Famine Declared In South Sudan – Link to new report on Sudan launched this week in Parliament. Urgent Question on the famine put in Parliament.

Famine Declared In South Sudan

On Thursday February 23rd the Lord Speaker granted a rare urgent Private Notice Question – this, on the famine that has been declared in South Sudan:

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Famine declared in South Sudan; 4.9 million people need urgent help

Famine in South Sudan has left 100,000 people on the verge of starvation and almost 5 million people, more than 40% of the country’s population, in need of urgent help, aid agencies say.

People are already dying of hunger, and another 1 million people are on the brink of famine, UN agencies said.

Now the UN World Food Programme and nongovernmental organizations are sounding the alarm, warning that more than a million children are suffering from acute malnutrition.

“Our worst fears have been realized,” said Serge Tissot, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive.”

“People have been pushed to the brink, [they are] surviving on what they can find to eat in swamps,” said Emma Jane Drew, Oxfam’s humanitarian program manager in South Sudan.

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South Sudan

23 February 2017

Private Notice Question

11.37 am

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to respond to the unfolding famine in South Sudan.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice. In doing so I should declare that I am an officer of the All-Party Group for Sudan and South Sudan.

My Lords, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan is deeply concerning; 4.9 million people do not have enough to eat and famine has been declared in Unity state. The Secretary of State this week announced a £100 million package of emergency assistance that will feed 500,000 people. We are monitoring the situation closely and working with other donors to prevent the famine spreading to other parts of the country.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. Does he agree that the three-year civil war in South Sudan and the continuing conflict just north, in South Kordofan and Blue Nile in the Republic of the Sudan, have generated vast numbers of refugees and a consequential inability to grow and harvest crops, which should remain our priority in combating this man-made famine? What progress is being made in achieving this, obtaining access to closed areas in Unity state, and galvanising international efforts to save the lives of millions now at risk of starvation, malnutrition and famine?

I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising that point and for his work in the all-party group, which produced a valuable report just yesterday on the general situation in the region. He is absolutely right: many of the crises that we face are not man-made, but this one most certainly is. I have just left an emergency planning meeting with co-ordinating partners on the situation in Somalia, where some 6 million people are at risk because of famine. We are doing the best we can there, but in South Sudan the frustrating thing is that, although we committed £100 million, the UN Mission in South Sudan is in place on the ground and many humanitarian workers are risking their lives to deliver aid, unless there is implementation of the existing peace agreement, the future of the people in South Sudan, particularly women and children, looks increasingly bleak.

I congratulate the Government on their immediate humanitarian aid response and welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to engage with other donors, including the EU. This is all good news. However, in making that announcement, she referred to this crisis being caused by war and conflict. Last week, we debated Sudan in Grand Committee. The Foreign Office Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, referred to our work in support of the African Union. Can the Minister reiterate what we are doing to build sustainable peace efforts and trade? This comes back to our previous point that development is about not just humanitarian trade but building peace and sustainability, particularly in Africa.

The noble Lord is absolutely right and I appreciate his remarks. On the specific points that he mentions, we have supported and encouraged the work of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development—IGAD—which has led a lot of this work, and have worked through the UN Security Council on that. We have worked with international partners. We are part of the troika with Norway and the United States, which is key in intervening in this area. My noble friend Lady Anelay is looking at the work we are doing across the border, because, although some 3 million people are internally displaced, increasingly, as refugees flow across the border in search of support, that is destabilising other countries in the region. My noble friend Lady Anelay was in Uganda visiting one of the refugee camps. We have committed another £50 million of support in that regard. A huge amount has been done, but the UK cannot do this alone; the international community must step up to the plate. We need to see more action there.

My Lords, Radio Tamazuj in Juba reported on Tuesday that up to 5.5 million people are expected to be in food crisis in South Sudan by July. That is more than half the population. Pete Walsh, Save the Children’s country director in South Sudan, says:

“While the threat of a famine … has been looming for months, the worst-case scenario has … become a devastating reality”.

While the Government lead the response to Save the Children’s campaign in many other ways, can the Minister tell the House that we consider that the lives of a million children facing death by starvation must be a priority? Will we invest particularly in nutrition centres and in improving farming methods to make sure that food with nutritious value saves them from severe malnutrition?

The noble Lord, who knows a great deal about the African continent and has focused on this area, rightly puts his finger on the importance of nutrition. We had a very useful debate on that subject yesterday evening, in which we looked at the importance of that area. It is an area on which we are focusing our efforts and where we want to see further action. However, one of the great problems that we know of is that when there is a conflict situation, invariably it is in rural areas. People then leave those areas and go to urban areas, leaving the agricultural land untended and uncultivated. We are now coming to the peak growing season for food crops. Therefore, that movement of people has a double effect, which we must respond to.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that people are already dying in large numbers in remote areas? For example, the Anglican bishop of the diocese of Wau in Bahr-El-Ghazal has had to borrow money to buy food to save lives. He told me that he could not access DfID funding because the requirements are too bureaucratic and complex. What can be done to ensure that food reaches people in remote areas? Perhaps money can be made available through local NGOs, including the churches, which can reach all in need.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, who has worked tirelessly in this area of South Sudan. I will shortly meet the noble Lord, Lord Curry, and the Anglican international aid workers to see what more can be done. The Anglican Communion can be a real instrument for peacebuilding in that part of the world. We want to do whatever we can to help it.

My Lords, I too congratulate the Government on the aid they are sending to Sudan. As we know, undernutrition and malnutrition disproportionally affect women and girls. Have the Government seen evidence that the aid they are sending is going to women and girls as well as men?

That is a good point, and why we are deploying an additional 400 troops as part of the UN mission to ensure that aid reaches the people for whom it is intended. The £100 million announced yesterday will provide food assistance for over 500,000 people, nutritional support for 27,500 children, and safe drinking water for 300,000 people.

My Lords, we cannot overstate the seriousness of the situation we face. As the Minister rightly said yesterday, this is only the second declared famine this century and we must do something about it. The European Union is the biggest donor of aid throughout the world. From my experience at DfID, may I make a specific practical suggestion? Why does our Secretary of State not ask for a special meeting of the development council, bringing together all the countries of Europe to consider what can be done, both bilaterally and multilaterally, before hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people die?

It is a very good suggestion. I will take it away and discuss it with colleagues and then write to the noble Lord.

My Lords, I recently had a discussion with President Kagame of Rwanda and President Museveni of Uganda. These two countries, particularly Uganda, have absorbed the highest number of refugees from South Sudan. What more support can DfID give them?

I pay tribute to the work my noble friend does in that region as a trade envoy, which is important for the future. We are doing a great deal but more needs to be done. We know from these crises that the sooner the money gets there, the effect it has will be far greater than if it arrives two or three months down the line, so urgency is the message of the day.

My Lords, as I understand it, some food is available—the problem is that it is too expensive for people to buy. Perhaps there is some mechanism whereby the UK Government, or indeed a collection of Governments, might intervene to stabilise the market or even to reduce the prices so that that food can be bought.

The noble Baroness is absolutely right to raise that point. Inflation is now running at something between 500% and 800%, and that is where immediate cash transfers can come in. However, the Government of South Sudan need to take action themselves on controlling food prices, which has happened in other countries.

 

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Follow Up Written Questions to The Oral Question Asked In the House 

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd, what humanitarian access is now available to NGOs in Unity State and what is their estimate of the percentage of South Sudan’s population that remains inaccessible to agencies seeking to provide food to those affected by famine.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd, how much new money has been allocated to alleviate famine in South Sudan: to whom it has been given; and how it is being used.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd, and further to DFID’s statement that  “new UK support to provide lifesaving food, water and emergency healthcare which will save more than a million lives in each country” is being provided in South Sudan, how much of the “new” money had not already been allocated for use in South Sudan at a later date.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd  why
DfID have refused to disclose when the “new” money to help famine victims in South Sudan money was signed off; why they will not clarify the identity of the intended recipients – whether the South Sudanese government, NGOs or UN agencies – and what “security concerns”, which they cite, can justify withholding this information.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd , what progress has been made in ending South Sudan’s civil war and how many people they estimate have been displaced or have become refugees as a consequence of both the war and the conflicts in the neighbouring areas of the Republic of Sudan.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd, who is coordinating international efforts to help the victims of the famine in South Sudan and what meetings the Minister and Secretary of State have convened with their international counterparts to ensure an effective response to the famine.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd, what is their estimate of the number of children in South Sudan now affected by malnutrition.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd what new initiative they are taking  to stop the fighting, curtail the flow of weapons, and bring about better conditions for humanitarian aid to reach the people of South Sudan.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask her Majesty’s government, further to the reply of Lord Bates to the Private Notice Question on Thursday February 23rd whether they intend to ask the U.N. Security Council  to reconsider the motion to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan that failed last year.

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Earlier in the week the All Party group on Sudan and South Sudan launched our new report on the region. Click here to read it:

“Engagement Beyond the Centre: An inquiry report on the future of UK-Sudan Relations”: http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/engagement-beyond-centre-inquiry-report-future-uk-sudan-relations

Also read these reports on the famine:

Reports on “ South Sudan in Crisis as Famine Ravages World’s Newest Country “may be viewed at:

http://www.nbcnews.com/slideshow/famine-struck-south-sudan-n724016

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/south-sudan-inside-the-worlds-newest-country-where-40000-people-face-catastrophic-famine-a6870696.html

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/20/africa/south-sudan-famine/

 

 

Report Stage of the Shinkwin Bill – February 24th. The Shinkwin Bill on equality, discrimination, disability and abortion law has been given a Second Reading – and news of an operation in the womb.

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DavidAlton.net

abortion-and-disabilityThe unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions.

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Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill [HL] –

24 February 2017

Report Stage

My Lords, I will speak against the amendment and support the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, in bringing the Bill forward. The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, and the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, who is sitting in front of her, will not be surprised that we take a diametrically opposed view of this and not for the first time in our lives. They will recall that the reason I left their party was their proposition, in 1992, that abortion should become party policy rather than a conscience question. I have always been saddened that this issue should be politicised. Diametrically opposed views can be sincerely held for perfectly good reasons.

The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, and the noble Lord, Lord Winston, have spoken as doctors. I am only the humble father of a doctor but I…

View original post 4,293 more words

North Korea Lost in the fog of assassinations and intrigue; Coercive population control; new report on Sudan launched; Mary’s Meals Founder received Westminster Award for Human Life, Human Rights and Human Dignity – plus posts on Europe’s lost 10,000 refugee children; speeches on Sudan and Syria; Kevin (Lord) Shinkwin’s Bill; Question on Trump Muslim ban; Speech on Dalits; Royal School Lecture on refugees…

February 21st 2017

Funding Programmes That Lead To Forced Abortions And Sterilizations Have Disastrous Consequences For Women and Their Children.

Issue raised in Parliament. “Ministers and politicians who say British taxpayers money should fund “safe”  abortions are using Orwellian newspeak since no abortion is safe for the child” – Alton ·

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) My Lords, the Minister was right to benchmark this decision against what happened under Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the aftermath of international funding flowing into China, which led to the one-child policy, forced abortions and the sterilisation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women, and which has now distorted the population balance in China so that there are 33 million more men than there are women—115 boys born to every 100 girls.  Surely this coercion of women is something that we should be very concerned about? ·

Lord Bates That was part of the rationale, not under the Mexico City proposal but under the Kemp-Kasten amendment. Our understanding of the executive order signed by the President last month is that it references the Kemp-Kasten amendment. That is another reason why we need to work through and understand what it actually means for what we are doing in this area. Video of question is up on YouTube here:

https://youtu.be/ocIT_PO7Bko

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February 22nd 2017

Last night the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sudan and South Sudan, of which I am an officer, launched its new report “Engagement Beyond the Centre: An inquiry report on the future of UK-Sudan Relations” The report is also available online here: http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/engagement-beyond-centre-inquiry-report-future-uk-sudan-relations

It was launched on the day an officially designated famine affecting 100,000 people was announced in South Sudan and on the day reports appeared of further military action by the Khartoum regime in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

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North Korea – lost in the fog…

https://reaction.life/north-korea-lost-mist-narrative/

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Mary’s Meals -feeding over one million children each and every single day. Founder receives Westminster Award for Human Life, Human Rights and Human Dignity.

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/guest-blogger/marys-meals-continues-to-bear-much-good-fruit?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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How can Europe just lose 10,000 children ….?

Baroness Williams of Trafford, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL5066):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 25 January (HL Deb, cols 665–6) what support they have given to Europol in determining the fate of the 10,000 refugee children whom Europol reported in January as having gone missing. (HL5066)

Tabled on: 30 January 2017

Answer:
Baroness Williams of Trafford:

The UK has committed significant resources to helping the EU deal with the migration crisis, including seconding staff to Europol.

The UK government recognises the vital role Europol has to play in coordinating law enforcement activity against migration related criminality. The National Crime Agency (NCA) and Immigration Enforcement second staff to Europol to work on these issues specifically, including within the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC). The UK continues to encourage international partners to share relevant information with Europol, supporting the EMSC’s aim of strengthening support for EU Member States through enhanced intelligence exchange.

In addition to the support we give to Europol, the Government has established a £10 million Refugee Children Fund for Europe to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children arriving in Europe. The UK is the largest bilateral contributor to the humanitarian response to the crisis in Europe and the Balkans with a total allocation of £70 million.

Date and time of answer: 13 Feb 2017 at 14:22.

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Child Refugees: February 9th 2017

My Lords, the Minister will recall that last month I raised with her the disappearance of unaccompanied children. Figures from Europol that I first raised in your Lordships’ House in June showed that 10,000 children had disappeared on the continent and that hundreds were disappearing here in the United Kingdom. One of the reasons why I was proud to be a signatory to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was to highlight the disappearance of those unaccompanied children. Last week, I sent the Minister a statement from ECPAT UK, the organisation established to protect children, which said that “it is shocking that the Home Office says it has no evidence”. Where do we stand on these missing unaccompanied minors?

I presume the noble Lord refers to children both at home and abroad. Obviously, if a child is in Greece, Italy, France or wherever, it is the responsibility of that Government to safeguard that child. I said to the noble Lord that I did not have evidence of disappeared children in this country. That is not to say that in future that may not happen, but at this point we have had no representation from local authorities to say that children are disappearing. Obviously, if that were to be the case, we would follow it up with some urgency.

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Syria February 9th 2017

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, representatives of the international charity Aid to the Church in Need, of which I am a trustee, have just been in Aleppo. They learned that the Christian community there has fallen from around 250,000 to barely 30,000, and that in Syria as a whole from around 1.8 million before the war to an estimated 300,000 now. As my noble friend Lady Cox said in her eloquent and compelling speech, ISIS has waged a bestial campaign of genocide against Christians and other minorities for nearly three years. The terror group has carried out its slogan: “We will break your crosses and enslave your women”. As His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales warned in his Christmas broadcast, such ancient communities face total annihilation. I ask the Minister: how can we make the protection of minorities and the re-creation of the plural, diverse communities that existed in places such as Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq before these events a greater priority?

In April 2016, by 278 votes to zero, the House of Commons officially designated ISIS as responsible for genocide against various religious minorities. I press the Minister to say what specific actions arose from that resolution of Parliament to help those who are cruelly suffering. In particular, on an issue that was raised with the noble Baroness yesterday during Questions, is the United Kingdom willing to encourage the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate fighters not currently being prosecuted from signatory nations to the treaty of Rome? Has there been any progress concerning the role that the Iraq Government might play in pursuing an investigative mechanism for crimes committed by or against their people in Syria? Will the Minister also tell us what progress has been made in severing ISIS supply lines to Raqqa and in securing its liberation?

My first visit to Syria was in 1980, as a young Member of the House of Commons. Our ambassador was Patrick Wright, now the noble Lord, Lord Wright, and we met the previous President Assad. If we can have a diplomatic presence in Pyongyang and Sudan, the leader of which has been indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, why, as my noble friend Lord Hylton asked, do we not have a senior diplomatic presence in Damascus? Why is that still the case, in the light of the changed policy position of Her Majesty’s Government following the evidence that the Foreign Secretary gave last week, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Risby?

Prioritising persecuted religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, and upholding our highest ideals in offering refuge to genocide survivors—as I proposed in an all-party amendment in your Lordships’ House exactly a year ago—will serve justice and ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes face their Nuremberg moment.

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Sudan – February 9th 2017

4.23 pm

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Sandwich I am an officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sudan and South Sudan, and a former chairman of that group.

The implication of the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Hussain, is that Sudan is an island of moderation surrounded by Islamists. In reality, the reverse is true. In 2015 the report by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Sudan warned that the regime was providing “fertile ground” for Islamist extremists in neighbouring nations. For 30 years the regime has waged war on its own people. That is why the International Criminal Court has indicted Field Marshal Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is a scandal that he can travel with impunity and without fear of arrest to face those charges.

When I first visited South Sudan 20 years ago, during the civil war, I saw schools, clinics, homes and churches that the regime had bombed, where between 1.5 million and 2 million people perished. That is why the country was torn in two. Later I travelled to Geneina in Darfur, where I saw a fraction of the 2 million who have been displaced and met the loved ones of some of the 200,000, mainly Muslim, people murdered. This is not history: last year there were more than 100,000 newly displaced people in Darfur and 3.2 million long-term displaced nationwide. Meanwhile, the aerial bombardment continues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and humanitarian access is still denied. Furthermore, I have sent the Minister Amnesty International’s report on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Darfur. I hope that the noble Baroness will address both issues in her response.

Consider also the life sentence and other lengthy sentences given to three Christians only last month. Will the Minister tell us what we are doing about this travesty of justice? What have the Government of Sudan done to implement the recommendations in the 2016 universal periodic review? What have we done to urge the Government of Sudan to implement the religious freedom protections codified in their interim national constitution, especially in the light of the 2016 USCIRF report listing Sudan as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in systematic and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief? In this context, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, I am appalled that according to the noble Lord, Lord Price, in answer to a Written Question from me earlier this week,

“the UK will consider opportunities to promote trade with Sudan”.

He should recall Churchill’s warning that it is dangerous to feed crocodiles if you hope that they will eat you last.

There are two faces of the Government of Sudan. They claim to have disavowed the worst forms of extremist ideology but, as academician Suliman Baldo said, the Sudanese Government have become adept at engaging in intelligence sharing with important international partners while tolerating Salafist groups internally. The International Crisis Group says that Sudan tolerates radical Islamists and, most recently, supporters of IS when it is politically advantageous to do so. Extremism comes from within Sudan and from the highest levels: Field-Marshal Bashir has said it is his ambition to turn the entire country into a sharia state. Extremist groups operate with the approval of Sudan’s religious scholars committee, while the journalist Gill Lusk says the regime uses,

“the Salafist … and other splinter groups both as deniable policy instruments and as bargaining chips”.

In the long term, the fight against extremism in Sudan will depend on an inclusive, democratic transformation that is sustained by a free and active civil society. It is that development we should be supporting, rather than propping up an indicted regime. Sudan is playing a dangerous double game, to which the international community should be wary of falling victim. Beware the crocodiles.

 4.27 pm

=========================================================================RRoyal Lecture

http://www.altonherald.com/article.cfm?id=117052&headline=Peer%E2%80%99s%20Royal%20talk%20on%20refugee%20crisis&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2017

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Dalits – meeting Feb 1st 2017 Room 3 House of Lords, 5.30pm- remarks by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Dalit is a term which derives from a Sanskrit word meaning “broken” or “crushed”.

It is abhorrent in the 21st century that any human being should be seen as an untouchable or that it is acceptable to break or crush another human being

In my study at home in Lancashire, I have a small terracotta pot given to me during a visit to India. Such pots must be broken once a Dalit has drunk out of them so as not to pollute or contaminate other castes. This is the 21st century. It is not the pots which need to be broken, not the people, but the system which ensnares them.

200 million Dalits in India make up one sixth of India’s population and one thirty fifth of the world’s population. Dalits live in 132 countries, including countries like the UK, where South Asians have migrated.

Take Dalits and Tribals together, both of whom fall outside the caste system and experience discrimination: they comprise a quarter of India’s population and one twenty fourth of the world’s population.

Two hundred years ago, on 22 June 1813, six years after he had successfully led the parliamentary campaign to end the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, William Wilberforce made a major speech in the House of Commons about India.

He said that the caste system,

“must surely appear to every heart of true British temper to be a system at war with truth and nature; a detestable expedient for keeping the lower orders of the community bowed down in an abject state of hopelessness and irremediable vassalage. It is justly, Sir, the glory of this country, that no member of our free community is naturally precluded from rising into the highest classes in society”.

Two centuries later the caste system which Wilberforce said should be abolished – and which the British during the colonial period signally failed to end – still disfigures the lives of vast swathes of humanity.

Evidence points to 80-95% of bonded labourers (the vast majority of the ‘modern slaves’ in India) being Dalits, 99% of ritual sex slaves (the 250,000 temple prostitutes known locally as Devadasi or Jogini) being Dalits, and the majority of those trafficked into brothels or into domestic servitude being Dalits or Tribals.

Dalits, including children, are turned into modern day slaves

If you are a Dalit in India you are 27 times more likely to be trafficked or exploited in another form of modern slavery than anyone else.

It is estimated that every day three dalit women are raped; dalit women are often forced to sit at the back of their school classrooms, or even outside; on average every hour two dalit houses are burnt down; every 18 minutes a crime is committed against a Dalit; each day two Dalits are murdered; 11 Dalits are beaten; many are impoverished; some half of Dalit children are under-nourished; 12% die before their fifth birthday; 56 per cent of dalit children under the age of four are malnourished; their infant mortality rate is close to 10 %; vast numbers are uneducated or illiterate; and 45% cannot read or write; in one recent year alone, 25,455 crimes were committed against dalits, although many more went unreported, let alone investigated or prosecuted; 70 per cent are denied the right to worship in local temples; 60 million dalits are used as forced labourers, often reduced to carrying out menial and degrading forms of work;

Dalits constitute 40% of the global poor and are denied of DFID Funding, because they largely live in India, which simply doesn’t make the policy priorities. This becomes a new form of untouchability.

Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution once remarked that “Untouchability is far worse than slavery, for the latter may be abolished by statute. It will take more than a law to remove the stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it”

Ambedkar’s life was a life of relentless struggle for human rights. Born on a dunghill and condemned to a childhood of social leprosy, ejected from hotels, barber shops, temples and offices; facing starvation while studying to secure his education; elected to high political office and leadership without dynastic patronage; and to achieve fame as a lawyer and law maker, constitutionalist, educator, professor, economist and writer, illustrates what the human spirit can overcome.

Ambedkar made untouchability a burning topic and gave it global significance. For the first time in 2500 years the insufferable plight of India’s untouchables became a central political question.

Ambedkar understood that the great nation of India would never achieve its potential if it remained disfigured and divided by caste. Without freedom to marry, who they would; to live with, who they would; to dine with, who they would; to embrace or touch, who they would; or to work with, who they would, the nation could – and can – never be fully united or able to fulfil its extraordinary potential.

While still a young man of twenty, Ambedkar perceptively wrote: “Let your mission be to educate and preach the idea of education to those at least who are near to and in close contact with you.” He said that social progress would be greatly accelerated if female and male education were pursued side by side. He later insisted that “We will attain self elevation only if we learn self-help, regain our self-respect, and gain self knowledge.”

Although Dr. Ambedkar was able to have India’s Constitution and the laws framed to end untouchability, for millions and millions of people, many of those provisions have not been worth the paper on which they are written.

Ambdekar’s own struggle may now be history; caste is not. In our generation it is surely time to make caste history.

At the end of the meeting on Caste the participants agreed the following Statement:

Today’s meeting deliberated on the history, development and current situation of the UK Caste legislation and the hide and seek policy of the UK Government / EHRC and arrived at the following:

  1. Any appeasement of the adversaries of caste legislation will be only contrary to the British values of secularism, democracy, fairness, justice and social integration.
  2.  British values demand that the Government keep religion out of politics and uphold its stand against any form of discrimination, including case discrimination. 
  3.  Caste discrimination is practiced by south Asians of all religions; and not by the followers of one religion alone, one particular religion cannot act as patrons of other UK faith groups practicing caste discrimination.
  4.  Caste discrimination is worse than any other forms of discrimination falling within the protected characteristics. It breaks the psych and physic of its victims; denies choice and opportunity in education, job and public services for the victims. The victims are exploited, marginalised, dehumanised, impoverished and denied equality and integration. 
  5.  This gathering decide to request the UK general public, Government, media, Christian communities, its hierarchy and their Charities/ NGOs to implement Caste legislation on behalf of the 1/3rd of the global poor, who are Dalits of whom there are almost 1 million UK citizens as potential caste victims and caste spreading as cancer in the UK society.

 

Many years ago, the UK victims’ communitiesraised their voice against caste discrimination. In 2010, the UK Parliament introduced Section 9 (5) enabling the Minister to make caste as an aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010 – in light of valid research on the subject.

In 2010 the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), commissioned by the UK government, reported that ‘Equality Act 2010 provisions on religious discrimination cannot cover caste discrimination and harassment as effectively as caste-specific provisions would’. This is supported by the NIESR report which states: “Relying on the Indian community to take action to reduce caste discrimination and harassment is problematic”.

In 2012 The UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] observed that :“The EHRC supports the enactment of Section 9 (5) of the Equality Act 2010, which provides that a Minister may by order amend the statutory definition of race to include caste and may provide for exceptions in the Act to apply or not to apply to caste. The Commission notes the findings of the government-commissioned NIESR [1] paper on caste discrimination.  In light of this, the Commission would suggest legal protection under the Equality Act 2010 for those experiencing discrimination in Britain should be as comprehensive as possible.”[1] “Caste discrimination and harassment in Great Britain”, Metcalf, H. and Rolfe, H. 2010.

In 2013, the Act was amended making caste discrimination illegal and passed by both Houses of Parliament. However the law falls short of its implementation.

The Government’s own timetable issued in July 2013 promised implementation of the law by Summer 2015. However the issue remains stagnant and those opposing the legislation have been able to use political pressure to effectively stall legislation that was agreed by Parliament.

For the first time, the 2015 UK election was fought by projecting the caste issue. Last year, the victims prepared for a Judicial Review. On 3September 2016, EHRC released a statement that by the end of the year, it would announce a public consultation lasting for 12 weeks before taking a decision. But, the goalposts for the consultation appear to have changed – instead of asking ‘how the legislation should be implemented’, the Government will be asking ‘whether the legislation should be implemented’. And today 1 February 2017, that consultation has yet to be issued

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US Refugee Policy House of Lords January 30th 2017

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)

My Lords, the Minister just referred to the importance of international law. I press her further on the point raised by the noble Lords, Lord Collins, my noble friend, Lord Hannay, and the noble Baroness.

Are the  Government’s law officers being asked to give advice to the Government, so that not only we but our many friends who sit in the American Congress can evaluate what they have to say about our and their commitments under the Geneva convention?

That is, after all, one of the bulwarks which will ensure that these executive orders are given proper scrutiny in future. They, like us, could then see what the obligations are in law.    

What consideration has the Minister given to the impact on our counterterrorism strategy? Does she accept that in that narrative the inability to understand the difference between a faithful Muslim who prays in a mosque each week and lives their lives by the tenets of their faith, and those involved in jihadist activities supporting Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda or ISIS, plays into the hands of those very groups? 
 

Ministerial response:

 Baroness Anelay of St Johns My Lords, indeed it is very much the cornerstone of security policy in this country to ensure that one can differentiate between those who effect the outward trappings of devotion and those who have faith, and that one can determine who is a threat to security and who is not. Regarding advice on legal matters, as far as I am aware, the law officers advise the UK Government about their own legal responsibilities. However, my expectation is that there would be discussions at an international level—say, in the United Nations—on the implications of the United States’ actions. That would be for the United Nations to decide, not this country. I do not think we could have made clearer the UK Government’s view on this divisive and wrong policy.
———————————————————————South Sudan February 1st 2017

  • Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
  • My Lords, I welcome the strong statement issued yesterday by the troika calling for an immediate ceasefire in South Sudan. Can the Minister tell us what Her Majesty’s Government are able to do to help make that ceasefire a reality? Is not there an urgency, highlighted by the 1.8 million people who are now displaced, as the noble Lord said; the 1.1 million who have fled to neighbouring countries, accelerating the problem of mass migration and refugees; the 4.8 million who are currently food insecure; and the 3,000 new cases of cholera diagnosed already this year?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • My Lords, I hope I have given some indication of that by talking about our support for the peace process. We will continue to take that seriously in the United Nations process. We are very disappointed that before Christmas our attempt to have sanctions imposed was voted down. The African Union felt that more time should be given before action was taken. Just about half the population are food insecure, and thousands are facing starvation.

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Abortion and Disability – Committee Stage Completed Today  January 27th 2017
The unborn child at 18 weeks gestation. 600 babies are aborted daily in the UK - some, up to and even during birth, with the full force of British law. 7 million have been aborted since abortion was made legal and some have had up to 8 legal abortions. Downs Syndrome

A Bill introduced by a severely disabled Peer to end disability-selective abortion has received its Committee Stage in the House of Lords, with near unanimous support from Peers.

To read the earlier Second Reading debate go to:

https://davidalton.net/2016/10/22/the-shinkwin-bill-on-equality-discrimination-disability-and-abortion-law-has-been-given-a-second-reading/

Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill will now proceed to Report Stage (date to be confirmed).

An amendment to the Bill requiring that, should the Bill become law, the Secretary of State undertake a review of the impact of the Act on disabled children, their families and carers and the provision of support services, was tabled by Baroness Massey of Darwen. Lord Shinkwin accepted the amendment, emphasising that any review should not only involve disabled people but be led by them.

If successful, the Bill will remove section 1(1)(d) from the 1967 Abortion Act, which allows for abortion on the grounds of disability up-to-birth. In the UK, disability-selective abortions are currently available right up to the moment of birth whereas in most cases,  non-disabled babies cannot be aborted beyond 24 weeks.

The net effect of this Bill would be that the 24-week time limit would apply to all babies regardless of disability, as a woman would still be able to obtain an abortion on other grounds detailed in the 1967 Act.


Speaking at the debate, Lord Shinkwin, said:

“…I owe your Lordships’ House so much because of the impact of legislation that it has already passed. Without your Lordships’ House, a commitment to disability equality would never have been enshrined in law. Noble Lords will know that noble giants such as Jack Ashley and Alf Morris, with both of whom I had the privilege of working and whose spirits I invoke today, led the fight to outlaw disability discrimination. All my Bill does is to carry on their noble work, because it would allow us to outlaw disability discrimination where it begins—at source before birth. It is simply unfinished business. ”

“…I can see from the trends in abortion on grounds of disability that the writing is on the wall for people like me. People with congenital disabilities are facing extinction. If we were animals, perhaps we might qualify for protection as an endangered species. But we are only human beings with disabilities, so we do not.”

“Our Paralympians represented their country in Rio with pride. What was the essential qualification for them competing at Rio? It was their disability. The country which applauded their success is the same country whose law regards that essential qualification for going to Rio—disability—as a reason they should die. How is that fair, right or logical? It is none of those things, which is why today I reflect on the remarkable impact that laws passed by your Lordships’ House have had on my life as a disabled person. It is why I ask myself: how could I not have faith in our common humanity? How could I not have faith in the truth that there is more that unites than divides us? And how could I not believe that your Lordships’ House will be true to itself and continue its noble fight for disability equality by passing this Bill?

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  • Lord Shinkwin’s Bill is backed by the We’re All Equal campaign, which includes disabled people, their families and supporters. The group wants the Prime Minister to commit now to making time for the Bill to complete its Lords stages so it can be voted on by MPs in the Commons. They are encouraging people to visit their website to write to their MP. For more information on the We’re All Equal campaign and further facts, statistics and details on why there needs to be a change in the law visit www.allequal.org.uk
  • The Bill arrives at a time of intense media debate about the ethics of screening for disabilities following the Sally Phillips’s BBC documentary, A World Without Down’s Syndrome?
  • 2015 marked the highest year on record for disability selective-abortions, with 3,213 being carried out in England and Wales – representing a 68% increase in the last 10 years.
  • Disability-selective abortion numbers have seen a sharp increase in recent years. There were 230 late term disability-selective abortions (between 24 weeks and birth) in 2015 – a 271% increase since 1995. In 2014 the number of terminations for Down’s syndrome increased by more than 10% in the space of just 12 months as new screening techniques became available privately. Whilst abortions for cleft lip/palate, a minor facial impairment, have tripled in the last 5 years.
  • A 2014 Department of Health review identified that there is significant underreporting of disability-selective abortions and the numbers are likely to be much higher.
  • The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities have also consistently criticised countries which provide for abortion in a way which distinguishes between foetuses on the basis of disability, most notably Austria, Hungary and Spain, citing Article 5 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • The Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) have said this aspect of the Abortion Act “is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability…[and] is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally”.
  • The 2013 Parliamentary Inquiry into Abortion for Disability found the vast majority of those who gave evidence believed allowing abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability is discriminatory, contrary to the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 and that it affects wider public attitudes towards discrimination. The Inquiry recommended Parliament reviews the question of allowing abortion on the grounds of disability and should consider repealing section 1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act which allows for it.
  • Lord Shinkwin’s speech in the chamber introducing the Bill is available here. Lord Shinkwin’s speech calling on the Government to support his Bill is available here.
  • An account of specific discriminatory language from the 1967 Hansard debate when MPs and peers introduced abortion for disability is available here.

http://allequal.org.uk/lord-shinkwins-bill-end-disability-selective-abortion-birth-passes-committee-stage/

A full transcript of Lord Shinkwin’s speech is available here:

http://allequal.org.uk/lord-shinkwins-abortion-disability-equality-bill-committee-stage/

A video of Lord Shinkwin’s full speech is available here (and highlights from this speech will be released on Facebook later this evening):

https://youtu.be/Ot2Yy76e0Bg
Unborn Childgm babyRoyal Lecture on refugee crisis

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Tolkien: Faith and Fiction – Liverpool Hope University Lecture marking the fiftieth anniversary of J.R.R.Tolkien’s involvement in the translation of the Jerusalem Bible and the link between his faith and his fiction. Accompanying presentation slides and full text may be viewed here. Now includes Youtube audio link.

You can follow the lecture with the link to the power point presentation slides at:

faith-in-the-work-of-tolkien

 

DavidAlton.net

tolkien

lord-of-the-ringsTolkien: Faith and Fiction

click here to view the power point presentation which accompanies the following lecture:

faith-in-the-work-of-tolkien – view full powerpoint presentation accompanying the lecture

tolkien-faith-and-fiction-liverpool-2016 Text

 Liverpool Hope University, November 2016.

David Alton, Lord Alton of Liverpool.

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This year, 2016, marks 50 years since, in 1966, the English edition of the Jerusalem Bible was published.

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The translation was undertaken here at Hope, at what was Christ’s College, my old College. The work was led by the brilliant scripture scholar, Fr.Alexander Jones.

J.R.R.Tolkien was one of those who contributed to the translation and it includes his translation of the Book of Jonah and an acknowledgement of his role.

Fr.Henry Wansborough OSB said “It was the first translation of the whole Bible into modern English to appear. It was an iconic presentation of the best of Catholic biblical scholarship in the previous half century.”

When, in 1969…

View original post 9,297 more words

Hungarian Award – following Becket Week and work on freedom of religion or belief

Lord Alton Awarded Hungarian Order Of Merit January 18th 2017

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James Alton, Ambassador Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, David and Elizabeth Alton, former Ambassador Péter Szabadhegy

Hungarian Embassy 18 Jan 2017 002.JPGHungarian Embassy 18 Jan 2017 003.JPG

laudation

Response

Lord Alton of Liverpool:

On the occasion of his investiture by the Hungarian Government

with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary

Ambassador Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, My Lords, Members of the House of Commons, Distinguished Guests and Friends.

My first duty on this wonderful occasion is to thank Mr János Áder, President of the Republic of Hungary for conferring on me the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary; to warmly thank his Excellency for conducting the investiture on behalf of the President; and to thank each of you for being here to share this occasion with me.

Tonight has its origins in the year 1170 when King Henry II reputedly in a rage of hot temper, is said to have shouted “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”

On 29th of December of that year four knights rode to Canterbury and murdered Thomas Becket.

Within 20 years of his death, 15 biographies were written about him – and even in our own times new biographies continue to be published. Canonised by the Pope his shrine became the most popular in England: the destination of Chaucer’s pilgrims and many others.

Becket’s name – and murder in the cathedral – became synonymous with the never ending struggle between States and temporal leaders and those who want freedom to follow their religious beliefs.

This evening I want to briefly reflect on what Becket’s struggle has to say to our two nations today.

On November 23rd, 2016, on Red Wednesday,   we lit up buildings all over the country in red, including the Houses of Parliament, to commemorate the 5.3 billion people, 76% of the world’s population, who live in countries with high or very high levels of restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. Red Wednesday coincided with the launch of this year’s Aid to the Church In Need “Religious Freedom in the World” report, which I chaired.

From Bangladesh, where atheists are murdered with impunity; to Saudi Arabia where churches are banned and converts are criminalised; to Burma, where Muslim Rohingya are denied citizenship; to Iran where Baha’i are executed; to China, where bishops are imprisoned and churches demolished; to countries like Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and North Korea, where believers are subjected to genocide, crimes against humanity, persecution or discrimination; lives are literally soaked in blood, as contemporary Beckets die for their faith.

Red Wednesday was a chance to show solidarity with them, to demonstrate that their suffering is not forgotten; a chance to shine a light on global suffering; and on the significant driver it has become for the displacement of many of the world’s 65.3 million refugees who have had to flee their homes, because of terror and violence against religious minorities.

Conversely, there is also a direct correlation between peace, stability, prosperity and societies that insist on religious freedom – countries like North Korea and Eritrea please note.

Hungary’s own story testifies to this.

In 1948 Communists dissolved most of Hungary’s religious Orders, confiscating their schools. 4000 Catholic associations and clubs, were forcibly disbanded.  Clergy were imprisoned or prosecuted for resistance, most notably Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, Primate of the Catholic Church in Hungary and Archbishop of Esztergom. In 1950 alone around 2,500 monks and nuns were deported and the Communists banned sixty-four of sixty-eight functioning religious newspapers and journals.

For five decades Cardinal Mindszenty personified uncompromising opposition to fascism and communism in Hungary.   Imprisoned by the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross during World War II he then spoke out against communism, was subject to a show trial, imprisoned, tortured and given a life sentence.

Freed in 1956, in the Hungarian Revolution, he was given asylum in the US Embassy in Budapest where he lived for the next 15 years. Wishing to be free of this troublesome priest he was allowed to leave in 1971 and died in 1975 died in exile in Vienna. Recall too the role of the reformed churches in Hungary during the 1956 uprising – and its Statement of Faith composed the previous year, following the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the German Confessing Church which had defied Hitler.

Its leaders told the Communist authorities “we are ready to suffer reprisals for obeying Christ’s command only. We regard our obedience to Christ as imperative for all of us and doubly imperative for our pastors.” ‘They quoted Acts 5: “We must obey God rather than men!’ Many were arrested or detained, and they included a young Hungarian Christian, Geza Nemeth.

By the 1970s, Geza Nemeth, was a dissenting Pastor, who saw his church destroyed by the authorities and he was deprived of his ministry. His humiliation and trials proved to be a blessing in disguise. Forced to travel, selling art, he was invited by local pastors into Reformed, Free Church, and Roman Catholic churches. His Christian witness deeply impressed his audiences, especially young people, and many of them came to a living faith, one which wasn’t frightened to challenge an overbearing totalitarian State.

In 1985, while serving as Liberal Chief Whip in the Commons, a young Oxford graduate, David Campanale, came to work for me. He introduced me to a fellow Oxford student:  Zsolt Németh, Geza Nemeth’s son.

Years later I travelled to Budapest with David and Zsolt, stayed at Pastor Nemeth’s home, and we travelled to Hungarian Romania where Zsolt’s father gave great help to the ethnic Hungarian refugees during Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist dictatorship. Zsolt, with Victor Orban, whom I also met, was a founder of the post-Communist Fidesz Party – going on to become the country’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Victor, of course,  became Prime Minister.

From the earliest times, Hungarian reformists and Fidesz leadership found a welcome in the UK, whether at Oxford or through their political links. Never doubt, then, the wisdom of providing support and educational opportunities to those challenging totalitarianism – for today’s dissidents may be tomorrow’s leaders. And, in understanding them, never forget the fires  though which they came.

While travelling with Zsolt and David we heard first-hand accounts of grievous suffering and amazing courage. In Cluj we met Doina Cornea – a remarkable Greek Catholic dissident and human rights campaigner. We talked with Laszlo Tokes, the pastor and hero of Temesvar, now a Member of the European Parliament, and in Alba Iulia met Cardinal Alexandru Todea, who was secretly consecrated a bishop and endured 16 years in prison and 27 years under house arrest.  He told his communist jailers: “You have no power to fight me. I risk nothing, because I have nothing to lose.”

On other visits to the Soviet Union, Poland, the Ukraine, Albania, China and North Korea I met many more who believed their faith was worth dying for. It is wonderful that one young man, Timothy, is here tonight.

Timothy was tortured in North Korea, and this year became the first North Korean to graduate at a British university. He is now being helped in his Masters Course studies in the UK by the Hungarian Government. I salute that and their decision, in September, to establish a new department to aid persecuted Christians. Zoltan Balog, Hungary’s Minister for Human Resources, whose ministry will oversee the new department, says that “[We] will do everything in our power to improve the circumstances of Christians living in the Middle Eastern region.” 

For the sake of Christians, Yezidis and others, facing genocide in Syria and Iraq, I wish other Governments, including our own, would follow the example of the Hungarian Government.

We who have so many privileges and freedom but indifferently allow the erosion of Judaeo-Christian beliefs in our own country  – witness for instance the sacking of two midwives because they would not perform an abortion – may remain silent because, unlike Cardinal Todea,  we have too much to lose,  preferring to live a quiet life.   B

ecket was right when he said “remember the storms that were weathered… the crown that came with those sufferings and which gave new radiance to faith.”

That we should never forget the sacrifices of those who have weathered storms is one of the reasons why I immediately responded when Ambassador Péter Szabadhegy suggested that the relics of St. Thomas Becket should be brought to the United Kingdom.

It was an opportunity to reflect on our own story, on who we are, and the price at which our privileges and freedoms have been won. In thanking Peter, and Anton de Piro who, on behalf of the Christian Heritage Centre charity that I chair, worked selflessly may I also pay tribute to the outstanding Embassy staff who organising the Becket events.

I was deeply moved and challenged when the martyr’s relics returned to England after 800 years in Esztergom – an ancient capital of Hungary and one of Hungary’s oldest cities, which was besieged, occupied and liberated during Ottoman Islamic conquests in Europe. It is the Mother Church of Hungary and Cardinal Péter Erdő, Primate of Hungary, with President János Áder, accompanied the relics to London.

Beyond what the relics say to us about Becket himself and the fight to uphold religious freedom; they also have a great deal to say to us about friendship.

When Becket was murdered at Canterbury, while Vespers were being sung, it was the bloody climax of a long feud and illustrates how even close friends can become estranged and see they friendship destroyed. The consequences can be truly shocking.

But the relics tell a positive story of friendship, too.

While Becket had been a student in Paris he became a close friend of a young Hungarian, Lukacs Banffy.  Lukacs went on to become Cardinal archbishop of Esztergom and when Becket was martyred he founded a church named after Thomas and it is believed that that Queen Margaret of France, and later of Hungary, was then  instrumental in bringing the relics to Hungary 800 years ago.

In Lancashire, at Stonyhurst, we too have a relic which was secreted after Henry VIII’s destruction of Becket’s shrine and his persecution of Catholics. Our Becket relic is an inspiration to our Christian Heritage Centre which has now seen more than £2.5 million spent on its first two phases and a further £2.7 million raised towards the £4 million we need to open Theodore House, named after a Syrian Christian who was also an Archbishop of Canterbury – and where a next generation of Banffys and Beckets will be formed. 

Let me end. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that “Not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act” – and, like Becket, he paid the ultimate price. Whether it is standing against a Henry II or Henry VIII, against Communism, Nazism, radical Islam, or a totalitarianism that creeps up in carpet slippers, we need a new generation that speaks and acts on the basis of the 2000 years of Judaeo-Christian principles which have provided Europe with sure foundations. 

Ambassador, you have reminded us that “where heroes are not forgotten, new hopes are born.” You have told us that “when nation speaks to nation, heart must also speak to heart.”

The French say that to encourage others you must shoot a few admirals. Clearly, Hungarians provide encouragement in a more humane and civilised way. The Commander’s Cross is a singular honour and a great encouragement to do more – I am deeply honoured to receive it.

The Case For The North of England – Parliamentary debate January 12th

The Case For The North of England

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Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) January 12th 2017

My Lords, along with 1 million private sector businesses, some 15 million people call the north of England their home. Compare those 15 million with the populations of sovereign countries: 11 million in Belgium, 5 million in Denmark or the 6 million combined population of the three Baltic countries. However, as we have heard, despite its significant population, and in the absence of devolution, the north does not punch its weight and many, especially those living in deindustrialised rustbelt towns, feel both disaffected and alienated.

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Since 1855, when Elizabeth Gaskell published her famous social novel, North and South, the phrase has pointed to disparity, but in our own time austerity cuts have accentuated poverty, exclusion, educational failure, crime and lower life expectancy.

It is a fact that a baby girl born in Manchester can expect to live for 15 fewer years in good health than a baby girl born in the London borough of Richmond. Consider that Londoners currently benefit at the rate of more than £65 per head from investment in cultural infrastructure, compared with less than £5 per head for the populations based outside the capital.

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Or take employment. UK employment rates are at an historic high: almost 2.4 million jobs were created between 2006 and 2015, but during the same period, across the north of England just 360,000 jobs were created. For too many workers in the north, wages have failed to increase in line with the national average.

Remedies might include the creation of a northern wealth fund, using new money saved or generated in the north for the north; a pan-northern digital platform; more innovative regeneration; and housing policies determined in the north, where Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield will face a shortage of 86,000 homes by 2030.

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For me, two leading priorities are transport infrastructure, which has been referred to, and education.

I should like to hear from the Government what progress is being made not only on the direct high-speed east to west line but on reopening and renewing local lines and dealing with gridlocked roads feeding our northern motorways.

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Last Sunday, it was reported that two more of the most senior managers of HS2—which is now said to cost some £56 billion—have quit their jobs. Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, questioning its credibility, saying that it risks being “scarcely worth the candle”. It is an argument I set out in this House in October 2015. Compare that £56 billion, which the noble Lord, Lord Beith, mentioned, with infrastructure investment in the north.

Turning to education, my other priority, I am the first from either side of my family to have had the opportunity of higher education, in Liverpool, and I draw the House’s attention to my registered interests. Sadly, significant numbers of bright young people in cities such as Liverpool still do not get the same opportunity that I, and others who were beneficiaries of the post-war education legislation, had. We urgently need to improve life outcomes for children and young people in the north.

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Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, said that the northern powerhouse will “splutter and die” if more is not done to improve performance in the region’s schools. He points out that four in 10 secondary schools in Liverpool are rated as inadequate, and that the number of teenagers gaining good grades is falling. He also said that “politicians need to act” and that,

“We cannot fight for social mobility with political immobility”.

A northern teaching premium to help schools struggling to recruit the highest-calibre teachers, and perhaps a “teach later” programme, might help.

The region’s 23 universities, six of which rank in the top 20 for research excellence nationally, should be empowered to become the drivers for transforming our region’s schools.

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The wonderful university of Liverpool John Moores, with its 21,000 students and 2,500 staff, has generated an estimated 2,493 jobs in industries across the north-west of England. By spending £186 million per year, it significantly contributes to the region’s economic and civic life.

Manchester University has its own venture capital fund and has attracted £300 million of private funding to university spin-outs—crucial in creating jobs and leading-edge technology.

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The excellent annual Educate North & UK Leadership Awards and their conference celebrate these achievements. The whole sector is desperate not to see that success compromised by Brexit or by the Government’s higher education legislation. The Government must listen carefully to concerns that a dead hand is being placed on those crucial institutions.

I welcome today’s debate and am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for giving us parliamentary time to discuss these important questions.

February Question on the International Criminal Court – Speech on Brexit and the UN; Rohingyas and Burma Questions Raised in Parliament – Pakistan/Sudan/North Korea/ Hong Kong/ Egypt/Saudi Arabia/ Murder in Aleppo/ 25 Killed Outside Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral/ #RedWednesday – Genocide. 2016 ‘Religious Freedom in the World’ report’ launched at Westminster

International Criminal Court

08 February 2017

Question

3.22 pm

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the composition and effectiveness of the International Criminal Court.

My Lords, the UK is committed to a rules-based international order and strongly supports the International Criminal Court. The ICC plays an important role in global efforts to end impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern by holding perpetrators to account and achieving justice for victims. Some 124 states parties have now adopted the ICC’s Rome statute and we work actively with the court and international partners to improve further its efficiency and effectiveness.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. Can she tell us what assessment the Government have made of the decision reached only last week by the African Union at its summit in Addis Ababa calling for all African countries to leave the International Criminal Court, and indeed of the negative and disparaging attitude of both the Kremlin and the White House? How do we intend to rally international support in the UN Security Council and elsewhere to stop the unravelling of the court and to strengthen and enhance its efficacy in bringing to justice those who are responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide?

My Lords, the short answer would be by continuing to work hard to ensure that other states parties take seriously their responsibilities and by working with colleagues such as the United States to ensure that even when they are not states parties themselves, they support as they have done the work of the ICC.

Perhaps I may address the first part of the noble Lord’s question referring to the decision at the AU summit because it is important. I appreciate what the newspaper reporting has been, but it is our understanding that the strategy being referred to does not call for mass withdrawal, but actually for further research. When I read what was said by Ministers who attended the summit, I see that they voiced strong opposition. The list of those who opposed even the research is long and includes Nigeria, Senegal and Cape Verde—I could go on and on, so there is work that we can do.

My Lords, given that the Government of whom I was a member as Attorney-General played a major role in setting up this court, have Her Majesty’s Government expressed any views to individual countries proposing to leave its jurisdiction?

Yes, my Lords; it is absolutely right that we should do so. I am delighted that the noble and learned Lord asked the question. When I was in The Hague quite recently at the states parties meeting I had a long meeting with the Justice Minister of South Africa and was able to explore in technical detail the reasons why South Africa felt that the way in which the Rome treaty was being interpreted was not in accord with its understanding. Shortly I travel to Burundi and Uganda. Uganda has not withdrawn; it gave its support, although there has been some criticism. Burundi is one of those withdrawing and I shall continue my conversations in person.

My Lords, the United States of America is not part of the International Criminal Court; it fears the politicisation of the process. Are Her Majesty’s Government sympathetic to that position? It seems unlikely to change in the near future. Or do they sympathise with the idea that there should be complete and universal ratification of the Rome statute?

My Lords, we continue to work towards universal and complete ratification of the Rome statute, while understanding that some countries, including allies such as the United States, may be supportive without being signatories to the Rome statute. I can tell my noble friend that since the election of President Trump we have worked closely with the Administration in the United Nations and the ICC in New York and with Nikki Haley, who has been appointed as the US representative to the United Nations, to ensure that United States co-operation with the ICC continues.

My Lords, in April last year the House of Commons resolved that ISIS should be referred to the ICC. What action have the Government taken to raise this at the Security Council in order to secure an investigation?

My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord will be aware that a United Nations Security Council resolution on these very matters was vetoed a while ago. We continue to press the issue of bringing ISIL/Daesh to account and also bringing Assad to account. Therefore I am pleased to say that on 21 December last year we co-sponsored a UN General Assembly resolution to establish a new international, impartial, independent mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria since March 2011.

My Lords, following the visit of Sudan’s President al-Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court, to many countries including Kenya, South Africa, China, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, what discussions have Her Majesty’s Government had with the Governments of those countries about their failure to arrest him? Does the noble Baroness agree that the failure to arrest someone indicted by the International Criminal Court devalues and discredits the work of the ICC?

The noble Baroness raises a very important point. It is the case that countries which are states parties should, indeed, ensure that those who are indicted by them are then arrested. I was able, as I mentioned a moment ago to the noble and learned Lord, to discuss these wide matters with South Africa. The UK and EU partners have conducted demarches in countries which failed to arrest President Bashir. We agree with the noble Baroness that achieving justice for victims should be at the heart of the international community’s response to mass atrocity violence. It is important that fugitives from international justice do not just get away.

My Lords, the substantive decision of the African Union, as I understand it, was not withdrawal but a call for regionalisation of the ICC. Does the Minister agree that one very important issue that arises about that concerns the consequences of regionalisation and the need to ensure continuation of three principles: first, due process of taking evidence; secondly, penalties meeting an international standard; and thirdly, the ability still to make appeals at a global level?

My Lords, as I mentioned a little while ago, I think there has been a little misreporting or misunderstanding of what was decided at the African Union. However, the noble Lord makes an important point. We welcome initiatives, whether at regional or international level, to support international justice and accountability, so we are willing to listen to all ways that can take us forward. The most appropriate forum for discussion of issues that states may have with the ICC is the Assembly of States Parties, which I have attended in the two years for which I have had the justification, as Minister, for doing so. We make our points very strongly there, both in the forum itself and bilaterally.

My Lords, if the African members were to withdraw, 34 of the total membership of 124 would have left, and this sole forum for global criminal justice would be lost. Is not the chief prosecutor, Ms Bensouda, collecting evidence in various countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq—and is there any prospect of further prosecution from such localities?

My Lords, I pay tribute to the work of Fatou Bensouda against sometimes very challenging conditions. We support her in her work. She is independent, and we do not try to influence it; that would be improper. I repeat that this was not a mass withdrawal, and we are not expecting a mass withdrawal of African states. I am certainly working towards ensuring that the ICC maintains its credibility. Changes in government in the Gambia show that there can be ways of ensuring that countries stay members of the ICC.

 

Oral questions: Wednesday February 8th 2017.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government:

 

What assessment they have made of the composition and effectiveness of the International Criminal Court

 

Background to the ICC.

 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It began functioning in July 2002 when the Rome Statute came into force. The ICC is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague.

By ratifying the Statute, States become members of the ICC and there are currently 124 member States.  Three have given notice of their intention to withdraw (Burundi, South Africa and Gambia) and last week, at its conference in Addis Ababa, the African Union called on all African countries to withdraw. The ICC has struggled to obtain widespread international acceptance with the US, India and China, as well as most Middle Eastern states, declining to ratify the Rome Statute which established the Court. 

The ICC was not created to replace existing national judicial systems and it may only exercise its prerogative when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute or when individual States or the United Nations Security Council refers investigations to the ICC.

In June 2012 Fatou Bensouda, of Gambia, became Prosecutor, succeeding Luis Moreno Ocampo, of Argentina, who had held office from 2003.

 

Criticisms of the ICC

 

The ICC is in the invidious position of being “damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t” – accused by African countries of only prosecuting African leaders while Russia, the US, and western countries fear its reach extending to them. Africans complain that the ICC has failed to investigate war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan – although they were initially enthusiastic with some of the first cases being referred to the ICC by African Heads of State (Uganda’s President Museveni referred the case of Joseph Kony).

Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, who was elected African Union chairman at the two-day summit in Addis Ababa, criticised the ICC for focusing its efforts on African leaders.

“Elsewhere in the world, many things happen, many flagrant violations of human rights, but nobody cares,” Déby said at the close of the AU summit, which had an official theme of protecting human rights.

Many fear that the real reason why some African leaders oppose the ICC is because they want  African Heads of State to have immunity from prosecution.

The ICC is also accused of impotence in failing to bring men like  the Lord’s Resistance Army leader, Joseph Kony and Sudan’s Field Marshall Bashir to justice while declining to bring countries like North Korea and organisations like ISIS before the court because of fears that countries like China and Russia will exercise their veto at the Security Council.

 

Investigations

 

To date, 39 individuals have been indicted by the ICC – including Field Marshall Omar al-Bashir (President of Sudan, indicted for genocide in Darfur), and Joseph Kony (the leader of the LRA).

The Prosecutor has opened investigations in ten situations – including two in Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivorie, Darfur, DRC, Georgia, Kenya, Mali and Uganda. A further ten preliminary examinations are considering evidence involving Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Gabon, Guinea, Iraq/the UK, Nigeria, Palestine and issues involving registered vessels of Comoros, Greece, Cambodia and Ukraine.

It has also issued five policy papers including one in June 2014 examining sexual and gender based crimes.

The Prosecutor is mandated to initiate and investigate unless there are “substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice”…when “taking into account the gravity of the crime and the interest of the victims.”

One of the great innovations of the International Criminal Court and its Rules of Procedure and Evidence is the series of rights granted to victims giving victims the unprecedented possibility of appearing before the Court.

 

Outcomes

 

In addition to the indictment of the 39, the ICC has issued arrest warrants for 31 individuals and summonses to 8 others; 7 prisoners are in detention; proceedings against 22 continue; 9 are fugitives at large; 4 are under arrest (but not in the custody of the Court); 8 are at trial and 1 is appealing conviction.

Proceedings against 17 are complete; 3 have been convicted; 1 acquitted; 6 have had charges dismissed; 2 have had charges withdrawn; 1 has had the case declared inadmissible and 4 died before being brought to trial.

In the DRC trial of Lubanga, Katanga and Chui, Lubanga was convicted and sentenced to 14 years; Katanga to 12 years and Chui was acquitted.

In the CAR trial Bemba was convicted on two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes. Rape was added to his conviction. Other cases involving DRC, Cote D’Ivoire and Darfur continue.

 

Key Cases

 

Joseph Kony and the LRA:  Warrants of arrest were issued in 2005 for Joseph Kony and four others. He is accused of numerous human rights violations including massacres, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers, sexual enslavement, torture, and pillaging. Twelve years later four of the five suspects are at large as fugitives and their whereabouts are unknown.

 

Sudan and Omar al Bashirnotwithstanding an outstanding ICC warrant for his arrest on genocide charges, Bashir has travelled with impunity to Kenya, South Africa, China, Nigeria, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Qatar and Egypt.  He says the ICC is part of a “Western plot against him”.  Meanwhile, he continues to attack civilian populations in Blue Nile and South Kordofan and is accused of using chemical weapons in Darfur.

 

North KoreaThree years ago the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Judge Michael Kirby said its human rights violations make it a “state without parallel.”  Kirby said evidence adduced by the inquiry “was very similar to the testimony one sees on visiting a Holocaust Museum by those who were the victims of Nazi oppression in the last century” and that the “witnesses told their stories in a low key way, without exaggeration“. Fear of a veto by China has forestalled a referral to the ICC

 

Russia On November 16th 2016 Russia said it was formally withdrawing its signature from the Rome Statute (although it had never ratified the Treaty). It did so one day after the ICC published a report classifying the Russian annexation of Crimea as an occupation. Mr. Putin’s spokesman said the tribunal had failed to live up to hopes of the international community. He denounced its work as “one-sided and inefficient.” Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch said “This is a symbolic gesture of rejection, and says a lot about Russia’s attitude towards international justice and institutions.”

Syria and ISIS: Russia may also be concerned about ICC jurisdiction in Syria, where its forces have been repeatedly accused of war crimes, while the House of Commons Resolution of April 2016, that ISIS should be referred to the ICC for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, has never been acted upon.

The US and Donald Trump: On January 26th The New York Times reported that the Trump Administration would not continue to fund the ICC. The US has never been a member and does not directly fund the ICC. Like Putin, Trump fears ICC criticism and possible prosecution (in the case of the US the investigation of troops in Afghanistan). The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda said that losing U.S. cooperation to capture indictees would deal a blow to a court that depends on governments that have no enforcement powers of their own, stating, “It was significant to have U.S. cooperation.” Bensouda fears that complete US disengagement will embolden critics of the ICC and that When increasingly international criminal justice is being challenged, it is this moment that the court needs its supporters. This is critical for the court’s existence.”

 

Expectations Measured Against Outcomes

Despite great expectations that the pursuit of justice would temper behaviour, and be an instrument for peace, the withdrawal of members and the failure, in too many instances, to bring principal offenders to justice risks the emasculation and discrediting of the ICC.

Meanwhile, the resurgence of nationalist politics ( to the fore in Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidential election victory and with the rise of the Far Right in Western Europe), suggests the tide may be turning against international organisations and institutions.

As a spokesman for the ICC said last week  “The support of the international community is necessary for the ICC to fulfil its independent and impartial mandate to help end impunity for the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, provide justice to the victims of such crimes and contribute to the prevention of future atrocities.” 

Fatou Bensouda, the Court’s Chief Prosecutor, says she deplores recent withdrawals from the Rome Statute: “Any act that may undermine the global movement towards greater accountability for atrocity crimes and a ruled-based international order in this new century is surely – when objectively viewed – regrettable.”

Notwithstanding its failings and frequent impotence the ICC’s President, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi is right that: “The Court has continued to do the work for which it was created and has made significant achievements in addressing crimes of concern to the international community as a whole such as the use of child soldiers, sexual violence in conflict, attacks on civilians and the destruction of cultural property.”

Seventy years after Nuremberg, global justice is clearly still a work in progress. For the UK the entrenchment and development of the ICC should be a long term priority ensuring that perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity are brought to justice and their victims across the world are treated equitably and without fear or favour.

 

Some questions that arise:

 

In the light of last week’s call by the African Union, urging all African countries to leave the ICC, do we intend to ask the Security Council to consider the future composition, resourcing, mandate and reform of the ICC – and are we seeking to engage with countries whose departure would fundamentally jeopardise the ICC’s future? 

Doesn’t withdrawal of members, from the ICC, and the failure in too many instances to bring principal offenders to justice risk the emasculation and discrediting of the ICC? What discussions have we had with the United States about their future attitude to the ICC?

What discussions have we had with Fatou Bensouda, the Court’s Chief Prosecutor, about ways to strengthen and reform the ICC and, in particular, providing fewer opportunities for individual States to thwart or veto its work.

Does the Government agree with Fatou Bensouda, the Court’s Chief Prosecutor, that “Any act that may undermine the global movement towards greater accountability for atrocity crimes and a ruled-based international order in this new century is surely – when objectively viewed – regrettable?”  If so, what priority is HMG giving to prevent its disintegration?

 

Following the visits of Sudan’s Field Marshal Bashir to Kenya, South Africa, China, Nigeria, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Qatar and Egypt, what discussions have we held with the Governments of those countries about the failure to arrest him; what exactly is the point of bringing genocide charges if such indictments are not then acted upon; and are we now adding to the charges the atrocities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and the alleged use of chemical weapons in Darfur?

Does the Minister agree with Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch who says that Russia’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute “is a symbolic gesture of rejection, and says a lot about Russia’s attitude towards international justice and institutions” and how will Russia now be held to account for its war crimes and illegal actions in Syria and the Ukraine.

How is it possible, 12 years after arrest warrants were issued against Joseph Kony, and four others, for massacres, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers, sexual enslavement, torture, and pillaging, to remain at large as fugitives and their whereabouts unknown? Is the ICC any nearer to bringing this mass murderer to justice?

Following the House of Commons Resolution of April 2016 that ISIS should be referred to the ICC for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, what timetable does the Government have for ensuring that ISIS is brought before the ICC or, failing that, a specially constituted Regional Tribunal?

 

Given the conclusion of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, that North Korea is a “state without parallel” and the statement of its chairman, Judge Michael Kirby that the evidence “was very similar to the testimony one sees on visiting a Holocaust Museum by those who were the victims of Nazi oppression in the last century“, why has no referral been made to the ICC and how does HMG envisage bringing to justice those responsible? 

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Speech in the House of Lords on Brexit, the EU and the United Nations

January 26th 2017

My Lords, in warmly congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the committee’s other members on this excellent first outing, I, too, hope that he recovers swiftly from his illness.

The courageous Dag Hammarskjöld, the second of the United Nations Secretaries-General, has always been a hero of mine. I commend his book, Markings, to President Trump, who recently described the United Nations as a “club” for people to “have a good time” and yesterday reined in the US’s funding to the UN by 40%. Ironically, he included in his executive order the International Criminal Court, yet the US currently pays nothing to the ICC and is not a member. I hope that the Minister will say what this might add up to but also address the composition, competences and resources of the ICC in its capacity to bring to justice those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity in so many parts of the world.

Hammarskjöld once said:

“We should … recognise the United Nations for what it is—an admittedly imperfect but indispensable instrument of nations working for a

peace evolution towards a more just and secure world”.

He also said:

“Setbacks in trying to realise the ideal do not prove that the ideal is at fault”.

So we must distinguish between agencies which need reform—such as UNFPA, which indirectly aided and abetted China’s grotesque one-child policy—and the reasons why the UN, or for that matter the EU, were created. The objective must always surely be to strengthen and reform international institutions and not to weaken them.

In this context, the Prime Minister was right to reassure our European neighbours that, as we leave the Union, we have no gleeful wish to see its collapse or unravelling.

The only beneficiaries would be, for different reasons, Vladimir Putin and those parties of the far right which this year will campaign strongly in either general or presidential elections in some six EU countries. As occurred here, such parties will receive oxygen from Junckerism’s dangerous inflexibility, which played such a part in Britain’s decision to leave and now endangers continental European cohesion.

Yet the Schuman declaration disavowed one “single plan” and emphasised adaptability. So, for instance, a reform requiring an applicant to obtain a job offer before moving would not violate the Schuman declaration and would address a running sore. In this context, too, I welcome the Prime Minister’s bold and defining vision of what Britain must now do. Britain’s capabilities in many spheres—economic trading, intelligence, military—must be strengthened and directed towards open and free markets, with diplomats, politicians and civil servants working tirelessly to make a success of this.

If the elected House votes to trigger Article 50, we would have no right to try to sabotage this. Constitutional showdowns between this House and the House of Commons have never ended well and we must tread with great care and wisdom—I say that as someone who voted remain.

While these interminable arguments have been going on, the world has not stood still. Let us consider, for instance, Mr Putin’s new alliance with Turkey, now a semi-detached member of NATO, and, following the abandonment of Ukraine, the wave of fear now sweeping Baltic countries. All this should give us pause for thought.

The Select Committee report rightly identifies the shifting of power from west to east. One of the great imponderables of the Trump presidency is how he will deal with China. It was another US President, John F Kennedy, who famously employed the trope that the Chinese word for crisis contains two distinct characters, signifying both danger and opportunity. The region is full of both.

When the Minister comes to reply, I hope that she will address the stand-off over the Spratlys. My noble friend Lord Hannay referred by allusion to the situation in the South and East China Seas, where £3.4 trillion of trade passes over the Spratlys. There is also the dangerous nuclear expansionism of North Korea, with its horrendous violations of human rights and treatment of refugees. I declare my interest as joint chairman of the All-Party Group on North Korea.

Failure to resolve these issues peacefully would all undermine President Xi Jinping’s unlikely but welcome speech at Davos last week, in favour of free trade and against protectionism. At one with the Prime Minister, he said that we need to be “well connected and interconnected” and to learn to “share prosperity”. China is not in a customs union with the EU or a member of the single market, so the freight train that arrived at Barking on 18 January, having crossed seven countries and journeyed for 14 days on the new silk road from the Chinese city of Yiwu, pointed to new opportunities for the UK.

In our generation, there are endless dangers and opportunities, and in that context the Select Committee’s report is so welcome.

4.31 pm

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2.37 pm January 12th 2017

 Speech on Rohingyas and Burma. 

My Lords, even as we meet today for this important debate, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, is in Burma. When the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, comes to reply, I would be grateful for her assessment of that visit and the contribution the UK Government are able to make to it. What is her response to the well-documented reports which detail the plight of the Rohingyas and, as we have heard in the debate, point to mass rape, mass displacement and the murder of men, women and children; the burning of houses; and crucially, the denial of access to the affected areas for humanitarian aid.

In a letter to The Guardian on 28 November a number of us, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Kinnock and Lady Nye, and my noble friend Lady Cox, called for the international inquiry which has been referred to during the debate. We said:

“The international community cannot stand idly by while peaceful civilians are mown down by helicopter guns, women are raped and tens of thousands left without homes”.

When I raised these atrocities in a Parliamentary Question, the Minister referred me to the Rakhine Investigation Commission. That commission’s interim report said that there were,

“no cases of malnutrition, due to the area’s favourable fishing and farming conditions … and … no cases of religious persecution”.

That is palpably risible.

Human Rights Watch has described the investigation as little more than a “Myanmar government whitewash mechanism”. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government will support the calls that she has heard throughout this debate for the establishment of a United Nations commission of inquiry so that the truth may come out? Let us recall what the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, said to us about 23 of the world’s most prominent human rights voices, including a dozen Nobel Laureates, calling on the Security Council to end,

“ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”,

in the Rakhine state.

Just as the emergency in Rakhine requires an urgent response, so does the conflict in Kachin state and the northern Shan states. Kachin camps for initially displaced people have been bombed. On Christmas Eve, following the bombing of a church at Mongkoe, two Kachin Christians, Dumdaw Nawng Lat and Langjaw Gam Seng, simply disappeared, believed to have been abducted as a reprisal for taking journalists to see the bombed church. Have Her Majesty’s Government raised this case and taken action to secure their safe return to their families? How does the Minister respond to Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s campaign to end restrictions on humanitarian aid to Rakhine, Kachin and the northern Shan states, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, referred earlier?

Burma’s courageous cardinal, Charles Bo, whom I had the privilege of hosting in this place last year, said in his Christmas message:

“Just sixty years of history—more than 22 to wars and now three wars going on. In the last sixty years, we have buried thousands in these wars of mutual hatred, displaced millions … Wars have exported our girls to modern forms of slavery … At this very moment, thousands are refugees—they have no home”.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that Burma’s history and present are not its future, and that the hopes of a democratic, federal and peaceful Burma, in which people of all ethnicities and religions have an equal stake, are realised and not dashed.

Along with others, I pay tribute to the extraordinary and phenomenal work that the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, does with the Burma campaign and with the all-party group here in the House, and thank her for giving us the opportunity to raise these important questions on the Floor of your Lordships’ House today.

 

2.41 pm

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BURMA – ROHINGYA

BURMA

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4323):

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps are being taken to provide assistance to the government of Bangladesh to help meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. (HL4323)

Tabled on: 21 December 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The UK Government remains deeply concerned by the current situation in Rakhine and the persecution of the Muslim minority Rohingya community. The UK Government has repeatedly called on the Government of Bangladesh not to return the people seeking refuge back into danger and we continue to offer support through our work with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Programme. The UK is the largest provider of food aid to the 34,000 Rohingya refugees already living in official camps in Bangladesh. Since 2014 the UK has provided nearly £8 million to address the humanitarian suffering of Rohingya refugees and the vulnerable Bangladeshi communities that host them. UK-funded humanitarian programmes have benefitted 82,000 people in the south east of Bangladesh. Also in Bangladesh we are increasing access to nutrition, health and education services for refugees living in makeshift settlements and the host communities that support them.

The UK Government has also engaged the Government of Burma to urge a restrained security response, an independent investigation into allegations of human rights abuses, and for the immediate resumption of access for humanitarian aid. The Government of Burma has now committed to restoring humanitarian access and investigating allegations of human rights abuses. We will continue to monitor and support the delivery of these commitments.

Date and time of answer: 05 Jan 2017 at 15:41.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 14 November (HL2815) and following her meeting with Burma’s Minister of Defence, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, how the government of Burma has responded to their call to show restraint and to restore humanitarian aid and other access to Burma’s Rohingya people.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 14 November (HL2815) and following her meeting with government of Burma, whether they have made any progress in pressing the government of Burma for a full and transparent international inquiry into the plight of Burma’s Rohingya people.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The government of Burma has committed to conducting an independent investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine State by the security forces in response to an attack by armed Rohingya on 9 October. We understand the Burmese Government is now in the process of setting this up, and we will continue to monitor progress closely. The government of Burma has also committed to restoring humanitarian access. While we have seen a limited resumption of aid in some areas, in practice worrying restrictions on humanitarian access remain. We will continue to press the case for unfettered humanitarian access.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 14 November (HL2815) and following her meeting with government of Burma, whether they have made any progress in pressing the government of Burma for a full and transparent international inquiry into the plight of Burma’s Rohingya people.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The government of Burma has committed to conducting an independent investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine State by the security forces in response to an attack by armed Rohingya on 9 October. We understand the Burmese Government is now in the process of setting this up, and we will continue to monitor progress closely. The government of Burma has also committed to restoring humanitarian access. While we have seen a limited resumption of aid in some areas, in practice worrying restrictions on humanitarian access remain. We will continue to press the case for unfettered humanitarian access.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of an upsurge in violence against Rohingya Muslims by the Burmese military.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We condemn the attacks on 9 October in northern Rakhine and the killing of nine Burmese Border Guard policemen. Since then, we have become increasingly concerned by emerging reports of human rights violations committed by security forces. The British Ambassador to Burma travelled to Northern Rakhine on 2 November and along with our US and EU partners have pressed the Burmese Government for a full and transparent investigation. I made these concerns clear to the Burmese Government during my visit there last week (9-12 November) when I met the Minister of Defence, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. I reiterated the UK Government‘s call for restraint and the restoration of humanitarian and other access. I also met Rohingya representatives in Rangoon. We welcome Aung San Suu Kyi‘s commitment to a fair and legally compliant investigation and urge the security forces to abide by international norms and commitments. We will continue to monitor developments closely.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4322):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the recommendations concerning the initiation of an independent, impartial and effective investigation into alleged violations of international law in northern Rakhine State, contained in the report from Amnesty International We are at breaking point. (HL4322)

Tabled on: 21 December 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Government agrees there should be an independent investigation into allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese military during security operations in northern Rakhine State. I urged the Burmese Government to establish such an investigation when I visited Burma from 9-12 November. We note the creation of the Rakhine Investigation Commission, as well as concerns raised about its composition and impartiality. Now that the investigation is under way we call on the commission to demonstrate the commitments to impartiality made on its behalf by the Burmese Government.

Date and time of answer: 09 Jan 2017 at 15:12.

 

 

Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL4321 received from Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4321):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the recommendations concerning (1) the cessation of violations of international law, and (2) the need for immediate unhindered access for human rights monitors and journalists, in northern Rakhine State, contained in the report from Amnesty International We are at breaking point. (HL4321)

Tabled on: 21 December 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

I have lobbied the government of Burma for an immediate resumption of humanitarian access to northern Rakhine State, and pressed for a full and independent investigation into all reports of human rights violations. The Burmese Government has committed to restore access and investigate allegations of violations. While we have seen a limited resumption of aid in some areas, in practice worrying restrictions on humanitarian access remain. Ministers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, as well as our Ambassador in Rangoon, continue to call on the Burmese Government and the military to restore access as a matter of urgency.

Date and time of answer: 09 Jan 2017 at 15:12.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4320):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the findings on the use of violence by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya since 9 October, contained in the report from Amnesty International We are at breaking point. (HL4320)

Tabled on: 21 December 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are aware of a number of recent reports by human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, indicating that the Burmese military has used violence against the Rohingya during security operations in Rakhine since 9 October. We view these reports with deep concern. I raised our concerns when I visited Burma from 9-12 November, and urged Burmese Government Ministers to establish a full and independent investigation into human rights violations.

Date and time of answer: 09 Jan 2017 at 15:11.

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DavidAlton.net

Burma – Ministerial relies on Rohingya – click here:

PAKISTAN

Pakistan

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4306):

Question: Lord Alton of Liverpool


To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 5 December (HL3360), what consideration was given by the Department for International Development to other international and local assessments of the implementation of the 2006 national curriculum by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. (HL4306)

Tabled on: 20 December 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

The Department for International Development has taken into consideration a number of reports over recent years which have looked, in part, at implementation of the 2006 national curriculum. These include the November 2011 report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, ‘Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan’. The Department is currently supporting the…

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