigerians outside a Catholic Church - murdered by Boko Haram
Left for dead Nigerians outside a Catholic Church – murdered by Boko Haram

11 Mar 2014 : Column WA372
Nigeria
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Nigeria following the recent attacks by Boko Haram at a boarding school in Yobe state, on students at St Joseph’s Seminary, Shuwa and at St Paul’s Catholic Church in Waga Chakawa, Madagali.[HL5705]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): During his visit to Nigeria the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), met President Jonathan on 27 February 2014. Mr Simmonds discussed the security situation in the north east of Nigeria including the series of horrific attacks on civilians in northern Nigeria that have taken place over recent months. During his entire visit Mr Simmonds reaffirmed our commitment to assist Nigeria in its fight against terrorism, while stressing the importance that Nigerian forces respect human rights during their operations.

Nigeria
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the attacks on villages in Adamawa and Borno states, Nigeria, on 26 January by members of Boko Haram; and when Ministers last met the Nigerian High Commissioner and representatives of the government of Nigeria to discuss the role of Boko Haram.[HL5168]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): We are appalled by these attacks which resulted in the deaths of innocent Nigerians. There can be no justification for attacks which target ordinary people going about their daily business. The UK will continue to support the Nigerian authorities in their efforts to counter the terrorist threat and to help bring those responsible to justice.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr Simmonds), met the Nigerian President’s Special Envoy for Security, Professor Viola Onwuliri, on 5 June 2013 accompanied by the Nigerian High Commissioner to London. On 24 September 2013 Mr Simmonds again met the Envoy, who was by then also acting Foreign Minister. On both occasions Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers discussed the security situation and Boko Haram, and made clear that the UK continued to support the Nigerian government’s fight against extremism while stressing the need to ensure respect for human rights.

Nigeria
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that 20 Nigerians in Bama and Damasak have been killed by members of Boko Haram; and what discussions they have had with the Government of Nigeria about the role of Boko Haram following the United Kingdom’s decision to proscribe that organisation.[HL2182]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The British Government condemn these attacks which targeted members of the Civilian Joint Task Force in Nigeria. This is the latest in a series of attacks on the Civilian Joint Task Force which is working with the Nigerian Security Forces to help protect communities from the terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram.
Following the decision to proscribe Boko Haram in the UK, the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) expressing his Government’s gratitude for our decision and confirming their appreciation for our support in tackling the challenges posed by terrorism.

Nigeria
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Lord Hill of Oareford on 21 January (Official Report, col. 970) that “through our high commission in Abuja, we are supporting counter- terrorism work and interfaith projects”, what are those interfaith projects; and what are the details of the support which has been given.[HL4835]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): Recent examples of UK interfaith work in Nigeria as a contribution to reducing conflict include:
a Department for International Development (DfID) project entitled “Enduring Peace in Jos: Arresting the Cycle of Violent Conflict”;
4 Feb 2013 : Column WA20
the Government are providing £800,000 over three years for work towards creating space for dialogue where the different communities can come together to discuss intercommunal issues in areas of tension;our high commission in Abuja has been involved in a programme to train youth peace ambassadors from both Christian and Muslim communities;our high commission has also funded a TV series to debate interfaith issues; andDfID has established a Nigeria stability and reconciliation programme, which specifically aims to address the grievances that can lead to extremism and terrorism.
The Government are considering the funding of a further interfaith project and will continue to work with the Nigerian Government and civil society to find a lasting solution to violence in Nigeria.

14 Nov 2012 : Column WA297

Nigeria
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in establishing whether or not there are links between Boko Haram and organisations and individuals in the United Kingdom.[HL3040]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): It is long-standing British Government policy not to comment on intelligence matters.

Nigeria
13 Nov 2012 : Column WA283
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about the attack on St. Rita’s Church, Kaduna, Nigeria, on 28 October; and what is their assessment of the role played by Boko Haram in that attack.[HL3039]
Baroness Warsi: Our high commission in Abuja understands from reporting in Nigeria that a suicide bomber in a car containing explosives pulled up to the church, was refused entry, reversed and then rammed into blockers, detonating the explosive devices in the car. The Nigerian authorities have confirmed that only one suicide bomber was involved.
Responsibility for a number of attacks against places of worship has been claimed by the Islamist extremist group commonly known as Boko Haram. Although there is widespread belief that Boko Haram is responsible for this incident due to the target and nature of the attack, there has been no claim or denial of responsibility and we cannot confirm whether the group was involved.

Nigeria
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last discussed the role of Boko Haram in Nigeria with the Government of Nigeria; and what is their assessment of alleged links and connections between Boko Haram and groups or individuals in the United Kingdom.[HL2741]
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: We regularly discuss the threat posed by terrorist groups including Boko Haram with the Government of Nigeria at both official and ministerial level. Most recently our acting high commissioner raised the threat posed by Boko Haram and affiliated groups with a senior Nigerian official in early October.
In relation to any presence of the organisation in the UK, it is a long-standing British Government policy not to comment on intelligence matters.

Nigeria
Question
Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the Human Rights Watch report Spiralling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria, published on 11 October. [HL2620]

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The Human Rights Watch Report highlights the threat that violence in Northern Nigeria poses to human rights. It calls on the main Islamic group, known as Boko Haram, to stop its campaign of indiscriminate violence and calls on the Government of Nigeria to investigate and hold to account all those accused of human rights abuses, including members of the security forces.
29 Oct 2012 : Column WA105
We have strongly condemned the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram. We are deeply concerned about the allegations of human rights abuses being perpetrated by members of the Nigerian security services, including the ones contained in the recently published Human Rights Watch report. These are serious allegations from a respected organisation. We expect the Nigerian authorities to investigate the allegations thoroughly and independently, and to prosecute and punish anyone found guilty.
The Human Rights Watch report recognises the UK’s engagement on these issues. However, it also calls on the UK to be even more proactive. Our high commission in Abuja and visiting officials regularly call for those responsible to be brought to justice, including members of the security forces. UK policy towards Nigeria is clear. Our programmes such as the Department for International Development’s Justice 4 All and the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme are designed to increase human rights awareness and ultimately protection. We will continue to explore further opportunities to tackle violence and engage on human rights in Nigeria.

See also

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/search/?q=Boko+Haram&pid=13103

Written Answers — House of Lords: Nigeria (14 November 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in establishing whether or not there are links between Boko Haram and organisations and individuals in the United Kingdom.
Written Answers — House of Lords: Nigeria (13 November 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about the attack on St. Rita’s Church, Kaduna, Nigeria, on 28 October; and what is their assessment of the role played by Boko Haram in that attack.
Written Answers — House of Lords: Nigeria (7 November 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last discussed the role of Boko Haram in Nigeria with the Government of Nigeria; and what is their assessment of alleged links and connections between Boko Haram and groups or individuals in the United Kingdom.
Written Answers — House of Lords: Nigeria (29 October 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the Human Rights Watch report Spiralling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria, published on 11 October.
Nigeria — Question (24 July 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, given that 600 people in Nigeria have already been murdered this year by Boko Haram, which states that it wants to extinguish all reference to western ideals, including democracy, why have we not proscribed it as a terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom? Has the Minister had a chance to look at the information which I have sent to his office about the links between funding…
Written Answers — House of Lords: Political Groups: Islamist Organisations (11 June 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have designated Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation.
Niger — Question (25 January 2012)
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, has the Minister seen the reports this week that Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group in Nigeria, has been responsible for a large number of people escaping from the violence there into neighbouring areas in Niger, and that this is both leading to an exodus of refugees, compounding the existing problems in Niger, and preventing food being transported from Nigeria into Niger? Did…

Boko Haram say they want to destroy all westerrn ideas, including democracy, and replace Ngieria's federal constitution with Sharia law.
Boko Haram say they want to destroy all westerrn ideas, including democracy, and replace Nigeria’s federal constitution with Sharia law.

The Killing Of People With Down’s Syndrome: BBC Report

Posted on

Originally posted on :

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-25979406

A Baby With Down’s Syndrome

Better Off Dead?

“Not content with killing Down’s Syndrome babies – 90% of whom are now hunted down and aborted before their births – we’re now seeing attempts to eliminate them and to let them die rather than treat them in our NHS Hospitals. Is this the same NHS that we were celebrating in the Olympic Stadium? What a contrast, too, with the inspirational achievements of disabled athletes, during the Paralympics celebrated in the same stadium, and who have taught us so much about courage and the overcoming of seemingly impossible odds.

“As we rush pell-mell into Nietzschean-style eugenics and ethics, we should recall those inspirational moments, remembering that people with  Down’s Syndrome are human beings – not “a drain on public finances”; that disabled people would not be “better off dead” and that by allowing the elimination of the weak it is we…

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