Thank you for your correspondence to the Foreign Secretary, about the Lifeboat Scheme for Hong Kong.
I am replying as the Minister for Asia.
We have made clear our deep concern over the National Security Law. In his statement to Parliament on 1 July, the Foreign Secretary’s said that the enactment and imposition by China of National Security Legislation for Hong Kong constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
The Foreign Secretary made a further statement on 20 July outlining our position and announcing details of our response, including the suspension of the extradition treaty, and extending the embargo on arms sales to include Hong Kong. He also gave an update on the bespoke immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) and their dependants.
The Home Office published a Visa Policy Statement for BN(O)s on 22 July setting out the details of the route, which provides a clear pathway to citizenship and includes the rights to work and study with no quota or numbers.
We will continue to work with our international partners to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, to call out the violation of their rights and freedoms, and to hold China to their international obligations freely assumed under international law.
With regard to Canada, the Foreign Secretary hosted a visit on 28 August by Canada’s Foreign Minister to discuss foreign policy issues including Hong Kong.
We will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.
Horrifying video footage emerged last week of police officers in Hong Kong tackling a 12-year-old girl to the ground and violently restraining her. Repeat: a twelve-year-old girl. I hope they are proud of their heroics. The attacks on Hong Kong’s children extends into the education system as well as on the streets.
Attacks on children and their education are shocking and underline the need for urgent international action – we must impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on key figures complicit in eroding Hongkongers’ rights.
Away from the cut and thrust of Westminster, one of the joys of holding chairs and fellowships at universities has been the opportunity to hear intelligent young people freely express themselves and their ideas. I have even delivered a lecture in a Chinese university – and, although the controlled public questions were stilted, in private conversations, away from the lecture theatre, I encountered the same intellectual curiosity.
That same powerful energy, driven by a zest for learning, and an idealism not yet crushed by the stultifying behemoth of Communism, has also been a striking characteristic of the students I have met in Hong Kong – and other free societies such as Singapore and Taiwan.
Their UK counterparts have recently and understandably told me that being a student blighted by the uncertainties of Covid it is not an easy time to be a student – but at least the virus has not been able to crush their right to think and speak freely.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for young people in Hong Kong.
As one of Asia’s greatest cities plunges headlong into totalitarianism, children have become the new targets of the National Security Law.
In targeting the city’s youngest and most vulnerable Hong Kong’s police have weaponized the Chinese Communist Party’s new law, plummeting to a new low.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and her agents seem to have no understanding that targeting young pro-democracy campaigners will be completely counter-productive and will turn the fight for democratic rights into an inter-generational struggle which will inevitably ultimately prevail.
In this fight for freedom, horrifying video footage emerged last week of police officers tackling a 12-year-old girl to the ground and violently restraining her. Repeat: a twelve-year-old girl. I hope they are proud of their heroics.
That incident occurred at a protest to mark the date on which elections were due to take place, but which Carrie Lam has postponed for a year, ostensibly because of the Covid-19 outbreak. It comes after months of steadily increasing aggression by the police, the imposition of the draconian National Security Laws, severe restrictions and abuse of protesters.
Carrie Lam and her agents in Hong Kong have repeatedly shown that they would rather capitulate to China’s desire for oppression than to protect the rights of their people
The Hong Kong Police Force defended the brutal arrest of the 12-year-old girl, whom they claim required “subduing” by force because she was running “suspiciously”.
Few will be surprised by this complete lack of remorse.
Carrie Lam and her agents in Hong Kong have repeatedly shown that they would rather capitulate to China’s desire for oppression than to protect the rights of their people. The latest development only paves the way for a future where similarly shocking incidents will occur on a regular basis.
The attacks on Hong Kong’s children extends into the education system as well as on the streets.
The high school curriculum has already been rewritten to censor the mention of democracy and just this week a teenager was suspended for displaying a “free Hong Kong” slogan in his profile picture during an online class. Universities have recently stated that they will stop recording their lectures in an attempt to shield their students from academic censorship.
Defending education is a fundamental part of the fight for freedom. Nelson Mandela understood that better than most: “Education”, he said, “is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
The defence of academic freedom is central to the protest movement in Hong Kong and the next generation of Hongkongers well understand that standing up for principles like freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights is a central part of the city’s identity.
For now, the rights of Hongkongers to a proper education and freedom of thought are fading.
Students and young people have been at the forefront of the protest movement since the very beginning. But with fewer resources and tools to defend themselves, they are extremely vulnerable. If the international community does not rally behind them, children growing up in the city will never know what freedom feels like.
These attacks on children and their education are shocking and underline the need for urgent international action. This must include the imposition of Magnitsky-style sanctions on key figures who have been complicit in eroding Hongkongers’ rights. It is time to remind Carrie Lam and her agents that the world is watching and that I will act to protect the next generation’s right to safety and education.
Hong Kong’s students and young people can be inspired by the bravery of Malala Yusafzai the Nobel laureate who, as a 12-year-old girl wrote a blog challenging the Taliban.
At the age of 15 the Taliban, who so despise the idea of women receiving an education, shot her. After much suffering Malala recovered and has dedicated her young life to championing human rights. She famously remarked that “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. And she was right.
Lord Alton is a crossbench member of the House of Lords, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong, and a member of the Lords Select Committee on International Relations and Defence.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7744):
Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the decision to remove references to the separation of powers and its impact on judicial independence and other aspects of “one country, two systems” in text books in Hong Kong. (HL7744)
Tabled on: 03 September 2020
Answer: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:
The Joint Declaration vests Hong Kong with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, and the executive is accountable to the legislature. It is imperative that the roles of these branches, as envisaged by the Joint Declaration, are respected, and that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy remains intact.
My Lords, I am pleased to speak in support of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, who has done such heroic work, both here and in the Northern Ireland Assembly, in championing the rights of people who are being trafficked. I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, has said.
I should declare that I am a trustee of the anti-trafficking charity the Arise Foundation, which focuses on prevention of trafficking in source countries and has seen a huge increase in vulnerability, due to lack of available work during the Covid pandemic. When ready for publication, I suspect that we will see a substantial increase in trafficking numbers. Has the Minister seen any harbingers or indicators of that?
Undoubtedly, from the reports being received by Arise, Covid has had a devastating effect on heightening vulnerability in source countries, making it more likely that people will be at risk of making unsafe journeys. That is even more reason to incorporate the amendment. I also remind the Minister of the remarks I read into Hansard last week from the former independent commissioner on human trafficking, Kevin Hyland.
I am greatly concerned that, as things stand, when proposed changes to immigration law come into effect on 1 January 2021, they will diminish the rights of victims of modern slavery, and the amendment would help to prevent that from happening. Whereas today EEA nationals who are victims of modern slavery are able to remain in the UK, accessing a variety of publicly funded benefits and employment opportunities to help them recover, they will lose this in the same way as EEA nationals who are not victims of modern slavery. Nothing comparable is being put in its place. Their only hope is to apply for discretionary leave to remain, but we know that in practice very few victims receive such grants of leave—about 12%. Perhaps the noble Baroness can confirm that.
Then I see from reading the Government’s response to Amendment 7 that, although they have committed not to, in effect, directly knock out rights from the EU anti-trafficking directive that are part of EU retained law, they cannot tell us whether all the rights currently available to victims will be part of EU retained law. The Government have a chance again to do that this evening. Unless they do so, this will continue to engender fear that 1 January 2021 will usher in the end of some effective rights of victims of modern slavery.
That would be particularly tragic for the Government because they can take great credit for passing the Modern Slavery Act 2015. I was happy to have been a participant in those proceedings. Of course, that legislation came forward only because of the work of the then Home Secretary, Theresa May. It is a permanent and lasting legacy and achievement of hers and of both Houses, working with one another across the political divide. I would be deeply saddened if I thought that anything we were doing now would in any way diminish the importance and effectiveness of that legislation.
As the noble Lord, Lord McCrea, has said, one of the arguments advanced by those in favour of leaving the European Union, was that the UK would now have the option of not merely maintaining EU standards but going beyond them. Here is an opportunity to test that proposition. The Government could and should go further by urgently adopting the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill sponsored by the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, and the former Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith.
In the time available to me, however, I want particularly to comment on the value of the amendment from the perspective of preventing human trafficking. I should like to pursue a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, about ensuring that the arrangements not only for the skilled worker visa but other migration routes will clearly set out how the Government intend to prevent human trafficking and exploitation and contain appropriate safeguards to avoid those routes being manipulated by traffickers.
I welcome the Government’s inclusion of protecting people from modern slavery in the three guiding principles for the points-based system set out in the further details statement published in July. The fact that the whole approach to immigration is underpinned by three foundational principles, and that one of those principles is concerned with combating trafficking, suggests that combating trafficking is important. But where is the delivery mechanism? That was a point made effectively by the two noble Lords who preceded me. I commend the amendment to the Minister as an example of the sort of mechanism that needs to be put in place in order to fulfil the aspirations of that principle.
Of course, not all migrant workers are vulnerable to modern slavery—a point made by the Minister rightly made from the Dispatch Box. Indeed, those who are the most highly paid are unlikely to be caught in exploitation; but even for skilled and well paid migrants it is important that checks and processes are put in place to ensure that those recruiting people from overseas are reputable, subject to scrutiny and abide by all labour regulations. The noble Baroness rightly reinforced that in our earlier debates.
Most at risk, though, are likely to be those who fall outside the skilled worker points-based programme—those who will participate in other temporary migration routes such as youth mobility schemes or seasonal worker schemes or those who may be recruited to work illegally spring to mind. The Government’s policy statement about the points-based system in February said:
“We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust.”
I am very concerned that some of the ways in which unscrupulous employers will adjust will include the exploitation of undocumented workers and it is worrying that that the Government do not seem to have taken account of that risk. I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness says on that in her reply.
I support the amendment because it will mean that, as the building blocks of the new immigration system are put in place through regulations under Clause 4, the Government will be required to assess the impact of that system on victims of modern slavery, and I hope, the way in which the system can prevent modern slavery from happening at all.
I was struck by research published in 2019 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, which looked at labour exploitation of adult migrants in eight European Union states and found that
“vulnerability linked to residence status is the most important risk factor causing or contributing to labour exploitation”.
In 2017 the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group warned that an approach to immigration targeted at reducing low-wage or low-skilled migration presents
“a key risk as, in low-skilled sections of the labour market where demand for cheap and temporary labour is greatest, migrant workers are already highly vulnerable to abuse. Demand for labour in these sectors is unlikely to decrease, meaning that positions may be filled by undocumented workers or those working in breach of visa conditions, who are at even greater risk of severe exploitation due to insecure status.”
I urge the Government to look again at the need for a safe and approved route for migrant labour to enter low-wage sectors. However, in doing so, the Government must consider how the structure of those schemes would facilitate or prevent modern day slavery.
Noble Lords will recall our many debates during and following the passage of the Modern Slavery Act regarding the risks of trafficking and exploitation of domestic migrant workers resulting from restrictions within the special overseas domestic worker visa. It was an issue on which—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Bates, who is on the Woolsack today, will recall—I divided the House. The risks that I and others identified included the inability of a worker to change their employer. We must take care that these harmful restrictions that have already been identified in relation to one sector are not replicated in the new immigration routes and system that will be formed through regulations made under Clause 4. Amendment 81 will help in that process.
The Government have already made a commitment to ensure that the points-based immigration system will protect individuals from modern slavery and exploitation. I commend them for that, but they must do more than make statements of aspiration in policy papers. They must make sure that rules, infrastructure and processes surrounding all migration routes will act to prevent modern slavery.
Amendment 81 provides a means for assessing whether each facet of the new immigration system meets this commitment to prevent trafficking and, crucially, allows Parliament to scrutinise the assessment. It will ensure that the risks to the most vulnerable of all workers are considered at the outset of developing new immigration policies and provides a way for the Government to put flesh on the bones of their July policy statement commitment to protecting individuals from modern slavery. For all those reasons, I commend Amendment 81 to the Committee.
Questions to Government Ministers from David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool) about the continuing atrocities in Nigeria.
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7583):
Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the commitment given in the 2018 UK-Nigeria security and defence partnership that Nigeria would implement a new crisis response mechanism, similar to the UK’s COBR system, has been implemented. (HL7583)
Tabled on: 02 September 2020
Answer: Baroness Sugg:
The UK and Nigerian Governments signed the Security and Defence Partnership in August 2018 with the objective of working together to tackle regional and global threats including terrorism, conflict and intercommunal violence, human trafficking, serious organised crime, cybercrime and piracy.
Through our Security and Defence Partnership, the UK Government has worked with Nigeria to implement a new crisis response mechanism. In 2019, the UK Government facilitated the publication of a National Crisis Response Doctrine in Nigeria, establishing a clear cross-government approach to crisis management. We also trained the secretariat for the Presidential Communications Command and Control Centre and the Joint Operations Room. The Presidential Communications Command and Control Centre is the Nigerian equivalent to COBR. The Joint Operations Room brings together the key directors of operations from across the Nigerian Government during a national crisis.
The use of the Doctrine is regularly tested and refreshed. The High Commission in Abuja ran a workshop in February 2020 for current directors of operations from across the Nigerian Government, to establish new guidelines for use during a national crisis. The Presidential Communications Command and Control Centre has been used throughout the COVID-19 crisis response in Nigeria.
Date and time of answer: 16 Sep 2020 at 16:19.
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7584):
Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the aim set out in the 2018 UK-Nigeria security and defence partnership that Nigeria would “cut the number of new recruits joining Boko Haram by tackling the lies and false information spread by the group to attract new members – including by working with communities to push out counter-narratives and drawing on the UK’s experience of countering terrorist propaganda at home and as part of the global campaign against Daesh” has been achieved. (HL7584)
Tabled on: 02 September 2020
Answer: Baroness Sugg:
The UK remains committed to helping Nigeria tackle the terrorist threat posed by groups including Boko Haram and Daesh-affiliated Islamic State West Africa. Working with the Nigerian Government, we aim to cut the number of new recruits joining the groups and tackle the misinformation they spread.
The UK is a leading member of the Global Coalition against Daesh, co-leading the Coalition’s strategic communications alongside the UAE and USA. Partners share information, enhance border security, strengthen legal regimes, adopt strategies to counter violent extremism and break up plots by known Daesh facilitators. We also host the Global Coalition’s Counter Daesh Communications Cell at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Cooperation among member countries has been significant. However, Daesh remains a global threat, including in Nigeria. We will continue to work closely with Nigeria to address the threat.
Date and time of answer: 15 Sep 2020 at 12:50.
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7582):
Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the commitment given by the government of Nigeria in the 2018 UK-Nigeria security and defence partnership to deliver a £13 million programme to educate 100,000 children living in that country’s conflict zone has been met. (HL7582)
Tabled on: 02 September 2020
Answer: Baroness Sugg:
Since 2017, UK support to education in emergencies in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states has created access to formal and non-formal education for over 200,000 children, with an evidenced 90% retention in school (prior to Covid-19 related closures).
Date and time of answer: 15 Sep 2020 at 12:49.
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7585):
Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the 2018 UK-Nigeria security and defence partnership in addressing (1) insecurity, (2) violence, and (3) extremism, in Nigeria. (HL7585)
Tabled on: 02 September 2020
This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether the UK-Nigeria security and defence partnership signed in August 2018 has achieved its objectives. (HL7581) Tabled on: 02 September 2020
Answer: Baroness Sugg:
The UK and Nigerian Governments signed the Security and Defence Partnership in August 2018 with the objective of working together to tackle regional and global threats including terrorism, conflict and intercommunal violence, human trafficking, serious organised crime, cybercrime and piracy. To achieve this, we agreed to deepen our collaboration in a range of areas, including through capacity building for the Nigerian Police and Armed Forces; funding and operational support to the Multi-National Joint Taskforce; and funding for Nigerian-led stabilisation work in North East Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin: the region affected by extremist terrorist groups including Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa. Additionally, we agreed to support psychosocial activities and community reintegration efforts as part of Operation Safe Corridor, a Nigerian-run demobilisation, de-radicalisation and rehabilitation (DDR) programme for repentant, low-level members and associates of these groups.
We assess that progress has been made in many areas. For example, UK military personnel trained over 11,500 Nigerian military personnel on topics including human rights compliance, rules of engagement, countering-IEDs and first aid in 2019/20. Many of those trained have been deployed on operations to tackle the terrorist threat in North East Nigeria. Furthermore, in July 2020, 601 men completed the DDR programme and are awaiting community reintegration. This is in addition to 280 males who have already completed the programme and returned to their communities.
However, insecurity, violence and extremism in Nigeria remain a serious concern. We will continue to work closely with Nigeria to address these issues.
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)Debate in Parliament: Citizenship Amendment (67) Committee Stage Immigration and Social Security Bill September 16th 2020
My Lords, Amendment 67, to which I am a signatory, returns to the issue of citizenship.
It is a pleasure to follow both the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. I was particularly pleased that she referenced the position of the Roma, an issue I raised earlier this week in our previous debates. I hope the Minister will be able to answer the question put to her by the noble Baroness. I also strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said in the context of Amendment 63, but let me add in parenthesis that I think it unfortunate that citizenship is so often viewed through the lens of immigration policy.
Amendment 67 was originally coupled with Amendment 68, which focused on the issue of citizenship fees, as referred to by the noble Earl a moment ago, and which we debated last week. At the conclusion of that debate, the Minister said the Government intended to appeal the decision of the High Court in the case, Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens v the Secretary of State for the Home Department—a case in which, as she knows, I provided a witness statement.
On 10 September, following the discussion we had in Committee, I tabled a Question asking the Government what estimated legal and administrative costs the Home Office had met in that case thus far, and what they estimated such costs would be of any appeal against the judgment. The Question is due for answer on 24 September, but it would help the Committee greatly if those figures could be given today. Not only would the figures enable us to look at them alongside the cost of providing citizenship with charge to groups such as children in care; they would remind us of the lengths to which the Government are going to preserve the income generated above the administrative costs involved. We should be able to weigh one against the other, as I know the noble Baroness would. I would be grateful, therefore, if the Minister would also ask the Home Secretary to consider meeting the movers of Amendments 67 and 68 before embarking on yet another costly legal action, which seeks to perpetuate arrangements that Sajid Javid rightly identified as prohibitively expensive.
This brings me to the main question in Amendment 67: what price do we place on citizenship, or, as this amendment spells out,
“the duty of the Secretary of State to encourage, promote and facilitate awareness … of rights to British citizenship”?
If I have any quibble about the wording, it is that I would rather it went further and added the words, “responsibilities, duties and obligations” of citizenship to the word “rights”.
In thinking about this amendment, I reflected on my 20 years as director of the Foundation for Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University, where I held a chair and am an Honorary Fellow, and on the central importance of promoting active citizenship and full participation in society.
The city of Liverpool has had to wrestle with a painful history and all the tensions and challenges generated by social inequality. But it has refused to become a prisoner of its past. When it describes itself as
“the whole world in one city,”
it does so with a confident proclamation of the respect it has for diversity and the enrichment which different cultures have brought to its table.
But as well as a respect for difference, its citizens also overwhelmingly cherish our British values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and they are not ashamed of the patriotic stories of sacrifice that have enabled those characteristics to flourish.
I want people to be proud of being British citizens and am alarmed by alienation, stigmatisation and ghettoisation, which can lead to people following ideologies that threaten our way of life.
Parts of Britain feel completely abandoned by the metropolitan elites.
We need a rounded view of citizenship in which we have a respect for customs, laws and institutions that serve the common good and promote social solidarity. In promoting the centrality of the rule of law, we need to share our stories and histories and memorialise the lives which paid for our freedoms and liberties. We need to cultivate a reverence for the generous impulses and altruism which motivate so many who contribute so positively to our society.
The Jewish sage, Hillel, was right when he said,
“If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, what am I?”
Hillel’s fine balance must always be struck.
So, I support amendment 67.
Without a vibrant sense of citizenship, people living in our midst will not believe they fully belong. They will not share our rights, nor will they fully enter into the responsibilities which are the key to creating a good society.
When she comes to reply, I hope the Minister will be able to answer the question I have put to her about the costs of appealing the High Court decision on an easing of some of the costs involved in securing the right to become a British citizen.
Baroness Barran, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7956):
Question from Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench Peer):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with media regulators, including Ofcom and IPSO, on the reporting of suicide; what assessment they have made of the impact of reporting relating to assisted suicide; and what plans they have to review their guidance to ensure that public broadcasters include details of the Samaritans or other support services when reporting on suicide and assisted suicide stories. (HL7956)
Tabled on: 09 September 2020
Answer: Baroness Barran:
Every suicide is a tragedy which has a devastating and enduring impact on families and communities. The Government is taking action in this area, including launching the first Cross-Government Suicide Prevention Strategy, which sets out an ambitious programme across national and local government and the NHS.
The Government does not review editorial content, as broadcast regulation is a matter for Ofcom. Ofcom has the power to set rules in its Broadcasting Code for broadcasters to meet in order to ensure UK audiences are adequately protected from harmful content. Ofcom’s Guidelines, which advise broadcasters on meeting the rules, includes advice on providing specific helplines where a programme has dealt with a particularly sensitive issue.
The government is committed to a free and independent press, and does not, therefore, seek to intervene in the decisions or activities of newspapers or regulators, including IPSO. IPSO’s Editors’ Code of Practice sets out the rules that newspapers and magazines regulated by IPSO have agreed to follow, including on reporting suicide.
In response to COVID-19, the Government announced £9.2 million of additional funding to support mental health charities, including Samaritans and CALM. Samaritans published updated media guidelines resources at the beginning of August and created a new online hub of resources, covering additional topics to help journalists and programme makers further understand the issues surrounding suicidal behaviour and offering practical tips on covering these topics.
Date and time of answer: 16 Sep 2020 at 16:48.
Baroness Barran, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7957):
Question from Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench Peer): To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to mandate the inclusion of details of mental health charities, NHS support and groups such as the Samaritans to be published whenever newspapers or broadcasters report (1) on suicide, (2) on assisted suicide, and (3) on palliative care. (HL7957)
Tabled on: 09 September 2020
Answer: Baroness Barran:
Every suicide is a tragedy which has a devastating and enduring impact on families and communities. The Government is taking action in this area, including launching the first Cross-Government Suicide Prevention Strategy, which sets out an ambitious programme across national and local government and the NHS. In response to COVID-19, the Government announced £9.2million of additional funding to support mental health charities, including Samaritans and CALM
The editorial and operational decisions of broadcasters are independent from the Government. Ofcom, the UK’s independent broadcast regulator, sets rules in its Broadcasting Code for licensed broadcasters to meet to ensure UK audiences are adequately protected from harmful content. Ofcom advises in its Guidelines that where a programme has dealt with a particularly sensitive issue, broadcasters may wish to provide a helpline specific to that issue.
The Cross-Government Suicide Prevention Strategy sets out the importance of responsible media reporting of suicide. The Government is committed to a free and independent press, and does not, therefore, seek to intervene in the decisions or activities of newspapers or regulators. Newspapers either self-regulate or are regulated by independent regulators; which include IPSO and IMPRESS. These regulators issue codes of conduct which set out the rules that newspapers and magazines have agreed to follow, including on reporting suicide.
IPSO has also produced guidance for journalists on reporting suicide, including signposting to sources of support by providing the contact details for The Samaritans, PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, or other relevant organisations, in any articles reporting on a suicide.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to support Amendments 49 and 51. I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Oates, said in introducing them so cogently and reasonably, and I had the advantage of being able to have had a conversation with him last week where he explained the generalities of the amendments to me. I thought the arguments were compelling; the noble Lord, Lord Polak, put it well when he said this was a practical and sensible option. All three speeches that we have heard so far have underlined why this is not one of those ragged political debates that require us to take positions; it is something about which we can do something useful this evening in Committee.
I will turn, if I may, from the generalities to something specific, a particular case of people who will be especially disadvantaged by the impact of digital-only status: the Roma community.
On 2 August, Roma Holocaust Memorial Day commemorated the shocking liquidation of Roma in August 1944 at the so-called Gypsy family camp at Auschwitz- Birkenau. On that infamous day, 2,897 men, women and children of Roma or Sinti origin were murdered by the Nazis. Of around 23,000 Roma taken to Auschwitz—and hundreds of thousands more perished during the Holocaust—an estimated 20,000 were murdered there. At the time of the liberation of Auschwitz, only four Roma remained alive.
Now, 76 years later, Roma people still face discrimination and liquidation. I especially commend the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Roma in ensuring that Parliament understands the horrors that this community has experienced and the special circumstances and challenges which it faces today.
In debates like this, I miss the voice of Lord Avebury, a good and long-standing friend and the author of the Caravan Sites Act 1968. At the memorial event celebrating his life, Damian Le Bas, a Roma who wrote The Stopping Places: A Journey Through Gypsy Britain—a remarkable insight into the world of Travelling people—spoke powerfully about how parliamentarians such as Lord Avebury can act to ensure that the UK’s 200,000 Roma can lead lives of dignity.
Lord Avebury would have been the first on his feet to support these amendments, pointing to the lack of awareness within the Roma community of digital immigration status and the way in which digital exclusion simply builds on the other exclusions which Roma historically have experienced.
The Roma Support Group says that only 3% of Roma are able independently to complete online applications such as those required by the European Union settlement scheme. Very little data exists about how many Roma have applied to theEUSS so far and been given settled or pre-settled status.
As the debate proceeds, I will hand the Minister a copy of the Roma Support Group’s briefing on this so that she can read some of the cases illustrating this point.
I would be grateful if the Minister could say how this problem can be addressed, especially as the Home Office data does not include a breakdown of ethnicity.
Enabling those who need it to receive physical evidence of their status in the UK would certainly be a start, and enabling programmes to be developed which could address the issue of digital exclusion, on which this debate has helped us to focus, would be a very good outcome.
Child Refugees – today’s debate on the Immigration Bill Committee Stage
My Lords, with the Children’s Society saying that child refugees worldwide now number some 13 million, surely the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was right to say that this is one of the gravest crises facing the world. The Minister will no doubt remind the Committee what the Government have done. They have done much to try to help children caught up in this terrible spiral of violence—I do not think that anyone in the Committee would not want to respond in some way to try to deal with many of the issues raised during the debate so far. However, she will understand from the cri de coeur she has heard from noble Lords across the Committee that just because we have helped some, that is not a reason not to try to help others as well. Just because we cannot solve the problems of everyone is not a reason not to try to solve the problems of anyone.
Given his own personal story, there is no one better equipped or able than the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, to put the case. I also wholeheartedly associate myself with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, and with what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said about the sanctity of every human life and our particular duty to the most vulnerable. I make common cause with all those who have spoken in the debate so far.
Amendment 48 takes us back to the well-worn road to Dublin, although, as the Irish would say, if you wanted to get to Dublin you wouldn’t start from here.
Over the months, the Minister has had to respond to my repeated questions, along with those of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and other noble Lords, about the Dublin regulations—those European Union protocols concerning the identification and transfer of people, especially unaccompanied children who have submitted a claim for asylum from one member state to another where the applicant has family.
Of course, the issue of unaccompanied children was also the subject of the Dubs amendment, which was referred to by the noble Lord earlier in the debate. That amendment was passed by your Lordships’ House and I was very happy to be one of the signatories to it.
Amendment 48 has become necessary because Ministers have yet to create new arrangements post December 2020, when the transitional arrangements elapse. The amendment would provide some legal framework to enable those who would have been able to come here under the Dublin regulations to enter the UK and make their asylum claim.
I am constantly struck by the fact that, rather than providing safe, fair but nevertheless exacting procedures, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, in his remarks, the Government seem to take an approach that stimulates the desperate search for unsafe and illegal attempts to come into the United Kingdom.
I am the trustee of an anti-trafficking charity, the Arise Foundation, and I was struck by what the United Kingdom’s former Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, senior advisor to the Santa Marta Group, said this this weekend—that instead of tough rhetoric, which he called
“an open goal that the traffickers are happy to exploit”,
the Government should accept their moral responsibility to end the vicious cycle facing so many refugees and asylum seekers.
Where legitimate safe migration routes are unavailable, or almost impossible to navigate, especially when you are in fear of your life, the opportunities offered by traffickers certainly become more attractive and are often the first port of call. We need a different kind of paradigm. I was struck by what Kevin Hyland said—that it should be a paradigm that
“identifies genuine refugees/asylum seekers, that supports displaced children, coupled with a policing model that identifies those entitled or in need of protection”,
as well as one that hits
“organised criminals profiteering off others’ vulnerability.”
Mr Hyland said that a different approach was needed in responding to the refugee crisis, and that
“threats and rhetoric absent of consideration for the vulnerable only act as fuel for human traffickers.”
That different paradigm is represented in part in Amendment 48 but also in Amendment 56, which seeks to secure a grant of settled status to children of EEA or Swiss nationals who are in local authority care. The Children’s Society has written to me expressing considerable concern about vulnerable children who, as things stand, will become undocumented after June 2021. To rectify that, Amendment 56 was first laid before Parliament in the House of Commons by Tim Loughton MP and Yvette Cooper MP. Providing a settled status to children in care and care leavers by fast tracking them through the EU settlement scheme, we would be able to provide regulations and security for children who may otherwise drift into an anonymous world of exploitation such as that described by Mr Kevin Hyland. The amendment would place a duty of identification on local authorities and provides a timeline; it would protect data and ensure that the state, which must act in loco parentis for these children, does not abandon them.
I was struck by the Migration Observatory study of take-up rates for the EU settlement scheme, which shows a significant discrepancy between take-up rates for adults and for children under the age of 18. This will be inevitable, as children may not know about the need to apply or where to get help, and many will be without the necessary documents and proof of residency.
The Children’s Society cites Home Office figures that some 5,000 looked-after children and 4,000 care leavers in the United Kingdom would need to apply to the EU settlement scheme.
I would be grateful if the Minister would say what systematic analysis they had undertaken to identify the numbers post Brexit who would need to regularise their status. How do they respond to the society’s concerns about, first, identification, secondly, problems with applying and, thirdly, pre-settled status?
Lest the Government are tempted to use the argument that the amendment provides automatic status and could lead to another Windrush scandal, I would say that it does not—quite the reverse.
It provides a process and route and, unlike the Government’s position, does not try to push the problem over the horizon. As the Children’s Society points out, without such safeguards, the Government will
“find themselves facing another Windrush crisis”
from children within their own care.
The Children’s Society has sent cases in its briefing, and I suspect that the Minister may have seen them.
I do not want to detain the House longer by giving examples, but if she gets the chance to read it, I draw her attention to the cases of Anna, Adam and Greta, children from Latvia, Romania and Lithuania.
I hope that when we get to those details, it will be possible for her to say more.
My Lords, I speak against the backdrop of a story I read over the weekend in the Universe newspaper. It concerned a Ugandan refugee, Mercy Baguma, who in August was left to die in a Glasgow flat. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the account left her “consumed with sadness and anger”. A representative of the Positive Action in Housing charity said that Ms Baguma’s one year-old son was found crying beside his mother’s body, weakened from several days of starvation. I know that my support for Amendments 29 and 31 would not have saved her life, and I know, too, that if these amendments are passed, they will not help everyone who is a refugee or seeking asylum. However, we must do what we can to help whoever we can whenever we can; that is surely our job and I do not think anyone in the Chamber would disagree with that.
I will speak in favour of Amendment 29 on work rights, tabled by my noble friend Lady Meacher, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. I support also Amendment 31 on the displaced talent visa, tabled by the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and to which I am a signatory. It addresses the widely held view that, whatever our differences about the nature of migration and the humanitarian duty, as some of us see it—and I do—to respond to people forcibly displaced from their homes and countries, this country will always have a need of skilled labour, and that where sponsorship is available from an employer, this win-win situation should at least be provided for by the creation of a new visa. The Government have said that they intend that this legislation and the new immigration system to be set out in subsequent Immigration Rules will attract the “brightest and the best” from overseas to work here.
The United Nations estimates that there are over 70 million forcibly displaced people in the world. While we clearly cannot help them all, an amendment such as this would enable us to help some of them. Many people displaced by conflict or persecution have valuable professional skills in areas such as medicine and engineering, but they are stuck in refugee camps like the one I visited a few months ago in northern Iraq, and I know that my noble friend Lord Hylton, who is in his place, has visited camps in Syria. These people have been displaced and are unable to use their skills to support their families and rebuild their lives. At the same time, for this country to fulfil the Prime Minister’s ambition to be “Global Britain”, we require an immigration system that is open, fair and allows those with much-needed skills to come here with their families to work and to build a future with us. It is easy to make slogans about attracting the brightest and the best, but how can we ensure that those with skills whose lives have been blown off course by conflict or persecution can still access labour market mobility?
Through its work in Jordan and Lebanon especially, Talent Beyond Boundaries has found that there are particular barriers under the current UK tier 2 regime that make it difficult for a displaced Syrian in Jordan, for example, to have the same opportunity to come to the UK to work as someone with the same skills from Australia, India or the United States. They are required to provide the identity documents specified by the Home Office when these can be provided only by a hostile regime. We all know that that would be an impossibility. Amendment 31 therefore urges the Government to create a displaced talent visa specifically to address such barriers and pave the way to eventually put in place a global scheme.
Events in this pandemic year have once again underlined the necessity to deal with the fragile and unsustainable nature of the world in which we live. In considering what a new immigration system for the UK should look like, we have a duty to construct models that take account of the complexities caused by conflict and persecution and to devise an immigration system that genuinely enables those who want to offer us their skills to do so, and to do much more to tackle the root causes that lead to 37,000 people being forced to flee their homes every day due to conflict or persecution, joining 70 million others. None of this should close our eyes to the importance of constructing, along with other nations, a humane and fair system for resettling refugees and others who need a place of sanctuary.
Turning to Amendment 29, I begin by saying that it is substantively different from the displaced talent visa being proposed in Amendment 31, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out. It and others in the group address the right of asylum seekers already in the UK to work after a certain period while they are waiting for their cases to be decided. In contrast, the displaced talent visa facilitates the arrival of forcibly displaced persons through labour market mobility; that is, they will have a sponsoring employer and a job offer already in place, and they are not seeking humanitarian protection as UNHCR-defined refugees. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, who said that the Government should not offer the same argument in response to these very different amendments. When he comes to reply, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, will differentiate between them.
The displaced talent visa is concerned with widening access to labour market mobility, not substituting for humanitarian resettlement or as an alternative to enabling access to asylum for those who require it. Where there are similarities between the amendments, they involve the freedom to work to support yourself and your family, and the dignity, alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, of being allowed to do so, as well as providing benefits to the UK through meeting labour shortages, tax revenue, avoiding reliance on public funds and the better integration of people into the community. Research has shown that bans on working result in poorer integration outcomes because work helps people to learn English and meet other people.
Amendment 29 returns to an issue I have repeatedly raised with Ministers and in your Lordships’ House: the right to work. Indeed, it was the subject of a meeting some years ago that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and I attended with the then Minister, Brandon Lewis. I hope that the Minister will see this as a precedent for reforming the current work-banning arrangements. It would be good to know what stage the review we were told about at Second Reading, which was begun in 2018, has reached, and when we might see the outcome.
As the Minister has been told, the Lift the Ban coalition, which supports the amendment, is made up of over 240 organisations and individuals across the country calling for the restoration of the right to work for people seeking asylum and their adult dependants, if they have been waiting for a decision on their asylum claim for six months. That broad coalition includes the CBI, the Adam Smith Institute, the TUC, UNISON and the Church of England, and is supported by grass-roots organisations, national charities, think tanks, faith groups and businesses, demonstrating widespread support for this common-sense proposal.
I am a patron of Asylum Link Merseyside. Through its wonderful work, and that of groups in Lancashire with whom my wife volunteers as an English language teacher, as well as organisations such as Refugee Action, I have heard first-hand accounts of asylum seekers who, having been effectively prohibited from working, must subsist, as my noble friend Lady Meacher told us earlier on the derisory sum of £5.56 per day in asylum support. I repeat: £5.56 per day. Imagine for a moment trying to make ends meet on that and the effect on your human dignity and self-respect, especially when you are then denied the fundamental right to work. This is a right enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 23 insists:
“We all have the right to employment, to be free to choose our work, and to be paid a fair salary that allows us to live and support our family.”
We have heard about the benefits to the economy of allowing people to work. We were told about the survey showing that businesses overwhelmingly support this call. In denying the right to work, we damage people personally, we impede social integration, we deny the value of the work ethic, we entrench poverty and we emasculate self-sufficiency. The contribution that work makes to social integration is spelled out in terms in the Government’s own immigration White Paper, and I applaud that.
I end by saying this. The coalition has drawn my attention to the story of one young Afghan woman denied the right to work. She says, “I want to work because it gives me the feeling of being someone. I want to work because I don’t want to look back after five or 10 years and realise that I did little except sit in a room and wait for a decision on my asylum claim. I could have been doing something positive for people’s health by putting my knowledge and expertise into practice.” Those words and the story of Mercy Baguma, which I referred to at the outset of my remarks, should stir us into taking action in this Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will agree to meet representatives of the Lift the Ban coalition and consider these amendments carefully between now and Report so that it will not be necessary to call a Division.
My Lords, this has been a powerful and moving debate. I begin by mentioning the tragic case of Mercy Baguma, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. Like him, I was greatly distressed when I heard about her case. Indeed, the news came through when I was visiting my family for the first time since this pandemic began, and that really underlined for me how lucky we are if we can take for granted the prosperity and stability of a family home. Naturally, an investigation was launched immediately to understand what had happened in Ms Baguma’s case.
That investigation is ongoing, so I hope that the noble Lord will understand if I cannot comment on the specifics at this stage. However, I hope that I can reassure him and other noble Lords that the Government take the well-being of all those in our care extremely seriously. People who are worried about becoming destitute can apply for support, including financial support and accommodation. We are working with others, including, in the case of Ms Baguma, Police Scotland and the procurator fiscal to understand what went wrong, but also to ensure that people are aware of and can access the support they need to avoid that sort of tragedy.
Committee Stage Immigration Bill September 9th 2020 – citizenship fees
My Lords, I am very happy to be part of the infantry supporting the arguments and the amendments put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, as we have done on previous occasions. It is a tragedy that we even have to revisit this issue, because it ought to have been resolved by now. I know the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, well enough to know that she cannot be happy that this has not been resolved, not least because of the High Court judgment that we witnessed in December.
It is not worthy of this country, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has just said. And as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, was suggesting, there is a sort of shabbiness in generating income through fees above the administrative cost of the registration system.
The sheer inappropriateness of applying this charge to children—as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said, to children even in the care of local authorities—is something we surely have to rectify.
The noble Baroness will recall the exchanges we had via correspondence and Parliamentary Questions following the High Court ruling on 19 December.
I listened to what my noble friend Lord Russell of Liverpool said about this issue repeatedly coming around: I provided a witness statement to the court based on my participation in the proceedings on the British Nationality Act 1981, when I was a young Member of another place.
In my witness statement, I cited the stated intention of Parliament in 1981: that children who were born here and grew up here but were without parents would be entitled to be registered as British citizens. I told the court that I had no doubt that it was Parliament’s intention that this should be done via a straightforward and accessible process.
There was no discussion at the time about a revenue generator or profitability or any of the other phrases people want to use.
I am sure that the Government did not set out to say, “We want to make a profit”, but the money being generated is way above the amount necessary to be spent on processing these applications.
Whatever we call it, it does not seem right to me that this surplus should be generated by these vulnerable people.
I am not alone in thinking that this is a disproportionate amount of money.
The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, concluded her remarks by reminding us that it was the former Home Secretary Sajid Javid himself who said that this was a “huge amount of money”.
It my witness statement, I also referred to our duties under the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In 1981 the legislation was of course against a backdrop of riots in Toxteth in Liverpool and Brixton.
The main focus of our debate was expressed in a statement by the Minister of the day, who said that we had to encourage a greater sense of having a stake in society and promote British identity and citizenship, especially as some children were losing the automatic right to citizenship as a result of the 1981 Act.
This entitlement was not to be made dependent on a child satisfying the Secretary of State that they met the relevant conditions of the Act. This is a point eloquently made, and insisted upon, in a statement to your Lordships’ House on 6 October 1981 —it can be found at col. 36 in Hansard—by the then Lord Advocate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern.
In December last, on the day of the High Court ruling by Mr Justice Jay, I tabled two Questions to the noble Baroness.
One was on
“what assessment they have made of the ruling of the High Court on 19 December in the case brought by the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens that there is a ‘mass of evidence’ that the fee charged to children registering for British citizenship prevents many such children from registering British citizenship, leaving them feeling ‘alienated, excluded, ‘second-best’, insecure and not fully assimilated into the culture and social fabric of the UK.’”
The second Question was on
“when they intend to remove the fee charged by the Home Office to register children as British citizens; and whether they intend to refund those who paid such fees before the High Court ruling on 19 December.”
The noble Baroness replied to me, as she always courteously and efficiently does, and I was grateful for that. On 7 January, she said:
“The judgment was handed down on 19 December, and we are carefully considering its implications, and next steps.”
I know your Lordships’ House will want to hear this evening what care has gone into that process, where we are up to and what the next steps will be. Today, she has the chance to outline those steps.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Jay said that:
“British citizenship is a status aspired to and cherished by many, conferring benefits on the holder which are both tangible and intangible.”
Mr Justice Jay confirmed the details which we in our debate have laid before the Committee of the rising costs of these fees: children entitled to be registered under the British Nationality Act 1981 must pay a fee of £1,012—with a higher amount of £1,206 for adults—together with £80 for the citizenship ceremony. He confirmed the Secretary of State’s admission that
“only £372 of that fee is attributed to the administrative cost of processing the application; the remainder effectively cross-subsidises other functions in connection with immigration and nationality.”
In his judgment, Mr Justice Jay said that:
“The evidence before me is that for a substantial number of children a fee of £1,012 is simply unaffordable.”
He cited earlier judgments that
“the fact of belonging to a country fundamentally affects the manner of exercise of a child’s family and private life, during childhood and well beyond.”
He quoted with approval the Secretary of State’s own guidance documents. At paragraph 20, Mr Justice Jay stated what noble Lords have repeated in your Lordships’ House today:
“there is a mass of evidence supporting the proposition that a significant number of children, and no doubt the majority growing up in households on low or middle incomes, could only pay the fee by those acting on their behalf being required to make unreasonable sacrifices.”
Mr Justice Jay also found a mass of evidence to support our arguments that children who are unable to attain such citizenship
“feel alienated, excluded, isolated, ‘second-best’, insecure and not fully assimilated into the culture and social fabric of the UK.”
The judgment reminded the Government that they have a paramount duty to consider a child’s best interests. Evidence was laid before the High Court demonstrating that a disproportionality in this policy, inevitably hitting the poorest and most disadvantaged, needs to be addressed.
Put simply, it is discriminatory and unfair.
In his conclusion, he said:
“My conclusion that the Secretary of State has violated the section means that the 2018 Regulations are unlawful in that respect to the extent that they set the fee for registration applications brought by children at £1,012.”
Basic are the human rights at stake here.
Being mindful of the Windrush scandal, which has been referred to, and the arguments about inclusivity, integration and the promotion of British citizenship, we must surely support amendments that rectify this arrangement and fly in the face of all these things.
We must reassert the principles enshrined in legislation enacted by the Conservative Government of the day in 1981, and hope that the Home Office will not only carefully consider the implications of Mr Justice Jay’s judgment but use the opportunities of this Bill to rectify the injustices that undoubtedly exist.
Calls in Parliament for the new Trade Bill to impose a human rights threshold to protect those – like Uighurs – subjected to human rights violations. And a call to take national resilience and over dependence on trade with regimes controlled by violators.
My Lords, the House has heard a thoughtful and exemplary maiden speech from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. …. On the basis of today’s curtain-raising maiden speech, those are contributions to which we will look forward with great anticipation.
I want to talk briefly about national resilience and our human rights obligations in future trade deals. Following exchanges and a meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, whom I also congratulate on his maiden speech today, I gave him the Henry Jackson Society report Breaking the China Supply Chain. That report finds that in 229 separate categories of goods, the UK is strategically dependent upon China for our supplies. Equally troubling is that 57 of these categories involve critical national infrastructure, including computers, technology, telephones, antibiotics, painkillers such as aspirin, anti-viral medicines, PPE and industrial chemicals. It recommends that we conduct a national review of the industries dependent on China; make reducing dependency on China—and, indeed, other human-rights-abusing states—an aim of new trade deals; and campaign for the withdrawal of China’s “developing nation” status at the WTO. We must move the United Kingdom away from a position in which its economic dependency can be weaponised to discourage the UK from championing human rights or the rules-based order, which the Minister referred to in his speech.
Concerns, and the need for concerted action by liberal democracies, have only grown stronger following the way in which the Chinese Communist Party has tried to deploy economic coercion against Australia following its calls for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19. What is the Minister’s view about a comprehensive review of national resilience? And what of human rights? In 2015, the UK enacted the Modern Slavery Act; yet over recent months, we have seen reports suggesting that many UK-based and UK trading brands are benefiting from the forced labour of Uighur Muslim communities in China. A recent report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates that some 80,000 Uighurs are working in factories in the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen. Some of the same companies also turn a blind eye to the use of child labour in lethal conditions in Congolese mines.
Cross-departmental action is needed. If the Bill were amended to incorporate concerns about egregious violations of human rights—something I know is close to the heart of the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman—as I suggested in a letter to the noble Lord and to Ministers involved with telecommunications Bills, it would address the matters raised by Members of both Houses; not least by those who, like the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, supported my amendment to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill. I hope we will return to these questions at a later stage of the Bill.
130 parliamentarians write to Chinese Ambassador, condemning treatment of Uyghur people in Xinjiang
Siobhain McDonagh MP has today sent a cross-party letter to the Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming signed by 130 Parliamentarians expressing absolute condemnation of the treatment of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. The letter notes: “The Chinese Government’s actions must be stated for what they are: a systematic and calculated programme of ethnic cleansing against the Uyghur people.”
Siobhain McDonagh says:
“This is a systematic and calculated programme of ethnic cleansing against the Uyghur people. Condemning it is one thing, taking action against a world super power is another. When the world is presented with such overwhelming evidence of gross human rights abuses, nobody can turn a blind eye. Because this time no one can say they didn’t know.”
Siobhain McDonagh MP House of Commons London SW1A 0AA
His Excellency Ambassador Liu Xiaoming Embassy of China 49 Portland Place London W1B 1JL
08 September 2020
RE: Oppression of the Uighur people
We are writing to express our extreme concern at the treatment of the Uighur people in Xinjiang.
We understand that approximately one million people have been detained and held in detention camps. Those who have escaped give horrifying testimony of religious persecution, physical abuse and torture. Sickening footage was shown to you on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show in July of a large number of people blindfolded, kneeling and shaven, waiting to be loaded on to trains. The similarities between this video and historical footage of Nazi concentration camps are truly chilling.
Your interview followed further shocking accusations that the Chinese Government is actively pursuing a policy to reduce the Uighur population with Uighur women facing forced sterilisation, forced abortion and the forced removal of their wombs. It has even been reported that birth rates have fallen by 60% in some Uighur areas.
The Chinese Government’s actions must be stated for what they are: a systematic and calculated programme of ethnic cleansing against the Uighur people.
When the world is presented with such overwhelming evidence of gross human rights abuses, nobody can turn a blind eye. We as Parliamentarians in the United Kingdom write to express our absolute condemnation of this oppression and call for it to end immediately.
Siobhain McDonagh MP
Member of Parliament for Mitcham and Morden
Tahir Ali MP Rushanara Ali MP Apsana Begum MP Steven Bonnar MP Sir Peter Bottomley MP Angus Brendan MacNeil MP Kevin Brennan MP Alan Brown MP Ian Byrne MP Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael MP Sarah Champion MP Joanna Cherry QC MP Rosie Cooper MP Daisy Cooper MP Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP Stella Creasy MP Jon Cruddas MP John Cryer MP Rt Hon Sir Edward Davey MP Martin Docherty-Hughes MP Allan Dorans MP Colum Eastwood MP Clive Efford MP Julie Elliott MP Stephen Farry MP Rt Hon Sir Roger Gale MP Patricia Gibson MP Patrick Grady MP Neil Gray MP Lilian Greenwood MP Claire Hanna MP Neale Hanvey MP Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP Wera Hobhouse MP Rt Hon Dame Margaret Hodge MP Sharon Hodgson MP Rt Hon Sir George Howarth MP Dr Rupa Huq MP Christine Jardine MP Kim Johnson MP Dame Diana Johnson MP Alicia Kearns MP Barbara Keeley MP Ben Lake MP Clive Lewis MP David Linden MP Caroline Lucas MP Stewart McDonald MP Stuart McDonald MP Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP Catherine McKinnell MP Carol Monaghan MP Layla Moran MP Brendan O’Hara MP Kate Osamor MP Kate Osborne MP Dr Dan Poulter MP Gavin Robinson MP Andrew Rosindell MP Jim Shannon MP Virendra Sharma MP Rt Hon Alec Shelbrooke MP Tommy Sheppard MP Jamie Stone MP Graham Stringer MP Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne MP Alison Thewliss MP Owen Thompson MP Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP Tom Tugendhat MP Derek Twigg MP Dr Philippa Whitford MP Mohammad Yasin MP
Lord Alderdice Lord Alton of Liverpool Rt Hon Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom Lord Balfe Rt Hon Baroness Blackstone Rt Rev Lord Bishop of St Albans Lord Bowness CBE DL Rt Hon Lord Browne of Ladyton Baroness Burt of Solihull Baroness Cox Baroness Crawley Lord Curry of Kirkharle CBE General Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL Baroness Deech DBE QC Rt Hon Lord Dholakia OBE DL Lord Dubs The Earl of Sandwich Baroness Eaton DBE DL Rt Hon Lord Hain Rt Hon Lord Hamilton of Epsom Baroness Harris of Richmond DL Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE Lord Haworth Rt Hon Baroness Hayman GBE Baroness Hollins Baroness Hooper CMG Rt Hon Lord Hunt of Kings Heath OBE Lord Hylton Baroness Jolly Lord Jones of Cheltenham Lord Judd Baroness Kennedy of Cradley Lord Lexden OBE Baroness Lister of Burtersett CBE Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate OBE Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McInnes of Kilwinning CBE Lord Oates Baroness O’Loan DBE Lord Palmer of Childs Hall OBE Rt Hon Lord Pendry Lord Polak CBE Rt Hon Baroness Prashar CBE Lord Rennard MBE Rt Hon Lord Rooker Lord Sharkey Lord Sheikh Lord Shinkwin Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE Baroness Smith of Newnham Lord St John of Blesto Lord Suri Baroness Suttie Lord Tope CBE Lord Turnberg Rt Hon Lord West of Spithead GCB DSC